Hammers Hammered – Report & Player Ratings

January 24, 2013

Five fine goals, free-flowing football and freezing fans fully satisfied.

(Whoops. Sorry about the alliteration. That sentence has more Fs than the ladies’ toilets in an Essex nightclub on Saturday night).

He signed da ting!

He signed da ting!

It would be fair to say that many of us were nervous before the game.

Would the Arsenal who dominated Chelsea for the second half at Stamford Bridge turn up? Or the Arsenal that whimpered and wallied its way through the first half of the same game?

Our inconsistency has been consistent this season and we knew that we could not afford to be off our game against a physical, long ball West Ham managed by the Walrus.

Truth to tell, it was the line in BR’s pre-match about the Hammers having put in 56 crosses in their last game that really caused a clenching of the buttocks. Fifty-six crosses? Given our ability to concede a goal roughly to one in every two crosses into our box, we could be on for a 0 – 28 humiliation.

Thankfully it was the good Arsenal that turned up. Podolski and Ramsey were in the starting line-up in place of Diaby (ill) and Coquelin (injured). The back five was unchanged, Ramsey took up the DM position behind Wilshere and Cazorla. Giroud started through the middle with Podolski left and Walcott right.

We looked threatening and up for it right from the off and created several half chances before, inevitably, West Ham took the lead. The goal followed a couple of annoying officiating errors (a clear corner to us given as a goal kick to West Ham, a clear goal kick to us given as a corner to them).

The said corner came in and was headed clear only to fall at the feet of Collison, who slammed it into the net through a crowd of players from just outside the box. It was powerfully struck and Szczesny was probably partially unsighted, but just once I would like to see him save one of those. I had the same feeling about Mata’s goal last week. Difficult to save, but great ‘keepers get some of them.

Anyway, that’s enough carping for one report, because we refused to let our heads drop or feel sorry for ourselves and hit back just a few minutes later. Wilshere set up Podolski with a wonderful little dink of a pass and the German rifled it into the side netting from about 25 yards with all the venom of Big Bertha (the cannon, not the golf club).

pod goal

At half time it was 1-1. But I don’t think any of us were expecting what happened next.

If we had been pretty good in the first half, we started the second like demons. The lightning-fast, quick-passing, rapid-breaking football that Arsene Wenger patented at Arsenal was suddenly back.

The half had barely started when we were ahead. A corner on our left saw a slick move in which Mertesacker, having taken up a near post position, suddenly sprinted (alright, lumbered) back into the middle of the box and Giroud dashed to replace him. The BFG’s movement confused the Irons’ defence and Giroud was able to reach Walcott’s near post corner first, guiding the ball into the net beautifully off the outside of his boot.

girou

Are we working on corners in training? Or was it just good, intuitive play?

Six minutes later it was 3-1. A neat one-two between Podolski and Giroud led to the German squaring the ball to Cazorla in the six yard box. Santi’s cheeky back heel steered the ball into the net and brought joy and relief to the crowd.

Our attacks were coming in waves now. Fast forward a few minutes and Podolski was provider once again. We broke down the left. Podolski held the ball up intelligently to allow Giroud to stay on side, then fired a low cross right across the penalty area for a flying Walcott to drive home.

And our excellent Number 9 completed his hat trick of assists minutes later when another
low cross was steered into the net adroitly by Giroud (a much harder finish than it first looked).

At 5-1 we continued to attack with panache and probably should have added further to our goal tally. But better than that, we were outstanding on the rare occasions when we did NOT have the ball, pressing West Ham all over the park and forcing them into errors. It was a real template for how we should approach every game.

A serious injury to the Hammers’ Daniel Potts (he appeared to be accidentally caught in the face or head by Sagna) caused a 10 minute delay and although we continued to press hard afterwards, the sight of Potts being stretchered off seemed to suck a bit of the energy out of proceedings. Hopefully the lad is alright. He was applauded off the pitch by both sets of fans (Stoke City Orc Scum fans please take note).

