Prince Robin saves the Big F****** German

November 20, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

After two weeks of interlull we could once again enjoy proper meaningful football with a trip to the Fine City of Norwich to take on Paul Lambert’s promoted Canaries.

The only selection problem facing Wenger was whether to field Koscielny, Djourou or Yennaris at right back. In fairness it was a no brainier, Koscielny is one of the first names on the team sheet on current form and out of our relative plethora of centre backs probably most adept at playing right back having had experience there in the lower French leagues.

The team started brightly with Walcott using his pace to scare Tierney and Gervinho causing problems on the left. The skipper was showing why he is the most feared attacker in the Premier League right now with movement and sublime touches that the Norwich defence could not cope with.

One of the early chances fell to van Persie, to the shock of Arsenal fans everywhere he failed to convert it. The team was carving out opportunities and controlling possession so easily that it was only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken.

The best chance of the opening fifteen minutes came as Gervinho found Walcott arriving in the box he cleverly stopped and curled the ball past Ruddy with his left foot, Martin lunged towards the goal and somehow managed to clear the ball over the cross bar to prevent the opener.

It was Norwich however who took the lead against the run of play, Mertesacker came over all charitable (perhaps a Children in Need Hangover and a confusion of Pudsey with a Canary) and became the Big Friendly German, unnecessarily allowing the ball to bounce when playing it early or just clearing the ball into Row Z would have been the better option. Morrison bundled past the German and slotted the ball under the advancing Szczesny.

Szczesny’s look at Per summed up how we were all feeling about him at that moment.

However this is the new Arsenal, goals given away are just another obstacle to overcome, there was no ten minute spell where we felt we could go more goals down, the team instead set about getting the equaliser.

After another period of more spurned chances we equalised, Gervinho advancing down the wing brought the ball inside and fed van Persie he turned and found Walcott, he pushed it past Tierney, sprinted onto it, looked up and drove the ball towards the centre of the goal and Gervinho. The Ivorian managed an air kick back heel when a simple tap in would have sufficed, thankfully Robin couldn’t miss the opportunity to add to the seasons tally and he had ghosted into the box unmarked to tap in from two yards.

The half played out with more opportunities for Arsenal to take the lead but unfortunately they could not make any of them count.

The second half started well with more fine attacking play. Vermaelen breaking forward and managing to deliver a cross which found Gervinho but he could only head weakly at Ruddy. Soon after Gervinho had another chance to break the deadlock, played in by a beautiful reverse pass from van Persie he rounded the keeper but did not have the composure to pass in to the empty net.

It started to feel like we would not find a deadlock, and some legs were looking heavy from International duties. Then Ramsey disposed Martin and was immediately brought down, Song collected the loose ball and drove forward, Gervinho broke left, and Robin broke right, Song took his time and played in van Persie, it looked like he may have forced him to wide on his right foot, Ruddy came to narrow the angle and but Van Persie calmly lifted it over him with the chocolate leg and the ball nestled in the net.

The rest of the ninety played out with little incident, our new found maturity and responsibility meant that our attacks were limited to three or four players rather than five, six and seven of last season, and the defence rarely looked exposed or troubled.

All in all a job well done, three points were much needed to continue the form we have been showing in the last few weeks and to keep the momentum five Premier League wins on the bounce 15 goals for 6 against.

Undoubtedly there will be more people saying we rely on van Persie too heavily and calling us a one man team after another brace to get us over the final hurdle. Well here’s the thing, thats the laziest punditry I currently hear. Robin van Persie is a centre forward, you expect him to score the bulk of the goals. He does not score all goals by picking the ball up on the half way line and running past everyone, he scores goals by finding good positions and being played in by one of his talented teammates, that nearly every chance he has goes in means the team look to find him with the final ball more often.

Ratings:

Szczesny 8 – Goalkeepers union speaking here but i dislike a keeper getting a 7 just because he didn’t have a lot to do, everything that was asked of him he did well, no chance for Norwich goal, if he had saved it he would have got a 9.

Koscielny 7 – Strong defensively and Norwich did not get a look in on our right flank. However judged as a full back he did not get forward enough to support Walcott.

