Fulham. Mannone’s Last Stand?

November 10, 2012

A skimpy one today…

We are not firing on all cylinders and as such need to dig in to get a result.

Martin Jol is a decent bloke who got shafted by those fools down the road. A man you would want on your side in a scrap.

Fulham are a good team who play decent football. Berbs plays with a Gitane hanging from his lip and is a craftsman. They are strong in defence and have a decent record against us – drawing at The Ems last season. Expect a tough game.

Fulham have the same number of points as us.

Arsenal are suffering from injuries particularly in midfield.
We need some players back. In attack Podolksi wants to play centrally, so does, Giroud, so does Theo and Mr Wenger wants to play Gervinho there. Insoluble problem? Not with the number of injuries we pick up.

Vito has done sterling work in Szczesny’s absence. With TPIG’s return to fitness what will AW do? Based upon Mannone’s Schalke performance I would say he is our Number One for the time being. TPIG will have to work for his shirt

My team:

My concerns are the attacking possibilities of such a midfield and perhaps Mr Wenger will go with Arshavin who has been on fine form this season. Having Walcott out wide will give Fulham problems.

I would love to see us play 4-4-2 with Podolski further forward but know it will not happen.

Todays explorer: Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592). Circumnavigated the globe. Plundered Spanish shipping wherever he found it. Generally a top bloke who brought silk and spices from East Asia to the court of Queen Elisabeth. Cavendish was knighted at the age of 28. Rumour has it that Cavendish was personally acquainted with Elisabeth’s crown jewels. Sadly, he died on his second voyage (32 y.o) off the coast of Ascension Isles. His ship went on to discover the Falklands Islands in 1592. As many know there is a square in London named after him .

A Ladies Man

We need these points more than Fulham. With the cave dwellers coming next Saturday, a confidence booster would be great. Please Arsenal score early – even better score two early. The fans are restless.

Written by Big Raddy


Arsenal recipe for change

November 9, 2012

Let me start as I often do. Admitted Arsène lover here. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do some things differently. Here’s a few, in no particular order.

I would give Podolski some rest. It seems he’s nursing a slight injury and can’t go all out. As he is, he’s certainly not helping the team. Even with Gervinho’s injury, we still have options. Arshavin, one of the kids, or Santi, with Arsh or Jack behind striker. If it’s not an injury, maybe we should consider trying Pod more centrally.

Ramsey would generally not start in midfield, except in an emergency- I would not start him on the wing ever. He would be an energetic, versatile, late substitute only. I like him, but i’m not sure it’s going to work out. I have been a defender of his previously.

I see no reason why we can’t go with Sagna at LB, Jenks on right against tougher opponents. I would consider Santos vs lesser teams. I’m not sure he can’t do the job, but I’d hold him to a high standard.

Honestly I’m fine with our 3 top CB’s. We just need to get the most out of them. I can forgive the occasional mistakes by any of them..they deserve that because they play hard. I’m ok with Vermaelen as Captain, but i’m not happy with his affection for van Persie, this might still be a problem in future matches. He needs to be more cold ( as does the rest of the team) – this comes from Arsène being classy, and basically too nice.

I would give Theo the raise he wants or close to it, to lock him down for a while – we could move him on in the future if needed. Some other team would still take him at that salary. Unfortunately, I think it’s too late though. Obviously, I would have done it sooner, or sold him and scooped up Moses, Mirallas, or someone else. But right now, I’d get him signed if possible. I think it’s worth another 1 or 1.5 million a year to avoid the possible disaster of him going elsewhere and turning out great, especially as a striker. If that were to happen, we would really be laughed at, and it will be impossible to keep any of our players. After the RVP debacle, it’s the safer choice. We must fix this salary structure that doesn’t let us retain our stars.

I would have the deal done today, for Huntelaar in January. So many people say he’s too similar too Giroud. I don’t buy that. He’s an extremely talented, proven scorer – right footed, inexpensive, and still in his prime. For the little he would cost, you don’t have to worry about sell on value. Of course I would be looking at other improvements in the market, mostly up front.

I wouldn’t mind a bit of competition between Sczezsney and Vito, though I still lean towards the Pole.

If we get healthy in midfield, I’d give some rest to Santi, and use him on the wings sometimes in a more agressive set up.

If we need to shake things up, I would consider some of the young kids. Yennaris, Eisfeld, Gnabry. Just not all at the same time. But they would certainly not lack effort.

I would make sure the team looks at matches like Old Trafford as a great opportunity. Not much to lose considering our recent record there. No reason to dread the match, or feel pressure. Much weaker teams get results there occasionally, and we should feel we can beat anyone, anywhere. It’s a shame we lost the high from the Capital One Cup so quickly.

I still prefer the unknown of Usmanov to Kroenke. I don’t know if it can ever happen because of the Board, but I don’t understand the fans who don’t want him. Why would he want to spend all that money to own a team, and not at least TRY to win trophies. I don’t blame him for trying to influence his way into control with public statements, or whatever. The board is using any little technicality to keep him out. Rich owners do sometimes make great player purchases, they don’t all have to be like Torres. They also can bring in top Managers. Even Man city, with all of their waste, are still spending to build an academy system. Money is not necessarily bad, if you use it wisely.

Johnnie nyc


The curse of Steve Bould!

November 8, 2012

When Arsene brought in the bald-headed rock as his number 2, Arsenal fans’ cheers could be heard around the world! We had been crying out for a defensive coach for a few seasons after watching our creaky defence ship goal after goal, non more embarrassing than the 8 we let in at Old Trafford.

Since his arrival, we have looked a lot more solid as a defensive unit, and at the time of writing this we have the best defensive record in the league after 10 games. So surely its been a blessing rather than a curse?

