A better day at the office ….. three points in the bag

October 17, 2010

This was another of those games where the title of the match report could be ‘What is Diaby for?’ How many times did he go on a great run only to come to a grinding halt at the edge of the penalty box? Those long, strong legs with feet that obviously have the ball magnets in their boots have to be attached to the most infuriating footballer in our squad.

He doesn’t have to keep the ball at his feet while he’s running but he does have to keep running. His awareness of where his team-mates are is virtually non-existant. His shooting ability has never been in question so why doesn’t he look up and check what’s happening around him. BigRaddy said last night that once Theo returns Diaby will have company on his runs but that won’t be of any help if Diaby hasn’t got his brain switched on. I can run with the ball at my feet into space – admittedly not with the grace and speed of Diaby – but if I didn’t know what my next move was going to be what would be the point?

Maybe Diaby just doesn’t know what his job is  – I’m afraid to me he is just a  ‘headless chicken’, but he’s been like this for far too long and needs to answer some stern questions. Footballing skills are great but pretty pointless if you don’t fit into a team.

But there were positives to take from this game. Our favourite flapper was considerably more solid than I can ever remember. If Birmingham were ever to score it was going to be from a free kick or a corner and Fabianski wasn’t at fault for their goal. With a fledgling partnership in front of him in the form of Djourou and Squillaci it could have all gone horribly wrong but he was vociferous and didn’t at any time look vulnerable. Shame on those supporters who hammed up their applause of his first touches of the ball, when he’s wearing the shirt at least give him a chance.

Jack Wilshere was once again at the heart of all that was good. Some great interplay between him and Chamakh that should have yielded a goal but once again there were too many passes. Arshavin was unlucky today that none of his back flicks found a man but he kept on trying. I’ve just seen Jack’s tackle again that led to his red card and he was late and could have hurt the player – who thinks that Arsène Wenger sent him out to let the player know he was there? Obviously not and having watched Jack in pre-season I felt that he had a fiesty tendency that he’s so far kept under control – good for him,  he’ll learn I’m sure.

Watching Theo, Rosicky and Nikki warming up after half-time did bring a flutter to my heart. When Rosicky came on he added great directness to the play managing to sting the keepers hands with 2 rasping shots. Nikki also got a chance to join in and could have scored with his first touch. He’s way behind Chamakh and van Persie in the pecking order which hopefully he won’t mind. I thought this game was crying out for Theo but we’ll have to wait for Tuesday night against Shaktar to see him. I don’t want to put a hex on it but its worth noting that the penalty was scored by a cool penalty taker who smashed the ball into the back of the net.

So, overall this was a game we were expected to win, it wasn’t pretty by any definition but on reflection we actually ground out a result. I’m not going to say it was comfortable because it certainly wasn’t and the last 10-15 minutes were suitably nervous as we looked, as usual, like we could concede at any moment but we hung on and added three points to our total…….. more than the chavs and the manks ha ha. Sometimes its nice to win ugly.

Here are some player ratings from BigRaddy

Fabianski. A solid performance, not at fault for the goal – it was a superb header.His distribution was a bit suspect. 7

Eboue. Added little to the attack and was guilty of a very poor tackle. Good application 5

Squillaci. Improved performance. Unlucky not to be on the scoresheet. Could be the answer once TV comes back. 7

Djourou. Still looks rusty to me. Probably the most mobile of our CB’s. Got caught under the ball for a couple of headers and was outjumped for the goal. 6

Clichy. What has happened to his positioning? A shadow of the player we saw 3 seasons ago. 5

Song. A dynamic performance. Drove the team forward and put in some fine tackles. One of his better games though his passing was wayward on occasion 8

Nasri. Got a bit lost in the midfield hurly-burly but once again was aggressive in his attacking play. Not at his best. 7

Wilshere. Our best player prior to his rash tackle, let’s hope it is a lesson learned. Strong and disciplined in defence when required, excellent link up play and moved the ball very quickly when required. 8

Arshavin. Started really well and faded. Mr Inconsistent ran about for 20 mins the first half and went missing prior to his substitution. Is he fully fit? Does he need a break? Does he know that Arsenal play in Red? 4

Chamakh. As usual worked hard. Scored , got the penalty (I believe it was the correct decision), the focal point of our attacks. He is improving. 7

Subs:

Rosicky. Came on for Arshavin and immediately shot from distance (clearly under instructions). A good cameo. 7

Bendtner. Only had a few minutes but almost got on the end of a cross. 6

 

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Arsenal Back To Winning Ways – written by London

September 29, 2010

That’s better, now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by that nightmare on Saturday? Ah, yes I remember we were talking about how people were yet to realise how good the squad is and from it a team to rival the Invincibles could emerge; well, we might have to rethink the latter but last night went some way to help prove the former.

