A Last Hurrah.

May 15, 2016

Final PM of the season and Your Foreign Correspondent is away on manoeuvres, but being a man with a sense of duty this post is being written before WHU (hopefully) beat MU .

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Villa come to the Emirates after what must be their worst season in living memory. 3 managers , 3 wins all season, the draw with N’castle gave them their first point in 10 games. An angry fanbase, an owner who lives 5 thousand miles away and doesn’t appear to give a damn, players who are equally dispassionate, It is a shambles.

Could Villa win today?

They better not!!

I have no doubt Villa will be looking for a battling performance after all these are professional men playing for their careers. Some who are at the end of their contracts will be desperate to show they have value, others, like Lescott and Abangymethingy are already multi-millionaires and perhaps not so committed but this afternoon will not be an easy victory – we will have to play well to win.

Pressure. Can this Arsenal team respond to pressure? Well, we are on a unbeaten 9 game PL run, have shown character to come back from losing positions against MC, WHU and Spurs, so the answer should be Yes.

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The Last time we played AV on our Final game of the Season

A huge fillip is the return of our midfield, any team would struggle without such vital players. That said, as soon as a few come back a couple of England Internationals get long-term injuries!

We all know the value of 3 points today especially if The Miscreants fail up at St. James Pk. How funny would that be?  😀

The team: I would start the same chaps who got the draw at City with Ozil replacing Welbz.

Cech

Bellerin     Gabriel      Koscielny     Monreal

Ramsey      Elneny     Iwobi/Wilshere

Sanchez     Giroux     Ozil

Given how important Mr Wenger views the Euro’s I would not be surprised to see Wilshere start in place of Iwobi allowing Ramsey to play further forward.

Coquelin: Is he on the naughty step? He is fit so why isn’t he starting? He has gone from being one of the first names on the team sheet to riding the pine without any discernible reason.

I am sure Santi will get some pitch time in order for the fans to show their love. Rumours are that he is off in summer though my hope is that he continues to entertain us for a couple more seasons.

No excuses – we have to win this afternoon. The tough work was done up in Manchester now the lads have to finish their season in style.

Let it be so …

p.s. This being my final pre-match of an exciting campaign may I take this opportunity to thank all those who have read my views and contributed to the discussions.

COYRRG


Arsenal Stroll in Villa Park

December 14, 2015

Arsenal cruised to the top of the league after a controlled but determined two nil win over Aston Villa which topped off what was pretty much a perfect week.

It wasn’t that much of a surprise that the EPL league leaders elect should have beaten the team at its foot and soon to be Championship fodder but before the start of these kind of games there is always a nagging doubt at the back of the mind that whispers: maybe today is the day when Villa get lucky and pull off the totally unexpected and we all know that a WBA or Norwich result was just about the last thing we had wanted.

The Good Guys took to the field clearly brimming with confidence after our heroic midweek win and proceeded to take control. Nothing could have suited us better than an early goal and that is exactly what we got. After nine minutes, Özil sent a long pass down the wing for Theo to sprint after, shoulder to shoulder with Alan Hutton the Arsenal away supporters pantomime villain for the day, Theo got free but was pulled back in the box by Dick Dastardly.

TW

The Arsenal players pleaded for a penalty which looked as though was going to go missing until all of a sudden the referee did a quick calculation and realising that we needed all three points to go top duly pointed to the spot. Giroud grabbed the ball with purpose, as though any one else was going to get close, and placed it on the spot, made sure everyone was looking, signalled the drum roll and then coolly slotted it home.

Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsenal immediately went into keep ball mode but as poor as Villa were, Arsenal were always going to need a second and, yet again, that is exactly what happened. Villa were pouring forward in the vain attempt to get an equaliser when Ramsey made an excellent tackle at the edge of our box to recover possession. With Villa having committed so many men forward the break was on; Wales’ finest sent the ball ahead of Walcott who sprinted onto it, he immediately sent it cross field to Ozil who, although, having an excellent chance to score himself squared the ball to no other than Ramsey who had made a lung busting run into their box where he was able to guide it home.