Well, no! because obvious improvement in defence have come at a massive cost to our attack.

Our attacking play has suffered immeasurably since the arrival of Wengers new right hand man. Some will put this down to the fact we have sold not only our leading marksman from last year, RvP, but also our leading assist maker, in Alex Song. However, i believe that with the arrival of the creative Cazorla, the return of Wilshire, and the signings of 2 International, goal-hungry strikers,surely we should still have enough in the locker to be creating a whole lot more than we have seen in the opening third of the season?

The problem seems to lie with the defensive work that is now being put on our 2 wide attacking players. Podolski and Ramsey have been the 2 filling the positions recently, and they are being asked to do a lot of work tracking attacking full backs and providing extra bodies in midfield. Whilst this has worked excellently against the big guns away from home like Liverpool and City, it has been a failure to switch back to a more attacking mind set against lesser teams like QPR, Norwich and Sunderland that has seen us produce limp attacking displays of late. Also, the inability to switch mind set during a game after going behind like we did against United and Chelsea, has given the impression that players don’t really care.

The clash of styles between Wengers free-flowing ‘Wengerball’ (apparently mooted as a possible title for the next James Bond film) and Steve Bould’s hard working approach seems to have confused some of our players who are showing less urgency to make attacking movements which has resulted in us looking uncharacteristically static as a forward unit. If rumours are to be believed that Wenger and Bould themselves have had heated exchanges about the teams tactics, then you can understand why the players are struggling with it so much.

Personally, I believe there is a place for both styles in the current Arsenal team, but not at the same time.

Against the bigger teams away from home, the merits of playing Boulds more defensive, counter attacking style is there to see and has already produced some excellent results away at Liverpool and City, but the players must learn to switch mind sets when falling behind so as not to produce lacklustre performances like the one we saw at United.

As for Wengerball, the team must get back to quick tempo, short passing and direct running if they are to produce the Arsenal play of old. We have a lot more creativity in the team this year, espescially in midfield, but this is no good to anyone if our wide players are too negative or deep to make the penetrating, attack minded runs. Wenger must find a way to take the shackles off against weaker sides, whilst also making sure we are not fully open to the counter attack, something he mastered for the first 10 years of his tenure.

The problem seems to be with trying to play both ways at once, and it is confusing the players. It’s time for Wenger to lift the curse of Steve Bould and make sure that the players know who’s in charge, and make sure that the players know exactly which game-plan he wants them to execute before they walk on the field.

Written by slimgingergooner


Some Fighting Spirit Returns

November 7, 2012

Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud, Podolski. subs: Shea, Santos, Djourou, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Arshavin, Chamakh.

The line-up was greeted warmly with Koscielny in for Santos who was too busy putting bsr’s shirt on Ebay and Theo playing right side instead of the injured, flying winger Rambo. On paper both changes made the team stronger and it would need to be at its most resistant at an intimidating Veltins Arena. Talk of Micky finding a Schalke fan website to translate from was interrupted when his search inadvertently led to a different type of German sport site.

The game kicked off and the first minute immediately saw Schalke in behind the left back position. Luckily the cross went deep and Alan Smith started to whine already. Soon after, Vermaelen made a good tackle and started to regain some of his shattered confidence. Arsenal had a small period of possession ending in Theo overplaying, resulting in a Schalke break and the defence looked vulnerable.

On 9 minutes Podolski lost the ball in midfield, another quick break ended in an Affelay shot well saved by Mannone at the near post. Two minutes later Theo lost the ball again in midfield and another shaky episode ended with a Schalke header just over the bar from the resulting corner.

Schalke were pressing high up and the midfield refusing to take the ball from the back four resulted in a few hoofs forward from keeper and full backs. On 15’, Vermaelen was skinned again but Farfan ran the ball out of play. A super Jack dribble then saw Arsenal win two corners on the trot. The first nearly allowed Jack to sneak in at the near post in a training ground move.

Eighteen minutes in and a poor defensive header from Schalke fell to Giroud who stumbled a little but Theo following up tapped the ball home. 1-0 and a confidence boost for the yellows.

With Arsenal’s confidence now growing, a super ball from Santi allowed Podolski to cross but it flew over Theo’s head in the centre.

Cazorla was then booked for handball before he delivered the best Arsenal pass of the game to Wilshere. It looked perfect for a top corner, left-footed curler but instead Jack fed the ball wide to Podolski who seemed to trip, then regain his feet which threw the Schalke defence off guard allowing the cross to come in and Giroud to power the ball home unmarked. 2-0 to the good guys.

Sagna made a great covering challenge after Podolski lost the ball in midfield, followed by Walcott doing the same. Schalke looked dangerous when Arsenal lost the ball in those middle areas all game and so it was to prove. On 33’ Giroud went down clutching the back of his leg. A kick rather than a hamstring tear brought relief all round for the Gooner faithful. A superb Wilshere dribble winning a corner was followed by more shakiness from our captain looking anything but comfortable at left back. Luckily Farfan blasted over the bar.

Alan Smith seemed to be willing Schalke to get one back before half-time as did the commentator plus the whole team back in the studio. Fuchs was booked for a foul on Walcott and Giroud unfortunately directed his header straight at the keeper from Cazorla’s free-kick.

Some good Arsenal possession and strong hold-up play from Giroud had Alan Smith sounding more and more gutted but into the second minute of first half injury time, he got his wish. Cazorla slipped over and two passes (the second from Holtby, a gem) put Huntelaar through and a clinical left foot finish was the last kick of the first forty five. 2-1 and the ugly sisters in the Sky studio would now have a feast of criticism with which to sate their anti-Arsenal appetite. The mute button it was for me.

