Can it really be that simple? Or have we settled for mediocrity for too long?

June 9, 2011

Written by Wigan Gooner

I’ve been thinking over the last few days about the season just gone, the season before that and the season before that. A whole lot of thinking you might wonder, well, I didn’t sleep particularly well on Sunday night, so I had plenty of time.

Some of the best results of the season started with one player doing everything we needed him to do, he was on his game and everyone saw the difference he can make.

The player I refer to is Alex Song, the enigma.

Bringing a recent game to the fore, Song against ManYoo was a force to be reckoned with and he kept Rooney shackled for the entire game. No mean feat, but should we really be surprised that he did so well?

I cast my mind back, through the sands of time to an age when we had an invisible wall, a wall so simple in its movement its reading of the game and ability to nullify an opposition threat.

Gilberto Silva, perhaps the most under-stated, under-rated player I’ve ever known. He had a fantastic way of scrambling across the pitch without looking like he was moving. His ability to stop an attack without drawing a free-kick was rarely highlighted but was instrumental in the invincible era.

His role was very similar to what Song’s should be. Sit, let the likes of Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg and Bergkamp create the magic and he would stop the counter-attacks. Behind him he had the pace and power of Campbell and Toure to tidy up anything he left.

Looking at our central-defence now, it’s better than that. Vermaelen and Koscielny are a better partnership and I believe that will be proven next year. We are scoring goals regularly so can the missing link be a invisible wall? Are we really missing a Gilberto? Or can we whip Song into shape?

For me, I don’t think we can take the risk that Song might not make it. I think we should purchase someone for that role. A busy, pacy and strong defensive midfielder. I don’t see any real need to weaken our defence by moving one of our defenders upfield. I can see people suggesting it, because we can all see our midfield is weak as a defensive unit, but putting a square peg in a round hole is a fruitless exercise.

WG


Arsenal Foyle United Charge …. Report and player ratings

May 2, 2011

Written by Harry

They arrived battered, bruised, down trodden and weary, yearning for the season to end and for the summer holidays to start so they can relax and think about how close we have come again to the title to see it ebb away at the death, to plan the changes required, and that’s just the fans……..

The players though, although desperately weary after suffering so much in the last few months, still had to show the fans, the boss and the watching public that we do have something about us, that we can battle and that we can win against United……4 games to ensure that we push Chelsea all the way and also don’t let City still get 3rd from us…..

I sat down in my seat just as the team came out and lined up to shake hands, then the announcer reminded us all what their names were again, hang on Cesc was missing, but Aaron was in the middle instead, an injury in training yesterday it transpired later?

Arsenal started very brightly and had all the early play, United on the other hand had come with their usual game play that Fergie has adopted for last 4 or 5 years against us….Sit, hold and contain and play at speed on the break, with an added secret ingredient of Ji Sung Park, who seems to be Old Red Nose’s, ace up his sleeve, well so he thinks…..

As Arsenal stroked the ball around in the afternoon sun, Walcott was having some joy down the right early doors, one cross came in and United’s defence struggled to clear, Vidic weakly poked the ball out, only as far as Jack, who lashed a wild shot wide of the RH post…..In the seasons to come that ball will nestle in the net nicely……..But it showed our intentions……

The game, as usual between us, had a nasty undertone to it, that threatened to boil over, especially with Shrek intent on moaning throughout at every decision that didn’t go Uniteds way and he continually asked the ref to book players, either that or he was asking Chris Foy, how old his mum was…….

Next moment of interest, saw Nasri trying to break free from Fabio, who was insisting that he fouled Nasri at every opportunity, but the ball broke and Clichy picked it up at pace, he strode forward and put the ball across low into the danger area, Walcott got in between Vidic and Evra, and managed to get a leg on it but could not keep it down…

Moments later, a delightful lob pass was taken through by Jack on his chest, ball down, across the area to the incoming Walcott only for Evra to get to it first…..

Then Nasri, jinks forward pushes the ball into Jacks path, who heads into the box only to be upended on the edge by Vidic, Foy looks over to Fergie and waves play on…..A 100% nailed on free kick…….

Uniteds first chance came about midway when Nani pushed down the right, Clichy held him up but he dinked a sweet ball through to Fabio, who ran into the box, he pulled it back across for Hernandez, but the Sagman, got infront and cleared the ball away for a corner, for me a key moment, as previously when we have had such possession, we have had the tendency to concede on United’s first real chance, Fabio really was given too much room and wasn’t tracked by anyone….

Next really key moment was after an interchange of passes from Ramsey and Van Persie, saw Ramsey put Theo away down the right, delightful cross as RVP rose to head home, Vidic had the urge for a toilet break and put his hand up, the ref said no and play on, it’s the only reasoning I can give for getting no decision, as the aggrieved RVP furiously blasted the assistant on the right.  Should have been a penalty and a red card………Both officials had a cleared view……..poor……

Just before half time, the president of the GILF club, pushed Wilshere to the ground wide out on the left touchline and picked up a yellow…..

The only other thing worth noting from the first half action was that Chris Foy managed to break up Arsenal attacking play 3times!!! By getting in the way…….Which really irked the crowd, who for once played their part in the game and maintained a reasonable atmosphere, I was sitting in North Bank Upper for a change, instead of the clock end.

