On the Dotted Line

May 31, 2017

It’s an important day at The Emirates.

A new contract for Mr Wenger; yet to be confirmed but the media are convinced he will continue for another two years. No details of wages, sporting directors, new coaches or any real change but perhaps that will happen during the summer.

I have a question … why could this not have been announced at Xmas? Why the cloak and dagger?  Do you think the club will explain their delay? No, neither do I, and  it is high time the club took the concerns of the fans into consideration.

There seems to be a lack of understanding at Arsenal that the club does not exist without the fans – WE are the Arsenal, not Kroenke, not Gazidis, not Arsene Wenger or even the players; they all come and go, we don’t.

Am I being naive? Perhaps, but what would happen if the “magnificent” new stadium was half empty every week as fans become frustrated and find other entertainments to spend their wage on.

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Are you happy AW has re-signed or would you prefer if he had resigned?

I love Arsene but have two concerns – one is that he will die in the job. He looked terrible in early Spring, clearly not sleeping well and under tremendous stress. The other concern is the obvious – can he turn the current squad into PL Champions? Time will tell.

The other big news is the signing (subject to a medical) of the young Nigerian, Henry Onyekuru.

An important signing. Arsenal have a huge fanbase in Nigeria thanks to King Kanu, and from the Youtube clips, this chap is going to be special. Already doing well in the Belgian League (and before you get all sniffy think Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne etc) he is the cut-price Mbappe.

Cheap as chips, his signing will not prevent AFC buying a €80+m player or two in summer – at least I hope not.

Mbappe plays on the other wing or centrally so I have not given up hope.

Rumours abound about Mahrez. After his performances in 2016/17 his price must have plummeted. Could be the type of bargain our manager relishes.

written by Big Raddy

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In The Merry Month of May. Player Ratings.

May 28, 2017

Just great to be a Gooner this morning.

You all watched the game so this will not be a minute by minute match report, more a flow of consciousness which considering I went to bed full of G&T’s, white Sauvignon Blanc and a nightcap of finest single malt, could be a little confusing. So this could be a long one.

Are you sitting comfortably?. Then we’ll begin ….

Firstly, Mr Wenger. He remains a wonderful manager. In recent weeks his team has beaten Guardiola, Me-rinho and Conte. So much for him being a man left behind in terms of tactics.

Prior to the game I was fairly relaxed thinking, as chas said “que sera, sera”, but within minutes of the kick-off when I watched Xhaka, Ozil and Ramsey completely dominate the midfield I knew we could win, and that made me tense, very tense.

In my bullet points in yesterday’s pre-match describing how we could win, a main one was a strong refereeing performance. Much to my amazement Mr Taylor was very good. Missed a bit of Costa thuggery and was a little soft on the Chav fouling but overall good. The decision over the Sanchez goal could have gone either way, I think it was the correct decision but understand why pundits said Ramsey interfered with play.

The Back 3. It just works. GIE is right when he says we could have won the title had we started earlier.

I was very concerned when I saw the team sheet with Ox on the left. Given that Hazard can be so dangerous and Moses is the new Lazarus (look it up) I felt we would be exposed but can you recall a single time that Hazard threatened? Lots of flashy runs and twists and turns but nothing to worry about. In fact Chelsea’s only real threat came from Costa – I may dislike Costa in a Chelsea shirt but I would absolutely adore the chap if he played for us.

How did that happen? Because of AW’s tactics and the exceptional work-rate of the entire team.

With some better finishing, worse Chav defending and a bit of luck we could have been 4 up at half time.

I expected Chelsea to dominate the start of the second half as Arsenal went back to their rope-a-dope tactics and hit on the break. Both Bellerin and Ozil had great chances to finish the game whilst Chelsea toiled.

Then Moses got sent off for cheating. Has that ever happened before in an FA Cup Final? Well done Mr. Taylor that was a gutsy decision and a correct one. Not much in the press about the dive but next season it will see Moses in the FA dock.

Against 10 men my nerves receded and I thought I would enjoy seeing us coast to a 1-0 to the Arsenal victory. But we don’t do that anymore, do we ? No, Costa scores a very good deflected goal ( I don’t agree that Ospina was at fault, he would have saved it but for the deflection) and my heart sank. Could we recover? Would Chelsea be inspired and go on to win?

OG and the Welsh Wizard had other ideas. Brilliant goal made by OG’s quality and strength allied to Rambo’s unbelievable energy.

From then on despite a couple of scares and some fine goalkeeping from Ospina, we were in Easy street. Didn’t stop me from wanting the final whistle though!

