Brown Sugar: Match preview.

March 21, 2012

Moyes …… never liked the fella. Reminds me of the chap who hangs around Harry Potter, or is it the little bloke who kept looking for his “precious” in Lord of the Rings? Either way, never liked the cut of his jib.

People say he does a wonderful job at Everton, citing the financial constraints, the shadow of his Stanley Park neighbours etc etc but Howard Kendall had the same constraints and he did  OK, but then he was a proper manager.

I have a soft spot for Everton; for many years they were just another Northern team of pretenders who sold Gary Lineker (and later Rooney) but all that changed on 3rd May 1998 with TA6’s goal in the 4-0 win at Highbury which crowned the PL winning season. That goal and that day are at the pinnacle of my very favorite Highbury memories, the picture of Tony arms spread standing in front of the North Bank sits by my desk as I write. Thank you Everton.

Of course, tonight will be a tough game, the Toffees (see final paragraph) are very strong at home. They lost badly at Anfield in their last outing albeit with a weakened squad but their home form is excellent, having beaten Spurs, Chelsea and Man City in their last 3 games. Beating Arsenal will be a feather in Moyes cap in a season which may still result in silverware and a Euro place. Goalscoring has been a major challenge for Everton this season with Baines joint top scorer with 3 PL goals!

Arsenal have not lost to Everton in 9 games – a run going back to 2007. We won the home tie 1-0 thanks to a wonder goal from RvP (who else) – Everton must have been happy to see him replicate the goal at Anfield.

We are almost free from the injury hell suffered throughout the season. Diaby played for the reserves last night, Santos is in training and only Wilshire, BFG and Squillaci remain unavailable. Our form up to the break has been good – 5 league wins on the bounce. The only worry is that we have not kept a clean sheet in one of those games. We have to find defensive solidity if we are to challenge this season and in the future. The personnel are good enough so it must be a question of organisation.

My Team:

The only area of doubt in selection is on the left. Will Mr Wenger continue with OC or play the rested Gervinho? I would play OC and have him take a deeper role thus making a 4 in midfield, bringing on the Gerv on the hour to attack a tired Everton defence.

A big night for Arteta, his first return to his former club, a club which he served with such honour; that he will get a huge ovation upon his return is testament to his professionalism. Hope he scores!

Inventor from Everton: It has to be Molly Bushell who “invented” Toffee. She established a factory and shop “Everton Toffee,”which became world famous, one of it’s customers was Queen Victoria. When the shop and factory moved to larger premises they discovered another toffee manufacturer close by owned by Mother Nobletts (I kid you not) and in order to make her toffees distinctive Mother Nobletts covered them in black and white striped sugar –  being the colors of Everton football shirt of the time. Hence Everton’s nickname, The Toffees.

Molly Bushell prior to her bi-annual trip to 224 Shaftesbury Ave.

HOWEVER, as Molly Bushell died in 1818 and the club wasn’t founded until 1878 there would appear to be some good old fashioned Scouse blarney attached to this story. My guess is that there was some skulduggery involving under the table payments made to players in the form of toffee which was the working man’s cocaine of it’s day 🙂

A tough night’s work ahead but given our form a winnable game.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


If You know Your History Pt.1. Youth Policy?

March 20, 2012

We have talked the Youth Policy completely to death ….. or have we?

To people of my generation the Youth Policy was the only way to establish a top team. Have a look at the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1966: Peter Simpson, Jon Sammels, George Armstrong, Peter Storey, Ray Kennedy, Sammy Nelson, Pat Rice and John Radford were all in the team, and all went on to have fine careers at AFC. – 5 years later they won the Double under Bertie Mee. 8 players made the leap into the first team!

Our 1987 FA Youth Cup winning team was not so fortunate with only Kevin Campbell making a successful jump to fame, though the team did include David Hillier and Steven Morrow who went on to be first team players (in the worst AFC team I have seen).

Of our 1994 winning team only Stephen Hughes made the first team.

The 2000 & 2001 winning team had a little more luck with Alladiere,  Stephen Sidwell, Moris Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Justin Hoyte becoming PL players though none made the grade at THOF.

We won the cup again in 2009. Can this group achieve success? In the team were Frimpong, Bartley, Coquelin, Lansbury and Jack Wilshere. LJW seems assured a bright future at Arsenal but the prospects hang in the balance for the others. The influx of ready made stars severely curtailing their chances.

So what is a successful youth policy? Is it enough that Wilshere has come through the ranks? Should AFC sell him he will attract the kind of fee which makes the youth team economically worthwhile (as did the sale of Cesc). Liam Brady is not only bringing through fine players, he is also creating a handsome income stream.

Arsenal generate a huge amount of money and perhaps, like the rest of the top 6 ,we should rely entirely on mercenaries. Looking at our rivals, how many have home grown players?

