Why We Should Be Top Three By New Year

October 21, 2011

No, I haven’t been taking the Kool-Aid.

If you look at the fixture list between now and the New Year (well, January 2nd to be precise) you can see that we have every reason to be optimistic.

We have 11 games between now and then, taking us conveniently to the half way stage of our campaign. Six are at home, five are away.

The home games are:

West Brom

All eminently winnable and, consequently, I have us down for the maximum 18 points from them.

Away from The Emirates we face the following:

Man City

I’m going to be pessimistic and assume only one point from the combined Chelsea and Man City games. But we should win the other three, giving us 10 points for the five away fixtures.

That would give us a total of 38 points after 19 games at close of play on January 2nd.

To get an idea of what that means, let’s look at where we were last season at around that stage: on January 4th 2011 we were sitting third with 39 points, having played a game more (20 as opposed to 19). The Chavs were two points ahead of us and the evil empire of Darth Fergie was five points ahead.

It is perfectly reasonable to believe we will be in as good a position at the start of 2012 as we were at the start of 2011, although we may be more than five points behind the leaders.

My theory is further supported by the fact that between now and the New Year, several of our main rivals have games against each other and will take points from each other.

Man City have to play United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Chelsea face Liverpool, Man City and the Spuds.
Liverpool have Chelsea and Man City.

Less beneficial is the fact that Man Utd and the Spuds have an easier time up to the end of the year, United having only the City game, while the Spuds face only Chelsea from among the ‘top’ teams.

Nevertheless, on the morning of January 3rd 2012 I expect the table to show Man Utd sitting top, with Man City second and us third. There won’t be many points between third, fourth, fifth and sixth (with Chelsea, Liverpool and the Spuds occupying the three places below us). Newcastle will have slipped down to mid table.

This Arsenal team has been substantially rebuilt and has struggled to find its feet quickly, but we are much better than our current league position indicates.

We have some very classy players who are only going to improve the more they play together and we should not underestimate the brilliant coaching ability of Arsene Wenger. It’s no coincidence that he has produced two wonderful, trophy-winning teams and one wonderful team that just fell short of winning the big prizes.

For all the recent criticism of him as a coach, he has a philosophy of football that is second to none and that has made him more successful than most of his peers.

I firmly believe that with the same resources as AW has had in recent years, not even the Purple-Nosed Gorbalian or the Special Needs One would have been able to keep a team in the Champions League every year.

The more he works with the likes of Arteta, Ramsey, Gervinho, Santos, Jenkinson, Benayoun and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the more they will find that Wengerball will become second nature to them and the more we will sweep away the opposition.

So sit back and enjoy our rapid climb up the table, starting on Sunday, when we grab our pitchforks and march against Baron von Frankenpulis’s Monster Army.


Not beautiful, not sexy – but a critical win for Arsenal

October 20, 2011

Marseille 0 – 1 Arsenal: Match Report

Now, this was not a game for the purists of total football – for those who love sexy moves and scintillating finishes: the Arsenal of ‘old’ (at least for now). It will not go into the history books as one of Arsenal’s great CL evenings, but let’s not fool ourselves: this was a critical win for Arsenal.

Before the game, I thought about the likely consequences if we would have lost tonight. The media-scripts were, without any doubt, ready to be released by our friends from the redtops. At this brittle period of rebuilding our team, the CL qualification and subsequent group results have been the one shining light in the dark tunnel of the 2011-2012 season. A loss today and the media would have been putting their daggers into that last bit of success and dignity that Arsenal have been hanging onto this season, the Doomers would have joined them en masse, and we all would have really suffered from it. Even the biggest optimist would have struggled to keep the belief.

Yet tonight, Arsenal made an important step forward, and we should be all pleased by this. Arsenal are now top of the group and Marseille and Dortmund still have to come to the Emirates. All at once, there is reason for some renewed optimism. It was not beautiful, it was not sexy, but it was just what the doctor ordered. Games like these can lay the foundation for a turnaround of fortunes.


First Half

Both teams started nervously with a lack of ball control/possession and some defensive mistakes as well. It was tight in midfield and Marseille made it hard for us to dominate the game. However, after a while we started to make a number of good runs on the right-hand side, which led to some good, and some not-so-good crosses into the box. Unfortunately, the Marseille defence dealt with these easily albeit at the expense of a number of corners. From one of those corners we produced our best chance in the first half. Diawara cleared a header from Robin van Persie off the line, but we should have had a penalty, moments before that, when the same Diawara – very cunningly – had handled the ball in the air.

