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

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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.

 

chas


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

Subs

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.

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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.

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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:

Cech

Bellerin   Mustafi   Sokratis   M-N

Ramsey   Torreira   Xhaka

Ozil   Mhiki

PEA

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.


Season Predictions.

August 11, 2018

We know our squad, we know the strength of the opposition squads, where do you think we will finish come season’s end?

I am excited (as always) by the prospect of a winning season for The Arsenal and IMO we have almost all the assets to do well; a mixture of youth and experience, a new manager with an outstanding past record, new coaches and backroom staff and, above all, some variety in attack.

Much has been made of the defence and with good cause, we certainly looked shaky in the friendlies, particularly at centre back. Given the PL inexperience of the Greek chap and Mustafi’s inexplicable lapses it was a huge gamble to loan Chambers but perhaps Holding has impressed in training, or we had our sights set on a solid CB and the transfer did not come to fruition. Whatever, it is cause for concern. And what of the full backs? We look strong on the right with the Swiss bloke being a fine addition (if he remains fit) but on the left?? Nacho is losing pace, The Beast is not a proper defender nor is M-N. Much will be expected of The Terrier (we need a Jack Russell as opposed to a Westie).

Our attack lacks a winger and I hope UA will not try to make PEA into a TH14 – he is a very effective central striker. How UA makes space for Ozil, and Mhiki will be interesting, as will how Iwobi develops. Unlike many, I believe Iwobi has all the talent to become a top player.

And what of the other teams?

Man City are a superb team and odds-on to repeat their PL victory. Mahrez is a good addition. I cannot see anything but them being crowned Champions again and doing much better in the CL.

Man Utd. I have never hidden my dislike of Merino and he has created a team in his image.  Their arrogance can be seen in the antics throughout the club with Pogba being the worst culprit. Shame because they have some fine players. I wish them ill and will laugh as their managers moans about lack of investment.

Liverpool. Where do they get €200m+ to spend in one summer? Why can’t we get someone in who is prepared to do the same? Klopp has to deliver this season. 4th is not good enough, though a losing CL final appearance is testament to the improvement under his management. Can Salah have another wonderful season or is he another Clive Allen? Can the Scouse finally win a title? Not in my opinion.

Spurs. Got better and better in 2017/18 but ultimately they got Spursy and won sweet FA. No signings but no departures. New ground on it’s way hence tightened purse strings.  Last won the title in 1961 and despite the last 8 years having a 1 in them, they continue to flatter to deceive.

Chelsea. Expensive but worse GK. Kovacic and Jorginho will take time to settle. Can they get back to Top 4 under a new manager? They need a proper finisher and it is a major surprise they continue with Morata, OG (WC winner) and some other bloke.

Everton. The Nearly Men. Spent big money, have a decent squad plus Theo. Have High Hopes

So, how will the table look at the end of the season?

My Prediction is:

  1. Man City
  2.  Liverpool
  3.  Arsenal
  4.  Chelsea
  5.  Man Utd
  6. . Everton

What do you think?

written by Big Raddy