Ramsey Out?

September 30, 2011

A lot of people have got it in for Aaron Ramsey right now.

Following our victory over Bolton I read several comments on AA and elsewhere to the effect that our young Welshie had a bad game and should be dropped to the stiffs.

Before the match someone even said he was turning into the new Denilson – always passing backwards and sideways as if, having grown up in a rugby-loving country, he was unaware that, with a round ball, you’re allowed to pass forwards.

His short outing in our Champions League win over Olympiacos also drew quite a bit of criticism in the blog world.

Critics have gone so far as to suggest that he needs a spell on loan somewhere, possibly in the Championship.

Opinions are free and everyone is entitled to their own. But the trouble with free things is that often the reason they’re free is that they have no value. And there is no value whatsoever in an opinion that writes off a promising youngster like Aaron Ramsey before his career has even started.

It may seem like AR16 has been with us for quite a while – and in terms of years and months he has, having joined us in the summer of 2008.

But in playing terms he is effectively in his first season, thanks to the bone-snapping attentions of Frankenpulis’s monster.

In his entire Arsenal career Aaron has started only 19 EPL games. He has only started 35 games in all competitions, including the Carling Cup.

Jack Wilshere, by contrast, has started 31 EPL games and 51 in total. He is almost twice as far ahead in his first team development as Aaron despite being a year younger.

None of us can guarantee that a young player will achieve their potential (my mate got himself a Glenn Helder shirt after watching his first game for the Gunners – oh how we laughed in the following weeks). But sometimes you can just see things in teenage prospects that convince you that they are special (in a good way, not in a Gary Neville windscreen-licking kind of way).

Most of us saw it in Wilshere and many of us now see it in Ramsey. Don’t forget that only a couple of weeks ago he was MoTM in the Wales-England international.

Ramsey has composure, drive and a good engine. He can also score goals with well-timed late runs into the danger area.

The prospect of him and Wilshere running our midfield in years to come is mouthwatering.

But he is still in the shallowest foothills of his career and he will make mistakes, will drift out of games and will sometimes have off days.

When he does, surely the right thing to say is “Ramsey had an off day” and not “Ramsey is rubbish,” as I have seen written about him recently.

In short, he is a talented young man who needs support from the Arsenal faithful at this early stage of his development, not people writing off his entire Arsenal career after one or two performances (which, by the way, have been pretty solid all season).

Mark my words, this boy is going to go from lying on the turf at the Britannia Stadium with half his leg missing to being an Arsenal hero of the highest order. From leg end to legend. Just watch, and stop doubting.

RockyLives

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Work in progress – Arsenal go marching on

September 29, 2011

We won. Chelsea didn’t. Man City didn’t. Man United didn’t. We did, and that’s the important bit, especially bearing in mind that we had nine injured players and (with the North London Derby coming up) only five genuine first choice players were in the starting XI.

The performance wasn’t the best, but neither was it the worst.  In ignorance, many of us assumed that the champions of Greece would be cannon fodder but by half-time it was clear that our opponents were no mugs. Olympiacos were a well organised, fit and energetic side, with a few dangerous players. They were often the better team in the first half, but the difference between the two sides was the quality of our finishing in the first half and the development of solidity at the back and better ball retention for Arsenal by the second half. The game was very open in the first half, worryingly so at times, since Olympiacos were able to drive into space on the break. We gave plenty of openings to our opponents, whose energy was best exemplified by Mirallas, who made Sagna’s evening a very uncomfortable one.

Both our goals came against the run of play, but came when we transitioned the ball quickly to the front third. The genesis of the first was a bit strange: Oxlade-Chamberlain had possession over on the wing, and decided to sweep a long pass back to Song, who was on the halfway line. Song then looked for the options, and saw Oxlade-Chamberlain had cut inside the Olympiacos right-back and was on a run toward the penalty area. Song pinged the ball back to the Ox with a long aerial pass, the youngster took the ball in his stride confidently, worked it across the penalty area, and efficiently shot back across the goal and through Mellberg’s legs.

