We’re Still Fourth

February 19, 2012

Written by chas

After a pleasant drive up the A1 with the sun bursting through and illuminating the clouds of smog over Middlesbrough, we arrived in Sunderland in plenty of time for a pre-match libation. The William Jameson on Fawcett Street offered fine ales at rock-bottom prices, a combination few can refuse.


Several pints of Bitter and Twisted later (£2.05 a pint) we were suitably refreshed and ready for all that the footballing gods were ready to throw at the Arsenal once again. A brief walk across a river and past a statue of a man running for a bus took us to a very windy and chilly Stadium of Light.

The team news was encouraging with the Ox and Le Coq chosen to give the side a much-needed injection of youth and vigour. Really early on, Coquelin went for an innocuous challenge, was seemingly fouled, Fergie’s Rent Boy gave nothing (a theme which reoccured throughout the game) and the net result was another full back in the sick bay. Squillaci came on to rapturous applause with Vermaelen shifting to left back.

Arsenal’s best chance of the half saw Gervinho put through by Robin in a swift attack (a rarity these days). The Ivorian struck it well forcing Mignolet into his only real save of a fairly tedious first half. The other notable chance for Arsenal came when van Persie seemed to be flattened in the penalty area but amazingly FRB gave nothing.

Sunderland’s only real chance of the first half, of course brought the inevitable goal for the opposition. A ball dropping to the edge of the Arsenal area after a Larsson free-kick fell to Richardson in far too much space and his deflected shot hit the net. The same ‘one chance one goal’ scenario is usually seen at the Emirates, but as Sunderland had virtually set themselves up as the away team, it all seemed worryingly familiar.

We heard some brain of Britain Arsenal fan saying at half time that Wenger wouldn’t buy anyone now and if he did in the summer it would be too late. Sometimes I despair.

The second half began much as the first only worse. This time two players Rambo and Squiddly were limping and were replaced by Walcott and Rosicky. Ramsey, in particular had been battered for the first 50 minutes with no protection from FRB and it must have been a blessed relief to wave goodbye to Cattermole’s studs.

The game seemed more stretched as Arsenal searched for an equaliser left and right, right and left, backwards and forwards across the pitch. Sunderland had some dangerous breakaways as a consequence and their crowd (well the small number that turned up, that is) actually started to make a little noise. The second goal came from one of these counter attacks and looked as though it had dribbled in off the post followed by Oxo’s shin.

A half chance fell to Robin’s right foot but he chose to use his left and the ball went high. The last incident of note summed up the game from an Arsenal perspective for me. Only a couple of minutes left and a short corner was played by Song to Arteta whose return pass rolled harmlessly off the pitch. Both players looked at each other and almost accepted that that was how things were going to be today.

All in all, I’d say our performance was an improvement on Wednesday but not the boost to both players’ and supporters’ morale we all craved. Out of the FA Cup and clinging on in the CL. More injuries, hopefully none too serious (TV5 looked to be carrying a knock for the last fifteen minutes as well). On the bright side, we’re still fourth and Chelsea are still shit. Spuds up next. If we beat them we’ll all be smiling again.

Player ratings – I’d give them all 4.

(Apologies for any factual inaccuracies. I was watching through an alcoholic haze, thank Dennis!)


Do it Again: Match preview

February 18, 2012

A week is a long time in football. Just 7 days ago we were wrapped up in enthusiasm following our last minute victory, and yet those happy days seem a long gone. Will the confidence of the team plummet because we got spanked by a rampant AC Milan? We shall see today.

I cannot remember a time under Mr Wenger when there has been so much uncertainty amongst the fans. It appears that the team go on a winning run and imbue confidence then implode leading to calls (from some) for the manager’s head. If we are confused imagine how the management at THOF feel. When your most reliable defender over the past 3 seasons make elementary mistakes like Vermaelen did,  then what can you do?

However, the Malaise in Milan was a team effort and it would be wrong to put blame on any one shirt. If blame is to be dealt, then the manager must be included because this is his team and his tactics. Mr Wenger will do all he can to improve things and hopefully the lads will do better today.

I really disliked O’Neill’s tactics last week. Sunderland parked the bus and played with 10 men behind the ball – if I were a paying Sunderland fan I would be seriously worried about the prospects of seeing entertainment over the coming seasons. I guess O’Neill could point to their extra time Cup game midweek and that the game was lost in the final 15 minutes but prior to that Sunderland offered nothing and their goal came as a result of pure good fortune (very bad fortune for Arsenal).

How will Mr Wenger respond today? I expect a much changed side – not a weaker team but one with different faces. There are players whose confidence will have taken a mighty bashing; Ramsey was completely over-run in a way he has probably never experienced, same for Theo, who must have been shakes to be removed at half-time. Should they “get back in the saddle”?

My Team:

Controversial I know but I believe Song needs a rest. He is unlikely to get one and Ramsey is more likely to be rested.  Rosicky has been playing well and getting far more minutes than I expected, but Ramsey needs to get his mojo back and that is best done away from home. – which is an awful indictment of our home “support” (more of this subject another time).

