The Departed

October 31, 2013

On Tuesday there was an almost empty stadium at the 80th minute – apart from a few diehards and 9,000 jubilant mutants. We started to discuss this yesterday and with little time to prepare a needed post, here are my thoughts …..

If this just happened at Arsenal I would be more concerned. Sadly, it happens at many London grounds.


I thought Arshavin’s comment of “The atmosphere at the Emirates were mostly weird. It felt like the crowd was there to see the theatre.” was appropriate,  but he hasn’t had to sit in the stands of a ground in which one feels divorced from the game. (it also shows how poor his English is after 5 years of living in London!)

I usually sit front row, Clock End Upper Tier. You would think this is right in the middle of both the singing and the action on the pitch, but as Andre says for most of the game it feels like the theatre – no, not theatre, because a theatre audience doesn’t spend its time talking about work and texting.

How can the club change the potential toxicity of the fans? It can’t. To me this is a social problem and nothing to do with the Arsenal. It is another facet of the Me Generation – ” I have spent all this money and travelled all this way, and used my leisure time (etc) and you (Bendtner, Ramsey, Eboue, Arsene, the team +++) are not giving Me what I want and what I spent my hard earned cash on”

“I have paid my money and therefore have the right to boo a player.” No arguing with this sentiment BUT, if and it is a big IF, you are an Arsenal supporter then it is fair to assume you want the Arsenal to do well, so how does booing help the team? What would you do in front of 60+k people who you knew were examining your every move. hoping you will fail so it confirms their narrative that you are rubbish? To say that you would ignore it is naive – you wouldn’t. You may re-double your efforts and improve for sometime but then you will make a mistake and all that good work is forgotten, after which you would do everything you could to avoid the ball.

A perfect case in point is Gervinho. Talented lad who is tearing up Serie 1 and has instantly proved what approval and love can do to a player. It is hardly rocket science, and is the reason why Mr Wenger tries to protect some players by playing them away from home – how terrible a reflection is that upon our support?

A reflection of this negativity is that blogs (ours included) get far more hits when the club are in trouble than when we are Top of the League (can I write that again …. We are Top of the League).

Tourists: To castigate fans who travel the world to come to The Home of Football is downright insulting. It isn’t them who leave early. Yes, they take pictures of the inside and outside of the ground because to them it is special – very special and attending the Emirates is one of the highlights of their lives. And they know almost all the songs – check out Youtube.


To be even-handed Mr. Wenger has stated that it is up to the players to ignite and engage the crowd and he is right but we seem to be a damp squib unless we are beating high class opposition. We played some great football in the loss to Chelsea, football that the Chavs could never achieve, brilliant close passing and link up play and the team never stopped trying to win the game – they just did it to an empty-ish stadium for the final few minutes.

A potential solution is to have random (not pre-booked) seating behind the goals, something I highly approve of. The fact I cannot sit with my AA friends when attending a game is a sadness and groups of friends are more likely to sing together. Another solution is to have trained singing leaders. It works in may foreign clubs who have one chap who starts the songs – unfortunately he is usually a fat, bald bloke covered in tattoos with his shirt off! But it would be something to try as most people who would like to sing are afraid of starting a chant for fear of looking stupid when no-one joins in (I know – I have tried it!)

If the stadium was full of singing fans enjoying themselves despite the team losing there would be less desire to leave early. I assume that once there is a flow of people leaving then it spreads like winter flu and everyone gets antsy. Rasp’s idea of not standing up to let people pass until the final whistle is a fine one but I fear he will get sorely kicked legs!

We all know the arguments as to why some people leave early, especially at night games, but if you are one of those folk, please tell me how it helps the team you say you love?

N:B: This is purely a discussion starter and as full of holes as my very expensive moth-eaten cashmere sweater (I bloody hate moths).

written by Big Raddy


Fine Margins Again

October 30, 2013

Ok, we lost 2-0. I didn’t agree with Wilkins assessment at half time that Chelsea were “far” the stronger in the first half, and I felt that Chelsea more edged the first half with the second being far more even and hard to call. Overall I think they deserved the win but only by a fine margin. It looked far more a 1-0 or 2-1 than the 2-0 end score. Their second goal was somewhat a sucker punch, once again just as we seemed to be getting into the ascendency and looking likely to come back into the game.

I didn’t watch the punditry after the end of the game so I have no idea what they said about it overall. I actually felt that we played a lot of good fluid football, but converting this into wins against better opposition is the next big step for this promising and still developing side. This was one of those games, a bit like Dortmund, where I feel there is no reason to throw the toys out of the pram, but again, like Dortmund, I feel certain lessons need to be learned.

