The One that your Arsenal missed

October 31, 2014

Chas posted a video the other morning that featured Eric Cantona, and it got me thinking.

My Wife does not watch football, but I do remember one occasion when she found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time as a Utd v Arsenal game was beamed into the Didit Moving Image Receiver.

The camera zoomed in to Cantona leading the United side out of the tunnel, and she “ooo’d”. What she observed was a supremely confident man, heaving with pride and a steely look of determination in his eyes. His body language screamed “proud”, “I’m The Daddy here” and “we do it my way”.

I agreed with her, and bear in mind she had no idea that this man was also blessed with incredible talent, and equally importantly for me, the unpredictable.

In life, I like people with an edge and real point of difference, and I would have loved Eric Cantona to have been an Arsenal player.

My question, then, is this: who would you have liked to see in the famous shirt. Clearly there are moments in our past where obvious gaps needed filling and that the team would have been a better unit for that plug, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Let’s not be practical here, or even realistic, simply fantasists.

This is not going to be necessarily a comfortable or pleasant experience, as the chances are some of our targets’ veins will be running with the most unsavoury blood, and their DNA may scream unspeakable words like “Tottenham”. So be brave.

Written by MickyDidIt


Arsène, j’áccuse.

October 30, 2014

Unlike the author of  yesterday’s post I can’t claim to have been born in sight of Highbury Stadium, nor can I claim to have been a supporter for quite as long as him, only since 1950 in fact.

I was, however, born into an Arsenal supporting family, my father, my mother, two elder brothers and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins were, and some still are, all loyal fans.

I too lived through the long years of mediocrity under a succession of uninspiring managers, indeed one of my worst memories was listening to the radio commentary on our one nil defeat by Newcastle United in the 1952 FA Cup Final.

Yes we had success under those managers mentioned yesterday, but it really wasn’t until the appointment of Arsène Wenger that things started to improve. The playing style began to evolve and the epithet “boring, boring Arsenal was consigned to the dustbin. What’s more we actually began to win trophies on a regular basis.

Arsenal entered a golden period. Wengerball was the envy of our competitors, we won a string of cups, and league titles, even doubles ensued, culminating in The Invincibles unbeaten season.

Then came the long decline, George Graham’s Famous Five passed into history and with them went the rock on which our game was founded. Replacements came in but were never of the quality needed, in fact some of them were so poor one wonders why they were bought in the first place. Our game changed from one based on solid defence, pace on the flanks and quality strikers to mid-fielders playing tippy tappy in front of dodgy defenders.

With this decline fourth place became a trophy.

Wenger was rightly credited with changing the face of football. He oversaw the establishment of the Academy, the training complex at London Colney and the overhaul of the medical staff. Arguably none of the latter three have proved to be of much benefit to the results attained by the players.

Over recent years there has been a lack of innovation on the pitch, there is no invention at set plays, we win countless corners but rarely score from them, free kicks are entirely wasted, build up play is sluggish and tactics are entirely predictable. All this points to an apparent failure of coaching.

Over the past few transfer windows money has become available and has been spent, Mesut Ozil came in, a wonderful player, a true number ten, Wenger plays him wide on the left. Danny Welbeck is signed ostensibly as a central striker, he wanders around like a lost lamb, one minute on the wing the next dropping deep, why is he not playing in the position he was bought to fill?

Wenger’s transfer policy seems not to be based on the idea of identifying a position that needs filling and buying a player to fill it, rather buying a player and dropping him into the team and seeing where he ends up.

Alexis is a super player, he’s got it all, pace, intelligence, skill, a terrific attitude and an eye for not just goals but also the telling pass, I confess to having no idea what his best position is, sadly I suspect neither does Wenger.

I think we all recognise the failings in our defence, not since “Mad Jens” left have we had a competent ‘keeper, thankfully Szczesny is starting to fulfil his promise. The same applies to left-back, Ashley Cole has never been properly replaced, Gibbs is too injury prone and Monreal is poor at defending. Vermaelen, a good defender came, picked up too many injuries, lost his form, lost his place, was sold and wasn’t replaced. Koscielny, another good defender, but is again picking up too many injuries as well as too many red and yellow cards. Mertesacker is the exception, a solid, reliable “old school” centre back but he needs good reliable support around him.

Debuchy, before his injury, was proving to be a more than adequate replacement for the departed Sagna. Incidentally just why was Sagna allowed to leave? Finally, Chambers, a full-back who appears to be a much better centre-back but Wenger bought him as a prospective holding mid-fielder.