In summary: a brilliant performance and win; the gap on the cave dwellers closed to just four points and, surely, a huge lift to everyone involved with the club moving forward.

Many of us have complained that, too often this season, we have been less than the sum of our parts. Last night our players showed how good they can be and they need to carry this attitude, arrogance and self-belief into the rest of the season.

Player Ratings

Szczesney: Good game but I would like to see him stop somebody’s screamer some time soon (I know GiE will immediately post clips of half a dozen breath taking saves he’s already made in this campaign). 7

Sagna: Still not the old Mr Reliable, but had a better game than he has recently. He seems to have lost all confidence in his ability to cross. 7

Mertesacker: Very solid and brought the ball forward well from the back. 7

Vermaelen: Tommy is slowly but steadily getting his game back together and he, too, was good last night. Despite West Ham being a typical Allardyce team more physically suited to basketball than football, they did not cause us too many problems in the air. 7.5

Gibbs: Super game from Kieran. Good at the back and a thorn in the Hammers’ side all night going forward. 8

Ramsey: Fine job in his preferred midfield role. Worked really hard, passed well and did tons of work off the ball. No Hammer enjoyed paying against him last night. 7.5

Santi-Cazorla: A busy bundle of tricks, took his goal stylishly and contributed greatly to the speed and fluidity of our movement. 8

Wilshere: Our new talisman. Drove us forward throughout the game despite, as usual, beng on the end of several fouls. His energy and inspiration is rubbing off on his team mates. 9 (joint MoTM).

Walcott: He signed da ting, now he’s delivering. He was brave and inventive and forced West Ham onto the back foot. Some wrong options on occasion but he never stopped trying. Took his goal well. 8

Podolski: Three assists and a rocket of a goal. When the Pod is up for it like this he must be terrifying to opposition defenders with his size, speed, strength and the sheer power of his shot, which reminds me of Charlie George. 9 (joint MoTM).

Giroud: Took his two goals brilliantly and had a good all round game, even if sometimes his understanding with team mates was a tad off. 7.5

Subs
Koscielny
: Deputised well for Vermaelen who was removed as a precaution.
Santos: Nice to see Andre get a run out. He’s not as bad as his last outings would have you believe and it can only be good for the squad to have him back and fit.
Oxlade-Chamberlain: Full of running and tricks. Took shots a couple of times when he should have passed, but at 5-1 up who can blame him?

RockyLives

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Any Given Wednesday.

January 23, 2013

These games are coming too fast and the inevitable result is injuries. Today we are without Coquelin, Arteta, Rosicky, , Gervinho, probably Diaby and Uncle Tom Cobblee. Thankfully, Podolski and Ox should be fit for duty but there are no guarantees, which leaves the squad very thin especially on the bench

UnknownA thin Bench. (no good for FFBW-Nasri)

After 2 awful results we “welcome” a Fat Sam side with the sublime skills of Nolan, C. Cole, Tomkins, Noble, etc to the Emirates. It will be a tough, cold night for our heroes. West Ham have become a typical Walrus team. Power, pace, aggression but with no small amount of skill provided by Joe Cole and Matt Jarvis. On Saturday, West Ham sent over 56 crosses into QPR’s box – yes, 56!!  With Chamakh, Cole, Nolan and Carroll to choose from upfront there is no doubting the tactics.

How do Hammers fans feel about having the Football Academy turned into The Home of Hoofball – a Southern Stoke? Well, it appears they are very happy. Allardyce will take WHU to a mid-table position which is highly satisfactory even if the football is poor.

Or is it? If you could win the FA Cup but had to play hoofball would you be happy? For many the answer would be Yes.

If – huge If – we can start as we finished in our last two games we will win tonight, but we have been saying this for too log. Arsenal, for some reason, find the first 40 + minutes tough going. They cannot find their rhythm, their passing is poor, their man-marking non-existent, their forward play toothless; all in all , crap. But second half …….

