Reading: Player Ratings and Analysis

October 26, 2016

Well, that was fun wasn’t it?

Reading were no pushovers but not good enough to really threaten, that said, Martinez made a couple of fine saves which highlighted our abundance of quality keepers.

At 24, Martinez was one of the oldest Arsenal players, he is older than Ox! Fortunately for him GK’s have a longer shelf life.

And what of the Young Pretenders? Iwobi shone as one would expect. He could be the Real Deal, a future superstar. Up there with Messi and DB10. He has amazing dribbling ability, great balance, a good eye for a pass, he can shoot, tackle (?) and has stamina. I hope AW allows him to develop slowly and not overplay him, thankfully Ramsey is about to return and perhaps Iwobi will get some rest.

Jeff, and Niles found it hard to get into the game but showed flashes of their potential. Both typical Wenger youths; inventive, fast and confident.

Once again, Holding was impressive. Alongside Gabriel we looked solid in the centre of defence. Gibbs showed why he is good enough to play for England but not good enough to start for Arsenal, in other words the best FB on the pitch.

Jenkinson must have been delighted to start again for the club he loves. As one would expect his performance was full of energy but The Corporal has the problem of always being second fiddle to the best RB in the PL.

Elneny held the midfield and did his work efficiently and without too much drama.

Upfront we continually chose or misplaced the wrong final ball. Perez was busy as was Ox but we really should have  put more pressure on the Reading goalkeeper. I cannot recall Perez having a shot on target however it is easy to see why Mr Wenger has such confidence in him, Perez needs Ozil and Sanchez to flourish.

Ox. I love this bloke. I love his energy and his passion. I love his intelligence. But …. he should be progressing faster than he is if he wants to stay at Arsenal. Danish TV had Ox as the Man of the Match . Yes, he scored twice but his passing, especially this crossing, was wayward (I say this without the benefit of stats!). Against a young Reading side in a game with little pressure Ox was the best player on the pitch but I expect more.

The subs did well. Zelalem and  Willock both got a taster but the best news for Gooners was the return of the mighty Giroud. He looked fit and strong , bringing out a marvellous save from Al-Habsi (who had a great game.)

Overall, Arsenal played some wonderful, dynamic passing football making for a really enjoyable evening.

Player Ratings:

Martinez     7

Jens               6.5

Gabriel         7

Holding        8

Gibbs            7

Iwobi            8

Elneny          7

Maitland-Niles       6

Jeff                6.5

Perez            7

Ox                 8

Written by Big Raddy

Arsenal 6 Ludogrets 0…………a few thoughts on the game.

October 20, 2016

Thracians thrashed and we have a better clock tower; well we do, the clock tower near the Highbury barn is much better than theirs by about six goals I would say.

Sanchez, Walcott’s twin brother, Oxlaide-Chamberlain all got on the score sheet but it was Mesut Ozil’s night with his first hat trick at THOF.

Arsenal cruised past the Bulgarian champions with the ease in which I think most anticipated; that’s to say, anticipated in the way that none of us knew what to expect from Ludogrets but most presumed, and rightly so as it turned out, that the champions of such a lowly league were hardly going to produce a team capable of beating us in the form we are in.

No, but, that is not to say that we didn’t have a few scares; it took two fine saves from the outstanding Ospina to keep us ahead: Sanchez having scored from what is fast becoming his trade mark “Scoop”. I am not sure what else to call it; it was as inch perfect as the “Scoop” he sent over for Ozil to score one of the best goals I have ever seen against Swansea on Saturday.


The Chilean’s goal settled the nerves and gave a moment to reflect on what a clever team selection Wenger had made. For twenty years I have been trying to guess the team he is going to select and although there have been a couple of times when I have been really annoyed usually following a sound thrashing; that said, I am not daft enough to realise that my criticism was made with the use of hindsight. Anyway once again I couldn’t guess and once again I was really impressed with the way Wenger deployed the troops: Monreal needed time to cool down from his weekend roasting which gave Gibbs a chance and the Ox for Iwobi was smart.

It is all very well going on as we do about how much depth we have to the squad but it is easy to forget that they are human beings with feelings and they need be kept on side and motivated and that was exactly what Wenger was able to do to two key players in the very important Gibbs and Oxlaide-Chamberlain. Oops I almost forgot, that is three key players with Ospina.