Mertesacker 6.5 – I know most will expect him to get a lower score because of the mistake that led to the goal, but in all honesty it was the only mistake he made al day, unfortunately he was punished for it. Other than that he swept up and closed down well and looked comfortable.

Vermaelen 8 – Won everything in the air, solid in the tackle and offers an alternative when bringing the ball out of the back line.

Santos 7 – This guy is marmite you either love him or hate him, I think I love him, he is an under-rated tackler and does well going forward. Has a tendency to give me kittens every now and again with a relaxed pass, he just plays the game he knows, pass the ball and trust the receiver.

Arteta 7 – Seemed to suffer really from two weeks off, once up to speed set about providing a useful screen to break up attacks and kept the ball moving in the right direction.

Song 7.5 – Comfortably dealt with all Norwich could chuck at him, filled in at centre back when Vermaelen went wandering forward, and good work to seize on the opportunity to set up the winner.

Ramsey 7 – Worked hard to get in good positions, but wasn’t always found by his teammates. Pounced on the poor touch by Martin to allow Song to break forward for the winner.

Gervinho 7.5 – Getting better all the time, movement good, dribbling good, passing good, finishing must do better, but I’m sure it will come with time.

Walcott 8 – Purple patch time for this young man, finding a way to beat his man every time, and using the ball to good effect. Unlucky not to have scored but a fantastic all round performance.

van Persie 8 – Great movement to be on the end of the first, sublime finish for the second. Good link up play and leadership.

MOTM – Walcott, constant threat and end product.


On the Road Again: Norwich Preview

November 19, 2011

An ice age ago Arsenal played their last game, would I be correct in thinking we beat WBA?  And our last away fixture was  …. remind me?

Before the Interlull

Very excited to see us back playing Norwich. Lovely town, good beer and pubs, beautiful countryside. They have been doing unexpectedly well under Paul Lambert –  may their success continue after this afternoon’s drubbing (we can but hope) when Norwich go Man City in 2 weeks.

What can we expect today?  The Arsenal team appear to have returned from their travels in one piece, they have had 5 days to relax and re-focus and they must be hungry to build upon their excellent run of form. We may not be the fluent Arsenal of old and we may have problems which will be exposed by better teams but for the moment this team is developing the handy habit of winning ( last 11 games: W9 D1 L1). Norwich, who were everyone’s bet to go straight back down have done well playing expansive attacking football, 9th spot is a fantastic start for them. It should be a good game.

Stat time. Norwich have scored 38% of their goals from headers, (PL highest). In the last 3 games v Norwich AFC have scored at least 4 times. AFC have lost only one of their last 20 games v Norwich. AFC have conceded the PL’s most goals on the road  (17) and have scored in all but one of their last 15 away games. Norwich are the 3rd hardest working team in terms of yards run in the PL.

Injuries. We are down by 3 fullbacks, 2 MF’s and 2 forwards. Norwich have a full squad (BBC)

My team:

Mr Wenger has been hinting that Koscielny will start at RB, he would definitely be my choice. Chamakh is fit again and we have to find a way to get him back scoring, we know he has the talent and with just a bit of luck he could come good; I would like to see him on the hour. If Norwich persist in playing a high line Theo will fill his boots. Thinking about the first scorer? Santos is due a goal, as is Gervinho.

Fine article in The Independent by Lee Dixon talking about his arrival at THOF.

Sadly no inventors from Norwich, perhaps those windy flatlands prohibit such work but plenty of interesting notables. With today’s inditement of Tumbling John Terry, may I bring Mr. Pablo Fanque to your attention. Mr Fanque is mentioned on the Beatles song “For the benefit of Mr. Kite” and is known as the first black circus proprietor. He also sported a fine moustache

Another pioneering black man died today. Basil D’Oliveira was one of my childhood heroes. I dedicate this post to his memory.

Written by BigRaddy


The New Arsenal

November 18, 2011

The new Arsenal: focus, enthusiasm, togetherness, and a mixture of raw talent and calm experience

The interlull is almost over. Although it has been a boring period – from a footballing point of view – at least we did not have to endure again the spectacle of recent interlulls: in-fighting of fellow Arsenal fans. No, quietly the fans have gained considerable trust in this Arsenal team again and are more united now. And this makes a big difference on how an interlull period is experienced. Football is funny like that.