Marseille best chance came after 30 minutes: the occasionally impressive Remy showed some great agility to leave the BFG rooted to the ground (or should that be: anchored to the sea-floor?), and to get past Jenkinson. However, the latter was just able to stick his foot brilliantly in front of Remy’s diagonal shot at goal, and his attempt was deflected past our goal.

Just before the end of the first half,Santos did something inexplicable. Already on a yellow card, he decided to handle the ball whilst under no pressure to do so. It could have so easily been a second yellow card, and the team would have been put under immense pressure for the rest of the game. Santos, who really impressed me at the Emirates against Sunderland on Sunday, had a bit of a shocker of a first half, but luckily he improved somewhat during the second half.

Second Half

Arsenal, as so often this season, started the second half really well. Jenkinson, who had already impressed during the first half, showed great energy and determination to make a difference on the right, but was not helped by a few sloppy passes from Walcott and Rosicky at this stage. Jenkinson had to come off and Djourou replaced him. I am sure, I was not the only one to think that Marseille would now start to test the right-hand side of our defence, but just as they had not tried to put more pressure on Santos in the second half, they also refrained from targeting Djourou. The referee even helped them by giving Johan a yellow card almost straightaway, and unjustly so! It only then dawned on me that Marseille were actually aiming for a draw.

After 60 minutes, Song and Rosicky combined to play the ball to Theo just inside the box. Walcott got past the throughout-the-game very impressive N’Koulou, but his shot is too soft and too close to the goalie. Arsenal keep dominating without creating too many chances, as both Song and Arteta become stronger and stronger in the second half. Wenger changed Theo for Gervinho and straightaway there was more threat and creativity to our attacking play. Gervinho did really well to run past a few Marseille players and to play a great ball into box for Robin. Unfortunately, van Persie needed to use his right foot and his shot was stopped by the also impressive Mandada. It then looked like we were heading for a draw, which in itself would not have been a bad result for us.

But there was a final sting in the tale, and justice was done. The only team that tried to play football in the second half was rewarded for its efforts. Johan Djourou puts in an early cross and, for once, Robin van Persie is not alone in the box – Gervinho is there as well – and the Marseille defence is under pressure. Gervinho tries to control Djourou’s cross, but inadvertently (?), he produces the perfect assist for Ramsey, who also made a good run into the box. Ramsey controls the ball well with his first touch and finds time and space to coolly slot the ball, with a low, hard and placed shot, past the goalkeeper’s right-hand side. Ramsey, another one of our players who received a lot of criticism from his own fans recently, showed some great maturity at that moment in time – and just as much as Arsenal made a step forward today, he made one himself as well.

Player Ratings:

Szczesny: not much to do, but was calm and confident (which goes a long way) – 6.5

Mertesacker: read the game well defensively, but was often hesitant passing the ball going forward, and once or twice to static in the box. I still like him a lot and he is just what we need at the moment – 6.5

Koscielny: incredible, gutsy performance. He and Mertesacker compliment each other really well and over time this could become a good partnership – 7.5 Joint man of the match

Santos: gave the ball away a lot, and already on (an unjust) yellow card, he decided to handle the ball. He looked tired and slow, but also showed some glimpses of real quality –5

Jenkinson: very impressive game, defensively and especially going forward. I just loved his energy and eagerness, and in my view, he set an example to some of his colleagues tonight – 7.5 Joint man of the match

Rosicky: struggled at large parts of the game to impose himself and seemed to disappear a lot. But he does bring shape to our team and has plenty of class –6

Arteta: a solid performance, doing a lot of the hard, often unnoticed, work in front of our defence. I like this guy a lot – 7

Song: he is a bit like an old-fashioned locomotive: he seems to start games rusty, even clumsy, and slowly, but the longer the game goes on, the sharper and stronger he becomes, and at the end of the game he is just unbelievable! –7

Arshavin: not a good game. Tried to set up a few attacks but just did not work out for him on the day. Gave the ball away too many times – 5

Van Persie: worked hard for the team, but was often isolated, and surrounded by a couple of very strong CB’s. The introduction of Gervinho seemed to really make a difference for him and he almost scored at the end –7

Walcott: a couple of decent runs and crosses into the box, and some good defensive support at times, but we did not get enough from him this game – 5.5


Johan Djourou – did ok after a couple of very difficult months for him, and played a good, aggressive cross into the box that led to Ramsey’s goal –6

Gervinho – brought class, aggression and incisiveness to our attacking play – 6.5

Ramsey – made a difference straightaway and a great goal to win the match – 6.5


Short trip to Marseilles

October 19, 2011

Our first trip to France since 2002 when we beat Auxerre 1-0. A similar scoreline tonight would see Arsenal in the box seat in the group.

