Arsenals Top Seasons – 1930-31 Our 2nd Best and First Top Flight Title

April 25, 2018

Here is an early accounting of the game against Liverpool when we won our very first Division One League Championship.

Date: Saturday 18 April 1931
Competition: Football League Division One
Location: Highbury
Attendance: 39,143
Arsenal: B Harper, T Parker (captain), E Hapgood, B John, H Roberts, C Jones, J Hulme, D Jack, J Lambert, A James, C Bastin. Manager: Herbert Chapman.
Liverpool: E Scott, J Jackson (captain), T Lucas, T Morrison, N James, J McDougall, H Barton, G Hodgson, D Wright, A McPherson, G Gunson. Manager: George Patterson.
A full strength Arsenal went into the game with Liverpool at Highbury needing only a point to secure their first ever League title. Arsenal were not helped by the wind which was blowing directly into their faces in the first half – in the third minute we conceded a goal when the wind diverted a cross which bounced off the thigh of Herbie Roberts and evaded goalie Harper’s left hand.
On 25 minutes David Jack equalised after a pass from Charlie Jones set him up to shoot. Arsenal despite the wind disadvantage held on for the remainder of the first half and began the second half with the wind on their backs! Arsenal piled on the pressure and the Liverpool defence held on until the 65th minute when James took a free kick from 25 yards out which he feigned to send to Hulme but passed to Lambert. The ball found its way on to Bastin whose crisp drive nestled just inside the post. Five minutes later Harper punted the ball up field and found Hulme whose cross to Lambert was rolled past Scott into the Liverpool net.

Rare brochure celebrating Arsenal at the beginning of our golden period in the 1930s

This was the first time one of the Southern teams won the Division One title. Arsenal were continuing their rise to the top echelons of football, Herbert Chapman had put together an exceptional forward line consisting of Jack Lambert, David Jack and Cliff Bastin and opposition defences simply could not cope with their combined skills. Lambert scored 38 goals in 34 matches, Jack 31 in 35 and Bastin 28 from 42. Joe Hulme also netted 14 times as Arsenal scored 127 league goals, a club record for a single season.

This was an exciting time to be a Gunner as we handed out a number of heavy defeats. Grimsby Town were on the end of a 9-1 hiding in a replay of the game that was abandoned on December 6th 1930, although they could consider themselves slightly unlucky as they were leading 1-0 when the re-scheduled game was abandoned due to fog.

Arsenal Information Corner in the south west corner of Highbury  Stadium was extremely busy in the 1930/31 season

Blackpool lost 7-1 at Highbury, Derby conceded six on their visit to North London, and Arsenal won 7-2 at Leicester. Cliff Bastin – already Arsenal’s youngest scorer, became their youngest scorer of a hat-trick (at 18) in a 6-3 win over Derby on February 14. Arsenal won four of their first seven games by 4-1 and looked the only possible winners after beating their nearest challengers, Aston Villa, 5-2 on November 8 – a defeat compounded by Villa’s 6-4 home defeat by Derby the following week. Villa won the return against Arsenal 5-1 in March, but by then it was too late.

Arsenal’s first League title set them on the way to their domination of the 1930s. The previous year’s FA Cup final victory over manager Herbert Chapman’s old club, Huddersfield, was very symbolic, but the championship cemented the arrival of Arsenal. It took Chapman six years to win it, but then the floodgates opened, with three in a row from 1933-35, another in 1938 and a second Cup win in 1936 – although sadly he didn’t live to see most of the silverware, having died in 1934.

Herbert Chapman surveying the future

The 1930/31 season also saw the debut of the Gunners first player signed from overseas, Dutch goalkeeper Gerry Keyser. He played in the first 12 league matches of the campaign. Another debutant was George Male who made his Arsenal debut against Blackpool in December and went on to serve the Club until 1948; his first appearance was on Christmas Day. The team played three games in three days over the Christmas period, and won them all scoring 14 goals in the process.

Arsenal’s 66 points were six better than the previous best in League history. Only Arsenal have stayed in the top flight without interruption since then, Everton were Second Division champions in their first year below the top level and won the League title the following season.