A change at half time as Nasri was replaced by Arshavin due to Injury……..

Early doors 2nd half and United got a free kick, which had Sczszesny at full stretch to keep a Rooney curler out….

Sagna then had a dig from outside the area, just wide of the far post….

As United repelled another attack, Song intercepted, the ball fell to Ramsey’s feet, he turned and played Van Persie down the right, he continued down the right and into their box, for once we had 3 on the 6yard area, but Ramsey had continued his run, he held his arms aloft and shouted for the ball, RVP dragged it back and Ramsey stroked the ball through Carricks legs into the far LH corner of the goal with Van der Sar helplessly at full stretch…..1-0……..

United continued to push on, but our young pole in goal was having a great afternoon, his presence and confidence clear to see as he dominated his area…….

Then the game really threatened to boil over as Song got the ball off Evra, but he got the player as well, Foy gave a free kick and a yellow, a melee of players threw a few handbags as Nani spat his dummy out wanting the ball back……Took 4 of them to get it off our Cameroonian Warrior……

The next United chance fell to the plastic Ronaldo “Nani” who went for the near post, Sczezesny stood firm and big, blocking the ball away from danger…

The stand out observations in the 2nd half were the tenacity of Arshavin as he flew into tackles…….And Ramsey was orchestrating the play with able support from Wilshere…….

At one break in play Wilshere and Ramsey grabbed a drink from the bench, as they stood on the touchline the boss, gave directions. As I looked down, I remarked to my friend,  that there was the future of Arsenal, keep those 2 and we will win trophies that I am so sure of…..Its an image I want to be seeing in the coming years…..

As Ramsey started another move, he went for his return ball, but Walcott put the ball in, to RVP at the far post, who only managed to hit the side netting….The 2nd would not come, chances were not been taken…….Djourou was replaced by Squillaci due to injury…….which added to the nerves in many……

Another break saw Wilshere stride forward centrally, Arshavin just ahead was screaming for a pass ahead of him. But Wilshere left it too late and didn’t make the chance count, as United cleared the ball away…..

Owen had come on and his only contribution was to dive to try and win a penalty, Clichy tried his hardest to make it look a penalty, as his foot raked his calf, if that had been given, he would have been slaughtered and the Press would have had an absolute field day…

Personally for me it was a dive, but it could have been given and I would have appealed at the other end, similar to Lucas for Liverpool, Owen played for the penalty… For some strange reason Foy forgot he is Fergies rent boy and waved play on…

Arsenal had a few breaks but didn’t capitalise, nerves jangled, United had the last chance as Foy gave a free kick against Ramsey who quite rightly said he got the ball, Nani having just watched a video of Arsenal free kicks on the journey down, blasted into the wall…….

A momentary pause as the fans await the whistle, its blown, 1-0 to the Arsenal…….the crowd largely still there, minimal early leavers, cheered as United fans left with their tails between their legs…

Ratings: (My untrained view)

Szczesny:…7.5…Solid confident display and made some vital saves, his kicking was putting us back under pressure in the 2nd half final minutes…Needs to see this and deal appropriately.

Sagna: …8…Strong defensively and handled all United threw at us. Some good attacking moments and had a long distance shot…For me best RB about at the moment, stopped us conceding in the first half…..

Djourou:…7….Better than last week, strong in the air, clears well, but as the pressure increased in the 2nd, he showed signs of pressure, still has a career ahead of him here, just needs to add a nasty streak for me…..

Koscienly:…7.5…Think it was a good performance, broke play up and pushed forward to give impetus to our play…..He really reads the game so well and cuts out so much, certainly could play the DM role when needed next season.

Clichy:…6…Some good attacking play, but woeful defending, with many silly balls lost, poor headers straight to United players and his usual moments of panic when he got the ball to feet…..His mind always seems to be elsewhere…..

Song…9…Immense, played Rooney off the park totally, in my mind wasn’t necessarily man marking the green eyed monster, but he was everywhere, certainly more defensive minded all round and played a key role, for me really pushed for man of the match, which I know many will go for.

Wilshere:…8…Outstanding play and very influential, much better in the 1st half, offered many outlets and complimented Ramsey……Goals will come next season…

Ramsey:…9…Absolute star, kept probing, never hid, when he did make a mistake  he helped win the ball back…Started and finished the move that ended with him beautifully caressing the ball into the net….That was his first start at home since that break…For me he gets the MotM, just ahead of Song for the goal,. But also his constant harassment of United and forcing mistakes, then initiating forays into their territory…..

Walcott:…8…Had an excellent game, some great crosses into the box, notably the one Vidic handled…Personally would have left him on, just feel he makes the other team nervous….

Nasri:…7…Excellent first half against a dogged opponent in Fabio. Went off injured.

Van Persie:…8… Great game, interlinked play and unlucky not to score. Held his nerve well and great assist for Ramsey. Led the team well, closed down well and worked the line well……Still prefer it when he drops deeper to control play…..

Subs:

Arshavin:…8… Excellent half and really defended like his life was on the line, was throwing tackles into United players with the more venom than Fergie chews his gum…..

