Raddy’s Review of the Season.

May 23, 2013

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has had a go, so why can’t Big Raddy?

However, this post is not just about the pitch and boardroom – No, this review will go elsewhere… For example, what did we think about the team kit this season? I thought the home kit was excellent but was disappointed by our away colours. The team played well in both, so I guess it doesn’t matter to them. With the arrival of a Puma kit we can look forward to something radical – Borussia Dortmund play in Puma and they are doing OK.

And what of Mr.Wenger’s touchline attire? The man is looking a bit scrawny and must be a tailor’s nightmare. Do you think he buys off the peg at M & S or has them made by some bloke in Islington? Then there was the disaster with the “sleeping bag”; the merchandising chaps must have given a royal rollicking to the sweatshops in Vietnam questioning the quality of the zips. Given the harsh and long winter there was ample opportunity to improve the quality of the garment or give Mr. Wenger some instruction as to the use of a zip.

I have to admit to being disappointed by Steve Bould’s lack of sartorial elegance. Nothing in the Big Man’s wardrobe apart from freebies from the Arsenal shop, and he wore long tracksuit bottoms in winter despite spending 20+ seasons watching Pat Rice. Shabby work, Steve – better expected next season.

Did the substitutes bench look interested in events on the pitch? Were they Song-like in their total disinterest (or should it be Adebayor-esque) or kicking every ball like Jenks? I enjoyed seeing Arshavin looking like an extra from The Hobbit.

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The subs were brilliant at the final whistle at St .James. Proof that a real team spirit exists amongst our squad.

A disappointing season as regards ball-boys. No-one got a kicking, no-one handed out towels. Poor work. Nor were the mascots memorable – OK, we had a couple who had spent too long at the pie-shop but generally they were dull. I wonder if any of them will play for the mighty Gunners like Yennaris has.

And what of the team’s tatt’s? Coming from an older generation I am not a fan of the tattoo but accept that in order to be en vogue, a tattoo is a necessary evil. And what of ours? No-one can get near the Beckham or Agger though almost every player has some. I notice that Theo has extended his down one arm, as has JW, and Giroud has taken the needle of late (though he arrived with some). Do you think that there are cliques within the club that are tattoo related?

Hair: No-one can touch Arteta.- not even GoonerMichael can explain his immaculate locks; I have not seen the like since Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds.

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Mikels’s Dad?

Sagna’s beads have become passé and sadly it appears we have returned to the days of short back and sides. No dreadlocks, no silly shaven bits, no Song-like dyes – another poor showing from the lads.

We did much better on the message on the underwear front. Young Bendtner let us down at the World Cup with his green pants but he paid a heavy price for his stupidity (a years holiday in Italy). Since then we haven’t resorted to any silliness that I can recall; no “I belong to Jesus”, no “Happy Birthday, Mum” …. nothing.  I like the new found discipline. Ever since IW8 ruined his record breaking goal tally celebration by taking his shirt off a goal early, the whole vest message has upset me. What is it apart from another display of massive ego?

The only  acceptable message was Robbie Fowler’s support of the dockers.

Goal celebrations: Another good year. A few silly golf swings and a couple of thumb sucks apart our celebrations were quality. Almost always all the players celebrated together and in some style. I always like the knee slide to the corner flag and the around the back of the goal towards the fans, Theo was particularly good in this regard. Note to Gervinho – copy OG.

Part One ends on a high note. I was very impressed with the speed at which the medical staff reached an injured player.  Those sprint training routines under the watchful eye of Linford Christie are paying off. Well done.

Written by Big Raddy


Your Chance To Vote On The Best Arsenal Players Of The Season

May 22, 2013

It’s that time of year when everyone reflects on the somewhat tumultuous journey we’ve been on this past season. Today we give you all the opportunity to vote for those players you believe were the most influential in the campaign.

I have added a supplementary poll at the end to stimulate discussion for the day.

In order to avoid any subliminal bias on my part creeping into your choice, I have listed the players in alphabetical order according to their surname.

This last poll is about your choice of what type of player we should buy if we could only bring in one new top quality player in the summer transfer window……..

Just added this last one for a bit of controversy …

Apologies if you think I’ve left any player out, Coquelin is undoubtedly a talent but he hasn’t really played enough to be in consideration.

You can view the on-going results by clicking the box at the bottom of each poll, we shall publish the final results.

I hope you’ve had fun, please carry the debate on your choices through into the day’s comments.

Rasp


Cazorla Conducts : Arsenal 4 Wigan 1

May 15, 2013

Last night was the next in a long line of must win matches, must win if staying ahead of that lot down the road is important, which it is.

