Alex Songinho, He Assists When He Wants: Match Report

March 25, 2012

Having endured the first 60 minutes of the Chavs’ vs. Spuds’ collective attempt to discover the best cure for insomnia, I was extremely pleased to find a half-decent stream to watch the mighty Red & White take on the Villains. I expected AV to put in a performance, partly based on their half decent effort during our last encounter with them in January (FA-cup), and partly on the fact that they have nothing really to play for anymore, which makes these sorts of games a bit of a bonus for them.

Arsenal has build up a phenomenal momentum since the dark PL days in January, mainly based on grit, togetherness, perseverance, and an occasional sprinkling of quality. It is fair to say that the encounters with Pool, NU, and Everton were not the most beautiful games of football Arsenal has ever played, but, at this stage of the season, we don’t care one iota!

However, our game against Villa was very different from our recent incredible achievements as a result of blood, sweat and thunder: there were periods of free-flowing football and, on more than a few occasions, of individual brilliance. In fact, I felt I was watching a game of the Fabregas-era yesterday; you know, one of those where we were in total control from the start, as a result of an early goal. This probably was our easiest game of the season and it is fair to say that the Villains’ lacklustre performance, combined with the early ‘easy’ goal, helped us a long way.

First Half

Arsenal suffered a mini-blow when, unexpectedly, Koscielny could not start as a result of a knee-problem. However, Djourou was ready and fit to take his place, and his mind was instantly taken off any nerves he might have felt, when Heskey planted inadvertently the back of his arm firmly in Johan’s face. Another great example of Johan Cruijff’s fantastically simple quote: ‘Every disadvantage has an advantage, and every advantage has a disadvantage’! JD never looked back and had a fine performance during the entire game.

Both teams started with a formation of 4-2-3-1, with an aim to press early on the opposition’s goalkeeper and defenders. This led to an open start in which Arsenal dominated and created a number of chances. However, AV had a few half-chances themselves as a result of quick breaks, mainly from the right, through their promising – yet disappointing on the day – young talent of Albrighton.

On the 9th minute, Arsenal produced a great move on the right by the almost telepathically aligned duo of Theo and Sagna, and goal scoring machine RvP. The latter’s lay-off reaches Theo who shoots at goal from close range but straight at Shay Given, who is able to parry his effort, albeit straight in the path of Sagna, who then fluffs his shot with his weaker left foot. Arsenal keeps up the pressure and it does not take long before we score.

Most of the pressure had been coming form the right, but it was Gibbs and Gervinho who were able to breach the Villains’ defence first. In the 16th minute, Gervinho, who played quite centrally during the first period of the game, picked out a good run by Gibbs and the latter found himself in the box with a half decent shooting opportunity. I expected him to pass sideways to another player, but he decided to take a shot himself and was richly rewarded for it: 1-0! The goalkeeper should have done better, but one should not look a Given-horse in the mouth, and I am sure Gibbs won’t do that either: his first PL goal, so early in the game, was just what we needed.

AV kept pressing high up the pitch, forcing Szczesny to demonstrate to us the one skill he still needs to improve on: kicking the ball out with some precision. Arsenal, though, managed to pass itself with relative ease out of the Villians’ inconsistent pressing, and a few quick attacks made sure we kept the pressure on our opponent. TV found Theo with a fine diagonal cross and our right-winger demonstrated once again that he possesses a fine first touch, leaving Warnock for dead in a fraction of a second. This time though, it was not to be, as his second touch pushed the ball just a bit too far so Cueller could clear it at the last moment.

The first of three top-quality moments of the game materialised at the 25th minute. Alex Song, who probably has the most complete skills-set in the PL – he can play as a CB, DM, AM; he might even be good as a nr9 or a goalkeeper! – produced once more one of his trademark lofted balls over the top. This time, it was not aimed at RvP but at Theo, who made another clever horizontal run towards the box. His first touch was excellent again and he finished clinically past Given: 2-0!! Some will argue the Villa defence should have done better, but the sheer quality of a) Song’s lofted ball, b) Theo’s first touch and c) his controlled finish were a joy to behold: football at it’s very best!

The second top-quality moment happened on the 39th minute. Song and RvP combined through the middle to reach into the box: RvP seemed to have lost the ball but somehow drags it back from the defender with his left leg, moving it swiftly onto his right, but his shot somehow hit the head of Warnock: it could so easily have been the third goal. It was a brilliant piece of skill by our captain.

Second Half

AV started the second half with a low tempo and similar tactics. Arsenal was able to pass the ball round with relative ease but we lacked a bit of urgency and focus in our attacking endeavours. Gervinho was involved in a few attacks but was no longer able to deliver a precise final ball for his teammates. But the damage was done in the first half, and with the Villains lacking the spirit to start a fight-back, the sun shining nicely, Arsenal enjoying the ‘easiness’ of the game and the supporters singing in unison, we allowed the game to peter out a bit in the second half.

There were still some noticeable moments though. Rosicky had a decent effort on target in the 65th minute, and Santos, who had just come on for Gibbs, gave the ball away clumsily in his first minute on the pitch, which could easily have led to a Villa goal. He can be forgiven though as he, naturally, will have been a bit rusty after such a long lay-off. In the 73rd minute, RvP takes a cheeky free-kick from the left, only for Given to just tip it over the bar. In the 82nd minute, the newly-on Ox makes a blistering run on the right into the box, but a last-minute, great tackle by Ireland just keeps the young Englishman from pulling the trigger. I think Ireland just had enough of the ball for it not to be a penalty, so Dowd called it well imo.

