Praise For Howard Webb

February 18, 2014

I never thought I’d write a sentence like this, but here goes: “Well done Howard Webb – you refereed really well at the weekend.”

It’s probably not a sentiment Webb hears all that often, particularly from a supporter of a team whose game he has just reffed.

Despite being recognised by the international footballing authorities as one of the finest referees of his generation, Webb has always come in for stick from English fans.

From the suggestion that he started shaving his head to avoid tickling Sir Alex’s back passage on the way in, to an alleged bias in favour of clubs from his native North of England the former copper has faced plenty of abuse over the years.

So the fuss surrounding his failure to award a second penalty to the Diving Uruguayan on Sunday will be like orange sauce off a duck’s back to him.

And, in this case, so it should be.

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Let’s start with the context.

Arsenal v Liverpool in the FA Cup was a very good game of football played with plenty of commitment.

Liverpool had the confidence of having thrashed us just a week earlier and of being one of the form teams in the Premier League; we, on the other hand, had the incentive of getting revenge, putting our season back on track and making more than a few media pundits Neknominate their words.

I thought Webb handled the match well, showing some early yellow cards to stop things getting too overheated but generally allowing the game to flow.

And so to the big decisions that have brought him so much criticism in the last 48 hours (the Daily Mirror’s headline was: “Howard Webb Escapes Demotion Over His FA Cup Stinker”):

First there was Suarez dive Number One: Podolski undoubtedly tapped the Uruguayan’s ankle but, as someone said in comments yesterday, anywhere else on the pitch Suarez would have stayed on his feet. You can also see from replays that the Scouser threw himself to the ground a split second after the contact – not in the instantaneous way that would have happened had his fall been genuine.

Even so, I have no quibble with the award of the penalty. Podolski caught Suarez’s ankle, however lightly, and Webb was right to point to the spot. However, I also feel that Webb knew that Suarez has bought the penalty to some extent by exaggerating his reaction to the contact.

Then we come to Suarez’s second penalty appeal when the Liverpool striker toe-ended the ball away from himself (and away from goal) and Oxlade-Chamberlain clattered into him from the side.

It was a clumsy effort by The Ox, and even though Suarez had lost control of the ball there is a strong argument it was a penalty. (I also think there is an argument for it being a “coming together” and not a foul at all, but I may be alone in that interpretation).

What stopped it being a penalty (in my opinion) was Suarez’s impression of a freshly caught marlin on the deck of a fishing boat.

It was such a fake, over-the-top and comical piece of physical theatre that it must have sowed a seed of doubt in Webb’s mind as to whether Oxo’s contact merited a penalty at all. In the split second the ref had to make his decision, the Uruguayan’s fakery probably swayed the issue. Look at it from the ref’s point of view: if a player is clearly play-acting for part of an incident, how can you be certain he wasn’t play-acting for all of it?

Ironically if Suarez had just gone down naturally he might well have got the decision.

There were a couple of other controversial moments. We could have had a penalty when Skrtel caught Santi Cazorla’s foot with a high and late challenge in the Liverpool box. As the saying goes, “anywhere else on the pitch it would have been a foul,” and that may be true. But it would have been a bit of a harsh penalty (the ball had already eluded Santi before he was clobbered and Skrtel was going for the ball).

Finally, there was the argument that Steven Gerrard should have received a second yellow for a tackle on Oxo. Well, maybe. To be honest it was the sort of foul that sometimes results in a booking and sometimes doesn’t. This time it was not a booking and also not a big deal. I feel Arsenal supporters have been stoking up the outrage on this one purely to counter the Scouse squeals of victimhood over the Suarez non-penalty.

Webb also had a nice moment when Sterling “put hands” on him while disputing a decision. It was a chance for the referee to engage in his own bit of over-acting, feigning outrage and having a stiff word with the player and his captain.

All in all, “Fergie’s Rent Boy” had a good day and played his part in an excellent game of football with a particularly excellent outcome.

But Howard, don’t get carried away: it was only one game and in the balance of things you still owe us at least another 10 dodgy decisions in our favour to make up for all those years of being the 12th man at Old Toilet.

RockyLives


Entertaining and Vital Arsenal Cup Win

February 17, 2014

I would not have been alone in having at least one eyebrow out of line after seeing the Team Sheet.

Liverpool were always going to field a strong side as they have no mid week European Games, and we all knew Arsene would have to make one or two changes. Talk about “who would be a Manager?”. Without doubt the biggest shock was the inclusion of Yaya Sanogo. I had thought Ollie would be rested, and this would have led to the inclusion of Nic, or the slim possibility of Lucas through the middle. When the Team was announced, all I could say about Yaya’s inclusion was that the Manager sees the Lads in training.

Poldi goal v Liverpool

This was a very big match indeed. We had to restore some belief and confidence, try and progress in this Tournament as well as leaving eleven men standing, fit and ready to meet the challenge coming from Bavaria in a few short days’ time.

I won’t dwell on the details of the game as you all saw it for yourselves. Certainly though, the returning Flamini helped to stabilize the defensive side of our midfield. The defence itself had a superb day with Fabianski producing a MOTM performance. The other two stand-in’s at the back, Jenks and Monreal, showed discipline and spirit.

Further up the field, Mesut was back to his best and orchestrated events in a way only he can with sublime timing and awareness.

