Arsenal, Sunderland and Tony Soprano.

January 10, 2016

The FA Cup or as it should be referred to from now on: ‘Cosa Nostra’. I was having a bit of an Italio/Latin afternoon yesterday. I have no idea why but anyway did you ever notice how the Romans used to call the Mediterranean ‘Mare Nostrum’? There is a justifiable sense of ownership about it, a confident swagger as they referred to it as ‘Our Sea’. You have probably twigged where I am going with this now: ‘Cosa Nostra’, the FA Cup, Our Cup and if anyone tries to take it away from us they will have to answer to Tony Soprano, cah-peesh?

Well there was no need to bring out the heavies yesterday afternoon; it was just about as perfect as it could get really. We draw home advantage, check. We play a team whose priorities lay elsewhere, check. We are able to rest key players while some youth and fringe get important game time, check. No one gets injured and we win and progress to the next round, check, check, check.

Everyone was handed a script prior to the game and everyone knew what to do, or so we thought. Unfortunately two of our players namely Gibbs and Koscielny fluffed their lines early on and allowed Sunderland to take the lead. The problem is, when this happens there is always a nagging doubt that even though we know we have the better team, an upset could always be on the cards.

As it turned out we didn’t have to worry for too long as parity arrived in the shape of Campbell shortly after with a well crafted goal involving Iwobi and Walcott down the left flank before everyone’s favourite Costa Rican guided the ball home to make it one – one.

campbell

Wenger had chosen his team well; just enough to do the job but no unnecessary wasting of energy, only the smallest amount of extra pressure in the form of Arteta and Ramsey’s introduction was required to finish the day’s work.

Man of the Match was Bellerin who ran Sunderland ragged down the left flank; it was he who was finally able to send the ball across for Ramsey to show Walcott how to finish, the third goal gave us breathing space and that came in the form of yet another beautifully weighted pass from Bellerin which made its way all the way across the goal mouth for Giroud to tap home.

Giroud fa cup 2

Wenger had plan B, C and D on the bench, if we had just been one ahead with ten minutes to go he would have sent on Monreal for some proper defensive cover in an attempt to avoid a draw and a horrible, energy sapping return trip to Sunderland that would follow but as we were two up he was able to give Jeff his long awaited debut.

We get our new signing next week, why am I so sure? Look at the pattern. The club announce medium level signings only after Wenger has given certain players, usually youngsters, a chance to shine. In the close season it is normally after the Emirates Cup, the reason being is so as not to harm the confidence of those who might be hoping to make a particular position their own or older players wanting to re-establish themselves after injury.

In yesterday’s case Chambers was the youngster being protected and Arteta was the experienced player trying to re-established himself. Although they have now had their games, improved their confidence, had their chance to show what they can do or still do in the case of Mikel without the confidence sapping knowledge of already having met someone in the training ground who is more than likely to be taking their place in the very near future.

But, next week gentle sensitivities will be put aside and we will get someone who can do a Champions League level job in the form of El Neny, the much talked about Egyptian. By the way, with world class players the club announce them as and when they happen there is no pattern or not one that I can see.

Villa at home in the next round please?

Cech: Zen and the Art of Goalkeeping. 9

Bellerin: MOTM, most of the team were functioning at 60% output but not our Hector, 100% for him. 9

Gabriel: Perfect game for him, if it wasn’t for that Costa incident he could well have been the break through player of the season, gets better with every game really, only a question of time before he becomes first choice. 7

Koscielny: someone near to me at the game asked the question, who is Captain, I didn’t know but low and behold it was Kozzer; the guy next to me said that he expected him to make the captaincy his own. I looked at him, smiled, said nothing but knew he was wrong as it is going to Özil. 6

Gibbs: this competition thing between him and Monreal is working really well, Gibbs is rightly second choice but you can see that he does give it everything. 7

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: Did you hear the rumour that Chelsea might try and sign him if Hazard leaves? What was your reaction? Was it, oh no, you’re not having another one of ours or was it, hmmm, if he goes who could we buy? He is getting his run of games but he is still not impressing. 5

Chambers: perfectly decent job but he is not going to make Wenger think twice about buying further defensive midfield back up. 6

Iwobi: some good touches, lovely drag back in the first half, perfect game for him to take his training wheels off. 6

Campbell: getting better but with Ozil and Sanchez setting very high standards I still have my doubts. 7

Walcott: I have made so many predictions that he is going to leave to another club and have obviously been wrong every time, I have decided to change tack and predict that he will stay at Arsenal so long that he will become the next manager. 5

Giroud: perfect example of someone doing just what is needed with the least amount of effort. 8

Written by LB


The two Arsenal players Barcelona fear most

December 15, 2015

I was  on my way to work this morning listening to an interview with Philippe Auclair on the radio discussing the CL draw. It was suggested to him that Barca would be very happy to have drawn Arsenal again.