The second half began and Arsenal had a fine chance to restore their 2 goal margin but Giroud connected with his right shin from a Podolski cross. A poor defensive header from the BFG wasn’t punished before Giroud and Walcott found themselves in an identical position (centre forward) from a Podolski pass. Huntelaar, who always scores every chance he’s ever presented with (according to the commentary team), then missed a one on one with Don Vito making a fine block. The Dutch striker looked marginally offside.

The pressure was starting to build and Arteta made a couple of crucial interceptions in his defensive third. Arsenal still look like a team with no talkers present. Somebody needs to gee the others up when the team comes under pressure. A fine piece of defensive work from Podolski saw the ball end up with Theo being fouled and everyone could pause for breath at last.

On 59’ Jack started to look leggy and when Theo raced clear, Jack produced a tired looking pass which was easily cut out.  The referee then produced a bizarre decision to deny Podolski of a chance to score a third and crucial goal for Arsenal. A Schalke defender went down in the area with a leg injury, the referee didn’t stop the game immediately but only when Podolski was about to shoot. It wasn’t a head injury so Podolski’s frustration was understandable.

The next few minutes saw a Holtby shot, Mannone out to deny Huntelaar and an Affelay shot into Mannone’s midriff. The equaliser looked like it was coming, Vermaelen got sucked into the middle leaving Farfan clear at the far post. His shot was deflected in by Vermaelen as it flew past Mannone. 2-2 with over 20 still to go and I couldn’t bear the commentary anymore, so off it went. Smith had what he wanted.

(As an aside, my brother applied for an Arsenal credit card to receive a 1989 away shirt signed by Alan Smith. He was tempted to ask for one that hadn’t been signed. What is it with ex-Arsenal players queueing up to take a pop at the club. I suppose as we’re the most talked about team in the country it’s an easy way to make a few bob.)

The BFG slipped and Schalke were nearly in again. However the response from the yellows was positive after Schalke’s equaliser. A couple of corners for the away side followed. Wilshere laying the ball back to Cazorla who blazed over and Theo hitting the post when offside, showed some signs of a revival of heart from the Gunners.

81’ and Mannone held on well from a fierce drive with a Schalke player waiting to pounce. Another quick break saw Huntelaar fire over the bar again confounding the goal every chance theory. Vermaelen made a great saving tackle in the 85th minute leading to some cold sponge treatment. Good tackles from Tommy and the BFG preceded a fine punch from Mannone. Could we hang on?

The substitutions to waste some injury time came on 90 minutes, Coquelin for Cazorla and Santos for Podolski. Barnetta came on for Schalke wearing a superb version of the kind of moustache that Big Al adores. The final minute of the four gave Arsenal a great chance to sneak the three points and put us back in charge of the group, but Theo hit the goalkeeper’s legs when he, perhaps, should have gone round him. It was the last kick of the game.

Most Arsenal fans would have taken a point before the game started but with Olympiacos beating Montpelier, it’s still wide open. We now look as though we’ll need to get some sort of result in Greece. Still we could still finish top of the group, too, so all to play for.

Ratings:

Mannone – Made some excellent saves and couldn’t really be faulted for either of the goals. My MOTM ……8

Mertesacker – Lost his footing and bearings a few times but produced some great interceptions and tackles……8

Vermaelen – Didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence at left back, but grew into the game. I wonder how Andre would have coped with Farfan?…….7

Sagna – Some great tackles but sometimes a little sloppy which is unusual for Bacary. Still he has been out for a long spell and is regaining full match sharpness….7

Koscielny – Kos looked a little nervous as well after a spell on the bench and is still finding his feet at Champions League level……7

Arteta – Not Mikel’s best game for the Gunners. He looks a little tired to me…….7

Wilshere – Jack gets me up off my feet and is starting to show signs of blossoming partnership with Santi. Now gets a restorative break from the League…..8

Cazorla – Santi will appreciate sharing some of the creative load with Jack. Unfortunate to slip for the first Schalke goal…….7

Podolski – Lukas worked extremely hard again and his assist for Giroud’s goal was superb. He was really unlucky to be pulled back by the ref when about to unleash a howitzer in the 2nd half…..8

Giroud – A great header for the second after stumbling during the build up to the first. Worked hard but we still don’t seem to be playing to his strengths  …..7

Walcott – Theo was lively throughout. Still makes the wrong decision when he doesn’t get his head up, but judging by his voice in his post-match interview, he’s been pretty poorly, so all credit to him ….8

Subs

Santos – 90′

Coquelin – 90′

Written by chas

True to his word, MickyDidIt89 tracked down a Schalke site and has translated their report of the game for us to read. Google translation has come up with some amusing phrasing which we think adds to the flavour of the report …. you must read this with a German accent in your head (or you will be shot 🙂 )

Copied from “schalkefan.de”:

A roller coaster of emotions.  Only the joyful astonishment that S04 apparently seamlessly to connect to the power of London and Arsenal on Matchday of the Champions League group stage recorded directly and violently.Then the bare horror after the incredibly stupid mistake Neustätdters novel, the Walcott the 0:1 on a silver platter with a bow on it served. Then the first signs of resignation because Podolski the fresh substitute for the injured Uchida Hoeger kidding and unchallenged can beat a cross for Giroud, who even slightly non drängter than the face may even stand on six-yard box. Finally, the frustration, as Schalke is always associated with high balls at Arsenal’s strong central defense. And then again the hope as Huntelaar hits with the half time whistle out of the blue to 1:2.  The irrepressible desire – not only on the field, even in the stands – the guests after half-time to pour it 2-2 and eventually the boundless joy, as it will finally Farfán. Schalke gegen Arsenal hatte alles! Schalke against Arsenal had everything! It was war over long periods is a great game. 