The reason for this renewed optimism is not only down to a run of good games/results. There is something within this new Arsenal team that makes it easy to indentify with again, to really love again, something that makes us feel good to support and believe in this team again with all our heart. It is like having a new girlfriend: she might be not as stunning as the previous one, and not everybody talks about you anymore, but she is surprisingly pleasant and enthusiastic and you feel you are getting somewhere again – a sense of hope and progress. And we can definitely say Arsenal is getting somewhere again.

So what are the key ingredients of this new Arsenal team? For me, they can be summarised with the word: FEETT. On a personal/work related level I have always felt that people with a lot of FEETT get furthest in work/life, and I believe this also goes for whole teams, or even organisations.

F is for Focus:

There is a new focus in this team, mixed with a healthy dose of humility. For a big part this is due to our awful start to the season. The sweet uses of adversity (Shakespeare) have been on display once again. Arsenal is well below from where it belongs in the league table, and the aim is to simply focus on one game at a time and win as many as possible, so we can climb the table and end in the top-4 at least.

The same goes for the cup competitions. This will sound a bit bizarre, but I have not seen Arsenal being this focussed as it has been this year, for a long time. Nobody believes anymore that we are special – at the moment – based on our recent history of superior, title & cup-winning football: no, for the first time there appears to be a strong realisation among the fans and the players that we need to regain that status through hard work and focussing on winning game after game. Wenger has also recognised this, as he stated recently that we need to be a bit humble and just concentrate on winning the next game (rather than talking about winning the title this year). Combine that with Gazidis’ announcement that not finishing in the top-4 would not be a disaster and you can see Arsenal’s tactics to release the tension a bit, and allow time to build another Wengerball super-team.

The paradox is that by saying we are not focussed on winning the title (at the moment) and not qualifying for the CL is not a disaster, we are far more likely to do well this season. This team is on a mission – it knows what it needs to do.

E is for Energy & Enthusiasm:

We have the right balance now between talent, technique and energy levels, and with the likes of Arteta, Jenkinson, Koz, RvP, Ramsey, Song, Szzesny and Vermaelen in our team we have plenty of stamina. The team works a lot harder now – collectively – and with a considerable amount of enthusiasm as well. Energy and enthusiasm are paramount for success, as it will help us to get over the difficult moments easier and faster (recent second half performances against Udinese, Sunderland, Marseille, and Chelsea especially, spring to mind).

E is for Experience:

For me, this is probably the biggest, and most positive, change from last year. The way the BFG and Santos recovered in the second half, from their disappointing first half performances against Chelsea, was very telling. With Vermaelen, the BFG, Sanya and Santos there is plenty of experience in our defence and the likes of Jenkinson, Szczesny, JD and Gibbs will all benefit from this tremendously as well.

In midfield, we now have the ‘arrived’ Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Arshavin and Benny who are all experienced enough to make a difference and the likes of Jack, Rambo, Frimmpong. Diaby and Coquelin will all benefit from this. Upfront we have the experience of RvP, our captain, Theo, Gervinho and Chamakh – on whom I refuse to give up on, at least for the time being. The likes of Ryo, the Ox and Park can all benefit from playing with our more experienced players, especially the Dutch Master. It is this combination of youth and experience throughout the positions which makes me so hopeful of the (near) future.

T is for Talent:

This Arsenal squad is bursting at it seams with talent in all four areas of the team. Szczesny and Fabianski are both fabulous goalkeepers and Manone is nor far off either. Gibbs and Jenkinson are very promising propests and so is Miquel. The midfield is overdosed with talent, and this is after the departure of Cesc and ‘the other one’. In attack, we have representatives from four continents and I cannot wait to see Joel Campbell play for us. He looks like a great prospect and so does Park, who needs a bit more time to settle in properly.

The final T is for Teamwork or Togetherness:

This new Arsenal Team really is becoming a solid, cohesive group of players who are ready to fight for each other and make things happen. There is a great spine from Szczesny – Vermaelen/Mertesacker/Koscielny – Song/Arteta – Ramsey/Wilshere/ Rosicky – RvP. These players, together with the FB’s and Wingers, and aided by a great reserve bench in most games now, looks more ‘together’ and resilient than ever: a proper team where everybody wants to work for each other and for the club, and with plenty of quality to make the difference when required. As many have pointed out, the recent, collective team celebrations have been a joy to watch and tell us a lot about the levels of togetherness within this new team.

