A R-ight close SHAV IN-creases tension as the Vorm Turns? And Ratings…..

September 11, 2011

Arteta – Bright Start but faded…..

Its September 10th, a New dawn, new beginnings, from the ashes of Project Y’sssh and the dishevelled remains of a team that faced the Old Trafford onslaught, it was  Wengers regrouped band of footballers with a significant number of new recruits, grabbed on the supermarket trolley dash on 31st August, who took to the field, ready to drag Arsenal back to the upper echelons of the premier league………

Per – Slow Steady Start

There was an air of anticipation around the ground, as we all took our seats, Arteta and Mertz were in the Line up and the other new boys all on the bench…..A team selection rightly predicted by many, but from now on perhaps not so easy to predict, so the depth is there…

Little time to get the know the new players as our team returned from around the globe after their international endeavours with goals aplenty scored by our boys…….so they do know where the ball should go………?

Anyway, a bright start to the game saw a Spaniard look composed and assured on the ball, with deft touches and slide passes, he was playing with a smile and a zest about his play.  And the fans had their early voices heard…..

The first chance saw Arteta put Aaron through on goal, but he lost balance and smashed it high and wide. Arsenal continued to press and knock the  ball around. But the next best chance was seized by the Swans…….

A delightful cross in from the right from agustien, as Danny Graham attacked the six yard box (please note this arsenal), got in front of Per and stabbed it to the bottom corner, wrong footed, off balance and his eyes closed, ok that bit was made up, Szczesny somehow got down to his left to produce a stunning save…….

Arsenal kept up the initial pace of the game with the lively Arshavin releasing the ball through the middle to Theo who came from the right, Theo managed to squeeze the ball goal bound under Vorm, as it edged towards the goal, Caulker cleared the ball away…

Arsenal continued to move the ball around, but it lacked real zip and the movement in the final third was poor, as chances were few and far between. Frimpong back from suspension showed heart and the fight for a battle, had a dig from range, but it was dragged wide.

Gradually Swansea became more dangerous as their confidence grew with Dyer and Sinclair causing problems with their pace and directness, arsenal struggled to gel as a team. Another cross flashed across the 6 yard area, Graham nearly getting his head on it, with arsenal defence static Gibbs nearly steering in his own net as the ball came at him.

As we moved close to half time, no player really was standing out for Arsenal, Arshavin was certainly been more involved than of late and couldn’t have been lambasted for his usual laziness, as he chased and harried every ball, soon he got his reward.

Frimpong, passed into Theo with his back to goal, who turned inside to his right and done two men on the edge of the area, but flashed his shot high and wide with his left, a deflection looped the ball up high and as it edged towards the corner, Vorm collected the ball and rolled it out, but it hit the heels of the swan defender Rangel, Arshavin turned and with his left peg, curled a sweet shot into the empty and inviting net……..

Second half started lively with both sides knocking the ball about, but both lacked penetration. Sinclair raced towards goal; he tried to evade Kosceinly who scythed him down, yellow card. Sinclair’s free kick hit the bar and over.

Moments later, Arsenal moved forward down the left, Arshavin played into RVP, who took the ball with two players in close quarters, he shrugged them off and turned to his left and across the goal and unleashed a curler to the far right post which he clipped.

Arshavin came off for Benayoun on 63, which considering it was his best performance for a while was unfortunate.

Arteta, played the ball out wide to Sagna, who moved forward and curled the ball across the goal, just nobody attacking the box, Van Persie just too late……

Frimpong was replaced by Coquelin on 75; quickly he got into the game, he reads the game well, and he worked hard to close down players. On 81 Van Persie was taken off for Chamakh, which was a strange one, but later at the end, RVP limped as he walked on the pitch to applaud the fans, so maybe a precautionary move?.

Chamakh almost had an immediate impact; a long ball from Koscielny was headed back to Ramsey, who fed Gibbs on the left, who crossed perfectly first time, Chamakh rose, good contact but straight at Vorm.

In the last few minutes, Swansea pressed and won some corners and from one of them, the ball broke for Graham, who turned and couldn’t keep his shot down and fired over from 5yards…..

Overall:

So we end with 11 men, no bad ref decisions against us and we get a little bit of luck for a change, so has the Vorm turned?

Well it’s a win, a clean sheet and 3points. Important not to drop points, especially with the pressure at the end of the match, nervous but we didn’t concede a sloppy goal which was a trade mark last season.

Fair play to Swansea, they played well and looked good at times, need to find the scoring touch soon to stay in this league, but we are not prolific!!! My only gripe was way too many players went to ground holding their heads………

Ratings:

Wenger: 7:

Picked a team, most of us picked beforehand but 3 points so cannot mark down too harsh. I would love to know what instructions he sends Theo out with, his play no way as effective as against Udinese. Standard substitutions, didn’t improve the game, as we lost our shape, allowing and inviting pressure.

Szczesny: 8: Just for that save, which truly was world class, Number 1?, commands the box and is more considered with his distribution now.

Sagna: 7: Not spectacular but dependable and solid, Sinclair will cause problems for who ever he faces. Got forward well.

Koscienly: 7: Reads the game well, under rated for me, I’ll say as always, he just lacks aggression for me. Rightly booked

Mertesacker: 6: Steady and slow start, little time to acclimatise to premier league so will mention a couple of good tackles he made.  My big concern was he didn’t attack the ball enough and use his height effectively

Gibbs: 6.5: offensively was probably better with some good crosses, but again he failed at times to attack the ball in defence, one very notably near the end that could hav cost us. Positionally naïve or still learning? Needs to up his game or Santos will be coming early this year……..

Frimpong: 6: Heart and fight, plenty of drive, his effort alone endears him to the crowd, a favourite of mine already. But his passing was poor. Although when he gets it wrong he chases till he gets it back…..Young and will be a stalwart for years…….Tired towards the end, before been subbed.