This will be a slightly more sketchy report than I usually do because:

a) I was there so did not have benefit of copious replays
b) I’d met other AAers in the Tavern prematch.

Everywhere you looked every conversation you caught was tense and nervy, the Dean effect was discussed, the ability to throw away good work with a defensive lapse, the lack of a much needed finisher.

Come full time we were happy Gunners wondering why we were so worried.

The early goal a poachers header by Podolski from Cazorla’s corner took some fingernails away from teeth, the ball had gone over Mertesacker’s head and Wigan defenders failed to clear the danger, the story of their season.

poldi and per wigan

Unfortunately the team then found the handbrake as they have done so often during this run in and seemed to decide one was enough.

This affected the crowd, tension grew as we sat deeper allowing Wigan to play their patterns, I really like the way Wigan play forward, they always seemed to have an extra man even when we were well set defensively, we got pulled about left and right. But with a bit more quality when we were in possession we should have been able to punish them on the counter, however we didn’t appear to want to leave our half.

Everyone put in a shift, then Dean started to try and influence the game, allowing some robust challenges on red and white shirts to go unpunished, one particularly memorable one was on Santi which led to a Wigan attack while Dean surprisingly to everyone but the conspiracy theorists waved play on.

Not so long after Dean awarded what appeared to be a very soft free kick on the edge of our area. Maloney stepped up and looped it over our wall into the corner of the net, it was a well taken free kick, but Pod could have been a little braver in the wall.

The boos at half time were reserved for Mike Dean as he left the pitch.

The second half started and we were still a little nervy but at least we were now on the attack a bit more, and trying to use the ball better in possession.

It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that we could breathe a little easier, Santi released down the right flank produced the best cross of the game, Theo had taken a good position in the centre and met the ball to finish. Theo Theo reverberated around the Emirates, but the real difference was Santi’s cross, we had put in many a poor cross from the right before that or chose the wrong options, Santi just looked up saw his target and put it on a plate.

Moments later we were on our feet again, Santi helping the ball through to Podolski who flicked it over the approaching Wigan keeper.

Ramsey then rounded off a very productive 10 minutes and another high energy display from himself with a much deserved goal, you could see the relief in his celebration. It was a very good goal, finding himself on the left wing he was released by Santi again, he ran with purpose towards the area, and without many options he decided he would have one for himself, cutting onto his right foot and finishing high into the net.

ramsey v wigan

“Are you watching Tottenham?” Asked the Emirates faithful, I’m pretty sure they were, and the thought of them crying in their beer was very heartwarming.

The only worrying development towards the end of the game was Arteta limping off with a calf pull, which leaves us a selection dilemma come Sunday, Podolski’s goals also give Arsene another decision to make with Giroud available for the final game.

At the final whistle celebration in the home end quickly turned to respect for Wigan players, manager and fans, with most around us applauding Wigan players as they came over to commiserate with their fans. The Premier League will be a less entertaining place without them.

The team then went on its traditional lap of appreciation, BFG walking closest to the fans, fist pumping his way round, the crowd sang to the players, after this troubled season it was as if some of the wounds have healed, we can see they care, they know we care, and in unity we can only grow stronger.

Player ratings

Szczesny 7 could have done better with goal

Sagna 7 solid at back, crossing poor

Koscielny 7.5 solid

BFG 7.5 solid

Gibbs 6.5 not his attacking self in the run in

Arteta 7.5 keeps us ticking

Ramsey 8 Another high energy display wrapped up with a goal

Rosicky 7.5 took up good positions, moved the ball on

Cazorla 9 Genius

Theo 8 worked hard tonight, good finish

Podolski 8 two good goals

Written by Gooner in Exile


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.

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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!!).

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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


Is Defence Our Best Form Of Attack

January 10, 2013

We have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team over the last number of weeks, sometimes looking like the most prolific attacking team on the planet and at other times looking like we don’t have the foggiest idea how to open up the opposition.

To make matters more confusing the vast contrast in performances often happen when very similar teams have been fielded in two separate games, and have often included combinations of Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, and Walcott or the OX all in the same team. This is not an insignificant attacking line up especially when combined with our traditional overlapping full-backs. This combination of players should really give any top side in the world a headache in defence, but have at times even struggled to make mid to lower table teams look at all uncomfortable.

When you look at the above names on paper it is difficult to understand how they can, at times, offer very little attacking threat. To try and explain it to myself I have considered the contradictory possibility that maybe we are fielding too many attack minded players to make our attack effective. I would obviously like to open this up for debate, but before I do I will explain a bit more what I mean by this statement.