Then we come to the player that we have all been crying out, a holding-midfielder or, if you like, a defensive mid-fielder. Surely our manager must recognise that neither Arteta or Flamini can adequately fill the gap, yet there is nothing to indicate that a serious attempt has been made to sign one.

Arsène Wenger has a great history at Arsenal, but there are too many flaws in his stewardship to be papered over by the recent FA Cup win. Flaws such as the failure to provide innovation in tactics, a failure to inspire the team to play from the first to last whistle, to make tactical substitutions when the need first becomes apparent, an over whelming loyalty to underachieving or perennially injured players, a flawed transfer policy, his antipathy to players over thirty.

All in all I think the time is approaching when serious consideration has to be given to Arsene Wenger’s replacement.

I will forestall one obvious question which I’m sure will be asked, no I have no idea who to replace the great man with, I can honestly say that I’m extremely happy that I don’t have that decision to make.

Written by Norfolk Gooner.

 

 

 


In Praise of Arsène Wenger

October 29, 2014

As an Arsenal supporter for the past 67 years I want to thank Arsène for his dedication to the Arsenal Football Club and his devotion to playing a calibre of football that is envied the world over. His 18 seasons in charge of Arsenal have been a revelation to many of us older fans who have witnessed many, many dark years where our support of the club was tested to the fullest.

Football fans are among the most fickle in sport and many of them only seem to care about winning trophies in order to give then the upper hand in bragging rights over the opposition.  Thankfully there are also supporters who can see beyond a piece of silverware and fully appreciate the transformation of Arsenal into a truly world class club with world class facilities and one of the world’s top teams.

I’ve tried to understand the mentality of the anti Arsène Wenger segment of Arsenal supporters – but I just don’t get it! It’s also beyond my comprehension how Arsène stands tall and proud in face of the inane nonsense that is levelled at him regardless of his actual list of successes and achievements. A lesser individual would have accepted one of the many offers he has received from the world’s top clubs.

If we put aside the lack of silverware, for a mere eight year period, we are among the top four clubs in the UK and the top ten clubs in the world of football.  So why are so many of our supporters against the manager with the longest tenure in our history and the most successful from every statistical standpoint. They choose to ignore the fact that Arsène has won more silverware than any previous Arsenal manager and his haul has only been exceeded by one other PL manager in football league history.

In the ninety two years before Arsène became our manager we managed to get into the top four on only twenty eight occasions or less than 29% of the time – during Arsène Wenger’s 18 year tenure we have been in the top four 100% of the time. However instead of applauding this incredible feat his detractors theorize that he and the Board of Directors are complacent and are satisfied to only finish in the top four – because it brings us a modicum of financial security.

I wonder how many of our current detractors have experienced being out of the running of everything before the end of October?  Or winning just one league title and 2 FA Cups in a thirty four year period under the stewardship of six different managers?

There is always a lot of chit chat about our “glorious history” when in  fact many, many years were nothing more than hum drum under the management of thirteen rather ordinary managers – twelve of them never even won a coin toss let alone a trophy!.

Of course I have to agree that we have had a few glorious spells – under Chapman, Allison, Whittaker, Mee and Graham – but none as glorious as the Wenger years.

I won’t bother to list his record as that is well known and the envy of all other PL managers.

I am personally fed up to the teeth with the negative, unjustified, views that are expressed against both our club and our manager. Wading through the negative comments is a laborious chore and has turned blogging into an unpleasant experience, so as a consequence I choose to blog far less than before.

I also feel that the issue is not really about the quality of our football or the calibre of our players but all to do with the lack of trophies – which in the writer’s opinion is very shallow indeed.

GunnerN5


Strictly Come Arsenal …….. your chance to vote!

October 28, 2014

Now I’m sure no red blooded Arsenal supporter would admit to watching Strictly Come Dancing – but maybe the missus has it on in the background or you’ve been forced to watch it as some sort of penance. For those that claim not to have seen it, the performance of the dancers is scored from 1 to 10. At the start of the series the scores are lower but towards the end the audience go into raptures when their favourite celebrity dancer is awarded a perfect 10……. which brings me to Arsenal.

Before the Sunderland game, Arsene said that the team was performing at 99% and when interviewed after he increased it to 99.5% – albeit with that playful little twinkle he often has in his eye.

To me a perfect 100% in terms of a sporting performance is never attainable. I’d happily shoot the next sportsman who claims to have given it 110% if I could get away with it. Clearly Arsene’s 99% was his way of saying to the players you’re doing really well …. just a leeeelte bit more please. It’s his style of man management.

For me the 20 seconds that led up to the winning goal by Arshavin against Barca was a 99%, and the first 20 minutes at home against Napoli last season was a 95% …. but 99.5% against Sunderland ….. really?

