Palace at home – In Brief

April 21, 2019

A must win game especially with the spuds just losing the hardest of their remaining five fixtures. It’s given us the chance to go two points ahead if we can win and give them some cause for concern, while also giving us extra hope of seeing out these tricky aways we face on Wednesday and Sunday. After such a fine performance against Napoli, the lads should be feeling full of confidence – let’s forget the Watford match!

Laca wonders where the intimidating atmosphere of the San Paolo stadium has gone

Team news

Big Sok is serving the second game of his 2 match ban for being Greek. So, let’s put our hands together for squad player Shkodran. Three or four at the back? Three plus wingbacks would seem the best chance of providing the width necessary to get round the bus.

Granit is being assessed but maybe might not be risked if Matteo and the Terrier are both ready to go. So the midfield is sorted, with Guendouzi playing more in a deep Ramsey role with licence to roam forward a little, allowing the Terrier to excel at what he’s best at.     (Update: it would appear from Jeorge Bird on twitter that both Granit and the Terrier were in full training yesterday 🙂 )

Rambo is definitely out for an unspecified period. Home against Palace is, perhaps, the perfect scenario for Mesut, so he’ll probably start. Back at home we need the variety that the left and right side wing forwards Iwobi and Mkhitaryan bring, so maybe that’s the way to go. However, with Mesut to definitely start, means him playing central midfielder which is unlikely (assuming a centre forward is chosen to play).

Perhaps Auba or Laca will be given some pine time – Auba would be the popular choice. If he is, he’ll be itching to come on for a cameo 30 minutes and score a couple.

Our home record against Palace is pretty good but nothing can be taken for granted at this stage of the season. Townsend always plays better against us and Zaha, Benteke, Wickham and Batshitcrazy are all useful on their day.

Roy Wagnerson usually likes his teams to play some football so Palace may not be the most adept at parking the bus which might produce a game of decent football at the Emirates today.

Getty Images

Ant and me will be suitably enthusiastic about the match by the time our train gets into St Pancras (bang on time, hopefully) soon after 12.30pm.

Heaven knows how we’ll entertain ourselves at Finsbury Park in the intervening period before setting off for the ground!

COYRRG

chas

p.s. Let’s hope Everton are up for the game against the red mancs

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Arsenal FC – Our home record against Palace

April 20, 2019

In 1895, the Football Association had found a new permanent home for the FA Cup Final at the site of the famous Crystal Palace Exhibition building. Some years later the owners, who were reliant on tourist activity for their income, sought fresh attractions for the venue, and decided to form their own football team to play at the Palace stadium. There had been an amateur Crystal Palace team as early as 1861, but they had disappeared from historical records around 1876. The owners of the venue wanted a professional club to play there and tap into the vast crowd potential of the area. Although the Football Association disliked the idea of the owners of the Cup Final venue also possessing their own football team and initially rejected their proposal, a separate company was established to form and own the club.

Crystal Palace Football Club, originally nicknamed “The Glaziers”, was founded on 10 September 1905 under the guidance of Aston Villa assistant secretary Edmund Goodman. The club applied to enter the Football League alongside another newly formed London club Chelsea. Unfortunately for Palace, it was Chelsea that was accepted and the club found itself in the Southern League Second Division for the 1905–06 season. The club was successful in its inaugural season and were promoted to the First Division, crowned as champions.

Herne Hill Velodrome

When the First World War broke out the Palace and grounds were seized by the armed forces, and in 1915 the club were forced to move by the Admiralty. They found a temporary base at the Herne Hill Velodrome. Although other clubs had offered the use of their ground to Palace, the club felt it best to remain as close to their natural catchment area as possible. When Croydon Common F.C. were wound up in 1917, the club took over their old stadium located at the Nest, but in 1919 they began the purchase of the land on which they would eventually build Selhurst Park, their current home.