So there is plenty of reason to be optimistic for the future. Clearly, we are not there yet and things could still go against us again, but this team is on a mission and all the basic components are there for a successful season.

COYRRG!

TotalArsenal.


Fight for your Life

November 17, 2011

It feels right and proper to take some time in the Interlull (arseblog TM) to slag off our rivals. Unbelievably we have to include the N17 bottom feeders this season as they prove themselves to be genuine contenders. How could this be? It is unnatural,  a twist of the correct order, an aberration and a perversion of all that is right and proper.

Managed by a man who should be wearing a red striped baggy pair of daks held up by enormous yellow braces and sporting a comedy relief nose, Spurs have become entertainers! Yes, you read that right, Entertainers. Not the usual Chas and Dave or Keystone Cops but proper engaging entertainers …. like a quality Dog act or a Chimp Party. Unnatural but engrossing.

THFC Squad Photo 2011/12

I know – you cannot believe that BR can compliment the miscreants but credit where credit is due. They are playing some lovely football and look to have a team and worse a squad that can compete to season’s end.

True, Spurs have been smacked by MC but have ground out lucky victories over us, the Scousers and most recently Fulham. I watched the Fulham game and was very impressed. Only 4 shots on target scoring 3 goals. 23 shots for Fulham resulting in just the one. This is Top 3 form, perhaps even Top 2.

Just kidding …. we all know they will collapse by New Year .

Arsenal news. ….. erm …….. Jack’s twittering. ….. Tony Adams has resigned as manager of Azerbaijani Gabala citing family reasons  …… AW insists all his signings are “top quality” (yawn) ……… Park says he is fit (yawn) ……. Berk Shea (21 yo American) has ended his AFC trial and gone home (asleep).

Today’s query. Who do you think would win in a fist fight at AFC?

Clearly the BFG would have a reach advantage and a good defence but so would Chezzer, I would expect Gervino to bob and weave; TV looks to have a solid chin, and Arshavin has a fine centre of gravity (?). Sagna looks a bit tasty as does Alex Song. Then we have the lightweights, Theo, Ramsey, Rosicky, Bennie – probably decent in an amateur 3 rounder but not for the pro fight.

Last man standing? My money is on Bacary.

p.s headline song by these fine upstanding gentlemen …….

Written by Big Raddy


Too many cooks?

November 16, 2011

I was speaking to an old friend recently, who is also a fan of the Arsenal, and he was pleading the case for us to sign Gary Cahill in the January window. An idea which he seems to share with many of his fellow Gooners (or so it seems looking at blog world!), and this got me thinking about the current squad and the strengthening options open to Arsène come January 1st.

Personally, I would put my house on Cahill NOT coming to the Emirates! We currently have 3 centre backs battling for 2 starting places with back up offered by Djourou and youngsters coming through in Miquel and Bartley. With the current wage structure and the way that Wenger likes to develop young talent, could we really justify bringing in another first choice CB, and, more importantly, would Cahill want to be at a club where he plays half the games a season with Euro’s coming up? Personally, I think not.

Now, if you look at the rest of our squad with the equation of 2 players for each position and 1 youngster coming through, then it becomes obvious which areas need to be addressed in January.

GK
Szscesny and Fabianksi are clearly first choice with back up through Mannone. Almunia can be sold.

FB
Sagna, Gibbs, Santos and Jenkinson are first choice with emergency back up provided by Djourou and Vermaelen and youngsters coming through.

CB
Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertersacker, Djourou are first choice with back up through Miquel and Bartley. Squillaci can go.

DM
Song and Coquelin are first choice with Frimpong backing up.

CM
Wilshire, Ramsey, Arteta and Rosicky are first choice with Benayoun and Diaby in reserve.

LW
Gervinho and Arshavin first choice with Ryo as the young talent.

RW
Theo and Oxo as first choice with Benayoun an option if desperate.

CF
RvP and Chamakh first choice with Park and Campbell as cover.

based on that assessment I can only see a couple of areas we could realistically strengthen. Firstly, our CM cover is currently provided by a 30 year old loanee and a lanky Frenchman who we all fear may never get back to his best. If Benayoun is allowed to go back to Chelsea and Denilson and Diaby are released, then we will definitely need another body in there. Will it be a £30m Goetze? I doubt it, but a signing would be required.