For me, like many I suspect, Podolski is a total enigma. However, he is a goalscorer, and since the tragic loss of Theo and Aaron, these qualities are in short supply. He delivered.

Sanogo. Ok, I missed twenty minutes of the first half, and about ten of the second, but I really liked what I saw. Very impressive indeed, His performance highlighted the interchangeability of our squad, and this reflects on what is done on the training ground. It was very hard to believe that he had not played alongside Pod, Mesut and Ox on a regular basis.

Finally, The Ox. Always said he would be an Arsenal Great, and he will. Love everything about him, and his post match interview revealed his modest, mature and intelligent nature. A true professional with all the talent required to make it to the very top.

The Ox v Liverpool

A few short words on Liverpool. I really like the way they play the game. It was an enthralling and highly entertaining game, and it requires two teams to achieve this. Their “Three S’s Attack” is superbly mobile and fluid, and a joy to watch. I realize Suarez divides opinion, but as a footballer, he is terrific. I think we all know the Ox challenge was a clear penalty, but I think we also understand that had the victim been any other player, it would have been given. Never a clearer case of “What goes around”.

Overall, a memorable Cup game, a vital win for The Gunners, and we come away in great shape for Bayern. Back on track.

My MOTM: By a country mile, Arsene. That was some selection and tactical performance. Well played Sir.

Written by MickyDidIt89


If at first you don’t succeed…….

February 16, 2014

Apologies in advance, I have no tub to thump, and no wish to anger today’s opponents, call me a superstitious pansy but I am beginning to see a pattern….the more incendiary the pre match the more likely it is we will not win. So with that in mind……..

Today we welcome the in form Premier League team and suddenly Championship rivals Liverpool to the Emirates to contest a FA Cup 5th round match. There has been much talk about prioritisation over the last few weeks, today we get to find out whether we are going to gun for them all, or are in fact prioritising one competition over the rest.

Some say the FA Cup represents our best chance of a trophy this season, I’m not so sure, whilst it is true that we only need to win four games to do it, there are still some tricky opponents that could get in our way, and on top of that we have in our own recent memory the League Cup Final defeat to Birmingham to remind us that on any given day anything can happen in a game of football, you can also ask Manchester City fans what happened last season. Would you really have us put all our eggs in the FA Cup? I certainly wouldn’t. I am very much behind the one game at a time mentality, although I understand why we might want to rest players before the visit of Munich on Wednesday.

What do we expect from Arsenal today?

Szczesny has been playing well of late but Fabianski has done little wrong in the other cup ties this season, so he will surely start. There is little option at centre back unless we were to launch a couple of youngsters into action, against Suarez and Sturridge that would be suicidal, they have scored 60% of Liverpool’s goals this season, stop them and we have a chance of stopping Liverpool, so the centre back pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny picks itself. I would go with Jenkinson at right back to give the ageing legs of Sagna a break and Gibbs at left back.

In midfield we have the luxury of Flamini returning from a self imposed spell on the sidelines, he surely starts to make Coutinho’s life a lot harder than it was at Anfield last Saturday, he will also help us win the ball back higher up the pitch as he is more proactive than Arteta in that respect. I would however keep Arteta alongside him, a blend of experience, passing and reading of the game should make us more competitive and provide more cover for our defence.

In attacking midfield is where we will possibly see the most changes, I would go Gnabry, Rosicky and Ozil. But I would give Gnabry and Ozil instructions to stay high up the pitch, and not to worry too much about defensive duties, Rosicky will be the man in the middle, he works hardest to win the ball back high up the pitch, and injects pace in attack by speed of passing and running from deep. This can only work if Gibbs and Jenkinson do not over commit, instead they should stay home to provide cover against Liverpool’s fast counter attacks.

My front man today would be Podolski, and that is another reason I would give Ozil and Gnabry the licence to stay up the pitch, he will need help a lot quicker than Giroud when playing with his back to goal, I also think the understanding between the three German’s could be the key to unlocking Liverpool.

So my starting eleven would look something like this:

arse v pool

Let’s hope we are celebrating an Arsenal win come this evening, and we can put this week behind us and start looking forward to an exciting run in to the end of the season.

Gooner In Exile


FA Cup – The Freddie Final

February 15, 2014

Friday Afternoon 3rd May 2002.

At last the arrangements were sorted with me picking up JC from North London, Jon to travel on his own after a long shift and Ant taking my nephew, Matt via Loughborough (where Matt was at college). I’d persuaded my old man not to go to this Final, he’d been to the Scouse daylight robbery Final in 2001 and not really enjoyed himself due to all of the walking. His feet were not good by this stage. It meant we all had tickets (I’d luckily played the martyr and dropped out of the 2001 final).

1 (1)

I popped in to see him before picking JC up, armed with a bottle of rum to “assuage the guilt” (he only really liked Pussers Royal Navy rum but it was hard to get hold of). My old man had given JC £25 to buy us all a drink with the proviso that he’d have any change that was left. As Ant commented later, ‘Rest assured, Dad, there wasn’t any’! JC was full of beans on the journey, only pausing for breath on the journey from Brimsdown to Bristol at the M4/M5 junction. (Due to a shortage of rooms, we’d arranged to spend the Friday night at Cribbs Causeway just outside Bristol and then transfer to the Innkeepers Lodge in Cardiff on Saturday morning)

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I never know why all of our football photos have pints of beer in them

Friday Evening 3rd May 2002.

