One nil to the Arsenal ……

February 10, 2013

So another great game for the neutral but another nerve jangler for all of us. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day watching the live screening of the game at the home of football, but I have also decided that being an Arsenal fan likely takes some years off your life .

So what did we get from Arsenal in this game? Firstly the players seemed to be up for it from the start, and we didn’t have to suffer with waiting till the second half before we started playing. We started to create a number of clear cut chances, but as each one went begging you started to feel it was going to be one of those days. To be fair Mignolet was in superb form, and how often do we watch an opposition keeper put in an almost man of the match performance against us? What is it about us that seems to bring out the best in these keepers? Is it the way we attack? I am sure it doesn’t happen so often with the likes of Utd and the Chavs. That is a question maybe some of you out there can shed some light on.

We continued to press and were treated to some awfully inconsistent refereeing. There was a very strong shout for a straight red on Cattermole and I counted 2 maybe 3 Sunderland fouls in the passage of play that led up to Jenkinsons first yellow card. How we didn’t get a free kick before this I do not know. Anyway the faithful at the Ems were in no doubt how they felt about it. I think this was definitely a case of the ref being a homer.

Jack picked up where he left off for England and continued to pull the strings while Walcott continued to work the keeper without finding the break-through. Finally, on 36 minutes, the goal arrived that we had deserved. A now trademark surge of pace from Jack taking 3-4 Sunderland players out of the game resulted in a lay off to Walcott who declined the chance to shoot and cushioned it off for Santi whose powerfull low shot finally broke the deadlock. It is as well that he scored otherwise I would imagine there would have been many agitated fans questioning why Walcott didn’t shoot himself.

cazorla sunderland

Refreshingly after the goal we continued to try and attack and kept a high tempo to our game, which I prefer as I don’t think we do killing a game off well. We continued in this way into the second half, but we weren’t having it all our own way and Sunderland threatened at times. Fortunately Szczesny started to replicate the form of Mignolet from the first half. Jack picked up an injury on 50 minutes and went off to be replaced by Diaby. It didn’t look too serious and we can only all hope that is the case.

Then came the pivotal moment when the tricky Sessegnon took on Jenks whose sliding tackle was a fraction from getting the ball and only suceeded in taking Sessegnon down. You knew what was coming immediately with the way the ref had been, and he showed the second yellow without even taking a moment to consider. In the cold light of day if you look at Jenkinson’s 2 yellows then independently they are both justifiable yellows. The problem again comes with the consistency and had we had a deserved free kick earlier in the game it maybe wouldn’t have led to the passage of play that saw Jenkinson get his first yellow.

Rasp and I had discussed a point after the first yellow earlier in the game, and had both agreed that there was a strong possibility that he would collect a second yellow and get sent off. I think MON exploited this and likely told Sessegnon at half time to get at Jenkinson. Should AW have forseen this and replaced him earlier? His options were limited as I believe Kos, who was on the subs bench, had a problem before the game when warming up. It would have left the only realistic option of Moving Sagna out to FB and bringing on Miquel at CB. Should AW have used this option?

We still had about half an hour to go and you knew it would be back to the walls stuff. Fortunately, for once, we did this well and ground out the result with the help of some world class saves from the big Pole. Even at this point we still showed some attacking intent and had some great opportunities on the counter-attack to get the respite of the second goal that my nerves and chewed to pieces nails deserved. Rasp had his head in his hands at times while Peaches was a picture of stoicism. I still think she was partially mesmerised from seeing Bobby Pires but at least by this time she had stopped being all giggly. It was great to see Goonermichael as well and he looked a picture of being cool calm and collected.

Rasp and I continued to fret like nervous wrecks and there was end to end chances in a frantic finale. Walcott hit the post after a great through ball from Cazorla while both Giroud and Cazorla had chances they put just over the bar.

We saw it out and as they say 3 points is 3 points and I was able to relax and reflect at an enjoyable day in the club class section of the Ems with some of the AA gang.

On to the ratings.

Szczesny 8.5 joint MOTM

Showed us the world class keeper we would all like him to consistently be. Solid throughout with some excellent reflex saves.

Jenkinson 5.5

I don’t want to be too harsh as I like Jenks and he always gives his all but some inexperience showed through today. He hasn’t had much game time and you wonder if this is affecting him because when he was playing regularly earlier in the season you didn’t feel he would make the mistakes we saw today. He will still become a good player for us.

Sagna 8

Deputised well at CB and the old Mr reliable was more on show today.

Mertesacker 7.5

Didn’t do too much wrong all game and it was a solid performance.