Was it a heroic-fought point?  Was it a victory verschenkter?  Or was it in the end lucky to Unnerstall in the last scene of the game his foot to some degree turns, stop the ball on the back of the net?  I think it was a little bit of everything. Schalke hatte seine Chancen. Schalke had his chances. Schalke got down well.  But Schalke made again the glaring errors that pervade the season like a royal blue thread.  Neustaedter that should never try in life, play from the halfway line to the back of the head with a back pass, he will know himself.  That neither Giroud Podolski yet we may be free to act, word has spread now to Hoeger, Matip and Höwedes.  Two errors, two serious errors even that had a hair that the result of a good performance on its head. 

Because it was a good performance. Rarely seen berennen one Schalke team so unleashes the gates of a strong opponent, as one saw yesterday after the halftime break.  The balance was not enforced, he was rushed through by brute force.  So vehemently Schalke went to work, that after the 2:2 lacked strength for further exploits and you eventually – quite rightly by the way – was happy with the 2-2.

On this game between Schalke and Arsenal, I will certainly think back often. No matter how they go crazy and suddenly exciting preliminary group remains to be stated that the Blues were able to confirm its strong performance from the “first leg”.  It was not a one two weeks ago at the Emirates Stadium.  In the form of yesterday I’m at Schalke and the other Champions League history not worry.


Get on the Good Foot

November 6, 2012

Hands up who thinks we will win tonight?  Mmmmmm seems I am in the minority. OK, Schalke dominated the game at The Emirates and were deserving winners, but tonight is a chance to rectify those mistakes and continue on our path to winning the Champions League  ….. And before you start to say BR is 3 sheets to the wind, may I remind you of who is the current CL Champions and how they won Big Ears?

We can win and here is why ……

First and foremost, Mr Jack Wilshere. We are unquestionably better with him in the side. I guess that under normal circumstances AW would rest Wilshere for tonight but given his coming enforced rest, Jack must start. I would like to linger on Jack for a moment. How did he escape media and fans rebuke for getting sent off? How could it be that it was Mr Wenger who took all the brickbats for JW’s stupidity? Wilshere is an established International, he has played over 60 games for Arsenal, yet at Old Trafford he was on a yellow, had been warned by the referee as to his future conduct and still committed a foul that in the ref’s view deserved a yellow. Why was he so reckless? To say AW should have taken him off is unreasonable – should every player on a yellow get subbed?  No, of course not. A great player needs to be on the pitch to assist his team and JW let us down, tonight he will make amends.

Another plus:  Bacary Sagna:  At least BS should get some decent crosses into Giroud who I predict will score tonight.

The second Leg: Mr Wenger  will address the way Schalke double teamed Santos. Gibbs remains unavailable so a different solution must be found – perhaps playing Coquelin in place of Podolski?). Much mooted is the idea of playing Vermaelen at LB and bringing back Koscielny. My concern with this tactic is the pace of the Schalke’s wingers. TV  is a fine player in a poor run of form and works best as a CB. I would prefer to continue with Santos and make TV aware of his covering responsibilities.

Schalke are good, very good but we should remember that for the first 20 minutes of the last game Arsenal were well on top, we looked comfortable and the following hour remains a shock . That Affellay, Farfan and Huntelaar  are quality players should come as no shock.

The injury list is just so annoying – Ox, Gibbs, Szczesny, Diaby , Gervinho – all fine players, all would be vying for a start tonight. And that is without important squad members Rosicky, Fabianski, Ramsey etc. Will there ever be a time when we can choose from an injury-free squad ?

My team: …. I was asked whether this my ideal choice or those I anticipate AW will make – it is the latter.

The news that Walcott is doubtful due to sickness came after this post was written, your guess as to his replacement is as good as anyone’s

We have to be more attacking than we have been in the last few weeks. I understand the need to secure the defensive side of our game and in the absence of both Ox and Theo there were few alternatives but the team has been dreadfully short of creativity.

The Schalke fans were superb at The Emirates and they are fervent at home, 60,000+ will be willing their team on. We almost silenced the German fans at Borussia Dortmund, we can do the same tonight.

Today’s explorer:  John Rae (1813-1893). Rae’s speciality was ice – lots of it. He tried to find the Northwest Passage – some say he did find it –  once walking 1200 miles through forest in two months during a Canadian winter. He learned Inuit and explored Greenland and Iceland .

Dr Rae anticipating a good performance tonight

Schalke have only kept one home clean sheet  in 14 games in Europe. As another great Scot  Dave Mackay once said “Attack is the best form of defence ” (Charles Buchan Football Monthly Feb 1964).

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


“I’m Finished With Supporting Arsenal”

November 5, 2012

If you have clicked on this article because you’re a frothing Wengerphobe and you want to praise me for expressing the sentiment contained in the headline I suggest you read no further.

I am not finished with supporting Arsenal and I never will be, even when they nail me down in a box and plant me.

The headline is in quotation marks because I have seen it expressed (in those words or similar) by many contributors to the Arsenal blogosphere.

If you share that sense of desperation – so powerful an antipathy to what is happening with the current Arsenal set-up that you are willing to turn your back on a lifetime of support –  I am also not here to make fun of you or attempt to argue you out of it. I am truly sad that you have come to such a despairing conclusion and can imagine that you have not reached it lightly.

Anyway, there is already too much dysfunctionality in the Arsenal family to throw fuel on those flames.

But I am fascinated with understanding what it is that can make people who – in some cases – have followed Arsenal for decades finally decide they can take no more.

Certainly anyone who HAS supported the club for decades has lived through far worse periods than anything we’re going through now (which, to be clear, is a run of poor performances on the back of a season where we finished third, albeit not convincingly, then sold our best player to one of our main rivals).