Marseilles are in the same type of form as Arsenal, lying 15th in Ligue 1 and struggling to get back in touch with their last season’s form.  Their win over Borussia shows just what they can do when playing well – our esteemed manager stating he was “surprised and impressed.”  Mr. Wenger went on to say he expects Marseilles to play on the counter-attack and that they have a number of fine players.

Playing teams committed to counter-attacking football has become the norm for AFC because the opposition are fully aware of the pace of Theo, Gerv and RvP. Furthermore, with the amount of possession we usually have counter attack is the only way to play against us.

Gibbs is injured and Ramsey is expected back …..

My team

A big night for Mertesacker who up to now has shown himself to have the turning circle of  an oil tanker, his football nous will be sorely tested as Marseilles play with pace upfront;  in Remy and Ayew they have much admired strikers and many a club have tried to sign Mbia (allegedly).

Good omens:  We have played 7 times in France and have yet to lose. Marseilles have won only one of their 10 league matches this season and drew 0-0 on Saturday. We have won 4 of our last 5 games. Ayew may be suspended.

Not so dusty:  Marseilles are top of the CL group and have yet to concede a goal.  OM are strong at home and in Didier Deschamps have an excellent manager. Gignac is back to fitness and is a fine player – he should get at least 30 mins.

Henri Fabre, the inventor of the seaplane was born in Marseilles. His   seaplane first took off in 1910 and later is planes  saw action in the First World War. Fabre died in 1984 at the age of 101.

This is an important game for Arsenal, we know the result of coming second (or heavens forbid third) in the group.


Big Raddy

Van Persie? I’d sell him….‏

October 18, 2011

It is often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, well for me it’s quite the opposite when thinking about our Captain Marvel. I had written him off, I wanted him gone from our club, he was never available, when he was he never scored, he blasted free kicks into Row Z (ok he still has a propensity to do this), complained if the ball wasn’t played exactly where he wanted it, I preferred Adebayor.

Don’t worry I have been to see Father Bergkamp and have said one thousand Hail Henry’s to atone for my sins, and have indulged in a spot of self flagellation for good measure.

I was so wrong. I have fallen in love all over again, and this time it’s for keeps. And here’s why:

Premier League goals per game since 1 January:

van Persie 23 goals 25 games
Rooney 19 goals 25 games
Lampard 13 goals 25 games
Sturridge 12 goals 19 games
Hernandez 12 goals 22 games

In fact in Europe he is bettered only by three men

Ronaldo 30 goals 25 games
Mario Gomez 26 goals 25 games
Messi 24 goals 26 games

These three play for the the top teams in their respective countries and with supply lines that our captain can only dream about.

It is these stats combined with the passion and commitment he shows week in week out that have turned me back to the light.

Now I have some questions for others, given the above can someone explain why I still hear calls for Wenger to buy a proven goalscorer or a predator in the box?

We have all witnessed the teams efforts since the Carling Cup final and bemoan the lack of creativity or penetration from our midfield but Robin has still managed to set the target for other Premier League strikers to be judged by.

Also I hear the common complaint that he should be set free in the hole, again I have to question this, why fix what’s not broken?

If there is one thing that Robin van Persie has proven in the last few months it is that he is a striker. He is perhaps the most complete striker/goalscorer we have had at the club since Ian Wright, he knows where the goal is, he can play back to the goal or facing, he finds space in the 18 yard box that few others can match, he can score with both feet, volleys, power, precision, deft touches and even with his head.

So I am asking for three things, for fans to stop calling for a “proper” striker, for the midfield to start adding a few goals to help him out, and finally for forgiveness for ever doubting the magnificence that is Robin van Persie.