The second goal came shortly after, when Santos was put through by efficient combination play from Rosicky and Arshavin; Santos then tried to cross it to Chamakh, but the ball was intercepted. Had it been Clichy, he would have panicked on receiving the ball in that situation and the chance would have been frittered away. But Santos is no fool, he just cut in and took an early right-foot shot that caught the keeper out at the near post.

Olympiacos’s goal came just a little bit later, and was outrageously simple; for two opponents to be able to bring the ball from a corner into the penalty area with barely a challenge made really is unforgivable. And then for Fuster to be able head the ball unchallenged from the penalty spot is very, very poor.  The decision has been taken to switch to zonal marking – fair enough, many pros say it is the better way to defend, and any change in system needs to bed down. But it needs to, and quickly.

In the second half, we exerted our control over proceedings far more effectively. The game became tighter and we became more efficient with and without the ball. We didn’t play with verve but the threat from Olympiacos ebbed away, and we were deserved victors by the end. The only exception to that was when Torosides had a great looping shot that beat Szczesny but clattered against the cross-bar. But that was Olympiacos’s only real chance in the second half, with the Arsenal defence finding itself during the course of the game.  By the end, it was clear that Mertesacker and Song were enjoying their partnership, and Santos showed a wizened way about him.  He knows how to use his body to best effect when contesting possession, and he understands how to anticipate what his opponent is going to do. There are no guarantees Santos will be a success story but those who wrote him off after his first game or two for us should hang their heads in shame.

My marks for the evening:

Szczesny: 7 Did nothing wrong, and made a lovely finger tip save in the first half.  He couldn’t do anything for the goal, when he was criminally exposed by his defence.

Sagna: 4 Constantly bullied, especially by Mirallas, and made several bad decisions while in possession.  Even accounting for the poor cover he got from Arshavin, Sagna’s performance was very disappointing. Perhaps my mark is a bit harsh, but I rate Sagna highly and expect much better from him than this.

Mertesacker: 7 Reads the game so well, he can intercept the ball or break up the play higher up the pitch than one might expect, and with someone like Song to mop up if anything does get through, it does work. The BFG is growing into his role with us, a pleasure to see that.

Song: 7 By the end, an excellent performance from Song, who showed he hasn’t forgotten how to play at CB. He also got an assist for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal.

Santos: 7 Lovely to see him score on his home debut, and it was a very mature goal, the result of a steady head. His defending was similarly mature, and the only time we were threatened on his flank was when Torosides swung a leg from distance and almost struck gold.

Frimpong: 5 Had his moments but was often caught out positionally, and for all his huff and puff, he had insufficient impact on Olympiacos.

Arteta: 5 Tried to keep the ball moving and he made some good passes, but Arteta was unable to impose himself on the game. He does offer better set piece delivery than we’ve become used to from Fabregas and van Persie. He also made a crucial goal-line clearance in the first half.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7 Slightly lucky for goal as it ricocheted off a defender back to him after a heavy touch, but he did brilliantly well to create the opening and finish it off. The boy has oodles of talent, and more than that, he plays without fear. He’s not intimidated by being crowded by opponents and he’s willing to take them on. The Ox was paid the ultimate compliment when Holebas took him out and was booked, and Holebas should have had a second yellow later on, when Ox killed him for pace, but the referee somehow managed not to see an obvious foul.

Rosicky: 4 Worked hard but to little effect. Had a chance of a shot when laid on by Arshavin but declined, and the opportunity was lost. He did however play a crucial part in the second goal.

Arshavin: 5 Not an athlete, never has been, but that deficiency is showing more now, and it’s not off-set by as many moments of brilliance. But Arshavin was wrongly called offside in first half when would have been through one-on-one. And he brilliantly carved open Olympiacos’s defence with a chipped through ball to Chamakh, who then dragged his shot wide. He also hit the bar with a cross that was wrongly adjudged to have gone out. But he still failed to offer anything consistent, and truth be told, we need more from him.

