Violently Happy, KOZ We Love You!

December 22, 2011

Aston Villa 1 – 2 Arsenal Match Report

1st half observations from a bad stream

The first 45 minutes were pretty different from what I expected. Aston Villa did not close us down frantically and allowed Arsenal plenty of space. Especially Gervinho and Theo saw plenty of the ball, as Villa sat deep in the beginning, allowing our wingers to attack them from the sides. Arsenal also allowed Villa a lot of space and there were plenty of chances for each team during the entire first half. The game was surprisingly open and yet the tempo did not appear to be very high.

After Gervinho had tried but failed to reach the by-line on a number of occasions – not being able to beat the ex-Spud Hutton – Theo was successful at the first attempt. He skinned the inexperienced Carian Clark just inside the box of Villa with a brilliant, ballet-like pirouette, after which he had acres of space to pick a pass. The young Villa defender pulled Theo back and the referee Jon Moss blew his whistle, even though Theo had not fallen down as a result of the pull-back. Penalty. RvP lined himself up to reach an incredible milestone: if he scores he will have equalled TH14 calendar year goal scoring tally. Is he nervous though? No, just BOOM in the roof of the net: 1-0 to The Arsenal.

After that, the game remained open, and after quick moves, both Theo and Ramsey got decent opportunities to score from just outside the box. Both missed the deadly accuracy and calmness of Boy Wonder and, as a result, two half-decent opportunities were wasted. Villa had their own chances, predominantly as a result of playing balls quickly into the box from Arsenal’s LB area to their ‘fox in the box’: the man with the warrior-like name of Agbonlahor (for a while, I dreamed of an attacking combination for Arsenal of Arshavin, Adebayor and Agbonlahor: it just sounded like the ultimate warrior-machine: the tree terrible A’s). I thought Vermaelen struggled a few times to put himself in the right positions in the first half, and as a result Aston Villa had a few opportunities to put the ball into the box from our LB area which led  to some half-decent opportunities for them. Luckily, AV were not sharp enough to pounce on these half-chances.

2nd half observations from another bad stream

Aston Villa started well. They allowed us less space and pressed us earlier in our own half. In the 54th minute, an opportunistic, high ball by Villa is defended by Vermaelen, who heads horizontally to Merkesacker. The latter is already on a yellow card and Vermaelen’s header is too short. Albrighton seizes his opportunity by taking the ball past the indecisive Mertesacker, and slots the ball calmly and professionally past the onrushing Szczesny. Quite an impressive finish.

Theo Walcott experiences an almost déjà-vu moment when, just as in the game against Citeh, he gets a decent opportunity to score a goal straight after our kick-off. The impressive again Richard Dunne makes a superb slide-tackle in the box to deny Walcott. Mertesacker seemed desperate to make amends for his and Vermaelen’s defensive error earlier. He was close to scoring a goal from inside the box, not with his head but with his foot, from one of the many Arsenal corners in the second half.

During this half, there is no more space for either Walcott or Gervinho to produce some effective wing-play. Wenger makes three changes in the last 25 minutes: Rosicky, Arshavin and Benayoun for respectively Frimmpong, Gervinho and Ramsey. Arshavin and Benayoun are only given ten minutes to make a difference which is not ideal of course. Frimmpong started to give away unnecessary fouls and both Gervinho and Ramsey looked exhausted.

The changes had an immediate positive impact as Arsenal was able to retake the initiative. We started to control the game and were desperately looking for holes in the middle of AV’s defence. We were awarded corner after corner, and from the 11th corner-kick in the second half – just as every single Gooner had given up hope we would ever score from a corner again – RvP reaches a free Yossi Benayoun (Agbonlahor had not bothered to stay with him in the box), and a late, and no longer expected, Christmas present was delivered to all who love the Arsenal: most probably the lightest man on the pitch, our man on loan from the Chavs, scores with a close-range header: 1-2 with only three minutes to go!

Some conclusions:

A scrappy win: no doubt about that. Our passing was under-par and we seemed to be missing our FB’s a lot more in this game than against the Mancs. We really lacked a strong/effective shape to the team tonight. There were a lot of tired legs out there, but the same goes for Aston Villa; and that was our saving grace.

A few players were brilliant today: Arteta, RvP, and especially Koz: with their energy and never-say-die attitude they made a major contribution to us winning three points tonight. I also thought Coquelin, after a slightly difficult start, had a good game. I was especially impressed with his ability to play long-range passes towards Theo, or diagonally towards the other winger. This boy has style and, judging on these early signs, will go far at Arsenal. It was also good to see Rosicky back. He really gave us a better shape to the team, almost as soon as he was on the pitch.

And well done to Robin for reaching this incredible milestone. We all know how special Thierry Henry was: one of the best strikers I have ever seen. For Robin to equal his calendar-year goals tally is incredible, and with a bit of luck he will surpass Alan Shearer’s by scoring three more goals in the next two home games.

Three points are three points. It is a game best to forget quickly and for us now to concentrate on our next two home games: Wolves and QPR. The boys will now have a rest till at least Monday and Alex Song will be back. Hopefully there will be no further injuries coming from this game, so we can put out a good team against Wolves. Liverpool and Newcastle dropped points again, and today either the Chavs or Spuds, or both, will drop points. The race for third and fourth place is on and we are now very well positioned; just behind the Chavs and the Spuds. Before Big Ben strikes 12 times on New Year’s Eve, we could be snug as a bug in a rug in third place.

COYRRG

TotalArsenal.


Fullback Crisis: A Radical Solution

December 20, 2011

To lose all four of our first team fullbacks at once to long-term injuries really is unfortunate.

As an example of serious bad luck it’s right up there with Wayne Rooney finding himself at Grab-a-Granny night in the local nightclub with both arms in plaster; or Harry Redknapp taking a wrong turn into an auction house and accidentally winning 53 bids on account of his twitch.

Despite our spirited performance at the PetroDome on Sunday, Manchester City shaded the game and just about deserved the win.

However, I am sure that if we had had recognised fullbacks instead of converted centre halves the balance of play would have been much more level and may even have tipped in our favour.