Written by Gooner in Exile

Walking in a van Persie wonderland

October 17, 2011

Yesterday was Robin van Persie’s day.  Just how important he is to the post-Cesc Arsenal was on display for all to see.  His first goal, just half a minute into the game, saw him receive the ball from Gervinho on the edge of the penalty area, and work the space before getting off a shot that wrong-footed Mignolet in the Sunderland goal.  It was decent but said more about poor defending from our opponents than anything.

His second was as sublime a free-kick as one is likely to see, deftly flighted to the top right-hand corner of the goal.  Van Persie seems to like scoring free kicks against Sunderland in October; his powerhouse shot off the underside of the bar was against the same opponents in 2007.  Seb Larsson’s equaliser yesterday was another superb free-kick, and being sat behind the goal in the North Bank, I have to admit, I felt pretty lucky seeing two perfect efforts, even if one of them was against us.

But probably the most impressive piece of van Perise’s play was a miss: in the middle of the purplest patch of the first half, the first 25 minutes, van Persie took a pass with his right foot, shielding it from the defender, and then took an early chip across to the other side of the goal.  The Belgian keeper was completely beaten and looked to have resigned himself to picking the ball out of the net.  But the trajectory of the ball bent ever so slightly and the ball hit the inside of the post.  Gervinho attempted to sweep up the pieces as the ball went across the face of goal, but it was too much for him.  Van Persie may not have scored but his effort was reminiscent of Cantona at his arrogant, puff-chested best (also against Sunderland, as it happens).  Absolutely superb.

Van Persie aside, there was some good aspects to our performance yesterday.  Carl Jenkinson had his best game for us so far, and showed that he’s learning as quickly as Koscielny did last year.  He’s prone to be a bit head-down when running with the ball, but again and again he attacked Kieran Richardson at left-back and often got his cross in.  And Tomas Rosicky had by some distance his best performance for a long time, justifying his surprise inclusion in the starting XI.  Rosicky worked hard and turned his markers well.  Despite what others might say, Rosicky also delivered a number of good passes, including the one that released Gervinho before the Ivorian laid it onto van Persie for the first goal.

Wojciech Szczesny didn’t have the busiest of games but his point-blank save from Cattermole at the end of the first half was world class – after the energetic and awkward Sessegnon undid our defence and knocked the ball across the goal, everyone in the ground must have assumed it would be Sunderland’s second goal, the ball just needed to be nodded in from a yard.  But Szczesny didn’t give up and launched himself across the goal, and Cattermole’s header just cannoned off the big Pole.  An epic piece of keeping.

Andrey Arshavin has done little to justify his wages since that goal against Barca but his sub’s performance yesterday was the best we’ve seen of him for a long time.  His desire and artistry in the dribble was great to see, and he was unlucky to see his toe-poke shot go wide after he’d slalomed through the Sunderland defence.

But there were negatives.  Sunderland were a weakened side: they don’t have their first choice keeper available, have seen their star striker bizarrely head off to the Gulf on loan, and one of their first choice centre backs is on police bail amid serious criminal allegations.  Sunderland may have spent heavily over the past few years but this is a side we should be beating more comfortably than we did.  We tore them apart in the first 20 minutes, and could easily have been three or four up, and we completely dominated the second half, but we ceded control of the game in the first half and, despite all the second half possession, we often looked laboured in attack.  Sunderland were well organised and hard-working, deploying the typical defensive 4-5-1 used against us at Ashburton Grove, including the rotational fouling tactic, which the weak and inconsistent Howard Webb was unable to deal with.

On individual performances, the one that worried me the most was Mikel Arteta’s.  I like Arteta, he’s intelligent and honest, a real team player.  But he hasn’t shown adequate quality in an Arsenal shirt yet, and yesterday he contributed little of value for us.  And he even gave away the free-kick from which Larsson scored with a needless handball.

Theo Walcott drew the customary slagging from his own fans, something that never fails to wind me up, but he didn’t have a good game, too often taking up poor positions.  That said, he undid the Sunderland defence a couple of times and carried some threat to our opponents.  Not that the haters would acknowledge that.

The defensive side of our game remains a delicate thing.  Most of the time, everything was ok, but in the 15 first-half minutes when Sunderland were on top, too often our opponents had the luxury of time and space on the ball.  We need to be far more focussed and consistent in our defending.

And finally, our crowd: Christ on a bike, where do some of these idiots get off, booing their side at halftime?  And that after a half in which we’d done plenty that was good.  I despair of some of my fellow Arsenal fans.  The volume was increased in the second half, but this impatient, hypercritical nervousness is neither justified nor productive.