Chamakh: 5 He had a couple of good chances, and he should have done better with both. But he worked harder than usual (according to the Sky TV caption as he was subbed, Chamakh ran 8.7km as against the team average at 70 minutes of 7.8km). He also created a great chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the second half with a defence-splitting pass but AOC shot at the keeper. Chalamkh is rock-bottom in terms of confidence and he’s not streetwise, missing the chance to earn free-kicks when defenders are too tight to him. Crucially, he just doesn’t hunt down the chances to attack the ball in the box. That is his main job, for all of his running.

Subs:

Ramsey: Didn’t impress during his time on the pitch, and with Wilshere now out for so long, we will need Ramsey to step up.

van Persie: Didn’t get a lot of service but also didn’t do much when he did get it.

Gibbs: Did pretty well during his short time on the pitch.

So, all in all, it was ok, but we remain a work in progress. Much of the midfield was huff and puff without end-product tonight, but they can and will do better. We’re on course in the Champions’ League, despite having been drawn in a tough group. Like all competitions this season, the CL is going to be a hard slog, but the second half defensive performance and Oxlade-Chamberlain made this a night that was net positive.

Written by 26may1989


A Taste of Honey.

September 28, 2011

A hot sunny Athens morning, greek yoghurt, fresh fruit, and some Greek honey. Lovely.

Olympiacos (we use a K, they use the C) come to town as Greek Champions , further than that I have little to tell you about them. They have over 80,000 members, the 9th highest in European football. They have a superb stadium, noisy, fanatical fans and a good home record. It is said they do not travel well, oh, and their Swedish player Olaf Mellberg scored the first PL goal at the Emirates (for AV)

The first round win by Marseilles  in Athens was a poor result for 4 reasons:

1. Marseilles are French.

2. Olympiacos are a tough proposition in Athens and thus Marseilles are well placed in the group,

3. Marseilles are French

4. Marseilles are French

With little insight into the Greek team I will concentrate upon the Mighty Arsenal. Needless to say we go into the game reduced by injuries. To add to the long term absentees we now have Gervinho, Walcott, Bennie, Miquel, Djourou and more importantly Koscielny injured.

Wenger appears to be forced into playing Song alongside the BFG (Mertesacker) but by doing so we lose our best midfielder.

I would like to see Santos get another game tonight, he must be raring to get his AFC career started and despite having played well recently Gibbs, as we all know, is made of glass.

Up front we have options for the first time in ages. Should we play 4-3-3 expect to see the Ox to get his first start and how exciting will that be? Arshavin or Ryo on the left? AA for me, we need to be on the front foot for this game.

My Team:

I have concerns about the number of games being played by Ramsey especially in light of the upcoming trip to WHL. Perhaps AW will give him a rest and play  Coquelin and Frimpong  in midfield, as it is I expect Frimpong to start.  This is a game made for our friend Abou Diaby, he is sorely missed (IMO).

The same could be said of Van Persie but he has become so important to the team that he must start, hopefully we will be a coasting on the hour and Chamakh can continue to get some pitch time.

Athens has been continuously inhabited for more than 7000 years (London has a measly 2000 year history). Athenians and ancient Greeks have gifted the world many wonders, among them – democracy, astrology, biology, mathematics, physics and the theatre, but for all their marvels they didn’t invent football, did they?

This is a tie we are expected to win and is probably our easiest fixture in the CL, anything less than 3 points will be costly,

Champions League campaigns may come and go but Arsenal are Forever and Ever 🙂

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Job Advertisement – Arsenal Football Club are looking for a new: MANAGER

September 27, 2011

Written by Total Arsenal

Due to a recent spell of bad results in the Premier League and the relentless complaining of our fans, we are now looking for a new Manager.

