The Sound and Fury of the Crowd- How to Foil a Masonic Plot!

February 2, 2011

Written by Carlito11

En route to meeting Peaches, Rasp, Chary and Harry pre-match I popped into “Drayton Park” Pub for a pint to find it had a majority Evertonian clientele.  Some friendly good-natured banter ensued- mostly at Liverpool’s expense but when we came down to the serious matter of the night’s game we were all able to agree – the first goal would be crucial and make it very difficult for the other team to get a result.

The game started off with plenty of pressure from the Everton midfield and we struggled to get our passing game going. A yellow card for Jack in the opening minutes for what looked an innocuous challenge – this set the tone early for a refereeing debacle – stifling his ability to get stuck in and Everton had the upper hand in central midfield for large parts of the first half – mainly through Fellaini who was everywhere.

The referee, Lee Mason, has a  surname that lends itself well to conspiracy theorists. He managed not to book blue players for similar or harder tackles than Jack’s and when he allowed Louis Saha in a clearly offside position to pick up a ball played through via a deflection off an Arsenal player and score the stadium and players were incredulous. When the big screen played the full replay including the offside pass the place went ballistic! Mason was forced to consult his linesman whilst the crowded howled and bayed but then allowed the goal to stand! Could we pull off a result? The doomers who sit by me informed me that Everton hadn’t lost this season when getting the first goal.

In truth the outlook at the end of the first half was bleak, an injury to Song, Jack tamed by the early yellow card and staunch defending by the Toffees could have left us with the familiar feeling at home this season that it was not be our night. But a sense of righteous anger prevailed and rarely before have all the spectators at the Emirates been so united and galvanized in their support of the team with every call the ref made being called into question, and for once it was wholly justified.

26May1989 summed it up beautifully in comments yesterday (and I believe he is a qualified referee):

“Don’t let anyone say that was anything other than offside. Under Law 11, a player is offside if he “gains an advantage” from being in an offside position. “Gaining an advantage” is explained in the FIFA handbook as including “playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position”. There is even a diagram (diagram 12 on page 107 of the Handbook) that fits the position Caldwell, Saha and Koscielny were in perfectly.

As for the rest of Mason’s performance, absolutely woeful. Playing an advantage? No, won’t bother with that. Booking Arsenal players for minor fouls? Yup. Not booking Everton players for cynically stopping an attack? Nope. Missing a number of fouls on Arsenal players? Sure.”

Second half – the boys come out early to roars from those already in their seats. With the crowd united and decisions going against us, time flew by without enough chances for us but not many for them either. Diaby came on for Song in the second half. I feel the man is a kind of anti-Fabregas: where a simple pass is open he opts for close control and riskily taking on opponents- fine qualities in an attacking midfielder but a worry when shielding the back four. Nonetheless we started to exert more of a grip on the game.Tomas Rosicky was having an ineffectual night and was replaced by Arshavin in the first of 2 excellent attacking subs by the manager , the other being Bentdner for Jack.

The breakthrough came with 20 minutes to play. Fab4 was driving the team on, as he had been all game, and aimed a through-ball which deflected off Rodwell into Arshavin’s path. Showing no doubt he calmly beat Howard from the 6 yard box to cue relief, celebrations and a feeling that although everything was against us we could triumph!

Soon after our mercurial Russian enigma restored hope. Van Persie swung in a peach of a corner which was met emphatically by Koscielny and thereafter we displayed grit and confidence to hold on, bar a scare as Rodwell headed a corner just past the post in the dying minutes.

Much of the media today will focus on Moyes comments that Fabregas should have been sent off at half time for comments made to the ref.  Firstly, what a great smokescreen for defeat from Skeletor. Secondly, with that performance drawing allegations of bribery from even the meekest and most fair-minded fans around me, Fabregas would have had to be struck dumb not to have an angry word. An enquiry into the ref’s performance should ensue but I have a feeling that the press attention will mean our captain is under the spotlight again.

So today is a day we can bask in the feeling that our team can fight for a victory against the odds, that we have a genuine 12th man and that Arshavin is back. Team spirit and righteous anger can defeat even the most determined Mason!

Arshavin – this season’s Eboue?

January 21, 2011

Coming off the back of two highly satisfying away wins the Arsenal now have a run of six home games out of the next seven.

At our last home game great joy was had by ITV’s cameramen in capturing the negative reactions of the Ashburton Grove support to our number 23’s struggles to impose himself on the game.