Nacho 7.5

Solid and unfussy game from our newest signing today

Arteta 7.5

Nothing spectacular but kept us ticking and I can’t remember any mistakes from him.

Ramsey 7

Was having a solid game and could have had a couple of goals, but he seems to have an error in him, and we were lucky not to be punished when he needlessly surrendered possession in a dangerous area.

Wilshere 8

Those trademark runs driving at the opposition defence are a joy to see and get me on the edge of my seat. It was from one of these that the break-through came. Fingers crossed the injury is not so bad but Jack probably needs a game off anyway. I almost had him as joint MOTM again and some may feel that to be the case.

Cazorla 8.5 and joint MOTM

There wasn’t much to choose between him and Jack but the goal and that he continued to be the creative force once Wilshere was off just saw him pip it for me.

Giroud 7

Could have had a couple. He wasn’t too bad but it didn’t really come off for him today.

Walcott 7.5

Also could have had a couple and was unlucky when hitting the post. He always made the keeper work and his instinctive link up play with his team-mates is getting better and better.

Diaby (for Wilshere 50 mins) 6.5

Nothing great but nothing bad either.

Miquel (for Walcott 87 mins)

Not enough time to really form an opinion.

Written by GoonerB


Gunners to Ruin Graham’s Home Debut?

February 9, 2013

Time to move away from the Young Jack eulogising and onto some proper English PL football, and there are few grounds more suited to a return to earth than the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland is a fine town with a fine history. It has one of the lowest incomes per head in the UK and yet almost 40,000 people go to watch their home games (5k more than Spurs!) They love their team and their football.

Martin O’Neill has had problems getting the Black Cats to gel. Rarely have I seen a more frustrated figure on the sidelines because whatever one thinks of MoN, he is a passionate man and gives his all to his clubs. Many moons ago Gooners were calling for him to replace Mr Wenger – insanity runs deep amongst our fans.

Sadly, Sunderland fans are not getting to see much artistry on the pitch (apart from the opposition). They are struggling for goals and rely more on sweat than inspiration. The huge fee paid for Fletcher  and the signing of Danny Graham is an indication of their need for some fire power and gumption ,though I have long admired both Sessegnon and Larsson. It is always good to see an ex-Gunner who has been Wengered succeed and Larsson has had a fine career – shame he likes to score against us!

After a short injury-free period we have players queuing for the treatment table. Late fitness tests on much of the defence means Raddy’s line-up could be drastically affected. There is also a fear that Theo was limping after the Brazil game.

Runners & Riders:

sunderland v arse

Given the amount of time our Internationals were on the pitch midweek, we may well see some changes.

Diaby could start as his stature is important defensively, but who gets dropped? Dare we play without Pod and have a 4 man midfield with Santi taking the left side attacking berth?

It will be interesting to see how Monreal copes with Adam Johnson who is finally showing some form.

Todays explorer: Sir James Clark Ross (1800 – 1862). You may think it is cold outside, particularly if you are going to the game but today is almost tropical compared to the norm for Sir Ross; an Arctic and Antarctic explorer in the days of wooden ships. As a young man Ross went North with his Uncle, Sir William Parry to search for the fabled North-West Passage and here he fell in love with polar exploration. Upon promotion to Captain he took his ship, the Erebus, to the Antarctic which he surveyed extensively becoming, at that time, the furthest South man had travelled.

Unknown

I name this picture The Ross Icon

Sir James discovered Ross Bay,  James Ross Island, the Ross Sea, the Ross Ice Shelf, Victoria Island, Mount Erebus & Mt. Terror. He returned to England a hero, dying in Blackheath at the age of 61.

On paper we should win this game. Should the defence stay focussed and disciplined we will be fine, but they will not get the easy game they had vs Stoke. With Danny Graham playing his first game at the SoL, Sunderland will be looking for 3 points. But so will we….


Can Wenger teach tactics? Swansea preview.

January 16, 2013

What a strange season it has been and who can predict how it will end? Could we win the FA Cup? Why not, we have done it before and what is more, the last time was in Wales following a drawn game which must be a good portent.

We haven’t done very well against Swansea this season, have we? If ever there was proof of Rasp’s opinion that The Arsenal are not as good as the individual components of the team, those two games are it …. how many of the Swansea first team would get into AW’s starting eleven? Probably none, yet they outplay us because they have a better team ethic. Why should this be? Answers on a postcard to Emirates Stadium…..

That said, tonight is an opportunity to dampen the rising negativity with a handsome win. There are injuries (of course) but nothing too serious and we have our secret weapon back, you know the chap, that lanky fellow who looks like PV4, has some of his silky skills and vision but is as fragile as a €30 champagne glass (I didn’t mean to break it darling, it slipped out of my hand) and who tackles like blancmange. Diaby will start and will have a stormer.

