Thrashing the Thracians?

October 19, 2016

To be quite honest I had absolutely no idea which country PFC Ludogorets Razgrad came from until I started writing this. Bulgaria is the answer and I sincerely hope my appalling ignorance and downright lack of awareness is not matched by the manager and team of Arsenal Football Club.

Looking at Ludogorets’ record in the Champions League, their biggest home win was 1-0 v Basel in 2014 and their biggest away defeats were both 4-0 to Basel (again) and Real Madrid (both in 2014). At present their biggest away win is …… non-existent. A continuation of that record for another few days would be great. (n.b. they’ve only been in the group stage once before) .


Razgrad itself is in north-east of the country and a couple of Bulgaria’s famous landmarks have parallels with landmarks in England.

First there is the Bulgarian Icarus statue.


According to legend, the man known as the “Bulgarian Icarus” was also a builder. Apparently a Turkish Sultan survived a terrible disaster, so he decided to build a mosque in Edirne in gratitude to God. At that time, Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. So, the Sultan summoned the most famous builder and this was Bulgarian, Manol. He worked for seven years and constructed a miraculous temple. After it was completed, the Sultan asked him: “Can you build a more beautiful mosque than this one?” and Master Manol replied: “One always has more to learn. Maybe I made some mistakes here that I will avoid in the future and I will be able to build an even more majestic temple.” Hearing this, the ruler ordered that Manol be shut in one of the mosque minarets until his last breath. The inventive craftsman, however, managed to create another miracle – he designed himself wings made of wood. And one day, the people in Edirne saw a huge flying creature soaring in the sky and heading home to Thrace. In this way, Master Manol managed to save his life and turned into a favourite hero in Bulgarian folk tales and songs.

This tale reminded me of the Angel of the North statue when some Geordies launched an enormous Alan Shearer shirt over its shoulders.


Whilst the statues have similarities, Master Manol and Mr Shearer are almost polar opposites, one an educated and erudite craftsman builder and the other a football pundit.

The second parallel is between the beautiful Razgrad clock tower and our own clock tower at Highbury Barn.


Team News

It would appear Rambo and Ollie G. are continuing to train alone. I’d imagine Granit will start due to a soon-to-be enforced absence from the Prem and EFL Cup (cheers, J. Moss).

It appears we emerged unscathed from the Swansea game so perhaps the team isn’t likely to be changed to any significant degree. Perhaps Kieran Gibbs could get a game after Nacho’s run around on Saturday. Oh, and Oooooooooooo-spiiiiiiiii-naaaaa may get the goalkeeper jersey.

‘Complacency’ seems to be the watchword for everyone with regards to this game. Theo and Shkodran have both issued warnings to their teammates to be on their guard against assuming it will be an easy and straightforward 3 points. Each and every player has to be thinking the same, especially after escaping by the skin of our teeth against Swansea.

Note…. Big Raddy is currently on manoeuvres in Ireland and without pre-match writing facilities. Thankfully this hiatus from normality will only be fleeting.

P.S. we need a nickname or shortened version of Shkodran. Any suggestions?

Written by chas

Where does Ramsey fit in?

October 10, 2016

The international break allows our injured chaps to recover at home rather than tread foreign fields in search of their country’s honour. I am sure that Mr. Ramsey would much rather have been out beering it up with his Welsh colleagues but instead he has been under the delicate ministrations of our medical team, hopefully he will be fit for selection on the weekend.


If he is, will he play and more to the point where? And who gets dropped?

Where does he play?  Alongside Xhaka? Neither Xhaka nor Santi have played for their countries so both will be fresh. Will AW change a winning formula? It seems unlikely though certain AA’ers predict AW will settle upon a Ramsey/Xhaka combo as his preferred midfield.

Further forward? An attacking midfield role has always been Ramsey chosen position and one he plays in so successfully  for Wales. Iwobi has triumphed in his first game for Nigeria and the flight home from Africa plus the excitement of his first goal will perhaps rule him out of the game at The Emirate – Ramsey is the obvious replacement. But …. AW may prefer to play Elneny alongside Xhaka with Santi further forward.

