The Fat French Ponce Returns: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 4

October 30, 2016

That’s Giroud; of course, that I am talking about for those who may have been wondering over recent weeks what FFP stands for. On he bounded looking determined, rested and raring to get goals and that is exactly what he did. With his first touch of the game he put us back ahead and then shortly after with just his second touch he scored again this time from a corner, powerfully guiding the ball over the keeper’s out stretched hand. Smiling from ear to ear he knew that he had saved the day and the thought crossed my mind as he reeled away in celebration knowing he put the game completely out of Sunderland’s reach that the only thing missing from this picture was a Superman cape with the letters FFP on the back. Welcome back Ollie you have been missed.

Arsenal’s training session in the North East in preparation for next week’s North London Derby went exactly to plan. Arsene Wenger was able to completely rest Özil who surprisingly didn’t even travel and bring Oxlaide-Chamberlain in for Walcott and Gibbs for Monreal giving the two regulars an extra week to recover, again in preparation for next week, although, it took very little time to see that there really isn’t a lot of difference between all four of them. Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Gibbs are able deputies and both highlight the depth and strength of the squad.

The Ox started confidently, buoyed by his two goals in mid week against Reading; it was his excellent cross that Sanchez headed home to get us off the mark.


This goal was on the back of a twenty-one pass move but although Sanchez still had a lot to do when the ball came in the star of this show was the quality of the cross. It is made all the better when compared with some of the crosses Alex has sent over this season which can only be described as somewhere between bad and woeful and so when he shaped to send in what turned out to be a thing of beauty I feared the worse but fear I needn’t have because boy did he deliver. Well done young man.

Shortly after Gibbs and he dispossessed a Sunderland player by their corner flag, Ox ran in and shot from the most impossible angle when Iwobi and Sanchez were waiting on the 18 yard line. Iwobi put his hands in front of him to indicate where he had wanted the ball played and Sanchez threw his hands in the air in frustration. Alex glanced guiltily at the bench, aware of his school boy error and from then on his confidence slowly waned and he gradually drifted out of the game until he was subbed in the second half.

As we all know we should have put this one to bed a lot earlier but we were clearly lacking a killer instinct. Özil as I said didn’t travel, Iwobi is just too nice; he is the kind of boy you would be happy to meet your mum; he needs Ian Wright to take him under his wing to teach him just how to be more of a selfish, fatherless person. Apparently Wenger commented in the week that he thought that Iwobi is trying too hard in front of goal, suggesting he needs to relax more, gotta agree with that. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets a bit of a rest now, starting on the bench mid-week as well as the coming weekend as more of the Cav return namely Giroud. Sanchez will probably move out to the left to replace our up and coming Nigerian star.

And on that subject, Sanchez was a bit like a one of those super dooper Swiss Army Knives which is able to do anything and so is he. The problem is that there is such a great deal of choice you have to take time to consider which tool would be the most appropriate for the job in hand and so with Alexis; he is so multi talented that the possibilities available to him are so much greater than other players and because of that he often takes more time than necessary which usually involves trying to beat one more player than is needed when more often than not a simple pass would be more effective.

Sunderland were poor but even so they still managed to give us a scare when the referee’s selected decision making ignored the fact that Sanchez was being pulled back in the Sunderland box which should have been a penalty to us but five minutes later he had no problem awarding one at the other end which Defoe put away to level the score.


It was all set up for Giroud and he wasn’t going to waste this chance to show everyone what they had been missing. Ramsey reappeared amidst the celebrations of Giroud’s first and it immediately became apparent that he is so much more than a box to box player. Elneny is a box to box player and while I am on that subject he deserves special mention for the calm, controlled performance that he put in today. The Egyptian will run from the edge of our box to the edge of the opponent’s box but will rarely go in. Watch Ramsey, by contrast, he can run from box to box with the best of them but notice in the short period that he was on yesterday how many times he glided into Sunderland’s box adding to the attacking threat. In fact he played a part in the fourth goal when Gibbs hit the post and Ramsey played it onto Sanchez whose nimble feet seemed to dance on a sixpence before he poked it past their helpless goalkeeper.

