A Serious Test of Mental Strength.

November 5, 2017

If, as so many pundits and even Gooners expect, we get creamed, will I be able to enjoy the excellence of Man City? This is what I woke up to think about, then I had a cup of Builder’s and reconsidered. What if we beat them?

Unlikely but not beyond the realms of imagination.

It has been both alarming and a guilty pleasure watching Guardiola prove the short-termist numbskulls wrong – he is a brilliant manager, the Arsene Wenger of recent years. Admittedly, Pep has the resources of an oil-rich country behind him as he develops a superb side. Sadly, this is the unpalatable future of football; money talks.

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Given the vagaries of our defence have we any hope? Depends upon a few factors. Tactics, personnel, concentration, form and, dare I say it. luck.

Mr. Wenger says we are going to the Ethihad with the intention to attack and not PTB – good. With the current first team we do not have the defensive steel to last 90+ minutes against a team who have such a potent attack. We will see whether AW is telling the truth when we see his team selection; if Coquelin or Elneny start then we are looking to shore up our leaky defence.

If our attackers combine as they did at Goodison we can certainly score goals, especially if Ozil finds space. City’s frailties are on the flanks as their FB’s are very attacking (Walker will cause problems). Had OG played well mid-week I would have given him a start but he didn’t, did he?

Holding, BFG or, if fit, Mustafi? Has to be Holding as MC’s pace upfront could embarrass Mertesacker but as Rob played midweek, it will be our Captain.

My Team: As expected …

Cech

Kos   BFG    Monreal

Bellerin    Ramsey    Xhaka    Kolasinac

Ozil

Lacazette    Sanchez

Where we can match MC is on the bench. We have International players who cannot even ride the pine for AFC.

If both sides play to their potential this will be a terrific game. I would love to have seen the current MC team play the Invincibles – we would have thrashed them. The current team seriously lacks a PV4. It turns out he is irreplaceable.

Pre-game I am excited, let’s hope I am more excited post-game 😀

COYRRG

 

 

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Champions 2017/18?

August 10, 2017

How do you think we will fare this season? Will the strengthening of the squad be enough to propel us to the Title? Will it be enough to regain our Top 4 status?

Here’s what BR thinks (subject to change depending upon results 🙂 )

Let’s look at the opposition, starting with:

Chelsea: We have recently  beaten them twice in two important games and lost a meaningless friendly. We are better than them – full stop. Yes, they may be Champions but I fear for them and doubt they can repeat their mid-season run of form which propelled them to the title. They are lacking in midfield (why sell Matic??), are half the side without Hazard and are about to sell their best attacker. Morata? €60m is a huge gamble on a man who has yet to play a full season in a first team (RM made €30m profit  on him after just 26 games!!).

We will finish above them.

Man City:  Spent a fortune – over €100m on just full backs! Almost €40m on a GK who has yet to gain a full International cap. If their first 11 stay fit and Stones starts to show why he is so highly rated they will do well.

Champions? A team with De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero, Gundogan and Sane will not be far off but somehow, they just don’t do it for me.

Man Utd. Mourinho has to deliver. Winning the Europa was good but not considering the massive investment made in the summer of ’16, Finishing just 6th could have been a sackable offence. Over €150m spent (added to the €165m last summer) makes this a hugely expensive squad. They have managed to recoup less than €10m in sales! MU should have the best squad and if they had a manager who had the slightest intention to entertain we should be happy to see such wonderful talent in the PL BUT they don’t, and MU remain a dull team to watch. The purchase of Lukaku points to a Route One season They were awful in the Supercup where Real Madrid made them look amateur.

MU should be favourites in a financially doped league.

Spurs: If any other team had achieved what Spurs have I would be delighted and rooting for them to go one step further – but it isn’t, it is Spurs and I have an innate dislike of anything Blue & White – to the point where I will not even allow a blue & white toothbrush into my bathroom. FairPlay to them, they have managed to retain the bulk of their squad (so far), sold players for massive profits and look potential Champions. But, there are two huge problems , firstly, they are playing at Wembley, and secondly, and much more importantly, they are Spurs.

Relegation awaits.

Liverpool: Dark horses. On paper they look excellent. Solid in every position. If they can keep Coutinho it will be a signal of their intent. Salah is a good signing and if Sturridge can form a partnership with Mane, they are strong in attack. Klopp remains a terrific addition to the PL . Good enough to move on and win the title? Good enough to maintain a top 4 place?

I doubt it.