Ramsey: 7: Heard some comments knocking his performance, thought he did well, looked for the ball and moved us forward. Had an early chance that he blasted wide. Never hid and worked tirelessly. Heard someone say he isn’t good enough for Arsenal, balderdash…….have a word…….

Arteta: 7: Really lively start, probing and laying off deft touches, a Spaniard orchestrating the midfield, he is his own man and he will do well for us. Hacked down several times, showed that he was seen as dangerous by the swans. Dropped off in the 2nd half as our shape went apples and pears……

Arshavin: 8:  A much better performance, worked hard and close down defenders, always looking and probing. Definitely not a lazy boy today…….Took his goal well, it might have been an open net, but most would have missed that from that angle. Went off before 65 as usual….Just gets my MotM for his goal and work rate.

Walcott: 7:   A crowd splitter, he tends to frustrate more than he excites, but just what he instructions does he get? The team doesn’t aid him and he is not suited to balls in tight areas to his feet. I will defend him, but I agree without pace he wouldn’t be as useful, but he has pace so that statement is pointless, he does give us an outlet, he needs to become consistent to realise his full potential. But I would say, he has an Ox breathing down his neck…… I know quite a few will disagree with me but for all his knockers, he did more than Van Persie.

Van Persie: 6: Didn’t get involved enough, if he plays point, he needs to attack the area with more vigour. Great shot in the 2nd half that hit the post. Subbed late on, took a knock? Play him in the hole…….

Subs:

Benayoun: 6: Lively

Coquelin: 6: Tenacious

Chamakh: 6: Had a header, but little time.

Next up:  Dortmund……….Champions league, we need a better shape and more movement in the final 3rd. Defenders need to attack the ball and not let it bounce. With Gervinho and Song back in the team, we will step it up again……..

End Note: Condolences to Brendon Rodgers, Swansea Manager, whose father died on Friday.

Written by Harry


Mr. Wenger says the season starts here…..

September 10, 2011

The season starts here. The Boss said so?  No, the season started at Newcastle and we have one point out of nine, that’s right, one out of nine. Our worst start since Alex James took a drag from his Woodbine prior to walking onto the Highbury turf (perhaps).

Thankfully much has changed since OT and quite frankly it needed to. Lack of composure, lack of fit players, lack of tactics, lack of intelligence, lack of discipline and lack of creativity all added up to a team in excrement alley wearing open toed sandals. Arsenal’s response has been unprecedented in Wenger’s reign –  just look at the players in box on the right.

The International break reminded us of how good our players really are. Loads of goals, a number of MoM’s, and to a man they performed well. Even Theo!

Hopefully the dent to the confidence arising from the debacle at OT, has all but disappeared, which bodes ill for Swansea. This is Swansea’s first trip to The Emirates, and their first game against AFC since 1983. They play possession football and keep the ball on the ground – they should be the perfect opponents for the new style Gunners. Furthermore, Swansea have yet to score a Premiership goal.

My guess at the team:

This seems to be a conservative selection, however, when the suspensions are over and the new players have received their visas we will see some exciting teams. Our midfield and attack have so many options and I hope to see a return to the superfast football one associated with the Invincibles. The midfield pairing of Frimpong and Ramsey is likely to be the fulcrum of the team in the years to come (should Frimpong continue his development) however, they will be dependent upon Arteta to be not only creative but also authoratative. I am very excited to see our new Spaniard, and believe much of the season’s success will rest upon his slight shoulders. The arrival of our giant German is also very exciting, he is just what we have been asking for since Kolo left and I cannot understand the criticism from some sectors of the fans – if his name was shorter I would have it on the back of my new shirt (you know, the one which has been a Jonah so far this season and which will be binned if we lose today).

I would love to see The Ox come on for Theo at 60 mins and Park get 10 minutes towards the end. More likely will be Benayoun for Arshavin as the Russian tires (is it true he is the most substituted player in the PL?)  I expect the adrenalin of the Welshmen’s first visit to the THOF will wear off at 75 minutes and we will dominate the last quarter, particularly if the speedster  Chamberlain comes off the bench.

At present we hold the PL record for players sent off in consecutive games, can we add to our record and make it 4? Don’t bet against it, the referee is Andre Marriner, whose last visit to THOF was in the infamous 101 minute long game v Liverpool.

Ed “Taffy” Bowen who invented the hugely influential Radar, was born in Swansea. So was Dylan Thomas, who as everyone knows was a lifelong Gooner and had a season ticket in the East Lower.

This is not a game for fancy football, it is a game where the 3 points are essential for the well-being of us supporters, anything less and we face another week of ridicule and shame.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


My Arsenal Prediction Will Come True… One Year Late

July 20, 2011

OK, this is a bit of a risk.

Chin up, deep breath, clench buttocks: here we go… no, hang on a minute – unclench buttocks (it’s making me want to wee a little). That’s better. Now, for real this time, here we go:

The EPL Player of the Year for the 2011/12 season will be…

Andrey Arshavin.

Before you laugh, shout or go back to Teenage Latin Lovelies, let me point out that, at Arsenal, there is a precedent for what you might call the delayed prediction.

At the start of the 2002/3 season Arsène Wenger proclaimed that his team were capable of going a whole season unbeaten.

Most people were highly skeptical about this suggestion and some were brutal in their ridicule. They said that in the modern age, with so many demands on the top teams from so many competitions, it could never be done.

Arsenal failed to win the EPL that season, finishing five points behind Manchester United. Many of Arsène’s critics remembered his “unbeaten” comments from back in August 2002. In fact Arsene had been careful not to say that his players would go through the season without experiencing defeat. He merely said that they could.

