Arsenal FC – Our record playing in the Ukraine

November 28, 2018

Our record in the Ukraine hasn’t been all that auspicious.  It’s a difficult place to go as winter creeps in.

Dynamo Kyiv were our first Ukrainian opponents in 1998. These were the days of playing at Wembley to allow more people in and swell the coffers that bit more. It was a dreadful idea as virtually all home advantage was lost. Kiev (as we called them in those days) had Shevchenko and Rebrov, which also didn’t help! We drew at home and then lost 3-1 away in November. (This was before Rebrov disgraced himself by going to the spuds, coming 12th and 9th before going on loan to Fenerbahce).

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In 2003 we again lost away but sneaked a 1-0 home win at Highbury with a late Ashley Cole goal. Kiev were drawn in our group for the third time in 2008. We managed to sneak a 1-1 draw in the Valery Lobanovskiy Stadium thanks to a very late Billy G equaliser and sneaked the home tie when Lord Bendtner popped up with an 87th minute winner.

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Against Shakhtar Donetsk in September 2000 at Highbury, I was proud to witness one of my favourite ever live games. Losing 2-0 early on, Wiltord gave us hope on the stroke of half time slotting in the rebound from a missed penalty. The last ten minutes will live long in the memory as Martin Keown popped up with two goals (one which appeared to be off his arm) to snatch victory at the death. Must have been his only brace ever. I smiled all the way home to Notts. The less said about the 3-0 away defeat in November the better.

We romped past Shakhtar in October 2010 5-1 at the Emirates featuring goals from the FFBW, a Cesc penalty and a Chamakh special before again losing away 2-1 in November. (Eduardo, our Brazilian Croatian ex-player, scored in both legs but shunned any goal celebrations)

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There’s a theme developing here. The later in the year you play away in the Ukraine, the harder it is to come away with a point. A proliferation of gloves and too many thermal layers probably doesn’t help.

Still all trends are there to be broken, starting on Thursday.

Update on Thursday’s game

Russian aggression towards the Ukraine appears to be escalating and in response the Ukrainian government has declared martial law. President Petro Poroshenko has said the implementation ‘aims to prevent an all-out Russian invasion’.

A statement from Uefa read: “The emergency panel has today taken the decision to relocate FC Vorskla’s Europa League group stage match against Arsenal from the city of Poltava, following the introduction of martial law into certain regions in Ukraine.

“Uefa will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”

Up to 500 Arsenal fans were expected to travel to the game in Poltava and now must make alternative arrangements, with the decision coming less than 48 hours before the scheduled start time, which remains unchanged. (17:55pm)

chas

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Emery’s red-tailed Boa gently squeezes Sporting

October 26, 2018

If Unai Emery’s Arsenal were a snake, what snake would they be? What I mean is, if you had to compare Arsenal’s style of play or, let’s say, their game plan with a snake which snake comes to mind? It struck me as I was watching Arsenal beat Sporting to make it eleven wins on the trot that a clear pattern is emerging. We start games perfectly well then after about twenty minutes we start making silly mistakes; in the hope of capitalising on said mistakes the opposition are drawn further up the pitch and into the trap. What they don’t realise is that they have become caught in the snake’s coils and they are slowly closing; yes the opposition flail around for forty five minutes or so, they may even score a goal but as the second half moves on the coils start getting tighter and tighter, slowly squeezing the life out of them. The snake has surely got to be a Boa Constrictor.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Well, you try and find a way of starting our eleventh win on the bounce “Ozil benched after pedestrian performance” lol.
There are two teams starting to appear, the one that starts the EPL and the one that starts the Europa, did you imagine at the beginning of the season that Iwobi could find himself being saved for the EPL? Me neither but it certainly is testament as to how far Unai has been able to bring him on this season. With only a slim advantage of one nil, I even found myself feeling relieved when he made his appearance. Strange times.