The Times on 20 April wrote an intelligent piece entitled “Arsenal’s Triumph” about the key to the team being Herbert Chapman’s planning the construction of a watertight defence balanced with the counter attack:

The Team succeed by the rapidity and unexpectedness with which they transform defence into attack. They lure their opponents into a false sense of security, and then, with a short series of sudden blows, accomplish their downfall. A goal is scored before the other side has realised that it is not the attacking side. Theirs is a cunningly devised plan, and its success is to be judged by the large number of goals scored, averaging almost three a match.

The successes of Arsenal have been due more to excellent team play and adaptability than to the brilliant individualism of a few costly players of renown…The various players have sunk their individuality in the team and each has taken his full share in promoting the fortunes of the club.

The club held the League Championship winning dinner and dance at the Café Royal on the evening of Thursday 30 April. This was to be the first of five such celebrations in the decade of the 1930s. 300 people were present at the banquet including the full complement of Aston Villa players, who were cordially invited as runners up.

The trophy was handed to Tom Parker by John McKenna, President of the Football League after the end of the Bolton game, the final game of the season at Highbury. This presentation on 2 May 1931 was made in the grandstand with supporters allowed to congregate on the pitch in front of the ceremony.

Tumultuous scenes were witnessed as the game was delayed as thousands ran onto the pitch thinking the game had ended. They all had to be removed by the police from the pitch before the final whistle could be blown. When the whistle blew they all ran on again and carried off the players to the grandstand.

35,406 witnessed the 5-0 win followed by the League Championship trophy being awarded to Arsenal, and indeed to any London club, for the very first time.  Previously the most southerly team to win the League had been Aston Villa.

Written by GunnerN5

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Fun in the Sun – West Ham Ratings

April 23, 2018

The first in a series of goodbye games for the great man brought some glorious sunshine to North London. Hopes were high for exceptional entertainment, though the news that Auba wasn’t starting brought the mood down a notch. I suppose the hope was to further cement some combinations for Thursday’s semi, so it was understandable in that sense.

 First Half

West Ham supposedly dominated the first half according to some of the media. Apart from a ball bouncing off a Hammers’ player’s shoulder on to the top of the bar and a fairly routine save from Ospina from a shot on the break, West Ham barely had an effort on goal.

For the boys in red and white, Kos saw his decent header go just wide and Danny had two efforts showing the full spectrum of his abilities, one top quality and the other an awful scuffer. Elneny rolled his ankle (hopefully with no serious damage) but not much happened apart from that and our hopes were high that the second period would see an improvement.

           Not a day for fair-skinned celtic chaps

Second half

The second period burst into life with Nacho’s sweet volley off his shin from Granit’s corner five minutes after the break. Failing to build on this lead, Ospina then punched out a crossed ball South American style straight back to the Hammers and with the defence in complete disarray, the hideous Arnautovic crashed in a well-struck drive. 1-1, quelle surprise.

Time for the cavalry, Auba for Alex Iwobi and the world suddenly seemed an even brighter place. Hart made fine saves from Xhaka and from a peach of a curler from Welbz, before a beautifully floated cross from Rambo sneaked past a hesitant Hammers defender and into the far corner for the goal that finally broke United’s flagging resistance.

The third came after a fine passing sequence and ricocheted off the underside of a West Ham defender’s legs, fooling Hart at the near post. Effective strikers often seem to get that sort of break and Laca is proving to be very effective indeed. Get your shot off and things happen.

My favourite goal of the four was the last one because of Ramsey’s exquisite feet in rounding a bemused Zabaleta which had followed a jinking turn from Auba. Hart got a hand to Lacazette’s shot on the way in, which sort of summed up his day.

Ratings

Ospina – Fairly untroubled, had little chance with the equaliser … 6

Bellerin – Appalling effort ballooned over the bar in the first half, defended ok  … 6

Mustafi – A little more composed with his old buddy alongside him   …6

Kos – Hopefully now match sharp for Thursday, led from the front as usual  … 7

Monreal – Never gives less than 100%, so always going to be a fan favourite  … 7

Elneny – Hopefully Mo’s injury isn’t serious – I doubt he would have played Thursday anyway … 6

Xhaka – Granit always oozes class against opposition of this standard, perhaps he can kick on and raise himself up to this level in all games next season  … 7

Ramsey – Class personified, always trying something to remove the wheel clamp from the bus   … 7