AV

Two nil and the game was over bar the shouting. Villa did put a bit of effort into it at the beginning of the second half but Wenger made two earlier than normal substitutions in Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain for the tiring Campbell and Walcott and English pair’s freshness ended Villa’s flutter and normal service was resumed with Arsenal looking like the side who were more likely to score again.

The little piece of controversy I would throw into the mix is that I don’t know if you have noticed but in my opinion we are playing a lot more simply since Sanchez got injured. Our football is less complicated, the ball is being passed, controlled and then quickly passed on again, no trying to beat three players first, just receive it and move it.

Normally, 9 times out of ten, when Özil gets the ball looks for Sanchez but with Chile’s finest out, Özil has to look elsewhere. Mr Assist has no other choice but to try and find Giroud or such. In normal circumstances the Frenchman would be ignored, frozen out, the pass of last resort. Giroud is not part of Sanchez, Özil and Cazorla’s club, whole games have gone by with the three musketeers playing amongst themselves with Ollie hardly getting a touch which must be a drain on his confidence but with Sanchez injured Özil has had no choice but to try and find Giroud, as do the others; the result being, that Giroud’s confidence has soared and his scoring has hit a purple patch.

I know what you are thinking, there is no way that Campbell or Walcott are going to keep Sanchez out and yes I agree but Arsenal have won all three matches since Sanchez was sidelined so maybe they should keep mining this rich vein of form for a while longer?

Written by LB


Brothers in Arms

December 13, 2015

After the fantastic victory midweek and the joy which emanated around the Arsenal world a win today would make Xmas shopping just that bit more fun. Unfortunately this Arsenal team is quirky – last time we won 3-0 away (Swansea) we lost the next 1-5! This time I expect the 3-0 to precipitate a long run of success

Fortunately Villa are not yet at the level of Bayern Munich but they are improving under Remi Garde who has taken on a huge challenge; a job which if he takes them down will be money for nothing and let’s face it, Villa are in dire straits.

I like Villa and wish them well but no wins in 14 and 8 games without a home victory bodes ill. However, Gestede, Bacuna and Grealish are due to return from injury and the naughty step so they will be optimistic of a change of fortune.

Villa have some real “take the man as well as the ball” players – the mad Scot Hutton, the mad Dane Okore and the mad Englishman Lescott who will be looking to let Ozil and friends “know they are there”. A windy day, a heavy pitch and a determined team with more sweat than ability could lead to more injuries for our boys.

And what of The Arsenal? I expect the FP to be rested this afternoon and get the last 20 minutes, that said I am sure he will want to continue his scoring run and perhaps Mr Wenger will opt for his strength upfront. IMO we would be better off with the pace of Theo and Campbell against AV’s lumbering defence.

I would like to see The Ox start, so my team would be:

Cech

Bellerin     BFG     Koscielny    Monreal

Ramsey     Flamini     Ox

Ozil

Campbell     Walcott

This season has seen some bizarre results with unexpected losses by the top teams – let’s all congratulate Bournemouth – so Arsenal have to beware of over-confidence.

Our last match against AV was one of the best performances I have ever seen by an Arsenal team. Enjoy.

If we win we go ToTL and we will – if we play as a team and work in harmony, like brothers in arms

Let it be so …..

COYRRG


Our Annual Trip to Wembley!

June 4, 2015

The build-up to Wembley started on the previous Thursday with Ant upsetting Pedro the Mackem on their five-a-side night with his answer to the question, ‘What are your plans for Wembley?’  Ant’s reply was, ‘The usual’ which was deemed  a little presumptuous by someone  who rarely gets to go. Then again, as this was to be our fourth trip in just over a year , was completely understandable.

Our routine involved an overnight stop at Beaconsfield and subsequent train into Wembley Stadium overground. So we set off at our ‘usual’ time of 8.45 in the car from Nottingham, aiming to get to Beaconsfield in time for a swift beer at the Wetherspoons alongside our budget hotel, before trekking off to get the bus into Beaconsfield town centre to catch the train. On the car journey we received a message from one of my godsons who’d drawn an Arsenal badge to get us in the right mood. Beautiful!