My choice would be for Ramsey to sit on the bench until the CL game and let Ox take Iwobi’s position on Saturday. What do you think?

written by Big Raddy


The Opener.

August 14, 2016

It starts.

What an interesting couple of games to get us going – especially with our injury situation.  Two teams beginning with L. No idea what our record is agains teams beginning with different letters of the alphabet but I know we do well against T teams.

Strangely last season Liverpool struggled upfront despite having Origi, Benteke, Ings, Sturridge and Balotelli😀. This is a massive investment into centre forwards but Klopp is so unsure about his attack that he has spent another bucket of money on the potentially excellent Mane (who would have fitted well into our squad).


I noticed that they have signed an ex-Gooner in Alex Manninger. A pleasant and unexpected  addition to Alex’s pension fund.

If you look at Liverpool’s squad they are very strong in all positions, especially midfield. Klopp has strengthened an already promising team and in Coutinho they have a player who is almost Ozil-esque … almost.

But despite having a manager we coveted, a team which cost way more than AFC’s and a huge fanbase, they have consistently failed to get amongst the Big Boys. Why? In all honesty I do not know and more to the point I don’t care; this is an Arsenal blog!

So, what of our boys? Well, the Boyo is likely to start following his heroics in the Euro’s, so is our new boy, Xhaka, who is likely to have a major influence upon our season should he stay fit and strong.

Injury problems in defence will surely result in us playing with two DM’s to assist the youngsters. It will be interesting to see whether Coquelin or Elneny starts alongside our the Swiss chap. Midfield is going to be fascinating as we progress through to Xmas we have Cazorla, Ramsey, Iwobi, Wilshere, Ox and Ozil all vying for the attacking MF position.

My Team:


Bellerin    Holding   Chambers    Monreal

Xhaka   Coquelin


Ox     Walcott     Sanchez

It hurts to leave out Santi – he is such a wonderful player and perhaps he will take Ox or Ramsey’s place, more likely he will be a super-sub. Iwobi is a Wenger favourite, and rightly so, but I just cannot find a place for him although an alternative could be to play Ramsey on the left in place of Ox with Iwobi on the right of midfield

Walcott has to lead the line; he is a confidence player and should he score a goal we will benefit.My fear is that the Emirates faithful will scapegoat him should he endure a poor half and then we know that Theo will hide. Alongside Ox, Sanchez and Rambo we should have enough.

I don’t think we can judge how the season will unfurl from this afternoon – we lost to Villa a couple of season’s ago and our record over the past 5 seasons is W1 D3 L1, not too dusty.

A win today would be terrific, the bookies have us at 55% likely to win and Liverpool just 33% (the remainder is the draw).

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners

written by Big Raddy



Ramsey to join Mourinho?

May 25, 2016

We are at approaching the time of year when the Deadwood express drives at Arsenal station to pick up a few passengers. Early at the station were Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta but who else will be shipped out?

Today I will focus upon the midfield.

Given that we have signed Elneny and also (potentially) Granit Xhaka, some  midfield players must be going. Ramsey, Wilshere, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ox, Ozil, Iwobi, Gnabry, plus the returning  Toral is perhaps excessive and it is in midfield that we find the biggest puzzle……. What is going on with Coquelin?

Early in the season Coquelin would have been the first name on the team sheet, it was inconceivable that he wouldn’t start. It has to be said that I am not a big fan but reluctantly started to appreciate just how much he had improved, yet Francis is firmly on the naughty step as evidenced by the arrival (?) of Xhaka – you don’t spend €30m on a reserve.

The final unbeaten run of games saw Francis on the bench with AW not picking a sitting DM preferring to play Elneny alongside Ramsey as a double pivot (™️ TA).  I doubt anyone could have predicted Coquelin being dropped.

If we assume that Xhaka is signed and that Elneny has impressed Mr Wenger  tough to be considered a sin the starting X1, then a first team place is unlikely for Coquelin and he will become a squad player. Too good to sell? Probably and we will need him in case of injury/rotation.

