Will Arsenal finally fulfill its “Potential”?

September 20, 2012

We’re off to one of our best starts in the Premier League, 8 points out of 12, unbeaten, and only one goal against in the first four games.

Our defence has been very solid, pivoted around exceptionally strong performances by our center back pairing of Mertesacker and Vermaelen. they along with Gibbs and Jenkinson, thanks to the coaching of Steve Bould, have gained a new positional sense, and are stirring up memories of our famous back four.

Before I go overboard I must remind myself that neither Sunderland nor Stoke tried to play offensive football which made our defensive task a whole lot easier, but that’s happened to us many times before and we’ve fallen foul to a sucker punch and had a goal scored against us – so credit is given where credit is due.

The mid-field is pure magic, who could have guessed that a five foot six, two footed Spaniard would make such an enormous difference to our team? Santiago has fitted in better than O.J. Simpson’s glove.

When have we seen a stronger more in depth mid-field? Diaby has a renewed sense of purpose, Arteta is a master technician and seems to thrive in the company of Santi, Ramsey is looking like the player he was developing into, pre Shawcross, Coquelin is a star in the making and we have Rosicky, Frimpong and Wilshere in the wings awaiting return.

What an offensive display we put on against Southampton, simply as good as I’ve seen in 65 seasons – and that is not an exaggeration. Of course I recognize that we played against a defensively weak team – but they were the same team that scared the poop out of the Manchester sides.

Podolski does not just look the part – he IS the part and has improved in each of his games, on Saturday Gervinho put in a masterful display of football – and long may it last. Walcott has to get off of the fence and make a decision on his future. We need fully committed players, i.e. Oxide who gives everything he has in every game.

Giroud will come good, but the longer it takes for him to score the tougher he’s going to find life in the Premier League.

In spite of Saturday’s display I fear for our lack of depth up front, the only other strikers in our squad (until the January 2013 transfer window opens) are Arshavin, Chamakh and under 21’s, so the last thing we need is an injury to one of our main strikers.

Goal keeping has been our Achilles heel for several seasons and our reliance on a 22 year olds confidence level is a tad scary, Mannone has looked like a good replacement and after that we only have Fabianski. It looks like a major omission in not bringing in a top shelf keeper during the summer.

Can we win the Premier League in 2012/13?

Even though I have very positive vibes about our team and our performances I feel that lady luck, and good refereeing decisions, will play a huge part in our fortunes this season.

Injuries to our strikers could hurt us badly and shaky goal tending could be our downfall, the type of errors made against Southampton will cost us points against any of the top teams.

Talking about the top teams, who I see as Arsenal, Man U, Man C, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Newcastle, I fully believe that our games against them will tell a bigger story.

I’ve broken our schedule down into 4 segments to highlight our games against each of them.

During the 1st segment of 10 games (Aug 18th to Nov 3rd) we play Liverpool (won 2-0) back to back games against Man C and Chelsea and then Man U.

During the 2nd segment of 9 games (Nov 10th to Dec 26th) we only play against Spurs.

During the 3rd segment of 10 games (Dec 29th to Mar 9th) we play Newcastle, and then in consecutive weeks, Man C, Chelsea and Liverpool, and finally Spurs.

During the 4th segment of 9 games (Mar 16th to May 19th) we play Man U and then Newcastle on the final day of the season.

So, in a segment sense, our 1st and 3rd segments are critical with the 3rd segment being immense with 5 out of 10 games being against the top teams.

Having the 3rd segment (Dec 29th to Mar 9th) as our most difficult is not all bad as it falls during the winter transfer window (Jan 1st to Jan 31st) which give us an ideal opportunity to bring in new recruits to strengthen the squad.

All in all I feel that a top 3 is our most realistic goal but I would not be shocked to see us win the league – however I feel that a Cup is our most realistic chance of a trophy.

Written by GunnerN5

Gervinho and Podolski clinical finishing saves our day: match report

September 19, 2012

Montpellier 1 – 2 Arsenal

Firstly I should say I got it totally wrong with regards to the team selection tonight. I was convinced that Arsene would prioritise our game against Man City and would give the likes of Podolski, Cazorla, Gibbs and Gervinho a rest, or start them on the bench. He did the opposite by playing his strongest team from the start and with hindsight, despite the fact that most of the aforementioned players appeared to be very tired in the second half – something I was anticipating – Wenger definitely made the right call tonight.

These are the sort of games that can go either way, but I am convinced had we not played our strongest available team tonight we could have easily lost two or even three points, and even then we had to rely on a large dollop of luck to come away from la douce France with maximum points against a very spirited team. Maybe Arsene learned from Man United’s mistakes last year, when they thought they could cruise through their CL group with weakened teams, and ooh how they paid for it! Lol.

In order to qualify in the Champions League, we normally need to win our three home games and get something out of one or more of our away games. It also really helps to start well in order to gain momentum. We managed just about to do that and we should be happy, but our display in the beautifully named Stade de la Masson was far from convincing, and I think we will need to analyse it further properly over the next few days (I have no time tonight to watch the game a second time, so I am afraid you will have to settle for my initial findings and gut-feelings about the game).