Eboue:…6…Not enough time to judge….

Squillaci:…6…Not enough time to judge….

Manager:

Wenger:…8…Got his team up for it and showed that without Fabregas we do have a team that can win…Only made 1 tactical substitution, with Eboue for Walcott…Others forced on by injuries. Made a great decision to start Ramsey, people say how much we have missed Vermaelen this season, but so too young Aaron at times would have given us much more in attacking play….

Overall:

There’s an argument that with the pressure off we played better, I am in the middle, for me there was still the pressure of City breathing down our necks and also keeping in behind Chelsea.  I would agree that the pressure was different to previous weeks.

The team did us proud, they worked hard as a unit and press United, some said United were poor, for me it was due to our work ethic, so praise where praise is due, the score line flattered them really, although as some alluded to yesterday, it was a bittersweet victory which made the recent dropped points even more annoying…….

It has also handed the Chavs down the road a chance, but who do we really want to win out of the twins of ‘equal dislike’ ?

To be honest I don’t really care, just lets win our final 3 games, and see where we sit at the end, 66-1 for the title, which really needs a dramatic collapse from both teams, very unlikely, but then did Kate Middleton really believe as a kid she’d marry a Prince…………?


How many Spurs players would get in Arsenal’s First X1?

April 21, 2011
Sorry all, Rasp and I are really busy today, we haven’t been offered a match report but BigRaddy wrote this before he went away so it would be churlish not to use it for discussion today following last night’s thrilling 3-3 at the lane.

We had some fun recently with a post discussing how many Man Utd players would fit into our team playing in the same formation as Mr Wenger employs.

Today I will do the same with Tottenham Hotspur :-

Szczesny v Gomez.

We missed our young Pole during his injury, his influence over the defence in such a short time is profound. He bosses the area in a way we have missed since Mad Jens and Seamo. Gomez is flaky, there is no other word for him. He can be excellent – a fine shot stopper and dominates at set pieces but he is prone to regular lapses of judgement. Given that our lad has so far only made one glaring error (and I blame Koscielny for that), it’s the Pole in Goal.

Sagna v Corluka.

Sagna has returned to the reliability he showed a couple of seasons ago and IMO is the best RB in the country. Corluka is a fine player, has good ball skills, a decent engine and can cover at CB, but he is not as good as Sagna.

Clichy v Assou Ekotto

Gael has his critics but remains an excellent full back. Ekotto has a loyal fanbase amongst Spurs fans and has been very good whenever I have seen him. Clichy is the better attacking player and apart from his weekly lapses in concentration is the better tackler.

Centre Backs

It is hard to establish just who are Spurs first choice CB’s. Woodgate and King are fine defenders, in fact The Master (TH14) has said that King is the best defender he played against. But they are permanently injured. This leaves Gallas, Dawson and Kaboul and for the sake of discussion I will drop Kaboul.

Is Gallas as good as Djourou? In his prime certainly, but one must ask why Mr Wenger chose to sell him to our local rivals; obviously because he believes he has better replacements, and a fit JD is a wonderful CB.

Dawson v Koscielny is not so clearly defined. IMO Dawson is the best English CB, I would have liked to see him in an Arsenal shirt, but Kos has the makings of a great player and an Arsenal legend. In his first season he has made silly mistakes but which player hasn’t? Koscielny gets the shirt because he is  better at passing and driving forward the team.

Midfield.

Again it is difficult to decide upon Spurs first choice midfield. Like us they have a glut of quality players but unlike us they have no set go to 4  players. I will choose Modric, Huddlestone, Van de Vaart and Bale. Probably more attacking than Harry would choose as he often plays 2 DM’s (he has Palacios, Huddlestone, Krancjar, Jenas, Pienaar and Sandro to choose from!)

Song v Huddlestone

Easy choice really. Song is amongst the finest young DM’s in world football. He has improved so rapidly over the past 2 years that we noticeably miss him when he is injured. He has a fantastic first touch, good engine, is a decent tackler and is good aerially. Song’s main fault is that he can get too adventurous and in trying to get back to defend makes rash tackles – he has picked up numerous yellow cards this season without making one really dirty tackle. Huddlestone, according to my Spurs mad nephew, is an integral part of both Spurs and England’s future. He too has made huge strides in his career; capable of playing an accurate and intuitive long pass and assisting defensively, he is one to watch – but he is just not as good as Song, and nor are any of Spurs other DM’s

Fabregas v Modric.

We all know the answer to this! Cesc is a genius; the best creative MF in the PL and a World Cup winner. Modric has had a fantastic season and it would be no exaggeration to say that I am sure Mr Wenger would have liked to sign him; phenomenal energy, a perceptive passer, excellent ball control and a player who knows no fear. But sadly not in Fab’s league.

Wilshere v Van der Vaart.

When playing this parlour game there are inevitably clashes that don’t really gel, and this is one of them. VdV doesn’t play the same game as JW. However, if one had to choose a player for our team I would certainly take the reliability of Wilshere. He turns up every game and gives his all whereas VdV goes missing which I guess is why Real sold him so cheaply.

Nasri v Bale.

