Boys will be men! – Arsenal v Vorskla Player Ratings

November 30, 2018
Well, everything seemed to be stacked against the team in the beginning. Whose idea was it to organise a long trip away midweek before celebrating some serious Spud-bashing in the weekend! Really bad idea!

And then, serious brass monkey weather in the Land of Always Winter! Note, the ref needed a replacement can to paint the ground in the second half because the first one froze in his pants! 🙂

To top it all, martial law and proxy wars of the kind never seen in the civilized end of Europe on the correct side of 1945. Who would have thunk!

And then, in a shocking late move just to disrupt our preparations, UEFA decided at the last minute to move the game to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Surely, the sole purpose was to bring memories of another Brexit side crashing to European opposition in last season’s Champions League final!

Yes, the odds were all stacked against us.

In response, Unai Emery decides, in his enormous wisdom, to pack the team with teenagers fresh out of nursery. Bless the man and his sense of humour! In the event, we had a fantastic spectacle where the young gunners ran amok and Vorskled the shell-shocked opposition 3-0 on the night! What’s not to like?

We have struggled a bit with our academy setup in the past couple of years. But, if there was one thing we learnt last night, it was that the future is bright and shining. Yes, these young boys will be men soon enough. But will they stay and take it up the Arse? That is the long term question. In the short term, things look bright. We can look forward to another brilliant teen-show of Emery-ball against Qarabag.

Here are some quick thoughts and ratings. Please feel free to disagree.

Helmet: 6
Better with his feet than with his hands, which were probably frozen. Had to make a couple of saves, which he did, not without pretending to be nutmegged once early on. But that was just play-acting. Especially loved his bold clearance outside the box in the second half.

AMN: 6.5
Holding: 6
Jenks: 6
Licht: 6
The defence had precious little to do by way of stopping opposition attacks. It seems all aggression is diverted towards the Russians at the moment. Holding and Jenks were solid. Licht was good on the overlap. AMN was somewhat iffy in defence but linked up really well with the midfield.

Elneny: 5
Worked hard, but I thought he was the weak link on the night. Caught out of position a few times, and got himself into an offside position in the second half for what would have otherwise been Smith-Rowe’s second goal. However, decent assist for the third goal.

Rambo: 7
Almost convinced the ref and everyone else that he was attempting to dive, but in the process earned as fair a penalty as one would ever see. Wonderful stewardship of a bunch of youngsters (Cech was the captain on the night, I think, but Rambo looked very much the leader on the field). Most importantly, he got the opposition goalie on his knees for the penalty. Now, how many times have a seen a goalie defending a penalty kneeling down rather than diving! Wow!

Douzi: 6
Good solid link up play. Nothing spectacular except the hair, but valuable nevertheless.

Smith-Rowe: 8
Such games can sometimes be nervy affairs, and the first goal is always important. On the night, a wonderfully cool finish for an early first goal that set the tone for the game. To top it all, a wonderful sheepish smile after calmly finishing off a second half goal only for the goal to be disallowed very late. Just because Elneny was caught too far upfront trying to give the opposition goalie the eye!

Nketiah: 7
Tireless work throughout the game. Really gutsy, and very skillful. A fine assist to boot!

Willock: 7
What wonderful maturity, skill and finish for the third goal! A fine talent. A great pleasure to watch.

Zech Medley, Bukayo Sako and Charlie Gilmour.
What wonderful names! Never heard of them before. Medley was wonderful in defence, seems to be a real talent for the future. Sako was excellent in link up play. Both solid 6’s for me. Gilmour was not on long enough to make an impression.

Two final thoughts………..

First, a special thought for the team doctor (don’t know their name) who apparently did not travel with the team and reached late on his own. Then forgot that the game was moved to Kiev and travelled a pointless 400 miles by road to finally reach the game. What a performance!

Second. By the way, that is now 18 and counting! Look forward to some serious mauling of the blue-skinned swamp dwellers from N17 in the weekend.

A mildly satisfied,

Red Arnie


If the Kids are United

November 29, 2018

A very long trip for a game which MAY go ahead. Let’s assume it will.