I believe that key to it all was our midfield not functioning properly on the night, and especially Diaby, despite no lack of trying, failed to repeat his phenomenal performance against Liverpool two weeks ago. I guess it did not help that he collected a yellow card in just twenty seconds after kick-off, but Abou looked rusty throughout the game: he struggled at times with keeping possession as well as safeguarding the shape of our midfield. Arteta was our rock once again and as usual he put his body and soul on the line. Cazorla had some strong moments, but especially as the game went on, he seemed to disappear for large periods.

As a trio, though, they lacked shape, calmness and composure: we were unable to dominate play in midfield for large parts of the game, and it almost cost us dearly.


First Half

Not totally unexpected, Montpellier started the game without any fear and with a clear game plan. From the first minute, they did not allow us to control the game by passing the ball around as we have become so used to again this season. They started with a high line and were keen not to allow us to build up attacks from the back, or even just to pass the ball around towards the midfield. Very often Montpellier committed two players to attack any of our players who were in possession of the ball, and our usually so effective triangles were constantly broken up.

It also did not help at all that our captain, who has been so good at leading by example this season, made an error of judgement after eight minutes, both in terms of taking an unnecessary risk – there was no need to take on Belhanda there and then – and in the execution of his tackle. Diaby’s yellow card and TV’s foul that led to the penalty, which was put away with ooh-la-la cheekiness of the highest order by Belhanda, somehow set the tone for what turned out to be an uncomfortable evening.

Luckily, we were able to convert our first proper chance to level the match, and it only took us eight minutes since we conceded to do so. A beautiful, smooth move through the centre of midfield which had started with Diaby who passed the ball to Cazorla; the Spaniard then found Giroud at the edge of the box, and the ex-Montpellier player managed to put a very good through-ball in to the unmarked and on-site Podolski. The latter had time to pick his spot and fool the keeper in the process, and he showed his experience when he slotted the ball with apparent ease past Jourdren: 1-1, game on!

This appeared to have bamboozled the CL-inexperienced French team, and Arsenal went for the kill once more only two minutes later. And it was another beautifully worked goal. When the opposition is hunting us down and triangles are being suffocated, the only thing that seems to work sometimes, is taking on a player of the opposition and move into the space behind him. Jack Wilshere did this so well against Barcelona in that famous home CL win two years ago, and in Gervinho we have another player who excels in it (and the Ox is not far behind too).

Gervinho made a quick and smooth move to go past a player of the opposition near the right sideline, after which he passed the ball to Giroud. The latter did not manage to reach the ball but it bounced perfectly of the leg of a Montpellier player into the path of Jenkinson. Incredibly, from the moment Gervinho passed the ball to Giroud he sprinted into the box, as you would expect from a typical fox-in-the-box kind of striker. I think it is fair to say that most of us had not pictured him like that! Jenkinson delivered a razor-sharp cross into the box towards Gervinho who, with only a metre between him and the goalkeeper, stayed calm and finished with deadly accuracy: 1-2 to the Mighty Arsenal and it all looks very promising for us again.

However, after going in front we fail to continue controlling the game, even though we don’t give away much either. They simply keep a lot of their players in our half and make it really difficult for us to find our passing game.

The throughout the game very impressive, Cabella, probably had the best chance in the first half for Montpellier with a well-placed, low shot, after a fine run across our box, that just whizzed past Mannone’s left post.

Second Half

I expected Arsenal to start the game a lot more organised and more capable of holding on to the ball, and to be able to dominate the game again. But we were never able to sustain possession and take control again of the game during the second half, which is a bit worrying.

Just after the restart, Diaby had an unfortunate slip in the box, leaving Cabella with a golden opportunity to equalise, but the 22 year old lacked the composure/experience which is so important at this level, and was demonstrated so incredibly well to him by Gervinho, and especially, Podolski earlier in the game. Although, it is fair to say he was simply unlucky when his lovely, bergkampesque attempt to chip Manone hit the bar rather than the back of the net in the 54th minute. I think we might see more of Cabella in the future.

The same lack of composure was shown by the equally promising talent of Belhanda (also 22 years old) late on in the game: after a rare mistake by Mertesacker in the box – at the end of a fine move by Montpellier – Belhanda was left with space and time to take a first touch and pick his spot – he does not keep his shot low to the ground but shoots right at the arms of Mannone, who does well not to panic and keep hold of it. That could easily have been the deserved equaliser for Montpellier, but luckily we escaped once more.

Other than Diaby’s fantastic, surging run from our own half all the way to the penalty box; where he fed the ball to Cazorla who could have done better with his shot on goal, we had very little to offer in terms of our attacking efforts.

In the end we held out and can now move on to the next game. Suffice to say, Wenger and Bould have some work to do with the team, as we are unlikely to get away with a repeat of tonight performance against Man City on Sunday.

Player ratings:

Mannone: I really liked him tonight, even though he did not have to make many big saves. He was calm and oozed confidence: 7.5.

Jenkinson: Tenacious, solid performance and a great cross for the winner: 7.5.

Mertesacker: Really read the game well and was desperate to keep discipline and order in an increasingly becoming disorganised team: 8.

TV: Silly mistake to give the somewhat harsh penalty away, but recovered well after that and worked well with Mertesacker to just about stay in control in defence: 7.

Gibbs: Less dominant and present this game than in previous games. I felt he left TV too often exposed this game: 6.5.

Arteta: Reads the game as well in midfield as Mertesacker does in defence. Another solid, totally committed performance: 8.