“The Nest” – Croydon Common FC’s nickname was The Robins

The renowned stadium architect, Archibald Leitch, was employed to draw up plans, and the club constructed and completed the ground in time for the 1924–25 season. It remained relatively unchanged, with only the introduction of floodlights and maintenance and updating until 1969 when the Arthur Wait stand was constructed. The Main Stand became all-seater in 1979 and more work followed in the 1980s when the Whitehorse Lane End was redeveloped to allow for a Sainsbury’s supermarket, club offices and a club shop. The Arthur Wait stand became all seater in 1990, and in 1994 the Holmesdale Terrace was redeveloped, replaced with a two tier Stand. Selhurst’s attendance record was set in 1979, with an official total of 51,482. After all the redevelopments to the ground and safety requirements due to the Taylor Report, the ground’s current capacity is 26,309. Proposals were put forward to move the club back to the Crystal Palace National Stadium in 2010, but after the club gained promotion to the Premier League in 2013 there has been a renewed focus on redeveloping their current home into a 40,000 seater stadium. Revised plans for a new 13,500-seater Main Stand (extending overall stadium capacity to 34,000) were approved at a Croydon Council meeting on 19 April 2018.

Palace has had several periods competing in the top level of English football. They enjoyed a successful period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which the club achieved its highest ever league finish of third place in the top division in 1990–91, and were only denied a place in Europe because of the partial UEFA ban on English clubs at that time following the Heysel Stadium disaster. The club were also one of the original founding members of the Premier League. Palace has reached two FA Cup finals, finishing runners-up to Manchester United on both occasions in 1990 and 2016.

The club’s traditional kit colours were originally claret and blue, but in 1973 they decided to change to the red and blue vertical stripes now worn today. At the same time the current nickname of the Eagles was established as Malcolm Allison took over. Allison’s Eagles also played under a new team crest as the club was reinvented to some extent.

Our home record against Palace is formidable –

 

 

Please come back to Palace – Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT

Of our remaining fixtures this game should be our easiest; Palace have only beaten us once at home in the EPL and I fully expect Arsenal to win again. (though it’s always wise not to count your chickens before they hatch, especially at Easter)

GunnerN5


Napoli 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings

April 19, 2019

The team selection looked ideal for an away game, compact in midfield and some heavy duty firepower up front to hopefully snatch that crucial away goal.

First Half

Napoli had a few half chances but many of their attacks were halted by the lino’s flag.

Rambo pinged a hammy and was replaced by Micki in preference to Mesut, presumably in the running about a lot stakes. Almost immediately Laca was fouled, a distance out from the Napoli goal. He stepped up, fooled the goalkeeper which side he was going and popped it over the wall into an empty net. 1-0 away from home and just what the doctor ordered.

Action Images via reuters

Napoli decided their best hope of getting back into the game was to blame the ref for their predicament in the hope of intimidating him into favouring them. During that first half he stood up superbly against their efforts.

Second Half

A couple of minutes after the restart Auba had the simplest of chances to make it 2-0 and take us completely out of sight. His 98% strike rate of early season has truly gone.

Napoli’s crossing, shooting and passing in the final third were so woeful during that second half that their best chance came when Nacho inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own net but Cech was right on the spot.

Highlight of the half was Big Sok telling Koulibaly that he was a cheating sod in Greek while making it look like he was counselling him on what a harsh world it is. Priceless.

Papa counsels Koulibaly

Conclusion

Excellent from The Arsenal.

Napoli’s first defeat at home to an English side and yet again we confounded expectations with a measured and controlled performance. Napoli were awful but let that not detract from a great team performance.

An away goal and a shut out – not many predicted that!

Valencia await in the semis.

Mertens thinks we weren’t very good. Ahem, we beat you both home and away without breaking sweat or conceding. I reckon you need to take a long hard look at yourself, pal.

Hopefully Rambo’s hammy doesn’t mean his Arsenal career is now over.

AFP- Getty Images

Ratings

Cech – great to see him kicking the ball rather than putting pressure on the defenders with that passing out from the back garbage – fine save from Monreal … 7

Maitland-Niles – a sound performance, covered well, attacked well, he continued his resurgent form since his ‘mare at Goodison … 8

Sokratis – a personal favourite – solid as a block of marble and with as much facial expression, though his counselling of Koulibaly was a joy to watch … 8

Koscielny – captain, my captain – class throughout … 8

Monreal – Nacho’s bandy legs covered a lot of turf and he played dependably … 8

Kolasinac – combative and useful in possession … 7

Torreira – terrier-like from first to last – was happy that there was a smaller player on the pitch … 8

Xhaka – did what was required before being subbed and his groin rested … 7

Ramsey – strived to create the goal which ironically came straight after he left the pitch … 7

Lacazette – looked fed up to go off – neither he nor Auba had held the ball up that well but it’s not their strength – ran his heart out … 7