In recent discussions on AA regarding what types of players Arsenal need to bring in, one type of player frequently mentioned is a more powerful defensive midfielder. This is usually mentioned in reference to a need to solidify the defensive aspect of our team, and therefore make us harder to breach, and is a sentiment that I am in full agreement with. Could a more pure defensive midfielder, however, actually make us more effective in our attack as well?

Conventional thinking would state that the more defensive players you play the more defensive you will be, but I would suggest that there are times when too many natural attacking players in the one team can leave us imbalanced, and upsets our shape so that players that should be supporting the attack more are pulled into positions of defence too often. Conversely the right defensive midfield screen can provide a better platform and reduce the need for other players to have to drop back as often.

Our current first choice defensive midfielder seems to be Arteta who more often plays that role in the midfield three with Wilshere and Cazorla. I like Arteta and think he is an excellent and very important member of our squad and am not in any way suggesting he is replaced and pushed to one side. I think he is and should remain a regular and important first team player. He did however come from Everton not as a pure defensive midfielder, and he has obvious offensive qualities to his game also. In many games he plays the deeper defensive midfield role very well and certainly never lacks heart and effort, and is not afraid of getting stuck in.

I have questioned, however, whether in some games he gets slightly exposed because he is not really a specialist in this role. At these times he seems to require more help in protecting the back four and breaking up attacks, and my observation has been that this more often than not drags Wilshere deeper to help cover in these areas.

Some will disagree and see the deeper role as Wilshere’s role anyway, and I would agree that all players need to perform some defensive duties, but for me Wilshere has far too much ability on the ball to be kept too often in a deeper role. He is not the finished article yet but those bursts of pace and ability to surge past people should be utilised in attack as much as possible, and this is where I personally see his long term future.

I remember, as one example, in the Southampton game thinking that we needed to release Wilshere further forwards to support Cazorla and try and get some attacking intent back into our game. It was not Arteta’s fault, but I felt he was a bit under the cosh in that game and he was struggling to screen and protect the back four effectively on his own. If we had been playing a more specialist defensive midfielder out there, who could have more effectively covered the defensive midfield area on their own, would that have released Wilshere from having to help out so often in defence and, if he could have played higher up the pitch more often, would that have seen us start to take more attacking control of the game?

You could argue that it may not have worked out that way and how can anyone really know, and I would agree that no-one can say for certain. It is more an observation and opinion that potentially a more specialised midfield destroyer to break up the opposition attacks would have given the platform for our attacking players to get into more dangerous areas more often. Once we turn the momentum of a game in our favour sometimes it becomes difficult for a team such as Southampton to get a foothold back in it.

For me a top defensive midfielder should obviously be a good tackler with a good physical presence. He also needs to be able to distribute the ball well, but for me he doesn’t need to be a “Bergkampesue” defence splitting passer of the ball, but more a decent passer who can redistribute possession once we win the ball back. I have always felt, though, that maybe an even more important characteristic for a central defensive midfielder is pace. I feel it is possibly even more important than for the attacking central midfielder where good positioning, awareness, quick thinking and the ability to play a killer pass are potentially more important characteristics. The defensive midfielder obviously needs to break up play but also needs to try and intercept and cut out threats from the opposition. The ability to cover ground quickly with pace is for me an important feature to defending well in front of the back four, and it is the one thing that Arteta unfortunately is not blessed with.

Many players are mentioned as being suitable players to bring in and play the defensive midfield role but some of you will be aware that I have championed Vermaelen for the role. Some would argue that he is not a good enough passer of the ball, but again I would question how important that is. He is a more than adequate passer of the ball for me and would have no problem in effectively redistributing the ball when we have won back posession. The plus side of his extra physical presence, good biting tackles and pace over the ground would far outweigh anything else for me. He could be considered as a defensive midfielder or even as part of a back three where he plays as an advanced sweeper.

As a pure defensive screen Vermaelen could likely provide 1 ½ times the protection that Arteta can in games where it may be more necessary, and if it allows us to play the other two central midfielders to take up more advanced positions then we may actually end up with a more potent attack by playing a more defence minded player in that deeper role.

I am not actually suggesting that Arteta is permanently pushed aside in this role. Far from it, I believe there will always be games where we can play him with Wilshere and Cazorla, as we do in our current first choice midfield three. These three for me do seem to be somewhat overplayed currently anyway, and I feel need a bit more rotation. Arteta could even revert to his slightly more traditional, pre-Arsenal, more advanced midfield role at times if TV is played in the deeper role and Wilshere or Cazorla need a rest or are carrying a minor knock. It is all about having alternative options for me and all of these players would still get plenty of playing time but hopefully with the added bonus of avoiding burn out and possible injury.