By 7pm JC was convinced he’d had 5 pints already, not a good sign for things to come. We decided on some Gooner Survey type questions for entertainment. Most hated player meant that the spuds got a mention. I think it was a unanimous vote for a certain Mr Edward Sheringham. JC couldn’t understand why no-one seemed interested in his amazing fact that Ronnie Rooke had bow legs like Malcolm McDonald. Favourite game of the season featured the 3-1 versus Juventus at Highbury (bearing in mind a certain game at the Old Cowshed was still to come). Matt had feasted on two meals already, one on arrival and an early evening Early Bird meal, still he was a growing lad. His requests to have a southern comfort and lemonade because he was feeling a little bloated were greeted with, ‘he’s not having a f*ckin chocky drink’ from Ant. Matt didn’t look happy when a suggested departure time before midday was mentioned….so 8am it was.

Saturday Morning 4th May 2002.

All was well in the family room overnight containing Ant, Matt and me. Poor Jon had shared with JC who had been talking to Ralph for much of the night. He was decidedly white and shivering and we all felt a little guilty at allowing him to partake of so much refreshment. Anyway, Ant, Matt and Jon emerged from the hotel sporting Freddie’s red hair. Freddie had been superb in the run-in of the League, scoring virtually every game (with compulsory Dennis assists) and his song had become everybody’s favourite.

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I remember JC looking paler than this!

The transfer to the Innkeepers was simple as the traffic hadn’t started to build yet. The car journey to Cardiff was one of the worst parts of going to the Millennium apparently, so we did well to avoid it. We got a taxi to the city centre and then had a healthy double sausage and egg McMuffin to raise blood sugar levels before indulging in a few take-outs as the pub we had in mind wasn’t open until 11. Preposterous!

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An astonishing likeness

Finally installed in the pub we settled down to watch Soccer AM (these were the days when it was quite good). Jon left the pub on a pastie run as had become tradition. JC had at least 6 separate efforts at eating his pastie but still didn’t finish it. A little later he seemed to have perked up somewhat when telling the assembled toilet goers a joke about a bloke found dead in an expensive toilet who’d left a suicide note, ‘Here I sat broken-hearted, paid a pound and only…..’ He still thinks that one is funny!

We left the pub at 1.40 and took some photos of Jon’s magnificent Freddie banner outside the ground. The top of the capital ‘F’ even had the red hair quiff.

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Jon’s magnificent banner which got on the telly

Saturday Afternoon 4th May 2002.

The seats were absolutely top notch in row 4 of Glanmor’s Gap in the North Stand (look it up) which effectively meant we were in the most expensive centre band of the stadium right behind the goal Arsenal attacked in the second half. The first half was fairly unmemorable, the second up there as one of the best 45 minutes of my life. Ooo Ahh Ray Parlour scored a 30 yard curler on 70 minutes. Edu warming up behind the goal, celebrated as the ball grazed Cudicini’s fingertips and then smacked the back of the net. Freddie scored ten minutes later with a 30 yard run and curling lob of exquisite beauty, having left John Terry on the deck munching grass. We saw the Freddie banner three times on the stadium big screen during the presentations and celebrations, later finding out it was on our TV recordings too!

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When Tone goes up, to lift the FA Cup, we’ll be there

Saturday After the Game 4th May 2002.

Leaving the stadium, we gave the old man a call and JC pretended to be David Dein. We decided to hang about near to the VIP car entrance with some tinnies and fried chicken. Ant stood in the middle of the road directing cars the wrong way out of the car park. We saw several famous people, Sepp Blatter (or was it Lennart Johannson?, who cares) Ainsley Harriot and Graeme Le Saux, who was greeted by the assembled Arsenal fans with, ‘Do you take it up the a*se?’. Those sort of homophobic songs really have no place in modern football.

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Great Trophy

We also saw Lineker, Lawrenson and Schmeichel before ambushing the Arsenal coach complete with FA Cup installed on the front dash. JC was definitely feeling better, even finding time to chat up a couple of local girls and have a photo taken (I’m not sure this one got back to his wife).

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Smooth operator

Saturday Evening 4th May 2002.

Back to the Innkeeper’s and JC sensibly declined the evening’s festivities in Cardiff town Centre. The ‘boys’ had pizza, several more beers and then were refused entry to a club because I was wearing an England polo shirt. Not very tactful, I know. Some local girls started singing the Freddie song when they saw Ant’s hair, but they didn’t know any more of the song except for the ‘We love you Freddie, we do’ line. We decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel to watch as many re-runs of the goals as we could find.

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It truly was a great weekend and wonderful result.

Celebrating the Club’s third double the following Wednesday, meant that we were floating on air for weeks to come. Wiltoooooooooooooooooooooooord!

Everton at home the Saturday following saw the presentation of the Premier League trophy and capped a pearler of a week to be an Arsenal supporter.

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Champions Too

Written by chas.