On such a day, I hope you will indulge me and let me continue to …

Player Ratings.

Ospina.  I have to say I questioned AW’s decision to play him. I was wrong. Ospina did not put a foot wrong all afternoon.      10

Holding. Loved the way he confronted Costa. What a player he can become. Needs to be a little stronger.  10

BFG. Imperious. Played a magnificent game. Our MotM.   11

Monreal.  Perhaps his best game in the shirt. Huge energy, solid in the tackle, stopped all attacks down the left.    10

Bellerin.   Back to his best. Would have loved to see him finish what would have been a superb goal but it wasn’t to be. Stopped everything coming down the right.   10

Ramsey.  His best game for ages. 3 FA Cup winners medals, 2 winning FAC goals. He deserves them.  Ran 14.4 kms during the game, the most of anyone in history (apparently)   10

Xhaka.  Magnificent. I said earlier in the season that we should build the team around him and Xhaka is showing why. Dominated the game in a Vieira-like fashion.    10

Ox. We just have to keep him. So versatile and developing into a true International class player    10

Ozil. Worked so hard to dominate the midfield. Played deeper than usual which I assume was on AW’s instruction    10

Sanchez.   If we goes he will be missed. MotM for the TV commentators. I disagree but the little Chilean had a fine game and I love his smile.    10

Welbeck. Worked so hard. Made so many runs.  10

Subs.

OG. What a set-up for Rambo. Made an immediate impact.   10

Coquelin.    Tried to be Sanchez in his cameo. Amusing.   10

Elneny. Played 2 minutes. Not at his best    5

Mr Arsene Wenger. Answered his critics in a display of tactical excellence. Out-thought Conte. More FA Cups than anyone in history which is record unlikely to be beaten. The Man.   10

Chelsea .   Complete over-hyped rubbish. Kante. Did he play? Hazard? Flatters to deceive. Sponge Bob? Ordinary. Costa and Chaill? Only players who lived up to their reputation.       1   (for turning up)

So. A successful end to a difficult season. We have silverware but Thursday nights. Spurs have as much chance of winning the Champions League next season as we do and have nothing in the trophy cabinet.

Deep Joy.

 

written by a Very Happy Big Raddy

 

 


Yes. We Can. (Win the FA Cup Final)

May 27, 2017

Is it just a British thing to support the underdog? Doesn’t seem to happen in the States (except in Rocky1).

It is rare that we Gooners support the underdog but we do today. Quite a nice feeling if I am honest. The last two FA Cup victories were against teams we should have hammered, one we did and one we nearly didn’t.

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So let’s get to the game.

First: In order to win we will need a strong and efficient referee. Another inept display like Blind Lemon Oliver’s last weekend will scupper any chance we have.

Chelsea will try to dominate and be physical early in the game. It sets up their play for later in the game when they push forward through their wingbacks. (I wrote that having no idea whether it is true as I have never watched 90 minutes of a Chav PL game unless AFC are involved 😀 ).

To win we HAVE to have 11 players on the pitch for the whole game. How will Holding cope with Costa’s fouling? Or Hazard’s diving? Will Sanchez, Xhaka and Ozil be rotationally fouled as usual against these Blue Devils and respond with aggression?

It is how Chelsea play and we need a proper unbiased referee, instead we will have Anthony Taylor. FFS.

I need say no more

2. Huge game for Ramsey and Xhaka. If they perform to the top of their abilities we can win. Even more than Ozil and Sanchez they have to get a grip of the game and supply the ball to our two magicians.

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3. Solid defence. My heart sank when Kos got his red card, I am sure his did has well. Kos has been outstanding this season and held our defence together. We will miss him. Gabriel is knacked, Mustafi could be on the bench,so it is towards the BFG we look for comfort. I love the man. What a bonus it would be to have our team captain lift a trophy on his first start this season.

4. Lethal finishing. This is a worry for me as Welbeck, who is my chosen CF, can’t hit a cow’s behind with a banjo,  and Giroud is Giroud; our over-reliance on Sanchez could prove costly. That said, Welbeck is a big game player and usually does well at Wembley. Chelsea have a fine defence and we will not get many chances, the few we get have to be taken.

There is little point writing about Chelsea. They are frighteningly good and worthy Champions. Strong all over the pitch with both Hazard and Fabregas in fine form, they have won their last 6 matches. A Double is within their reach and they will be both rested and determined.

