Staying Sane Through The Transfer Window

May 24, 2013

According to popular opinion this summer is going to be different we are told we have money to spend, we are told we don’t need to sell.

There is increasing clamour for expensive signings from the fans, the press are doing their best in fuelling the expectation further maybe with the clubs PR doing the briefing, who knows.

But let us learn some lessons from previous windows and reserve judgement until it closes before we declare it success or failure:

1) ignore all talk of “done deals” until the player is announced on the club website

2) if the quote used by the press is not attributed to anyone then ignore

3) similarly if there isn’t even a quote and the article implies a source or uses the words xxxxx understands that…. ignore

4) there has been much talk from football pundits that we need 3 players, some even 4…..these pundits have previously said we wouldn’t finish in top 4, that Spuds have the greatest side ever, and that Arteta was a spent force before he arrived and the BFG was the worst PL defender ever. Basically if we are listening to pundits to make football judgements we are listening to imbeciles (unless its Gary Neville)

5) We took 24 from 30 in our last 10 games, in fact we were second to ManUre in points haul in the last 20 games, how far away are we in reality?

So remember the above and relax through the summer transfer window, it’s a done deal when it’s a done deal, we are interested when the player is at the ground having a medical.

All other news is not news, enjoy the window….we get what we get.

Gooner in Exile


Raddy’s Review of the Season.

May 23, 2013

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has had a go, so why can’t Big Raddy?

However, this post is not just about the pitch and boardroom – No, this review will go elsewhere… For example, what did we think about the team kit this season? I thought the home kit was excellent but was disappointed by our away colours. The team played well in both, so I guess it doesn’t matter to them. With the arrival of a Puma kit we can look forward to something radical – Borussia Dortmund play in Puma and they are doing OK.

And what of Mr.Wenger’s touchline attire? The man is looking a bit scrawny and must be a tailor’s nightmare. Do you think he buys off the peg at M & S or has them made by some bloke in Islington? Then there was the disaster with the “sleeping bag”; the merchandising chaps must have given a royal rollicking to the sweatshops in Vietnam questioning the quality of the zips. Given the harsh and long winter there was ample opportunity to improve the quality of the garment or give Mr. Wenger some instruction as to the use of a zip.

I have to admit to being disappointed by Steve Bould’s lack of sartorial elegance. Nothing in the Big Man’s wardrobe apart from freebies from the Arsenal shop, and he wore long tracksuit bottoms in winter despite spending 20+ seasons watching Pat Rice. Shabby work, Steve – better expected next season.

Did the substitutes bench look interested in events on the pitch? Were they Song-like in their total disinterest (or should it be Adebayor-esque) or kicking every ball like Jenks? I enjoyed seeing Arshavin looking like an extra from The Hobbit.

images

The subs were brilliant at the final whistle at St .James. Proof that a real team spirit exists amongst our squad.

A disappointing season as regards ball-boys. No-one got a kicking, no-one handed out towels. Poor work. Nor were the mascots memorable – OK, we had a couple who had spent too long at the pie-shop but generally they were dull. I wonder if any of them will play for the mighty Gunners like Yennaris has.

And what of the team’s tatt’s? Coming from an older generation I am not a fan of the tattoo but accept that in order to be en vogue, a tattoo is a necessary evil. And what of ours? No-one can get near the Beckham or Agger though almost every player has some. I notice that Theo has extended his down one arm, as has JW, and Giroud has taken the needle of late (though he arrived with some). Do you think that there are cliques within the club that are tattoo related?

Hair: No-one can touch Arteta.- not even GoonerMichael can explain his immaculate locks; I have not seen the like since Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds.

images-1

Mikels’s Dad?

Sagna’s beads have become passé and sadly it appears we have returned to the days of short back and sides. No dreadlocks, no silly shaven bits, no Song-like dyes – another poor showing from the lads.

We did much better on the message on the underwear front. Young Bendtner let us down at the World Cup with his green pants but he paid a heavy price for his stupidity (a years holiday in Italy). Since then we haven’t resorted to any silliness that I can recall; no “I belong to Jesus”, no “Happy Birthday, Mum” …. nothing.  I like the new found discipline. Ever since IW8 ruined his record breaking goal tally celebration by taking his shirt off a goal early, the whole vest message has upset me. What is it apart from another display of massive ego?

The only  acceptable message was Robbie Fowler’s support of the dockers.

Goal celebrations: Another good year. A few silly golf swings and a couple of thumb sucks apart our celebrations were quality. Almost always all the players celebrated together and in some style. I always like the knee slide to the corner flag and the around the back of the goal towards the fans, Theo was particularly good in this regard. Note to Gervinho – copy OG.

Part One ends on a high note. I was very impressed with the speed at which the medical staff reached an injured player.  Those sprint training routines under the watchful eye of Linford Christie are paying off. Well done.

Written by Big Raddy


Your Chance To Vote On The Best Arsenal Players Of The Season

May 22, 2013

It’s that time of year when everyone reflects on the somewhat tumultuous journey we’ve been on this past season. Today we give you all the opportunity to vote for those players you believe were the most influential in the campaign.

I have added a supplementary poll at the end to stimulate discussion for the day.

In order to avoid any subliminal bias on my part creeping into your choice, I have listed the players in alphabetical order according to their surname.

This last poll is about your choice of what type of player we should buy if we could only bring in one new top quality player in the summer transfer window……..

Just added this last one for a bit of controversy …

Apologies if you think I’ve left any player out, Coquelin is undoubtedly a talent but he hasn’t really played enough to be in consideration.

You can view the on-going results by clicking the box at the bottom of each poll, we shall publish the final results.

I hope you’ve had fun, please carry the debate on your choices through into the day’s comments.

Rasp


The Prayer of St Totteringham

May 21, 2013

First, please kneel, place your hands together and join me in reciting the Prayer of St Totteringham:

“Our Neighbours, who art in shadow

Fallow be thy game.

Thy fandom – scum;

Thy players – plums

(In truth, none would make our eleven).

Give us this day our Champions League,

And forgive us for taking the p*ss

As we laugh at those who finish behind us,

And lead us not into N17,

But deliver us from Levy

For Arsenal’s is the kingdom,

The power, and the gap,

For ever and ever,

Arsène.”

I thank you.

And now for the sermon. Or rather, a confession:

This time last year, after a nail-biting conclusion to the Premier League season, I was confident that we would never have to go through such agonies again for a very long time.

We had had our worst start to a season for 50 years (as the media enjoyed telling us). We had been 10 points behind the jealous neighbours in January (“mind the gap”) and for a long time the prospect of making the top four seemed very distant.

But a great run got us back into contention and, even though we faltered with the finishing tape in sight, we crawled over the line just ahead of the enemy thanks to a 3-2 win away at West Brom, whose ‘keeper (Martin Fulop) was like a 12th man for us.

I really thought that qualifying for the Champions League last May was going to be a watershed. We would strengthen in the summer and make a serious title bid in the 2012/13 season. There would be no more last-day anxiety about trying to clinch fourth. I said as much here on Arsenal Arsenal.

Well, we all know by now that I was wrong. Our summer was scuppered by Brave Sir Robin, who had apparently been listening to a little boy he keeps locked up somewhere.

What should have been a summer of building steadily on strong foundations became another case of major transition and losing our most important player. Van Persie was followed out by Song (plus our excellent loanee Yossi Benayoun); and another bunch of new players came in – many at the last minute.

With hindsight – and from the comfortable position of having qualified for the CL yet again (albeit, again, by the skin of our teeth) – it was obvious that it would take time for us to find our groove this season.

When eventually we did, we became very, very effective (although perhaps not as pretty as we had been previously).

So now I will repeat the claim I made 12 months ago – and this time I am sure I will be right:

A year from now we will not end up scrapping for fourth: we will be battling for the league title. The Tiny Totts – if they can exceed expectations again with their one-man team – will be the ones trying to scrape into the CL positions again, but they will not be our concern. St Totteringham’s Day 2014 will fall much earlier than it has in recent years.

There are two reasons why I feel my prediction has more merit this time round: firstly, we will have stability on the playing side: none of our “star” players will be leaving the club; there will be no summer-long “will-he-won’t-he” soap opera  like we had with Van Judas, Na$ri and Fabregas.

Secondly, the new revenue streams coming on tap really do give us the power to move strongly in the transfer market this summer. I thought that would be the case last year, but I can see now that the finances were still not in place for a real “statement” buy.