Job done, game over, banana skin avoided, Sanchez was my man of the match, sometimes he can be frustrating but that is only because he offers so many possibilities. Moving on, oh how I am looking forward to next weekend, it would have been a bit of a shame if spuds had lost to Leicester, shame in the way, that is, that it would have taken some of the shine off next week when we inflict their first loss.


Written by LB


Bulldozing the Black Cats?

October 29, 2016

An early kick off on a Saturday up in the wilds of the North East and who knows what the 90 minutes might bring. If Eddie’s theory about the players training in the mornings and having a kip in the afternoon is correct, then let’s hope the lads hit their perfect peak at 12.30 today.

So far the Mackems are having a dismal season with 2 draws and 7 defeats from their first 9 fixtures. Let’s hope and pray that it’s not us who allows them any release from this calamitous run.


Whenever we travel to Sunderland, I have to remember it’s a degree or two cooler up there, though, today, the weather looks mild, with a light breeze and little chance of rain. Perfect October weather for playing football it would seem. The Stadium of Light pitch should be in good nick, too.

Hopefully we can keep the crowd quiet early on and maybe nick an early goal. In other words, the normal recipe for a day of reduced tension and low blood pressure.

In his post match interview on Wednesday evening, David Moyes was asked about being sent to the stands by Chris Kavanagh (the referee). Moyes had to ask who Chris Kavanagh was! He does seem a little lost since he left Everton.

Sunderland also intended to travel straight back after the match in midweek but were kept overnight on the South coast by fog. Hopefully that also disrupted their plans for today’s game. I’ll take any advantage, me.

Team news

It appears that Ramsey and everyone’s favourite Frenchman are back and in the squad. Perhaps neither will start, though with the continued absence of Santi, there does appear to be an opening for Aaron to provide some creativity in the box-to-box role. By the way, the signs for Santi are good and there’s even talk that he might have a test to see if he can play. It never seems a good idea to rush someone back, especially if there are able deputies, so I still think Santi will be out.

Theo and Nacho also face tests. Nacho is covered by Kieran. Lucas is out for a while after being clobbered by a Reading Neanderthal, so maybe the Ox would be the obvious replacement on the right.

C’mon you Gunners. Three points would make me feel a whole lot better and set the weekend up nicely.

(BR is without internet at present, hence the short, hastily written pre-match. Hopefully normality will be resumed for Tuesday.)

Written by chas

Reading: Player Ratings and Analysis

October 26, 2016

Well, that was fun wasn’t it?

Reading were no pushovers but not good enough to really threaten, that said, Martinez made a couple of fine saves which highlighted our abundance of quality keepers.

At 24, Martinez was one of the oldest Arsenal players, he is older than Ox! Fortunately for him GK’s have a longer shelf life.

And what of the Young Pretenders? Iwobi shone as one would expect. He could be the Real Deal, a future superstar. Up there with Messi and DB10. He has amazing dribbling ability, great balance, a good eye for a pass, he can shoot, tackle (?) and has stamina. I hope AW allows him to develop slowly and not overplay him, thankfully Ramsey is about to return and perhaps Iwobi will get some rest.

Jeff, and Niles found it hard to get into the game but showed flashes of their potential. Both typical Wenger youths; inventive, fast and confident.

Once again, Holding was impressive. Alongside Gabriel we looked solid in the centre of defence. Gibbs showed why he is good enough to play for England but not good enough to start for Arsenal, in other words the best FB on the pitch.

Jenkinson must have been delighted to start again for the club he loves. As one would expect his performance was full of energy but The Corporal has the problem of always being second fiddle to the best RB in the PL.

Elneny held the midfield and did his work efficiently and without too much drama.

Upfront we continually chose or misplaced the wrong final ball. Perez was busy as was Ox but we really should have  put more pressure on the Reading goalkeeper. I cannot recall Perez having a shot on target however it is easy to see why Mr Wenger has such confidence in him, Perez needs Ozil and Sanchez to flourish.

Ox. I love this bloke. I love his energy and his passion. I love his intelligence. But …. he should be progressing faster than he is if he wants to stay at Arsenal. Danish TV had Ox as the Man of the Match . Yes, he scored twice but his passing, especially this crossing, was wayward (I say this without the benefit of stats!). Against a young Reading side in a game with little pressure Ox was the best player on the pitch but I expect more.

