Gervinho: Gooner or Goner?

June 2, 2013

There are persistent rumours in the media that Gervinho is close to the exit door at The Emirates. Should he be sold?

Can you remember a more infuriating player than our spindly Ivorian? Here we have a player with truly consummate skills – he has great pace, can beat 3 players with a shrug, can create space for himself in seemingly impossible situations, can play on both wings and given chances, he scores. So why isn’t The Mekon a first choice player, and why hasn’t he flourished in a team where his talents appear to fit?

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Seems like a Nice Boy

I should start with this statement. I really like Gervinho, he has a wonderful smile, he makes me laugh and he appears proud to wear the shirt. There was excitement when he signed for us at what seemed a reasonable price of £11m; he had just gone through a fine season with Lille, scoring 18 goals in a season where Lille surprisingly won Ligue 1. Gervinho , who scored  28 goals in 68 appearances for Lille was much in demand with Athletico Madrid , PSG and others seeking his talents, but he chose Arsenal – probably thanks to the Mr Wenger attraction in France (and PL money!)

Sent off in his first game for trying to take  a swipe at the hideous Joey Barton (you should have decked him).  His first season was interrupted by a trip to the African CoN but a return of just 4 goals from 26 starts and 11 subs apps was sub-standard. It appeared that if you put Gervinho 3 yards from goal and asked him to shoot he would either miss the ball or miss the target -…… cow’s arse/banjo.

2012/13 was better. His confidence was raised by getting some lucky strikes but the ACoN once again deprived Arsenal of his services. At season’s end Gerv had made 18 starts (+8 subs) scoring 7 goals. An improvement but still unsatisfactory.

Onto the negatives. We are not as solid defensively when Gervinho plays. He does work hard to track back but tackles like a wet paper bag; his crossing is poor – actually worse than poor, his passing is fine at close quarters but not so dusty over distance and his finishing is as clinical as a blind dentist. Mr Wenger seems to have decided that his attacking left sided player is Podolski.

Mr Wenger has tried to play Gervinho on the right, on the left, given him the centre forward role, played him as shadow striker, tried to teach him to defend, tried to teach him to cross – nothing has really succeeded. Gervinho remains an anomaly – good at many trades, master of none.

However, Gervinho has improved; as a substitute remains a positive force giving defenders problems whenever he comes on but is that enough to keep him at Arsenal? In the likely event of Mr Wenger buying a striker what happens to Gerv? Would Arsenal be better off selling him and giving opportunities to O-C, Gnabry,  Myachi etc

For me a Goner and not a Gooner.

Big Raddy


Time For The Pod To Shine At Number 9?

May 1, 2013

This is a topic I have had on my mind for some time now and stems from Arsène Wengers apparent reluctance to try Podolski in the number 9 role. I believe he played this role once at the start of the season, (perhaps against Sunderland?), and since then, when he has played, he has been utilised from the attacking left, which often leaves him playing more like an orthodox winger. I personally feel that Podolski is “ok” from this position but I don’t feel he is what I would qualify as world class. He does, however, seem to have some excellent attributes that could see him progress into the world class bracket as a central striker.

The assertion by many that he is our most natural finisher is something that I would find hard to disagree with, and his statistics before coming to us at both club and international level seem to support this. I have questioned, like many, why Arsene has not played him in the number 9 role. One must assume that having tried him in that role earlier on this season, and then looking at him closer in training, that Arsene recognised certain deficiencies that would not allow him, at that point, to perform the number 9 role at the very highest level. I would certainly bow my head in this matter to the man that discovered Anelka, developed Robin Van Persie into a world class striker, and way and above everything else, gave us the great Thierry Henry. That is evidence enough that our esteemed manager knows a world class striker, or potential world class striker, when he sees one.

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When the ball lands at Podolski’s left foot in dangerous areas he looks as good a finisher as any other world class forward you could care to name at the moment, so what is stopping him from claiming this role as first choice for the club. Podolski’s shortcomings for this role we can maybe only hypothesise upon. Speculating, I would consider that maybe he is too one footed and needs to develop his finishing ability more with the right foot as we saw with a certain traitorous Dutchman over the last few years. Maybe Arsene doesn’t feel he yet has the instinct in the runs he makes and the positions he takes up in the box, so that rather than create the opportunity with a well timed run, he is still overly reliant on the ball arriving at his feet without having to move too much. It could be that in our system, that would see him lead the line without a recognised central number 10 partner, that Arsene doesn’t feel he yet has the ability to hold the ball up when required and therefore link his team-mates into the attacking play.

The recent reports, allegedly directly from Arsenes own mouth, that he is working hard with Podolski in training to convert him into that prolific number 9 seems to indicate that Arsene both sees and believes that Podolski can fulfil this role in the long run. The big problem in my mind is that I feel we are in a time sensitive situation with regard to our forward department. I don’t believe we can enter next season without a ready made world class forward line, and for me the number 9 position is a key area where we are behind our top club rivals at present.

I think that more than at any other time in our recent history this is the critical summer where we shouldn’t enter the campaign with such an important area of the team still being a work in progress. I personally like Giroud, who I think has had a decent first season and feel he will still improve further, but I don’t see him being able to become a world class number 9. In direct comparison to Cavani, Falcao, Lewandowski and the great TH14 can anyone actually hand on heart say that Giroud will achieve that level? I can’t, and I view Giroud’s long term future with us as a second choice number 9 or impact sub.

We are heavily linked with Jovetic. Now this is a player I like and hope we get. I feel he will bring an extra dimension to our attacking department, but once again I don’t see him as a number 9. He looks to me to be an attacking central or attacking wide player. If anything he is likely to take up the

attacking left sided role that Podolski currently plays, which would leave Lukas somewhat redundant with regard to this position. That leaves the question of whether we have the answer within our own squad for the world class number 9 role in Podolski, or is it an area where we need to dip into the transfer market for this summer.

Worryingly for me, and obviously also for Podolski, is that aside from Giroud AW seems to prefer Gervinho in the role. Despite scoring a couple of goals more recently I don’t see Gervinho as becoming a world class number 9. Podolski conversely, I feel, has the natural attributes that Gervinho doesn’t, that would allow him to be a 25 a season striker. I think Arsene’s deployment of Podolski over the last four games will tell us much. If he continues to use Giroud, and Gervinho in his absence, in that role rather than Podolski I feel the writing could be somewhat on the wall.