Aubameyang – got better as the game went on – shame he missed the sitter … 7

Subs

Mkhitaryan – played reasonably well and nearly created that second goal with a timely challenge and then intuitive pass – so much better than Monday night (not that that was too difficult) … 6

Elneny – brought on to give Xhaka a rest – did what he’s good at … 6

Iwobi – presumably his ball retention skills were the reason for his appearance but couldn’t really hang on to it for long … 6

Managers

AP

Emery – superb – great team selection – outfoxed his opposing manager … 9

Wagnerotti – no answer to Arsenal’s superiority – bringing on a series of players whose final ball was just as poor as their predecessors was never going to work … 2

Ref – Pretty good game – not wanting to grab the limelight – Mike Dean take note, it’s not about you … 8

chas


A Massive Night ahead in Naples

April 18, 2019

The prize of a semi-final spot (probably against Valencia) awaits the winner of tonight’s showdown in the Stadio San Paolo. Having won fairly comfortably last Thursday in North London, we must be favourites to progress so why is there such an air of trepidation about Gooners everywhere. Was it the fact that we should have won by more and put the tie to bed at home or maybe it’s because we just watched our team struggle against ten man Watford less than three days ago?

Napoli are odds on to win tonight’s game, but our odds to win the competition as a whole are a third of Napoli’s. What does this mean? Who knows – all that’s obvious is that an away goal should be priceless.

Harking back to 2008 and that away win in the San Siro, it was a completely different scenario on that occasion as the Emirates home leg had finished 0-0. No away goal for the opposition was more or less the only similarity. Fans’ expectations weren’t that high for the return in Milan but were superbly exceeded. Tonight is more of a ‘sh*t or bust’ situation – go all out for that away goal or play our best effort at Islington catennacio (haha, as if).

The more likely game plan will be somewhere in between as usual.

Paul Vaessen beats Juventus’ Dino Zoff with 2 minutes to go in the ECWC semi final 2nd leg in 1980

Team News

Papa is back available to play in Europe which gives the defence a huge boost as we miss his calming influence when he’s not prowling the box smiling. Kos and Papa in the centre and we start to look a whole lot more solid.

Other news is much harder to come by at the time of writing. There’s bound to be a certain caginess about revealing too much too soon. Aside from our long term absentees, only Denis Suarez has not travelled by the look of it.

Will Xhaka start after testing out his groin on Monday? A double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira would seem the most defensive and solid midfield selection, though if Rambo plays deeper we will have more chance of scoring that vital away goal.

Will we pack the midfield and use wing backs to add further stability or are wingbacks seen as a more of an attacking move since someone like Kolasinac usually plays well forward of the halfway line? Kola was given the night off on Monday which perhaps suggests he’ll play tonight and, for balance, that means a back three and Ainsley on the right.

Both strikers to start? Or will Unai use the left and right sided attacking options of Iwobi and Micki again? The latter option would appear more defensive but didn’t provide much in the way of either security or brightness on Monday (largely down to Henrikh’s poor performance).

Thierry Henry ties Javier Zanetti in knots before blasting past Toldo in Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition of Inter Milan in November 2003
Matthew Ashton/Empics Sport

Laca was also given the night off on Monday and didn’t look too cheesed off, so you would have thought he had been promised the no 1 striker’s spot against Napoli. Maybe Auba will start on the bench and be available to add extra bang  if required in the second half. If he plays, it’ll probably be wide left which leaves that flank vulnerable with the Wardrobe behind him. I like the idea of both Laca and Auba playing as twin strikers but we haven’t really seen it so far under Unai.

How do you think Unai will set up to maximise our chances of progression?

The comments section below is ready and waiting for your opinions and score predictions!

courtesy of Gooner Frog on twitter

chas


Arsenal FC – Our away record against Napoli

April 17, 2019

We have only ever played one away game against Napoli – it was in Group F of the 2013/14 Champions League. We lost the game 0-2 after winning the home leg by the same score.

The San Paolo Stadium is a fearsome fortress and Napoli’s home record proves just how difficult this fixture will be for Arsenal.

Here is their home record for the last 9 seasons.

They possess a formidable home record in the league losing less than 2 games per season and they score an average of 3.29 goals per game while conceding only 1.39.

Their record against English sides at home is equally impressive with 4 wins, 2 draws and no defeats. In recent years, Liverpool managed a 0-0 while City, the chavs and us all lost. Perhaps it’s a record we can break just as in 2008 when we became the first English side to beat Milan in the San Siro.