The subs did well. Zelalem and  Willock both got a taster but the best news for Gooners was the return of the mighty Giroud. He looked fit and strong , bringing out a marvellous save from Al-Habsi (who had a great game.)

Overall, Arsenal played some wonderful, dynamic passing football making for a really enjoyable evening.

Player Ratings:

Martinez     7

Jens               6.5

Gabriel         7

Holding        8

Gibbs            7

Iwobi            8

Elneny          7

Maitland-Niles       6

Jeff                6.5

Perez            7

Ox                 8

Written by Big Raddy

Another Goal-Fest?

October 25, 2016

Strange how the EFL Cup has become such so much fun. A few years ago it was just anther fixture to be got through in a busy PL/CL season and one we hoped would not result injuries; today it is  (IMO) more interesting than Boro last w/e.

Why? Because:

A.  It doesn’t really matter if we win or lose.

B. We get to see the depth of our squad and in particular the young stars of the future.

C. It is potential Silverware (though not open-bus through Islington silverware).

Tonight we entertain Reading. A Reading who not so long ago were a PL team with good players and Steve Coppell as manager. Not so any longer and one must wonder why. Reading is a rich town, has a fine ground with a good fanbase evidenced by an expected 5,000 travelling fans tonight.

They have a good man at the helm, Jap Stam is a proper bloke, anyone who stands up to the Whisky Sodden SAF is OK in my eyes; whether he is a good manager is another thing altogether but I wish him well.

Players? No idea. I only know Paul McShane, who plays FB for ROI, and Steven Quinn who played for Hull when we smashed 😀 them at Wembley in 2014.

Our team is just a guess. I am delighted that Corporal Jenkinson makes his Emirates return tonight and hope he has a brilliant game. Hector is just magic but we need a proper back up.

Anther player returning is Didit’s favourite player Mr Giroud. I look forward hearing that Beatles dirge at least once tonight.

My Team:


Jenks    Gabriel   Holding    Gibbs

Maitland-Niles    Ox    Elneney   Iwobi

     Riene-Adelaide        Perez

This team has two chaps with double barrelled surnames. I like it. Could this be a marketing plan to increase the costs of replica shirts? If so, AW is a genius and expect more such signings.

I expect a tough but open game and hope for a win.

Actually what I really, really hope for is a repeat of the 7-5  of which I am sure Chas will find a video for our entertainment.


Petr Cech makes a point

October 23, 2016

Oh boy, what a difference a few days makes in Arsenal world. From heroes on Wednesday night to zeroes by Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal twitter was best avoided yesterday evening and it’s entirely possible that no-one will be bothered to want to comment about the game today. But there are things to say …….

Petr Cech kept us in the game and saved us the embarrassment of a possible home defeat. He looked like he meant business from the start following on from Ospina’s fine display the other night. Competition is good.

Boro didn’t actually come to play football but as luck would have it (their luck that is) we couldn’t resist giving them a couple of opportunities to try and score. Cech’s agility was amazing and many stood and applauded his fine saves. The very experienced Valdes also kept Boro in the game.

So what was wrong with our team? No Cazorla we know from last season upsets the balance in midfield. I felt that both Elneny and Coquelin were too static, they seemed to be protecting each other and so there was no fluidity through midfield which slowed down the attack.

The pacy thrusting runs of late just weren’t there. Alexis was hampered and maybe this was a game for Giroud as many high balls were played over the top.

Everyone seemed tired, although Theo was lively but couldn’t add any goals and Mesut just didn’t want to score yesterday 😉

Parked buses always present us with a big problem and the longer we go in a game without scoring the more difficult it gets. If only we could put away a couple of early chances …………

But ……… hey ho, We Are Top Of The League …….. if only for a few hours ……. so we really mustn’t complain 🙂

Written by peachesgooner 

Winning Run to Continue?

October 22, 2016

Middlesbrough come to us on an unbeaten run of one. Arsenal are on a 7 match winning streak. Should be easy, never is.