Diaby: As per the Match Report comments; below par / too rusty on the night: 6.

Cazorla: Not his best performance this season, but his class still shone through at times. He seemed to disappear a lot in second half: 6.5.

Podolski: He also seemed to disappear a lot in the second half, but took his goal very well when it really mattered: 7.5

Giroud: Great assist for the all important early equaliser and worked very hard all over the pitch. He did not get great service on the night and will feel frustrated not have come close to scoring a goal against his former team: 7.

Gervinho: Instigated and finished fantastically the second goal. Worked hard to help out midfield and defence and was a joy to watch: 8 and my Man of the Match.

Total Arsenal.

Can Arsenal win at Montpellier’s Carrelet?

September 18, 2012

I love the late summer CL fixtures. Warm nights and the opportunity for fans to watch decent football midweek.

Our first game is challenging – playing the French champions even sans OG will be difficult. A compact ground filled with 33,000 fervent fans awaiting  (what I believe will be) their first CL game.

Montpellier: I have to admit to knowing almost nothing about Montpellier HSC. I have been to the town and didn’t even know they had a club! We all know about their fairy tale La Ligue win last season but beyond that? Mbiwa, the captain is much admired and it is unlikely he will be at the club next summer.  Another player known to English fans is John Utaka who was signed by Portsmouth in 2007 for £7m and given a wage of £80k a week …. yes, you read that correctly! More than Theo is being offered in 2012!! You will not be surprised to read that Utaka was signed by a man who has a Rosie account. Montpellier’s most famous ex -player is Eric Cantona – shame he couldn’t make it in the English game.

The night’s talking point will obviously be the return to Stade de la Mosson of Oliver Giroud. It will be a special night for him and I expect OG to mark it with at least one goal.

Montpellier’s form is poor. They have won just one of five games in La Ligue, the latest resulting in a 3-1 loss away to Reims.

Stade de la Masson. Home of the French Chapions

Arsenal: There are so many possible permutations of the team tonight but I will start at the back and with our ‘keeper. Mannone will play due to an ankle injury to TPIG. It would have been interesting to see which GK would start had TPIG been fit.

The Corporal has been outstanding, an astonishing improvement in one so young and inexperienced. He isn’t the finished article yet but he deserves to keep his place. Centre back is not so simple;  Mertsacker is quality but Koscielny is too good to leave on the bench. I would play Kos tonight and Per on Sunday when it is likely Djeko will start.  Despite Gibbs improvement, I would prefer to see Santos start tonight. He is a better crosser (Gibbs must keep practicing) and OG needs something to feed on.

Midfield is also difficult to predict. My choice would be Coquelin, Cazorla and Arteta..  Diaby’s height will be important on Sunday – no risks should be taken with our fragile Bambi – and Coquelin is an able deputy who performed very well on Saturday. However, Ramsey ‘s vibrant substitute cameos are evidence of a player in good form.

Upfront we finally have options. The Ox is likely to be rested having played 2 Internationals and on Saturday. Assuming Giroud starts, The Gerv will not play centrally, so I expect the team to line up like this:

My Team:

And what a  bench….. O-C, The Gerv, Merts, Gibbs, Shea, Diaby, Ramsey.

Mr Wenger usually likes to get the 2nd round qualification achieved as soon as possible and as such I expect him to play our strongest team despite the difficult fixture on Sunday. For once, playing Tuesday will help us.

I was going to write a “where are they now?” feature for this season, it is on the back-burner at the moment but here is a taster. This gentleman is currently living in sunny Malta and owns a pub….

Fashion can make a fool of Heroes

It is hard to know what to expect of Montpellier, they could be excellent and win the group or be whipping boys. A poor start to the season does not mean that Montpellier are a poor team (AFC 2011) and tonight will be one of the biggest nights in the clubs history, they will be playing in front of a full, expectant stadium and be desperate to start their CL campaign well.  Should be a good game.


Written by Big Raddy

Deluded Vertonghen and the Myth of “Arsenal Tried to Sign Me”

September 17, 2012

It’s a brave man who openly defies the word of God, especially when it comes directly from the Divine Being himself.

So no-one can fault Jan Vertonghen for courage.

Apparently when considering his future, the Belgian-born Ajax defender sought – and gained – an audience with the Almighty to ask whether a move to Arsenal or Teetering Horseparts would be the better option.

The Holy Dennis told him, emphatically, that he should not go to the Godless lands of N17. But once he had got up off his knees, we all now know that fearless, Godless Jan chose not to heed that advice.

And what happens to people who ignore the word of God? The Bible has the answer:

“…since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.”

Romans 28-29

Just turning out in that awful shirt with a skinny chicken balanced on a basketball is almost a perfect definition of “being filled with every kind of wickedness.

Not that I’ve got anything against Vertonghen in particular, other than his choice of club. He seems a decent enough defender, though not in the same class as our own Lion of Flanders.

But I am interested in his need – and that of other players before him – to make a big issue of the fact that “Arsenal wanted to sign me and I turned them down.”

Kevin Mirallas, now at Everton, said something similar at the tail end of the summer transfer window.

I don’t doubt that in their egotistical heads these players believe Arsenal wanted them, so they are not actually lying. But they are misleading themselves – or have been misled by their selling clubs and agents – if they think they were a priority for London’s top club.