Iwobi – Sometimes Alex’s pitter patter feet seem to be an outward manifestation of his agitated, hesitant mind – this was one of those days  … 5

Welbeck – Still improving and you never quite know if you’re about to see a world-class finish or something decidedly spursy … 6

Lacazette – 2 more goals added to his impressive tally for a first season  … 7

Subs

Maitland-Niles – Time for a bit of canvassing in the acres of space in midfield, but difficult to recognise with his new trim … 6

Aubameyang – His entry to the field with a tiring West Ham changed the game … 7

On to Thursday with that last ten minutes giving us a welcome boost of confidence and optimism.

chas

 

 


The Childlike Delusions of the Arsène Haters

April 21, 2018

Written in June 2012 this post from Rocky has renewed relevance after yesterday’s announcement. Let’s hope that some elements of the Arsenal fanbase fade back into obscurity when Arsene leaves.

There is a strong current of opinion among some Arsenal supporters that our seven year winless streak is a disgrace.

The argument goes like this: “Arsenal are a big club. Big clubs win things. We haven’t won anything for seven years. Therefore… our manager isn’t good enough; our Board of Directors lack ambition; they’re only interested in money. Let’s change everything.”

The flaws in the reasoning are obvious and you really don’t need me to reiterate them.

But what is not often mentioned is that this type of thinking is recognisable to psychologists and is described as “Childlike Behaviour in Adults”.

The symptoms of childlike behaviour in adults are reflective of emotional immaturity and can be grouped under five headings:

  • Egocentrism
  • Uncontrolled Emotion
  • Gratification
  • Attitude
  • Magical Thinking

If you go on some of the more negative Arsenal blogs you will find these symptoms displayed in abundance by both the authors and the commenters. The most important symptom, in the context of Arsenal’s recent history, is gratification, but the others play their part too.

Egocentricism:

Emotionally immature individuals are self centred and selfish. They have little regard for others and are preoccupied with their own ideas and feelings. They deeply believe that they are somehow special therefore demand constant attention, respect and sympathy.

Well, that certainly describes some Arsenal blog authors. People who are so preoccupied with their own “ideas and feelings” that they are unable to take on board the views and feelings of others. And they acquire an unfounded estimation of their own importance (believing they are “somehow special”). There is no doubt that some Arsenal sites, because they have attracted a modest following of like-minded delusionals, believe they speak for the greater Arsenal community. Further, they believe they are fighting a good fight (against the Triple Threat of Wenger, Kroenke and Gazidis) on behalf of that larger Arsenal community. Let me tell you chaps: you don’t speak for the rest of us and the fight you have embarked on is no more than Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Uncontrolled Emotion:

Immaturity expresses itself in temper tantrums, prolonged pouts and rapidly changing moods. Emotionally immature individuals get frustrated easily and over-react to perceived criticism. They are unwilling to forgive and are prone to jealousy pangs.”

Ring any bells? Over-reacting to perceived criticism? Like banning perfectly reasonable and well-mannered contributors who post comments at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy? As for the temper tantrums and pouts… well, you can visit any Arsenal blog after a bad result and see evidence of them in their droves.

Gratification:

Children and childish adults often want everything now, and avoid enduring any thing they do not like. Their behaviour is superficial, thoughtless and impulsive.”

This hits straight at the heart of the “no trophies for seven years” issue. People who take that fact as a personal affront (and conveniently ignore the compelling reasons why Arsenal have been unable to win silverware in that period) are behaving like children: “I want twophies now and if I don’t get them I’ll scweam and scweam and scweam.” No matter how many times old stagers pop up to describe periods in our history when we went way more than seven years as Potless Percies, the childlike adults among our fan base just scream louder that they want it, and they want it NOW. If you have had children and remember the toddler phase, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The idea of “deferred gratification” (seeing the big picture and accepting short term pain for long term gain) is anathema to the childlike adult.

Attitude:

Immature individuals have a hard time with integrity. They avoid and deny money and relationship problems which demand integrity and seek to pass the blame. They avoid reality and attack people when frustrated.”

Attacking people when frustrated – like making up silly names and acronyms for those who have a different viewpoint to your own. Lacking integrity – like never feeling ashamed or embarrassed when your dire predictions and made-up stories turn out to be nonsense.  There are Arsenal commentators and bloggers out there who (apparently) joyfully predicted that we would be in a relegation fight in the season that’s just finished. You won’t see them referring to that now. Instead, as childlike adults, they have simply shifted the goal posts and now predict doom and gloom for next season instead.