We’re edging forward slowly.  We’re back in the top half of the table and within striking distance of Spurs.  But next weekend, we’re hosts to Stoke, who will bring much more of a threat than Sunderland.  Cope with that and we’re definitely on the up.

My rankings for the day:

Szczesny: 8 A world class save and generally very good, bar a couple of wonky kicks. No chance for the goal.

Jenkinson: 7 After looking like damaged goods in his last few outings, CJ showed real promise.

Mertesacker: 6

Koscielny: 6

Gibbs: 5 Didn’t contribute enough going forward.

Song: 6 Some wayward passing but pretty sturdy performance.

Arteta: 4 Disappointing.  Needs to impose himself soon.

Rosicky: 7 A renaissance for Little Mozart?

Walcott: 5

Gervinho: 6 A great opening 20 minutes, not a lot after that.

Van Persie: 9 Oh my god, what a day.  Get that contract sorted now.

Santos: 6

Arshavin: 7

Benayoun: 6 Did ok when he came on, worried the defenders on a couple of occasions.

Written by 26may89

Pick up the Pieces

October 16, 2011

At last the chance to write about something other than rumour, tittle tattle and economics. And what a game we have today, none of that nerve wrenching, gut mangling, behind the sofa stuff of our last match against the lowlife bottom feeders – today we welcome those fine upstanding men from the frozen wasteland of Sunderland, who will be looking to gift us 3 points in their push for relegation. A day for Arsenal to get back on track and pick up the pieces.

Sunderland are owned by an American, Ellis Short, who has recently become chairman succeeding the excellent Niall Quinn. Will this isolate Steve Bruce and lead to his replacement, or will it have no effect upon the on-pitch affairs? More to the point, do we really give a damn?

There are lots of interesting stats about today’s game, my favourite being that Sunderland have not won at Arsenal since 1983. There have been 3 90th minute goals in our last 6 meetings, and whoever scores first wins – usually us.

No Bendtner today which is a shame. I watched him in Denmark’s excellent victory over the slimy Portugese (any team with Ronaldo , Mereilles and Nani is slimy and deserving of a good beating!). Nik played centrally and was, I can find no other word, poor. He finished off a fine move for his goal but even Clichy could have scored it. Nik’s absence could give Connor Wickham his first PL start, an interesting player as he showed against us last season at Ipswich.

We are just one point and one place ahead of Sunderland …  bizarre. You all know the problems, we have discussed them endlessly, unfortunately no-one has come up with reasonable solutions other than buying better players. Mr. Wenger believes he has the squad to challenge and one can certainly find reasons (not excuses) for our poor start. Injuries to key players and a rash of red cards have hindered our progress.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Wenger solves the right back problem. Can he rely upon a very inexperienced 19 year old Carl Jenkinson to be an adequate understudy to Sagna? Or does he play Koscielny or Djourou at RB?  Another possibility is Coquelin. If there are to be brickbats (whatever they are) to be thrown at AW, it is selling Eboue without buying an experienced stand-in RB.

Upfront, RvP is in the form of his life, can he continue and get a brace today? Why not?

With Rosicky regaining fitness , will AW continue with Ramsey? Despite his critics I believe Ramsey is a fine player and should get the shirt with TR substituting late in the game

Is there any possibility of Arshavin getting the central attacking midfield role? Not in my opinion, in fact I doubt whether AA will even start.

My team:



I am hoping we will really attack Sunderland who are likely to play long ball and  look for set piece opportunities, hence the choice of Santos over Gibbs.

The Americans will not appreciate my choice of inventor born in Sunderland. Contrary to popular belief the electric light bulb was invented by Sir Joseph Swan and not by Thomas Edison.  The electric lightbulb was first patented by Swan in 1878 and his house was the first in the world to be lit by light bulbs.  He received a knighthood and the French Legion d’Honneur in honour of his invention. Top bloke, top beard.



October 15, 2011

Here is just a quick thought to keep us going as frankly, we all wait for tomorrow.

In two hours Wales boot off against France, and just before the starting gun sounds, we will hear the whole of Wales joining in a round of  “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”, or to some “Land of our Fathers”, and what a rallying anthem it is. My Welsh Mother used to make me watch the opening of a Rugby Game in Wales just for this, and she had a point.

