Was Arsène Right?

October 20, 2018

Before I begin, can I ask that if anyone reads this who really knows about player development to kindly leave a comment, because this post is a question as much as an observation, and I suspect that like myself, most regulars on this site would be guessing.

We all heard terms such as Project Youth during the Wenger years, and we also noted that very few players emerged through the Arsenal ranks to have top flight careers, whether at Arsenal or anywhere else.

We now appear to be on the threshold of seeing a very good looking bunch possibly breaking through, with the likes of M-N, Iwobi, Nelson, Eddie and Smith Rowe.

One of my criticisms of the way the project unfolded under Arsène was that most of these players appeared during their sporadic appearances in a variety of positions, while I always believed they should be developed in specific positions.

I’m beginning to think I was wrong. Here’s why.

It strikes me that our homegrown players are relatively late developers, but perhaps there is good reason for this. I’ll expand this thought with a few questions/observations:

  • playing them in a variety of positions could simply be to give them game time when opportunities open up through injuries
  • or, could this have been a deliberate strategy to make them more complete players?
  • examples: we’ve seen Iwobi left, central and right midfield, likewise, M-N left and right back as well as defensive and attacking midfield
  • I get the impression Unai has a more structured approach to positional duties, but will he, and the players, have benefited from Arsene’s more fluid approach?

mickydidit89

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Alex Iwobi – What’s changed?

October 14, 2018

Following on from Friday’s post and the idea that youth players may not have that drive and hunger to succeed, let’s take a look at Alex Iwobi who appears to be emerging from his chrysalis like a Giant Swallowtail this season. How has a player who in the past sometimes didn’t appear to know himself which way his feet were going to dance, suddenly be staking a claim for a starting spot in our first choice eleven?

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Alex came to this country at the age 4 as his father sought a new start in England. His blood is rich in footballing gravy with the magnificent Jay Jay Okocha, his uncle.

Alex Joined Arsenal while still at Primary school aged 8.

At not too far off 12 stone and a shade under 6 feet tall, Alex is a fairly big old unit to have such twinkling feet. He made his debut on 27th Oct 2015 in the League Cup and his Premier League debut 4 days after, as a late sub. Alex’s first Premier start came against Everton on 19th March 2016 and was capped by a splendid goal which featured a run from the halfway line.

Iwobi’s career at the Home of Football has flattered to deceive so far. He has made respectable appearance numbers in the past two seasons without ever really establishing himself a permanent niche. Though, it has to be said, those two seasons weren’t really Arsenal’s finest in recent decades.

In May 2018 Arsene Wenger announced he would be leaving the club, and Alex Iwobi described the great man as an “inspiration” and stated it was sad but also exciting. That ‘exciting’ reference has been echoed by everyone who follows the Gunners, as an overdue, new era beckoned.

This season has begun really well for BIG17 with 5 Prem appearances, 4 assists and the equaliser against Chelsea up to now. He started against the chavs, West Ham and Fulham, and came on as a sub against Everton and Watford.

In a 4-3-3 Alex usually plays left side in the front three. The recent Arsenal formation employed by Unai Emery in the game at Craven Cottage appeared to suit him; playing more as the outside left midfielder in a middle 4. Unai Emery seems to hold the Cockney Naija boy in high regard and this season could be a monster for the lad.

So what’s changed about Alex this season? All round, his decision-making has improved, with far less running up blind alleys. Although his finishing is still a little rushed with a tendency to lift his head and spoon the ball over the bar, his passing has been top notch. He’s far less likely to give the ball away but also doesn’t seem afraid to turn and drive forwards rather than just lay the ball back from whence it came.

Has Unai been encouraging him to take players on and thus create that vital opening needed to open up massed Premiership defences? The youtube video above amply demonstrates the many tricks and skills Alex employs to beat a man.

He also seems more tactically aware defensively, covering a tremendous amount of ground up and down that left flank. Although tackling is not his strong point, much defensive work these days is more about creating pressure on the man with the ball and limiting passing options for the opposition.

This does seem a critical point in Wobbly’s Arsenal career. He could really cement his future at the Gunners by adding great end-product to those glittering, silky skills. Good luck to the lad, he’s definitely the closest we have to a Mr Arsenal.

The change at the top of the Club is having all sorts of trickle down effects and Alex seems to be one of those benefitting.

chas


Watching The Arsenal around the World

September 25, 2018

LB was asking if Arsenal’s Caribou Cup game against Brentford is being shown on TV on Wednesday. Obviously on holiday in Spain, he knew that he could always join the Costa Blanca Arsenal Supporters Club as they’d usually have it on.

