What does April hold in store for Emery’s Arsenal?

March 31, 2019

Three Monday night games. Two home games, four aways in the Prem and a Europa quarter final against Napoli. Pretty exciting maybe?

Of the three Monday night games only one is at home, which just so happens to be tomorrow night against Newcastle. On April Fools’ night the UK parliament is going to, yet again, attempt to extract its head from its back passage.  Don’t hold out much hope for that, but at least we have a fighting chance of turning Newcastle over!

Next Sunday, March 7th, sees us at Goodison with a 2.05pm kick off. The Toffees are on the up and we’ll need to be better than the chavs were on their recent visit to the wild wastelands of the North West if we want to come away with something.

Mesut scores in a 5-2 win at Goodison in October 2017

We’re back at the Emirates on the 11th for the home tie of the Napoli QF. It’ll be interesting to see Unai’s priorities for each game in this really busy month. At present the League appears our best route to a CL place since we sit in a top 4 place (well we did before the mancs luckily sneaked past Watford yesterday). Juggling both Prem and Europa balls is going to be tricky. One game at a time, I suppose. 🙂

The subsequent EPL game is away to Watford on Monday the 15th April, which does gives us an extra day after the Napoli game to regroup if you were trying to look for the positives of Monday night footie. Watford are a bit up and down but can be a stern proposition at Vicarage Road if it gets buzzing and Deeney puts that hideous mask on again.

Three days later we head to Naples, hopefully to finish off the job we begun in London. This is Arsenal, though, so don’t expect 3-0 at home and a clean sheet away in Italy. We don’t do easy.

The distance to the pitch in Naples will help but it’ll still be a hostile atmosphere

Yet another three day break follows and on the 21st we entertain Crystal Palace at THOF for the 4pm kick off. I’m particularly excited about this one as it’s my next trip to see the boys in the flesh.

Wolves in midweek on the 24th of April will be a tall order after such an intensive series of games, but if we can’t match them under the Molineux floodlights ….. we shall see. For some reason, this fixture seems one of the trickiest of the month, so expect us to cruise it.

April is topped off on the 29th with the third Monday Night Football we’ll have to endure over the next month. Away at Leicester is never easy but it just so happens to be the venue for my favourite away trip fixture of recent years when we beat them 5-3 and the beer was just delicious.

All in all a very busy, very exciting and potentially rewarding month is in store for Unai’s Arsenal. After the arid, uninspiring desert that was the second half of March, it’s going to be a headlong, bumpy sprint riding on the back of a camel desperate to dip its head into the oasis.

Before you go, what do you think the dippers v spuds score might be this afternoon? Take a punt

chas 


Arsenal FC – Our home record against the Magpies

March 30, 2019

Newcastle United Football Club (based in Newcastle upon Tyne) was founded in 1892 by the merger of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End. Their home ground has been St James’ Park since the club’s foundation the ground was developed into an all-seater stadium in the mid-1990s and has a capacity of 52,354. The club has been owned by Mike Ashley since 2007, succeeding long term chairman and owner Sir John Hall.

Rodney Bewes and Ian Le Frenais St James’ Park 1972 – Newcastle Chronicle

The club is the 17th-highest revenue producing club in the world in terms of annual revenue, generating €169.3 million in 2015. Newcastle’s highest placing was in 1999, when they were the fifth-highest revenue producing football club in the world, and second in England only behind Manchester United.

Newcastle has been a member of the Premier League for all but three years of the competition’s history and has been in the top four on five occasions.

Currently Newcastle is eighth in the Premier League all time table.

The club’s top goal scorer is Alan Shearer, who scored 206 goals in all competitions between 1996 and 2006. Andy Cole holds the record for the most goals scored in a season: 41 in the 1993–94 season in the Premier League. Shay Given is the most capped international for the club, with 134 appearances for Republic of Ireland.

