Gary Neville – Idiot or Savant?

August 21, 2018

Unai Emery’s Arsenal are certainly causing some debate after only 2 games played. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher squared up on MNF over whether Unai should stick to his guns or settle for a more pragmatic approach.

Read Carragher and Neville’s contretemps in the link below, followed by FGG’s response.

I couldn’t agree more with Neville. This is a season for Emery to look at the players and see which ones he can rely on to implement his game plan. I don’t really care where we finish as long as the team play in a way that gives optimism for the future. It will take a few windows and some very astute signings for us to get anywhere near the top 4 next season. You only have to look at the money United have spent and the poor transfer decisions they have made to see how easy it is to slip backwards. Fortunately, I feel the club have put in place a very strong transfer structure with the recent hiring of Mislintat, Sanllehi and Fahmy and that’s something that will give us an advantage moving forward and hopefully allow us to avoid the mistakes United have made.

As for the team right now, I feel Ramsey should be a guaranteed starter and I’m shocked that people leave him out of suggested line ups. I really want to see him play as a 10 on a consistent basis and I feel he has the sort of workrate that Emery would love. He just needs a manager like Emery to focus his runs at the right moments rather than the headless chicken routine he sometimes has. A midfield 3 of Torreira/Geundouzi/Ramsey would be my preferred choice right now with 3 from Özil/Iwobi/Mkhitaryan/Lacazette/Aubameyang playing in front. At home I would be tempted to drop one of Torreira/Geundouzi and play Özil as the 10 and Ramsey deeper.

With the defence, I also have to agree with Neville in that the system is fine, it’s just the application isn’t there sometimes with these players. They’ve shown in the past a tendency to switch off and I think we are seeing some costly mistakes at the moment. The Morata goal was a prime example with the midfield allowing Chelsea far too much space and the defenders not recognising that the ball wasn’t being pressed. I do worry about the football intelligence of some of our players and feel they struggle to read situations for themselves. Hopefully Emery can drill some tactical nous into some of the players, and the ones he can’t, I expect won’t be at the club too long.

Taken from a comment by fatgingergooner


Failing the Football Proficiency Test

August 20, 2018

At age 11, a young lad from Edmonton was selected for a boys district XI. Well when I say selected to play, he was actually used as the substitute partly due to physique and partly because of a chronic lack of pace. Anyway enough of a failed footballing ‘career’.

The real reason for mentioning this schoolboy honour was that it enabled the lad to gain something he did not earn. Right, the truth will out, I failed my Football Proficiency Test. Yes, I know that sounds a bit odd but in those days, just like the Cycling Proficiency Test there was also a football equivalent.

The bit I couldn’t manage on the day was playing the ball into the net from around the penalty spot from a pass coming directly from the side. Blaming the pitch because it was lumpy, bumpy and encrusted with footmarks, just wouldn’t wash. I was given several attempts but failed on each occasion, the ball skewing wide off various parts of my shin, ankle and occasionally boot.

Because of participation in the above squad, a pass certificate was granted nonetheless. A fact that still winds me up today.

Back to The Arsenal.

Aubameyang’s worst miss on Saturday brought failed Football Proficiency tests back into my mind. In slow motion you can see the ball lift slightly off the floor just as he’s about to hit it. He’s concentrating so hard on which defenders he has to avoid to put the ball in the net, that the 100% concentration required to get his head over the ball, strike it cleanly and down underneath the crossbar is missing. Result, ball ends up in row X and the Gabonese looks an idiot. (I’m sure he calls himself a ‘twat’ as he turns around!)

In contrast Micki’s beautiful left footed strike was all about him concentrating on getting the contact correct on his weaker foot. The beautiful placement was, perhaps, a fortunate by-product of such perfect technique.

Some days they go in off your shin or backside, other days you can’t buy a goal. I’m sure Auba will start hitting the back of the net soon. 🙂



Shambolic, Mesmerising, Perplexing – take your pick – Chelsea Ratings

August 19, 2018

Woulda, coulda, shouda, it was always going to be hard to imagine that such missed sitters would not come back to haunt us – and so it proved. We had the opportunities; they even fell to the players who we would most want them to fall to. But alas they were not taken and we are left with two losses in two games and Chelsea are left with the opposite of that statistic.