So what I’d like you to do today is have a think and vote on what you think is the current level of Arsenal’s performances. You can relax because no answer will imply negativity. If you agree we’re at 99% then you are very happy with our game and if you think it’s 80% then you’re simply saying we’ve got a lot more to come!

To continue the debate perhaps you could suggest a game or a passage of play  when you saw Arsenal play at 99%.

Written by De Ville’s Advocaat

 


Reflections on Sunderland and Anderlecht

October 27, 2014

We have been playing abysmal football this season so far, except against City for one half and against a very poor Galatasaray side.

These are the things I take from the last two games:

1. Chambers is much better as a Centre-Half and maybe as a HM. He is not quick enough or does not have enough physical abilities to play right back. Bellerin is really poor and we should loan him out.

2. Wilshere is having a very poor start of the season. This was his opportunity to shine and come back in contention in the starting XI but I think that he is now even behind Rosicky in the pecking order…

3. Giroud is sorely missed….

4. Walcott is even more sorely missed…

5. Arteta and Flamini cannot cut it as HM in the EPL.

6. Wellbeck is only motivated againt big teams. He needs a big stage to perform. When he does not, his first touch is worse than Sanogo’s…

7. When will AW manage to get the usual subs going? Podolski, Rosicky can bring in experience and Campbell his hunger…

8. Cazorla’s in the last three four games is worrisome…

9. Sanchez is probably thinking about leaving in the summer already…

10. We really need a HM/DM and a back-up RB (shall we call Jenkinson back?)

11. The EPL is over. Chelsea will snatch it.

12. The top 4 will be a race between City (probably 2nd), Man Utd, Arsenal and somehow Liverpool, Everton and Southampton.

13. Next game vs Burnley at Home. Let us show some character and play two up-front…Here is my suggested line-up

PiG – Chambers (:-(), PiG, Monreal (:-(), Gibbs – Oxlade, Arteta, Ramsey – Sanchez – Wellbeck, Campbell (or Poldi)

Written by RC78


The only positives: 3 points and Sanchez.

October 26, 2014

We are somewhat away from a top four finish unless things improve dramatically. Our attacking play in the second half was embarrassing.We should have had at least 6 goals but more tippy tappy or terrible shooting.

I can only hope the win might jolt these lads into something resembling last season’s form, but you have to agree as unit we were pretty ordinary against a crap team, and unfortunately not for the first time this season..

When you are 1-0 up against a team that got thrashed 8-0 last week it is a dangerous game to sit back and let the opposition take control. We just can’t seem to put a game to bed. I have said it before,we play as a group of individuals, not the team of fluid passing that we saw for much of last season.Several players seem to have lost confidence and/or out of form.We had options on the bench in Rosicky and Podolski so why not use them.Can Wenger actually motivate these lads? It is a serious question.

Many thought Rosicky would never recover after so many set backs,but he has,so why not use him.Podolski obviously doesn’t feature in Wenger’s plan, yet he alone may have secured us an advance from the group stages. I wonder how he is feeling. Then there is Campbell. He had a good World Cup yet had never played for us.Why not sell him at the optimum time or play him.

I can’t accept that the players were fatigued after making hard work in just about beating a poor Anderlecht team.If we had real squad depth that question wouldn’t be asked. Now with Gibbs injured and Arteta who will get injured time and time again we hardly have the numbers to field a defence. Should a top club be in that position, even allowing for injuries which is nothing new for us.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “You could feel that we had a lot of the ball and Sunderland were focused on defending very well. They came out with more purpose in the second half but on the break we had many chances. We played away on Wednesday and again today so what was most important was the points. In life you can always improve but what was important for us today was to get the three points and keep a clean sheet.

“Sanchez is not scared to take the ball and go at you anywhere and that is very important. He got two goals but we want more.

“I think Kieran Gibbs has a hip problem. He wanted to go on but he couldn’t. Mikel Arteta got a kick on his thigh but I don’t think it’s bad.

All I will say is that this present squad is like Gruyère 🙂

Sanchez is a wonderful player I just hope he doesn’t get burned out.It is putting a lot of pressure on him and others need to up their game.

kelsey


Will 95% be enough?

October 25, 2014

Long trip up north for the fans especially after an away CL game.

Sunderland: have you ever been to Sunderland? I have. Went to watch the lads at the Stadium of Light in 2003, we won 4-0 with a Freddie hayrick. Do you know they have coal on the beaches and a freezing cold wind blowing in from the sea! No wonder their fans moan. It must be a difficult transition for chaps who grow up in warmer climes and bigger cities to play for the Mackems – which may explain why many leave soon after arriving.