Opinions varied as to whether there were murmurs of disappointment or outright booing of Arshavin whenever an ambitious through ball failed or a shot ballooned skyward instead of towards the goal.

It is ITV’s job to pick up anything newsworthy or a “story” developing and the camera director would have been alerted to the dissatisfaction being shown in certain sections of the crowd. Of course they will follow up on this angle and naturally their well acknowledged dislike of Arsenal would have meant they needed little prompting in order to portray us as a club in crisis and turning on our last big money transfer into our squad.

Certain quarters have also made great play of the fact that after spooning a shot over the bar or failing to latch onto a pass, rocking back on his heels in the manner that TH14 did in his last season with us, he smiles – clearly proving he doesn’t care and deserves to be shipped out in the summer, if not sooner.

What I see when Andrey is in such a situation is not a “smile” more a “grimace”, an external symptom of the internal conflict and lonely struggle to recapture the form of a month or two ago.

Arshavin is the archetypal enigma wrapped in a puzzle, bound together by a riddle, couched in a conundrum. His
behaviour will not be that of your typical footballer and his almost self-lacerating honesty can make some of what he says appear to be at best detached and at worst arrogant. Like any person he is a product of the environment of his formative years and having spent all of his life in “Mother Russia” his interaction with our support will not be of the same quality as, say, Walcott’s.

He is as truly Russian, and can be as breathlessly exciting, as this passage of Shostakovich sounds to me(and check out the crazy conductor):

His website reveals a quirky, cheeky side when it comes to things like his chauvinist views on women drivers but like any true Russian there will, in my view, always be an underlying melancholy which is exacerbated by his artistic temperament. I consider what he is capable of artistic in the way DB10’s abilities seemed to transcend mere sporting endeavour.

When he arrived in the snow of February 2009 we knew what we were getting, a creative mercurial midfield talent, who scored 51 goals in 232 appearances(approximately 1 goal in 5 games) for his only previous club Zenit St. Petersburg. Currently his record with us stands at 26 in 83, tending towards 1 goal in 3 games so he has shown his class over the long term.

For some what is grates them is his lack of tracking back and offering cover for the left back, given that he is predominantly deployed in midfield wide on the left.

This raises two questions, firstly are we expecting a Dirk Kuyt type midfielder who runs and runs but whose moments of inspiration are rarely, if ever, seen and secondly are we exploiting his abilities out wide?

Firstly, we all know Arshavin is not about being a trundling workhorse putting in the hard yards, like a Flamini or a Vieira would.

With our surfeit of playmaker midfielders not every player will be able to play in their favoured positions so the second point can be viewed as a case of “Needs must” as in the case of last season where, as Raspers has pointed out previously, Arshavin was employed as the lone striker up top.

In the FA Cup replay there was an occasion where he lost possession on the left wing to the Leeds right back and he chased the ball all the way back to our right full back position to win it back. Would he have done this a few games ago, when his confidence was probably at low ebb? Our game does function better when all the team presses the opposition when we do not have the ball so while it is not necessarily Arshavin’s strong point he is capable of offering some cover yet I feel he should be favouring demonstrating his strong points, namely creating openings, and occasionally finishing them.

I feel that while Arshavin may publicly appear to display some of the Cold War stereo type of being aloof and indifferent (for example he rarely joins in post-goal team huddles with a fan-pleasing gusto) negative feedback from the Arsenal support will surely have a detrimental effect.

“So what, he gets paid handsomely so he should just man up and get on with it” I hear some of you cry.
For a creative midfielder if you feel inhibited enough by reaction to a mistake to then prefer taking the safe option of a lower risk pass the moments of magic you close yourself off from mean your play will be that of a water carrier type of midfielder, and is that what we want from Arshavin?

Another complaint levelled against our attack is that we don’t shoot from distance enough, as one of the few that attempts long range shots will persistent groaning from the terraces could mean less shots from him also. Talk Spite had already tried to engineer a campaign for opposition fans to boo him for supporting Russia’s world Cup bid because they saw him sitting with the Russian delegation when the bid winners had been announced.

Our number 23 remained seated and clapped his approval in a very dignified manner whereas the Chavs owner bounded up and down, jumping like a dog trying to grab a bone being dangled above him. Perhaps unsurprisingly there were no protests from Talk Spite directed against Abramovich, one can’t imagine why.