We have gone through bad periods in the past – periods when we were finishing much lower in the league than today, playing football that would make Tony Pubis wince and enduring the Sahara of all trophy droughts.

The supporters during those times did not do a Delap (throw in the towel). They looked forward to meeting up with their mates on match day, having a few beers, having a laugh and watching the game – win, lose or draw.

Obviously they (we) were gutted when we lost and overjoyed when we won. Most players would be given wholehearted support but even then there were always one or two who got a bit of stick.

Somehow though, however bad things were on the pitch, however clueless the manager, however donkey-like the players, it never took over our whole life. It didn’t leave us dejected the rest of the week, poring over the entrails of defeat like a Roman soothsayer.

The reasons offered for why people seem more upset in the modern era fall into three categories:

  • Expectations
  • Entitlement
  • Internet

Expectations: this theory has it that the agonies of today are a direct result of the ecstasies of the past. Until 2005 we had a run of regular trophy success going back almost 20 years, to when a young Arsenal team managed by George Graham lifted the League Cup in 1987.

In the first half of Arsene Wenger’s reign the pot-winning was enhanced by some of the greatest players and best football ever seen at Arsenal, culminating in the Invincibles of 2003-4.

According to this theory, we supporters have tasted the best and won’t settle for less.

But why didn’t the fans who experienced Double joy in 1971 – including clinching the title at the N17 public toilets – throw their toys out of the pram as the mid ‘70s descended into Spuddish levels of awfulness (we finished 16th in 1975 and 17th in 1976)? Perhaps the answer lies in the second theory:

Entitlement: it is accepted by many that we live in an age of entitlement. Modern technology and a steady increase (until recently) in standards of living over the past 20 years have created a society in which we expect to have what we want, when we want it. Anyone with teenage children will understand this very well indeed.

In extreme cases, entitlement is recognised by clinical psychologists as a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, with individuals becoming more and more furious when they fail to get what they think is their right.

For Arsenal supporters the entitlement issues are compounded by repeated surveys showing we are among the six richest clubs in world football. By this argument, we should be winning major trophies regularly, regardless of stadium moves, petro-dollars and a club medical centre that resembles something from The Walking Dead.

One problem with the entitlement theory is that it’s not just younger supporters (members of the “entitlement generation”) who are turning their backs on supporting Arsenal. I have read comments from people doing just that who start by saying “I have been supporting Arsenal for more than 30 years but now I’ve had enough…”

Internet: back in the 1970s when I first started watching Arsenal on a regular basis (yes – I was there when we finished 17th!) I would be really peed off when we lost and would have a good moan with my mates in the pub.

But until the next game my only source of information, news or gossip about the Arsenal was whatever the national newspapers decided to print which, in those days, was not very much. Many newspapers had only a couple of pages devoted to sport (all sport – not just football) and footy coverage was mostly limited to match reports. There was no “insider” gossip, no guest columns by ex players, no “WAGs”.

Also it’s worth bearing in mind that there was virtually no live footy on TV: all we had were Match of the Day on Saturday night and The Big Match on Sunday lunchtimes.

Inevitably, therefore, I spent less time talking, thinking about or watching Arsenal than I do now. Today, apart from the massively increased press coverage and wall-to-wall TV exposure, the internet means I read, write and talk about Arsenal every single day – sometimes for several hours (don’t tell my boss… or my wife).

Which, in turn, means that every setback, every concern, every defeat is scrutinised and agonised over to a degree that would have been unthinkable in the ‘70s or ‘80s.

Quite aside from the mild mental derangement this causes me (and, I suspect, many other Gooners), it also means that more extreme viewpoints can reach a wider audience than they would have done in days past. Whether it’s the view that Arsene Wenger is the devil incarnate and should be lynched, or that Le Boss must be beatified by the Pope forthwith as a prelude to becoming Saint Arsene of Ashburton, those opinions – when expressed on the internet – can gain a following that they would not have done when expressed to a few people in the pub

This last theory – the internet – is the most convincing one for me. The first two theories may play their part as well, but it’s the sheer ubiquity of Arsenal in the modern fan’s world that makes the pain so hard to take: there is, literally, no escape.

One last theory: there is a final element which, I believe, plays a part in making people have such drastic reactions to footballing setbacks these days  – but it’s not an easy one to classify.

The element I have in mind is that, as a society, we are less sure of who we are these days. The class system that was still entrenched as I was growing up has gone (or at least become much more blurred and confused); we are a multicultural people in a multinational world; we are bombarded with entertainment in all forms (contrast that with the three TV channels of the 1970s and no such things as Talksport, computers or computer games); the “nuclear family” of two married parents and two or three kids – then the norm – is now in decline; even our external “enemies” are elusive, mysterious people hiding in shadows, not the mighty Soviet Bloc that threatened the childhoods of many of us.

I am not saying that any or all of these changes are bad things, just that they have left us (particularly, perhaps, the over 40s among us) feeling like there are fewer concrete things to hold on to than in our youth. We have changed from being a nation of people who all watched the same TV shows at the same time to a kaleidoscope society that has splintered into 10,000 niche interests and pastimes. As a result our sense of shared identity is more fragile than it ever used to be.

In those circumstances, the attachment we have to Arsenal becomes something stronger and more powerful than ever: the one solid part of our identity. But with such power over us, it also has the capacity to cause us pain like never before.

And maybe that’s why losing faith in Arsenal has changed from being what it once was – a wound capable of healing – to what it is now for some supporters – a death blow.

RockyLives


Show some flipping pride

November 4, 2012

Ask an Arsenal supporter what they want first and foremost from any of the players representing them I think 95% or maybe more would say I want to see them show some pride in playing for the club we love so much.

Personally the second thing I want to see from them is an attitude that says they will do their job properly.