The other thing that surprised me during the game, was going from feeling quite neutral about little ol’ Sporting with their nice food and pleasant weather to absolutely hating their guts for their dirty fouls and their dirty play acting. This was made all the worse when I realised that the ex manu player Nani was playing for them – once a banned ‘C’ word, always a banned ‘C’ word.

It obviously wasn’t a vintage Emery display (lol), no hope long range shots in the first half; the order made all the more tall with Xhaka and Lichtsteiner as makeweights on the flanks but we did what we do nowadays and found a solution, after a good opportunity was missed by Aubameyang and things looked like they might not go for us, Ralph Coates made a schoolboy error that gifted Welbeck a deserved goal which turned out to be a deserved winner.

Onwards and upwards.

Ratings

Leno: what’s not to like, another clean sheet. 8

Lichsteiner: I loved watching him last night; it makes me wonder how they teach them in Italy, the complete gamut of Dark Arts were on display, Machiavelli would have been proud. 6

Holding: I keep on waiting for him to slip up but he doesn’t and goes from strength to strength, the weekend will tell us where he stands in Emery’s eyes, will it be him and Mustafi or Mustafi and Big Sok. A very level-headed display tonight; I suppose, as RC suggests, he should be MOTM. 9

Big Sok: When the Sporting player was through, bar Big Sok; he knew what to do; he knew how to make it look like he grabbed the oppo’s shirt without really doing so, my question is would Holding have known how to do that? This is what comes with experience which is probably why I would still plump for Big Sok with Mustafi to start on the weekend ahead of Holding. 8

Xhaka: not often I find myself having to cut Granit some slack but taking one for the team by playing completely out of position certainly deserves just that and he didn’t play too badly there either. 7

Guendouzi: yep, no probs for me, continues on his upward trajectory and long may it continue. 7

Ramsey: struggled to get a grip on the game which in my opinion was his job, got better as the game went on. Still loving the fact that Arsenal have withdrawn his contract offer which has freed up UE an awful lot. Evidence being, Ozil playing in his preferred place on Monday. Nothing to really complain about but Mesut he ain’t. 7

Elneny: he huffed and he puffed, I was surprised to see him play the more advanced player out of him and Guendouzi. His days must be numbered. 6

Mkhitaryan: did an awful lot better than he has been doing lately, a really determined performance and a hard working one at that. 8

Aubameyang: Unai Emery is playing this so well, it’s gentle rotation between him and Laca; neither feels that one is being given priority over the other and as such they are looking fresher than a lot of other strikers in the EPL but to think that UE is not purposely creating competition for places between them would be naïve in my opinion. 7

Welbeck: and on the subject of competition for places Emery should be applauded for how he is keeping Welbeck involved and clearly feeling an important member of the team and I purposely used the word team and not squad. Superbly taken goal. 8

LB


Sporting Lisbon. Ramsey to Shine?

October 25, 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, William Carvalho, Luis Figo, Peter Schmeichel, Phil Babb (!),  All played for Sporting and, had they still been in the green and white shirt, this evening would be very difficult but they don’t. In fact, Sporting Lisbon had a player revolt in summer which resulted in players cancelling their contracts and leaving the club.

7 players left including 4 Portuguese internationals, and all left on a free transfer. And we think players in the PL have too much power! Without too much research this happened because Sporting got a new Chairman who created a poisonous atmosphere within the club, they then went on a losing run resulting in some fans attacking the players on the training pitch, giving the players the right to cancel their contracts.

Needless to say, this has weakened the team and this season they sit in 5th place in the Primera Liga.

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As to their players I know Zip, but I am sure they will be hard working, good on the ball etc etc etc

We come into this game in tremendous form and, despite a mounting injury list, Emery is certain to play around with his squad and we may well see Smith Rowe or even Elneny in midfield.

My Team:

Lemon

Catwalk    Mustafi   Holding    Lich

Ramsey   Curly   Elneny

Mhiki

PEA   Welbz

Both AMN (Cons) and, believe it or not, Carl Jenkinson are travelling with the squad and must therefore be available. I really like Jenks – not as a player for Arsenal but as a proper Gooner. I wish him well and perhaps he will get a start in the Carabao. Maitland-Niles (Cons) has a big future at Arsenal and may well get some pitch time this evening.