Most journalists ignored that subtle difference and took joy in pointing out that, far from going unbeaten, Arsène’s men had lost six times in the league that season.

The following year Arsène (and we) had the last laugh. The Invincibles went unbeaten for 38 games, history was made and those same reporters who had been ridiculing Le Boss 12 months earlier were suddenly writing breathless articles about whether this was the best team ever to grace the English top flight (it was).

In a nutshell Arsène had been right with his prediction, but just a little premature – and which of us hasn’t had that problem once in a while?

Which brings us back to our diminutive Russki.

Now I would hardly wish to compare myself with our esteemed manager, but a year ago I predicted that Andrey would be the Player of the Season. Not just for us, but for the whole EPL.

It’s fair to say that that prediction was quite spectacularly wrong. Despite a tidy goal return and an excellent assist record Arshavin had, at best, a mediocre season. Perhaps even a poor one for someone with his talents.

Regardless of the stats, we fans could see that the little Leningrader was often peripheral to the action; he frequently lost possession and seldom tracked back. And some us thought that, well, he had been overdoing the borscht a bit. He may have been only a few pounds overweight, but when you’re the size of a mouse that’s going to show.

But what if, like Arsène, I have come up with the right prediction at the wrong time? What if I’m proved correct – a year later on.

I happen to think it’s possible, and here’s why.

  • First, no-one can question Andrey’s innate footballing talents. He is rightly regarded as one of the most skilful players in the world. If you doubt me, go to YouTube and take another look at his four-goal performance against Liverpool.
  • Second, after some rough treatment from the fans during last season, I thought he really sorted out his effort and work ethic in the last part of the campaign. His tracking back and tackling earned many a resounding cheer in those later games (when there was not much else to cheer about). I think it finally began to dawn on him that English fans don’t approve of ‘luxury’ players who don’t pitch in when the opposition have the ball.
  • Third, although Russia’s inability to make the World Cup last summer should have meant he would come back to Arsenal fully rested and fired up to succeed, in fact I think it was a serious blow to his morale. He was his country’s captain and the failure weighed heavily on him.
  • Fourth, in pre-season this year he looks slimmer and sharper and, while other illustrious members of the team seem to be searching for the escape tunnel, he has been talking a good game.
  • Fifth, if Cesc goes to Barcelona (as I believe he will) it could be the making of Andrey. The style of play we created to maximize Cesc’s talents meant that the Russian really was peripheral – in the literal sense. He was pushed to the left of the field and forced to play as a winger. Without Cesc I expect him to get the chance to play more centrally, possibly in the Dennis role or with a greater roving brief – and that will enable his gifts to bear more fruit.

I can’t imagine many of you will agree with me, and I fully understand why. The question is, was last season evidence of his powers beginning to wane (and his performances for Russia arguably support this theory)? Or was it an aberration, caused in part by the crushing disappointment of not getting his country to the 2010 World Cup?

We shall see.

OK, I’ve got my tin hat on – over to you.

RockyLives


Why has this Arsenal team no Leaders?

April 14, 2011

This post was written prior to Rocky’s excellent post in which he covered similar areas and concerns about the fragility of the team  – think of it as synchronicity.

A refrain we hear over and over again from within and without the Hallowed Halls is that this Arsenal team lack Leaders. We are told that none of the current crop have the ability to push the team forward in times of crisis and as such we need to buy  some “steel.” It has been said that this lack of Leadership is the fundamental reason for our not being top of the table in a year where MU have faltered. How could this happen?

Firstly, it is important to look at the team and see whether this assumption is true. We currently have 5 Captain’s of their International teams. Yes… 5! Almost certainly a record and one that is rarely, if ever mentioned. Rosicky has been Czech Captain for the past 5 years and led them in the Euro Championship. Arshavin has been the Russian Cpt. for over 2 years, Vermælen has been Belgium Cpt since 2009. Both Nasri and Ramsey have been honoured with their national Captaincy this season.

So, 5 National Captain’s and it is highly likely that Cesc will captain Spain at some point in his career, as Wilshere will captain England. Surely, there are leaders amongst them?

Should Fabregas be Club Captain? Does he have the “cojones” to lead the club? In my opinion he is the natural leader of the side, and I would refute the argument that he is not Captain material. Following in the footsteps of two of the finest Captain’s in Arsenal’s history – in Adams and Vieira he has grown up with two fantastic role models – he has seen at first hand how to lead a side, and I believe is growing into the role. It must be recalled that he is still only 23, yet he is the player all the others look to, and for me he does the job well.

Perhaps Leadership on the pitch has nothing to do with Captaincy, perhaps Captaincy is just recognition of the value of the player to the team. In Italy the captain is the oldest player in the team. Often the Captain is chosen purely upon his popularity in the dressing room, but in England the Captain is meant to be the heart and soul of the team and at Arsenal this has to be Cesc.

So how can we not have pitch leaders? Is it as the pundits say, a lack of British grit? Should we sign Joey Barton or Kevin Nolan both of whom have the British never-say-die mentality in spades? OK, not Barton, but how about Scott Parker? Would his attitude have made a difference?

We talk of needing “winners” in the team, and are fed the fable that without experienced winners we cannot move forward as a team (what have Parker or Cahill ever won)? I think we are being misled by the talk of Arsenal lacking “winners”. All our players have grown up in winning teams, through schoolboy to youth and reserve team level they have represented winning teams. Every one of our players is a proven International – surely they know how to win a game or two. Or am I wrong, is winning English Silverware the only way to create a “winning mentality”? And is this winning mentality a requirement for pitch Leadership?

Recently I have read that Wilshere is a natural pitch leader. As far as I can tell what this means is that he gives everything in every game – is this Leadership?  Is it a player shouting at others to keep them focussed in the manner of Roy Keane?  Is it the sight of Cesc clenching his fists and rousing the crowd?  Or comforting a player when they have seriously screwed up?  Or a player running 50 yards to help out the defence in the last 5 minutes?

