Is football killing itself? And is there a cure?

December 21, 2013

The recent weeks have been an unsettling time for football managers, players, and supporters alike. First the Board of West Bromwich Albion decided that Steve Clark was not taking their club where they would like, and then the joke club in N17 decided that although he had the best win percentage of any previous Premier League manager for Spuds, and sitting 7th in the league and 5 points off the top 4, it was time for AVB to leave. I am no fan of AVB but you have to question the sense of the Board for removing him.

This season for the first in a long time there is an argument to say four of seven teams could make the Champions League spots, of those seven teams two are financially doped and therefore can demand qualification from their managers, if Everton, Liverpool or Spurs say to their managers that the minimum requirement is Champions League qualification they may as well give up before the season starts.

There is also the vicious cycle of players wages, represented here:

ViciousCycle

This becomes worse when we start talking about Champions League Money, and therefore clubs with ambitions to be in the Champions League need to gamble on wages over and above the normal cycle. This is why Champions League money is so important, UEFA by their promotion of the Champions League have left themselves with a dead duck of a competition called the Europa League which does not generate the TV rights that the Champions League does, they have extended the pool of clubs able to enter the Champions League to strengthen their premier competition but it has been at the expense of their other competitions.

A lot of the criticism of the current situation of a Big 4 of Premier League Clubs is seen by many fans as a result of the Premier League full stop, so with this in mind I went off and did a bit of a review of the Top 4 finishes going back 42 years, 21 post Premier League seasons and 21 pre Premier League seasons. To some extent what I found was a bit of a surprise.

Prior to the Premier League era 19 different teams finished in the top four positions, during the Premier League Era only 13 different teams have finished in the top four. Perhaps not as stark as I was expecting, so i added a final criteria, top four finishes since the Champions League qualification became four teams from the Premier League, only 8 different teams.

No of Top 4 Finishes Pre PL PL Era Top 4 CL
1 7 3 1
2 1 2 2
3 2 3 1
4 1 0 0
5 3 1 0
6 0 0 1
7 2 0 0
8 1 0 0
9 1 0 0
10 0 0 1
11 or more 1 4 2

As you can see the real evil has been that Champions League qualification. I’m sure a similar study of other European Leagues would provide a similar result.

On top of this we have the ability of players to move around Europe, many moons ago a Munich side would have been 90% German, an English side 70% English (except Liverpool), etc. Now we are lucky if we see 50% of players from the country of the team. This in itself is not necessarily the worst thing about modern football but it means that UEFAs premier competition is only going to be won by the Leagues with the biggest resources to attract players from all across Europe especially those whose teams used to be European greats but cannot afford to compete with the bigger clubs.

So what can be done to change this? To make Managers jobs more secure to allow clubs to really build again without fear of losing out on the pot of gold that is the Champions League and to make the domestic leagues more competitive?

For me I would like to see a total overhaul of European Competition. And in a three step process.

1) Re introduce the European Cup Winners Cup, as a straight knock out competition. Winners or Runners Up of the domestic competition only.

2) Reduce the places in the Champions League to 2 spots for each country.

3) Apply the coefficients for the Europa League for each country so we may have four teams in it.

What would this do? In my opinion it would increase the quality of the Europa League and hence increase the prize money and rights on offer. The Europa League would also feature teams that are traditionally big European clubs. This would probably also reduce the money on offer in the Champions League but that may be no bad thing as it will reduce the need of so many clubs to retain Champions League status.

One thing is for certain the gravy train will not last forever, the money BT have paid to secure Champions League rights indicates that the gap will only widen in the future. This cannot be a good thing for domestic football and the managers that work in it as the task becomes more impossible.

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal Arsenal’s Friday News Roundup

December 20, 2013

Last Friday:

Stan Kroenke has increased his Arsenal holding to 66.85% by buying another thirteen shares.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, Arsene put the ball firmly in City’s net: “Of course [a win] strengthens your beliefs but I am convinced we believe in ourselves anyway, no matter what happens,” he said.

“Let’s not forget as well that if you are in City’s position and they lose, they are nine points behind, so they have more negative pressure than we do.

“We have a positive pressure that we can make a big difference with them, so let’s look at it like that. It is a positive pressure. It is always a pressure as you want to do well and be the best but it is positive. We have a cushion, we are not under massive pressure. We have an opportunity to show our strength and that is what we want to take.

So, no pressure then. 😀

When asked about tiredness:

“There is no fatigue, not on the medical analysis we have. It is quite sophisticated now and we don’t see any signs. The signs we see on the players, I can rest them”.

“We do mostly recovery because when you play Wednesday night and Saturday morning, on the physical front and tactical front you cannot do a lot. The base is that it is all targeted on recovery.”

Sagna will have a late fitness test, Podolski could be on the bench.

Betting odds: Home win 5/4 on, Draw 13/5 against, Away win 10/3 against.