It would be ironic if Arshavin’s own team’s supporters resorted to something that Talk Spite, a known anti Arsenal media outlet, was trying to get the opposition fans to do to undermine our team.
Eboue came back from the actual booing he received a few seasons ago however the crucial difference is that we HAVE seen what Arshavin is capable (and recently too) whereas the Ivorian’s abilities had been seen less regularly up till then.

My wish, as an unashamed admirer of “The Owl”, for anyone lucky enough to be going to any of the home games coming up is to drag our Russian out of his slump in form with your support.

When Nasri and/or Cesc are unavailable is it not better to have another option by which to unlock the defences of the many teams who will come to the Grove with a defensive approach?

In those games, the ones which could stand between us and silverware this season, the contribution of our Russian maestro could well be critical.

The Big Game

December 13, 2010

Written by BigRaddy

The words Old Trafford always brings a shiver down the spine because Man Utd are  the biggest club in football. Perhaps Barca and Real could dispute their crown but MU play in a competitive league which they have dominated for quarter of a century. I always get excited by this fixture, it is one of the glamour games of the year and when both teams are on form almost guarantees an enthralling spectacle – however neither side is on form at present and I fear the worldwide audience will be disappointed if they expect a feast of football akin to the recent Barca v Real game.

Speaking to Arsenal fans at the Emirates and my Goonermates worldwide, there is a strong sense of foreboding – they expect us to lose tonight, which I find perplexing. I know United have only lost 2 points at home this season but we have very good away form. We are scoring freely on the road and MU are trying to incorporate a damaged goods Rooney. We are top of the League and United are not.

The positives for us are the wonderful form of Nasri and the mercurial Arshavin. Should they both play well we can and will win. We need to adopt an aggressive policy from the start and retain ball possession. The defence has to stay solid and be aware thet United do not play route one but attack at speed down the flanks – Clichy will need to be fully concentrated.

There is rumour that Fabianski is injured and that Chesney may start? If true then what better way to start your PL career with a clean sheet at OT?

Then there is the question of Cesc . Should we play him if he is back to fitness? In my opinion he has to start if fully fit, this is not a player who needs to be nursed through with warm up games, he is too important and too good. That said, this is just 3 points in a long season and should he be anything less than 100%  he must be rested, playing a 20 minute cameo should we be losing by a single goal at 70 mins.

The team almost picks itself:

We all know about United, their  problems and strengths are highlighted all over the media.

Tonight’s game is being watched by football fans all over the world, there will be hundreds of millions of viewers and the match will require a strong referee who will neither be influenced by the spite of Sir Alex nor attempt to be the centre of attraction. Tonight’s referee is Howard Webb, who by any standards has had a fantastic year; to ref the 2 biggest games in World football and then be handed the honour of tonight’s game is a huge accolade. He is not a favourite at Old Trafford because (so far) he hasn’t given the expected home decisions. Should he stamp down on Nani and Rooney’s diving plus Fletcher and Scholes savagery, we will have a chance. If not, it could be a long night.

At some point our team has to gel again. We have played wonderful football at times this season and the dreaded November has passed – we can and will win this game unless Lady Luck fortunes Man Utd (as usual!).


Theo Walcott – Striker or Stinker?

December 10, 2010

Written by gunnerN5

January 20th 2006 was an exciting day in our history; Arsene Wenger secured the signature of Theo Walcott on an initial pre-contract agreement to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday. Even at the tender age of 15 Theo was touted as one of, if not the, best youngster in English football and he was now an Arsenal player.

Now here we are almost 5 years and 134 games later (72 as a starter and 62 as a sub) into his Arsenal career. Has he proven to be the potential star we had anticipated and yearned for or is he still a work in progress; or worst still is he a waste of space?

He has provided many fantastic highlights and his speed frightens opposition defenses, but his lack of consistency and sub standard statistical measurements are sadly underwhelming.

His ability to leave defenses in his wake and deliver crosses is commendable, even exceptional, but many of his crosses go astray, along with the possibility of creating good goal scoring opportunities.

How many times do we see him speed up to a defender and then have no idea on how to get around him, how many of his passes go astray;  how many good moves break down because of his poor decision making?

In his 134 appearances, 72 as a starter and 62 as a sub he has totaled 18 goals and 20 assists, if we consider a goal as 1 point and an assist as half a point then he has earned .209 points per appearance.

