Match report …..Viva Ramsey!

September 23, 2013

I make no apologies for saying that I dislike Stoke City. Hardly an original view from an Arsenal fan, but about the only thing I can think that commends them is the time spent in the Potteries by the great Lee Dixon and Steve Bould, before they found their way to the home of football.

That is not nearly enough to outweigh my resentment for the wilfully reckless maiming of the then teenage Aaron Ramsey, and especially the way in which the Stoke fans revelled in that incident in the years since, even baiting the young victim. Stoke’s destructive fear of real football, shown up most effectively by Swansea’s success in combining financial caution with quality football, only underlines why Stoke are a club to wish bad things for. True, Mark Hughes has brought a reintroduction of football at Stoke, but I’m not one to forgive and forget.

Arsenal came to the game on an excellent run: one defeat and two draws in 18 competitive games, two defeats and three draws in 20 PL games, a defence that has got into the habit of almost never conceding more than one goal in a game etc etc. The game was always going to be significant for two things: the Ramsey factor, given the opposition and the Welshman’s form this year; and the home debut of the refined and expensive talent that is Mesut Özil. And on both counts, things went well.

Ramsey v stoke

In the fifth minute, Jack Wilshere’s run at the Stoke defence drew a foul from the busted flush that is Charlie Adam in a perfect area. Adam’s incompetence put Özil in a position to line up a good shot on goal, one that Begovic didn’t handle well, pushing it out in front of goal and into the path of the boy wonder, Aaron Ramsey. Watching him able to lord it over the Stoke fans in his celebrations was exquisite. And that was reflected in the chants of the Arsenal fans, who loved ramming it down the Stoke fans’ throats.

We continued to control the game pretty much throughout the first half, but against the run of play Stoke produced their one moment of quality when Gibbs ceded possession on the flank and the ball broke to Steven N’Zonzi. His floated diagonal ball was perfectly weighted and was despatched early enough to deny the defence a chance to set themselves properly. When Arnautović met the ball first time, he was unlucky to hit the post, but it ricocheted into the path of one of those hardworking American players, Geoff Cameron, whose shot was carefully placed beyond Szczesny’s reach.

Sanity was restored before halftime, once again from a dead ball. The Stoke centre backs, Robert Huth and lovely Ryan Shawcross, players unable to do their jobs without cheating, were so intent on manhandling Giroud and Koscielny in the build-up that Stoke neglected to cover Mertesacker. The BFG was easily able to evade the cover assigned to him, and looped Özil’s perfect corner to the back post. With Koscielny running interference to confuse Begovic, the ball dropped into the net. Hey presto, 2-1 up.

Mert celebrates with Rambo and Ozil

The tempo dropped in the second half, which was perhaps unsurprising after the team’s wonderful efforts in Marseille. But fortunately for us, we weren’t facing a side that had the ability to exploit that. Jones was largely isolated and when Hughes subbed him, for some reason he passed over Peter Crouch, and preferred to put Mark Walters up front, which was an odd decision. But, without another goal, we remained vulnerable. That goal arrived from yet another dead ball, a free kick that was once again won by Wilshere driving at the Stoke defence, who were only able to terminate Jack’s run by taking him out. This wasn’t shooting territory for Özil but he floated a ball across the penalty area, where the goal machine that is Bacary Sagna was able to outjump his two opponents and loop a header over Begovic and into the far corner.

Sagna celebrates

And so it was that we were returned to the top of the early season league table. With Man United’s embarrassing capitulation to City, we are already five points clear of van Persie’s team, but the other good sides are clustered together. It was a shame to see Spurs win in injury time, but I do enjoy seeing the two North London clubs at the top, with the good guys in poll position.

We will see much, much better performances from Mesut Özil than yesterday’s, but, even while he’s adapting to a new team and a new league, he was able to provide three assists. It was a quiet, efficient win yesterday, but, even beyond winning three points in a game against a disliked opponent, there were numerous positive aspects for us: Arteta’s return to the fray, Gnabry’s energetic and fearless performance (which meant we were able to cope without Walcott), the solidity of the defence (after the frayed edges shown against Sunderland), selfless hard-work from Giroud and Flamini and a good performance from Wilshere. But the greatest satisfaction came from seeing Ramsey score and play well against our bêtes noires. Viva Ramsey!