Secondly, Arshavin has been under performing ever since that magical first 6 months he had at the club. His wages are huge and could be put to much better use (RvP’s contract!?). Ryo is not ready yet so a gifted winger would be a bonus. Hazard? We can dream.

Lastly, Chamakh is looking like a shadow of his former self of late and has lost all confidence. It would be very easy to get rid and buy someone else, but with a red hot RvP, 2 new signings in Park and Campbell, and only 1 position to fight for, I can’t see Wenger buying any strikers just yet.

There are other arguments to be made, could we trust Coquelin or Frimpong in a big game? Do we have enough full back cover? Is Fabianski cut out for Arsenal?
Only time will tell wether these players have what it takes to become first choice.

Fans are crying out, as always, for Wenger to buy big in January, but looking at the squad right now, I think we could be in for a relatively quiet month come crazy season!

Written by FatGingerGooner


Simply the Best. Your Favourite Goals?

November 15, 2011

“A good ball by Dixon finding Smith – onto Thomas charging through the midfield, Thomas – it’s up for grabs now. Thomas , right at the end. An unbelievable end to the season.”  My favourite goal of all time, probably every Arsenal fans favourite goal. There have been plenty  more beautiful (TH v MU 2000) but certainly none more dramatic. Those 15 odd seconds have been replayed in my mind thousands of times – times of stress, times of sorrow and times of hardship but when the muck hits the fan and I need a lift, a quick mental reference to Liverpool on the 26th May 1989, and for a few seconds all is well with the world.

Why bring that up here and now? Well, because we are in the midst of a veritable desert of football,…..and because GIE suggested I write about my favourite goals.

2nd. ” It’s all over I think. Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over – It is now.” Geoff Hurst 1966. I was in Switzerland at the time on a school holiday. I had attended the Quarter Finals and was in that wonderful stage of childhood when football is everything – before girls came along and ruined  changed everything. Our hotel was packed with German kids and I wish I could say we were magnanimous in our victory. Sadly, the worst of our jingoism came to the fore…….. Brilliant.  This was THE time to be English – The Beatles, The Stones, Carnaby Street, the Mini (both car and skirt!) WC Winners etc etc. A year later Sargeant Pepper was released which changed my life but nothing came near to the feeling of seeing that rocket shot fly past Tolkowski and seeing The Kaiser’s (Franz Beckenbauer) head drop.

3rd.  “Hutchison and now Bould. And it’s Tony Adams put though by Steve Bould. Would you believe it? That sums it all up”. TA Everton 1998. Perhaps my favourite day ever at Highbury. The weather was brilliant, we had a fantastic team, we had won the title, I hadn’t spent too long in the Gunners Pub, I was with all my Arsenal mates – friends with whom I had travelled all over Europe and shared pints, train journeys, thousands of motorway miles,  and all the highs and lows of following OUR team. And Tony was not just Our Leader, he was Mr Arsenal; to see him finish the season like that brought me to tears –  and I am not exaggerating.

This signed picture stands on my desk as I write

4th. “There’s Pires. He’s picked out Bergkamp, It’s Bergkamp with a chance and he’s taken it. Brilliant goal.”  DB10 Newcastle 2002. I could have picked any of DB goals – he scored so many great ones . The hatrick at Leicester  in ’97  was awesome, probably the best I have ever seen, but this goal was something spectacular. The vision, the strength to hold off some Orc, the composure of the turn and the finish, all the mark of a genius of a footballer. I recall when we signed Dennis – I was in shock. At the time we had gone through some of the worst football ever seen at Highbury – winning teams but simply dire football (apart from the best defence ever seen). Suddenly DB arrives and heralds a New Dawn. Mr Wenger came soon after and together they created something very special. Thank you Dennis.

I could go on and on. Thierry scored so many fabulous goals but 3 stand out – MU 2000 scored right in front of me at the Clock End, Spurs when he beat the whole team, and that marvel at the Bernabeu; Ray Kennedy at WHL  ’71, Charlie George at Wembley, Freddie at Cardiff, Wrighty’s lob and volley versus Everton in front of the North Bank, Smudger in Copenhagen,  Liam Brady at WHL, Kanu at the Bridge, Wiltord at OT, RvP v Barca ++++++.