Friday Newsround ……. Flood at Anfield, Drought at The Emirates

February 14, 2014

Last Friday:

“You always think about the psychological impact of the last result on the morale of the team, as well as the confidence and happiness of everybody. You think the only way to deal with it is to just focus on the next one and win it, then everything will be alright”. “And, if we can win this game, what about the next one? If we play at our best, yes we can win that, so let’s do it. It is very difficult to have a global plan because as we know we are in a job that is unpredictable. The best way to make it predictable is to win the next game”. ”

“Still” he concluded, “it is a good moment for us to win a big game because we have a tough predicted month. At the moment we are on a good run and the best way to continue that is to keep the confidence level high and, of course, stay in a strong position in the title race.”

That’s Arsène Wenger after being asked about his overall strategy for four massive matches in 11 massive days starting this weekend at Liverpool. So one game at a time then.

Reproduced courtesy of http://www.arsenal.com

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Arsenal announced the date for the unveiling of the next statue outside The Emirates, 11.30am Saturday February 22nd. Oh! I forgot to mention, the statue is of Dennis Bergkamp who will be in attendance and will be a guest at the match. I’d like to see Dennis make a fifteen minute cameo appearance, wouldn’t that be a treat?

Saturday:

Team news was pretty sparse, basically the same squad as against Palace, Wilshere is a “might be” and Arteta is “alright”.

Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal

Nightmare at Anfield

Sunday:

Following the fall from the top of the table, in his haste to leave the scene of his team’s humiliation, Arsene Wenger took a tumble while hurrying to catch the homeward bound train at Liverpool Lime Street station, he was helped to his feet by two of that city’s finest boys in blue. After quickly checking that he still had his wallet, watch and mobile phone, he made his way without further miss-hap to join his defeated squad in the guards van for a subdued journey home.

Monday:

Just like the flood waters on the Somerset levels the slurry from Saturday’s debacle is still washing around our club. With an important, and winnable, game coming up on Wednesday, Bob Crowe and his cronies permitting, it’s time to put The Great Liverpool Train Wreck behind us. So I will make no further mention of TGLTW.

“News” or speculation? However you look at it, it’s out there in the media, Sagna and Fabianski have both rejected new deals, so both could be moving on in the summer. Memo to AW, summer priority signing…. right-back.

Tuesday:

The Tube strike is called off so both our game and that of Fulham go ahead as planned. Why am I mentioning Fulham you ask? Well the Cottagers announced that should the strike go ahead they would postpone their game against Liverpool thus giving the Bin-dippers a rest before arriving at Emirates Stadium to get their come-uppance for inflicting a heavy defeat on our beloved club.

Wednesday:

Mesut Ozil is attracting unwanted attention from the sports hacks, Jeremy Wilson, in the Telegraph, asks if our record signing is just a mirage and cites some stats to back his claim, my well known detestation of stats prevents me from including them hear, suffice it to say that Ozil has scored less, and made fewer assists, had fewer shots, made fewer dribbles and put in fewer crosses since Christmas than before Christmas. A quick check of the top premiership suppliers of assists shows Ozil to be second to Rooney but ahead of Hazard, Silva, Coutinho, Oscar and Navas. So the mirage may well prove to a more a storm in a teacup and Mesut will soon emerge from his own personal Sahara.

In other reports, Ozil is working hard in the gym to build upper body strength in order to cope with the rigours of Premiership football,

Lukas Podolski has denied ever being close to leaving Arsenal in the last transfer window, and insists he has the complete faith of Arsene Wenger.

The German’s future was drawn into question in January, when he was mooted as being a possible makeweight in the Julian Draxler deal, however, the forward says there was no possibility of ever leaving the Gunners.

‘That was a myth. There was absolutely no truth to it,’ the 28-year-old said. ‘The coach told me as such, and I knew there was no truth in it.’

Thursday:

Oliver Giroud talking after the Man U stalemate…”I think we had a good reaction after the bad result against Liverpool,” the Frenchman told Arsenal Player. “I think it’s a good draw to be honest even if we could have scored at the end. It was maybe just about our confidence.

“We did well in the first half especially but after we looked a bit tired. It’s OK, we had a good reaction on the pitch and I think that’s the most important thing even if we wanted to win this game.”

No! the most important thing was to score a goal Olly then, we might have won. “I’m confident for the remaining games and we’ll know a bit more about our future after Liverpool and Bayern [Munich] because we want to play in every competition.” Is that the ambition? To play in every competition? What about winning every competition?

Quotes courtesy of http://www.arsenal.com

Arsene Wenger said….

‘I felt we were nervous tonight, yes. We are usually dangerous breaking through with speedy passing, but they defended very well. But it is not worrying because we care about what we are doing.

‘When you concede five goals like we did against Liverpool on Saturday, maybe that’s what you do. The team was highly focused on not conceding after Saturday.

‘We missed out on the chance to go top but a point keeps us in the race. We played with the handbrake on tonight. I hope and think the handbrake will come off.

‘We’ve had two bad results, but we are still in a strong position.’

Speculation? Maybe, A report suggests that Arsene has met with the agent of Mario Balotelli to discuss prospects of the player joining in the summer. See last week’s news round.

Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell, who joined Arsenal in 2011 but due to the lack of a work permit has never played for the club, is looking for a permanent £7 million move to Olympiakos where he is currently on loan. His agent said…‘Going back to Arsenal? He would not be happy sitting on the bench – even in a top league.’

That’s it for another week

I’m looking forward to “The Magic of the Cup”

Norfolk Gooner.