Written by 26may

Player ratings by LB

Szezcney: I have never played goalkeeper and because of that I have never professed to know too much about that position but every part of me shouts that this keeper is the real deal; another good game. 8

Sagna: definitely one of his better games, back to where he plays best with the BFG next to him. Patrolled the line well and scored a goal to boot. 8

Mertasacker: Captain on the day, steered the ship from the back with calmness and authority. 8

Koscielny: these two CBs remind me of Adams and Bould, the BFG being the former. On the rare occasions that Adams didn’t play you got to see the actual ability of Bould and realised then just how good Adams made Bould look. Laurent had a perfectly good game but a BFG he is not. (yet) 7

Gibbs: Ramsey may rightfully be the player who has received all the accolades for being the most improved player this season but there is no doubt that the second most improved is Kieran Gibbs; that said, yesterday was not one of his better days. In the first half he was a bit too slack at times. 6

Ramsey: how is it possible to praise him anymore, he was by some distance the best player on the pitch for the first 45 minutes, scoring yet another goal, and celebrating in front of the Stoke fans. He faded a tad in the second half which is the reason I have not given him the MOTM but still another great day at the office. 8

Flamini: after watching him three times on TV I was close to concluding that our second most important signing was no more than a 2013 version of Giles Grimandi: a jobbing utility player; well, yesterday I saw him in the flesh for the first time and realised I was wrong. His passing, his positioning, his tackling were superb; none of them world class; but, a bit like his career path; he really knows how to make the most out of the limited ability that he has. A very impressive game and a worthy MOTM. 9

Wilshere: one step forward, two steps back; he was not at his best yesterday, I got the feeling that he was filling in because others were injured, had Rosicky or Cazorla been fit, Jack would have certainly been on the bench; still, what he lacked in fitness he made up for in a determination. 7

Gnabry: I was going to tear into the young German but having read a few comments from some of the more esteemed regulars on here, arguing that he is not a winger, maybe I should hold fire. Nevertheless, he was poor in the first half, he slowed the play down almost every time he got the ball, when a simple pass was possible he tried to show off. It is, of course, early days, but this is a match report on yesterday’s game and yesterday, in my opinion, he was not very good. 5

Giroud: his passing is improving, his control is improving and his positioning is improving, he always works like a Trojan and yesterday was no exception. 8

Ozil: Three assists on his home debut. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I went with my Mrs who asked when he ran close to us to take a corner: why are they all standing and clapping before he has even taken the kick, to which I replied — for just being. 8


Blimey — We look really good.

August 11, 2013

When you think about it, playing City one week before the start of the season was a very smart move, some very clever scheduling must have gone on behind the scenes, clearly designed to give us a stern test before the real football starts next week against Villa.

If this was indeed the intention and indeed meant as a test then Arsene Wenger’s men passed it with flying colours.

But I must admit I didn’t expect it. City started as positively as you would expect. A collection of players brought for around five hundred million seemed to be effortlessly moving the ball around us. I feared the worst and started wondering how I would write a report, if required, and found myself thinking that if we lose I might have to trot out the chestnut that you can’t hide the difference in quality that five hundred million buys you.

But I was wrong, there was no need, this was one of those precious moments when the hearts of Wengerites, of which I am one, soar.

We stuffed City.

Arsene’s team, put together with a fraction of the opposition’s budget, showed a far greater level of skill and clinical finishing. In short, we were treated to some pre-season Wengerball of the highest calibre.

Ramsey was for me our Man of the Match a cross between S Gerrard’s ability to move powerfully throughout the midfield, R Keane’s determination and C Fabregas’s finesse.

Because — that pass — to set up Walcott for the first goal was class; with slide rule precision it carved the City defence open, finished off with some aplomb by the man who had a hand in every goal today. Well, done Theo, you really have been giving doubters like me a good kicking recently.

I was a bit surprised to see Podolski starting at number 9; the first thought that ran through my head was this is in response to John Henry’s blunder bus of a statement that Liverpool would not be selling Suarez; it seemed like Arsene Wenger’s more subtle way of saying, we have options and our negotiating position is better than you think.

Excluding Podolski, I got the impression that both teams started with their strongest possible line up, but, where City were struggling to find a new format, Arsenal simply picked up from where they effectively left off last season.

There weren’t too many other chances for the good guys in the first half that I can recall but I do want you to share the pleasure in remembering Bacary Sagna’s left foot pile driver that hit the post – damn, did that man play well.

Second half started, changes were made and I thought here we go; we are all well aware how Arsenal are capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory but once again – none of it.

We got stronger and stronger, scoring a second goal and then a third. The second was a deftly weighted pass from Theo who I think Cazorla stepped over allowing the ball to roll to Ramsey who, in turn, rounded the goal keeper before slotting home. The ease with which Ramsey rounded England’s number one was Messiesque and made all the better by the look of embarrassment on Joe Hart’s face.

When there is goal scoring going on Oliie does not seem to be the kind of striker who likes to be left out. A pass from Walcott some thirty yards made fools of the City defence allowing Giroud to control and lob over the oncoming and even more foolish looking Joe Hart.

The game as a competition was over, Arsene had the luxury of bringing on more young hopefuls and Carl Jenkinson’s family and army of friends had a chance to shout his name.

