Theo Walcott – Striker or Stinker?

December 10, 2010

Written by gunnerN5

January 20th 2006 was an exciting day in our history; Arsene Wenger secured the signature of Theo Walcott on an initial pre-contract agreement to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday. Even at the tender age of 15 Theo was touted as one of, if not the, best youngster in English football and he was now an Arsenal player.

Now here we are almost 5 years and 134 games later (72 as a starter and 62 as a sub) into his Arsenal career. Has he proven to be the potential star we had anticipated and yearned for or is he still a work in progress; or worst still is he a waste of space?

He has provided many fantastic highlights and his speed frightens opposition defenses, but his lack of consistency and sub standard statistical measurements are sadly underwhelming.

His ability to leave defenses in his wake and deliver crosses is commendable, even exceptional, but many of his crosses go astray, along with the possibility of creating good goal scoring opportunities.

How many times do we see him speed up to a defender and then have no idea on how to get around him, how many of his passes go astray;  how many good moves break down because of his poor decision making?

In his 134 appearances, 72 as a starter and 62 as a sub he has totaled 18 goals and 20 assists, if we consider a goal as 1 point and an assist as half a point then he has earned .209 points per appearance.

One would believe that with his speed he would be best suited as a sub coming on for the last 20/25 minutes against tired defenses but the stats don’t back up this theory as  they are almost identical  as both a sub and a starter.

Most of our subs have higher points earned as starters than they do as sub’s which makes sense given the increased amounts of time that they are on the pitch – but Theo defies the logic – why?

His contribution level as a starter is almost the same as a sub and this simply should not be, especially with his outstanding speed. One would have to believe that at least his assists would increase given that we score so many goals in the last 20 minutes – but that is not the case – why?

Sadly I don’t have answers, simply questions, but even sadder it would appear that nobody else has either. It remains a wish and hope situation.

PS.

Since I wrote this I have done some more exhaustive/accurate research into this season’s goal scoring statistics and the results are quite revealing.

I would have preferred to use minutes played but I could not find a reliable enough source so I settled for the combination of games and substitutions to arrive at appearances – not ideal, but still useful data.

It should be of no surprise to any of us that Nasri is number 1 – closely followed by  Chamakh at number 2 – but surprise, surprise Walcott is number 3 – why?

Does that refute all of the previous comments?

The answer to the question is no, as he got all of his points in the first 3 games of the season and in his last 5 appearances he shown his typical inconsistency and earned zero points.

It should also be noted that Sagna has scored more points than Bendtner and that Fabianski has more points than Clichy or Rosciky who just scrapes onto the chart in last place.

All of the stats are EPL only.

Let’s talk.

GunnerN5


Bendtner – Man or Mouth?

November 26, 2010

Written by CarlitoII

Nik – “Supernik” to some – Bendtner has caused a ripple in the Arsenal news pond recently by being an outspoken advocate of his own abilities. So what’s new? The man’s ambition is loftier than Peter Crouch’s adams apple and his head seems to swell up on a regular basis as if his brain suffers from an allergic reaction to reporters .

The stir seems to be caused mainly by the fact that, after claiming he would leave the club if not given more first team opportunities, he didn’t make the bench against Everton. Let’s start by analysing what the man actually said.

“I’m extremely disappointed with the lack of minutes on the field.”

Well, Nik. You were injured for the start of the season and Chamakh did a great job leading the line so you’ll have to wait your turn.

“I feel I’ve done everything right in getting back to fitness and I’m in the best shape of my life.”

Then you’ll prove it when you come on as a sub. Play well enough and you’ll be undroppable.

“I feel better than before the injury and at that point I was in the starting XI and close to fulfilling my potential.”

Wenger says that all players say this but his data tells him you need to be eased back in. Any fan can see you still have to work on your first touch!

“When I’m 100 per cent fit, I can’t accept sitting on the bench.”

Right, go on… *handing out just enough rope to hang yourself with*

“I’m 100 per cent good enough for the starting XI in Arsenal. I have the qualities and I’ve been sitting enough on the bench in my career.”

Glad you’re so full of self belief, it’s important in a striker…

“If my manager feels differently that’s fair, and he’s the one choosing the team, but then I disagree.”