The problems in Ukraine have resulted in AFC not needing to take a 400 mile round trip to somewhere out in the frozen wastes, this has to be a positive. Also, it means that it will be an away fixture for FC Vorskla.


Ahead of Sunday’s game against the chaps from Harrow, Emery will be selecting a team filled with B players and youth, though to consider Ramsey a B player could be construed as an insult (same could be said of Holding, Mhiki etc).

Strange that we are taking only one CB with any first team experience, I wonder why Pleguezuelo is not in the squad as he did well against B’pool in the Carabao. Instead we have Medley who is just 18. Could Elneny play at CB or Licht?

My Team:


Licht    Holding    Elneny    Corporal

Curly    Ramsey   M-N (Cons)

Mhiki   Smith Rowe (Lab)


Perhaps this team is a bit attack orientated and Willock may get a start or M-N (Cons) will operate in the same manner as Wardrobe last Sunday. Given Mhiki’s dreadful performance at B’mouth he needs to find form and playing time is the only solution. Playing Henrik €250k p.w. is excessive given his AFC performances and it is easy to understand why Ramsey, who has consistently done well for us, considers he should earn commensurately.

There is an interesting article on Arseblog (written by Tim Stillman) on the need for Arsenal’s youth academy to deliver first team players. We have seen Bellerin and Iwobi come through, bought some fine kids (Curly and Terrier), now we need to see if Eddie, M-N and Smith Rowe can make that huge step up from being excellent in the Academy to being reliable first team squad members.  I expect many player sales in summer which will give opportunities to those with the talent and tenacity to take them.

Those on the fringes should read this article about one of our shining lights in the Academy over the past decade.


We saw that Vorskla are a limited team who gave us few problems at THOF but tonight they will be playing a weaker AFC team and we can expect a tough fixture. A draw would be good, a win better.


Arsenal FC – Our record playing in the Ukraine

November 28, 2018

Our record in the Ukraine hasn’t been all that auspicious.  It’s a difficult place to go as winter creeps in.

Dynamo Kyiv were our first Ukrainian opponents in 1998. These were the days of playing at Wembley to allow more people in and swell the coffers that bit more. It was a dreadful idea as virtually all home advantage was lost. Kiev (as we called them in those days) had Shevchenko and Rebrov, which also didn’t help! We drew at home and then lost 3-1 away in November. (This was before Rebrov disgraced himself by going to the spuds, coming 12th and 9th before going on loan to Fenerbahce).

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In 2003 we again lost away but sneaked a 1-0 home win at Highbury with a late Ashley Cole goal. Kiev were drawn in our group for the third time in 2008. We managed to sneak a 1-1 draw in the Valery Lobanovskiy Stadium thanks to a very late Billy G equaliser and sneaked the home tie when Lord Bendtner popped up with an 87th minute winner.

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Against Shakhtar Donetsk in September 2000 at Highbury, I was proud to witness one of my favourite ever live games. Losing 2-0 early on, Wiltord gave us hope on the stroke of half time slotting in the rebound from a missed penalty. The last ten minutes will live long in the memory as Martin Keown popped up with two goals (one which appeared to be off his arm) to snatch victory at the death. Must have been his only brace ever. I smiled all the way home to Notts. The less said about the 3-0 away defeat in November the better.

We romped past Shakhtar in October 2010 5-1 at the Emirates featuring goals from the FFBW, a Cesc penalty and a Chamakh special before again losing away 2-1 in November. (Eduardo, our Brazilian Croatian ex-player, scored in both legs but shunned any goal celebrations)

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There’s a theme developing here. The later in the year you play away in the Ukraine, the harder it is to come away with a point. A proliferation of gloves and too many thermal layers probably doesn’t help.

Still all trends are there to be broken, starting on Thursday.

Update on Thursday’s game

Russian aggression towards the Ukraine appears to be escalating and in response the Ukrainian government has declared martial law. President Petro Poroshenko has said the implementation ‘aims to prevent an all-out Russian invasion’.