One would believe that with his speed he would be best suited as a sub coming on for the last 20/25 minutes against tired defenses but the stats don’t back up this theory as  they are almost identical  as both a sub and a starter.

Most of our subs have higher points earned as starters than they do as sub’s which makes sense given the increased amounts of time that they are on the pitch – but Theo defies the logic – why?

His contribution level as a starter is almost the same as a sub and this simply should not be, especially with his outstanding speed. One would have to believe that at least his assists would increase given that we score so many goals in the last 20 minutes – but that is not the case – why?

Sadly I don’t have answers, simply questions, but even sadder it would appear that nobody else has either. It remains a wish and hope situation.


Since I wrote this I have done some more exhaustive/accurate research into this season’s goal scoring statistics and the results are quite revealing.

I would have preferred to use minutes played but I could not find a reliable enough source so I settled for the combination of games and substitutions to arrive at appearances – not ideal, but still useful data.

It should be of no surprise to any of us that Nasri is number 1 – closely followed by  Chamakh at number 2 – but surprise, surprise Walcott is number 3 – why?

Does that refute all of the previous comments?

The answer to the question is no, as he got all of his points in the first 3 games of the season and in his last 5 appearances he shown his typical inconsistency and earned zero points.

It should also be noted that Sagna has scored more points than Bendtner and that Fabianski has more points than Clichy or Rosciky who just scrapes onto the chart in last place.

All of the stats are EPL only.

Let’s talk.


We’re Better Without Cesc

November 29, 2010

If you listen to the excellent Arsenal podcast by actor and comedian Alan Davies, you will know that he regularly refers to our captain as Jesus.

And who would argue?

At times our little Spaniard does indeed seem to be the son of God (yes, that’s right – his dad really is Dennis Bergkamp).

And, at the risk of a little mild blasphemy, the similarities between our midfield Jesus and his Biblical predecessor are many.

Jesus fed the 5,000 with nothing more than five loaves and two fishes; Cesc regularly nourishes the 60,000 with nothing more than five half decent colleagues and (at least) two donkeys.

Jesus walked on water; Cesc pissed on Tottenham.

Jesus sits at the right hand of the father (Dennis); Cesc sits in the right of midfield, (with licence to roam forward when we’re in possession).

Jesus was tempted by Satan. Cesc was tempted by those satanic twunts at the Camp Nou.

But now, just like the Biblical Jesus, Cesc is experiencing a period in the wilderness: his dodgy hamstring won’t clear up; his touch has gone missing; his passing has deteriorated to its worst level since he started playing for Arsenal; his goals have dried up.

Quite frankly, right now we are a better team WITHOUT Cesc Fabregas.

I know this sounds like heresy. It even crossed my mind to attribute the opinion to someone else, then it would just sound like hearsay.

But I have to hold up my hands and admit it’s all my own.

The game at Villa Park showed how we can function perfectly well without our captain. Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin and Wilshere are all gifted footballers with creativity to spare and they combined well on Saturday.

There was a balance to the team and, crucially, there was not a misfiring piston at the heart of our machine.

When you think about it, our squad is probably better equipped than any in the EPL to cope without its leading creative playmaker.

I don’t believe Cesc’s form has been poor because his head (or heart) is in Barcelona. It’s just that, having played all the way to the World Cup Final and missed pre-season, he has never fully found his stride.

Added to that, his niggly hamstring problem has got into his head (is that a medical first?) to the extent that he is playing in the constant expectation of pulling it again.

At times he has been excellent (Man City away) at others woeful (at home against Newcastle he misplaced 27% of his passes).

You might say that, in that case, we should keep playing him because some of his performances may turn out to be good. But then you run up against the Thierry Henry problem (mentioned by Peaches yesterday): in his later period with us TH14 was so much the superstar of the team that the other players always tried to pass to him, even when there were better options on. This was fine when he was in world-beating form, but as his powers waned it meant we became less effective.

You can see it with the current team: when Cesc is playing he is so much our talisman that they automatically try to give him the ball in the expectation that he is the one who will make something happen.

So when he’s off his game, as he has been lately, most of our play is being channelled through a lame duck.

What some of these other players need is a run of winning games without Cesc, where they learn that they can do it on their own; that Arsenal Football Club would not collapse if he left; and that we (and they) are bigger than any single player. Maybe it was no coincidence that Arshavin had his best game of the season at Villa.