The third top-quality moment of the match was left to the very last minute of the game. In extra time, Arsenal were rewarded a free-kick well outside the area, after a foul on Song. Arteta stepped up once again and this time he was successful with a thunderous bullet to the top right corner of the goal.

A magnificent effort and thoroughly deserved: 3-0!!! You won’t see a better free-kick this season.

Finally

Seven wins on the spin, another clean-sheet, a fitter than ever squad, and a real belief our team can go all the way and finish in the top-3 in May. Happy times!

We are in the driving seat and ahead of us are the Manc teams – the new Oilers and Old Bacon Face’s bunch of scrapers – and they are lucky there are most probably not enough games left to catch up with them anymore. In the rear-mirror we can see the sorry-Spuds and if we narrow our eyes with a bit of effort, we can see the old Oilers, the Chavs, catching their breath whilst desperately looking around who they can put the blame on this time. In the far, far distance we can see some ant-like spots that can only be Dalglish’s darlings. Ooh the virtues of momentum!

We are not there yet though – let’s be careful not to become complacent – but if we can keep this good run of form up, then soon we’ll be firmly positioned in third spot. Not only would this make us the top team in London once more, it would also provide a perfect platform for a firing-on-all-cylinders team for next season. It has been a year of transition, with some tough moments and big disappointment, but the road ahead is full of promise and potential, based on a sound foundation of all the things that matter in football: a great squad, a great manager, a financially healthy club with money for one or two more quality players, a great stadium, fantastic support, and a football philosophy based on total football. Class is permanent – long may it continue!

TotalArsenal.


Our hubcaps? Have them, we’ve got the points.

March 4, 2012

Smash and grab, against the run of play, undeserved, call it what you want, Robin van Persie’s two superbly taken goals gave us a very important win at Anfield and with it three extremely precious points.

Buoyed by the glorious fight back last week against spuds I sat myself in front of the telly ready for the match with a greater confidence in my heart than had been the case in more recent weeks. But, continue where we left off last weekend, we did not, Liverpool came on to us with drive, and purpose; they, it has to be said were bossing the game – this lasted all of, well, exactly two and a half minutes, lol before the good guys collected themselves and started to play.

Although, it wasn’t pretty, not as pretty as last weekend: the passing wasn’t as crisp, the creativity wasn’t quite as ingenious but enough collective self belief remained to hold things together and that is in spite of having to suffer yet another totally unjust penalty being awarded against us.

Did you see the replay on the telly at the end where they put what seemed like a magnifying glass on the incident – never touched him, not a feather?

Still, today was the day when Szczesny had decided to be Man of the Match, up stepped Kuyt and across went Chesney’s hand, have another go Kuyt, hahahahah missed again. Did you see Vermealen’s celebration, if you haven’t take another look, passion or what?

No, Liverpool were not going to score today, it took one of our own to give them a leg up. I think it was a very dangerous game that Kozzer was playing; although, I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt when he said that he knew that by giving them the lead it would fire Arsenal into action, the same way as it did last weekend, fair enough Koz I am just glad you never tested us by giving them a two goal lead. Am I making too many references to last week lol?

The truth is we were disjointed, the three elements of the team, the defence, the midfield and the attack seemed unable to link up with each other, Song was poor — there I said it, Alex does have a tendency to start slowly but he is usually covered by Arteta, although, today he was miss placing passes which is completely out of character; Theo was having trouble getting past Enrique, and offensively Benayoun offered nothing which left van Persie isolated.

But, remember when the BFG got injured and many said that the ideal CB partnership was Koscielny and Vermealen, I was one of them, well, they were magnificent, my only surprise was what took them so long to gel as a unit. Gibbs helps as does Sagna who was outstanding for the full ninety minutes which brings me back to the game and our only attempt on goal in the first half.

Be honest now, when the ball was rolled out to Bacary on the right wing which one of you expected that kind of cross? Guilty, I didn’t, what a peach, the most perfect angle met sweetly by the Boy Wonder to head us back on terms just before the break.

As both teams took to the field for the start of the second half you could tell that Liverpool’s resistance had not yet been completely broken, there was something about them that still naively thought they had a shot at fourth place, they huffed and they puffed, they hit the post a couple of times but there wasn’t really anything too troubling.

The first significant incident came when they knocked Arteta out cold but just as I was thinking ‘you hubcap thieving bunch of banned words’, their supporters silenced me by giving him a standing ovation as he was carried from the field. That kind of behaviour may be rare in football today but nowhere near as rare as an appearance of a Lesser Spotted Diaby, a real collector’s item this was.

I happily admit I was excited to see him back and his first shimmy that took him effortlessly past a Liverpool player got the blood racing even higher, probably for the first time in the match we started taking the game to them. That’s not to say we started to look like we were going to score, we never gave that impression but it no longer looked like the only winner, if there were to be one, would be the Dippers.

But, as quick as the Lesser Spotted Diaby appeared he was gone, did I dream it? On came the Ox full of fight, at the end of the game I was left thinking that it was a tough call to decide who was more effective: Diaby or the Ox?

But either way it was getting towards the time when van Persie had a decision to make. Some may have noticed him around the ninety minute mark looking up thoughtfully, obviously pondering that all important question: do I want to score, because as we all know, ‘he’s Robin van Persie and he scores when he wants‘?