Both fine players. Both at the start of their careers. Both up for Player of the Year. They have different skill sets which work very well for their teams. Bale could add what we lack on the left of our attack – pace, but Nasri is a better ball player and can beat a player by looking at him. Nasri scores more goals. Bale is the better defender.  I was going to give the shirt to the least ugly player but they are equal in this area as well. I will take a rain-check ….

Walcott v Lennon

Lennon – ugly, no final ball, phenomenal pace. Theo . good looking, developing tactical awareness, even faster. Capello prefers Theo, so do I.

RvP v Defoe/Crouch/Pav.

Robin is better than all of them. True, Crouch is better in the air. Other than that the Dutchman has it all and would prove it if he could stay fit for a season.

Manager:

Wenger v Redknapp.

Credit where credit is due. Harry has done a wonderful job at Spurs. Taking a team that was threatened with relegation to the Champions League in such a short space of time is a great achievement. Had it not been for economic reasons Redknapp would be England Manager and I am sure that if wants it  he will be after the Euro’s. But check out the Trophy Cabinet. Harry –  1 x FA Cup. Mr Wenger  – 4 x FAC. 3 xPL . French League and Cup, Japanese League and Cup.   Mr Wenger OBE voted World Manager of the Decade.  Mr. Redknapp  – Zip.

So the team looks like this:

Szczesny

Sagna   Djourou  Koscielny  Clichy

Song   Fabregas  Wilshere   Nasri

Walcott  Van Persie

Managed by Mr Arsene Wenger OBE

Why no Bale? Because he is so prone to injury, and he is a throwback.

Why no Spurs players?  Check out the table since 94/5

And this site is called Arsenal Arsenal not Dear Mr. Levy ……


How many Man Utd players would get into Arsenal’s First Team?

March 31, 2011

I spend much time discussing football with fans of other teams. Inevitably we play the “but he would never play in our team “game, and this could be the first of “How many Arsenal players would get in  ……… first team”?

Let us look at the current leaders of the PL,  Man Utd, taking what I believe to be Mr Wenger’s first choice 11 v Aaron’s view of the SAF’s first choice.

Note Well. This team is set-up in Arsenal’s formation , not the Man Utd 4-4-2 !

 

Van de Saar v Szczesny.

Not as obvious as one might think. Van de Saar has huge experience and has been a superb keeper. Had AW signed him 5 years ago we could well well won a title or two, but at 40 y.o. his powers are fading and retirement beckons. Whereas our new GK is but a slip of a lad and has a glittering future ahead – he dominates the area, is a fine shot-stopper and is learning quickly.  Experience v Youth?  It has to be the Pole.

Sagna v Rafael.

Rafael looks major find. Comfortable on the ball, can cross, likes to attack, and can tackle but he has already shown a questionable temperament and has clearly studied tapes of Dani Alves’s cheating  techniques. Sagna is quite simply the best right back in the PL. I would like to see his crossing improve but in every other area he is superb.

Centre Backs.

Man Utd are truly blessed in this area. Ferdinand and Vidic combine footballing skills and strength. They are both on-field leaders and the rock around which MU function. Arsenal’s first choice CB pairing is unclear, who are they? TV/JD? TV/Kos? Kos/JD?  The JD/Kos pairing seems stable and they combine well but neither is at the level of either of MU’s CB’s

Clichy v Evra.

I love Gael, I detest Evra, but my feelings are not based around their footballing ability.  Sadly, Evra is a fine footballer, a winner and very consistent. Gael, as we all know, has lapses, I think he is a better attacking force than Evra but Evra is more solid. I am afraid Evra gets the shirt.

Song v  Carrick

No contest here. When Carrick was at West Ham he looked as though he could develop into the new Bryan Robson – it didn’t happen, whether through lack of ability or injury, we will never know. Either way, he hasn’t the control or vision of Song who at the tender age of 23 is already one of the most influential players in the PL.

Fletcher v Wilshere.

Jack’s progress is nothing short of astonishing. At the age of 19 to be the central figure in the England team indicates a truly great player in the making, but Fletcher is the key player in a dull yet effective MU midfield. A terrier and a man who doesn’t accept losing – just the type of player we are lacking at Arsenal. So it is with heavy heart that I take Fletcher, because I believe that with him in the team we would already have won the PL, though I fully accept this is a controversial decision!

Nani v Theo

Another tough one. Nani has all the tricks, has pace and a fine shot. He also has a very questionable attitude and dreadful hair. Theo has better hair, more pace, less attitude and could be a future Arsenal great. However Nani has 9 goals and 16 assists and is the most effective player in the PL this season, whereas despite having his best season to date Theo has 7 goals, 6 assists. Shame on me but it has to be Nani

Rooney v Fabregas

This is difficult because they do not play the same roles as MU normally set up as 4-4-2-. If one assumes that Rooney is MU’s playmaker then we have to pit him against our own playmaker,  I could duck the issue and say it depends upon the opposition or shift Rooney out left to be compared with Nasri, but a direct comparison it has to be. Let’s look at this season’s stats – Cesc: 31 apps,  9 goals. 13 assists. Rooney: 29 apps, 9 gls, and 11 assists (?). On these stats Cesc is more slightly effective though both are the talisman of their sides. When either of them plays at the top of their form, their teams win. I love Cesc and this is an Arsenal site so Cesc gets it.