We started with a stronger side than I envisioned we would, most notably in the midfield where certain players started that I thought would be rested for the weekend. Chelsea also started with a strong side but we knew they would, what with a multitude of multi-million pound players and experienced internationals sitting in reserve. It was a bit ridiculous for Mourinho to feign disadvantage about the timing of the game with the sheer amount of back up internationals that Chelsea are able to employ, (obviously all within their genuine financial budget). This factor obviously had some impact on the game and, although they played some youngsters themselves, I still feel we “out-rookied” them. I don’t actually, however, feel this was the key component of where the game was won and lost.

Jenkinson certainly had a moment to forget and for some reason doesn’t seem to like the bouncing ball. He even had a moment before the fatal error where he didn’t confidently deal with a bouncing ball, so the warning signs were already there. I don’t know if there is any other historical evidence out there of a weakness in defending this type of situation, but what I do know is that I have seen him, at times, play like a top level full-back. In particular I think about the away game at Munich last year, and any full-back that can nullify the attacking threats of the Munich wide-men so well, must have something about them. He has not featured much this season so is maybe, as a young player, a little out of confidence.

I was personally never worried about the end result of this game so will not castigate this young man for mistakes in this one game, but the more worrying question for me is why Arsene has so rarely used him this season. Sagna is a top class full-back, no question, but if Jenks is the future why is he not seeing more action? Is there a more concerning “reading between the lines” situation to be considered here?

One of the first things that struck me was that, in our 4-3-3 system, we were lining up with Wilshere, Ramsey and Rosicky in our midfield 3. To me this feels unbalanced as I don’t feel any of the 3 are true holding midfielders in the way that both Flamini, and arguably Arteta, are. I feel that the holding midfielder is a specific type of defensive midfielder that can be considered different to another type of defensive midfielder. For instance Makelele is different to Schweinsteiger but both could be considered defensive midfielders. I have recently championed us to play more a 4-2-3-1 system with the deeper two comprising one who is more a pure holding midfielder with the other being more a box to box midfielder alongside him. Would this be our best system currently? One to be debated I am sure.

All 3 of the players mentioned above could be considered more the box to box type players, but I personally feel Jack is our best midfielder currently for the box to box role as he has a rare blend of both attacking and defensive strengths. More importantly I feel he is one of the best in the game at bringing the ball out from deeper midfield without getting caught on the ball, even with opposition players closing down quickly.

Wilshere has the ability to move very quickly from the position he is receiving the ball in, and so evades getting caught on the ball.

Rosicky is a close second in this role but is probably more suited to playing slightly higher, while Ramsey currently seems best in the more attacking areas of the midfield, and for me often doesn’t change position as quickly when receiving the ball as Jack does, so is more likely to get caught on the ball in a deeper position where the current trend is for the opposition to press quickly.

In this game I felt it fell on Jack to be our deepest (or holding) midfielder, and he was caught somewhat in a mish mash of roles, where his natural instinct to play some defensive duties but to bring the ball forward as well was slightly curbed by not having a more pure “holding” defensive midfielder alongside him. When he did try and move forwards with the ball it seemed to leave gaps in our deeper midfield area. Conversely Chelsea played Mikel and Essien, who for me represent the defensive holding midfielder, and box to box defensive midfielder respectively. Individually I feel they are both technically inferior to our midfielders, but maybe brought a better balance to their side in midfield. Would we have been better served having a purer holding midfielder in place of one of Rosicky or Ramsey, even if it was a player from the youth ranks?

The second thing that I noticed was that when we had the ball our passing and movement was quick and slick but we rarely stretched the play. I felt most of our play was too central, which allowed them to pack the central areas, and we didn’t use the width enough to create more space between their players. A Mourinho Chelsea will always be defensively disciplined so if you become too predictable they will normally just absorb it. It felt more like we were getting back to the tippy-tappy, threading it through the eye of a needle, type of play again, and in contrast I felt they always used the spaces out wide better than us. This always seemed to make us look more stretched and under pressure when they attacked us than when we attacked them.

I felt, once again, this was slightly similar to the Dortmund game, and I hope it is not developing into a consistent underlying tactical problem, that may not be so noticeable against more inferior opposition, but against better opposition makes the subtle difference to the end result. If it is a genuine tactical problem then it needs to be identified quickly before the next 3 games, as they don’t involve inferior opposition.

In conclusion all in all I am not overly disappointed. We played some good football and have a great squad with some key players still to return from injury. I still feel we are a developing side that is yet to completely find the right balance in our line-up, and the fact we are top of the EPL without, in my opinion, firing on all cylinders yet is a good omen. With our forthcoming fixtures in mind, however, we do need to get these subtle balances corrected and fine tuned now. Those areas that see you either win 2-1 or lose 2-1 against better teams need to be addressed imminently.

As for the player ratings I will let all you fine AA’ers debate that. I was not able to watch the game as intently as I would have liked for the 90 minutes to allow me to be able to individually rate the players accurately. My general thoughts were that Monreal and Santi played well, and Rosicky and Ramsey were both solid. If I were to go for a MOTM for Arsenal it would have been Wilshere who I thought always tried to make things happen for us and, despite being dispossessed on a couple of occasions, was the key player in much of our forward play, drive and tempo.