That leaves 4 excellent players fighting for the single forward midfield role: Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla and Ox. All deserve to be starting PL players. All are committed to Arsenal but I expect one to be sold, the difficulty is who?

I really love watching them all. Ramsey is exceptional as his work for Wales displays. But … but. Other Gooners are not so impressed. It was not a great season for Aaron. Less goals, less assists, more mistakes; nonetheless he remains a seemingly integral part of Mr.Wenger’s plans.


Cazorla? Brilliant player. Upon his return at season’s end we improved and once again looked like potential title winners. Had he stayed fit we would have won the title – maybe – but he is over 30, somewhat injury-prone and slowing down. Arsenal need his experience – I doubt he willl be sold.

Ox. Horrible season for him. Injuries destroyed what should have been his breakthrough season. Nonetheless, he has huge potential and most of his on-pitch problems are due to his determination to be better. He needs to relax. But can he do so at Arsenal?

Jack. Another who had his season ruined by injury and who separates fans. IMO he  cannot be allowed to leave. His energy, vision and eye for goal is exceptional but his injury history is such that we cannot rely upon JW to play 40+ games.

Can Arsenal afford to keep 11 midfield players? Can Mr Wenger keep them happy? More to the point – does he want to?

I would not be surprised to see Mr Wenger selling a big name player to finance his summer purchases. Man Utd were in the hunt to sign Aaron Ramsey prior to his making the obvious decision to join AFC; they are desperate for a Carrick replacement and Aaron is a similar player (but better). A goal-scoring midfielder with International experience and a mate of Monkeyboy (who must be a MU target) – he fits MU’s and Mourinho’s requirements exactly. Could/would AW sell him to MU?

written by BR


BFG to Return?

April 21, 2016

Under normal circumstances the prospect of WBA arriving at The Ems when we are in desperate need of three points would bring a smile especially as despite the furore we are unbeaten in 4 games and have 8 points from 12.

But ….. if you are reading this then you know how the fans and media are turning on the team, particularly at Fortress Arsenal, and to a long-in-the-tooth Gooner that hurts. Our 12th man is already on the beach – worse, our 12th man has become toxic or as Mr Wenger puts it “we play in a negative atmosphere”

It is sad to say that we would be more likely to beat our opposition when playing away from home, Of course this is purely an opinion and an opinion based upon the evidence seen on a television 1000 miles from the Emirates.

Putting this subject aside for a full post, let us return to tonight.

If we are to continue  our run of playing each season in the CL – a run unsurpassed by any other team in Europe ( a little exaggeration because RM are equal with us at 19), then a win tonight is vital.

Will Mr Pulis allow his team to roll over like Chelsea did to MC or Stoke vs Spurs? Probably not. Does any manager whose team are on a poor run of form?

Will Rondon and Berahinho score for a team that averages one goal a game?

I don’t do stats but I know that WBA have lost 7 of their last games at The Emirates and have won just one of their last 11 away games in the PL.

Arsenal: Is it time for rotation? If so, who gets dropped?

My guess is that Iwobi will be given a rest. Apart from him, only Mr Wenger knows. If it were me I would play Walcott against WBA’s less than sprightly FB’s and give OG a start upfront. If we are to throw crosses into the box (which seems to have become de rigueur) the we have to have someone who can muscle his way past defenders; as much as I like Welbeck this is not his forte.

Ramsey has to return. He has become a marmite player in the team but I am huge fan of his (whilst hating marmite).  Giving Ramsey the freedom to play that is given to young Iwobi may lead to a resurrection of his form.

A regular fans complaint is that Arsenal are lacking a leader, if so BFG has to start. Paul Easter has potential but I miss the Big Man.

We need to win, not just for the points but for the atmosphere around the club. If Arsenal walk off the pitch with less than 3 points they will leave the pitch to a chorus of boos from three-quarter empty stands.

