Thrashing the Thracians?

October 19, 2016

To be quite honest I had absolutely no idea which country PFC Ludogorets Razgrad came from until I started writing this. Bulgaria is the answer and I sincerely hope my appalling ignorance and downright lack of awareness is not matched by the manager and team of Arsenal Football Club.

Looking at Ludogorets’ record in the Champions League, their biggest home win was 1-0 v Basel in 2014 and their biggest away defeats were both 4-0 to Basel (again) and Real Madrid (both in 2014). At present their biggest away win is …… non-existent. A continuation of that record for another few days would be great. (n.b. they’ve only been in the group stage once before) .

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Razgrad itself is in north-east of the country and a couple of Bulgaria’s famous landmarks have parallels with landmarks in England.

First there is the Bulgarian Icarus statue.

icarus

According to legend, the man known as the “Bulgarian Icarus” was also a builder. Apparently a Turkish Sultan survived a terrible disaster, so he decided to build a mosque in Edirne in gratitude to God. At that time, Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. So, the Sultan summoned the most famous builder and this was Bulgarian, Manol. He worked for seven years and constructed a miraculous temple. After it was completed, the Sultan asked him: “Can you build a more beautiful mosque than this one?” and Master Manol replied: “One always has more to learn. Maybe I made some mistakes here that I will avoid in the future and I will be able to build an even more majestic temple.” Hearing this, the ruler ordered that Manol be shut in one of the mosque minarets until his last breath. The inventive craftsman, however, managed to create another miracle – he designed himself wings made of wood. And one day, the people in Edirne saw a huge flying creature soaring in the sky and heading home to Thrace. In this way, Master Manol managed to save his life and turned into a favourite hero in Bulgarian folk tales and songs.

This tale reminded me of the Angel of the North statue when some Geordies launched an enormous Alan Shearer shirt over its shoulders.

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Whilst the statues have similarities, Master Manol and Mr Shearer are almost polar opposites, one an educated and erudite craftsman builder and the other a football pundit.

The second parallel is between the beautiful Razgrad clock tower and our own clock tower at Highbury Barn.

clock-towers

Team News

It would appear Rambo and Ollie G. are continuing to train alone. I’d imagine Granit will start due to a soon-to-be enforced absence from the Prem and EFL Cup (cheers, J. Moss).

It appears we emerged unscathed from the Swansea game so perhaps the team isn’t likely to be changed to any significant degree. Perhaps Kieran Gibbs could get a game after Nacho’s run around on Saturday. Oh, and Oooooooooooo-spiiiiiiiii-naaaaa may get the goalkeeper jersey.

‘Complacency’ seems to be the watchword for everyone with regards to this game. Theo and Shkodran have both issued warnings to their teammates to be on their guard against assuming it will be an easy and straightforward 3 points. Each and every player has to be thinking the same, especially after escaping by the skin of our teeth against Swansea.

Note…. Big Raddy is currently on manoeuvres in Ireland and without pre-match writing facilities. Thankfully this hiatus from normality will only be fleeting.

P.S. we need a nickname or shortened version of Shkodran. Any suggestions?

Written by chas


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


Walcott, Wilshere and Gibbs to start?

May 20, 2015

Must be time for a change of first eleven, Mr Wenger – the boys are looking jaded.

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The Crown Jewels of Alexis, Santi and Ozil could be given tickets to sit in the stands with TH14 and Bobby P – just to get some quality time with Arsenal Royalty – or perhaps they could take a tour of the ground with Charlie George 🙂

This will allow JW and Theo some pitch time and stop them griping through the summer (hopefully). Kos is malade so either Chambers (remember him?) or The Archangel will start. Gibbs needs a kick about or he will also ask to leave citing a lack of opportunities in the run up to Euro 2016, as will Debuchy.

Aah, Debuchy – what an odd season for our punk right back; early promise, horrible injury, Chambers looking excellent in his position, then the astonishing development of Bellerin as Boosh gets close to fitness, a return to the first team but Hector is now so good Mathieu  cannot get a regular spot and is relegated to the bench. Sadly, he is knacked again so his time is best spent sunning himself in Dubai at Arsenal’s expense.  I doubt he will be happy about his first season at Arsenal.

Another needing games is Wojciech. Neither GK is good enough IMO but the Pole has been on the naughty step for too long and needs to be given a cuddle if he is to develop into the quality keeper I believe he can become.

Do you think Mr Wenger will make so many changes? Neither do I but I hope he does because this is why we have such an expensive and high quality squad.

Oh, and I would love to see Rosicky play tonight.

Who are we playing? I had to look it up and it appears we are playing Sunderland who seem to have got themselves into somewhat of a pickle. Good. Any club who spend millions and pin their hopes on an ageing Defoe deserve to go down (hope he doesn’t score tonight!). But IMO they are safe as Newcastle and Hull are both desperately trying to earn their season in the Championship.

Sunderland will defend in depth. Swansea’s win by resorting to bringing the entire South Wales contingent of buses to The Emirates was a bad, bad result for anyone who enjoys watching football. Even the Chavs play defensively when coming to Arsenal and so will every other team in the PL apart from the few who, like Arsenal, believe that football is an entertainment.

I detest this park the bus crap – what was the best game of the season – the one that had all the pundits raving about the quality of entertainment? Barca vs Bayern. Why? Because Guardiola had the nuts to send his team out to attack in the belief that is team could and should compete. Why can’t others do the same? How many of the teams who defend in depth at THOF get a result? Very few – so why not try and give some joy to the paying punter?

Rant over.

Sunderland need a point to guarantee safety, we need a point to ensure 3rd spot. A draw seems likely but thankfully Mr Wenger doesn’t work that way.

I am 63% confident.

COYRRG


Is the Arsenal Youth Academy value for money?

January 8, 2015

The other day Arnie put up a picture of an Arsenal Youth Cup squad and Exile listed their current whereabouts. Only three of the players shown are still at Arsenal, Wilshere, Gibbs and Coquelin.

This led me to ponder on the value of our Academy, I’ve been unable to find out just how much is spent annually on it but mention was made some weeks ago about a plan to upgrade the facilities at a cost of several million pounds. I understand that it is already reckoned to be among the best in the country

Despite the money spent and the best efforts of the coaching staff the output, as far as future first team players for Arsenal is concerned, is pretty minimal

Indeed we are continuing to hunt the globe for promising youngsters at other clubs academies. It looks likely that Wenger is planning to sign a young full-back from Ipswich Town, while during our recent defender crisis it was not considered feasible to play any of our home-grown talent either at centre-back or left-back.

You have only to look at some of the incoming youngsters to see what can be done at other academies, a certain Spanish mid-fielder, Walcott (a terrific player but injury prone), Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Chambers.

I know that it is the socially correct thing to give local youngsters the opportunity to make a career in football, but is hoovering up the young talent from around the globe the right thing to do. Particularly when so many are discarded after a year or two.

Is the Arsenal Youth Academy a worthwhile project, or should it be scrapped and the money saved put into the kitty to buy established players?

Written by Norfolk Gooner


That’s more like the Arsenal of old.

November 27, 2014

After so many indifferent results lately, it was a pleasure not only to to see us reach the knockout stage of the CL yet again, but to see the players play out the game as a unit not as individuals. Both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund had several key men missing, but one can only play what is in front of you.

There were several stand out performances including Gibbs, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla and the phenomena that is Alexis Sanchez. I am sure you can all add to that list.

As I have mentioned before it is nearly impossible to second guess Wenger, and when the team was announced, there were several gasps that Sanogo was leading the line, yet within seventy five seconds, Yaya gave us that all important breakthrough. He reminds me a bit of a raw Giroud. he is strong, holds up the ball reasonably well and like one or two others needs to concentrate on his finishing. Too early to make an accurate judgement on him, but time will tell.

I was pleased for Santi, who has been woefully out of form, and his two assists for both goals were exquisite, and his all round play was excellent..

The Ox continues to impress and was unlucky not to score with a dipping volley, but his time will come.

What can you say about Sanchez. His work rate is fantastic and even if he drops out of the game from time to time he is the best attacker by a country mile,that we have signed for years. There is definitely a touch of Suarez about him, and any top side would want him in their team.

What pleased me the most was that our passing and understanding between the players was so much better than for most of this season, and I assume there were some hard words spoken to all the players after the United defeat.

Fighting for your place,is no bad thing, so perhaps Arsene will be more ruthless, but we will have to wait and see..

Chambers really is a good prospect and though another who is so young has shaken off a couple of bad performances and had an excellent game. What his best position eventually will be, is open to discussion.

The downside is that Arteta has a calf strain and by all  accounts will be out for a prolonged period and that Podolski unfortunately just doesn’t cut it with Wenger on the field, but to be fair to him he gets next to no playing time.

Let’s hope we can now finally build on this result, buy a couple of class defenders in January, but more importantly get a run of several consecutive wins in the league.

kelsey


Old wine, or new bottle, or old wine in new bottle?

December 31, 2013

End of the year, and part of the ritual is to take stock, and look forward towards the future with glorious plans and renewed expectations. And what a fantastic year this has been for Arsenal fans! At the midway stage in the Premier League last year, Arsenal was lying 7th, well off the pace for Champions League qualification, and even off Spursday football places. Qualifying second in their group, Arsenal faced a tough round of 16 encounter against Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe at that stage. With significant changes to the Board, a new owner in tow, there were uncertain times for the club management. The fans were up in arms, with substantial ammunition provided by a negative press, dubious pundits and even the Arsenal Supporters Trust. Difficult times indeed!

But Arsenal managed to make a fantastic turnaround. Attaining qualification for CL was nothing short of a miracle! Yes, Arsenal lost out in a two leg epic battle against eventual winners Bayern, but before that showed their mettle in an amazing 2-0 away victory. Despite all the negativity, good progress was made in the summer transfer window. The progress continued in the current season, and Arsenal is sitting at the Top of the Premier League at the halfway stage. Qualification to the Champions League was gained from the aptly termed “Group of Death”. Grudging acknowledgement of Arsenal’s strength and mettle is gently arising from beneath the rubble of disdain and the green fumes of envy. Indeed, if the league was played over the calendar year, Arsenal would have been Champions of 2013. Oh, what a year this has been!!!

 

per and kosser

All in all, a good year in prospect. There are plenty of challenges yet to be met. Plenty of time still before we even begin to celebrate the achievements of this team. But, also plenty of positive vibes and expectation in tow. So AA ers, looking towards the future, what did we learn new about Arsenal this year, and what were we reminded of afresh, that we did not know with so much certainty one year back? Let us discuss. Here are a few of my tentative suggestions. It was not all rosy, though. Injuries continued through the year. The squad seems a bit thin. Progression to the round of 16 in the Champions League was gained, but only in second place. Like last year, we have drawn Bayern Munich. Lovely games in prospect, but significant challenges as well. And if the vitriol from the fans is a bit subdued due to the sustained run of fine results and resilience in the field of play, the negativity from the press and pundits continues unabated. Perhaps most importantly, whether by luck or design, Arsenal continues to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. Alas, some things never seem to change!

First, same time last year we did not know what a fantastic central defensive partnership, together with a very competent goalkeeper, we were developing. Indeed a large part of our success this year owes itself to the fantastic defensive pairing of Per and Kos. What a duo!!! And what a great leader in our beloved BFG! When Verms got injured, who would have thought we would have such a strong defence where even a fit squad captain cannot find a place?

Per and kossser 2

Second, one of the best revelations of the year was the discovery that Ramsey had developed into such a fantastic player. He was the subject of much of the blame and vitriol during our indifferent showing in 2012. Perhaps somewhat undeservedly. But our beloved Rambo rubbed all these adversities off his shirt, returned in style from his long standing injury, and has grown to the stature of one of the best midfielders in the League, perhaps in Europe as well.

Ramsey

He has shown a very mature head as well, leading for his country at a very young age. In tow, Jack Wilshere is developing into a fine player, if somewhat idiosyncratic on occasions. Together with Theo, the Ox, Gibbs and Jenks, they also form a British core to the team which had been somewhat deficient for a while. Who would have thought a year back that Rambo would develop into such a fantastic and dependable player, and Jack’s game will be coming along so nicely as well?

The English players

Third, one of the most encouraging developments of the year, at least for me, was the maturity with which the owner Kroenke, Gazidis and the Board conducted themselves. Perhaps the best development was that the Board did not interfere in footballing matters, leaving team and signing decisions to the people who know best, led by one Arsene Wenger. If you think that this is not a surprise, look around at other clubs. Several clubs have met with significant disasters as a result of owner power, such as the Spuds, Cardiff and even the Chavs, and in some others the environment is not very nice even if the performance has not been equally devastating.

The principles of the club, that a fantastic team can be developed without wasting money on the wasteful purchase of overpriced bench idols, was not compromised by a new owner and a new look Board. Surely, this was not a given at the start of the year, after the club had gone through a rather aggressive ownership contest and change of hands.

Fourth, amid the mantra of financial fairplay and traditional hesitancy to spend big money, and the recovery from an expensive move to the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would spend their money where it mattered most?

Ozil

In the procurement of one Mesut Ozil, who despite his tentative adjustment to English football and the Arsenal way of playing the game, has given the team something really special, Arsenal showed purpose and ambition, and real ability to deliver trophies. This came together with the free transfer of one Mathieu Flamini – ah, what a fantastic transfer move!

flamini

Fifth, against the backdrop of significant unrest and disquiet among good-weather fans, ably supported by the press and pundits, who would have thought that the positive outlook of a sane fan-base would shine through? The struggle against the doubters and doomday-usherers still continues in earnest, in ArsenalArsenal and elsewhere, but The Home of Football still reverberates with the positive chants and outlook towards the new dawn awaiting in the New Year!!!!

AA ers, what do you think? My final thoughts are:

COYG! Onwards and Upwards!! A fantastic year 2014 awaits!!!!

Written by arnie

Arsenal Record 2013 Calendar Year

P W D L F A GD Pts
38 25 7 6 70 34 36 82

Where would 82 points put us in seasons past?

SEASON Winners P W D L F A GD Pts AFC on 82 points
2008-09 Utd 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90 4th
2009-10 Chavs 38 27 5 6 103 32 71 86 3rd
2010-11 Utd 38 23 11 4 78 37 41 80 1st
2011-12 Oilers 38 28 5 5 94 29 65 89 3rd
2012-13 Utd 38 28 5 5 86 43 43 89 2nd

Chart by MickyDidIt

2013 Calendar Year League Table

P W D L F A GD Points vs Top 7 Total Home Total Away
Arsenal 38 25 7 6 70 33 37 82 10 19 19
Shitty 38 25 5 8 86 39 47 80 10 19 19
Chavs 38 23 8 7 71 40 31 77 10 20 18
ManUre 38 23 8 7 70 37 33 77 11 19 19
Spuds 38 21 10 7 55 46 9 73 10 19 19
Dippers 38 21 9 8 87 39 48 72 9 18 20
Everton 38 18 13 7 54 35 19 67 11 20 18
Toon 38 16 6 16 51 62 -11 54 13 19 19
Southampton 38 12 15 11 49 43 6 51 13 19 19
Villa 38 11 10 17 50 58 -8 43 11 20 18
Swansea 38 10 12 16 44 54 -10 42 12 18 20
Norwich 38 9 11 18 37 62 -25 38 12 20 18
Fulham 38 11 5 22 39 67 -28 38 12 19 19
West Ham 38 9 11 18 41 57 -16 38 12 19 19
Stokies 38 8 11 19 34 60 -26 35 11 19 19
WBA 38 7 13 18 45 61 -16 34 12 18 20
Sunderland 38 7 10 21 36 62 -26 31 12 19 19

Stat Overkill by GiE


Character, Desire and Strategy: Symphony drowns Heavy Metal!

November 7, 2013

Notwithstanding the fantastic results that Arsenal have been producing most weeks and in midweek games since the beginning of the year, and the consistency with which the team have been turning whinging disbelievers and useless pundits into muppets, if there was ever a moment when the good guys proudly donning their red and whites on the field had to prove a point, this was it.

Playing away from home at the home of the formidable Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund, having succumbed to the ignominy of an embarrassing loss to the same club at The Home of Football, and knowing that their dreams of progressing from the Group of Death lay in their own hands (erm, feet and heads), this was the moment of destiny.

Would they remain a bunch of kids led by a handful of immature generals trying to play a game meant for men, or would they show the strength of character, desire and strategy that separates the sublime from the ordinary? On a rain-drenched evening in Dortmund, in front of formidable opposition and a vociferous crowd, they fought valiantly with heart and mind to achieve a memorable victory that dreams are made of.

The stage for the show was set up well. The set was immaculately chosen in advance, and the background music was perfect for the occasion – perhaps the tune of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. At the disappointing loss at home to Dortmund a fortnight earlier, Arsène Wenger, a man known for his economy of words and measured temperament, rather uncharacteristically chose to criticise the team in public for their alleged ‘naivety’. Adding salt to injury, Jurgen Klopp, the respected Dortmund manager tried to take the art of mind games to the level of Symphony Fantastique.

“[Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes” he said,”It’s like an orchestra, but it’s a silent song, yeah? And I like Heavy Metal more. I always want it loud! I want to have this: ‘BOOM!’ “.

It was time for the true mettle to shine through the din of Heavy Metal, and it did! The good guys of Arsenal fought their heart out, played with their minds sharp, and manufactured a fantastic away win!

It was a very tough test against the skill, aggression and hard work put in by a truly fantastic team, Borussia Dortmund, and in front of their home crowd as well. On the night, the entire team was fantastic. In the first half, both teams played a measured game, Arsenal sitting deep in defiant defence, and Dortmund piling on attacks without creating that many chances. Mkhitaryan squandered the best chance curling his shot wide of the post, but that apart, the central defence of Mertesacker and Koscielny nullified every chance that Dortmund created, with the able support of Sagna and Gibbs.

Arteta and Rosicky worked tirelessly to organise the midfield, and together with Ramsey, Santi and Özil maintained the threat of counter attacks. Giroud was left a bit isolated up front, but it was really that kind of a game. For me, our attacking threat in the first half was captured in the one occasion when Özil beautifully controlled a pass at the top of the Dortmund box, made the turn towards goal, but the moment the ball was pushed less than a foot forward, along came two defenders to snatch it away. Such was the tireless industry of the Dortmund defence, it was a treat to watch and admire! Anyway, the half ended a relatively event-less all-square.

There was all to play for in the second 45. But along came Dortmund with renewed vigour, and piled on attack upon attack. Most of these were repelled by the resolute Arsenal defence led by the fantastic Mert-Kos duo. For a nervous few minutes, the relentless pressure appeared to work. The nightmares of the Emirates appeared close. Once, Reus got through unmarked, and just a few minutes later Blaszczykowski had a low shot on goal. On both occasions, Szczęsny brought off fantastic saves. And that was it. No more serious attempts on the Arsenal goal followed.

Aaron Ramsey

Instead, it was a moment of magic at the other end. Rosicky, an ex-Dortmund player, latched on to a ball at the left flank and tried to move towards the centre, lost the ball, won it back and spread it wide to the right. Özil held on to it and sent a cross into the box, Giroud towered above his marker and used all his strength to nod the ball back towards the centre, and Ramsey lurked in with a great heart and headed the ball home almost right from the Subotic’s raised boot.

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The goal opened the floodgates somewhat, no not from Dortmund attacks, but Arsenal’s threats on goal. From a Giroud cross, Ramsey forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi corner, Giroud saw a shot somehow cleared off the line. Per came along into attack with great vigour and came close to scoring twice, the second time sending a loopy header to the top of the net.

The mighty Dortmund, worthy finalists of last year’s Champions League, undefeated in the Bundesliga so far this season, did not know what hit them. Perhaps they were not used to losing. They were completely rattled and disheveled. Apart from a muffled attempt from Reus, they offered hardly any threat. The 11 brave men of Arsenal defended resolutely and saw the game through.

In the middle of all this, one man stood tall in midfield, led from the front, and for me captured like no other player the spirit that Arsenal stood for. It was Mikel Arteta. He manned the centre of the field like a fighter, defending and winning balls throughout the 90 minutes, earned a yellow card for his troubles, somewhat unfairly, for tugging Blaszczykowski’s shirt, and came disastrously close to a second as well. But he kept fighting. At the other end, Reus tugged back Rosicky but was not booked, and neither was there a penalty for bundling valiant Kos over. Injustices galore. But the brave and good guys stood tall amongst the ruins, and came out valiant winners. What a night of Champions League football! Lucky Micky and Raddy who represented AA in the ground!

How did we manage to win this game against all odds? Hard work, perhaps even more than skill, but what was most important was strategy. The strategy of sitting back and defending resolutely, the strategy of going all out in counter attack, but only when the opposition had got somewhat tired and demoralised, and most importantly the strategy of knowing how to get the best efforts out of the players. Going even to the extreme of publicly criticising the team for naivety. In a game characterised by character, desire and strategy, STRATEGY came out tops for me. In a game between symphony and Heavy Metal, the mettle displayed by the team was beautiful SYMPHONY. In a game of strategy between two great managers, Arsene Wenger came out on top! Arsène Wenger is my Man of the Match!
Arsene
Every player did his bit on the night. Here are some tentative scores.

Szczesny: 8 Had little to do on the night, except to make two fantastic saves. And they were crucial.

Sagna: 7 Measured performance in defence and attack. 

Mertesacker: Excelled at the heart of defence, went out in counter attack, almost scored as well. What a performance! 

Koscielny: Fantastic in defence, great combination with Mert, played with a big heart.

 Gibbs 7 Measured performance focusing on defence, cricial interventions when Mert and Kos had moved up and Dortmund attacked on the counter.

Arteta: 9 A true leader on the day, leading from the front. Valiently marshalled the midfield all evening. Outstanding.

Ramsey: 9 What can you say! The “Welsh Messi” Aaron Ramsey did what he does best – deliver the sucker punch.

Cazorla: 7 Good, solid, if somewhat underwhelming performance on the night.

Ozil: 8 Good performance, great cross that led to the goal.

Rosicky: 8 Fantastic performance. Together with Arteta, maintained the midfield, fighting for every ball, moving forward on every occasion possible.

Giroud: 7Assist for the goal, tireless performance as the lone striker, holding up, running tirelessly after the ball. Almost scored as well.

Arsene Wenger: 10 Le Manager, what fantastic strategy, what a man, what a team. This performance was surely for him.

Monreal: 7 Came on 75 mins for Santi, reliable as ever.

Vermaelen: No time to make an impact.

Bendtner: No time to make an impact, but ran after the ball continuously for the 5 mins he was on.

Written by arnie

Our on the spot photographers have provided these pics of a view from the away end:

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