Another Sunderland Inventor;  This may upset some of our American readers but Edison did not invent the electric Lightbulb, it was invented by Sir Joseph Swan, an extremely hirsute resident of Sunderland. Swan (1828 – 1914) patented his lightbulb in England a few years before Edison took out his worldwide (bar UK) patent for an identical product (cheap Yank copy was the term used). The first building to be lit entirely by electricity  (1880) was The Savoy Theatre in London using 1200 lamps supplied by Swan. Swan also invented Bromide paper which is still in use when developing black and white photographs.

Bloody Septic stole my bloody invention!

O’Neill will see this as the ideal opportunity to take revenge upon a tired and shell-shocked Arsenal. The vast majority of the Arsenal baiting media will be looking to stick the knife in should we lose as they are predicting. It is up to our team to prove them wrong.


Written by Big Raddy

Arsenal – some rational yet brutal honesty needed.

February 17, 2012

Written by Sebastian

So, we went to the San Siro, and we got taken apart. Taken apart the way an Arsenal side of the past would dismantle another side. It was upsetting to watch. However I think the most upsetting thing is, I am not all that shocked. Shocked that we got beaten all over the pitch that badly, yes, but not shocked we were easily beaten. 4 or 5 years ago this would be a massive shock, but not now. It highlights how far we have fallen. Now that I have had an evening and a morning to think about last night’s events, I will try to be rational and honest. Some honesty is needed.

Looking back at the game, the first issue for me was the team selection; I feel Wenger got it all wrong. We needed experience at that level, and starting Ramsey and Arteta, who have little to no experience at that level, for me, was a mistake. They also dragged Rosicky down with them, who I feel put a lot of effort in on the night, but had little around him to help. Personally, I would have gone with:

Controversial I know, but it would have made them worry about us a little more I feel, making them want to go forward perhaps a little less. I know I also stated that we needed experience, and you will have seen that I’ve included the Ox, but the boy has no fear, and runs forward. Regardless of age, he is needed.

So, what have we learnt? Well the first thing that stood out to me was the fact that Ramsey is not good enough to be a starter for Arsenal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to needlessly abuse the guy like some so-called supporters, but in brutal honesty, he is not good enough at this moment in time to be starting for Arsenal if we have any ambition to win anything. He may turn out to be a star in the future, but truthfully I have no idea why he plays more regularly than Rosicky, who for me, is a much better player. On Wednesday night he was our worst player, and this wasn’t a one off performance. I hear people say that he’s going to be the next Fabregas, but I see nothing that warrants this comparison. All I see Michael Carrick/Gareth Barry/David Batty. Sideways, backwards, nothing exceptional. Wenger needs to be a little more ruthless with players that are not performing. I hope Ramsey proves me wrong, he has plenty of time to. (Personally, I’d do everything in my power to get Mario Gotze but don’t hold your breath!)

Secondly, Theodor Walcott. Theo has caused many a debate, not just among Arsenal fans, but football fans in general. He’s going to be 23 next month and in truth, is he any better than when we signed him? I don’t mean to needlessly bash any given player, or make a knee-jerk reaction, but this isn’t about any 1 performance. Theo has 1 attribute, and if he can’t use it, like he couldn’t on Wednesday night, he is completely ineffective. Apparently he is asking for £90,000 a week for his next contract (a pay rise from £60,000 a week). I’m sorry Theo, but if you think you are worth that then you want to go and have a quiet word with yourself mate. For me, I don’t think you can justify the wage you currently earn, let alone a pay rise. He’s English, young, has an international hat-trick, many appearances for Arsenal both in the league and champions league, so we should get good money for him, I’d say £25m. If that’s the case, bite their hands off, I’d have Eden Hazard any day of the week. You can say what you want about his age, Ox is already a more important player.

Thirdly, Thierry Henry. Tel coming back has highlighted just how far we have slid. He was past it when we sold him, yet 4 years later, he walks into our team and improves it. He is now gone for the rest of the season, but what he brought to the teams shows just what we are lacking. We need an experienced, talented leader in attack to help RvP.

Lastly, Attitude. When Arsenal were sweeping all before them to go the season unbeaten, each player had something that this team lacks. I am not talking about talent, as this team has shown, talent will only get you so far. Every player of the 2002-2005 Arsenal side had a “Win-at-all-costs, refuse to lose, over my dead body” mentality. Even if we were playing poor, we would still refuse to be beaten, drag ourselves to a point or 3. Any sort of result. I just don’t see that attitude in this team. I see it in RvP, and I see it, believe it or not in Arshavin to an extent. Arshavin is a winner, it is his application that lets him down. But I don’t see it anywhere else on the pitch. Last night it looked like every Arsenal player couldn’t wait for the final whistle, and that shouldn’t be the case. Beat your chest and show the world what you are made of, do not hide. That’s the difference between a winner and a loser. It’s not all about ability. Ray Parlour wasn’t the most gifted player, but if he was still around, he would be straight in this team.