It’s the same problem that plagues the news wires all during the summer and winter transfer windows: players, clubs and agents fall over themselves to suggest that Arsenal is “after” certain individuals.

Some of the reports are downright fabrication, often from agents trying to put their players in the shop window. For them, the idea of being linked with a club like Arsenal adds noughts to their player’s value.

But I am equally sure that many of the reports of Arsenal’s interest have a grain of truth to them.

As a club competing at the highest level for the biggest prizes, you would hardly expect us to have just two or three targets and leave it at that. Such an approach would leave us exposed to the whims of players, the machinations of greedy agents and the vagaries of an open market.

Instead, I would imagine we “enquire” about dozens of players. In some cases we may approach a club simply to find out whether, in the future, the club would consider selling a particular footballer; other times we may want to know about length of contract and so on.

The vast majority of these players will never come to THOF, but our club needs to keep across their availability in case other deals fall through or unexpected departures and injuries blight us.

Arsene Wenger’s knowledge of players is legendary and I would bet he has dialogue with other managers about players on a frequent basis.

With the classier outfits these discussions stay secret, but there are plenty of classless people in football, which means many of our vague enquiries are leaked as news stories that we are definitely trying to buy player X or Y.

Returning to the Belgian Blasphemer, you have to ask yourself why on earth we would have made a serious attempt to sign him. We already have three of the best centre backs in the Premier League and our fourth choice (Djourou) is greatly under-rated by many fans who only remember his poor showings at full back last year (if you doubt me, go back and read some of the match reports when he was playing regularly at centre back. I did, and he gets a lot of rave reviews).

Perhaps we wanted Vertonghen as an alternative to Djourou as fourth choice, but that seems unlikely.

Far more probable is that we were keeping tabs on him in case one of our first choice CBs suffered a major injury in pre- and early season.

But with Laurent Koscielny – arguably the best CB in the league last year – currently unable to get a starting spot, Vertonghen – if he was ours – would not even get on the bench.

One last theory (which I kind of like) is that maybe we were making enquiries about him just to annoy the Spuds and to help push up the price they would end up paying for him.

Either way, I do not believe for a moment that we were seriously after Vertonghen, so the idea of him “turning down” Arsenal is all in his head.

Regular readers will know that the sensationalist and often inaccurate reporting of our club’s affairs is one of my big bugbears. The succession of stories claiming as fact that we are trying to sign this or that player fall into this category.

It wouldn’t really matter except that some people – including some Arsenal fans – use these essentially false stories as sticks with which to beat the management and Board.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can whip themselves into such a lather of fury about a supposed non-signing that has been nothing but a fiction all along.

Whip… “We haven’t signed Llorente…” whip… “what does that clown Dick Laws actually do?” whip… “we have no ambition” whip… “we’ll be lucky to finish in the top half this year.”

I suppose it’s a kind of sado-masochism: fifty shades of twat.

Anyway, my point is: please, please don’t always believe what you read even – maybe especially – if it comes from the mouths of footballers who have no reason to wish well of Arsenal.


Arsenal drink Sangria in the park

September 16, 2012
Such a perfect day …… well almost! A win by five goals, and we continue the great start to the season, despite having lost two of our most important players in the summer.  The first half was especially impressive, with the cohesive team-play the most significant feature.  Arsenal quite simply dominated Southampton all across the pitch in the first 45 minutes.
The only fly in the ointment came just before the half-time whistle when a rusty Szczesny dropped a high cross, with Daniel Fox capitalising on the error with the first entry in the Arsenal goals against column this season.  But at half-time, the crowd was purring at the level of the first half performance; Southampton might not be the most capable of opposition, especially in the defensive third, but the way in which our team knitted together was very, very impressive.  The second half was decidedly less fluid than the first, with Arsenal defending deeper than they might have liked and possession being given up too easily.  But that said, it was still clear which was the better team.

The defence today was every bit as coordinated as it has been this season, with Mertesacker magnificent in his domination of Rickie Lambert, a player who had bossed the Man United defence a couple of weeks ago.  Vermaelen was the foil to Mertsacker’s intelligent performance.  And on the flanks, Gibbs and Jenkinson were assured, being careful with the ball and careful without it. Gibbs also managed to get two sort-of-assists, having crossed the ball for both the Southampton own goals.

In midfield, what more is there to say about Cazorla and Arteta?  These guys are the business, their ability to organise the side is awesome. Even in the Cesc years, I don’t think it was as good as this, not because Cesc is less talented than our current Spaniards, of course he isn’t, but because this pair work together in such a seamless way.  Today, they were denied the chance to continue working in tandem with our renaissance man, Abou Diaby, and the ambitious Francis Coquelin was given the nod.

The general passing game was excellent, but the thing that stood out for me was the quality of the Arsenal passing in the final third, with Cazorla, Podolski, Gibbs, Chamberlain and Gervinho regularly shredding the Southampton defensive line.

Up front, the team selection was interesting, with Gervinho played through the middle, as he had been in some of the preseason games, and Podolski and Chamberlain on the flanks.  Many have had their doubts about Gervinho, and after a pretty tame first season in red and white, he certainly has something to prove this season.  The goal he scored for the Ivory Coast last week shows that he knows how to score, but the question remained: will he do that for us? Well, he did today, with a pair, and some excellent attacking play that created chance for others.