Everton: Given their ambitions and expenditure they have to be considered. Koeman is doing very well and has created an excellent defence, strengthened by Pickford and Keane. Given the loss of Lukaku how will they cope in attack? Will Rooney have the legs? Where does he fit into the team? Not in midfield where Everton have Schneiderlin, Barkley, Davies and Barry. Goalscoring could be problematic.

6th

Arsenal: If Sanchez, Ozil and Ox stay plus we sign another body, then the title is ours. The development of Iwobi and Xhaka, plus the purchase of Lacazette means that both Ozil and Sanchez can leave in 2018. However,they need another season to bed in. Rumour abounds about Gabriel being sold but I doubt it, nor Chambers who has a future at AFC. Mustafi has had a bedding in season and the 3-4-3 means that we have choices, especially given the exciting arrival of Kolasinac.

Champions

written by Big Raddy


The Ups and Downs of Arsenal

July 28, 2017

This is the time of the year when Arsenal, and every other club, seem to be caught in the footballing equivalent of the doldrums, once the bane of every sailing ship known to man, where a relatively calm period occurs out of nowhere, and during which time no wind has the temerity to stick its nose in, and indeed prefers to disappear like ice cream in a hot oven, trapping sailing ships for lengthy periods lasting days, weeks and sometimes months, where for what seemed an eternity to their crews – nothing happened.

The transfer window is the fans version of the fabled doldrums, where during a tedious and seemingly never-ending period, dozens of transfer rumours are offered up by the media and many blogsites, on a daily basis, and then roundly condemned and ridiculed as nonsense by the very same blogsites and sports media who started the stupid stories running in the first place.

Then just to give us a short break, these same rumour mongers announce stories, designed to add more click bait to bolster their media and blog site advertising revenues, they feed us cute stories which are hard to prove, or disprove, as falsehoods often are. The trick here is to base the rumours on stories with just a smidgeon of possible truths, and embellish them with wild abandon and make them into something far more juicy.

Instances of this are: Injured Cazorla out until February 2018 – Lucas disgusted with Wenger for pinching his #9 shirt and giving it to someone else – Wenger bids €100m for Mbappe – and then these gems are swiftly followed up by: Cazorla trains with team, back soon – Lucas to leave for more game time – Wenger denies making any bid for Mbappe – and away we go, with fans pointlessly arguing for or against whichever nonsense proposition catches their eye.

And still the transfer doldrums bear down, trying to suffocate us with their mediocrity.

But wait – from out of left field the clubs decide to join in and titivate our sensibilities by entering the spirit of this nonsense and allegedly willy-nilly start to offer kings’ ransoms for this player or that.

Not your boring common or garden £80m or £100m offers for a striker, or two, obviously, but €200m for Neymar or Mbappe (yes him again) and we all laugh holding our bellies, and scoffing at these crazy stories, until, in keeping with this cornucopia of scrumptious jelly and cream La La Land make believe, the reality squirts out from the asshole of the transfer window – Citeh sign Walker – yes that Walker – from the Spuds, for £55m – now that is both unbelievable and incredible, and shows reality can outshine even the most fanciful banality. Yee Gods.

Any sense of reality just evaporates with that news – but hold on, one of the blogsites today insists that Wenger is still in the hunt for Mbappe. Who could credit that? Tomorrow – Wenger denies bid for Mbappe – and off we go again.

I am on record in saying the transfer window should start after the season ends, and finishes on the 31st July – but I am not so sure. Much as I am consecutively annoyed, intrigued, baffled or sneer at these farcical stories, they do actually give me something to fill the doldrums betwixt the ending of one season and the start of the new one – so let the good times roll.

What say you? 😂

Written by Zee


Our Rorke’s Drift

April 23, 2017

I was hesitant about writing a FAC SF post with the prospect of Spurs awaiting us in the Final. Amusingly, that is no longer the case as the Hotspurs take yet another sad drag home along the North Circular 🙂

So, it is with a lighter heart that I write this post.

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Let’s kick off with my belief that we can beat City. Yes, they have great players and a fine manager. Yes, they have a squad which cost the equivalent of a mid-sized nation’s Gross National Product but they still play the likeable, but ageing, Sagna, and sometimes even Gael Clichy!

Here’s how we beat them. … solidity at the back, full backs being less adventurous, midfield staying on their feet and harrying rather than tackling, Ozil continuing his return to form, wingmen tracking back and always finding a red shirt with their passes, the front men being efficient and potent. Oh, and Cech/Ospina has to be alert at crosses.

Bosh.

We win.

Now how hard is that?

Will Mr. Wenger continue with his Back 3 experiment? I doubt it but it would be exciting. Sterling and Sane are much better widemen that Stewart Downing, who caused problems at ‘Boro. Can he trust the inexperienced Holding to stop such a quality attack?

On paper we are even in most areas of the pitch. Silva is not as good as an on-form Ozil. Aguero and Sanchez are both similar and wonderful players. Sterling and Theo are also similar, in fact all over the pitch there are likenesses between the squads.

The huge difference is De Bruyne, a marvellous talent and when on form, head and shoulders the best in his position, thankfully in recent weeks he has been struggling. We must hope for him to have an awful game this afternoon.

Guardiola will be looking for the FAC to save an ordinary season. I still think he was perfect for Arsenal but that ship has sailed.

As to Arsenal,  I just cannot see how we go into the game without Bellerin, it would be madness. Does he fit into a back 3? No, so we will revert to norm

My Team:

Cech (unless Ospina is fit)

Bellerin    Gabriel    Koscielny     Monreal

Ox   Ramsey    Xhaka

Walcott  Sanchez    Ozil

It is highly unlikely AW will play the above as it has no defensive “enforcer” but who gets dropped for Coquelin/Elneney? And who is left out if AW decides to play Giroud as a target man? Welbeck is not 100% fit, so Walcott starts.

This game is a huge opportunity to show that the current Arsenal are not as poor as some believe. Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

My main concern is the weather. We do not play as well when the temperature drops into single figures and the forecast is for chilly. If it gets over 15C, we win.

Let’s hope for a game as good as yesterday and an Arsenal win.

Let it be So.

COYRRG

p.s. Thank you to Chas for the headline’s inspiration

 


The Magic of the FA Cup returns on Sunday

April 21, 2017

On July 20th, 1871 at a Football Association meeting a discussion was held about “breathing life” into its Challenge Cup. After the formal business was concluded,

  1. W. Alcock proposed: “That it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association be, invited to compete.” The idea was received at once with general favour, and at a subsequent meeting held on October 16th 1871 the rules were drafted, the entries were received and history took a deep breath and prepared for the plunge.

That was the day that the FA Cup was born and 146 years later the magic remains.

The first FA Cup semi finals were held in 1872:

The two fixtures were:

Crystal Palace v Royal Engineers & Queens Park v Wanderers with both games ending in 0-0 draws. Royal Engineers won their replay 3-0, but it was a different story for Queens Park; public donations had been used for their long trip down from Glasgow for the first semi final at Kennington Oval but unfortunately they were unable to arrange the funding for the journey back for the replay and were forced to withdraw from the competition. However the lack of funds had a silver lining as it allowed the Scottish pioneers to hold their heads high and retain their dignity as they returned to Scotland unbeaten.

Shirt numbers were not even imagined back then and knickerbockered players were distinguished by the colour of either their caps or stockings. The crossbar was a length of tape or rope. Inside the touchlines the field was unmarked, chuck ins were taken with one hand and the teams changed ends after every goal was scored. There was little or no heading of the ball and defence was rarely considered. The game was based on dribbling with most of the team backing up the man in possession, somewhat like a standing scrum.

A few Semi Final facts-

Most used stadium: Villa Park 55 occasions.

Highest attendance: 88,141 Everton v Manchester United in 2009

Biggest win: 6-0 Newcastle over Fulham in 1908

Biggest post war victory: 5-0 Stoke over Bolton in 2011

Most games needed for a result: 4 – Arsenal vs. Liverpool in 1980

Highest scoring game: 5-3 Hull over Sheffield United in 2014

Most semi final appearances: Arsenal 29

The semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989 at Hillsborough ended in tragedy when 96 spectators were killed in a crowd surge due to overcrowding. The cause of this tragedy was studied and the conclusions reached have helped in the design of new stadiums.

Our first semi final was in 1906 when we lost 2-0 to Newcastle United.

Arsenal are now appearing in their all time record 29th semi final, 11 of them under the management of Arsène Wenger. Arsène has also won the cup on a record 6 occasions along with George Ramsay who was the club secretary of Aston Villa from 1874 to 1926.

This season the semi final draw pits four of the Premier League’s best teams against each other.

Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur on April 22nd.

Arsenal vs. Manchester City on April 23rd.

At this point I cannot think of a better ending to the season than Arsenal beating Tottenham in the final.

GunnerN5


Arsenal. Player Ratings.