At the moment Cesc is being kept out because of his hamstring, even though the club has acknowledged that the injury is something of a mystery.

Personally, I think the hamstring gave Wenger the excuse he needed to drop his captain.

I hope he keeps Cesc out of the front line for several weeks, to the point where his physical and psychological issues have been well and truly ironed out. About a month would probably allow Cesc to recover fully, so that’s he’s raring to get back in the action.

If he can come back at anything like his best, we will reap the benefits for the second half of the season and, of course, a fit and firing Cesc Fabregas is one of the very best players in all the football world.

A month on the sidelines would bring him back at Christmas. I can’t think of a better time for the second coming of the Messiah.


Arshavin lifts the November blues

November 28, 2010

Written by peachesgooner

It was hard to imagine that November could get any worse, with two dreadful results behind them the team took to the field for the early kick-off against a struggling Aston Villa. Cesc was not in the squad following further excacerbation of his hamstring injury on Wednesday night against Braga but Arshavin, Nasri, Song and Chamakh returned. Tomas Rosicky was the captain for the day.

The added spice for the commentators came in the form of our very own Robert Pires lining up for Villa. Bobby had been training with the Arsenal squad and expected to go to a lower league side but AW had bigged him up and Houllier had snapped him up. Was this to be another performance undone by a former Gunner? No chance.

The opening 10 minutes were as exciting as any we’ve seen so far this season. Arsenal were rampant and imperious, creating 6 really good chances. We seemed to have our shooting boots on today even though the cob-webs were preventing some clean finishing. Arshavin was playing like a man possessed or at least like the Arshavin we always hoped he would be, finding space for himself, running at players and seeing the pass to set up a shot. Chances come and go for this Arsenal team and there is always the nagging doubt that we’ll have squandered ours and the opposition will get a lucky break.

Arsenal were in total control of the first half with Villa hardly managing to get the ball out of their half of the field. With six minutes left Arshavin picked up a ball just on the half way line and set off on a run, jinked pass a couple of Villa players, found himself the space to shoot and scored. Within a minute it should have been 2-0 as Arshavin put a great ball through to Nasri who rounded the keeper but put his shot just wide of the post. A corner gave Chamakh the chance with a great header that was stopped by Freidel. Another corner swept in by Arshavin was met by Nasri who thumped it through several players and into the back of the net. 2-0 at half-time.

How many of us knew the second half was not going to be so easy?

A defensive mess up allowed Villa to score early in the second half and there we were 2-1 again and looking shaky. Another great collapse in the making ……………. not this week. The combination of Jack, Arsh and Nasri feeding Chamakh and Song putting in a great shift meant that although my heart plummeted when Villa scored I felt we were in good shape to ride a small storm. A great pass from Arshavin to Rosicky put Chamakh in to score our third but of course we had to let Villa score again before Chamakh floated a ball to Jack to head home.

Another great win on the road and we were top of the league for a couple of hours. It doesn’t disguise the fact that this could be a great team that will in all probability be undone by lapses in concentration. We flatter to deceive, we let the opposition back into games and  we undo all our own good work. But it’s only November and the season isn’t over until May.

If anyone  wants to add some player ratings I’ll tuck them on the end.

Fabulous Fabianski – at least for now – and three points in the bag.

November 11, 2010

Football never ceases to amaze me.  Last night, many supporters were full of trepidation to see if we could bounce back after two disappointing and lack lustre performances and while it wasn’t exactly a bounce it was a hard fought three points.

We didn’t have to wait long as within the first minute an exquisite cross from Song found Chamakh and he powered the ball into the back of the net.  I would argue that was the best header of the season by any of our players.

Within five minutes, Arshavin should have wrapped the game up with a one on one with Hahnemann but as is so often the case, it wasn’t to be, and that gave Wolves renewed confidence and they slowly but surely came more into the game.

We showed defensively that we could give as good as we got. The back four, notably Sagna and Squillaci, seem vastly improved in recent weeks and although Djourou showed why he is fourth choice with some errors of judgement in the first half, he improved as the game progressed.

It was a great game to watch (possession 50% each) and showed not for the first time this season that on any given day there is not much difference between the sides at the top and the bottom of the premiership. The hope is that while we are not at our most fluent we are right in the mix and still have key players to regain full fitness and form to return to the side.

I would say that the save Fabianski made in the 90th minute was world class and overall he had a truly excellent game, all credit to him for showing “mental strength” after last Sunday.