During the reign of Arsène Wenger, Arsenal won three League Championships, Four FA Cups, achieved the cult-status of the Invincibles for a 49-games spell of not getting beat, reached the CL final, played in the CL for 14 consecutive seasons, played a brand of football envied all over the world, and moved successfully to a brand new stadium, whilst keeping the club in a healthy financial position.

Arsenal have just sold their best player, captain and playmaker Cesc Fabregas, and shipped out another 9 players, but we also bought 11 players during the Transfer Window. The new squad is full of youthful talent, experienced players, with a number of national captains, and a top quality spine to the team.

However recent results have been disappointing and we feel our incumbent manager has been far too slow with the integration of the new players – after all he had 21 days since the last day of the TW (including an international break). Arsenal football club had to endure two woeful away games against Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in the new season, and we have come to the conclusion that the most successful manager in our history is no longer capable of bringing our beloved Arsenal the successes that it is simply entitled to.

We are now looking for a manager who does not complain when his best players are sold, is able to integrate 11 new players into the team in just a few days time, and can bring us instant success (minimum requirement of PL or CL title this season).

HAVE YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO REPLACE ARSENE WENGER, AND MAKE US WIN THE PL AND/OR CL THIS YEAR AND NEXT YEAR AND EVERY YEAR AFTER THAT?

Successful Applicants should be able to demonstrate:

  • A track-record of success (titles, cups, accolades) that equals, or ideally betters that of the incumbent manager.
  • A track-record of prudent financial management/ ability to adhere to the principle of ‘Sustainability’ (in-depth knowledge of Financial Fair Play – FFP – is highly desirable).
  • A vision as well as a track-record of playing attractive, attacking football that is acknowledged all over the world i.e. have you developed a ‘world football brand’ during your spell(s) as a manager?
  • A track-record of integrating two new defenders, a number of midfielders and a new striker in less than 21 days.
  • An ability/track-record of spotting super-talented youth players and develop them into world class players (so we can sell them just before they reach their absolute peaked for loads of money).
  • An ability to recruit undetected quality players in their early twenties at cut prices, and develop them into world class players as well (we like to sell those players too… ).
  • A track-record of protecting the Board that employed/employs you in front of everyone and at whatever personal cost.
  • The ability to stay professional and positive even when your best players let you down, the press is in your face all the time (hoping you will crack at any minute), and your BoD are hiding behind their office chairs when the proverbial hits the fan.
  • Availability at short notice is a MUST.

If you believe, you have what it takes to be successful in this role then please get in touch with the major shareholder Stan Kroenke, by emailing him at: silentstanny@arsenalfornow.com

If this position is not for you, but you know of somebody who has got what it takes, please let us know the name of him/her and their contact details, including a summary of why you believe they would be excellent candidates.

TotalArsenal


At Last: A Real Captain for Arsenal

September 26, 2011

If there is one image that defines the revival that Arsenal are about to embark on, it’s this one:

There were many positives to take from our dispatching of Bolton Wanderers on Saturday but, for me, this was the one that really counted.

Robin van Persie, mobbed by a herd of Bolton spongiforms, didn’t give an inch. When they mooed in his face he bellowed back at them; when they jostled him he put out his arms as if to say: “Yeah? And what?” He stood his ground. He faced down the bullocks with a show of real bollocks.

If anyone doubted whether Robin was the man to lead this team, that moment should put their mind at ease.

For Alan Hansen to subsequently criticise him on Match of the Day for not ‘leading by example’ and not being captain material tells you a lot more about Hansen than about van Persie. And it also tells you that he probably watched no more of our game than the brief highlights that were shown on MoTD.

Devout Christians sometimes use the question “what would Jesus do?” as a method to guide their actions.

At Arsenal we used to have a Jesus. His name was Cesc Fabregas. And if you ask what Cesc/Jesus would have done in that scenario, I offer the following speculation:

1) The scenario would not have happened in the first place because Cesc/Jesus, seeing a Wanderers player poleaxed in the box, would have put the ball into touch.
2) But if it had happened, and Cesc/Jesus was mobbed by a thousand pounds of Bolton beef, he would have backed off and walked away.