I can imagine most of you will disagree with this, but I’d actually rather be knocked out of the Champions League than F.A Cup this year, so it’s not all bad. The reason for this is simple. We were never going to win the Champions League, however we are in with a decent shout of winning the F.A Cup. This weekend against Sunderland is now massive. Let’s hope they can get over this disappointment, as sulking and letting our heads drop will end our season completely.

Let’s get behind the boys and see what happens. Keeping some perspective, we all knew that we were not going to challenge for the title or champions league this season, so our current position is not a shock, it’s just shame that we got badly beaten on the international stage. However, we are currently in 4th spot and we are well placed in the F.A Cup, which I feel most of us would probably have taken at the start of the season if we were being realistic. Let’s hope we can finish 4th (or possibly still catch that lot up the road!) and bring the cup back to the Emirates.

But if you do get down about the current state of the Arsenal side, just try to remember, it’s out of your control and there is nothing you can do about it. So smile and try to enjoy each victory!

The storm before the storm!

February 16, 2012

Milan was the venue for Arsenal’s travelling support as they went to Italy to cheer the boys on against a genuine European giant in AC Milan. Unfortunately, some of the travelling hoard managed to take things a little too far, and there were nasty scenes before the game between fans and police, after which one Arsenal fan was arrested.

Another headline was also being written before the game as question marks were raised about the state of the San Siro pitch. Wenger had already made his feelings known before kick off, and the lack of green on the pitch seemed to justify his complaints.

Arsène Wenger will have gone into the game hoping that his troops could show as much desire as the travelling Arsenal faithful, but with a lot more discipline added. A score draw or even a one goal defeat would’ve gone down well, as long as the Gunners could get at least one away goal. A repeat of the 2008 visit to the San Siro would’ve been even better!

Arsenal started with Gibbs returning to full back after a recent long lay off, allowing Vermaelen to shift across to his natural position of centre half in place of the injured Mertersacker. The only other shock selection was in midfield, where Rosicky was pushed out to the left wing in place of the Ox, with Ramsey coming in to the midfield. Wenger obviously felt that Gibbs would need a bit more protection given that this was his first game in months.

Oh, and on a side note, Thierry Henry was on the bench for his last ever game for the Arsenal….again!

For Milan, injury problems had eased in recent weeks but they were still without the likes of Nesta and Cassano. Italian football has taken a battering in recent years over match fixing allegations, but this Milan side could still boast the likes of Seedorf, Ibrahimovich, Mexes, Van Bommel, Robinho and Thiago Silva.

As the game got underway, Arsenal’s early concentration wasn’t quite as bright as their yellow shirts. Seedorf ghosted in behind Sagna early on but fortunately he dragged his shot a foot wide of the near post. This was pretty much Seedorf’s last action as an early injury forced him off.

The uneven surface and the bobbling of the ball definately seemed to be causing Arsenal problems early doors and this was emphasised on 15 minutes as a poor clearance by Szcsesny was clipped into the chest of Boateng who took one touch and volleyed the ball into the near top corner. Not a good 30 seconds from the young Arsenal Pole and not the start Arsenal were looking for.

Ibrahimovich was running the game and forcing the Arsenal back line to defend far too deep. This nearly resulted in a Milan second as a mix up between Szcsesny and Vermaelen almost let the Swede in, only for the referee to blow for a non existent foul. Poor, poor, poor.

Things didn’t get much better. Players were struggling to find a teammate, and they were defending on the penalty spot. Van Persie barely touched the ball in the first half.  As Arsenal dropped further back, he became more and more isolated.

On 40 minutes, the home side doubled their lead. Ibrahimovich was put in behind Sagna and the big Swede picked out the run of Robinho who had an easy task of nodding in from 5 yards. Their was definately a hint of offside about the goal, but the Gunners should’ve been 3 down already so there could be no complaints.

Arsenal were looking ponderous at best, and as half time approached, both Antonini and Ibrahimovich could’ve wrapped up the tie.

If Arsene’s half time team talk wasn’t hard enough already, it was made even harder by the withdrawal of Koscielny just before the break. Djourou was his replacement.

In summary, it was one of the worst half’s of football Arsenal have produced this season, and theirs a lot of competition! It was now about staying in the tie, rather than winning the game. One goal would put a whole different spin on the game, but a performance similar to the first 45 would put us out of the competition.

This was by no means a slick, dominant Milan side of old. Arsenal were defending poorly, passing poorly, and playing with fear. The whole team was to blame for such a lacklustre half.

Arsenal needed inspiration, and Henry was brought on for the disappointing Walcott as Arsenal switched to a 4-4-2.

It didn’t work!

Within 4 minutes of the restart, Robinho had fired low into the bottom corner. Again the build up was sloppy, as Ibrahimovich was lucky to get the ball back off Djourou and an untimely slip by Vermaelen let Robinho in. Every error was being magnified as AC Milan punished any mistakes.