Which brings me on to Gus Poyet. Now this bloke seems like a decent egg, he is unfailingly polite, speaks decent English and would make a fine Uncle BUT any team that signs a manager with Spurs connections is doomed. History proves it. Sunderland made a miraculous escape from relegation last season thanks to startling ineptitude from other teams and a very suspicious win at Poyet’s old club, Chelsea – it was the first home defeat for Mourinho. Lose today and Poyet could well be sacked.

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Why Me???

I hate playing teams who have just been thrashed, they are determined to show it was an aberration so go onto the pitch fired up and ready for violence – we will need a strong a referee today (Kevin Friend). Furthermore, they focus heavily on defence and one of our faves Young Vito Mannone will be wanting to show Mr Wenger that it should have been him between the sticks at Anderlecht. Goals could be hard to come by.

Sunderland have their fair share of nasty ankle kickers; Cattermole, two MU rejects at CB, a massive lump called Conor Wickham and a spiky (read nasty) Scotsman in Fletcher. Add in the excellent Seb Larsson and you can see our players and Kevin Friend will have to be alert.

When Sunderland signed Jack Rodwell I have to say I was surprised. Before his injury this chap looked the chiens couilles but how quickly his career has stalled. He played his first game for Everton at just 16, appeared to be England’s next Bryan Robson and then made the huge mistake of signing for a Man City side who already had YaYa in his position. Got injured, moved on, and is likely to become a Championship player in 2015.

Thinking of such things – have you seen that Frimpong was released by Barnsley after just 4 months and is now playing in Russia at some shitballs club called Ufa who have a stadium capacity of less than 6,000? Dench!!

The Arsenal: You know the story. No defenders, an injury list as long as a Danish winter, Jack suspended, Aaron off-form, unable to score against teams who defend deep and as Mr. Wenger says “playing at 95%”. It does not bode well. However, we are still able to play 11 full Internationals (The Flamster picked up a few in his first spell at AFC)

My Team:

Szczesny

Chambers    BFG    Monreal    Gibbs

Ox    Ramsey    Flamini

Sanchez    Welbeck    Cazorla

Despite my picks I would love to see Campbell start ahead of Santi. Just to give us some extra bite upfront. Podolski’s time has run at Arsenal (much as I like him) and I cannot see him starting another game in our shirt .  The bench will be a few reserves and a couple of player’s wives.

Food: Sunderland is not known as a hotbed of culinary delights, it does have a Festival of Food though this seems to concentrate on every type of food except good old local fare. The top restaurants on Tripadvisor are all selling African, Chinese, Thai, Italian etc everything bar foods from Wearside . There is a restaurant which apparently makes one of the nations best cheese and onion mash. Sounds appetising.

images-1

Excellent with a pint of Stout

We have the players, we lack the cohesion and confidence. How does it return? By winning and winning a run of games. Can the run start today? Why not?

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy

 


Did they really play for Arsenal?

October 24, 2014

This is a short starter for Rant Friday and concerns our ex-players who have become pundits.

Let’s start with a man who has a clear anti-Arsenal agenda, Stewart Robson. I have no idea why such an admired player (pre-injury) has turned into a man who cannot speak without being negative about our boys but whatever it is it must have been painful because he clearly hates his former employers.

Then there are the Sky boys. Smudger Smith was one of my heroes. Known as “The Professor” in the dressing room because he read broadsheet newspapers Smith rarely is complimentary about our boys, choosing instead to tell us how much better the opposition is and then laying into our lads, in particular JW.

Merse. Mercurial on the pitch and a buffoon off it. Is this illiterate the best Sky can come up with?

George Graham. I guess he has reason to be anti-AW but I hoped for better from a man who brought not only trophies but dishonour to the club.

O’Leary. Our appearance record holder and yet persona non grata at THOF. Why?

At least we have Ian Wright, Wright, Wright, TH14 and Lee Dixon fighting our corner.

Want to moan about them apples??

written by Big Raddy

 


Stop Carping And Get Behind The Lads

October 23, 2014

I didn’t see last night’s game but I thought I’d do a report anyway.

Here it is:

First Half: we were pants.

Second Half: pants with skiddies.

I have deduced this summary from Arsenal blogs and newspaper articles. And Twatter. And Twat (better known as Piers Morgan).

The thing is though, we won. And we’re now in a cracking position to guarantee qualification for the knock out rounds of the Champions League yet again.

Yes, I know we take the “knock out” rounds a bit too literally and tend to get knocked out, but we must be due a lucky draw in the Round of 16 this time, surely?

I digress.

