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


More to come from Theo Walcott …….

May 17, 2013

I am a straight talking person and I don’t beat around the bush, so let me get this one out of the way – I love Theo Walcott and I think that he is Arsenal’s player of the year. I expect many readers will be leaving this page now – good bye!

This has been a long and nerve wrecking season. Seldom did we go to games confident that the team would perform and that we would bag 3 fat points. And what was worse was the fact that we lost several games we were sure we’d win.

The first part of the season was a real rollercoaster and we needed to dig deep to rescue the season and at least finish in the top four. Many ardent supporters doubted that we could climb back from the mid table, and the real doomers predicted relegation battle for the Club; they went as far as to suggest that both Wenger and Walcott should leave the Arsenal.

Yes, Arsene Wenger and Theo Walcott are the two top names that have divided opinions amongst us for more than one season now.

Theo in the rain

Theo entered the season with knowledge that not only has he lost his captain and mentor, but that he is expected to fill the gap left by the departure of the Judas. His contract negotiations were underway; the process with all its conundrums can put strain on even much more mature professional. As all of the above wasn’t enough, Theo had to learn to play alongside 3 new key teammates. This season must have been the turning point in Theo’s footballing career.

So how did he perform given the extreme circumstances weighing on his young shoulders? He was Arsenal’s top goal scorer and had the highest number of assists (17). He signed a new contract pledging his immediate future to the Club, which given the number of high profile Arsenal players leaving for pastures new is in itself a welcome event at the Emirates. He worked hard and succeeded in forming good working partnership with Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud. And above all he showed great character strength by being completely unfased by all the shenanigans going on around him.

His speed is legendary, he can run faster than any other EPL player. Yes, it can be frustrating when his spectacular runs amount to nothing much, but in the past months we saw his technique and accuracy greatly improving and his individual and team performances growing from strength to strength. He led the way against Wigan, has scored the fastest league goal this season and had a memorable hat trick against our next opponents.

But that’s not all – he is a young gentleman with both professional and personal integrity, well spoken, polite, immaculately groomed, a shining example to all young footballers. What is there not to like about Walcott? Not much from where I am standing! And I firmly believe that he is not a finished product yet. Wenger has a knack of turning wingers/midfielders into strikers, and it would not surprise me if Theo became an outright striker soon.

theo strong

Which is your favourite Theo moment? The winner at QPR, or the opener against Manchester United or perhaps the way he led the way against Wigan on Tuesday?

Written by evonne


Third, Fourth or Fifth Will Not Affect Arsenal Spending Plans

May 16, 2013

Arsenal will spend significantly this summer to reinforce the first team squad regardless of where we finish in the league.

This statement is not based on having spoken to a bloke who did the plumbing at Vic Akers’s second cousin’s house.

Nor is it directly attributable to anyone in a position of authority at the club (Stan is famously silent, Ivan only talks babble and Peter Hill Wood has not seen his mate from the Daily Star for some time).

It is a statement of what used to be called “the bloody obvious.”

Just think about it for a second.

After years of austerity prompted by the stadium move, the cash is finally starting to roll in from multiple sources.

The Club has announced a string of big sponsorship deals, culminating in the kit deal with Puma which will bring in £30 million a year and which, according to some sources, includes a large up-front payment.

The new TV rights settlement for the Premier League comes into force next season bringing oodles of cash for all the clubs. A commentator in the (North American) coverage of our Wigan game this week observed that, next year, the club that finishes BOTTOM in the Premier League will be paid as much as Manchester City were paid last year for finishing TOP.

Meanwhile Arsenal’s competitive environment is also undergoing tectonic change between now and the start of next season.

All three of our main competitors for the league title will embark on the 2013/14 season with new managers – and all the upheaval in personnel and playing styles that that brings with it.

Mourinho will almost certainly resume the helm at Chelsea and will be welcomed as a returning messiah by the fans. But fans have short memories. The scars between Mourinho and Abramovich have not healed, they have just had some cosmetic touching-up and if things don’t go quickly to plan for Chelsea, they could reopen even wider than before.

Manchester City, meanwhile, will probably have Pellegrini in charge. I love his sparkly water, but he has never managed in the English Premier League and there is sure to be a period of adjustment. On paper their players should walk any league in the world, but this season has shown that – as military commanders have known throughout history – mercenaries can’t always be relied on when the fighting gets dirty. Even with the riches at their disposal, it’s far from certain that City will slot straight back into title-challenging form.

And, most significantly of all, Surralex Ferguson has stepped down at Manchester United, replaced by David Moyes. He may have been a misanthropic, cranky, malevolent, spiteful, chip-shouldering, sputum-spewing bully with a bloated winesack for a face, but he knew how to win football matches. Moyes may turn out to be the right man for United’s future, but it feels like a hell of big gamble to me.