RvP v Hernandez/ Berbs.

I asked my MU mad friend Aaron who would be SAF’s first 11, and he chose Hernandez ahead of Berbatov. I would pick RvP ahead of either of them. Simply put, our Dutch striker is World Class, a player who can score both the spectacular and elementary goals.

Nasri v Valencia

Valencia is a fine player and I expect him to have a major impact on the PL next season, but Nasri is at another level. That Samir became France’s new National Captain last weekend is evidence of his rising stature and reliability. A fine player and with Valencia only just returning from injury, the obvious choice.

So a team of:

Quite how this team would function would be the managers concern though he would have a fantastic bench should the team not perform.

Clearly MU’s defensive steel added to Arsenal’s greater ball control would be a frightening prospect for any opposition and I would expect this side to win the PL, but they would be unlikely to go through a season unbeaten – only a truly great side could do that …. 😉

Finally, today is the 10th anniversary of Rocky’s untimely death. We all loved Rocky, he was a Gooner through and through, a hero to all who watched his development through the youth teams and into the wonderful player he became. My favourite memory of him was his goal at the Lane in the League Cup Semi-Final – one of the most exciting moments of my life. Gone but never forgotten.


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


Hair-Raising Issues.

February 11, 2011

Written by MickyDidIt

Unbelievably, I think I have unearthed a quite brilliant observation. Now bear with me, and if someone is reading this to you, I don’t mean “let’s get naked”.

Anyone else noticed improvements in the performances of JD and Alex Song this season. Well, I have, and do you know what, there is a common denominator. Yip, you’ve guessed it.  Dramatic change up top in the head fur department. Let’s look at the evidence. Is JD a better player with some colour up top? Yes he is. Has Song’s game improved since he yellowed up? Yes it has. You may think I am being silly, however I have tested this theory out on a person and it is bulletproof. Let’s continue. Freddie Lljungberg: did his development step up a notch with the addition of the red Mohawk. I believe the answer is: yes, it did. Stevie Bould and hair loss. Would we have celebrated his recession with “Stevie, Stevie Bould, Got no hair, We don’t care” with such relish had the lowering of the hair line not been matched by heightened performances on the green stuff.  I think not. Seaman:  poneytail and tash?  Worked for him.  Marouane arrived with a German styley short top, long back, and bingo in they flew. He has since “normalized” his hair by doing away with the back bit, and guess what? The goals dry up. Cesc: George Michaeling his trimmed beardy look, world beater. Bacary Sagna: arrived at The Arsenal with something on his head. It has remained, and he continues to be the league’s best right back. Change should not be considered.

All of this brings me to the serious point about this post and an area of deep concern that it highlights (highlights! Oh, that is so good). Jack Wilshere, without doubt the most talented Arsenal and Englishman of his era,  is but one small tub of gel away from disaster. There are very many performance enhancing hair creations, however I simply cannot stress the dangers that lie ahead of the gelster. I am not referring to the spikey-up version. There is something way more sinister and I am alluding to the wet look comb forward. This is known as the Cretin Cut. It is the chosen look of the wayward lad. There are great dangers that lurk beneath the mop that dons the gel, and it is evident that the Wilshere hair is, how can I say this, forward looking.

At this point, I want to send out a clear message to Rosicky, Denilson, Eboue and the rest of the untreated, and it is simple: get busy upstairs. I am no stats man but the evidence is overwhelming. “Normalizing the thatch” is a means of compromise, moving into the safe middle ground. Extinguishing the flames and blunting the edge. It is not clever and it is not mature.  We need the extremes for our boys. That’s the extra 5%, or the bit that separates the winners from also-rans.  I appreciate there are many football experts with a far superior knowledge of the technicalities than I, but we all make mistakes, and it is easy with all the tactics nonsense in the modern game to overlook the bleeding obvious.

This post could easily bring in the smallest ever number of comments, and I am happy to take the flak, but do you know what, I am above that kind of thing. Ego must not stand in the way of things that need to be said.  I know this post will give us nothing whatsoever to discuss today, but frankly, I think just for once, some of you should get on with some bloody work!

I hate International week.

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium on the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


Wenger’s Barca Raid

January 24, 2011

If Saturday’s performance proved anything, it was surely that Arsène Wenger’s plan to bring Barca-style football to North London is succeeding.

It’s no secret that the boss admires the style and manner with which the Catalans play. Now he has shamelessly lifted their football manual (or should that be Manuel?) from under their very noses and put a red and white stamp on it.

Barca’s front six of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa and one of Keita or Mascherano play beautiful pass-and-move football, denying their opponents the ball and carving their way through the most resolute of defences.

After much experimentation, Arsène now has his own ‘Super Six’: Cesc, Song, van Persie, Nasri, Walcott and Wilshere.

What both ‘sixes’ have in common (and why I have referred to them as ‘front sixes’ rather than the more familiar midfield/attack definitions) is that all the players swap positions at will and all pose an attacking threat.

After the two Champions League games against Barca last Spring I wrote a post saying that “Arselona is Closer Than We Think.”

