Can Arsenal sustain the Improvement?

November 24, 2012

Let’s not get carried away. Two wins against very poor opposition does not mean we are going to charge up the table  – or does it? Could a week of 7 goals and a clean sheet be the portents for a massive improvement? We will find out today.

Aston Villa have had a troubled start to the season; they lack confidence, strikers, cohesion and points. What they do not lack is a very good young manager who will be using all his skills to rectify this situation. Lambert has proven he has the ability to take a club with a small budget to PL safety, I expect him to do the same at Villa, though he is banned from the touchline for this fixture thanks to being rightly upset with the officials.

I have always liked Villa; they have a noble history but went into decline 20+ years ago. To those younger fans it should be noted that, unlike us, they have won the European Cup – can anyone remember the name of their manager at the time? (without Google :-)).

Never liked their ground, set amongst motorways, scrubby parkland  and industrial estates – and the scene of that horrible night of the DB missed penalty, and a hairy Giggs goal (BR was there in ’99). But like Liverpool and Everton, Villa are a proper club.

Who is this Man? (clue: he is not Inspector Clouseau)

Villans are not happy, their team are struggling but there are signs of improvement – 2 ahead against MU, doing OK at MC before being shafted by the ref, this will not be an easy game for us. Villa have a young inexperienced squad and are heavily dependent upon Benteke to score, despite having Darren Bent and Abonglohar in the squad. What has happened to Bent? A confirmed Gooner and according to Peaches a very pleasant chap, he has cost his employers over £50m in transfer fees and yet doesn’t feature in a team desperate for goals. He could be a reasonable Chamakh replacement in January.

Stat time; We have not lost against AV for 13 games (6 dr 7 w). In 7 of the last 9 meetings there has been a goal after the 87th minute. AV have won just 2 of their last 18 home PL games. All of this bodes ill for Arsenal who love to buck the trend!

Arsenal: No Theo, some of the team looking jaded, Sagna and JW both being used too often after retuning from long-term injury, Gibbs a risk, Podolski overplayed – is JNYC right that we need some rotation? Most would say Yes, particularly as we are away at Everton mid-week. I think a little tinkering and perhaps some timely substitutions will suffice.

My Team:

I would be happy to se Gervinho if O-C his not fully recovered from his hip injury . Much will depend upon how AW sets up the midfield., he may choose to play Coquelin in place of JW.

Our recent run of form is entirely due to the good luck brought by the two hirsuite brave Englishmen presented in these pre-matches. Today’s explorer is sure to bring us victory:  Edward John Eyre (1815-1901). An English land explorer who was just a touch self-obsessed as witnessed by the names of his discoveries – Lake Eyre, the Eyre Peninsula and the Eyre River (all in South Australia) he walked through South Australia, the Nullabor plains and along the Great Bight – over 2000 miles! Eyre later became Governor of Jamaica.

Why not re-name it The Eyre-Mirates?

I foresee a tough game this evening. Villa will be keen to get their season on track and our lads have yet to play 90 fluent minutes. Our recent habit of starting very slowly needs to be addressed, so I look for fast start, an early goal and a tight defensive display.


Written by Big Raddy

Heroes and Villains: Match preview.

March 24, 2012

Imagine this: 2010. You support a club which has won the European Cup, your team has a wealthy American owner , they are Wembley regulars and are usually in contact with the League leaders, they are managed by one of the best PL managers (O’Neill)  and have some decent players in the squad.

Move forward a couple of years to 2012. Suddenly your club is owned by a  man whose personal fortune has diminished from 1.5 billion to less than the cost of your new striker. They have taken on a manager from your hated rivals with a football policy that harks back to the ’50’s, your club is over 50 million in debt, and sit 15th in the PL with little hope of improvement.

A Face like the Smell of Gas

Just think …. there are Gooners who think Arsenal have problems!!!

Aston Villa are one of those clubs almost everyone has a soft spot for. A family club with good traditions. Decent ground, decent supporters, no real challenge for The Arsenal (we have lost to them twice since 1999) – what is there not to like? OK, they beat us at The Emirates last season but we were awful that day, with Darren Bent scoring twice in the process of relegating poor Squllaci to the reserves

This season we beat Villa in a tight game with Benayoun scoring in the 87th minute. Can’t see Bennie getting a bench seat today. With the return of our first choice MF’s (bar JW) his days are numbered.

 Bennie and Arshavin. Will we see them again

I know many are extolling our fantastic run as a return to the Arsenal of Old but I am yet to be convinced. We were definitely second best at Anfield with the woodwork and Szczesny’s brilliance saving us, and at Goodison we were hardly outstanding. I have said previously  the difference is that we are getting the breaks which we certainly didn’t get earlier in the season when we hit the woodwork over and over again, and got beaten by teams who had 2 0r 3 shots on target all game. Luck matters, it is often the difference in a tight game.