It was lovely to see Gervinho turn into space on the right and pick up a typically perceptive chipped pass from Arteta, and then attack the box and simply drill the ball past Kelvin Davis at the near post.  And in the second half, he was in the right place to knock in a rebound off the post after substitute Aaron Ramsey had done brilliantly well to hold off a challenge and send the ball across to the far post. Luckily, the Mekon was on hand. One measure of Gervinho’s progress was his clear reluctance to come off when the substitute’s board had his number on it. Does anyone remember Gervinho showing that sort of appetite last season? Long may it last.

Podolski was belligerently energetic, often playing in a very central position, leaving the left-hand flank to Gibbs.  For our first goal, he battled with two Southampton midfielders just outside the centre circle, emerged with the ball at his feet and then slotted it through to Gibbs, whose drilled cross was fumbled by Davis and accidently knocked in by Jos Hooiveld.  Poldi’s goal was a joy to behold: we see fewer free-kick goals than we should, but with Cazorla, Arteta, Vermaelen, Walcott and Poldi, we certainly have options now. And, after Coquelin had been naively clattered just a few yards outside the penalty area, Podolski despatched his free-kick with Germanic efficiency. (Apologies for stereotyping….)

Chamberlain had a good game again today, with a couple of very decent efforts on goal, and he continued to play with a blend of youthful hunger and early maturity. The boy really is special, even in a game where colleagues take the lead.  His fellow ex-Saint, Theo Walcott, got a 15-minute run-out, and notched up a follow-up goal after an at-the-death Vermaelen surge.  For the more sentimental souls, like me, it was nice to see Chamberlain and Walcott make the effort after the final whistle to go and applaud the Southampton fans, whose club of course nurtured them in their earlier years.

There were probably only two negatives from the game today.  The main one was Szczesny.   It wasn’t only his error for the goal conceded, in a game where he wasn’t fiercely tested.  His distribution was as bad as it has ever been, displaying a nervousness that in a stiffer challenge would be a real source of difficulty.  We should cut him some slack, he’s not played much football recently, and his quality remains.  But he can’t afford to become a liability, hopefully his performances will lift soon.

The other negative was a minor one.  Having been dropped to the bench, Olivier Giroud’s chance to notch a goal was limited to his short appearance at the end of the game.  Probably his best chance was messed up by Walcott, who could have slipped an early ball through to Giroud but chose to hold onto the ball too long instead.  Nothing better emerged, and so the wait goes on.  Personally, I’m not worried, Giroud is a quality player, the goals will come.

So, a very satisfying day.  Next up Montpellier and Man City.  Some real tests for us there.

Written by 26may1989

Thanks to chas for providing the following player ratings:

Szczesny – Looked out of sorts and was sloppy for the Saints goal, though he did make a couple of decent saves. His kicking wasn’t up to Don Vito’s standard. Surely practice makes perfect for such elementary things……… 6

Mertesacker – A towering performance full of anticipation and Teutonic class…… 8

Vermaelen – Solid, powerful and a fine example to his teammates. His late surge created Walcott’s goal…… 8

Jenkinson – The Corporal is growing by the game. I can only remember one dodgy crossfield pass. He’s some footballer and is rapidly having his rough edges knocked off…… 8

Gibbs – Excellent from start to finish. The movement of the front three allowed him to join in with the attack on numerous occasions. Sometimes I confuse him with Podolski which shows he’s strengthened from the skinny whippet he was 18 months ago (mind you, it could just be my eyesight)…. 9 (My Man of the Match)

Arteta – The Spanish metronome makes the whole team tick. Majestic yet again…. 9

Oxlade-Chamberlain – The Ox looked a little tired to me but still managed to show real quality and ability on the ball…. 8

Cazorla – Santi has class oozing from every pore of his body. An Arsenal legend in the making. Would be Man of the Match but he’ll have lots of those during the season…. 9

Coquelin – Le Coq was robust, yet skilful. Perhaps the highest compliment to his performance is that Diaby was not missed yesterday.. 8


Podolski – Another instant crowd favourite along with Santi. You can see him straining every sinew to help the team. His free-kick was hit with such speed and whip it didn’t need to be right in the corner to beat the keeper. Goodbye Mr Row Z, we don’t need you anymore….. 9

Gervinho – Gerv’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt I can remember. His movement playing centrally, then left, then right had the Saints guessing all afternoon. Perhaps Wenger’s ‘Beat the Bus’ tactic might involve a bit more of the ‘false 9’ tactic…… 9


Ramsey – 67′ – Rambo helped us keep the ball better when he came on and his skill to create the 5th goal was sublime…. 8

Giroud – 74′ – Everyone willing Olivier to score a goal was great to see. It’ll come. I bet he wished he’d been on from the start yesterday. I wonder how the game would have developed if he had been…. 7

Walcott – 74′ – Theo was bound to make a good impact sub in a game like this. Shame he didn’t get his head up earlier when Giroud was all on his own, but he took his goal very well…. 7

New signings to hurt the Saints.

September 15, 2012

Imagine you are the Southampton manager. You have taken an exciting young team into the PL – a huge achievement . You wait for the fixture list all summer. You get your first look and you see that your team will be playing the Top 3 clubs in your first 4 matches. What do you do? Do you think “Excellent, we will show them just how well we play ” or do you think “Bum, that is a swine of a start”?