Robin decided he did, all that was needed was someone to supply him with the opportunity: enter the world’s best DM, that god like, lion of a man (a bit too much?) Alex Song sent in a chip that Fabregas would have been proud of for van Persie to rifle home. Comparing Song’s pass to Fabregas is, as we all know, high praise indeed but there is a higher being in the Arsenal pantheon, sit up straight, pay attention, deference is required, I am about to use the “B” word. The way van Persie guided the ball past Reina was Bergkampesque. The away supporters went wild and deservedly so in my opinion when you consider some of the disappointments they have had to endure first hand in the not too distant past.

COYRRG

Did I mention the chavs lost? Hahahahahaha.

Szeczney: as I have said, Man of the Match, commanding, powerful, intelligent, good distribution, he just gets better and better. 9

Sagna: one of his really, really good games, I expect a great deal from him defensively and he delivered, I don’t expect too much offensively so his cross that led to a goal was a really good surprise. 8.5

Koscielny: superb I thought, it is not easy playing against that diving little Uruguayan rat but our Kozzer stopped him scoring so, 8

Vermaelen: can’t play two games of ninety minutes in a week purleese, this is Thomas Vermaelen we are talking about here. 8

Gibbs: he is getting better isn’t he? I thought his major significance this season would be what he brought to the attack but I like the way he is going about improving his defensive game. 7.5

Rosicky: hmmmmm, not easy, he did work hard it must be said but the job of the person who plays in between Song and RvP is to produce magic and there wasn’t enough of it 7

Song: a very poor first half, ponderous, wasted passes, I thought ‘I am going to have to eat Peaches’ humble pie’…….nooooooooooo, what a pass, what a magnificent piece of football to help win us the game. 12

Walcott: oh why me? I don’t think that last week’s goals change anything, in games when teams are foolish enough to come onto us then Theo will excel but they are the tiny minority of a season, the majority play two banks of four and he has never once shown that he is capable of dealing with such a situation. Still not convinced 6

van Persie: the Boy Wonder can do no wrong 9

Benayoun: I wrote above that he offered nothing in attack in the first half and I stand by that but what I purposely left out, until now, was to say that he worked his socks off for the defence; he tracked back like a demon, covering Gibbs whenever necessary. 7

PS The Lesser Spotted Diaby should not be confused with the Greater Spotted Diaby which, as I am sure you all know, is far more common.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Written by LB


That’ll be the Day: Match preview:

February 26, 2012

Those who regularly read my pre-matches may have noticed a softening in approach over recent months; this is due to the Jonah effect. Every time I slagged off a team they took points from us. However, if nothing else, this season has persuaded me that my “lucky” habits have no effect on Arsenal’s performance, I have used lucky socks, lucky shirts, lucky cakes, lucky beer, lucky wine, lucky scarves, lucky routes, lucky sweets, and you know what – nothing works. Nothing.

So, have the new respectful  Big Raddy posts made a difference? Of course not, and as such it is with great pleasure that I return to the bile filled Raddy posts of the days of yore  ….. Today we play a team of Miscreants whose fans are pond life. No, that is an insult to pond life.

Spurs and their fans are a waste of skin.

All season long I have heard about how wonderful the Cave Dwellers are , how they play great football, how Monkey Boy and Ratface and Adewhore are the best team in the PL.  I guess 3rd gets you the title this season, in the unlikely event they stay there.  When we finish 3rd it is at best an average season and a reason for the media to have another pop about lack of trophies!

The last decent Spurs team – No colour photos available

But thanks to Harry, the fawning press highlight our “crisis” and their “resurrection”.

The media witch hunt for Mr Wenger coincided with the adoration at the feet of Harry (no doubt, soon to be Sir Harry). Strange that! But then who wouldn’t prefer a self proclaimed East End ignoramus to  an urbane well educated Frenchman?  Mr Redknapp embodies Spurs ambitions and traditions; no class and a market boy mentality mixed with underlying boot boy aggression.

You may have noticed I have omitted any talk of onfield activities. What can one say – for the first time in 15 years there is a probability there will be no St Tottts Day. It beggars belief and is a schism in the natural way of the world. It may well happen that Spurs finish the season above us as our team move into the next era of supremacy, but they will never be top dogs in London, they are third as they have been since homo erectus first crawled out of the swamplands of  N17.

But credit where credit is due, Spurs have played the best football this season, mixing pace with guile and determination. This Spurs team do not lie down and  to whose credit  is that? Is it the superb coaching from the miscreant Orcs, Clive Allen and Joe Jordan? Or could it lie in the hands of our very own Arsenal team? I believe you can trace the resurrection of  Spurs back to that dreadful day in Oct 2008 when we drew 4-4 at THOF; for the first time in an epoch, we let them off the hook, we gave them the belief that it was possible to get something from a lost cause playing against a better team.  AFC  2 goals up in the 88th minute …. you can probably relive the rest.

As to our team, once again we are blighted by injury; it seems as one player comes back we lose another. Sagna back – Mertesacker out. Gibbs back – Koscielny and Ramsey out. Nonetheless, we can put out a competitive side.

My Team;

Given the pace of Tottenham’s attack we must pray for the good health of Koscielny. JD has always been fragile under the stress of fast running forwards.  It will require Song to be defensively aware today. We are getting used to seeing Arsenal hit with the sucker punch and it is about time the midfield as a whole showed more defensive nous. We have to be clinical in attack; Theo needs to show he deserves his place as does Gervinho. It is in the big games that players show their mettle and this is as big as it gets.

