Goetze hurts as Song too strong!

November 24, 2011
Written by FatGingerGooner
 

Champions League week 5 and ze Germans were the visitors to London town in the form of Borussia Dortmund. Fresh from a fantastic 1-0 win against league rivals Bayern, they came into the game full of confidence and looking for the win that would put them right back in Group F contention. Arsenal, however, were looking for the victory that would see them qualify for the knockout stages.

 
No real suprises in either line up and the game started as expected. BD were pushing high up the pitch and pressing the home midfield at every opportunity. The Arsenal defence were seeing plenty of the ball but were finding it difficult to get the ball forward,  opting for patience as they knocked the ball from side to side.
 
The pattern of the game then changed due to a couple of BD injuries. First, the fantastically named Bender was caught by a stray boot and had to be stretchered from the field of play, shortly after, the boy wonder Goetze, who many were looking forward to seeing, was subbed with what appeared to be a dead leg. Unfortunate for BD and the game, but I wasn’t really complaining as he looked threatening early on!
 
Dortmund had looked dangerous but the loss of 2 key players seemed to effect their game and Arsenal were starting to find a little more space. Walcott, in particular, was starting to look lively. First, he had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, and then some neat play saw him latch onto a through ball but fail to round the onrushing keeper. Then came the most incisive action of the first half as Theo dazzled the full back with a beautiful dummy before collecting the return pass and whipping a delightful cross towards RvP, only for the keeper to stick out a paw and diffuse the situation. It was the best move of a tactical first 45 which saw neither keeper troubled. Surely the second half would see more goalmouth action with both teams needing a win?
 
No more changes at the break and Dortmund started brightly. Some slick passing down the right resulted in a deflected cross which rolled agonisingly across a packed area but fortunately for the Gunners, straight to the BFG who knocked it out for a corner. A scare, but nothing more. This kicked Arsenal into life. Some neat passing down the left eventually fell to the feet of Song, who showed his strength to hold off one tackle before twirling through 2 more tackles with moves that Robbie Savage would have been proud of, before finally floating a beautiful ball to the back post where captain fantastic did brilliantly well to not only generate power, but also head the ball down and beyond a disappointed keeper. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
 
The game had finally come to life, and with Dortmund looking a little dejected and tired from their earlier hard work, space was starting to open up for the Arsenal midfield. Song and Ramsey were starting to control the game and it was the later who found Gervinho’s perfectly timed run with a defence splitting pass, and suddenly the Ivorian was clean through on goal. He jinked past the keeper with a fantastic sidestep but should really have been more aware of the defenders getting back, one of which nicked the ball away for a corner just as he was about to pass the ball into the net. Gervinho once again showing little urgency in front of goal, something reminiscent of Kanu and something that will need to change if he is to be an Arsenal great.
 
More chances followed for the home side with Walcott firing wide and substitute Benayoun just unable to find Walcott at the end of another flowing move. Song was everywhere, Vermaelen was dominant at the back and my new favourite Santos was showing more tricks than David Blain as Arsenal took control. Then, with around 10 minutes left, the brilliant home fans were given a treat as Diaby made his way onto the field for his first appearance of the season. Its great to have him back. Seconds later the Gooners were cheering again as a corner routine reminiscent of Bould and co saw RvP all alone 2 yards out. Game over.
 
For the last 5 minutes, Djourou replaced Koscielny, and it was his mix up with Song that allowed Dortmund in for a consolation goal, Kagawa tapping in from close range. Szscesny was rightly furious that his clean sheet was taken away at the last, but it meant very little as Arsenal finished the night as group winners.
 
Overall, Arsenal were excellent. They found it difficult in the first half to find space but that was due to great organisation from Dortmund rather than poor Arsenal play. The second half was a different game and with the tempo of the passing increased, the gunners midfield proved too strong for their German counterparts. A great result against a very capable German outfit.
 
Oh, and Chelsea lost!
 
Player ratings:
 
Szscesny-didn’t have a great deal to do. Made a pretty routine stop at the beginning of the second half and kicking was good throughout 7
 
Koscielny-saw loads of the ball first half but played a couple of sloppy passes. Looked awkward going forward but solid as always in his defensive work 7
 
Mertersacker-won a lot of headers, as you would expect, and was his usual calm self. Never looked like making a mistake which is good to see 7
 
Vermaelen-what else can you say about this fella? Outstanding and commanding. Flicked on for RvP second 8
 
Santos-he’s dangerous, but my god is he fun! All the tricks you would expect from a Brazilian striker and solid one on one. love him 7.5
 
Song-outstanding display, espescially second half. His skill for the first goal was class. Would have been full marks had he not gifted Dortmund a consolation goal. MOTM 9
 
Arteta-along with most of the team he struggled to find space first half, but showed his class and experience in the second. Great corner routine. 7
 
Ramsey-excellent second half when more space was available. Playing well at the moment and appreciated by his team mates 7.5
 
Walcott-liveliest player in the first half and caused the Germans problems. solid performance. Great cross in first half 7.5
 
Gervinho-should have scored when clean through. Goes round people for fun but final ball/finish must improve 7
 
RvP-2 goals, smart performance rather than outstanding. Linked up well and knows where to be in the box. 8
 
Subs
 
Benayoun-worked hard as always but showed a bit more of his attacking ability. Great player to have in the squad 7
 
Djourou-didn’t have much to do and was sold a bit short by Song for the BD goal. Will get slated for the goal but Song should have got rid 6
 
Diaby-great to have him back. Could be a top player if can get through a season or two without injury 6 
 

Pick up the Pieces

October 16, 2011

At last the chance to write about something other than rumour, tittle tattle and economics. And what a game we have today, none of that nerve wrenching, gut mangling, behind the sofa stuff of our last match against the lowlife bottom feeders – today we welcome those fine upstanding men from the frozen wasteland of Sunderland, who will be looking to gift us 3 points in their push for relegation. A day for Arsenal to get back on track and pick up the pieces.

Sunderland are owned by an American, Ellis Short, who has recently become chairman succeeding the excellent Niall Quinn. Will this isolate Steve Bruce and lead to his replacement, or will it have no effect upon the on-pitch affairs? More to the point, do we really give a damn?

There are lots of interesting stats about today’s game, my favourite being that Sunderland have not won at Arsenal since 1983. There have been 3 90th minute goals in our last 6 meetings, and whoever scores first wins – usually us.

No Bendtner today which is a shame. I watched him in Denmark’s excellent victory over the slimy Portugese (any team with Ronaldo , Mereilles and Nani is slimy and deserving of a good beating!). Nik played centrally and was, I can find no other word, poor. He finished off a fine move for his goal but even Clichy could have scored it. Nik’s absence could give Connor Wickham his first PL start, an interesting player as he showed against us last season at Ipswich.

We are just one point and one place ahead of Sunderland …  bizarre. You all know the problems, we have discussed them endlessly, unfortunately no-one has come up with reasonable solutions other than buying better players. Mr. Wenger believes he has the squad to challenge and one can certainly find reasons (not excuses) for our poor start. Injuries to key players and a rash of red cards have hindered our progress.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Wenger solves the right back problem. Can he rely upon a very inexperienced 19 year old Carl Jenkinson to be an adequate understudy to Sagna? Or does he play Koscielny or Djourou at RB?  Another possibility is Coquelin. If there are to be brickbats (whatever they are) to be thrown at AW, it is selling Eboue without buying an experienced stand-in RB.

Upfront, RvP is in the form of his life, can he continue and get a brace today? Why not?

With Rosicky regaining fitness , will AW continue with Ramsey? Despite his critics I believe Ramsey is a fine player and should get the shirt with TR substituting late in the game

Is there any possibility of Arshavin getting the central attacking midfield role? Not in my opinion, in fact I doubt whether AA will even start.

My team:

 

 

I am hoping we will really attack Sunderland who are likely to play long ball and  look for set piece opportunities, hence the choice of Santos over Gibbs.

The Americans will not appreciate my choice of inventor born in Sunderland. Contrary to popular belief the electric light bulb was invented by Sir Joseph Swan and not by Thomas Edison.  The electric lightbulb was first patented by Swan in 1878 and his house was the first in the world to be lit by light bulbs.  He received a knighthood and the French Legion d’Honneur in honour of his invention. Top bloke, top beard.

BigRaddy


Whatever Happened to Abou Diaby?

September 12, 2011

Amidst all the fun of making up our fantasy teams for the new look Arsenal, one name has been conspicuous by its absence: Abou Diaby.

It’s understandable in a way: we have lots of shiny new names to play with in our hypothetical formations.

Do Artex and Benny Yoon displace Li’l Jack and Aaron when all are fit? If teams come to park the bus, do we bust out the Park to knock them down? Should we add height by playing Arshavin on Wilshere’s shoulders? And if we did, would they still be shorter than our new GG (Giant German)?

Such fun.

But no-one, as far as I can see, has been jumping up and down and frothing at the mouth about how we have to include Abou Diaby in our up-coming advance on four trophies.

Poor Abou has just disappeared from the Arsenal narrative.

Danny Baker, in his amusing Radio 5 show, would describe it as an example of “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.”

For readers of a younger disposition, I should explain that this refers to an American 1970s sitcom called Happy Days, whose lead characters were Richie Cunningham and his super-cool friend The Fonz.

The show ran for 11 seasons (which, in US television, means well over 100 episodes).

In the first season Richie had an older brother, Chuck. In episode 10 he went upstairs, saying something like “OK, catch you later guys.” Then he was never seen nor heard from again. No mention. Nothing. Not even a name check in any of the remaining 90-plus episodes. Just written out of the show.

At the moment, Abou is our Chuck Cunningham.

The last mention of him from anyone connected with Arsenal was a comment from Arsene Wenger a month ago, when he revealed that the player had had surgery on his ankle over the summer and would miss the start of the new Premier League season. “Diaby is not back before the end of August or the beginning of September,” he said.

So Abou was last spotted hobbling into the operating theatre saying “OK, catch you later guys,” and has since vanished.

Despite the fact that he is theoretically on his way back from injury, no-one at the club has seen fit to give him even a passing mention when describing the range of options open to us this season.

He has been well and truly Chuck Cunninghamed.

I raise the point because it came up when I was playing my own game of Fantasy Arsenal (no, it bears no relation to Peaches’ version of the game, which involves Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and a large tub of whipped cream).

I was just doing the regular “who would I play where” when it popped into my head that our own Disappeared One, Mr Abou Diaby, could have a very positive impact on our season.

He has undoubtedly been one of the most frustrating of Arsene’s crop of young players, but when he’s good he’s very very good. He can pass, tackle, dribble and score; he is big and athletic and, on his day, can provide excellent forward momentum.

Consistency has been his problem, but that is partly due to him never really having had a run of games in any one position – and certainly not in his favoured one of attacking central midfield. Often he has been played wide because more senior players (like Cesc and, er, Denilson) were occupying the central positions.

Obviously his regular injury problems have played a factor too. He has been so unlucky on that front that I now think of him as a sort-of cartoon character. If he’s not walking underneath a plummeting piano he’s falling down an open manhole cover; if he’s not slipping on a banana skin he’s left holding the big round bomb just as the fuse fizzles down to nothing.

His appearance stats of 108 games in five and a half seasons tells its own story (about 20 games a season, including appearances as a substitute, is not good enough, although it’s important to acknowledge the impact of Dan Smith’s horrific leg-breaking tackle on Abou’s record).

So I offer this thought as another sliver of optimism for us Arsenal supporters, following on from the encouragement most of us felt at the late rush of new signings:

If (and I know it’s a big IF) Abou can fully recover from his ankle operation and IF he can put his niggling injury record behind him and IF he can find his best form on a consistent basis, he may just be able to show us all the form that once had many in the France coaching set-up viewing him as being the best of a talented group of young French midfielders (including Na$ri).

We might then be able to look at midfield options that include Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Benayoun, Rosicky, Song, Frimpong and Diaby and feel we truly have the strength in depth to upset some apple carts this season.

RockyLives


Dopey Diaby – Destroyer Diaby: which one will we get next season?

July 2, 2011

Written by Total Arsenal

“When you think of your wife that she is pretty, she becomes pretty – if you think she is not pretty she slowly loses confidence and becomes not pretty. It is the same for players: you have to believe in them, that makes them feel that they have a certain strength”.
Arsene Wenger (when talking about discovering Vieira on the DVD ‘Arsene’s 11).

Seldom have I seen a football player like Abou Diaby. On the one hand he oozes class and potential, a beautiful athlete: a modern day gladiator. On the other hand he seems to struggle badly at times with being able to focus on the field, and achieving consistency in his performance. In every game he has a spell of being the destroyer: great tackles, followed by powerful, mazy runs, precision passes, regular assists and a great goal now and again.

Just have a look at this again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOs2Gf0rhd8

Unfortunately, often he also has spells in which he seems to switch off, becoming almost dopey, uninterested and sloppy; without much focus or energy.

I am saying here, he seems to switch off and lack focus and energy at times, because of course I do not know him: I have never spoken to him, and I have never spoken to anybody who knows him. I am only drawing conclusions from what I can see on the TV screen and during the occasionally game in a stadium. Yet, it is so easy to judge and label a player from the comfort of a seat at home, or at a football ground, without questioning our own motives and attitudes towards other people.

Are you a ‘Theory X’ or a ‘Theory Y’ Gooner?

For me one of the most useful classic theories in (People) Management is ‘Theory X and Theory Y’ developed by Douglas McGregor. They describe two different attitudes towards workforce motivation, which can easily be applied to football as well.

The Theory X manager assumes employees (footballers) are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can, and that they inherently dislike work. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s (footballer’s) interest in the job is money.

A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most employees (footballers) will want to do well ‘at work’. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivator in the workplace, and that employees (footballers) are not primarily motivated by money.

This is a simple theory and has its critics, but I have found it very helpful in dealing with people and fellow football fans alike. Seldom have I encountered a pure X-er or a pure Y-er, but people tend to polarize towards either X, or Y on a 80/20 basis. ‘Pure’X-fans tend to quickly jump on players, say that they are lazy, money-grabbing bastards, their attitude stinks, and as a result they will quickly show their dissatisfaction towards any player who falls into this category. ‘Pure’ Y-fans on the other hand, tend to give players who underperform the benefit of the doubt, believe that external circumstances rather than motivational issues are the cause of a player not living up to expectations. They are very unlikely to taunt a player and would always look for ways to remain positive and supportive.

Diaby: bad attitude or lack of confidence/focus?

The ability to focus and concentrate, and to get the very best out of yourself is a special quality. It is not automatically there in every player and it is also not simply a matter of choice by a player. Some players have focus and concentration in abundance: Flamini, Keown, Fabregas, Wilshere, Sagna, RvP for example. Other players seem to struggle with it at times: Arshavin, Clichy, Almunia and Diaby come to mind.

Yet, what really bugs me is how easy we, the fans, mix up an apparent sporadic inability to concentrate and focus and/or a lack of confidence by a player, with a perceived bad attitude of that player. We come to the conclusion so quickly that some players are only in it for the money, that they do not care about Arsenal, are lazy and that they are letting us all down. Worryingly, we are seeing now a growing trend where fans are expressing these views venomously during home games and on the blogs. By doing this, there is a big risk of a vicious circle being created for players like Diaby:

  1. An occasional lack of focus and concentration;
  2. Is followed by moans and groans by the fans during games as well as complaints etc on websites after games, which then the press is very happy to pick up on, and magnify as much as they like;
  3. Which easily leads to a further reduction in self-confidence by the player who is targeted;
  4. With the likely outcome of even more mistakes/ underperformances, leading to even more and louder jeers and taunts; etc, etc.

 

If a player truly is lazy and does not give his all for the club, he should be treated with the disdain he deserves.

But, I am going to put my neck out here by saying that we do not have these sorts of players. Wenger would not let them wear the shirt. Players like Abou Diaby need our trust, need us to believe in them and support them, and give them the benefit of doubt when things go wrong occasionally. Of course all players need this, but some need it more than others. Only then will we avoid seeing Abou retreating in his shell again; only then will we see an improvement in focus, concentration and performances; only then will we more regularly witness the Destroyer that Diaby has within him; only then will we see his full potential come through. We, the fans, have a huge responsibility to help and support our players to become the gladiators they have within them, rather than let them crumble in front of 60.000 fans.

 

In order to do that, we have to question our own attitudes and motives a bit more: suppress the X-type tendencies as much as possible, and allow the Y-type characteristics in us to come to the fore.


Will Wenger Make Fools Of Us Again?

March 14, 2011

After our loss at Manchester United, I found myself harbouring murderous thoughts towards Abou Diaby.

He was our worst player by quite a stretch (despite stiff competition from Gibbs and, later, Rosicky).

Every time the ball went to him he either killed the momentum of an Arsenal attack or lost the ball. When most Arsenal players are capable of playing and thinking (plinking?) in the same instant, Abou seems to work like this…

The thoughts of Abou:

Here comes the ball!”

“I will stop it and bring it under control.”

“I have it under control! (or not).”

“Just checking I have it under control.”

“Good! I do.”

“Now, what will I do with it?”

“Better have a look round to see where my teammates are.”

“There they are – they have run forward but have now stopped.”

“Why do they all look so cross?”

In other words, Abou is just not fast enough in thought or deed to fit into Arsenal’s rapid pass-and-move style. While the others are plinking, Abou is plonking.

However, I can’t maintain murderous feelings for long and pretty soon I fell to wondering whether I was just scapegoating Abou for a disappointing defeat.

To make someone a scapegoat is to blame them for something that was the fault of others. Was I doing this to our lanky Gaul? Should I instead be blaming the defenders who failed to stop United scoring? Or our attackers for not converting any of their many chances? Or Arsene Wenger for being tactically outwitted by the gout-faced Glaswegian?

Well, actually, no. I wasn’t laying all the fault for our loss at Abou’s size 12s. My criticisms of him were based entirely on how he played and would have been the same even if we had won the game. I wasn’t unfairly blaming him for the faults of others. I was blaming him for his own faults. So, not a scapegoat then. We need a new term. How about a scapedonkey?

That’s it! I have decided to make Abou the scapedonkey for our FA Cup humbling.

But here’s the rub.

We Arsenal fans have had scapedonkeys before.

Alex Song was booed off the pitch as a 17-year-old in an away game at Fulham; Fabianski was derided as the worst keeper ever to have played for a Premiership side; Eboue was booed mercilessly at The Grove; Vermaelen was written off before he ever played a game for us for being too small; Walcott, the sages confidently told us, would never be a must-have player; earlier this season Djourou was being talked about as a fourth-choice-if-we’re-desperate CB.

I am happy to accept that Arsene Wenger knows more about football than me, and more than every single Arsenal blogger or online commenter.

He is also not stupid and he also desperately wants success.

So if he believes that Abou Diaby can make it as a top player for Arsenal then, on reflection, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ditto the other current scapedonkeys, like Denilson, Gibbs, Bendtner, Arshavin, Squillaci and Rosicky. If the boss feels they can contribute to our success, I will yield to his better judgement.

They may not have covered themselves in glory in some recent games, but we have been here before with players who have gone on to become vital parts of our first team. We have to believe in their potential to improve precisely because AW believes in it.

For all those who have been so adamant that Arsenal “must” get rid of players like Abou and Denilson I hope that Arsene makes fools of you again, as he did with Song, Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabianski and others.

I hope that we lift the title come May on the back of a rip-roaring run that has seen vital contributions from our thoroughbred scapedonkeys.

RockyLives


Up for the Cup??

March 12, 2011

Lucky Arsenal? This season we have drawn Newcastle and Spurs away in the Carling Cup, Barcelona in the CL, and now Man Utd away in the FA Cup.  I can only imagine Mr Wenger has spent the season walking under ladders and crossing the path of black cats. No-one wanted this fixture, neither Arsenal who are coming off the back of an emotional defeat at Camp Nou nor Man Utd, who are facing Marseilles in an important contest on Weds.

And yet neither manager will give up on this game. In my opinion both will put out as strong a team as injury permits, pride will dictate their actions. However, we are without (I hate writing this …) Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabregas , Song, Fabianski and Szczesny, and United are without Nani, Ferdinand and Park.

The loss of Szczesny has brought about the situation that (almost) all Gooners feared – a run of games for Almunia. Many point out that Manuel had a fine game in Spain and it would be churlish to argue. However, there is a reason why two Poles under the age of 23 are ahead of him in the AFC rankings and that is because Almunia is notoriously inconsistent. It was said at the start of the season by most pundits that Arsenal cannot win the league with Almunia, unfortunately we are about to find out. That said, I am sure he will give his all for the cause (and promote his flagging career). He must be given 100% support.

Having a more reliable defence will give Manuel confidence. We have tightened  to the point where there appears to be some understanding at the back; something missing since Sol left. Who would have thought that Djourou would be the man to come to the fore (apart from GG, and yours truly)?

We still have the midfield creativity problem in Cesc’s absence. Many have called for Nasri to take Cesc’s role, which make much sense. He has the vision and pace to push the team forward and has been given the Captain’s armband (though Almunia will take it tomorrow) which indicates he has the character to lead the team, and character he will need because at OT Fletcher has the licence to kick anyone off the park. Song is a big loss – Diaby plays better when he has the security of a strong defensive midfielder. Will Mr Wenger dare to start Ramsey rather than Denilson? I would take the risk but this is more a reflection of my opinion of Denilson. The Brazilian has much to recommend him, but not at a team at the level of Arsenal. I am sure he will be a huge success in Malaga, Mallorca or Juventus but not at the Grove – sorry.

Up front Van Persie will be chafing at the bit after his infuriating red card, he is playing as well as any time during his Arsenal career.  Bendtner will be desperate to show that with more than 10 minutes on the pitch he can score, but if Nasri and Arshavin are to start I see no place for him. I expect Nik to leave in summer (and I will be sad to see him go), if I was him I would be fuming that having played in most rounds of the Carling Cup and being one of the main reasons we got to the Final, he was dropped for RvP.  Vidic is back for MU which is a huge fillip for them, and a negative for us. Time for Arshavin to rediscover his shooting boots.

Man Utd have been an anomaly; at no time have they looked a title winning team and yet they have led the Premiership for most of the season. With a dull but effective midfield they rely on power rather than guile. What would they give for a young Bobby Charlton? In losing their last two big games they have seen that Giggs and Scholes fading powers are useful but not dependable. Expect a buying spree from SAF this summer –  a GK, a left back (who wants the lamentable Evra?), 2 creative MF’s, and a CB –  Modric, Rodwell, Bale, Cahill, Neuer have all been mentioned. Valencia has suffered from injury and can perhaps become the Giggs replacement, but MU have yet to replace the brilliance of Ronaldo. What they have replaced is Ronaldo’s penchant for acting with an even worse cheat in Nani. – fine player, shame about the histrionics. Rooney has flickered all season, capable of the brilliant but then petulant and obnoxious – once again his career has been boosted by SAF’s influence at the FA. . Berbatov is the PL’s top scorer and yet remains as unreliable as ever – another capable of brilliance or anonymity. His place is under threat from Hernandez who looks a fine signing –  that valuable fox in the box.

Mr Wenger has continually stated Arsenal will fight on all fronts this season, and I expect him to put out his strongest available 11.

My team:

Personally, I expect us to lose; we are not playing with fluency nor with confidence; we usually go down at Old Trafford and we will be forced to play against 14 men (11 players and the officials). Arsenal have yet to score more than one goal in a game at Old Trafford in the PL, so we are unlikely to see a goal-fest. To win we need to score first and force Man Utd to come onto us, thereby allowing Arsenal to play on the counter-attack. And above all, we need a good and fair performance from the referee, Chris Foy.

It is the final game of the season against Man Utd on Mayday which is more important to me and I imagine to both managers –  this is just the Hors d’oeuvre. I would give the Claret- nosed Caledonian (Thank you RL) the win today in exchange for the 3 points at the Grove.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


BRING IT ON!

March 8, 2011

What do you expect from tonight? Will we estacionar el autobus? Will we start gung-ho, try to score early and then work on the counter, or try to play keepball and settle slowly? Or do you expect Barcelona to blow us away early and give us a lesson?

All my non-Arsenal friends are predicting that Arsenal will get a hammering tonight and that we were fortunate to win at the Grove. To them I say “ Pish Tosh and a bottle of Pinosh”. Beating Barca was one of the great Arsenal performances and I see no reason why we cannot progress at the Camp Nou.

I have read the suggestion that we would be better off losing tonight; that we cannot win the CL because there are too many English teams in it and it is less shameful to lose to Barca than, say Chelsea. Again I say “pish”. We have beaten the Chavs on aggregate this season, thrown away a win against Spurs and were unlucky at Old Trafford. We are better than Bayern. In fact, the only fear I have is Real. We can win this Cup.

But first we have to get a result tonight ….

One of the key questions to be answered tonight will be which team is most affected by their missing players? Will we be able to take advantage of the absence of Piquet and Puyol without our most effective strike force? How damaging will be the loss of Song? (he is 50/50 as I write, and I am assuming he will not be risked.)

Should Song be out, who should take his place as our defensive shield? In a perfect world it would be Ramsey or even better, a fit Vermaelen. As it is AW has to decide between Denilson, Diaby and Rosicky. I expect Mr Wenger to take a safety first stance and play Denilson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosicky get a start in place of Nasri or Arshavin. AW must have been hoping for more from Diaby, who would be ideal if he could just play with more intelligence. Diaby is without question the most frustrating member of the squad; tonight should be a night where he showcases his huge talent but I doubt he can be trusted in so important a fixture.

Wilshere established himself as the coming man at the Grove – I hope he can keep his cool at Camp Nou. His booking for what appeared to be dissent on Saturday was a worry and hopefully not a portent of a young man developing arrogance. Self confidence is an absolute in a player of JW’s undoubted skills, but the glare of the media on one so young can turn heads. I hope AW can keep him grounded. One thing for sure is that Barca will not take him so lightly again.

Our defence is solid at the moment and I am delighted to see Sagna return (though Eboue did well in the first game). This is the best back 4 we have had for 5 years; youth, experience, physical power and ability on the ball. Have we ever seen our CB’s propel the team as we saw JD and Kos do on Saturday?

Upfront we have problems.  RvP is in the squad, but is unlikely to start. In his absence and on the evidence of Saturday, I would play Chamakh as a lone striker. I love Nik but it appears he requires more time than the Barca defence will allow him (though he has scored at Camp Nou). Chamakh has been publicly praised by AW and I expect him to start. The news has just been released that RvP is travelling with the squad – I wouldn’t risk him, but what a sub!  With 20 minutes to go at the end of a tight game, Robin could make a huge impact.

Our most important players? Fabregas and Szczesny. Fab will be so excited about tonight, the opportunity to show his wonderful talents in his home town stadium.  He will control the tempo of our game. What a night for our 20 y.o. GK. To play at his age in what is the glamour tie in World football is unimaginable. He seems to be unflappable which he will need to be. There is no question that he will be by far the busier keeper and should he perform to his highest ability we have a chance. If he freezes, we are sunk.

My team:

My fear is that should we be 2 down at any time in the game we haven’t the weapons to get back into the game. Without RvP in the starting line-up we lack bite – we need a big night from Nasri and Fabregas. If we score (and have the luck) we will win.

Barcelona is home to many interesting chaps.  Picasso, Dali, Jean Miro`, Gaudi, Jose Carreras, Montserat Caballe`, Pablo Casals, Victoria de los Angeles among others, but does not appear to have any proper Rockers. Perhaps it is a weather thing?

Will I be nervous tonight? Will I be envious of Brigham who is at the game tonight? What do you think?

COYRRG


Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners

February 27, 2011

My first post for Arsenal Arsenal was just over a year ago and I sit today writing a Cup Final pre-match. What drought?

And what of this team that today can earn some silverware and stop the ludicrous carping from the media and a few of the fans? Why are we favourites to win a Cup for the first time in 6 years?

Cometh the time, Cometh the Man. And in this case it is Cometh the Men. Arsenal have moved forward as a club in a very short time and the sudden impact of 4 players has given the team a solidity not seen for many a year. Step forward Messrs Wilshere, Koscielny, Djourou and Szczesny. Suddenly we look solid at the back, and have a new and very young spine, one that can take us to glory.

In just a few games our problemic goalkeeping position has found a pillar of strength, our young Pole has shown against the differing attacks of Barca and Stoke that he is the real deal, and likely to be the Arsenal number One for at least a decade.

Djourou was written off by many, nicknamed Bambi for his ungainly style he has had a checkered injury filled career at Arsenal, but now, fully fit. he is established as the first name of the defensive teamsheet. His absence from the pitch at Newcastle led to 4 goals in 20 minutes – can anyone doubt that we would have won the game had he remained on the field? When Koscielny took the field in an Arsenal shirt I was one of many who questioned Mr Wenger’s signing. He looked lost, lacking in height and pace; yet here we are a mere 4 months later and he looks the real deal. I would even go so far as to say that Vermaelen will struggle to regain his place in the team. JD and Kos have an awesome record playing together, they have a fine understanding and both are just 23!! Probably the youngest CB pairing in the League.

And then there is Jack. What can be said that hasn’t been written? In half a season he has become an integral part of the team and forced two regular Internationals to become B teamers. He is always available for the ball when the defenders are under pressure, and with the ball at his feet is comfortable in the tightest situations. The man has genius.

And what of our other players who have improved beyond recognition? Samir Nasri has become a World Class player, a possible Player of the Year and a man who can mesmerise a defender, He can tackle, he can beat a player with pace, he can cross, shoot, pass with precision – he is a pleasure to watch. And he maintains the ability to give a sly dig which is essential in the hurly burly of the Premiership.

Van Persie is playing the best football of his career, Walcott has come of age, The full backs are back to the form they showed 2 seasons ago – Clichy was brilliant against Barca and Sagna has been strong all season.

Cesc is a big loss today, not because we cannot win without him but because if the game gets hairy, he is “the man”. Cesc has developed into the real leader of the team and I am very sad he will not have the opportunity to lead the side up the Wembley Steps. His injury leaves a midfield berth which I would give to Diaby, who is a more creative player than Denilson. He also has the height to cope with the inevitable Birmingham aerial bombardment.

Walcott’s absence opens a space for Bendtner. I like Nik, he always gives his all and despite not being the most elegant of players can be very effective, he is important when defending corners and set plays. Nik’s goal in the semi-final was as good as any seen at the Grove, and in his two appearances since he has had two assists. A goal and an assist would cement his place in the Arsenal fermament. However, Arshavin has been looking dangerous of late and we could play Nasri on the right with Arshavin on the left which allows us more movement than with the slightly ponderous Bendtner.

My team:

With Arshavin and Denilson coming on after 60 minutes

Birmingham are not a team studded with star players, they have lost the creativity of Hleb through injury and will look to play as a tight unit. They are clear underdogs. A midfield of Ferguson and Bowyer are sure to be combative. Should Birmingham win today it will be as a result of a huge team effort whereas we have the individual brilliance all over the pitch to win the game by having one player on fire.

One may wonder why I have used so few words on this Birmingham team. Truth is, I am bored by them – they are a reflection of their manager. Nothing more needs to be said.

The man who really deserves to win a trophy this season is our esteemed manager. Year after year he has had to listen to the same inane question about our lack silverware whilst delivering the best football seen in the Premiership week after week. Like Birmingham our team is a direct reflection of our manager, and I am very proud that our manager is Mr Arsene Wenger.

Birmingham is the birthplace of some of heavy metal’s stellar bands. The wondrous Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the very Kings of Rock, Led Zeppelin all hail from Birmingham.

We are better than Birmingham in every department – it is a game for us to lose.

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy


The title race …. will Arsenal wait on amber or go on green?

February 12, 2011

Nothing repeat nothing in football would make me happier than for Arsenal to win the title this season, if one could add the relegation of a Mick McCarthy team life would be even more rosy. Add in  the relegation of a Pulis team and my cup would runneth over (is that a naughty expression?)

Like millions of Gooners I was down-hearted at 5 p.m. last Saturday, despairing of my flimsy team and the imbecility of 3 men in black whom I wouldn’t trust to referee a park 5 -a-side. Who would have thought Wolves would cheer us up? Bottom of the table, managed by a Cro-Magnon man (just check his forehead) and playing a team who were unbeaten – no-one could have envisioned the result (though those with hindsight would point out Wolves fine record against the top sides).

Wolves last 3 victories were against MU, Chelsea and Liverpool – this is going to be no comfortable stroll, but if we are to confirm our pretensions to be Champions this game is a must win. No silly mistakes, no retaliation to what will surely be a very physical battle, and above all no drops in application or vitality. Hopefully last week’s lapse is a thing of the past and not a harbinger of a sad end to our season.

McCarthy is “bigging up” Jamie O ‘Hara saying he will have a major influence upon the game. Get a Grip man! This is a player who couldn’t get into the first team of Harry’s Muppets. That said, I expect us to go into the game with a weakened midfield, so perhaps MM will be right.

Diaby’s reaction last week undid the fine work he put in during the first half (despite the lengthy discussion on AA I still believe he cost us the 2 points). It is a shame as he played well for France midweek and today would certainly have started, instead I expect to see Denilson start. Song is just returning from a muscle injury and with Barca midweek he will surely be rested. Same with Nasri and JD.  Had Sagna not been banned for the midweek game I would have rested him but knowing that Messi will be fearful of playing against a rejuvenated Eboue, Sagna starts.

My Team:

This team will hopefully have enough to get the 3 points on offer. Depending on the fitness of Nasri I would play Arshavin, if there is any chance that Samir will not be fit for Wednesday, I would play Rosicky and rest AA who played a full game midweek.

I guess we willl all be tuned into the midday match. I hope for a draw which should Arseanl win would put us 2 points behind MU and 3 ahead of MC with a game in hand. A loss for MC will surely put them out of the title race. Actually, what I really hope for is an abandoned game due to an 18 man brawl with 5 red cards and a 3 points reduction, but if it is not to be I will take the draw.

England’s first ever automatic traffic lights were erected in Prince’s Square Wolverhampton. This is also the home of the mighty Noddy Holder and Slade. One of my early heroes was the Wolves legend, England Captain and Arsenal manager Billy Wright CBE, whom I once had the privilege of meeting. Another of my football faves was the Tipton Terrier – Steve Bull MBE, they don’t make them like him any more (for which Koscielny will be delighted!).

Let this be the continuation of our 8 match unbeaten PL run.

COYRRG


The Good, The Bad and The Diaby.

February 6, 2011

Hmmmm where to start with this one? Do I focus on the first half; do I focus on the embarrassing Phil Dowd or do I focus on the much maligned Diaby?

Well, the title works anyway, the first forty five minutes were not just good they were great and certainly the best we have seen since Blackpool at the beginning of the season. Newcastle went in at half time having been ripped apart, totally embarrassed and left for dead or so we thought.

The Bad, yet again dreadful refereeing, two penalties for things that only people who wear special 3D glasses handed out at Old Trafford are able to see.

And then there is Diaby, I hope your leg is alright Abou, I hope there is no lasting damage because your school boy behaviour will certainly cost us dearly by way of points at the end of the season. Bit harsh? The man was charged with holding the midfield together, it was his job to suffer the rough and tumble of that heated battle zone and if you are not hurt, you get up and get on with it. I don’t care how close you come to having your leg broken if it doesn’t snap you get up and carry on doing your dandiest to win the game for your team, the one thing you don’t do is get yourself sent off.

I guess it’s decided then — Diaby catches the lot.

How did the match report become to be so painful to write? This was one of those games that at 3-0 you sat back relaxed with a cold beer and gave your poor old nails a rest from the ravages they have suffered in recent past after being viciously chewed while watching one tense game or another.

This was one of those games when a family member could walk in or someone could phone mid-game and you would speak to them in a calm, pleasant tone. What’s the score? 3-0, GOAL, no make that 4-0, Van Persie has just scored again. Yes, of course, you can borrow some money.

How on earth did it go from that to screaming at the telly, chewing my nails like a demon, kicking the cat and generally being horrible to anyone who was foolish enough to come near me?

I just don’t know, I just don’t have the answer.

As for the game, I could mention what a superb pass it was from Arshavin for Walcott to score, I could complement the Russian again for his second assist inside five minutes by way of the free kick that allowed Djourou to score his first goal for the club, I could praise Theo for the wonderful cut back that gave Van Persie his first; or, of course, I could rave about the quality of the cross by Sagna that gifted Van Persie his second goal but I won’t because you can read better descriptions in the Sunday papers by people capable of describing them far better than I, but what you won’t get in those very same papers is something to read that reflects your pain your suffering and your down right hatred of Joey Barton.

Written by London