The defence know about Michu, they know not to give him space. The midfield know they have to battle and work non-stop to compete with Swansea’s work ethic and the attack know movement and pace are the best way to unpick a quality Swansea defence.

We have all the weapons needed to win tonight but the over-riding and currently missing quality is teamwork. Victory Through Harmony, please.

Runners and Riders:

001a

Perhaps Ramsey will start ahead of the mighty Vassiriki Abou as he gave a very good cameo performance on Sunday, but AW loves the big man and will be desperate to give him pitch time. The only other question is whether AW will rest players ahead of the Chelsea game. Given that Dean is to referee at the Bridge, and that the FA Cup is our only realistic chance of silverware, I hope he plays his first choice 11.

The Laudrup as AW successor narrative will continue; here in Copenhagen the talk is of Laudrup returning to Real Madrid when Mourinho leaves at season’s end. I doubt this because he has yet to actually win anything as a manager. Laudrup has potential but you need more to take on the RM job. However, I can see him at Arsenal who require a  young manager committed to playing attacking football with a proper team ethic – much like Swansea.

A freezing day lends itself to warm weather explorers: William John Wills (1834-1861). Wills alongside Robert O’Hara Burke (1821-1861) became the first people to walk across Australia (South to North). The expedition took almost two years and was fraught with difficulties, they got lost, ran out of supplies  became ill, and on the return journey were saved by aborigines. Unfortunately (!), one of the expedition shot and injured an aborigine who then abandoned them. From that time their fate was sealed and both men died of  exhaustion and thiamin poisoning. Wills was just 27.

Such was the fame of the Burke & Wills expedition that both stamps and coins have been issued commemorating their adventure.

Unknown

The Full Set sported by Brave Men

We can and should win tonight. I will be looking for some tactical awareness from Mr Wenger’s team. This is an important match. A trip to the South Coast awaits.

Midweek night games in deep mid-winter are the best and I envy those lucky enough to attend. Shout us to Victory.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Is Defence Our Best Form Of Attack

January 10, 2013

We have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team over the last number of weeks, sometimes looking like the most prolific attacking team on the planet and at other times looking like we don’t have the foggiest idea how to open up the opposition.

To make matters more confusing the vast contrast in performances often happen when very similar teams have been fielded in two separate games, and have often included combinations of Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, and Walcott or the OX all in the same team. This is not an insignificant attacking line up especially when combined with our traditional overlapping full-backs. This combination of players should really give any top side in the world a headache in defence, but have at times even struggled to make mid to lower table teams look at all uncomfortable.

When you look at the above names on paper it is difficult to understand how they can, at times, offer very little attacking threat. To try and explain it to myself I have considered the contradictory possibility that maybe we are fielding too many attack minded players to make our attack effective. I would obviously like to open this up for debate, but before I do I will explain a bit more what I mean by this statement.

In recent discussions on AA regarding what types of players Arsenal need to bring in, one type of player frequently mentioned is a more powerful defensive midfielder. This is usually mentioned in reference to a need to solidify the defensive aspect of our team, and therefore make us harder to breach, and is a sentiment that I am in full agreement with. Could a more pure defensive midfielder, however, actually make us more effective in our attack as well?

Conventional thinking would state that the more defensive players you play the more defensive you will be, but I would suggest that there are times when too many natural attacking players in the one team can leave us imbalanced, and upsets our shape so that players that should be supporting the attack more are pulled into positions of defence too often. Conversely the right defensive midfield screen can provide a better platform and reduce the need for other players to have to drop back as often.

Our current first choice defensive midfielder seems to be Arteta who more often plays that role in the midfield three with Wilshere and Cazorla. I like Arteta and think he is an excellent and very important member of our squad and am not in any way suggesting he is replaced and pushed to one side. I think he is and should remain a regular and important first team player. He did however come from Everton not as a pure defensive midfielder, and he has obvious offensive qualities to his game also. In many games he plays the deeper defensive midfield role very well and certainly never lacks heart and effort, and is not afraid of getting stuck in.

I have questioned, however, whether in some games he gets slightly exposed because he is not really a specialist in this role. At these times he seems to require more help in protecting the back four and breaking up attacks, and my observation has been that this more often than not drags Wilshere deeper to help cover in these areas.