City, of course, did score; Koscielny got bundled off the ball a bit too easily but I am not convinced that would have happened in any circumstance other than being three up.

So, a great warm up, a great result, a great boost for the collective confidence and all is looking well for next week.

Have a great Sunday.

Written by LB


Emirates Cup – Arsenal 2 – Napoli 2

August 3, 2013

Yesterday saw the return of the Emirates Cup after a years absence to accommodate the Olympics, due to the pessimism amongst fans this was seen as a cop out, because:

A) they know no one will turn up
B) we can’t even win our own pre season tournament anymore
C) some other conspiracy theory

star man kozzer

Anyway the club has re introduced the tournament this season and it was our first chance to look at the progress of the team and more importantly for me the progress of the youth team against slightly more robust opposition than the Indonesian Dream Team.

The Emirates Cup has introduced us to many of our youngsters in the past, having watched Jack conduct the FA Youth Cup final the following season he was electrifying those watching at the Emirates Cup, capping it with a wrong foot (hit with his left peg on the right side of the goal and the ball coming from his left) half volleyed goal.

Yesterday we got to see more of Serge Gnabry while the highly rated Gedion Zelalem sat waiting on the bench alongside Chuba Akpom.

Joining Gnabry on the right flank was the eager Jenkinson, playing alongside the more experienced Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs in front of Fabianski. In midfield the untested combination of Wilshere and Ramsey as the two deeper players with Rosicky in front. Podolski and Giroud completed the line up.

To be honest we started very slowly, either heavy legged from our trips to Asia or had it too easy whilst in Asia and therefore not ready for the sterner test provided by Napoli.

It has been known for some time that we are susceptible to counter attacks as we commit too many men forward, Napoli are probably the best European exponents of counterattacking football, they defend in numbers as all good Italian teams do, but they are very quick on the break, and know how to use the ball in those situations.

Having said that the first goal went to Napoli but not from a counter attack, we were pretty well set Jenkinson showed his inexperience by following his runner beyond the defensive line this gave the Napoli defender with the ball the opportunity to lift the ball over the rest of the defence and create a 50:50 between Jenkinson and the winger, Jenkinson won the header but the contact was unconvincing, Fabianski realised the danger too late and was not out quickly enough to collect whilst airborne leaving the young Napoli winger the relatively simple task of tapping home for the goal. Most goals are a result of a series of errors, the first one is most crucial, and the first error was not pressuring the defender with the ball, which was then compounded by the following errors and misjudgements.

The second goal conceded was more like what we are used to, too many men committed forward, Mertesacker’s man appeared to have him beat for pace but that said he was heading wide of goal and we had enough numbers tracking back, however Fabianski made it so much easier for Napoli by coming off his line which then forced other defenders to back away. I hope in a PL game we would have seen a little more commitment to blocking the shot but in a pre season friendly unnecessary risks such as throwing yourself full length at a shot should not be taken for fear of injury.

Arsenal struggled to find a shape that worked and Wilshere and Ramsey struggled to find a way to control the midfield they are both still too young to do it together. Although in time with guidance they showed enough understanding and ball movement to feel that they could become quite a force together….however they are both still learning the ropes when it comes to experienced opponents.

Gnabry failed to offer the required width on the right and most of our good work came from Gibbs and Podolski linking on the left, unfortunately their crosses did not result in meaningful shooting opportunities.

Gibbs did win a very soft penalty only for Podolski to use his left foot hammer as a feather duster and tickle the ball harmlessly at Reina.

We created other opportunities but a combination of the linesman, errant shooting and altruism (Podolski) we went in 2-0 down to unfortunately a few boos from the Emirates crowd.

One of those missed opportunities was perhaps indicative of why we were two goals down, Jack lifting a ball from the edge of the area to Ramsey in an offside position. Whilst the bit of play between the two was good, one has to question who they were expecting to be providing cover if the attack broke down.

The other problem in our attacks as well as a lack of width was the fact that all our attacking players appeared to be bunched on their eighteen yard box when attacking, so there was only one passing option and it was very congested, we had no depth to our attack.

From the start of the second half we appeared to have a better shape. Soon the substitutions were made, Jenkinson and Gnabry off, Sagna and Theo on. Later came the more telling substitution, Ramsey and Wilshere replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta. Immediately our shape seemed better, we retained possession in their half better and were not as susceptible to counter attacks. With a more solid presence in midfield in Arteta, Mertesacker and Koscielny began to make lighter work of dealing with Napoli attacks.

Rosicky was still the man providing most inspiration going forward, helped by Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the outlet Sagna and Theo provided.

giroud over-head

The start of the comeback came from a corner, Theo floated the ball onto the penalty spot, Giroud held off his marker and performed a bicycle kick which was heading wide, but clipped Bacary Sagna and went in the bottom corner.