What is clear is that there is much talk about our lack of it in the current side.

What do you think?

p.s. Yesterday saw the premature passing of Danny Fiszman at the age of 66. If we lacked leadership on the pitch we certainly haven’t off-pitch. Danny took a middle sized football business and accompanied by David Dein established Arsenal as one of the most financially successful football clubs in the world. A North London lad and an Arsenal fan throughout his life Danny made his first fortune in diamond trading, and was then asked by his friend Dein to join him at Arsenal. Alongside Arsene Wenger they created the modern Arsenal, funding the new stadium, the re-development of Highbury and the surrounding areas. Arsenal are acknowledged as the financial model for football clubs throughout the world and this alongside the stadium is his legacy.  That Danny’s final act was to ensure that his beloved Arsenal was in safe  hands is proof of his devotion.

His was a successful life both in business and at leisure. We at AA wish his family long life.

Written by BigRaddy


You arsHAVIN a laugh Arsène?

April 3, 2011

Written by Harry

As the sun broke the Saturday morning clouds across the Capital, West Ham were taking a shock half time lead against Man united, even better was the early team news filtering through, Theo van nasregas was fit and to top that even further Carlito was already on his tenth peroni at the Tavern, as he laid claim to been the first at the meeting point of the largest gathering of AA’ers ever to be assembled.

From around the globe, they dragged their weary bodies, from far and wide, from the sodden plains of Norwich, the far reaches of Denmark and even from the darkest depths of Devon. AAer’s are a motley crew ushered to the cause by the cries of Peaches the dark raven haired warrior princess, who’s renowned for strict discipline and persuasive powers……
The list of attendees was long, Peaches stood firm and assertive as she introduced her trusty bloggers, London, Mickydidit, 26may,Rasp, Carlito, GIE, Evonne, Big Radders, Chary, SharkeySure and yours truly completed the lineup……..

Ok, long intro, but there isnt much to say on the match to be honest, so just trying to make the report newsworthy………

Before the match, a Highbury legend was remembered, with the tenth anniversary of Rocky Rocastle’s untimely passing…….. How we could have done with him out there today……He is one of my favourites of all time, I remember clearly the day it was announced that Graham had sold him to Leeds, I was devastated, never ever understood that decision…..?
The team line up was ok, Cesc was on what looked a strong bench which included a new addition called Jens Lehmann, a sprightly young German with potential so I have heard, On the pitch was attacking flair aplenty, which nicely wetted the appetite, surely we would put Blackburn to the metaphorical sword….?

As the sun faded across the skies of London, West Hams bubble well and truly burst, Arsenal seemed in a positive mood but somehow started their game in 2nd gear and rarely ventured out of it, only occasionally stepping into a higher gear, but usually slipping back, Arsenal just couldn’t get the pace of the game going, nor could the crowd, Premiership beckons.. you’d have thought this was a meaningless mid table stroll about….
For me, Arshavin looked sharp and was up for it, Theo also looked liked he would be pivotal….jack was his usual tenacious terrier like…. Robin showed good touches, as Nasri looked to dictate play…BUt all that said the team just wasnt gelling, it lacked zip and spark, passing was slow and showed little imagination…

A bang on his head saw Nasri concussed momentarily, he looked groggy and took an age to get back into the game; Arsenal also kept banging their heads against the Blackburn wall and looked devoid of ideas……

Chances came and went, they were never really going to test robinson, the closest we got in the 1st half was when a ball back across the area went straight to young Jack, he tried to steer it in, but it woefully went wide, imagine the pelters Bendtner would have got for that one……

Almunia was having a very mixed bag, as ironic cheers greeted any catches, not helpful really? And when he walked towards the clock end at the start of the 2nd half, he looked a beaten and broken man, rarely have I seen such a poor round of applause for an Arsenal keeper, it was shocking and in my opinion it was out of order, when will fans learn that they need to get behind their team?

With the team lacking a creative edge and the game into the final third, Wenger brought on Cesc, but he replaced Arshavin who for me was the best player on the pitch, he was even tracking back, making a truly memorable challenge in the 1st half, why? I was dumbfounded, the little russian wont be here next season thats for sure……

Although there was a few daft decisions, Dowd for once was not the centre of attention, early in the 2nd half he had a chance to showed he really hated us as Blackburn claimed for a penalty,the crowd waited for the inevitable penalty but Dowd waved it away, did he forget who the teams were? I was right in front of the incident and it was not a penalty.  Dowd even managed to send off N’Zonzi for a two footed challenge on Kozzer, but still we didn’t put them under any serious pressure when down to ten men…(I hate us playing against 10)

Even with Fabregas on, we still stuttered and flattered to deceive, there just seemed a lack of thought and urgency, although we did have a few headed chances in the last few minutes with Bendtner and Robin having chances to win it for us, although to be honest we just didn’t really look like scoring from the start…..

My major gripe, apart from the negative crowd, was the bizarre substitutions, why take our best player in Arshavin off? And then 15mins later Chamakh came on for Walcott, who although was not having his best game, did have that extra gear so now we were without now any real attacking pace….And then to cap it off, Wenger took off Nasri, who had woken from his concussion for Bendtner, whom played out wide again…….

