Why I’m Loving Van Persie Now

April 30, 2013

So the melodrama is over.

Brave Sir Robin returned to the club that stood faithfully by his side in sickness and in, er, more sickness.

He walked on to the pitch through a guard of honour. He got booed by most of the home supporters. He took a few kicks and gave a few kicks. He scored.

bsr

That’s it folks… all over, nothing to see here.

I still have mixed feelings about BSR. I completely understand why many fans are angry that he chose to leave (and that the club sold him to Manchester United, of all people).

But I also appreciate the great memories I have from the one proper season he gave us during his Arsenal career: all those “did you see that?” goals; all those volleyed finishes from Alex Song golf chips. It’s just a shame it turned out to be his last season with us.

Anyway, the dust has now settled on his return to The Home Of Football and we can get back to worrying about the important business of winning our final three games.

The problem is, it’s not as simple as that, is it?

We don’t just have to worry about our own games, we also worry about those of the teams competing with us for third and fourth spots in the Premier League.

And this is why I have decided to become a Robin lover again. It won’t be with the passion that I once had for him and I can guarantee it won’t be a long-lasting affair. In fact, it will be all over by 6pm on Sunday.

Because shortly before then the referee will have blown the final whistle to end Manchester United’s home fixture against Chelsea. And I am sincerely hoping that Brave Sir Robin, who has been in superb scoring form for two full seasons, will have done us an immense favour by banging home a hat trick against the Chavs.

If United beat Chelsea, it will give us some additional margin for error in our run in. Hopefully we won’t need that margin and we will spank QPR, Wigan and Newcastle in turn to guarantee a top four finish, but even then, it might make the difference between third and fourth place.

I hope that United will put in a proper amount of commitment and effort against Chelsea.

The Purple Conked Gorbalian has said that they will. He talked of “honouring” Chelsea’s rivals for the Champions League places by competing properly, but I have my doubts.

They have won the league already at a canter and, psychologically, I just can’t see them being as committed as they should be.

In fact, the “Van Persie returns to Arsenal for the first time since joining United” sideshow probably worked against us at the weekend. It fired up the crowd and added spice to the occasion.

Arsene Wenger said that our players started with such energy and bite because of the way they had prepared. That may be part of it, but I have no doubt that the heightened passion of the crowd also played a part.

It encouraged our boys to snap into tackles, win the second balls and harass United all over the pitch.

But if you start bullying people, eventually you’re likely to provoke a response. The United players, being the competitive people they are, could not help but be roused into fighting back eventually.

But when they entertain the Chavs it will be a very different matter. It will be a game played in front of a complacent home crowd who don’t really care what the result is. Many will have consumed a fair few drinks on the way up from Surrey and – if it’s a nice afternoon – will probably doze through the match.

Let’s face it, the place is hardly a hotbed of atmosphere at the best of times. If the Emirates is a library, Old Toilet is a mausoleum. Without the fun.

In other words, I wouldn‘t be at all surprised if Chelsea come away with all three points.

My only hope is that Brave Sir Robin himself, despite the abuse he received from his former worshipers on Sunday, will feel he owes it to us to try and help us get a top four place.

I hope that his friends in the Arsenal dressing room – the ones he was so eager to pop in and see after scoring against them at the weekend – have urged him to do his bit.

How ironic would it be if goals from Robin van Persie played a part in keeping us in the Champions League next year?

RockyLives


A Hard Fought Draw

April 29, 2013

This was on paper always going to be the most tricky game of our run in and chase for a Champions League spot. Added to the normal nerves of entertaining United was the return of Brave Sir Robin, and the indignity of having to give said Dutchman and his new teammates a guard of honour on to the pitch after winning the title last Monday. As a mark of my disgust I did not enter the living room until that silly business had been completed.

On to the match, Arsene had picked the side most of us would have expected before the game. Podolski in for the suspended Giroud and with a chance to prove that his future in the team rests in a central striking position.