Written by GoonerB

Make this a Night to Remember

October 29, 2013

Assuming the storms abate we are in for an interesting evening with our young heroes against the expensive Chav flops. Let’s take a closer look …..

Chelsea: The Arrogant One is already moaning about his side having to play Sun/Tues, poor, fragile little sweethearts. Imagine, all those cossetted millionaires having the possibility of playing 180 minutes in 3 days, oh, the ignominy and stress. Moaninho may have to play his reserve team – you know the one – the blokes who cost tens of millions of wasted money.

Who are these unknown beginners? Well, Some no-hoper defenders called David Luiz, Ryan Bertrand,and Azpil something , a useless MF named Essien, another called Obi- Won Kanobi, a few forwards who would struggle to get into the Barnet side – Eto’o, Demba Ba, and Willian. Oh and some bloke called Juan Mata who Jose has had to pull in from the Stevenage reserve squad. Desperate times down at Stamford Bridge.

What this highlights is how poor Chelsea have been at developing their youth policy. It would be great if every player on show tonight was under, say, 23. That allows for some experience players as well as giving a great night out for lads on the edge of the first team. But Chelsea can’t do that can they? (though to be fair they have bought in some exceptional youth who are on loan – Kakuta, Courtois, Romeu, Lukaku, Moses etc).

It is all well and good preaching about how important it is to develop youth players but apart from Southampton and Arsenal, which top 6 side does? (letters to Arsenalnuts)

You may gather from the above my disdain for all that Chelsea stand for – and you would be right. In my opinion the arrival of Abramovich has been hugely detrimental to English football. This is not sour grapes because they have won more trophies than us in the past decade, it is because they have no honour or class. The purchase of Willian is a case in point.

There was a time when I thought Jose was great fun but his self-promotion, as witnessed so perfectly after Torres goal on Sunday, is sickening, and so is his brand of football.  He is the Lord High Prophet of the Me Generation.

Arsenal: Full house, local rivals, a young team, another exciting night in prospect at The Emirates.

We are clearly going to need some experienced players to support the younger chaps but which one’s can be spared ahead of the Liverpool game? Your guess is probably better than mine.

Given the absence of both Flamini and Arteta we are struggling for a defensive screen in front of the back 4. Frimps is unfit, so is Eisfeld and Zelamamanememan. Hayden played well for an 18 y.o. in the last round, so perhaps he will start. And who will partner Vermaelen ? Both BFG and Kos have been piling up the games both a t club and international level. Should Gnabry start? He was very good in his cameo at the weekend but should we risk such a young man who picked up a slight ankle knack?

OK. Here is my punt …..

arse v chacs c1c

The bench will have a couple of familiar faces but mostly kids.

It is a shame we are facing such a strong side in a competition we should prioritise. The Chelsea squad is so deep that they really do have two first 11’s, and we , thanks to extensive injuries, don’t. Had we a fully fit squad I would be more certain of victory, as it is the odds have to be against us.

But ….. We are the Arsenal, we are at home, we have The Great Dane, and put in simple terms, we are a better club from top to bottom.

Our tea lady has more class than theirs (whom I have it on good authority used to be a lady of the night working in the outer reaches of Brentford). We have Sir Chips, they have a lawyer called Buck. Says it all ….


written by Big Raddy

Arsenal’s Tipping Point

October 28, 2013

Things have gone well for us this season: probably better than most Arsenal supporters expected.

Top of the Premiership; top of our Champions League group (notwithstanding that recent slip against Dortmund); above the Spuds despite them having one of their best-ever starts to a season (if you call relying on dodgy penalties for points ‘best ever’); the capture of one of the best players in the world; and some moments of true footballing joy (blowing Napoli away, our own private goal-of-the-season contest against Norwich).

Those of us of a more positive bent see this Arsenal team as one that really has a chance to be there or thereabouts for the big prizes this year.

But others – quite sensibly – are sounding notes of caution.

We have not yet played a single one of our rivals in the Premier League and, as I mentioned, we came a cropper when faced with Continental opposition of genuine quality.

Which brings us to the month of November, which is bearing down on us like a dose of the ‘flu.

Our final game in October is a Capital One tie against Chelsea. I would be delighted if we were to win it, but I’m not overly fussed about that competition and I certainly hope we take the opportunity to rest players like Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey and Mertesacker.

Then we’re into November when, in rapid succession, we have the following fixtures:

Liverpool (H)

Borussia Dortmund (A)

Manchester United (A)

Southampton (H)

Marseille (H)

Cardiff (A)

The first four are undoubtedly tough fixtures (Southampton, let’s remember, are currently 5th in the table).

After that we should expect to beat Marseille and then we have a winnable away game in Wales. But our state of mind by the time we embark on those last two matches will be greatly affected by what has gone before.