A statement from Uefa read: “The emergency panel has today taken the decision to relocate FC Vorskla’s Europa League group stage match against Arsenal from the city of Poltava, following the introduction of martial law into certain regions in Ukraine.

“Uefa will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”

Up to 500 Arsenal fans were expected to travel to the game in Poltava and now must make alternative arrangements, with the decision coming less than 48 hours before the scheduled start time, which remains unchanged. (17:55pm)


What’s in store for Emery’s Arsenal in December?

November 27, 2018

Yep, I realise November isn’t over yet but December starts on Saturday and Europa League matchday 5 will take up the end of this week.

So, what’s in store for December – Nine flippin games is what. This is partly due to the ridiculous amount of international breaks, maybe. Injuries will abound and the clubs with the biggest squads will benefit.

These 9 games include 7 in the Prem, 1 Caribou Cup game and our remaining Europey fixture. With us still to win in Vorskla away this Thursday, hopefully Qarabag at home on the 13th December will finally be a chance to play some Academy players.

The League Cup game on Wednesday the 19th is, of course, against our loathsome neighbours from Middlesex. I’ve no real idea how we approach that tie, except to win by as many as is humanly possible.

Arsenal’s David Rocastle shows the League Cup trophy to the fans at Highbury. 11/04/1987

December kicks off, yep you’ve guessed it, against the spuds at THOF – next Sunday the 2nd, with an earlyish kick off of 2.05pm, presumably to minimise potential crowd disturbances. Three days later sees a midweek trip to Manchester – everyone gets a draw there. Can we grab a point or even go one better? These are two massive fixtures which could set the tone for the whole month.

Either side of that Qarabag fixture we take on Huddersfield at home and Southampton away. Huddersfield at home last season was a bit of a romp – hoping for more of the same this time around. St Mary’s was turning into a bit of bogey ground a couple of seasons ago; what with Szczesny smoking after almighty howlers and other such nonsense like Shane Long looking a half decent player but only ever in the one game he played against us each year. Recently, however, we’ve managed to win 2 and draw 1 of our last three down on the South coast. Definitely need to keep up that improvement.

The ground staff will have their work cut out to fumigate the Clock End lower Tier after the spud Caribou game in time for the visit of Burnley in the League 3 days later.

Our last two fixtures between Christmas and New Year involve away trips to Brighton and then to Liverpool. Both will be tricky in different ways.

All in all, a quite horrendously busy month with the only 5 day gap between matches fairly early on, after the Huddersfield game and before Qarabag. I suppose we’ll just have to take it one game at a time. 🙂

Twenty one League points up for grabs. Where we might finish in the table come the end of the season should become more obvious by the turn of the New Year.


Chaos at Dean Court – Arsenal FC ratings

November 26, 2018

First Half

We really looked poor in the first period of the game. Vulnerable on every Bournemouth attack without conceding that many shots on goal, but that ignores the balls across the box which just required a touch to be a goal. Terrier had our one moment of brightness, hitting the post with a decent effort from distance.

Gradually we took control and the magnificent OG was just reward for our domination. Everything was going smoothly up to half-time with a few half chances which might have made it 2-0.

1 minute signalled as injury time – just make sure you go in ahead at the break for the first time this season. Nah, let’s chuck 9 players forward to try to grab the second, tit about doing tricks in their area, lose the ball and concede on the stroke of half time. Wengeresque Arsenal – if that’s not being too unkind to Arsene.

Second Half

Helter skelter all the way. Shed loads of possession, some great chances especially on the break. Arsenal’s mastery over xG seems to have gone. Then bang! Auba finishes after the Wardrobe gets behind the Bournemouth full back.

All photos Stuart MacFarlane

Come one, lads, see the game out – just as a side aspiring to a top four finish would do. ‘No chance’, say the boys in peacoat mint or whatever hideous description of that colour Puma have us playing in. Chances are spurned and Bournemouth sense a way back in.

The substitutions will make us more secure, surely? Nope, far less secure. Ramsey playing in his ‘I’ll do whatever I like’ mode and Guendouzi effective but not as effective as Torreira.