It was a game of four quarters or maybe two quarters and one half. The first quarter Chelsea dominated and if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough we had to listen to Glen Hoddle bemoaning the frailties of our defence which although he was right his irritating spud voice was making a bad situation worse.

The second quarter Glen had to do a complete u turn and started laying into Chelsea’s defence and its frailties which I have to say made his voice an awful lot more palatable, because, as we know, as easy as it was for Chelsea to slice through our defence and score two goals, we were able to do the same with just about the same amount of ease, all of which brought the score level.

We really didn’t need the break to come because at that point there looked like an epic victory was in the offing but the break came and Sarri was able to reorganise his troops far better that Emery could. Chelsea were dominant and it was hard to see any other winner. Yes we could have nicked it and I for one would not have minded one jot if it went against the run of play but here we are again after another loss ready to dissect the choice of team and how they performed. So I shall start.

Cech: now I thought he did very, very well as I also did after belatedly watching the City game. I see no problem with his part in playing the ball out short in goal kicks — what I do find fault in was the idea itself. In brief, he stopped the score getting embarrassing. 7

Bellerin: as City focused on exploiting our left last week, Chelsea focused on exploiting our right and dearest Hector was shown up for his lack of defensive skills. Chelsea were playing round him with ease; he was, however, very good when he was going forward and although I know it is easy to say after the fact: the priority against our two opening opponents should have been to have the strongest defence we could have had and work forward from that. Ironically, he should obviously start next weekend. 4

Mustafi: as the experienced central defender we should surely expect more, I struggle to say anything good about him. 4

The Greek Bloke: when is Koscielny back, mah, he got a bit better as the game went on. 3

Monreal: shored up the left for us after last week’s mess and put in some good runs forward. Understandably not back to his tip top yet but still good to have him back. 6

Guendouzi: ah, I get to the one bit that I was looking forward to and that is because he is my Man of the Match. Well done young man. You could argue that he should take his share of the blame for the way that Chelsea were going through our defence like a hot knife through butter but that in my opinion would be unfair: Guendouzi is not a DM, our DM was, for some unknown reason to me, on the bench. The young Frenchman is a deep lying playmaker and someone who can link the defence with the attack, all of which he did very well. 7

Xhaka: I jokingly said during the close season that Guendouzi had immediately made Elneny redundant; well, it looks like he has done the same to Xhaka. Why? Neither Xhaka or Guendouzi are natural defenders and so the decision on who is better must surely be based on accuracy of passing, the ability to play between that lines and who can do a bit to help the defence out and on the early evidence Guendouzi is doing all of those things far more effectively than Xhaka. 3

Mkhitaryan: went from someone who looked beyond his sell by date to world class in the space of five minutes after scoring his goal. I can’t think of anyone else who can play out on the right so I can’t see him losing his place in the near future. 5

Ozil: doesn’t still seem to be able to get to grips with the change of things, I say things although I am not quite sure what those things may be because the attack is largely that same as last season but for some reason he is still not clicking as we know he can. 5

Aubameyang: a game of two missed sitters. 3

Iwobi: Alex is at the stage where he gets called a confidence player and the goal he scored certainly lifted that, had he scored the following opportunity we would all I am sure be sitting here feeling a whole lot happier. 5

Emery: to me the man underestimated the opposition in both games. 4

Written by LB

A Point?

August 18, 2018

Let’s be honest, if we get a point from this evening it would be a surprise. Come the final whistle we are likely to be rooted at the bottom of the table with no points to our name. When was the last time we propped up the table? Only GN5 could answer that (perhaps).

Unlike BR to start with a negative as he is an optimist and always believe we will win prior to kick-off.


We weren’t terrible against City, had a couple of chances to draw level at 0-1, and could, with a bit more luck,  have ground out a point but City showed why they are so good. The hope is that we can re-create their tactical pressing game.

Chelsea are also in transition but a little ahead of us – it should be recalled that they won the title a year ago. Sarri seems a good appointment. They have bought well and will be serious rivals for the Top 4.

Why they didn’t buy another striker is a mystery; will Giroud and Morata be enough firepower? Hazard is fantastic but they cannot continually rely upon his brilliance.

