Boys will be men! – Arsenal v Vorskla Player Ratings

November 30, 2018
Well, everything seemed to be stacked against the team in the beginning. Whose idea was it to organise a long trip away midweek before celebrating some serious Spud-bashing in the weekend! Really bad idea!

And then, serious brass monkey weather in the Land of Always Winter! Note, the ref needed a replacement can to paint the ground in the second half because the first one froze in his pants! 🙂

To top it all, martial law and proxy wars of the kind never seen in the civilized end of Europe on the correct side of 1945. Who would have thunk!

And then, in a shocking late move just to disrupt our preparations, UEFA decided at the last minute to move the game to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Surely, the sole purpose was to bring memories of another Brexit side crashing to European opposition in last season’s Champions League final!

Yes, the odds were all stacked against us.

In response, Unai Emery decides, in his enormous wisdom, to pack the team with teenagers fresh out of nursery. Bless the man and his sense of humour! In the event, we had a fantastic spectacle where the young gunners ran amok and Vorskled the shell-shocked opposition 3-0 on the night! What’s not to like?

We have struggled a bit with our academy setup in the past couple of years. But, if there was one thing we learnt last night, it was that the future is bright and shining. Yes, these young boys will be men soon enough. But will they stay and take it up the Arse? That is the long term question. In the short term, things look bright. We can look forward to another brilliant teen-show of Emery-ball against Qarabag.

Here are some quick thoughts and ratings. Please feel free to disagree.

Helmet: 6
Better with his feet than with his hands, which were probably frozen. Had to make a couple of saves, which he did, not without pretending to be nutmegged once early on. But that was just play-acting. Especially loved his bold clearance outside the box in the second half.

AMN: 6.5
Holding: 6
Jenks: 6
Licht: 6
The defence had precious little to do by way of stopping opposition attacks. It seems all aggression is diverted towards the Russians at the moment. Holding and Jenks were solid. Licht was good on the overlap. AMN was somewhat iffy in defence but linked up really well with the midfield.

Elneny: 5
Worked hard, but I thought he was the weak link on the night. Caught out of position a few times, and got himself into an offside position in the second half for what would have otherwise been Smith-Rowe’s second goal. However, decent assist for the third goal.

Rambo: 7
Almost convinced the ref and everyone else that he was attempting to dive, but in the process earned as fair a penalty as one would ever see. Wonderful stewardship of a bunch of youngsters (Cech was the captain on the night, I think, but Rambo looked very much the leader on the field). Most importantly, he got the opposition goalie on his knees for the penalty. Now, how many times have a seen a goalie defending a penalty kneeling down rather than diving! Wow!

Douzi: 6
Good solid link up play. Nothing spectacular except the hair, but valuable nevertheless.

Smith-Rowe: 8
Such games can sometimes be nervy affairs, and the first goal is always important. On the night, a wonderfully cool finish for an early first goal that set the tone for the game. To top it all, a wonderful sheepish smile after calmly finishing off a second half goal only for the goal to be disallowed very late. Just because Elneny was caught too far upfront trying to give the opposition goalie the eye!

Nketiah: 7
Tireless work throughout the game. Really gutsy, and very skillful. A fine assist to boot!

Willock: 7
What wonderful maturity, skill and finish for the third goal! A fine talent. A great pleasure to watch.

Zech Medley, Bukayo Sako and Charlie Gilmour.
What wonderful names! Never heard of them before. Medley was wonderful in defence, seems to be a real talent for the future. Sako was excellent in link up play. Both solid 6’s for me. Gilmour was not on long enough to make an impression.

Two final thoughts………..

First, a special thought for the team doctor (don’t know their name) who apparently did not travel with the team and reached late on his own. Then forgot that the game was moved to Kiev and travelled a pointless 400 miles by road to finally reach the game. What a performance!

Second. By the way, that is now 18 and counting! Look forward to some serious mauling of the blue-skinned swamp dwellers from N17 in the weekend.

A mildly satisfied,

Red Arnie

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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


FC Vorskla – Who are ya?

September 18, 2018

With the much-awaited return of Thursday night football this week, it’s time to take a look at our first opponents, FC Vorskla of the Ukraine.

Based in the city of Poltava, FC Vorskla were born out of the ashes of a former Soviet trade union sports society, called Kolos. Going through a number of name changes and bankruptcy, the club re-emerged in 1986 in the Soviet third division before joining the second tier of the new Ukrainian League in 1992.

Promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League in 1996, they have remained there ever since. On the European stage, the club played twice in the old Uefa Cup  before various assaults on the Europa League, the highlight being group stage participation 2011/12. Of course that highlight has been superseded by the ultimate in FC Vorskla’s history, when drawn to play the mighty Arsenal FC in this season’s Europa League group stage.

The club play at the Oleksiy Butovskyi Vorskla Stadium which was named after a famous Poltava dignitary from a cossack family who was instrumental in the founding of the International Olympic Committee.

Vociferous rivalries amongst various Ukrainian club supporters have largely been put to one side due to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Fans of Vorskla Poltava are fierce patriots of the Ukraine and many are said to have taken part in the Ukrainian revolution of 2014.

On 26 July 2014, the club’s president and active local politician, Oleh Babayev  was shot dead. Police opened a criminal case under Article “premeditated murder” but it appears the perpetrator was never found in the familiar fashion of disputes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions in the region.

Local Food – Borshch, Varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and Banosh with Brynza (corn flour cooked in sour cream with sheep’s cheese and crunchy pork fat) are examples of local cuisine along with Holodets – “This strange dish shocks tourists. But, for Ukrainians, it is the central dish served at all celebrations. Holodets is made of meat broth, frozen to a jelly-like state, with pieces of meat inside. One of the main components for this kind of aspic is pork leg. To be more specific, the lowest part, the one that ends with hoofs. During the process of cooking, the smell spreads all over the apartment. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.”

While I’m sure local Ukrainian food is delicious, I’d imagine Arsenal will be taking their own chef! (as most clubs seem to after the spuds’ experience of Lasagnegate 🙂 )

chas