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So we arrived at the hotel car park, as was tradition, in plenty of time to sneak an aforementioned swift blonde real ale at the ‘Spoons. The first photo of Ant in his Cup Final beret was duly posted on Facebook and proceeded to get over 20 ‘likes’, largely down to Ant’s uncanny resemblance to Benny Hill.

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Our next photo message received showed the Vines Gooners from South London proudly displaying their yellow colours, including our littlest Gooner, Charlie. We also saw that my attempts at a homemade rosette had been well and truly trumped by older brother Jon with his spectacular red and white creation.

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Meanwhile Ant and I had disembarked at Wembley and had eventually found Watkin’s Folly, our potential first stop. A fiver on the door which was to include cheeseburger and chips put off the younger Vineses as we knew that a packed lunch of humungous proportions to come negated the need for early sustenance. The Sports Bar across the road had no such door charge and with Ant in desperate need of some bladder relief proved a convenient first stop in the Wembley environs.

The said bar was festooned with shirts from many top teams and also one from Totteringham Hotspurs. Ant’s attention was grabbed by a peculiar signed photo of Tony Adams cut from a newspaper which made our Tone look huge. Judge for yourselves.

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And so it was on to The Torch, our intended substitute for The Green Man which had been the venue for the Semi and both Semi and Final trips at the end of the 2013/4 season. The South London contingent arrived and we were provided with an FA Cup-themed packed lunch menu. So pleased we refused the cheeseburger!

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Jon strung his Santi banner up on the pub car park fence much to the consternation of the next door neighbour who’d had his fence pulled over in previous football supporters’ shenanigans. After some reassurance that we would be extra careful not to do any damage, photos were taken and the usual disarray ensued.

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The back bar of The Torch used for drink replenishment, was ideal with small queues which allowed  several refill runs with virtually no hassle, to be purchased. Double rounds the order of the day. Jon bought a free Captain Morgan hat for a fiver from a happy fellow Arsenal fan who cheekily tried to get us to buy another only a few minutes later.

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Having quaffed a gallon we set off toward the stadium, but as we were Eastsiders for the day, the route took us along Wembley Way for a change allowing time for more photos which demonstrated how we’d managed to stay pretty sober!

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Taking our seats, the atmosphere was electric. The Villa fans contributing a great amount to the atmosphere, while the Arsenal fans, complete with complimentary yellow and very dark blue scarves, turned Wembley East side to a cacophony of buzzing bees.

The match was a sublimely joyous celebration of Wengerball with almost zero stress, some magnificent goals and a Villa team completely outclassed on the day. What a Final for us Gooners to savour!

Post match saw more photo opportunities at our designated meeting point, the Bobby Moore statue.

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Next on the agenda was beer. We eventually found Las Iguanas restaurant in the Wembley retail complex and jugs of beer and some organic cider for older bro were ordered to be quaffed at a perfect table outside. We spoke to many supporters on their way past. The Villa fans were graciously magnanimous in defeat. In a way they were  just pleased to have avoided relegation thanks to Tim the Gooner and were revelling simply in the chance to be part of the day. All credit to them. Our favourite encounter was with a Villa fan who had teamed up with an Arsenal fan only an hour previously but who’d suddenly become best buddies. The Villa fan reminisced about players from previous generations including ‘Sideways’ Mortimer which involved a crab-like mime which was priceless. The mention of the venerable Jimmy Rimmer of Arsenal and Villa fame stimulated a favourite Arsenal keeper discussion of which Almunia was the clear winner. Superb.

Having turned down an overpriced burger restaurant, we headed back to our usual curry house on Wembley High Road. We were welcomed by the owner as if she recognised us.  It was another excellent decision and raucously enlivened by some Villa fans playing Roman numeral beer games at the adjacent table. Their forfeits involved the belting out of old Villa songs involving  ex players such as Nigel Reo-Coker  and garden sheds. We joined in their rendition of ‘ Where’s your European Cup?’ much to the consternation of a particular Arsenal fan on the table the other side of us.

All that was left for the day were train journeys back to our respective billets, so the four of us made our joyous way to the train station and eventually into the land of nod.

Ant had managed to procure an extra scarf and some discarded flags which I’ve since given to my godsons in Nottingham. Their Mum would like them to be Notts County supporters but she agreed that there’s no harm in them supporting another team ‘that wins things occasionally’. Haha.