Despite the outstanding first half from the Spaniards at The Grove and despite the Messi master class at the Nou Camp, I took heart from Barca’s exhibition because it showed what Arsenal could aspire to.

I reflected that there were three differences between the sides: Barcelona had more money, they had better players and they worked harder.

Revisiting those thoughts today, the picture has changed.

Do Barcelona have more money? It subsequently became clear last season that they were grossly in debt and in no position to keep making huge-money purchases. Then some rich Qataris came calling and in the blink of a cheque book Barca threw their much-vaunted principles in the bin (along, presumably, with all their Unicef shirts) and accepted a shirt sponsor in exchange for £125m. Given how high their debts were, this is hardly a licence to buy big, although it gives them more clout in the transfer market than they would otherwise have had. Arsenal, meanwhile, continue to revel in the best financial model in big time football, and you really get the feeling that if Arsène made the case to the Board for a £50m signing they would give him the money. Admittedly, he’s as likely to ask for fifty million quid as Wayne Bridge is to ask John Terry to tea.

Do Barcelona have better players? They may just still shade it, but that gap has closed considerably.  Fabregas or Iniesta? Nasri or Messi? Pedro or Walcott? Van Persie or Villa? Those questions don’t produce the simple answers they would have done a year ago. And both our so-called holding players, Song and Wilshere, have more innate footballing talent than either Keita or Mascherano. Earlier this season I was moaning about Alex Song’s forward tendencies, but he has won me over completely. He is becoming a true box-to-box player with silky skills to go along side his wrought iron commitment. Wilshere, meanwhile, at just-turned 19, is surely heading for world superstardom. We’ll certainly be cheering on little Jack long after the name Balotelli has faded from memory.

Do Barca work harder? The answer to that one is still ‘yes’ overall. The genius of that team is that they work as hard when they don’t have the ball as when they do have it. And it’s still an aspect of the game that has let Arsenal down this season. However, I truly believe that our first team DOES have the right work ethic and has demonstrated it repeatedly since the Christmas period.

To summarise, I would hazard that Arselona is just about here. The players, the style of play, the swagger – it’s all coming together beautifully.

We’re reaping the benefits in the domestic competitions and there’s no reason why we can’t also succeed in Europe.

Certainly the games against Barcelona this year will be very different. Barca are a great team and may still beat us over two legs, but I expect things to be much more competitive this time round. Our players know exactly what they’re up against and, let’s not forget, we were decimated by injuries last year.

All of which is not to say there are no concerns.

This Arsenal team still desperately needs some silverware and, psychologically, that may yet be a big step to climb. The Carling Cup would be a great way to start.

I would also like us to sign a good centre back this January. I would feel even more comfortable with some cover for Alex Song, who has become so crucial to our success. And I fret every game about the fitness of key players like Robin, Cesc, Theo and Samir.

But if Lady Luck favours us with a smile, good things could really happen this year.

RockyLives


Oh Ye of Little Faith: Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1 (and ratings)

December 28, 2010

Where are they now then, the doubters and doomers, the carpers and cavilers?

There’ll be barely a squeak from them today and what little there is will be drowned out by another sound.

Do you hear it?

That low, grinding rumble?

It’s the sound of tectonic plates shifting; of seismic change in the English Premier League.

An edifice that hitherto had seemed rock-like and immovable is revealed as friable and fragile. Its place is suddenly vulnerable to a hard, new force that has been quietly forming and solidifying.

Or, to mix metaphors, the Roman empire is facing decline and fall, while Arsene Wenger’s belle epoque is about to begin.

Does this sound like hyperbole?

I don’t care. Monday December 27th will come to be seen as the day the Arsenal reclaimed its rightful place as London’s top club. (Yes, I know our history and record of trophy winning puts us streets ahead of any other club in the capital but, on the field of play, we have indisputably been second best to Chelsea for the best part of five years).

It was only one game, but the symbolism was immense.

Chelsea’s tired old warriors were out-played, out-passed and out-fought, while their younger colleagues looked weak and ineffectual. Arsenal exhibited fire, hunger, energy and skill.

The Chelsea bench had all the depth of a toddlers’ paddling pool.  Arsenal’s bench, by comparison, was the Marianas Trench. Just look at the respective line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Squillaci, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner.

Chelsea: Turnbull (who?), Bosingwa, Van Aanholt (who?), Bruma (who?), Ramires (what a waste of money), McEachren (who?), Kakuta (who?).

The victory was thoroughly deserved and the margin should perhaps have been bigger. But if you look beyond this single result the evidence for a shift in the balance of footballing power in London is even more compelling.

Chelsea have a relatively small stadium and often have trouble filling it. Their billionaire owner (whose roubles are the only reason that they have been able to compete at the top level) has snapped shut the wallet. If the rumours are to be believed, he is now focusing on the 2018 World Cup in Russia and is losing interest in his malfunctioning toy.

To replace ageing players of the calibre of Terry (30), Lampard (32), Drogba (32), and Cole (30) they will need to spend tens and tens of millions, because they certainly don’t have any real quality coming through the ranks.

It’s unlikely that Roman Abramovich will make the money available. And even if he did, who’s to say the new acquisitions would gel with the rest of the team, or that Chelsea would be able to compete with the even bigger billionaires at Man City (and, possibly, at Old Trafford, if the Qatar Royal Family story turns out to have legs)?