Some will disagree and see the deeper role as Wilshere’s role anyway, and I would agree that all players need to perform some defensive duties, but for me Wilshere has far too much ability on the ball to be kept too often in a deeper role. He is not the finished article yet but those bursts of pace and ability to surge past people should be utilised in attack as much as possible, and this is where I personally see his long term future.

I remember, as one example, in the Southampton game thinking that we needed to release Wilshere further forwards to support Cazorla and try and get some attacking intent back into our game. It was not Arteta’s fault, but I felt he was a bit under the cosh in that game and he was struggling to screen and protect the back four effectively on his own. If we had been playing a more specialist defensive midfielder out there, who could have more effectively covered the defensive midfield area on their own, would that have released Wilshere from having to help out so often in defence and, if he could have played higher up the pitch more often, would that have seen us start to take more attacking control of the game?

You could argue that it may not have worked out that way and how can anyone really know, and I would agree that no-one can say for certain. It is more an observation and opinion that potentially a more specialised midfield destroyer to break up the opposition attacks would have given the platform for our attacking players to get into more dangerous areas more often. Once we turn the momentum of a game in our favour sometimes it becomes difficult for a team such as Southampton to get a foothold back in it.

For me a top defensive midfielder should obviously be a good tackler with a good physical presence. He also needs to be able to distribute the ball well, but for me he doesn’t need to be a “Bergkampesue” defence splitting passer of the ball, but more a decent passer who can redistribute possession once we win the ball back. I have always felt, though, that maybe an even more important characteristic for a central defensive midfielder is pace. I feel it is possibly even more important than for the attacking central midfielder where good positioning, awareness, quick thinking and the ability to play a killer pass are potentially more important characteristics. The defensive midfielder obviously needs to break up play but also needs to try and intercept and cut out threats from the opposition. The ability to cover ground quickly with pace is for me an important feature to defending well in front of the back four, and it is the one thing that Arteta unfortunately is not blessed with.

Many players are mentioned as being suitable players to bring in and play the defensive midfield role but some of you will be aware that I have championed Vermaelen for the role. Some would argue that he is not a good enough passer of the ball, but again I would question how important that is. He is a more than adequate passer of the ball for me and would have no problem in effectively redistributing the ball when we have won back posession. The plus side of his extra physical presence, good biting tackles and pace over the ground would far outweigh anything else for me. He could be considered as a defensive midfielder or even as part of a back three where he plays as an advanced sweeper.

As a pure defensive screen Vermaelen could likely provide 1 ½ times the protection that Arteta can in games where it may be more necessary, and if it allows us to play the other two central midfielders to take up more advanced positions then we may actually end up with a more potent attack by playing a more defence minded player in that deeper role.

I am not actually suggesting that Arteta is permanently pushed aside in this role. Far from it, I believe there will always be games where we can play him with Wilshere and Cazorla, as we do in our current first choice midfield three. These three for me do seem to be somewhat overplayed currently anyway, and I feel need a bit more rotation. Arteta could even revert to his slightly more traditional, pre-Arsenal, more advanced midfield role at times if TV is played in the deeper role and Wilshere or Cazorla need a rest or are carrying a minor knock. It is all about having alternative options for me and all of these players would still get plenty of playing time but hopefully with the added bonus of avoiding burn out and possible injury.

So what do AA’ers think. Do we need a more specialist defensive midfielder at times and if so who would be your choice? Would the addition of this player only be to make us better defensively, or could it actually have the additional effect of making us better offensively as well by way of freeing up other players?

Written by GoonerB


All I Want For Christmas Is… Abou Diaby (with Batteries Included)

December 7, 2012

Just before the away game at Aston Villa we were told that Abou Diaby would be back in “three to four weeks.”

That game took place on November 24th, you may remember (and who could forget such a thrilling display of attacking football?).

So if we are to trust Arsene Wenger’s assessment of Diaby’s fitness, he is due back at the earliest around December 15th (just in time for Reading away).

For some reason (can’t quite put my finger on it) I am reluctant to assume that the lanky Frenchman will be mending his damaged bits in an accelerated fashion… so let’s forget that “earliest” return date.

In fact, let’s not even buy in to the later date – which would be around December 22nd (Wigan away).

Let’s assume instead that Abou appears all shiny and mended in our big Arsenal Christmas stocking. With all the batteries included so he’s in full working order.

At that point, provided he doesn’t injure himself on a walnut while extricating himself from the stocking, he might well be ready to resume his Arsenal career when we entertain the Hammers on Boxing Day.

I know what the cynics among you are thinking: “who still puts walnuts in Christmas stockings?”

Oh, and: “Diaby has as much chance of being back in three to four weeks as a three hundred pound fat bloke with a red suit and white beard has of fitting down my chimney.”