April 3, 2017

In the absence of both our post game analysts, I will try to fill in.

I have ambivalence – happy with a point given our current malaise but disappointed that having equalised we didn’t push on and attack a fragile defence.

How many clear cut chances did we created? Hopw many did we allow? Was it a penalty with the Monreal “handball”?

Perhaps it would be easier to do this by player assessments.

Ospina. Could have done better for the Aguero goal. Beaten with a cross shot. Cech may have saved it but Ospina made some good saves and was secure   6

Bellerin. One of his worst games. Where is the wonderful player of last season? Awful defending for the first goal. Poor passing throughout the game. He made Sane look a good player  4

Mustafi. Fine goal. Good in the middle of the area and made some good passes out of defence. He tried to lead the team after Kos’s substitution   7

Koscielny. Let’s hope his achilles is short-term. Quality player who is let down by his colleagues.   7

Monreal. Very good going forward and consistently gave Sanchez an outlet. Some decent crosses and stopped attacks down the right..  8

Xhaka.  Another yellow thanks to a dive fro a MC cheat. Combatative and won the midfield battle in the second half.   6

Coquelin. His best game for some time against a strong MC midfield.  7

Ozil. I expect more. He is world class and today had a chance to influence the game. He didn’t. Appears to to lacking in confidence  5

Sanchez. Busy, as ever. City always double teamed him and reduced his effectiveness.    6

Welbeck. Anonymous. Worked hard but didn’t get any service.  5

Walcott. Scored. Unhappy to be subbed which is not an issue. Worked hard but was a bit of a passenger. Extra point for the goal.  6

Subs:

Gabriel. A good half and one must wonder why he isn’t starting. 7

Giroud. Hardly touched the ball and didn’t receive a single cross.   5

Iwobi. We had more impetus when he came on. Could have scored.  7

Team: As a whole it was obvious the team lacked confidence. They worked hard but lacked the lovely intricate pass and move of earlier in the season. It was a workmanlike performance. Once again our defence looked porous.

I was concerned (as were others) about spirit of the team, they seemed very fragmented and this raises concerns about the common good. Walcott’s petulance, the lack of excitement when Walcott scored  but perhaps they just don’t like Theo!

Overall, a point against City was acceptable given the circumstances but if we were to achieve Top 4 a win was essential, and it is worrying that the team did not push on after Mustafi’s goal, if anything City looked more likely to take the 3 points.

written by Big Raddy


Sanchez or Aguero?

April 2, 2017

It is difficult to emphasise how important this afternoon is, for the club and the fans.

For the players, it is just another game and should they lose this and all the games to season’s end, they will still be millionaires and be in demand throughout the world. There is the rub.

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In my youth Man City were my second team, Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Franny Lee etc were exciting to watch and won the title; the current MC team remind me of that fine team. Capable of wonderful flowing football but also able to grind out a result. And like that old team they have a colourful manager, though Malcolm Allison was more of a nutter than Guardiola!

Would you say that City are doing worse than us this season? I think so. They have spent hundreds of millions and brought in the most lauded manager in world football. Have they more chance of winning the title or the CL than us? Massive under-achievement for the investment.

Player for player I would say that we are not far apart. I wish we had bought De Bruyne but understand why we didn’t, given his absence this afternoon the player we have to marshal is the wonderful David Silva. I love the way this man plays. Close him out and we will win (make that Silva, Sterling and Aguero!)

Who would you prefer leading the line for Arsenal, Sanchez or Aguero? Both marvellously talented, hard workers. When I was young the idea that players of this standard would play in England was mind-boggling. Imagine Pele or Maradonna playing in the PL. Today we accept it as normal.

Arsenal: Where to start? We were just rubbish at WBA, yet are likely to start almost the same team. Hopefully Sanchez will play through the middle and change position with Welbeck. Our problems at set pieces are alarming but fairly easily solved (practice, concentration and application), and the defence will prefer the pace of MC’s attack.

Our Team:

Ospina

Bellerin    Mustafi     Koscielny     Monreal

Ox    Xhaka     Coquelin

Walcott    Sanchez     Welbeck

Ramsey or Coquelin? Sorry Aaron, you have struggled this season and we need the security of Coquelin with the threat of Silva.

The fans? It is so important  they back the side even if they struggle, it will be horrible to hear (or not) the Emirates return to the vitriol of recent times.

If we can score early I think we can win.

Can our boys halt the downward spiral of recent weeks? Let us hope so.

COYRRG