Cautious approach doesn’t pay dividends. The verdict.

February 13, 2014

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

“Overall, we could have won it – it was a game of few chances. Our defensive focus was extreme as we conceded so many goals on Saturday.

“In the end, either side could have won 1-0. Manchester United are a good team, so when you go forward they can catch you.

“It is important to recover physically and prepare for the next game as we want to stay in the FA Cup. The title race is absolutely open for many teams.”

I don’t usually start a post with a comment by our manager but I got the feeling that not to lose was the priority last night.

Games between these sides in the last twenty years always had that bit of extra ferocity but overall this was a tame affair.

The game started and within a minute Arteta had an Anfield moment and gave RVP a gilt edge chance which he fluffed and then the game started to even out with misplaced passes by both teams and then we saw a glimpse of magic from Wilshere,threading his way into the box which on another occasion might have been a goal.

Neither team went gung – ho and all in all it was a tame first half.

We certainly started the second half with more momentum but not for the first time on many occasions we took that extra short intricate pass and the move broke down.

Giroud had two or three chances to work de Gea but the nearest we came to scoring was a header from Koscielny which was headed off the line by Valencia. Santi upped his game and at least was trying to test de Gea which he did twice but the keeper was equal to it and in a rare breakaway Szczesny produced a wonderful save from RVP yet for most of the game we were as predictable as ever,and that concerns me, as one can watch the game and nearly always know what the next move will be.

Often stated but where is Plan B? Subbing players like for like doesn’t work against the better teams especially with a squad lacking depth, but there were a few positives for me.

Ozil really showed his class and was forever looking to probe United’s defence but where was the support?

Koscielny was a rock yet again and Szczesny showed how much he has improved.

Gibbs, every time for me, has to play as opposed to Monreal.

Many will argue that an in form Ramsey and Walcott would have made a difference especially against ageing defenders such as Vidic and Ferdinand, but we can only play with the players available.

There is no point in criticising various players though I have said that if Giroud is meant to lead the line and lay the ball off, all well and good, but then he must have support instead of repeatedly being isolated.

Verdict : Two points dropped which may have a significant bearing to the run in as the gap between the top five narrows.

Written by kelsey


Beat ManUre And Arsenal Are Top Of The Pile Again

February 12, 2014

Following the howls of derision at Salford FC at full time on Sunday, where the mid table home team conceded a late Fergie time equaliser to bottom of the table Fulham, David Moists’ charges travel to the homeland of their support, London, tonight to put their Europa League qualification campaign back on track.

Having said that the Arsenal themselves have to wipe out the memory of the worst performance of the season so far at Anfield, even though that defeat was the first in the League since the 6-3 reverse to the Northern oilers back in mid December.

Thanks to the Baggies draw with the Southern oilers last night (are cracks appearing in The Specious one’s kingdom?) a win will take us back to the top of the table; further incentive if any were needed.

Our (totally un)worthy opponents have lost three of their last six and scraped two wins and a valiantly gained the aforementioned draw in their last dirty half dozen of games. Injury wise there’s no Jones, Fellaini or Jonny Evans so we face them more or less at full strength but potentially low on confidence.

Temporarily turning away from the unsavoury topic of the opposition and back to the good guys, we all know Theo, Rambo and Vermaelen are injured and Flamini unavailable, together with two more we didn’t expect to see anyway for differing reasons, Diaby and Källström.

A wild card in squad selection is Sanogo, who played 60 minutes for the stiffs last week, and is available even though I suspect it’s doubtful he will play any more than a bit part in the game if any at all.

Going by Moist’s very clever tactic of pumping cross after cross into the area for the giants Hernandez and Shrek to get on the end of, one hopes Wenger has made heading practice a priority for BFG and Kozzer.

Speaking to a ManUre fan of my acquaintance (Hounslow born and bred, of course) recently it was felt if you deny their midfield space, Carrick especially, they’d be unable to play and the front players would be starved of service.

The other facor is the arrival of Mata, nothing would encourage the eye gouger to congratulate himself on his ploy of selling a world class player to a team CSKA Fulham bus stop would no longer play this season.

With those options available and given the performances of the starting XI on Saturday team selection may not be as straight forward as in the past, however Wenger tends to send players who had a bad game out to make amends on the pitch so I am going with Wenger’s selection to be:

a v m u

Personally I would have Tomáš Rockin’ Rosický in place of Arteta and maybe Podolski given a rare start so Özzy can come on later, although not necessarily as late as 65 minutes.

A hugely important factor in tonight’s performance is the help the crowd can give to the players from the off. Groans and squeals if a few early passes go astray will not help so we need the crowd to unite behind one common factor that will bind the home support together, namely this “person”:

An understated goal celebration.

An understated goal celebration.

Yes, this man and his deranged, eye-bulging rabid celebration after scoring against us at old Toilet, should remind us just what our opponents are all about and why I hate them so much.

What did he say when he sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver?

“I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United.”

Of course the little boy inside would say that, yet what would this little boy have said?

VanPersie little boy inside

Fast forward to 2011 and we get this from Bouchra’s husband:

“The bottom line is that I want to win trophies with Arsenal, not with anybody else. I know you can win trophies in many countries and in many ways, but I want to do that in our way and in an Arsenal shirt.