My Team:

Having an almost full squad to choose from is a luxury we have not had for some time (1982?). Mr Wenger has options in almost every position which makes guessing the team considerably more difficult. The back 5 pick themselves though I expect to see Santos get some pitch time – he will be important in the run-in. The Gerv/Ox position is difficult. Ox plays deeper and can help the midfield more consistently than Gerv, but Gervinho is better on the break and we can win this game with pace.

Unlike the Everton game I do not expect an 8 man midfield battle. I expect AV to park the bus and look to hit us with the ball over the top to Agbonlahor (Bent is injured). In N’zogbia, Ireland and Petrov they have players who can hurt us with clever through balls.

This week’s Gooner. How about another Old Timer?  The writer George Orwell was a Gooner. Born in India he became a fan during the late 1920’s. Orwell then moved to Hampstead and later Kentish Town where he witnessed the great Arsenal team of the 30’s winning absolutely everything. In his Collected Essays he writes of the pride he felt when 7 Arsenal players represented England in a game at Highbury. After WW2, he moved to Canonbury Sq.Islington where he lived until bad health forced him to leave the borough of his beloved team.

Real Man

Another important game today. Whatever the result at the Bridge we have to win. There are tough games ahead and Villa, despite being a decent side, are just the type of team we have to dispatch in what will be a tight contest for the CL places.


written by Big Raddy

Smash the Villains

May 15, 2011

The final home game in what has been an ultimately disappointing season, and a chance to almost cement 3rd place.

It hurt watching the Manchester clubs yesterday. Manchester City won the FA Cup  and congratulations to the knuckle dragging, bog dwelling mingers upon winning the Title.

I can write in two words why we didn’t win the PL in a year when we were surely the best football team – Home Form. Hardly rocket science but nonetheless had we been able to establish Fortress Emirates we would without question have won the title. United have won 6 (yes – 6!) more home games than us and Chelsea 3. Furthermore, MU drew one to our 4. That adds up to 26 more home points than we gained  – yes – 26!! Yet should we win today we will be just 7 points behind them.

There has been much written on AA as to why this is so, much of which AW will have read and considered. In my opinion we have become constrained by our football ethic and opposition managers have an easy tactic to deal with it – defend in depth on the 18 yard line and wait for a set piece to attack. Any team who has attacked us from the opening whistle (apart from WBA) has been beaten.

Today’s opponents have had a far worse season than us. Their fans must be reeling from witnessing a club with such resources (fanbase, players, coaching staff and financial backing) wallowing close to relegation; there is still a chance they could go down if results go against them. A team with the talents of Young, Agbonlahor, Downing, Freidland, Dunne etc are surely too good to be in their current position. And then there is AV’s record signing, the big AFC fan, Darren Bent. Should we have signed him? His goal scoring record is excellent. I can only imagine it was his very high transfer fee which caused AW to demur.

Statistically, we should win. Villa have won just once in 24 visits to AFC, though they  have only lost one of the last 4. However, our home form is so inconsistent and a draw would confirm AV’s premiership status.

Today’s highlights have to be the return of two Arsenal favourites – TV and the great Robert Pires. Vermælen’s absence has been enormously costly as Mr Wenger struggled to establish a consistent CB pairing (thanks to injury and poor form). The Belgian is our best defender; strong, a fine tactician, a potent attacking weapon, and a born fighter – he has been sorely missed. Expecting him to return in top form may be unrealistic but his return is very, very welcome.

This is likely to be Bobby’s final appearance at THOF. He has graced the shirt and will be remembered as one of the finest players to have ever played for Arsenal. The fact that he has bought a flat at Highbury is evidence of his love for the club. Who can forget the adulation he received from the 2002 side when he limped up to raise the trophy. Let us hope he gets a few minutes pitch time in a 4-0 Villa loss!!

There has been rumour of AW selecting a weakened team, but this is surely just rumour. We need these 3 points and the fans deserve to see a decent performance. Cesc, Nasri, Diaby and Koscielny are out.
My team:

However, it would be no surprise to see Bendtner or Chamakh get a start as the team above is seriously lacking in inches.

Villa are blessed with 2 giants of the Heavy Metal world as fans: Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler, both ex- members of the Black Sabbath. Nigel Kennedy and Amy Winehouse are also big fans. Anyone who has been to Villa Park (scene of the awful FAC semi-final when DB10 missed that penalty) knows how charming the area of Aston Villa is.

Please Arsenal, give the fans who spend so much money, time and emotion  attending the Grove a pleasant end to our home season – smash the Villains!!!


What’s with the negative vibes, man?

