Cardiff Away Remembered

August 30, 2018

Last time we played Cardiff away was at the end of November 2013 and we cruised down the River Taff to take a 7 point lead over Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League (both were playing a day later). The BBC published the following stat alongside their match report…… “Arsenal have now won 10 of their last 12 Premier League games and continue to hold the division’s best away record.”  Here’s the AA post from the day after – take it away, LB.

How good was that? It is getting more and more difficult to find sufficient superlatives to describe the Arsenal performances these days. As the first half rolled on and the Good Guys were spraying the ball around with consummate ease the term “thoroughly professional performance” came to mind. But we have used this a few times recently and somehow it didn’t seem enough to describe what I was watching, intensifying the search was the first goal and the brilliance of its simplicity: a tidy pass to Özil who sent over an inch perfect cross for Ramsey to head home and put us in the lead. As he walked away avoiding celebration out of respect for his fellow countrymen, I thought to myself I am going to need something far more complimentary to describe this.

Racking my brains, playing cards came to mind and the hierarchy that exists: a pair is beaten by three of a kind which is beaten by a straight which, I believe, is beaten by flush and then it came to me: the next up from a “thoroughly professional performance” has got to be “A performance worthy of winning the league” and that is what is was, a full house of a performance, not to be confused with a “Winning the league at White Hart Lane performance” that is obviously a Royal Flush and although rare, it does seem to happen with more regularity than many might imagine.

Wenger foxed us all again with his team selection, it made sense to all who considered it to play Flamini alongside Arteta but no, Le Boss had plans for the Frenchman and opted to start with Wilshere and within one and a half minutes we all understood why: an arrow of a shot released from the edge of the box had all the makings of goal number five for our non-attacking midfielder lol but alas at the last moment it swerved away and hit the bar.

As it turned out, as far as Arsenal taking the game to Cardiff was concerned, this was only the start, the Good Guys were brimming with confidence, chances weren’t coming as often as London buses do when you don’t need them but they were coming; the next fell to Giroud who, clean through one on one with the goal keeper, decided to “walk” before the umpire had given him out, it might be the honourable thing to do as Özil clearly touched the ball but in this day and age — really?

We had to suffer five uncomfortable minutes when Mertasacker hit the deck with the force of a felled giant redwood having clashed heads with Sagna; I defy anyone not to have worried about the possible downside of this potential calamity but luckily all was well with our Big Friendly Giant.

Still goalless, but in today’s script only one person was going to be first on the score sheet and our humble Welshman rose to the occasion and headed us into the lead that took us into the break.

Cardiff started the second half well and created a couple of chances that were a bit closer than I for one would have liked, notably a header from Campbell that brought a brilliant save from Szczesny. TPIG was looking as commanding as ever, we could have and should have made more of the breaks that were frequently arising but our interplay was not quite as good as it should have been, it seemed like Theo time but Jack was tiring and they were coming onto us with a tad more purpose than was good for the blood pressure so Wenger opted to shore things up and bring on Monreal and then Flamini.

As the Frenchman took off his track suit all eyes were on the sleeves – tradition won out and rightly so; someone had clearly whispered into his ear that he had, perhaps without realising, upset a few fundamentalists and today was not the right time to go desecrating sacred objects – best solution: roll your sleeves up and go and score a thumping second goal — and that is exactly what he did, yet another sublime assist from Özil who rolled the ball into the Frenchman’s path to powerfully hit home and put us all at ease.

Was this going to be Flamini’s day, no it wasn’t, this was Aaron Ramsey’s day; a second goal for him and with it he rightly picks up pretty much everyone’s Man of the Match award.

Somebody remind me, where are we in the League?

Enjoy your Sunday.

Written by LB

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Which Midfielder needs to Leave??

June 8, 2018

We have signed a man at the end of his career and one whose career has yet to start. Welcome both the Swiss fellow and the French chap.

We need to trim the squad. Starting with midfield, who gets sold?

One or more of Wilshire, Ramsey, Iwobi or Xhaka.

Xhaka? Towards the end of the season Xhaka showed he is becoming accustomed to the PL. He is a vital part of the team, a player who controls the pace of the midfield. He no longer gets red cards for stupid tackles but is more considered in his work. Definitely a keeper and next season could be a when we see his true quality. A big WC and his value will rocket. We need him to stay until M-N flowers.

Wilshire? His reluctance to sign his contract is worrying but should we keep him even if he is willing to sign? Jack is a proper Gooner who has been at the club since childhood, it would be sad if he moved on but his play is simply not good enough to get us to a Top 4 place. I ask this question … would JW get into any of the 5 teams above us? The answer is No. So, he has to go.

Ramsey? You know he is one of my favourite players but does he fit into the current squad? Not really. He is a wonderful player with all the attributes for a dynamic midfielder but he just doesn’t fit with Ozil and, for me, the team has to work around Mesut as it did around DB10. If Aaron hasn’t signed a contract extension by mid-July then he has to go. We should sell him whilst he still has a value. If he signs, and it is a big IF, will he be happy playing a bit-part? I doubt it.. If he goes, we will be losing  a man who has scored two winning FAC goals. It would be a sad but necessary loss.

Iwobi? Has tremendous potential but can he achieve it? Can he do so at AFC where he will not, for the time being, be a first choice player?  Lack of true pace is his problem because he has all the other skills needed to be a fine attacking MF. Another who could have a big WC. We have to keep him.

Would it be to the detriment of the squad if both JW and AR left? Of course it would – they are both International quality players but Arsenal are no longer a Wenger team and perhaps these men are part of our past, not our future.

I could be wrong but I very much doubt both will be at Arsenal come August.

written by Big Raddy

 


Who should be the new Club Captain and Allegri, the new Boss?

May 11, 2018

Arsenal FC’s new Club Captain?

So the BFG is moving even further away from the playing side at the Club leaving a situations vacant for Club Captain.

Does anyone leap out at you as his obvious replacement?

Does the position mean much anymore?

Do we need a leader on the pitch?

 

Massimiliano Allegri – the next Arsenal manager?

Allegri featured for a variety of Italian clubs during his playing career as a creative, inventive midfielder. Promotion and a couple of decent seasons in Serie A with Pescara perhaps the highlight.

The lowlight of Allegri’s time as a pro footballer was a one year ban in 2001 for match-fixing.

Allegri’s managerial career is a different kettle of fish entirely. Having served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues, he first hit the top flight with Cagliari in 2008. The Sardinians finished a creditable 9th, not far from UEFA League qualification and played with such flair with extremely limited resorces that Allegri was awarded the Panchina D’Oro (golden bench), the Italian version of Manager of the season, ahead of Serie A winning coach Mourinho (I’m liking this chap already).

Milan liked the look of this nuovo arrivato, signed him up in 2010 and he led them to the Serie A title in his first season. When switching to Juve in 2014, he again won the top flight title in his first season, though it was to be the Old Lady’s 4th title on the bounce (the previous three while managed by Antonio Conte).

The following seasons at Juventus were littered with Serie A titles and Coppa Italia victories plus two Champions League Finals (losing to Barca and Real).

He seems a fine choice as Arsene’s successor, being strong on tactics but liking fluid formations and attacking pressing football. His daughter is quite attractive too.

chas


The Saints are Coming – Southampton preview

April 8, 2018

Southampton come to the Emirates sitting in the bottom three of the Premier League and in desperate need of some points. For Arsenal the fixture comes as the filling in a Moscovian, Europa sandwich. Momentum and confidence are again at stake with League points a bit of an irrelevance.

The Saints’ squad is a bit of a mystery to me (like most of the PL teams, I’m afraid). They still have Shane Long who only ever plays well against us. I also recognise the names of Tadic and Charlie Austin and the ex-chavs player Romeu, but the rest are a roll call of unknowns. Let’s hope it stays that way.

We know all about the Saints ‘new’ manager, the loathsome Mark Hughes. I really don’t understand the home-grown manager merry-go-round. Pardew, Poolis, Fat Sam, Hughes – what is the point of continually employing managers you know will probably let you down in the near future? At least Hughes did play on the South coast when his playing career was in decline, so there is a little history there.

Enough of the opposition, how are we fixed? Mkhitaryan caught a nasty bang on the knee against CSKA and is out for a period. Aubameyang will be keen to build on his recent League form. Aside from those two, it might be a case of shuffling the pack a little to save the more fragile for next Thursday. Chambers will relish playing his old team and Kos needs to rest his dodgy Achilles. Mesut is rarely rested, though the more delicate Rambo may want to continue his recent good run.  Maybe a few others will be rested with Holding, Iwobi, Elneny and Welbeck keen to get some game time. Jack had a really poor night in Europe, but might get another chance in the hope he plays himself into some decent form.

Team  

With less pressure on the team we usually perform well, finishing past seasons strongly after all hope of the title has vanished. Some decent finishing to match Thursday’s would be rather nice, though it’s doubtful the Saints will allow us as much space down their flanks.

An Auba hat trick will get the enormous crowd off their feet; though if he scores late on, many will miss it in their rush to get home for Songs of Praise.

Apols for the lacklustre PM (BR is on manoeuvres), though I’d imagine its general CBA-feeling sort of captures the unbridled enthusiasm for this particular fixture. 🙂

COYRRG

chas


We all know better than Arsène ………

March 30, 2018

This post was written in July 2012 and illustrates how playing personnel changes so much. I thought the journos’ questions about prioritising the Europa over the Prem, lineup-wise, were attempting to back Stevie Bould into a corner. Anyway, as excitement mounts for Sunday’s game, who would you play? 🙂

We all love doing it. I guarantee there to be at least one in every comments section of any Arsenal blog, forum or news site you can think of. The speculative lineup, it’s addictive. Why, I have know idea. There is just something so satisfying about writing the names of our beloved players down into a thoughtfully deliberated formation. Only a handful of us have a significant knowledge of tactics and almost none of us know anything substantial about the players apart from our parochial, emotion-fuelled observations during games and from their blogosphere reputations. And yet, we fancy ourselves as Arsenal managers and pick our own teams week in week out. So here we are in the pre-season, with the summer transfer window hotting up; this is the time where the phenomenon reaches its pinnacle. The debate over our team’s lineup is well and truly alive!

Something we don’t often think about is that your speculative lineup is actually a great indicator of who you are as a person and as an Arsenal fan. Think back to the lineups you’ve produced over the years (maybe even in the last few days!), and find out where you fit in the spectacular spectrum that is the whole gamut of Arsenal fans. So where do you fit?

1. Signing Obsessed

———————–Lloris————————

–Sagna–Vermaelen–Vertonghen–Baines–

———————M’Vila—————————

—————Wilshere–Gotze———————

–Dzagoev——-Giroud——Podolski——

How often do we see a lineup like this? All the players who are even remotely linked with the club are portrayed as saviours, must-buys and symbols of hope for the coming season. This type of lineup will usually be followed by a comment such as ‘Get on it Arsene!’ or ‘Make it happen Gazidis!’

2. Academy Mad

—————–Szczęsny ——————

–Yennaris—Miquel–Bartley–Gibbs–

—————-Gnabry———————–

———Wilshere–Lansbury/Eisfeld—-

—-Aneke——-Afobe——Miyachi——

A lineup like this will usually be followed by something like ‘Future Arsenal first team, 2 years away?’ If this is you, you may need an injection of reality. Explore the archives of blogs from seasons past and have a look at some of the teams suggested as ‘Arsenal’s future’. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas anyone? Jay Simpson? The fact is that – if we are lucky –  each season has only one or two academy players that have what it takes to make the step up to the first team. Last season it was Coquelin, before that it was Wilshere and Szczesny. Who will it be this season? How exciting!

3. Formation Fans

———————Szczęsny ———————–

—Koscielny—Mertesacker—Vermaelen—-

—————Song–Coquelin———————

—-Ox-Chamberlain—Rosicky–Diaby——-

————–Podolski—-Giroud—————–

There is always someone out there telling anyone who will listen that Wenger should being deploying his team in 3-2-3-2 or 4-1-3-1-1 or 5-2-4 or God knows what else. There’s always someone who’s certain the team would be better off with Vermaelen commanding the midfield or that so-and-so should surely be unleashed in the ‘hole’. Every now and then the fan knows what they’re talking about, not often though.

4. Nickname Fans

—————World’s Number One————-

–Sanga—Verminator—BFG——-Gibbo—-

—————–Rambo——–Le Coq———–

————————–LJW————————

——–Theo—The Boy Wonder—The Ox—

Football fans must be the only people in the world to give affectionate nicknames to men we’ve never met. But although we don’t actually know our players personally, in a deeper sense, we know them very, very well. Some of the nicknames are brilliant anyway, we don’t need to justify ourselves. I cannot stand when ostensible ‘fans’ invent hurtful nicknames for members of our beloved team such as ‘Flapihandski’ or ‘Ramilson’. Here’s a mystery I’ve often pondered. Why are some players known universally by their first name and others not? We always hear about Robin, Theo and Arsene and used to talk about Cesc all the time, but we never hear a thing about Mikel, Bacary, Laurent or Kieran.