Wenger made six changes to the team that were embarrassed on the weekend, fielding a combination that included Belt and Braces, that’s both Song and Denilson for those who do not read my reports that often. With Wilshere placed ahead of them which together created a midfield axis that the whole team revolved around.

Song and Denilson sit like guard dogs in front of the defence alternating vertically in their attacks, when Song goes forward Denilson stays back and visa versa, this enabled Wilshere to do what he does best: be creative without the hindrance of defensive duty – and it worked. Wilshere linked with Arshavin to create in car terms what I can only describe as two Ferraris in a sea of Ford Sierras, their partnership was head and shoulders above anything else on the field. This paid dividends in the form of the first goal: sublime interplay between the two, with a back heel from a different footballing planet, setting up the Russian to lash home.

One nil up and we were in control but only after the defence had blown off the cob webs. Djourou looked like Bambi on ice and Fabianski appeared as scared as a person who would be looking for a new job next Monday if he messed this chance up.

More opportunities fell to Arshavin, Chamakh and Rosicky but the Partizan goal keeper was obviously using this game as a show case for better paid employment else where and decided to put on a show of stopping pretty much everything that came his way.

What is it with these teams in blue and white stripes? Why don’t they just roll over and give in as they are supposed to do? Again, not tonight, irritatingly they were awarded a penalty and worse, they scored from it. I am not sure what Denilson was doing but what ever it was he shouldn’t have been waving his arms around in the air when the ball is travelling towards him.

One each at half time, but we were clearly the better team a fact that I am sure Wenger emphasised to them during the break – it worked. Arsenal came out and dominated play but although we huffed, puffed and were even awarded a penalty we still couldn’t score. Chamakh was put through with only the goal keeper to beat but before being able to pull the trigger his legs were clipped and down he went, the ref pointed to the spot, up stepped Arshavin and lazily hit it down the middle allowing the keeper to save.

Still one one but it helped that the ref saw fit to give us a hand by reducing their team to ten men. With an extra man it wasn’t long before we were able to take advantage: Rosicky sent in a beautifully flighted ball for Chamakh to climb and head goalward, unfortunately it hit the bar but that was the last of the goal keeper’s nine lives and it rolled kindly back to the Moroccan who poked it home.

Two – one and the gods were smiling: all the things we had written on our wish list before the game began to be ticked off one at a time. Squillaci scored his first goal from a wonderfully taken corner which actually cleared the first man, why can’t we do that more often? Fabianski saved a penalty sending his confidence sky high, Djourou settled down to play a decent second half and Wenger was able to take off and rest key players ahead of our big game on Sunday. All in all, a good day at the Belgrade office. The smiles are back, have a good day.

Written by London.


Partizan. Fabianski to have a quiet but impressive game – written by BigRaddy

September 28, 2010

I have to be honest and say that prior to my research I knew little of Partizan Belgrade, not even knowing which country they represent (my geography tuition ending prior to the destruction of Yugoslavia). I read that they are top of their League and have won the Serbian League and Cup double for the past 2 years.

Their ground holds 32,000 fans who appear to have considerable influence over the club; a few years ago the fans were unhappy with their trainer and refused to attend home games until he resigned, which he duly did. This requires a level of organisation that we Gooners can only contemplate  – perhaps there is a way to persuade the club to buy a new GK !

They lost their opener 1-0 away to Shaktar and showed themselves to be a decent team. Their star player is the inevitable Brazilian, a striker named Cleo who has scored 14 goals in 15 European games.

But this game is about how Arsenal bounce back from the weekend, it is a test of character in what is a difficult week. Poor Fabianski will be under enormous pressure knowing that millions of viewers will be awaiting his first error; should he fail tonight the repercussions will surely end his Arsenal career and many would give away 2 points to see him do just that, an appalling desire from so called “fans”.  I would like Fabianski to have a very quiet evening but make two wonder saves, thereby giving him the confidence to play well at Stamford Bridge. A clean sheet would be great.