We were pretty much camped in their half for the remainder of the game, but without providing the finishing touch to equalise.

It eventually came from a free kick in the final third, Arteta put a great delivery into the box which Mertesacker rose to meet, Reina could only party the ball upwards and Koscielny was first to react and raced to bundle the ball in at the far post.

As pre season friendlies go I think it was a very helpful game, some harsh lessons learned for the younger players in the squad, and a step up in quality opposition with only two weeks to go to the season opener.

For me the standout performer was Koscielny, the way he dealt with Higuain you would think that he had a personal vendetta against him. It’s almost like he couldn’t let the Emirates crowd see what they might be missing out on so he wouldn’t give them a sniff.

Arteta showed once again why he is so crucial to our chances of competing, the knowledge and calmness his presence brings to the side are invaluable. Rosicky continued from where he left off at the end of last season, as did Ramsey, although the latter was hampered by being partnered with Wilshere.

Jack will prevent a real problem this season, the English media will be happy to see him rested, the Arsenal crowd will want him to play, Jack himself will be desperate to make up for lost time. For me he is about moving with the ball from somewhere in the opponents half and attacking from there, but with Santi and Rosicky in the squad is that where he can be used?

All in all more questions than answers yesterday, lets hope for a few more answers today.

Written by Gooner in Exile


Who should be Arsenal captain next season?

July 12, 2013

There seems to be a feeling amongst Arsenal fans that we haven’t had a truly great captain since Vieira. Henry, Gallas, Cesc. Some fine players there. But apparently not great captains. Two seasons ago we seemed to have solved that problem, but the manner of his* departure must also bring into doubt his leadership qualities. (* He who shall not be named)

TV captain

That left Thomas Vermaelen to take over the armband. He was a popular, and seemingly natural choice at the time. His steely eyed look of determination, his all action style, very visible fist pumping and gesturing to his teammates, seemed to suggest he was made of the same stuff as the stereotypically great captains that we remember. (Yes, I do have issues with typecasting a certain type of attitude as being the sign of a captain.)

But Vermaelen never recovered his form, and eventually lost his place in the starting 11 as well. Can anyone argue that he should start ahead of Koscielny and Mertesacker? Which actually begs the question, will he leave? Should Arsenal let him go?

Arteta captain

Assuming Vermaelen stays, should he retain the armband? Does a captain have to be a regular starter? If so, who is to be the new captain? The stories from last season suggest that Mikel Arteta was in fact the real leader of the group. Arteta had a fantastic season, changing his game tremendously to adapt to a new role, because that is what the team needed him to do. His statistics last season were brilliant, as was his attitude. So, should he just formally take over what he seemed to be doing informally anyway?(After all, you don’t need the armband to lead)

I would say yes, but there is a risk that Vermaelen will feel undermined. Also, if TV is precluded from being captain due to not being a starter, what about rumours of Arsenal bidding for Fellaini or Bender? What will that mean for Arteta, especially in light of his age?

Sagna captain

Who else could be captain? In my view Sagna could stake a real claim, despite his poor form last season. However, his contract having only one year to run might mean he should be overlooked. Another player who could get a shout as captain would be Per Mertesacker. He’s the organizer in defense, and seems to make his defensive partners better. He’s also already an authority figure of sorts at the club as he’s responsible for collecting fines from the players. A 2 metre tall defensive stalwart would suit many people’s idea of an Arsenal captain, even if he is German.

Mertesacker captain

Of course if it were to be down to popularity amongst the fans, then I think a certain Jack Wilshere would be installed as captain. As far as I’m concerned though, the only thing in his favour would be the (relatively assured) long term continuity in captain, which would be lacking in Arteta, Sagna, and maybe even Vermaelen’s case. For the rest, I think he’s still too young (and a little reckless). He should concentrate on getting his fitness, and then his place back. He has a long future ahead of him and there’s no need to rush to make him captain, especially when there are better candidates for the role.

Jack captain

So who would you vote for as Arsenal captain? (Bonus. Who should be vice captain?)

Written by Shard


St Totteringham’s Day – Report & Player Ratings

May 20, 2013

That was a very, very nervous experience made all the more intense by the fact that we were expected to win. Some how being the underdog in crucial games makes it just that little more bearable when a loss is inevitably considered before and during the game. But win we did and by doing so we secured the chance to play Champions League football next season which I believe makes it sixteen seasons on the trot, no mean feat when you consider just how desperate and disappointed those around us were at missing out again.

Does that introduction work? Nah, it was nail biting hell, ninety four minutes of torture before the release of the final whistle and the opportunity to laugh at the pained faces of those left wondering “if only” at White Hart Lane. That’s better, that’s more like the introduction that this game deserves.

kozzer scores 2 v toons

It was in fact a very professional win, every player followed the game plan, nobody panicked, all of which lead to our just desserts safely being locked away at the home of football.