On the contrary he said, there are 2 players that Barcelona fear. Immediately the names of Ozil and Sanchez sprang to mind … but no, he was referring to a different two players …. Can you guess who?

They know about Ozil, he plays with the ball on the ground in a style they understand and equally, they don’t fear Sanchez’s all action high pressing style – it’s what they do.

No, the players Barca are wary of are the in-form Olivier Giroud (he is the kind of striker they hate to play against) and Petr Cech who has put them out of the CL almost single handedly before. He is their ‘bogey keeper’, they seldom beat him. Apparently Messi has never managed to put one past Cech.

When I thought about it, this all makes perfect sense.

They should also be aware that in Koscielny we have one of the best CBs in the world and as I have said before, our wing back pairing of Monreal and Bellerin is unrivalled in the EPL.

We are a better team than when they played us last time. With the steadying influence of Cech in goal and the quality of our defence, Barcelona will not find it easy to score against us even with their unparalleled front three.

Add the fact that the FP (little joke betwee AA regulars 🙂 ) is in fine form and all of a sudden, Arsenal v Barcelona is the draw we should all welcome. If we manage to beat them, we can begin to dream…….

Rasp


The Kids Are Alright….. mostly

September 21, 2015

Sky Sports had Hector Bellerin as their guest pundit for the Barca/Levante game (ex-Barca). He was very good. Highly intelligent with perfect English, smartly dressed, good looking, GSOH, plus a fine understanding of tactics and how to defend; remarkable for a young man of just 20 who came to England just 4 years ago (have I done a good selling job?)

Plus he has said that his future is at AFC, which is great news.

We have a fine core of young players who seem to be committed to the club with Bellerin being the latest to become a first team regular. Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel, Ramsey, Chambers, Szczesny, Coquelin, Wilshere, Campbell, Welbeck are all under 24 y.o and Walcott, Gibbs, Sanchez and Ozil are all just 26.

Why is this important? Because if (and it is a Big If) Mr Wenger can keep all these players happy and at Arsenal then the future is very rosy. They will grow together as a team, develop understandings both on and off the pitch and hopefully become a major force over the coming few years.

But what of the others?  Koscielny, Debuchy, Monreal, Cazorla and BFG are all 29 or 30, and Giroud is 28 (still time for improvement!). They all have a couple of years left as squad players but I expect at least a couple of them to be sold next summer.

Mr Wenger is meticulous about having a squad with a blend of ages allowing youthful exuberance to be allied to hard-earned experience.

It was unusual when AW signed a relatively aged 29 y.o. Debuchy – perhaps he knew how good Bellerin would be and bought Debuchy to ease Hector into the first team without too much pressure, though Sagna had just left and we needed a replacement.

Keeping Rosicky (34) was an odd decision unless Mr Wenger expects him to join the coaching staff and wants Tomasz to learn the ropes. Flamini (31)? Must be a contract thing. Arteta (33) still has a short-term role to play as speed has never been a part of his game and Cech at just 33 has at least 5 years as a top GK (think Seaman/Schmeichel/Buffon/Lehmann etc).

Next summer will see a few youngsters added to the first team squad, Akpom, Jeff and a couple of 25 y.o.(+-) purchases, to replace the older chaps thus keeping our squad young and fresh.

The young core of the squad is exciting and bodes well; allied to a couple of megastar purchases we will be cushtie

written by Big Raddy


Are Arsenal’s fullbacks good enough?

August 28, 2015

The general perceived feeling on the forum is that we are doing fine on the full-back position as we have four reliable full-backs at our disposal:-Debuchy, Bellerin, Monreal and Gibbs.

I tend to agree that are “good full backs” but I am not convinced that they can take our club to the next level as they still suffer from defensive lapses, do not create enough assists or goals and worse, do not bring enough width to our game at times when we are stuck with fruitless possession in the opponent’s half…You look at Ivanovic, Alves, Rafinha, Lahm, Alaba, Alba and even Baines, Coleman or Clyne (he still needs to confirm though) and you realize that our FBs are not doing enough for our team…

What is your take on it?

Written by RC78


Keep the Corporal

June 22, 2015

It is my belief that we should be looking to retain the services of one Corporal Carl Jenkinson at THOF for the immediate future and I will state my case as to why.

What would be the reasons to let him go? Firstly some would argue he is not good enough. Others would say that we are well covered in his position and that there is no place for him when we have Bellerin, Debuchy and Chambers who can all play there.

Out of all our British players the corporal is still playing catch up. He doesn’t yet have the experience of being a regular senior international player and is arguably not yet able to put in performances at the highest level on a consistent basis, as you would expect from the likes of Jack, Ramsey, AOC, Gibbs.

That doesn’t mean though that he will not reach this level and, as with many of our youngsters, it is too early to say whether he will cut it at the top level or not. There have been glimpses that he has that level of performance in him. His recent performances at U21 level have seen him looking like one of the best of the young England players participating. The one game though that above others sticks in my mind was his performance against Bayern Munich in our 2-0 away victory. I believe it was Robben and Muller that were changing flanks to have a go at our young rookie, but he managed to keep both of them quiet for more or less the whole game, which is no easy feat. If that kind of performance is in there and can be replicated consistently then we have a player.

What about the competition?

Bellerin is a fine player and would currently get the nod as first choice but I have 2 things in my mind where this is concerned. Firstly it might be nice to have the option of playing Bellerin as a speedy right winger at times with Jenks behind him. Secondly is the dreaded Barca DNA. I would say there is a good chance that we will lose Bellerin to Spain at some point in the future, and also while he is still in his prime, if not at his peak. If Jenks has developed into that consistent top level player the impact will be lessened, rather than facing the situation scrambling around trying to recruit a new top level player who may need to bed in.

Debuchy? Well he is over 30 so has a limited period that he can provide us with top level cover in this role anyway. Debuchy’s ability to cover at CD and possibly even for Le Coq, (according to RC he played there for Lille which I found an interesting option), means for me that we can keep all 3 with Jenks easing into a more regular role as Debuchy fades / moves on. If Jenks is not as likely to get that playing time right now then I would suggest we get another loan season going while making sure we have him secured on a decent contract term. Chambers can also cover the role but my preference would be to develop him as a CD.

Finally, and perhaps the most important of the lot is the home grown quota rules. This consideration really extends beyond Jenks to all our quality young home grown players. The home grown quota rule may start to bite on some top teams as much as FFP. The team with the greatest amount of high quality home grown players could hold a significant advantage in the next few seasons to come, and we are, in my opinion, in one of the strongest (if not the strongest) positions in this sense relative to our top table rivals. For me it is a hands off to the Chavvies and Northern Oilers with Jenks, Jack, Aaron, Kieron, Calum e.t.c

As always over to you guys for your opinions.

Written by GoonerB


Bellerin to Barca?

April 30, 2015

Here’s the problem – every player dreams of playing for Barca or Real. Whatever we fans think about how wrong that may be, playing for either of the Spanish giants is the pinnacle of playing achievement.

This is especially true of Spanish players who can say that RM/Barca are in their DNA (total bolleaux). Let’s face it, if you are born in a Spanish speaking country, grow up with in a Spanish culture, eat Spanish food and listen to execrable Spanish music then it is highly likely that you will choose to return rather than freeze your buns off in the Premier League.

images-1

So why do the foreigners come to play in England? This has a one word answer …. Money, especially if they are not good enough to attract a top Spanish team.

In Bellerin’s case there is also opportunity; it is unlikely he would have played so many first team games at Barca at just 19 y.o.

My concern is that Bellerin is a major talent, almost certain to become one of the world’s best right backs and he is not only Spanish but a product of the Barca youth teams (much like an ex-Captain of ours). At Barca, Dani Alves is a shadow of the player he was, Montoya is not good enough hence Barca need a new right back – their solution is obvious.

Bellerin says ”

“If I had stayed in Barcelona I don’t know if I would have got to the top, the elite.

“I have worked as hard as I could and always with the mentality of going as far and as high as possible. Wherever I was I would have done the same.

“It’s great to play ‘at home’ and have everything where you’ve grown up,” he said of his decision to move abroad at 16, “but sometimes you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and discover new challenges.”

How will he feel when his agent says that Barca will double his wages? How will AFC respond to a €30m offer? Bellerin has a contract until 2017 and is currently in negotiations to extend which is good news.

But we all know he will return one day to fulfil his ambitions to play in his home country and it is for this reason that I make the following proposal …. our  foreign talent scouts forget Spain, Italy, France etc and concentrate on countries which no-one ever says “I am returning because they are in my DNA”. This is why the purchase of Bielik from Konin in Poland is such a fine move, he will never say “It has always been my dream to play for Legia Warszawa”. Or will he?

written by Big Raddy


Bellerin or Debuchy?

April 26, 2015

I used to like them. I used to like the fancy-dans of Kings Road. I liked John Hollins, Charlie Cooke and Ossie and even Terry Vegetables. I enjoyed watching Ruud Gullit and Vialli and Pat Nevin, They had swagger, class and style. They were Chelsea but post the Russian have become The Chavs. New money, new ethos – efficiency over character.

If I were a Chelsea fan would I be happy? Of course I would but I know I would hanker after the Glory Days because football is not just about winning – it is also about entertainment.

A team with Hazard, Costa, Fabregas, Oscar, Willian etc should be able to get bums off seats, instead they are tailor-made for a mid-afternoon Sunday nap on the settee. You know what to expect – they do enough to win and no more. What happened to that wonderful team which hammered all-comers at the beginning of the season? Same players but totally different entertainment level.

Unknown

Chelsea fan mid-way through the first half

Why? The rot starts at the top, filters down to the horrible oik of a manager then to the dreadful team captain and onwards to the team.

I will not ruin your day by spending any time writing about the manager; suffice it to say that he is successful and charismatic – so was Stalin.

What of today’s encounter? First vs Second (well it was on Friday!). A win today takes us back to second with a game in hand on MC & MU (and 11 points ahead of the N17 neanderthals). Can we finally beat Mourinho?

To start with, Ramsey has to play. Whomever is to play right back will have to cope with Cesc, Oscar and Hazard. He will need the additional security of a tackling “winger” rather than Theo.

Bellerin or Debuchy? We discussed this briefly mid-week with the majority pointing out Bellerin’s fine run of form and his extreme pace; my inclination is to start Debuchy. Bellerin makes the odd mistake which is inevitable with such a young man, Debuchy may not be as pacy or as much of an attacking threat but he has the experience. That said, Debuchy did not excel at Wembley.

Then there is the battle of the Franks – Francesc vs Francis. Le Coq has excelled in recent weeks but Cesc is a level above all the MF’s he has faced. Whatever your feelings about Fabregas the man, he remains a wonderful footballer – the best in his position in the PL (IMO). Would he improve the current Arsenal team – possibly not, but who would you rather see in the Red & White, Cesc or Aaron or Santi?  All of them is my answer!

The teams seem evenly balanced and I expect the result to depend upon which side makes the least mistakes. If our defence can concentrate for 90+ minutes with the midfield backing up both FB’s we should win because we have better forwards. I know Hazard will be Player of the Season but in my opinion Alexis has been better. Ozil and Giroud are better players than Oscar and whichever lump plays upfront for Chelsea today.

BFG or The Archangel? If fit, Mertesacker has to start, though Gabriel seems to have pace and excellent abitliy in the air which could be vital against a team with such big CB’s. Cahill, Terry and Ivanovic have scored 15 goals between them!

My Team:

Ospina

Debuchy    BFG (if fit)   Koscielny   Monreal

Cazorla    Coquelin

Ozil

Ramsey     Sanchez

Giroud

Other changes could be Welbeck in for Ramsey as Mr Wenger may choose to be more attacking in a home fixture – somehow I doubt it. The bench is possibly the strongest in the PL. We have so many fine players in the squad. When The Ox returns will he find a place in the current first 11 or even the bench?

Matic worries me. The man is a beast and exactly the kind of player Mr Wenger should be buying in summer. Sadly this type of player is rare and as such hugely expensive. The physical battle between Matic and Le Coq will be interesting.

Courtois. This chap is fantastic, everything I wish TPIG could have been. Let’s hope he has a disastrous evening.

As to the Mourinho/Wenger hoodoo. It is just history – as irrelevant as our FAC Final win over the Chavs in the Ray Parlour final. That said it would be wonderful if we could win today to stop another tedious media narrative.

We have won 9 games in a row, are at home, have a fully fit team and bench. We can win.

I am 51% confident

written by Big Raddy

 

 


Surprise of the season so far

April 8, 2015

We have heard a lot over recent seasons of transitional year not just for us but several clubs around the top 4, Liverpool, ManUre and even Chelsea have gone through changes that the managers and existing players have to cope with, it seems we have been in transition for eternity, but in reality we were in a status quo, Arsene getting the most out of a competent if not great squad. Finally it feels like we are in real transition from PL consistency to challengers, hopefully with a good start to next season we have a real chance of adding the big prize to the trophy cabinet.