Saturday:

No prizes for guessing the gist of most football topics today! The Big Game, Top versus Fourth, the bookie’s title favourites versus the team written off after defeat in the first match of the season. Endless speculation about starting elevens, will Joe Hart be in goal or on the bench? Do some players need a rest after mid-week Champions League games? Should a player want a rest or to play in arguably the biggest game of the season so far? I know what I’d choose, if only I had the choice. 😀

Speaking to Jeremy Wilson in The Telegraph, Ivan Gazidis revealed that his father, Costas, was an anti-apartheid campaigner and was in gaol at the time Ivan was born. Read the full interview here:-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/arsenal

Black Sunday:

Well black Saturday lunchtime really I suppose. My prediction of a 1 – 2 away win got multiplied by three and turned one hundred and eighty degrees into our worst result for some little time.

The officials had a poor game, but so did we, we gifted goals to City with poor passing and poorer defending. Arsene Wenger said before the game that he would not look for excuses of tiredness, but there’s no doubt that fatigue played it’s part.

Of greater concern is the apparent falling out between the BFG and the Wizard of Ozil, Merts wasn’t too pleased about the “assist” by Mesut for one of City’s goals and also gave him an earful for not acknowledging the travelling Arsenal fans at the end of the game. Ozil did tweet an apology later and put his lapse down to disappointment at the result.

Wilshere could be in trouble for allegedly making an obscene gesture towards the City faithful, a petulant act that could see him fined or even suspended.

Laurent Koscielny was having a bad afternoon which got worse when it was cut short by a cut knee while failing to prevent yet another City goal. Luckily Thomas Vermaelen looks to be in reasonable form and fitness so should be able to adequately fill the gap alongside Merts.

The milk has been spilt so no point in crying about it and we are still top of the league.

Monday:

A quote or two to bring down the curtain on that result.

“I’m very disappointed because we didn’t do our defensive job as we are used to,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“We didn’t defend well from up front and did not show enough solidarity defensively. That’s too easy going.”

“We had the best defence until now in the league and to give six goals like we did today is just difficult to accept because we lost our discipline and in the big games and you pay for that.”

From Jack Wilshere;

“The away fans are brilliant. We have to apologise to them, they spent their money to come up [to Manchester] and we didn’t perform to the level they expect.

“We’ll go again and we’ll see them on Monday.”

Well young Jack you may just be suspended for the next game if the FA take action over your gesture to the City fans.

The news we were all waiting for came through, no not the sacking of the hapless AVB, but the name of our opponents in the next round of the Champions League, Bayern Munich, after “The group of Death” comes the sequel “Showdown at the O.K. Corral” Sorry, Allianz Arena. Beat them at home and then a repeat of last season’s result will see us through. Simples.

Tuesday:

No relevant Arsenal news today, other than Wilshere being charged by the FA . So here’s a little tester for you. Starting eleven for Arsenal versus Wolves 8th April ????

—————-Wilson————-

Rice—McLintock—Simpson—Nelson

————-Storey———–Ball———

Armstrong–George–Graham–Marinello

The result was 2 – 1 to the good guys, but what was the year?

Wednesday:

Once again there was no relevant Arsenal news, other than tabloid speculation on who we are going to sign in January. So I’ll ignore that.

It’s always good to read the thoughts of such football luminaries, when they are pontificating about Arsenal, as Michael (I was almost a World class player) Owen, so I’ve included his thoughts on Mersut Ozil.

Mesut Ozil has been an inconsistent and disappointing signing for Arsenal who are not yet title contenders, according to former England star Michael Owen.

The 34-year-old ex-Manchester United and Liverpool forward believes the Gunners’ £42.4m record signing has struggled to perform in consecutive matches this season.

“[Arsenal] don’t have the class of player to go toe to toe with the main title contenders,”

Owen wrote on his blog for Sportlobster.

“Despite people constantly telling me Mesut Ozil is world class, his inconsistency means that we only see occasional glimpses of real quality. His odd good performance is usually followed by half a dozen poor ones.”

It sounds to me like the loveable little Scouser has been spending too much time with Alan Hansen, they make an interesting pair peering myopically at the world through their Liverpool tinted spectacles.

Thursday:

Once again I’m struggling to find any Arsenal news, but one nugget turned up: Bacary Sagna spoke about his situation. “I’ve still got six months on my contract with Arsenal. We are in negotiations.”

“It’s an option to go somewhere in January but I always had a good relationship with Arsenal.” “I’ve been playing there for seven years and I hope we will end up on something good. First of all I want to finish as champion because we have got a good opportunity to do it this year, and after we will see.”

I’m not quite sure what our French right back is actually saying, he could leave in January? He could stay until the end of the season? If we win the League he will sign a new contract? With both Manchester clubs in the market for a right back could Sagna follow a string of players up the M6 to the money pit?

It seems as though we may be looking for a quality right back as well as a striker when the transfer window opens.

Friday: added by peaches

News came through last night that Jack had lost his appeal against a two match ban for showing a gesture to supporters during the Man City game last weekend. He will miss the games against Chelsea and West Ham. Hopefully he can return to the squad fully fit and bursting with confidence.

Maybe the FA should be thinking about how it uses it’s disciplinary measures -one for the future.

That’s all folks, All quiet on the Arsenal front, as Erich might have said.

Have a good weekend

Norfolk Gooner


The return of the prodigal son… yeah, but which one ?