5. England Snobs

——————-Szczęsny ———————

-Jenkinson—Vermaelen-Bartley-Gibbs-

————Ramsey—–Frimpong————-

———————Wilshere———————

—Ox-Chamberlain–RVP—-Walcott——-

Some fans are extraordinarily concerned by the amount of English players in the team. Nationality is their top priority. Ramsey’s Welshness is considered acceptable. They even prefer players who are half English or aren’t really English at all such as Jenkinson and Frimpong. As more English players have developed and integrated into Wenger’s new team, these types of posts have steadily become less common.

6. Trollers and P*ss Takers

—————-Almunia———————-

Djourou—–Squillaci–Silvestre–Traore

——–Denilson——-Bischoff————–

——Park—-Chamakh—–TGSTEL—–

Poor Djourou cannot play full back can he? I couldn’t even think of enough players but you get the idea.

7. Diaby lovers

——————-Szczęsny ———————

–Sagna–Vermaelen–Koscielny-Santos–

————–Song—–Arteta——————-

——————-DIABY—————————

——–Podolski—-RVP—-Walcott———-

Staunch Diabyists. They exist in their droves. But I do have this feeling like he’s gonna have an amazing season….

8. Fence sitters

—————————-Szczęsny ————————

—Sagna—Vermaelen—–Koscielny—Gibbs/Santos–

————————–Song—–Arteta/Ramsey————–

————————-Wilshere/Rosicky———————–

——–Podolski/Ox—-RVP/Giroud—-Walcott/Gervinho-

This sort of lineup is a good sign; it means the club is spoilt for choice, that we have a lot of depth and competition for places. They manifest themselves in a variety of ways: slashes, parenthesis, brackets. But it sort of defeats the point of picking a team. Alternatively some fans like to make two teams, a first team and a second team and sometimes even a third team.

So now that we’ve analyzed it, let’s indulge in the activity we love so much. How do you think we should line up next season? Remember, everyone’s an expert – except for Arsène of course.

Written by Gus


A Flock of Seagulls – Dodging Guano

March 4, 2018

Brighton away this season seems more about building a little confidence and momentum going into the Europa round of 16 tie against AC Milan, than about a desperate search for 3 points. However, the two go hand-in-hand – a victory seems essential to restore some pride in performance after two fairly predictable defeats this week to the country’s top side.

Currently 12th, Brighton have had a good season but their League position hides the fact that they are only 4 points above a relegation spot. They will be fighting tooth and nail to ensure their survival, thus consolidating a position in the Premier League.

The Seagulls’ squad is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve been reading good things about their Australian keeper Maty Ryan, who is similar in build to David Ospina but makes up for his relative lack of height with speed, agility and great positioning. Propper, Dunk, Bong and Knockaert sounds more like a great Saturday night out to me, though I’m sure they’re all very fine professionals.

Manager Chris Hughton seems largely untainted by his seedy past association with the more excremental parts of North London. His stay at the Amex has seen a successful battle to avoid relegation in the latter half of the 2014/5 season, a creditable narrow miss for promotion the season after and last season’s march to an automatic promotion spot.

Enough of the opposition, how are we fixed? As far as I can tell, only Nacho and Laca are definitely out, with Jack available again after a slight knock (or temporary withdrawal from the frontline due to his disgust at his contract offer – you choose).

Let’s see a positive response from the reported ‘inquest’ after Thursday’s game. It really is time the players performed to their abilities and gave us all some hope rather than continually letting down both the fans and our beleaguered manager.

Team

I’m going for a couple of goals for Auba. It seems harsh and hasty to judge him in any way on his Arsenal career so far. Yes, he has missed chances against the spuds, in the Final last Sunday and Thursday’s pen but he really has come into a team running at an extremely low ebb. That whole feeling of drifting towards mid-table mediocrity needs to change today on the South coast with a quality team performance featuring solid defence, sparkling creation and cold-blooded finishing.

As BR would say, “Let it be so”.

chas


If Maitland-Niles is the answer….what the hell is the question?

January 16, 2018

Ok that headline is pure click bait, and I predict we will see a number of comments from people who haven’t read the post telling me that I should leave our homegrown talent alone and that he is a wonder kid in the making. Let me be clear I won’t disagree with any of that and that is why I am writing this.

I’m sure I cannot be alone in being a tad discontented with Arsenal performances of late (understatement of the decade), what have I had to get excited about? Well in all honesty three things give me faint hope that we could still turn this slump round and become a force to be reckoned with again….step forward Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Jack Wilshere. Homegrown, super talented, unphased by the game at this level and the hysteria that sometimes surrounds our club.

These three have been at Arsenal for much of their life, combined they have 40 years big club experience, and 15 years international experience at their respective levels. They have seen the good times and bad at the club, they have experience of what it’s like to play for a club that the minnows want to beat (even if that’s in youth leagues and cups). I’m sure there are plenty of others through our ranks with similar attitude. The biggest compliment I can pay Maitland-Niles is that his teammates never worry about giving him the ball, compare that to when they look at some of their other teammates and turn away to find a safer option.

Whats my point? Look at some of our recent signings for what is frankly silly money these days (insert your own choices here) can you honestly say you wouldn’t rather be watching homegrown talent in those positions……yet still the only solution offered by many fans and pundits to our current malaise is sign more players, where exactly has that got us in recent seasons? As far as I can see more discontent on the terraces and more disjointed performances on the pitch.

I have often speculated that not all of our recent signings have been purely football related, I think there is such a clamour to sign players that the club has got itself into a belief that any signing is better than none, keep the fans and media off their back, “there you go we are spending some f***ing money”.

We need a change of mindset, we need to get back to what made us different but also led to enjoyable attacking football that the supporters enjoyed watching with a team that played with freedom and without fear.

As depressing as the League Cup Final defeat to Birmingham was that side was better to watch than this current team, and if we could have kept it together had more chance of winning titles. Perhaps most importantly it had one player who was a star when we signed him, and he was already on the wane for us. Over the four years leading up to that final we had a transfer net income of £31m.

The team that started against Birmingham….Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Nasri, Song, Wilshere, Rosicky, Arshavin, BSR. (Cesc and Theo both injured).

Ok not home grown but assembled for very little money, Jack was the first to emerge from a youth setup that had been given a root and branch overhaul on the type of players it valued and the style of play. Arsene had bought cleverly in the post stadium move/Abramovich/Sheikh era when the big hitters left for big money he assembled a side for relatively little money still able to compete. No they didn’t win titles, but neither is the current side, that over the three years preceding and including this season has cost £165m to assemble (without managing to get £30m plus for Ox that could have been nearly £195m). Has it been well spent? Is spending more now going to bring us any more chance of success or bring better football? Won’t we be throwing good money after bad chasing the elusive final piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately our jigsaw seems to have been spread far and wide with many bits lost down the sofa. You may also need to consider what our competition has spent in that time….City £479m, United £438m, Liverpool £75.5m (helped by recouping £108m for Coutinho), Chavs £36.2m (their youth acquisition policy very helpful) and Spuds £9m. Probably explains why we are lagging behind City and Untied, not so much why we are lagging behind Chavs, and obviously Spuds benefited hugely from discovering a £50m striker in their youth setup.

I hate to look across at Spuds and say I wish we could be like that, but they have a side more akin to our 2010/11 team than ours is now, they play uninhibited football and work bloody hard and even their best player hasn’t yet got too big for his boots that he is demanding the club buy players to match his ambitions, they have been able to build that side because their fans have been beaten into submission by years of abject failure that expectation or entitlement to be challenging for titles is not present in the fan base, they are enjoying the ride and why shouldn’t they.

What have we as a club really achieved in recent years that leads to such high expectations? High expectations that when you look at the spending of United and City is more often than not going to be kicked in the b******ks.

I think it’s time for the club to reset, and get back to basics, whether under new management or current, give the kids some game time and forget about superstars for a while until we find our identity again. I’ll have much more fun watching Maitland-Niles and friends bring some joy back to watching Arsenal than sitting there eternally disappointed that the last £40m midfielder we signed can’t actually track a runner from midfield and has worse attack and defence stats than a £12m midfielder bought 4 years earlier, or a £47m striker has as good a goal to shot ratio as the much maligned £12m striker from a few seasons previous who in my opinion actually brought more to the overall play of the team.

If our support was influenced only by titles there would be many bloggers that frequent this site that would have given up in the 60’s and again in the 80’s. They didn’t because football isn’t all about the trophies, first and foremost it should be enjoyable to go to or watch, to achieve that you need to reset your expectations.

Gooner in Exile