MU  Cleverley, Welbeck and … erm (let’s discount the wrinkles)

Chelsea … Josh Mcreachran (and JT)

MC …. Micah Richards

Liverpool … the 32 y.o Gerrard and the 34 y.o Carragher – young players, none.

Spurs …..  none, that’s right – zip!

What does that tell us? Well, one thing is obvious – there is a huge gap in skills between the Youth and the first teams in the PL. Furthermore, clubs are unwilling to take the punt on players developing over time in the PL; we cherry pick our kids from the youth academies all around Europe and still do not let them get a run of games  – unless they come to us from Southampton. Our rivals do not have any interest in developing kids – Chelsea’s lack of kids is a terrible indictment.

Will Financial FairPlay make a difference and force teams to focus upon youth development? It would be great but I have a feeling FFP will be just another money earner for bean counters (sorry to you bean counters!)

Sadly, the days of picking up great players like Charlie George and Pat Rice from the Holloway Road are long gone, the Youth team of ’66 are a distant memory. We should be grateful to Arsène Wenger and Arsenal that they continue to pour money and time into one of Europe’s finest Youth projects.

Let us hope that the 2009 FA Youth Cup Winners take us to another Double in 5 years.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

Great News

Most will have heard by now that Fabrice Muamba is conscious, able to speak and is surrounded by his family. He is still seriously ill but on the long road to recovery. We wish Fabrice and all our friends on AA who are suffering problems at present a speedy return to full health.


Arsenal’s Biggest Surprise This Season?

March 19, 2012

Fellow arsophiles, I want to pose a simple question:

In a season of ups and downs, false dawns and unexpected revivals, which Arsenal player has turned out to be the biggest surprise package (in a positive way)?

I’m not talking about the likes of Vermaelen and van Persie, of whom we all expected great things. I want you to consider the players – whether already in the squad or newly signed – for whom you had NO high hopes, but who have gone on to confound your pessimism.

The grit that turned into pearls, as it were…

You can register your own choice in the Poll below, but let me offer my own shortlist for the contenders…

Tomas Rosicky

The Little Mozart – or Schnitzel, as I am assured is also his nickname – was high on the list of players most supporters wanted to see shipped out last summer. Unlike Fawlty Manuel and Sideways Den, footballing abilities were not the issue with the little Czech – it was just that he seemed as fragile as a Ming vase. And on the odd occasion when he was not too cracked to get a run out, he usually seemed a peripheral figure: the Ming on the wing. Fast forward to today, and we see a player showing just what he can do when he stays fit and gets a run of games in his preferred position. He’s now one of the first names on the team sheet, which makes a change from having his own engraved name plaque in the treatment room.

Kieran Gibbs

Like TR7, our young English left back has often given the impression of being made of glass and was on first name terms with all the medical staff, their wives and husbands, their cousins and neighbours, even their pets. But since he got back in the side our results have improved and he has begun to show why Arsene Wenger has persevered with him for so long. In recent games he has begun to really look the part.

Francis Coquelin

This cocky French cockerel was not on most fans’ radar at the start of the season and it was generally assumed that Frimpong was ahead of him in the midfield pecking order. But while Frimpong’s inexperience was exposed in some early season games, Coquelin took every opportunity that came his way, whether deputising at fullback or playing in his preferred midfield role. Undoubtedly the season of first team football at Lorient is what put him ahead of his young English rival, but he looks to have the quality to be a first team regular in the future. Sadly both he and Frimpong have been unlucky with injuries.

Theo Walcott

OK, I know this is a bit of a controversial one. But so many people were so down on him in the close season and at the start of this campaign that I feel it’s right to include him. Personally I have never understood the level of abuse he gets. Being a winger means you are always trying to do the pointy-ended bits of the game – beating defenders, putting in crosses, making goal assists, hitting the back of the net. Inevitably, things don’t always come off, but with eight goals and 11 assists his contribution should be recognised. If you doubt his importance, just look at how Robin van Persie values him.

Per Mertesacker

Quickly christened ‘The BFG’, our supersized German centre back was written off by some before he had even kicked a ball for us. He was too slow, not good enough in the air despite his height, he wouldn’t be up to the speed of the English game etc etc. Up until his injury, however, big Per showed us that he is, above all, a footballer of the highest quality. I know many supporters believe Koscielny and Vermaelen are our first choice CB pairing, but I really feel Mertesacker adds a level of composure to our transitional play from defence and is brilliant at reading the game and I would start him alongside either of the other two.

Carl Jenkinson

A young fullback, signed from Charlton Athletic with only a handful of first team games under his belt… what was Arsene thinking of? Well, our Carl is a Gooner through and through and when he has had opportunities to play he has shown great promise. His engine is fantastic and, for my money, he’s the best crosser at the club. He’ll be England’s right back in a few years time.