Newcastle Club Honours

Football League First Division: Winners (4) – 1904–05, 1906–07, 1908–09, 1926–27

Second Division / Championship: Winners (4) – 1964–65, 1992–93, 2009–10, 2016–17

FA Cup: Winners (6) – 1910, 1924, 1932, 1951, 1952, 1955

FA Charity Shield: Winners (1) – 1909

European – Inter-Cities Fairs Cup: Winners (1) − 1969

UEFA Intertoto Cup: Winners (1) − 2006 (Outright Winner)

Woolwich Arsenal’s inaugural Football League appearance was played before a crowd of 10,000 at the club’s “new” ground, the Manor Field in a Division 2 game against Newcastle United on September 2nd 1893 and ended in a 2-2 draw.

Here’s a Arsenal History match report of that first ever game in the Football League.

http://www.thearsenalhistory.com/?p=9301

Arsenal has won 17 of our 23 home games against Newcastle with the last loss coming on November 10, 2010.

Theo scores in the 7-3 thriller of December 2012

Ray Kennedy beats Bobby Moncur April 1971

Hopefully our good home form will see us over the line against the barcodes.

GunnerN5


Arsenal’s Century Club – Joe Hulme

March 29, 2019

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Joe Hulme sits at number 18.

Joseph Harold Anthony Hulme (26 August 1904 – 27 September 1991) was born in Stafford.

Early on he played for the Stafford YMCA usually on the right wing. He started his career in non-league football in October 1922 with York City and moved on to Blackburn Rovers in February 1924 where he made 74 league appearances.

In February 1926 Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman was looking for a fast skilful winger and he purchased Joe Hulme for £3,500. He joined a team that included – David Jack, Jimmy Brain, Jack Lambert, Bob John, Jack Butler, Andy Neil, Jimmy Ramsey, Billy Blyth, Cliff Bastin, Herbert Roberts, Alf Baker and Tom Parker.

Joe Hulme made his debut against Leeds United on 6th February 1926. He was an immediate success and by the end of the first season Hulme’s startling pace had become his trade mark, his main trick being to push the ball past the opposing full-back then tear past him.

Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Hulme won his first international cap for England against Scotland on 2nd April 1927. England won the game 2-1. Hulme retained his place in the team and that year played against Belgium (9-1), France (6-0), Northern Ireland (0-2) and Wales (1-2). Other members of the England team that year included Dixie Dean, Tom Cooper, Stanley Earle, Edward Hufton and Alf Baker.  In total Joe won nine caps for England, between 1927 and 1933.

In October 1927, Herbert Chapman signed Eddie Hapgood, a 19 year old milkman, who was playing for non-league Kettering Town for a fee of £750. This was followed by the purchase of David Jack (£10,000), Cliff Bastin (£2,000) and Alex James (£8,750).

In the 1929-30 season Arsenal finished in 14th place in the First Division. However in the FA Cup they beat Birmingham City (1-0), Middlesbrough (2-0), West Ham United (3-0) and Hull City (1-0) to reach the final against Chapman’s old club, Huddersfield Town. Arsenal won the game 2-0 with goals from Alex James and Jack Lambert and Joe Hulme had his first cup winners’ medal.

Joe Hulme on the right

The following season Arsenal won their first ever First Division Championship with a record 66 points. The Gunners only lost four games that season. Jack Lambert was top-scorer with 38 goals. Other important players in the team included Joe Hulme, Frank Moss, Alex James, David Jack, Cliff Bastin, Eddie Hapgood, Bob John, Jimmy Brain, Tom Parker, Herbert Roberts, Alf Baker and George Male.

Joe Hulme scored his 100th goal for Arsenal in his 307th game.

In January 1938 Hulme was transferred to Huddersfield Town. His last senior appearance was in the 1938 FA Cup Final against Preston North End making him the first player ever to appear in five Wembley cup finals.

Honours

Arsenal

Football League Division 1 winner – 1930–31, 1932–33, 1933–34, 1934–35

FA Cup winner – 1930, 1936

FA Cup finalist – 1927, 1932

Huddersfield Town

FA Cup finalist – 1938

Joe Hulme was also a fine all round cricketer he was a right-handed middle order batsman, right-arm medium bowler and superb deep fieldsman. He represented Middlesex 223 times between 1929 and 1939 and accumulated 8,103 runs (av. 26.56) with twelve centuries and a top score of 143. He hit 1,000 runs in a season three times with a best of 1,258 (av. 34.94) in 1934. He bagged 89 wickets (av. 36.40) with a best of 4 for 44 and he held 110 catches.