Famous Gooner? Well, a few games ago I pointed out that George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a Gooner. You are going to love this …. so is Jonathan Saks, the Chief Rabbi 🙂  Jonathan Saks went to Christ College Finchley where he became a fervent Gooner. Of course, Saturday games were difficult for him but nonetheless he was a regular at Highbury and is often at The Emirates.

 Should we pray for a Van Persie hatrick?

Important game today, perhaps not as hugely important as the media would have us believe, after all it is just the normal 3 points for a win. Following the two poor recent performances Arsenal need to give their fans something. Beating Tottenham today will be a huge fillip for the remainder of the season.

Spurs, Top Club in London?   That’ll be the Day.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Fight for the Right: Game preview.

February 11, 2012

What a game in store for us this afternoon. As was said earlier this week – a barometer game. A resurgent Sunderland looking to continue their very surprising run against an Arsenal team confident as a result of last week’s big win.

And yet, in my opinion both appear to be skating on thin ice. Sunderland are, let’s be honest, a poor team managed by an average manager. Arsenal are on the verge of greatness but are not there yet, as the results at Swansea and Fulham portray. Yes, we smacked Blackburn but have you ever seen a worse performance from a PL side fighting relegation? Nor have I.

What has Mr- O’Neill brought to Sunderland to transform them? The same as Fat Sam has has brought to West Ham and SAF continues to bring to MU –  an atmosphere of fear and aggression. Hard work, get in their faces, ride your luck, long ball tactics, close down in midfield, compress the play thereby nullifying any creativity in the opposition and best of all, score and then defend like crazy. It works. After a dreadful start Sunderland have beaten Man City, Norwich, Stoke and Swansea.

Sessegnon is their main attacking force, however, it should be pointed out that this season he has scored 9 whereas our top scorer has 28. We know all about Seb Larsson who is one of the players often referred to when discussing the (too) early transfer of young players.

Another conundrum is who is going to start for Arsenal?. With the huge game in Milan on Weds. will Mr.Wenger risk playing his full first X1 or will he rotate? What would you do? Which game would you prioritise?  Do you think he should start with the same team in both games? I think we cannot afford to do anything but play our best starting X1 in every game – Big Raddy played 60+ games almost every season. (back when men were men!)

My Team:

I am torn between Ramsey and Rosicky. Perhaps Tomas should start today given his excellent recent form and that Ramsey will be better suited to the slower game played by AC Milan midweek – I expect him to star out in Italy, just as Fabregas did a few years ago. Everyone wants to see The Ox and I hope Mr. Wenger doesn’t drop him –  which he is almost sure to do when Gervinho returns next week holding his ACN Winners Medal.

An inventor from Sunderland? I bring you Sir William Mills, inventor of the Mills bomb. Those with a historical bent and an interest in World War 1 will know all about the Mills bomb which a type of grenade . 75 million of them were made and used during WW1. Yes – 75million!!. A prolific inventor he also developed a gearing system for ships which was used worldwide, and a telescopic walking stick/seat which remains widely available today (think Toffs/Range Rovers/ National Hunt).

Sir William Mills,  no relation to Mrs.

It will be Siberian conditions Up North which will affect both the pitch and the players. If Arsenal have pretensions to a Top 4 finish they have to get something from this game. I do not believe Sunderland are as good a team as we are but given the January failures there must be caution. Going one up, which a few years ago would be a guaranteed 3 points is a trait we must reproduce. This will be a game won in midfield and our boys will have to fight fire with fire.

Given the animosity between our respective managers, I expect an intense game with yellow cards aplenty.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Arsenal the four man team – RVP not the MVP?

January 20, 2012

Written by Double98

Robin van Persie, the balon d’or snubbed, true king of world football, has been reeling in the plaudits for his exceptional scoring feats in 2011. By eclipsing Thierry Henry’s mark of 34 goals in a calendar year, and particularly by playing in a less competitive and more transitional team, he has booked himself a seat in the waiting room of the Pantheon of Arsenal Greats.

Of course he has to repeat the feat a couple of times and win a pot or two to get past the final interview stage to  join Bastin, Wright, Adams etc as they all bask in the glow of eternal goodness of Denis Bergkamp and his able Deputy Thierry Henry.

Of course it has been easy for the press to label Arsenal a “one man team” when one man is always on the score sheet, when one man is always applying an audacious flourish to his finish. That’s lazy journalism. Judging Arsenal in that way is like buying a car because of how fast it goes. You need to know a lot more about a car and its vulnerabilities before you can decide whether to buy it or not.

Arsenal’s true vulnerability is that it is not a One Man team – one man teams are easy to address with 1 or 2 signings – it is in fact a Four Man team.

Since the season began the team has had a few chiropractic realignments due to the loss of Fabregas and now the spine is populated by (Keeper aside) Vermaelan, Arteta, Song and Van Persie.

An easy way to judge a person’s contribution is to compare how the team do with and without them. It’s not conclusive but outside of a clinical setting, its as moneyball as you get.

The Raw data

I’ve included two substitute appearances for Vermaelan and van Persie. So the first thing that leaps out is RVP has yet to miss a game – that’s startling given his history.

Arteta despite concerns over his fitness had played every game bar one, Song is almost ever present – while the Verminator’s attendance is a concern.