If we don’t see Podolski play the role before the end of the season I would surmise that it means Arsene doesn’t feel he is ready. If he is not ready now then I don’t see him being ready for the start of next season because I don’t personally feel that the pre-season period would see a seismic shift in his development. Securing players like Cavani, Falcao, and Lewandowski will neither be cheap nor easy. Many of the other top clubs seem to be circling for these 3. Maybe more realistic alternatives would be one of either Benzema or Higuain from Madrid. If Jovetic does arrive I can only really see it meaning one of two things for Lukas, and that is that he either becomes the clubs first choice number 9 or………

I can see one possible way that we could bring in Jovetic and still keep Podolski even if he is still a season away from being ready to be first choice number 9 on a permanent basis. That would be by bringing in an over 30 ready made world class forward that could still do the job at this level over the next couple of seasons. Only one name springs to mind for me and that is David Villa. If Arsene truly believes that Podolski has what it takes but just not quite yet, then this is an option that I would not turn my nose up at.

Written by GoonerB


A Fair Result or One We Got Away With?

April 14, 2013

I think the answer to that is a bit of both. Across 90 minutes on the balance of play, possession and opportunities carved out I don’t think that 3-1 over-flattered us. That we were still 1-0 down going into the 84th minute does leave a certain feeling of having got away with this one though. I will, however, look at the positives that we kept fighting and pressing and that this is a very important trait that I see increasingly in this squad, which should hold us in good stead for the future.

Pod v norwich

Early on we dominated possession and carved out a couple of decent openings. I thought some of our old failings of overplaying it and taking one too many passes rather than taking the shot at the right time was in evidence. The pitch was becoming slick from the rain and seemed to be begging players to hit hard low shots that could spin up off the pitch and cause their keeper problems. When we did shoot it seemed to be 2-3 passes too late and the shot became predictable.

Giroud headed onto the bar from a Sagna cross early on but our best chance of the first half was when Gervinho was put through one on one with their keeper courtesy of a slide rule pass from Santi. As their keeper came out Gervinho, rightly in my opinion, opted to go round the keeper but took far too heavy a touch which took him too wide and narrowed the angle. He still came close to finding the net but the ball went just wide of the far post. It would have been a tap in for any player following up and I thought Giroud was slightly guilty of ball watching. If you look at it again he jogs along watching Gervinho and suddenly realises too late he ought to be sprinting into the box. I think he could have got there had he instinctively set off at full pace the moment Gervinho was put through.

The second half seemed to continue where the first left off and we weren’t capitalising on our dominance in possession and territory and you just had a feeling what was coming next. Norwich had hardly troubled our goal but once again the old set piece goal against the run of play undid us on the 56th minute. I was seated behind the goal and remember looking at Turner and thinking I hope one of our bigger lads gets tight to him because he is a big chap and has a history of scoring from set pieces. The fact that arguably their most dangerous player at set pieces ended up getting a free unchallenged header reopens the debate about the merits of zonal marking.

I had to watch MOTD to get an extra feel for the game as it is easy to miss a lot when you sit directly behind the goal. I wanted to have a look at the lead up to the free kick and on initial evidence it looked like their player tripped over his own feet so I waited for the replay and the better camera angle to get a better idea but do you think MOTD were interested in looking at a potential injustice against Arsenal that resulted in a goal?

Gervinho and Jack hadn’t really been at the races in this game and Arsene waited another 4 minutes before subbing them for Walcott and Podolski. I felt it gave us a boost with Walcott causing immediate problems down the right and arguably our most natural finisher sniffing around their box. It didn’t take too long before a decent passing move saw Podolski clear and he smashed his shot against the bar. The equalising goal was still eluding us however and Arsene replaced Sagna with the Ox on the 80th minute for an all out assault on their goal. His introduction in addition to the other 2 subs did the trick and we all of a sudden looked far more direct and penetrative.

The equaliser came from a slightly controversial penalty decision. This time MOTD decided to make a real song and dance about it and funnily enough the pro Spurs Lineker, the just behind us in the league and soon to be playing us Everton manager, and the perennially Arsenal disliking Hanson all shouted injustice against Norwich. Keown showed in a close up that although they both grappled a bit the defender did indeed initiate the grabbing of Girouds shirt and clearly pulled him down. The ref should have seen it but didn’t and the linesman correctly spotted it from a greater distance. Well done to him I said as David Moyes, possibly with some ulterior psychological motive, intimated we had been thrown an incorrect decision. Anyway Arteta coolly slotted home and it was 1-1.

What came next was one of those ends that just makes you smile and, if anything, leave the game even happier than if you had the game sewn up on the hour mark. The players obviously realised the importance of the 3 points and kept pressing and cue 2 excellent goals in the last 2 minutes. Podolski’s goal for me illustrated why we should play him more often as no other Arsenal player has his finishing ability.

Happy gooners

A critical 3 points and on to the tougher fixture of Everton on Tuesday. I think we will have to be more clinical in attack and more solid on the set pieces if we want to get the 3 points in that game. Had it been Everton today I am not so sure we would have got away with it. On to the ratings :-

Fabianski 7 No chance for the goal and didn’t have much to do but made a couple of critical stops when needed.

Sagna 6 Considering we had them mostly pinned back he didn’t seem to offer too much to our offence in this game.

Vermaelen 7 Had a solid game. Not too much defending to be done. Their goal seemed to be a tactical fault of the whole team rather than being down to one individual.

Koscielny 7 Ditto for Kos as with TV.

Gibbs 7.5 First game for a bit and looked good both in attack and defence.

Arteta 7.5 Kept us ticking over and put in a good shift. A cool head when needed for the penalty.

Ramsey 8 My MOTM I thought Rambo had a good game today. He seems to have matured recently and today, despite no individual brilliance, I thought he gave an all action display in the Steven Gerrard mode.

Cazorla 7.5 At times drifted out of the game but whenever we are dangerous or create chances he always seems to have some hand in it.