Runners & Riders:

001b

Many are saying this is a vital game and that 3 points are an essential. I have to agree. A draw is not good enough. The absence of a physically powerful DM is hurting us, and tonight we should see a potential AW target in Diame. Diame will be hoping to put in a good performance, after all he must be desperate to play for Wenger rather than the Walrus.

Today’s explorer: David Thompson (1770-1857). This man is hardly remembered and yet is one of histories great explorers and land geographers. He mapped 3.9 million sq.miles of North America! Originally working with the Hudson Bay Company as a fur trade, he started by surveying the Great Lakes and then headed South. He was the first to complete the length of the Columbia river and surveyed much of North-West America. Thompson once walked from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. He had 13 surviving children and died of exhaustion in Montreal at the age of 86.

images-1

Nice Hat.

So how should ARsenal approach this game? I would say with the knowledge that if the players underperform they will be told their parking bays have been withdrawn and they have to walk to the ground amongst the fans. We will let them know how important St. Totts day is. Maybe spending some time outside their bubble of luxury will spur them to come out the tunnel focussed and not in the land of fairies.

Get Steve Bould to give the pre-match motivational speech, or get back TA or TH or even better Al Pacino, but please lads, win tonight and win well.

Expect Jaaskalianen to give another brilliant performance.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Poll: Will Arsenal Finish In The Top Four?

January 22, 2013

Following our schizophrenic performance against Chelsea there appears to be a growing consensus that we are unlikely to finish in the Champions League positions this year.

We are not as far behind the Spuds as we were this time last year but, on the other hand, can we really expect them to implode as spectacularly again?

(Actually, I can. Form is temporary, class is permanent and Totteringham are the EPL’s resident comedy act).

Trouble is, it’s not just the troglodytes we need to worry about. Everton are even more competitive than usual this year; West Brom are playing nice football and picking up results and – shock horror – even Liverpool have found some form.

All will fancy they have a shot at the much-prized top four finish.

Not that it will be easy for them. I can see the Toffees taking their eye off the ball if the Moyes-to-Chelsea bandwagon gains momentum (their equivalent of the ‘Twitchy for England’ campaign that so amusingly derailed the Spuds last year); West Brom will hopefully suffer a nosebleed before too long and ‘Pool are the other half of the Tiny Totts comedy double act. Not so much Laurel and Hardy as Laughable and Hardly Ever…

But it only needs one of our rivals to really kick on to make our grip on the top four even looser than it already is.

So what do you think? Here are two Polls to test the opinion of, if not Goonerdom, at least the survey sample represented by readers of Arsenal Arsenal.

First, the simple “will we or won’t we”.

Next – and a little less straightforwardly – if we were to miss out on Champions League qualification for next season, what affect would that have on our fortunes:

I realize that not every shade of opinion can be covered by Polls like this last one (if you think that dropping out of the ECL means that Arsene Wenger will become a transvestite pole dancer and the Emirates stadium turned into the world’s biggest Spearmint Rhino I apologise for not giving you scope to vote for your preference).

However, I expect that the results will be interesting and will hopefully prompt some interesting discussion in the comments below.

RockyLives


A Game of Two Halves….. Again

January 21, 2013

The same line-up as for the Swansea replay, saw Francis Coquelin keep his place also meaning Jack would be able to play a little further forward and Santi able to drop back into midfield to supplement the three.

chavs1

  • Subs  Mannone, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Santos, Frimpong, Ramsey, Arshavin

 

The first half began with Arsenal creating the first decent chance with Giroud set up by Walcott. Unfortunately the big Frenchman dragged his effort wide of the post. This was to be the highlight of the Gunners’ first forty five.

Mata scored on 6 minutes after Martin Atkinson decided to ignore Ramires’ challenge which came crunching down on the top of Coquelin’s foot. Sagna was asleep and allowed Mata the freedom of Stamford Bridge. The midfield was sluggish to say the least and Arsenal seemed to be playing zonal marking in every area of the pitch. There was little closing down except for Francis Coquelin who must have run at least three times as far as Abou Diaby. Diaby did not have the required level of match fitness for three games in a week and, in hindsight perhaps it should have been Ramsey who started.