Ah Nik, the rashness of youth! You disgree with the best manager Arsenal have ever had? Well ok then, um, we really missed you at Everton…

Whatever happened to letting your performances do the talking? If you’re good enough, you’ll play. Any casual observer can see that, in the main, Chamakh has a better first touch and holds the ball up better than any centre forward since Thierry.. My personal belief is that Nik feels threatened by this, and he is probably right to do so. My question to you all is: would we really miss him if he went?

I love the directness that he can bring when he comes off the bench. I love his “never give in” mentality that brought us memorable last minute goals last season. I’m also superstitious, in that I believe we need a good Scandinavian player to bring home a trophy (Limpar, Jensen, Freddy…) – ok it’s my own superstition that one, but one I cling on to! But he’s not the new TH14 is he, and until he becomes the finished article, it would behove him to keep his head down!

Post Script- I wrote this article before the Totnum game and “SuperNik” has since had his chance at Braga. I missed the game sulking but I gather there may be a few words to be said about his performance- I’ll leave that to you!


Arsenal …. Why don’t we learn from our mistakes?

November 25, 2010

Written by Rasp

I’ve had nearly a week to calm down from my anger at our ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory last Saturday. I still feel sick to the pit of my stomach, not so much because we lost, but because of the manner in which we lost.  I wasn’t going to use this post, but after Tuesday’s hopeless performance against Braga, my ‘belief’ in this team/squad has been shot to pieces. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, but the accumulation of a growing frustration over the last few years that I can no longer suppress.

Why is our system so fragile?

Saturday’s game was the perfect example. We played the beautiful controlled football for which we are admired in the first half and then fell apart as soon as they scored their second goal. I can’t believe a single fan wouldn’t sacrifice 65% possession for winning a game. Arsène talks a lot about ‘belief’ but I don’t see that these players have the belief necessary to fight back when under pressure. This is borne from past experience when we’ve capitulated. Just review the final games of last season to illustrate the point.

Against Braga, we lacked ideas, penetration and energy. Most of the players (with the exception of Djourou and Gibbs) seemed to be caricatures of themselves, exhibiting all their worst traits. The Emirates crowd have come in for fair criticism for their inability to lift the team when needed, but the plague of anxiety that spreads through the stands is generated by the players and reflected by the fans – not vice verse.

Why do we have a policy of buying small players?

Let me qualify this; I don’t only mean small only in terms of stature but also in terms of presence, personality, guts and leadership. Of course size doesn’t matter when we’re in possession of the ball and are being allowed to play our way. Our problem is when we’re not in possession. Some players still do not work hard enough to regain position, track back and defend as a team.

We have been vulnerable to set pieces for years. Every opposition manager knows it. Chris Hughton knew it when he told Joey Barton to deliver the ball onto Andy Carrol’s head at every opportunity. Would Tony Adams or Keown have allowed Kaboul the header for the winning goal on Saturday? In hindsight, it would probably have been better to play Djourou rather than Koscielny against totnum – perhaps our CB may not have been out jumped by 5ft 7in Defoe?

The spine of the team is weak. Where are the leaders on the pitch? Who grabs the team by the scruff of the neck when we need to fight back? We don’t have a winning mentality. Vermaelen stands alone in the squad as the one player who has what it takes to be a future captain; he is being sorely missed.

Why do we coach the shooting instinct out of our players?

Once again we saw a player (Chamakh) shun shooting opportunities against totnum. This can’t be a coincidence. Maybe our training regimes are so ingrained in the player’s minds that they are ‘brainwashed’ into passing when shooting is the better option? We bought Tomas Rosicky as a player with a reputation for having a fantastic shot who could find the back of the net from way outside the box – I’ve never seen him do it for Arsenal.

Perhaps we should practice our ‘clever passing triangles’ on the edge of the box and someone has to shoot every 10th pass? Fabregas was the only player seemingly prepared to let loose against Braga and his efforts were as far off the mark as is his form of late. He, not RvP or Song, should have been rested – and rested several weeks ago when it was clear that he was being hampered by what must now be considered to be a long term injury.

Why can’t we motivate the players at half time?