December 19, 2013

While we (still) sit pretty on top of the league, between two fixtures against sides that more than one Nostradamus-wanna-be pundit would have seen ahead of us by the end of the year, many attribute this success to the managerial consistency/continuity. But if the recent rumors of Arsène Wenger finally putting pen to a new three year contract in January will have fans rejoice about the stability ahead, the fact that Le Professeur will be 67 by the end of it has people start to consider a successor to the Frenchman (some started a while ago but they obviously have poor judgement so we won’t pay attention to them).

There’s a plethora of great coaches around, people with impressive careers and their bags full of trophies. But with The Arsenal’s tradition of welcoming back its former legends to see them work for the glory of the club, it is tempting to put the spotlight on these once top, top quality players and choose among them the One that is to lead us upon to the next chapter of our history.

Doing so would also ensure a relative continuity and is especially tempting due to the recent actuality seeing a lot of these aforementioned legends coming out, One about his hopes towards club and board, One about his views on the British coaching community and its segregation problem, One with a book, One with a documentary, and so On, I mean on.

I chose from the squads up until the Invicibles, considering most of those who came after are still playing. And with the idea of continuity in mind, I decided to choose only among the players that played under Arsène Wenger. So here you have it, among the players that graced the red and white shirt from 1996 to 2004 is the One. Pretty limited you will say, also considering that not every player, not even every great player, is coach material (that’s what club ambassador posts are for), and yet there is still quiet a few noticeable names that come out. So without further ado, here are the contenders.

Patrick Vieira (37) – The “Demolition” One

I will start with the One at the origin of this poll idea. Paddy’s declaration, though probably taken out of context by the media, about Arsenal’s lack of leadership threw discord among fans with some of them stating he was dead to them while others affirming their love for him, adding that they would be glad to welcome him back at the Arsenal, possibly as a coach.

Considering Patrick Vieira was only appointed as Manchester Shitty’s new reserve team and “Elite Development” (*Cough* what a load of crap) squad manager in May, it is still early to judge his managerial credentials. But, eager to find more so that you have all the information you need to make your judgement, I crossed the enemy lines to gather some intel. Yes, I went on the Shitty web site, looked through their video archives and finally got my hands on the Inspector Gadget’s post nomination interview. What I wouldn’t do for you guys. Paddy, it’s all on you !

To make it short, a few things popped out. The love of collective football he says he retains from his early age, playing with friends. The sense of responsibility he wants to instill in the young players as well as a winning mentality. For that last One, reflecting on Paddy’s declaration that he thought “Arsenal lacked what it takes to win dirty”, we all know what he means. And I for One am a little worried someone like him could coach the team, because that is so not Arsenal.

Dennis Bergkamp (44) – The “Godly” One

Here again it is hard to gauge Dennis Bergkamp’s managerial career. Slightly ahead of Vieira for he has already been in charge of a youth team and is now assistant manager of a team of the importance of Ajax Amsterdam, it is also good to note that the head coach under whom he is working, Frank DeBoer, is considered as One of the ascending talents of European football management. Undertaking the rebuilding of the mythical Dutch club, DeBoer has won three league titles in two and a half years at the helm. Learning from the mistakes that saw Ajax disappear from the European scene for a while, he is betting on youth and has revolutionized their academy. No doubt, seeing these methods baring fruit, Bergkamp could be tempted to consider them for his yet in gestation managerial style. That plus his Total Football education, Stillness, Speed, and the love for Attack he shared with Wenger and you might get a glimpse at what Iceman as a manager could look like.

Unfortunately, Bergkamp could have also been named the “Non-flying” One. And as long as his aerophobia problem isn’t solved, it is hard to see him appointed head coach of a team playing European football year in year out.

Tony Adams (47) – The “There’s only One Tony Adams” One

Mr Arsenal had an amazing career as an Arsenal player. He is the only One to have captained a major club in three different decades, and to the first League Cup and FA Cup double in England. He is One of the “Famous Four”, the back four that made the fame of the Arsenal offside trap. On his way to redemption after alcoholism blighted his career, Big Tone is a deep an attaching character. “In March 2003, BBC Sport named Adams as the former Arsenal player that the club would most benefit from returning” (Wikipedia). And he wants to return ! In June of this year, Adams said he had postulated to enter the board only to be snubbed and see Chips nominated. Now a board position isn’t exactly a coach position (not even close actually) but Tony clearly stated he would do anything at the club, even the tea, so I guess that also means head coach. At the same time he suggested Arsenal was ill prepared in case Arsène Wenger decided to leave. Very subtle.

Unfortunately, like mentioned above, not every great player makes a great coach. And with an average record of 27.73% wins in his three different spells as a manager, and a habit of quitting or being laid off within a year, Adams isn’t exactly in the league of an Arsenal coach contender.

Steve Bould (51) – The “Baldy” One

“He has no hair, but we don’t care ! ” Another of the “Famous Four”, Steve Bould has already an interesting managerial career to show off. Appointed head coach of the Academy team, he won two Premier Academy League and a FA Youth Cup. He knows the young guns and they know he can lead them to victory. How’s that for continuity ? Assistant Manager since last season, Bould bolstered our defense. His style might be very different from Arsène’s attacking style, but the same way, as an assistant, he complemented the Frenchman’s style, the appointment at his side of a Dennis Bergkamp could do the trick. Steve Bould would also undoubtedly provide the most seamless transition but One might argue that Arsenal needs to evolve.