The thing that makes me confident in this are the players that have come to the fore and surprised us and upset the apple cart that was my perceived wisdom.

“Theo must have a place”

“Arteta allows us to play our way he is first name on the team sheet”

“Szczesny will be fine”

In Welbeck, Coquelin and Ospina three players (not star names) have come along and made us all reconsider. I’ll even add Bellerin in that group with Nacho. For seasons we have been told it is lack of spending that has held us back, but this season two players created by us, a bargain squad player from an overstocked competitor and two other minor signings have all become first team regulars. They have all taken their opportunities and the real success is that they made us forget the players they have replaced.

Even Santi in his deeper position could be seen as a surprise, who’d have thought he could join in the tackling back?

Last season when Arteta was out injured we missed him and badly, whilst he was out this season and Flamini replaced him we continued to miss him, but now Coquelin has brought a new dimension to the role (namely pace and aggression) it’s hard to see where Arteta fits in.

At right back a lot of fans were worried that we were taking a step backwards by allowing Bacary to leave and only bringing in Debuchy, if Debuchy’s early performances didn’t calm those worries, Bellerin’s outstanding performances have consigned memories of Sagna to the dustbin, we are better now in this position.

But neither of these are my biggest surprise that title goes to Welbeck, let’s be honest none of us rated him that highly in a United shirt, but he has come in and staked a claim for a regular place, early on he was asked to play up top with Ollie missing, and I guess most of us saw him as a stop gap in that position and out wide until Ollie and then Theo returned. But he is keeping Theo out of the side, when they are both on the bench it is Theo who remains getting splinters whilst Danny is called upon. I think mainly because he gets himself involved, he presses, he is strong and leaves it all on the park. He has better feet than I gave him credit for and is much stronger than I thought. The only criticism at the moment is he seems too eager to score himself when others are in a better position. He has made me think it’s time for Theo to move on, and the best thing about that if it happened we would be the ones deciding it was time for him to move on, £16m for Welly was a steal, anything over £20m for Theo will be good business.

So who has been your biggest surprise?

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal put Liverpool in their place.

April 5, 2015

Scintillating, absolutely scintillating football: it finally happened, the kind of Wengerball we expected when Sanchez and Welbeck were added to the world class Özil and the gifted Cazorla at the beginning of the season.

It’s been a long time coming; we have had glimpses of it; we have been teased with short periods of it but yesterday Arsenal played what was probably the best football since Henry, Pires and Bergkamp donned the glorious red and white. 3-0 up after forty five minutes and the Emirates was rocking. Yes, there were a few scares early on but lets not forget Liverpool are a good side; they were just made to look ordinary by our very dominate display.

To focus solely on the silky interplay in the final third would obviously be wrong as that would miss the stand out performance of my MOTM: Francis Coquelin; the French enforcer was immense. I know nothing about statistics, give me first hand anecdotal evidence any time but I am sure they would show that his rate of successful interceptions were off the scale.

coq v liverpool

An early chance fell to Ramsey who looked slightly fatigued compared to the rest of his team mates who were running around and closing down with all the athleticism of butchers’ dogs. No matter, chances continued coming and it was the other new found first team regular who cut inside, weaved his way through the Liverpool defense before curling the ball into the corner. I think it hit the hapless Toure on the way. Oh how the mighty have fallen? Playing Kolo in central defence should be reported to the RSPCA nobody should be put through that kind of cruelty; he was so out of his depth it was embarrassing.

bellerin scores

Back to Bellerin, I expect this young man to have a long a fruitful career at Arsenal; he has earned his status as first team starter; but, that said, I want Debuchy in there, standing strong against Manu and Chelsea.

ozil

Hector got the party started but it was Özil and Sanchez who sent everyone on the dance floor into a state of ecstasy. Oooooohh that free kick, oooooohh that thunderous strike, you just know that Chas is going to have these two goals playing on a loop that’s if he hasn’t already done so already. Class, pure class the both of them. There was no way that Giroud was going to miss this bash and true to form he scored a powerful left footed pile driver to make it four.

I know that it is wrong to have let a negative thought stray into my mind but I confess I did, I couldn’t help thinking: if only, if only, if only we hadn’t played so badly in that first game against Monaco; when you consider how well we are playing now I am sure we would have gone so much further in that competition; still, I suppose, we shall just have to settle for beating Blackburn in the FA cup final, onwards and upwards.

Written by LB