The upshot of this managerial merry-go-round is that no team should be better placed that Arsenal in terms of stability when the new season begins.

Finally, for the first summer in a long time we will not spend the close season in protracted agonies about whether one or more of our best players will listen to the call of filthy lucre (or filthy DNA) from places distant.

There really is a “perfect storm” of reasons why next season should be a good – even, possibly – a great one for Arsenal.

And if we are all aware of these facts, clearly Arsene Wenger and the people who run our club are too.

With the recent crop of commercial partnership announcements, the much-criticised Gazidis (Ivan the Not Terriby Good?) is beginning to show why we hired him. He and the Board of Directors will be fully aware that this is the summer to make a big statement and that next season we should be having a real tilt at the title.

I have never been more confident that we will be bringing in at least one huge name (be it Higuain, Rooney, Jovetic, Fabregas, Eboue or whoever) and that several other astute buys will also be made.

And it makes no sense to think that the club’s strategy will be any different if we finish outside the Champions League places. If anything, finishing fifth would be an encouragement to spend even more than if we finished third or fourth.

Yes, there may be some players who will not join a club that’s not in the Champions League, but there are plenty of superstars who would be only too happy to join Arsene’s Arsenal regardless.

Our form since late January has been that of a title-challenging team. The core players responsible for that run – the likes of Cazorla, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Ramsey, Walcott and Podolski – will all be in harness at the start of next season.

We have continuity, confidence and money.

As someone once said: The Ghosts of the Thirties are Stirring.

RockyLives


Cazorla Conducts : Arsenal 4 Wigan 1

May 15, 2013

Last night was the next in a long line of must win matches, must win if staying ahead of that lot down the road is important, which it is.

This will be a slightly more sketchy report than I usually do because:

a) I was there so did not have benefit of copious replays
b) I’d met other AAers in the Tavern prematch.

Everywhere you looked every conversation you caught was tense and nervy, the Dean effect was discussed, the ability to throw away good work with a defensive lapse, the lack of a much needed finisher.

Come full time we were happy Gunners wondering why we were so worried.

The early goal a poachers header by Podolski from Cazorla’s corner took some fingernails away from teeth, the ball had gone over Mertesacker’s head and Wigan defenders failed to clear the danger, the story of their season.

poldi and per wigan

Unfortunately the team then found the handbrake as they have done so often during this run in and seemed to decide one was enough.

This affected the crowd, tension grew as we sat deeper allowing Wigan to play their patterns, I really like the way Wigan play forward, they always seemed to have an extra man even when we were well set defensively, we got pulled about left and right. But with a bit more quality when we were in possession we should have been able to punish them on the counter, however we didn’t appear to want to leave our half.

Everyone put in a shift, then Dean started to try and influence the game, allowing some robust challenges on red and white shirts to go unpunished, one particularly memorable one was on Santi which led to a Wigan attack while Dean surprisingly to everyone but the conspiracy theorists waved play on.

Not so long after Dean awarded what appeared to be a very soft free kick on the edge of our area. Maloney stepped up and looped it over our wall into the corner of the net, it was a well taken free kick, but Pod could have been a little braver in the wall.

The boos at half time were reserved for Mike Dean as he left the pitch.

The second half started and we were still a little nervy but at least we were now on the attack a bit more, and trying to use the ball better in possession.

It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that we could breathe a little easier, Santi released down the right flank produced the best cross of the game, Theo had taken a good position in the centre and met the ball to finish. Theo Theo reverberated around the Emirates, but the real difference was Santi’s cross, we had put in many a poor cross from the right before that or chose the wrong options, Santi just looked up saw his target and put it on a plate.

Moments later we were on our feet again, Santi helping the ball through to Podolski who flicked it over the approaching Wigan keeper.

Ramsey then rounded off a very productive 10 minutes and another high energy display from himself with a much deserved goal, you could see the relief in his celebration. It was a very good goal, finding himself on the left wing he was released by Santi again, he ran with purpose towards the area, and without many options he decided he would have one for himself, cutting onto his right foot and finishing high into the net.

ramsey v wigan

“Are you watching Tottenham?” Asked the Emirates faithful, I’m pretty sure they were, and the thought of them crying in their beer was very heartwarming.

The only worrying development towards the end of the game was Arteta limping off with a calf pull, which leaves us a selection dilemma come Sunday, Podolski’s goals also give Arsene another decision to make with Giroud available for the final game.

At the final whistle celebration in the home end quickly turned to respect for Wigan players, manager and fans, with most around us applauding Wigan players as they came over to commiserate with their fans. The Premier League will be a less entertaining place without them.

The team then went on its traditional lap of appreciation, BFG walking closest to the fans, fist pumping his way round, the crowd sang to the players, after this troubled season it was as if some of the wounds have healed, we can see they care, they know we care, and in unity we can only grow stronger.