This is why I feel we are at a tipping point in November.

Come through the games against Liverpool, Dortmund, Man Utd and Southampton in good shape and we really can start to dream about an end to our long potless run.

What constitutes good shape? I would say we need to at least draw with Liverpool, at least draw with Dortmund and beat both of United and Southampton.

We are more than capable of doing all that and more, but the one nagging doubt in the back of my mind is that November has not been a kind month to us over the years.

TS Eliot had it wrong about which month is the nastiest when he wrote:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.” 

Those lines are from his classic poem “The Wasteland,” (penned after a brief visit to N17).

If Eliot were around today surely he would be writing about the month of November and the terrible memories we Gooners have of that cursed four-week that comes round, annoyingly, at least once every year.

If the November gremlins strike again and results don’t go our way it won’t take long for the media pundits who have been singing our praises to start writing us off all over again; and, in turn, the minority of “underminers” among the fans base will pipe up  (hasn’t it been nice to have a few weeks without that whingeing drone in the background?).

I certainly believe we are good enough to come through this period with flying colours, although it would be nice to have a few of the sicknotes back in action (I’m looking at you, Walcott and you, Flamini).

The more I think about it, the more important the Liverpool game looks.

They are flying at the moment and the bitey fellow is showing why Arsene was so keen to sign him up during the summer.

But we are playing them at our place and if we find our groove we can pass them to death and make Suarez realize what he’s missing.

Like us, Liverpool have had a fairly comfortable ride, fixtures-wise, in the early part of the season. Their only game against a traditional top four team so far has been a home match against a struggling Man Utd, which Liverpool won 1-0.

Southampton, meanwhile, beat Liverpool at Anfield.

So Arsenal v Liverpool should show us who is a contender and who is a pretender.

Win that one and I have a strong feeling that the rest of the month will tip nicely in our direction.


Attack attack attack………….

October 27, 2013

Yesterday BigRaddy asked in his pre-match if we were wrong about Chamakh, well if he’d shown even the smallest leaning( 🙂 ) towards being as aggressive as he was yesterday I’m sure we would have loved him.

We are clearly geared up to be an attacking force and we know that Arsène much be drooling over his jewels in mid-field and thinking we are always going to score more than anyone.

Our loss to BD in the week was entirely due to getting caught with a sucker punch after having dominated play for many minutes. In the game yesterday we were also caught short while everyone up searching for the second  goal and a great ball out to Chamakh led to the sending off of Arteta.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the replays Chamakh was on to a great ball with Arteta in hot persuit. Chamakh’s touch took the ball away from him and once he realised he wasn’t going to get after it he leaned into Arteta and their legs got tangled. Our Legohair man was shown a straight red. Obviously we aren’t going to appeal the decision as our next game is the Capital One cup and Arteta probably would have been rested.

The thing is, even down to ten men and with both our defensive mid-fielders off the field (the lion that is Flamini went off injured after 10 minutes) we were able to score a second goal.


A very fabulous goal it was too, created in mid-field by Giroud and finished with aplomb by the same man as he bust a gut to get to a beautiful curling pass from Ramsey.

This was a good win away from home against a team that were invigorated by the loss of their manager. Champions are made of this, playing poorly, scoring great goals and attacking at all costs.

We are top of the league say we are top of the league 🙂

Have a nice day all.

Written hurriedly by peachesgooner

Were we wrong about Chamakh?

October 26, 2013

We had a brief conversation mid-week about whether it was good or bad to face a manager-less team. I don’t like it. Even when playing what is surely relegation fodder.

Our recent loss appears not to have damaged the confidence both on and off the pitch which considering the state of the club in January is a remarkable turn around. We fans and thankfully the media seem to be less knee-jerk in our reactions and open to a more rational approach, however, and this should be written in bold, lose today and the knives will re-appear quicker than our troll changes monicker.

What of Crystal Palace.? Well, the wouldn’t pay for Big Nick but very handily took Chamakh off our hands. This tells all we needed to know about Holloway’s strategy to taking CP into the Premiership – Scattergun signings and a huge dollop of hope. It could have worked out, Chamakh could have struck the form we saw in his first games at the Em’s. Sadly, the reality is that all the hope has gone west and Palace are struggling, having beaten just bottom placed Sunderland  and languishing firmly in the bottom 3. The 1-4 defeat to a poor Fulham side on Monday signalled the end for the likeable Holloway and whoever takes up the reins inherits a poisoned chalice.

I liked Chamakh and understood why Mr Wenger signed him but the man had the same problem as Gervinho – an inability to cope with the pressures of playing in front of 60+k expectant fans. Let us wish him well and trust that he gets his career back on track, starting tomorrow.


Can they win today and beat the team sitting comfortably at the top of the table 😀 ?