The current form of the Gunners is as good as we have seen for many a year and the prospects are positive. However, it has to be said  we have played ordinary teams and the real test of our potential is yet to come in November which has been crap for us for a couple of generations.

Will Mr Wenger celebrate his birthday with a gamble? Will he give Perez a run out? Will Gibbs excellent performances won him a start? Will he reward Ospina? I doubt it.

My Team:


Bellerin    Mustafi    Koscielny     Monreal

Cazorla       Coquelin    Iwobi

Walcott     Sanchez      Ozil

Our bench is awesome and  all riding the pine would be first on the team sheet at ‘Boro.

And what of Boro? Well, as I sit in an airport lounge awaiting a delayed SAS flight, I cannot really tell you. I have been to Middlesbrough and have to say it is an unimpressive town. I was staying at the home of one of the city councillors who very proudly showed me her city. For her sake I feigned interest but have to say I couldn’t wait to return to Islington. To those few Boro fans who can read, if you can move down South of Watford into the light.

We need to take the points this afternoon and many will think anything less than an easy victory will be failure. In the PL this is rarely the case, as we all know “there are no easy games at this level”, but I am hopeful.

Win today and we could go ToTL. Happy Days.




Arsenal 6 Ludogrets 0…………a few thoughts on the game.

October 20, 2016

Thracians thrashed and we have a better clock tower; well we do, the clock tower near the Highbury barn is much better than theirs by about six goals I would say.

Sanchez, Walcott’s twin brother, Oxlaide-Chamberlain all got on the score sheet but it was Mesut Ozil’s night with his first hat trick at THOF.

Arsenal cruised past the Bulgarian champions with the ease in which I think most anticipated; that’s to say, anticipated in the way that none of us knew what to expect from Ludogrets but most presumed, and rightly so as it turned out, that the champions of such a lowly league were hardly going to produce a team capable of beating us in the form we are in.

No, but, that is not to say that we didn’t have a few scares; it took two fine saves from the outstanding Ospina to keep us ahead: Sanchez having scored from what is fast becoming his trade mark “Scoop”. I am not sure what else to call it; it was as inch perfect as the “Scoop” he sent over for Ozil to score one of the best goals I have ever seen against Swansea on Saturday.


The Chilean’s goal settled the nerves and gave a moment to reflect on what a clever team selection Wenger had made. For twenty years I have been trying to guess the team he is going to select and although there have been a couple of times when I have been really annoyed usually following a sound thrashing; that said, I am not daft enough to realise that my criticism was made with the use of hindsight. Anyway once again I couldn’t guess and once again I was really impressed with the way Wenger deployed the troops: Monreal needed time to cool down from his weekend roasting which gave Gibbs a chance and the Ox for Iwobi was smart.

It is all very well going on as we do about how much depth we have to the squad but it is easy to forget that they are human beings with feelings and they need be kept on side and motivated and that was exactly what Wenger was able to do to two key players in the very important Gibbs and Oxlaide-Chamberlain. Oops I almost forgot, that is three key players with Ospina.

Theo’s twin brother continued to impress with a superb long range effort from way outside the box just before half time which allowed us to go into the break having doubled our lead and a whole lot more relaxed. I say Theo’s twin brother of course because there is no way anyone is going to persuade me that this is the same Theo that we have had at the club for what, ten years now? No way. Theo’s twin seems to have worked out his best position in no time and even more important he has been given provisional membership into the elite Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla club. Yes a very exclusive club that very few get invited into, Ramsey has a provisional membership, Giroud by contrast doesn’t.

What this membership gets you is — the ball, it means that Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla will pass to you; they wouldn’t have passed to Theo of last season, no point he would have just lost possession but his twin this season is able to control it and make some telling passes and score some very important goals. I am not sure that Giroud will ever be in the club, have you noticed how those three will try a really complicated pass to one another rather than make a simple short easy pass to the Frenchman.

In Arsenal world tonight was a resounding win but it will still go almost unnoticed. I am not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed. I suppose it is useful that all the media continue to kneel in front of Pep, lip gloss applied, while we go on winning almost unnoticed, it certainly keeps the pressure on Man City and off of us. It is a two horse race, no doubt in my mind about it.