Ratings:

Almunia: Little to do, but still made errors of judgment, doesn’t look safe and has no confidence. 5

Sagna: Good defending, but not his best game and his crossing kept hitting the first man.  6

Kozzer: Had a decent game, solid player, he has a future here. 7

Squillaci: Not a bad game, although he kept trying back passes to almunia which were too short. 6

Clichy: Worked hard in both defensive and offensive play, cannot remember any mistakes of note.  7

Song: Erratic display that saw him booked and lucky to stay on. Not his best display. 6

Wilshere: His first half miss was so embarassing but he worked hard And kept throwing the tackles in, showed more character than senior players around him. 7

Nasri: Started well but was visibly shaken after the blow to the head, never really got in the game, moments of genius though.  6.5

Walcott: Lively on his first start in months, but faded as he didn’t get used properly by the team, should have stayed on.  7

Arshavin: Focussed and determined, played with heart and desire, tried some fancy passes which didnt work but the team didn’t respond by upping their game. 8 MoTM….(I think if he stayed on he would have got us a goal…)

Van Persie: Led the line But needed more support, didnt influence the play enough. 6.5

Subs: Fabregas 5, Chamakh 5, and Bendtner 5……None of them did much, Fabregas sprayed some passes about but didnt add what we were lacking..

Wenger: Poor tactics and you have to question, was there any motivation out there? The substitutions were strange to say at least. 5

The fans: Poor support by most, failed to get behind the team, why come with those voices of doom! 4….

Overview:

So it’s out of our hands now, but realistically there is 24 points to play for, so it is likely that Man United will lose some points before the end of the season….

But now we have to up our game physically and mentally, I found it amusing that Wenger said we lacked sharpness, so why then substitute your best and sharpest player?

A great day was ruined by a lacklustre and tepid display, I will never call for Wengers head, but he needs to alter his stubborness more often and so do the fans, learn to support and be positive when your team needs you……. I am so frustrated…..

Next up: Blackpool (A)……..That’s a rocky match……


Why Won’t Wenger Wing It?

March 24, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

When I sing the song “We’re the boys in Red and White, and we’re fucking dynamite”, a number of iconic players run through my mind. Rocky Rocastle, Anders Limpar, Marc Overmars, Freddy Ljungberg,  Robert Pires sprint through my inner thoughts, terrorising defences as they go. Close ball control, beating their man, finding space behind their opposing full backs and some wonderful play overlapping with their own full backs.

Strange that this image should come to me as it has been years since we’ve really seen it on the pitch. Wenger has a great history of signing or developing wide men. The only real failure I can think of is Jose Antonio Reyes but I didn’t think he was a failure when he burned up the left wing, only when he left us prematurely.

The left wing has been particularly iconic for me personally- the Limpar effect in 1991 was astonishing and both Overmars and his eventual replacement in Pires exemplify the way I think Arsenal should play. I think many of us felt that Rosicky would become the new Pires, but this has sadly not come to pass.

“But we’ve got wide men”, I hear you shout at your monitors! “What’s wrong with you Carlito11? We’ve got Theo, Nasri and Arshavin and they’re all wizards in their own way!” The key word in my defence is this: Byline. When was the last time you saw Arshavin, or Nasri, beat their full back for pace and whip in a cross from the byline? Theo has done it occasionally but I think most would agree with Wenger that his future is likely to involve a more central role before long. Gifted as all three of those players are, I would suggest that NONE of them are wingers.

As I mentioned, we always got extra width from our full backs pushing up, but I now fear for being caught on the counter when Clichy or Sagna push forward. There is also a distinct lack of the neat overlaps that characterised the Dixon/ Overmars and Cole/ Pires relationships. Our full backs currently push up and stay up- not a quick thrust as in days gone by.

So I wish for wingers! But what can be done? I see two potential solutions.

The first would involve changing our defensive set up to have 3 centre backs or a sweeper, thus allowing Sagna and Clichy to perform the wingers role better. However, it is asking a lot for them to get to the byline.

The second potential solution is the fantastic prospect of Ryo Miyaichi. This lad looks like he’s going to put the dynamite back into the team we call The Arsenal! If you haven’t seen him yet- search him on Youtube as there are extended highlights clips of all his substitute performances for Feyenoord posted there. He’s got broad shoulders, lightening pace and a great eye for distribution. But above all, he has wonderful close control when he dribbles and beats full backs in the Eredivisie for fun! I can’t wait to see him playing at the Mothership next year!


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


Three points – Not a classic but a serious performance

February 24, 2011

Written by 26may1989

After all the prematch neurosis, that was what this game was about. Not Shawcross, not Ramsey, not Pulis;  just the points. And they’re ours.

Le Boss summarised things nicely:

“Tonight was a night when nobody else played [well] and if you can take three points and glide closer to the top, that means that your team is really hungry for success. The number of games we play, not to make a mistake at any stage… we were less sharp creatively but you could feel the team did not want to make a mistake and that’s a very positive sign.”

Couldn’t agree more.

The opening ten minutes contained much of the game’s creative content: Fabregas, Bendtner and Walcott carved open the Stoke defence three times, and Theo was very unlucky to see his first effort bounce back off the post to Begovic rather than nestle in the net. And on the 8th minute a corner pinged around the box, before being deftly knocked back into the danger area by Bendtner to Squillaci, who nodded in from no distance, with Stoke’s defending surprisingly weak. And that was that, 1-0 to the football team, which is how it stayed till the end.

This was certainly no classic. No surprise there, the Stoke way makes classics a different thing to achieve. There’s a reason fans watching Stoke have seen fewer goals than any other team’s fans other than those of Fulham and Birmingham (only West Brom fans have seen more goals than Gooners). But without doubt, our boys weren’t at the top of their creative game either. Fabregas’s early departure must be a big part of the reason for that, the remaining players seemed to lose their fluency and dynamism as soon as El Capitan limped off, and didn’t really get their mojo back before the end of the first half.