As it happens we did good business anyway, with Podolski, Giroud and, especially, Santi Cazorla all having contributed significantly to our season.

But the announcement of the Puma kit deal, plus massively increased TV revenue and a range of other commercial deals have now all fallen into place and the good times are set to roll.

Actually, there is a third area of optimism: it relates to our “mental strength.” Usually when Arsene Wenger talks about mental strength you get the feeling that he is trying to convince the players that they have it, when in fact they don’t. Or at least not enough of it.

This was apparent even last year when, despite our great run to haul back Totteringham, our collective bottle went a bit at the end and we won only one of our final five games and were arguably a bit lucky to get the final win at West Brom.

That type of run-in had, sadly, become a bit of an Arsenal trait and we were in danger of patenting the late-season collapse.

In 2011/12 our final nine games were: W2, D5, L2 – giving us only 11 points out of 27.

And the year before we were W1, D1, L3 in our final five, for four points out of 15.

So I am greatly encouraged that the current crop of players were able to keep their form going during this year’s run-in, remaining unbeaten and winning most of the games despite the high pressure nature of the contest. It reflects what I believe is a new, tougher mentality among the group of players we now have.

When the going got tough, so did they.

As I mentioned in a comment recently, the Spuds – to the great surprise of most people – did not choke this year: they, too, kept getting mostly decent results right up to the final day.

But as it turned out, we didn’t need them to choke: we were strong enough to throttle the life out of them with our own bare hands.

Expect some exciting news this summer.

And expect a proper title challenge next season.

RockyLives


St Totteringham’s Day – Report & Player Ratings

May 20, 2013

That was a very, very nervous experience made all the more intense by the fact that we were expected to win. Some how being the underdog in crucial games makes it just that little more bearable when a loss is inevitably considered before and during the game. But win we did and by doing so we secured the chance to play Champions League football next season which I believe makes it sixteen seasons on the trot, no mean feat when you consider just how desperate and disappointed those around us were at missing out again.

Does that introduction work? Nah, it was nail biting hell, ninety four minutes of torture before the release of the final whistle and the opportunity to laugh at the pained faces of those left wondering “if only” at White Hart Lane. That’s better, that’s more like the introduction that this game deserves.

kozzer scores 2 v toons

It was in fact a very professional win, every player followed the game plan, nobody panicked, all of which lead to our just desserts safely being locked away at the home of football.

As I sit hear in the afterglow, looking back at the season I think it has to be said that the single most important decision made was that to drop Vermaelen. This is not meant as a poke at the Belgian, I am convinced he remains a very popular player amongst Arsenal supporters; it’s just that everything points to him being put on the bench as the spark that galvanised the defence.

Do any of you remember the debate that divided us over which centre back paring would be the most successful? Half the people said Vermaelen and Mertesacker and the other half said Vermalen and Koscielny, I was one of those arguing that the later combination would be more mobile. But I think it is fair to say no one argued for Mertesacker and Koscielny.

kozzer celebrates v newcastle

Well there you go, those two flanked by Gibbs, Nacho and Sagna have proved to be a very solid defensive unit indeed.

Did you notice how much more controlled Sagna was in his attacking play today, no wild crosses and solid as ever in his defensive duties.

I can’t finish the defence without giving Koscielny special attention; he was the standout player of the day and the Man of the Match by some distance. Koz, you have no idea how much happier you have made all of our summers; for you, your performance and your goal we salute you.

The midfield worked well together. Ramsey was immense and will rightly pick up the AA award for the most improved player. He started the season coming on as a sub on the right wing and did very well; he then got his chance to start in the middle and was poor, poor to the point of serious abuse. From there he disappeared back to the bench, reappearing after the spud loss to progress to being undroppable which is where he is today.

Sadly for our Spanish Captain couldn’t lead us to the end of the game but the Ox came on and added fire to the midfield belly. Have you noticed how well he and Walcott work together? Theo is the senior player and is able to tell the Ox exactly what he wants to happen, the upshot is that Theo plays with a greater confidence.

If I have one minor moan it would be that Rosicky was a bit sloppy by his usual high standards. Many will not like me saying this but I think we were a bit fortunate that Wilshere got injured when he did because if we had carried on playing the same way we did against spuds I believe we would not be in this happy position today. Rosicky is an attacking midfielder who interacts well with the most talented player we have at the club and Wilshere is nowhere near that yet.