Magical Thinking:

The interpreting of two closely occurring events as though one caused the other, without any concern for the causal link. For example, if you believe that crossing your fingers brought you good fortune, you have associated the act of finger-crossing with the subsequent welcome event and imputed a causal link between the two. Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols.

Among the staunchest opponents of Arsene Wenger, magical thinking, indeed, takes the form of “interpreting two closely occurring events as though one caused the other.” For example, believing that because Arsene looks to achieve the best value when buying players, he must be on a “bonus” to spend less on transfers. There is, of course, not one shred of evidence for this ridiculous notion, but it has not stopped certain authors from repeating it endlessly as fact. Another example of spurious causal connection is the fact that we didn’t sign Xabi Alonso from Liverpool. The childlike adults, with their simple but deeply held world view of all things Arsenal, can only conceive of the idea that Alonso did not come because we were too cheap to pay the asking price. They, and we, have no evidence that that was truly the case.

Magical thinking invests special powers and forces in many things that are seen as symbols,” which, in the case of Arsenal, takes the form of an irrational belief that some flavour-of-the-month player from some other team is the answer to all our problems. Be it Cahill, Samba, Hazard, Mata, M’Vila (even, ludicrously, Joe Cole once upon a time). It doesn’t occur to the childlike adults who champion these causes that it might be the slightest bit inappropriate for them – with their day-jobs as IT workers, local government officials, Post Office sorters, or Sainsburys shelf stackers – to think they know better than a man like Arsene Wenger about which players are needed for Arsenal.

One important caveat: of course I am not suggesting that all criticism of Arsene Wenger and the current running of the club is a manifestation of psychological delusionality.

If you think Arsène should be removed as manager and can present cogent reasons for your opinion – fine, let’s have a debate. We may not change each other’s minds but we can at least respect each other and, through going back and forth, offer each other new perspectives on the issues.

Furthermore we can do so without playground abuse.

If you believe Ivan Gazidis is nothing more than a spin merchant who has overseen repeated failure in our transfer dealings – again, let’s go at it.

It’s not the argument itself that matters, but the way in which it is conducted. This is what separates the emotionally mature adult from the childlike adult and the emotionally mature Arsenal blog site from the childlike sites, of which, sadly, there are several.

That doesn’t mean that the emotionally mature adult is immune from occasional lapses of temper or good manners.

Many regular blog contributors go over the top at times (whether through frustration, a perception that they are being personally attacked or, as in my case, too much Scotch whisky) but if you examine the totality of their contributions you can soon judge their prevailing psychological state.

So what am I saying?

That some Arsenal blog sites and some of the people who contribute to them are psychologically not fully developed? They are, in effect, a bit mad?

Absolutely.

And thank goodness for the organisers of this site for keeping its standards high and emotionally mature and allowing wafflers like me to have our thoughts aired in an environment that (most of the time) is 100% sane.

RockyLives


Arsenals Top Seasons 1970-71 – Our 3rd Best Season and First Double

April 19, 2018

Welcome to the 1970/71 season, after 18 seasons in the trophy wilderness Arsenal finally broke their duck and won a trophy – the Inter City fairs Cup in 1970. That was the end of an extremely miserable period for us Arsenal supporters and gave us hope for the next season. The last time we won the FA Cup was in 1950 and our last League Championship victory was in the 1952/53 season.

The 1970-71 season started with two wins, three draws and one loss in the opening six matches. This included the visits of Manchester United and  Leeds United to Highbury, as well as visiting the previous season’s FA Cup winners, Chelsea, and League Champions, Everton. We also visited West Ham at Upton Park and hosted Huddersfield at Highbury. To emerge from those six games with a solitary defeat – at Stamford Bridge was impressive and built a solid foundation for the season ahead.

Game seven was played before a crowd of 48,713 at Highbury where a double from George Armstrong gave Arsenal victory over Tottenham in the first north London derby of the season. After such a bright start Arsenal looked to be out of the title chase after a 5–0 away loss to Stoke in September. However we recovered and put in a strong run and did not lose again in the league until Januar, and as the season progressed we became involved in a tight race with Leeds United.  After losing away to Derby County on April 26th we went on a run of nine consecutive victories conceeding only a single goal before ending the winning run with a 2-2 draw with West Brom.