There seems to be some possibility of Gibbs returning in time for the Boxing Day fixture against Wolves at the Emirates, but that’s far from certain and the other three (Sagna, Santos and Jenkinson) are still a way off.

To compound the problem, Johann Djourou, who has been filling in at right back, is also out injured for three weeks.

So what do we do?

The makeshift back four that finished the game against City did not look convincing. Quite apart from their inability to support our wide forwards, they also struggled positionally.

I’m not blaming the individual players because they did their best while playing out of position, but Koscielny lost his bearings in the build-up to Silva’s goal, allowing Balotelli too much room, and Miquel, as temporary left back, should have been picking up Silva who was standing unmarked in the box.

With the speed and intensity of Premiership football, you can only hope to eliminate those sorts of errors with constant drilling and practice as a fullback, which neither Kozzer nor Miquel has had the opportunity to do.

On Wednesday we play Aston Villa and we need to find a solution to this conundrum.

I would be disappointed if we start with a back four of Miquel and Kozzer as FBs and Vermaelen and BFG as CBs.

We run the risk of having a groundhog day experience, with not enough support for the wide players and not enough positional discipline to make our defence as secure as it should be.

Instead, and because these are special circumstances, maybe it’s time for Arsene Wenger to try something a little more radical.

My suggestion? We adopt a 3-5-2 formation (or to avoid upsetting GiE and the goalkeepers’ union, a 1-3-5-2).

My back three would be the Verminator on the left, BFG in the middle and Kozzer on the right.

In front of them a five made up of (from left to right): Gervinho, Ramsey, Frimpong (Song is serving a 1 match suspension), Arteta, Coquelin.

And, up front, Theo and RvP.

I have moved Gerv into the five man midfield because he is more effective at covering defensively than Theo and also has more variety in his play when picking up the ball from deep.

I like Coquelin as right midfield because he has played RB before and is a tenacious tackler and competitor who also has the footballing skills to bomb forward and help the attack.

Arteta, Frimpong and Ramsey in the middle all have the energy and awareness to drop back if one of the two wide midfielders is caught forward.

As for up front, I don’t see Prince Robin needing to change his approach at all, but I would give Theo licence to drift all along the attacking line without needing to overly concern himself with defensive duties.

So there you have it: one man’s idea for coping with no fullbacks. I should emphasise that my theory is based firmly on zero foundations as I have never coached or managed a football team apart from (once) a five-year-old girls’ team. So feel free to rip it apart and offer your own solution…

RockyLives


Arsène Wenger’s Got a Headache

November 8, 2011

The criticism of Arsène for trying to force square pegs into round holes has frequently been levelled over recent seasons. Bendtner, Eboue and Arshavin in particular have all been deployed in areas that would not be their first choice let alone the Championship Managers among us. The reason for this has generally been a lack of depth in the squad exacerbated by the perennial injury problems that have depleted us so cruelly at vital times.

Now it would appear that Arsène has a headache of a different kind. The summer purchases coupled with the progression of quality players through the youth system has created a problem, a good problem to have but a problem nonetheless. As far as Sagna and Wilshere are concerned the problem is months away but in light of the coming 2 weeks of nail biting over the potential for injuries playing in meaningless internationals, I thought it would be interesting to ponder the alternatives.

Who are our best players in every position?
Well I think the answer at the top and tail of the team is obvious – RvP and Szczesny give Arsenal about the best polar opposites in the league. But elsewhere it is not so simple.

Centreback Partnership
Some supporters had been crying out for a tall physical presence at the back and then along came Per Mertesacker the 6ft 5in answer to our vulnerability from set pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I think the BFG is an excellent addition to the squad and has helped us keep in touch through this early critical period, but I think most would agree that his height is not the main attribute he possesses. No, it’s his positional play, reading of the game, timing of the tackle cool head and experience – but I wouldn’t mind betting that Kozzer has won more headers in the box when playing alongside Mert. The return of Vermaelen has been a huge shot in the arm and has reminded us all that he is a world class defender and our captain of the defence. For me the best CB pairing is TV and Koz but have your say by placing your vote below.



Wingbacks
Now this is where it really does get difficult. Most Arsenal supporters would say that last season Sagna was the best right back in the league. He didn’t start this season so well and looked a yard or two off the pace, but a 90% Sagna is still better than most RBs and it seemed like an early hammer blow to our season when he was ruled out with a fractured leg.

But then there was the introduction of Carl Jenkinson to the first team. He was one of our early summer signings who at 19 was inexperienced to say the least having been on loan at a non league club previously. For me he has been a revelation. Like Jack, he’s an Arsenal supporter. He has amazing energy going forward and uncharacteristically for an Arsenal player, he can cross the ball. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not in the same class defensively as Sagna at this stage, but he is improving every game and has won the hearts of the supporters already. Sagna has to be my first choice RB for the big games, but Jenks is a real find and offers us more offensively so in a couple of years time who knows?


Gibbs or Santos? – now that is a much closer call. Gibbs has been threatening to become the new Cashley for a couple of seasons. His progress has been hampered by a worrying propensity to pick up injuries that hasn’t ever really let us see him have a decent run of games.

Santos is already dividing opinion. He’s all Brazillian, surging forward with gay abandon, super control spiced with clever tricks and finished with a sweet left foot and cool head in front of goal. He loves to go forward, its the gaping holes that he leaves behind that worry many. West Brom were poor on Saturday and Santos never really looked troubled but against stiffer opposition he may be undone. The hope is that he will adjust his game to put slightly more emphasis on the defensive side of his play, but I for one would not wish him to sacrifice his natural attacking game. Santos would be my first choice for LB.

The Midfield
Since The Boy Wonder’s place is not in question I shall consider the midfield to be the ‘5’ in a 4:5:1 formation – but you can call it 4:3:3 if it makes you happy. I have no hesitation on current form in saying that wide midfielders places are not in question, Theo and Gervinho have been excellent and are clearly Arsène’s first choice, but we still have very good options in Arshavin, the Ox and possibly Ryo in time.