As I sit hear in the afterglow, looking back at the season I think it has to be said that the single most important decision made was that to drop Vermaelen. This is not meant as a poke at the Belgian, I am convinced he remains a very popular player amongst Arsenal supporters; it’s just that everything points to him being put on the bench as the spark that galvanised the defence.

Do any of you remember the debate that divided us over which centre back paring would be the most successful? Half the people said Vermaelen and Mertesacker and the other half said Vermalen and Koscielny, I was one of those arguing that the later combination would be more mobile. But I think it is fair to say no one argued for Mertesacker and Koscielny.

kozzer celebrates v newcastle

Well there you go, those two flanked by Gibbs, Nacho and Sagna have proved to be a very solid defensive unit indeed.

Did you notice how much more controlled Sagna was in his attacking play today, no wild crosses and solid as ever in his defensive duties.

I can’t finish the defence without giving Koscielny special attention; he was the standout player of the day and the Man of the Match by some distance. Koz, you have no idea how much happier you have made all of our summers; for you, your performance and your goal we salute you.

The midfield worked well together. Ramsey was immense and will rightly pick up the AA award for the most improved player. He started the season coming on as a sub on the right wing and did very well; he then got his chance to start in the middle and was poor, poor to the point of serious abuse. From there he disappeared back to the bench, reappearing after the spud loss to progress to being undroppable which is where he is today.

Sadly for our Spanish Captain couldn’t lead us to the end of the game but the Ox came on and added fire to the midfield belly. Have you noticed how well he and Walcott work together? Theo is the senior player and is able to tell the Ox exactly what he wants to happen, the upshot is that Theo plays with a greater confidence.

If I have one minor moan it would be that Rosicky was a bit sloppy by his usual high standards. Many will not like me saying this but I think we were a bit fortunate that Wilshere got injured when he did because if we had carried on playing the same way we did against spuds I believe we would not be in this happy position today. Rosicky is an attacking midfielder who interacts well with the most talented player we have at the club and Wilshere is nowhere near that yet.

And on the subject of the most talented player at the club I am sure we are all agreed that the AA award for best player of the season goes to Cazorla, he ran his socks off again and boy what a great buy he turned out to be.

Podolski, not being so brilliant in the air, forces Sagna and Gibbs to send the ball into the box along the ground rather than hoofing it high which is one of my pet hates; his tally of assists this season is very impressive. As to whether he is the answer to our number nine issues I neither know nor care today, I am just pleased with our not quite so BFG.

It was a good day to be an Arsenal supporter, we need to push on from here with some quality summer signings but I will leave you with my favourite image of the day. Remember the end of the game when the Sky cameras went over to White  Hart Lane? Well think of despair of their faces and chuckle.

Have a great day.

Written by LB

Following on from LB’s excellent report Rocky would like to offer these player ratings:

Szczesny: little to do but exuded confidence. 7

Sagna: very solid performance. He still seems a fraction slower than before his leg breaks but he defended well against Newcastle. 7

Gibbs: got pulled out of position a bit in the first 20, but played very well thereafter. 7.5

Mertesacker: typically good showing from the BFG. He is one of the best CB’s in the EPL. 8

Koscielny: a perfect performance at the back, augmented by as coring the all-important winning goal. 9 (MOTM)

Arteta: it was clearly a risk starting him, but he played with his usual efficiency before having to retire with injury early doors. 7

Rosicky: not everything came off for TR7 but he was involved in some of our best moves and his work rate was incredible. 7.5

Ramsey: phenomenal effort as we’ve come to expect. Some of his best work is unspectacular and, therefore, is missed by many. An invaluable player on the day. 8

Cazorla: drifted out at times but was a persistent threat to Newcastle and fought very hard for the cause. 8

Walcott: plenty of effort and skill from Theo, who was double- or triple-teamed throughout. It was a relief that his late effort that hit the post after great solo play did not turn out costly. 8

Podolski: Lukas was up for this one and fought hard in both attack and defence. Got a head on the ball to set up Koscielny’s winner. 7.5

Subs

Oxlade- Chamberlain: it was a surprise when Oxo slotted in to the holding midfield role vacated boyar teat, but hE did well. 7.5

Giroud: his hold-up play was good and his presence helped see us through to kids debating. 7

Wilshere: not time enough to do anything special. 7

 


Time to Let Go of Sagna?

May 13, 2013

You have had your faithful friend for a long time. It has never let you down and chased balls and wagged it’s tail every time the opportunity arose but now things are not so rosy. Your beloved pet is showing his age and you have to make a difficult decision …. is it time to “let go”?