As usual I have no idea of the team but I would play these chaps:

The entire defence had a terrible game at the weekend, Almunia took the brunt of the blame but they were very poor as a unit. Tonight can only be better. Partizan play a packed midfield with a lone striker, a formation which tends to blanket our passing game, patience will be an issue. We need to be mindful of the ball over the top, particularly as our defenders normally play high up the pitch. I hope we attack from the off and quickly build a platform to win the points, if we score first we will go on to win, but with confidence having been shaken, an early Partizan goal could be ruinous.

Founded in the 6th Century BC, Belgrade is the 4th largest city in S.E.Europe with a population of 1.6m. It has one of the biggest rivalries in World football between Partizan and Red Star. Serbs are very good at tennis having reached the final of the Davis Cup.

COYRRG


Szczesny, come on down and save our season – written by London

September 2, 2010

The idea, believed by some, that Szczesny is waiting in the wings ready to swoop down and save our season makes me laugh; in fact, I find it ridiculous.

I am as excited as anyone about his future prospects but to have him playing in the first team now on the back of one good season at Brentford is foolish beyond hope.

Yes, I am aware of all the glowing reports from our west London neighbours, one of my best friends is a season ticket holder and was telling me that the commonly held view was that he is the best goalkeeper they have ever seen. The trouble with that is, I couldn’t help asking myself, when I first heard it, when was the last time that they had a decent player in their ranks to really compare him with. To say that the bar is set at a low level is an understatement of some magnitude. This is Brentford we are talking about not Juventus or some such club where he would have got a real test.

This situation reminds me of the time a couple seasons ago when Denilson had just started to appear in the CC; he played alongside Diaby in many games and shone. The Brazilian was hailed as yet another hidden gem uncovered by Wenger and demands of first team football were the order of the day.

Denilson got the chance to play in the League; in fact, he has played so many games familiarity has bred contempt to the point where his performances are now criticised as is Wenger for picking him.

What many people have forgotten is the reason he got his chance in the first place and why he has played so many games is due to injuries and not as many people perceive to be Wenger’s obstinacy. The Brazilian initially made it into the first team because of injuries to Diaby and Gilberto and it is worth remembering that when Bert returned he was pants so Denilson rightly moved up the pecking order. With the re-emergence of Diaby, Denilson has moved back down; although, the more observant will have noticed that when Ramsey was fit the Brazilian was behind him on the bench. We could debate this until the ends of the earth but the point I am making is that, although, Denilson got his chance due to some impressive performances in the CC he got most of them due to injuries.  I expect Denilson to now evolve into the first team at a more suitable pace.

The connection between Szczesny and Denilson is that I see the same fate waiting just around the corner for the Pole as the young Brazilian has endured; a couple of immature slips and people will be calling for his head.

We are in the doldrums of a two week International break, there are blogs out there that pride themselves on putting out a fresh post every day, nothing wrong with that except as the days slowly roll by it gets harder and harder to find something positive to say and the temptation to take the far easier option of negativity becomes greater and greater; but, just before that stage arrives blogs try and play the, we should give the youngsters a go, card and it never ceases to surprise me how many people are only too eager to jump on the band wagon.

Szczesny will be called for by people who care more about their blogs than they do about the good of Arsenal, it will be your choice as to whether you agree — I don’t — too much expectation too early in a career can be very damaging, just ask Denilson.

Written by London, picture by Rasp.


Almunia; Dead Man Walking? ….. and the real stats

August 18, 2010

Since two writers have submitted posts giving their particular angle on Manuel Almunia, we have decided to publish them both to demonstrate how views can contrast and stats can prove anything!

A view on Almunia written by 26may1989

What must be going through the mind of Manuel Almunia? We’re all frustrated and annoyed that the new keeper Wenger is after hadn’t been secured before the season’s opening, but I guess the point of this post is to try to look at this situation from Almunia’s point of view.

Whatever we think of his ability to be our first choice keeper, and I am very much of the view that he doesn’t have what it takes technically, Almunia has consistently shown himself to be a man of dignity and modesty. Unlike his predecessor, Jens Lehmann, or the man who has led the defence in front of him over the last two or three years, William Gallas, Almunia is a genuine team player. He has also undoubtedly improved his game over the last few years, and while not good enough, is not nearly as bad as many would claim.