Let’s look at the stats: Arsenal haven’t lost at Selhurst Park since 1979! We have won 12 of our last 13 away fixtures. We have only lost twice to Palace  – ever. But as we all know, there is many a slip twixt cup and lip, over-confidence would be costly.

Arsenal:  One of the question marks from Tuesday night was what happened to Özil? It was good to read that he was ill before the game and this reflected upon his play. Should he play today or be rested ahead of our testing games ahead? Given Wilshere’s troublesome ankle and the return of Flamini, I expect to see Mesut start particularly as the partnership with Santi needs pick-time. This axis alongside Ramsey will be the future of Arsenal and propel us to glory – it just needs time.

We miss Theo. Young Didit proclaimed that Walcott getting injured would be disastrous for Arsenal, it hasn’t been as painful as he thought but we miss the speedster. I am a big admirer of Walcott and think we will hit even loftier heights of play when he returns. His speed of foot and Özil’s speed of thought are made for each other. But he remains on the injury list.

In a way the injuries make Mr Wenger’s choices easier, the main question mark is whether Rosicky or Cazorla starts on the left? And whether Sagna needs a break. Given the CC game midweek I would continue with the first choice 11.

My Team:

pal v arse

The bench gets stronger and I expect all will get a run out on Tuesday.

If Arsenal are going to be serious contenders for the title then this is a must win game.  I like Palace, without their scouting network one of my footballing heroes would never have had the opportunity to excel, I speak of course of Ian Wright Wright Wright who whenever I think of his time at HIghbury lights my day.  On the flip side let us not forget Palace also sold us Eddie Mcgoldrick ….. need I say more?


Early kick-off and I expect us to be 5 points ahead of the pack at the final whistle, but am not taking anything for granted.


written by Big Raddy

Arsenal Arsenal’s Friday News Roundup

October 25, 2013

Last Thursday: The Arsenal AGM, the first to be chaired by Sir Chips Keswick was held at The Emirates.

Stan Kroenke’s speech follows:-

“It is a pleasure to be here. This is my sixth AGM and it is great to be back. I appreciate people re-electing me to the board. Well, it was close to unanimous!

“Anyway, it is great to be here and I would tell you we are pleased with the progress of the Club and that is made up of a lot of things, most importantly on the pitch.

“None of us up here [on the board], fans, players, or Arsène [Wenger] are happy until we have won championships and trophies. We have said that over and over again and are committed to that.

“Also, when you try to build towards that, it is very important for the Club to be successful commercially, and we are very pleased with the progress we have made in that area.

“We have come a long way, with the debts of the Club being paid down, the commercial revenues are increasing in a nice way. Certainly you guys are aware of the Emirates deal.

“We have more [deals] coming and are confident. However, nothing works unless we have success on the pitch.

“The reason we got interested in Arsenal [after years of approaches from other teams] was… the tradition, the image and the success of the Club and that to me has been established by none other than our manager.

“In our opinion, with the values he stood for and the things that we value in sport they were evidenced through him and through this club. So we are very pleased to be here and I couldn’t be more honoured to introduce our manager Arsène Wenger.”

Mr. Kroenke’s speech is reproduced courtesy of

Arsene Wenger followed with a speech which can be read in full at

It was later reported that Alisher Usmanov has increased his holding in Arsenal to 30%. He still does not have a seat on the board.

All of our players who had been involved in the round of international matches returned without any major injuries.

Friday: In an interview Arsene Wenger said

“Vermaelen is my captain so I rate him but it’s difficult to change the current pair, unfortunately when you have 20 good players, nine good players don’t play“

Saturday: Proper football returned to The Emirates after a seemingly endless Interlull. An ultimately comfortable win over third from bottom Norwich City saw The Glorious Gunners return to the top of the league after Liverpool had crept above us with a lucky away draw at Newcastle in the lunch-time kick-off.

Jack Wilshere scored his first ever league goal at The Emirates and what a sumptuous goal it was, I’ll not try to describe it, I’m sure it is etched in the memories of all Arsenal fans. A headed goal from Mesut Ozil, a rarity indeed, an absolute stunner from Aaron Ramsey and a tap in, after an intricate build up, by Mesut completed a fine afternoon’s work.

Sunday: The papers were stuffed full of praise for Wenger’s wonders, after Saturday’s performance, the question was asked “was Wilshere’s goal the greatest ever”? On any other day the same question may well have been asked of Aaron Ramsey’s slalom through the City defence which ended with another stunner by our Welsh Wizard.

Among our main rivals, Chelsea and Man City won, Liverpool and the fast fading Man Utd drew. Whilst in the also-rans, Everton and Spurs both won. A flare was tossed onto the Villa Park pitch from the away supporter’s end, during a particularly dire passage of play, perhaps in an effort to spark some life into the game.

Monday: More praise for The Glorious Gunners in the press, aren’t we the tabloid’s darlings for once. Flamini was ruled out of contention for the Borussia Dortmund game suffering the effects of a concussion caused by his collision with Norwich’s Alexander Tettey.