Bacary Sagna has had a brilliant career at Arsenal; he has twice been in the PFA Team of the Season, he has played over 200 games for Arsenal and over 30 times for France. This despite losing almost two seasons playing time with injury. He has been the first choice RB ever since he arrived for  €9m from Auxerre in 2007.

But, this season he has shown weaknesses which point to a waning of his  powers, add in to this the emergence of Jenkinson and one can easily question whether Bacary should be first choice – perhaps even sold.

I have to admit to having “man-love” for the beaded Frenchman, I think he is a top bloke. Determined, enthusiastic, energetic, handsome, versatile  and with a good eye for a lady (see below) – I could go on. However, this affection does not preclude my belief that his time is coming to an end.

Unknown

Mr Wenger has consistently chosen Sagna over Jenkinson despite the need for the Corporal to get more pitch time. I happen to believe that Arsene Knows Best (or at least more than I ever will), so why is BS first choice? Jenks is a better crosser, faster, younger and definitely our future RB. Could it be that Mr Wenger has man-love for Bacary as well?

Sagna cost us 2 points at home to Surrey United. A poor pass followed by a rush of blood to the head allowed some bloke to score a penalty. Is this evidence of BS’s failings? Not in my opinion – any player can make a mistake and Bacary makes less than most. No, my concern is that his best game by far this season was at CB against Sunderland in a MoM performance. This shows me that he is more comfortable playing in a position where pace and non-stop movement is not so important.

The fact he played so well at CB indicates that BS could be a very good squad member, he has played LB and CB over the seasons and coped admirably, but would we be better off sticking to players who specialise in their relative positions and buying a new back-up RB? Or would it be too much of a risk to rely on Jenkinson as our first choice without BS as back-up?

Unknown-2

My Favourite Bacary Moment

There are rumours in the press about Arsenal looking at the Dortmund’s Piszczek to replace our “hunk”. Should we buy another right back and say a fond farewell to a fine player? What do you think?

Big Raddy


Mr Wenger. Read this & Win

March 9, 2013

Strange to have a winter weekend without real football. Yes, there are matches to fill the interlull, but it’s not real football, is it? Proper football is any game with Arsenal in it, the rest is just sport.

So what to do in an Interlull? I spend time in art galleries and museums (yes, I know – it doesn’t fit the Big Raddy image).  Some have to go shopping, or wash cars or take the kids to MonkeyWorld. Some will take the desperate measure of watching Liverpool/Spurs in the hope both teams will lose. Whatever it is, these are just ruses to fill in time until the next adrenalin fix, which happens to be next Weds. evening.

The lack of interest is mirrored in blogworld. All the AFC blogs are full of desperate attempts to interest the reader (as is this). Would a discussion of the defenses lapses be of interest? No – we have seen/read it all. What about a discussion about the next manager? Done it. A profile of an ex-player? Always interesting but whom? Which players to buy from Leagues we know nothing about? Yawn,

You get the idea.

Would it be better to have a post-free day? Well, AA has managed to publish a post everyday since inception and the plan is to continue in this vein.

Would a post on Joel Campbell’s progress titillate? Or Benik Afobe’s very sad ligament damage? Or Connor Henderson’s decision to leave at season’s end? If so, why don’t you write something.

Gadzooks. After all the musing, I have an idea ….. let’s discuss the dreadful cost caused by the lack of silly haircuts in the current Arsenal  team.

Since the departure of Alex Song,we have had to suffer normal everyday hair. I hoped Monreal would bring some tonsorial peculiarity but no, his barnet is dullness personified. Same with all the newboys. Corporal Jenks? Short back and sides – same with Merts, TV, Ox, Kos, Little Jack, Giroud, Theo etc. The only fellows who bring a bit of pezzazz are The Domed Mekon and Bacary’s lucky extensions.

images-1

His Best Asset

We need more. The players are letting us down – we haven’t even got a mohican or a pony-tail or a chap with AFC shaved into his bonce.

I blame Mr Wenger. Look at his barnet. Ordinary, neat, well-barbered without a hair out of place, And what of Stevie B? A superb cut, which in my opinion is the only way a Real Man would wear his hair (though some may disagree) but ordinary.

If we are to win a trophy we need spectacle. Something to distract a defence whilst Santi scores.

images-2

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These blokes could play and my reasoning is that once they went back to having sensible haircuts they turned  into James Milner – good, efficient but lacking in va-va-voom.

Mr. Wenger. Sometimes the answer is simple- Forget diet, forget tactics, forget training. See the light.  Imaginative Hair = Imaginative Football.

Take the lads down to Michael Barnes Hairdressers in Shaftesbury Avenue and get him to sort them out.

In case you think this is just frivolous ramblings, may I point you to The Good Book and the story of Samson and Delilah.