Giroud was crap at the WC, yet played every game (?) and won a WC Winners medal. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke and I wish him well, apart from this afternoon.

In defence the Chavs are strong on the flanks and if we are to find the net it will be through pace in the cantre of attack. A few clever passes and PEA will get behind their CB’s, then a little dink over the world’s most expensive GK. No-one highlighted the extraordinary finish against City from an offside position, the man is class.


Changes to last week? Torreira has to start, he is to be our Kante (who IMO is the best player in the PL). The Hairy One should to be benched. Ramsey or Mhiki could be dropped to allow us to play two up-top. Monreal to return and add some spine to the right side, though it must be said that the Swiss bloke was very good last week.

My Team:


Bellerin    Mustafi   A Greek Bloke   Monreal

Ramsey   Torreira   Iwobi


PEA   Lacazette

We will not start with this team but it is how I would like to see us line up. Iwobi is more mobile and better defensively than Mhiki (though perhaps not a better attacker). Mhiki was anonymous last week, so was Ozil – we need more.

Of the London teams Chelsea are the second best club, they may be Oilers but they play decent football and have got rid of the awful JT/Frank L generation.

Martin Atkinson is today’s referee.

I would be delighted with a point

Up the Gunners


Arsenal: We’ve Got Our Bottle Back?

August 17, 2018

On the eve of our Saturday tea time visit to Stamford Bridge, perhaps it would be enjoyable to remember a fine performance away at the bus stop in Fulham. Victories when they come at unexpected moments are often the most pleasurable. With our new manager and signings already showing hints of more steel and determination, could we start to believe The Arsenal have begun to rediscover our bottle. Cheers, Rocky.

How are you feeling this morning?

Still glowing?

Yeah, me too.

We have kind of forgotten what it’s like to enjoy a BIG win; a meaningful win; a surprise win against the odds.

Most of our surprises in the last six months have been nasty ones – the kind Mrs Gary Neville has every morning when she wakes up and sees who’s beside her.

But Saturday was different. We went to one of the bookies’ favourites for the title and gave them a spanking in their own back yard. And just because it’s a Chav back yard full of old piss-stained mattresses and wrecked cars, that doesn’t make the win any less sweet.

Make no mistake, Chelsea were seen by many as the real dark horses (whoops, sorry JT, I meant pale horses) in the championship race. Even in defeat to QPR last week they earned plaudits for almost nicking a result with only nine men.

But in the second half of Saturday’s fine win we completely dominated them, winning the half 4-1, taking a stranglehold on midfield and defending well (we only conceded because the ref missed a blatant foul on Santos).

The first half was a different story, with both teams attacking like panthers and defending like pandas, but enough has been said about that in all the match reports.

The point is, we found ourselves in a game that, several times, could have gone away from us – at 2-1 and at 3-3 in particular. But we refused to allow it to do so.

Having hauled ourselves level at 1-1, then gone in one down at half time thanks to another soft goal conceded from a set piece, heads could easily have dropped.

If this had been last year’s Arsenal team, with the homesick Spaniard and the fat French trouble-maker, I think that’s exactly what would have happened. Our heads would have gone down faster than Dani Alves on ice.

But this is a different group of players with a much better mix of vim and experience. It’s interesting that our best performers on the day (with the exception of Prince Robin) were the younger ones: Koscielny, Ramsey, Gervinho and Walcott.

But I have no doubt that they felt enabled to play their best game by the presence of older heads like Arteta, Mertesacker and Santos (as well as Rosicky when he came on), all of whom added an air of stability to the team.

We now have players who do not panic when we’re leading with 10 minutes to go. Indeed, against a dangerous Chavski side we looked very solid in the final stages (the BFG making up for a poor first half by dominating the box in the closing minutes).

We were calm enough and confident enough to see the game out – and bold enough to take our chance to really kill it off when it arrived.

Someone has clearly been to Lost and Found and reclaimed something we mislaid about two years ago: our bottle.

No-one really knew where it had gone. Pat Rice went all up and down the Holloway Road stapling little notices to trees and lamp posts saying “Missing: Our Bottle: Answers to the name Vieira or Adams. Reward if found.”