1936 Middlesex CCC – Denis Compton and Joe Hulme – Colorsport

After World War II he worked as a police reserve and played for the Metropolitan Police side; he went on to manage Tottenham Hotspur for four years after which he became a sports journalist up until his retirement in 1965.

He passed away at Winchmore Hill, Middlesex, aged 87, on September 26, 1991.

GunnerN5


Shkodran Mustafi – give the man a break!

March 28, 2019

This post was prompted by yet more whingeing from Arsenal fans about Mustafi after a failed block in a friendly in Dubai, for heaven’s sake. 

Shkodran Mustafi signed for Arsenal from Valencia in August 2016 for a reputed fee of £35m. In his first two seasons under Arsene Wenger he played 26 and 27 games respectively, missing a few games in both with hamstring and thigh muscle problems. For quite a while now, he has been the whipping boy of the Arsenal fans and many were hoping to see the back of him at the end of last season.

With the long-term injury to Kos, this never looked likely to happen. Under Unai Emery, Sokratis had been bought from Dortmund in the summer and Rob Holding chosen to fight for a first team place in preference to the unlucky Calum Chambers, who was sent out on loan to progress his playing time.

Looking a bit gormless isn’t a crime

Almost undetected, Herr Mustafi has become an invaluable part of the Arsenal squad. Unai Emery chose him to be the regular partner of Sokratis at the start of the season. When Papa was injured in October, Rob Holding stepped into the breach to partner Shkodran and quickly looked to be maturing into the role very nicely indeed. Rob’s injury in the away game at the Old Cowshed has been absorbed by the gradual return of Captain Koscielny and by Papa establishing himself as a no-nonsense old school defender who can adjust to the rigours of Premier League football.

Throughout these upheavals, and aside from a hamstring in December which kept him out for 7 games, Mustafi has been a constant in the Arsenal defence. Admittedly part of that has been down to the shift to a back three to allow Sead Kolasinac into his favoured left wing back position, but even so, Shkodran has never baulked at his opportunities to pull on the red and white (or pistachio!) shirt of the mighty Gunners.

His 24 appearances are testament to that. So far he has played 1987 minutes of Arsenal League season, the 5th highest.  Can he really be as terrible as everyone makes out? Let’s take a look at some of his other stats.

Shkodran makes on average 3.4 aerial duels per game which is the highest for any Arsenal player. He also tops Interceptions at 1.9 p.g.  and Clearances 5.3 p.g. These are not the stats of the completely incompetent player we see described all over the Arsenal blogosphere.

How about his passing? Is it the accident waiting to happen constantly mentioned on twitter. Well, it’s surprising to find out that he’s third on the list of Arsenal passers at 1319 in terms of volume, a hundred less than 2nd placed Torreira. Yes, a fair few of those have been sideways or back to the keeper as the team attempts to implement Unai’s ‘playing out from the back’ policy, but his pass accuracy is 83% and according to the official stats he hasn’t made any errors directly leading to a goal.

His tackles made and fouls conceded per game are both 4th in the list and he sits on 6 yellows, the same as Torreira, 2 behind Xhaka and 3 behind our imperturbable Greek. Have we paid for his perceived tendency to launch himself into reckless challenges? It appears not quite as much as his reputation would have us believe.

Yes, he may end up on his backside on occasion and the odd pass may go astray but all players make mistakes. The odd lapse shouldn’t discount the other 98% of a player’s overall performance. Can anyone remember when Koscielny was coming under constant criticism for not being good enough in his first couple of seasons?

Shkodran played in one of our best performances at home to Liverpool, was subbed on 70 minutes in the thrilling home victory against the spuds with Arsenal pushing for the win and he also scored the first goal away at Man U.

Yes, our first choice centre back pairing has become Kos and Papa in a back four but don’t rule out a few more starts for Mr Mustafi in the run-in – especially if we go to a back 5 to make room for the Bosnian battering ram.

Here’s Mustafi’s bullet header from the away game in Cardiff back in early September.

This season Unai has relied on the German Albanian enough for him to have started 80% of our League games. In a reasonably successful season so far for the Club, can we really say Mustafi hasn’t earnt his money as a decent squad player?

I suppose what I’m getting at is, regardless of what may or may not happen in the summer, please cut poor old Shkodran some slack. He may well yet play a crucial part in this season’s finale as we seek a CL place, be it either through the League, or via the Europa Cup.

chas


What makes a great Coach?

March 27, 2019

I have been watching with jaw agape the massive improvement in Raheem Sterling and wondered what has happened. This chap went from being a raw, undisciplined teenager at Liverpool into becoming, one of the best players in the PL. He excites. Then the penny dropped … Guardiola.

One of the essential qualities of the good coach is the ability to improve a player and help him reach their maximum potential. A manager/coach can come into a successful team and get them playing better – the new manager bounce is well known, but anyone can do that, think Roberto Di Matteo or OGS. It takes real talent to truly improve the team and the individual players, there are not many who can.

Of the current managers Klopp and  Guardiola are the first who spring to mind.

Klopp: This chap can clearly coach. Just look at Jordan Henderson. Used to be a Denilson, now a Gilberto Silva. Or Milner, was Stephen Hillier, now Ray Parlour. Up front Salah has gone from Sanogo to Ian Wright!

Guardiola: He has improved players throughout his career. Messi was a water carrier before Pep got to work (joke). Bernard Silva, Walker, Sterling etc are proof of his prowess.

Then there are the coaches who take a team and get them to punch above their wight – Eddie Howe and, this season’s probable Manager of the Year, Nuno Santo at Wolves,.

And what of our chap, Mr. Emery?

So far so good, but let’s look at how he is doing with individual players. Who has improved under his coaching – certainly Rob Holding. Before his injury the lad wasa revelation. Iwobi has become integral to the team. Xhaka is also much improved as is Lacazette. So, was Bellerin. The chap who has made the biggest advancement is Kolasinac, who has become an automatic first choice when last season he was a liability.

Young players are coming through under Emery’s tutelage with Douzi leading the way.

Players flocked to Wenger’s Arsenal because they knew he could improve them, I think Emery has the same ability – it bodes well.

written by BR


8 games to go – how’s Señor Emery getting along?

March 26, 2019

So where are we with Emery after three quarters of a season having passed? It is probably easier to reflect on this as we are undoubtedly in the ascendancy right now and finishing third looks like a realistic possibility. This might all sound a bit rich coming from someone who only a few weeks ago voted sixth in a poll when asked where Arsenal would finish at the end of this season.

So what changed? Well, my reason for voting sixth was that by losing Bellerin we had lost any form of thrust from the right side which made it too easy for teams to double up on the left which in effect nullified both wings. Solutions were attempted to be found and Lichtsteiner, as good as a stop gap that he is, was never going to seriously to be able to hold it together for the amount of games that he has been asked to play and Jenkinson, as much as we love him for being one of ours, was equally never going to be the solution.

The answer, of course, has been Maitland-Niles (cons) just when it looked like he had blown his opportunity, back he came with a second half performance against ManU worthy of an England call up. His penetration down the right stretches the opposition’s defence giving Kolasinac just that bit more space to operate in which he uses to great effect.

The return of Mkhitaryan being able to play in front of AMN gives further strength to our right as well as my explanation. So I think it fair to say that Emery is a man who can find solutions but it is the bigger picture that is starting to intrigue me. I find myself asking questions like: was the ascendancy at this particular time planned. Did Emery have the luxury of first time objectivity at the beginning of the season and plan to tackle the tiring demands of EPL from the outset. I think it right to say that energy level wise our players are looking bright eyed and bushy tailed; Emery has cleverly rotated the midfield of Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi, the latter being the fallow field at the moment; he has certainly and purposely rotated the attack to such a point where Lacazette accepts his shortened role and gone are the earlier season tantrums and if that isn’t enough – there is Ozil.

Was Mesut’s lengthy Christmas break intentional? He certainly still looks fresh now. I don’t really believe  it was intentional, I think it was a case of simply making the necessary managerial adjustments to get him to understand what was what in the brave new world post AW and I also think again it is fair to say that it has worked. Ozil is onside, he has now brought into the idea of what is going on and that a full ninety minutes of uninterrupted game time is going to be few and far between and that now seems to be fine evidenced by Mesut’s new found determination while playing.