Which are your favourites and why?

Written  by BigRaddy


The Best Interlull Story of All

November 14, 2011

God this Interlull is boring.

For us supporters, Arsenal news is as vital to our souls as water is to our bodies.

Like a thirsty man crawling through a desert we are on our knees, parched and desperate.

And like that thirsty man we are prone to seeing mirages: images that might be an oasis (or, in our case, a genuine Arsenal news story) but turn out instead to be no more than a trick of the Sun.

 

Recent mirages have included:

• “Andrei Arshavin has had enough of sitting on the bench and will demand a move if not played more often”. Cue much outrage from Arsenal supporters less than impressed by the size of his arse, sorry, contribution so far this season. But of course this story turned out to be only a partial interpretation of his quotes, which also included the admission that he had been playing below par and could not expect a first team berth unless it was merited.

• “Francis Coquelin has had enough of sitting on the bench etc etc”. Cue yet more outrage from some Arsenal supporters, perplexed as to why a little-known French kid named after a popular shellfish snack should expect to be displacing Alex Song in our first team. A story on Arsenal.com quickly put the record straight, with the Cockle eagerly pointing out that he was happy to fight for a place.

• “Arsenal have been trialling a young American lad called Shrek or something (related to Rooney, perhaps?)”. He plays in the MLS (North America’s equivalent of the EPL, but with a playing level closer to the League of Ireland). He could be the next big thing. Or he could be the next big thing to try and sell more shirts in the US. Anyway, if he wasn’t American he would be just another youngster trying out for the Gunners, which would be exactly 0.00001% of a story.

• “Peter Hill Wood says that Prince Robin van Persie used to be a naughty boy at Feyenoord but isn’t now”. Again, cue the outrage of certain Arsenal supporters: how dare that silly Old Fartonian make a disparaging comment about one of our players. In fact, what right has he to make ANY comment about Arsenal? So what if he’s the third generation of his family to be chairman of the club? So what that he has been a serving army officer and a successful banker. Blithering, know-nothing idiot.

• The usual array of “Arsenal to sign Player X in the January window” stories. I started counting the number of players we were going to sign and lost count at 19. No wonder they have extended the medical centre at London Colney.

But if we ignore the mirage stories (the ones that, when you get up close and have a proper look, shimmer away into nothing), then it’s possible to find the one really uplifting story of this Interlull (by the way, well played Arseblog for inventing a word that had truly entered the language. I have even seen “interlull” used on other teams’ blog sites).

The uplifting story I’m thinking of is that the Dutch national coach, Bert van Marwijk, has agreed that Prince Robin does not need to play in the friendly against Germany this week.

With Robin’s injury history and his current importance to Arsenal in this oh-so important season of transition, it is a wise and reasonable gesture on van Marwijk’s part.

He would have been perfectly within his right to insist on Prince Robin playing against his country’s bitterest rivals, but chose not to.

He’s now my favourite ‘Burt’, overtaking the Burts Bacharach and Reynolds (and don’t go throwing Mr Mee at me – he was always very definitely a BertIE, not a Burt).

Anyway, contrast Bert’s approach to that taken by successive England managers (and by Stuart Pearce at Under 21 level).

As a brief moment of sanity in a sport corrupted by out-of-control egos and pointless willy-waving, that decision makes it the story of the Interlull for me. What’s yours?

RockyLives


The Spirit of 1990

November 13, 2011

Ok in the height of the interlull (or is that the bleak midwinter of it?) a trip down memory lane as requested by the Raven Haired Warrior Princess.

Watch from about ten seconds in to see the brawl that resulted in a 2 point deduction for us and a one point deduction for the Mancs. You will see Winterburn receiving an almighty kick in from McClair and then the melee starts. What most of us realise is that as much as this is the darker side of football we would all want to have played in that side, teammates alongside that will stand up and be counted when you’re in danger….no questions asked.

The reason we lost two points was as a result of a brawl in 1989 where a wholly innocent Smudger was turned upon by most of the Norwich team as we took a 4-3 lead, Arsenal players were celebrating on the half way line and suddenly you see Adams turn to his mates as they realise what’s going on with their mate Smudger and return to the scene and a 21 man brawl ensued, only Lukic was not involved.