There were no takers, but now it has turned up of its own accord, just when we needed it most after the most disastrous start to a season for 58 years.

There is still everything to play for this season. The Mancunian lottery winners may be streets ahead at the top of the table but there is a long way to go and anything can happen.

Next up for us in the league are West Brom (H), Norwich (A) and Fulham (H). With the players we have, and with the fact that we now have our bottle again after such a long time, everything is possible.

Keep believing fellow Gunners.

Written by RockyLives

Welcome to a state of the art Cockspur Up

August 16, 2018

So it looks like the crews of Arsenal supporting contractors are doing a fine job at the new Sh*thole. 🙂

Spuds fans are revolting (fuming), travel plans are in disarray and the tawdry N17 club is at the mercy of the FA and UEFA in terms of being allowed to rearrange fixture venues – possibly right up until the end of the year!

It would seem that the aforementioned ‘safety certificate concerns’ are doublespeak for ‘half-finished’.

Apparently Twickenham was in the running for hosting the spuds home game against Man City at the end of October, but Twickers refused as they said that the bill for post-match fumigation was likely to be prohibitively large.

Oh well, let’s hope it all gets sorted really soon!


How Did you Rate our Debutants?

August 15, 2018

How would you rate our summer signings in their first appearance?
This is meant to be a bit of fun; mainly for Eddie who loves a poll!
It’s obviously too early to make any decisions about our new signings but first impressions often linger.


Sokratis Papastathopolous – looked a wee bit slow in pre-season but seemed more commanding in his first competitive game – Cretan rock face.


Stephan Lichtsteiner – adapted well (as the seasoned pro he is) to making his debut at left back rather than in his natural position – not short of cojones.


Matteo Guendouzi – a little shaky to start and then he seemed to realise he could play at Prem level – “I am not calling another man Matteo. Ever.”.


Lucas Torreira – only had 20 minutes or so but seemed to have an immediate impact on our midfield shape – terrier or pit bull.



Same Old Arsenal, Always Cheating

August 14, 2018

An interesting discussion between Rasp and Aaron about Man City’s use of  persistent foul tackles to disrupt counter attacks and their use as part of the high press tactic, highlights how this original piece from Rocky is still relevant. The high press fails, someone get a boot in quick before the counter exposes the inevitable lack of numbers behind. Does Unai already know this?

After a fine win and an excellent performance on Saturday you would have to be of a churlish disposition to find any negatives.

So here I am, Churl-in-chief, primed and ready for a bit of top churling.

It amounts to this: I have one complaint about our lads.

It’s not the wayward finishing (although if some of our forwards were tasked with clubbing baby seals, my money would be on the cuddly little blubber-buckets to emerge injury-free).

Nor is it the tendency to always look like we might give the opposition a chance to get back in the game no matter how much we’re battering them.

No, my beef is with our players’ behaviour when they foul and are fouled.

We’re all familiar with the moronic baying of ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’ whenever one of our team goes down under an attempted leg-breaker or, conversely, whenever an opponent is left on the floor after an Arsenal tackle.

Make no mistake, the label has stuck.

From the Mensa-dodging nouveaux-riches of West London to the barcoded disappointment-junkies of the far North East; from the Unconvincibles of Old Toilet to the Inconsequentials of N17 there is a veritable chavscape of received opinion that Arsenal players really do cheat.

But it’s clear from recent games that the problem with our team is that THEY DO NOT CHEAT ENOUGH.

That is the great irony: the team reviled the length and breadth of the land as cheats is actually more honest than just about any of its opponents.

There was a classic example in the Wolves game. The Mighty Zubar (I’m sure he used to be a character in Dan Dare when I was a kid) executed a studs-up challenge into Robin van Persie’s knee. I happen to think it wasn’t particularly malicious but was, rather, a cack-handed attempt to get the ball. However, it was rash and dangerous and certainly deserving of a yellow.

On impact, Robin was spun in the air and crumpled to the ground. And here’s where Zubar was clever. Knowing that he had just made a cert yellow card tackle (and possibly even a red card one) he crumpled to the ground too, mysteriously clutching his shoulder. It was enough to confuse the referee, Chris Foy, who did not penalise Zubar.