At 3-0 Milan seemed to take their foot off the gas, bringing on Ambrosini in place of Boateng signalled their intent for the last 20 minutes. Arsenal seemed bereft of ideas going forward but a moment of magic between Henry and RvP almost got them back in the tie. Henry’s flick was volleyed towards the bottom corner by RvP only for Abbiati to throw himself to his left and tip it round the post. It looked a goal all the way until a fantastic save by the keeper.

Arsenal were going in search of the all important away goal and Ox came on for Gibbs to give the side more emphasis. The Gunners definitely improved and van Persie had a sight of goal as his right foot volley was hit straight at Abbiati.

It proved a short lived revival though for the Gunners as Ibrahimovich went down easily in the box from a weak Djourou challenge and the ref was on hand to gift the home side a penalty. Zlatan picked himself up to dispatch it himself. 4-0. Fucking piss poor.

In the last 10 minutes Arsenal managed a van Persie header, which was saved, and a Rosicky volley that went out for a throw in! It summed up the performance to be honest.

All in all this was a dreadful Gunners performance. We were out played, out worked, and out fought. The defending at times was dreadful, and the loss of Mertersacker for a month could prove to be our seasons breaking point. We played 10 yards too deep and never gave ourselves a chance to press Milan. I don’t for a second believe this is a great AC side, we made them look good.

The speed of play in the Milan half was awful. Can you blame the pitch? No. Milan didn’t have any problems knocking the ball around. So many times we got to the final third and turned back out.

Starting with Rosicky was a poor decision as he played far too narrow. If Ox had started then the Milan back four would’ve been more stretched which allows more space for RvP. The players need to have a look at themselves. The midfield was inept and the wingers were piss poor. Only Ox and RvP can come out of that game with any kind of positivity.

For me, this game is not a dreadful result IF we can beat Sunderland and stay in touch for fourth. We were never going to win the CL this year so concentrating on the league and FA Cup makes more sense. The only worry is how this affects the confidence in the team. A defeat at the weekend against Sunderland could be tragic and could see a similar crumble to last season. It would be easy to sit and blame individuals, but the whole team was crap. I know its hard but we need to look at this game as a one-off until we see the next performance.


Szscesny 0

Sagna 0

Koscielny 0

Vermaelen 0

Gibbs 0

Song 0

Arteta 0

Ramsey 0

Rosicky 0

RvP 5

Walcott 0


Henry 0

Djourou 0

Ox 6


Arsène Wenger 0

Tutto L’Amore che Ho: Forza Arsenal

February 15, 2012

What an exciting and challenging game we can anticipate tonight. A return to the scene of the European recognition  of Fabregas’s genius (sorry GM!). That night is etched in the memory alongside so many other astonishing and unexpected Arsenal victories – win this and we may get a repeat of the TH inspired win in the Bernabeu!

Having won our group we could have drawn an easier opponent because let us be clear, this is not going to be easy. Milan are a much better and younger side than the one vanquished by our heroes in 2008; they are top of Serie A. Unfortunately, their injury crisis  (13 players out in their recent win at Udinese) is rapidly improving, Nesta, Pato, Flamini, Prince-Boateng and Van Bommel return to the squad. Style of play? Allegri has said this of AC Milan’s approach “You can’t always dine on lobster and caviar, sometimes you have to have a ham sandwich”.  Cantona-esque!

I would like to concentrate on just two of Milan’s pantheon of superstars, Ibrahimovic and Van Bommel.

Van Bommel is one hard Dutchman. I remember a Highbury night watching him kick lumps out of our lads when playing for PSV (2004 1-0). He was without doubt the dirtiest player I had seen and it was a miracle he stayed on the pitch. After that night I followed his career with interest because I felt he would be a fine replacement for PV4. Sadly, he moved to Barca where he won a CL winners medal and later moved  on to become the first non-German captain of Bayern Munich. At 32 he moved to Milan and has been an integral part of Max Allegri’s squad.  70 Dutch caps, a league winner in 4 countries, WC finalist, CL winner – one could say he has had a successful career.  Should he play tonight I hope Aaron is wearing extra shin and ankle protection!

Zlatan Ibrahimovich is one of the world’s great players. A man who has never received the respect he deserves from the British press. Scorer of some of the most spectacular goals ever scored (check out Youtube) the Swede has a phenomenal record – at the moment, Ibra is on a run of 8 successive League title wins in 3 countries with 5 different clubs! I think it would be prudent to have a little wager on AC winning the Scudetto this season. During his time at Barca he was the world’s highest paid footballer on €28m a year. Barca paid €70m for him and sold him 18 months later for €24m – which makes the Torres deal look sweet.

“you’ll never play for Arsenal”

In 2001 Mr Wenger tried to sign Zlatan from Malmo but he chose Ajax for a then record Swedish transfer fee. It beggers the question  – who would have been sacrificed for him? Not Henry, so it must have been Wiltord who was going to be shipped out. Ibra has attitude and may have clashed with Thierry but what a forward line that would have been.