Ramsey was poor in his 10 minutes at the weekend, he needs to up his game and I expect him to do so. A wonderful goal apart, he has struggled, but he remains a very influential player. Tonight he will want to show Emery he is deserving of a first team shirt.

Watching Emery’s press conference yesterday I was delighted that when questioned in Portuguese, Unai understood the question and then answered in English. This shows his commitment and also his intelligence.

Tricky away fixture (we have never won in Portugal), if we draw this and win the home tie we will top the group. but we have a very food squad in good form and there is no reason why we cannot win tonight in Lisbon then celebrate with a bowl of Sopa de Cacao.

COYRRG


Out with a Whimper rather than a Bang – Atletico Ratings

May 4, 2018

Looking for highlights to refresh the memory of major incidents in the game, the go-to place is often Arsenalist. The clip descriptions for last night seem to form a decent match report, illustrating the fact that we didn’t really have many clearcut chances whereas Atletico did. Fair reflection or not?  Here they are……..

First Half

Ospina punches it away early

Dangerous Lacazette cross

Huge Diego Costa chance

Koscielny injury

Oooo…Monreal almost pulls it back for Lacazette

Good Arsenal play but Bellerin’s cross is poor

Big Lacazette chance, doesn’t get shot off

Atletico volley – Ospina save

Monreal chance

Ooooo…Atletico just wide

Ooooo…Griezmann chance

Diego Costa goal 1-0

Second Half

Welbeck fouled very smartly to stop Arsenal break

Big Ramsey chance – can’t get clean shot off

Chambers bails out Mustafi (who fell) on Costa chance

Dangerous Ozil cross…nobody at the end of it

Ozil wins it back, but cross is cleared

Xhaka chance

Huge chance Costa/Griezmann, they should have scored

Bellerin cross poor

Mikhitaryan chance, over

Monreal heads it down into the box – nobody there

Great Xhaka tackle on Griezmann

Costa and Mustafi double bookings

Ozil doing stuff you expect Welbeck to do

Is this….is this a cross?

Can one of you please effin shoot

Ospina save on Torres

Ratings

Ospina – Made some decent blocks … 6

Bellerin – Wakey wakey for the Costa goal, crossing poor throughout  … 5

Mustafi – Shkodran seems a bit thick, left on his backside far too often  … 5

Koscielny/Chambers – Poor Laurent, perhaps a career-ending injury/ Calum did well with a few fine interceptions/recoveries  … 6

Monreal – Worked hard to find something for us to bite on around the Atletico goal … 6

Wilshere – Seemed to lack belief  … 5

Xhaka – Granit gave full effort but is never going to be the one to unlock a resolute defence  … 6

Ramsey – Nothing really came off, looked a bit lightweight … 5

Ozil – Some dangerous moments but couldn’t find anyone to finish off his good work  … 6

Welbeck – Gave everything but still lacking that last little bit of quality  … 5

Lacazette – Plan A requires Alexandre to have some service, Plan B may have been what Arsenal required last night … 6

Summary

Just not good enough on the night against one of the best defences in Europe.

Such a shame for Kos – his Achilles has been an accident waiting to happen. Two new centre backs please, Mr Next Arsenal Manager.

Oh well, on we go to Sunday’s 6th place decider.

chas


On the Bubble – Man U Ratings

April 30, 2018

Heading up the M6 to the Old Cowshed in the middle of a Europa Semi was always destined to be one of the least tasty sandwich fillings. Adding some match fitness to Mkhitaryan’s comeback and giving the youngsters a run out while hoping the scoreline didn’t do them any lasting damage, seemed to be the main aims. Fairly lowly expectations for a trip to our old adversary they were. The presentation to Arsene before the game was all very lovely but giving credit to their fans for applauding a man they’d abused quite hideously for so many years seemed a bit rich for my liking.