I read that Mr Wenger is likely to start with Ospina – this surprises me. I know that AW is a man of honour and I imagine there was some agreement that Ospina would play in all the Cup game but …. Ospina is leaving in summer, Cech is our best GK and is in great form. IMO he has to start. But we know he will be benched and no doubt resentful.

My Team

Ospina

Holding    BFG    Monreal

Bellerin    Ramsey    Xhaka    Gibbs

Ozil      Sanchez

Welbeck

I would love to find a place for Ox but can’t squeeze in especially when considering how the back 3 will need strong pacy defensive support. Theo, Iwobi and OG on the bench

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I love going to Wembley and am deeply envious of those attending. Give the lads a cheer for us armchair fans and please be NOISY. I am not sure if Peaches got a ticket (hope she has her own ticket-fairy). If not we will all have to squeeze into Ant and Chas’s pockets.

We beat the Chavs last time we played them in a FA CF, with two brilliant goals from It’s Only Ray Parlour and a very handsome chap with red hair. I understand Mesut has had a Cup Final haircut and it would be lovely to see It’s only Granit Xhaka smash one into the net from 25 yards. Why not?

Let it be So ….

COYRRG

p.s .Last game of the season and the last PM. I would like to thank all those who took the time to read my ramblings over the season. You have my utmost respect (not really 😀 )


26th May 1989 – It’s up for grabs now!!!

May 26, 2017

This is Big Raddy’s story of arguably the Greatest Day in Arsenal’s history.

May 26 1989, a day never to be forgotten in Gooner history, but also a preface to the modern Arsenal. Here is my story of the evening and why I think it changed the face of our fabulous club.

 

The run up to the game is embedded in the history books, but no-one can effectively describe the disbelief and despair that echoed around Highbury following the 2-2 home draw to Wimbledon. We had a 12 point lead over Liverpool at Xmas and had seen it whittled away to being 3 points behind. We had thrown away 5 home points in two games against poor opposition. We had choked. Goodness knows the furore had there been blogs in those days – Samaritans would have been busy!

The drudge home after the Dons game was very long. I gave little hope for our chances at Anfield and didn’t even try to get a ticket, but approaching the game I dug deep, sought some “mental strength,” found some fighting spirit.

It should be noted that the game was on a Friday night…. unheard of in those days and rare now.

My wife, thinking that football was a Saturday sport, had booked us to go to a dinner party at her new Boss´s (let’s call him Rupert) flat in the centre of Hampstead. She worked in the media business, and all the guests were from Saatchi & Saatchi.  I told her that I couldn’t attend unless I could watch the game through dinner, her response was to tell me to call Rupert. And here we come to the huge social change that came about that night, and in my opinion changed the face of football forever.

This was the season of Hillsborough, the reputation of English football fans was at an all-time low. If you liked football you were either violent or ignorant and uncultured. Football was for Yobs. Rupert, being cultured and polite, was delighted to hear from me and said that as a guest of course I could watch the game, but ….. I would have to sit at the table with the sound off and participate in the conversation.

We arrived and were shown into a beautiful dining room with a long table and I was sat at the end with a separate table for my 14″ TV. I felt humiliated and less-than, however my addiction came first and I was satisfied. The host had caterers to do the food and serve the wine allowing him to concentrate on his guests. Needless to say., I was at the opposite end of the table to him, due to his assumption that my passion must mean I was incapable of enriching any intelligent conversation.

Seriously, to those youngsters who read this, football fans were viewed as stupid. There were no University courses in Sports Management, no Soccer Academies etc et

So, the first half comes and goes and I am getting tense. At half time people were very “nice” to me, commiserating as though I had lost a pet. Champagne was flowing around the table, some guests went to the toilet to “powder their nose” and I sat there non-communicative, wishing I could find somewhere dark to be alone.

Second half kicked off. Smudger scores. I jump up shouting; they look at me as though I have escaped from a Psychiatric Unit, BUT and here is the start of the change – they got caught up in my passion. Rupert asked me to turn the TV so he could see it. Questions were asked “Who is the tall bloke who keeps raising his arm?”, Why don’t they shoot more? ( 😉 )”, “Why , when Arsenal play in red & white are they playing in yellow and blue?” Needless to say, I was incapable of speech.

The Mickey T moment. Never ever to be forgotten. It replays in my mind in slow motion (as I am sure it does for you). The whole table went mental. Jumping in the air, hugging, back-slapping and shouting. My main recollection was thinking “Where is my coat, I have to get to Highbury…”. but Rupert and his friends were high on the game. They had really enjoyed watching a half of football. They connected! If Big Raddy  – a less thuggish man you could never meet – was a football fanatic, it couldn’t be just razorblade toting thugs that went to Highbury.