I posted the following comment before kick off yesterday:

What do I want today? 3 points obviously…..but more importantly I want us to take the field showing a belief that we can win. Too often this season we have gone out in games against Top 4 competitors with a look of a team destined to lose and given a performance to match.

From the start the team set about United in a fashion we have not seen for quite some time. We pressed the ball, were quick to the tackle and competing for the second ball, so much so that within 1 and a half minutes we got our reward, Brave Sir Robin gifted possession to us in the centre circle, Cazorla picked out Podolski who moved it on to Rosicky who picked a lovely pass in to the feet of Theo, despite the tight angle he dispatched the ball past a static De Gea.

theo v united

Maybe this would be a good day after all, the best thing about this was that we did not stop or slow down for the next thirty minutes, continuing to press and fight for possession and being quick to block out United attacks.

Cazorla tried a curler to double the advantage but De Gea saved well (although a bit dramatically) and Ramsey breaking fed Podolski who shot from a tight angle when perhaps he should have squared it to where Theo was waiting, perhaps he was trying a little too hard to prove a point. Maybe young Aaron chose the wrong option with Theo looking better placed to shoot.

United started to get in to the game, but in the main were restricted to crosses and deep runners trying to get on the end of them, Szczesny saved well with his face from the Dutchman in the one clear chance they created.

The second goal of the game would be vital and it looked like it was only going to be ours but from half hour onwards we seemed to be paying the price for our frenetic start opportunities to counter attack were being slowed down, a few loose passes appeared when previously we had been precise and quick.

With the half time whistle approaching Bacary Sagna made a poor backpass to BFG, he has played in the same team long enough to know BSR would be looking for it, he picked up the ball and raced towards goal, Sagna worked hard to get back and the angle for any shot was tight but Sagna, red mist fully descended, lunged into a risky tackle, his outstretched studs made contact with the ball but from behind as he was the tackle would be a foul anywhere else on the pitch. In Sagna’s defence he must have been surprised to see BSR as he had been firmly tucked in Koscielny’s pocket up to that point. The Dutchman picked himself up and scored the penalty to level going in at half time.

The goal could not have come at a worse time. With legs starting to tire we needed to go in ahead and to be able to be lifted to push on, unfortunately we went in to the break heads down and regretting yet another individual mistake that have cost us too often this season.

From the restart it was clear United had been given a piece of the managers mind, it also looked like any rebuilding of confidence in the home dressing room in the second half had not worked. United were waiting to kill us on the counter attack, that they didn’t was testament to the defending of Koscielny and BFG and the keeping of Szczesny.

Mertesacker so often taking up positions to deny passes or make a large obstacle to surpass, Koscielny was his normal dynamic self quick into the tackle and clean interceptions, it is a shame that the appointment of Vermaelen as captain robbed Koscielny of so much game time this season. We have sorely missed his pace and power and it has been an important feature of our recent form.

Sagna had some more troublesome moments and most of United’s threat came from that side combined with midfielders struggling to match runs.

Going forward we were toothless, the ball got in the final third but there was no zip around the pitch either passing or running. Podolski appeared to have run out of steam after 55-60 minutes, he was failing to win any high ball or compete meaningfully. We missed Giroud’s workrate and ability to occupy defenders….he is an aerial threat that centre backs have to actively mark, which opens more space for the technicians in the team to use.

By the end it appeared that neither defence wanted to lose it and both attacks wanted to win it, there were large amounts of space from defence to defence and that gave us less chance to create a winner.

Wenger tried to force the issue bringing on Wilshere for Rosicky, Gervinho for Podolski and Ox for Ramsey. This did inject some more pace in to our play but we were restricted to more long shots, one from Cazorla just not carrying enough pace to beat De Gea.

Dowd brought the game to a close with a point acceptable to both. It was a shame that we could not get a winner, but as I have said before you get what you deserve in football and if you make mistakes like Sagna’s you do not deserve to win a game of football.