Anyway I had a quick look and the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club have a website that, although not updated too regularly, does have the next Arsenal fixture and contact details. 🙂

And here they are pictured in full regalia…………….

This reminded me of when I was lucky enough to be in Kerala, India in February 2002 sat down having a meal in a bar/restaurant, when a cheer went up from the other side of the room. A TV was playing behind the bar and glancing over my shoulder, I could see some glorious red and white shirts on the distant screen. Moving swiftly over, I was just in time to see a replay of a rather spectacular Bobby Pires goal. This was soon followed by another beautifully constructed goal scored by Thierry Henry. I ended up staying for the whole game and being rewarded with a sublime Dennis chip near the end (though we threw away the clean sheet in typical Arsenal fashion a couple of minutes later – gnash, gnash, gnarl, effin typical 🙂 ).

Here’s a German clip of that game (ooops, it’s probably Dutch). The first goal is just amazing. That Vieira tackle would probably get a yellow card these days for him not being in full control (the opposition player would now leap in the air as if a scythe had chopped him off at the ankles while letting out a scream, even though he wasn’t even touched). Titi’s full circle run around Bobby to create space is amazing too.

The second goal is like poetry in motion – Pires plays a wonderful ball out of defence, the exchange between Dennis and Paddy in midfield just gorgeous, before the lay off to Wiltord and his cross to Henry in full flow.

The final goal – well just take a look – it’ll come eventually.

How lucky was I to catch such a great game while abroad!

Still furious about losing that clean sheet, mind. 🙂

chas


Another Arsenal season is Upon Us

August 8, 2018

Here we are at the front door of my 71st season and I’m feeling uncertain about my feelings. (After hearing of Kronke taking full control of Arsenal I’m even more apprehensive).

What has happened in my first 70 seasons, well I’ve seen 2,876 league games, thousands of different players, 19 or 20 managers, experienced us winning 8 League Titles, 11 FA Cups, 10 Charity Shields, 1 Cup Winners Cup, I Fairs Cup, 2 League Cups and 2 Doubles. All in all I’ve been around for 33 out of our total 41 trophy seasons.

I’ll attempt to encapsulate my 70 seasons into one post.

Of the players that I have seen, my top team would be –

David Seaman, Goalkeeper (1990-2003), 564 games

Nigel Winterburn, Defence (1987-2000), 584 games

Tony Adams, Defence (1983–2002), 669 games

Lee Dixon, Defence (1988-2002), 619 games

Patrick Vieira, Midfield (1996-2005), 406 games

Freddie Ljungberg, Midfield (1998-2007), 328 games

Robert Pires, Midfield (2000-2006), 284 games

Frank McLintock, Midfield (1964-1973), 403 games

Ian Wright, Striker (1991-1998), 288 games

Denis Bergkamp, Striker (1995-2006), 423 games

Thierry Henry, Striker (1999-2012), 377 games

My bench would be –

Jack Kelsey, Goalkeeper (1949-1962), 352 games

Peter Storey, Defence (1961-1977), 501 games

David O’Leary, Defence (1973-1993), 701 games

Joe Mercer, Midfield (1946-1954), 275 games

Liam Brady, Midfield (1974-1980), 307 games

Robin van Persie, Striker (2004-2012), 278 games

Doug Lishman, Striker (1948-1956), 244 games

My top managers would be –

Arsene Wenger (1996-2018) 13 trophies, average league position 2.95

George Graham (1986-1995) 7 trophies, average league position 5.1

Tom Whittaker (1947-1956) 5 trophies, average league position 5.2

The worst managers would be –

Jack Crayston (1956-1958) Zero trophies, average league position 8.5

George Swindin (1958-1962) Zero trophies, average league position 9.4

Billy Wright (1962-1966) Zero trophies, average league position 10.5

Bertie Mee (1966-76) 3 trophies, average league position 8.3

Terry Neill (1976-1983) 1 trophy, average league position 6.0

Don Howe (1983-86) Zero trophies, average league position 6.7

Their joint ineptitude covered 1,260 league games (33 seasons) they had an average league position of 8.4 and they won just 4 trophies. That’s 432 more games than Arsene Wenger managed – give that some thought?

My top seasons would be –

1947-48 – This was my first season and we won both the League and the Charity Shield.

1969-70 – After 16 seasons in the trophy wilderness we won the Fairs Cup.

1970-71 – We won our first League and Cup double.

1997-98 – We won our second League and Cup double.

2001-02 – We won our third League and Cup double.

2003-04 – The year of the Invincibles

2016-17 – We won our record 13th FA Cup.

It was sad, for me, to see the end of the Arsene Wenger era, as his teams and achievements brought me more joy than all of the other managers I’ve witnessed.