My Team:

The loss of BFG is a major disappointment; he is made for games like tonight against a clever but not particularly pacy forward line. Fortunately, we have super replacements and TV is finally back in his natural position. It is ages since we have seen Gibbs get a run of games but he is a super player and a full International, he will not be embarrassed. I would start Arshavin ahead of the Ox, his experience and precision of passing will be important in what is likely to be a tight game.  Expect a big game from Ramsey.

Inventor from Milan: Step forward Enrico Forlanini (if he were still alive). Born in 1847 he developed the world’s first helicopter (powered by steam!) and went on to pioneer the hydrofoil. Milan City Airport is dedicated to Forlanini.

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

Thierry Henry has scored in his final FA Cup game, his final PL  home game, his final PL away game and tonight ……  you would bet against it.  Thierry, whatever happens tonight and in the future, You are The Man.


Written by Big Raddy

Top four again, but can we stay there?

February 14, 2012

Back in October Rocky predicted we would be top three by New Year. He was actually close to being right as a win at home to QPR on New Years Eve took us into the Champions League qualification spots as we popped Champagne to wave bye bye to Arsenal’s annus horribilis.

Unfortunately defeats to Fulham, Swansea and United followed, by the time we drew away at the Reebok even the most positive bloggers on here were waving goodbye to any hope of Champions League football next season let alone finishing above the cretins from N17.

And now two games later we are back in fourth (thanks mainly to the Chavs poor showing) and now the big question remains. Can we hold onto it?

The next three Premier League games will define our season.

H – Spuds
A – Dippers
H – Barcodes

Seven points from those three games are a must and should see us hold onto fourth or at least be in touching distance. I made a similar prediction at the start of the season for our opening games thankfully August results can be corrected later, February/March games are not as easy to recover from. The Chavs have somewhat easier games.

H – Bolton
H – Stoke

Chavs have toughies after that (City and Spuds) frankly hearing fellow Gooners wanting Spuds to win any game (for the benefit of us) is beginning to stick in my craw. So I’d rather we were safely in 4th before the Chavs – Spuds game, and maybe even pushing for third (I know dream on).

So now we have players returning from injuries and no Carling Cup disaster to recover from, can the team put a strong finish together to maintain our position at the top table?

Written by Gooner In Exile

Ramsey: the next victim of Fans Fulfilling Prophecy?

February 13, 2012

From an interview by Simon Hattenstone with Paul Gascoigne, The Guardian 7 October:

But no, he’s [Gascoigne] not thinking about going back into football, either as a manager or as a pundit. He says he’s not got the constitution for it. “I’ve been told when a player’s playing well praise him, and when he’s having a bad game fuckin’ slaughter him, and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t bring myself to slaughter someone having a bad game because I know he’s got to sit with his girlfriend or his wife, he knows he’s had a bad game, his kid probably thinks, ‘Oh, my dad’s shit.'” He shakes his head. “Couldn’t do it.”

Expectations are usually high when a CM has the ball in the centre of the opposition’s half, with a promising situation in front of him. If the CM delivers a good defence-splitting ball the crowd will be pleased – if not, it will quickly lead to a collective sigh of disappointment, especially if and when Arsenal is not in the lead. If the latter happens a few times in succession, the confidence of the player can get affected, depending very much on the thickness of his skin. Nothing new there: as long as football has been played in front of a crowd, players have had to deal with both the disappointment and elation of the fans present. But nowadays, players have to deal with so much more. Not only do they have to put up with a large number of journalists who do not bother to write about the truth, but whatever it is that its readers want to read; they are also now regularly subjected to vitriolic blogs and direct fan-communications via Twitter etc. It takes a lot for a modern-day, young football player to stay strong and believe in himself and the support he gets from his manager / his club is absolutely crucial.

We, the supporters, also have an important role to play: we can make or break football players and we all know we have made, but also broken, a few in recent times.

A lot of weight on Aaron Ramsey’s shoulders:
Creative Midfield play is without any doubt the toughest job in football. If CM’s are really good they are often referred to as conductors, magicians, creative hubs etc. They always get microscopic attention of the crowd, especially at Arsenal where the fans have been exposed to the very finest of CMs. As a result there is a lot of weight on the shoulder on whoever is brave and talented enough to take on such a pivotal role. After the master Fabregas sadly left for Barcelona, his most likely successor – the master in development, Jack Wilshere – sustained a nasty injury. It left a hole in the ‘hole-position’ the size of the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles combined.

Wenger has been struggling to replicate his beloved 4-2-3-1 system, in which the midfield dominates our play to a large extent. I have posted before about the ‘Wall of ARS’: how Arteta, Ramsey and Song are multi-talented and multi-disciplined midfielders who can play in any position and can perform any midfield function to a high degree. We are now playing a 5/4-3-3 system, where ARS is a ‘mini-team’ in itself, and if and when all three are firing on all cylinders it is a joy to behold: the games against Chelsea, Marseille and Dortmund particularly spring to mind. It appears that Wenger has given ARS the freedom to perform various midfield duties as they see fit and sort things out between themselves, as in who does what at any particular point of the game. Ramsey has been the most advanced player and therefore has had most CM-responsibilities, but others have chipped in as well, notably Song has had many fantastic assists this season. However, even with the ARS at its best, something is still missing.