I knew that ‘arry would send his players out fired up for the second half; he’s done it many times. Ours emerged from the tunnel looking relaxed and unconcerned, 20 minutes later they looked scared, unsure and vulnerable. Against Braga, our players needed an ‘arry-type rocket up them, but instead they just continued in the same lame lackadaisical vein in which they had laboured through the first half. No spark. No invention. No leadership. No balls.

We accept that Arsène Wenger is not a ‘hairdryer-style’ manager, but maybe he should transmit some of the venom he wastes on water bottles in the direction of his underperforming players at half time. Just once, I’d like to see him make a substitution at half time when a player is not performing.

Why don’t we ever learn from our mistakes?

For me, this is the most damming question, and it can only be directed at the manager. What will it take to shake him from the conviction that his way of playing and this group of players will eventually prove all the doubters wrong? It’s easy to dismiss the opinions of pundits who revel in our failure, but it would appear that Arsène is becoming an increasingly isolated figure, clinging to his principles whilst all around him shrink away in recognition that ‘it’ isn’t working. It has been said repeatedly and for many years that ‘this Arsenal team’ is only a couple of players short of getting back to the very top – I believe this is still the case.

The balance to the argument.

We’ve not had the luck. The free kick that led to the penalty for totnum should not have been given. The decision to book Vela instead of awarding a nailed on penalty against Braga was incomprehensible, but in both cases our performance for the 90 minutes was not good enough. We continue to suffer from injuries to key players – but don’t most teams? The good news is the emergence of Djourou as a big strong defender who can compete with powerful strikers and Nasri as our most effective midfielder and the imminent return of Vermaelen and Ramsey.

We’re 2 points off the top of the Premiership with 24 games left to play. We’re still in the Carling Cup, the FA Cup and we can still qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League if we beat Partizan at home or as long as Shaktar beat Braga. Second in the group is the most likely scenario – unfortunately coming second in the group cost us dear last year; had we topped the group there is a good chance we would have made it to the final.

None of this gives me cause for optimism. We play an improving Villa side on Saturday who will be fighting to keep out of the relegation zone. It will be difficult and unless we can play with some fire in our bellies and overcome our fear of defeat, we will drop points and the familiar scenario of struggling to achieve 4th place in the Premiership will become the focus of our season once again.


Little and Large …….The Perfect Striker Partnership

November 13, 2010

Written by Neamman

Wright, Henry, Van Nistelrooy, Shearer, Drogba, Cole, Owen, Ronaldo, Rooney  ..   all players who you would expect to score more than 20 goals a season when in their prime. We haven’t had a player like that since Henry left.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Chamakh and Van Persie, but a look at their history tells us we will never see more than 15 goals a season from them at best. That’s not a criticism as they both bring so much more to the team but they are superb support strikers and not the main man. They are a Wiltord to Henry, a Skolshar to a Van Nistelrooy, a Sheringham to a Cole. We have not yet found a striker who truly puts fear into our opponents defense.



All is not lost however, I actually think we have them on our books in the shape of NicBendtner and Theo Walcott. Big Nic, in his breakout season two years ago, scored what..14 goals.. but he has struggled for fitness since. In an injury plague season last year he scored 9 goals and started off this year with two goals in his first two appearances.

Theo, after a restful summer, also has been hot knocking in 7 goals plus he has hit the post a couple of times in his last few games.

They are both young and are perhaps a year behind where they should be because of their injury plagued last 18 months. If our fitness gurus can keep them on the field I am quite confident we can see a minimum of 20 goals each from our Little and Large. It may mean a switch back to 4-4-2 so that they can play up front together, one small and lightening fast, one big and strong. I truly believe that they would terrorize most defences and when backed with Chamakh or RVP we will see Arsenal dominate the scoring charts yet again.

Before I close I cannot help but ask… why are players so prone to injuries? If it’s the boots not protecting metatarsals, surely some company can design a better boot??? To be fair it is not just us, more and more clubs are suffering from injuries it seems.

Football clubs are investing a lot of money in their stars and we need to see them on the pitch much more than we do.