With three games left we travelled to Elland Road to face Leeds United. The game was decided in a very controversial manner – in extra time Leeds struck with a quick central attack, Billy Bremner passed to the tall long-legged Jack Charlton, who was adding his weight to the final attack. At that moment the Leeds centre-half looked a clear two or three yards offside as Bob Wilson came out at him. His shot hit the foot of the post, came back at him and rebounded into the Arsenal net for victory.

The official version (the Leeds official version), was that the ball had touched McNab before it crossed the line, which made it a good goal. For this to have happened to Arsenal in injury time was hard enough to bear but for it to happen with a goal which none of them believed was legitimate made it unbearable.

In our penultimate game of the season we beat Stoke 1-0 at Highbury. Of all places to go for the final game of the season on Monday May 3rd 1971, we had to travel to White Hart Lane. Arsenal knew that they needed either to win or secure a scoreless draw to bring the title back to Highbury for the first time since 1953. A score draw would not do as Leeds United was waiting – hoping for an Arsenal slip-up.

Programme from the first time we won the League at White Hart Lane

51,192 fans managed to squeeze into White Hart Lane with thousands of fans outside hoping to get in; Spurs were desperate to deny Arsenal the bragging rights in North London. It was a difficult situation to be in for the Gunners as oddly enough if they scored, they still couldn’t concede for as I mentioned above, a score draw would have shattered Arsenal’s dreams. A Spurs goal at any stage was most unwelcome. Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings was in splendid form and made many fine saves throughout as Arsenal tried to break the deadlock.

Finally in the 88th minute Ray Kennedy headed in a George Armstrong cross via the underside of the bar. After the goal Tottenham put Arsenal under relentless pressure in the hope of preventing them from winning the title. A Tottenham goal would have been enough for Leeds to win the title, but there was limited time left for them to score. In the end Arsenal prevailed. Bob Wilson prevented any Spurs equaliser from happening and Arsenal sealed the first half of the Double by winning the league in front of Tottenham supporters at White Hart Lane, much to the delight of our ecstatic fans.

Next up was the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday May 8th, 1971 – it turned out to be a classic encounter with Liverpool in front of a crowd of 100,000 frenzied supporters.

In the previous rounds Arsenal had been drawn away in every round and in the semi-final trailed Stoke City 2-0 before equalising with a very controversial last minute penalty. This forced a replay at Villa Park four days later, a game Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from George Graham and Ray Kennedy.

Now to the small matter of the most important game in our history- The FA Cup Final.

A victory over Liverpool would give us our 1st League and Cup double. Arsenal wore their away strip of yellow shirt and blue shorts. Arsenal eventually won 2–1 after extra time, with all three goals coming in the added half hour. Steve Heighway opened the scoring for Liverpool with a low drive past Bob Wilson on his near post. However, Arsenal equalised with a scrambled goal from substitute Eddie Kelly – the first time a substitute had ever scored in an FA Cup final. The goal was initially credited to George Graham, but replays showed that the decisive touch came from Kelly after Graham had struck the shot.

 

Charlie George then scored a dramatic winner late in extra time, when his long range effort flew past Ray Clemence. This prompted George into a famous celebration – lying flat on his back on the Wembley turf waiting for his team mates to pick him up.

The match was played with a great spirit of sportsmanship by the players and was responded to by the fans. Arsenal’s victory and double win, after a gruelling 64-match season, was greeted with an ovation by both sets of fans at the stadium. This was repeated when Liverpool took their lap of honour after the presentation of the trophy and medals.

One of GN5’s programme collection with some famous autographs

Wonderful memories.

Written by GunnerN5


Is a change of Playing Style required?

April 17, 2018

Problems at Arsenal based on player analysis and playing style analysis:-

Keeper:

This hasn’t traditionally been our big problem area over the last few seasons, so is not the right place to look to for our consistent failings. It may be that in the here and now a new keeper is needed with father time catching up with Cech and a lack of world class options behind him.