We all know how well “You’ll never walk alone” rallies the masses at Anfield, and even that lot down the road have their slow paced “When the Saints go marching in” adaptation, which I begrudgingly admit is fairly haunting.

Like it or not, most of us one-club-loyal fans share a tribal mentality. Now throw in a bit of “God on our side” and you have something scarily fundamentalist. One of my first games was the Leeds v Sunderland Cup Final (A Godfather of mine was a Director of Dover Athletic FC. Sincere apologies to more deserving Sunderland fans), and I remember how moved I was by the majority of the crowd joining in to Abide With Me. Anyhow, back to the Fundamentalist element. I recently had some friends around and was given an SAS Regimental bottle of Whisky with these words engraved on the back:

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea.

When I first read these words, on top of putting them into the context of a band of elite warriors, I nearly … myself.

Now think of the men in red and white coming out of the tunnel in the knowledge that they are going into battle serving a power greater than Stan Kroenke and the weekly envelope.

Is it time to introduce a Fundamentalist slant. A unifying anthem. Something to strike the fear of God into our enemies, or am I becoming a lunatic?

Written by MickyDidIt89

Something to celebrate

October 14, 2011

At last this boring International break is coming to an end and we can look forward to some Arsenal Angst this weekend. Faced with another non-Arsenal news day I thought I’d have a look in the archives and see what this week had been about in times gone past. It turned out that this week 11th to 18th October is historically really very exciting.

Sneaking in on the 10th of October ( if I’m writing it I can change the rules ) we have the birth of Mr Arsenal himself, Tony Adams in 1966 and Charlie George in 1950. Two mega Arsenal Legends born on the same day – that must’ve used up a lot of luck. On the 11th October in 1976 John Devine signed professional terms but I had to google him I’m afraid. He played 111 games for Arsenal and succeeded Pat Rice.

On October 12th  in 1996 Arsene Wenger took charge of his first game against Blackburn Rovers which we won 3-1.

In 1928 on October 13th  Herbert Chapman was involved in some transfer shenanigans and signed inside-forward David Jack from Bolton for a then record £10,890.

We don’t do score lines like this anymore but on October 14th 1893 Elliott and Henderson both scored hat-tricks as Woolwich Arsenal beat Ashford Utd 12-0.

Surely something else must have happened on an October 15th other than in 1971 Ex-Arsenal striker Andy Cole was born in Nottingham. He made just 2 subs appearances.

Now this next date is really important, oh happy day, on this day October 16th in 2004, anyone want to have a guess what happened………, on this day Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1 to go 49 games unbeaten. Will that great feat ever be repeated?

On October 17th 1925 A Jimmy Brain hat-trick helped the Gunners to a 5-0 home win over Cardiff City.

And so we come to another amazing day to celebrate in our great history, as on this day, October 18th, in 2005 our fantastically talented  Thierry Henry scored two goals against Sparta Prague and so smashed Ian Wrights record of 185 goals scored and sent him into the record books. What would an ounce of that ‘va va voom’ do to our forward line now? Enjoy the match report here

This week we can celebrate Arsene’s first game, our unbeaten run and Thierry’s ever present ‘va va voom’. It’s possible that this most dreadful start to a season under Arsene Wenger will also find itself in the history books, maybe because we go on to crash and burn or maybe because against all the odds we’ll pull ourselves out of it and still make it to a  Champions League position. Rough ride ahead.


Now is the time to make Arshavin Arsenal’s Playmaker

October 13, 2011

‘We cannot allow ourselves to indulge in sadness and melancholy’

Andrey Arshavin, December 2010 (after MU away game)


With the departure of Cesc Fabregas and the long-term injury to Jack Wilshere, Arsenal is left with a hole, in more ways than one. It is a cruel double blow to have neither of them available for this pivotal position, especially during this transitional period. Since the start of the new season, the much-changed Arsenal team has looked unfamiliar to us, as if it has lost its identity, its USP, its typical style of football, and the main reason for this is, nobody has been able to make the ‘hole position’ theirs until now. It comes as no surprise that our results in the League have also been well under-par, and now is the time to make some bold moves so we can regain momentum and confidence again, and shake-off this mantle of sadness and melancholy once and for all.