After those two points were taken we went on to win the league in no small part due to the players chat with George Graham. He lined them up and explained how everyone was against us….the rest is history.

Are we starting to see this spirit re emerge in the current squad, there seems to be a lot more togetherness than in recent times, also like that team of 90 our current squad is not full of the most gifted players, but we all know what that 1990 team went on to achieve.

Let’s hope we continue to see the spirit of 90 on to this current squad.

Written by Gooner in Exile


FIFA, UEFA, FA: time for a change to the Internationals set-up

November 12, 2011

Arsène Wenger in our Official Arsenal Magazine:

“The lack of quality in some [international] games has been wiped out by the national pride of people supporting their countries. But in the longer run, that doesn’t work.

“People want quality, and we saw some games in the last round of internationals – Bulgaria v Wales for example – there were just 1,000 people there. That makes a mockery of international football. So we have to look at that quickly, because it creates a new problem.

“I think it will get worse and worse because we are facing an economic crisis too. That will have direct consequences for the attendances. It’s more and more difficult to sell out games – even in a big country like France. Not one home game there was a sell-out. Not one. That shows you that there’s something happening that is a deeper problem.”

Something has gone wrong.
We should all be drooling at the prospect of Europe’s best national teams competing against each other during yet another Interlull. On Saturday England ‘take on’ Spain at Wembley: the world’s best national team comes to the holy ground of football to play England, and yet nobody is really excited about it. Furthermore, next week Tuesday two of the fiercest European rivals, Germany and Holland, meet for a ‘friendly’. The finalist and semi-finalist of the 2010 World Cup don’t really do friendlies, but even this game is unlikely to put the world on fire.

There is a time and place for international games and it is not in the middle of the National and European club competitions.

Club football and national football are both great to watch, but they do not mix very well. Clubs are far too worried their players will get injured, and quite rightly so – Arsenal has suffered disproportionately from players returning with bad injuries over recent years. As a result, players often get withdrawn before an international game under the pretence of an injury – or players (and their national managers) get told to take it easy, avoid risks and only play for 45 minutes. During friendlies, this usually results in a ludicrous number of substitutions which often totally destroys the flow and tactics of a particular game. It is fair to say, the quality of international qualification games, and friendlies as well, has decreased significantly over recent years.

Too often the difference in quality between the nations within a football qualification group is far too big, leading to dreary, insipid games most of us do not manage to watch till the end. Friendlies are often even worse: the opposition might be stronger, but the aforementioned restrictions put onto players by their clubs, very often lead to lacklustre performances of which the only beneficiaries are those that suffer from severe insomnia.

Arsene is right in saying that this lack of ‘quality’ – his favourite word at the moment, it seems – is creating a problem.

Furthermore, most fans do not like international football during the league-season, regardless of the quality on display. Most of us get deeply enthralled into our clubs’ doings, on and off the pitch, and the international games take us rudely out of our tribal, cosy footie-cocoons.

Yet, the European and World Championships are fantastic tournaments. I especially like the European Championship as everybody who starts in it has a chance, and it so often has a surprise winner (Denmark, Greece spring to mind). The quality of the football on show is often very high too (Greece does not spring to mind this time). The World Cup is a great tournament as well and a fantastic opportunity to see the world best players on display. However, they are both summer tournaments. That is where they belong: in between the club football league seasons.

Proper, full-on footie fans, know the difference between an even and uneven year: the former treats us to great international games in the summer, and the latter leaves us fully exposed to a cruel and seemingly never-ending, free for all, transfer window endurance-course (and Arsenal fans will not want to go through another one of those ever again).

Now, I do not remember much about my maths lessons: let’s just say there were far more alluring distractions during those vital learning years of puberty and beyond. I do remember though that if you add up two negatives it will result in a larger negative outcome, but if you multiply two negatives you actually get a positive outcome. And that is exactly what I am proposing to do with regard to the internationals.

Here is my proposal to the likes of FIFA, UEFA and the FA:

No more national qualification games and no more friendlies during the club league football seasons: all qualification and friendly games should be played in the summers of the uneven years.