I am ashamed to say that I “liberated” a couple of bottles of bubbly, grabbed the wife, and scedaddled as fast as I could to N5. I was dropped off outside the Gunners Pub carrying the champagne which lasted about 4 minutes.  The Fever Pitch film got it right, there was an enormous street party, a feeling of camaraderie never repeated. The noise was deafening and I stood on the Marble steps until around 3 a.m. Even at that time the Holloway Road was awash with jubilant Gooners , sharing laughter and booze. Fantastic.

I met Rupert and a number of the fellow guests over the following seasons. All had bought season tickets at Highbury and were as knowledgeable and connected to the Arsenal as any Gooner. Football had become the Cocaine of the Masses!

This is what the Guardian write of the game and the social effect….

“Many cite the match as a pivotal turning point in English football. Writing in The Guardian, Jason Cowley notes how instead of rioting, as had occurred at Heysel with fatal consequences, Liverpool fans stayed on after the game and applauded Arsenal “as if they understood that we were at the start of something new; that there would be no returning to the ways of old”. Cowley describes the match as “the night football was reborn” and that the event “repaired the reputation of football”.

The match is not only seen as the starting point of a renaissance in English football, but also the moment where people started to see the untapped commercial potential of live football on television.”

“Good Old Arsenal We are proud to say that name”

Big Raddy’s story.


Arsenal’s Glorious FA Cup History

May 24, 2017

Well here we go it’s the 136th edition of the oldest football competition in the world and our record 20th FA Cup Final. It’s our 2nd against Chelsea; in the 2002 final we ended up victorious, winning 2-0 with goals by Ray Parlour in the 70th minute and Freddie Ljungberg in the 80th.

Let’s take a walk back in time:

1927 Cardiff v Arsenal

1927 was the first time we appeared in the FA Cup Final and we ended up losing 0-1 to Cardiff City – Arsenal went into their first Final as slight underdogs against the Bluebirds who had reached the final only two years earlier. Despite having Charlie Buchan to bolster the ranks the Gunners could not break down Cardiff and Hughie Ferguson scored the winner. His effort slipped under Arsenal goalkeeper Dan Lewis’ body and the cup left England for the only time in its long history. This was the first FA Cup final to be broadcast live on BBC radio, having future Arsenal manager and experienced journalist George Allison at the microphone.

1930 Arsenal v Huddersfield

1930 was the first time we won the famous trophy the attendance at Wembley was 92,488 and our team consisted of – Charlie Preedy, Tom Parker (captain), Eddie Hapgood, Alf Baker, Bill Seddon, Bob John, Joe Hulme, David Jack, Jack Lambert, Alex James, Cliff Bastin.
Goalscorers: James (16), Lambert (88).

For their second final Arsenal were pitted against Herbert Chapman’s former team. Arsenal’s first goal had been planned on the team bus on the way to the game, Alex James taking a quick free-kick to Cliff Bastin who returned the ball to the unmarked linchpin to slot home. In the dying minutes a long through-ball found Jack Lambert who shrugged off the Huddersfield defenders to secure the game and Arsenal’s first major silverware. Both teams were led onto the pitch side-by-side for the first time in honour of Herbert Chapman.

Now some FA Cup statistics:

Final appearances (3 or more):

5 – Ray Parlour, Pat Rice, David Seaman

4 – Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Joe Hulme, Martin Keown, Freddie Ljungberg, David O’Leary, Patrick Vieira

3 – Cliff Bastin, Liam Brady, Lee Dixon, Eddie Hapgood, Thierry Henry, Pat Jennings, Bob John, Lauren, Sammy Nelson, Tom Parker, Robert Pires, David Price, Graham Rix, Frank Stapleton, Alan Sunderland, Sylvain Wiltord, Willie Young

Winner’s appearances (2 or more):

4 – Ray Parlour, David Seaman.

3 – Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, Ashley Cole, Martin Keown, Lauren, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira.

2 – Cliff Bastin, Santi Cazorla, Lee Dixon, Edu, Lukasz Fabianski, Eddie Hapgood, Thierry Henry, Joe Hulme, Alex James, Laurent Koscielny, David O’Leary, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, Robert Pires, Aaron Ramsey, Pat Rice, Gilberto Silva, Jack Wilshere, Sylvain Wiltord, Nigel Winterburn

Enjoy the game.