Any way you cut it, Chelsea are in for a period of decline. They won’t collapse like a house of cards, they will still win some big games and stay in touch with the championship race this season, but their time is over.

Our time, however, is just beginning. Arsene Wenger has brought together a squad of supremely gifted players at very little cost, nurturing talent from within and balancing the budget while moving us to a new 60,000 seater stadium and keeping us in the Champions League every year. In the future this achievement will come to be more widely appreciated for the astonishing piece of management it is. If you don’t believe me, just look at the fuss made about Old Twitchy and his Posse of Cocks for getting into the Champions League just once, despite having spent tens of millions more than Arsenal on players over the last 10 years.

The ‘Arsene Out’ brigade really needs to take the blinkers off and look at the big picture of what is being built at our club.

Yesterday’s result showed that our young team is finally ready to claim its destiny.

I have rambled on for too long now, so there will be no full match report, just some observations:

  • We were fantastic. A true team performance in which we completely outplayed the champions.
  • Djourou was immense and limited our nemesis Drogba to scraps and crumbs.
  • Chelsea’s goal came from a dead ball situation and, apart from that strike, they rarely threatened (and certainly not from open play). So much for our ‘weak defence’.
  • Playing Theo against Cashley was a Wenger masterstroke, nullifying the greedy traitor’s attacking threat.
  • The biggest factor that decided the game was our work rate. Every single Arsenal player bust a gut to help his team mates.
  • In other words, for a change, we played as well when we did not have the ball as when we did have it. This is the trick Barcelona have mastered.
  • We were better without Arshavin. I love the pocket Russki, but Theo’s defensive work (aided by his recovery speed) was a refreshing change and gave extra support to Sagna.
  • One man bossed the game from start to finish: Alex Song, take a bow.

After such an outstanding and emphatic win I don’t want to dwell on negatives but, like an impoverished Japanese home owner, I have a couple of small carps:

  • Cesc is still blowing hot and cold (he made some careless misplaced passes and was caught in possession a few times) but the ‘hot’ bits were scorching.
  • Koscielny could have done better for their goal, failing to get a proper challenge in on Ivanovich.
  • Fabianski’s position was poor for the goal – he neither came to claim it nor stayed on his line to save. Instead he came into no man’s land and seemed to try the unusual trick (for a goalie) of making himself small.

But, as I say, these are only small complaints in what was an all-round team performance of great confidence and power.

This should now give us the boost we need to go on a run of great results, starting tomorrow at Wigan.

Come on you Reds!

RockyLives

Player Ratings

Fabianski: Chelsea hardly troubled him, but he might have done better for their goal. 6

Sagna: excellent game from our Mr Reliable. 8

Djourou: at last we have a CB who refused to be intimidated by Drogba. Towering performance by the big Swiss. 8.5

Koscielny: lost Ivanovich for their goal, but apart from that did very well and made some very important tackles and interceptions. 7.5

Clichy: still prone to charge forward when we should be protecting a lead, and was dispossessed too easily a couple of times, but his forward thrust did help keep Chelsea pegged back. 7.5

Fabregas: some outstanding play from the skipper, including the glorious pass for Theo’s goal. His passing is still not back to its very best – but it will soon get there, and what an awesome prospect that will be. 8

Song: what can you say? He was immense, scoring the vital opener (and yet again making me eat my words for saying he should not go forward so much) and breaking up Chelsea’s moves for the entire match. 9 MoTM

Wilshere: made a few mistakes through inexperience, but the fact he held his own in such a big game at the age of just 18 is so, so encouraging. Imagine what he’ll be like at 21!  7.5

Walcott: kept Cashley confined to defensive duties and suckered him beautifully for the second goal. Was always a threat and took his goal well. 8

Nasri: almost scored with a sublime chip and was constantly probing at Chelsea’s right flank. Not as influential as in some recent games, but that was partly because we sent a lot of play down Walcott’s wing. Fluffed a great chance in a one-on-one with Cech. 7.5

van Persie: started very sharply and displayed good movement, but never quite got the game by the scruff of the neck. Tried a couple of ambitious shots that went well over the bar. 7

Subs

Diaby (for Walcott, 73 mins): didn’t really get into the pace of the game, but that’s hardly surprising after such a long lay-off. 6

Chamakh (for van Persie, 76 mins): slotted in to his usual centre forward role without fuss and held the ball up well. 7

Rosicky (for Fabregas, 88 mins): used his experience to help run the clock down, but not on long enough for a rating.


Time to move on ……..

December 16, 2010

Thursday morning and the inquest into Arsenal’s latest big match disappointment rumbles on. Arsenal fans the world over are rightly disappointed that we have now gone 11 games without victory against either United or Chelsea. Whilst I find it difficult to say that you can take positives from any defeat, I do think it’s worth noting that we didn’t lose in the same manner as we have in many of those 11 games. This was a game, bad pitch or otherwise, that saw an alarmingly low technical level from both sides. United came away victorious but they did not outclass or outplay as. There is a big difference between disappointment and humiliation.