A succession of Chelsea chances eventually led to their second goal with Ramires again given acres of space in the penalty area by Sagna. Szczesny’s challenge resulted in a penalty and booking. The goalkeeper wasn’t sent off because Ramires was going sideways to the goal with Arsenal cover arriving. Lampard sent the big Pole the wrong way and Arsenal had a mountain to climb.

Chelsea continued to press forward but couldn’t quite find the third goal which would have put them out of sight. The few Arsenal chances were ruined by Theo running behind the line and being flagged offside.

The Arsenal team was out early for the second 45, hopefully with a blast from Wenger and Bould still ringing in their ears. I expected to see Jenkinson on for Sagna who appeared to wish he could still be indoors with the lovely Ludivine.

The change in attitude was immediately obvious. The tempo was treble that of the first, closing down all over the pitch, teammates making themselves available and pressing Chelsea back into their own half. Mertesacker had a limp effort with his left foot straight at Cech after the ball had dropped to him on the penalty spot. Walcott hit a low drive straight at the keeper from a narrower angle and Giroud had a chance from a header from a cross by the excellent Gibbs.

The Arsenal goal came on 58 minutes and was well deserved. A fine interception from Vermaelen was carried forward by Cazorla who delivered a great through ball to Theo, standing in an onside position for a change. Theo took his chance well, opening his body up and giving Cech no chance.

 chavs2

Coquelin was replaced by Ramsey in the aftermath of the goal. The Frenchman had been well worth his starting berth. Arsenal continued to press for the equaliser and started to leave gaps at the back. Ba rounded a walkabout Szczesny on 83 minutes but Vermaelen managed to block his goalbound shot. The final 5 minutes of injury time saw a succession of Arsenal corners, but the finishing touch could not quite be found.

As predicted by BR, it was a game of two very different Arsenal performances, as good in the second half as we were poor in the first. How is it possible for the same eleven players to produce such different performances with only 15 minutes separating them? It has to be a lesson learnt that we have to come out guns blazing not just after the half time cuppa.    

Ratings

Szczesny– Couldn’t do much about either goal. His Almunia-esque rush of blood in the second half was worrying……7

Mertesacker – Made a few good interceptions in the first half. It was the mobility of the Chelsea attack from the flanks that he could do nothing about ……7

Vermaelen – Much better in the second half, pressing the ball and showing some signs of setting a captain’s example ……7

Sagna – Really poor in the first half and his attacking delivery was awful all game. Give Jenkinson a chance….5

Gibbs – Struggled a little against Oscar and Hazard first half. His second half display going forward was excellent. Gibbs is an excellent footballer  …..8

Wilshere – Jack couldn’t influence the game in the first half and seemed content to allow Coquelin to do his spadework. Again, his second 45 was much improved as he took the fight to Chelsea …..7

Coquelin – My MOTM. Never stopped running for his team. A lone plus from the first half and was perhaps starting to tire in the second perhaps causing his injury …….8

Diaby – Lazy and slack in the first half. Better in the second when those around him could make up for his lack of match fitness …..6

Giroud – Didn’t really get much change out of Ivanonvic and Cahill the whole game. A real shame that first effort didn’t go in, it would have given the whole team a lift…..6

Walcott – No idea how to break the offside trap in the first 45. Much better when more direct in the second. Took his goal well…..7

Cazorla – Santi’s passing was off in the first half but he started to buzz in the second as him and Jack took control of the midfield…..7

B.R. – A super pre-match…..10

Subs

Ramsey – Looked lively and added some drive when he came on. Still tends to dwell on the ball when he needs to shift it quickly……7

Arshavin – Andrey didn’t really add much at all unfortunately…..6

Written by chas


The Mole. Can Benitez finish the Job?

January 20, 2013

Doesn’t seem that long ago since Terry hit the dirt and watched as Brave Sir Robin danced away from him. Happy Days.

And what chance of a repeat today? Well, we did it against the Cave Dwellers so why not against Chelsea? I know, I know – lightning doesn’t strike twice but in a world of infinite probabilities, it does!