There was a strange lack of intensity to both teams in the first half – where the appearance of Shawcross a year after he split the tibia and fibula in Aaron Ramsey’s right leg was meant to fire up this game, it was a calcio, uber tactical, sterile exchange, with Arsenal working hard but failing to string many moves together. However, the defence staying strong and disciplined in terms of shape and position. Stoke started in more of a 4-3-3 but after a while Walters and Pennant spent most of their time in midfield, making it a 4-5-1. Neither John Carew nor Wojciech Szczesny saw much of the ball before half-time, save for one sparkling, powerful drive from the Norwegian that our young Pole saved without much fuss.

Things picked up in the second half, as Stoke came out of their lair and tried to press us more aggressively. That, plus the inevitable rubbish from the referee, prompted a more vigorous style of play from our guys, with Nasri in particular coming into the game more effectively than he had done up to that point. Walcott, who had been one of the bright sparks before half time, faded a bit, before being chopped down from behind by Whitehead without Peter Walton spotting the foul. Walcott was stretchered off and will now miss the League Cup Final. Thanks Stoke. I guess we should be grateful the doctors aren’t debating whether one of his limbs needs to be amputated.

Szczesny and the defenders had to deal with the inevitable artillery barage from throw-ins, corners and free-kicks, and for the most part they dealt with it well. They were assisted by Stoke’s undisciplined approach to our offside trap, Stoke’s front players often being lazy in holding their position. But Robert Huth ought to have scored from one of the deadball mortar shells lobbed into the penalty area to consolidate his position as Stoke’s top scorer. Fortunately for us, he headed over.

Arshavin worked hard throughout, and unlocked the Stoke defence beautifully when he took his defender to the line and cleverly beat him, then set up Walcott in the centre, only for Theo to miscue when he should have buried the ball in the net. There were occasions when we carried some threat to Stoke, usually when one of our attacking players received the ball between Stoke’s midfield and defensive lines. But truth be told, they were few and far between.

This was a serious performance from Arsenal, one that suggests the appetite and focus that they’ll need if they are to overhaul United. There were no frills or thrills, and no hysterical attempts at revenge, just a determination to bag the points in a game against an obnoxious but potent opponent. The price for those points may have been high: we’ll have to see what the morning brings in terms of the injuries suffered by Fabregas (who appears to have the tightest of hamstrings) and Theo. But fingers crossed, they’ll be able to resume duties, at least when we play Sunderland and West Brom.

Here are my rankings, which I think will prompt disagreement:

Szczesny: 8 – Dealt with what was thrown at him well and without panicking. That’s more than we can say about either Fabianski or Almunia.

Sagna: 7 – Disciplined, no nonsense performance.

Squillaci: 7.5 – Showed the doubters that there is more to his game than he’s often given credit for, the goal just being the icing on the cake. Clearly more comfortable alongside Djourou than Koscielny.

Djourou: 6 – Positionally superb and dealt well with the ball in the air, but on a number of occasions he was uncharacteristically error-prone with the ball at his feet, exposing us to unnecessary risk.

Clichy: 7 – Again, a disciplined performance, along with some of the usual Clichy bite, and some of the usual misplaced passes.

Song: 7.5 – Efficient with the ball, with very few errors, and executed his defensive duties well.

Wilshere: 8 – What more can be said about this boy? He is a marvel, it’s astonishing to think he was playing youth team football not long ago. His maturity with and without the ball in a game like this is incredible. MOTM.

Nasri: 6 – Not his best performance but worked hard, and got some traction in the second half.

Walcott: 7 – Fantastic and explosive beginning. He saw less of the ball after Fabregas went off, but still worked hard. Went down a couple of culs-de-sac in the second half but was still one of our better creative players.

Fabregas: 7 – He was only on for 14 minutes, and looked mighty unhappy when he had to come off, but in the time he was on, he looked willing and able to spring the Stoke defence.

Arshavin: 7 – Worked very hard, and used his tricks to good effect. Has clearly got over his difficult phase, he’ll be a big part of our run-in.

Bendtner: 7 – Again, worked hard against Huth and Shawcross often without support, and got an assist for the goal plus was at the heart of our early chances.

Denilson: 7 – Very astute substitute for the injured Walcott when the logical choice might have been the off-form/in decline Rosicky – Denilson did what he does best, retained possession and completed a very high proportion of his passes, just what we needed.

Chamakh: 6.5 – Didn’t do much wrong, and did well in the air for the short period he was on, but no sparkling contribution either.

The fans’ lack of spark also contributed to the mean fare that was on offer. It really isn’t good enough on such a crucial night for our fans to put in such a poor shift – we have a lot to contribute to the push for the title. Playing Barcelona is all very well, but let’s be realistic, we’re not going to win the Champions’ League; our season is about these league games, and we need to contribute to the drive for the title.

Finally, and on a very different subject, I just wanted to send my best wishes to everyone in Christchurch. I have family in NZ, and know the country and Christchurch very well, having even gone to school in the Christchurch suburb of Sumner for a few months. My parents are in NZ visiting my brother right now, and were only 60km up the coast from Christchurch when the earthquake hit. They’re fine but seeing the devistation done to the city and its people is shocking, and hearing that rescue efforts for those trapped are now being wound down is deeply depressing. My thoughts are with Christchurchians and all Kiwis.


WE CAME, WE PLAYED, WE WON!

February 17, 2011

Written by Californian Gooner

Very few people gave Arsenal a chance of advancing in the Champions League this season when we drew Barcelona back in December. But after 90 minutes of amazing football and an even more amazing 2-1 victory, the Arsenal will travel to Catalonia in three weeks time with more than a fighting change to send the hosts home. Most of us will approach that game with a great deal of optimism. For now, let’s just savor a fantastic game, a great night and a stunning victory against what may be one of the best club sides ever.

With such a wonderful game, one is tempted to just dispense with a review and tell you, dear reader: go watch the game again (assuming you didn’t miss it). And then watch it another time. It is some of the best football you are likely to see.  While other teams – the Chelsea or Inter— might have come to park the bus, this Arsenal team came to play, and came away victorious.