Andre Santos

A Brazilian we had never heard of, signed from the Turkish league. Surely this was another piece of craziness on our manager’s part. And when he turned up with what looked like 20lbs of hashish in his shorts the doubters were even more skeptical. But Santos quickly won people over with his adventurous style of play (it was his goal that got us back on track away at Chelsea) and his infectious enthusiasm.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Isn’t it funny that many of the same people who were furious when we signed Oxo (“we need proven quality, not another punt on some untried youngster for Chrissake”) were exactly the people booing when Alex was subbed off for Arshavin towards the end of the home game against Manchester United. We knew he was very highly regarded at Southampton, but many thought he would be “one for the future” or “Walcott mark two”. Instead he has already made himself a fan favourite and is another player who has everything it takes to be an Arsenal great.

OK, that’s it.

If you would like to suggest a different candidate please click on the “Other” option below and make your suggestion in the comments.

RockyLives


Get Well Soon Fabrice

March 18, 2012

Yesterday was a day I won’t forget in a hurry, in my office working I flicked up the BBC Website to check the score and see whether it was worth watching the second half, it was 1-1 Bale had scored an own goal, I smiled and decided to listen to it live on the radio.

Seconds after I heard David Pleat say that Muamba had gone down with no one around him and both Modric and Gallas called on the medical teams immediately and were showing concern. To hear that was shocking enough, the radio team didn’t have monitors so i hoped they were wrong, I had to go down and switch on the TV, to see for myself. The first shot I saw was Tottenham fans with deep concern written all over their faces. The commentary didn’t sound good and the players faces told the story of just how serious this situation was. It was heart wrenching I was welling up just looking on from afar. I’m sure we all feared the worst.

Thankfully we are now hearing more positive news, I hope by the time this is posted, it’s better still.

Today is a day to forget about rivalries and pull together the football family to send all our best wishes to Fabrice, his family, the staff and players at both Bolton and Spurs, and the fans who witnessed it live.

It is also a stark reminder of how we fans have a responsibility never to take things too far, we all are united by our love for this simple game of two goals 22 men and a little round ball. We all want our teams to do well, but days like today remind us that it is just a game, and there are things more important, and whilst rivalry and emotion are part of it we should try to keep it within the bounds of good humour. Things can be said in the heat of the moment but I will never wish what I saw yesterday on anyone, I hope it serves as a reminder to those that do just what their words mean.

If you want to see what football fans do when they pull together look at the twitter trend that started within minutes yesterday #PrayForMuamba fans and players from every club were tweeting their support for the player.

I’m sure the good people of AA will want to do the same as me today and that is wish Fabrice all the best.

Get well Fabrice our thoughts are with you. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Gooner in Exile


Will Arshavin return and more ………….

March 17, 2012

So for the second consecutive weekend we have no game and many like myself will be having withdrawal symptoms.

There were some interesting answers in yesterdays post so I will carry on with the theme .

After five straight wins on the bounce we are all finally bouyant about our team and if the momentum can be kept for the final ten games, third is a distinct possibility.

I ask myself will our manager keep wherever possible to the same starting eleven and has he already earmarked those who will no longer feature at the club come the Summer.

My heart tells me that Robin is committed to Arsenal and in his case, he is for the first time in a few years, the right man to be captain and has the respect from all of the players.

So here are a few posers:

  • Will Park actually start a game this season?
  • Will Chamakh ever play again and if so. score this season and how many?
  • How many penalties will we get and concede?
  • Will Theo keep up his new found form and be given a new contract?
  • Will Arshavin remain at the Club? My gut feeling is no, though I may be wrong. What do you think?
  • Almunia is out of contract and IMO Fabianski will want regular playing time so will he stay. Mannone appears to be not of the standard required, so perhaps another keeper will be brought in. What do you think?
  • We have an array of young talent waiting in the wings who have been given the odd game or so and I am sure players like Miquel, Le Coq, Yennaris and Frimpong will become first teamers given time.
  • Who do you think will be sold at the end of the season?Vela, Bendtner, Squillacci, to name just three.

Anyway let’s hear your opinions and if paper talk is correct Podolski seems to be on his way.

  • Apart from Arshavin, who will be Alan Sugared  😉

Written by kelsey

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Ten games to go – Leave your predictions here

March 16, 2012

After an incredible run of five PL wins in a row, we find ourselves now very well positioned to qualify for next year’s CL tournament. Who would have thought that after the deep-dark triple losses against Fulham, Swansea and the Mancs in January, followed by a goalless draw at Bolton on 1st February, we would bounce back in such an emphatic manner by beating Blackburn, Sunderland, the Spuds, Pool and Toon – scoring 18 goals and conceding 6 goals on the way?

Although I have always believed that all ingredients for success in the near future are taken care off by Arsenal, I must admit I experienced a bout of raw melancholy a few weeks ago, when we lost the away cup-matches to Milan (CL) and Sunderland (FA). It was the manner in which we lost these games that really worried me: the way our formation/system of football looked so toothless, clueless and the way Wenger appeared not to have any answers to it all.