I’m not saying that either course of action by Cesc/Jesus is wrong. But Robin’s actions were those of a warrior. And by heaven, we have needed a warrior of late.

It may mean that Cesc is a nicer and more sporting person, but it also means that Robin is more of a fighter, someone who would rather be the winning guy than the nice guy.

To continue the religious analogy, if Cesc was Jesus, Robin is the Archangel Michael – the field commander of God’s armies in the war against the devil, with the title “Prince of Angels”.

Prince Robin. That will do for me and that is how I will refer to him from now on.

You may think I’m reading too much into one brief incident, but sometimes fortunes in football hinge on such intangibles. We all talk about confidence, desire, mental strength, morale – well, they are influenced by moments like this.

Prince Robin acted the way a Keown or a Vieira would have done. He handled it probably even better than his compatriot Dennis would have (I suspect Dennis might have chinned one of the cow-faces and got himself red carded).

But Prince Robin kept his arms down and spread wide in a gesture that both ridiculed the ox-minded simpletons of Bolton and ensured that the ref could not accuse him of violent conduct (Gervinho and Diaby, please take note).

He refused to be intimidated.

It’s this kind of leadership that is essential to helping us regain our status as one of the top teams in the country, capable of competing in all competitions and making our opponents believe that we are no pushover.

Cesc was a brilliant player – one of the best midfielders I have ever seen. But he was not a captain. Nor was Gallas and nor was Thierry Henry for all his gifts.

Arsene Wenger thinks we Brits place too much emphasis on the role of captain, but he’s wrong. A real leader on the field can make the crucial difference at the margins between success and failure.

And I really believe that Prince Robin is a leader. His public utterances of late have carried the weight and maturity of someone who knows he is in charge. He supports his team mates but is not afraid to remind them about what’s expected of them. He does not try to say everything in the garden is rosy – but he also refuses to accept that it’s all manure.

Quite possibly it is only his appalling luck with injuries that has stopped van Persie from becoming captain much earlier in his Arsenal career.

Having a striker as captain is not necessarily ideal, but there have been some outstanding srtiker-captains in the past (Shearer, Rummenigge, Maradona to name but three). And our No 10 is really showing leadership on and off the field.

This new Arsenal team is beginning to take shape. There is much to improve on and I don’t expect to see our best until the second half of the season. But the pieces are beginning to fall into place.

And no piece is more important than our new captain.

Prince Robin, I’m your man.

RockyLives


What a Difference a Day Makes …………………….

September 25, 2011


Arsenal 3-0 Bolton

Written by Jamie

I can remember as a kid being on holiday. After two days of solid rain suddenly the morning gave way to a raft of sunshine. My Grandfather walked down to the steps to the swimming pool with a cool drink and Dinah Washington’s seminal hit “What a Difference a Day Makes” soothing the hot air.

As I was leaving the stadium yesterday the memory flooded my mind. On a sunny September Saturday afternoon Arsenal walked out of the storms and traumas of the last few months and into a fragile but hopeful light.

The first half was nervy, van Persie curled a shot close from outside the area. Gervinho showed all the composure of a thirteen year old boy with his father’s razor when clean through on goal he ran the ball to the keeper’s arms. With the half edging away van Persie had a shot blocked.

Arsenal were nervy but on top although our big pole between the poles was called in to action to make a great save early on.

Le Gaffer earned his money at half time as the team came out confident, eager and energised. They were rewarded almost immediately as referee Mark Battenberg waved play on and Ramsey fed van Persie who found room to fire inside the near post. Piece of cake.

Wheater was then sent off for pulling Walcott back when through on goal.

Van Persie went close with a header, and just wide with another shot.