I’ll do my ratings first:

Mannone – 8 left with no chance with either goal, made some good saves and nearly prevented the second

Sagna – 6 did nothing going forward, normal self when called upon at right back in the tackle but showed some nervousness in first half with clearances.

Santos – 6 when the “brazilian wing back” did find his way into the danger areas his final ball left a lot to be desired.

Vermaelen – 3 from the minute he cuddles and shakes hands with BSR he has set the tone for his performance and the team. I know it wasn’t only him but he is captain he should have said in the changing room “in that tunnel, look straight ahead, don’t look at them….FOCUS”. I’ll cover the rest of his performance later.

Mertesacker – 7 his normal impeccable self in reading of the game, interceptions and well timed tackles and good blocks. Not as good with his distribution as normal, but not his fault. (See later)

Arteta – 7 unfortunately despite all his effort he was stuck to like glue by Rooney. Very limited opportunities to be proactive with possession, but busied himself well defensively fighting fires on his own.

Cazorla – 6 despite a good finish for the goal did not see enough of the ball in space to cause threat to ManU

Wilshere – 6 battled hard but that’s not what he is in the team for, like Cazorla starved of space and options all match. First booking harsh, second through tired legs, shouldn’t have been on pitch.

Podolski – 5 didn’t contribute

Ramsey – 6 out of position and definitely made Sagna’s life easier, like everyone else starved of space.

Giroud – 7 didn’t see the ball anywhere near as much as he deserves to….can’t be faulted if he doesn’t get the ball.

Subs:

Theo – 5 offered nothing different.

Arshavin – 5 ditto

Right that’s that out of the way, now lets begin the report with the positives.

Ok moving on to the rest of the match.

Fergie has not won that many titles without being annoyingly good at utilising the strengths of his team and the weakness of others. Yes that’s right he is willing to change his tactics from game to game. The club spend where it’s important, the attacking third, and they spend big, but that isn’t where it stops, they ask those big money signings to earn their corn however the manager sees fit. If that means asking the Premier Leagues most expensive teenager to man to man Arteta when Arsenal have possession he does it. If that means asking Young to run for ninety minutes up and down the flank with very little ball time he does it.

They clearly had two game plans, “if Theo is on the pitch we sit deep, if he isn’t we squeeze the play as much as possible”, there were times with BFG on the ball about ten yards from half way that Ferdinand and Evans were almost providing unique symmetry holding their defensive line ten yards in their half, they pressured the ball from the front, marked tight and we had no space, we needed our full backs and wide men to provide runs and movement in behind we had to play longer, but we can’t, either through inability, lack of pace or not wanting to.

So starved of the space options and possession we need to breathe this was always going to be difficult.

Sorry I have glossed over something, the above was what happened after they went one nil up. If we were facing a side that were set up to make it difficult for us we made it even harder by gifting them the lead. Santos had his first test of the afternoon, marking Valencia tight the ball was played to the on rushing Rafael who played a very Arsenal like nothing cross, which Vermaelen got totally confused by, he must face crap balls like that all week in training yet he clearly hasn’t worked out how to put his boot through the f’ing ball and decided he would gift BSR a nice early chance which he stroked in with ease. Had to happen but would’ve been nice to actually make him work for it.

After that we consistently failed to clear our lines effectively, after the Liverpool game my mainly glowing report focussed on a few things that still weren’t right, one of my suggestions was that it is sometimes ok to put the ball in row Z or beyond their backline to relieve pressure and regain shape.

In the first half we didn’t do this once, we allowed them space in our half without them having to work. Mannone couldn’t clear our half with his kicks, Giroud up front could have challenged Rio or Evans and will do given the opportunity, but instead Mannone was dropping kicks on Carricks head for Cazorla or Wilshere to try and win.

This was one way traffic and the only players looking like they wanted to do something were Arteta, Wilshere and BFG, Vermaelen walked around in a daze reconsidering his error, and hopefully his decision to take the captaincy.

A short corner, where the whole defence switch off – too busy telling each other who to mark and forgetting about the ball – led to the ball being fired at Cazorla from five yards away, his hands covered his face tucked tight to the body and the ball careered into it, nothing like a shout of penalty at Old Toilet to send Mike Dean weak at the knees and the home penalty was duly awarded. Somehow Mannone managed to put Rooney off and he scuffed it wide.

A let off before the break and a chance to get ourselves back in the game.

Could Arsene do anything to lift the team with his half time team talk? Would he make an early substitution which it seemed the game was crying out for?

On the first it didn’t appear so, United came out of the blocks quickly and we were called on in defence to snuff out a few scrambled balls into the box.

Theo was introduced, Ramsey the sacrificial lamb. United re set their back line dropping twenty yards further back. Didn’t really make a difference because not once did anyone try and find a ball over the top, Theo came short like Ramsey had, couldn’t do anything different as he was marked as tightly and again starved of options.

But somehow United eased off on their pressuring we started to get some good possession and move with a bit more pace. Santos was set free on more than one occasion, and on more than one occasion failed miserably to deliver a ball of note, perhaps one ball if Giroud had gambled he could have had a sniff of goal, but he had already shifted his position for a cut back. In reality he should be going for the 6 yard box and his midfielders should be the ones filling the edge of the box. He is still learning the English game and what is required, but it was the only criticism I could make of him.

Just as we had started to give United a test of their own at the back, we allowed them a second. Firstly allowing BSR to drift in unmarked only to see Mannone make one of several good saves. And the not clearing the corner well, not shutting down the crosser and not competing for the ball in the box…I’m looking at our skipper again. He didn’t even get off the ground, did not attack the ball, is this really the player we missed “so badly” for a whole season, the player that apparently “adds 10% to everyone else on the pitch”. I’m sorry I don’t see it, you are the captain, you must be better, you must lead, you must not give up.