Moving on to the data analysis, the teams results are examined on each players participation  record.

(Now before you get to digest the next bit, I want to let you in on a secret – this article started about a three man team and I thought I would see how our new Spanish Scouser impacted the team – it forced a complete rewrite!!)

According to this when Arteta is playing, we win 65% of our games and only lose less than 1 in 4. Van Persie on the other hand (likely due to his ever presence) has the worst team record but his personal haul is exceptional!

Vermaelan’s record is strange as he has the lowest win and (almost) the lowest loss ratio.

Now, I am not suggesting that RVP is not vitally important but I think this quick number crunch highlights the shared responsibility of our spine. And I know there are mitigating factors left (back), right (back) and Centre (forward) but the truth (or the damned lie) is, that our “Quarter Back” central midfielder, Arteta is our MVP and his contribution most dictates the fortunes of the team – through dictating the tempo and controlling possession.

Altogether the spine is our greatest strength and perhaps our greatest weakness. For when one part of the spine is missing the whole team does not function. See here when all four play / don’t play.

Wow – We’ve lost half our games that the 4 of these players did not play in, whereas we have not lost 90% when they have.

We can moan about Left Backs, Right backs, and Chamakhs, we can complain about Squillaci, Arshavin and Walcott but our real problem is an over reliance on the 4 players playing together though the centre of our team. That level of consistency is not feasible over a season. If they could, get this, projecting their performance out over a 38 game season would result in a points haul of 84 but when one or more of the four are playing the haul is 48. That’s quite a swing. In fact that’s the difference between a Title and a relegation flirtation.

When 2 of the four are missing its Pld 4 W 0 D1 L3!!!

That just shows how close / far away we are from realising Arsene’s vision and all our hopes.

What we need is Koscielny, Mertesacker, Wilshere, Coquelin and (Park, Chamakh, Walcott, OX) to either fill the gaps in that spine adequately or ship out.

Our young players need to concentrate on being not just good, but vital.


Holding Out for a Hero. Will Thierry start? Match preview

January 15, 2012

A real 3 pointer today, what with Spurs and Liverpool dropping points at home.

We all know that Swansea are a very difficult side to beat at the Liberty Stadium, in fact only MU have won there this season. The Swans have conceded just 4 goals at home  (compared to AFC’s 6)  and have drawn half their home games (5/10) Spurs gained a very squeaky point a couple of weeks ago and Swansea will go into the game full of confidence.

Beating Swansea at THOF was our first victory of the season, it was back when we were awful , only a first half Arshavin goal securing the points. It is testament to Swansea that we should consider this fixture as “tough” –  who would have thought so when Swansea were promoted? Most AFC pundits would be happy to leave Wales with a point, but if we are to push for an automatic CL place we must have higher ambitions.

 

Remember how to do this Andrei?

Our lack of full backs has disrupted the team of recent weeks and any manager worth his salt will target our flanks; 26% of Swansea passes go out to the right wing and in Scott Sinclair and Routledge they  have players who can cause us problems, though it could be worse – they could use the left flank 🙂 Dare we go into the game with Miquel and JD as our full backs or would we be better served by playing Squillaci in the centre and moving Koscielny to the left?

Midfield is where today’s game will be won, Song is a hugely important and should he regain his form we will have the platform to win. Apart from the super pass to TH on Monday (still feeling the elation?) Song has not been playing up his very high standards, his passing haas been shaky and he doesn’t seem to know what his exact role is in midfield – is he a link player, a DM or an attacking midfielder? Fluidity amongst ARS is all well and good but sometimes it doesn’t gel.

Henry, Benayoun or Ashavin to replace Gervinho? I would select Arshavin who really tried hard on Monday and bring on TH after 70 mins. Can you remember the last time Meerkat played a full game?

Interesting stats: We have conceded in all bar 2 of our last 17 away games. We have had 9 shots cleared off the line – the highest in the PL. Only 14% of our goals have been scored from set pieces – the lowest in the PL.

My Team:

We have a very strong bench (apart from GK).  Benayoun, The Ox, Henry, Rosicky, Squillaci or Yennaris.

Inventor from Swansea?  Sir William Grove. Not only a High Court Judge but also the inventor of the fuel cell which is still used today in space rockets. Sir William is one of The 100 Welsh Heroes. Of course, Swansea is better known for giving birth to stars of the Arts including, amongst a wealth of others, Dylan Thomas, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Richard Burton and the great Bonnie Tyler.

“Come on you Swans!”

Can the return of Thierry fire up the team? Today will be a test as Swansea are on a fine run of form and we are not. Toothless sans RvP we have to find more goals from midfield. A tingling in my fingers is telling me Ramsey will score today on his return to his homeland.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

 


The three-dimensional wall of ARS – and why we will not be buying Goetze or Hazard anytime soon

December 14, 2011

Ever since the departure of Fabregas and the long-term injury to Wilshire, I have been trying to figure out how the ‘New Arsenal’ will play this season. For quite a while I was convinced Arsène wanted to continue with his 4-2-3-1 formation of the previous seasons, and as such, he was trying to get Ramsey to play in the Fabregas position/role, with Song in the more traditional DM role and Arteta in the box-to-box ‘Wilshere’ role – which is effectively a second DM (most of the times).