But we were good tonight, we are very good, who would have expected Ozil to start scoring the way he is and before I go any further I want make sure Perez’s two assists do not go unnoticed. Do you remember when we bought him and we were all excited about how finally we might have someone who can play with Ozil and Sanchez up front, someone who has the same close control as those two titans of our team, well you saw it tonight. Perez was outstanding which of course leaves me with a bit of a problem choosing my superlative for Ozil but before I do a thought crossed my mind as he completed his hat trick.


What would Ozil have to do to be regarded as the best player we have ever had at Arsenal? I will leave that one to you to discuss.

Back to the game, no actually I am done, Ozil’s three goals were magnificent and boy what a pleasure it was to be there and witness them. One last very personal point that gave me goose bumps. It is always a sign that we are on top and cruising when the you hear We’re the North bank, we’re the North Bank followed by we’re the Clock end, we’re the clock end, nothing new here but the difference last night was that like phoenix from the ashes the sound of we’re the East Stand, we’re the East Stand, we’re the East Stand Highbury came ringing out for the first time ever at THOF, I have goose bumps just writing it. Oh how lucky I am to support this football club, thanks Dad.

Written by LB

Thrashing the Thracians?

October 19, 2016

To be quite honest I had absolutely no idea which country PFC Ludogorets Razgrad came from until I started writing this. Bulgaria is the answer and I sincerely hope my appalling ignorance and downright lack of awareness is not matched by the manager and team of Arsenal Football Club.

Looking at Ludogorets’ record in the Champions League, their biggest home win was 1-0 v Basel in 2014 and their biggest away defeats were both 4-0 to Basel (again) and Real Madrid (both in 2014). At present their biggest away win is …… non-existent. A continuation of that record for another few days would be great. (n.b. they’ve only been in the group stage once before) .


Razgrad itself is in north-east of the country and a couple of Bulgaria’s famous landmarks have parallels with landmarks in England.

First there is the Bulgarian Icarus statue.


According to legend, the man known as the “Bulgarian Icarus” was also a builder. Apparently a Turkish Sultan survived a terrible disaster, so he decided to build a mosque in Edirne in gratitude to God. At that time, Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. So, the Sultan summoned the most famous builder and this was Bulgarian, Manol. He worked for seven years and constructed a miraculous temple. After it was completed, the Sultan asked him: “Can you build a more beautiful mosque than this one?” and Master Manol replied: “One always has more to learn. Maybe I made some mistakes here that I will avoid in the future and I will be able to build an even more majestic temple.” Hearing this, the ruler ordered that Manol be shut in one of the mosque minarets until his last breath. The inventive craftsman, however, managed to create another miracle – he designed himself wings made of wood. And one day, the people in Edirne saw a huge flying creature soaring in the sky and heading home to Thrace. In this way, Master Manol managed to save his life and turned into a favourite hero in Bulgarian folk tales and songs.

This tale reminded me of the Angel of the North statue when some Geordies launched an enormous Alan Shearer shirt over its shoulders.


Whilst the statues have similarities, Master Manol and Mr Shearer are almost polar opposites, one an educated and erudite craftsman builder and the other a football pundit.

The second parallel is between the beautiful Razgrad clock tower and our own clock tower at Highbury Barn.


Team News

It would appear Rambo and Ollie G. are continuing to train alone. I’d imagine Granit will start due to a soon-to-be enforced absence from the Prem and EFL Cup (cheers, J. Moss).

It appears we emerged unscathed from the Swansea game so perhaps the team isn’t likely to be changed to any significant degree. Perhaps Kieran Gibbs could get a game after Nacho’s run around on Saturday. Oh, and Oooooooooooo-spiiiiiiiii-naaaaa may get the goalkeeper jersey.

‘Complacency’ seems to be the watchword for everyone with regards to this game. Theo and Shkodran have both issued warnings to their teammates to be on their guard against assuming it will be an easy and straightforward 3 points. Each and every player has to be thinking the same, especially after escaping by the skin of our teeth against Swansea.

Note…. Big Raddy is currently on manoeuvres in Ireland and without pre-match writing facilities. Thankfully this hiatus from normality will only be fleeting.