Notice Carlo Wagnerotti in the background!

No matter how we look at it, we will find if very tough to get a result from this game but we are the Arsenal and it all depends on what version of our team shows up.

Two nil up after the first leg – what a strong position that is! An away goal will make a huge difference to the end result; that clean sheet at the Emirates may yet prove to be priceless. If we score, Napoli will need to score 4 to win the game. That thought will be in the backs of their minds constantly, gnawing away at their confidence to commit too many forward. What could possibly go wrong?

As a die hard gunner I never give up hope.

GunnerN5


Watford 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings – Deeney’s Misdemeaney

April 16, 2019

A very interesting team selection – a back four with Mavro partnering Kos and Shkodran and Nacho full backs. Heavy duty midfield with Xhaka fit, Torreira back from the sin bin , Rambo, Wobbly and Micki. Will Unai have got the balance right to see us do better away from home?

First Half

What a peculiar half of football! Watford set off all guns blazing, right up for it to the point where they were always going to tempt the ref into how much rough stuff he was going to allow. I suppose they thought that at home they might get away with a bit more than elsewhere.

After a fiery start full of Watford bluster, Auba was so rapid closing down Foster, the keeper was unaware of the danger of his clearance being blocked. One nil and the simplest goal you’ll ever see. A definite contender for Goal of the Month.

Mr Troy Weiner’s moment of extreme stupidity came moments later. Obviously  still smarting from going behind, he swung an elbow at a much smaller man and had to see red. ‘But ref, we’re allowed to rough up Arsenal, every other team gets away with it.’ Both the Watford crowd and their players’ attempts to then paint Arsenal and Lucas Torreira as the villains of the piece from that moment onwards were laughable in the extreme.

To give their team credit, they made light work of the man disadvantage, still pressing for all they were worth and even had a scent of goal. Arsenal should have scored a second and third but couldn’t quite make the man advantage tell.

Second Half

Ozil for Torreira as a sub made sense in two respects – don’t give the ref a chance to even up the sides and let Mesut pick apart the team with a man short. Hmmmm. That was the plan?

To begin with the second period appeared to be a showcase for Mkhitaryan to illustrate how many ways he could screw up decent chances. The one on one with Foster was the worst – just take a touch and the keeper’s out of the picture.

Other chances came and went and Arsenal failed abysmally to make having the extra man pay.  Mavro was obviously match rusty, though replacing him with Guendouzi and going three at the back without wing backs was off the wall management. It didn’t work as Watford hit the bar amonfst other chances and eventually Maitland-Niles was brought on to give us a back four – Rambo getting a breather before Thursday.

Watford looked the most likely to score in the later stages which gives them great credit playing for so long understaffed. Thankfully we hung on to majestically cruise to victory with the early Auba screamer.

Conclusion

A pretty poor performance against a team which fought for its life. Still, there isn’t a Gooner in the world who wouldn’t accept the present of the 3 points from Misters Foster and Deeney. Up to fourth, what’s not to like and hopefully the away curse is broken!

Hopefully we’re saving better form and game management for Thursday.

Ratings

Leno – a great save from a Capoue free kick – thank heaven he stopped that ‘Jens shoving the striker’ bowlocks before he was penalised by the ref – gets an extra point for a clean sheet away from home which had become as rare as rocking horse excrement  … 8

Mustafi – regardless of what any fan thinks of Shkodran, Unai kept him on the pitch in a variety of roles and he didn’t let us down in any of them … 7

Koscielny – battered once again but such class … 7

Mavropanos – a few nervy moments which was understandable – he’ll get better with game time … 6

Monreal – like Mustafi, he was asked to play a number of roles and his covering is often superb – almost like a sweeper … 7

Xhaka – it was surprising that Granit couldn’t impose himself more on that depleted Watford side, though he wasn’t the only one … 6

Torreira – made some fine challenges after the elbow from Deeney, but taking him out of the danger zone at half time was a good move … 6

Ramsey – further forward in this game, Aaron was less effective strangely – it seemed as if the whole team had one foot on the plane to Italy … 6

Iwobi – Alex is so skilful he sometimes tricks himself – shame one of his many good runs couldn’t result in that crucial second goal … 7

Mkhitaryan – anonymous in the first half and then star of a poor finishing show in the second – I’d move him on in the summer if there are any takers … 4