And on the subject of the most talented player at the club I am sure we are all agreed that the AA award for best player of the season goes to Cazorla, he ran his socks off again and boy what a great buy he turned out to be.

Podolski, not being so brilliant in the air, forces Sagna and Gibbs to send the ball into the box along the ground rather than hoofing it high which is one of my pet hates; his tally of assists this season is very impressive. As to whether he is the answer to our number nine issues I neither know nor care today, I am just pleased with our not quite so BFG.

It was a good day to be an Arsenal supporter, we need to push on from here with some quality summer signings but I will leave you with my favourite image of the day. Remember the end of the game when the Sky cameras went over to White  Hart Lane? Well think of despair of their faces and chuckle.

Have a great day.

Written by LB

Following on from LB’s excellent report Rocky would like to offer these player ratings:

Szczesny: little to do but exuded confidence. 7

Sagna: very solid performance. He still seems a fraction slower than before his leg breaks but he defended well against Newcastle. 7

Gibbs: got pulled out of position a bit in the first 20, but played very well thereafter. 7.5

Mertesacker: typically good showing from the BFG. He is one of the best CB’s in the EPL. 8

Koscielny: a perfect performance at the back, augmented by as coring the all-important winning goal. 9 (MOTM)

Arteta: it was clearly a risk starting him, but he played with his usual efficiency before having to retire with injury early doors. 7

Rosicky: not everything came off for TR7 but he was involved in some of our best moves and his work rate was incredible. 7.5

Ramsey: phenomenal effort as we’ve come to expect. Some of his best work is unspectacular and, therefore, is missed by many. An invaluable player on the day. 8

Cazorla: drifted out at times but was a persistent threat to Newcastle and fought very hard for the cause. 8

Walcott: plenty of effort and skill from Theo, who was double- or triple-teamed throughout. It was a relief that his late effort that hit the post after great solo play did not turn out costly. 8

Podolski: Lukas was up for this one and fought hard in both attack and defence. Got a head on the ball to set up Koscielny’s winner. 7.5

Subs

Oxlade- Chamberlain: it was a surprise when Oxo slotted in to the holding midfield role vacated boyar teat, but hE did well. 7.5

Giroud: his hold-up play was good and his presence helped see us through to kids debating. 7

Wilshere: not time enough to do anything special. 7

 


I Say a Little Prayer …

May 19, 2013

This time last year BR was up a mountain in Italy getting SMS’s from Peaches. It was in the middle of a huge thunderstorm when I received her final celebratory text. Today I will be watching from a joyous and hung-over Denmark.

I have stated often my belief that luck and referees will decide our fate – whether it be a dodgy penalty given to Spurs or a vicious deflected goal for Sunderland (I cannot put a bok on our team).  It is in this regard that I have been pondering these last few days …. How is it that the normally clueless miscreants have been consistently picking up points instead of  falling apart as per normal? Well, BR has reached his conclusion ……. I blame the new Pope.

It is well known to the right-minded supporters of all football teams that in previous times The ***** Tottenham Hotspur went to Rome to see the Pope – and this is what he said etc etc.  One can only conclude that this new fellow (Francis) hasn’t read the Vatican Rulebook (sorry if that is blasphemous 😀 ). May I recommend to the Arsenal Secretary that he  get an email off to St. Peter’s, sharpish.

Unknown

If we had to choose a final game for this season’s fate to be decided it would not be away and it would not be at St James Park ….or would it? Our away record is almost as good as our home and Newcastle have only drawn once at St James – W9 L8.

We have had a week to prepare for this afternoon, there is nothing we haven’t discussed. We know the permutations, the choices available to Mr. Wenger etc etc so there is no need to repeat them here. We can share our nervous tension on the blog.

Tim Krul is out and Newcastle will give a final game to Steve Harper – let us wish him “a Fulop”. With Taylor, M’bia and Tiote in the side we can expect a midfield battle and I hope we don’t get sucked into a physical battle with cards aplenty.

Much depends upon the fitness of Arteta, he is so important to the tempo of our play and we do not know how the team will function should JW replace him.