November 27, 2010

Feeling lucky punk? Well are you? I am, and here is why. We are a very good team who have suffered from a mixture of bad form, bad luck and bad refereeing over the past two games. Prior to that we had won two difficult away games and had discovered our fighting spirit.

Does the dire 45 mins v Spurs and the very poor performance in Braga mean we are a poor side fortunate to be in 3rd place?  I would shout a definite “No”. We still have the ability to beat anyone and we are still title contenders. Some may say (and do say) that this side is brittle, lazy, and lacking in spirit; some say we lack leaders, that the defence is a shambles,  the GK is a fool and Mr. Wenger should be reading his P45 on the bus home (are there still P45’s?). Rosicky is finished, JW is overworked, Denilson is not good enough, Nik, Diaby and Theo must be off-loaded, Squillaci is wooden, Koscielny too weak for the PL and Chamakh won’t shoot. Oh, and Clichy is too inconsistent,  Sagna can’t cross and Arshavin isn’t trying. That is without Cesc constantly thinking about Barca!!

Cobblers I say. This team is on the verge of something special. We are in the mix and with a good run can be top going into the New Year. Now I know one could counter and ask “upon what do you base your positive opinion” My main answer would be that I prefer to believe we are going to win than to lose. Plus we have seen this team destroy other sides – it is not so long since we dismantled Man City.

Our away form is good, for once better than our home record. What that shows I have no idea, we have played more difficult sides away!

Villa. We have an OK record against them at Villa Park. They are struggling to adapt to their new manager and the loss of two midfielders (Milner and Barry). The signing of Stephen Ireland looked inspired but he has yet to achieve the influence he showed at Citeh, 20 y.o. Bannan  has been on fine form and is highly rated by Villa fans. Upfront there are the usual motley crue – Heskey, Young, Carew, Agbonlahor and the new rising star Delfouneso. We should have enough to hold them, though on current defensive form we are almost sure to concede and will be looking to our attackers to create a winning platform.

Of course there is a special player in the Villa squad, one who is a particular hero of mine, a man who lit up the green fields of Highbury and many other pastures, a player who was so respected by his  colleagues that they all bowed down to him when he limped up to take his PL medal on that great day at Highbury. I hope Bobby gets some pitch time when we are 3 up with 10 minutes remaining, but unlike Eduardo doesn’t score!

The loss of Cesc for a few weeks is painful – he was just returning to some form, but Nasri has the opportunity to take his creative role. Once again, I lament the absence of Diaby, who plays well in tandem with his French midfield buddy

My team:

I would love to see van Persie start but “chocolate legs” doesn’t seem to have the confidence of his manager.

Finally, much is said about the “5 years”. If one takes out the League Cup (winners in ´94 & ´96) the last time Villa won a trophy was 29 years ago, though to be fair, it was the European Cup! Maybe it is our turn this year  ………


written by Big Raddy

Martin O’Neill for Wenger Anyone?

August 11, 2010

Written by dandan

Martin O’Neill, Aston Villa’s much lauded and universally admired manager, has resigned and walked away from Villa Park.

It is generally believed that he left over money. He has spent more than £200m in 4 years. In that time, the wage bill has increased to 85% of turnover and Villa achieved 6th place in the Premiership. Despite being told he could reinvest some of the money he was about to receive for James Milner (reportedly), he still felt that he could not break into the top four without continuing with that level of investment, to bring in new players of equivalent quality and to replace those who leave with greater quality. It appears that this was something the American owner could not sanction in these tough times.

Villa fans are having to live with the realisation that they are unlikely to step up at all this year. In fact, the likelihood is the reverse and a mid table finish is expected to be the inevitable result for the club.

How then would he have fared under the strictures and restraints imposed on Wenger in recent years? Could he have delivered continued participation in the champions league? I think not.

Yet unlike the Villa fans who are sad to see their man go, there is a highly vocal minority of Arsenal fans who would see Wenger leaving as the very least they would wish for.  This for a man who’s insistence on youth and sensible spending has borne fruit, not only in the form of the remarkable facilities the club now boasts, but in the stream of young talent his regime has produced. Many of the emerging players are English. A significant number will be representing their countries this week at all levels right up to full international.

O’Neill is rightly regarded as one of the pick of the home grown managers, a Brian Clough disciple and disciplinarian who has been (with the exception of Norwich) successful wherever he goes. He is shrewd enough to have never been sacked; he leaves when he decides the time is right.

So to you discontented Arsenal fans, I pose the question, is Martin the man to replace Arsène? Should we bite the bullet and replace him now?

But before we do, we need to wish our young guns the best of luck for tonights game. Theo, Jack and Kieron pull on those England shirts and make us gooners proud – tonight we can enjoy watching England again.