Two of football’s greats alongside a pimple on the backside of the game

First Half

The game began in fast and furious fashion with both sides closing down quickly and buzzing toward either goal without there being too many clear cut chances.

The Manc goal came after a quarter of an hour and we all thought it might herald the opening of the flood gates. When Hector was waiting for the cross to come in, he glanced behind to see Sanchez in acres of space behind him, but, inexplicably, did nothing to close the gap. By the time the ball was delivered to the back post, his only option was to attempt the block Sanchez’ goalbound header. He did manage to touch it on to the post but the rebound favoured Pogba.

Was Nelson fouled in the build up to the goal? One thing was certain, the ref wasn’t going to be giving us much of anything during yesterday’s game.

Micki nearly brought us back level 5 minutes later but failed to bend the ball around De Gea into the far post corner. A couple of headers from Aubameyang and Nelson were our other reasonable chances in the first period, the first powder-puff and the second wide of the target. 1-0 at half-time which was as good as most expected; with our defence largely untroubled with Mavropanos looking confident and assured.

Photo REUTERS/Phil Noble – Alex prays that Ashley Young will see some justice

Second half

The second period got off to a fine start with Henrikh squeezing a shot into the corner of the net through the defender’s legs, fooling De Gea. The assist came from Granit winning the ball back high up in the manc half – wonders will never cease!

Some of the Arsenal football was very encouraging with swift interplay, the youngsters enjoying their moment in the limelight.

Lukaku went off and was replaced by the ineffectual Rashford. Martial and Fellaini came on for the excrescent Herrera and lively Lingard. So, Maureen’s plan B was to put their most skillfull forward on to have a crack at our right flank and if that failed, hoof it up to microphone head. When Rashford was waiting to come on to the pitch, he was shown a book of photos, presumably detailing team layouts. I wonder what Fellaini was shown?

Danny came on with fire in his belly and had a fine driven effort after winning the ball back, but it was straight at the keeper.

The final stages of the game saw us unable to hold on to the ball, so it seemed like a non-stop procession of balls humped into our penalty area. Could we hold on for a deserved point, all things considered. No, was the answer as a Young cross skimmed Xhaka’s head and skidded off the afro beyond Ospina’s left arm. The keeper just touched the ball but the combination of short arms and the proximity of the post meant that he couldn’t keep the ball out. Fellaini celebrated as if he’d won the Cup which was a depressing end to what turned out to be a rarity for the Gunners this season, a fine away performance.

All in all, it was a case of job done as Micki seems fit, the kids did not get hammered by any stretch of the imagination, our new Greek colossus had a fine debut and youngsters Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Willock and Calum Chambers all played well.

Ratings

Ospina – Didn’t have to produce too many saves – I wish his arms had been longer for the second … 6

Bellerin – Thank heaven he didn’t get injured for Thursday as we have no obvious back up – no idea what his thought process was for the first goal  … 7

Chambers – Seemed to respond to being the senior partner of the CB pairing and played very well   … 7

Mavropanos – Had Lukaku in his pocket, not afraid to inflict a little bruising; in a most cultured Arsenal way, of course – excellent debut … 8

Kolasinac (Monreal) – The Beast seems to always pass the ball back from whence it came with his arm raised that it needs to go over the other side of the pitch – Nacho came on and perked up the left flank for the last half an hour  … 6/7

Maitland-Niles – Still not sure what Ainsley’s best position is, but he looked classy in Arsenal’s midfield yesterday … 8

Xhaka – Got a bit of a clumping but one of his strengths seems to be his durability – great turnover and assist for the equaliser  … 7

Iwobi – Scampered around probing for an opening and looked more comfortable than recently – perhaps being surrounded by other youngsters helped  … 7

Nelson – Still looks a bit lightweight and was sometimes bullied off the ball too easily – a summer in the gym will do him some good; muscle and his undoubted ability could be a potent combination  … 7

Mkhitaryan – Looked dangerous and accomplished, though Ashley Young attempted to ruin his recovery by kicking him at every opportunity (why wasn’t Young booked for persistent fouling at the very least?)  … 8