But the memories of his players and style of football are etched in my brain forever,

Who can forget Dennis Bergkamp’s wonderfully incisive passes, Thierry Henry’s runs and goals or our wonderful Invincibles – far too many memories to list.

I hope that Unai Emery brings us some of the same calibre of football that I’ve enjoyed for the last 21 seasons.

I miss being in the crowd on game days, I miss the banter in the pubs, I miss the banter with my family, I guess I miss the overall English Arsenal atmosphere. But I have my memories to fall back on and I look forward to more great times ahead supporting the Arsenal.

Written by GunnerN5


Arsenals Top Season 2003-2004 Step up – Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles

June 6, 2018

They are the only team to go unbeaten for a complete season since Preston North End went unbeaten in the inaugural season of the Football League in 1889 with a record of P22, W18, D4, L0, GF74, GA15, Pts58.

In retaining the Premier League Championship in 2001/02, Arsenal had earlier equalled Preston North End’s record of going unbeaten away for the entire season by beating Manchester United 0-1 at Old Trafford in our final away game. Perhaps it was this outstanding achievement which prompted Arsene Wenger’s outrageous prediction in September 2002 that his side could go a whole season unbeaten – the journos and footballing establishment mocked such a claim.

The ‘Comical’ jibe plus beret were a reference to an Iraqi Information minister at the time

Arsene only used 22 players in the whole season with Jens Lehmann playing in all 38 games – which included 15 shut outs.

Although he performed well throughout the 2002/03 season, long-serving keeper David Seaman was released at the end of the campaign. Arsenal brought in Jens Lehmann from Borussia Dortmund for a mere £1.5 million – a steal, considering just how important he would be for Arsenal over the next 12 months. Due to building the Emirates there were no big-name signings; club captain Patrick Vieira signed a new contract in the face of strong interest from Manchester United, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. With Arsene not make any big changes to the squad, and with no major departures, Arsenal started the season with the same group of players as the previous season.

The season kicked off with Arsenal in inspired form. A 2-1 home victory over Everton on the opening day was followed up with 4-0 win over Middlesbrough, a 2-0 win over Aston Villa and a 2-1 away victory over David Seaman and Manchester City. With just four games played, Arsenal had already put three points between them and fellow title-chasers Manchester United, leaving them sitting comfortably in first place, having scored ten and conceded just two.

Our unbeaten run came close to ending at Old Trafford in the sixth game of the season when United were awarded a penalty in injury time (no surprise there) but (our least liked player) Ruud van Nistelrooy stepped up and missed the penalty and the match ended tied at 0–0. Tempers boiled over in the game dubbed the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ following Vieira being given a red card.

October presented a tough schedule with a trip to Anfield and a home game against Chelsea.  Despite falling behind against Liverpool we recovered to win 2-1. Going into the Chelsea game, both sides were level at the top of the table and were also undefeated in the league. The game appeared to be heading for a draw until a Carlo Cudicini blunder saw Thierry Henry give Arsenal the win, bringing an end to Chelsea’s unbeaten run. Despite the fact we had still not lost a poor 0-0 draw against Fulham on Nov 30th gave Chelsea the chance to take over at the top of the table.

At the turn of the year Arsenal had made it half way through the season without tasting defeat in the Premier League and the unbeaten season began to take place: but despite this feat, Arsenal entered 2004 in second place, one point behind leaders Manchester United.

The Gunners’ first game of the year once again ended with a lacklustre draw against Everton, while United secured a victory to increase their lead to three points. Although, things picked up with a dominant 4-1 win over Middlesbrough, which saw us draw level with United on points, goal difference and goals scored. Henry then began a goal scoring run which would see him net in each of the club’s next six games, the second and third of which came against Aston Villa a week later giving Arsenal all three points. Despite a trip to title chasers Chelsea and a visit to Manchester City, February would prove to be one of the best months in the campaign, with five wins in five games.

After 30 games Arsenal had officially beaten the Premier League record of consecutive game without defeat.

The 31st game saw perhaps the game of the season with Thierry Henry scoring a blistering hat trick to beat Liverpool after being 2-1 down at halftime.

Henry beats Dudek having left a trail of prostrate Scouse defenders in his wake

On April 25th we went to White Hart Lane knowing knew that a single point would be enough to end any chance of a late Chelsea comeback. Goals from Vieira and Pirés were enough to secure a 2-2 draw that handed Arsenal the trophy at the home of the North London pretenders with four games to spare.

We saw out the final month of Premier League action comfortably, with a bore draw against Birmingham City followed up with a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth and a 1-0 victory over Fulham. Despite going behind in their final game against Leicester City, Arsenal bossed the second-half, claiming victory thanks to goals from Henry and Vieira.