I am not sure whether the most advanced midfield position in our current 4-3-3 system is the ideal position for Ramsey. I think he would perform better in Arteta’s position, next to the more defensive minded midfielder Song (at least on paper). Nevertheless, Ramsey has been giving his all in this challenging position, and has been making good progress. I expect Jack Wilshere to become first choice for the more advanced position, once he is fully recovered, but Ramsey could still claim the CM-role on a permanent basis in the next few months.

The essence of ‘Victory through Harmony’
I have no doubt whatsoever that Aaron is a super-talent who will develop into a top class player. In order to get there, however, confidence/trust in his abilities by himself and the supporters is absolutely paramount. A number of fans have been highly critical, and in some cases, outrageously abusive about Aaron’s performances recently, and for a player like him – in this difficult position and at his tender age – this can be very detrimental.

If we are not careful Ramsey will become another victim of a negative ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’:

  • A couple of (perceived) under-par performances by Ramsey leads to;
  • Unhappy crowds and unhappy bloggers etc;
  • Once Ramsey becomes aware of this (and how couldn’t he) it’s highly likely that his confidence gets affected;
  • Ramsey might easily start making more mistakes, and as a result, will take less risk and might even start hiding during games;
  • Leading to more unhappy crowds, bloggers etc, even less confidence and worse and worse performances;
  • Before you know it, we have ‘unsupported’ him into a failure.

I just cannot understand why somebody who calls him/herself an Arsenal supporter can severely criticise a player beyond the technical performance in a particular game. If and when a player has a below-par game, there is nothing wrong with pointing this out. But when fans start saying that Ramsey is rubbish and should be dumped, when he is solely blamed for a game lost by Arsenal, or even worse, for all that has gone wrong with Arsenal this season, when fans start introducing silly, derogatory terms such as Ramilson, when even a few idiots start wishing him all sorts of diseases, and worse, then fans are starting to harm the very thing they say they support.

By all means, if a player is lazy, has a calculated commitment to the club and does not care for Arsenal one iota, criticise him as much as you like: he deserves it.

But any player who gives his all, who cares about Arsenal and wears the shirt with pride, is one of us and should get our full, unflinching support: that is what Victory through Harmony stands for. Ramsey is such a player and we need to stand behind him.

It is a question of attitude, and before you know it, we will actually experience a case of positive fans fulfilling prophecy, in which we help a player reach their full potential. Let’s stand behind Ramsey, let’s encourage him and support him, and before you know it we have another world class player in our midfield.


Our Bench Is Rubbish! Sunderland Report & Player Ratings

February 12, 2012

There was a point yesterday – just before Sunderland scored their freak goal – when I was thinking: we need to change this game from the bench, but who can we bring on? We have no quality on the bench!

Silly me.

All it took was one Ramsey pot shot, one sublime cross from Arshavin and one trademark Henry finish to prove that Arsène Wenger still knows what he’s doing.

All three had come on as substitutes and they undoubtedly secured the three points for us.

This was a very important win against an obdurate and well organised Sunderland who were the form team in the Premier League going into this fixture.

The performance was even better when you take into account the state of the pitch. It looked as if the Riders of Rohan had just charged over it (perhaps on their way to Stoke to find some Orcs).

We started with arguably our strongest available 11 (I say arguably because it’s a toss-up between Rosicky and Ramsey for the third midfield role) and right from the off we set a pattern that changed little throughout the game: we controlled the ball, Sunderland largely conceded the middle of the park and drew back to just outside their penalty area, we passed and probed but struggled to find a way through, Sunderland relied on occasional breaks and set pieces.

No doubt some will damn the team for our inability to conjure a way through the massed Black Cat ranks. Perhaps we missed a bit of Fabregas magic – expelliamus parkbussimus – but I prefer to credit the Sunderland defending.

They gave no space at all to Prince Robin, nor to our two wide men, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Every time any of those three got the ball there were at least two men on them.

Chances were few and far between, although Theo did manage to get away from his markers on one occasion and fire a low shot across goal, but it went past the far post.

Despite the lack of goal scoring opportunities our defence was looking solid (even from set pieces), while Song and Arteta were doing a great job of providing an extra shield in midfield and Tomas Rosicky was as busy as he was against Blackburn last weekend.

The one big scare was when Mertesacker slipped in the box while dealing with a speculative through ball.

For most players the ball would have bounced over their head and out for a goal kick, but for the BFG it arrived at chest height, so naturally he chested it down. But, as he did so, he caught his foot in one of the horse divots and stumbled.

The ball bounced up and onto his arm. It was certainly not deliberate and certainly not ‘hand to ball’ but you do see them given – particularly when the penalty would favour the home team. Full credit to the referee, Neil Swarbrick, for not being swayed by the Mackem hysteria.

By half time it was pretty obvious that this was going to be a tight affair and that one goal might nick it.