I figured that at soon as the back-five would have gained enough strength and consistency, we would ‘evolve’ and start playing with one DM, and two attacking midfielders – very similar to Barcelona’s 4-1-2-3 system (pressure high up the pitch and boxing in the opponent, whilst pin-balling around till a gap is found for a deadly attack. I was convinced that as soon as Wilshire would return we would start playing Song as sole DM and two of Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta or Diaby as our attacking midfielders. This seemed the logical, final, evolutionary step of the Wengerball project.

5-3-3 System, with the three ‘mini-teams’

This might still happen, but I am starting to think that Arsene is developing a new system that is here to stay: 5-3-3. More than ever, I feel the team consists of three sub-teams: the back-five, the middle-three and the front-three. The back-five focus very hard on becoming a defensive wall that keeps clean sheets and helps out midfield and attack – especially through our FB’s – as much as possible.

The three attackers up front focus on creating and scoring goals and help out with supporting the defence and midfield as much as possible. The middle-three primarily focus on bossing the midfield, help out defence and support attack. Nothing new there, you’ll say: every team will work amongst similar lines. True, but for Arsenal this is still a shift away from what we have become used to and it seems to have helped us in becoming more focussed, and take on more responsibility, by those three ‘mini-teams’. Of course, a team functions best when all 11 positions are interlinked and work as one team. This will be the next step for Arsenal, and that’s one of the reasons I believe this team is only working to 70% of its full potential at the moment – not as a result of a lack of work-rate, but simply a lack of time of having been together/ getting used to each other as a team.

I love the way our regular front three: Gervinho, RvP, Theo work together to create scoring opportunities for each other, which, at the moment, are mainly taken by ‘Het Wonderkind – Boy Wonder’. They are becoming quite the package with a mixture of creativity, unpredictability, an all-round attacking skill-set, and an end-product to relish. It is great to see the way they take joy in helping each other to score, and the way those with the assists are celebrated just as much as the goal scorer himself.

I love the way the defence really wants clean sheets, and gets so annoyed when it is not achieved. With Szczesny and Vermaelen we have strong extravert leaders, and with Mertesacker, Sagna, Koz, and Santos we have truly focused professionals who’ll fight for the cause till the end.  There is plenty of talented back-up as well.

The Wall of ARS

But I am most excited at the moment about our new midfield. Arteta, Ramsey and Song: ‘ARS’. They have become a three-dimensional wall; the fulcrum of the new Arsenal. Like any good midfield, their tasks are to shield the defence, to boss the midfield, and to support the attack with assists and goals. ARS does this fantastically well, and there is plenty of growth/improvement still to come. ARS is not yet scoring enough and should produce more assists, but it is getting better and that’s where the additional 30% for our midfield will come from eventually.

What I like most about ARS is the unpredictability of these players. Arteta, Ramsey and Song are multi-disciplined and multi-skilled. Each of them have a great engine, each can shield the defence like a traditional DM, each can do box-to-box, each can produce a killer-pass, and each can score goals. They are total (football) midfielders.

Admittedly, Song is the better DM, and Ramsey is the best option in the more advanced midfield position of the three, and Arteta is possibly the best finisher of them all, but we have the luxury of quality midfielders who can play anywhere, and can do anything. Add to that their ability to swap positions between them during a game and this is exactly what makes us unpredictable: just think about Song’s incredible assist for RvP opening goal against BD: who saw that one coming? It also makes us extremely adjustable: just think about Arteta’s recent goals and his ability to help us ‘play-out’ a game by keeping hold of the ball at the latter stages when we are winning the game. Ramsey is so young and yet so incredibly talented: he is perhaps the best example, or the purest – if you want, of a total midfielder, out of all three of them. This is some midfield we have now and it is likely to become stronger and stronger during the next few months.

So what will happen, now that Diaby appears to be fit again, and especially when Wilshire returns? We also witnessed during our CC game against Citeh that Coquelin and Frimpong are ready to play more first team football. What are we going to do with all these fine midfielders? Just imagine the dilemma Wenger would be facing now if he had not sold Fabregas and Nasri? How times can change!

My view is that we will not change our formation at all this season: Arsenal’s multi-functional midfield within the new 5-3-3 philosophy is here to stay. Diaby and Wilshire will have to compete with ARS to get themselves in there, and for Coquelin and Frimpong the challenge will be even bigger. Wenger likes his midfielders and he is not known for easily changing things that are not broken within the same season. And this, is what makes me believe we will not buy another midfielder like Goetze or Hazard during the next TW. Arsenal might be buying another winger, and/or a striker, especially if and when one or two players are asked/decide to move on, but unless Wenger would see in them a future winger (which I doubt), for Goetze and Hazard there is simply no space at the moment.

The system of 5-3-3 is working fantastically for Arsenal and the wall of ARS is an integral part of it: I just cannot see Wenger making any changes this season and this will suit us just fine.

Written by Total Arsenal


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 
 

Arsène Wenger’s Got a Headache

November 8, 2011

The criticism of Arsène for trying to force square pegs into round holes has frequently been levelled over recent seasons. Bendtner, Eboue and Arshavin in particular have all been deployed in areas that would not be their first choice let alone the Championship Managers among us. The reason for this has generally been a lack of depth in the squad exacerbated by the perennial injury problems that have depleted us so cruelly at vital times.

Now it would appear that Arsène has a headache of a different kind. The summer purchases coupled with the progression of quality players through the youth system has created a problem, a good problem to have but a problem nonetheless. As far as Sagna and Wilshere are concerned the problem is months away but in light of the coming 2 weeks of nail biting over the potential for injuries playing in meaningless internationals, I thought it would be interesting to ponder the alternatives.