Fabregas was sadly not at the races and hopefully it is just that he is ring rusty and not thinking elsewhere. His tackle will be discussed by many, but the tackle on Arshavin was worse and has not received the same level of scrutiny by the media.

If there has to be a man of the match it has to go to Fabianski for a near faultless performance and a close second to Chamakh for his brace. He may have drifted in and out of the game but he did what I had hoped he would do, take the opportunities when presented, as a striker should.

Next up Everton, and hopefully with Nasri, Walcott and RVP thrown into the mix, the omens are promising.

Written by kelsey

Rasp’s player ratings for you to disagree with….

Fabianski 9

Sagna 7

Squillaci 8

Djourou 7

Clichy 6

Song 6

Fabregas 6

Wilshere 7

Arshavin 6

Rosicky 6

Chamakh 8

Song’s Position In Question – written by RockyLives

September 30, 2010

What’s wrong with Alex Song?

Last year he was well on the way to becoming the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder. After some false starts he seemed finally to have perfected his game: pick up the ball from the centre backs; move it on quickly to the more progressive-minded midfielders; always be available to receive and pass when we need to keep the ball; break up the opposition’s attacks when we lose it. For a period last year he was doing that job brilliantly.

Now, suddenly, he’s playing a totally different game.

I lost count of the amount of times he was our most advanced attacking player on Tuesday night. And when he wasn’t furthest forward he was bursting into the opposition penalty area time and again to break up our best attacking moves.

It was as if his head was possessed by the ghost of Thierry Henry, his feet by the spirit of Willie Young. Perhaps the soul takeover happened at the same time he got his Norman Beaton haircut.

Imagine if Andrei Arshavin started a game in the left forward position, but spent most of the 90 minutes covering right back. That’s the equivalent of what Song was doing.

The question is why?

It can’t really have been down to sheer stupidity, because it’s a pattern we have seen in the last few games. If Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice disapproved they would surely have given him a good slap round the back of the Colney bike sheds by now.

Instead his forward movement was so pronounced in this game that he must have been instructed to play this way, which is really worrying. When you finally get a player to fulfil perfectly the role for which his footballing gifts suit him, why would you switch him out to do something he’s less skilled at?

Don’t get me wrong. I think Song is a great player. But he’s a great defensive midfielder, not a great attacking midfielder. He does not have the touch, control or eye for a quick killer pass that is essential for the position he was playing in on Tuesday night. That’s a job best done by the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky and Wilshere. Yet I would bet that on average across the game he was more advanced than either Wilshere or Rosicky. Hell, there were even times when Chamakh had dropped deep to pick up the ball and Song was our centre forward.

I know Denilson was playing a holding position which theoretically gave Song the freedom to roam, but if that’s the case there’s no need for Song at all – let’s have a more skilful midfielder in there instead. Against Belgrade Song was generally the reason our attacking moves broke down. His misplaced passes around the edge of the Belgrade box became too many to count and when he got inside the box his less-than-refined close control did the same.

He still managed to carry out his midfield defensive duties to some degree and I’m not going to criticise him for leaving holes because, on the night, Belgrade were offering very little in attack.

I’m more concerned with his cack-handed contribution to our attacking moves. We have the best attacking midfield options of any team in the Premiership – and Song is not one of them.

Come on Arsene, you must know the saying about square pegs and round holes. If you had a bottle of premier cru claret you wouldn’t put it in the fridge (unlike Owen Coyle–glass-wine.html). So don’t put your best defensive holding player in the position that belongs to an attacking midfielder.


So far so good Part 2. Midfield and Attack – written by BigRaddy

September 9, 2010

The midfield has been very good. Nasri continued his pre-season form and looks a fantastic player, his injury is a blow.  To see Nasri  take on and beat a player then lay off an accurate pass is to see the future of this Arsenal team. Should /When Cesc goes, this will o’ the wisp is his natural successor – assuming he remains fit.

But how brilliant has Rosicky been?  In the absence of Fab and Samir he was my MotM against Blackpool and showed what we have been missing. Barring injury I anticipate a great season for him.  That our lightweight midfield outplayed a very strong L’Pool midfield consisting of 2 England first choice players and Mascherano (who was superb) gives enormous hope for the future.

It was brave of Wenger to play Wilshere at Anfield but he wasn’t overawed and gave good account of himself. He has yet to stamp himself upon a game though we all know his time will come. Whether he accepts a bench role for a season or two is another matter, but whilst we have such a wealth of superb atttacking MF’s , he will have to wait his time.