Well, that’s the joy of the festive season: magical things happen; wishes become real; and for a brief moment in time we all become children again.

The simple fact is that this Arsenal team, which has made such heavy going of a string of recent games, is in need of fresh impetus.

In the first half against Olympiacos on Tuesday night a returning Tomas Rosicky showed exactly what a talented player can bring to the team – especially one who has not been involved in the morale-sapping outings of recent weeks.

Diaby can have a similar effect if (please let it be a “when”) he returns to full fitness at the end of the year.

He can be a frustrating player at times, but he also showed earlier this season how effective he can be against even the strongest opponents. Imagine that man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool repeated in game after game during the rest of the season.

His injuries have made his Arsenal career more stop-start than the Central Line and it’s understandable that many supporters have given up hope of him ever becoming a regular fixture in the side.

The odds must be against him but maybe – just maybe – this time he will come back for real. Maybe all those months and months of treatment, all the surgeries and physiotherapy will finally rid him of the legacy of that ghastly Dan Smith tackle.

You can’t help but feel that the half of the season that runs from January to May is Abou’s last chance to show he can do it.

If his ailments keep him out for all or most of that period surely even Arsene Wenger will have to give up on him.

It would be a crying shame for a gifted player – and for Arsenal. We have already lost the best part of several seasons’ worth of his contributions in his seven and a half seasons with us.

But right now, just like children all round the world, I am willing to believe.

Come on Abou – you can do it!

RockyLives


Narch. Letsbe Avingham.

October 20, 2012

Thank Dennis for that – it’s over .Two weeks of unrelenting football withdrawal. Cold turkey is over and we get our fix this afternoon.

Last time we played the Canaries it was  a roller coaster game at THOF in May; we went one up after 65 seconds, 2-1 down after 30 minutes, 3-2 up and finally allowed Norwich to equalise in the 85th minute. Some bloke scored two for us. Narch played very well but times have changed for the East Anglians, they sit just one point above the dismal QPR having a minus 12 goal difference and only 3 points from 7 games. They have yet to win at home.

History shows we have not lost at Carrow Rd since 1984, however 7 of the last 12 games have been draws.

Norwich: Let us start with their manager. People say (and this includes many Arsenal people) that Chris Hughton is a decent bloke. ……. . Decent Bloke? Which decent bloke plays 300 times for the blue-bellied sheep biters? The man is devil-spawn and guaranteed to take this lovely family club down with the Rangers.  Hughton is so average that Alan Pardew took his job! Nothing more needs saying. Don’t believe me? Check out his record since leaving Newcastle ….. Played 12  won none. And he has a carrot shaped head.

What of his team of flatlanders? Are they a bunch of decent pro’s doing the best for their families and playing honest, open football? 5 goals scored in 7 games tells a story. With just two yellow cards all season it must be said that Norwich are not a team who intimidate their opponents.

Ugly as a Dropped Pie

Who plays for the lovely historic town of Norwich? Well, there is a smattering of ex-miscreants – Bassong & Kane, England’s 3rd choice Mr Ruddy, the hideous but dangerous Grant Holt (sounds like a train station …. two returns to Grant Holt, please). Steve Morison is Holt’s forward partner, born in Enfield plays for Wales and  has a boy named Fenton . The defender Russell Martin was born in Brighton and represents Scotland.  Alan Smith says Wes Hoolahan is a player to watch – if he plays he is a second striker.

Arsenal: We are unbeaten away, scoring freely and defending well (apart from a few set play blips). 7th doesn’t reflect how well we are playing  or how the new boys are adapting to life in the PL.

We have 5 ever present players in the league. Can you guess who they are (without checking)?

The Internationals cost us 2 players, both Theo and Kos are out. Fabianski is out for a few more months. The defence picks itself.

My Team:

Once again, we have a strong bench though Coquelin is out.

Gervinho will be important this afternoon as he seeks to continue his scoring run; his pace and trickery will be of great concern to the Norwich defence. Let us hope he has not been too traumatised by the events in Senegal. I include Ramsey but if Diaby is available he would be the first choice.

Podolski has been a revelation in his attitude to hard work; he has a Mercedes Diesel engine. His ability to drop back and bolster the the left side of defence has allowed us to be very strong in midfield and it is here that we will win the game. I expect Norwich to try and flood the midfield – perhaps not zaparkowac autobus – but nonetheless defend deep. They are at home and surely have to try to entertain and take 3 points.

Further to my shock revelation that there is no way Jack Wilshere will play even a minute today, there is rumour he is in the squad. To play him would be a mistake. AW says he is only 80%, so what is the point?