Who are our best players in every position?
Well I think the answer at the top and tail of the team is obvious – RvP and Szczesny give Arsenal about the best polar opposites in the league. But elsewhere it is not so simple.

Centreback Partnership
Some supporters had been crying out for a tall physical presence at the back and then along came Per Mertesacker the 6ft 5in answer to our vulnerability from set pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I think the BFG is an excellent addition to the squad and has helped us keep in touch through this early critical period, but I think most would agree that his height is not the main attribute he possesses. No, it’s his positional play, reading of the game, timing of the tackle cool head and experience – but I wouldn’t mind betting that Kozzer has won more headers in the box when playing alongside Mert. The return of Vermaelen has been a huge shot in the arm and has reminded us all that he is a world class defender and our captain of the defence. For me the best CB pairing is TV and Koz but have your say by placing your vote below.



Wingbacks
Now this is where it really does get difficult. Most Arsenal supporters would say that last season Sagna was the best right back in the league. He didn’t start this season so well and looked a yard or two off the pace, but a 90% Sagna is still better than most RBs and it seemed like an early hammer blow to our season when he was ruled out with a fractured leg.

But then there was the introduction of Carl Jenkinson to the first team. He was one of our early summer signings who at 19 was inexperienced to say the least having been on loan at a non league club previously. For me he has been a revelation. Like Jack, he’s an Arsenal supporter. He has amazing energy going forward and uncharacteristically for an Arsenal player, he can cross the ball. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not in the same class defensively as Sagna at this stage, but he is improving every game and has won the hearts of the supporters already. Sagna has to be my first choice RB for the big games, but Jenks is a real find and offers us more offensively so in a couple of years time who knows?


Gibbs or Santos? – now that is a much closer call. Gibbs has been threatening to become the new Cashley for a couple of seasons. His progress has been hampered by a worrying propensity to pick up injuries that hasn’t ever really let us see him have a decent run of games.

Santos is already dividing opinion. He’s all Brazillian, surging forward with gay abandon, super control spiced with clever tricks and finished with a sweet left foot and cool head in front of goal. He loves to go forward, its the gaping holes that he leaves behind that worry many. West Brom were poor on Saturday and Santos never really looked troubled but against stiffer opposition he may be undone. The hope is that he will adjust his game to put slightly more emphasis on the defensive side of his play, but I for one would not wish him to sacrifice his natural attacking game. Santos would be my first choice for LB.

The Midfield
Since The Boy Wonder’s place is not in question I shall consider the midfield to be the ‘5’ in a 4:5:1 formation – but you can call it 4:3:3 if it makes you happy. I have no hesitation on current form in saying that wide midfielders places are not in question, Theo and Gervinho have been excellent and are clearly Arsène’s first choice, but we still have very good options in Arshavin, the Ox and possibly Ryo in time.

The current best centre midfield 3 would appear to be Song, Ramsey and Arteta – but what happens when Jack is fit again?

It would appear that Song’s place in the side is safe so who would give way to accommodate our rising star? I actually think that Arteta has been more influential in the side recently than Song as he quietly gets on with his business and keeps the Wengerball machine running smoothly whereas Song is often noticed when he somehow magically manages to hold off multiple players and still emerge with the ball but I sometimes think he should not be in that position in the first place. Once again we are blessed with midfield options and squad rotation of the midfield 3 would help us stave off the customary end of season fatigue.

Which players would you prefer to see as our centre midfield three?

The Subs
I have made the presumption that everyone would agree that these are the only candidates for first choice in their positions but many would disagree. Is Arshavin more effective than Gervinho on the left? The Ox worth a try in place of Theo? Rosicky more reliable than Ramsey? Benny more attacking than Song? Diaby waiting in the wings to finally realise his potential? Coquelin worth a try for some games? – they may well all have to play their part in a typically long season. With the possible exception of strikers, we can now boast two quality players for every position on the pitch.

One thing is for sure, our new strength in depth makes us better equipped than for many years and the removal of large egos and homesick heroes from the dressing room should mean that rotation and competition for places makes us a stronger and more resilient squad this season.

You can see how opinion is divided in the polls by clicking on ‘View Results’ on the bottom left of each poll box.

Written by Rasp


Europe – guess who is back?

August 25, 2011

14 years in the Champions League and counting!

 By TotalArsenal

 

 

— Udinese – Arsenal: 1-2 Match Report —

 Let’s open with a cliché: this was a game of two halves. The first half was ok, but possibly not good enough to qualify for this year’s CL. During the second half Arsenal found its identity again and deservedly beat a spirited, and at times attractively footballing, Udinese football team.

We started very well in the first half, which was incredibly important, given everything that happened to Arsenal over the last few months – on and off the pitch. It was a warm and humid night, and the pitch in the Stadio Friuli looked great (on TV). We started with Szczesny in goal, a back-four of Jenkinson- JD – TV – Sagna; Frimpong, Song and Ramsey in midfield; and Gervinho, Theo and RvP upfront. I had hoped we would play Frimpong and Song together in midfield, but had not expected Ramsey to be the advanced midfielder. I thought Arsene would put Rosicky there from the start, but he kept him on the bench instead – and what a clever move that turned out to be!