The second half started much the same as the first. Sunderland had a couple of decent low shots from around the edge of our area. Szczensy did well to save both (one down to his left, then a more difficult one down to his right that hit a mole hill just in front of him).

It was a credit to the lad that he was sharp and focused when called into action, having had little to do up to that point.

Up front we were still probing with all the effectiveness of a blind gynaecologist. Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain were becoming even more peripheral than they had been in the first half, and, on 66 minutes, Arsene decided to make a change, bringing off Oxo for Thierry Henry.

Within four minutes we were behind. A rare Sunderland attack was tidied up down our right flank with Sagna shepherding the ball back to Mertesacker, who was running towards his own goal and had the simple task of rolling the ball back to Szczesny or across the park to the unmarked Koscielny.

Unfortunately the BFG injured his ankle as he turned and went down as if shot.

McClean, for Sunderland, showed brightness to keep on running past the fallen German before shooting low across Szczensy into the far corner of the net. I have seen comments questioning whether Chezzer might have done better, but the shot was hit very hard and from close range. Not his fault.

However, it was a freak goal and I was cursing our terrible luck. From a completely innocuous situation, suddenly, we’re a goal down. I really do think it’s time Arsene started going to church.

Given how tight the Sunderland defence was, I was doubtful as to whether we could rescue a point, let alone all three.

Ramsey came on for Mertesacker (let’s wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery), with Song dropping back into the centre of defence. And it didn’t take long for young Aaron to make a mark. Just three minutes after the re-start Arteta had a shot from outside the area blocked, the ball cannoned to Ramsey and his low first time shot went in off both posts. Ramsey has his critics, but he never hides and never stops taking shots at goal. It was always only a matter of time before his luck turned for the better.

So, one-all with 15 minutes to go. Would we sit back or push on for all three?

This is Arsenal – of course we would push on for all three. Arshavin came on for Walcott on 86 and immediately looked more dangerous than had either Theo or Oxo (perhaps because the Mackems were tiring after there exertions all afternoon and following their extra time FA cup win on Wednesday night).

As the clock passed the 90 minute mark, our pocket Russian found himself on our left wing with two Sunderland defenders in front of him. He jinked one way then the other, then dinked in a beautiful cross with his right boot. Jinky-dinky loveliness.

And who was there to meet it in the six yard box? Cometh the hour, cometh the legend.

Thierry Henry, who up til that point had had very little influence in the game, ghosted between the Sunderland centre backs to volley the ball past Mignolet in the Black Cats goal.

You can take away the speed, you can take away the stamina, you can take away some of the strength, but you can’t take away the class. A striker’s goal from a born winner. The celebrations among the Arsenal players were a joy to watch. Henry clearly means a lot to these lads, and they to him.

We never looked in trouble after that and at the end it was three points well earned and well deserved.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: Not too much to do but made two very good saves in the second half. 7.5

Sagna: Great to have him back. Unflappable and unbeatable at the back, and contributed a lot going forward. 8.5

Koscielny: He got caught in possession a couple of times but was generally the strong, reliable defender we have come to know and love. 7.5

Mertesacker: Was having a superb game until his unfortunate injury. We need him back quickly because, in my opinion at least, our strongest pairing at the back will be the BFG with one of Koscielny and Vermaelen. 8.5

Vermaelen: Didn’t put a foot wrong but is not able to support the attack as well as an orthodox left back would. 8

Arteta: Another fine game, controlling the ball from deep, covering our defence and instigating forward moves. He is our metronome. 8

Song: A real warrior’s performance from Alex. He misplaced a few through balls when looking for defence-splitters, but after his success against Blackburn last week you can’t blame him for trying. And his all round work breaking up Sunderland moves and powering us forward was exemplary. Can’t be blamed at all for Sunderland’s goal (sorry Peaches). 8.5

Rosicky: Finding some form at last. Was very combative, if a little wasteful with his passing at times. 7

Oxlade-Chamberlain: It’s not going to be a fairy tale every week at this stage of his career.  Had a couple of decent runs but was effectively marked out of the game. 6

Walcott: He saw more of the ball than Oxo but did little with it. Games like this, with banked lines of defenders sitting deep, are not the forum for him to shine. 6

Robin van Persie: Didn’t get much of a look-in. One second half header could have been dangerous but looped straight into Mignolet’s arms. Nevertheless, the fact that he had two or three players marking him at all times undoubtedly helped other players to find space at times. 7


Henry: Did nothing for 25 minutes then scored the winning goal. I’m making him man of the match partly for sentimental reasons and partly because he made the most valuable single contribution on the day. 9 MoTM

Ramsey: A brilliant cameo from Aaron. He was everywhere in his 22 minutes and scored the goal that brought us back into the game. The many critics will, in time, have enough egg on their face to make an omelet the size of Wales. 8

Arshavin: Little Andrei looked energetic and direct when he came on and provided a beautiful cross for Thierry’s winner. Perhaps he has reached rock bottom (in the Man Utd game) and is coming out the other side. I really hope so. 8


Fight for the Right: Game preview.