Whilst you are munching through your cornflakes, let me tell you about the chap below because we like a British hero and fellow certainly fits the bill.

Sir Samuel Baker (great grandfather to Arsenal’s Joe).What this chap did in his lifetime is astonishing. He discovered  Uganda and named Lake Albert, searched for the source of the Nile, was a big game hunter, a fellow of every society known to man, explored on all the continents, was a friend of Edward v11, became Pasha of Egypt, and was a fervent anti-slavery campaigner. He would surely have been a Gooner but died too early.  All this and a fine Beardsman.

An important 3 points today (Yes – I know – they all are). We have to punish teams at the opposite end of the table , we didn’t last season and almost paid the price. There can be little question that Arsenal are the better team, there is only one Norwich player who would get in our squad, let alone our first team (Ruddy). The bookies are expecting us to win at Carrow Rd (odds 4/7)  and as they say, you never see a poor bookie.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


The Midfield Conundrum.

October 16, 2012

Sherlock Holmes said that whatever is left once you have removed the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

What has this to do with our midfield? Well,  ….. the impossible is that we will have a fully fit midfield  to choose from, we have physical fragility in spades – Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Frimpong, Coquelin and Arteta have all suffered long term injuries over the past few seasons and there is no reason to think this will change.

And what is improbable? That less than half of them will be fit at any one time. Add in the as yet to be damaged Ox, Arshavin and Cazorla and we have lots of choice, some might say, too much choice. At a time when all three of our Goalkeepers are under the age of 23 and two of them are crocked, it could be said that we lack squad balance – but that is another story and another post.

I would need RA mathematical qualities to work out the possible combinations of our midfield, all I know as there are too many to count on my fingers. Even if we take Cazorla and Arteta as starters  there are 8 possible partners for them. But should they be automatic starters? Is a midfield of Diaby, Wilshere and Coquelin worse? Or  Ramsey, Ox and Rosicky? etc etc etc

Should Oxlade- Chamberlain be considered as a future midfield linch-pin or a prettier Peter Beardsley?

My point is that what is left is the truth and the truth is we have too many midfield players. The skill sets of Ramsey, Rosicky, Coquelin, Wilshere, and Ox are similar – not identical but similar. I would be happy for any of them to start against any opposition, Cazorla is exceptional. We have no player who can replicate the skills of Arteta but should he be injured we will change the balance of the midfield to be either more attacking or more defensive.

What do you think will be our best midfield assuming all are fit? And what do you think it will look like in 2014? My take is:

2012   Diaby    Cazorla     Arteta

2014     O-C   Wilshere  Cazorla   Arteta

Because I believe to maximize the potential in this squad we have to play  4-3-1-2 with Ox being the 1.

The difficulty will be juggling the fantastic talent we will have behind the first eleven. Wages can be a recompense – it works for Nasri, Kolo, Cahill, Malouda, Nani etc but a truly ambitious player will want first team action and many of our squad players are highly talented lads who have yet to fulfill their potential, something I feel sure they will agitate for.

Lost in the Midfield

For the first time  I can recall we have an area of the pitch which is flooded with exceptional talent.  How would you sort it out ? I have no idea but then I am not paid £6m a year.

( pic c/o Didit )

Written very quickly by Big Raddy


Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pre-match advice.

September 23, 2012

There is a belief that today will have a big impact on how the season will develop for Arsenal, I understand why but do not agree. This is just a 3 point away game – same as any other. Yes, MC are Champions and rivals and one could say this is a 6 pointer but we have seen teams win the title whilst losing to their direct opposition; consistency is the key to winning the title, ask SAF.

And what is point of the above? Well, it is about pressure, pressure causes fear and fear results in our not playing to our highest level.  Think of the young Theo Walcott. First games he was superb and we thought we had signed the next Overmars, but Theo was too young and impressionable to cope with such expectation and suffered accordingly. Thankfully he has rediscovered some of his youthful verve and precocity, assisted but the new kid on the blocks maturity. Fear messes you up  (I was going to use language Peaches’ mother would have found offensive 🙂 )

Today is not a Championship decider, far from it; a loss to Norwich/WBA will do as much damage to our pretensions. But, of course, we are not going to lose…..

Manchester City: MC come into the game on the back of two tough away games. I thought they played very well against Madrid and were unlucky not to get at least a point, however they were fortunate at the Orcs and we must hope they perform as poorly today. I fear that if both teams play to their maximum potential we will lose. City have a truly stellar team particularly in attack, however there are weaknesses – Maicon or Kolarov are susceptible to pace. Clichy we know is prone to the odd quirk. Sadly, Kompany has proved himself to be an excellent defender – possibly the best in the PL.