We saw the same thing the week before at Newcastle. Joey Barton, one of the modern game’s most noted thugs, turned out to have a brilliant line in rolling around on the floor whenever he went in for tackle with one of our players. From macho man to milkshake man in a heartbeat.

In that game the truly awful Phil Dowd bought it every time. Probably the worst example was the free kick given against Rosicky that led (indirectly) to Newcastle’s fourth goal. He and Barton jumped together half-heartedly, neither really touching the other. Rosicky stayed on his feet but Barton went to ground. Cue the man from Dowd Cuckoo Land: free kick, goal, two points lost.

Similar examples were littered throughout that entire game, particularly in the second half.

And during Saturday’s Wolves game there were several occasions where we were penalised for fairly winning tackles, just because the opponent went to ground and feigned injury.

Foy’s criterion for giving a free kick seemed to be no more sophisticated than “he fell over, must have been a foul.”

At the same time there were other moments where our players took whacks to the head or boots to the calf but did not collapse in agony. Our lot seldom do that – if anything they simply tend to stay on their feet and look a bit affronted.

Many people observed that against Newcastle, if Diaby had rolled around in agony after the Barton challenge he would probably have got the little toe-rag a yellow. But Abou didn’t do that because, although he knew the tackle had been a potential leg breaker, he wasn’t actually that badly hurt. He was too honest to pretend he was in severe pain. Instead he got up, tickled Barton’s neck and the rest is history.

Earlier in the same game, Arshavin also hopped straight up after another appalling Barton challenge from behind. (Mind you, Arshavin never shows he’s hurt: that tiny frame carries all the suffering of Mother Russia in its soul, so the odd smack in the mouth or boot up the arse is neither here nor there).

On one level I applaud our players for their honesty. One demented Ivorian aside, I can’t think of any Arsenal player who regularly feigns injury, whereas our opponents are doing it in every game and are winning free kicks for it, as well as getting our players carded.

Maybe it’s time we dished out a bit of their own medicine to them. I don’t mean we should pretend to be fouled when there’s been no contact, but when there is a bad challenge we should stay down and make it clear to the ref that it was dangerous. It won’t always work (Robin was clearly hurt by Zubar but Foy missed it) but if it works half the time that’s more free kicks for us and fewer for whomever we’re playing.

And when our players mistime their challenges and catch the opponent instead, let’s take a leaf out of Zubar’s book and go down as well.

The sad truth is that, with the standard of officiating in the EPL today, playing fair just gets you shafted.

That’s it. Churling over.

Now let’s go and win the League (and if, to do so, we have to sometimes be less than angels, that’s OK with me).

Written by RockyLives

One Swallow does not a Season make

August 13, 2018

Well, the game has ended and too bad we lost. I am sad that we lost but I don’t share the sentiment of many that we are doomed and condemned to another inglorious season.

I am certain there’s no way we would have a repetition of the immediate past season. It was our worst under Arsene. Yes we struggled to cope with the frenetic pace of City, tell me how many teams in the league wouldn’t? The only ones that look capable have spent tons of money to play catch and still don’t look close enough. Some are already certain Emery could never beat Pep but how far from reality they are. City played some of the best football the premiership ever witnessed on their way to the title last season while we had our worst. So, it’s natural they were the sleeker side on the day while we struggled in transition?

Does this mean our season is doomed!? NO! Our laboured defending and flailing in attack showed that we are work in progress. We will be a different proposition within a month no doubt. Any fan that thought we were simply going to overrun City must have been living in the fantasy world. It will take a few weeks but surely the players will catch up with the hardwork Emery has been trying to impact on them.

Its not easy watching ones team lose but there were many positives in the game to a discerning eye. And the result could have been different had Ozil and Xhaka come up with their A game. All through Ozil exhibited the lethargic form he exhibited in Russia while Mkhitarayan just ran around aimlessly when he did tried to contribute. We’ve played one of our hardest game of the season and lost so there’s now time to restrategise.

We should not forget that even the high flying Pep ended his first season empty handed but look where he is now. Who says Emery if he can’t achieve same level come close to him?