Player ratings

Szczesny 7 could have done better with goal

Sagna 7 solid at back, crossing poor

Koscielny 7.5 solid

BFG 7.5 solid

Gibbs 6.5 not his attacking self in the run in

Arteta 7.5 keeps us ticking

Ramsey 8 Another high energy display wrapped up with a goal

Rosicky 7.5 took up good positions, moved the ball on

Cazorla 9 Genius

Theo 8 worked hard tonight, good finish

Podolski 8 two good goals

Written by Gooner in Exile


Deep Breaths. Wigan Pre-Match

May 14, 2013

We all know what is at stake and tonight, we, and I mean those fans who are lucky enough to attend, have to push our lads to 3 points.

As a child I had an idea that if all the fans on the North Bank simultaneously sucked in air at a corner kick then the ball was sure to go into the net. It just had to be delivered into the right area and the ensuing suction would ensure another goal for my heroes. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t recommended in the programme!

In later life I found that in times of stress and challenge a few deep breaths helped considerably, and I have a feeling many will be needed tonight because this is going to be a nervous 90+ minutes.

Let us begin by congratulating Wigan on a wonderful achievement on Saturday. To overcome the Northern Oilers with a team that cost less in total than any single player of the opposition was superb (and almost true!).

images

Brilliant. 

How the win will affect Wigan is anyone’s guess; they could be exhausted by the emotional strain or be running on adrenalin.

What excites me about tonight is that a draw is useless to both teams – like us, Wigan’s future is in their own hands, win two games and they stay up, and as such it should be an all-out attacking game.  This should (?) play into Arsenal’s hands as we are unquestionably the better attacking team, even without Giroud. In fact, we have better players in every single position – in my opinion, there isn’t one Wigan player who would be first choice at Arsenal.

As always, look elsewhere for tactics and statistics. Those that interest me are that Arsenal have won 9 out of 10 games at home to Wigan and Wigan have only lost once in May over 2 seasons. If Podolski is subbed tonight he will set a new AFC record of being subbed in the PL – 22 times!

Much has been made of the referee tonight, our record with the Dean is played 15 won one! This season Dean has been in control of our defeats to both Bradford and Blackburn and was referee at Wembley when we lost to Birmingham. Corruption? Bias? Who knows but whatever the reason it makes no difference tonight, we jut have to win despite Mr Dean. I said a few weeks ago that our season could depend upon luck and decent refereeing – I wish Mr Dean a successful and enjoyable evening.

Will we start with the same players who “thrilled” us in the opening 20 seconds at Loftus Rd and then bored us for the next 90 minutes, or will Mr Wenger make some changes? There is little alternative but to continue with Podolski at CF, though The Swerve may get a game in which we have to score.

Just for once and for Big Al here is the team I would like to see start but won’t:

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Ramsey has been outstanding recently but adds no goal threat whatsoever, Rosicky has flattered but not been consistent and we need goals.  Gervinho, despite being infuriating can score, and tonight we have to not only be secure at the back but also clinical in front of goal (clinical and Gervinho in the same sentence!!).

I want to see Wilshire. He may not have played well in his last couple of games but he remains our best player (IMO). He has the power and the vision to be the fulcrum of Arsenal’s future and we need him in big games. Yes, Ramsey does a better job defensively but good as he is Ramsey just hasn’t got JW’s vision.

Just read that JW will start from the bench thanks to the need for a summer operation on his injured ankle .

Defensively we are much improved  with BFG and Koscielny  developing a partnership which bodes well for the future – always assuming Koscielny doesn’t leave in summer. I prefer Gibbs to Monreal because Wigan’s main threat comes from Macnanaman  and we must hope that whoever gets the shirt does better than Clichy did at Wembley.

Would you prefer an all-out attacking display for our final home game of the season or a classic 1-0 to The Arsenal? I would take either, but prefer the former.

Today’s English explorer: Just a couple left before season’s end and we have just scratched the surface of England’s brave chaps, yet the traditions of Captains Scott and Cook live on, so today we are going to look at a remarkable young man who was born after Charlie scored “that” goal at Wembley;  Tom Avery (1975- )

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Still time to grow the “full set” and get Knighted

Born in London, Tom was given (as I was) the wonderful book of Captain Robert Scott’s attempt at the South Pole, it fired his interest in exploring. At Uni he led climbing expeditions to the Andes, New Zealand and the Alps. By the age of 20, he had scaled 9 unclimbed mountains up to 20,000 ft, yet his heart was set upon traveling to the Poles. In 2002 Avery became the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole and broke the South Pole speed record in the process.