But he and we know the reality. Almunia is the footballing equivalent of a dead man walking. It’s now a matter of record that Arsenal have officially bid for at least one other keeper, Mark Schwarzer, who would be an improvement on Almunia but not dramatically so. Whether or not Schwarzer joins us, Almunia knows his days as first choice are numbered, and quite rightly it seems he would leave Arsenal rather than resume duties as a back-up keeper.

However, we went into last weekend with a tough and difficult opening match depending on Almunia, a man who can only feel undermined and threatened by what has happened this summer. There’s no point whingeing about the situation, it is what it is now, and it’s obvious Wenger didn’t want this situation to have come about any more than we did. I just hope Almunia’s professional pride enables him to put any feelings of frustration and alienation to one side – he may even be motivated by a degree of defiance.

I feel for Almunia being in this situation but I also believe he has the strength of character to give his best for as long as he’s Arsenal’s number one.

What the stats say by GunnerN5

Most of us have agonized over our goalkeeping for several seasons,  really since the much maligned Jens left us, boy how we would like him back now. This chart shows just how  bad our main man Almunia really was last season.

Unfortunately the complete range of stats cannot be reproduced in the chart above, but the decisive conclusions are as follows:

Almunia was 17th in saves per shot at 87.8% and 8th on amount of goals allowed at 31. What is really surprising is that our defense only allowed 254 shots against Almunia in his 29 games. This (among this group of keepers) was the 5th lowest amount for the season and the lowest shots against per game at only 9. To the writer this indicates that our defense was not as suspect as perhaps we thought and that our goalkeeping was worse than thought.

If, for instance, Almunia had  the same save % as Van der Sar at 94.1% (5.9% allowed) then he would only have let in 15 goals and we would, have most likely, won the league.

I know stats are simply stats but this chart really shows just how bad Almunia was and although Fabianski and Mannone are not shown they were no better.

Hart, Schwarzer and Given were all better than any of our lot!!


We, The Mighty Arsenal, Don’t Have A Number 1 Keeper

July 24, 2010

I keep thinking about what Wenger said recently  “we do not have a number one keeper”.

So I did a bit of research. Gerry Peyton, our goalkeeping coach is leaving for personal reasons (Irish would know a bit about him, having represented Ireland on over 30 occasions). Two years ago Sczesney broke both hands, and most probably Arsene is assessing him, but to be fair in the two pre season matches so far, he has had little or nothing to do.

IMO Schwarzer is still on the radar as a keeper/coach, probably short term in the first team, but I doubt anything will be resolved until Fulham have a new manager in place. That leaves Almunia. I wonder where he really stands in Wenger’s mind.

A good point that I have read several times is that the goals ratio to shots that we concede is very high for a top 3 club, and how often, especially at The Emirates we see keepers have their game of the season when they are continuously bombarded by our attacking options.

It makes sense to me, that a keeper who spends 75% of a game doing next to nothing and then concedes will always come under the spotlight a lot more than a keeper who may concede 3 or 4, but actually have a good game.

This is just another point of view as to our definite keeper problems, though the defensive issues are also a must to be addressed.

Is there really an argument that a keeper can be too young to be a first team choice? Look at Iker Casillas,  a product of Real Madrid’s youth system who started in the junior squad during the 1990–91 season. He was first called up to the first team on the 27 November 1997 at age 16 to face Rosenborg in UEFA Champions League 1997–98, but it wasn’t until the 1998–99 season that he debuted in the senior side.

La liga may not be as strong or physical as the Premier league yet now he is regarded as one of the best in the world, and has shown his class on countless occasions for Spain.

We have three problems and they are all linked – not on ability or coaching but by a mental barrier. Almunia has had personal problems and like it or not is compared to Jens Lehmann. Fabianski was mentally shot last season, so can he come back into the cauldron and Szczesny is unproven at the highest level.

At least, at long last, I feel Wenger knows he has to address this problem sooner rather than later.

Written by kelsey


City Preview …. cheers PV, jeers Ade

April 24, 2010

Strange to be playing a team one place below us and feel so ambivalent – it must be a response to the past couple of weeks. However, there is reason to look forward to today if only to vent some aggression and built up frustrations. Because today the comedy villain is coming to town.