Just imagine if Nic and Theo had played all of last season and the beginning of this… I cannot believe we wouldn’t have stuck a few more goals past the Toon and West Ham!!! So lets hope in the FA Cup and the League Cup we start to see our Little and Large starting together and building an understanding that should lead them to dominate the scoring charts for the next 6 or 7 years.


Fabulous Fabianski – at least for now – and three points in the bag.

November 11, 2010

Football never ceases to amaze me.  Last night, many supporters were full of trepidation to see if we could bounce back after two disappointing and lack lustre performances and while it wasn’t exactly a bounce it was a hard fought three points.

We didn’t have to wait long as within the first minute an exquisite cross from Song found Chamakh and he powered the ball into the back of the net.  I would argue that was the best header of the season by any of our players.

Within five minutes, Arshavin should have wrapped the game up with a one on one with Hahnemann but as is so often the case, it wasn’t to be, and that gave Wolves renewed confidence and they slowly but surely came more into the game.

We showed defensively that we could give as good as we got. The back four, notably Sagna and Squillaci, seem vastly improved in recent weeks and although Djourou showed why he is fourth choice with some errors of judgement in the first half, he improved as the game progressed.

It was a great game to watch (possession 50% each) and showed not for the first time this season that on any given day there is not much difference between the sides at the top and the bottom of the premiership. The hope is that while we are not at our most fluent we are right in the mix and still have key players to regain full fitness and form to return to the side.

I would say that the save Fabianski made in the 90th minute was world class and overall he had a truly excellent game, all credit to him for showing “mental strength” after last Sunday.

Fabregas was sadly not at the races and hopefully it is just that he is ring rusty and not thinking elsewhere. His tackle will be discussed by many, but the tackle on Arshavin was worse and has not received the same level of scrutiny by the media.

If there has to be a man of the match it has to go to Fabianski for a near faultless performance and a close second to Chamakh for his brace. He may have drifted in and out of the game but he did what I had hoped he would do, take the opportunities when presented, as a striker should.

Next up Everton, and hopefully with Nasri, Walcott and RVP thrown into the mix, the omens are promising.

Written by kelsey

Rasp’s player ratings for you to disagree with….

Fabianski 9

Sagna 7

Squillaci 8

Djourou 7

Clichy 6

Song 6

Fabregas 6

Wilshere 7

Arshavin 6

Rosicky 6

Chamakh 8


Why we failed to win the Premiership last season ……. Where is our Tone?

October 21, 2010

Written by MickyDidIt89

Having professed to know the reasons why we have failed to land any trophies for the last 5 years in a rash comment on Arsenal Arsenal recently, I was challenged to put my keyboard where my mouth is and write a post to justify this claim! So here goes ……

Seasons come and seasons go, and always the same old criticism – no plan B, outmuscled and always trying to walk it into the net.  Let’s look at last season’s league campaign. We were twelve points from the title. We drew six games. So, if you concede one fewer goal in each of these, you are Champions. Or alternatively, score one more in each; same story. Just six goals to score or avoid conceding.

Now this is very simplistic, I know, but it does highlight two things. The fine line between success and failure, and the importance of goals is the other. Strangely, all too often, the focus is on elements of the game that are too far removed from the ultimate and basic objective of goal scoring/defending.

The essence of my piece  is that we are not as far away as some would have us believe. Have we strengthened the defence? I believe so. Have we strengthened the attack? No, not yet. Why not yet, because last season we had Bendy around for some of the time when RVP was injured. This term, both are injured and Chamakh is playing. So effectively, same numbers. Had RVP been fit all season, and Chamakh  on board, we would have been very close indeed. We have not won anything since we last had a consistently fit striker.

At the other end of the pitch, we all know about the goalkeeper issues. However, one all too often overlooked aspect to the winning team is the on-field leader. It was pointed out recently that when Arsene describes coming Third as a Trophy, he is instilling a losing’s-ok mentality. I have always found in life that peer pressure, values and expectations are the driving forces that really get under my skin. Would drawing any game have been acceptable with Tony Adams? Would you have wanted to be in the dressing room with Tone after the WBA game? How about in there with Almunia or Cesc as Captain? Thought so.

My two solutions are thus. One, find a Captain. I am hoping that Verm will be the man, and two, sort out the injuries. Are we overtraining? What’s with the medical team? RVP being sent for placenta treatment. Give me strength!

It is not a compilcated game. I can’t speak for my fellow bloggers, but I get sick of the constant “Arsenal have no Plan B” bollocks constantly levelled at us by commentators. I take criticism very badly (apart from when its about my spelling, when I totally ignore it), and when people criticize The Arsenal, then its personal.

Can I give you my version of Plan B. We do not have one, and we do not need one. Nice, crisp and clear. The reason we only need one plan is that we do not play to lose and we do not play to draw. Therefore, you put eleven men on the pitch, using roughly similar patterns. Then you have a few spare players who sit next to the pitch on expensive faux leather seats. Finally, you have a Leader who wears a tailor made suit of sober design with a shirt and tie.

It is my belief that had Verm, Cesc, Theo and RVP all been on the pitch against Chelsea, or sitting in the expensive faux leather seats, then we would have beaten those tall, heavy, overpaid chavs.

I can only think of one tiny flaw, and I am reminded of the words of Mr Ron Atkinson. He had just taken over at Sheffield Wednesday (I think) and it was the eve of an important local derby, when he supposedly said that he missed the “good old days, before all this tactics bullshit, when we turned up on Saturday, had some lunch, played football, had some beers, then went home”. Sadly for my theory, Big Ron’s team lost. He got fired.

If there is anything of any value whatsoever in what I am saying, it is this. I believe we are very close to domination, and we will do it The Arsenal way. Our way.


Donetsk Forget To Mind The Gap In London As We Celebrate 6 Goals

October 20, 2010

“I don’t think I will celebrate,”  Eduardo.

True to his word, everyone’s favourite Crozilian didn’t even acknowledge his consolation strike, but how we celebrated. You guys behind the goal, I saw you, jumping up and down like it was an Arsenal goal, and the Nicklas Bendtner look-alike in the crowd I saw you too, holding that number 9 shirt proudly aloft, and we all heard the announcer acclaim the goal as if it had been scored a year ago. The standing ovation afterwards was just proper order for a player who didn’t get a real send-off, he has now. Yes, us being 5-0 up at the time helped the mood a lot, but be honest, how many shouted “yes” and punched the air when he scored? We all want the clean sheets but exceptions must be made, and this was one of those times. Its almost like a weight off our shoulders that we gave Dudu his dues.

Eduardo aside, last night’s game was very comfortable. The Ukrainian visitors should know that when you come to London you must mind the gap, not alone on the underground but those around the Emirates pitch. Give us enough gaps and we will punish you.

Donetsk are a far better side than what they showed last night. In the second half we saw they could pass the ball and press a lot better than what they did. Its almost as if they had decided before the game that they would lose here, give us the group, try and get something from us in Ukraine and go for second which they should get based on the evidence so far. Not a great plan and honestly a much harder match might have suited us with Manchester City coming up on Sunday. Not that we should have been ran into the ground, but it was almost a five-a-side training session at times and we rarely had to move out of second gear.

Apart from Eddie, the other opposition player to bring a smile to our face last night was Pyatov – what a shocking ‘keeper he is! His missed catch for Song’s goal even had van der Saar laughing, while my eyes may have deceived me, I thought I spied our Moroccan making a cup of tea after checking was he onside for our fifth.

It was good to see Fabregas and Walcott get a run out. Cesc’s touch was a bit off at times but that’s to be expected after his lay-off, hopefully it will be better by Sunday. It was also interesting to see Wenger play Walcott in the middle when he came on. He didn’t have much time, but on one occasion near the end in particular we saw how his speed has the potential to wreck havoc in the opposition defence.

We now have 9 points from 3 games, with 14 goals scored and only 2 against. A draw away in the next match should see us top the group and after that Wenger can bring out the kids and rest some key players.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski (7) – Didn’t have a whole load to do but made an excellent save at the start of the second half to keep the score at 2-0. Looks more solid in recent weeks.

Eboue (7) – Not too much defending to do, and concentrated on attack. Linked up well at times, but was wasteful on occasion.

Squillaci (7) – Again didn’t have much to do, but should have got out quicker to Eduardo to stop his shot.