“I’m sure I could win things at another team in another country, but would it feel like our trophy, my trophy? I’m not sure it would. Anything we win here will come from the heart and that’s what I want.

So proof positive, the little boy inside has no heart and if any of the Surrey glory hunters are still with me at this point (and if so why are you still with me? Just bugger off already!)and accuse me of being bitter my answer is:

“Yes I am…next!”

Bitter, but happy to see the grey haired turncoat returning to the perma crock we knew so well from his extended spells on our treatment tables whenever we needed him to be fit. I suggest his Christmas time injury spell was due to a sulk-induced overly protruding lower lip.

Every kick he takes should be met by our disapproval coming in any form possible; I believe every gooner should make every second he is on our turf a painful experience.

What’s that I hear about crossing the lines of what’s banter or not? We all know which are the teams whose fans love to sing “that” song about Wenger and one of those are our opponents tonight.

A spiky, vociferous home support is what is needed to give the good guys that extra push; and making the away fans match day experience as miserable as possible is every gooners duty, go ahead and goad with whatever you can come up with, here are a few suggestions:

“Show us your oyster cards!”

“Is he still the chosen one?”

“Europa cup, you’re having a laugh!”

Send them back to Caterham, Redhill and Carshalton heads bowed in defeat.

We need a big show from the crowd and the team need you tonight more than ever.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)


How much of a fortress is The Home of Football?

February 11, 2014

The_Emirates_Stadium_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1717235

Well past the middle of a fantastic season, injuries, referees, lack of new toys, journos and incessant spray of vitriol notwithstanding, we are where we are. One point off the Top of the League, fighting on in the FA Cup and the Champions League, it is fair to say that we will not swap our place with any other club in the world. We are well into Rocky’s Death Cluster 1, where everyone other than diehard Arsenal fans expect our demise, more in envy and hope than in expectation. On the road recently, we met a strong Southampton side and the scintillating Scousers. Truth be said, it was not pretty, but we have survived.

But substantial challenges remain. Now we have a series of tough games at home The Home of Football. First, Manchester United visit on Wednesday 12 February for a crucial Premier League clash. It seems Boris ‘taking chum up the Arsenal’ Johnson and Millwall-supporter Bob Crow have cleverly constructed a situation where the Emirates will be populated mainly by the Gooners, with only a handful of goons from the shady North West managing to travel to London to support the (Old) Toilet cleaners. Thank you both. Next, Liverpool step into the lion’s den on Sunday 16 February, fresh from their Arsenal bashing big grins, for a sombre FA Cup tie. Bayern Munich, the Champions of Europe arrive for a key Champions League encounter on Wednesday 19 February. The visit by Sunderland on Saturday 22 February completes a gruelling 4-games-in-11-days killer series at home in the Emirates.

Tough times indeed. But, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. So, perhaps a natural question to ask is: what chances do we stand at home? Or, how much of a fortress is The Home of Football? A priori, it does not look bad at all. First, there is the familiarity with the ground. At least, there is the seemingly zero likelihood of reaching the game late. Please don’t laugh, such things do happen, as we all know very well. Second, there is the opportunity to match the opposition in terms of players on the pitch. Surely, the vocal home support singing “1-0 to the Arsenal” and North Bank will match up against whatever stupidity the numpty officials can furnish by way of entertainment.

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Third, and most importantly, the home record of late has been superb. It is perhaps fair to say that, probably for the first time this season the new team seems to be comfortable in their newish home. In fact, the record at home this season looks formidable. Here is a list of home games this season, excluding the Mickey Mouse Cup game against Chelsea.

Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace Sun 2 Feb

Arsenal 4-0 Coventry Fri 24 Jan

Arsenal 2-0 Fulham Sat 18 Jan

Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham Sat 4 Jan

Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff Wed 1 Jan

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea Mon 23 Dec

Arsenal 1-1 Everton Sun 8 Dec

Arsenal 2-0 Hull Wed 4 Dec

Arsenal 2-0 Marseille Tue 26 Nov

Arsenal 2-0 Southampton Sat 23 Nov

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool Sat 2 Nov

Arsenal 1-2 Borussia Dortmund Tue 22 Oct

Arsenal 4-1 Norwich Sat 19 Oct

Arsenal 2-0 Napoli Tue 1 Oct

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke Sun 22 Sep

Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Sun 1 Sep

Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce Tue 27 Aug

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa Sat 17 Aug

14 wins out of 18. There were 2 draws, against Chelsea and Everton. And there were 2 losses as well, against Dortmund in the Champions League and an opening day blooper against Villa. Only 8 goals conceded at home, and this includes the 3 shocking goals conceded on the opening day. No goals were conceded in the 6 games since the Deulofeu goal at the death against Everton on December 6. 4 points were dropped against Chelsea and Everton, both strong teams, and these were in a run of poor results in December. That, and the opening day Villa game apart, quite formidable.

Let us briefly revisit what happened against Chelsea and Everton. Against Everton, Ozil gave us a late lead, which was cancelled by a Deulofeu wonder strike 6 minutes from the end. A fantastic effort from Giroud in injury-time could have sealed the points, but the bar came in the way. Post-match, Arsene said: “We didn’t take our chances very well and the other regret is that we gave the lead away with seven minutes to go. But credit to them, they always looked dangerous. In the end, we are disappointed to get caught but it’s still a point.”