Inspired by Peary’s North Pole expedition he set off to replicate the American’s journey, attempting to ascertain whether Peary did in fact make the Pole. Using the same equipment and sleds as Peary, Avery reached the Pole in just 36 days, thus becoming just the 41st and youngest person to travel to both Poles. His next project is to sail solo around the world.

The Premiership table shows that we are 5th, Wigan are 18th and over 30 points behind. Arsenal are at home, we have the best record in the PL over the last 8 games, we are on a great run – our last 12 games are W9 D2 L1 –  PL winning form.

And yet  …..  Why am I so worried about tonight???

Given where we were at Xmas the team have done brilliantly to get so close to CL qualification. Let’s continue the work tonight

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Time to Let Go of Sagna?

May 13, 2013

You have had your faithful friend for a long time. It has never let you down and chased balls and wagged it’s tail every time the opportunity arose but now things are not so rosy. Your beloved pet is showing his age and you have to make a difficult decision …. is it time to “let go”?

Bacary Sagna has had a brilliant career at Arsenal; he has twice been in the PFA Team of the Season, he has played over 200 games for Arsenal and over 30 times for France. This despite losing almost two seasons playing time with injury. He has been the first choice RB ever since he arrived for  €9m from Auxerre in 2007.

But, this season he has shown weaknesses which point to a waning of his  powers, add in to this the emergence of Jenkinson and one can easily question whether Bacary should be first choice – perhaps even sold.

I have to admit to having “man-love” for the beaded Frenchman, I think he is a top bloke. Determined, enthusiastic, energetic, handsome, versatile  and with a good eye for a lady (see below) – I could go on. However, this affection does not preclude my belief that his time is coming to an end.

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Mr Wenger has consistently chosen Sagna over Jenkinson despite the need for the Corporal to get more pitch time. I happen to believe that Arsene Knows Best (or at least more than I ever will), so why is BS first choice? Jenks is a better crosser, faster, younger and definitely our future RB. Could it be that Mr Wenger has man-love for Bacary as well?

Sagna cost us 2 points at home to Surrey United. A poor pass followed by a rush of blood to the head allowed some bloke to score a penalty. Is this evidence of BS’s failings? Not in my opinion – any player can make a mistake and Bacary makes less than most. No, my concern is that his best game by far this season was at CB against Sunderland in a MoM performance. This shows me that he is more comfortable playing in a position where pace and non-stop movement is not so important.

The fact he played so well at CB indicates that BS could be a very good squad member, he has played LB and CB over the seasons and coped admirably, but would we be better off sticking to players who specialise in their relative positions and buying a new back-up RB? Or would it be too much of a risk to rely on Jenkinson as our first choice without BS as back-up?

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My Favourite Bacary Moment

There are rumours in the press about Arsenal looking at the Dortmund’s Piszczek to replace our “hunk”. Should we buy another right back and say a fond farewell to a fine player? What do you think?

Big Raddy


Are Trophies Everything?

May 12, 2013

Watching very happy Wigan fans enjoying their team cavorting with the FA Cup was a delightful sight, but as the actors always say “it should have been me”

Why wasn’t it us? We should have beaten Blackburn and then enjoyed a relatively smooth run to Wembley, and we would have beaten a surprisingly poor Man City . Did the Arsenal team deserve to lose that day?  Well, the fact  TR hit the bar and that we had a myriad of shots compared to Blackburn’s one would indicate that the best team lost. It happens – just like it did yesterday.

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What is wrong with this picture? … It should be Arteta and the Boys

I love the FA Cup and yesterday was no exception; the Wigan story had to be written as did Wimbledon’s freak win over Liverpool and Stoke’s over Leeds (back in the days of black and white). Or that horrible day when that ugly, whingeing Hammer, Trevor Brooking scored the only headed goal of his career.

I have been spoiled. I have seen The Arsenal win the FA Cup on many occasions – and yes, I know how long ago the last one was – all were brilliant days out. Even when we won having been totally outplayed and PV4’s last kick of his Arsenal career sent me home deliriously happy.

The reverse is true – losing a Cup Final scars one for life. I can remember the pain of them all. The Man City fans will have that loss in their memories for a long time to come – whether they go on to win trophies by the dozen they will still be haunted by being beaten by a massive underdog. We know!

But – Are trophies everything? My immediate response is a definite NO. I immediately think of Kipling and the two impostors of Triumph and Defeat. Unfortunately, on an emotional basis I veer towards a positive response – maybe it is true – Trophies are what it is all about. Second is nothing, second is losing, come second and you have wasted both time and energy. Second is Nowhere.

Or is it? According to Kipling and many others, the taking part is all important not the victory; the journey not the arrival.

Be honest though, weren’t you just a bit jealous of those joyful Wigan fans? I was. And the truth is I am desperate for us to win a Trophy and not the bloody Emirates Cup.

Written by Big Raddy