Fair play to Nigel Adkins, he has stuck to his football ethics and played attacking entertaining football, giving both MC and MU problems and in both cases being unlucky not to take at least a point. But, and here is the rub, they have Nul Point, di nada, niente, ingen, zero, nothing, to show for their fine play. The defence has conceded 8 goals in just 3 games and the prospect of playing at the Emirates Stadium against a confident Arsenal must be a cause for concern.

What is my point? Well, given these circumstances would you tell your team to go out and express themselves or would you say, “keep it tight at the back and see if we can get through without conceding”? So ….Parkere Bussen eller Ikke?

What do you expect to happen if Southampton play an open attacking game? Be honest, you would expect a healthy Arsenal victory. I know we can point to Norwich etc from last season but this is a different AFC – one with defensive discipline. Can you see us conceding 2 goals today?  I can’t. (writes BR with fingers crossed). Other bloggers have predicted an end to end proper game of football but I have my doubts. On the open spaces of Ashburton Grove the burgeoning genius of Santi Cazorla and friends could run riot and Adkins will have noted how Sunderland’s negative tactics nullified our attacks.

Southampton’s Past, Our Future

Southampton: Adkins has made a fine signing in Ramirez, we can expect him to be a significant figure through this season. Lallana was called up to the England squad and at just 24 has made huge strides, he is an attacking midfielder with a deft touch. Ricky Lambert has scored against both MC and MU – let’s hope he doesn’t continue his fine form. Mr Wenger is a great admirer of Southampton’s Youth Project, he says of the club , “It is unbelievable. First of all, it is fantastic scouting and they have a good development and coaching programme with young players” Another supposed Arsenal target is Luke Shaw an exciting 17 y.o left back but with Gibbs just settling in I would be surprised to see Shaw bought.

Luke Shaw. Another Future Gunner?

As to our team. Not an easy call what with the CL trip to France on Tuesday. Will Mr Wenger risk the rejuvenated Diaby? Or the young but powerful Ox? I expect to see Ramsey start, though I would equally happy with Coquelin; Ramsey will be a top player but I thought he was too young and raw to take the weight of creative responsibility last season; rotation in midfield will greatly assist AR’s development and this is just his sort of game.

The biggest dilemma for AW is the return to fitness of Koscielny, a man who in my opinion was the most improved player at the PL last season. If he plays who will he replace? Both BFG and our Captain are in fine form and have yet to concede; what kind of reward would a bench seat be for such sterling work? The Corporal is settling into his position so it would make little sense to play Kos at RB. Furthermore, Santos is fit and ready to reclaim the LB slot; is he better than Gibbs who is developing into a decent defender even if his final ball is poor? Then there is the return to fitness of our first choice keeper. Mannone has done well but TPIG  should play when fit.

My team:

This team will change for the Montpelier trip with Kos returning and probably Santos and O-C, but surely it is too early to change a defence which functions so well. The prospect of a fit JW, Sagna and TR will further enhance what looks like an excellent squad. We have quality cover everywhere (except perhaps for Arteta).

I was at Highbury the last time Southampton beat us with a Danny Wallace goal – it was a salutary experience and not one to be repeated, but I was also there  the day we beat them 6-1 with Jermaine Pennant scoring a hatrick on his debut.

I would like to dedicate this post to the above mentioned Danny Wallace. A fine player whose career was ended at just 30 y.o. by the awful disease multiple sclerosis. Any man who can run the London Marathon suffering from MS and take 5 days to do so (which he did in 2008) deserves the utmost respect.

We need to score at home. We need to see Giroud open his account and I need Podolski to score to win my bet with Didit. Cazorla will score with a free-kick. All of which predicts a healthy victory secured by our new signings.

I wish Southampton well through the season and hope they can stay up keeping faithful to Adkins footballing philosophy, but just for today I wish them a humiliating defeat!


Written by Big Raddy

Is Arsène Wenger any different to the Arsenal players?

September 14, 2012

A recent statement from our esteemed manager got me thinking, should he be treated any differently from the once ‘hero-like’ ex-players who left the club for ‘trophies’ and are now regarded as the spawn of the devil himself, or is he in a different position!?

What possible statement could make Slim compare the club’s greatest ever manager to these money grabbing heathens, I hear you cry!? It was this:-

“I’m an Arsenal man but two years is a long time in my job. At the moment I’m not in the mood to think about the long term future.”

How many times over the last 5 years have we heard words along those lines being said by the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri etc?

Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that Wenger is about to throw away 16 glorious years at the club to go in search of ‘trophies’, after all, he’s probably had more than 1 opportunity to do that in the last few years with the likes of Madrid, Barca, France and Chelsea all hunting around for new managers and all with the loaded bank balance needed to tempt people to forget their loyalties! But it does make me wonder wether he should be treated any differently to the likes of Theo, who has been lambasted for his approach to contract negotitations.

I know the response to this will be that Arsene has done unbelievable things for this club, whereas the likes of Cesc, RvP and Nasri used us as a stop gap to seemingly bigger things (their wallets being the biggest, bigger thing!), but I was wondering what would your reaction  be if Arsene decided to run down his contract next year to move on to a club with the cash flow to bolster his bank balance and buy the worlds best.

Would he be getting a gold carriage clock and a whip round from the staff, or would he be cleaning out his locker in private and get booed upon his return!?