Djourou (7) – Made a fine last ditch tackle in the second half and won us a penalty. Will be back on the bench once Vermaelen and possibly Koscielny return.

Clichy (6) – Bombed forward when he could and wasn’t overly troubled by the opposition. I do still worry about his positioning at times.

Song (8) – I thought Song had a great game last night. He won ball around midfield, tidied up, linked well and scored a goal.

Wilshere (9) – Played a central role even though Cesc was back and in the first half completed more passes than the Captain. Great vision, great positioning and great finish.

Rosicky (8) – Started well and his name kept popping up. Involved in defence and attack.

Fabregas (7) – Not at his sharpest but for me he did a fair share of defensive work when it was needed. Well taken penalty.

Nasri (9) – Brilliant once again. Played some superb passes and scored a great goal.

Chamakh (9) – I thought he would be a good signing. WRONG! He has been a great signing. Tremendous work-rate, pressures from the front, excellent hold up play and a cool as you like finish.

Subs

Denilson did well when he came on. Made some strong challenges.

Arshavin was given a breather by Wenger and played little more than a cameo. Got involved in some good link up play.

Walcott didn’t get a whole load of time and the game was well won but hopefully we’ll see more of him down the middle in weeks to come.

(It would be remiss of me not to mention the “situation” at Old Trafford. First Tevez, then Ronaldo and now Rooney – smells of a selling club to me!)

Written by Irishgunner


A better day at the office ….. three points in the bag

October 17, 2010

This was another of those games where the title of the match report could be ‘What is Diaby for?’ How many times did he go on a great run only to come to a grinding halt at the edge of the penalty box? Those long, strong legs with feet that obviously have the ball magnets in their boots have to be attached to the most infuriating footballer in our squad.

He doesn’t have to keep the ball at his feet while he’s running but he does have to keep running. His awareness of where his team-mates are is virtually non-existant. His shooting ability has never been in question so why doesn’t he look up and check what’s happening around him. BigRaddy said last night that once Theo returns Diaby will have company on his runs but that won’t be of any help if Diaby hasn’t got his brain switched on. I can run with the ball at my feet into space – admittedly not with the grace and speed of Diaby – but if I didn’t know what my next move was going to be what would be the point?

Maybe Diaby just doesn’t know what his job is  – I’m afraid to me he is just a  ‘headless chicken’, but he’s been like this for far too long and needs to answer some stern questions. Footballing skills are great but pretty pointless if you don’t fit into a team.

But there were positives to take from this game. Our favourite flapper was considerably more solid than I can ever remember. If Birmingham were ever to score it was going to be from a free kick or a corner and Fabianski wasn’t at fault for their goal. With a fledgling partnership in front of him in the form of Djourou and Squillaci it could have all gone horribly wrong but he was vociferous and didn’t at any time look vulnerable. Shame on those supporters who hammed up their applause of his first touches of the ball, when he’s wearing the shirt at least give him a chance.

Jack Wilshere was once again at the heart of all that was good. Some great interplay between him and Chamakh that should have yielded a goal but once again there were too many passes. Arshavin was unlucky today that none of his back flicks found a man but he kept on trying. I’ve just seen Jack’s tackle again that led to his red card and he was late and could have hurt the player – who thinks that Arsène Wenger sent him out to let the player know he was there? Obviously not and having watched Jack in pre-season I felt that he had a fiesty tendency that he’s so far kept under control – good for him,  he’ll learn I’m sure.

Watching Theo, Rosicky and Nikki warming up after half-time did bring a flutter to my heart. When Rosicky came on he added great directness to the play managing to sting the keepers hands with 2 rasping shots. Nikki also got a chance to join in and could have scored with his first touch. He’s way behind Chamakh and van Persie in the pecking order which hopefully he won’t mind. I thought this game was crying out for Theo but we’ll have to wait for Tuesday night against Shaktar to see him. I don’t want to put a hex on it but its worth noting that the penalty was scored by a cool penalty taker who smashed the ball into the back of the net.

So, overall this was a game we were expected to win, it wasn’t pretty by any definition but on reflection we actually ground out a result. I’m not going to say it was comfortable because it certainly wasn’t and the last 10-15 minutes were suitably nervous as we looked, as usual, like we could concede at any moment but we hung on and added three points to our total…….. more than the chavs and the manks ha ha. Sometimes its nice to win ugly.

Here are some player ratings from BigRaddy

Fabianski. A solid performance, not at fault for the goal – it was a superb header.His distribution was a bit suspect. 7

Eboue. Added little to the attack and was guilty of a very poor tackle. Good application 5

Squillaci. Improved performance. Unlucky not to be on the scoresheet. Could be the answer once TV comes back. 7

Djourou. Still looks rusty to me. Probably the most mobile of our CB’s. Got caught under the ball for a couple of headers and was outjumped for the goal. 6

Clichy. What has happened to his positioning? A shadow of the player we saw 3 seasons ago. 5

Song. A dynamic performance. Drove the team forward and put in some fine tackles. One of his better games though his passing was wayward on occasion 8

Nasri. Got a bit lost in the midfield hurly-burly but once again was aggressive in his attacking play. Not at his best. 7

Wilshere. Our best player prior to his rash tackle, let’s hope it is a lesson learned. Strong and disciplined in defence when required, excellent link up play and moved the ball very quickly when required. 8

Arshavin. Started really well and faded. Mr Inconsistent ran about for 20 mins the first half and went missing prior to his substitution. Is he fully fit? Does he need a break? Does he know that Arsenal play in Red? 4

Chamakh. As usual worked hard. Scored , got the penalty (I believe it was the correct decision), the focal point of our attacks. He is improving. 7

Subs:

Rosicky. Came on for Arshavin and immediately shot from distance (clearly under instructions). A good cameo. 7

Bendtner. Only had a few minutes but almost got on the end of a cross. 6

 


Keep it tight or they’ll kill us

October 6, 2010

Written by SharkeySure

Whilst still marvelling at the eloquence of yesterday’s post by charybdis1966,  I have to disagree with what I think is its central theme, namely that Chelski and Man IOU sit back in the belief that we can’t really hurt them.

The game on Sunday kicked off in a very end to end fashion, with both teams attacking with abandon.  After the opening skirmishes Chelski  retreated a little for a couple of reasons.

1. Diaby’s position.  These days Chelski  pass the ball around in their own half much more than they did a few years ago, and Diaby (ably supported by Song) was harrying Mikel and the Chelsea rear guard into mistakes or longer passes. In attempting to retain possession both Ramires and Essien were drawn deeper and closer to Mikel to offer more support.

2. Chelski were fearful of the early impact that both Arshavin and Nasri were having on the game, and it was also clear that Chamakh was going to give Terry (spit) and Alex  a lot more trouble than they were used to from an Arsenal CF.

From memory, their goal seemed to come slightly against the run of play but nevertheless it was a very good goal, and once they have scored then we all know that its ‘park the bus’ time.  So whilst I acknowledge that Chelski may have ‘invited us into their lair’ as a spider does to a fly, the difference is that I believe that was always our eight legged friend’s original plan, but  Chelski’s was an adaptation to the unexpected circumstances they faced.  I should give them credit for that but I won’t,  instead I’ll simply say ‘well played Mr Arachnid, enjoy your lunch’ !

Man IOU’s case is slightly different to Chelski’s for the simple reason that Chelski do not change their system to play Arsenal, its still their tried and trusted 4-3-3, that either pushes on or sits (/gets pushed?) back.  Red Nose gives up on his 4-4-2 whenever he plays Arsenal and has done for quite a while now.  Fergie goes 4-5-1 with Rooney either up top on his own, or shunted out to the left wing, much to Andy Grays dismay;  and workhorses like Fletcher and Park get their first starts of the season.  His  sole aim to is to crowd the midfield and prevent us from passing his team to death. He really does not expect to outscore us in an open game.

The Prawn Sandwich mob in the stands were aghast when Red Nose first started doing it, as it seemed to go against absolutely everything that the Club and Red Nose stood for.   I believe it was after the flying boot to Beckham’s forehead game, that Fergie ranted and raved like a frothing inarticulate loon and realised that it was better to shut the game down, even at home, than to see his team outplayed as they were on that day.  He does not expect to outscore us in an open game, and resorts to safety in numbers to stifle our brilliant attacking play, well, what else would an Arsenal fan call it !!