Aubameyang – I get the impression that Pierre is in a period of stasis at present – he’s playing in meaningless league fixtures but not in the games which matter – doesn’t look as though he’ll get us a goal out of nothing for the time being, but I’d imagine he’ll explode as an Arsenal player from the start of next season  … 7

Subs

Willock and Welbeck both contributed but sadly not enough to help us avoid defeat 6/6

This game was an annoying mosquito buzzing around the Club’s ears with Thursday looming on the horizon. However the team produced a very good performance, so much so that, when we finally conceded to the mancs’ route one tactics so late on, it was bitterly disappointing for at least a few seconds after the final whistle.

Hey ho, on to the big one.

chas


A Golden Chance Squandered but still only Half-time – Atletico Ratings

April 27, 2018

Massive excitement and expectation surrounded this great opportunity to send Mr Wenger off to his retirement with the decent divorce settlement of his first European trophy. Could we take some chances at the sharp end while defending successfully at the other? Simeone has constructed a team which few would want to go and see every week (I bet the Atletico supporters disagree with this assessment). Would Costa come back to haunt us or would it be a case of Griezmann up top on his own? The ground was pretty full when we arrived, the flags looked good and the atmosphere was buzzing with an electricity suitable for a game of such magnitude.

First Half

Arsenal came out of the blocks at a furious pace. The referee immediately issued a yellow card for what looked like a soft challenge from the stands. Lacazette hit the post with a scuffer and then hit the goalkeeper with a close range header. The second yellow looked soft, too, though, having seen a replay, it looked much nastier, number 16’s studs crunching down on Laca’s instep. How many players would be left on the pitch after 90 minutes if this was to be the yellow card issuing rate?

80 minutes to take advantage of playing against 10 men. Could we find a way around the biggest and most skillfully parked bus in the whole of European football? Chances came and went. Danny broke through but caught the keeper’s foot with his attempt when a far post curler was beckoning. Mesut skied one, Kos couldn’t wrap his foot around a ball dropping to him at the far post following a corner, Nacho’s right footed volley went just wide; the ball just wouldn’t go in. Atletico’s defending was magnificent, with blocks and interceptions at crucial moments littering the first half an hour.

colossal defending

Atletico finally managed to get a foothold in the game towards half time and Griezmann twice found opportunities to shoot and test Ospina. 0-0 at half time, surely the goals would come in the second period?

 Second half

The second period seemed like a non-stop procession towards the North Bank end of the stadium. Shots rained in on the Atletico goal, it had to be only a matter of time. On the hour that moment came. Jack stood up a delightful cross worthy of Liam Brady after Nacho had won the ball back on the edge of the opposition area. Laca rose Arshavin-like at the far post and planted the ball firmly past Oblak at last. The stadium erupted.

A crucial second goal failed to materialise thanks to great goalkeeping, superb body-on-the-line defending and some less than perfect finishing. Atletico used every tactic imaginable to disrupt the flow of the game, substitutions seemed to take minutes, players fell over at the slightest contact trying to buy breathing space, every restart from throws, free kicks and goal kicks was used to eat up so much valuable time.

We were all hoping that our defence would remain solid right up until the final whistle because conceding against ten men after such dominance would be heart-breaking. However, this current incarnation of Arsene’s team always seem to have one calamitous moment, locked away to disappoint us, where what can possibly go wrong, does go wrong.

With less than 10 to go, Danny overran the ball on the left flank gifting possession to Atletico. The ball was played forward to Griezmann, stood behind Kos, but both Monreal and Mustafi were playing him onside. Kos recovered beautifully judging the ball much better than the Atleti player but then decided that playing the ball back over his head was the best option. This seemed to be Kos’ only mistake of the game but what a costly one! Ospina parried Griezmann’s first effort and then Mustafi slipped as he tried to block the second but still got a knee on it.  The ball was in the Arsenal net from Atletico’s only chance of the half – a familiar story, unfortunately.