What does it mean?

  1. The league seasons will become shorter allowing sufficient time for all international games to be played in May/June. The international games take up four to five weeks of the football season, and by taking these out, the season would normally end between 8-15 April, after which the FA cup final and CL final can be played.
  2. From the beginning of May till 10 June two friendlies and 8-10 qualification games shall be played, leaving four weeks of holiday, after which the players return for pre-season preparations, and the PL and other Leagues shall normally start again around 10 August.
  3. The club/league football season will be played without any interruption of international games, allowing everyone who loves club football to get fully engrossed in it.
  4. The clubs will be far more happy with letting their players go, as if and when they would get injured, there is the rest of the summer to allow for recuperation, which would considerably reduce the impact to the clubs.
  5. The players will be more up for it, now being able to fully concentrate and dedicate themselves to the international games.
  6. The fans will show significantly more interest, as there is nothing else to do, and the high intensity of international games every three to four days in May and June – with qualification for a major tournament at stake – will be a far more attractive formula than the current one (spread out over two seasons).
  7. The FA could save itself a few million pounds as it does not need a full-time manager anymore: maybe, it can even convince Fergie and Arsene to work together in May and June for a small bonus.
  8. Wembley would be unused for a big part of the year, but the FA could offer those with small stadiums to play some of their home games there (and we all know who those are!).

Now, a lose-lose situation (two negatives added up) turn into a win-win situation (two negatives are multiplied with each other): no more international distractions during the club footie seasons, fully dedicated players who want to give it their all for their national teams, and the fans will also be fully focussed to give their full support to England. All in all, I can only see benefits. I am sure the devil is well hidden in the detail, but the British are champions at iterative problem solving, so I am urging the FA to take the lead and get this party started by putting in a proposal to UEFA/FIFA. It is about time the official football bodies make a paradigm-jump in order to rescue the beauty and splendour of the internationals.

Written by TotalArsenal.


What Do Points Win?

November 11, 2011

That little table on the right shows we are still one point behind last seasons cumulative total, one problem with that table (other than the lack of progression in 2010/11 from game 27 onwards) is that it does not take into account the opponents played. On Saturday we made a big step forward, like for like games compared to last season we are now 3 points up.

In one respect this makes the second half at Ewood, the unfortunate event in N17 and the late goals against Liverpool more costly. If we had gone like for like in those games we would now be up seven points on last season. Unfortunately one of those games occurred in the wake of the most turbulent pre seasons this club has ever seen, one in the early days of rebuilding, and one caused by the once in a lifetime goal immediately preceding disappearance to football obscurity.

Since those games we have been on a run which has seen us turnaround a number of disastrous results from last season, including perhaps most impressively and key to the change to a more cheerful Emirates faithful the victory over the Chavs down the Kings Road.

Whilst football seasons don’t go to exactly to history the majority of games go with form and expectation, especially where the top clubs are concerned. With that in mind I have looked at our nearest rivals using the same like for like basis to see if they have started the season as well as the current table suggests.

For the sake of this exercise West Ham were replaced by Norwich, Blackpool by Swansea, and Birmingham by QPR.

This is the result:

What does this tell us?

In my opinion it shows us that at United appear to be standing still, Chavs performing worse whilst Dippers, Shitty and Spuds have shown big gains.

Depending how you interpret this swing and how you extrapolate it gives various outcomes.

If you assume the remaining games will go as they did last season the final table will end up something like this:

Clearly that shows United retaining their championship and the rest of the top 4 being the same as last season. Whilst that will satisfy us after our poor start should we really be looking at the swing compared to the points gained last year, and then extrapolate that swing over the remaining games (and points achieved)? If so that would give the following:

Whilst all of this is playing with numbers it is important to show that despite our recent form and surpassing our points total from the same games last year we are not out of the woods yet. This could turn into one of the most exciting races for the Champions League ever, with not just two teams chasing the final spot, but four or five teams chasing three spots, plus a Championship to win.

The shake down is a long way off but the teams performances between now and January are crucial in achieving Champions League qualification.

Out of interest, to still be three points ahead come New Year’s Day we have to win every game but one (which will need to be a draw). That is the task that lays ahead of the manager and players to stay ahead of last years performance.

Written by Gooner In Exile