Walcott then laid one on a plate for van Persie in the six yard box for his hundredth in an Arsenal shirt. My sister remarked that it was a “Smudger goal”. On reflection, I think she was right.

Walcott had a hat-trick of chances and fluffed the lot. However Walcott, Gervinho and van Persie were all dangerous and interchanged brilliantly in the second half, Bolton couldn’t cope.

Walcott suffered an injury in the dying moments as he felt a sharp pain in his knee as he was giving chase to a loose ball on the break.

We still defend too high up the pitch, we still don’t get enough pressure on the ball, we are still too open but we are getting better.

Three points, three goals, a good performance and 100 up for the skipper.

Enjoy Match of the Day, Enjoy the Sunday rags.

What a difference a day makes, hey?

Player ratings

Sir Chesney – 7 Great save, solid.

Sagna – 7 His usual self, made the third goal.

Gibbs – 7 Second good game in a few days, great to have a left back that can actually play in the opponents half for the first time in years.

Mertesacker – 7 Best game yet, calm and assured.

Koscielny – 6 Shaky start but did ok.

Song – 7 You know what you are getting, great goal too.

Arteta – 7 Never gives a bad pass but neither he or Ramsey dominates a game, they need too.

Ramsey – 6 Involved in two goals but actually on the outskirts of the game for long patches.

Walcott – 6 Some good, some bad, some ugly but always dangerous.

Gervinho – 7 Good ball skills and a lovely dribble on the by-line in front of the North Bank, Movement was great.

RvP – 9 Two goals, six meaningful attempts, lead the team. Outstanding.

The subs had about as much impact as a fortnight in Mallorca would have on David Dein’s orange glow. Bugger all.


Time for a change of fortune. Bolton preview

September 24, 2011

It is highly likely that the media focus on this game will centre upon Gary Cahill. No doubt he is a good player (though he was crap against MU) but the interest has little to do with his playing ability and more to do with the conflict between the clubs off pitch. Should we be surprised that Gartside decided to go public with the transfer negotiation and made a prat of himself? No, because this is a man who brought Fat Sam to Bolton. Perhaps Gartside thought he could entice a higher Spurs bid by highlighting how cheap their North London neighbours are. Unfortunately for Gartside his shenanigans are likely to cost Bolton a few million when Cahill moves for less money in January or for nothing in summer, ….. Good.

On pitch Bolton are a different team to the one we detested under the Walrus. With Owen Coyle at the head they have found a way to play attractive football. Bolton still have two of the dirtiest players in the PL, players who are very different from each other apart from their disciplinary record. Kevin Davies is the pantomine villain, a proper English Centre Forward and the last of his breed – I really like the man, however Bolton also include the repulsive Paul Robinson, all I need to tell you is that he was signed by Gary Megson!  At 32 y.o and definitely slowing his only hope against Theo is to do what he does best – kick two colours out of him.

The news of Wilshere’s surgery is a hard blow but the return of Ramsey and Rosicky is good news as is the knowledge that Sagna has recovered from his knock, he is such an important player in this team.

My team:

 

 

As a sentimentalist I would like to see Oxlade Chamberlain get at least 15 minutes as a reward for his fine performance midweek. We well know that our defence has been porous, in fact by far the worst in the PL which could (in part) be due to our move to zonal marking at set pieces. Thankfully, Bolton have problems upfront, I hope to see us keep a clean sheet.

Two interesting inventors were born in Bolton. John Harwood who invented the self-winding wristwatch, one of which I wear today, and  Robert Whitehead. Whitehead has a special place in history, he invented the self-propelling torpedo but more significantly he was grandfather to the Von Trapps, without whom the hills would not be alive.

Much is being made of the “crisis” at Arsenal; apart from the destruction of the reserves at OT we have suffered from indiscipline and bad luck. Today I will be going down to the crossroads to see if I can make a deal which will change our fortunes. Wish me a successful negotiation.

Relegation 6 pointer – don’t be silly

COYRRG