Theo’s twin brother continued to impress with a superb long range effort from way outside the box just before half time which allowed us to go into the break having doubled our lead and a whole lot more relaxed. I say Theo’s twin brother of course because there is no way anyone is going to persuade me that this is the same Theo that we have had at the club for what, ten years now? No way. Theo’s twin seems to have worked out his best position in no time and even more important he has been given provisional membership into the elite Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla club. Yes a very exclusive club that very few get invited into, Ramsey has a provisional membership, Giroud by contrast doesn’t.

What this membership gets you is — the ball, it means that Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla will pass to you; they wouldn’t have passed to Theo of last season, no point he would have just lost possession but his twin this season is able to control it and make some telling passes and score some very important goals. I am not sure that Giroud will ever be in the club, have you noticed how those three will try a really complicated pass to one another rather than make a simple short easy pass to the Frenchman.

In Arsenal world tonight was a resounding win but it will still go almost unnoticed. I am not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed. I suppose it is useful that all the media continue to kneel in front of Pep, lip gloss applied, while we go on winning almost unnoticed, it certainly keeps the pressure on Man City and off of us. It is a two horse race, no doubt in my mind about it.

But we were good tonight, we are very good, who would have expected Ozil to start scoring the way he is and before I go any further I want make sure Perez’s two assists do not go unnoticed. Do you remember when we bought him and we were all excited about how finally we might have someone who can play with Ozil and Sanchez up front, someone who has the same close control as those two titans of our team, well you saw it tonight. Perez was outstanding which of course leaves me with a bit of a problem choosing my superlative for Ozil but before I do a thought crossed my mind as he completed his hat trick.


What would Ozil have to do to be regarded as the best player we have ever had at Arsenal? I will leave that one to you to discuss.

Back to the game, no actually I am done, Ozil’s three goals were magnificent and boy what a pleasure it was to be there and witness them. One last very personal point that gave me goose bumps. It is always a sign that we are on top and cruising when the you hear We’re the North bank, we’re the North Bank followed by we’re the Clock end, we’re the clock end, nothing new here but the difference last night was that like phoenix from the ashes the sound of we’re the East Stand, we’re the East Stand, we’re the East Stand Highbury came ringing out for the first time ever at THOF, I have goose bumps just writing it. Oh how lucky I am to support this football club, thanks Dad.

Written by LB

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


Totaalvoetbal and Are We Overcoaching?

April 28, 2016

Across the years there have been many great footballing eras. When they came along it represented times when something new and revolutionary was happening, something that would alter the way that football clubs would try and do things from that point.

The most recent era I feel came in with Guardiola’s Barcelona. Guardiola was undoubtedly the beneficiary of some fine ground work from those that came before him, but his quick passing, probing, possession football with an emphasis on winning the ball back quickly through a high press now looks to primarily be the modern blueprint for top sides.

Before this the Italian style of Catenaccio proved effective and saw the big Italian clubs as the dominant force for a period of time. Well organised defensive systems with devastating quick counter-attacking ability. Even with the newer developments with the high press you still see the art of Catenaccio proving effective today. In fact, it is almost the antithesis of the high press and the style of football most likely, carried out correctly, to still frustrate and overcome a dominant high press team enjoying superior possession.


Going even further back we have had Pele’s Brazil who were just….well they were just Brazil and brilliant. It is likely that a modern top team needs to borrow certain aspects from all the great eras.

One of the greatest eras that saw a revolutionary change in the landscape was that of Totaalvoetbal, or better known to most of us as Dutch total football. It is this concept that I wish to touch more upon today. It could be argued that it wasn’t a completely new concept at the time of its recognised development. The great Brazil, Hungarian and Madrid sides preceding this could have been viewed as total footballing sides. However, it certainly became recognised as an entity in its own right in the 70’s, mainly through the Ajax side of Rinus Michels with the great Cruyff (RIP) as its most famous offspring.

Bergkamp & cruyff

I am sure some of our Dutch contingent can add far more to my more limited knowledge on the subject but the basic idea is that you coach a team of highly technically skilled players that can take up the position of any one of their team-mates at any time in the game thus creating a fluid attacking system with interchanging players.