If all else fails to cheer you up this morning, take a look at mickydidit’s view of the game. See. not so bad after all! (ed)

Ratings (ed)

Cech – made a couple of decent stops and had one howler which could have been of epic proportions ….. 6

Bellerin – a little flaky but had a rasping drive which unfortunately went straight down the keeper’s throat ….. 6

Mustafi – chasing his tail at times trying to keep pace with City’s movement, but didn’t disgrace himself ….. 6

Sokratis – the look on his face after his foul on Aguero for the booking, was classic ….. 6

Maitland-Niles (Lichtsteiner) – Ainsley’s coming into contact with the lardy Walker was always going to end in tears. Lichtsteiner stepped in on the left and added a real sense of urgency and purpose – I like him already ….. 6 (7)

Xhaka – Still looked to be searching for full fitness, so the game bypassed him somewhat ….. 5

Guendouzi – once he got over his early ‘what the hell am I doing playing at this level’ nerves he was fine and didn’t look out of place at all. Could have done more to stop Sterling for the first, maybe ….. 7

Ramsey – I still haven’t got much of an idea as to where Aaron was playing yesterday ….. 5

Ozil ….. a fairly anonymous performance by his own high standards ….. 6

Mkhitaryan – looked a little slow of foot and thought against City’s rattatttat style. Not his best performance in red and white ….. 5

Aubameyang – Not really given much to chew on the whole game ….. 6


Lacazette – if Alexandre had scored that golden chance on 55 minutes with the score at 0-1, I’m sure it would have been game on. Wasn’t to be though ….. 7

Mickydidit’s view of an azure blue sea …. 10

Written by Akinzo

Opening Day

August 12, 2018

Last season’s champions versus this season’s. The PL couldn’t have a better opening.

Man City were magnificent in winning the title, possibly the best team since the Invincibles. They showed in the thrashing of Chelsea in the Community  Shield that they remain highly impressive, BUT we will beat them.

Why? Because We Are The Arsenal.

Who will be lucky enough to pull on the red and white this afternoon? TBH I have little idea.

GK? Cech or Leno? Cech for me, but we do not know who is to be our regular gloveman, nor do we know the quality of Leno. I will go for the experience of Cech in this important game.

Bellerin/Lichsteiner?  Hector struggled against Sane last season but who didn’t? The Swiss fellow is a fine defender and will hopefully inspire Hector to achieve his undoubted ability.

CB’s? GIven the startling decision to ship Chambers, one must assume Emery has confidence in our new signings. Mustafi was a liability and made some very strange decisions which cost us points, I don’t trust hm but the management does. No point signing the Big Greek unless we play him.


LB? Beast crocked, Nacho half-fit, Either we play a Back 3 with Holding or M-N gets the shirt. Hardly what we want in such a tough challenge. We all love M-N, he has huge potential and has played this position in the past. Let’s hope

Midfield? We cannot go gung-ho at City, we need to maintain some defensive discipline in front of what is a shaky Back 4, hence my choice of Terrier, Ramsey and Xhaka. I expect Xhaka to become the on-field leader of the team, he has the talent and appears to be maturing as a man and a player. If Ramsey is not fit then we can trust Elneny to be tidy and responsible. Torriera could be the player we have been waiting for, much rests upon his diminutive shoulders.


Upfront? Ozil and PEA, but who else? Some fine players are going to have to ride the pine as our new manager experiments. Today I would play Mhiki, he is just too good to leave out. But this team lacks width and neither Mesut nor Mhiki have the pace to trouble City’s excellent FB’s. We will have to rely upon skill, cohesion, cute-passing and rapier like finishing and if that isn’t working, we have Iwobi, Welbeck and, above all Lacazette on the bench.

My Team:


Bellerin   Mustafi   Sokratis   M-N

Ramsey   Torreira   Xhaka

Ozil   Mhiki


And what of City? Guardiola has improved an already excellent team, another PL win is expected (even with Klopp’s spending) with the CL the club’s main priority. However, we have a new manager who is well versed in Pep’s tactics, a man who will want to show from the outset that his team have the beans to compete.

Excited? You bet, it couldn’t be a better opening game.

On an AA note, does anyone have a theme for this season’s PM’s? It makes it more fun to write when I have a non-football focus.