As the game started, I was filled with hope, but also trepidation. Fresh in many minds were the first 25 minutes of the same tie last year, which saw us virtually played off the park.  The first 10 minutes put those fears to rest. This was a different Arsenal team – one with much more confidence, much more aggression, and importantly, a full first choice line up (minus Sagna).  The rise and rise of Jack Wilshire also added something that was missing last year – another player who could keep the ball in a tight spot and move it on intelligently. Arsenal players were finding space and Van Persie came close after a beautiful dinked ball from Cesc set him free on Valdes’ right. Fear of Walcott may have also played a role as the Catalans played unusually deep, leaving us space in the midfield.

As the match continued, Barca began to tighten things up, stifling our attack and pinning us in our own end. An early run from Messi was ended by a very late Song tackle, and the later received  a fair, if slightly harsh, yellow card that signaled the beginning of a difficult night for our midfield enforcer.  The ref was calling things extremely tight and the Catalans began to play for the whistle a bit. A through ball to Messi saw him scamper through the middle, only to see his chip go wide. Credit to Szczesny, who made the shot difficult, hesitating a split second to go to ground and forcing Messi to adjust. Barcelona began to tighten the screws, but Arsenal’s attack looked dangerous each time we managed to break their midfield pressure. Around 23 minutes, quick work from Wilshire released Walcott who carried the ball up the middle of the pitch, releasing Cesc with an inch perfect pass on the right. As Valdes came out, Cesc opted to pass, rather than shoot, Abidal clearing with a desperate header just before Van Persie could get there.

Minutes later, Barcelona had scored. A seemingly innocuous run by Messi drew the defense in before he released Villa, who sprung the offsides trap and scored through Szczesny’s legs. From that point on, Barcelona dominated possession, smothering the Arsenal attack quickly. Still, while the Catalans no doubt dominated this long stretch of play, Arsenal looked dangerous when they were able to break the pressure, and it was clear that an equalizer was possible.

Everyone on the pitch and off it for that matter knew that Walcott would be our danger man, our main outlet. But it was the increasing confidence of another man – 19 year old Jack Wilshire—that really gave cause for hope, taking the ball in tight positions and time and time again breaking Barcelona’s pressure with a clever pass. As Barcelona’s spell of pressure subsided at the end of the first half, one was left with the feeling that the match could go in any direction; 2-0 or 3-0 for Barca or a comeback for Arsenal all seemed a distinctly possible. A victory for the Arsenal, at that point, felt a bit far-fetched.

Arsenal opened the second half with much the same intensity they had opened the game with. Wilshire in particular began to take possession of the midfield and Koscielny was growing in confidence, taking on Messi and Alves and Pedro and time and again, coming away with the ball.  At 69 minutes Wenger removed Alex Song, who had played much of the game on a yellow card, for Arsivin, and shifted Nasri back to midfield. A few minutes later, Bendtner would come on for Theo. This line-up was either going to score or lose 3-0, effectively eliminating us from the tie.

The goals, when they came, were stunning. RVP, who had previously shot errantly and tamely when he might have done better, was put to the corner of Barca’s  six yard box by a promising through ball off Gael Clichy’s right foot. While the obvious play was a cross to Bendtner, RVP found his balance and rocketed a shot through the narrow gap between Victor Valdes and his right post. 1-1. Game tied and The Emirates was rocking. My local pub in the suburbs of San Jose, California– equally divided between Barca and arsenal fans – was rocking as well. Cue baby crying… she is an Arsenal fan in training, so I can only assume those were happy tears. The response was a bit frightening!

The second came minutes later, as a Cesc pass set Nasri free down the right side. Unable to beat the defenders, Nasri slowed the play down and bought time, before shuffling a lovely low cross for the onrushing Arshavin to curl a sumptuously controlled shot into the lower right corner from 12 yards out. 2-1!

Seven minutes left, but in no way did this match seem to slow down. Brimming with adrenaline and confidence and cheered on by a raucous crowd, arsenal began pressing higher up the pitch. Clearly they could smell the fear in their opponents, and either they were going to take the ball and head in for more or Barca would some how come back and nick one. Despite some late jitters, arsenal was able to hold on for the victory.

I will leave the player ratings to others, but just mention a few standouts. Jack Wilshire (my MOTM) and Laurent Koscielny were excellent. Wilshire grew as the match progressed and actually outplayed Xavi and a somewhat anonymous Iniesta later in the match. Koscielny basically won every dual he entered – against Alves, against Pedro, and most impressively, against Messi. Eboue – a major worry for many fans—was good and got even better as the game progressed –confidently carrying the ball out of defense. Clichy was his normal, battling self – his pass to RVP was better than normal. Theo was ‘kept quiet’, but his influence should not be underestimated. Much of Barca’s defense was geared at stopping him, and that opened up space elsewhere. And Szczesny was immense.

Now that you have read this review, go back and watch that match again.

This is the second of two great match reports we received, to save confusion please return to the first post to leave comments click here



Arsenal beat Barcelona over two legs? Of course we can

February 17, 2011


Written by Wonderman

Barcelona started the game with their one and two touch passing and movement when in possession and double and treble  teaming when not, but unlike like last year we were putting pressure on the man on the ball and holding our shape well. Which is one hell of a task when you see how Barca position themselves with their full backs playing as additional midfielders. In the 3rd minute we got a free kick on our left which Nasri floated in , but Valdes was in control as no one made any contact.

In the 4th minute Wallcott swapped passes with Fabregas and put on the gas in the direction of the goal. In my opinion he took the wrong choice in trying to slide Robin in with the outside of his foot when Nasri was in more space, but the ball ran out harmlessly as Theo hit it a little too hard. In the 6th minute Walcott danced his way into the 6yrd box, layed off to Cesc who then provided a sumptuous chip into Robins path but Valdes was equal to the shot.