Well, things have changed dramatically and it has come at the right time of the season: we are now fourth, with just one point behind the Spuds and three above the Chavs. What’s even more important is the new-found belief in this team. It looks like Arsenal is finally on the right track and has sorted out its inner-demons: a mixture of determinedness, passion and desire to work for each other by all our players has brought us to what the club’s strap line of ‘Victory Through Harmony’ is all about. The fans are uniting behind the team again as well, and the atmosphere during recent games at THOF has significantly improved.

But we are not there yet: with 10 games to go we have to stay focussed and humble and make sure we do actually qualify for the CL. In October/November we had a spell of winning 7 out of 8 PL games, but unfortunately it was followed by a period of winning only 2 PL games out of 8. It has been a topsy-turvy season, and there are no guarantees we are totally on top of it now.

So how will it end? Our next ten games are against: Everton (a), Villa (h), QPR (a), Citeh (h), Wolves (a), Wigan (h), the Chavs (h), Stoke (a), Norwich (h), West Brom (a). At this stage of the season in particular, none of these games are automatic 3-points-in-the-bag contests.

It would be great to hear everybody’s views re the way the season will end. Let us know your predictions:

* How many points will we get from those 10 games?

* What will be the Top-six at the end of the season (in order)?

* Will Arsenal remain unbeaten?

* How many more goals will RvP score?

* Who will win the PL?

* How many games will Wilshere play of the ten remaining?

* How many goals will Arsenal have scored at the end of the season (currently 57)?

* How many more come-backs this season?

* How many more assists by Alex Song between now and the end of the season?

* How many clean sheets?

* Who will win the CL this year?

* Who will win the FA-cup?

Finally, as a separate question: If we can buy one more player, maximum budget £20m (excluding salary package), who would you like it to be?

Feel free to elaborate on any of your answers if you feel like it, as we like to know your insights. I will make a spreadsheet with all your answers and let you know the top-3 winners of Best Footie Predictors, after the season has ended!

COYRRG

TotalArsenal.


FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!

March 15, 2012

In darker moments, when all rationale and clarity has gone AWOL and I’ve struggled to find cohesion, it’s difficult to see the positives when concentrating solely on the negatives. If Monsieur Wenger has time, or even instructs a member of his staff to read the myriad of Arsenal Blogs, I hope ‘ArsenalArsenal’ is right up there as ‘A must read…’ If so, here’s what I would say.

Dear Arsène,

‘ArsenalArsenal’ is full of wonderful passionate Arsenal fans, all ages, sizes etc., and most are loyal disciples of your teachings. They are unwavering in their belief, and have put down many a nay-sayer with a pithy, witty turn of phrase. Their resolve and strength is unbelievable, and like you, their intelligence has done for many opponents.

At this point, I must beg your forgiveness. There have been times this season when your demeanour has looked tortured, your furrowed brow perplexed, and even, dare I suggest, the look of someone who wasn’t sure whether or not they wanted to fight for unforgiving fans, whose emotions have been all over the place. I lost my way, and became a nay-sayer. I questioned everything from the running of the club to your transfer policy, and the performances out on the pitch.

The good people at ‘ArsenalArsenal’ have read my rants of ‘Wenger Out…’ and the lambasting of certain players, mostly with good humour – though it has led to some lively debates – and I am now in a better, more considered frame of mind, one that tallies with the majority of the afore mentioned Blog. You are an Alchemist. A dignified man, who has refused to cow-tow to the incessant pressure applied by the blood-thirsty gutter press, and yet again you have trumped them. You have used your intelligence, efficiently and calmly, and in such a way that it represents a fundamental lesson to us all, particularly people like me.

You have always done right by our club, Arsene, and long may that continue.

Please accept my unreserved apologies for ever doubting your ability, you are an incredibly talented manager, and we are lucky to have you.

I have learned so much in my short time on ‘ArsenalArsenal’, but probably the most important lesson is the power of positivity. We are and always have been a special club, which upsets outsiders to the point of insane jealousy and incandescent rage. Of course it has always been thus, and had I not allowed myself to become engulfed in the tidal wave of negativity, I would have recognised and acknowledged this along with everyone else of The Arsenal faith. There is a growing sense that this team is going to be very special indeed, and we are priveliged to be a part of it.

Written by Herb

It’s a very large slice of Humble Pie for me, AA’ers, so Bon Apetit!


Are we becoming less reliant on Robin?

March 14, 2012

Robin’s performance on Monday night, together with the rest of the team, left us all on a high. RvP, as our captain, had written very complimentary words about the home fans in the match programme for the game against Toon: ‘Our bond with the supporters is special and has been there a long time, but in the last few games I feel that it has reached a new level…. As I have said before it is down to us to give them that energy, to show them that energy, to show them that we are ready for the fight, and then they will respond. That’s what has happened recently – the fans and the players have worked together and made a really good team!”