Written by SlimGingerGooner

14 Days that will determine Arsenal’s season

September 13, 2012

The inter-lull – I pronounce it with a strong emphasis on the last syllable, as the Dutch word ‘lul’ is a less flattering description of the male reproductive organ – is once again testing our patience. Like LB said the other day: ‘don’t they realise some people have serious addictions to feed?!’

You could say football is football and just make the most of it, but when you have been dining on caviar and champagne for a few weeks, it is hard to be appreciative about a plate full of dried-out fishcakes and a couple of table spoons of sloppy baked beans on your plate. Qualifying games for international tournaments have become so boring, and the only thing that really gets our attention during the inter-lull, is any news regarding injuries of our star players. This leaves us all in continuous state of being bored and full of angst, and that is not a healthy combination!

But the seemingly endless wait is almost over and we can once again look forward to a five-course meal of the finest cuisine:

15 September: Arsenal v Southampton

18 September: Montpellier v Arsenal

23 September: Man City v Arsenal

26 September: Arsenal v Coventry

29 September: Arsenal v Chelsea

After a promising start to the season – especially our excellent performance against Pool has lifted our spirits – I have a feeling the next five games will determine how we will fare this season. Of course, nothing will be lost or won at the end of this month, but with three of the hardest away games out of the way, and having battled with fellow title/top-4 contenders Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City, we will know a lot more about the readiness to fight for the title of our team.

We are no longer a team made out of mainly young, promising players, but stocked to the rafter with experienced players who have arrived at the summit of their professional careers.  This will be a test for them and we should judge them accordingly – or, as Winston Churchill once put it: “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required”!

The first game after an inter-lull is never an easy one, as Managers have ample time to assess the fitness of their players and get them all focussed again on the next game. It is usually a big advantage if it is a home rather than an away game. In recent years, I have always felt we are most vulnerable when we have just beaten one of our direct competitors and we are to play a team that we all believe we should beat. So, I am really hoping that Wenger and Bould will get our players down to earth again and make them realise there are no easy-three-pointers in the league. Southampton leak goals for fun but have also scored a lot of goals and this should be another game in which we can assess the strengths of our defence. Let’s hope it is also a game in which we can acctually find the net several times, as some players are desperate for a goal or two

The first game will be a test of our ability to concentrate and be professional, and to take our opportunities if and when they arrive: we only have to think back about our recent home disasters against Wigan and Norwich to know what is at stake.

The second game, against Montpellier, should be a good test for us. I like it that it is an away game which will help us to concentrate from the start and will avoid any risk of underestimating them. It is great to have Giroud in our team who will be able to explain to Wenger and Bould and fellow players the strengths and weaknesses of his former team. Montpellier will either play for a draw – as they are likely to regard a point against us as a good outcome – or they go all guns blazing with the ‘we have nothing to lose’ attitude. A draw would not be a bad result for us, but I reckon Arsene will want all three points as he will want to qualify for the next round as quickly as possible.

The second game will be another test of our ability to concentrate and be professional. It could also be a test of our squad depth as not all players will be able to play three games in eight days so soon after the international break.

The third game will be the second biggest test we’ll get all season (the biggest test will of course be where brave sir robin and his little-boy-inside-him are currently hiding). I reckon MC will be as nervous about this game as we are. I was there when we beat them 3-0, two years ago, and it was one of my favourite Arsenal away games ever – Song’s goal, right in front of the away fans, especially springs to mind! If we can keep a tight defence against them then we can do it against anybody. This will be one of those typical games we will all approach with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. A win would mean a hell of a lot this time, and I reckon it will be one of the best PL games of the season. It might turn out that this game just came too early for our new team, but I still have a good feeling about it.

The third game will be a test of our leadership within the team and our level of unity. We will also know how much every single player is (still) capable to perform at the highest level.

The fourth game will be a good test for our strength in depth. A number of just-outside-the core and wider fringe players will be very keen to show how ready they are for the first team. Although this game holds little significance, I am really looking forward to watching it, so we can see how our young talents have developed over the last 6-12 months. Luckily, the core team will be allowed to rest for a week, which will be a welcome break for them.

The fifth game will be against the Chavs, and it is hard to tell against what sort of team we will play. Will it be an attack-minded outfit or will RdM revert to a park-the-bus approach against the bigger teams? Whatever it is, this is an important game for us and a win would do us a world of good. For once since the start of the season, we have home advantage against a main competitor, and it is our first opportunity to get the home crowd really behind the team.

The fifth game will be another test of our leadership within the team and our level of unity and every single player will be thoroughly examined. I have good feeling about this game as I feel we have a better balance in our team and the recent away thrashing of the Chavs will still be in our and their mind.

Once again, a win would mean a hell of a lot and combined with good results against Southampton and Man City, it might well mean we will be catapulted into favourites for the title. It would not come as a big surprise if this was to happen, but the big question is, would we be able to cope with the added pressure? Recent Arsenal teams have not, but this is a different team with experienced players across the spine, and in all three areas of defence, midfield and attack.

However, we might also fail miserably and struggle with the psychological impacts for the rest of the season.

It is make or break time, and we can all look forward to two weeks of awesome, meaningful football. The wait is almost over!

But what do you think: how will we do in those five remaining September games, and would we be able to cope with the pressure if we are upgraded by the press to direct title contenders at the end of the month?

Over to you!

Total Arsenal.