€400m buys you a very good side, in fact it buys you the title of Champions. It can buy you YaYa Toure, a colossus of a player, and the will o’ the wisp talents of David Silva. A front line of Aguero, Tevez and/or Dzeko is potent but we have a defence which on a good day can cope with their movement.

Which brings me onto the manager. I liked Mankini, he seems to be a principled man, a deep thinker about the game and he has that wonderful Italian brio, BUT in my eyes the Tevez palaver lost him any kudos he had. How can a manager bend over to a player like that? Pragmatism is one thing, public humiliation another. Would Mr Wenger have given Tevez another chance? Ask Pennant, Bentley, Song, etc etc Diss the Arsenal and you get shown the door – no matter how good you are. Watching Tevez kiss the badge is sickening. If any manager could be arsed to deal with Tevez’s advisors he would be anywhere but in Manchester, but no-one would take the risk of signing a flake, a brilliant footballer but a flake.

Arsenal: Koscielny or Mertesacker or Vermaelen? The playing of BFG midweek would indicate that Mr Wenger will start with Koscielny and TV. That said, Kos has no pitch time and BFG has been superb so far, plus there is a 5 day gap between games. Tough decision and an important one. Will AW risk an attacking midfield or go for a more defensive set up with Coquelin instead of Diaby? Diaby was poor second half in France, but he gives height to the midfield which could be important at set pieces. I would like to see Coquelin but expect to see Diaby 🙂

The full backs pick themselves though I would love to see Santos get a game  – he offers something extra insomuch as he is a better crosser than Gibbs and can play left side midfield.

Should AW continue with The Gerv in the centre or bring back Giroud? Will OG’s aerial expertise trouble the City CB’s more than the pace and unpredictability of The Mekon? The Ox or Theo ?

My team:

The bench is getting stronger as players return from injury. We must hope Don Vito gets through unscathed. Good as Shea is, he is not ready for such a high profile game watched by a billion people.

Just loved this man – a season ticket holder in the West Stand

My hope is that we play our possession passing game and not revert to the second half performance of Tuesday. Should we continue to play as a unit and work hard  in City’s half, we can win this fixture. If we sit back and defend it will be a long afternoon.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (FDR Inaugural speech 1933)

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


The Next Three Games All Hinge On These Factors

April 24, 2012

Three games to go in this extraordinary season.

Three games to secure third place and a guarantee of Champions League football next year (not to mention the increased likelihood of retaining the services of a certain Dutchman who finds the net at moments of his own choosing).

Or three games to slip to fourth, maybe even fifth and re-ignite the poisonous debate about the future of our club and its most successful modern manager.

After a poor performance against Wigan and an unconvincing (though far from terrible) one against Chelsea, it would take a brave man to confidently predict a smooth run-in from here.

I’m not that brave.

I think it’s POSSIBLE we could win our next three games at a canter (Stoke away, Norwich home and West Brom away). I also think it’s possible we could lose two or even all three.

So let’s look at the balance sheet of pros and cons as we go into those games.

The Pros

We have a full week to rest between each game. Not that it seems to have been doing us much good lately.

None of our remaining opponents have anything left to play for.

We have some margin for error – particularly over Totteringham, but also (slightly) over Newcastle thanks to our far superior goal difference.

In recent weeks this team has beaten Totteringham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Everton, AC Milan and Manchester City.

Benny the Goon will be available (he was ineligible to play against Chelsea).

Diaby is back and managed to complete half an hour on Saturday without injuring himself again.

Coquelin is fit again to provide more cover in midfield.

Tomas Rosicky has been in his best Arsenal form for years.

We have two of the best central defenders in Europe.

We have the second highest number of scorers of any team in the EPL this season (17).

We have Robin van Persie and he scores when he wants.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

We are The Arsenal.

The Cons

We are losing key players at this vital time.

Walcott is the latest to add to that list after idiotically trying to run off a hamstring pull. He reminded me of John Cleese playing a knight in The Holy Grail and getting his arm chopped off: “Just a flesh wound!”

With Walcott, Arteta, Mertesacker and Wilshere all unavailable for the rest of the season we can’t afford to have any more of our top players out – especially the PFA Player of the Year (Lord Dennis hear our prayers).

Arteta’s absence may well be the most crucial, as we tend not to win games without him and he dictates the tempo of the team. So far his replacements have been more garden gnome than metronome.

We still haven’t entirely shaken off last season’s bad habit of hitting the self destruct button (witness the two goals in two minutes conceded to Wigan).