Man City were always my second team. My allegiance came about through the wonders of Subbuteo. My set had red & white, and sky-blue & white players. Of course my team was The Arsenal, but I had many Gooner mates and needless to say (being an even handed sort of chap), I alternated colours with them. This was in City’s golden era, the days of Summerbee, Lee, Book, Bell and Doyle  – a team of power, imagination and skill. I can highly recommend “Manchester United ruined my Life” by Coiln Shindler to get a taste of that team, a book that could have been written by a Spurs fan about Arsenal over the past 30 years. I wonder if Subbuteo is still sold? So many winter hours of my youth were spent on it, but I guess it has been overtaken by computer games today

This afternoon brings the best City team since those far off days to THOF. The frisson of MC having three ex-Gunners will guarantee a lively encounter:

PV4: An Arsenal great and one of the finest MF’s to grace the Premiership. PV has yet to be effectively replaced in our team which shows the magnitude of his influence. A much loved  man who will receive a fine reception from the fans. It is said that he went to City to further his chances of going to the WC which highlights his ambition,  though I suspect it was to top up his pension fund. Nonetheless, PV remains a potent player and will enjoy his day in the sun.

Kolo Toure: Could have been an Arsenal great. His early career was so promising but when Sol left his form went into a tailspin. A top bloke, despite his bitching about AW earlier in the year, and a man who always gave 100% for The Arsenal. A member of the Invincibles. However, Toure never seemed to gel with Gallas and rumour has it that their relationship was non-existent in the dressing-room, as such it was no surprise when Toure was sold. I hope he gets a decent reception.

Which is more than I can say for the  other ex-Gunner lining up for MC. I will not be at THOF to welcome Adebayor home, but I wish I was. His reception could be less than polite! There is nothing like pouring scorn on a player from the safety of the stand, and we have been missing a villain since Shearer, Schmeichel and Sheringham retired. Not even a Spud or any MU player can provoke the antipathy that will be laid at Ade’s size 15 feet. And deservedly so, a more unpleasant player one is unlikely to see – from his cowardly stamp on RvP’s face to the insane celebration in front of the Arsenal fans, this man screams narcissus. What kind of egoist takes the decision not to play for his country following the tragic attack on the Togo bus – this by their Captain and the man most revered in a poverty stricken, football mad nation. Have any of the other members of the Togo side followed suit? I disliked Adebayor intensely when he wore the red and white, I hated his laissez-faire attitude, his patent lies about his love for the club, his dismissiveness of all the players around him, the preening and worst of all, the kissing of a badge that means so much to millions of fans and so little to him. €25m received for a man who I would have paid to leave was a superb piece of business from AW. Yes, he can score goals, the 30 in a season is a record that will not be broken for some time, but Ade was offside more times in one game than we have been all this season (very slight exaggeration). Perhaps we would have won the PL had he stayed, but I doubt it – this is not a man to lead the line, not someone to rely upon to inspire a team.

From the above you may correctly assume that my feelings towards TTT (The Togo T**t) are slighlty negative ……. To Pluto with him!

There are other players in the MC team! The odious but effective Bellamy, the quickly developing Adam Johnson who will give Theo much competition for an England shirt in years to come. I particularly like De Jong, who would have made a fine addition to our team when the Alonso purchase collapsed (I think the timing was wrong). Stephen Ireland is back from injury – a man with exemplary taste in cars – a fine player and one I would love to see us buy. And thinking of Alonso  ….  Gareth Barry,  the man who effectively stopped his arrival at THOF, which is reason enough on its own to dislike the rat faced Midlander. And of course there is Tevez., what a wonderful player this little chap is. If Adebayor had 50% of his passion and energy, he would be a world beater …….  but he hasn’t!  City, unlike us, have a goalkeeper, a man all Gooners would have liked to see us acquire 2 seasons ago. It wasn’t to be and a chance went begging to sign one of the World’s best GK’s, let’s hope he has a stinker today.

Injuries once again will determine who plays for Arsenal. Will Song be fit? His absence has been extremely costly. Sol and Silvestre are likely to continue as CB’s, though MC are a very fast team and I would play Sagna at CB with Eboue at RB. The rest almost pick themselves apart from upfront where we will hopefully see Van Persie start. Will we see Vela in the absence of Arshavin? It would be an interesting ploy but I expect AW to play safe and pack the midfield with Song/Eastmond, Nasri, Diaby and Rosicky.

A win or draw is important. We do not need to put further pressure on the team going into the last two games and as such have to secure 3rd. I believe we will get a result. The awful loss last week could be apported to lack of desire and discipline; those who played at the DW will want to show the faithful that the final 10 minutes was a blip.