The second half got even longer as Wilshere overrun the ball and clattered into Evra earning his second booking, he had been warned after upending BSR, Cleverley got warned by Dean too, when he did Ferguson replaced him with Anderson immediately. Wenger didn’t have the luxury having already removed the natural centre midfield replacement Ramsey.

It was pretty much all United for the rest of the game taking the game into our half whenever they wanted and Arsenal conceding ground obligingly, and I’m about as bothered to write about it as the players looked to be playing it, even then I found plenty to wind me up. Santos received the ball from Vermaelen, Vermaelen bombs past him, Santos loses the ball, sorry what planet do our players live on? Ten men on the pitch, deep in their half, and our centre back is playing a one two with our left back.

There was time for Cazorla to grab us a consolation and something for the away fans to cheer with a sublime finish, but it was way too little way too late.

So in summary, the players do not deserve the support they get from the away fans, I don’t mind losing, I don’t mind getting beaten by a better side, but just allowing the opposition to do what they want, and very few of our players seeming to care I will not take.

This defeat will affect many of us more than last seasons 8-2, that was a freak result, every shot they took first half they seemed to score, we had many understudies on the pitch and had yet to find any of our transfer targets and had just slogged our guts out on the pitch in Udinese to achieve CL qualification. This? No excuses, a week off, time to bond time to work out the kinks, experienced players across the back line, experience in midfield, 7 players older than 25, players who should be able to look at each other and work out what to do and how to put it right. They are not playing for the shirt, they are not playing for the manager, they are not playing for us…..that is not good enough, that is not acceptable.

I love my club, I love my team, I said after our drubbing in Milan last season that I would prefer to take ten paces back and a few leaps forward by doing away with the majority of failed talent on the pitch and letting the youngsters have a go, players hungry for their chance, I can support them, they will need it, this group of players need to stop hiding and start stepping up to the plate, it’s your fault, you put it right.

Despite all the other top 4 contenders slipping up and even Spudders losing at home to Wigan there was still nothing to smile about at the end of the day.

Written by Gooner In Exile


Virgin Sacrifice: I presume

November 2, 2012

There are games one anticipates with hope rather than confidence. You know the ones, the top 3 away and of late the trip to the Cave Dwellers. I have never enjoyed our games at the Old Toilet, we rarely do well and when we do it comes as a surprise – yes, we have had some wonderful wins and some sterling performances but on the whole we struggle. We have won once at OT in 10 years (PL) and just 3 times in 20 years.

Then there was last season’s freak humiliation. And before you Kent United fans get uppity, the 8 goals came from 14 shots on target. we had 9, you had 3 corners, AFC 5. A freak result which owed much to good fortune and a dreadful defensive performance from a patched up Arsenal – Traore and Jenks were our FB’s (CJ’s first PL game).

All football fans know that SAF signed a pact with the devil – the percentage of dodgy refereeing decisions and decades of outrageous good fortune are testament to his trip down to the Crossroads but last season the Oil money bought his luck. The Chavs shameful CL victory and MC’s last-second PL win must have shaken The Gorbals  Guzzler down to the tip of his steel toed boots. Having already sold his soul Ferguson is surely looking at other avenues to ensure his team’s dominance over the fickle fates….. see below

Sir Alex prepares for the game

Let’s get the unpleasant stuff out of the way early. Brave Sir Robin. An inspired purchase by SAF, a purchase which could win them the title. For us, a shambles of Titanic proportions. To BSR we are the lover scorned and he will pay the price whatever Mr Wenger says.

What can we expect of today? None of the MU players who conceded 5 (as we did!) midweek will start, as such, Scholes, Cleverly and Carrick will be doing their best to cripple Santi and Jack.  Their defence is said to be shaky but whose wouldn’t given their injuries at CB ? We can but hope that SAF has a meltdown and includes Wooton.

It goes without saying that MU sport some of the most odious men playing today. Evra, Rooney, Nani, Rafael, Ferdinand , Anderson, Fletcher, Young – all  beetle headed baculum (look it up!). I hesitate to put Ashley Young amongst these miscreants but despite being a Gooner, if the cap fits…..

I expect Mr Wenger to take a conservative view; he will not want his team humiliated again – if last season was tough for us, imagine how it was for him.

My Team:

I fully expect to see both Arshavin and Walcott at some point, especially Theo after his fine performance at Reading. But today we will need solidity, should we reach the hour point on level terms I hope AW will bolster the attack.

Much focus will be upon the performance of Jack Wilshire. So much riding upon his stocky frame and the strength of his ankles. If he returns to the form of two seasons ago this Arsenal team will be very, very strong. It is one thing to close down Cazorla with 2 players but having another creative genius allows Arsenal to continue to threaten. We must pray that the referee (Mike Dean – the world is watching) will protect him because you know SAF will be telling his miscreants to kick two colours out of young Jack

It is a great shame Diaby is not fit as this would be his type of game, we will miss Gibbs as well because it is inevitable SAF will target Santos.

This is a game which George Graham would have relished; put the Famous 5 in place of the current back 5 and we would stand a much better chance. Actually, scratch that ….. put Seaman into this team and it would be transformed. The stats show we have conceded just 6 PL goals which is astonishing given our goalkeeping frailty; it is a testament to a team ethic. But and this is a huge BUT, no team wins things without a top goalkeeper and we are lacking. Let us pray to Dennis that AW has a proper GK in his sights this January – watching Julio Cesar perform heroics for QPR last week made me wonder why he wasn’t in our goal.