In recent weeks this team has lost to both QPR and Wigan.

The zip and zing seems to have vanished from our open play. We need someone to just rip out the handbrake.

Tomas Rosicky is starting to look tired.

Robin van Persie has stopped scoring and looks jaded.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

Which Arsenal are we?

When our strong run of results started in February (coinciding with the return of our orthodox fullbacks) one of the most striking things was the obvious camaraderie among the players.

Led by the captain, the team seemed really to be enjoying each other’s company and relishing one another’s successes.

Lately things have been harder going and the joy and togetherness engendered by some great wins and stunning late goals has been harder to spot.

If we are going to finish the 2011/12 season the way we all hope, the crucial factor (in my view) is going to be the players themselves. Arsene Wenger and the coaching staff can do their bit, but in these last three games it’s going to come down to the players refusing to fail.

In the last few seasons our players have not had the strength of character to finish strongly when it counted.

This year I believe we have a team with greater moral fibre, led by a captain with far greater powers to motivate and inspire than his sulky predecessor. Robin van Persie, regardless of his own scoring form, needs to remember that his role as leader and inspiration could still be the deciding factor in us finishing third.

(I’m sure you have your own ideas of ‘pros and cons’ that I have failed to include. Please share them in the comments).

RockyLives


Let’s Stay Together: Match Preview

March 3, 2012

Following on from Rocky’s finely researched post about the curse of the Carling Cup:

Another lunch time fixture, another outing for our dreadful blue away kit and a tough fixture.

I am from the generation which remembers Anfield as the toughest fixture of the season. Win up there and you were a quality team, you had to be because for many, many years Liverpool were supreme: The Liverpool side of the late 80’s was the best team ever seen on British soil until the arrival of  The Invincibles.

However, times move on and this Liverpool side despite having been expensively assembled is nowhere near good enough to win the PL (not that we are!), they are as unpredictable as a Nik Bendnter finish. Scraping past a very average Cardiff is proof of their weaknesses.

The hugely expensive purchases of recent years have shown that money cannot buy success – our record signing is Wiltord at £16m approx; in the last few seasons the Scouse have bought Aquillani, Torres, Downing, Saurez, Mascherano, Carroll, Henderon, Johnson and Keane, all of whom cost more than Wiltord. And what have they won? The CC. How many times have the been in the CL? Not enough for the investment.

Still swallowing the King Kenny Dream

However, they remain a potent force at Anfield and it must be remembered they beat us at THOF. They are unbeaten this season at home and yet have won only 4 out of 12.

Liverpool have some injury problems with Agger out but Stevie Me is likely to have recovered from his half hour for England.  Carroll may be a laughing stock but we are prone to concede goals from players of his stature. Had Mr Wenger had his way Reina would be playing for the good guys, he remains the best GK in the Prem (IMO). Their defence is shaky without Agger. Midfield will be where the game is won and lost. The impression I get from L’pool blogs is that Adam has not been a success, nor has Henderson and the loss of Lucas has been costly. Which brings us to Liverpools’s most potent weapon, Suarez.

Is there a less popular player in English football? It cannot be denied Suarez is blessed with huge talent but his cheating and demeanor are appalling – he is the new El Hadj Diouf. As to the racial abuse case: Dalgleish’s stand and the general support from the fans was shameful, in particular at a club with the proud heritage of LFC. There is no possibility Mr Wenger and The Arsenal would have supported the player in this case. It has harmed the standing of a great club. Will Liverpool sell Suarez in summer as I hope would be the case at Arsenal – probably not, just look at the way MC have handled Tevez. One insincere apology from the media dept and all is well  …. shame on them.

Arsenal have the usual injury problems. There are doubts about key players: Vermaelen, Rosicky and RvP, without whom we will struggle. Diaby is back in the squad but is unlikely to play.

My team:

Benayoun played very well last weekend and it is hard to drop him but I believe Gervinho’s pace will cause the Scouse problems. Mozart is on his best run of form in his Arsenal career and will surely start ahead of the fit again Ramsey.

Inventor from Liverpool: Mr Frank Hornby. Inventor of Boys Toys Extraordinaire. Not just the Hornby train sets but also Meccano and my personal favorite, Dinky toys. At one time Meccano was the most popular toy in the world.

Calm Down now

March is Mr. Wenger’s most successful  month with a Pl 52. W36 D10 L6 record. A win today could knock one of the 3 challengers for a CL place out of contention.

Beating the Miscreants was a result of team play and pressing all over the pitch, if we can reproduce this team ethic we can win …. Let’s Stay Together!

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy