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

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Merry Christmas, Sanity is Over – Arsenal v Liverpool player ratings

December 23, 2017

Woo, that turned out better than I expected a good way into proceedings.

Slightly disappointed that we didn’t come away with all three points just to be able to rub their noses in it but hey ho, we could be feeling a whole lot worse over Christmas.

Cech must love playing for Arsenal there is always so much for him to do.

Bellerin: the great excitement was not knowing how far Hector could go, there was a moment when in the heady days of his upward trajectory that people thought if he added goals to his game he could be one of the all time greats — never gonna happen. Hector is what he is, a perfectly ok right wing back.

Koscielny, pre Sanchez goal, all over the place, post Sanchez goal a commited determined CB

Nacho, defensive player of the year, was replaced by Mustafi who was back from extreme bought of embarrassment which he suffered during the man u game.

Maitland-Niles pre Sanchez goal post Sanchez goal the young Tory was a joy to watch all game long.

What happened to Wilshere? He was bog standard average at two down, then Sanchez scored and then he turned into a super hero.

Xhaka’s game was something akin to a Wild West performance if there were such a thing, talk about the good the bad and the ugly.

Iwobi was a bit sub standard, I found myself actually wanting Walcott to come on and replace him; I never thought I would ever prefer Walcott over anyone ever again. Theeeo, Theeeo, Theeeo.

Sanchez, went from needing to be throttled to wanting to be carried around the ground on everyone’s shoulders in the space of ten minutes, but he is one of a small few who can change a game in a moment and that I suppose is the reason that he is always picked.

Ozil, there is television Ozil and live Ozil, the former is slow and not committed the latter is a regular genius, we had both today in that order.

Lacazette, got to say he was the only one who looked like it mattered to him that we were getting played off the park; it really was set up for him to grab a winner and all three points but as we know that was not to be. Maybe next time?

Written by LB


Bonny Donny Gonny – Player Assessments

September 21, 2017

Revelations and facts

Ospina’s mother’s maiden name was Ramirez

Chambers is closer to leaving than I realised.

Mertasacker will always be an Arsenal legend.

Holding purposely had his confidence massaged in this game.

Reiss-Nelson is not as advanced as I had hoped.

Elneny should be playing in the first team more.

Wilshere is better than I had remembered. (gone next window) lol

Maitland-Niles is fast, I mean hot damn fast. This was the biggest revelation of the night. Hadn’t noticed this before.

Walcott looks like a poodle when he jogs back after an attack.

Giroud is surprisingly happy playing his bit part role.

Sanchez is the greediest footballer in the EPL. Surprised he played the whole game as he should start on Monday.

Thoughts from LB


“Donny” come to The Emirates

September 20, 2017

The Rovers were formed in 1879, 138 years ago and turned professional in 1885, they have spent most of their years bouncing about in the lower leagues of English football and currently play in League 1 after gaining promotion from League 2 in 2016/17. Their ground is the Keepmoat Stadium which has a capacity of 15,231 which interestingly is bigger than Premier League Bournemouth’s which only holds only 11,360.

They along with Stockport County hold the record of playing in the longest ever competitive game while playing in Division 3. The match was tied after 90 minutes and remained tied after extra time, the rule at the time was that the game would carry on until one team scored but after 203 minutes the game was still tied so the decision was made to stop the game and have a replay which Doncaster went on to win 4-0.

They won their first major honour when they beat Bristol Rovers after extra time to win the Football League Trophy.

We’ve only played Doncaster 8 times in our history; our first game was on November 30th 1901 when we played in the 2nd division.

The last game was on Dec 21, 2005 in the League Cup, the game was tied 1-1 at full time and Doncaster went ahead 2-1 in the 104 minute and it was not until the 121st minute that Gilberto Silva scored the equaliser – we went on to win via penalty kicks.

Our team that day was:

Alumnia, Cygan, Senderos, Eboue, Djourou, Silva, Hleb, Song, Van Persie, Abeyie and Lupoli.

My Team…

Our full record:

The only time we lost to Doncaster was in 1905, 112 years ago and they have only scored 3 goals against us – so it would take a very brave person to place money on Arsenal losing this game; being a coward I forecast a big win for our kids.

Written by GunnerN5


Fabregas: Did Wenger make a mistake?

June 20, 2016

I know we have done this to death a couple of seasons ago with the general consensus being that he is “dead to us” but ….  during the Euros, is Fabregas showing us what we have lost?

Let’s compare is work with Aaron Ramsey.  Fabregas controls the pace of the team through his positioning and passes, Ramsey doesn’t. I realise they are not the same type of player but they do play in the same position and carry the same responsibilities. Which player has more influence? Sadly, you know the answer.

Or was it Little Jack Wilshere  (see, I can spell kelsey) who was the player whom AW thought would be better than Fab? Surely not. JW is a little magician but he is simply not in the same class as Cesc.

Or Ozil, though they are very different players and operate in different areas of the pitch. Imagine the two of them orchestrating the Arsenal team – would we have fared better over the past 2 seasons?

My guess is that it was Cazorla whom Mr Wenger thought was a better choice than Fabregas, in this he is mistaken. Cazorla is  undoubtedly a wonderful player however Del Bosque,who knows both players well, chooses Cesc every time.

Spain have been the best attacking team in the Euro’s and Fabregas is an integral part of their midfield. Had we re-signed Cesc he would have combined wonderfully with Cazorla and made us a better team.

Mr Wenger made his decision and Cesc was forced to sign for a morally bankrupt club guiding them to the title in his first season

BUT ….

The Euro’s have also given us our first view of Mr Wenger’s next Arsenal playmaker, Granit Xhaka. Xhaka’s stats are impressive, very impressive. The way he controls the tempo and direction of play from a defensive position is reminiscent of the Great Man, PV4. Only Pogba in the modern game holds a candle to Vieiera but nonetheless Xhaka in combination with Santi, Ramsey, Wilshere, Elneny, Ox or Coquelin could be a winning midfield.

Cesc was the past and in my opinion should have been the present but Xhaka is the future and the future is looking bright (assuming we buy an extraordinarily expensive striker)

written by Big Raddy


Ramsey to join Mourinho?

May 25, 2016

We are at approaching the time of year when the Deadwood express drives at Arsenal station to pick up a few passengers. Early at the station were Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta but who else will be shipped out?

Today I will focus upon the midfield.

Given that we have signed Elneny and also (potentially) Granit Xhaka, some  midfield players must be going. Ramsey, Wilshere, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ox, Ozil, Iwobi, Gnabry, plus the returning  Toral is perhaps excessive and it is in midfield that we find the biggest puzzle……. What is going on with Coquelin?

Early in the season Coquelin would have been the first name on the team sheet, it was inconceivable that he wouldn’t start. It has to be said that I am not a big fan but reluctantly started to appreciate just how much he had improved, yet Francis is firmly on the naughty step as evidenced by the arrival (?) of Xhaka – you don’t spend €30m on a reserve.

The final unbeaten run of games saw Francis on the bench with AW not picking a sitting DM preferring to play Elneny alongside Ramsey as a double pivot (™️ TA).  I doubt anyone could have predicted Coquelin being dropped.

If we assume that Xhaka is signed and that Elneny has impressed Mr Wenger  tough to be considered a sin the starting X1, then a first team place is unlikely for Coquelin and he will become a squad player. Too good to sell? Probably and we will need him in case of injury/rotation.

That leaves 4 excellent players fighting for the single forward midfield role: Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla and Ox. All deserve to be starting PL players. All are committed to Arsenal but I expect one to be sold, the difficulty is who?

I really love watching them all. Ramsey is exceptional as his work for Wales displays. But … but. Other Gooners are not so impressed. It was not a great season for Aaron. Less goals, less assists, more mistakes; nonetheless he remains a seemingly integral part of Mr.Wenger’s plans.

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Cazorla? Brilliant player. Upon his return at season’s end we improved and once again looked like potential title winners. Had he stayed fit we would have won the title – maybe – but he is over 30, somewhat injury-prone and slowing down. Arsenal need his experience – I doubt he willl be sold.

Ox. Horrible season for him. Injuries destroyed what should have been his breakthrough season. Nonetheless, he has huge potential and most of his on-pitch problems are due to his determination to be better. He needs to relax. But can he do so at Arsenal?

Jack. Another who had his season ruined by injury and who separates fans. IMO he  cannot be allowed to leave. His energy, vision and eye for goal is exceptional but his injury history is such that we cannot rely upon JW to play 40+ games.

Can Arsenal afford to keep 11 midfield players? Can Mr Wenger keep them happy? More to the point – does he want to?

I would not be surprised to see Mr Wenger selling a big name player to finance his summer purchases. Man Utd were in the hunt to sign Aaron Ramsey prior to his making the obvious decision to join AFC; they are desperate for a Carrick replacement and Aaron is a similar player (but better). A goal-scoring midfielder with International experience and a mate of Monkeyboy (who must be a MU target) – he fits MU’s and Mourinho’s requirements exactly. Could/would AW sell him to MU?

written by BR

 


Jack (Wilshere) and The Beans Talk

January 21, 2016

Jack’s full of beans …. probably too many beans!

He is feisty and mercurial on the pitch. He hates to lose the ball and will do anything to get to get it back. He wants to win every 50/50 ball … actually he wants to win every 20/80 ball. It’s in his nature. It’s the man he is and the player he is.

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But is this aspect of his character the reason he has suffered so many injuries in his short career?

We love Jack and we know he loves Arsenal …. and he’s not too keen on that other lot 🙂

We all know Jack has the potential to be a world class midfielder. He hasn’t played enough consecutive games in for Arsenal for us to be sure exactly where his best position is,  but we have seen glimpses of genius. Remember that performance at home against Barcelona? He was the best player on the pitch (and that was alongside Cesc).

I see this latest return as pivotal. If he can stay injury free and play to the end of the season, he has a chance to realise his potential. But one more long term injury and the doom-mongers will say they were right and he is injury prone … the new Diaby.

Arsene is managing him very carefully this time. Apparently he is fully fit and ready to go but we are being cautious – quite rightly so in  my opinion. So maybe Jack’s biggest enemy is himself. Can he temper his natural aggression and factor a bit of self preservation into his decision making? There is no need to risk yourself on the half way line by lunging in, you have team mates who are better placed to put in a tackle.

The question I put out to you all today is …… what is the best way to manage Jack Wilshere?

Should we drum into him the need to avoid injury and in so doing risk losing that part of his game that makes him a great player, or, do we let Jack be Jack and just see how it goes?

Rasp