From the moment the game started, RvP looked different than usual. He looked tense, a bit whiter and seemed to have some sort of cold sweat on his face. Was he, perhaps, not feeling 100%? Or was it nerves, as in realising that this is exactly the sort of game we need to win to prove we have really made progress. Too many times in our recent history, we have not been able to win these sorts of games – when expectations are high and the pressure is on to finally close a gap, or to take a distance from our direct competitors.

To me, it was obvious that Robin felt this pressure, as a true Captain should: he was ready for the fight, and with that comes full emotional involvement. In the last few years, too often we have seen an Arsenal side brimming with talent and mesmerizing skills, but just lacking the killer instinct, the ‘relentless effort’ as Arsene called it on Monday night, or simply the awareness that without fight and absolute commitment, we will never make the final push to the absolute top.

Last night, even more than in the recent comeback-victories over the Spuds and Pool, we were given ample evidence that this ‘new’ Arsenal team is made of the sternest stuff. RvP is its leader and he realised that something different was required against Newcastle United on Monday. The Barcodes had come to the THOF with a clear plan of parking two to three sizable mini-busses all over the pitch, and would try to outmuscle us with power and grit.

RvP, for once, showed us again his more familiar characteristics of his early years at the club, as he became a rebel with a cause. This time though, he showed he’s learned from his youthful years by never losing his cool totally, and what a difference it made. His victim on this special night became his fellow Dutchman Tim Krul, who was clearly asking for it. Sometimes a captain has to test the limits in order to show the rest of his team, and the supporters, what this game means to Arsenal, and by bullying Krul from the first moments he tried to waste time, he set the tone for the night. It got us all fired up and it was just what the stadium needed!

A captain needs to be able to focus on these sort of strategies now and again, and I sometimes wonder whether Robin’s combined responsibilities of captaining the side and being the main source of goals for our team, is holding back his ability to lead the team with regards to these so important psychological strategies and battles.

For obvious reasons, it is of paramount importance that Arsenal weans itself of this recently established overreliance on RvP scoring the majority of our goals. The good thing is that since the start of the year we are now seeing a slow but significant shift towards a more healthy balance between goals scored by Robin and the rest of the team.

Start of the 2011-2012 season till 31-12-2012

(Games include PL, FA and CL but not CC)

  1. We played 26 games in which we scored 46 goals
  2. 21 goals were scored by RvP: 46% of all goals
  3. The team scored 1.8 goals per game
  4. In 12 out of the 23 games (in 3 games we did not score at all) 50% or more of all goals were scored by RvP: 52%
  5. In 9 out of the 23 games (in 3 games we did not score at all)  more than 50% of all goals were scored by RvP: 39%
  6. Arsenal won 16 out of their 26 games: 62%

Start of 2012 till 12-03-2012

  1. We played 14 games in which we scored 29 goals
  2. Twelve goals were scored by RvP: 41% of all goals
  3.  he team scored 2.1 goals per game
  4. In 5 out of 11 games (in 3 games we did not score at all) 50% or more of all goals were scored by RvP: 45%
  5. In 3 out of 11 games (in 3 games we did not score at all) more than 50% of all goals were scored by RvP: 27%
  6. Arsenal won 8 out of their 14 games: 57%

Of course it is early days, but as the above shows there appears to be a shift towards a more healthy balance between RvP and the rest of the team scoring our goals, and, more importantly, in terms of who is winning individual games for us. Since the start of the year, RvP scored the majority of our goals, in each single match, in just over 1 in 4 matches, compared to 2 in 5 matches during the first part of the season. The share of 50% or more goals by RvP has dropped from 52% to a healthier 44%, and I reckon this will drop further in the next few months.

More importantly, the team is scoring more goals now at 2.1 goals per game, compared to 1.8 goals in 2011. The former is the sort of goals per game record that would see us score 80 goals in the PL, compared to 68 goals when the average is 1.8 goals per game. Our games win-rate is still inferior though, but I reckon this will shift in favour of the current year in the next few weeks or so (our very bad spell in January still has a relatively major impact on these figures).

So yes, I do believe we are becoming less reliant on Robin in terms of scoring goals and winning games for us. We are witnessing a slow but steady shift towards a healthier balance between him and the rest of the team. This will help RvP tremendously in leading the team not only from the front, i.e. by example, but also in terms of  responsibilities such as making small tactical adjustments, on-field man-management, talking to/influencing the referee, fighting psychological battles etc.

Robin van Persie is quickly becoming a total captain for the team.

Finally, anybody doubting his desire to stay at Arsenal should watch the Toon game again, and just concentrate on RvP all-round performance. He is a Gunner For Life, alright.

Written by TotalArsenal.