But the performance especially that in the first half was what I was looking for when I posted my early morning comment, we refused to be bullied, we stood up to the challenge, and we matched them physically man for man.

Only a fool would argue that BSR would not make our team better, but on yesterday’s performance not many of them impressed me enough to think they would make us better in other positions.

Ratings

Szczesny – 8 some good saves and a confident unflashy performance from the under fire young keeper

Sagna – 4 offensively poor, and cost us the equaliser

Mertesacker – 7.5 another solid performance from BFG, his experience and reading of the game makes him a far better defender than people give him credit for.

Koscielny – 8.5 (MotM) tucked BSR in his pocket where many other top strikers have sat before. Quality performance from the best Centre Half at the club

Gibbs – 7 not his attacking best but kept Valencia quiet most of the game

Arteta – 7 because of the way United play his defensive role was different today requiring him to track runs rather than intercept and clean up loose balls. He didn’t do this to the required standard too many late runners hitting the box untracked. With the ball he was his same reliable self.

Ramsey – 7 looked to tire early, some good passes and touches early on, was getting in good offensive positions all game without always being picked out.

Cazorla – 7 a relatively quiet game but forced De Gea into two good saves.

Rosicky – 7.5 good pass for the goal, lively about the pitch and unfortunate not to get a bit more curl on a well imagined shot.

Walcott – 8 great finish for the goal, and a constant threat to slower defenders. Needs to be much better without the ball. Did Evans a favour by keeping him at arms length when Evans appeared to want to come in and rub foreheads.

Podolski – 5.5 very poor in the centre forwards role, hope he improves over next two games, we will need him to help bring the midfielders into the game.

Subs
Wilshere – 6.5 very quiet didn’t really get into the pace of the game

Gervinho – 7 we became much more mobile with him on the pitch but with United defending deep there was little or no space to exploit.

Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7 looked to get hold of the ball and attempt to influence the game.

Written by Gooner in Exile


A False Hero

April 28, 2013

Firstly, BR would like to congratulate Sir Alex and his team upon yet another Premiership title. Well played – you have been the best team this season showing remarkable consistency and efficiency.

OK, that’s out the way 🙂

Would Salford have won it without our craven submission over the traitor? Who knows, but Mancini insists this player was the difference and he knows more about football than I do. What is clear is that he has had another great season and achieved his ambitions; more money and a PL medal, but in the process lost any dignity or respect he once had.

Unknown-1

No Explanation Necessary

From a personal point of view I found watching the Dutchman score against us at Old Toilet one of the most painful of my footballing experiences, but I don’t want this post and today’s discussion to be all about one man. Man Utd at home is always one of our biggest games and today is no different.

Should there be a Guard of Honour? Definitely, we would expect one if it was the other way round.

I love this game – win,draw or lose. The tension, the rivalry, the battle between efficiency and artistry, it is all so blood-pumpingly exciting. Win today and we are well on our way to Europe, lose and we have problems.

Will United be less enthusiastic than normal? Can you imagine SAF telling his team that today doesn’t matter because we have achieved our season’s target? Beating Arsenal at any time is important to the red-conked Sweaty (cockney rhyming slang) and despite a softening of attitude Wenger and he are hardly mates.

Have we got the team to beat the Champions? If all our lads turn up then definitely. We know what to expect from MU – rotational fouling early in the game on both Santi and Jack, a closing down of Theo (whom Evra has in his pocket most games) and counter-attacking football.

My Team:

arse v manu

Losing Giroud for three games following a poor refereeing decision and an even more ludicrous FA tribunal could be costly. OG may not be scoring of late but he remains the fulcrum of our attack. His absence will allow Podolski to finally get his chance in the middle but perhaps it will be Theo. Who knows?

Knowing SAF’s propensity to pack the midfield we will need to play the 4-4-2 AW has used over the past few games. I have to say that I am not  a fan, and believe we play better with a 4-3-3. We need a big game from Wilshire but more than that we need a referee who will protect him from the SAF hackers.

Today’s English Explorer:  This series has concentrated on explorers who spent their time finding new lands but there are also those who explore by going up and today we have another of our finest, but almost unknown, heroes. Bill Tilman (1898-1977).

Unknown

Not a False Hero.

Major Harold William Tilman CBE, DSO, MC and Bar was both a sailor and mountaineer and as you can guess from his decorations, a warrior. At 18 he went to war and fought at the Battle of the Somme, by war’s end he had received the Military Cross for bravery twice. Bill started his climbing career in Africa, climbing both Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Rather than fly home he chose to cycle from East to West Africa!

After another war and more medals (he was at Dunkirk), Bill took on his life challenge which was of course the Himalayas. Starting with Everest (reaching 27,00ft, which was the highest any man had stood until the ’50’s) he was the first to summit numerous Himalayan peaks. Tilman then took up deep sea sailing and went both to the Antarctic and Arctic in search of new challenges and peaks to climb. In his 80th year he tried to climb Smith Island in the South Atlantic. On the journey back to Rio de Janeiro his ship sank with the loss of all hands.

Now that is the spirit we need today.

Another massive game. The return of a man who not so long ago was a hero. A Top 4 battle. Exciting times.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Guard of Honour?????

April 27, 2013

A Guard of Honour for the newly crowned Premier League champions?

Arsenal Football club have intimated that the home players will line up as a Guard of Honour to welcome the new Champions onto the pitch prior to Sunday’s match.

The decent thing to do? Or, given the antipathy towards United in general and a certain Dutchman in particular, a provocation to the frustrated Arsenal faithful?

There have been suggestions that the fans should stand with their backs turned and in silence, this could prove to be embarrassingly ineffective unless the vast majority of those present took part. There will no doubt be a number of fans who will boo and in other ways express their contempt for the new Champions, as is their right.

Back in 1991 when Arsenal won the old League title our opponents for the final game of the season lined up to clap the new Champions onto the pitch, that demonstration of respect was organised by the away clubs manager a certain Alex Ferguson.

It is by no means an established tradition to provide a Guard of Honour, although it has been done on a few occasions. United have three more games to play after Sunday, will Chelsea, Swansea and West Bromwich be expected to honour United? If so where does it end? Does it carry on through next season until all the other Premiership sides have had their chance?

Frankly I’ve grown tired of the so called pre-match ceremony, teams marching out together, lining up and shaking each others hands in a totally meaningless ritual, particularly as it is often marred by one player or another refusing to shake the hand of an opponent over some perceived slight or previous disagreement ……

On Sunday afternoon and in all future matches let’s just get on with the game.

Written by Norfolk Gooner


Arsene Wenger: Dictator or Loyal Servant?

April 26, 2013

I think the above question is the one question that if we had a clear answer would help unify the fragmented support. The question of Arsène’s power has raised it’s ugly head again in the last week with United winning the title. Many Arsenal fans are laying the blame solely at Wenger’s feet….”sold them the title” is a popular phrase used by these supporters.

Arsene-Wenger

In truth it’s hard to disagree with the fact that the traitorous Dutchman had a very positive impact for Salford United, and their early season form was boosted by his arrival. Ours on the other hand was affected by his departure and another summer of uncertainty.

The bone of contention however is that Arsène’s supporters don’t believe the decisions to sell players is solelyArsène ‘s and that his statements after another sale are simply those of a man being asked to follow the company line, but also bound by a loyalty the club he loves. Why else would he still be here?

Greed? I think he probably hasn’t got a lot to worry about when he retires.

Egotist? Maybe but if that was the case he would have taken the Madrid job a long time ago and given himself more chance to win a few trophies.

In a recent interview another departed player gave a slightly different version of events.

Wenger told me that if Cesc left, I would stay but Kroenke wanted the money.

The coach told me we’ll only take Gervinho. Cesc was already gone, I had only one year left so I decided to leave.

There is a subtle twist there in that the player himself says he chose to leave but he also says Kroenke wanted the money. There is though one undeniable statement – Arsène did not want him to leave.

So should Arsène come out and say as much? He has said previously that he could write a book about that summer, would it be better for us if like Mancini he would just come out and say “the Board are lying, they forced me to sell to buy, they did the same this summer too, that’s why I had to sell the Dutchman and Song, as I needed to bring in replacements in other positions with different skills and also replace the departed”.

Man City fans should be revolting against the manager given their squad but, despite having spent another *£14m net, by claiming that he was not allowed to spend as he had in the previous two summers (net spend £164m) the City fans have continued to show their support to him.

Arsenal fans disenchanted with the “all powerful” Wenger will point to the fact that Arsène says nothing of the sort as some kind of admission of guilt.

What if it is misplaced loyalty to a club that gave him the chance to manage at this level, what if he thinks it is better to present a united front, what if he can’t think of life without Arsenal.

There is no point saying “but if we’d kept X and Y we would be dominant” because we wouldn’t have A and Z if we hasn’t sold.

Those are the two sides of the story, but we do not know the truth, if we did would it change our opinions of the Board or Arsène? If I found out Arsène had final say on those players departure from the club then maybe I would view him differently, if on the other hand we find out he has nothing to do with contracts, sales, wage levels would it help us focus our questions (and ire) towards the board/owners? Would we believe again that “there’s only one Arsène Wenger”? Could we judge him solely on the teams performances knowing he has been working under internal pressure.

Gooner in Exile

*would have been £31m had Balotelli not exited in January


Arsenal’s goal of the season.

April 25, 2013

Where’s The Arsenal “Goal of the Season”?

Rosicky goal

Three types of Goal of The Season:

1. “The Take That”. No, not four young gentleman who live with their mothers and like musicals. Oh no. This is the “Watch out Johnny Foreigner, we’re about to drop the Big One on you.”

2. “The Hug”. The Group Huggy, “We’re all in this together” teamwork tap in.

3. “Le Ian”. Pure Rock n’ Roll this one. It’s the “Oh yes I bloody well can. Watch this”.

Recently, I had a very nasty experience. I watched a goal-of-the-season compilation, and a video nasty it certainly was. Two Bales, two Nanis and none from The Gunners. Now I realize that we all go football matches for a variety of reasons, and there are a many ways that we all evaluate our day out.

Hard fought win, entertaining game, high scoring and so on, and for sure it is usually a combination of these. However do you remember the warm glow within as you plod off away from the ground having won on the back of a “goal of the season” contender?

Looking back at my categories above, we all have our favourites.
“The Hug” speaks for itself and has Arsenal written all over it. Thing is though, it is a passage of play, albeit culminating in a goal. The goal will not be spectacular and this is my problem here. We perform beautiful little passages of play in almost every game, and they can happen in any area of the pitch.

“The Take That”. Better. This is the 30 yard pile driver. The “pick that out if it’s not still too hot to handle”. I look at our squad and immediately think Podolski here. Of course the trouble is, opportunities are rare for him as ideally he needs to be moving, if not from central, then certainly from the right onto his left boot.
“Le Ian”. Call me old school “rock n’ roll” but this is where it’s at. Wrighty against Everton all the way for me.

What makes a truly memorable goal and why don’t we score more of them? Some might say the individual is drilled out of our boys and that the emphasis is somehow on walking it into the net. Are we afraid of failure or do we simply not have the individual talent?

Sure, any of the back four can appear and “leather it”, or from a free kick someone can “Carlos Koemann it”, but generally speaking you should be looking to one of the magicians. A team that sets up the way we do will have four. Front Three and the Advanced Midfielder.

Which of our boys do you reckon has the tools in his armoury to do “Le Ian”? Gerv for me, but I’m waiting.

By MickeyDidIt89


Ramsey – The New Denilson?