Jenkinson started ahead of Traore in our back-four and it is almost a football-fairytale story how the young ‘prince’ Jenkinson has made it to the first eleven of our team in such a short period; and what a prospect he is! Sagna was moved to the LB position, but it was there where we were at our weakest during the first half – and Udinese at their strongest.

Initially Udinese had no answer to our formation and we started to take some control over the game. It was great to see our attacking intentions from the start: Gervinho, Theo, Ramsey and RvP were all hungry and had shots on goal whenever possible. We were also happy to play the long ball on occasion, which gave us the necessary variety in our attacking strategy.

The beauty of winning 1-0 at home, is that an away goal counts double and that is such a psychological advantage during the second leg of a CL qualifier. It totally suited Arsenal who do not know anything else than go out there and attack. The pressure was with Udinese, who knew very well that scoring two goals could still not be enough, as Arsenal are always capable of scoring the all important away goal (or two!).

Gervinho was the most dangerous for us and what a gem Arsene has bought for us this summer. The Gerv just sticks to his role and does it diligently and oh-so effectively. It looks so simple what he does, but how good is it to have a player again who loves to attack space and take on defenders whenever possible for 90 minutes long. The partnership between him and RvP is already looking fantastic and they have only played together for two months.

Frimpong had a good first half, but Song did look a bit lost and rusty at times. Slowly but steadily, Udinese got more grip/dominance on the game during the last twenty minutes of the first half, and in Di Natale they have a player of great quality. He was a joy to watch throughout the game; such clever runs, such energy, such a good balance and body strength, and such lethality in front of goal.

Udinese started to put up two rows of four – very close together – in front of our attackers and we started to struggle a bit to get through. We were vulnerable for attacks from Udinese’s right wing, but luckily we escaped a couple of times. It was, however, during this period that Arsenal had their best chance to nick the all important away goal in the first half. Gervinho found his way into the box with a brilliant move and pulled the ball back perfectly for Theo. The latter hit the ball low and hard – and on target – but the impressive Udinese goalkeeper Handanovic made a great save. RvP received the rebound, but could also not find a hole in the Udinese defence, resulting in another good save by their goalie.

Finally, Udinese found the opening with a couple of quality moves:  Pinzi, with some quick thinking, found Di Natale with a good cross, who had positioned himself cleverly between Jenkinson and Djourou – who both should have been tighter on him. Di Natale – the ex-international – proved why he has been the Italian top scorer for the last two seasons, by scoring a classy header over our goalie, from only a half chance. Szczesny had no chance at all. All in all, Udinese deserved to be in front at the break.

In the second half, Rosicky came in for – the impressive  Frimpong. This was clearly no reflection on Frimpong’s performance but a tactical change. And what a difference it made. Arsenal started to look again like the Arsenal that we have come to know in recent seasons. Song, back in the DM position, became an absolute beast in the second period: what a transformation. Ramsey looked a lot more in his element, and chapeau to Rosicky who brought some well-needed freshness and directness to our attacking play again.

 

In the 55th minute, Gervinho’s efforts were rewarded. He made it relatively easy to the by-line and passed cleverly back to RvP: 1-1! With the all important away goal in the bag, it was important to stay calm, but we did the opposite by conceding a penalty, which seemed harsh to me at the time. Anyway, what came next is all that matters: a world-class save by Szczesny – one that we will remember for decades to come and provides us with the final proof that this man is ready for the big stage. Let’s hope that the strength Szczesny showed in his left arm is symbolic for the found again strength and belief within the entire team.

After that save, the Udinese players and their fans never believed in it again. And Arsenal dealt a final blow by a superb goal from the man who loves space as much as Na$ri likes oil-smeared cash. The always impressive Sagna combined cleverly with Theo and the latter finished coolly and professionally. Job done and we are once again, for the fourteenth time in a row, back in the Champions League!

Arsene Wenger has shown everyone again what really matters in football: a well-thought-through system and eleven talented players on the pitch, with hunger and desire to win, and who love to work for each other till the end. Forget about transfers today, just enjoy the moment.

Player ratings:

Szczesny: 8.5 – did not make a single mistake and made a world-class save tonight. Superb.

Jenkinson: 7 – confident, energetic, good awareness and calm under pressure: what a buy – he could well be the transfer of the season!

TV: 7 – solid, but gave a penalty away at a crucial time, which could have cost us dearly.

Djourou: 7 – also solid, but should have been putting pressure on Di Natale before he was able to score. Still a fine performance though.

Sagna: 7 – struggled in the first half quite a bit, but played out of position, and is of course not left footed. Combined very well Theo for 2nd goal.

Song: 8 – struggled quite a bit in first half, but what a second half! Once Song gets going, there is no stopping him.

Frimpong: 7.5 – fine first half –worked hard and broke up a lot of attacks. What a prospect!

Theo: 7.5 – good, solid performance. Aggressive from the start and scored a very important, and well taken, second goal.

Ramsey: 7 – still finding his way without either Cesc or Wilshere on the pitch, but improved considerably in the second half. Decent performance overall.

RvP: 7.5 – worked hard and scored the all important first goal.

Gervinho: 8.5Man of the Match for me. Song was my MotM in the 2nd half, but overall, Gervinho deserves it in my opinion. He is focussed, works hard for the team, unselfishly looks for the best attacking opportunity, and just added that bit of extra class which made the difference tonight.

Rosicky: 7 – helped Arsenal to find its identity/shape again and worked hard.

Traore & Arshavin – not enough playing time to make a judgement.