Oops We Did it Again : Comeback Kings

March 13, 2012

Only three weeks ago after the FA Cup exit away to Sunderland and the disaster in the San Siro even the most positive of Arsenal fans was starting to doubt that this team had the necessary cojones to get us back in to the Champions League qualification places. Two morale boosting wins in the Premier League against much feted domestic opposition and the demolition of the Italian Champions elect at The Home of Football and all of a sudden the despair and gloom around the club has gone, players returning from injury, the media saying nice things about the boss, and the players, life was okay again.

In truth in those three games we were the underdogs, written off at home against the cretins from N17, no chance of overcoming the deficit against Milan, and surely we couldn’t beat the Carling Cup holders at their place. Last night we were favourites again, some will tell you that we don’t do being favourites, too often have we have seen us close wide open doors on ourselves when presented with the chance to catch up or to extend our points advantage. But somewhere between two nil down at home to the Lilylivers and beating Milan 3-0 the Emirates became a fortress, it became a mass of positivity, restored faith, vocal support, proper support. And the players they became warriors.

This is Arsenal

With two minutes to go pegged back in our own corner to defend a throw in the game looked up, the critics were sharpening their knives ready to rehash bottling stories. This squad decided they didn’t want to read that tomorrow, they scrapped for the ball from the throw in, first Gibbs, then Ramsey, then Arteta, the ball finally breaking to Song who moved it quickly to Van Persie, trying to take on three striped shirts whilst support arrived, there was Song again who moved it out wide to Theo. Theo took his time as red and white shirts filled the box and delivered an inviting chipped cross, neither Van Persie or Ramsey could make a decisive touch, and as it bounced down Vermaelen arrived to smash it home past the onrushing Krul. And then everything went a bit mental.

Bundle

This team with no heart no passion no desire, well they showed they had to all in spades, Vermaelen epitomised this spirit, after having his knee accidentally stamped on he had limped around for ten minutes of the second half while he ran it off, and somehow he found the energy to sprint the length of the pitch to be on the end of that cross and bravely finish taking another clout from Krul. The mass bundle proof if you needed any that this group of players cares, and they care as much as us about finishing above the shower down the road. Whilst Wenger is playing down the chase for the Spuds the players are mentioning it in every post match, maybe Pat Rice has had a quiet word in their ear. “Listen lads, we don’t finish below them, it doesn’t happen, go get ’em”.

Before that thirty seconds of brilliance there had been another ninety minutes of a football match, well 70 minutes of football and 20 spent waiting for Krul to put the ball back in play. Newcastle came with a game plan, flood the midfield, don’t over commit, nick a goal if possible and then soak up everything Arsenal could throw at them. For the opening ten minutes the game was scrappy, if anything we were over eager to retrieve the ball sometimes getting in each others way or the ball bouncing away and back to an enthusiastic Newcastle midfield. Tiote is perfect fit for the way Pardew wanted to play past night, chasing and breaking up play, and able to give it to those more gifted than him.

The first chance fell to Robin, a good leap from Sagna flicked the ball on for Theo to chase, no player has personified our turn around in fortunes as much as our young marmite winger, he burst into the open space and delivered a fizzing cross along the ground to the back post where a despairing slide from Van Persie failed to connect. Clearly Robin didn’t want to yet.

Around the 15 minute mark Arteta intercepted a Tiote pass, Vermaelen couldn’t do much more than push the ball back out and Tiote picked it up again played it to Ba, Cabaye joined in and pushed it to Ben Arfa, Gibbs chasing back was easily wrong footed as the skilful Frenchman put in on his left foot and produced a very good finish to beat Szczesny at his near post. I have watched it a few times and have decided that he could not have done much about it, it was a very good finish. Gibbs had been caught out of position but only because he was trying to win back possession from Ba.

Maybe the payers had heard that no team had ever won 4 consecutive games from behind in the Premier League, and as we haven’t set any records for a while they decided they would like to have a crack at that one. Within 30 seconds of the restart we were level, good work again from Theo, Sagna and Rosicky, set Theo free down the wing, he delivered another first time cross which found the Boy Wonder, this time he decided he did want to, his first touch was sublime taking the defender out of the game the second touch put the ball onto the trusted left foot and his third touch was despatch past Krul.

The rest of the half was a bit scrappy, Newcastle didn’t seem to know what to do next, the plan had been defend, nick one, defend, well they didn’t appear to plan for what happened if we equalised. They didn’t commit, and they started to time waste, I know teams need to regather their shape, but this is an opponent that before last night still had a chance of Champions League football, they are not going to get relegated, they had already scored once, where is the sense in defending and being satisfied with a point? Robin had words with Krul, Krul had a few back.

As the half played out Robin had another chance but his strike found the Emirates crowd, a free kick into the hands of Krul and Theo had a scrappy chance off balance from a corner. Whilst we had been good down the right, we were a bit lop sided, Oxlade Chamberlain rarely getting into the game, and Gibbs not advancing as much as normal due to the attacking threat of Ben Arfa.