The current best centre midfield 3 would appear to be Song, Ramsey and Arteta – but what happens when Jack is fit again?

It would appear that Song’s place in the side is safe so who would give way to accommodate our rising star? I actually think that Arteta has been more influential in the side recently than Song as he quietly gets on with his business and keeps the Wengerball machine running smoothly whereas Song is often noticed when he somehow magically manages to hold off multiple players and still emerge with the ball but I sometimes think he should not be in that position in the first place. Once again we are blessed with midfield options and squad rotation of the midfield 3 would help us stave off the customary end of season fatigue.

Which players would you prefer to see as our centre midfield three?

The Subs
I have made the presumption that everyone would agree that these are the only candidates for first choice in their positions but many would disagree. Is Arshavin more effective than Gervinho on the left? The Ox worth a try in place of Theo? Rosicky more reliable than Ramsey? Benny more attacking than Song? Diaby waiting in the wings to finally realise his potential? Coquelin worth a try for some games? – they may well all have to play their part in a typically long season. With the possible exception of strikers, we can now boast two quality players for every position on the pitch.

One thing is for sure, our new strength in depth makes us better equipped than for many years and the removal of large egos and homesick heroes from the dressing room should mean that rotation and competition for places makes us a stronger and more resilient squad this season.

You can see how opinion is divided in the polls by clicking on ‘View Results’ on the bottom left of each poll box.

Written by Rasp


Arsenal: We’ve Got Our Bottle Back

October 31, 2011

How are you feeling this morning?

Still glowing?

Yeah, me too.

We have kind of forgotten what it’s like to enjoy a BIG win; a meaningful win; a surprise win against the odds.

Most of our surprises in the last six months have been nasty ones – the kind Mrs Gary Neville has every morning when she wakes up and sees who’s beside her.

But Saturday was different. We went to one of the bookies’ favourites for the title and gave them a spanking in their own back yard. And just because it’s a Chav back yard full of old piss-stained mattresses and wrecked cars, that doesn’t make the win any less sweet.

Make no mistake, Chelsea were seen by many as the real dark horses (whoops, sorry JT, I meant pale horses) in the championship race. Even in defeat to QPR last week they earned plaudits for almost nicking a result with only nine men.

But in the second half of Saturday’s fine win we completely dominated them, winning the half 4-1, taking a stranglehold on midfield and defending well (we only conceded because the ref missed a blatant foul on Santos).

The first half was a different story, with both teams attacking like panthers and defending like pandas, but enough has been said about that in all the match reports.

The point is, we found ourselves in a game that, several times, could have gone away from us – at 2-1 and at 3-3 in particular. But we refused to allow it to do so.

Having hauled ourselves level at 1-1, then gone in one down at half time thanks to another soft goal conceded from a set piece, heads could easily have dropped.

If this had been last year’s Arsenal team, with the homesick Spaniard and the fat French trouble-maker, I think that’s exactly what would have happened. Our heads would have gone down faster than Dani Alves on ice.

But this is a different group of players with a much better mix of vim and experience. It’s interesting that our best performers on the day (with the exception of Prince Robin) were the younger ones: Koscielny, Ramsey, Gervinho and Walcott.

But I have no doubt that they felt enabled to play their best game by the presence of older heads like Arteta, Mertesacker and Santos (as well as Rosicky when he came on), all of whom added an air of stability to the team.

We now have players who do not panic when we’re leading with 10 minutes to go. Indeed, against a dangerous Chavski side we looked very solid in the final stages (the BFG making up for a poor first half by dominating the box in the closing minutes).

We were calm enough and confident enough to see the game out – and bold enough to take our chance to really kill it off when it arrived.

Someone has clearly been to Lost and Found and reclaimed something we mislaid about two years ago: our bottle.

No-one really knew where it had gone. Pat Rice went all up and down the Holloway Road stapling little notices to trees and lamp posts saying “Missing: Our Bottle: Answers to the name Vieira or Adams. Reward if found.”

There were no takers, but now it has turned up of its own accord, just when we needed it most after the most disastrous start to a season for 58 years.

There is still everything to play for this season. The Mancunian lottery winners may be streets ahead at the top of the table but there is a long way to go and anything can happen.

Next up for us in the league are West Brom (H), Norwich (A) and Fulham (H). With the players we have, and with the fact that we now have our bottle again after such a long time, everything is possible.

Keep believing fellow Gunners.

RockyLives


Not beautiful, not sexy – but a critical win for Arsenal

October 20, 2011

Marseille 0 – 1 Arsenal: Match Report


Now, this was not a game for the purists of total football – for those who love sexy moves and scintillating finishes: the Arsenal of ‘old’ (at least for now). It will not go into the history books as one of Arsenal’s great CL evenings, but let’s not fool ourselves: this was a critical win for Arsenal.

Before the game, I thought about the likely consequences if we would have lost tonight. The media-scripts were, without any doubt, ready to be released by our friends from the redtops. At this brittle period of rebuilding our team, the CL qualification and subsequent group results have been the one shining light in the dark tunnel of the 2011-2012 season. A loss today and the media would have been putting their daggers into that last bit of success and dignity that Arsenal have been hanging onto this season, the Doomers would have joined them en masse, and we all would have really suffered from it. Even the biggest optimist would have struggled to keep the belief.

Yet tonight, Arsenal made an important step forward, and we should be all pleased by this. Arsenal are now top of the group and Marseille and Dortmund still have to come to the Emirates. All at once, there is reason for some renewed optimism. It was not beautiful, it was not sexy, but it was just what the doctor ordered. Games like these can lay the foundation for a turnaround of fortunes.

 

First Half

Both teams started nervously with a lack of ball control/possession and some defensive mistakes as well. It was tight in midfield and Marseille made it hard for us to dominate the game. However, after a while we started to make a number of good runs on the right-hand side, which led to some good, and some not-so-good crosses into the box. Unfortunately, the Marseille defence dealt with these easily albeit at the expense of a number of corners. From one of those corners we produced our best chance in the first half. Diawara cleared a header from Robin van Persie off the line, but we should have had a penalty, moments before that, when the same Diawara – very cunningly – had handled the ball in the air.