February 11, 2012

What a game in store for us this afternoon. As was said earlier this week – a barometer game. A resurgent Sunderland looking to continue their very surprising run against an Arsenal team confident as a result of last week’s big win.

And yet, in my opinion both appear to be skating on thin ice. Sunderland are, let’s be honest, a poor team managed by an average manager. Arsenal are on the verge of greatness but are not there yet, as the results at Swansea and Fulham portray. Yes, we smacked Blackburn but have you ever seen a worse performance from a PL side fighting relegation? Nor have I.

What has Mr- O’Neill brought to Sunderland to transform them? The same as Fat Sam has has brought to West Ham and SAF continues to bring to MU –  an atmosphere of fear and aggression. Hard work, get in their faces, ride your luck, long ball tactics, close down in midfield, compress the play thereby nullifying any creativity in the opposition and best of all, score and then defend like crazy. It works. After a dreadful start Sunderland have beaten Man City, Norwich, Stoke and Swansea.

Sessegnon is their main attacking force, however, it should be pointed out that this season he has scored 9 whereas our top scorer has 28. We know all about Seb Larsson who is one of the players often referred to when discussing the (too) early transfer of young players.

Another conundrum is who is going to start for Arsenal?. With the huge game in Milan on Weds. will Mr.Wenger risk playing his full first X1 or will he rotate? What would you do? Which game would you prioritise?  Do you think he should start with the same team in both games? I think we cannot afford to do anything but play our best starting X1 in every game – Big Raddy played 60+ games almost every season. (back when men were men!)

My Team:

I am torn between Ramsey and Rosicky. Perhaps Tomas should start today given his excellent recent form and that Ramsey will be better suited to the slower game played by AC Milan midweek – I expect him to star out in Italy, just as Fabregas did a few years ago. Everyone wants to see The Ox and I hope Mr. Wenger doesn’t drop him –  which he is almost sure to do when Gervinho returns next week holding his ACN Winners Medal.

An inventor from Sunderland? I bring you Sir William Mills, inventor of the Mills bomb. Those with a historical bent and an interest in World War 1 will know all about the Mills bomb which a type of grenade . 75 million of them were made and used during WW1. Yes – 75million!!. A prolific inventor he also developed a gearing system for ships which was used worldwide, and a telescopic walking stick/seat which remains widely available today (think Toffs/Range Rovers/ National Hunt).

Sir William Mills,  no relation to Mrs.

It will be Siberian conditions Up North which will affect both the pitch and the players. If Arsenal have pretensions to a Top 4 finish they have to get something from this game. I do not believe Sunderland are as good a team as we are but given the January failures there must be caution. Going one up, which a few years ago would be a guaranteed 3 points is a trait we must reproduce. This will be a game won in midfield and our boys will have to fight fire with fire.

Given the animosity between our respective managers, I expect an intense game with yellow cards aplenty.


Written by Big Raddy

Wenger avoids relegation….again!

February 10, 2012

Written by SlimGingerGooner

Well, can you believe it!?

Arsenal have reached the landmark 40 points needed to stay in the Premier League!

Back in August another season of struggle was being predicted by the knowledgable Arsenal faithful. A lack of quality signings in the transfer window and an air of disappointment from pre season results even had some sections calling for a new manager:-

“Wenger will  win nothing. He has lost it completely. He should just go! Christ!”

“The rot presided over by this little profit maniac and Board should be “arrested” or a red and white funeral beckons for Arsenal FC.”

“Keown for Manager!”

“Ok, so who do we want as a replacement for the senile old bastard?

“Forget top 4 this season. It’s not gonna happen. Next summer we’ll say goodbye to more of our best players. If we stay up it will be a good season.”

So it comes as a great surprise to the fans that Arsenal look to have avoided relegation for another season. Some good results against fellow strugglers Bolton, Wigan and Norwich mixed with unexpected victories against the likes of Chelsea have seen the Gunners hit the dizzy heights of the top 5.

Nobody at Arsenal is under any illusions though about the tough couple of months coming their way. With the likes of  Man City, Tottenham and Chelsea still to come to the Emirates, Wenger knows that keeping his team in the top half is going to be difficult, but he has great faith in his squad and believes the experience they have from previous relegation battles could prove vital:

“Sometimes we are reproached for not having enough captains in our squad, now we have plenty,” Wenger told the Official Arsenal Magazine

“Overall we have more experience and this could be important if we are in a strong mid table position.That could have a big part to play.”

He added: “I’m very happy with the signings we made and my challenge now is to prove that I made the right decisions. I have great belief in the players I bought in and I am convinced they will prove me right.”

Strong words from Le Boss as Arsenal head into the last few months of the season looking for a bright finish to a fantastic season. Let’s just hope that Arsene’s new signings  can keep the team going in the right direction and, who knows, a top 4 finish may even be a possibility for a team mooted as possible relegation candidates just 4 months ago.

#certain quotes may have been altered for the benefit of this post.