Ramsey is, of course, another who has been used sparingly but effectively, in fact I think if you can go round the whole team you will notice clever rotation, ok the changes to the back line have been mainly forced upon Emery so it is probably fairer to describe that as fire fighting rather than strategic rotation but again I think it only fair to say that the fire fighting has been well handled.

This whole idea might make a bit more sense if you look at other teams: spuds being the best example of having their first eleven ground into the dirt with results reflecting their fatigue. Chelsea are in a similar boat, there is way too much reliance on Hazard with the inevitable consequences occurring. ManU have less to worry about because “Ollie is at the wheel” raises eyebrows…….

No, things do look good right now and I suspect that I will not be the only one now and in the near future who starts to dare to believe that this may not be luck: this might just be the very clever vision and strategic deployment of troops from a certain Señor Emery from the outset — keep it going Unai.

COYRRG

LB


Arsenal’s Century Club – Theo Walcott

March 25, 2019

Today we start to look at the players who are members of – “The Arsenal Century Club”. We start today with the player who took the most games and we will finish the series of posts with the player who took the least.

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Theo Walcott sits at number 19.

Theo James Walcott was born 16 March 1989 in Stanmore, London, but grew up in Compton, Berkshire. He attended Compton Church of England Primary School and The Downs School. Nike agreed to a sponsorship deal with Walcott when he was fourteen years old. He is a product of the Southampton Academy and started his career with Southampton before Arsene Wenger signed him for Arsenal in 2006 for £5 million.

He initially joined as a scholar, having agreed to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday on 16 March 2006.

On 30 May 2006, Walcott became England’s youngest ever senior football player aged 17 years and 75 days. In December, he received the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award. On 6 September 2008, he made his first competitive start in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra. He has represented England at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012 and has 47 caps, scoring eight goals. In September 2008 against Croatia he became the youngest player ever to score a hat-trick for the full England side, aged just 19.

His first goal for Arsenal came in the 2007 League Cup Final against Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on 25 February 2007. His 12th-minute strike was overshadowed by events later on in the match: John Terry was knocked unconscious, Didier Drogba scored twice to give Chelsea a 2–1 victory and three players were sent off following a mass brawl.

Some words from the man himself-

“I was only 17 and hadn’t even played in the Premiership when I went to Germany. It wasn’t my decision to pick me. But it was good experience to train with world-class players, see the way they handled themselves.

“I never read the papers, so I never know what people are saying about me. That helps. The environment I’m in with the other players around me, I don’t really see what is in the papers. Of course I wanted to play for Arsenal. But I was only 17 and I didn’t want to play too much and get injuries. The boss has done brilliantly with me and now I’m ready to push on.”

Some more words-

Football is about opinions, but love me or hate me I don’t really care,” he said.

“I have been so pleased with everything I have achieved and I’ve enjoyed everything about it. Even with the injuries, it is part of the game. I genuinely wouldn’t change anything, I don’t have any regrets.

“I’ve seen players come through who everyone says, ‘They’re the next best thing’ and they put so much pressure on them, but then they go down the leagues and down the leagues and you just don’t hear about them anymore. But if you’re strong up here [mentally] and you have good people around you, then you can get through it.”

This may come as a surprise, but Walcott is a published author.

He has written no less than four children’s books for his “T.J and the…” series.

He was just 21 when they were published in 2010. The lead character, TJ, appears to be based on the author. Goodreads rated every one of the books at least 4.5/5.

In his 370th game for Arsenal on February 20th 2017 he scored his 100th goal in a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Sutton United.

Theo’s 100th goal punch

Throughout his last season at Arsenal, he was mainly used in the Europa League and in the EFL Cup, and he only made 6 substitute appearances in the Premier League. By October, he was increasingly on the fringes and was criticised following a poor performance when made captain in a 2–1 League Cup victory at home to Championship side Norwich City.

On 17 January 2018, Walcott signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Everton, ending his time at Arsenal.

GunnerN5