The Playmaker position, just off the striker – the Dutch call it ‘de hangende spits’ (the ‘hanging-off’ striker) was made for Dennis Bergkamp and vice versa, back in the mid-nineties. He epitomised what can be done to a team and its style of football if the right player takes up the no. 10 position. DB10 was always able to find space for himself, so the defence and midfield had an outlet, he was able to hold on the ball and allow the attacking midfielders to move forward, but he was just as capable to set up a quick attack for his fellow striker and wingers – often with an inch-perfect defence-splitting pass that would make you go weak in the knees for joy – or to take on defenders himself and score goals from just outside the penalty area, or inside the box. Dennis had it all: brilliant first touch, superb vision, a winner’s mentality, a professional through and through, and somebody who took pleasure in doing beautiful things with a ball on the pitch. It was this quest for beauty that has made him such a special player and made him immortal to us, and, in a way, he made us all feel a bit immortal along the way.

Cesc Fabregas was a different ‘no. 10’ for us: more of an attacking midfielder than a striker, with a great ability to pass the ball within tight spaces and to boss the midfield area. However, what he had in common with Dennis was the ability to pick a defence splitting pass and to create something out of nothing, for which he also had the vision and touch. He was another great Arsenal player although not in the same category as Dennis, but then who is, or will ever be?

Jack Wilshere is a very promising player for both Arsenal and England. For me, he is our future ‘nr. 10’ as he is similar to Cesc in many ways, with great vision and a superb passer of the ball, very good in tight spaces and with a phenomenal fighting spirit and stamina. He came off age last year during our game against Barcelona, and to do so at such a young age is truly astounding. We are unbelievably lucky to have him, and I am sure he will be another Arsenal great. The only thing missing until now is Jack’s goal scoring ability/record, and until this improves he can compensate it with his vision and passing ability, which should lead to setting up many successful attacks and assists.

So, who is going to fill this position for us until Jack returns?

The candidates are: Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin. I cannot see Arsenal change the system to 4-4-2 in the near future, so I am going to base my views on the current 4-2-3-1 system. In the ‘2’, Alex Song is our ‘pure’ DM and there is back-up for him from Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin. For me the best partner to Song in the ‘2’ is a typical box-to-box midfielder and either Aaron Ramsey or Mikel Arteta should play in that position. The DM’s partner should be an all-round midfielder who can defend, and go forward, create chances for others and score goals himself. Both Arteta and Ramsey can offer this, and we are lucky to have two such good players to cover this position.

But who should play in the hole: who should be our Playmaker? Ideally, a player for this position should have vision, hold on to the ball really well, a great passer of the ball and ability to score goals with an average of 0.25 goals or higher, per game.

For me, for now, it is neither Ramsey, nor Arteta. For different reasons, I find it too early for them to be given this vital role in the team. I am not convinced that both of them have the vision that is required for this key position and with PL goal-scoring records of 0.16 goals per game (Arteta) and 0.12 (Ramsey), I do not feel they are prolific enough either. However, it is early days and both could claim this position over time.

Rosicky has the vision and the passing ability, but lacks the stamina and consistency to really claim this role. When TR played in this role this season, he gave Arsenal its identity back, but he cannot do this twice a week for us and his goal scoring record is not great either with only 0.13 goals per game. For me, Rosicky should be the second choice for the Playmaker role, and he is a good squad player for Arsenal to have (just think back to his second half performance against Udinese in Italy).

Yossi Benayoun could be a possibility, but as he is on loan at Arsenal I don’t think we should give this position to him on a regular basis. His goal scoring record is the same as Arteta’s (0.16 goals per game), so not bad but also not brilliant. I would like to see more of Yossi in an Arsenal shirt so I can make a proper assessment of his abilities.

This leaves me with two remaining possibilities: Robin van Persie or Andrey Arshavin. Both are options I would like us to try out, just to see whether it works. As a captain, RvP is isolated as our lone striker. If he were to play in the ‘hole position’ with either Chamakh, Park, or even Gervinho or Walcott, in front of him, he could be both a better leader of the team and improve our attacking options. He would not be a typical Playmaker, but fill in the role similar to the way Rooney does at MU. If we were to opt for a 4-4-2 formation, as many of us would prefer, this would work very well.  It would mean a strong decrease in focussing on our passing game and continuous emphasis on breaking quickly – a bit like the Arsenal of the early parts of the last decade. We have the wing-players for it now with Walcott, Gervinho, Ryo and Ox, and with Chamakh and Park we have the typical strikers to make this system work for us. We could add to this strike-force at the next TW and all could be rosy again.