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What an amazing trip, on a par with some of our Cardiff experiences of the early 2000s.

Up The Gunners, roll on next season.

Written by chas 


Alexis to score. Ozil MotM.

May 30, 2015

If I said I was totally confident I would be fibbing.

A year ago we were a goal-line header away from being 3 down after 20 minutes to Hull, and Villa are a better team. Much better.

Under normal circumstances having beaten a team 3-0 away and 5-0 at home I would be planning my trip to the Victory Parade but Sherwood has transformed Villa, more importantly he has transformed Benteke. In my opinion, Villa’s chances rest on the big fellow’s shoulders. Yes, they have other weapons but nothing our heroes cannot cope with if they play as per normal.

How to rate Sherwood? Tim “Nice But Dim” – or is he? I like the cut of the man’s jib; he is a very different manager to Mr Wenger who eschews passion and fire (and gilets) for logic and intelligence. Mr Wenger’s management style fits his team- we are artists who play with the brain first and foremost, whereas a Sherwood team plays from the heart and stomach. I prefer our style, don’t you?

Statistics all point to an Arsenal win – Villa have beaten us just 3 times in out last 34 games, Alexis has scored more goals this season than the AV team added together etc etc but stats don’t win games, players and luck do.

We have the players, we will have to see about the luck but I was up early cycling down to the forest to sacrifice a virgin (I had to import her from the Faroe Islands as there are none in Copenhagen), I have feng shuie’d my living room so the TV is correctly positioned (which meant blocking the doorway with the sofa), I have donned the lucky socks and pants, wearing the lucky shirt, will drink the lucky wine and Mrs Raddy will buy the lucky cake from the lucky cake shop. If we lose it will not be my fault 🍀

As to tactics ….. mwaaah. I know very little and leave that up to the AA tactical wizards.

One thing I have yet to mention is just how excited I am that Arsenal are in their second FAC Final in two years and have the chance to win it two years running for the second time  – the only club to do so, and this is our 19 FA Cup Final – another record.

17.30 kick off. Anyone know why? What is wrong with 15.00? Is it to sell more beer to the fans?

Referee: Jon Moss. This is the lemon who did nothing when Debuchy was pushed over leading to his shoulder injury and to his season being ruined. He also allowed Crouch to repeatedly elbow our CB’s in the face. Let us hope for a better performance this evening.

We have many AA’ers going to the game and I hope we can have some wonderful pre-match commentary from A & D along with some pics from other attendees. For the rest of us it will another afternoon hiding behind LB’s sofa.

I am hoping for an early goal to settle the nerves. I expect Alexis to score. I expect our midfield to weave their intricate magic and set up chances for our forwards. I expect Ozil to be voted MotM.

And in the words of one of England’s greatest heroes “Arsenal expects that every man to do his duty”

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Rabid Gooner and Sammy’s Dad

I am 56% confident.

COYRRG


Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0

February 2, 2015

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Five superb goals from the good guys and a clean sheet to boot, what more could we want from a Sunday midday match?

The same next week, I suppose is the answer to that question but one step at a time.

With Welbeck and Sanchez out we had to make do with Ozil and Walcott, I know, I know but needs must and all that and yet even with this handicap Arsenal brushed Villa aside with a top drawer display from pretty much every player throughout the team.

The first fifteen minutes were impressive, the interplay was crisp and precise: Walcott was making excellent runs through the middle and his team mates were finding him. Villa had no answer to his lighting fast speed but it was Giroud who opened the scoring with a deft little pass from the returning and ever stronger Ozil. The Frenchman found himself one on one with the keeper and seemingly when everyone thought he was going to lose control, he chipped the ball over the on coming Villa keeper and into the back of the net.

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Everything looked set for a thrashing but we were made to wait as our initial impetuous plateaued. Somehow we managed to start letting Villa back into the game: Ospina needed to make a fine save to keep us ahead but no matter how hard we tried to make them look good and boy did we try, we were not able to succeed. Villa are absolutely awful.

There were a few frustrating moments in the first half; we should have wrapped the whole thing up a lot quicker, attacks were petering out too easily, although, now in the warm after glow of the win they can be comfortably filed under the heading of “Still a bit rusty”.

I think we started the second half the same way as we left off, no better no worse it looked as though the game was going to simply drift but 42 million pounds worth of talent does not stay anonymous forever – and it didn’t. I haven’t seen the replay so I cannot remember how the ball came to him but oh how deliciously sweet did Mesut Özil hit that it into the far corner. It had a purr factor of 10.

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2-0, nerves settled and Wengerball was back on the menu. Not to be out done by the retuning German, the returning Walcott was going to get in on the act as well. Yet again, I don’t remember who played the ball to Giroud but Theo jumped on it before it got to him, instinctively controlling it before curling it past the keeper. It was a very well taken goal.

SOCCER Arsenal

Villa were beaten and the play turned on “Olé” football with everything going through Cazorla who was outstanding as ever. He got on the score sheet with a penalty won by Chuba (hope he stays) Akpom, as did his fellow countryman Bellerin with a low precise drive into the corner which I think I am correct in saying was his first senior goal for the club.

All in all a result that we expected but as the saying goes: you can only beat the team in front of you and we did just that – emphatically.

Bring on the spuds.

COYRRG

Written by LB


Heroes and Villains

February 1, 2015

Remember the opening game of last season? Remember the final whistle? The feeling of angst and anger following the disappointment of losing 1-3 to Villa pervaded the club. Perhaps that atmosphere created the determination which drove us to be top at Xmas (brilliantly predicted by Rocky Lives).

What has changed since then?

Ozil, Alexis, Chambers, Bellerin, Ospina, Welbeck, Debuchy. Quite an ensemble. Are we better? The points tally would say No.

I would be shocked if Villa scored 3 times this afternoon – they have been through difficult times, scoring just 11 goals – 9 less than the next worst (Hull), 28 less than The Arsenal and have scored one goal or less in their last 19 away games! Yet, their last game showed improvement, Villa beat high-flying Bournemouth in the FA Cup.

Lambert is yet another of the hyped managers who have been trumpeted by the media as the next big thing; like Laudrup, Clarke, AVB etc etc he is proving how difficult the PL can be.  Do you think that if Mr Wenger managed Aston Villa they would be a better club and team? Of course they would.

Having won our last 4 games with increasing panache the portents are definitely for an Arsenal win but I have been supporting this team for too long to take a win for granted. This will not be a walkover – Villa have some excellent players; Benteke would flourish at The Emirates, Delph is a better Coquelin, the goal from new-signing Gil shows he is a talent, their defence is strong especially at CB. Beating them will require Arsenal to be in top form.

 UnknownBenteke praying for AW to sign him

Enough of them, what about us? Selection is interesting as the long-term injured return to fitness and the first team. To Ozil or not? To Walcocott or not? To drop the excellent Rosicky or not? Ospina or TPIG? etc etc

Here’s my tuppence worth. Defence: Ospina has to start. Then it is Chambers or Bellerin. Given the pace of Villa’s attack (Ang-backdoor etc) I would start Bellerin. CB pick themselves. Monnreal desrves to keep his place after a good run of form.

Coquelin or Flamini? Coq deserves to continue. Tomas or Aaron? Sorry Mozart, but Aaron is essential. As wonderful as Tomas is I prefer the youth and power of Ramsey. Cazorla is undroppable, which leaves the attack.

Given the absence of Alexis I would play Ozil, OG and Theo.

Can you name all the managers of English clubs who have won the European Cup? Have a try.

Clough is easy, so is Paisley, SAF, Busby,. You may struggle with Fagan’s Liverpool or to remember it was Di Matteo who lifted Big Ears with Chelsea. But if I told you that Aston Villa have won the European Cup could you recall their manager without Googling? No? Neither could I 😀 (answer below)

Given yesterday’s results and the improvement in form of both the Knuckle-Draggers and the Hub-Cap Barons we need to in today. If we don’t it will be a huge disappointmet. But we will.

Too depressed watching yet another England batting collapse to write more.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy

(AV manager who lifted Big Ears was Tony Barton.)


Ox to step up?

September 20, 2014

Well, the fans have giving the team a good kicking this week, we can only hope they pass it on to Aston Villa this afternoon.

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We are always unlucky about meeting a team as they are in good from and today is no exception. Given last season’s miserable performances it was more likely that Lambert would be sacked rather than make his young team into the formidable opponents they will be post kick-off. Fair play to the man.

Or could it be his assistant who has engendered this startling change of form? Keane doesn’t like Arsenal, never has. He does however respect The Arsenal and has been involved in may victories over us. Has he learned from Surralex? I am convinced he has and expect to see Villa play the same way MU did when they could beat us … that is, with violence. Not just violence but cunning violence. Expect the game to start with a flurry of  nasty tackles on our creative players (rotational of course). How the game develops from here will depend upon two things

1. How our delicate flowers respond to a bit of aggressive pruning (just for you Peaches 🙂 )

2. The strength of the referee. Today we are blessed with Mike Jones.

Before discussing Jones may I remind you of how the referee affected the game in our opening fixture last season. Anthony Taylor was so poor he was demoted – deservedly so. Do you recall how he waved play on after a TPIG foul in the area and then when Agbonglahor missed gave a penalty (which they scored)

Where was I? Ah yes, Mike Jones. Last season in 32 games he gave out 108 yellows and 3 reds. Yes, you read that right! This season after 3 games 10 yellows and one red. This chap is card happy. Will this be a good thing this afternoon? The stats do not show whether he is affected by the home crowd as so many refs are. We must hope not and that he continues to brandish yellow each time one of AV’s thugs ploughs through the back of our heroes.

We welcome the return of Big Phil. A player I have always liked – not Arsenal quality but a top bloke and one of Peaches faves. Alongside Vlaar he makes a fine CB partnership and with two quality FB’s Villa have become very difficult to break down. Especially as they have a busy midfield with Delph showing just why he was so highly rated as a teenager at Leeds.

Upfront, they rely upon pace which is not good news for BFG. Breakaway goals are an AV speciality and we can only hope the lessons of Tuesday night have been learned. We cannot afford to be too gung-ho.

Arsenal:  Please, please play Oxlade-Chamberlain today. I don’t care who gets dropped, we need his energy and drive.

The difficulty as I see it is how does a player recover from a bad bout of form without playing? Ramsey is one of our best players but of late has been completely anonymous (apart from scoring two vital goals 😃 ). Can Mr Wenger drop him? Can he drop Ozil?  Of course he can but will he?

Can Sanchez play twice a week given the amount of energy he expends during a game? Or Welbeck, who has covered more ground in 3 games than Giroud does in 6.

This is a tough team to guess but let’s try

 Villa 2014

I am excited to see Chambers get a run in the position he was bought for. Once again we have a powerful bench though lacking in defensive possibilities

Being in the Midlands the food I associate with Villa is always a curry – so I will choose one of my favourite dishes, a Daal Makhani. I read that one of the best can be purchased at the Sanskrit in Stratford Rd.. Add in a Paneer Marsala and a few breads and you are assured a veritable eating extravaganza.

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All it needs is a chilled Lager

Birmingham is home to a host of famous drink and food brands. Typhoo tea, Birds Custard, Bournville cocoa, Cadbury’s chocolate and HP sauce all originate in Brum.

Can we win today? Of course. Our team will be desperate to absolve themselves after the Dortmund Debacle. If it goes tit’s up it will not be because of lack of effort. We have attacking talent in spades, our defence will be augmented by the excellent Gibbs, and we have a fine record at Villa Park

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3 : How Not To Start A Season

August 18, 2013

I’m not even sure where to start, as no one else has offered to do the report i’m going to try and fill the breach.

I have to admit that I missed a portion of the first half between our opener and their equaliser (parenting duties called).

There were no surprises with the team and bench, we are down to bare bones before a ball has been kicked, the absence of Arteta was a concern to all. We had seen in the Emirates Cup that Ramsey and Wilshere are not yet ready to partner each other in the deep lying midfield roles, this is due to a mixture
of inexperience and lack of understanding between them when it comes to one staying and one going.

We started brightly our opening goal a lesson in how to break quickly and clinically, Rosicky playing a great ball down the line to Oxlade-Chamberlain, he in turn picks out Giroud who finished well having made a good run in the box.

What was all the fuss about? We were going to prove the doubters wrong.

What followed was a combination of our old failings, individual errors that brought pressure and lifted Villa, an injury stretched squad
picking up more injuries in innocuous challenges, and our complete inability to get a ref to do us a favour once in a while.

The Villa equaliser came from a bit of good play from Abonglahor, he drifted past too many half challenges with ease no one getting close enough in red and white and was hurtling into the box, Szczesny had few options….stand big and hope he fluffed his shot or go for the ball, he chose the latter and raced out to the feet of Abonglahor, he lost the race Abonglahor pushing the ball past him and taking the contact. Taylor let play go on to see if there was an advantage but as the Villa player stuck it in the side betting he brought it back for the penalty. (Remember this later when I give a full assessment of Taylor).

Szczesny got down well to save the initial penalty but Benteke was first to react and nodded it home. That was disappointing as when watching the replays you see Benteke stop after he takes his kick which should have meant we could at least make his second chance more difficult but Szczesny was left exposed and the Villa front man nodded gratefully home. I should say I think Szczesny made a bad choice on the rebound, he jumped towards the ball, which made Benteke’s header a bit easier…..not that I am blaming him, it’s just another lesson our young keeper can learn.

Not long after we were being forced into a reshuffle, as Gibbs challenged for a header, his forehead connected with the back of the Villa players head. I was surprised at the amount of blood on Gibbs forehead and unable to be stitched and return he was substituted, I guess with the midweek trip in mind as much as for the players safety.

This is where the first calls about our squad lightness will appear. I have two comments:

1) If Monreal had been fit it wouldn’t have been an issue, if anyone believes we should have three senior left backs in the squad please do not moan about squad bloat or paying too high wages to squad players ever again.
2) Even if Monreal was fit he wouldnt definitely be on the bench, after all you don’t have one player in each position on the bench, and we could have easily seen Jenkinson on anyway.

For me I would have left Sagna at right back rather than switch two positions, although to an extent I can understand why you wouldn’t want to young players making combination on the left.

We made it to half time at 1-1 with a couple of scares along the way and not much more created going forward.

We started the second half ok, Cazorla on for Oxlade-Chamberlain another injury….Cazorla seemed to help the team retain possession and do a bit more with it but it also unbalanced us, there was no real cover for Sagna on the left side of midfield.

That was until we undid ourselves again, the ball moved far too easily through the midfield leaving Koscielny tracking back to win possession, which he did with ease, clearly playing the ball, it looked good on first viewing it looked better on replays, Taylor and his linesman decided otherwise awarded the penalty and booked Koscielny. Koscielny’s look of disbelief and smile said it all.

Benteke took the spot kick and sent Szczesny the wrong way.

Just six minutes later Taylor decided to put the icing on the cake of one of the worst refereeing performances I have seen by producing a second yellow card for Koscielny, he had hardly touched the Villa man (if at all I haven’t watched a replay) but he made another step before sprawling himself to the floor. Taylor bought it and showed Koscielny the second yellow.

At this point it was game over, if we wanted to get anything from the game anyway, we could have opted to shut up shop and go away with a 2-1 defeat, but instead we tried to find the equaliser, which was always going to leave us wide open at the back.

We went close a couple of times, Rosicky sending one high and wide and another into the body of the Villa keeper. Giroud had a half chance to hit one with his right peg but chose instead to try and bring it back to his left.

Villa took the opportunity to add a third as we had over committed to attack and Szczesny was left 2 on 1 and no chance.

It is hard to deny we are light on numbers, however the only position that would have helped us yesterday would have been defensive midfield, as with (the panic bought) Arteta missing there was too often a big hole in the centre of the park, and I would guess with his presence we would not have conceded so much ground on Villa’s opener. But this comes down to when we want to spend and who we are trying to spend the money on…do we want a Premier League defensive midfielder or a Champions League one? In two weeks time it may be irrelevant, but surely better to wait and buy the best we can get than rush in and buy average, remember no one likes average squad players on good wages.