P.S. we need a nickname or shortened version of Shkodran. Any suggestions?

Written by chas

Swansea hoodoo broken

October 16, 2016

Yesterday’s game had everything: excitement, drama and sex, yes sex, the third goal from Mesut was sex. One of the best games, excitement wise, I have seen at THOF in a while.

Here are some player ratings……….

Cech: will you stop hoofing the ball up field, almost always we lose possession, just roll it out, simples. 6

Bellerin: Hector can do no wrong. 8

Mustafi: Everyone’s favourite new player looks more and more like a bargain after every game he plays. 8

Koscielny: Captain Fantastic. 8

Monreal: OK, but got roasted a few too many times in the second half and was responsible for Swansea’s second goal. 5

Xhaka: did start off quietly commanding but he gave the ball away badly for Swansea’s first goal and it should be noted that that is the second time that he has done that. The red card should have been a yellow, just rugby tackle him if you want to make sure the player doesn’t go any further. 5

Cazorla: passing was a bit off today, not the best game but with his smile how can you not love him. 6

Ozil: this man is getting near to being the best player we have ever had, his winner was worthy of the great Dutchman himself; one of the great Arsenal goals of all time. 9

Iwobi: it is impressive that someone so young can hold his own in the ball control stakes with Ozil and Sanchez, in many ways he looks more comfortable playing with those two than Walcott does but the hyperbole has advanced quicker than the reality of where Alex is in his career. I am not suggesting that there isn’t an awful lot more to come from the player but right now Welbeck would and should walk straight back into that team. With maturity you get a confident selfishness as a striker, a determination and a self belief that you can always score. Welbeck has this Iwobi hasn’t — yet.

Sanchez: passing astray, trying too hard and then he crosses the ball for Ozil to score our third with such accuracy I wonder why I even bother thinking about a negative side at all. 7

Walcott: New Theo and Old Theo were on display today, New Theo scored two vital goals, Old Theo missed two sitters. 7

Good subs by the way, the Ox was impressive.

Written by LB

Hoodoo? Swansea? Surely not.

October 15, 2016

These interlulls seem interminable but at last we get some proper football back at THOF as we welcome our nemesis, Swansea City.

We have not beaten Swansea at The Emirates in our last 4 meetings (3L, 1D).  How can it be that we have such a poor record against one of the PL minnows? It is not as if they are a brutal team like Stoke or even a top quality side. No, it has to be one of three reasons:

  1. Arsenal have anticipated an easy victory and do not give 100% until it is too late.
  2.  Arsenal are in poor form and Swansea rise to the occasion of playing in a world class stadium.
  3. Welsh Luck.

Or  most probably a combination of the above. Whatever the reason it has to stop and it has to stop this afternoon.


Will Bob Bradley start his PL career with a positive result? Is it a fact or an urban myth that a new manager always starts with a win (Warnock did so last night for Cardiff)? Swansea certainly need a boost as they have lost 5 of their last 6 games and have “garnered”(outside of football when do we use this word?) just 4 points from 7 games.

Swansea’s main attacking threat will come from set pieces (no surprise there!) and this is an area which has traditionally been a weakness for AFC. Much has been written about the lack of height in our defence yet we go into the game on the back of 4 clean sheets.

Our season is going well apart from a mad 20 minutes vs Liverpool in a game which we not only dominated but should have been out of sight by 40 minutes . We were average against Burnley which can be excused after an exhausting week.

Is OG knacked or on the naughty step? Either way he is not playing today. Nor is Ramsey who may well be out for another week.

My Team:


Bellerin     Mustafi    Koscielny    Monreal

Cazorla   Xhaka    Iwobi

Walcott   Sanchez    Ozil

Why change a winning team? The only reason to do so would be exhaustion following the Internationals. Perhaps Sanchez will be rested for The Ox.

The bench gets stronger and stronger as players return from injury though we are lacking (as always) a striker – Akpom, OG, Perez and Welbeck are all missing. Where is Sanogo when we need him?

Win today, win midweek and we are kushtie, drop points today and a cold winter looms, but we won’t, will we?