Almost immediately Barca were on the counter with Messi running at our back line, Song intervened and got a yellow card for his trouble ( but very necessary) the next few minutes saw both teams showcasing their passing but we were losing the ball needlessly with Djourou and Cesc being the main culprits. In the 14th minute a slide rule pass saw Messi through on goal but Chesny won the game of bluff and Messi screwed his shot wide of the post. Barcelona then went onto enjoy 60% possession for the next 10 minutes and the scene was set.

We seemed comfortable playing on the break including a rapid break in the 24th minute started by Wilshere who found Walcott just outside our 18 yard box. Again Walcott ran at their defence attracting four players with the aid of Van Persie’s intelligent movement. This allowed Fabregas space to receive Walcotts pass, unfortunately his cross was intercepted by Pique stopping an almost certain goal from van P.

A minute later we were behind . A foul in Barca’s defensive 3rd led to a temporary loss of concentration and after a short spell of inter passing Messi fed  Villa who slotted under the onrushing Chesney. In the stadium I thought he was offside, bt replay’s showed that Clichy was playing him on 0-1. But my worry was Alex Song . Having been booked in the 6th min Song committed foul after foul and was in danger of being sent off. Strangely I still felt that we would score.

Chesney pulled off another save at his feet in the near post and another attack on the break saw van P shoot wide.  Barca were beginning to enjoy themselves , they are the masters of finding space offensively with 1 touch passing and movement but more impressively they press in 2’s and 3’s to win the ball back. However we seemed to be helping them by not using what little possession we had in a more penetrating way. Half time 0-1 but a much more even game than we had last year.

We started the 2nd half brightly and Wilshere continued where he left off  ( someone needs to check his passport). We were pressing Barca well and seemed to be  adopting the counter attack approach. Nasri was getting fitter as the game went on and we started to force corners and free kicks as Barca’s work rate  began to diminish. Koscielny was making a mockery of all those who doubted the validity of his purchase  and Jack continued to play as if he was in the park. We had eradicated our sloppy passing and were beginning to ask questions further up th field. For all their possession in the second half it was Valdes who was doing all the work. Messi was  going deeper and deeper and attempting to run at our defence . In the 67th minute he got through on their left but hit the side netting.

That could be seen as the turning point. Villa was subbed for Keita and Song removed for his own good for Arshavin. All of a sudden we were beginning to find space, it appeared the superior pace of the prem had primed our players to perform at a higher intensity for longer. Cesc was finding his range and Eboue had taken his scaredy cat glasses off. In the 77th minute Clichy and Arshavin combined on our left which resulted in a right footed chip from Clichy which put van P in at a ridiculous angle. With Bendtner’s run seducing Valdes into expecting the cross Robin lashed it in at the near post 1-1 and the stadium went mad .

 

Barca seemed to be trying to hold out for the result but we were having none of it . Five minutes later Koscielny again intercepted, fed Bendtner, who found Wilshere, one touch to Fabregas who with a sublime pass found Nasri on the right , Robin raced forward to cause confusion as Nasri delayed, cut inside and fed an on coming Arshavin to curl the ball into the net 2-1 and cue absolute madness !!! No less than we deserved and a finish not to be underestimated. Barca’s problem now was they had 6 minutes to change their mindset. They had a couple of chances but Chesney was more than up for it

Cheers of ‘we’ve got Cesc Fabregas ‘ rang around the stadium…maybe I wasn’t mad in predicting we would triumph over 2 legs after all…..

Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny– Did less work in the whole game than Almunia did in the first 20 minutes last year. This boy’s decision making was spot on last night and the defence seem to trust him implicitly. I cant see the shirt being taken from him  8

Emmanuel Eboue – A whiff of a dive here and there, and a touch of fear in the first half, not as marauding as we know he can be, but to be fair to him he was not exposed once in the game and I can think of worse back up right backs 7

Johan Djourou – Was alarmingly wasteful with his distribution in the first half , but his partnership with Koscielny is flourishing. A much better second half performance  and proved he is just as good on the deck as he is in the air 8

Laurent Koscielny – It is easier to say what he did’nt do well….misplace maybe two passes…. This guy is still not the finished article, but anyone who dares to argue that there is not potentially a world class defender in this guy must be mad my joint MOM 9

Clichy – A lot of their attacks came down his side but other than playing Villa onside for their goal, the usual aggressive quick and committed performance 8

Alex Song – Was harshly booked early on and lucky not to be sent off in my opinion. Not his best , but not his worst performance and his substitution probably saved us going down to 10 men , but battled for the cause 7

Jack Wilshere –I am lost for words for this young man. He  respects no opponent and plays with the same intensity every game. I feel the grit and determination of Jack and Kosser were instrumental joint MOM 9

Cesc Fabregas – Was guilty of many a misplaced pass in the first half but didn’t give up. Was instrumental in the winning goal with his early defence splitting pass 8

Samir Nasri – I was surprised to see him start and he looked off the pace in the first 25 mins but seemed to grow as the game went on. Excellent awareness for the winner 8

Theo Walcott – Obviously scared the living daylights out of them periodically and was double and treble teamed for his trouble . I suspect he will cause more havoc on the Nou Camp pitch 7

Robin van Persie – World Class sums Robin up . ran his legs off for the majority of the game without seeing too much of the ball but never gave up. Scored from a ridiculous angle and realy should have had another goal in the first half 8.5

Subs

Nick Bendtner– Didn’t do a lot , but I think his run was instrumental in concerning Valdes for Robin’s equaliser 6.5

Arshavin – Came on and ran at the opposition, almost gifted them an equaliser, but is back on form. I would have started him, but what do I know ? crucially scored the winner which was no easy finish 8