Central defenders:

A penchant for smaller central defenders Pep era Barcelona style doesn’t work with us. We are often out-muscled and don’t look anywhere near commanding enough in central defence. One smaller quicker CD is ok with the right partner but 2 at the same time??

If Kos had been paired with a Kompany / Sol Campbell type CD for the last few years we would have been a different animal. With his injuries Kos can’t be a 1st choice consideration all season anymore and the rest are more squad player quality and not 1st team quality (at least not yet with some of them). 2 new CD’s likely required but different types to what we have.

Full backs:

Had some decent options in the last few years, so again not the right place to see our main failings. The biggest problem with the FB’s has been that they largely become wingers for much of the game but in a poorly executed fashion (discipline wise). This is more a team style issue than player issue per se and is dictated in some ways by the midfield in front of them (see later).

Having said all this, there are player concerns potentially arising now. Monreal is getting on and is Kolasinac good enough to replace him? Bellerin has looked squad player standard for much of this season but you do feel he can sharpen up with the right coaching and advice.

Midfield:

Will look at this as a whole because outside of CD it is where our main problems are. Individually assessed we have a lot of good midfielders. Collectively they don’t gel. Why? This seems to come down to Arsene and his player preference. He seems to mainly only look for slightly slower, cultured ball playing, tippy tappy style CM’s and then just string 5 of them out in the bit between the midfield and striker.

This is a criticism that has been mooted by some of us on here for a few years, so is not a new consideration. Arsene doesn’t seem to value the specialist holding midfield role or the specialist winger / wing forward role in this 3rd era at Arsenal (pre Emirates move era, Emirates move austerity era, post austerity Emirates era).

What we end up with is a lack of pace or width and a lack of support to the striker leaving them often isolated. Hence we end up with 5 players who are all kind of in a laterally aligned set up looking for a forward pass to play but finding no pacy winger / wing forward to play a ball for them to run on to and a striker isolated with 2 CD’s on him. Result, tippy tappy sideways and backward passing or forcing a forward pass through a narrow central congested channel which is likely intercepted or more easily defended.

We fail regularly to stretch opposition defences and pull them around. Our width for the most parts seems to come from the FB’s stationed high up the pitch in the wing positions, but too often they receive the ball there statically rather than bursting forward on an overlap. This is mostly seen with park the bus teams where the FB’s just seem to be permanently stationed high up and the more dynamic overlap only seems to happen when we play a team we are able to use a counter-attacking strategy from deep with. We probably only need to keep 2 or 3 from the 4 when looking at Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey and Wilshere, and free up space for 1 specialist HM and at least 1 specialist winger / wing forward (in the Robben / Sane mould).

Striker:

After his first year with us Giroud should have graduated to becoming a good back up option and something alternative from the bench to shake it up. He was never the type of striker that we should have been developing our play around. Playing with this type of striker as a 1st choice demanded a different way of playing that was to a large extent very non Arsenal (Wenger era) like. We should have been looking towards a quicker more mobile lethal front man and we stuck with the less mobile target man as our choice of play for far too long.

Having said that I didn’t want Ollie to go if we could have kept him. Having now recently recruited 2 of the types of strikers that we should have done a while back, we still don’t look right. Why? Well essentially we haven’t changed our set up to compliment the new different style of striker we now have, and are setting up the team behind them exactly the same as we did with Ollie, the  bigger slower target striker.

Pining for him and what he offered us as being the answer to our problems, is the wrong call for me. We failed regularly when we had him anyway. Our new strikers cannot be left isolated with 2 CD’s to deal with. They need to be mobile and be supported by other quick players to create space for them, and to fill the CF position when that striker has provided an outlet in the wide channels and has essentially become the supplier / creator. Arsene’s midfield combination preferences don’t allow for this.

Overall coaching and style:

I often think of Arsene as having changed what type of team he wanted when Pep’s Barcelona was in its pomp, and feel he contracted a kind of Barcapeperatippytappyitis, which still afflicts to this day. They were in a different league, with a collective of specific types of technical players, under a different manager that actually, despite the possession and attack focus of that side, was very disciplined and well coached. We are in a different league in a different era and don’t seem to bother with that extra attention to coaching detail that Guardiola did, and still does.