From the restart of the second half Arsenal dominated possession, territory and Newcastle, they had occasional forays into our half, mainly from a long ball to Ba, but the two of Koscielny and Vermaelen dealt comfortably with everything thrown at them, both picking up knocks and injuries as they refused to retreat.

Rosicky was everywhere for Arsenal, a diving header from another Theo cross which Krul saved, some great footwork, a spin and a reverse pass into Van Persie which the latter could only fire at Kruls feet. Another chance fell to Rosicky but his  tiring legs could not muster the necessary power after Theo pulled it back for him and the ball went disappointingly out for a throw in.

Arteta and Song picked up loose balls, we harried in numbers and won the ball back in advanced positions. Ox started to come into the game as the Newcastle defence and midfield tired and was unlucky with a volley from outside the box and later opened up some space for himself in the penalty area before shooting wide.

Gervinho replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Ramsey came on for the tiring Rosicky. Neither took anything away from the team thanks to the volume of players returning from injuries our bench now has some quality on it. The two subs combined to produce a cross which no one could reach, but good pressure high up on their goal line by Gibbs regained possession, he fed Van Persie, but again he could not find the finish, or just didn’t want to.

The best chance of the half probably fell to Gervinho, an Arteta cross travelled across the box and found him unmarked at the far post, he couldn’t sort his feet out in time and it drifted agonisingly wide. Arsenal were now camping in Newcastles half, Song produced a wonderful cross which Vermaelen met well only to see Krul tip over. Theo was next to be denied by good defensive work by Collocini. It just looked like it was going to be one of those nights where we couldn’t force it home.

And then Vermaelen thought “if Robin doesn’t want to tonight, I sure as hell do.”

I Want To

All that was left for Robin to ask Tim how much time he wanted to waste now. A bit of a melee ensued and Robin was held back by several team mates, actually I need to commend Arteta here as he intercepted Krul as he ran out of his box to confront Robin, although the Boy Wonder seemed in control he as certainly enjoying the bit of gamesmanship. Do I want my skipper to behave like that? Well actually I don’t mind if he does from time to time.

Take Your Time Tim

Ratings:

Szczesney – 7 Didn’t really have a lot to do, but dealt with most things comfortably and very good distribution last night.

Sagna – 8 Tireless support of Theo, and solid defensively

Koscielny – 8 Fearless in tackle, fast across ground, and a good reader of the game

Vermaelen – 9 Warrior

Gibbs – 7 Starting to show why Wenger has faith in him, good going forward, disciplined defensively. Tidy on the ball.

Song – 8 The kind of game we love to see from him, everywhere needed to fight fires and good use of the ball. No lazy fouls, no lazy touches, no hanging on to the ball.

Arteta 7 – struggled first half to find players and get a foot on the ball, finds a teammate more often than not.

Rosicky – 8 A good performance by the newly re signed Czech, he actually is “Like a New Signing”.

Walcott – 9 Constant threat to Newcastle in behind, good runs, and good delivery.

Oxlade – Chamberlain – 7 struggled to get into game first half, found the ball more in the second and gave flashes of what he is good at.

The Boy Wonder – 9 Another world class performance from our leader, the first goal was evidence of his form right now and why he got the 8, the extra point was for his winding up of Krul, he would have had a ten if it weren’t for some off shooting second half.

Subs:

Gervinho 7 – some good touches and passes, made threatening runs.

Ramsey 7 – found the pace of the game immediately, found some good passes, was in the melee that led to the goal.


Baby, I’m Gunner leave you : Match Preview

March 12, 2012

Two weeks ago we were entrenched in a skirmish for fourth place with Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool. Things were looking rough, and it looked as though it would be a tussle across the finish line. The players would need to dig deep, and show some testicular fortitude and spirit, something that has often deserted us in moment’s gone by. Our back was up against the wall and we responded in a big way. Last week Arsenal all but ended Liverpool’s chances of grabbing that coveted Champion’s League spot, and tonight we have the chance to slam the door on Newcastle’s opportunity, leaving them behind for good.

Countless feel Newcastle have punched above their weight this season, after all they only finished 7 points off of relegation last season. Regardless of what you think of the man, Alan Pardew has assembled a rather impressive squad of fighters. After being relegated and trimming away some troublesome characters (Dyer, Carroll, Barton, Nolan), and with the additions of Cabaye, Ba, Cisse, Tiote, and Santon, Newcastle has really galvanised as a unit, creating a rather formidable squad that can trouble any team. However, they are showing signs of weakening having drawn their last two matches against Sunderland and Wolves, and losing 5-0 to Tottenham.

We have not beaten Newcastle since 2009, which would lead anyone to think they have had the wood over the Mighty Arsenal, but as you all know these results have been largely impacted by the following:

  1. An abysmal refereeing job by Phil Dowd – please direct any emails to http://www.phildowdisawanker.com
  2. Everybody’s favourite thug Joey Barton – a player who has managed to wrangle the ref into giving Diaby and Gervinho a red card, and get Song suspended because he stepped on Barton while he was underneath him. Unfortunately for us the stamp wasn’t to his groin region, because for the benefit of mankind Joey Barton should not be permitted to breed. Please send any hateful words to (@Joey7Barton) on Twitter. I’m looking at you GM 😉
  3. An Andy Carroll header – has he done anything since?