Wilshere 6 Struggled a bit today after his enforced absence. I am not troubled by this. It is nice that others take up the mantle when it is not happening for him and I think a fit Jack will be important to us for these last games.

Giroud 6.5 Scored a goal and as usual worked tirelessly but seemed a little off the pace of the game today.

Gervinho 6 After a couple of good games he was back to one of his more frustrating performances. It remains to be seen if this is just how it is with him or whether he can turn out the good performances more regularly.

SUBS

Walcott 7 Caused immediate problems to them when he came on and all 3 subs seemed to turn the game back in our favour.

Podolski 7 Scored a good one and crashed another on to the bar. You feel we have a greater goal threat when he gets in and around the opposition box.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain 7 Good direct running and made the second goal with a bit of inspiration.

Written by GoonerB


How to get the Best out of Oxlade-Chamberlain?

March 22, 2013

Mickydidit sparked a conversation about The Ox with this opening ….

““The Ox…..Discuss”
Has he improved?
Best position?In what system?
Out on loan?

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Oz Gunner replied thus …..

“Ox is another toughie Micky! Midfield,wing,AM, Henry like striker…I haven’t the slightest of ideas. I see him becoming a Jovetic type player where his best is playing just off the main striker (god we have a few of those don’t we?!)

Loan? Nah, too good for that now. I think the pressure got to him this season (along with a few niggling injuries). He’ll be better for it though, he’s going to be an absolute gem. Those supporters who have slated him and listed him as ‘deadwood’ should be taken out back and disposed off.”

Whilst Gooner in Exile  had this to say

“I’’m with you Oz, a little high on expectation after end of last season and summer trip to Euro’s which meant late back for pre season, plus those injuries you mention. Plus all change at the club which must be difficult for youngsters who aren’t established. Especially when those players signed are going to take your potential starting spot away.

For me he is similar to Rooney with ball at feet and in terms of power. And I’m not sure Ferguson or England have ever used Rooney to his full potential. Back to goal does not suit them, picking the ball up and running at defenders from the middle third I think both canbe devastating, hence why my suggestion about Wilshere’s ideal position also includes him playing alongside Ox and Santi, they could have an awful lot of fun and all possess different attributes that would complement each other.”

Big Raddy believes that the Ox will have to wait at least another season to become a starting player.The only place I can see him is as Santi cover or on the left wing/midfield, which assumes the relegation of both Gervinho and Podolski.

Quite frankly, I cannot see why Mr Wenger spent so much money buying him when we have such a glut of attacking midfield players. Even allowing for the removal from the squad of the “deadwood” there is no place for OC.

The Ox’s best position appears to be the one Hodgson gives him in the England team – behind the main striker and slightly to the left. but as has been said, this is Podolski or Cazorla’s position in the Arsenal set up.

A loan seems unlikely and as such I predict a long period of riding the pine (on the bench) for young OC. He has huge potential and he clearly loves it at Arsenal but his patience will be tested.

Written by Big Raddy


Redemption Song. Villa pre-view.

February 23, 2013

So now what? Will we continue to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or will Lady Luck give us a lap-dance at the Emirates?

One thing for sure, today will not be a de rigeur victory over a slightly rejuvenated Aston Villa. It seems our team are incapable of simple. Even the 1-0 victories have drama attached.

Unknown

On the back of two defeats, the visit of Aston Villa could be seen as an easy opportunity to remedy some wrongs and allow the team to regain confidence. But AV are very capable of at least drawing today. The threat of Benteke is enough to have our CB’s quaking and both Agbonlahor and N’zogbia have caused us problems in the past. Fortunately Richard Dunne is injured which will stop him injuring one of ours.

Despite the Vonder of Vaar Villa have conceded 50 goals already this season – we will score today, and probably more than one. I think Theo could have one of his better afternoons though Villa will look to sit deep and hope to counter-attack. They have the pace and the power to do so. Ball retention and concentration will be vital

But let’s be quite clear, Arsenal may be in a different class to Bayern Munich but Aston Villa are in a different class to Arsenal; if the footballing gods are with us, we should win comfortably. But they are not …..

Will  Mr Wenger trust Gervinho this afternoon? If he does it will demote Podolski to the bench. Now I like Podolski, I like him much better than I like Gervinho. So my hope is that Gerv is used purely as an impact sub.

Can anyone explain why we persist with playing 4-4-2 at home? I just don’t understand it. Ramsey is a fine player but we desperately need thrust and the man doesn’t have it.

My Team:

arse v villa

Perhaps this would be a game to use Coquelin who has been “knocking on the door” and needs pitch time if he is not to agitate for a transfer in summer. Jack despite being magnificent  needs a rest, I would start Diaby and bring on JW after 70 mins.

Today’s explorer. I am still in shock the Sir Francis Drake got beaten by the Germans. Let us hope that Charles Mason (1728-1786) brings us 3 points today. Mason was born in the Cotswolds, trained as an astronomer, met Dixon and together they created the Mason-Dixon line in USA.

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There are no images of Charles Mason, so I found this Gooner instead

In 1761 he travelled to Sumatra to study the transit of Venus; upon his return to England he met Jeremiah Dixon. Together they surveyed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This was important because it became the dividing line between the North-East and Southern states of America. Both men were expert astronomers and surveyors, both became members of the Royal Society. Mason died n Philadelphia at the age of 58.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy

Ed: I found this image of Charles Mason but can’t vouch for its accuracy – disappointing lack of facial hair …

Charles_Mason


1 nil to the football team …..

February 3, 2013

Some thoughts on the game (some of which I have wantonly culled from comments I posted earlier this morning):

1. Arsenal looked laboured at times, but they held their concentration facing a Stoke side that did virtually nothing with the ball but which held its shape without the ball extremely well. We were too often forced to cross the ball, which only plays into Stoke’s hands, even with Giroud up front and despite the fact that Walcott put in a few very good crosses. It was certainly not a pretty spectacle, but that had everything to do with our opponents. I’m just pleased our players and fans didn’t panic, and stayed focused and patient. The substitutions were made at the perfect time, and being able to introduce a fresh Cazorla and Podolski with 25 minutes to go worked very well. It was good to see some genuine squad rotation, with Cazorla and Podolski starting from the bench.

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2. How the linesman even thought there was a possibility of an offside (whether for Theo or the deflection, if it had come off one of our players) is beyond me, it was clearly not offside. Well done to Chris Foy for putting him right. As for the complaints to the officials, both sides were doing it, so Pulis’s whinge about us being out of order is just one more example of his hypocrisy.

3. Begovic would be an excellent signing as a second choice keeper if we did try and rescue him from his purgatory in the summer. And with Butland joining Stoke then, one of Sorenson and Begovic will surely move.

4. Did anyone notice that Shotton (the new Delap) has a special piece of material fitted in his shirt to substitute for the towel he gets to use at throw-ins at the Britannia?

5. You remember that “Same old Arsenal, always cheating” we routinely get treated to by the enlightened souls of clubs like Stoke? It’s funny, when Matthew Etherington (a player I happen to quite like) dived to the floor right in front of the Stoke fans, to earn Stoke one of their very few attacking opportunities, the Stoke fans didn’t complain. And I don’t seem to hear much from Pulis when his rugged, muscular, it’s-a-man’s-game players dive to the ground in the mode of Filippo Inzaghi. Funny, that………

6. The Stoke time-wasting was ridiculous, starting in the 15th minute. Chris Foy’s laid back approach to refereeing is good in many ways, but there are times when you have to get a grip on cynical behaviour like that. A couple of early yellow cards, for example when right in front of the ref, Huth threw the ball away after fouling Wilshere, and the time-wasting would have ended there. And of course, once Stoke were a goal down, they suddenly started doing everything much more quickly. It was funny to see Ryan Shawcross complain in the 91st minute about the speed we were taking a free-kick. Well Sweet Little Ryan, if you hadn’t wasted so much time in the remainder of the game, you might have been able to get more attacks in when you were chasing the game.

7. As the pundit on Arsenal TV said (was it Stephen Hughes?), Stoke deserved nothing from the game and they got nothing. Playing ten men behind the ball the whole game is pathetic from any team, a real admission of weakness, but from a side that has spent tens of millions of pounds and has qualified for European football, it is even more ridiculous. Of course, it’s up to the opponent to deal with it and break it down, which Arsenal did – 1-0 was a pretty measly scoreline given that we carved open numerous good chances yesterday: as well as the goal, Ox, Kos, Giroud and Cazorla all had excellent chances to score. 3-0 would have been about right.

8. Any right thinking person of course hates Stoke and detests Pulis. So it was enjoyable to read that he’s been whining about unfair treatment, and tried to play the “we’re so poor, we can’t expect to win these games” card. It’s been a source of a lot of frustration for me that the journos lap this stuff up, saying in effect that it’s fine for Stoke to play the style they do, even when it verges on the violent, because they’re a poor, itsy bitsy club. The trouble with that theory is that Pulis has spent vast amounts of money. Stoke are about 6th in the list of spenders over the past five or six seasons, yet are allowed to say they are David to our Goliath. It was therefore good to see on newsnow that someone had done some sums and concluded that Pulis has spent £120m more than Wenger. Not a level playfield? On your bike, you prat, you’ve had an incredibly soft ride and, given the resources available compared with the likes of Swansea, Everton and West Brom, Stoke should be doing much better than they are.

9. In recent weeks, the prices sometimes charged for away fans at Arsenal have become a subject of controversy. Here’s a thought: perhaps the prices should be linked to a creativity index, so that the more creative or engaging the opponent, the cheaper the tickets for their fans. So Stoke would still be able to play their desperate version of the game, but their fans would be financially punished for it, while Swansea’s fans would be able to attend for about £3.50. I’m going to start writing to Ivan Gazidis now.

Some rough and ready ratings:

Szczesny: 7 – For staying awake.

Sagna: 6 – Did nothing wrong but didn’t show a lot when going forward either.

Mertesacker: 6 – Did fine.

Koscielny: 7 – Battled well, including pressing in midfield areas, and had a good effort on goal.

Monreal: 7 – It’s impossible to judge from one game but first impressions are good, especially given that he was playing against a side about as far from Spanish football as one can imagine. He was energetic, good with his passing, judicious about his overlapping runs and always seemed to track back. Of course, yesterday was hardly the most testing of attacking opponents, and we’ll have to see how Monreal goes in the coming weeks, but other than one terrible long-range shot he did well.

Arteta: 8 – Great to see him back, he makes such a difference. His tidy passing from deep in midfield is excellent.

Diaby: 6 – Was OK in the first half but tired early in the second.

Wilshere: 8 – Very sharp, often looked dangerous, his thinking was always ahead of his opponent. And lovely to see tomorrow’s England man tell yesterday’s England man, Michael Owen, where to go after the set-to with Arteta.

Walcott: 7 – Pretty dangerous at times, and managed to get behind the defence a few times. But then he was facing the weakest player Stoke have, Andy Wilkinson, so it would have been disappointing if he’d been completely played out of the game. Walcott clearly felt he wasn’t given enough protection by the referee – I’m not sure about that, we’ve seen worse, and it was a Wilkinson foul on Walcott that earned the free kick from which we scored.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6 – Had some good moments, especially when he had a shot saved well by Begovic, but overall didn’t manage to make too many inroads on Stoke.

Giroud: 6 – As ever, worked hard, but he didn’t have the same impact in terms of lay-offs etc as he has done. Also made a poor choice to chest the ball for someone else when he had a clear chance to have a header on goal from close range.

Cazorla: 8 – Lifted the pace of the game at the perfect moment and found lots of awkward pockets of space. Should have scored when through on goal.

Podolski: 7 – Typically teutonic energy from Poldi. Got the goal of course, albeit via Cameron’s boot.

Ramsey: N/a

Written by 26may89


Hammers Hammered – Report & Player Ratings

January 24, 2013

Five fine goals, free-flowing football and freezing fans fully satisfied.

(Whoops. Sorry about the alliteration. That sentence has more Fs than the ladies’ toilets in an Essex nightclub on Saturday night).

He signed da ting!

He signed da ting!

It would be fair to say that many of us were nervous before the game.

Would the Arsenal who dominated Chelsea for the second half at Stamford Bridge turn up? Or the Arsenal that whimpered and wallied its way through the first half of the same game?

Our inconsistency has been consistent this season and we knew that we could not afford to be off our game against a physical, long ball West Ham managed by the Walrus.

Truth to tell, it was the line in BR’s pre-match about the Hammers having put in 56 crosses in their last game that really caused a clenching of the buttocks. Fifty-six crosses? Given our ability to concede a goal roughly to one in every two crosses into our box, we could be on for a 0 – 28 humiliation.

Thankfully it was the good Arsenal that turned up. Podolski and Ramsey were in the starting line-up in place of Diaby (ill) and Coquelin (injured). The back five was unchanged, Ramsey took up the DM position behind Wilshere and Cazorla. Giroud started through the middle with Podolski left and Walcott right.

We looked threatening and up for it right from the off and created several half chances before, inevitably, West Ham took the lead. The goal followed a couple of annoying officiating errors (a clear corner to us given as a goal kick to West Ham, a clear goal kick to us given as a corner to them).

The said corner came in and was headed clear only to fall at the feet of Collison, who slammed it into the net through a crowd of players from just outside the box. It was powerfully struck and Szczesny was probably partially unsighted, but just once I would like to see him save one of those. I had the same feeling about Mata’s goal last week. Difficult to save, but great ‘keepers get some of them.

Anyway, that’s enough carping for one report, because we refused to let our heads drop or feel sorry for ourselves and hit back just a few minutes later. Wilshere set up Podolski with a wonderful little dink of a pass and the German rifled it into the side netting from about 25 yards with all the venom of Big Bertha (the cannon, not the golf club).

pod goal

At half time it was 1-1. But I don’t think any of us were expecting what happened next.

If we had been pretty good in the first half, we started the second like demons. The lightning-fast, quick-passing, rapid-breaking football that Arsene Wenger patented at Arsenal was suddenly back.

The half had barely started when we were ahead. A corner on our left saw a slick move in which Mertesacker, having taken up a near post position, suddenly sprinted (alright, lumbered) back into the middle of the box and Giroud dashed to replace him. The BFG’s movement confused the Irons’ defence and Giroud was able to reach Walcott’s near post corner first, guiding the ball into the net beautifully off the outside of his boot.

girou

Are we working on corners in training? Or was it just good, intuitive play?

Six minutes later it was 3-1. A neat one-two between Podolski and Giroud led to the German squaring the ball to Cazorla in the six yard box. Santi’s cheeky back heel steered the ball into the net and brought joy and relief to the crowd.

Our attacks were coming in waves now. Fast forward a few minutes and Podolski was provider once again. We broke down the left. Podolski held the ball up intelligently to allow Giroud to stay on side, then fired a low cross right across the penalty area for a flying Walcott to drive home.

And our excellent Number 9 completed his hat trick of assists minutes later when another
low cross was steered into the net adroitly by Giroud (a much harder finish than it first looked).

At 5-1 we continued to attack with panache and probably should have added further to our goal tally. But better than that, we were outstanding on the rare occasions when we did NOT have the ball, pressing West Ham all over the park and forcing them into errors. It was a real template for how we should approach every game.

A serious injury to the Hammers’ Daniel Potts (he appeared to be accidentally caught in the face or head by Sagna) caused a 10 minute delay and although we continued to press hard afterwards, the sight of Potts being stretchered off seemed to suck a bit of the energy out of proceedings. Hopefully the lad is alright. He was applauded off the pitch by both sets of fans (Stoke City Orc Scum fans please take note).

In summary: a brilliant performance and win; the gap on the cave dwellers closed to just four points and, surely, a huge lift to everyone involved with the club moving forward.

Many of us have complained that, too often this season, we have been less than the sum of our parts. Last night our players showed how good they can be and they need to carry this attitude, arrogance and self-belief into the rest of the season.

Player Ratings

Szczesney: Good game but I would like to see him stop somebody’s screamer some time soon (I know GiE will immediately post clips of half a dozen breath taking saves he’s already made in this campaign). 7

Sagna: Still not the old Mr Reliable, but had a better game than he has recently. He seems to have lost all confidence in his ability to cross. 7

Mertesacker: Very solid and brought the ball forward well from the back. 7

Vermaelen: Tommy is slowly but steadily getting his game back together and he, too, was good last night. Despite West Ham being a typical Allardyce team more physically suited to basketball than football, they did not cause us too many problems in the air. 7.5

Gibbs: Super game from Kieran. Good at the back and a thorn in the Hammers’ side all night going forward. 8

Ramsey: Fine job in his preferred midfield role. Worked really hard, passed well and did tons of work off the ball. No Hammer enjoyed paying against him last night. 7.5

Santi-Cazorla: A busy bundle of tricks, took his goal stylishly and contributed greatly to the speed and fluidity of our movement. 8

Wilshere: Our new talisman. Drove us forward throughout the game despite, as usual, beng on the end of several fouls. His energy and inspiration is rubbing off on his team mates. 9 (joint MoTM).

Walcott: He signed da ting, now he’s delivering. He was brave and inventive and forced West Ham onto the back foot. Some wrong options on occasion but he never stopped trying. Took his goal well. 8

Podolski: Three assists and a rocket of a goal. When the Pod is up for it like this he must be terrifying to opposition defenders with his size, speed, strength and the sheer power of his shot, which reminds me of Charlie George. 9 (joint MoTM).

Giroud: Took his two goals brilliantly and had a good all round game, even if sometimes his understanding with team mates was a tad off. 7.5

Subs
Koscielny
: Deputised well for Vermaelen who was removed as a precaution.
Santos: Nice to see Andre get a run out. He’s not as bad as his last outings would have you believe and it can only be good for the squad to have him back and fit.
Oxlade-Chamberlain: Full of running and tricks. Took shots a couple of times when he should have passed, but at 5-1 up who can blame him?

RockyLives


27 and Counting: Man City preview

January 13, 2013

My initial thoughts about today’s game revolve about whether previous season’s games have any relevance to results. It is 27 games since Man City beat us at home – , can this really influence the match? Of course not, though it does give cause for optimism in a weird way for a supporter looking for comfort.

We like City fans (hopefully a couple will join us today) they combine humour with passion, and they really get behind their club. How would we respond if unlimited funds were poured into our club? Would  we despair and wish for “the old Arsenal back?” I think not  – to be able to have a choice of strike force of Balotelli, Tevez, Dzeko, Aguerro and Tevez must give enormous pleasure, and that is without the genius of Silva and Toure. Plus they happen to be the Champions which is fine by me – if it isn’t us let it be MC; better than the Chavs or the Surrey Reds.

Unknown

Don’t leave it so late this time, Mikel

But before I’m overcome by the wonder of City I should recall that we almost beat them in the away leg and did beat them at the Emirates last season. And we are on a long unbeaten run.

I expect a tight game today but City have some absentees (if only we had such a squad!). The Pine Rider is suspended following his pathetic assault  the other week, Toure is at the ACN, Richards, Maicon and Rodwell are injured but MC will still put out a €200m+ team.

For those with a statistical bent this is very interesting …

http://www.london24.com/sport/arsenal/arsenal_v_manchester_city_in_numbers_1_1790584

I have checked a few MC websites and almost to a man they swallow the AW out narrative. Sad but inevitable, especially when some of our own do the same. They are very confident of a win citing our inconsistency and in particular, last week’s away draw.

And what of our form? Questionable is my estimate. We should have won every game in December, instead we dropped relatively easy points – though S’ton’s improved form shows it was not such a disaster.

We have to sort out the midfield – not the personnel but the tactics; asking Arteta to play the defensive screen is not working particularly well, and Podolski looks far better playing further forward . Lukas was poor at St Mary’s – we need more from him.

My Team:

arse v city

I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Ox in place of OG and TW playing centrally but this smacks of negativity. We are at home, OG causes defences problems, Theo is better out wide.

I am looking forward to the Dzeko/BfG match-up. Two fine players.

Onto today’s explorer: Enough of the ice-boys, let’s get horticultural. One of our greatest unsung collectors and explorers came from the sunny climes of Cornwall: William Lobb (1809 – 1864).

Lobb spent his life collecting in South and North America walking thousands of miles through jungle, desert and mountains. His collection of seeds changed the face of the British (and European) countryside we see today. Lobb brought back: The Monkey Puzzle tree, The Wellington Sequioa, Delphiniums, the Douglas Fir  (plus lots of other fir and pine trees), countless flowers, the myrtle tree, some cedars and the barberis shrub.. He died in San Francisco from syphilis (hey, it happens!!).

images

Mr Lobb. Ozzy Ardilles Dad??

Today’s game has been written up as vital. Perhaps, but given our inconsistency who is to say that after beating the Champions we will not drop points to QPR? My point being that all the games are “vital” – they all offer the same number of points and let’s be brutally honest, how many of you expect us to challenge Man City for the title?

My hope is for an attacking, entertaining game and one in which we “play with the hand break off,” Oh, and no injuries or red cards and a loony (goal-less) cameo from the wonderful Balotelli.

Written by Big Raddy


Santi gets his Claws into Reading

December 18, 2012

Nobody seemed prepared to predict the outcome of this one. Would The Arsenal rise from the ashes of the funeral pyre built and torched by the press since the Valley Parade debacle or would they produce another Xmas turkey of a performance?

The line-up seemed bright and attacking with a Pod, Theo, Ox combination up front. Mozart couldn’t find a space on the Conductor’s stand with Santi set to continue baton duties. The bench looked strong with Giroud and Koscielny returning after visiting Abou.

teamsheet

  • Subs  Mannone, Koscielny, Rosicky, Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud, Gervinho

 

Arsenal began the first half in threatening mood. Chamberlain broke away in the 2nd minute, fed Santi then cheekily took the ball off the Spaniard’s toe before unleashing a fierce drive. The first five minutes were all Arsenal with only a key pass in the final third missing.

A superb cross from the Ox needed Podolski to attack the ball. This was one of the few occasions where Arsenal didn’t attack the ball coming into the box which later became a feature of tonight’s performance. Some poor defending was followed by a swift break resulting in a Podolski shot which was blocked.

Reading won a corner on 11 minutes and the deficiencies of zonal marking were clearly exposed as the Reading player attacked the ball and got in front of the static Arteta. Arsenal responded with some fine passing play. The ball went wide to Podolski who slipped the ball on to Gibbs. Podolski continued his run into the area and controlled the ball with his right on to his left, bang. Arsene and Bouldie still looked less than happy. Mind you, you can understand that after the slaughtering they’ve had this past week.

wenger and bould

Cazorla suddenly looked back to his early season form, spraying the ball around and taking pot shots given half a chance. A move involving a particularly delicious through ball to Gibbs breaking down the right, ended with another Podolski effort screwing wide of the goal.

The 21st minute gave Theo the chance to confirm and consolidate his claims to play up top, but he fluffed his lines allowing the Reading keeper to block. At the other end Sir Chez was catching the ‘impossible corners to defend ‘ from Shorey and as a result gave his defence some much-needed confidence.

Arsenal were now slipping into turbo with a great run from The Ox and a Wilshere shot after a bout of pinball in the Reading penalty box. A vague threat from the home team was snuffed out by Vermaelen and Gibbs got in a fine block. Theo found Cazorla at the far post and yet another block meant that Arsenal couldn’t capitalise on a period of virtual total dominance.

A second goal was required to cement Arsenal’s superiority and it duly came in the 32nd minute. Podolski took on his full back (what a lovely sight, that is) and sent in a great cross, Santi stooped to head into the net for a lovely goal. Late runs into the area and players getting on the end of crosses, whatever next.

santis header

A relatively uncommon sight then became the norm as Arsenal now oozed confidence. The third goal came down the right with Theo shifting the ball to give himself space to cross to Gibbs on the back post, arriving late again. Gibbs headed back into the danger zone and Cazorla swivelled to put the Gunners 3 up and cruising.

Jack’s Christmas celebrations may have to be put on hold for a few days as he received an early present of crushed nuts from McAnuff in the 39th minute. There was no malice in the challenge but studs into the groin in December are sure to make the eyes water.

jack gets it in the nuts

 The first half came to a close with an Ox run, some excellent interplay from Gibbs, Wilshere and Walcott and nearly finished with an Ox headed goal from a Sagna cross.

The second half began brightly but Arsenal’s spark seemed to dwindle as the intelligent movement off the ball started to diminish as that horrible casual ‘job done’ streak crept back into our play. We were still creating some chances though, with Theo slipped in by Jack and Santi unlucky not to latch on to the rebound.

A few minutes of Reading revival saw some good command of his area from Szczesny and the BFG was reminiscent of Beckenbauer at times with his calm interceptions and beautifully timed tackles. Even then, Walcott had another great shooting opportunity but the ball went wide.

What we needed was another goal and that’s exactly what we got after more sharp play, Jack to Podolski and a tap in for a well deserved hat trick for the man from the North Pole.

santis hattrick

Theo had a chance to make it 5 but shot straight at the keeper. Then came that moment we all dread as Arsenal fans, coasting at 4-0, Gibbs played a risky ball infield to Wishere, Jack slipped and Reading scored. Only a consolation said the commentators, but you never know.

Arsenal’s foot was well and truly off the pedal by now. If they keep the tempo up it takes the pressure off, relax and even a team whose form is as poor as Reading’s sense some uplift. The second Reading goal was utter garbage from the Gunners. The commentators delighted in reminding us of the day Dowd engineered a Geordie comeback. The options for the man on the ball had dried up and nobody was willing to kick a few backsides.

On 74’ the Ox was subbed for Ramsey. The Ox had been non-existent in the second half. Complacency? Tiredness? I’m not sure but after a fine first half it was disappointing. Bacary looked half-hearted at times going forward then with little effort to get back when the ball was lost. Passes were going backwards in our own half as if we didn’t know whether to stick or bust.

The 80th minute saw my personal prayers answered with a brilliant piece of play from Cazorla and a fine finish from Theo. Theo’s pistols were finally discharged into the Reading net and we could breathe a sigh of relief.

theo scores

A round of substitutions, a Podolski blast and a near thing for substitute Giroud saw the game out for the Gunners. The BFG had time for one last majestic interception and Vermaelen got back well when the Reading player took a fraction too long when clean through.

All in all, a fine way to go into the festive period.Reading weren’t very good opposition but you can only beat the team in front of you, so upwards and onwards to a lunchtime date with Wigan. I’m looking forward to going already. Please can we play like we did in the first half for the whole 90 minutes. Please.

Santi took the ball home after a fine hat trick and man of the match performance.

santi gets the match ball

Ratings

Szczesny– Looked commanding from any aerial threat and didn’t stand much chance with either of the goals……7

Mertesacker – Majestic. Calm and assured, admittedly against a limp attack……8

Vermaelen – Much better from Tommy after his Yorkshire nightmare……7

Sagna – Got forward well, looked a little slack 2nd half and seemed to be arguing with TV5 at the final whistle….7

Gibbs – Supported Podolski really well in the first half. His two assists were balanced out by a poor pass to gift Reading the glimpse of a lifeline. …..7

Wilshere – Jack was excellent in the first half, then seemed to stop showing for the ball once the team believed they’d already won  …..8

Arteta – Effective, reliable. Allows Jack and Santi to play …….8

Cazorla – Magnificent and back to his best with a deserved hat trick …..9

Podolski – Much much better from Lukas. Took his goal superbly and looked dangerous on the left flank with two assists…..8

Walcott – Theo’s pace and subsequent threat seemed to occupy Reading all night. Could have had several more goals. Sign da ting Theo…..7

 The Ox – Great first half. Perhaps he tired in the second. Lovely to see him build as the season progresses…..7

Subs

Giroud – Nearly scored as a late sub….7

Ramsey – Added some drive…..7

Coquelin – Brought on to give Santi a standing ovation …..7

Written by chas


Jack in the Box

November 22, 2012

Morning all, we have two match reports today, the first from GoonerB and the second from RockyLives . Both include their own player ratings. Enjoy.

We ideally wanted a win and to qualify before the last game of the group and we got it. We may not win the group but this is maybe not so important. There are other very good teams looking like they will end up second in their group anyway so the potential for a difficult draw is likely either way. It is a cup competition so anything can happen, and a lot of the play that I saw tonight from our team would give me cause to be very optimistic.

We started rather cautiously as has often seemed to be the case recently. We looked to be a bit too slow and casual with our passing and kept it deep within our defence without any urgency to go forward. Montpelier pressed us quickly and higher up and forced us into mistakes in these areas which seemed to give them an early threat in the game. After about 15 minutes, however, it all changed. We suddenly regained our ethos as an attacking side and, in my opinion, mostly bossed the game from then. I think we are a side that needs to keep a high tempo in a game, and are not so good when we try and slow it down, but that I would throw out to debate amongst yourselves.

I would say that we look so much better when we leave players in advanced positions so we can pass forwards rather than sideways or backwards, and I think this could be the key to this current team reaching the heights we all wish for. The confidence in passing and movement seemed to develop and increase as the game progressed and I really think we have a team on our hands if we can get the best out of them. It obviously requires a fine balance between the defence and the attack, something that has been talked about in recent posts, and I feel that if this can be fine tuned then we may have cause for optimism in the near future.

On to the ratings :-

Szczesny 7

Didn’t have too much to do but came out bravely and snuffed out the threat when their player was through on goal.

Sagna 7

Typical Sagna performance of solidity with regular help in attack. Did get exposed when caught forwards, at one time in particular, but is that an acceptable risk across a whole game with an attacking full-back?

Mertesacker 7

He seems to be the general in defence now. He lacks the pace of TV and LK but seems to read the game better than most, and another solid game from him

Koscielny 7

Was potentially lining up as MOTM till later in the game when he got caught on the ball instead of clearing the danger. It almost cost us. Up until then he was imperious, using his pace to snuff out problems before they even started and bringing the ball out from defence. If he can iron out the errors he is a seriously good defender.

Vermaelen 7

Played out of his best position but did a job for us. It is a nice problem to have in choosing him, LK and the BFG in a starting line up. He is our captain and I expect he will show us why as the season progresses.

Arteta 7

Normal no nonsense highly effective performance from Mr Reliable. Is he the glue that binds it all together?

Wilshere 7

Hard to believe he is still so early in his recovery from a long term injury. He oozes class and, although by his standards this was a good rather than great performance, I think we will be salivating in greater measures in the near future.

Cazorla 8

What to say. Arsene has come up trumps with this fellow. Another great performance pulling the strings. As I have mentioned before, if we can mostly keep him higher up the pitch even when defending, then we will always look a greater attacking threat.

Chamberlain 7

Had a good game if not his greatest and made them worried about him. I love the way he is prepared to run at defenders and commit them.

Podolski 8

It was likely a 7 until the volley. BSR, eat your heart out. He is a natural goal-scorer and for me works hard for the team. I am glad we have him and think we will appreciate him more and more over the next couple of seasons.

Giroud 8 My MOTM

Getting better and better. Didn’t even score tonight but the question is would we have scored without him. Two assists and a constant headache to their defenders. He drops off, works hard, and has very good intelligence and link up play. If we can get the other attacking players working off him more effectively then we may have an attacking force to be reckoned with.

Substitutions

Coquelin 84 for Cazorla. Solid tonight but needs to bide his time to be a regular starter. Maybe a long term replacement for Arteta providing he remains patient.

Ramsey 60 for Chamberlain. Has many detractors but I feel he needs more time for AW and the fans to fully assess him, He has some good strengths and was solid when he came on.

Gervinho 84 for Giroud. Not enough time for me to see what he could do.

Written by GoonerB

As a bonus we have a second match report from Rocky 

We beat Montpellier 2-0.

We’re through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League AGAIN (London and Manchester Oil Corporations please take note).

Here are five big positives I took from last night’s game, most of which I was able to watch despite some dodgy stream issues in the first half:

Clean Sheet

We secured our first clean sheet since the 1-0 win over QPR six games ago. It’s all very well taking the view that it doesn’t matter if the opposition score provided we score more. The reality is that clean sheets breed confidence – not just for the defence, but throughout the whole team. I thought Koscielny was outstanding in defence and showed his speed on numerous occasions to snuff out Montpellier breaks down our left flank, where Vermaelen did OK but did not provide the cover an orthodox left back would have.

Podolski’s Performance

Lucas had as busy a game as we have seen for a long time and capped it off with a fine goal. If he can be as involved on a regular basis he will be a force to be reckoned with. He may want to play down the middle, but Giroud is making that position all his own. However, there is no reason why the Pod can’t come infield at times and act as a second striker – which is exactly what he did for his goal last night.

Santi’s On Song

When we had that short run of games where we considered it rude to create a chance on the opposition goal before the 90th minute, it was instructive that our toothlessness coincided with Santi Cazorla’s early season form tailing off. The good news is that it was just a blip, and after his Man of the Match performance against the Spuds he followed up last night with another display of creativity, tenacity and determination. A quality player.

Jack in the Box

Arsene Wenger reckons it will be Christmas before Jack Wilshere is back to his best. Well, what a present that will be. Last night he showed even more great touches and bursts than he did against the N17 Saddo Society and, best of all, he popped up in the Montpellier penalty area to grab a great goal. People were saying he could be the complete midfielder if he added goals to his game. You always felt it was just a matter of time. Let’s hope last night has set the ball rolling.

Don’t Stop The Momentum

Football is a game where confidence and momentum have a disproportionate effect on a team’s fortunes. After a stop-start season this win – securing our place in the CL knock-out rounds – following on from a resounding derby victory will start to rebuild the optimism we were all feeling after the Liverpool and Manchester City away games. I have always felt the quality of players in our squad was good enough to challenge for big prizes. If they can get on a roll I hope they can prove me right.

What are your positives and negatives from last night’s game?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Player Ratings

Szczesny 7

Not much troubled, but looked secure and confident. He raced out of his goalmouth to tip the ball away from a Montpellier forward’s boot in the first half when it was still 0-0. It was an important moment (about which the unremittingly negative Alan Smith could only say: “That would have been risky if he’d got it wrong”).

Sagna 7

Reliable as ever from Mr Reliable.

Mertesacker 7

Typically sound outing from the BFG. He defended with composure, distributed beautifully and almost dribbled his way through for what would have been our most remarkable goal of the season.

Koscielny 8

He has had a few wobbles recently, but last night Kozzer was back to his best against some very skilful and speedy opponents. Was unlucky not to open the scoring with a powerful header against the crossbar.

Vermaelen 6

Got caught out of position a few times but he did a job for the team in a role that does not fully suit his skills.

Arteta 7

The metronome kept things ticking all game long. If Santi and Jack had good games, it was because Mikel was behind them doing the donkey work.

Wilshire 7

Some fine touches and bursts and a very well taken goal. His understanding with his midfield partners and the forwards is growing visibly.

Cazorla 8

What a player! Creative, imaginative, daring, surprising. A joy to watch. He orchestrated most of our best moments.

Podolski 8.5 (MoTM)

For my money his best outing yet in the famous red and white. He was heavily involved throughout and scored a peach of a volley. He was able to combine some good wing play with cutting inside to form a front two with Giroud. I feel this role suits him as he is not a natural “holder up” of the ball like Giroud so, I feel, would struggle if played as our out and out centre forward. He had a couple of decent goal attempts before he scored. For one of them he perhaps should have passed, but I don’t have a problem with a striker being greedy in front of goal. It makes a change from endless tippy tappy.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 6

Not his best game. He seemed a bit rusty, his passing was off and he drifted inside too much. A learning curve game for a talented young man.

Giroud 8.5

Close call for MoTM. He led the line superbly, made two excellent assists and was a thorn in the Montpellier side all game. He’s a different flavour to the strikers we have become used to under Wenger, but it’s a flavour that I’m developing a taste for and I suspect many other Gooners are too.

Subs

Ramsey 7

Gervinho 7 (one touch, but he didn’t mess it up!)

Coquelin 7

RockyLives