We look the most ill disciplined and poorly drilled out of all the big clubs and it has often been said that Arsene likes players to work it out for themselves. Over-coaching can, of course, also be an issue, so one doesn’t want to make it too regimented, but it would seem the mantra of the players working it out for themselves is quite easily trumped by coaches paying more attention to detail.

Should we be aiming for that Barca style or looking more towards our old blueprint of pace and power complimented by excellent technical players. I know which I prefer. We all love the idea of Wengerball, and being considered the most easy team on the eye, and being the club that develops the young precocious players the best, but in reality we are actually none of these anymore.

Wengerball is a nice memory from a bygone era and we are more often stale and boring in our football than off your seat excitement. A mere handful of games see us play good football from start to finish with the rest made up by flashes of excellent football in a game we have also looked equally poor in, or just a poor game from start to finish. Probably the middle one dominates in what we produce most frequently.

Our young players seem to be failing once introduced to 1st team environment. It is other clubs who are the ones that have the young players developing from precocious talent into top class talent, so that is another bragging right we have lost in reality.

The big question is does Arsene have either the will or the insight to change many or all of the factors that are stifling us? Do we think he will start to coach in more detail and / or allow other first team coaches to do more, for example Bould with the defence? Do we think he will look towards a more traditional commanding type of central defender? Do we think he will change his preferences for those types of CM’s he seems to love and shake the squad up, maybe looking towards different types of players, like pacey wide men and HM’s, that may compliment us more and give greater depth and balance to our team and performances?

This would require a harder edge in accepting some of the players identified by him are not quite what we needed afterall and then having that harder edge to move them on.

I tend to find myself answering no in all cases with these questions. I don’t see any evidence that Arsene wants to change the set up, style or type of coaching, or that he wants to identify a different style of player to those he has traditionally preferred in recent years. I also think he treats his players, the ones he identified and wanted, as if they are his own children and doesn’t really have it in him to move them on for something different. A new manager can more ruthlessly look at this situation and decide who stays, who goes, and who should come in without that personal attachment.

Things have just run their course. We can but hope for those 3 big displays that we know we have in us at times that may secure the EL for us. Win this and Arsene could walk away with his head held high at that point, and this should happen because the club needs a fresh and new approach with a touch more pragmatism, attention to detail and adaptability within it.

Written by GoonerB


Turned over by The Toon – Newcastle Ratings

April 16, 2018

The only people looking forward to this one were some Geordies hoping to finally take some points from Arsenal and Joe Willock making his debut. My mate, Nick had a tenner on 2-1 so at least some good came of it.

First Half

A beautiful sunny scene at St James’ was brightened further by an excellent volleyed goal from Laca with the assist coming from our new Gabonese left winger.

Then came the inevitable. Mustafi should have been trying to block Perez’ near post effort by getting his whole body in the way between ball and goal, not poking a hopeful foot out. Cech would have only saved it if it had hit him.

Unfortunately our best chances during the first half fell to Calum Chambers.

Second half

Nothing happened worthy of note except for the usual déjà-vu.

Ratings

Cech – Beaten by two good finishes … 6

Chambers – Hector had a prior engagement at Brent Cross, so we were left with more proof that Calum isn’t really a full back (p.s. he ain’t no striker either)  … 5

Mustafi – without Kos there to mop up, Shkodran looked a little limited. Beautiful pass to Auba for the goal  …6

Holding – Tried as hard as anyone else  … 6

Monreal – Missed Mesut and Rambo when looking for a pass  … 6

Elneny – Couldn’t recreate the heights of Moscow in a team lacking movement and creativity … 6

Xhaka – Should have stayed in bed with the flu  … 6

Willock – Didn’t look out of place, comfortable on the ball (as you always expect from an Academy player). Unfortunately got in the way of a pass to Auba in our best first half breakaway   … 6

Iwobi – Best of a poor bunch, enjoying his freer role and taking some responsibilty … 7

Aubameyang – Looked to have initiated a perfect partnership with his striking buddy early on with a beautiful left footed assist, but sank into relative anonymity – 6

Lacazette – Cracking finish for his goal, but ultimately drifted off to sleep like the rest of us  – 6

chas

 


Waiting for My Man – CSKA Player Ratings

April 13, 2018

With the score from the first leg stood at 4-1 and having seen Roma rebuild an empire at the expense of the Catalonians, nerves were jangling slightly more than we might have expected for this particular second leg in Moscow. Could their away goal prove crucial? One way to resolve the issue – score one of our own and the tie would be effectively settled. Boy, did they make us wait.

First Half

CSKA huffed and puffed, gegenpress-style, closing down rapidly like high street businesses everywhere. Arsenal struggled to find any space, time and cohesion. On several occasions chances to break and grab that vital away goal presented themselves, but, on each, our attacking fluency deserted us with a misplaced final pass or failure to exploit having a man over.

I missed the goal as BT.com decided to freeze 30 seconds before it. It seemed as though Nacho was shoved in the back for the CSKA header, though I’m sure the studio ‘experts’ said that the Russian just wanted it more. Cech did well to get down to the header at such close range but keeping it out was all he did as he left a simple tap in. 1-0 down at half-time, just when was our moment of quality due to arrive? I was hoping it was before I ran out of beer.

Second Half

Shortly after the break, calamity struck again when a long range pot shot bounced back off the helmeted one into the path of the onrushing forward. Bang 2-0. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, surely another 3 goal comeback couldn’t be on the cards?

Watching without sound, I was celebrating when Elneny’s header went in as if it was job done, before realising the lino’s flag had been raised. Mo seemed to think bending his run slightly even though he was a yard or two behind the Russian defensive line, might somehow fool the official into thinking he was onside. Hmmmmm.

Arsenal restricted CSKA’s chances to score the vital third pretty well, keeping them to long shots, with Petr producing a good save from a free kick, but were still struggling to produce that one moment of quality to blast the comeback out of the water. When it finally came it was a thing of rare beauty.

Welbz was suddenly infused with the spirit of Thierry Henry, picking the ball up wide left and driving towards goal. Playing the ball inside to Bobby Pires, sorry Mo Elneny, he continued his run into the area. Elneny’s return pass was of such a delicious weight that it just invited the glorious finish which was duly applied by the Mancunian high into the corner of the net. Magnificent – all that time they had us worried, knowing full well that they had a goal of such exceptional quality up their sleeves.

You could visibly see how much CSKA were deflated by the goal, almost as if they knew it was 3-0 or nothing that would have got them through. Even the bare-shirted, gammon-fleshed hordes behind the goal Arsenal were attacking, perhaps realised that their game was up and it was time to go home to Olga.

Drifting towards a defeat but still in the draw for the semis, Aaron Ramsey then applied the cherry on top of the cake. His fragilty had seemed to rear its head again at the end of the first half when he seemed to overstretch, but he was still running in glorious fashion right up to the last few moments. Running on to another beautifully weighted and timed through ball from Mr Elneny, he lifted the ball gracefully over Akinfeev with his right seal flipper to send the best club in North London through with a comfortable 6-3 margin.

Player Ratings from LB

And there was I thinking that it would be a cushy victory……when will I learn?

Cech: since he has stopped the fancy footwork that was leading to a few too many embarrassing situations he has come back as strong as ever. I think the adjective of commanding is called for tonight. 8

Bellerin: Hector put his attacking desires to one side and focused on the defending side of his game — and he carried out that duty better than he has done in quite a while. 8

Mustafi: no silly errors just got on with the job at hand. Perfectly acceptable performance. 7

Koscielny: a good captain’s performance. 7

Monreal: I don’t need frills from our defence on games like this I just need them to read the tin and do what it says. 7

Elneny: Mo was the proverbial headless chicken in the first half; he certainly redeemed himself in the second half though with two assists to boot. 8

Ramsey: getting all the credit he deserves for being the great player that he has always been, another top drawer performance. 8

Wilshere: don’t get me started. 5

Ozil: King Mesut Rules OK. 7

Lacazzette: I heard that his goal scoring boots were held up in Russian customs and it showed. Interesting just how much he runs on confidence or not. 6

Welbeck: I stuck with Danny for so long regularly writing on here I expected him to become the most important CF in the EPL and then after finally and completely giving up on such an idea he starts to make some serious inroads into claiming that mantle. Really starting to enjoy his performances again. 9

Can I take my red and white tinted glasses off now?

The draw awaits at 11am, with Atletico, Salzburg (Lazio were on the receiving end of the comeback of the night) and Payet’s Marseille our potential opponents. Who do you fancy?  

chas