Tuesday: It was Arsene Wenger’s 64th birthday The only gift he had on his mind was a Champions League victory against Borussia Dortmund. A win for Arsenal would take them to nine points and a giant step towards the knockout stages.

“I won’t do anything to celebrate my birthday,” said Wenger.

“A good game for me is the best present. I get cards, phone calls but, honestly, if nobody reminds me I forget. Even when I was 25 or 30, I never thought it as a special day.”

Wednesday: Oh well! Wednesday dawned and the overnight news kicked in, Arsenal 1 – 2 Borussia Dortmund. There’s no point in re-hashing the game, by now everything that could be said has been said.

Arsenal players did not attempt to hide from the result, various of them commented, Ramsey “A draw would have been a fair result after the way we played in the second half, I felt like we were in control of the game but then we switched off for 30 seconds, we were in their box and 30 seconds later the ball is in the back of our net.

“I was disappointed as well with the way they scored their first goal, I got caught on the ball and that was disappointing. We were a bit slow to start but I thought after about 25 minutes we got into the game, we got our goal and then we took that into the second half.

“We were in control of the game, we didn’t look like we were going to concede, but then we did. That’s what happens [when you switch off].

“We showed good character getting back into game… and we created a few chances in the second half and hit the bar. On another night we may have taken the lead but we have to learn from the way we defended for the second goal.”


“They’ve got a good team shape and it’s hard to play through the lines. We wanted to get Mesut on the ball and play through to Giroud but they made it difficult for us. Fair play to them”. “There are three games left, and nine points to play for, so it’s still in our hands. We know what we have to do. We’ve got a difficult game away to Dortmund next. It will be a hostile atmosphere but we’ve been there before and I thought we were unlucky not to win there. We’ve got the players to do it, we have to regroup and show our spirit now.”


“I think we deserved better,” said Arteta. “We did the hardest bit, to score the goal just before half-time. It was when we had control of the game and created the best chances when we just got caught on the counter-attack. That was disappointing.

I don’t think we chased the game too much, we just gave the ball away at the edge of the box. We know that they are a very good side on the counter-attack and I think we had kept them really quiet, but we conceded the chance and they scored.

It’s going to be tough [to qualify], we knew it was probably the toughest group in the Champions League. We don’t think any differently now.

We’re still capable of going through but we’re really disappointed with the way we lost the game.”

Some pre-publication snippets from Old Red Nose’s book, titled oh so originally and incorrectly, My Autobiography (Telegraph sports writer Paul Hayward was the actual author so strictly speaking it is a biography not an autobiography) appeared in print, notably “Pizza-gate” got a mention, while according to Ferguson United’s victory that brought about the end of Arsenal’s 49 game winning run “scrambled Wenger’s brain”.

If you really want to read a mass of self-serving guff the tome is available from bookshops at the eye watering price of £25. I would recommend waiting until after Christmas when it will be available for 25 pence from all good charity shops.

Thursday: Some Portuguese bloke from the wrong end of Seven Sisters Road has been mouthing off about Arsenal. He reckons that we have had it easy so far this season. “We will see the big fixtures coming now for Arsenal. They have only played us so far and they have both Chelsea and Manchester City to come, and Liverpool”. He quite forgot to mention that we had beaten his sorry Spurs, but that would have spoiled the effect of his comment. I wonder what bad news he was trying to deflect attention away from.

The BFG acknowledged our defensive frailties “We know we are on a good run, but we know it needs more than just playing with full freedom and vision — we need to defend first and the we can switch the rest on. You have seen what can happen after that.” He had this to say about our record signing “Mesut does not need to adapt to our style because he is a natural talent. You could see that against Norwich, when we played such good football.”

Oliver Giroud insisted Arsenal will not let their defeat to Borussia Dortmund disrupt their superb start to the season. He went on to say

“We did well in the first half and came back into the game after a bad start. After the first half Dortmund were not as good, maybe tired, and we were really close to scoring a second one. But they kept going and scored on the counter-attack. It’s a shame because we could have done much better.”

Written by Norfolk Gooner

How Does The Ox Get Back In This Side?

October 24, 2013

That is the question that one fine gentleman asked me last Saturday before the Norwich game. Said gentleman is known to many of you, and I will not divulge anything more other than to say his name rhymes with gasp. My response to the question was that maybe a post should be done about it. Listening in on said conversation was a mighty fine lady, also known to many of you, and again I will respect confidentiality and say only that her name rhymes with breaches. Well I am glad I have bamboozled you all and not given too much away, but I digress.

The point is that no sooner had I mentioned the words post, done and should in the same sentence than there I was with my thumb pricked and signing a declaration in my own blood that said slip of the tongue would in fact become a reality, upon pain of an extremely eye-watering forfeit. Having considered the remote possibility that I may require some use of the last 4.5% of my remaining fertility, here I am.