Beating the Bus

September 12, 2012

Saturday found me, not unusually, afloat in the Atlantic. Yip, once again feet towards the Eastern Seaboard, and yip, once again my mind settled down to resolving the key issues of the day. Again Arsenal stuff, and in particular, winning the League. We finished a few points behind the eventual winners last term, and I wondered why. Sadly, this was not a soothing and relaxing meditation (and nothing to do with the Portugese Men’o’War in our waters), as I was forced to confront the one single obstacle on our route to the Title. The Bus.

Dealing with this terrible scenario is not a new topic on this site, but it remains an unresolved issue. Today Lads, we need to put the full weight of our cumulative thinking power together.

Naturally I have unearthed a couple of more unusual solutions, although a powerful case could be found to support them as serious contenders.

1. The Pyrrhic Victory.

The biggest problem is how to create some space. How to draw the little snakes out. Right, let’s say we kick off. The brilliant simplicity is that we do very little. Step one is to hoof the ball high and long towards their keeper. Whilst the ball is still in flight, we retreat, en masse, to the edge of our box and there we stay. At this point, the opposition are in possession and will have no option but to open the depot doors and ease the bus gently forwards.

In the unlikely event that they abandon altogether their beastly tactic, we could begin the process of reconciliation by implementing The Semi-Pyrrhic. Some may leap to the conclusion that this involves adopting The Maureen and depositing a lone centre forward up field. I suggest leaving two speed merchants “up”. Not together central, but each stationed chalk-on-boots wide.

Leaving Theo and Ox up-and-wide will cause panic and confusion. Pointless for them to leave their tried and tested central defensive oafs behind, as they will require the speed of their full backs to counter the lightening threat. Brilliant, leaving two up, now requires them leaving four behind, thus creating more space for us.

2. The Assault.

The Assault reveals the more ruthless and less tolerant side of me. It assumes that The Pyrrhic has failed, and our Northeners have looked into the distance from within the Depot, and said: “No. We shall not advance. We care not for the win bonus. We shall be happy here for the afternoon”. This attitude would leave me no option than to call up Plan 2, The Assault.

Now picture this. For the moment you are Michael Caine. There is a large locked door in front of you, behind which lurks many large gold bars, and you have no key. What d’ya do? That’s it, blow the bloody things open.

Ok, with that in mind, here’s my Plan. We position our forces in and around the Northerner’s already packed penalty area. With two exceptions. Our hardest kickers. Verm and Pod. These two are stationed 10 yards back from their area and 10 yards apart. The advanced forces do not try and football their way through, or around, the Busmen. No. They pass back, every single time, to an already up to speed advancing kicker who rifles the ball, full power howitzer strength bollock height into the area. The casualty rate will be high. Yes corners will be won and goal kicks awarded as the ball cannons off and ricochets around Northeners. There shall be much blood and chaos but the bombardment must be continuous until no Drivers stand. We then freely add +’s to Rasp’s GD Widget.

These are my two solutions, and although yours will not be so clever, I’d love to hear them.

Apologies in advance to SilentStan and Buddhist Steve. This was not written with you in mind.

Written by MickyDidIt

Does Adrian Durham really hate Arsenal?

September 11, 2012

The answer to that question is almost certainly yes, but probably not as much as we think.

One of my best friends is a presenter in the afternoon for BBC Radio London and I can tell you that he hasn’t got a clue who or what is on his show until he arrives.

The same is almost certainly true of Adrian Durham on Talk Sport; he arrives in the studio and is presented with the suggested windups, compiled for him by his producer, that he should employ that day. There is no way Durham sits at home thinking about how to belittle Arsenal — his producer does that for him and do you know what team he supports? Right first time — Arsenal.

The thing that Durham is particularly good at is acting out the windups that are presented to him within minutes of arriving at the studio.

The only saving grace that stops me hating the producer is the story that on one show Adrian Durham was calling Jamie Carragher a bottler, when a call was put through to him from a very irate Scouser, that being Carragher himself, who asked if Durham was man enough to sort things out face to face, needless to say Durham bottled it. But, you know who is charge of putting calls through to the studio – yep, Gooner revenge.

I know, I know, if you look down into the interlull barrel you will see a clean patch at the bottom — that is where I scraped it to produce this post. Lol

People who are familiar with my comments know that I can’t write a post without singing Wenger’s praises in one way or another so here it comes.

Rocky posed an interesting question recently: is Wenger planning a December surprise?

I think it is unlikely that Wenger has one particular player in mind to sign in the January transfer window; far more likely is that he has half a dozen. The squad as it stands is strong enough to challenge City for the title: the goal keeper and his cover are sufficient, the defence and certainly the midfield are sufficient. Even the attack right now is sufficient and has cover. I know GN5 will disagree with this but out wide on the right we have Walcott, The Ox, and Gervinho and on the left Podolski, Gervinho and Arshavin, plenty of depth there.

If Giroud gets injured then Podolski can play in the middle and this is where I came back to sharing GN5’s concern. If the Giroud injury is serious then Wenger can bolster the attack in the window and the player he brings in will know that he is needed and will not just be sitting on the bench.

Put simply.

Right now the squad is big enough, good enough and strong enough to win the league.

Onwards and upwards my fellow Gooners.

P.S. I am all for a bit of robust optimism but Chamakh to score 10 goals? You’re having a red and white scarf.

Written by LB