Both teams are going through an inconsistent patch. Chelsea’s home loss to QPR was inexplicable but so was ours at Bradford. We have both lost at home to Swansea. The main difference being that Chelsea have a squad which cost at least double Arsenal’s and a bottomless pit of money to overcome any problems; they also sack managers with alarming regularity.

Benitez. Why? What kind of incompetent signed this man? How can Chelsea employ a manager who a few years previously publicly stated his dislike of the manner in which they do business? Bizarre. But one must be impressed by they way Rafa is doing his best to destroy the club, a loss or draw to us and Swansea will see the Chavs out of the CC and with no chance of winning the PL. Perhaps he is on a huge earner from the Northern Oilers. Fairplay to the man!

Unknown-1

Do you think it is to Arsenal’s advantage to have Arteta injured for a while? Could the midfield of Diaby, JW and Santi function more cohesively? Admittedly, we only have a reduced Swansea to compare and today will be a far sterner test, but I believe this will become our first choice midfield (though how long Diaby can stay fit is impossible to predict). None of them are  defensive players but both JW and Diaby are strong in the tackle. Concentration will be the key and a full awareness of who ventures forward . For this reason I would play and  extra MF – either Coquelin or Ramsey, both of whom played well on Wednesday.

For this reason having Koscielny out is also positive, BFG’s lack of pace requires hime to sit deeper! I must say, I am worried about Ba, he is in fine form and loves scoring against us. Furthermore, the excellent wingers at Chelsea will cause major problems to both Sagna and Gibbs.

Runners & Riders:

chavs v arse

Of course, playing a 4-4-2 is not Wengerball, but I doubt AW will start the game with Giroud upfront and he is unlikely to trust Ox in a game where we will be under the cosh.

Stamford Bridge is a strange place, an uglier ground it would be hard to find, but then it has to house some of the ugliest fans in world football. If one were to make a League of teams with the ugliest fans Chelsea would get a Champions League slot every season, Stoke would win the Prem most years 🙂

Today’s English Explorer is from the Days of Yore, and one of England’s Finest. Sir Walter Raleigh (1552 – 1618). An aristocrat and favourite of QE1, he is best known for his colonisation of North America and the introduction of tobacco to England and the world (how costly has that been?). His first colony was in Virginia where tobacco was harvested  – it got the Royal Seal from Her Maj and thus became the famous Royal Virginia tobacco.

He discovered Guyana and explored East Venezuala. His ship was the first Ark Royal which was a gift from QE1.

Unknown

Top Bloke. Full Set. Knighthood. Beheaded.

Raleigh wasn’t just an explorer he was also one of England’s great warriors.We all know the story of his defeat of the Spanish Armada, but what is less known is that after Elisabeth died and King James came to the throne, Raleigh was imprisoned in The Tower for 13 years for “plotting against the Crown”. Following an unsuccessful expedition to South America in search of El Dorado, he was re-arrested and beheaded. His head was embalmed and sent to his wife who kept it in a velvet bag until her death when it was re-united with his body.

Two defensive errors cost us the game at the Emirates; we weren’t outplayed and had the better of the game. Raddy would be satisfied with a point.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


If Arsène goes …… who should replace him?

January 19, 2013

Let’s cut straight to the chase, and leaving aside all the arguments, regarding whether or not Arsène Wenger should be replaced or not, and beg the question, “if he leaves Arsenal, for whatever reason, who should replace him?”

There is a lot of talk about Mourhino being given the heave ho at Real Madrid this summer, and he is looking for a berth in the Premier League, so we are told.

Now I cannot stand the guy on a personal basis, with his cheap shots, stupid and unpleasant mind games and his general sneeringly dismissive manner. BUT – he is a good manager, possessing a very creditable curriculum vitae!

The subordinate question I would have to ask is “can he work his magic without a huge treasure chest to work with in order to buy marquee players, which has always been his signature method?”