Mustafi’s tackle right on the edge of the area just to give Bournemouth one last sniff was heart-attack inducing.


Written just after the game, I am struggling to understand how we made such hard work of it. Still, job done, a fine three points at a difficult place to go – what the hell am I complaining at?


Leno – had the shot covered which hit the post from our first goalscorer – playing out from the back often became, hoofing it out and losing possession. Oh well … 7

Bellerin – seemed to enjoy the freedom of not having to cover his a*se so much with three at the back … 7

Mustafi – some good, some bad – a typical performance all round … 6

Sokratis – seemed a bit baffled by the pace of the Prem but struggled manfully … 6

Holding – Our most composed centre back again … 7

Kolasinac – good going forward in the second half especially – two vital assists, extra point for that … 6

Torreira – tidied up in his usual effective way. Subbed because he was knackered? … 8

Xhaka – some good, some bad, some sweet, some sour … 7

Iwobi – tried hard, made a few poor decisions, should practice getting his foot over the ball when shooting … 7

Mkhitaryan – my personal most frustrating player of the day – so many good positions wasted – almost non-existent in the first half … 5

Aubameyang – doesn’t really lead the line – a couple of decent half chances spurned before his tap in – 20 goals in 31 games can’t complain … 7


Guendouzi – good enough but why? … 7

Ramsey – why? … 6

Nketiah – brought on to waste time which almost gave Bournemouth enough time to equalise from a free kick … 6


Bournemouth Preview. Team Lineup

November 25, 2018

Have you ever been to Bournemouth? Lovely place and a very pleasant drive (off motorway) from North London. I have never had the pleasure of going to Dean Park but I am told it is a cosy stadium.

If you want evidence that AFC Bournemouth are punching above their weight it is that Dean Court holds under 12,000 fans! Their journey in the last 10 years has been the stuff of fairy tales; to go from Div 3 (Div 4 in Old Money) and administration to be a Top 10 side in the PL is astonishing.

Proof of their improvement is that so many Gooners would take a draw from this afternoon.

How can it be that a side whose total cost is less than our front three are such strong opponents? Teamwork, organisation, very hard work, fine managership and belief. Last season Bournemouth were that hardest working team in the PL, this season it is Arsenal (I think).


Bournemouth have International players in their squad and not just chaps who represent Uzbekistan or Nepal, they have blokes who have caps for England, France, Scotland etc. They are a young team, a team to admire.

But we can beat them.

We got turned over at Dean Court last season in a topsy-turvy game we should have won. 2 goals conceded in 4 minutes did for us after Wobbly had set up Catwalk for our goal.

Defensive discipline is the order of the afternoon as B’mouth are excellent on the counter attack with speed being their chief weapon,

Much has been written about Eddie Howe, probably deservedly. He seem like a nice boy.  It will be interesting which big club takes him and which club will be first to lose their high profile manager; Klopp, Sarri, Emery, Guardiola, Poch – one of them will be on their way to Spain/France.

Arsenal go into the game on a series of draws, costly in terms of points but good for confidence. Many pundits say we are over-achieving  but if one looks at the squad I think the opposite, we are under-achieving. Bournemouth away should be a regulation 3 points, just as S’ton away was.

The recurrence of Monreal’s injury is worrying given his age, we need better cover than Kolasinac, especially against a counter-attacking team.

Post Interlull some players could be rested following draining long distance travel, Iwobi being the chap with the most airmiles.

My Team:


Catwalk    Mustafi    Greek Bloke   Wardrobe

Terrier   Xhaka

Mhiki    Mesut

Laca   PEA

Did you know that 42% of AFC attacks come from the left wing? This imbalance is worrying when one has a hefty left FB who is required to work in defence as well as overlap the left- sided MF.

Transition is a much used term about our team and there is no question we have yet to see a true Emery team. As we enter a very difficult run of PL games his main area of concern will be our defence ,especially on the counter. Let’s hope Umai has spent the Interlull working with our back 5.