QED


Bac To The Future

February 11, 2013

Poor old Bacary Sagna.

Imagine how he must have felt 15 minutes before kick-off on Saturday.

He has been on a urine-poor run of form; he revealed in an interview earlier this week that he knows he has been below par; he’s hoping to slowly re-establish his reputation as one of the most reliable right backs in the business and then, at about 2.45pm on match day, he finds that he’s going to be dropped into the unfamiliar role of centre back because Laurent Koscielny isn’t feeling well.

I can envisage him muttering to the stricken Kozzer: “What exactement is up wiz you, you Stan Laurel lookey-likey? Get out onto zat pitch and start playing. Zat’s anuzzer fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

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But, trooper that he is, Bacary took to the field of battle as a makeshift centre half.

I’ll admit to being a trifle worried. In some of his recent outings Sagna has been wasteful and error-prone.

If football was sex, Bacary has been the hole in the condom. We have not been practising safe footy of late and, as a result, we have been impregnated with goals far too frequently.

I’m not taking that analogy any further, because the idea of the progeny that might ensue from a carnal union between the purity of Arsenal and the venal degeneracy of, say, Chelsea, does not bear thinking about. It would be as if a unicorn was shagged by a hyena and gave birth to a strangely beautiful but irredeemably evil hynicorn. Actually, that might explain the existence of John Terry…

Anyway, I digress.

So there was Bacary, untimely thrust into the fray at the Stadium of Fight in an unfamiliar position, with only a German telegraph pole to lean on for comfort.

It could have gone horribly wrong. It didn’t. Sagna was, quite simply, wonderful at the heart of our defence.

In a game that we should have won easily (if our attackers and midfielders had bothered to put their boots on the correct feet) we ended up under siege for the last 20 minutes after Carl Jenkinson was unluckily sent off. I say unluckily because – although he should not have made the challenge that led to the red – his first booking was ridiculous. It was his first foul of the game and was slightly mistimed. It only got a yellow card because the generally poor referee felt he should even things up after booking Cattermole in the first minute.

During that final siege, all the team played well. Giroud won some great headers; Szczesny pulled off a string of remarkable saves; Ramsey filled in brilliantly at right back; Nacho showed his mettle when the chips were down; the BFG organised everything and, best of all, Sagna became the ultimate warrior. It was as if someone had stenciled  “they shall not pass” on his forehead.

He completed 11 of 15 attempted clearances, won six out of 10 aerial duels and successfully made nine headed clearances from 11 attempts. Not bad for a man who stands only 5’9” tall.

It was a real return to form for a player who, until this season, was routinely referred to as our Mr Reliable.

I have been quite hard on him in recent comments and match reports. I’m not apologising for that – he’s had some real shockers. But even before Saturday’s game I was heartened to read the interview with him in which he showed great self awareness and was very honest about his struggles this year.

They say the first step to solving a problem is to recognise that there is a problem in the first place. Well, Bacary Sagna has certainly moved past Step One.

Hopefully when he moves back into his more usual role (which should be on Tuesday week against Bayern Munich) he can take forward the form and confidence he displayed against Blood-and-Thunderland.

I like Jenkinson and I hope people are not too hard on him over his red card, but for now we need Sagna as our first choice right back.

His dip in form may have been down to the long lay off after two leg breaks; it may just have been “one of those things”; who knows – it may even have been that hot wife of his keeping him up too late at night.

But the signs are good that he is over the worst and ready to get back to his finest form for the season run-in.

It is rumoured that the club is offering him only a one-year extension on his current contract. I understand the reasoning, but I wonder whether we should sugar the offer a little more (two years, for example).

Bacary showed on Saturday that he can be a great utility defender and every squad needs at least one of those.

RockyLives


The Mole. Can Benitez finish the Job?

January 20, 2013

Doesn’t seem that long ago since Terry hit the dirt and watched as Brave Sir Robin danced away from him. Happy Days.

And what chance of a repeat today? Well, we did it against the Cave Dwellers so why not against Chelsea? I know, I know – lightning doesn’t strike twice but in a world of infinite probabilities, it does!

Both teams are going through an inconsistent patch. Chelsea’s home loss to QPR was inexplicable but so was ours at Bradford. We have both lost at home to Swansea. The main difference being that Chelsea have a squad which cost at least double Arsenal’s and a bottomless pit of money to overcome any problems; they also sack managers with alarming regularity.

Benitez. Why? What kind of incompetent signed this man? How can Chelsea employ a manager who a few years previously publicly stated his dislike of the manner in which they do business? Bizarre. But one must be impressed by they way Rafa is doing his best to destroy the club, a loss or draw to us and Swansea will see the Chavs out of the CC and with no chance of winning the PL. Perhaps he is on a huge earner from the Northern Oilers. Fairplay to the man!