The goal brought to mind Freddie and Jaap Stam in Jan 2000

Perhaps a winner might have lifted us all from the gloom of that away goal conceded but despite good efforts from Rambo and Welbeck plus a skied blast from Xhaka, 1-1 was destined to be Atletico’s reward for soaking up all that pressure.

Surprisingly it seemed to be the Arsenal team who had run out of steam in that second period rather than the 10 men of the Spanish side.

Ratings (tempting to give all sixes and sevens, but that was only one moment in the match 🙂 )

Ospina – Fairly untroubled, did well against Griezmann and had little chance with the goal when it finally came … 7

Bellerin – Looked dangerous, especially in the first half and produced some fine moments throughout  … 7

Mustafi – Not much to do the whole game against one striker after the sending off. Why did he have to slip for the one and only time at that precise moment?   … 6

Koscielny – Such a shame his defending in last night’s game will be remembered for that crazy decision to play it clever with Griezmann … 6

Monreal – Tireless as ever, worked his nuts off – again the goal is all we will remember, jogged back after the failed step up for offside … 6

Wilshere – Still looks short of confidence but must be proud of that assist … 6

Xhaka – Granit looked good without ever being put under too much pressure  … 7

Ramsey – Rambo’s efforts weren’t quite up to his recent standards and he seemed to run out of gas more than most until that last five minutes  … 6

Ozil – Tried everything he could to unlock the Madrid version of Fort Knox  … 7

Welbeck – Came out of the blocks like a greyhound and looked likely to provide us a goal. I’m not keen on his trying to win free kicks by exaggerating falls – stop it Danny  … 6

Lacazette – A marvellous header for the goal, some brilliant turns and movement plus several other good efforts – all repelled by Oblak unfortunately … 8

Subs

There were none and when you looked at the bench you could see why.

On to next Thursday, the tie is far from over and we have to be confident we can cancel out that calamitous away goal. When our away goal comes will be crucial – score first and it’s game on.

chas


I’ve Got A Feeling

April 26, 2018

Firstly, there is an AA’er in hospital (RA), wishing you a speedy recovery.

Tonight is an oddity, we go into a tie as firm underdogs. Hardly a pundit gives us a dog’s chance, and it would take a confirmed optimist to disagree with them; AM, on paper, are easily the best team in the competition.

But ….

We are The Arsenal. We are not Sunderland or Stoke or Lokomotiv Crapski, we have history and have won silverware in 3 out of the last 4 years. Atletico will be worried.  Even the mighty Real Madrid lost in London this season.

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Simeone has stated he is likely to play an extra defender tonight to bolster an already tight defence. Atletico boast the best defence in World football (or so we are led to believe). They have conceded only 18 goals in La Liga and not once at home for 11 matches. Simeone is the George Graham of Spanish football, a man who believes that defences win games.

Our defence is the opposite 😦

But …

Atletico have not won silverware since 2014. They are an ageing team with many players over 32. They may be missing Diego Costa (hopefully) and if we can stop Greizmann and Gameiro on the counter, are unlikely to hurt us (big IF). Should Costa play I look forward to his reception from the fans 😀

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Can Arsenal win? Of course we can. A slice of luck, some genius from Ozil, a Ramsey masterclass,  rapier-like finishing from Lacazette, allied to an organised defensive performance and we are Kushti.

My Team:

Cech

Mustafi    Koscielny    Monreal

Bellerin    Ramsey    Xhaka    Wilshire

Ozil

Lacazette    Welbeck

Elneny’s injury gives Jack a chance to shine, he has been below par the last few games but play well tonight and he will be WC Russia bound, play poorly and not only will he not get a new contract but he will be West Ham bound!

Patience may be vital without the team going gung-ho as the game progresses.

Some passionate support (Anfield was amazing on Tuesday),  players willing to give 100% and we have a chance.

I am an optimist, I think we can beat AM over two legs, as the Beatles sang “I’ve got a Feeling”

COYRRG