Diaby has been solid, not spectacular, though his goal at the Emirates was the best we have scored this season. His link-up play has improved and he looks very comfortable, releasing the ball earlier and not trying to beat everyone in front of him. It was noticeable at Ewood that Diaby was very concentrated upon defence and was always in the middle at set plays; either marking Samba or getting under the long throw in, he managed to disrupt B’burn’s giants.Three starts in 3 games shows Wenger’s belief in him, though I expect him to give way to Fabregas. I cannot recall shouting at him once, which I can assure you is a major shift!

We needed Song back for B’burn and he looked rusty. Perhaps like Samson he has lost some power with his new haircut (must be a lost bet). A few games will see him back to the man upon whom so much rests. Cesc plays so much better knowing the Song is alongside him. I have grown to enjoy Song’s game, he is unassuming, tough, plays with a smile and is surprisingly skilful for a defensive midfielder. I have no doubt he will become a far better player than anyone imagined when he was first introduced to the team, and is an essential to our prospects of winning the title.     p.s.  I have just read that Alex Song has 17 sisters an 10 brothers!!!

Arshavin looks to have regained the enthusiasm in his game. Scoring twice already and looking dangerous, plus his tackling has been spiky. A mistake at Anfield caused by trying to play out of defence led to a goal, but that apart he has been energetic and tricky. The man almost never loses possession. His website is a hoot and is highly recommended,. Arhavin has said that he has lost his “sparkle” and that he no longer scores amazing goals – well I don’t care if he scores 20 tap ins (he is in my Fantasy Team), the fact that he is becoming a team player is of far more importance. Last season was so frustrating because he appeared to be playing in B minor when the rest of the team were in C major. Hopefully he will tune up this campaign and we get to see him become a lethal instrument in midfield.

Chamakh has looked very solid without being very dangerous. I like the way he closes down the opposition defenders giving them few passing opportunities which results in them hoofing and by-passing the midfield. At Blackburn he took the role (with Diaby) of marking Samba at set plays and did a fine job, which shows how strong the Moroccan must be. He looks superb in the air, his goal from RvP’s corner was a beauty and reminiscent of Alan Smith – we have missed an aerial threat for many years. First time control is good – a lesson to Nik, and he appears comfortable on either wing, allowing RvP/Theo to interchange the central striker role. Perhaps he will not be a 20 goals a season man, but he will score and in the inevitable absences of RvP will be a good spearhead for the attack.

We haven’t seen enough of Cesc to assess his form, but from what we have seen of Mozart, Samir, JW, and Diaby, he will struggle to regain his place (joke). He may be tired but he remains the best player in the PL (how did Giggs get the gong? )

No-one would have been surprised by the injury to RvP. It is so bloody frustrating to have a player of his talent spend so much time in the treatment room. His pass to Theo for the goal at Ewood was sublime, he will be a big miss as always. I have to admit to questioning why it was necessary to risk Robin at Ewood. We all know what happens up there, and it was no real surprise to see him carried off. Had the medical staff any qualms about RvP’s fitness they could have waited for the Interlull and given him 2 weeks of further training. IMO playing him was a costly mistake.

Theo. What can one say? His form for Arsenal is a revelation. This is the Theo we have been waiting for. Making the correct decisions, scoring goals with lightning pace, (the poor Blackpool FB must have left the pitch bewildered), moving all the way across the frontline, not getting pushed around. His goal at Ewood was a masterclass in movement and powerful, accurate finishing. It is hard to believe this is the same player, and yes, I know we are talking about just two great games but if we cannot celebrate now when can we? His confidence is sky high as is his fitness. Arsenal need him to be a superstar, we need an English Face (does the nation really have to be represented by the likes of Rooney, Cole, Terry and Gerrard?).  Please, pretty please Theo stay injury free and brilliant.(written pre-England game and am too saddened to write amendments)

7 points out of 9 from two away and one home games, 9 goals, unbeaten, 2nd to the Chavs who have a very easy opening run, players in form, Cesc to come. What is there not to love?


So far so good. Part 1. The Defence – written by BigRaddy

September 8, 2010

Written by BigRaddy

The Interlull (tm Arseblogger) allows assessment of the season so far,  and despite the paucity of games, we have much to discuss.