Nevertheless, this is a different Arsenal! Players have returned, careers have been reborn and third spot is ours for the taking! Tonight we look to continue our current winning streak of four Premier League victories (which includes the mauling of Twitchy’s Tottenham).

Arsenal’s Line-up:

Andre Santos has returned to full training but bearing in mind he hasn’t played in four months it is likely he will be coming on with a few minutes left (when we have control of the match). Arteta returns from a heavy concussion and it should see him slot in alongside Song in central midfield. Ramsey is back from an ankle injury but with Rosicky’s scintillating form he won’t make the starting line-up. Benayoun could return from the virus that ruled him out of the squad for the Champion’s League match. Still in the treatment room are the BFG (ankle), Coquelin (hamstring), Diaby (Hamstring), Frimpong (knee), Squillanci (groin), and Wilshere (ankle). For me the starting line-up is as follows:

Newcastle’s Line-up: With a potential Champions League spot on offering they will come to THOF looking for a huge scalp. Therefore they are likely to employ a 4-4-2 formation of:

Krul

Simpson Coloccini Williamson Santon

R.Taylor Tiote Cabaye Gutierrez

Ba Cisse

If they fall behind they are likely to bring on the powerhouse Shola Ameobi, and the dangerous Ben Arfa. It is imperative that we do not give away any free-kicks around the box since Cabaye and Taylor are very dangerous when it comes to set-pieces. Newcastle likes to do a lot of their attacking play down the wings through Gutierrez because of his dribbling skills and knack for creating space. Although he often plays in the Argentine Squad he will not be a problem because his non-existent pace means Sagna will control him rather effortlessly. Coloccini is a dependable defender who will mark RVP very closely trying to nullify our best attacking threat; conversely Williamson is a lower tier defender and should be exploited. Santon, an Italian international likes to bomb forward so look for Walcott to try and slip out the back door. He and Simpson are fast full-backs so if they are disciplined we might have trouble making room for Gervinho and Walcott. Santon and Gutierrez are rather predictable down the left side because they always look to cut in on their favoured right foot, while Simpson likes to send in dreadful cross after dreadful cross. If the game is open and they are attacking we will rip them apart on the counter, let’s see how brave Pardew’s Newcastle really is!

This brings us to the Key-matchup for the game. Newcastle will have to get the better of our Centre Backs for Newcastle to even stand a chance in this match.

 Vermaelen + Koscielny vs Cisse + Ba

The Senegalese striker Ba has been a revelation for Newcastle this season. He scored 7 goals in 11 games for West Ham before he arrived at Newcastle on a free transfer, what a deal that has become. Ba is robust in the air, has a good poacher’s instinct, swift on the turn and has a high work rate that has brought about 16 goals in 23 matches this season. Arriving in the January transfer window, Cisse has shown a keen eye for goal with 2 goals in four matches, and scoring 9 goals in 17 matches while playing in the Bundesliga. Both possess predatory instincts close to goal so it is imperative that we give them no room inside the box or they could make us pay. Their poaching ability can be seen in the picture below which highlights a large portion of their goals coming very close to goal, whereas our goals are spread around the area and further from goal. It also shows Newcastle like to have shots from outside the area, while we do not.

Arsenal goals

Toon goals

Going up against them will be our combative duo Kozza and the Verminator. A lot of debate has gone into who our best centre half pairing is, but in my opinion these two are our best. Similar types you say? Isn’t that a good thing because both have little to no weaknesses, they are both fast, exceptional tacklers, agile, and good in the air. Regrettably they haven’t had a comprehensive run in the team together, thanks largely to the injuries to Vermaelen, followed by the injuries to both Gibbs and Santos. If they play together for a season or two they WILL be the best Centre Back pairing in Europe!

Can Arsène break the Pardew Curse that has seen him win only once in their last six encounters?

Can Arsenal put to rest this recent bad run of games against Newcastle?

The Answer is yes we can, we should despatch a Newcastle team that appears to be running out of puff as the season heads into its final stretch. I see nothing but a strong win by the Mighty Gunners, with a resounding 3-0 victory.

This week’s famous Arsenal fan goes to John Lydon A.K.A Johnny Rotten from the punk rock band The Sex Pistols.

In the mid to late 70’s The Sex Pistols along with The Clash revolutionised music, with politically charged lyrics with a fast paced sound. Bill Wyman (former bass player of the Rolling Stones) said Rotten knew most of The Sex Pistols fans personally, being a loyal Arsenal fan and veteran of a few terrace scraps himself.

Written by ozgunner