Whereas Everton played a good open game, Chelsea just parked the bus. Aided by poor decisions from Mike Dean, a dreadful stalemate ensued, with the fans singing “Boring boring Chelsea”. Clear penalties and red cards were not shown. Later, Maureen complained against ‘foreign cry babies’. Wenger said Arsenal deserved to score but “couldn’t”, and that a foul on Theo should have seen a penalty given. Any way, that is life.

So, what do we learn about our likely performance at home in the next few games. First, we will defend well. Second, the quality of officiating may be poor. Mark Clattenburg is the referee against Manchester United. However, whatever happens, we can rely on the home fans to provide vocal support to the good guys. Third, we need to take our chances. But overall, surely the signs are good for the upcoming home fixtures.

Indeed, our home record is fantastic, and it looks even better when compared against our main title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City. Chelsea drew at home to West Ham on 29 January and to West Brom on 9 November. It would therefore seem likely that Chelsea may drop further points at home to the smaller clubs. Manchester City have been formidable at home. But they lost to Chelsea on 3 February and to Bayern Munich on 2 October.

Bottomline: So far so good. But long way to go, plenty to fight for. Big effort is required, and the good guys will provide this with big heart. Onwards and Upwards! 😀 😀 😀

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Written by arnie


“Arsenal Crisis”: the Answer Is Obvious

February 10, 2014

It’s becoming a familiar pattern, isn’t it?

Stage One: the team is over-achieving in a way we never imagined at the start of the season; we supporters are beginning to dream; we face a “big test” against a good team; we get thrashed.

At which point we segue into Stage Two: the manager says that “what we do on the pitch now is what matters”; the fans are miserable; some are very angry; scapegoats are identified and pilloried; the media writes us off again.

This week’s scapegoats seem to be primarily Arteta, Ozil and, as always, Arsene Wenger.

Personally I think people are judging Arteta and Ozil too harshly. Mikel has not been playing well for a few games but the rush to write him off as being over the hill is premature.  All players (regardless of age) go through bad phases and to consign last year’s player of the season to the scrapheap for three bad performances – one of which was a disastrous effort from the whole team – is unfair.

As for Mesut, he was poor against Liverpool, but no worse than several other players including Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and the likes of Rosicky and Podolski when they came on.

Which is not to say I don’t understand the anger and the desire to point fingers. But the defeat happened: we were awful and Liverpool played as well as they can play.

It’s one game, three points lost and a result that will only attain a greater significance if we let it. If we win our next three league games, this defeat will be quickly forgotten.

We can start on Wednesday against Manchester United by demonstrating that we are capable of putting it behind us.

But how do we avoid this sort of situation and performance happening again?

To me the answer is obvious: we have a wonderful blueprint for what the squad needs to do to be successful between now and the end of May.

Better still, it’s a blueprint that has already been tried and tested by the manager and by most of the players currently in our first team squad.

I refer to the way we played last season after losing in the league game at the N17 Public Convenience.

After that defeat – when our defence was all too easily pulled apart by Totteringham and we were ridiculed by dumber and dumberer on Match of the Day – we refocused and went on to win eight and draw two of our remaining 10 games – a run that powered us into the Champions League spots against all expectation.

I remember those games well. Very few were easy victories. In most games we ground out results by being hard to beat. We started every game with the mentality of “let’s not concede soft goals, then see what happens.”

It was incredibly effective and the platform of confidence it gave the squad has been there for all to see this season.

Contrast that with how we approached the game at Anfield on Saturday. If we had taken to the field thinking “OK, Liverpool are flying at the moment and are at home: they’re going to come at us hard so let’s make sure we are really tight at the back and take the wind out of their sails for the first 20 minutes,” we would not have had the debacle we all witnessed.

For a start the first goal would not have happened because Sagna would not have been miles up the field channeling his inner Theo when Liverpool broke; in which case The BFG would not have had to fill in at right back and find himself in a speed race with Luis Suarez; and if that hadn’t happened he would not have had to foul Suarez, there would have been no free kick and that ugly bloke would never have got his porcelain bonce on the ball in our six yard box.

Instead we started that game as if we thought we were Manchester City: “we won’t worry about defending – we’ll just showboat a bit and we’ll probably score five or six.”

We got what we deserved.

It’s like we started to believe that because we’re top of the table we’re so absolutely fabulous that we don’t need to concern ourselves with the boring, workaday bits of the job.

The table doesn’t lie, but sometimes it tells jokes. And on the evidence of Saturday, us being the best team in the country is straight out of Les Dawson’s pocket book.

Now it’s time to put aside any ideas of grandeur and start thinking like we did in the last 10 games of last season.

Constant hard work; relentless pressing of the opposition when they have the ball; total concentration; playing for your team and your team mates… we have done all of this and more before so we can do it again. We know how to do it.

If Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould can put the players back into that mindset we’ll be fine.

And I want to see it starting on Wednesday against ManUre. Despite Saturday’s humiliation I do not want to see us charging at United like the Seventh Cavalry.

Let’s start with a safety first approach, gradually take control of midfield then wait for the goalscoring chances that will inevitably follow.

It’s not as if we don’t know how to do it.

Of course, following the defeat at the Tiny Totts last year Arsene made some selection changes,  including dropping Szczesny and Vermaelen.