GunnerN5

 


Everton: Player Ratings

May 22, 2017

A sunny day, the end of the PL season, JC last game (?), a fine win yet one mingled with regret and disappointment

Given that we played 80 minutes with 10 men against a strong Everton team and a bent referee it was a fine victory. Had we not been cheated out of a point at Everton away, it would have meant much more but in the end we were the 5th best team in the PL. Thursday nights and lots of Sunday games await.

Player ratings.

Cech. Magnificent … Again. He has been superb the last few games. Had little chance with a well -taken penalty. Cut out the ball early from crosses, made an acrobatic save from a Lukaku header and his distribution was faultless.     9

Holding.  In a constantly changing back line he played well, made the odd error of judgement. Continues to improve and must have won a place in the Cup Final    7

Koscielny. Stupid and rash challenge which deserved the red card. Out of the CF.   5

Gabriel. Until his injury the Brazilian was outstanding. Looked a nasty injury. Got a yellow card for his pains when he was in front of the man and got the ball.    8

Monreal.  Was it a penalty? I couldn’t tell. Other than that he played well with his usual energy. After Kos ‘s red card Nacho was understandably more defensive   7

Bellerin. Finally getting his speed back. Non-stop work up and down his wing. Scored a tap in but was there to do so. Better.    8

Ramsey.  Started slowly with inaccurate and poor choice of passes. Improved second half and scored an absolute peach.    7

Xhaka. Terrific. Is becoming the player AW hoped for. No more stupid tackles, even Oliver could find a reason to give him a card.    9

Ozil. Once again in good form. Worked tirelessly, as usual created some chances. Hopefully not his last game at THOF     8

Sanchez.  Typical Alexis game. Non-stop workmate, dangerous on the ball, hugely frustrating in his timing and choice of pass, scored. Brilliant player and I love to watch him. Hopefully not his last game at THOF.    8

Welbeck.  Worked hard. Missed an absolute sitter and should have scored at least two of his chances.      7

Subs:

BFG. Great to see our Club Captain. Fitted in seamlessly.    7

Coq. 30 minutes & but didn’t embarrass himself    6

Iwobi. Seemed to be everywhere on the pitch in his cameo.    7

Mr Wenger. On a difficult afternoon he got his tactics spot on.    8

Referee:  Michael Oliver. Dreadful. Lost control to the point that a quiet Emirates resounded with “you don’t know what you’re doing”.      2

written by Big Raddy


Everton. A Chance to say Goodbye?

May 21, 2017

Will this be the final time Alexis and Mesut grace Islington’s most sacred turf? Hope not , but if it is let’s win this afternoon with the style and brio they have both brought to the Arsenal.

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Everton are a good team and Koeman has done well to keep them in the mix until the last month or so, they will finish in 7th at least 14 points ahead of 8th. With a much smaller budget than the Top 6 it would be fair to say, they have comfortably won League 2 of the PL. Whether they can push on is doubtful without massive investment.

Everton will be no push-overs, they are good all over the pitch and AFC will have to play well to secure the points. This being the case I do not think AW will rest his best players ahead of Wembley.

My Team:

Cech

Holding     Mustafi    Monreal

Bellerin   Ramsey   Xhaka     Gibbs

Ozil      Sanchez

Welbeck

Such a pity Ox is injured as he adds a better attacking punch than Bellerin but Hector is a wonderful replacement and gives the immature Holding fine back-up. Ramsey wasn’t as crocked as I feared, Kos is still a doubt, the rest pick themselves. Apart from upfront where despite the gulf in the goal stats I still prefer Welbeck to the FFP. Why? Movement. Versus Boro we looked so much better when Iwobi and Welbz came on as subs.

Thinking Iwobi, AW has to find a place in the first team for this young fellow, the man is just terrific and probably the man to take Sanchez’ or Ozil’s shirt when they leave.

I hate the end of the season. I need the weekly injection of football in my life. What happens in the close season? Gossip, speculation and fantasising (and in my case a long sun-filled holiday in Italy). Thankfully, unlike our noisy neighbours, we have another week to enjoy.

Will it be Weds or Thurs evenings? Quite honestly, I don’t really care. As an armchair fan I do not get the thrill of seeing Messi, Ronaldo, Cavani, Dybala etc in the flesh. If it is to be Thursdays I will have the enjoyment of seeing teams I know nothing about, safe in the knowledge that Arsenal have a good chance of winning well and seeing loads of goals.

But that is for another day, today is all about beating Everton. It can be done and I will be sending positive waves all the way to North London alongside shouting at my television in support of my team.

For the final time this season a win at THOF is possible. Can we do it? Of course.

Let it be So ….

COYRRG