Marseille best chance came after 30 minutes: the occasionally impressive Remy showed some great agility to leave the BFG rooted to the ground (or should that be: anchored to the sea-floor?), and to get past Jenkinson. However, the latter was just able to stick his foot brilliantly in front of Remy’s diagonal shot at goal, and his attempt was deflected past our goal.

Just before the end of the first half,Santos did something inexplicable. Already on a yellow card, he decided to handle the ball whilst under no pressure to do so. It could have so easily been a second yellow card, and the team would have been put under immense pressure for the rest of the game. Santos, who really impressed me at the Emirates against Sunderland on Sunday, had a bit of a shocker of a first half, but luckily he improved somewhat during the second half.

Second Half

Arsenal, as so often this season, started the second half really well. Jenkinson, who had already impressed during the first half, showed great energy and determination to make a difference on the right, but was not helped by a few sloppy passes from Walcott and Rosicky at this stage. Jenkinson had to come off and Djourou replaced him. I am sure, I was not the only one to think that Marseille would now start to test the right-hand side of our defence, but just as they had not tried to put more pressure on Santos in the second half, they also refrained from targeting Djourou. The referee even helped them by giving Johan a yellow card almost straightaway, and unjustly so! It only then dawned on me that Marseille were actually aiming for a draw.

After 60 minutes, Song and Rosicky combined to play the ball to Theo just inside the box. Walcott got past the throughout-the-game very impressive N’Koulou, but his shot is too soft and too close to the goalie. Arsenal keep dominating without creating too many chances, as both Song and Arteta become stronger and stronger in the second half. Wenger changed Theo for Gervinho and straightaway there was more threat and creativity to our attacking play. Gervinho did really well to run past a few Marseille players and to play a great ball into box for Robin. Unfortunately, van Persie needed to use his right foot and his shot was stopped by the also impressive Mandada. It then looked like we were heading for a draw, which in itself would not have been a bad result for us.

But there was a final sting in the tale, and justice was done. The only team that tried to play football in the second half was rewarded for its efforts. Johan Djourou puts in an early cross and, for once, Robin van Persie is not alone in the box – Gervinho is there as well – and the Marseille defence is under pressure. Gervinho tries to control Djourou’s cross, but inadvertently (?), he produces the perfect assist for Ramsey, who also made a good run into the box. Ramsey controls the ball well with his first touch and finds time and space to coolly slot the ball, with a low, hard and placed shot, past the goalkeeper’s right-hand side. Ramsey, another one of our players who received a lot of criticism from his own fans recently, showed some great maturity at that moment in time – and just as much as Arsenal made a step forward today, he made one himself as well.

Player Ratings:

Szczesny: not much to do, but was calm and confident (which goes a long way) – 6.5

Mertesacker: read the game well defensively, but was often hesitant passing the ball going forward, and once or twice to static in the box. I still like him a lot and he is just what we need at the moment – 6.5

Koscielny: incredible, gutsy performance. He and Mertesacker compliment each other really well and over time this could become a good partnership – 7.5 Joint man of the match

Santos: gave the ball away a lot, and already on (an unjust) yellow card, he decided to handle the ball. He looked tired and slow, but also showed some glimpses of real quality –5

Jenkinson: very impressive game, defensively and especially going forward. I just loved his energy and eagerness, and in my view, he set an example to some of his colleagues tonight – 7.5 Joint man of the match

Rosicky: struggled at large parts of the game to impose himself and seemed to disappear a lot. But he does bring shape to our team and has plenty of class –6

Arteta: a solid performance, doing a lot of the hard, often unnoticed, work in front of our defence. I like this guy a lot – 7

Song: he is a bit like an old-fashioned locomotive: he seems to start games rusty, even clumsy, and slowly, but the longer the game goes on, the sharper and stronger he becomes, and at the end of the game he is just unbelievable! –7

Arshavin: not a good game. Tried to set up a few attacks but just did not work out for him on the day. Gave the ball away too many times – 5

Van Persie: worked hard for the team, but was often isolated, and surrounded by a couple of very strong CB’s. The introduction of Gervinho seemed to really make a difference for him and he almost scored at the end –7

Walcott: a couple of decent runs and crosses into the box, and some good defensive support at times, but we did not get enough from him this game – 5.5

Substitutes:

Johan Djourou – did ok after a couple of very difficult months for him, and played a good, aggressive cross into the box that led to Ramsey’s goal –6

Gervinho – brought class, aggression and incisiveness to our attacking play – 6.5

Ramsey – made a difference straightaway and a great goal to win the match – 6.5

TotalArsenal


A Taste of Honey.

September 28, 2011

A hot sunny Athens morning, greek yoghurt, fresh fruit, and some Greek honey. Lovely.

Olympiacos (we use a K, they use the C) come to town as Greek Champions , further than that I have little to tell you about them. They have over 80,000 members, the 9th highest in European football. They have a superb stadium, noisy, fanatical fans and a good home record. It is said they do not travel well, oh, and their Swedish player Olaf Mellberg scored the first PL goal at the Emirates (for AV)

The first round win by Marseilles  in Athens was a poor result for 4 reasons:

1. Marseilles are French.

2. Olympiacos are a tough proposition in Athens and thus Marseilles are well placed in the group,

3. Marseilles are French

4. Marseilles are French

With little insight into the Greek team I will concentrate upon the Mighty Arsenal. Needless to say we go into the game reduced by injuries. To add to the long term absentees we now have Gervinho, Walcott, Bennie, Miquel, Djourou and more importantly Koscielny injured.

Wenger appears to be forced into playing Song alongside the BFG (Mertesacker) but by doing so we lose our best midfielder.

I would like to see Santos get another game tonight, he must be raring to get his AFC career started and despite having played well recently Gibbs, as we all know, is made of glass.

Up front we have options for the first time in ages. Should we play 4-3-3 expect to see the Ox to get his first start and how exciting will that be? Arshavin or Ryo on the left? AA for me, we need to be on the front foot for this game.

My Team:

I have concerns about the number of games being played by Ramsey especially in light of the upcoming trip to WHL. Perhaps AW will give him a rest and play  Coquelin and Frimpong  in midfield, as it is I expect Frimpong to start.  This is a game made for our friend Abou Diaby, he is sorely missed (IMO).

The same could be said of Van Persie but he has become so important to the team that he must start, hopefully we will be a coasting on the hour and Chamakh can continue to get some pitch time.

Athens has been continuously inhabited for more than 7000 years (London has a measly 2000 year history). Athenians and ancient Greeks have gifted the world many wonders, among them – democracy, astrology, biology, mathematics, physics and the theatre, but for all their marvels they didn’t invent football, did they?

This is a tie we are expected to win and is probably our easiest fixture in the CL, anything less than 3 points will be costly,

Champions League campaigns may come and go but Arsenal are Forever and Ever 🙂

COYRRG

Big Raddy


A Perisickening End

September 14, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

A trip to the German Champions in their mighty fortress was always going to be a difficult game. We went with a team that is still getting to know each other’s first names so the writing was on the wall and every pundit pre match was predicting we would be lucky to escape with a draw.

Dortmund started brightly dominating possession and exploiting our high line and Per’s lack of pace, they were full of running and the little wizard Goetze was at the heart of most things good from them. Through poor finishing and committed defending we managed to keep them at bay and slowly get ourselves in to the match. The best chance during this spell came from a poor touch by Gibbs seized upon by Goetze who played a lovely reverse pass to Lewandowski who rounded Szczesny but Sagna had covered well and cleared off the line.

Arsenal were creating problems for themselves, the ball was sticking in the midfield when pressure needed to be relieved, a number of players (one of the main culprits Gibbs) were pushing the ball backwards and sideways rather than looking forward and Dortmund were swarming in numbers to win back possession in the defensive third. At times I would just like to see us punt the ball out of defence and into the other half of the pitch.

The period was not without its chances for Arsenal though, Gervinho denied by a last second tackle by Hummels whilst waiting for the ball to drop, after switching wings Gevinho released Theo but unfortunately his first touch took the ball too far and towards Hummels, a better first touch and he would have had options to play in Van Persie or play for the penalty with his second touch.

Benayoun looked to set Gervinho away, the ball was cleared straight back to the Israeli who reacted to push another pass to Van Persie who forced the keeper into a save at his near post.

Finally the deadlock was broken, Dortmund were guilty of slowly playing out from the back, Van Persie hassled for the ball and touched it to Theo, Theo seized on the opportunity to push forward and played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Van Persie who composed himself picked his spot and put us one nil up with two or three minutes of the half remaining.

The second half started in much the same way as the first with Dortmund pressing with and without the ball but Arsenal seemed to withstand the pressure better, the ball was being played longer from midfield to attack and between Theo, Gervinho and Van Persie the ball was staying up the pitch for longer which meant the defence was given a much needed rest to regroup and reorganise.

During this spell we forced a couple of free kicks but unfortunately neither Arteta or Walcott could produce a telling strike.

Dortmund slowly got themselves back on the front foot and were mounting large periods of possession in the Arsenal defensive third. For the most part the team stood firm, Koscielny, Song, and Sagna all getting involved in good blocks or tackles, Mertesacker winning high balls and when the ball did break through the defence Szczesny was there to provide the final barrier.

During this period the two of the new signings, Arteta and Benayoun, provided good work-rate they covered runs made tackles and won free kicks when they could easily have lost possession. Their commitment to the harder parts of the game was good to see from players who some would possibly regard as flair players. Their energy meant that Song could stay more central and provide a screen to the centre backs.

Trying to steady the ship young Frimpong replaced Walcott and Benayoun went out to left midfield, soon after Benayoun was moved on to the right as Gervinho was replaced by Santos and Chamakh came on for the tiring Van Persie.

These changes restricted any forward movement so it was going to be backs to the wall for the last ten minutes or so. The Dortmund pressure was calmly dealt with by our defence and the clean sheet was looking good.

Unfortunately it couldn’t last from a passage of triangle passing between Benayoun, Arteta and Frimpong who had no forward outlet the ball was lost resulting in Song conceding a free kick to stop a breakway. Gibbs rose well to head away the firmly delivered set piece but the ball looped out to Perisic who struck an unstoppable volley into the top right corner. There was simply no legislating for that strike, the harshest critic will say that too many red shirts had got sucked into the area and the Dortmund players on the edge of the box were left unattended.

There was still time for Szczesny to be called into action once more as he spread himself at the feet of Lewandowski to prevent a Dortmund winner.

So a point away from home in the Champions League in the bag and some valuable lessons learned about our strengths and weaknesses.

For me the team still has some gelling to do, hopefully three days training together before the visit to Blackburn will give the players the chance to at least learn each others names and maybe even how each other likes to play, that presently is our weakness.

As for strength, well tonight there seemed to be something that I haven’t seen for a while certainly not in the latter stages of last season, players were taking responsibility, Szczesny was grabbing bodies at corners and telling them where to stand, Benayoun and Arteta were working hard tracking back to win the ball back and put themselves where it hurts. Spurred on by this Van Persie was tracking back deep into his own half. From the ashes I think a team is rising, a slightly different team, one with a different mentality, one prepared to fight, one prepared to do what it takes to win. The future is looking brighter every game.

Ratings:

I don’t normally like ratings but today I thought I would give some as I thought a few players deserved mention that I could not put fit in the report.

Szczesny – 8 Solid start to finish, calm and composed, confident claiming high balls and some important saves.

Gibbs – 6 For me our weakest player tonight, too often turning back inside with nowhere to go when in possession, and dereliction of defensive duties for most of the first half allowing runners to get away too easily

Sagna – 7 Mr Dependable, as ever, solid in the tackle careful with possession, but did not offer as much going forward as he normally does.

Koscielny – 8 Despite some wayward passing in the early stages I thought he stood firm against a very talented Dortmund attack, made many good interceptions and tackles, was strong in the air, took a mighty thump to the head from Sagna and Subotic combined but just gets on with little complaint.

Mertesacker – 6.5 His pace was exposed on occasion when they played around him on the floor, but when they resorted to high balls he came into his own, will suit the bigger teams in the Premier League but we will need Vermaelen and Koscielny when it comes to the trickier attackers of City and the like.

Song – 7.5 Provided the screen as needed (especially in the second half) also retained possession well in both halves, took time to settle in the first half alongside the two new lads.

Arteta – 7 For me he gets a 6 for his first half display and 8 for the second, felt the game passed him by in the first half, but when he started to get hold of the ball and pick the longer passes he provided a good outlet and used it well, second half he put himself on the line in defence and got a nice cut on the head for his trouble.

Benayoun – 7.5 Slightly out performed Arteta, with a better display first half going forward, but most impressed and surprised by his work rate defensively.

Gervinho – 6.5 Too many blind alleys run down, needs to get his head up and use his teammates more, had the chance to lay in Theo when one on one.

Walcott – 6.5 Up until he pushed the assist through he had hardly been in the game, and had been guilty of losing possession too easily. Second half was better but should have used his pace better when he had the opportunity to.

Van Persie – 7.5 The half point is for the goal, otherwise a quiet first half, again much better second half and upped his work rate, I’d prefer him to come off every match on 75 minutes shattered than conserve himself to get through ninety minutes.

Subs, Frimpong, Chamakh and Santos not enough time to rate.

Man of the Match – Koscielny


A R-ight close SHAV IN-creases tension as the Vorm Turns? And Ratings…..

September 11, 2011

Arteta – Bright Start but faded…..

Its September 10th, a New dawn, new beginnings, from the ashes of Project Y’sssh and the dishevelled remains of a team that faced the Old Trafford onslaught, it was  Wengers regrouped band of footballers with a significant number of new recruits, grabbed on the supermarket trolley dash on 31st August, who took to the field, ready to drag Arsenal back to the upper echelons of the premier league………

Per – Slow Steady Start

There was an air of anticipation around the ground, as we all took our seats, Arteta and Mertz were in the Line up and the other new boys all on the bench…..A team selection rightly predicted by many, but from now on perhaps not so easy to predict, so the depth is there…

Little time to get the know the new players as our team returned from around the globe after their international endeavours with goals aplenty scored by our boys…….so they do know where the ball should go………?

Anyway, a bright start to the game saw a Spaniard look composed and assured on the ball, with deft touches and slide passes, he was playing with a smile and a zest about his play.  And the fans had their early voices heard…..

The first chance saw Arteta put Aaron through on goal, but he lost balance and smashed it high and wide. Arsenal continued to press and knock the  ball around. But the next best chance was seized by the Swans…….

A delightful cross in from the right from agustien, as Danny Graham attacked the six yard box (please note this arsenal), got in front of Per and stabbed it to the bottom corner, wrong footed, off balance and his eyes closed, ok that bit was made up, Szczesny somehow got down to his left to produce a stunning save…….

Arsenal kept up the initial pace of the game with the lively Arshavin releasing the ball through the middle to Theo who came from the right, Theo managed to squeeze the ball goal bound under Vorm, as it edged towards the goal, Caulker cleared the ball away…

Arsenal continued to move the ball around, but it lacked real zip and the movement in the final third was poor, as chances were few and far between. Frimpong back from suspension showed heart and the fight for a battle, had a dig from range, but it was dragged wide.

Gradually Swansea became more dangerous as their confidence grew with Dyer and Sinclair causing problems with their pace and directness, arsenal struggled to gel as a team. Another cross flashed across the 6 yard area, Graham nearly getting his head on it, with arsenal defence static Gibbs nearly steering in his own net as the ball came at him.

As we moved close to half time, no player really was standing out for Arsenal, Arshavin was certainly been more involved than of late and couldn’t have been lambasted for his usual laziness, as he chased and harried every ball, soon he got his reward.

Frimpong, passed into Theo with his back to goal, who turned inside to his right and done two men on the edge of the area, but flashed his shot high and wide with his left, a deflection looped the ball up high and as it edged towards the corner, Vorm collected the ball and rolled it out, but it hit the heels of the swan defender Rangel, Arshavin turned and with his left peg, curled a sweet shot into the empty and inviting net……..

Second half started lively with both sides knocking the ball about, but both lacked penetration. Sinclair raced towards goal; he tried to evade Kosceinly who scythed him down, yellow card. Sinclair’s free kick hit the bar and over.

Moments later, Arsenal moved forward down the left, Arshavin played into RVP, who took the ball with two players in close quarters, he shrugged them off and turned to his left and across the goal and unleashed a curler to the far right post which he clipped.

Arshavin came off for Benayoun on 63, which considering it was his best performance for a while was unfortunate.

Arteta, played the ball out wide to Sagna, who moved forward and curled the ball across the goal, just nobody attacking the box, Van Persie just too late……

Frimpong was replaced by Coquelin on 75; quickly he got into the game, he reads the game well, and he worked hard to close down players. On 81 Van Persie was taken off for Chamakh, which was a strange one, but later at the end, RVP limped as he walked on the pitch to applaud the fans, so maybe a precautionary move?.

Chamakh almost had an immediate impact; a long ball from Koscielny was headed back to Ramsey, who fed Gibbs on the left, who crossed perfectly first time, Chamakh rose, good contact but straight at Vorm.

In the last few minutes, Swansea pressed and won some corners and from one of them, the ball broke for Graham, who turned and couldn’t keep his shot down and fired over from 5yards…..

Overall:

So we end with 11 men, no bad ref decisions against us and we get a little bit of luck for a change, so has the Vorm turned?

Well it’s a win, a clean sheet and 3points. Important not to drop points, especially with the pressure at the end of the match, nervous but we didn’t concede a sloppy goal which was a trade mark last season.

Fair play to Swansea, they played well and looked good at times, need to find the scoring touch soon to stay in this league, but we are not prolific!!! My only gripe was way too many players went to ground holding their heads………

Ratings:

Wenger: 7:

Picked a team, most of us picked beforehand but 3 points so cannot mark down too harsh. I would love to know what instructions he sends Theo out with, his play no way as effective as against Udinese. Standard substitutions, didn’t improve the game, as we lost our shape, allowing and inviting pressure.

Szczesny: 8: Just for that save, which truly was world class, Number 1?, commands the box and is more considered with his distribution now.

Sagna: 7: Not spectacular but dependable and solid, Sinclair will cause problems for who ever he faces. Got forward well.

Koscienly: 7: Reads the game well, under rated for me, I’ll say as always, he just lacks aggression for me. Rightly booked

Mertesacker: 6: Steady and slow start, little time to acclimatise to premier league so will mention a couple of good tackles he made.  My big concern was he didn’t attack the ball enough and use his height effectively

Gibbs: 6.5: offensively was probably better with some good crosses, but again he failed at times to attack the ball in defence, one very notably near the end that could hav cost us. Positionally naïve or still learning? Needs to up his game or Santos will be coming early this year……..

Frimpong: 6: Heart and fight, plenty of drive, his effort alone endears him to the crowd, a favourite of mine already. But his passing was poor. Although when he gets it wrong he chases till he gets it back…..Young and will be a stalwart for years…….Tired towards the end, before been subbed.

Ramsey: 7: Heard some comments knocking his performance, thought he did well, looked for the ball and moved us forward. Had an early chance that he blasted wide. Never hid and worked tirelessly. Heard someone say he isn’t good enough for Arsenal, balderdash…….have a word…….

Arteta: 7: Really lively start, probing and laying off deft touches, a Spaniard orchestrating the midfield, he is his own man and he will do well for us. Hacked down several times, showed that he was seen as dangerous by the swans. Dropped off in the 2nd half as our shape went apples and pears……

Arshavin: 8:  A much better performance, worked hard and close down defenders, always looking and probing. Definitely not a lazy boy today…….Took his goal well, it might have been an open net, but most would have missed that from that angle. Went off before 65 as usual….Just gets my MotM for his goal and work rate.

Walcott: 7:   A crowd splitter, he tends to frustrate more than he excites, but just what he instructions does he get? The team doesn’t aid him and he is not suited to balls in tight areas to his feet. I will defend him, but I agree without pace he wouldn’t be as useful, but he has pace so that statement is pointless, he does give us an outlet, he needs to become consistent to realise his full potential. But I would say, he has an Ox breathing down his neck…… I know quite a few will disagree with me but for all his knockers, he did more than Van Persie.

Van Persie: 6: Didn’t get involved enough, if he plays point, he needs to attack the area with more vigour. Great shot in the 2nd half that hit the post. Subbed late on, took a knock? Play him in the hole…….

Subs:

Benayoun: 6: Lively

Coquelin: 6: Tenacious

Chamakh: 6: Had a header, but little time.

Next up:  Dortmund……….Champions league, we need a better shape and more movement in the final 3rd. Defenders need to attack the ball and not let it bounce. With Gervinho and Song back in the team, we will step it up again……..

End Note: Condolences to Brendon Rodgers, Swansea Manager, whose father died on Friday.

Written by Harry


How many Spurs players would get in Arsenal’s First X1?

April 21, 2011
Sorry all, Rasp and I are really busy today, we haven’t been offered a match report but BigRaddy wrote this before he went away so it would be churlish not to use it for discussion today following last night’s thrilling 3-3 at the lane.

We had some fun recently with a post discussing how many Man Utd players would fit into our team playing in the same formation as Mr Wenger employs.

Today I will do the same with Tottenham Hotspur :-

Szczesny v Gomez.

We missed our young Pole during his injury, his influence over the defence in such a short time is profound. He bosses the area in a way we have missed since Mad Jens and Seamo. Gomez is flaky, there is no other word for him. He can be excellent – a fine shot stopper and dominates at set pieces but he is prone to regular lapses of judgement. Given that our lad has so far only made one glaring error (and I blame Koscielny for that), it’s the Pole in Goal.

Sagna v Corluka.

Sagna has returned to the reliability he showed a couple of seasons ago and IMO is the best RB in the country. Corluka is a fine player, has good ball skills, a decent engine and can cover at CB, but he is not as good as Sagna.

Clichy v Assou Ekotto

Gael has his critics but remains an excellent full back. Ekotto has a loyal fanbase amongst Spurs fans and has been very good whenever I have seen him. Clichy is the better attacking player and apart from his weekly lapses in concentration is the better tackler.

Centre Backs

It is hard to establish just who are Spurs first choice CB’s. Woodgate and King are fine defenders, in fact The Master (TH14) has said that King is the best defender he played against. But they are permanently injured. This leaves Gallas, Dawson and Kaboul and for the sake of discussion I will drop Kaboul.

Is Gallas as good as Djourou? In his prime certainly, but one must ask why Mr Wenger chose to sell him to our local rivals; obviously because he believes he has better replacements, and a fit JD is a wonderful CB.

Dawson v Koscielny is not so clearly defined. IMO Dawson is the best English CB, I would have liked to see him in an Arsenal shirt, but Kos has the makings of a great player and an Arsenal legend. In his first season he has made silly mistakes but which player hasn’t? Koscielny gets the shirt because he is  better at passing and driving forward the team.

Midfield.

Again it is difficult to decide upon Spurs first choice midfield. Like us they have a glut of quality players but unlike us they have no set go to 4  players. I will choose Modric, Huddlestone, Van de Vaart and Bale. Probably more attacking than Harry would choose as he often plays 2 DM’s (he has Palacios, Huddlestone, Krancjar, Jenas, Pienaar and Sandro to choose from!)