Can we dominate and win at Stamford Bridge?

October 2, 2010

Written by Smith14

In recent years our encounters against Chelsea have tended to be harsh lessons. Aside from the RVP inspired 2-1 comeback against Scolari’s outfit, it’s fair to say we’ve struggled. The time of our yearly examination is nearly upon us. I pride myself on being one of Arsenal’s more optimistic supporters and sincerely believe that we have a visionary in charge of the club and that his plans, which have so tested our collective patience, will come good eventually. Despite all this, I’m still absolutely petrified of 4 o’clock on Sunday.

Arsenal fans, and those neutrals that don’t seem intent on upsetting us, are generally treated to the most attractive Football in the League. When everyone’s fit, which admittedly is as rare as a loose pass from Wilshere, we have a squad which compares pretty well to the elite of the division, the elite of Europe in fact. There is, in my mind, no question that the likes of Cesc, Wilshere, Arshavin, Nasri, RVP and Chamakh could orchestrate the downfall of any side, on their day. The question is why don’t we ever seem to have our day on the biggest occasions?

Our problem is not ability. All summer there were arguments among fans about who we needed to buy but, looking at the squad rationally, Goalkeeper aside, I don’t think there’s great room for improvement. The thing that we lack is not players, its mentality. In recent seasons we’ve taken the lead at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, The Millennium Stadium, Wembley and the Nou Camp and been beaten or drawn on every occasion.

We have had periods of great dominance against the likes of United and Chelsea but occasions on which we’ve turned that dominance into wins are few and far between. Apart from the colossal injury list, which isn’t an excuse but certainly an explanation for a lot of what’s gone wrong in the last few seasons, our poor return comes down to mental toughness. The ability to see a result out or dig in to drag yourself back from a mistake. Add to that games where we’ve squandered periods of superiority, games where we’ve given away the first goal and gone on to be embarrassed.

So, do we have the ability to get a result? We could argue that the age of the squad was to blame and it was a factor for a few years but, by now, they’ve all been together for long enough to have experienced success and failure as a unit. The likes of Clichy, Sagna, Fabregas, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin have all felt disappointment in an Arsenal shirt. Wenger was right this summer when he said that age was no longer an excuse. There can rarely have been a team with so much experience at such a young age. The last remaining hurdle for this team seems to be belief in themselves that matches Wengers. The idea that they can truly live up to the talent in the squad and get results we deserve. I’m fed up of arguing that we should have got better results, the time has come to start getting those results.

On Sunday we will be faced with Terry, Essien and Drogba. We will need determination, aggression, skill and concentration in abundance. I personally think we have the Footballing ability to play them off the pitch. We must now prove that we have the self belief to make this count. The fact that Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh – all likely starters on Sunday – have yet to face Chelsea in an Arsenal shirt may provide grounds for optimism. They will not so readily recall being put to the sword by Drogba and, if they approach the game with the appropriate professionalism, the centre backs in particular could give us a strong foundation from which to play.

The central defensive partnership must not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by Drogba. Consistently he will throw himself all over the pitch, whinge and moan and appear to have given up the ghost. All of a sudden, defence suitably relaxed, he surges back and simply blows teams away. If Koscielny and Squillaci needed an induction to the Premier League, this is it. Squillaci comes with the battled hardened features to match a long career. His experience could be vital in this duel. Firstly we must frustrate Drogba, then we must stamp on him whilst he’s down, figuratively speaking of course.

Ultimately the onus falls on Wenger and the players to toughen up and prove my bold claims to be correct. We as fans can do little but support the side. We may not think that each individual is good enough to achieve what we want them to but as long as they are in an Arsenal shirt they should be backed 100%. A team with whole hearted and unified support will perform better than one who transmits its anxieties onto the players.

Let’s hope that on Monday morning we are celebrating a side who are becoming men, rather than licking our wounds. Honestly, I don’t think Win, Lose or Draw, Sunday will be as decisive as Sky will portray it. At the very least though, it will confirm our worst fears or make a bold statement that we are at least up for the fight.

Keep The Faith.

You can read other articles by Smith14 at  http://tbwttihs14.wordpress.com/