The question I have is – can it still effectively function on its own in the modern game, to the point where other styles and systems need not be considered? Alternatively, does it still have its place in modern football but not in its full purist all-encompassing style that was seen in the 70’s? Can the total football style still be a key component in a modern football club but it is now necessary to know where its effectiveness ends in the modern game?

In today’s game I feel you can still see great merit in this style of coaching, particularly with the academy player’s skill set development. I will put my neck out and state that I feel that Arsene Wenger adheres to its principles in his footballing philosophy and utilises it in the development of our academy players.

I wonder though if we take it too far in this modern era. By this I mean is it now an effective concept in modern top level first team football beyond the development period of the academy player. It seems to me that Arsene frequently carries its concepts into our first team, and even at this point still likes to move certain senior first team players around into different positions.

Personally I feel the 70’s total football concept is excellent for youth development but that, in the modern game, once a player is considered a regular first team player it becomes more important to discern where their key strengths and weaknesses lie and to identify that players best position and then let them then develop their skills further to become as effective as they can in that role.

I have harboured a feeling for a while that we are almost over-coaching many of our more senior young players, beyond the point of where it is useful, and that then it becomes a hindrance to their further development. Are we creating too many Jack of all trades master of none, and does the modern game requires a greater number of specialists than was required back in the 70’s where a greater number of adaptable players was effective?


The player that really comes to mind for me is Oxlade Chamberlain. I feel he has been shunted around too much and we have not found his best position and allowed him to develop into it. This idea could be applied to other players as well and I do wonder if this is why we are seeing the likes of Oxlade Chamberlain seemingly stall, if not go backwards, in their development as a player once they are more regularly in the first team.


Written by GoonerB

Ninety Seconds of Ecstasy

February 8, 2016

Bournemouth at Dean Court and tickets for away fans were as rare as rocking horse effluent. Saturday’s results for Leicester and the spuds added weight to the feeling that this fixture was a mighty crucial one if the Gunners were going to get our season back on track and have any serious hopes of a tilt at the title.

Second-guessing the manager is always difficult and the announcement of the line-up for the day always elicits murmurs of dissatisfaction or approval from the tactical experts amongst our fans. Gabriel kept his place alongside Kos, The Ox was preferred to Joel and Mr Levulinic Acid kept his place as pointer-in-chief. Some were quick to diss the club about Elneny not featuring again but the subsequent news of the birth of his child does provide some perspective perhaps. emoticons_small

Predictions of an apocalyptic storm were also a little premature as the worst of the bad weather was due to hit later in the day. This was good for The Arsenal as poor weather often levels the playing field and it becomes difficult for real quality to shine.

The game began tentatively for us when Gabriel got wrong side and Petr Cech was forced to sweep up the danger. In the 8th minute Flamini nearly ruined our chances by jumping into a tackle. Lee Mason would have had no hesitation in sending him off. Luckily for us, we had a friend in Kevin and he, quite rightly in my opinion, deemed the challenge a yellow as Mathieu clearly got his feet to the ball long before the Bournemouth player got anywhere near. I wouldn’t go as far as Arsene when he said it should have been a free kick to us, though. emoticons_small

Our first big chance fell to the left foot of Alexis from a curling ball from Rambo. Unfortunately he just couldn’t keep the ball under the bar.

Our first league goal since Anfield was a joy to behold. A teasing, floated highball into the box from Aaron was met with a superb header back across the box from Ollie, followed by a gorgeous thump from Mesut with his right foot. What a marvellous feeling it is celebrating a goal of such beauty!


The away boys were still singing the new Mesut song when the ball broke to Rambo on the edge of the D. He fed The Ox whose laser-guided strike cannoned in off the foot of the far post. There were 88 seconds between the goals. It only takes a second to score a goal and only 88 to give Gooners worldwide that floaty feeling that maybe this could be our day for a welcome change.