The reasons given for this defeat have been many although none seem to hit the nail on the head.  There have been many criticisms of Clichy, criticisms which I believe are largely valid. There is no doubt that he could have closed Nani down quicker for the goal however, it should also be remembered that he did a lot of good work, on his own, against one of the Premierships best performers. Certain voices have criticised the whole defence, argued that player for player they are not good enough. Even Sagna has come in for stick in some quarters. This seems to be a knee jerk reaction. Whilst I would have preferred Djourou to Koscielny, he and Squillaci actually did well against Rooney. None of the chances we gave away, only 2 good ones to my memory, were the fault of the back four.

Alex Song has come in for his usual criticism. It seems to be received wisdom these days that he, in keeping with our ethos, goes forward too much. This clearly was not the case for him or the rest of the side on Monday. Song joined in when possible but basically stayed at home and, as a result, limited United’s opportunities. In post match anger and disappointment I expressed the view that we should be more circumspect in these games. It seems that tactically, we had tried to be just this. Take Samir Nasri’s comments post match:

“In the first half, we sat back and waited for them a bit. We didn’t want to push too high up, because they always find each other in space, whether it’s Park or Wayne Rooney playing on his own up front.

“We wanted to sit back and wait for them and we held out well until we conceded the goal four minutes from half-time.

So, on reflection then, we were actually set up ok tactically. We didn’t try to blow them away and then get caught on the break which has led to our undoing in so many games in recent years. Effectively we were beaten by a fortunate goal. Without the deflection it would not have found Park’s head and we would most likely have gone in 0-0 at half time. A 0-0 draw would have seen a different response from the media and fans a like. As it stands, we are rueing defeat by a very slim margin.

Whilst I don’t think we should all just smile and get on with it we should also try to look forward rather than back. This defeat was not symptomatic of our usual perceived short comings. At worst, we lacked the invention and creative spark to create an opening but, on balance, it’s not like United carved us open too often either. Defeats are always painful but we must keep our heads, as a set of fans and a club in general. This defeat was not men against boys, it was the sort of result that happens in big games. This may sound strange but had we not been burdened by this awful record we would not be picking over the bones of this defeat with quite so much fervour. Unfortunately, we do have this awful recent record and people are understandably disappointed.

I would argue that we can now put to bed the idea that we don’t have anyone physical enough to stand up to opponents or that we aren’t committed enough. We were just as physical as them and that is not where the game was lost. As I’ve already written, this defeat also wasn’t the direct result of a bad goalkeeper or a fragile defence. I can’t argue that the result could have just as easily been 1-0 to us as we offered very little going forward but, we do have gifted forwards so it’s not unreasonable to claim that on another day we might have done better. The main factor we lack as a team is self belief. The players appear nervous and, in this pivotal season, so do the fans. We need a good result in one of these games soon, to prove that we can do it and the harbingers of doom are not correct. In truth, we were far closer to a positive result here than we have been for some time. What better Christmas present than a home win against Chelsea? In that game we must forget what’s gone before and show togetherness, players and fans alike.

Smith14


Where’s the grit and determination?

December 15, 2010

Yesterdays blog saw some great discussion following the defeat at Old Trafford and SharkeySure picked out a couple of comments that spurred(!) him on to the following rant.

26 May – “it really annoys me to see our players not matching the energetic determination of their opponents”

Mike – “Thirty minutes to go and I see very little urgency or intensity from any of them. There is no spirit, no real grit and determination”

My overriding thought from Monday night’s game is that with two minutes of injury time left, we have a free kick deep in our half that is passed to our keeper and three more shortish passes ensue before RVP puts a cross into the box which leads to Theo’s tame (wild?) effort.

A winning mentality would have the keeper waving his troops into the box and strarting a mini Alamo. We really are the only side that I can think of who will continue to probe for an opening with so little time on the clock. We’ll also still have a back four in our half marking no one, or at best, one fat granny shagging striker.

Ok we’re not Stoke, but would it really hurt to push Squillaci up front and start an aerial bombardment for the duration of injury time..?? After all, Theo’s effort came from a weak headed clearance !

Scratched record alert !!!!

For all of Song’s misplaced passes on Monday, I still look at his approach to games and can’t help but think that if we had more players with his attitude we would see a real upturn in our fortunes.

He’s strong, he’s quick (out paced Evra!!), he’s normally a good passer, and one of our best in the air.

For all he gets told to stay back by so many, he has scored vital goals this season and been heavily involved in a fair few of our recent goals.

Personnel and circumstances dictated that he guard the back gate for most of the 2nd half on Monday, but I for one was cursing that we had no Denilson out there to allow him to push on a bit.

So I agree with Neamann re Song and Denilson, Neamann prob got the idea from a comment of mine from Monday night !!  In all seriousness mine was a bit of hindsight insight if you like, based on how ineffective I thought Rosicky was.

Clichy is also much maligned, I thought he played Nani very well for the most part. He’s another one with the right amount of guts and determination !!!

Last point on Song. Give him credit for never hiding away. Misplace two passes, and he’ll still want the ball under pressure, yeah he might then misplace a third, but then again he might not.

Why do so many people completely overlook the great defensive work he does for us..??

Written by SharkeySure