Back to the game that I didn’t see. It appears we struggled to put two passes together and left ourselves spreadeagled and wide open at the back, resulting in a nasty Belgian Surprise (like getting an iffy mussel at Belgo).

Having gone a goal down, we instantly went back to not stringing passes together, leaving ourselves wide open at the back etc etc.

Then, when all was about lost, we scored two goals and knicked all three points.

Hurrah!

Although I didn’t see the game I did manage to see the goals on YouTube before a UEFA lawyer had the clip removed. Gibbs’ finish was a thing of class and composure and the most striking feature of Podolski’s winner was the sheer determination of Sanchez to keep the ball alive and in the danger zone. We got a lucky bounce to plop the ball at the Pod’s feet, but we’ve had few enough of them this season.

Anyway, many of you will doubtless want to go on about how bad our performance was, regardless of the result.

To that I say: “Hush, my little ones. Curb thine tongues and sooth thine fevered brows.”

We’re going through a wobbly phase at the moment (we’ll snap out of it soon) and what the players need above all is support and confidence. They are certainly taking the good bits out of the evening: Kieran Gibbs says we made a statement with our late comeback, Aaron Ramsey says it’s good to get back to winning ways, Mesut Ozil called the win very important and Arsene Wenger hailed our spirit. Well, alright, Arsene would hail our spirit if we’d just fainted on the Jungle Bouncers (“toddlers welcome”) at Chessington World of Adventures.

But while Arsenal fans wail and gnash their teeth, who’d have thought the most sensible comment of the night would come from Mr Stanley Collymore?: “Well done Arsenal. Crap most of the night, bottle when it mattered. Big big result and confidence booster.”

I say let’s treat the result (and the game) the way the players are treating it: a characterful win on a night when things didn’t always go smoothly.

We all know this Arsenal team has the players to do something special. Let’s help give them the confidence to get on with the job.

RockyLives


Time for Revenge. Anderlecht Away

October 22, 2014

Many years ago in a land far away our valiant boys took the field for the first leg of the 1970 Inter-City Fairs Cup Final which today is the equivalent of the Europa Cup. We had been poor for a number of years and recently lost the League Cup to Swindon, yes Swindon, so the prospect of playing the Belgian Champions was worrying.

Despite being a rabid Gooner and having been to all the league games at home and many away, I didn’t travel abroad (my Mum wouldn’t let me). Just as well as we lost 3-1. At three down it was all over but Ray Kennedy managed to notch one back in the 82nd minute to give us some hope for the return – which I will write about when Anderlecht come to the Emirates.

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The current Anderlecht team have won their league 4 out of the last 5 seasons. Quite honestly I know very little about Anderlecht apart from the fact they play in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium and that one of their players had a trial at Arsenal as a 16 y.o. (Dennis Praet). This season in the CL they drew away at Galatasary and lost 3-0 to Dortmund. After 11 games they are top of the Belgian league, 3 points ahead of Brugge.

Arsenal have selection problems (!!!).  Ever heard of Ryan Huddart? Neither have I, but he is on the bench for us tonight and if Martinez gets knocked he will be playing. A 17 y.o. who has just signed professional forms in goal in an away CL game! Then there is the defence – Chambers will play CB and Bellerin at RB, two 19 y.o.’s. This is Arsenal we are talking about not some Mickey Mouse organisation and yet the 8th richest club in the world has allowed this to occur. Am I bovvered? You bet I am.

Midfield and upfront we are much better served. There are many permutations but I go with this one

My team:

22nd oct

Not sure who we will have as a defensive sub apart from Monreal but hopefully we will not need one.

Food: Belgium is not renowned for its cuisine though for a few years in the ’90’s Belgian beer and Moules was popular in N. London. Belgians like a bar of chocolate and a truffle or two and of course are responsible for the dreadful Mandarine Napoleon which is made by mixing brandy and tangerines. I suppose what most Belgians eat is waffles …. they love a waffle.

Unknown-1

Maple Syrup, Nutella or Fruit?

As I have a little time perhaps you will allow me to tell you about another time an English team went to play on Belgian soil.

It was 15th June 1815.  The English squad had their version of Podolski, Mertesacker and Ozil in the team (at that time known as Prussians), they were taking on the current European Champions, the French. Our boys were managed by the Duke of Wellington and the opposition by the foreign genius and Mr Wenger of his day Napoleon Bonaparte. You will not need me to tell you that Our Boys gave the French a good spanking (one reason being the English forces numbered 120k and the French 72k).

Unknown-2

 

Beating the French away.

Will we lose 3-1 as we did all those years ago? Unlikely. The two teams have grown in different directions and despite the excellence of the Belgium national team Anderlecht are the weakest team in the group. We should get a result.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy