Giving Up Football for Lent – Flat as a Pancake

February 19, 2018

How dull are FA Cup weekends when you get knocked out in the 3rd Round?

February has been let down so far. It started so well with plenty of goals in the demolition of Everton, accompanied by the really positive introduction of the new boys. The NLD at Wembley was a huge disappointment – optimistic going into it and resigned to mediocrity afterwards. Ostersunds away turned out to be more straightforward than playing a 3rd Division side in the FA Cup, more like a training game in parts – did it stir the blood? Nope.

Next up we have the Ostersunds return leg at home on Thursday when, presumably, a large chunk of the First team will be rested or riding the pine, just in case of an emergency. Rested so that they’re ultra-fresh for the Caribou Cup Final on Sunday playing the Champions elect.

Man City have the week off after tonight’s FA cup game, so they’ll be even more rested than us. What are your expectations for Sunday? Can we match last season’s performances against City and the chavs at Wembley en route to our 13th success?

At present, March is shaping up to be busy at the start but quiet and tedious for its second half. Man City at home on March 1st (subject to them getting past Wigan first time), Brighton away on the 4th, then followed by two legs of the Europa round of 16 (hopefully), sandwiching Watford at home.

The Leicester game scheduled for the weekend of the 17th and 18th has been postponed because of their FA Cup involvement. Then follows a god-forsaken international break. What a peculiar season it’s been! I’ve oscillated between extreme boredom (sometimes on weekends when we’ve been playing!) and a feeling of pure anxiety at the prospect of finding out the numerous other ways we can find to self-destruct.

In other news, the FA Cup quarters were as predictable as a Spurs player diving to win a penalty. At least Rochdale will get a Wembley pay day. What I’d like to know is how do you practise diving during training? Perhaps use a mannequin with leg outstretched? Or maybe a first aid dummy prostrate on the floor, mimicking a keeper who’s dived, then repeat over and over that crucial timing required to leave a toe initiating contact as you’re already on the way down.

Protective headwear is required at Enfield when practising certain game scenarios.

The FA Cup draw wasn’t fixed but still managed to avoid pairing any of the big boys together. Tedious.

Anyway we should all be looking forward to Sunday’s game, even if the kick off is so late, it’ll clash with Songs of Praise. So, upwards and onwards, the season’s not over yet by any stretch.

 

 

 

 

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A Wenger Wingerless Wilderness

February 18, 2018

Martial, Sterling, Hazard, Mane’, all exciting players, all wingers

Pires, Overmars, Arshavin, Reyes, Walcott, Limpar. All exciting players, all wingers.

How many in the current squad? None.

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What changed in Wenger’s playing philosophy that meant he gave up on having a proper winger? Was it the lack of progress of Theo or the arrival of Sanchez?

Or could it have been the enormous success of TH14’s conversion?

Whatever it is the entertainment factor is lessened by a lack of a tricky winger, and this lack has had a knock-on effect upon our defensive quality. The demands placed upon both Bellerin and Monreal are enormous and impossible to achieve. Of course teams are going to get in crosses and have open spaces on our flanks when our FB/WB’s are the thrust of our wingplay.

It has to be admitted I know SFA about tactics but in my opinion it just doesn’t work for us.

Answer: Buy Zaha

 


The Skater’s Waltz in Östersund – Player ratings

February 16, 2018

First Half

Instead of coming out all reindeer blazing as many home teams do, Östersunds went immediately into contain mode. This tactic backfired as Arsenal quickly gained confidence, possession and shots on goal. The artificial pitch, so different from those monstrosities at Luton and QPR, proved to be a fine playing surface, perfectly flat but with a realistic bounce. It suited the Arsenal far more than we might have expected.

When the Spanish Messi chipped in with yet another goal, it seemed only to be expected. Well, judging by Paul Parker’s reaction on Sky Sports anyway.

A second goal soon followed – as Terry said “Poor Papagianopolous. Bullied at Greek school for having a short surname, he now scores an own goal” – though Micki’s driven cross was difficult to defend and I’m sure Welbz would have scored if the Greek backside hadn’t.

Two up and cruising, so back into Arsenal mode, complacent and dozing. Maybe that’s a little harsh and it was just that Östersunds decided they had nothing to lose, so stepped up a gear.

Terry again, “They have had their chances? Honestly, if I turned up with my old gran and the rest of the chicken admiration society, we would get beat but still create chances against this current Arsenal team”. Seems about right. 🙂

Second half

I must admit to losing a bit of interest in the second half, much like the players and spectators.

Though that is understandable as when Arctic winds, nordvästan, are blowing through your Helags, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than your chattering teeth.

Mesut scored a third from another Micki assist and the return leg next week was looking more of a foregone conclusion. The excitement wasn’t over, oh no; in stoppage time David Ospina rescued a clean sheet for the Gunners with our first penalty save for donkey’s.

 

Mission accomplished, a healthy lead for the home leg, no digits missing from frostbite and hopefully no injuries apart from a few minor carpet burns.

Ratings

Ospina – A Catcher in the Rye – A couple of good stops and an excellent penalty save … 7

Bellerin – Vanity Fair – made some great runs down the right needs to up his end product  … 6

Mustafi – All Quiet on the Western Front – took everything in his stride and passing was better  ….6

Chambers – Brave New World – looking more comfortable with each game, but not really tested in Sweden … 6

Monreal – The Sun Also Rises – Nacho was born in Pamplona and probably used to train running with bulls  … 7

Elneny – The Kite Runner – MOTM, “Really liked Elneny’s workrate. This is a man who understands his limitations and plays like it. Good man” … 7

Maitland-Niles (Con) – First Among Equals – competent in centre midfield, though not an immediate solution at DM as yet  … 6

Ozil – The Great Gatsby – cruised through the game in second gear in which he still looked majestic … 7

Mkhitaryan – Far From The Madding Crowd – two more assists, his quality was apparent, still settling in … 6

Iwobi – Great Expectations – seemed to like the artificial surface, fluctuates between composed excellence and hasty mediocrity  … 6

Welbeck – Wuthering Heights – lacking in confidence in his abilities, will be so much better when he can find some  … 5


I’m going outside, I may be Sometime.

February 15, 2018

Those who read my regular ramblings know that I am a fan of Malmo FF, the Swedish champions. Why do I bring this up? Because I am one of the very few Gooners who have actually seen Ostersund play. I had the misfortune of seeing Graham Potter’s side win 3-0 in Malmo, it was a rare and chastening home defeat.

What can I tell you of Ostersund? Only that they will be better than you expect. They will be industrious, organised and determined. Likely to focus on a solid defensive foundation and hoping to score on breakaways or set-pieces. We have seen it work so often before which is why so many teams set-up this way against The Arsenal. Wins over Galatasary and PAOK show that Ostersund can beat quality opposition.

Much is being made of the weather, it is cold, probably worse for the spectators than the players who can run around. Ospina will be worried!

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Sweden, like all the Scandi countries, have a winter break and only started playing last weekend. I am not sure if this is of benefit to them or us. What is certain is that if AFC do not win tonight there will be yet another anti-AW outcry and a few thousand N17 muppets laughing.

Wenger has to play his best available team. The Europa has become our primary focus and Arsenal cannot afford to lose. Koscielny desperately needs a break and I would bench the chap.

My Team:

Ospina

Chambers    Mustafi    Monreal

Bellerin    Xhaka     Wilshere    Iwobi

Ozil        Miki

Welbeck

If fit, Ramsey has to play, we desperately missed him in the NLD.

Given this an away fixture, anything is possible. Perhaps AW will want to shore up the defence and play Elneny and Kolasinac or even M-N.

We should win against a team who are the financial equivalent of Barnet having spent less than €100k assembling their squad.

In Days of Old, with fixtures like this, we would go away, use squad members to get a draw and win easily at home. Will AW have the confidence to try that tonight? I certainly hope not.

COYRRG

 


Life is a Cabaret – Östersunds FK

February 14, 2018

One thing that caught my eye when reading up on our opponents for the upcoming Europa League round of 32 tie, was that the club liked to employ unusual methods to get the best out of its players. So, let’s take a look at the club’s management and its leftfield ideas.

Since 2011 Östersunds FK have blasted their way to the top tier of Swedish football, having been promoted three times. In 2017 they won the Svenska Cupen which enabled them to participate in this season’s Europa League for the first time. Marching past Galatasary and PAOK in qualifying, Östersunds finished second in their group on the same points as Athletic Bilbao, leaving Hertha Berlin trailing in their wake. They are no mugs.

Graham Potter had a so-so career in English football playing for Stoke, Southampton and West Brom amongst others. With a strong desire to stretch himself academically, he studied for a degree in Social Sciences via the Open University and later followed that up with a Masters in Leadership and Emotional Intelligence from Leeds Metropolitan University.

As the man himself has said, “You need to know about football to coach, but you need to know about people, too. Sometimes that can be the difference. It’s about how you bring a team together. How you communicate as a team. How you understand each other. And, ultimately, how you unite the group for a common cause.”

Potter had worked as a football development manager for the University of Hull and Leeds Metropolitan University plus as assistant coach for the England Universities Squad, before being approached by Östersunds chairman, Daniel Kindberg, about a coaching job. After initial hesitation from Kindberg, Graham Potter was eventually employed as Östersunds head coach in December 2010.

Together they came up with the idea of a ‘Culture academy’ when former lieutenant colonel, Kindberg, realised he might have to take an unorthodox route to make the Swedish minnows successful.

As the Östersunds chairman has said about his playing staff, “Many of them were discarded by their clubs — leftovers that people perceived as not good enough, but when we put them together, in an environment like ours, they have become fantastic players in Europe.”

How to get the best out of individuals and the team as a whole has been the cornerstone of the club’s philosophy. An art exhibition, writing a book, dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake plus various singing and theatre assignments have followed, all designed to bring the players together and make them ‘comfortable in uncomfortable situations’.  Scheduled rehearsals go on throughout the season, fostering a real sense of camaraderie and team spirit which extends to the football pitch.

Billy Reid, Potter’s Glaswegian No.2, used to manage Hamilton Accies but recently wrote and performed a rap about the Sami people, an indigenous minority of the Swedish Arctic known for reindeer herding.

To say it’s an unconventional approach is an understatement – take a look. This was the Östersunds players opening the 2016 Swedish Football Gala by dancing along to ‘There’s No Business Like Showbusiness’.

What do we think? Could a similar approach be successful at Arsenal?

Maybe Snow Wenger and the Seven Dwarfs, a rueful tale about the manager’s obsession with skillful, slight midfielders of limited stature?

Or The Wizard of Oz – starring Brave Sir Robin, Samir Nasri and Adebayor as the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow alongside Cesc Fabregas’ Dorothy?

Can you think of any productions Arsene and the boys could have featured in, in the past?

However strange the approach taken by the Östersunds FK management might seem, it has certainly reaped dividends and Arsenal can be sure of a warm welcome on Thursday evening.

chas

 

 


What Does it Take to Win the League?

February 13, 2018

If you are averse to statistics and spread sheets then you should stop reading.

We are now 27 games into the 26th Premier League Season and to date it has only been won by 6 different teams –

Manchester United 13 – last win 2012/13

Chelsea 5 – last win 2016/17

Arsenal 3 – last win 2003/04

Manchester City 2 – last win 2013/14

Blackburn Rovers 1 – only win 1994/95

Leicester City 1 – only win 2015/16

Manchester United have been the dominant team with 13 Championships, but that dominance has now slipped and they have not won in the last 4 seasons which is the longest period without them being champions.

Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2003/04 and in the last 13 seasons we have finished 2nd twice, 3rd on 4 occasions, 4th 6 times and 5th once.

Chelsea own 4 Premier League records – most games won – 30 in 2016/17, most points won – 95 in 2004/05, most goals scored – 103 in 2009/10, least goals against 15 in 2004/05.

After 27 games Arsenal have only 13 wins – the same as in 2012/13 and the least since 2008/09, we have lost 8 the same as in 2012/13 and the most since 2005/06, goals scored does not appear to be an issue, 51 being 4 above our overall PL average, goals against seems to be our Achilles heel with 36 being the second highest in our PL history. Our goals against after 27 games in the last two seasons are in 2nd and 3rd highest in our PL history.

To win the Premier League has taken an average of 2.24 points per game, goals for of 2.07 and goals against of .85. Arsenal’s average has been 1.87 points, 1.75 goals for, and .96 goals against.

After the first 27 games of 2017/18 the average for Manchester City (who look like run away champions) is 2.67 points per game, 2.93 goals for and .74 for goals against. While Arsenal’s averages are 1.67 points, 1.89 goals for and 1.33 goals against – which is a startling difference?

Manchester City is in the midst of creating a new and vastly improved set of standards for the Premier League and it shows just how high a hill we have to climb!

Is it insurmountable?

Written by GunnerN5

 

 

 


In A League of Our Own

February 12, 2018

We had a game this weekend, it was won by the home team. It wasn’t a surprise.

Have you looked at the PL table? It is possibly the most unusual in a few decades. To see one team so dominant that they are 16 points ahead of 2nd and likely to harvest the highest number of points in PL history (though they will lose 3 when we beat them at The Emirates).

City are a brilliant team, team being the operative word. They have fine players but unlike United they are not dependent upon individual skills. Me-rinho knows he cannot compete as a manager with Pep but he can spend a few hundred million buying players who can win a match on their own. It will get him 2nd or 3rd spot

Spurs and Liverpool are on season highs as Chelsea  plummet. If Spurs get 4th will it be considered a trophy 😀

And what of Arsenal. When Chelsea win tonight we will be 7 points off 5th and 8 off 4th. Realistically it is all over for the top 4 place.

Yet, we are also 9 points ahead of 7th place. We will finish 6th and in a league of our own. Had Arsenal a clue when it comes to playing away from home, this was a season when we could have finished much higher but our mysterious away form.

There is a problem arising in the PL. None of the teams below are going into the Top 6 in the near future.. Everton have spent a fortune, so have Leicester yet both of them are almost 20 points off top 4 and 10 points behind us.

Everton and Leicester are in competition with Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford for 7th place (Europa?).

Given our BoD’s decision to loosen the purse strings and buy our way back to the Top 4, 2019 will be exciting.

Strange Days.

written by Big Raddy