I guess only time will tell, but I would be inclined to give him a shot, simply because it would be a win/win for me. If he succeeds, we would all be thrilled potatoes, and clacking our maracas, if he fails it would be only a short-term thing because he does not tend to stick around.

Then there is Sir Alex Ferguson. We all know how desperate he was to join us 20 odd years ago, and was near suicidal when old Dennis Hilly-Wood told him to sod off and stop wasting our time.
No – I am only pulling your string theory!

What about Pulis? OK, OK, but for those keen to get rid of Arsene, perhaps an Orc team might appeal. No?

I won’t let you choose Benitez, so you can forget him. Fact!!

This isn’t easy, because I do not really know anyone whom I can easily recommend, because like most of you, I do not take much notice of other managers, and have no real knowledge of their ability.

OK then, so what about Capello? Ancelotti, Klopp, Hiddink, Rijkaard or Lowe?

My problem is that I know these managers by reputation only, and I am sure many or even all of them are first class managers, in their own right, but haven’t they all made their names, in part, by having big money available to buy top, top quality players? Now where have I heard that phrase previously?

Now I know there are rumours that Arsenal have between £50 million and £70 million available for transfers, but there is a huge caveat here. First, if we do not clinch a 4th place in the Premiership, and therefore we fail to qualify for the Champions League in the new managers initial ‘break in’ season, we will add another possible £35 million shortfall onto the likely £35 million shortfall this season if, as seems likely, we do not qualify this season.

Well as a self funding, break even football club, the transfer treasure chest would be needed to plug the hole in the profit line.

This is becoming a tad tricky for your correspondent.

There is only one thing for it, and that is to throw this open to the glitterati of the AA blogsite, and ask you to help me with your greater knowledge. Who would you want to manage Arsenal, or do you think Arsène Wenger should soldier on, and just heap scorn and ridicule on a decent man and a great manager?

Don’t be shy. Let’s have your views and your reasons to support your selection.

Written by Red Arse


Arsène Wenger – The grooming of England’s future Super Stars.

January 18, 2013

Much has been written about Arsène Wenger’s penchant for foreign players – French players in particular. Over the years he has been ridiculed for playing teams full of foreigners and for his seeming adversity to English youth. This culminated in a league match against Crystal Palace on 14 February 2005 when Arsenal named a 16-man squad that featured no British players for the first time in the club’s history.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor felt that this was the beginning of a worrying time for English football”. In March 2006, Alan Pardew chimed in with – “Arsenal’s Champions League success was not necessarily a triumph for British football” Arsène disagreed and said that he saw the issue of nationality as irrelevant and stated, “When you represent a club, it’s about values and qualities, not about passports”

Other pundits including Trevor Brooking director of football development at The Football Association defended Arsene, he felt that a lack of English players in “one of England’s most successful clubs” was more of a reflection on England’s limited talent pool rather than on Arsene.

Arsène preferred players that were nimble, adept at passing and those that displayed a high level of technical ability. Using his uncanny knowledge of worldwide players he brought in players like Petit, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Van Bronckhorst, Overmars, Toure, Gilberto, Wiltord, Anelka, Ljungberg, Silvinho, Lauren, and Edu, these players formed winning teams the likes of which had not been seen at Highbury since Herbert Chapman’s teams of the 30’s.

His explanation for not buying British players has always been that few “local” players displayed the attributes that he was looking for and those that did were overpriced in comparison to European players. More recently, with the riches of Chelsea and the Manchester teams Arsene was not able to compete on a level playing field for the British players he admired or for the better foreign players so he was forced to turn his attention to youth players, both foreign and British.

Today, in his youth and under 21sides he has a squad of 30 English and 19 foreign players many of whom already have international experience at various levels.

In Theo Walcott, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere he has five full England internationals, these players might well form the core of the English team for years to come. With another 25 English youth players in his care who can say just how many more will make the international team?

Who would have thought that Arsène Wenger might be the man to turn around England’s fortune by developing the nucleus of the English team?

He is a multi faceted man that should not be counted out.

GunnerN5