So what do AA’ers think. Do we need a more specialist defensive midfielder at times and if so who would be your choice? Would the addition of this player only be to make us better defensively, or could it actually have the additional effect of making us better offensively as well by way of freeing up other players?

Written by GoonerB


Crisis, what crisis?

December 23, 2012

As I write this Arsenal are driving back home down the motor way with three very valuable points from a tough encounter with a Wigan team fighting for their lives. These points, as I am sure you know, put us in third place and if we stay there at the end of the season we will get an even bigger trophy than we usually do from finishing forth. Not enough to warrant an open top bus driven through the streets of Islington but perhaps a mini bus decked out in red and white with a few beers in the back. Get it where you can I say, lol.

Yes, only two weeks ago people on this site and many others were calling for Wenger’s head but now we have gone three League games unbeaten the faithful can breathe a little easier. Phew.

Have you noticed Wenger’s cunning plan?

We have all heard the stories about the club offering Walcott 75k per week, just as much as we have heard the stories that he wants 100k per week, what irritates me is that some actually believe that if he were offered the 100 he would gratefully sign to Arsenal for a further five years or some such number. To you I say this; no he won’t. With Ballotelli reportedly earning 190k per week Theo’s agents are going to do their best to try and make sure some of that action comes their client’s way. Only if no other oil rich club is interested in Walcott will his agents suggest re-signing to Arsenal.

So what’s Arsene’s cunning plan. Prior to the Reading game, Walcott playing through the middle had reached almost mythical proportions. Thierry Henry was talked about in the same sentence whenever the subject of Theo at number 9 came up. It is so easy to imagine Theo’s agents talking to other clubs in excited tones about how great Theo would be playing down the middle of their club; all it would take is the same wages as Balotelli and Theo is your boy.

Wenger’s cunning plan was to simply pop the balloon. Theo was pretty good against Reading. He was quite good today but 190k a week good he was not. His close control does not put him into what? Oooh choose anyone of the Barcelona front line including those who regularly make the bench. Bringing Walcott’s real talent as a number 9 into sharp focus maybe Wenger’s best shot at keeping him..

Back to the game

According to Arteta in his post match interview, Arsenal were expecting Wigan to come onto us strong and the expectation was correct as come onto us they did. Arteta also made the point that it was easy to see that with that kind of drive and the occasional rub of the green Wigan are capable of inflicting serious damage. All in all I would say that the first half was honours even with Wigan perhaps shading it.

The second half was different; of course, from the restart Arsenal upped the pace with superb runs from the Ox down the right and the rest of the team moving the ball around with far greater urgency.

It wasn’t long before Wigan had been pinned back and a goal looked on its way. It arrived courtesy of a penalty awarded against Walcott, Theo did well to get this it must be said. Up stepped our penalty king to slot home his third in a row, one nil to the Arsenal rung out. This was the signal to Wigan to double their efforts and they almost came straight back with an equaliser. It became clear we had a nail biting twenty minutes in store. Mertersacker stood strong and Szcesney made important saves but Wigan just kept on coming. Time for Arsene to batten down the hatches and batten them down he did, throwing on every defensive player available with the only exception of Steve Bould but I am sure that thought crossed Wenger’s mind.

The end finally arrived followed immediately by a huge sigh of relief. Three points, third place, now that’s my idea of a good Christmas present.

Written by LB


QPR Report and Player Ratings: Context Is All

October 28, 2012

There were more than a few “Phews” at the final whistle yesterday.

After two defeats during which we had displayed the cutting edge of a doughnut, a victory was essential to help steady the Good Ship Arsenal.

And a victory we got, but not one that was easy on the ticker.

At one point the TV cameras focused on an old boy in his 90s who has been following Arsenal since the 1920s. I remember thinking that games like the one we were watching were likely to finish the poor old fellow off.

Mind you, given some of the dire, trophy-less periods he has lived through I doubt whether he gets as hot under the collar about our current travails as some of the younger supporters (which in his case means everyone apart from Dandan).

The big news before kick-off was that Arsenal’s saviour had returned: Jack Wilshere starting a first team game for the first time in 17 months. Bacary Sagna also returned after his own absence: hard on young Carl Jenkinson perhaps, but there’s no harm in the lad getting a break after deputising very well so far this season.

Up front, Arsene Wenger took the revolutionary option of starting with an orthodox striker – Olivier Giroud – supported by Cazorla, with Podolski on the left and Ramsey taking the right-sided midfield role he performed so well against the champions a few weeks ago.