Perhaps he’ll do the same this time round, although it’s less likely because (a) we are limited by injuries and (b) the players who failed so badly on Saturday have all being doing well for the most part.

Roll on Wednesday. We need to get back in the saddle…

RockyLives


Save Arsenal’s Season

February 9, 2014

Sad pic

Liverpool 5  Arsenal 1

Skrtel (1 & 10)

Sterling (17 & 52)

Sturridge (20)

Arteta (69 pen)

Stats:

Shots On 12 v 6

Shots Off 9 v 1

Corners. 6 v 6

Possession (%) 43 v 57

Passing Accuracy (%) 79 v 87

Managers thoughts:-

……. on whether he was shocked by that result…

What is important is that we respond to the result, especially that we respond with a different performance because our performance overall was poor today – on the concentration level and on the pace. Our defensive stability was very poor, we looked always vulnerable defensively. Congratulations to Liverpool, they were the better team today and we were very poor today. Only our fans were good for 90 minutes, that’s all.

……on explaining the first 20 minutes…

We conceded two early goals on set pieces and then we are always in a position where you have to come out but we knew that you need to be better focused in that kind of level. Overall our performance was just not good enough. Maybe it’s better if I don’t talk too much, go home and respond well on Wednesday night because I include myself in that performance. It raises the questions that we have to answer on Wednesday night.

…… on the run of games coming up testing the teams credentials…

Yes I understand with you completely but it’s not about what people say, it’s how we respond that matters. I can completely understand that people will raise questions. We only have one way to respond answer that – which is on Wednesday night.

…..on whether Arsenal can still win the title…

Of course because, no matter what happens, it will be mathematically possible. It’s always what you make of the defeats that decides your future and tonight we have a lot to answer for and a lot of answers to find.

….. on taking positives from the response after the City defeat…

It was a similar situation against City, Saturday morning, 12.45 and early goals. We have to analyse well what happened, why it happened but we didn’t look sharp physically as well.

…… on taking 20 points from 24 after the City game…

If we do that in the next games it’s OK but let’s respond well on Wednesday night. We are of course very disappointed today but [we must not] lose our confidence and our belief that we can still do it.

….. on Wilshere’s fitness…

He didn’t look more short than any other player on the pitch. At half-time I could have taken a lot of people off. I just think the whole team failed to turn up with the right performance.

….. on whether they missed Flamini…

Flamini played at Man City. I think overall it’s just our team performance on the day was poor.

Players thoughts:

Szscesny – that was f**king embarrassing. Apologies to anyone who sat through 90 minutes of that game.

Mertersacker – sorry guys, this a bad day for the whole team. Now we have to stand together in defeat and get our heads sorted again.

Giroud – was a really poor performance from me today. We have to face our responsibilities and bounce back v United. So disappointed but keep the head up!

Player Ratings:-

Szscesny – actually made some good saves. Not too much he could do on the goals. Felt sorry for him 7

Sagna – was one of the few who tried throughout the 90 minutes 5

Mertersacker – one of the few times this season his pace has been exposed 3

Koscielny – was more tea lady than boss. Even he couldn’t keep up with Sturridge and Sterling 5

Monreal – was so scared of getting done for pace that he backed off far too much 3

Arteta – pretty woeful first half and should’ve been doing more to rally the team. Better 2nd half and scored the pen 4

Wilshere – another who was awful for the first 45. At least showed some spirit in the second half 4

Özil – was missing for most of the game. Not one who’s needed when the chips are down. Is he a luxury we can’t afford? No, but still poor 3

Ox – only one who tried to harass the opposition and was our best outfield player by a mile. Won the penalty 7

Cazorla – nothing came off for him. One of many who disappeared at 2 down 4

Giroud – wasn’t given a sniff really, but his touch was way off when played to feet and kept running into traffic 3

Subs:-

Gibbs – tried hard and got into some useful positions 5

Rosicky – didn’t see much of him when he came on 4

Podolski – another sub who was disappointing 4

Away Fans – MOTM – players didn’t deserve them yesterday. In some ways I wish it was at home so they could feel exactly how pissed off we were 10

Things that stood out for me were:-

* How poorly our senior players responded to going 2-0 down. We were still in the game at that point and a more experienced team would’ve sat in for 10-15 minutes and settled the ship, then come out swinging for the rest of the game.

* The hole in midfield. I don’t want to pick on individuals but the drop in level of Arteta from last season compared to this is a big worry. Playing Özil and Wilshere alongside did not help. JW cannot do the same level of work Ramsey does, and that’s what we are missing to give us the right balance.

* The lack of pace was a problem but it’s not every week we play the likes of Sterling and Sturridge. We still need to add some though both in attack and DM.

* We have been pretty average for a few weeks now and can’t seem to put a full 90 minute shift in. The starts have been awful too. Is it fatigue, injuries, complacency? I’m not sure.

* This was only 1 game, and as frustrating as it was to watch, it still only equates to 3 points. The players need to come out firing on Wednesday and who better to hammer than Man U. The first goal is going to be vital. We are still 2nd after City’s shocker yesterday and only 1 point behind the leaders. I’d have taken this in August, so still all to play for, as long as we don’t play like we did yesterday ever again!

Written by FatGingerGooner