My Team:

001a

I am looking to The Little Mozart for a goal today. A hard working display with no players hiding during what will be a nervous game. 100% endeavour is all we can ask – after that it is the hands of the Gods

Today’s British Explorer. There just hasn’t been enough games for me to do justice to the hundreds of remarkable chaps who have traipsed around the globe under the Union Jack. I have just taken some random fellows to give a picture of the  amazing impact a tiny nation like England has had upon the world.

This being the last in the series (perhaps) I would like to write once more about one of England’s Superheroes, a man who helped make Great Britain Great – Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922).

images

Shackleton is in the same echelon of Britons as Churchill, Nelson and Tommy Cooper. His story belies belief and BR can only recommend you investigate further to be inspired by his remarkable life. Ernie was the Tony Adams of explorers – nothing could conquer his indomitable spirit. Lose your ship on the ice? Winter under the upturned lifeboats. Thousands of miles from safety? Take a small open boat across freezing seas seeking help. Land upon an island with no-one around? Cross a mountain range never attempted before. Worried about your men left behind on the ice? Go back and save them.

Shackleton died on his way back to Antarctica from a heart attack, he is buried on South Georgia, there followed a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral which was attended by the entire Royal Family.

Today I will be burning incense and floating lotus leaves at my TA6 altar and praying to the Deity of DB10. I will be avoiding ladders, looking for 4 leaf clovers, using my lucky toothbrush, wearing lucky socks, shirt, pants, eating the lucky cake and drinking the lucky beverage.

If we don’t win today don’t blame me ….. Blame it on Eboue.

We beat the odds at Anfield 24 years ago, Let’s do it again today!

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Eyes down for a full house ?

May 18, 2013

One of the oft repeated remarks you hear from people following live coverage of our games is “Oooh, aren’t there lots of spaces in the crowd?” and “Aren’t the crowds falling?” and “What bollix, no way is the attendance 60,012!” (OK, scratch the last one, they don’t announce those figures on match days anymore).

So just how much below capacity are our home matches lately?

Below are a series of pictures taken from the Clock End upper tier for the Reading game on March the 30th this year.

The first is taken at 2.54pm so more than 5 minutes before kick-off and before the late arrivals who are caught in traffic/tube chaos or swigging a late pre match soother or nursing a road beer have got to their seats.

6 minutes before kick off

6 minutes before kick off

The second is taken at 2.59pm, just before kick-off, when one would think late drinkers have arrived but Club level are still quaffing the champers and scoffing the smoked salmon:

2.59pm, just before kick off

2.59pm, just before kick off

The third is at 3.17pm when everyone who intends to attend has arrived and before those hoping to beat the queues for £7.50 slices of microwave pizza have annoyed other people on their row by getting up just as the good guys are about to sling a cross into the oppo’s penalty area. Club level to me still seems only two thirds full – perhaps a warning sign that corporate hospitality is not as steady an income stream as anticipated.

Mid way through the first half.

Mid way through the first half.

Finally the fourth picture is just before the re start at 4.00pm where it can be seen Club level are still in the quaffing/scoffing stage and the queues for the Gents still snake into the concourse areas in front of the queues for the aforementioned extortionately priced fast food.

A few minutes before the restart

A few minutes before the restart

Incidentally when the stadium announcer reads out the results of some raffle type competition during the interval once the winner was number 18, at which point yours truly thought Squillacci was a half time sub and almost had an apoplectic fit of panic.

As well as attendances another complaint is early departees, especially during weekday evening fixtures with around up to a quarter of the stadium emptying by the final whistle; however that’s a topic for another day.

At the time of writing Champions League football had not been confirmed and the spectre of Thursday night football hanging over Ashburton Grove, and the attendant consequence of this being Sunday League fixtures replacing the traditional Saturday afternoon ones.

Just how this will affect overall attendances we will hopefully not have to find out, yet the thought of it sends a shiver up and down the spine of gooners and the money men at the Arsenal alike.

Those of the doomer/realist/AWOB persuasion may subscribe to the theory that a year out of Champions League football will get rid of the plastics and return the hard-core supporters to the fore.

While this seems a tad fanciful to me I’ll leave you with the most ludicrous thing I read about in relation to just such a scenario: “If we’re 5th we can get rid of the poncey tourist support and move back to Highbury”!

Move back to Highbury – you what?

By Charybdis1966