Today’s Top Man:  I promised you David Livingstone (1813 – 1873) and here he is in all his pomp and glory:

No Beard – Not Knighted

A Scottish Protestant Missionary, he was the first white man to cross Africa. He also tried to find the source of the Zambezi, a 6 year expedition during which he “discovered”/named Victoria Falls and Lake Malawi. He then traveled into the East African jungle where he got “lost” for 4 years. Such was Livingstone’s fame that the New York Herald sent out Henry Stanley to find him. They met on the shores of Lake Tanganyika with Stanley humorously greeting him with the famous words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”  Livingstone died in Africa (malaria), his heart was buried in Zambia, and his body brought back to England where it was buried in Westminster Cathedral

BR doesn’t make predictions but he would be thrilled with a point and promises to buy Mrs Raddy something expensive should when we win.

Written by Big Raddy


Santos Charged With Dangerously Driving Forward

November 2, 2012

Are Arsenal supporters ever really happy without a scapegoat? By Arsenal standards it’s been a while since we have had one but I notice that a couple of candidates are coming into focus. I am mot sure why I am talking about supporters in the third person because when it comes to moaning I have been as guilty as the rest of you. My first memories of doing such come from copying my dad who I remember repeatedly criticising one particular player in days gone by.

We all know this happens and we all know the list of scapegoats is long, some may be able to name them in sequence over the last twenty years; others might even be able to go back further.

There has been a bit of a lull recently but I sense the collective have two particular players in their sites and are homing in. The two, who I am sure you have already worked out, are Gervinho for his frustratingly erratic style of play and rather more surprisingly to me Santos.

There were so many comments backing up this theory yesterday, fearing the presence of Santos at left back on Saturday, some clung to the hope that Gibbs might return only giving up when it was officially announced on Arsenal.com that he will definitely miss the game. After that people split up into smaller groups, some suggesting Sagna on the left with Jenkinson on the right, others suggesting Vermaelen at LB, others Koscielny and even a few putting forward the case for Jenkinson at LB.

What has brought on this fear of Santos that some would prefer to play right footed players in the left back position? Some accuse the Brazilian of being guilty of playing Holt onside enabling him to score and cause our embarrassing defeat against Norwich. Some accuse him of being culpable for the Schalke’s first and many around me at the Emirates screamed with anger as Macke for QPR with only five minutes to go came down the left at speed cut inside of Santos and created a one on one with Mannone who fortunately not only saved the shot but saved the three points.

Well, I don’t agree with any of those accusations, I don’t agree with the first because Santos was not guilty of spilling the ball from the twenty yard shot as much as he wasn’t guilty of losing possession which enabled that long range shot to happen in the first place. Schalke’s first goal came through the middle which had nothing to do with Santos and lastly if you look again how Mackie was able to cut inside you will notice that Santos had rightly stayed with the his man further out on our left.

I don’t quite understand how this player, who is obviously getting back to speed with the pace of the EPL, has even been nominated for scapegoat status. My closest guess is that English people are not used to his style; I’m English so I can say that, we all love Jenkinson for running everything down in that “oh so Brit way” but Santos is a bit cooler; a bit more Brazilian; he doesn’t run if he can walk, why should he?

Santos has not been guilty of any mistakes that have led to goals. I am amazed that people cannot remember how we all felt about him before he got injured in the CL — we were falling over ourselves to praise him. He was and he remains a very good player, that said I think it is fair now to say that he now has had enough time to get himself up to speed, this excuse will not be valid on Saturday, he should rightly be judged on that performance.

In the words of the great British sailor Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson: “Arsenal Expects” Come on Andre don’t let me down.

Written by London


Has Sagna’s return demoted The Corporal?

November 1, 2012

There was a bit of confusion amongst Arsenal fans when Wenger plucked Jenkinson from Charlton after only 9 appearances for the first team, but his rise over the last 12 months, including a call up to the full England squad has shown not only that Wenger can still spot talent, but more importantly that Arsenal have a potential future star on their hands.

There is no doubt that our young Finglish full back has been a shining light during the first few months of a somewhat indifferent start to the Arsenal season, but is there a fear that the return of Bacary Sagna could put a halt to the meteoric rise of our £1million right back?

Well, personally, I was glad to see the Frenchman back in the starting 11 against QPR, and I hope it continues to be the case as the season progresses. Now don’t get me wrong, Jenks has filled in admirably during Sagna’s absence, but I still feel he is a raw talent who has a lot to learn. He reminds a lot of a young player named Gael
Clichy when he first came to the squad, bags of energy and a willingness to go forward, but also a distinct lack of tactical knowledge and positional sense that was covered over through sheer pace. Clichy never really improved that side of his game at Arsenal, probably due to a lack of a defensive coach at the club during his time, but with Steve Bould now overseeing the Arsenal back 4, Jenks won’t have the same excuse and I believe he has what it takes to develop this side of his game.

The other reason I believe Sagna’s return is a good thing for our young Corporal is to do with the England set up. Jenkinson is knocking on the door of an England right back position that still hasn’t been properly filled since Gary Neville hung up his boots, but I feel being thrust into the International team at this stage could be detrimental to the player and Arsenal. We have all seen what happened with Theo Walcott when he was thrown in at the deep end, and if you look at Kyle Walker’s performances this season you can see the effect that ego can have on a young player. An England set up filled with these big personalities and egos is not where I want to see our future right back learning his trade. I believe he is better off under Wenger and Bould’s stewardship for the foreseeable future so he can develop into the player we all want him to be.

I’ve been really impressed by The Corporals attitude and ability during the start of the season, and I believe his development will continue wether he plays on a weekend or not. He should be starting on Tuesday in the Cup and I think a handful of league appearances mixed with domestic cup appearances this season will see him continue his growth.

Who knows, if Sagna’s words about not signing a new deal at the beginning of the season ring true, then The Corporal may be getting a promotion rather than a demotion some time soon.

Written by slimgingergooner