Win this and we are well set up for the Miscreants from London HA9  😀


Arsenal F.C. – Our away record against the Cherries

November 24, 2018

A.F.C. Bournemouth was formed in 1890 as Boscombe St. John’s Institute F.C., they adopted their current name in 1972. Nicknamed The Cherries they have played their home games at Dean Court since 1910. Their home colours are red and black striped shirts, with black shorts and socks.

A.F.C. Bournemouth has won the second and third tiers of English football, and was twice runners-up of the fourth tier. They have also won the Football League Trophy, and the Football League Third Division South Cup.

They have spent the majority of their history bouncing between the third and fourth tier of English football. Under manager Eddie Howe, they have risen through the leagues; 2015-16 being their first ever in England’s top division.

Their most famous victory was over holders Manchester United in the FA Cup in January 1984, while they were managed by Harry Redknapp.

We have only played the Cherries on seven occasions the first being a league Cup game on October 27th 1987 which we won 3-0. Since their arrival in the Premier League we have met them six times with an overall record of W4, D1, L1, GF14, GA6.

Our away record had been spotty and we lost the last game against them at Dean Court and have not won there since 2016.


The Auba Laca Conundrum – Is there a solution?

November 23, 2018

What is the best way of using our twin strikers Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette? Can they both start games without upsetting the balance of the side?

At the beginning of the season, Unai Emery appeared to have settled on the fact that he needed Aubameyang to be in his starting eleven even if it meant leaving a rather unwilling Alexandre Lacazette on the bench.

Then, after sneaking past West Ham fairly late on, came Cardiff away and both Auba and Laca started with Ramsey and Ozil making up the front 4. There seemed to be a chemistry between the pair, both scored and the Gunners just about ran out deserved winners. We then went on to also scrape wins against Newcastle, Everton and Watford with both playing, Aubameyang now becoming accustomed to being pushed into a wider left side position to accommodate the Frenchman.

Fulham away, just before the October interlull, was glorious. Laca scored two and Auba, coming off the bench, also got a brace. For the first hour, the team formation appeared to be a 4-4-2 with Danny Welbeck playing the role of Laca’s partner. This seemed to be a sign that, for the second time, Unai was still puzzling over the problem of squeezing both main goalscorers into a starting XI.

Leicester at home saw Auba come off the bench to score two instant tap-ins after some scintillating Arsenal team play, while Laca struggled to take the not so clear-cut chances which came his way.

Our last three matches have been distinctly odd, with our best performance of the season against the dippers sandwiched by probably our worst two performances against Palace away and Wolves at home. Both Auba and Laca started all three with PEA shoved out on to the left flank in each. Although he scrambled a goal at the far post at Palace, he has looked less than his usual happy self in those 3 games, especially against Wolves. Lacazette scored a brilliant individual goal against Liverpool, but also looked a little lost against Wolves (then again, it was a poor team performance).

It would be so good to see them happy to both assist and score alongside each other again as it was in September, but this will largely depend on Unai Emery finding the solution as to how to get them both on the pitch at the same time. One or other of them coming off the bench for the last 30 sexy minutes has worked well on several occasions so far, whereas starting both from the kick off has had decidely mixed results.

Perhaps a change of formation might be able to accommodate both without being detrimental to team balance.

Anyone got any ideas?


Farewell Andrei

November 22, 2018

I remember it so clearly, we had seen a small genius at work at the Euro’s in the summer of 2008 then there was much in the media that we may sign him. I

Barca had offered €15m for Arshavin, then Spurs came in with a €16m bid but he refused to downgrade from Zenit St. Petersborg to either club. Then on a snowy final day of the TW he signed for us.

I was excited.

But let’s be honest, he never really fitted in, did he? 143 games, a few outstanding performances but not the Boy Wonder we were hoping for. Andrei was 27 when he signed and really should have had a bigger impact because he certainly had the talent.

Highlights: Of course the 4 at Anfield and his brilliant celebration but for most of us it is the winning goal at THOF against Barca. What a night that was ,and what a celebration; taking off his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with an image of his celebration at Liverpool. Do Russians do self-irony?