Andre Santos continued at left back, prompting long queues at the crappers before kick-off.

The opposition, managed by the unlikeable Mark Hughes, were bottom of the table despite having spent freely, assembling a squad littered with decent players.

QPR are also a big, physical team, proving that “Hughes the Elbow” did not abandon his fondness for the darker footballing arts after hanging up his boots.

As far as I could tell from watching on the box, the stadium atmosphere at kick off was supportive, but apprehensive. We all remember how nasty things got when the wheels came off at the start of last season, and you could tell the fans were nervous of the disharmony that might be waiting to rear its head if we were to suffer a third consecutive defeat.

Rather than a blow-by-blow report, I want to offer an overview of the game.

I felt we started well and immediately looked to have more positive intent than against Norwich last weekend. Cazorla was busy, finding space between the Rangers’ midfield and defence, Podolski was threatening at every opportunity and Wilshere’s quick feet and direct running were a sight for sore eyes (and I don’t know about you, but after Norwich and Schalke my eyes were as sore as Nasri’s splintered arse).

Hopefully one effect of Wilshere’s presence this season will be to take some of the pressure off Cazorla.

Opposition teams have quickly got wise to the dangers posed to them by Santi and he is usually closely marked now. The way we are playing at the moment you feel that if Santi is stopped, so are Arsenal.

But with Wilshere showing the sort of touches, skill and vision he displayed yesterday it’s not going to be so easy for other teams to nullify us and the prospect is mouthwatering.

To QPR’s credit they did not set out to Queens Park the bus (or at least not as much as most other teams we play at The Emirates). They had two up front and were prepared to try and get forward in a systematic way rather than just booting it up to Zamora.

We could have gone ahead early on, when a flicked header from Ramsey looped just onto the crossbar rather than just beneath it. My recollection is that Sagna crossed the ball in that incident – if so it was just one of several good crosses Mr Reliable made on his return. Incidentally, Sagna showed no signs of rustiness, which is quite remarkable after such a long lay off.

We had a few long range shots on target, a couple of which were spilled by Cesar in the QPR goal. None of the spillages fell to an Arsenal boot which, depending on your perspective, is either because we were unlucky or we did not get enough men in the box.

As the first half wore on and we failed to create any gilt-edged opportunities, the level of apprehension seemed to grow. The stadium was pretty quiet (although I accept that the television coverage does not always give an accurate indication of sound levels) and the players looked tense.

At half time it was hard to feel completely confident that we would come away with all three points and the second half continued in the same vein.

The turning point was a piece of petulance by the visitors’ centre back Stephane Mbia. Fouled by Vermaelen out by the right touchline, the Cameroonian lashed out a boot and was rightly shown red.

There were about 15 minutes to go and we had been gradually building up the pressure even before the sending off. But with QPR down to 10 we were really able to turn the screw.

A succession of chances followed – the best of them falling to Santi Cazorla who blasted over from inside the penalty area when he should at least have hit the target.

Cesar made some fine saves in the Rangers goal – the best of them from a deflected clearance off a QPR defender.

We finally got our reward in the 83rd minute. Giroud – who had a really good game leading the line – was able to win a great header in the box despite being under pressure from two defenders. Cesar parried it, but the ball found Arteta in the six yard box. His header hit the crossbar, bounced back into the six yard box and finally squirted (via Ramsey) to Arteta again, who poked it home. There was an argument for offside which may be justified but would have been difficult to call in the melee that led to the goal.

As we all anxiously willed the clock to tick faster, the team very nearly shot itself in the foot. Twice QPR found great positions to equalise. First Granero pulled a shot wide, then Mackie bundled through three challenges only to find Vito Mannone standing strong to make the block.

Finally the whistle went and the collective sigh of relief must have been audible in West London.

How to view this performance is all about context. If we were coming off the back of a string of good results, we would see it as a professional job: a game in which we were not quite in our best fluid form, but did enough to take all three points.

But after the two recent defeats (and, more particularly, the paucity of chances created in those games), this will be viewed by many as another dodgy outing in which we were lucky to come away with a win.

It’s worth noting, however, that we had 70% possession to QPR’s 30%, and we had 21 attempts on goal (11 on target) compared with QPR’s four (three on target).

Those stats should provide some measure of reassurance and certainly give the lie to Mark Hughes’s ridiculous claim that Rangers controlled the game until the sending off. But a man clinging to his job by the skin of his elbows is liable to say anything.

For me there were many pluses: that we ground out the result; that Jack is Back and looking every bit the player we remember him to be; that Bac is Back and in fine form; and that we have made the first step on the road to recovery.