For all of these reasons, Bould may look like the ideal candidate, and yet there might be another One…

Arsène Wenger (64) – The “Invicible” One

Who said 67 is too old for a manager ? Especially One gifted with such cunning intelligence, meaning that even if his body couldn’t move anymore, his head would still be able to win a few league titles and the Holy Champions League Grail.

Another thing, Arsène is nothing like Ferguson and he would certainly not quit while the club is still under reconstruction. Because the record signing of this summer was only the start. The “German speaking” Öne, as we could also have named him, is the reason why Mesut signed and, let’s face it, this Bizarre Sex Appeal is his and his only. If he keeps signing top, top quality players during the next three years, will he then leave like Red Nose after BSR followed his siren chant up north ? I believe not, because Arsène isn’t after legend, he is after Legacy.

Here are the candidates.

SO FELLOW GOONERS, WHO AMONG THE FORMER GUNNERS WOULD YOU SEE AS BEST FIT TO BE THE NEXT ARSENAL COACH ?

You can vote for up to 3 choices in the poll

I apologize to those of you who were hoping for more nostalgic faces, but feel free to add any suggestion in your comments. Same thing for any player you feel should have been on this list. I also apologize for the post kind of answers to itself but I look forward to standing corrected in the comments. Let the debate begin !

Written by Benjamin Rochet


Jack Wilshere: “Denilson on Valium”?

December 18, 2013

Let me start by making something clear:  I support Arsenal football club above all and not Jack Wilshere. This probably gives you a clue as to where I stand on Stevenage’s finest.

 The problem I find when trying to initiate this kind of debate is that people always confuse the following two issues.

 A  The player that Jack Wilshere is right now and..

 B The player that Jack Wilshere is expected to be in the future.

So if someone expresses a concern about a particular player’s performance last weekend it is often met with an: oh, he will come good in the future, that may be so but it is the blog equivalent of burying your head in the sand or should that be burying your head in cyber space. Either way it blatantly avoids the reality and the problems of the present day and for those who remain blind to the accusations, they are as follows: “sloppy passing, bad positional play, tracking back like Denilson on Valium and appalling body language.”

Personally I think he has a great future; the problem is that it is this expectation that continues to force Wenger to make room for him and it is his continued selection that is costing us points and I fear will cost us the title.

Could you really imagine, Wilshere in that City team on Saturday? It would never have happened. He would have been sitting on the bench next to the giggling Lescott and Hart.

I am loath to say this but there really is a completely different mind set to managers who prioritise winning the league and managers who prioritise bringing through home grown talent. Wenger probably doesn’t even realise that he is doing this — but he is.

There are many who seem to want to cling to the idea that because Ramsey came good, so should Wilshere, this is no more than wishful thinking, the evidence is not there and hiding behind the excuse that he is not yet fit is wearing very thin.

Don’t try trotting out the old chestnut: mark my words, Jack will come good.

3-8-12-30-32………these are my lottery numbers for Friday, mark my words, they will come good.

I want Arsenal to win the league and if Jack improves in the same way as Ramsey has then great but there are no signs of it right now and in the mean time he is costing us valuable points. ……”Denilson on valium” meeeeeow lol.

Written by LB


Now the Arsenal fans Know, or do we?

December 17, 2013

So our weeklong journey through Europe and the Upper echelons of the premier league is done, our wish to test ourselves against some serious competitors granted. Was it what we wanted, are we happy and contented?

Some say weak officials cost us dear against City, others like me feel we had a bad Saturday at the office and were completely outplayed. Have we been found out, has the constant reiteration by the pundits that we are a thin squad been proved correct, Indeed is Rasp insightful when he asks the intriguing question can Aaron and Jack play together, or are they our own Gerrard and Lampard?

I somehow think not. Surely players who have come through the reserve teams together must know and understand each other’s game? Far better than International players who have only the odd weekend together training. What can they do in that time beside irritate us fans, by either turning out or coming back injured?

Now is the time to test the mettle of us fans are we I wonder in for a plethora of  Christmas Lists requesting players we should buy irrespective of whether they are available, cup tied or on such salaries that our own hard earned  wage policies will be instantly destroyed.

It is one thing to sell City a player who rubs his hands at the thought of inflated wages, and can’t wait to leap into his Bentley or chartered jet to put his cross on the dotted line. Quite another to ask them to step down and come the other way

Is the addition of Ozil to the squad going to become the yardstick that is used to measure the stature and price we should be paying for all new joiners, let’s hope not, Everton ran us close with three loan players in their ranks, so it not all about money. Napoli arguably benefitted from tired legs, but CL away is in so many ways different from the Premier League.

As I write this the 5th goal has just gone in against the spuds and they spent £100 million on new players this year are they I wonder nails in AVB’s coffin. No doubt the cry of sack him will reverberate around White Hart Lane, will it I wonder find an echo on the terraces of the Emirates.

Written by dandan (before AVB was sacked)


I Really Didn’t Want To Write About Jack Wilshere

December 16, 2013

It’s true.

During the game on Saturday morning I found myself getting more and more frustrated with our little English dynamo.

And it crossed my mind to write today’s Post about Jack Wilshere and some of the things about him that annoy me.

Among others – based on the performance against Manchester City – they included sloppy passing, bad positional play, tracking back like Denilson on Valium and appalling body language.

The last was the most annoying.

When will Jack learn that the correct response to being tripped, or to losing possession of the ball in a tackle and ending up on your arse is NOT to lie on your back emanating frustration, disenchantment and victimhood? The correct response is to bounce straight back up and get back in the game, thereby minimising the disadvantage you have caused to your team.

Jack Wilshere v Manchester City

It’s true that Jack is fouled disproportionately often (although that may have something to do with the style of his play); and it’s true that – at times – it may be necessary to try and make sure the referee knows you have been fouled; but the default position should be to spend as little time out of the game as possible.

Lying on the ground sulking means you are not in the game. And not being in the game can have bad consequences.

I won’t criticise a player just for having a bad game – they all do at times. But emanating more negative vibes than Leonard Cohen performing a Smiths tribute is just not acceptable.

Jack had a bad game on Saturday and compounded the problem by behaving immaturely: flipping off the home fans was simply the icing on a cake made of petulance and poo.

But, as I mentioned earlier, I decided not to write a Post about why Jack has been getting on my nerves lately.

And I’m not going to.

Apart from anything else, I believe in supporting our players and not scapegoating them and I know many regular readers and contributors to Arsenal Arsenal feel the same.

In fact, on sober reflection (and some not so sober reflection later in the evening), I realised that where we are now with Jack Wilshere is more or less exactly where we were with Aaron Ramsey this time last year.

The frustration with Ramsey last Autumn began as murmurs of discontent, then grew into howls of outrage and disappointment every time he misplaced a ball before mutating like a cancerous cell into vile abuse and hatred towards the young Welshman on Twitter and the internet.

Thank Dennis that Aaron was strong enough as a person to weather that storm. I am convinced it was only a minority who got on his back, even at the ground (and only an infinitesimal and infantile minority who sent the abuse) but I hope all who doubted him are enjoying their humble pie now.

Jack’s case is similar. He has clearly not got back to his best form since returning from his long injury absences. Like Aaron last year he has been played in different positions and, similarly, has been struggling at times

In Ramsey’s case his true supporters kept trying to remind the doubters of the remarkable promise he had shown before being utterly Shawcrossed.

And now I’m here to do the same for Jack.

If you ever doubt for a second that Wilshere will not turn out to be an Arsenal great, have a look at this YouTube clip  “Jack Wilshere v Barcelona.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP_pCG9Cmio  It contains all his moments from the game in February 2011 when we played Barca at the Emirates and beat them 2-1.

Jack was just 19 and this was a time when Barcelona were not just the best team in Europe but – according to many commentators – the best football team of all time.

At the heart of their midfield were the peerless Xavi and Iniesta and in that game Jack rose to the level of his esteemed opponents and even outdid them. All of us who watched that game knew we had an exceptional young player on our hands.

We still do. He’s going through a difficult time and is yet to find his true place in this new look, top-of-the-table Arsenal team. But, like Aaron Ramsey, he will come through it. He has shown enough good moments even in this disjointed season to remind us all of the quality that we still have to look forward to.

Arsene Wenger got Aaron Ramsey to achieve his best by sticking with him, playing him through the tough times and (at first) urging him to simplify his game.

Whether or not that approach will work for Jack I don’t know – Arsene gets paid a small fortune to figure that one out himself, and I’m sure he will.

I’m also sure that part of the process of putting Wilshere back at the heart of what’s good about Arsenal will involve a few well-chosen words in his ear about his behavior on the pitch  – including his body language.

I would be happy to bet that by May we will be talking about Jack Wilshere as a £50 million player.

RockyLives


Believe it or not …….

December 15, 2013

We’re a pretty calm lot here on Arsenal Arsenal, well some can be relied on to vent their feelings loudly, but largely the comments after the game were sensible.

There was some poor officiating which many felt helped Man City where really they didn’t need it. Milners dive for their penalty was a disgrace.

Defensively, we looked all over the place with limited connection between mid-field and the back four so that when City had the opportunity to break they pretty much had the run of the pitch. Flamini seems to have a dose of ‘Songitis’ at the moment, he needs to be reminded that one goal ‘doeth not a centre forward make’ and stick to his job.

A front six all wanting to be number 10’s was never going to work against the excellent attacking prowess that City had to offer and so we conceded pretty much every time they attacked and got a shot on target. Harrumph!!!!!!!!!

We lost Koscielny early on to a cut knee 🙂 which gave Vermaelen a chance to play. Would we have carried on leaking goals with Kozzer on the pitch? We’ll never know.

There were obviously some very tired legs out there but we should have been able to retain possession better than we did. Some of our lapses were suicidal and Wenger was right when he said that we made too many mistakes.

Clearly we don’t like travelling to Manchester but both teams will need to visit us and we’ll be able to get those six points back.

As the sun was shining when I woke up this morning I thought to look for the positives from this game. I’m not saying we should have won, Man City were awesome, but at times like this you have to find things to make you feel better ….. so here goes.

Theo was a breath of fresh air. Fantastic to have him back. I hope he’s been watching how Giroud could use a bit of help in the box and is ready to get into the spaces to score or assist. There have been games recently where we have been crying out for him to come on and unsettle defenses. I think he’s a very important player for us, hope he stays fit now.

We scored three goals at the Etihad, I read that that was more than they had conceded there all season, so well done boys. Actually, of course, we scored four but one was wrongly given offside, a great passage of play culminating in a header from Nik.

Koscielny’s injury isn’t as bad as was predicted but he will need to wear a plaster for a few days. I expect him back for the Chelsea game.

Speaking of the Chelsea game, all of our exhausted legs should be well rested by the time we play them. Nine days rest in December – Ozil will think he’s had a winter break.

We are still top of the league folks, the chasing pack also have their frailties but we need to be strong.

Can you think of any more positives? Let us know in the comments ……..

Written by peachesgooner


How many Man City players would get into the Arsenal team? + Match preview.

December 14, 2013

Should be a superb game this afternoon. The best away side in the PL against the best home team.  If the world was a just and fair place we would leave with the 3 points but sadly, it isn’t.

And why do I say that? Because the recent history of the Northern Oilers has besmirched their past. I guess for their supporters all they care about is that City have been re-born, but to those teams who have chosen to take another route it is galling to say the least. But enough of that, this is the status quo and we must live with it. Actually, No, before leaving this subject I need to say one thing – Arsenal are a team with tradition who have found a way to compete without selling it’s soul. Hurray for us!!

In summer when asked who would win the title this season I replied City. To me they have the best squad, the most complete first team and the greatest resources. They disappointed last season, primarily because of a manger who had little empathy with his players.

Let’s look at their squad. Hart remains a terrific player and without question the best English keeper yet he is on the bench. Is it a similar situation to Szczesny’s benching last season ? Only City fans know whether they have more faith in Big Pants.

Across defence their only “weak” spot seems to be who partners Kompany. Any team which can bench Lescott, Richards, etc etc is strong. Same in midfield …. when one has limitless purchasing power a team can take a punt with big money – Rodwell? Here is a lad who looked as though he would be an England regular by now but instead he hardly gets to ride the pine! We know the other chaps, Yaya, Samir, Fernandinho (over €30m!!), Garcia – all fine players and yet in this area we can match them.

Where we are nowhere near as good is in attack. Aguero is the best forward in the PL. Suarez is good but this fellow is tops. No silly stuff just does his job with startling efficiency. We should have bid €50m (plus one) for him. Then there is Dzeko, a player who would be an automatic starter at THOF and yet struggles to get a start thanks to the fine start from Negredo. Negredo cost €20m (ish), Soldado cost €27m (:-D :-D), both Spanish , one has flourished the other looks like a complete waste of money . Another City signing who impresses is Jesus Nava – a Spanish Theo.

Then there is Jovetic, and here I have to apologise because I have to go back to the subject I said I wouldn’t in the second para ….. money. The media stated categorically that we were trying to sign this lad to play alongside Giroud (who knows if it was true) but City signed him specifically to stop him improving our side – no other reason. (they did the same when they cherry-picked Samir, Ade, Gael and Kolo). How many times has Jovetic played?  Three.  22 million of her majesty’s for what?  Perhaps we can buy him in January at a discount. I know Chelsea did the same with Willian but I do not expect a quality club like Man City to stoop to Chav-dom. Do you?

You may be a little concerned having read the above BUT …. we are TOTL and despite a bit a silliness in Naples are in good form. We drew at the Etihad last season in a dour 0-0, and we have much more attacking threat this time round. We are just the sort of team to trouble City due to the pace and intelligence of our attacking midfield.  Much has been made of the absence of Walcott and we must hope he has been rested to be fully fit this afternoon. There is little doubt MC will have the bulk of possession and a counter-attack seems the most likely weapon.

My Team:

city v arse

I have benched Wilshire but the fact he was rested in Italy points to him starting, perhaps with Flamster being rested. Ozil looks tired but has to play, or does he? Santi is so much better playing in the hole. We are starting to have a seriously strong bench and can actually improve the side with substitutions – it has been some time since we could say that.

Just for fun I thought I would see what a combined MC/AFC team might look like. What do you think?

arsecity

So…. in my team there are 7 Gooners and just 4 Blues. Surprising but then I might be biased 😀

Is Negredo better than Giroud? I don’t think so and a frontline of OG and Aguero would be very potent. I do not know enough about the City full-backs to make a fair comparison so I went with my heart and a bit of logic – Gibbs is better than Clichy, and Sagna is top quality. The CB pairing would be the best in the PL  and though Koscielny is not far off Kompany, the Belgian is the best CB and Captain in the league. Goalkeeper is also an area of doubt, all three in contention are fine keepers but TPIG takes it thanks to his form this season. Ozil or Silva/Nasri? Come on …..   DM’s – Yaya is a monster and it was a sad day when he decided to sign for MC instead of us, he is almost as good as PV4. Fernandinho has youth, agility and being Brazilian on his side, as much as I admire Arteta and Flamini they are simply not as good. No place in the team for Jack or Santi or Theo but none are automatic first choice for AFC let alone this team.

So, for the first time this season we go into a game as under-dogs. Can we win? Of course we can, we won in Dortmund. The betting is very much in favour of a home win which given MC’s 100% home record is understandable. Pre-game I would be delighted to take a point.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


That Was The Arsenal Week That Was

December 13, 2013

Friday:

Owner Stan Kroenke’s son Josh has been appointed to the board as a non-executive director. Announcing the appointment, on www.arsenal.com , Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick said:

“We are delighted to welcome Josh Kroenke to the board of Arsenal. He has great experience in running sports organisations and brings extensive knowledge of what is required to succeed as we develop our Club for the future.”

Mr Kroenke, 33, a financial management graduate of the University of Missouri, said:

It is an honour to join the board of Arsenal. This reaffirms our family’s long-term commitment to the Club.”

“Arsenal is in a strong position on and off the pitch. We are enjoying a period of growth for Arsenal and the Premier League. We look forward to an exciting future that includes winning trophies, increasing our already impressive support around the globe and extending our commercial opportunities.”

Some new blood in the boardroom, as opposed to dried blood on the boardroom floor, can only be a good thing for The Gunners.

Recently retired Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has been honoured for his contribution to the Club with the unveiling of a bust at Emirates Stadium.

Mr Hill-Wood served on the Arsenal board for 51 years from 1962, following in the footsteps of his father, Denis, and grandfather Samuel in a family legacy stretching over 86 years. Even some of the oldest AA contributors don’t go back that far

Peter Hill-Wood took some stick over the final few years of his stewardship, much of it, in my opinion, was decidedly not deserved. It was good to see that he was well enough to attend the ceremony after his severe illness.

Aaron Ramsey was voted Player of the Month for November, the fifth such award on the trot for our Welsh Wizard. Who’s going to knock him off his perch in December, Mesut? Santi? Olly G? or who knows a rejuvenated Nicklas Bendtner. Whisper it quietly, he may not be on his way out in January!!!

Saturday:

Despite rumours to the contrary the Flamster is fit for selection ahead of Sunday’s game against Everton. Arsene Wenger talking to www.arsenal.com :

“Apart from Podolski being back in training, everybody else is available from Wednesday night. We had no injuries and the players who were available then will be available for Everton.” “Bacary Sagna is short so he will not be in contention”.

Now I know Bacary isn’t exactly a tall as the BFG but he’s done OK so far and surely Santi Cazorla is shorter than Bac.

Sunday:

The news that mattered to Arsenal was all about the chavs dropping three points and the Oilers dropping two, not to mention the unmentionables dropping three.

The prospect of playing three vital games in seven days prompted Arsene Wenger to call for an “ethics committee” to look into fixture congestion due to television rights. He claimed that teams should be allowed to decide themselves when they play, perhaps to bring a game forward to a Friday evening or to play on a Sunday rather than on Saturday at lunch time purely to fit in with TV broadcasters’ rights. It would give players a bit more recovery time, it happens in other leagues, particularly The Bundeslige.

Monday:

Woodwork saves Everton as Giroud’s injury time wonder volley smashes into crossbar.

That’s my headline for today and the only mention of Sunday’s game.

Looking forward to Napoli, Carl Jenkinson is in an up-beat mood. Asked if last month’s Dortmund result had given them the confidence to win anywhere, the right-back said:

“I think so. When we play to our peak, we can beat anyone so it is important that we go and do that on Wednesday”. “It is going to be a tough game — they are going to be battling because they want to qualify just as much as us. We will work hard and go out there with the confidence that we have from our recent results and, hopefully, come back with the result we want.”

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup took place and the Tie of the Round is undoubtedly that between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to be played at The Emirates in January.

Unusually for me, I have spelled out the full name of our opponents as they are a team that exist in the shadow of an illustrious neighbour and they may not have been instantly recognised if I had used the more common names for them.

Tuesday:

Bacary Sagna did not travel to Naples, he’s still recovering from a hamstring injury. There were no reports of other injury worries, apart from long termers Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo and Diaby.

Lot’s of speculation about the starting line-up, but only Arsene could answer that but was keeping mum.

Wednesday:

Arsenal were put on security alert, players and staff were advised not to leave the team hotel amid fears of violence by the Napoli “Ultras”. After threatening to have the game played “behind closed doors” following violence at the Napoli Marseille game, FIFA instead called for greater security in and around the ground. Well done Monsieur Platini, I bet that scared the life out of the hooligans.

Arsene was in an uncompromising mood:

This match is the priority and there will be no weakening of the team ahead of back-to-back Premier League fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea”.

“The other two games are not definitely decisive,” said Wenger. “We are five points ahead in the Premier League. The championship is a marathon. We will be in the race no matter what happens but those games will show our strengths hopefully”.

“We can’t afford to rest players. I rotate a little bit sometimes, never more than two or three because stability is important. Overall, we have no major sign of fatigue medically”.

The odds for the match; Home win 6/4 against. Draw 23/10 against. Away win 7/4 against.

Thursday:

By the skin of our teeth, yes it was that close, but we made it into the draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League, albeit as runners up in the group. The post mortems have been carried out and the entrails examined it’s over let it go.

There were reports of “heavy handed” policing outside the ground which meant that many of the travelling Arsenal fans didn’t make it into the stadium until sometime after the match kicked off.

On the prospects of the draw Wenger said:

“That is the frustration (of not winning the group), because you feel there was room to do better, but it could have been worse as well tonight.

“Of course, to finish second makes the potential draw more difficult. In the last four or five years we have had very difficult draws, so maybe this time we will be more lucky.

“But if you look at the teams who are potentially there, at least we know we will have a difficult draw.

“On the other hand, we have now qualified for a 14th consecutive year for the last 16 and maybe number 14 will bring us a bit of luck.”

Amen to that Arsene!

A great match in prospect tomorrow, they just keep coming!

Enjoy the weekend

That’s it for this week

Norfolk Gooner


Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin: Napoli 2 – Arsenal 0

December 12, 2013

Arsenal arrived in Napoli knowing they had to leave with nothing more than a 2 goal deficit. That is not the best recipe for a winning performance, we have seen it in the past. Not just by us but by many other teams.

The simple fact is that when the CL Group draw was made many of us were contemplating whether it would be better to exit in totality or join that other mob on Spursday.

The fact we went into this match in such a strong position is testament to the form of the team this year.

Arsene sent an experienced side on to the pitch, this was probably one of the oldest average age squads we have seen take the field in red and white for quite a long time, only Jenkinson and Szczesny under 25. The game plan was simple soak up pressure, get the ball up to the three of Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky and try and keep the ball for as long as possible.

To a certain extent the first half was very comfortable, we were rarely threatened and Szczesny was not forced into serious action, the centre of defence was calm and assured with Mertesacker and Koscielny seeming to build on their growing confidence together, if Mertesacker didn’t win first ball then Koscielny swept round with consumate ease. We even managed to have an effort or two of our own, Giroud denied after some lovely build up play.

But in the main this was a game of containment, Napoli were quick to pressure us with the ball, giving away a number of small fouls which the experienced heads were winning to take pressure off us.

At half time I was quite content, whilst we hadn’t created much we had not conceded many chances and a point looked assured. I was pretty sure Napoli could not keep up the intensity of their press for the next forty five minutes.

How wrong could I be? Napoli seemed to come out energised perhaps by knowing the scoreline in France and that even a 1 goal win would see them progress, they came out firing and we found it harder to keep the ball and harder to shift our defensive line up the pitch.

There were a few reasons for this:

a) Typical Italian Centre Half play preventing Giroud from bringing down the high ball.

b) More hurried long ball clearances in the second half rather than finding feet as we had done in the first half, meaning the quality of ball up the pitch was poor an coming straight back at us. This was because we were lacking options in front of the back 4, several times Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Gibbs and Koscielny were faced with three yellow shirts in front of them and no movement to find an angle from Arteta or Flamini. This got worse after Arteta’s dismissal.

c) Not shifting the line up the pitch, when we were in possession, this is maybe where Arteta’s weakness as a defensive midfielder highlights Flamini’s strength. Flamini was imploring his teammates to move forward with him to press Napoli higher up the pitch, with Arteta refusing to budge from a position ten yards in front of the centre halfs there were large gaps for Napoli to play in and leaving us defending our eighteen yard box.

Back to the game, Napoli got their breakthrough with 70 minutes on the clock, Higuain fed too easily inside the box and allowed to turn and shoot in one motion and he found the bottom corner.

Arteta effectively took away any chance of an equaliser by earning himself a second yellow card, admittedly Callejon earned a row of 10’s for the triple summersault tucked salko that followed marginal contact, but I would expect Arteta to know better, I sometimes suspect he thinks the captains armband exempts him from soft yellow cards.

Meanwhile Szczesny was doing his best to waste time at every opportunity, despite Arsene’s protestations from the sideline for him to “Play”. I was glad I saw Arsene doing that because it tells us who was responsible for the mentality shown on the pitch. More work to be done by Arsene on instilling the philosophy.

Most surprising that down to ten men and a goal down Napoli didn’t go for the jugular, they had one guaranteed way to progress, win by three, but they played it around at the back content to win 1-0 and hope Marseille could hold out.

As news filtered through that Dortmund were ahead Napoli pressed as hard as they could and found a second goal with a minute of injury time to play, Jenkinson allowing a pass round his body and Mertesacker outpaced in behind, Szczesny advancing on a bouncing ball all conspired to give Napoli the slimmest of hopes.

Thankfully the referee feeling guilty for his part in the last twenty minutes called a halt to the game within seconds of the restart.

Through to the knockout stages…again, but second in the group, at the end of the day you have to beat good teams to win this competition, if we think we can win the tournament, an easy tie in the first knockout makes no difference, if we think we can’t win it surely better to be done and dusted early?

More important is the trip to Manchester on Saturday lunchtime, rest those legs and figure out how we are going to set about them. I predict a few changes across the midfield and perhaps a run out for Theo.

Written by Gooner in Exile