April 24, 2013

It was the start of the 2011/12 season. Captain Cesc Fabregas, one of our most talented Arsenal midfielders ever, and the man that the team was built around, had left to join Barcelona. Samir Nasri, coming off an excellent previous season, had gone to Manchester City, Jack Wilshere, England’s great hope, was injured (for what we later discovered would last all season), Abou Diaby was injured. Thomas Rosicky was in an out. Andrey Arshavin had grown fat and unmotivated.

It was a midfield crisis to rival the fullback crisis that hit us later in the season. Wenger was basically left to work with Mikel Arteta, Francis Coquelin, Yossi Benayoun, Alex Song and of course Aaron Ramsey. A midfield triumvirate of creativity and steel from all sides was formed: a creative Song ostensibly as the defensive midfielder, a metronomic Arteta in the middle and poor Aaron Ramsey in the advanced Cesc role. Yes that’s right, less than 10 games back from that horrific, psychologically damaging injury, Ramsey was to replace the great Cesc Fabregas.

ramsey

When I look back in retrospect, I wonder why Arteta and Ramsey’s roles weren’t reversed. Arteta had been a more creative force at Everton and Ramsey spent the 08-09 season playing between Song and Fabregas. It would have taken some pressure off of young Ramsey and onto more experienced shoulders, as well as given Ramsey his preferred role in the team. I guess perhaps, that Wenger was loathe to move Arteta who was preforming his role in the team better than anyone bar RVP. If Arteta had to replace Fabregas, I wonder if he would be receiving the same amount of love and adoration from Arsenal fans that he does today.

And so Ramsey became a source of frustration for many fans. ‘He slows us down’, ‘He’s too often looking for the killer pass rather than keeping it simple’, ‘He just passes backwards and sideways’, ‘He’s simply not good enough for Arsenal’, and of course ‘He’s the new Denilson’. I also wonder whether for some, the painful memory of the collapse during the ‘Do it for Aaron’ title campaign taints their image of the player. I must say at this point that there were some fans who fiercely defended him, and debated for him on the blogosphere, (hands up in the comments if you always believed in Aaron) but they were in the minority. And the more Ramsey was unable to produce the wonders of Cesc, the more criticism he got and the more his confidence and form dropped. A vicious cycle. Ultimately, it was a resurgent Rosicky who saved us in the creative midfield department later in the season.

This season, Ramsey has also frustrated some fans. I think frustrations reached their peak when Wenger was playing him on the wing, in my opinion attempting to achieve the same results as the previous season’s successful experiment with Benayoun on the wing. Some of the abuse of Ramsey that I’ve seen on the internet is staggering. Some have described a seemingly genuine wish that he would again break his leg. This starts to make you lose hope in both Arsenal fans and humanity.

2013 has been much kinder year for Ramsey, and boy is he due a break! He’s hit form, put in some excellent performances and silenced (mostly) his critics. One reason for this, I think, is that Arteta has been made to play defensive midfielder (quite well I think too) freeing up room for Ramsey’s favourite spot especially with Wilshire, who also has a claim to that position (where to play him is another mammoth question entirely), out injured.

This is definitely Ramsey’s most preferred position. But one of the best qualities is his versatility. This season he has played on the left wing, the right wing, as an attacking midfielder, as a defensive midfielder for the injured Arteta (I think playing well here kicked in his excellent form), and even as a full back! He is a very useful player for Wenger to have at his disposal.

Lastly and most importantly, Aaron Ramsey is one of the hardest workers in the Premier League. I am astounded by his running, his Arsenal spirit (beaten only by Jack and Carl and Szszeney) and his determination.

If he is simply a quality squad player who loves to play, can do a job all around the ground and gives everything each time he pulls on the jumper, he is worth his wages. But the great thing about Ramsey is this is his minimum. He is young; there is the potential, with a lot of improvement and hard work, for him to become an exceptional player and a starter. If not, we’ll still have a hard working and high quality squad member, a player every title winning team needs.

Written by Gus