After Arsenal completed the only 38-match season unbeaten, the Premier League commissioned a unique gold trophy to commemorate the achievement. Arsène Wenger was presented the trophy as a parting gift from the club after his last home game as manager on 6 May 2018.

 Written by GunnerN5

 

 


The Invisible Man

May 21, 2018

Amongst all the glam and glitter of the departure of Mr Wenger, there has been hardly a word about the loss of another gentleman who has worked faithfully  for over 20 years to bring glory to our fine club – Boro Primorac.

He is the chap who does all the unattractive groundwork, the man who puts out the cones, wanders around with a stopwatch, reads the pre-contracts, takes Arsene out for a few glasses of red wine after a defeat and has been the constant factor in Arsene’s reign.

Such was his media presence that know very little about Boro yet he was a fine player and an excellent coach.

As a player Boro was a centre half who played in Yugoslavia and France (where he met AW) , representing and captaining his country 14 times. He became a manager with Cannes where he and AW furthered their friendship, Cannes being the neighbour club to Monaco.

When Arsene went to Grampas in Japan Boro joined him as an assistant and followed him to Arsenal in 1997.

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A point in Boro’s favour is his fluency in 8 – yes, 8  –  languages! He can speak to every member of the squad in their own language which given the inability of some players to learn English is of vital importance (looking at you Mr Sanchez). He is apparently the analyst of opposition (apparently we do have one), has encyclopedic knowledge of players.

I am having trouble fleshing out this post because despite Boro being at Arsenal for as long as Arsene there is little information about him. We know he is a big bloke – 6´3″.  We know he is clever but he doesn’t give interviews … ever. He doesn’t sit on the bench, preferring to be in the stands leaving just before half-time to give his analysis to the manager before he talks to the players.

What of the future for such a loyal servant? Can’t see him finding a role in the new manifestation of AFC. Perhaps he will follow Arsene to his new job. Whatever it is, thank you Mr Primorac for such loyal service.

A statue? No-one would have a clue who he was.


So Long and Thanks for all the Fish – Huddersfield Ratings

May 14, 2018

So after over 1200 games in charge, we finally reached the point where M. Arsene Wenger would be Arsenal FC boss for the last time. A goalfest in the sun would be perfect but some sneaky first away points of the year, acceptable.

First Half

Huddersfield pressed like terriers in the first twenty minutes without really creating a chance, except from dead balls. One particular goalmouth scramble saw David Ospina make his first close range block.

Two planes flew banners over the beautiful arches of the Huddersfield stadium and the 22nd minute of appreciative applause was well observed.

The Beast wasn’t sharp enough to poke home a near post flick-on from a corner before the first quality piece of football in the match produced Aubameyang’s mini record-breaking goal. Laca and Mkhi exchanged passes before setting Rambo free on the left. His outside of the boot driven cross was superbly anticipated by Auba sliding in on his derriere at the far post.

Second Half

The second half saw even more huffing and puffing from Huddersfield but little quality. Twice as many ‘attempts’ on goal than us but with one fewer on target tells its own story.

Two glorious one on ones for the boys in charcoal grey and pink were both squandered by Laca and Welbz respectively. Laca chose to lob a keeper who carried on standing up and Danny really needed to stop and change the angle rather than continue on his weaker left.

Huddersfield had two last attempts at spoiling the Wenger party, one shot flicking off the top of the crossbar and Ospina keeping out a last gasp header at the second attempt.

Ratings

Ospina – Probably did more than anyone else to ensure Arsene left with a victory … 7

Bellerin – Looked great in the Yorkshire sunshine  … 6

Mustafi – Some decent challenges and blocks … 7

Holding – Will be interesting to see if the next manager can bring more out of Rob … 6

Kolasinac – Rampaging Berserker … 7

Ramsey – Flitted in and out like a delicate butterfly  … 6

Xhaka – Great end of season, looking forward to him doing it all year  … 7

Iwobi – Scampered around trying to find a crack … 7

Mkhitaryan – on the beach already  … 6

Aubameyang – Became the fastest Arsenal player to reach 10 Prem goals, ultimately the match winner   … 7

Lacazette – Will a new manager have Alexandre down the middle with PEA on the left? – hmmm … 7

Subs

Monreal – presumably came on to bolster the defence? … 6

Welbeck – created his one on one with a fine challenge but couldn’t find the coup de grace – 6

Maitland-Niles – came on, passed and tackled well … 6

Summary

So Arsene got the send off he deserves with the team finally winning three points away from home at last.

Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending demolition of Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger. But most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs, or whistle for titbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means – shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop, whilst whistling the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’. But, in fact, the message was this “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

chas