So how does the Ox get back into this side? I have mentioned in the past that I don’t necessarily see it as being an issue because I don’t see our players all being fit at the same time. I would also consider that some of the younger players, such as Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere, may change the position they play over the next 3-4 seasons as their games further develop and as certain older players start to play less or move on. For the benefit of this analysis I will consider it as if we have all players available, and I have mainly focussed on those players who I feel are mostly in consideration for 1st team places currently. I have not taken into account any additions in January, as that is too speculative.

Forgotten man?

Forgotten man?

For me the main aspect to consider is the other players we have in the squad and what their best positions are currently. What are the main strengths of a particular player in what they can bring to the team and how it affects our system of play. We do have many players who are adaptable to two or maybe even three positions, but I will focus on where I feel they can offer the most to the squad currently.

There are only 5 positions to be filled between the back 4 and lone striker and my list of possibilities reads as follows :

Flamini, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Podolski.

That is some list and comprises 11 players for 5 positions, and is particularly heavily loaded in the attacking midfield department, so how do we get them all playing regularly? Are we actually overloaded with too many similar style players that leaves us unbalanced? One big question is would any of you be happy to see any of the players on that list leave the club? I feel that if we get the players positioning right with our current system then it doesn’t necessarily have to become a problem.

I feel we currently like to play with 2 deeper midfielders behind 3 attacking midfielders behind the lone striker. With regard to the deeper defensive two I feel we play with one as more a pure holding midfielder, and the other one who has more licence to go forward or be a bit more box to box, as long as they don’t lose sight of their defensive responsibilities. I feel this latter defensive role is very similar to the role played by Schweinsteiger at Bayern, and is a role I would like to see Wilshere play currently. I actually feel Jack is a very good attacking central midfielder also and may move more into this role later on. I do however feel that Jack is the best midfielder we have to bring the ball out from deeper midfield and has the best blend of defensive and attacking attributes to make him the most suited to the box to box role. With the attacking midfield area so heavily loaded I would prefer to see Jack, at least for now with us (England being another matter), play in the deeper 2 in a rotating combination with Arteta and Flamini.

That brings us to the tricky area of the attacking midfielders. Three positions and 8 players left from the list. Many may not agree with this but I would immediately remove one from that list and state that, when fit again, Podolski should battle it out for the strikers role and prove he can play this position at the highest level. His natural finishing ability means he has the potential to be world class in this role, so it is down to him now to step up and stop Arsene reaching for the cheque book again. If that were to happen I would fear for his future with us, and I do feel the clock is ticking on this becoming a reality.

This leaves us with the following for the 3 attacking positions behind the lone striker :

Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry.

Although many of these players are adaptable to where they play in the attacking roles I feel that the first 4 would be more classed as attacking central players while the latter 3 have attributes that would class them as attacking wider players. I think Theo is nailed on to continue as an attacking wide right player and he will be heavily utilised when fit. Some would prefer to see Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gnabry in central roles but with the list of players we have for this role is it really feasible currently. Both of them are also far more natural at giving true width and directly taking on full-backs which is an area that our squad is slightly limited in. When played wide I have a personal preference for AOC to play from the left, where he can either take on the full-back outside or cut in on his dangerous right foot.

AOC, and also Gnabry, are young and have time on their side and can easily switch to a different role even some 5 years down the line. Rosicky is 33 and Cazorla 28 (29 in December), while AOC and Gnabry are 18 and 20 respectively. There is plenty of time for them to switch to a central role later, if that looks the best option, as older players start to vacate these positions.

Against Dortmund we seemed to play with predominantly 3 attacking central midfielders behind the lone striker. Without the natural width we didn’t really stretch them and made it easier for them to compress the space centrally. We were reliant on the full-backs providing the attacking width which didn’t happen to great effect this time. With it not quite working, and Gnabry probably still being considered slightly on the young side for a game of this magnitude against that level of opposition, I feel we really missed the option of AOC, and also Walcott, to change the lines of attack and give us that different option. Once you assess the squad in this way I do feel that AOC, once fit, should still have an important and regular role to play in our first team.

Written by GoonerB

Edged Out : Arsenal 1 – Dortmund 2

October 23, 2013

The game billed as Arsenal’s first real test ended in defeat for our boys. So does that mean we failed the test? Well we certainly didn’t pass it with flying colours, but I don’t think we failed it either.

Sometimes football is about more than the result, last night was our first chance to see if we have actually improved, if the run since Munich home mauling last year is built on the quality of opposition we have faced or an actual improvement in our game.

For me it was a closely matched contest so in that regard I would say we have definitely improved, this wasn’t us holding on as we have seen when playing some of the top European sides in the last few seasons, we were trying to take the game to them. We were most definitely up for the fight, the work ethic we have cried out for when not in possession was there, even without Flamini’s influence.