Player ratings

Mannone: not a lot to do but made a vital stop in the dying minutes. His kicking was mostly very good. 7

Sagna: excellent performance by Bac. I don’t recall him being exposed defensively once all game and he got forward and made several fine crosses. 8.5

Mertesacker: solid outing; some good interceptions and headers and the usual composure when distributing from the back. 7

Vermaelen: unspectacular but did his defensive job well – exactly the sort of performance he needs as he gets his form back together. 7

Santos: after his struggles in the last two games Andre did better, but was still exposed a couple of times. However, he is getting a run of games and will improve. 6

Arteta: I’m running out of superlatives for Miki. Outstanding defensive duties and control of the ball. 8.5 (MoTM)

Wilshere: very encouraging return for Jack. His control, passing and running with the ball were all in evidence. If he stays fit he will make a big difference to our season. 8

Ramsey: when he plays wide right he is certainly no winger, but he kept the dangerous Taarabt quiet and did a lot of good work and got the assist for Arteta’s goal. I wish he had a better left foot because he sometimes gets himself into trouble by having to make wide turns on his right. 7

Podolski: he seemed to be hanging back more than usual to help protect Santos, but also looked lively when getting forward. Not his best game but you always feel he’s capable of popping up with a goal. 7

Cazorla: always busy and dangerous. He is surprisingly hard to barge off the ball for such a small guy. Should have done better with his shot when it was still 0-0. 8

Giroud: I really like this player: QPR are a big strong team but he more than held his own, moved their centre backs around a lot and brought others into the game. His fine header led to our goal. We need to be patient with Olivier because he will come good for us. 8

Subs

Walcott: looked as if he could threaten, without actually doing a great deal.

Gervinho: had a couple of typical runs (ie, tricksy runs with no end product) before picking up an injury and being substituted himself.

Arshavin: made the cross that led to the goal – a player who should, perhaps, be getting more pitch time.

RockyLives


The Midfield Conundrum.

October 16, 2012

Sherlock Holmes said that whatever is left once you have removed the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

What has this to do with our midfield? Well,  ….. the impossible is that we will have a fully fit midfield  to choose from, we have physical fragility in spades – Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Frimpong, Coquelin and Arteta have all suffered long term injuries over the past few seasons and there is no reason to think this will change.

And what is improbable? That less than half of them will be fit at any one time. Add in the as yet to be damaged Ox, Arshavin and Cazorla and we have lots of choice, some might say, too much choice. At a time when all three of our Goalkeepers are under the age of 23 and two of them are crocked, it could be said that we lack squad balance – but that is another story and another post.

I would need RA mathematical qualities to work out the possible combinations of our midfield, all I know as there are too many to count on my fingers. Even if we take Cazorla and Arteta as starters  there are 8 possible partners for them. But should they be automatic starters? Is a midfield of Diaby, Wilshere and Coquelin worse? Or  Ramsey, Ox and Rosicky? etc etc etc

Should Oxlade- Chamberlain be considered as a future midfield linch-pin or a prettier Peter Beardsley?

My point is that what is left is the truth and the truth is we have too many midfield players. The skill sets of Ramsey, Rosicky, Coquelin, Wilshere, and Ox are similar – not identical but similar. I would be happy for any of them to start against any opposition, Cazorla is exceptional. We have no player who can replicate the skills of Arteta but should he be injured we will change the balance of the midfield to be either more attacking or more defensive.

What do you think will be our best midfield assuming all are fit? And what do you think it will look like in 2014? My take is:

2012   Diaby    Cazorla     Arteta

2014     O-C   Wilshere  Cazorla   Arteta

Because I believe to maximize the potential in this squad we have to play  4-3-1-2 with Ox being the 1.

The difficulty will be juggling the fantastic talent we will have behind the first eleven. Wages can be a recompense – it works for Nasri, Kolo, Cahill, Malouda, Nani etc but a truly ambitious player will want first team action and many of our squad players are highly talented lads who have yet to fulfill their potential, something I feel sure they will agitate for.

Lost in the Midfield

For the first time  I can recall we have an area of the pitch which is flooded with exceptional talent.  How would you sort it out ? I have no idea but then I am not paid £6m a year.

( pic c/o Didit )

Written very quickly by Big Raddy


Arteta For Spain Call Up

October 10, 2012

This may annoy fellow supporters, but I would really, really like to see Mikel Arteta get a call-up to the Spanish national team.

I understand all the reasons why – in theory – we should NOT want that to happen.

He is one of our few automatic starters and a mainstay of this year’s exciting, new-look Arsenal, so the last thing we want is him going off on international duty and getting kicked up in the air by Olaf Ankelschnapper in a meaningless friendly.

Then there’s the fact that when the rest of the squad goes off to play for their national sides, he gets a nice long break (which is important when we want him, ideally, to start every important game).  While others are having to mingle with pond life like Ashley Cole and Sergio Biscuits, our Mikel can wander round London Colney like a king, attaching jokey notes to other players’ lockers and maybe even finding time to take grapes and flowers to Abou Diaby in the sick bay.

But I have been so impressed with Arteta’s professionalism, intelligence and application since he signed for us that I just feel he deserves national recognition as a reward for what he has brought to the game.

In a sport awash with overpaid, greedy scumbags he stands out as one of the good guys. He is still held in high esteem by his erstwhile fans at Everton and he took a pay cut to join Arsenal. Contrast that with players who almost crash their cars when offered “only” £55,000 a week, or racially abuse their colleagues or spend more time on the front pages of the tabloids than on the back.

Mikel may have impeccably groomed eyebrows and Action Man’s hair, but he is a reminder that there are still players in the game with moral standing.

As Arsene Wenger has pointed out, if Mikel had been born in a different era – or in this era but in a different country – he would probably have close to 100 caps by now.

Certainly England would have loved a player with his class and technique over the last decade.

Spain is currently fortunate to have a group of some of the best midfielders ever to step onto a football pitch. Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Busquets and Silva are all literally world class.

Then there are the midfield geniuses of Arsenal Past and Arsenal Present: Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla.

What a collection of talent! And most of them not even tall enough to be allowed on the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers.

However, even with this legion of impossibly gifted Spanish midfielders, surely there must be scope for Mikel to gain a cap or two.

Now that he has cemented the deep-lying “pivot” role for himself at Arsenal, you would think he could do a similar job at national level if, for example, his good friend Xabi Alonso was unavailable.

With his passing accuracy, his composure and his eye for a great ball he would slot seamlessly into the Spanish national side. Indeed, among Europe’s top leagues he is second only to Xavi in his pass completion rate so far this season (Xavi is on 96.3%, Arteta on 93.8%).

Would there be any knock-on benefit to Arsenal if Mikel finally got the call-up? I doubt it. He is such a good professional that he gives his all for us anyway and getting an extra boost of pride from being capped is unlikely to change things.

At 30 a call-up might seem unlikely, but I would not rule it out. If Arsenal have a very good season and compete well in the Premier League and the Champions League, more attention will fall on our Spanish metronome and it would not be completely surprising to see him drafted into the national squad.

Putting my Arsenal-skewed self interest aside I sincerely hope that it happens because he deserves it as a player and as a man. Yes, there would be a risk he would come back to us injured or tired – but we have that risk with the vast majority of our players anyway. And it would be a crying shame for such a fine player to end his days uncapped.

Do you agree?

And can you think of previous Arsenal greats who never got capped by their country (Geordie Armstrong springs to mind, and I’m pretty sure that Nigel Winterburn only got a single England cap).

RockyLives


Kos strikes Oil at the Etihad

September 24, 2012

Early news from the Arsenal camp was that the Lion of Flanders had a thorn in his paw and wouldn’t play. Many of the pre-match debates had discussed playing Koscielny in place of the BFG but as it turned out fate had made the decision for us. Ramsey was preferred to either the Ox or Giroud for the 3rd place in the front three. Last season this tactic sometimes left us a little unbalanced. We would see.

With a Mekon and a Klingon lining up against each other, visitors to the Etihad could be forgiven for thinking they’d dropped in on a Science Fiction convention. Would Arsenal reach warp factor 6?

Arsenal began the first half dominating possession. An early Ramsey centre needed a near post run and Santi fired in a long range shot from too far out to trouble Hart. A series of tika taka passes in the City half drew a foul from Kompany who seemed personally affronted that Arsenal were taking the urine on his home ground.

At the other end Corporal Jenkinson easily dealt with a momentary threat from Sinclair and Aguerro managed to force a good save from Don Vito in the Arsenal goal.

On 13’ Arteta played a delightful chipped pass to Gibbs who hurried a first time volleyed pass harmlessly across the goalmouth. Then came, perhaps, Arsenal’s best chance of the first half. A beautiful pass from Ramsey inside Cliché (Niall Quinn trying to outdo David Pleat) to Gervinho but his first touch was as heavy as Na$ri’s wallet.

The Oilers rarely threatened with the BFG and Gibbs particularly impressive. On 18’ an excellent team move resulted in an overhit cross from Gibbs when the area was packed with red shirts begging for a decent ball. Then Jenkinson picked Lescott’s pocket, pulled the ball back to Podolski but the German blazed over with his right foot. Another super attacking move almost resulted in a golden chance for Santi but the man with a dead rat on his head just got back in time to intercept.

In the 37th minute Gervinho hit the side netting and the Gooners at the other end of the ground thought it had gone in for one second, provoking much hilarity from the home fans relieved at something to laugh at having been outclassed at home for the whole of the first half.

A needless corner 5 minutes before half-time then resulted in Don Vito coming and not claiming. Podolski didn’t do enough to stop Lescott from heading in. Mannone made another save from Dzecko immediately after the goal with Arsenal still rattled, disbelieving that with all their first half superiority they were one down. Arsene Wenger shook his head, the curse of Mike Dean seemed to be rearing his ugly head yet again. (to be fair, Dean had a good game and didn’t celebrate when Lescott scored!)

Santi still had time to create another couple of half chances before the break but to no avail. An excellent display from the little Spaniard, Man of the 1st Half by a country mile.

Mankini used his tactical nous at halftime and brought on Rodwell to replace Sinclair who had had to climb out of Jenkinson’s pocket to go for his half-time cuppa. Nullifying Santi was obviously in the Italian’s mind despite his team going in one goal to the good. Citeh’s plan seemed to work immediately the 2nd half began. Either that or the Arsenal squad had been smoking a little something they’d brought back from Montpellier. Arsenal’s build-up became slow and ponderous. Gibbs again put in a poor cross after a delicious Diaby through ball and Jenkinson put the ball too close to the keeper when in a similar position to Tuesday night.

The movement and fluidity of the first half had disappeared. Players on the ball had no options, meaning the ball often worked its way backwards. Gervinho sliced a couple of decent chances well over the bar and his comedy collision with Ramsey seemed to sum up the way the game was progressing for the Gunners.

At the other end Mertesacker made a series of brilliant interceptions when the blue Oilers attempted to catch us on the break. His reading of the game is just sublime.

The substitutions of Diaby and the Pod for Walcott and Giroud then seemed to open up the game. Jenkinson and Walcott fired in dangerous crosses. Mertesacker and Koscielny were called on to make some excellent tackles and interceptions when Citeh broke upfield.

In the 82nd minute a real rasping drive from Santi forced Hart into the best save of the game and resulted in a corner. The ball bounced out from Lescott and Kos drilled the ball high into the net for a glorious equaliser. Cue pandemonium.

A little period of keystone cop defending immediately after the goal saw Mannone make a crucial save before Aguerro put the ball wide. Ramsey made a great run, then the BFG another magnificent interception prompting the Away Boys into a chorus of We’ve Got a Big F*ckin German. The last minute saw another excellent passing move from The Arsenal result in Gervinho again blasting over the bar. It wasn’t our Mekon’s day in front of goal. Garcia pulled down Jenkinson and was rightly booked but we’d already settled for a point.

All in all it was an excellent point for the Gunners, Citeh being unbeaten for over 30 games at home, not many opposition teams even claiming a point in that sequence.

The Away Boys were magnificent as usual keeping a rendition of Money don’t buy History going throughout the game  and they warmly applauded the whole team off the pitch including my Man of the Match, Per Mertesacker.

Ratings:

Mannone – Didn’t get to the ball when coming for the corner but made some decent saves which kept Citeh at bay……7

Mertesacker – Imperious. How could we ever have doubted he could cope with the Citeh attack?……9

Koscielny – Some superb defending and a real humdinger of a goal to give City’s owners the sheikhs……8

Jenkinson – The Corporal controlled Sinclair in the 1st half and had another excellent all-round game….8

Gibbs – Excellent both in defence and joining in the left side attacks…..8

Diaby – A little patchy from the big man, especially just after half time…..7

Arteta – It’s difficult to ever see Mikel having a bad game…….8

Ramsey – Contributed well in the first half and seemed to come to life after he dropped back to replace Diaby……7

Cazorla – Magnificent in the 1st half and his blistering shot led indirectly to Kos’ goal…..8

Podolski – Lukas didn’t fire today but he deserves some slack after recent performances…..7

Gervinho – Not Gerv’s steadiest day in front of goal but worked hard throughout….7

Subs:

Giroud – 71′ – Olivier tried a few flicks and layoffs and caused a nuisance….7

Walcott – 72′ – Some interesting moments in his cameo but looks a little lost…..7

Coquelin – 90′ – Not long enough on the pitch…..7

Written by chas