Song v Huddlestone

Easy choice really. Song is amongst the finest young DM’s in world football. He has improved so rapidly over the past 2 years that we noticeably miss him when he is injured. He has a fantastic first touch, good engine, is a decent tackler and is good aerially. Song’s main fault is that he can get too adventurous and in trying to get back to defend makes rash tackles – he has picked up numerous yellow cards this season without making one really dirty tackle. Huddlestone, according to my Spurs mad nephew, is an integral part of both Spurs and England’s future. He too has made huge strides in his career; capable of playing an accurate and intuitive long pass and assisting defensively, he is one to watch – but he is just not as good as Song, and nor are any of Spurs other DM’s

Fabregas v Modric.

We all know the answer to this! Cesc is a genius; the best creative MF in the PL and a World Cup winner. Modric has had a fantastic season and it would be no exaggeration to say that I am sure Mr Wenger would have liked to sign him; phenomenal energy, a perceptive passer, excellent ball control and a player who knows no fear. But sadly not in Fab’s league.

Wilshere v Van der Vaart.

When playing this parlour game there are inevitably clashes that don’t really gel, and this is one of them. VdV doesn’t play the same game as JW. However, if one had to choose a player for our team I would certainly take the reliability of Wilshere. He turns up every game and gives his all whereas VdV goes missing which I guess is why Real sold him so cheaply.

Nasri v Bale.

Both fine players. Both at the start of their careers. Both up for Player of the Year. They have different skill sets which work very well for their teams. Bale could add what we lack on the left of our attack – pace, but Nasri is a better ball player and can beat a player by looking at him. Nasri scores more goals. Bale is the better defender.  I was going to give the shirt to the least ugly player but they are equal in this area as well. I will take a rain-check ….

Walcott v Lennon

Lennon – ugly, no final ball, phenomenal pace. Theo . good looking, developing tactical awareness, even faster. Capello prefers Theo, so do I.

RvP v Defoe/Crouch/Pav.

Robin is better than all of them. True, Crouch is better in the air. Other than that the Dutchman has it all and would prove it if he could stay fit for a season.

Manager:

Wenger v Redknapp.

Credit where credit is due. Harry has done a wonderful job at Spurs. Taking a team that was threatened with relegation to the Champions League in such a short space of time is a great achievement. Had it not been for economic reasons Redknapp would be England Manager and I am sure that if wants it  he will be after the Euro’s. But check out the Trophy Cabinet. Harry –  1 x FA Cup. Mr Wenger  – 4 x FAC. 3 xPL . French League and Cup, Japanese League and Cup.   Mr Wenger OBE voted World Manager of the Decade.  Mr. Redknapp  – Zip.

So the team looks like this:

Szczesny

Sagna   Djourou  Koscielny  Clichy

Song   Fabregas  Wilshere   Nasri

Walcott  Van Persie

Managed by Mr Arsene Wenger OBE

Why no Bale? Because he is so prone to injury, and he is a throwback.

Why no Spurs players?  Check out the table since 94/5

And this site is called Arsenal Arsenal not Dear Mr. Levy ……


Arsenal to clean up Blackburn

April 2, 2011

Ready for a rant?

I have developed an irrational dislike of Blackburn Rovers. Firstly, there’s the name …. Rovers. Where do they rove,? Has Gamst Pederson roved and if so why wasn’t he arrested in the act of roving?  Blackburn, so named because it is dirty, the civil buildings are swathed in soot and the street urchins have a clear dislike of water (before I am accused of Northern-ism, I have spent many happy weekends in the town).

Then there is their football. Perhaps the club thought loaning out the odious Hadji Diouf would improve their image, but they ruined that by sacking Fat Sam in a manner which turned all the pundits against them. Installing an untried (and cheaper) manager they now face the prospect of relegation , and other than their fans, I believe you would struggle to find anyone who will be sorry to see them decline. How one can take a team full of fine footballers and turn them into the tedious, mundane cloggers seen week in week out at Ewood is a mystery known only to their manager and the Chicken men.

Seriously, if Arsene Wenger OBE managed Blackburn they would be a top 8 side. Look at the talent at their disposal. In defence, an England GK, the New Zealand Captain Nelsen, the monstrous Samba, Martin Olsson, who is getting rave reviews in Scandanavia, and the enormous experience of Salgado (over 250 games for Real Madrid). In midfield, the creativity and graft of Gamst, Emerton and Dunn. Upfront, the pace of Benjani, and MU’s young Diouf, allied to the height and movement of Santa Cruz. This SHOULD be a decent team – but they are not.

And why not? Perhaps a Blackburn fan could tell us (if they read this far without closing the page in fury).

Now I dislike Fat Sam as much as the next man, to me he is the antithesis of Wengerball, a man who believes in the Charles Hughes school of long ball, aggressive football, but whatever one thinks of him, he did a damned sight better job with this team than the current dummy whose only recommendation appears to be that he is Scottish…

John Jensen is Keen’s no.2. arriving after a disastrous time as manager of Randers in Denmark  (9 losses and 2 draws in 11 games). How on earth do these guys get their highly paid jobs??   Oh, & I was there when Jensen scored!

Enough of Blackburn, let us move onto the men in the white hats.

2 weeks break and a return to the first team for 3 players who have been sorely missed: Song, Cesc and Theo.  It appears all the players who went away on International duty have returned fit, even Chocolate Legs, so apart from the difficulties at CB and in goal, we have a proper team.

Big words those …. “apart from“…… The success of this season will turn upon the strength of our defence. We have no difficulties scoring, especially when Theo and Cesc are both fit and firing.  If Almunia and Squillaci find a decent run of form and Kosciely continues his improvement, I believe we will win the title,. The return of the very influential Song should add some much needed defensive security, but ultimately it will be the CB’s and in particular the GK who will come under immense pressure, because every T, D & H knows they are fallible.

My team:

We should even be able to have a very strong bench (apart from CB).

I expect Arsenal to come out very fast and attempt to win the game in the first 20 minutes. If we score early, B’burn are doomed. However, after the recent frustrations, a poor first half will have a detrimental effect upon the faithful and the tension will mount. That said, I am confident of 3 points.

Big Raddy is very much looking forward to meeting fellow AA’ers today and will raise a glass to absent friends.

To The Tavern …..

COYRRG