If Cazorla’s effort had been 6 inches to the left we would be celebrating a glorious win, if we were not so inclined to chase the win as a team we would probably be sitting with a point and keeping the distance of 3 points between us an them. It was not to be, can we be critical of our lads for going for the win? Maybe but then that is why we play football matches to get the win.

The game started with Dortmund pressing high as expected and we struggled to find rhythmn through the midfield, men were being pressed everywhere, free men were hard to find, and that is how we conceded the opener.

Having dealt with the initial attack the ball made its way to Ramsey who should have just cleared up the pitch, instead he looked for options he didn’t want to waste possession, I understand that because it’s how we try and play, but I also think on occasion it is our downfall, especially when facing quality opposition, the ball was nicked from him and it was despatched into our net.

We equalised just before half time having enjoyed out best spell of the game, the ball was moving quicker as Dortmund sat deeper, and could not get to us as quickly as they had started to tire. The ball arrived at Sagna who delivered our best cross of the night, Giroud pressured and forced a mistake between centre back and keeper, he smashed the ball into the vacant net.

We didn’t really want the half to end, and on 45 minutes exactly the ref signalled half time. How rare in the modern game not one bit of injury time.

Dortmund started the second half refreshed and pressing us again, we coped better this time, moving the ball more quickly but neither team really created clear cut chances during the next twenty or so minutes.

The home crowd started to sense victory, you could hear it in the singing, we were most definitely on top, Özil’s first telling contribution saw him set up Cazorla who was a whisker away from finding the top corner.

Ten minutes later with Arsenal continuing to apply pressure Dortmund found the killer blow, swiftly counter attacking down the right wing a cross found Lewandoski who finished with aplomb.

The game played out with us unable to force an equaliser as Dortmund were happy to see out the small win.

Gooner in Exile

A Look at Lewandowski

October 22, 2013

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now”

M. Wenger is 64 years old today and as a gift UEFA have given him a mouth watering challenge at THOF; our Professor must be hopping with anticipation at the prospect of pitting his wits against a team and manager who represent the finest in football.

Our season has started (apart from a ref-affected first game) brilliantly. Reflected not only in the points tally but also the possibilities of the team’s future – we are already very good and we are going to be the “couilles de chien”.

Dortmund: Not much to tell you that you don’t know already. They are very good, they are in form, they have a superb defence, a better midfield and a lethal attack ! Klopp will be in the stands following an ill-advised impression of the Ferguson rant  – how was it SAF was never sent off for abusing a 4th official?

I am looking forward to watching Mkhitaryan, the man signed to replace the treacherous, Goetze. And of course the performance of Lewandowski will be under the spotlight, what with the media speculation of a transfer to The Emirates. Cannot see it myself but he is a top striker and we could squeeze him in somewhere!

Last time BD came to THOF we won 2-1 with goals from some fellow whose name I forget. BD beat us in 2002 with a goal from Rosicky, it would only be right for the Little Mozart to score for the righteous tonight (70th mins sub?)

I wrote recently of my admiration for both Subotic and Hummels and how they cope with the wingless Arsenal attack will be one of the keys to the game.

Then there is their fans. It must be wonderful to have such support – our away boys are brilliant but these loonies are on another level completely!

Arsenal: Once again the absence of Walcott’s pace could be costly. I love our tiki-taka but some unadulterated searing speed undoes defences, if nothing else it forces the defenders to sit further of the player.

However, the addition of Özil has brought an added dimension. His headed goal on Saturday came as a result of a lung-busting late run  –  a part of his game which has surprised me. Not only is Mesut brilliant with the ball at his feet and a master of space, he is also an extremely hard worker.

The recent run of success allied to the two CL wins must give the entire squad huge confidence. It is this rather than the personnel which will inspire the team tonight. The return of Cazorla and Arteta brings wizardry, calm and authority to an already fine side.

The development of the understanding between Santi and Mesut will be one of the highlights of the coming seasons. Both hugely intelligent, both two footed (as are we all – no disrespect to uni-peds) and both team players.

I have been wracking my brain to find fault in out attacking play and have decided that we do not score enough goals from outside the area. Can someone remind me of the last time?

The defence remains a concern. We have to start getting some clean sheets or the season may unravel. It is all well and good relying upon the attack to score more than we concede but eventually we will get caught out. Thankfully, it seems that the problem lies in lapses of concentration rather than a deeper lying malaise.

My Team:

a v bd

An attacking team. The bench is getting stronger and amazingly Bendtner is looking threatening. If we are winning on 75 mins expect to see Monreal

Tonight is one of the highlights of this (or any) season. Two teams who are committed to attacking football on a warm autumn evening in a packed, noisy stadium. Given a decent referee it will be a great game. I wish I could categorically state that we will take the points, what I can state without fear of contradiction is that every Arsenal fan watching on television would love to be there.

Win this and we are almost through to the next round.

Written by Big Raddy