It is a well-known fact that Her Majesty, QE 2 is a dyed-in-the-wool Gooner. She has a poster of Tony Adams scoring vs Everton on her mantlepiece at Windsor Castle and another of Micky’s somersault in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace. On her 90th birthday it is up to the players to bring a smile to her much wrinkled face.

Let it be So.


Cazorla a huge miss.

April 14, 2016

Once again our season has been blighted by injuries; almost every player has been out of the side for chunks of time but whose injury has had the most influence?

I would say without doubt it is Cazorla.

We all love our little Spanish genius but it is not just his smile we have missed it is also his ability. Just watch the video below


When Mr Wenger started the season with Santi alongside Coquelin as our defensive shield my (and many others) reaction was bewilderment – how could this attacking midget act as DM? He answered us by playing his exuberant shimmy-shammy skills closer to his own gaol and setting up the attacking play from deeper. He was a revelation and we looked as though the title was ours for the taking.

With Santi and Cazorla in tandem we gained 23 points from 11 games, without them 36 from 22 –  a potential loss of 10 points. Our goal ratio has also plummeted.

Perhaps we were not as tight at the back, though the goals against since his injury may tell a different story.

In my opinion, the midfield of Ramsey, Cazorla and Coquelin remains our best trio (though Elneny looks the nuts). Had all three played the full season we would be Champions, wouldn’t we?

written by Big Raddy

Ramsey or Iwobi to say Goodbye to the Boleyn?

April 9, 2016

Arsenal’s final game at the Boleyn, a stadium filled with bubbles, passion and occasional violence.

Bob gave his reminiscences yesterday – here are some of mine:

  1. The first time I visited Upton Park was in the 60’s. I was astonished to find that the disgusting men’s toilets had no washing facilities. I know this was in the days of black and white but even so …
  2. 2. The Chicken Run. Terrifying place which our away boys tried to take season after season. Tried being the operative word because WHU had some of the most violent fans in the league.
  3. Racism. The Chavs are possibly worse but this is the only ground where I have seen bananas thrown at a player – in this case Kevin Campbell.
  4. Liam Brady. It hurt so much to see a hero playing well for the claret and blue.
  5. John Radford. See 4. but thankfully he didn’t play very well for them – scoring zero goals in 28 apps!
  6. Ian Wright. See 4.& 5. Though Wrighty MBE scored on his debut for WHU.

There are many other memories. I loved the bubbles pre-match, enjoyed the Hammers singing,and the passion they have for their club.

West Ham were “The Academy”, the club with 3 WC winners, a club closely attached to their locality but the future? Will they carry their proud history over to the new stadium? I doubt it but money rules and tradition is just history and as any accountant will tell you, you cannot bank tradition.

Onto today: Hugely important for both teams. WHU have (astonishingly) the chance to get into the CL! We need to keep up the pressure on the Miscreants and Leicester. Would either club be happy with a draw?

Bilic has done a remarkable job and in any other season would be a shoe-in for Manager of the Year. Think of it this way – how many of the claret and blue would you have in Arsenal’s first team? Payet perhaps, but  ahead of Ozil? Not for me. Nonetheless, Bilic has created a team which has beaten us at the Emirates and every team in the top 6.

Should Ramsey return for AFC? I guess bench at best. Iwobi is doing too well to drop and the team looks settled for the first time since Cazorla’s injury.

BFG? WHU have some big units and perhaps it would be erudite to start the German, especially as Giroud is likely to be on the bench and as such unable to help at set plays.

Thinking of set plays; when have you ever seen a better free kick than Payet’s vs Palace? We need defensive discipline and not give him the opportunity  to test our GK.

Is Cech fit? If so, he must start. Ospina has done very well but Cech is different gravy.

So, our team: I expect an unchanged side as the performances against Everton and Watford were so good.

West Ham? Will they give it the beans knowing they have a huge FA Cup game at home to MU on Weds? Of course they will – they always do against us.

Under normal circumstances I would be happy to leave East London with a draw but if we are to put pressure on Leicester and the swamp-dwellers then saying goodbye to the Boleyn with 3 points is a must. Will we get them? Why not?