As I said earlier despite injury to Monreal surely spending on a left back would be frivolous unless we plan to let one go as well. A centre back would be handy at this point, loaning out Miquel seems crazy if we don’t plan to buy big in this area, as I’d prefer a young centre back raised the Arsenal way to another Squillacci.

The same goes for the spear head of our attack.

And now the ref…..where do I start. He allowed Villa to get away with numerous fouls before being booked, the same did not appear to apply to us. He played advantage on their penalty, but rarely have us advantage for innocuous fouls when we had the ball. I can remember two clear occasions, Rosicky fought to turn his man, once he had turned and had taken him out of the game Taylor blew his whistle for the foul to allow Villa to reset, a late foul on Wilshere by their full back in our half, the ball was with Cazorla ready to get moving and Taylor pulled it back and allowed Villa to reset. Garbage,

And then bookings:
Koscielny 2 fouls, 2 bookings
Cazorla 1 foul, 1 booking
Abonglahor 4 fouls (repetitive ankle taps) 1 booking (last one)
Westwood 4 fouls 1 booking (last one)

And then the curse of rotational fouling, we suffered 18 fouls, 8 on Wilshere, targeted? Just a bit! Allowed to get away with it….absolutely….but of course it’s up to Arsenal Football Club to protect Jack for England…do me a favour!!

So what did we learn, well nothing new really we already knew it all, but it makes it harder to judge when all the other footballing gods appear to be against us.

I do know that this coming fortnight is going to be very tough, and we will see signings one way or the other, it’s just a question of what level of player they are.

If anyone wants to rate the players they can, I can’t after that result because I don’t think it would be fair.

Gooner in Exile


Redemption Song. Villa pre-view.

February 23, 2013

So now what? Will we continue to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or will Lady Luck give us a lap-dance at the Emirates?

One thing for sure, today will not be a de rigeur victory over a slightly rejuvenated Aston Villa. It seems our team are incapable of simple. Even the 1-0 victories have drama attached.

Unknown

On the back of two defeats, the visit of Aston Villa could be seen as an easy opportunity to remedy some wrongs and allow the team to regain confidence. But AV are very capable of at least drawing today. The threat of Benteke is enough to have our CB’s quaking and both Agbonlahor and N’zogbia have caused us problems in the past. Fortunately Richard Dunne is injured which will stop him injuring one of ours.

Despite the Vonder of Vaar Villa have conceded 50 goals already this season – we will score today, and probably more than one. I think Theo could have one of his better afternoons though Villa will look to sit deep and hope to counter-attack. They have the pace and the power to do so. Ball retention and concentration will be vital

But let’s be quite clear, Arsenal may be in a different class to Bayern Munich but Aston Villa are in a different class to Arsenal; if the footballing gods are with us, we should win comfortably. But they are not …..

Will  Mr Wenger trust Gervinho this afternoon? If he does it will demote Podolski to the bench. Now I like Podolski, I like him much better than I like Gervinho. So my hope is that Gerv is used purely as an impact sub.

Can anyone explain why we persist with playing 4-4-2 at home? I just don’t understand it. Ramsey is a fine player but we desperately need thrust and the man doesn’t have it.

My Team:

arse v villa

Perhaps this would be a game to use Coquelin who has been “knocking on the door” and needs pitch time if he is not to agitate for a transfer in summer. Jack despite being magnificent  needs a rest, I would start Diaby and bring on JW after 70 mins.

Today’s explorer. I am still in shock the Sir Francis Drake got beaten by the Germans. Let us hope that Charles Mason (1728-1786) brings us 3 points today. Mason was born in the Cotswolds, trained as an astronomer, met Dixon and together they created the Mason-Dixon line in USA.

images-2

There are no images of Charles Mason, so I found this Gooner instead

In 1761 he travelled to Sumatra to study the transit of Venus; upon his return to England he met Jeremiah Dixon. Together they surveyed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This was important because it became the dividing line between the North-East and Southern states of America. Both men were expert astronomers and surveyors, both became members of the Royal Society. Mason died n Philadelphia at the age of 58.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

Ed: I found this image of Charles Mason but can’t vouch for its accuracy – disappointing lack of facial hair …

Charles_Mason