I would like to start with our esteemed manager. Apart from the GK blip, Wenger has been very good with 3 top class signings in close season. In my opinion the biggest signing of the summer (or of any summer) was the renewal of Mr. Wenger’s contract. To agree such a long contract (4 years) at his age shows an enormous commitment by a 60+ year old and the level of his love of the club.

It should be remembered that AW could have gone to any club in the World and yet has chosen to stay; for all their wealth and glory neither Barca nor Real Madrid have managed to co-erce him away. Ask yourself this, had AW chosen to take the France manager’s position that he was offered, would France have so badly under-performed and would we be one of the top 6 teams in the World (we currently rank 4th in UEFA’s listings)?

In the games so far we have seen nothing new where substitutions are concerned. At Anfield, 2 subs on 60 mins and RvP on at 76 –  Blackpool 3 subs within 3 minutes on the hour, and Blackburn, 3 subs , two through injury/tiredness and one to give Jack a runaround as he was annoying AW by playing with his gameboy.  I have to say that I have been infuriated in the past with AW’s subs but this season he has changed things when the need has arisen. Taking off two attacking MF’s and replacing them with Vela and RvP at Liverpool was a very positive move and one which eventually brought results.

Mr. Wenger’s tactics have been spot on as well. The first half at Anfield was the template for what we have seen since, the classic Wengerball of possession, changes of pace, overlapping fullbacks and a high defence.

Almunia. Too much has been written about him, but in my opinion he has played as he always does, pulling of some fine saves but being inconsistent on crosses. The Liverpool game encapsulated Almunia – great saves followed by coming for crosses he had no chance of catching and in my opinion a mistake for Liverpool’s goal – I hate to see a GK beaten at his near post, no matter how hard the shot is. That said, he played a blinder at Ewood, and he is our GK.

The new signings are always under the microscope and I believe we have much to be grateful for. Koscielny’s baptism at Anfield was always going to be difficult, yet he passed with flying colours looking confident and comfortable, linking well with TV and covering Sagna when he attacked. The sending off was extremely harsh, though his first yellow for a full bloodied tackle was a delight to see. He is clearly a tough man, to come back after that dreadful tackle by Cole (as deserving a red card as any we will see this season) shows a determination to succeed at his new club. How he would have fared against a fully fit Torres remains to be seen. He wasn’t bullied by Blackburn and more than held his own with the aerial attacks, but he got badly turned by Hadj Diouf (spit spit) for Blackburn’s goal.  One mistake in two games for a newbie is very acceptable.

The signing of Squillaci is very good. I cannot recall seeing him play, but the stats are very impressive. A man with huge experience, played in a CL final and a regular International. I believe he will be the first choice CB ahead of Koscielny in the big games. We have definitely strengthened in the centre of defence, by replacing the creaking limbs of Swiss Phil, WG and Sol with younger players with top flight experience.

Our two full backs have had differing starts. Sagna is in great form, both in attack and defence. One could say that he went missing for Blackburn’s goal but if he is to be an attacking threat (particularly with Theo going central), he is reliant on coverage from others. His is an awkward position because of Theo’s attacking skills outweighing his defensive abilities. How does Sagna choose when to go forward? As he is such a potent weapon both in adding numbers on the right side of attack and in allowing Theo to move centrally , his choices have to be perfect. The space behind him has to be filled by Song or Diaby, and he is dependant upon their awareness of Sagna’s forays.

Clichy has been criticised  for his continuing poor form and many call for the emergence of Gibbs, but I think he needs more games to re-establish himself as one of the world’s top left backs. He has been turned too often for comfort and his distribution has been poor, in particular his crossing.  However,class will out and Clichy is a class performer. Some of his interplay with with Arshavin is excellent as they become an effective team, I love to see Gael with the ball at his feet in a tight situation and with AA in front of him – they contrive to play almost magical football in turning defence into attack. It is also interesting to note that Blackburn were a non-existent threat down our left.

Vermaelen. Excellent as always. What a find this guy is, already the rock upon which our defence is built. Hard as nails, athletic and a fine reader of the game.  The Blackburn game was the test to see if we had learnt to defend continual long balls and he led the defence in a manner the great TA would have been proud of. The signing of Squillaci has extinguished my fears should  TV  get a long -term injury, at last we have decent cover for this wonderful defender.

3 games. Two goals conceded. We look tight and secure and the communication appears to have improved. The only negative is no defender has scored yet.