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Do you think it is to Arsenal’s advantage to have Arteta injured for a while? Could the midfield of Diaby, JW and Santi function more cohesively? Admittedly, we only have a reduced Swansea to compare and today will be a far sterner test, but I believe this will become our first choice midfield (though how long Diaby can stay fit is impossible to predict). None of them are  defensive players but both JW and Diaby are strong in the tackle. Concentration will be the key and a full awareness of who ventures forward . For this reason I would play and  extra MF – either Coquelin or Ramsey, both of whom played well on Wednesday.

For this reason having Koscielny out is also positive, BFG’s lack of pace requires hime to sit deeper! I must say, I am worried about Ba, he is in fine form and loves scoring against us. Furthermore, the excellent wingers at Chelsea will cause major problems to both Sagna and Gibbs.

Runners & Riders:

chavs v arse

Of course, playing a 4-4-2 is not Wengerball, but I doubt AW will start the game with Giroud upfront and he is unlikely to trust Ox in a game where we will be under the cosh.

Stamford Bridge is a strange place, an uglier ground it would be hard to find, but then it has to house some of the ugliest fans in world football. If one were to make a League of teams with the ugliest fans Chelsea would get a Champions League slot every season, Stoke would win the Prem most years 🙂

Today’s English Explorer is from the Days of Yore, and one of England’s Finest. Sir Walter Raleigh (1552 – 1618). An aristocrat and favourite of QE1, he is best known for his colonisation of North America and the introduction of tobacco to England and the world (how costly has that been?). His first colony was in Virginia where tobacco was harvested  – it got the Royal Seal from Her Maj and thus became the famous Royal Virginia tobacco.

He discovered Guyana and explored East Venezuala. His ship was the first Ark Royal which was a gift from QE1.

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Top Bloke. Full Set. Knighthood. Beheaded.

Raleigh wasn’t just an explorer he was also one of England’s great warriors.We all know the story of his defeat of the Spanish Armada, but what is less known is that after Elisabeth died and King James came to the throne, Raleigh was imprisoned in The Tower for 13 years for “plotting against the Crown”. Following an unsuccessful expedition to South America in search of El Dorado, he was re-arrested and beheaded. His head was embalmed and sent to his wife who kept it in a velvet bag until her death when it was re-united with his body.

Two defensive errors cost us the game at the Emirates; we weren’t outplayed and had the better of the game. Raddy would be satisfied with a point.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Has Sagna’s return demoted The Corporal?

November 1, 2012

There was a bit of confusion amongst Arsenal fans when Wenger plucked Jenkinson from Charlton after only 9 appearances for the first team, but his rise over the last 12 months, including a call up to the full England squad has shown not only that Wenger can still spot talent, but more importantly that Arsenal have a potential future star on their hands.

There is no doubt that our young Finglish full back has been a shining light during the first few months of a somewhat indifferent start to the Arsenal season, but is there a fear that the return of Bacary Sagna could put a halt to the meteoric rise of our £1million right back?

Well, personally, I was glad to see the Frenchman back in the starting 11 against QPR, and I hope it continues to be the case as the season progresses. Now don’t get me wrong, Jenks has filled in admirably during Sagna’s absence, but I still feel he is a raw talent who has a lot to learn. He reminds a lot of a young player named Gael
Clichy when he first came to the squad, bags of energy and a willingness to go forward, but also a distinct lack of tactical knowledge and positional sense that was covered over through sheer pace. Clichy never really improved that side of his game at Arsenal, probably due to a lack of a defensive coach at the club during his time, but with Steve Bould now overseeing the Arsenal back 4, Jenks won’t have the same excuse and I believe he has what it takes to develop this side of his game.

The other reason I believe Sagna’s return is a good thing for our young Corporal is to do with the England set up. Jenkinson is knocking on the door of an England right back position that still hasn’t been properly filled since Gary Neville hung up his boots, but I feel being thrust into the International team at this stage could be detrimental to the player and Arsenal. We have all seen what happened with Theo Walcott when he was thrown in at the deep end, and if you look at Kyle Walker’s performances this season you can see the effect that ego can have on a young player. An England set up filled with these big personalities and egos is not where I want to see our future right back learning his trade. I believe he is better off under Wenger and Bould’s stewardship for the foreseeable future so he can develop into the player we all want him to be.

I’ve been really impressed by The Corporals attitude and ability during the start of the season, and I believe his development will continue wether he plays on a weekend or not. He should be starting on Tuesday in the Cup and I think a handful of league appearances mixed with domestic cup appearances this season will see him continue his growth.

Who knows, if Sagna’s words about not signing a new deal at the beginning of the season ring true, then The Corporal may be getting a promotion rather than a demotion some time soon.

Written by slimgingergooner