Aubameyang – magnificent desire to block Foster’s clearance and then he spent the other 80 minutes trying to get on the end of a second – save one for Napoli, Pierre – that’s the ticket … 7

Subs

Ozil – didn’t really do what he was sent on the pitch to do … 6

Guendouzi – where was he playing? – I’ve really no idea, one moment in front of the back four then seconds later on the right wing? … 6

Maitland-Niles – added stability to the right flank but worrying that he thought he was a wing back – was he, wasn’t he? Who knows? … 7

Managers

Unai Emery – I wish I’d known about his crushing superiority (hex) over Gracia before – 6 wins and a draw out of 7 previous match ups. Substitutions were interesting to say the least – you can’t sniff at 3 points, a clean sheet and an away win though … 8

Javi Wagner – set his team up as far too aggressive and paid for it – bet they don’t think they can clatter into City at Wembley and get away with it … 4

Ref

Pawson – removed Deeney and then spent the rest of the game trying to appease Mike Riley by giving Watford a succession of unwarranted free kicks … 6

chas


The Siege of Troy – Watford preview

April 15, 2019

In Greek mythology, Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen of Sparta (who was already married) and it all kicked off. Ten years of war later, a trick involving a massive wooden horse full of soldiers finally ended the siege of Troy, amid scenes of ransacking, pillaging and destruction. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the match report for tonight’s game!

Monday Night Football – what joy!

After a weekend which saw …..

  • the spud reserves beat Huddersfield (who haven’t won a game on a Saturday for a whole year)
  • Man U undeservedly beat West Ham at the Old Cowshed (2 penalties, one which was completely ludicrous and a Hammers goal incorrectly ruled out for offside)
  • the chavs expectedly lost at Anfield – the Salah goal a thing of rare beauty

…..  and following our dreadful performance up in Liverpool last weekend, tonight’s game assumes even more significance in our attempts at CL qualification through League position.

Who’s available for the trip to Hertfordshire?

As far as team news goes, Papa is definitely out for tonight and also for Palace at home next weekend after picking up his 10th yellow of the season in the game at Goodison. At the opposite end of the suspension spectrum, Lucas Torreira can say hello again to his Premier League boots after finally finishing his 3 match ban for a supposedly dangerous tackle against the spuds in early March. Well, that’s if his slight niggle picked up against Napoli doesn’t mean he’s given extra recovery time before Thursday’s return leg in Italy, that is.

Xhaka is still being hampered by a troublesome groin (aren’t we all 🙂 ), but aside from that, team selection will see more juggling of squad members in an attempt to gain maximum advantage in both competitions. Our newly double-decaded Matteo Guendouzi may well start and should be raring to go.

Kos might need a rest if he’s to feature on Thursday, so Shkodran may come in as his replacement. Will Mesut and Aaron be rested also? It all depends on how Unai sees the big picture. Arsene was always slated when he fielded more squad players and results suffered but it really must be a tricky job to get the right balance. The manager will always field a team he believes is good enough to win if he can.

Mesut celebrates his goal in our 3-1 win at Vicarage Road in August 2016

As for Watford, maybe their eyes might be slightly distracted from the task in hand by the glittering prize of a Wembley appearance. No player ever wants to miss out and their mid-table League position is as secure as can be, though they are still in the hunt for 7th in the Prem and a possible Europa League spot.

The whole Deeney cojones thing is unhelpful in these circumstances because it seems to fire the opposition up in much the same way that the whole Stoke/Ramsey scenario often left us on the back foot.

Having said that, when Troy missed that penalty at the Emirates last season, it was definitely one of my mini highlights of last season. 🙂

Wagner has got the Hornets playing well, especially at Vicarage Road, so we will definitely have a game on our hands. In fact, they now seem like a side which has truly cemented its place in the Premier League. The first step towards greater achievements was the club reaching this season’s FA Cup Final. Who knows, they may well pull off a shock against the light blue Oilers – Wigan did.

Monday night football always makes it seem as though we’ve had a football-less weekend. The Newcastle home game 2 weeks ago went smoothly enough, as we might have expected with our excellent home form. But we really need to see something different in both tonight’s game and at Leicester away on Monday 29th April.

Things will seem a whole lot better if we can produce a performance worthy of the Club and banish our away day blues this season for good.

COYRRG

chas (BR is currently sipping Chianti in the cypress groves of Northern Italy)