Consolidation was required and I can’t remember too much more from us on the attacking front for the rest of the first half. Gabriel got the wrong side of Pugh again after 30 minutes and Hector’s speed came into its own with another brilliant last second tackle. Nacho was caught unaware of the position of the player outside him just before halftime but Petr continued to confirm what a magnificent buy he was by snuffing out the danger in an instant.

the ox

The second half began slowly but was enlivened by a Sanchez fizzer which the keeper did well to get a hand to. Giroud managed to get a firm header from a Mesut corner but his effort was too straight to be too dangerous. Then came a superb run from Alexis around the outside of the Bournemouth left full back and only required a tap in. As RA commented, Giroud did look a little as though he was ‘scratching his a*se’ instead of busting a gut to get into a more dangerous position. I noticed in the Leicester v City game that Okazaki always tries to get in front of the defender at the near post whenever an early cross is about to be fired in. Arsenal, beware.

Much of the second half was taken up with speculative long range pot shots from the Cherries which would have looked more at home in the Six Nations matches. Gabriel grew into the game (as Rocky pointed out) and, along with Kos, looked more and more assured in the second half. I also think GIE is right that Gabriel’s pace will be really useful against Leicester’s counter attacks next weekend. (Guaranteed now that the BFG will play!)

Our final chance fell to Ramsey on the break in the last minute of the 90 and it was annoying he couldn’t seem to control the ball long enough to either beat the keeper or set up Giroud with a tap in. Petr Cech yet again showed his class with a double save in the final minute of the 3 extra. The first Bournemouth shot was fired in from 12 yards and saved with his left leg, his view partially obstructed by an outrushing Kos, and the second was made at full stretch from a longer range drive low down to his near post. What a purchase the man was!

Conclusion and Questions

A vital 3 points and, having overcome the inertia of our poor run, the start of some upward momentum, hopefully.

Will Gabriel continue to play in place of the teutonic telegraph pole?

Will Le Coq achieve the required sharpness to displace the Flamster?

Can the Chuckle brothers find some real form for the run-in?

Mohamed Elneny – congratulations emoticons_small


Cech – Another clean sheet – I wonder what his final record will be set at? – 9

Bellerin – his magnificent recovery tackle soon after we went two up was important – 8

Koscielny – I always feel reassured when he’s playing – 8

Gabriel – slow start but game time improved his play immeasurably – 7

Monreal – Not one of his marauding performances but competent – 7

Ramsey – MOTM according to the TV, better first half than second and instrumental in the goals – 8

Flamini – Please stop leaving the ground with both feet, Mathieu. Thank heaven we still have him in the squad, though – 7

Ozil – “We’ve got Ozil, Mesut Ozil, I just don’t think you understand” – 9

The Ox – Super goal, tried hard, yet to find his best form  – 7

Giroud – Great assist for the first, some fine layoffs – 8

Alexis – it’s so nice having the livewire back in the team – 8


I thought Le Coq looked a little rusty and can see why the Flamster is still getting a game. There’s no substitute for match sharpness. Likewise for Gibbo (though with much less time on the pitch yesterday, admittedly) – I’m not sure either knew exactly what their role was when they came on.

Written by chas

Black Cats in the Cup – Not For Long?

January 9, 2016

This is a mobile pre-match from your roving disgraceful supporters Ant and Duck. Apologies for any lack of quality. BR has technical difficulties.

Rumours are that Fat Sam will field a weakened Sunderland line-up. No-one rates the FA Cup anymore except Micky.

Who would you like to see play today for the good guys?

Ant and Duck predicted line-up


Gibbo Gabriel BFG Debuchy

Chambers Arteta


Ox Giroud Walcott

Sunderland is one of our favourite away trips, but we really could do without a replay. Will our second string have enough to beat their ‘weakened’ team?

I’d imagine we’ll have a strong bench in case of emergencies.

Fat Sam allegedly said that a full press causes leg injuries – his teams need strong necks!

written in a huge hurry by Ant and Duck

An unlikely Arsenal Hero

January 6, 2016

Not even a flicker of an eyebrow was detected amongst the Arsenal faithful in January of last year, and of course I refer to the return from loan of one Francis Coquelin.

Returning from an uninspiring mere five start loan period at Charlton Athletic, this multi-functional  utility player went on to transform the Gunner’s midfield, and develop into one of the first names on our team sheet as our defensive midfield lynchpin.

An unlikely hero if ever there was one.

Could such a phenomena occur again this season, and if so, who are the unlikely candidates.

Serge Gnabry

Joel Campbell

Callum Chambers

The Egyptian

The Ox


Ps Errr is where your thoughts and suggestions appear :)

Written by MickyDidIt89