However, as I said earlier, I don’t believe we will adopt a 4-4-2 system in the near future. In the current 4-2-3-1 system, we need a playmaker in the middle of the ‘3’. As we are not talking about a classical playmaker – as in a 4-4-2 formation in which the player next to the DM would be: a role that would fit both Arteta and Ramsey a lot better in my opinion – we need somebody in this role who can hold on to the ball in tight spaces, pass it with ease, find gaps in defences easily, makes good attacking decisions in a flash, and can score goals from just outside the box as well as inside the box.

For me, this player is Andrey Arshavin. Please don’t get me wrong in thinking I am a huge fan of Arshavin: he is not consistent enough, and does not work as hard as is required, but then – as we all know – he is not playing in his best position either. Arshavin has a PL goal scoring record of 0.27 goals per game, which is the same as DB10 had for us. He is great passer of the ball and can split open defences easily. He holds on the ball reasonably well, although this is not one of his strong points. He can score from just outside the box, and I have no doubt he would link up well with RvP.

It is only a matter of time until Arshavin leaves Arsenal, but I think he deserves to be given the ‘hanging-off’’ striker position, just this once: at least until Christmas this year. He is our best option there and it would be cruel not to give him a last opportunity to show us all how really good he is. Why Arsene Wenger has not done this until now is a mystery to me, but hopefully the current lack of alternatives might change his mind.


Psst….. wanna buy a football franchise?

October 12, 2011

Chelsea FC  directors say their club needs more season tickets as the ground isn’t big enough. There is a  suspicion that their Russian Oligarch wants away from financing them and it’s time for them to stand on their own feet as Financial Fair Play looms large. Player’s wages versus gate receipts cannot be justified if they stay where they are. But still their fans bemoan the current tickets prices, whilst demanding the club doesn’t move.

So there you have it, all those happy fans who loved the spend, spend, spend days are now faced with the reality of what being in debt means. Don’t want to pay, don’t want to move, while their creditors circle in case the Russian goes off and takes his money to fight his election as Putin demands. What does the future hold for them and their club?

How different are Arsenal, debt almost eradicated gate receipts enough to cover wages and a profit being returned annually, enough to keep our owners interested?

But still some fans are objecting. They want trophies and for the club to spend some money and bugger the consequences. We want trophies, 6 years we have waited it’s a disgrace, what are these yanks up to, why won’t they spend the money, fire the manager, he has lost the plot. Let’s demonstrate, with some creative thinking, I know we’ll make a banner, a bloody big one, get our message across. We buy the tickets, it’s our club. Without us fans there would be nothing.

Wrong, my friends, oh so wrong.  Arsenal FC, like Chelsea and all the privately owned clubs have the potential to become a Franchise.  Should Chelsea move to Slough, Harlow or Wapping it matters not, they would be welcomed with open arms by local councils for the money they would bring in.

Their fans, not all of whom by any stretch of the imagination live in the borough, would continue to go, maybe some of the ‘I am here to be seen’  show business lovies might find the journeys a mite  too arduous, but they in all probability are only temporary anyway.

Professional sports clubs bring in fans by the thousand and their spending power feeds the coffers of local business and the transport companies that get them there. They provide jobs, as brilliantly broken down in yesterday’s post by GIE. 600 casual staff alone work at the Arsenal on match days and the club pays business rates worth many thousands of pounds.

Take test cricket as an example. There are 7 home test matches next year and 9 counties who with the help of investment from the local councils, have upgraded their grounds in the hope that they will get one.  Lancashire’s MD has expressed the view that those grounds that don’t get one are in danger of going broke. But still the local councils invest, why, because of the revenue a successful bid generates and all will bid every year desperate to succeed and stay in business

So it is with football, and for this reason if you have ownership of a club you are in the driving seat. You have the power to place your toy where you want, forget the football League they haven’t the balls to say boo to a big club let alone tell them what to do. Ask Leyton Orient as they contemplate the hammers moving onto their manor.

Franchises based on the American model could well be on their way here and fans had better wise up or they, like their American cousins could see teams uproot and move lock stock and barrel. Remember it doesn’t only  have to be in this country for the big boys, should a European League comes to fruition, then anywhere is possible.

Written by dandan