A loan period at Zenit was Wenger’s response to Arshavin’s weight issues and lack of consistency, followed by a return to Arsenal where he spent much of the 2012/13 riding the pine. A free transfer back to Zenit for a couple of seasons. After that it was all downhill.

Andrei has spent the last 3 seasons in the Kazakhstan PL (sounds a bit Harry Potter) where he was Player of the Season in 2016.

My memories are of a player who never fitted into the system Wenger developed. Arshavin was neither a speedy winger, an Ozil style creator or a Ramsey-like box to box MF. Why did Wenger buy him? Surely not on the strength of one excellent International tournament?

He retires aged 37 with a bundle of cash and a long, fairly successful career behind him, but for me it is a question of “what could have been”? In my opinion he should have signed for Barca and we could have signed Iniesta. Imagine Iniesta alongside a young Fabregas … dreamy.

written by Big Raddy

Arsenal’s 1978/79 FA cup run – A trip down Memory Lane

November 21, 2018

This is the season that we won 5-0 at the lane and came 7th in the league.

We got bragging rights over the few Spurs fans at school for ages after that.
“We all agree, Rixie is better than Hoddle” was the song (He wasn’t really..)

I was at nearly all the home games plus one away at Loftus Rd, where I’d arranged to meet the only QPR fan in my class, who didn’t show up. Quaint little ground, we won 2-1.

We dropped out of the UEFA cup around this time of year, against Red Star Belgrade. Having beaten us at their place, they got a 1-1 at Highbury with their only attack of the game (if my memory serves me right.)
Hopes had been high, having knocked out Hajduk Split the round before. A team we knew as we’d played them a year or two before for John Radford’s testimonial. The lame excuse for choosing them for this match had been that they had ‘also’ won the double before in their country. We did have a ‘knees up’ on the pitch after the match though, good fun.

In the FA Cup third round we had to play Sheffield Wednesday FIVE times to get past them!

A routine win against Notts County at home in the fourth round, then Nottingham Forest away in the Fifth. They were the hound’s goolies at the time, and listening to the match on the radio was absolute torture…
They were hitting the woodwork, there were goal line clearances, the lot. Commentators going mad.

Next up, we beat Southampton at home, another replay.

For the semi final at Villa Park, the Bro and I had the idea to stay the weekend with our aunt and cousins in Brum (Aston to be precise, so it wasn’t too far to walk to the stadium.)
We were in the big standing area at one end, that was divided right down the middle by a fence….half Wolves half Arsenal. At the end of the match, the Wolves fans starting throwing stuff, including coins (Nothing more than 2p, the cheapo b*stards)
It got quite ugly.

After the match, realizing that all the Arsenal fans were going one way, and that everyone on the road back to our aunt’s was a Wolves fan or an old Bill on a horse, we tried to discreetly slip our scarves into our jackets. Discreet as a wet fart, this enormous effin Black country Welder type says to me:
“No yuse hoiding that mate, you’re DEAD” and punched me on the nose.
The Bro and I (16 and 15 YO respectively) managed a look at each other as we went to ground one hand on head, one on balls, hoping we’d see each other alive again.
The police on their horses did FA, was probably a good laugh for them seeing two ‘cockneys’ getting their heads kicked in.
Then a voice from heaven went:
“Loive’em alowwn, they’re only babbies!”
An old dear had run out of her house to save us and it worked.

They stopped kicking us, and we staggered on to our aunt’s place where there was a party that night. Suffice to say we played the Jack the lad cockneys all night and gave it large to the Wolves fans that were there amongst the mainly Villa contingent.

For the final, we couldn’t get tickets so watched it on telly. All was going smoothly, 2-0 up till near the end, then…….
Our mum walks in and asks “Anyone want tea?” United scored.

We told her ‘no’ and to please go back to the kitchen. The stress was on.

Two minutes later, she walks in and says “The kettle is on, sure you don’t want tea?” (ah, Irish mothers….) United scored again! We screamed ” No! Get out!”

Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Bewildered, she left us to it, and Sunderland scored the winner.

I seem to remember us sheepishly going to the kitchen saying “Sorry mum…any tea going?”

Written by John Matthews Legend