Quotes of the Year: Arsenal New Year(ish) Quiz

January 6, 2014

What a fine year 2013 was. We were the best team in England during the past twelvemonth, confounding the doom sayers and the “experts” who make a living from sitting on TV studio couches with too-tight trousers and bad haircuts. Now 2014 is a few days old and Gunners everywhere will be hoping for more of the same. Today, for a bit of a diversion, I thought we all might like a bit of fun. Below is a list of quotations relating to The Arsenal, all made during 2013. All you need to do is match the quotes to this list of fine (and not-so-fine) folk: Arsene Wenger, Piers Morgan, Sir Chips Keswick, Lord Sugar, Andrei Arshavin, Per Mertesacker, Ivan Gazidis, Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Santi Cazorla, Andre Villas-Boas, Harry Redknapp.: All answers are at the end. Good luck. Arsenal Related Quotes of 2013

  1. No mobile signal in directors box, assumed was correct. Composed tweet in stand, got sent after game.”
  2. Arsenal cannot win the league this season, no way, they haven’t proved anything yet.”
  3. I promised myself I would make sure I did things well and, considering the money that Arsenal spent on me, I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
  4. What does Wenger see in Ramsey? A complete and utter liability.” (January 2013).
  5. We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they (Arsenal) are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.”
  6. I wouldn’t compare the two squads (Arsenal and Tottenham). Tottenham are much stronger, no doubt.” (August 2013).
  7. It felt like the crowd (at Arsenal) was at the theatre – good seats, expensive tickets and they wanted to see a show, not to support the team.”
  8. It can’t just be all happiness, peace and pancakes.”
  9. Don’t mind and don’t care.” (On being asked by journalists for a reaction to Tottenham being knocked out of the Europa Cup by Basle).
  10. “Yes there is a poster of Gareth Bale in Times Square, but he no longer plays for Tottenham – he now plays for one of our rivals!‘”
  11. “I am greatly honoured to have been appointed _______  of Arsenal Football Club. This is one of the great clubs in the game, recognised and loved by millions. I am looking forward to leading the Club to future success.”
  12. “If they just wanted a figurehead, they should have gone for me. It would have been a better visionary decision.”

RockyLives

Scroll down the page to find the answers ………….

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Answers to Quiz:

1. Lord Alan Sugar, after getting Spuds fans all excited about a non-existent Newcastle goal against Arsenal on the final day of the season)

2. Alan Shearer

3. Santi Cazorla

4. Piers Morgan.

5. Andre Villas-Boas

6. Harry Redknapp

7. Andrei Arshavin

8. Per Mertesacker (explaining why he roasted Ozil for not saluting the away fans)

9. Arsene Wenger

10.  Ivan Gazidis

11. Sir Chips Keswick on being announced as Peter Hill Wood’s successor as Chairman

12. Tony Adams, responding to the appointment of Sir Chips.

RockyLives


Old wine, or new bottle, or old wine in new bottle?

December 31, 2013

End of the year, and part of the ritual is to take stock, and look forward towards the future with glorious plans and renewed expectations. And what a fantastic year this has been for Arsenal fans! At the midway stage in the Premier League last year, Arsenal was lying 7th, well off the pace for Champions League qualification, and even off Spursday football places. Qualifying second in their group, Arsenal faced a tough round of 16 encounter against Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe at that stage. With significant changes to the Board, a new owner in tow, there were uncertain times for the club management. The fans were up in arms, with substantial ammunition provided by a negative press, dubious pundits and even the Arsenal Supporters Trust. Difficult times indeed!

But Arsenal managed to make a fantastic turnaround. Attaining qualification for CL was nothing short of a miracle! Yes, Arsenal lost out in a two leg epic battle against eventual winners Bayern, but before that showed their mettle in an amazing 2-0 away victory. Despite all the negativity, good progress was made in the summer transfer window. The progress continued in the current season, and Arsenal is sitting at the Top of the Premier League at the halfway stage. Qualification to the Champions League was gained from the aptly termed “Group of Death”. Grudging acknowledgement of Arsenal’s strength and mettle is gently arising from beneath the rubble of disdain and the green fumes of envy. Indeed, if the league was played over the calendar year, Arsenal would have been Champions of 2013. Oh, what a year this has been!!!

 

per and kosser

All in all, a good year in prospect. There are plenty of challenges yet to be met. Plenty of time still before we even begin to celebrate the achievements of this team. But, also plenty of positive vibes and expectation in tow. So AA ers, looking towards the future, what did we learn new about Arsenal this year, and what were we reminded of afresh, that we did not know with so much certainty one year back? Let us discuss. Here are a few of my tentative suggestions. It was not all rosy, though. Injuries continued through the year. The squad seems a bit thin. Progression to the round of 16 in the Champions League was gained, but only in second place. Like last year, we have drawn Bayern Munich. Lovely games in prospect, but significant challenges as well. And if the vitriol from the fans is a bit subdued due to the sustained run of fine results and resilience in the field of play, the negativity from the press and pundits continues unabated. Perhaps most importantly, whether by luck or design, Arsenal continues to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. Alas, some things never seem to change!

First, same time last year we did not know what a fantastic central defensive partnership, together with a very competent goalkeeper, we were developing. Indeed a large part of our success this year owes itself to the fantastic defensive pairing of Per and Kos. What a duo!!! And what a great leader in our beloved BFG! When Verms got injured, who would have thought we would have such a strong defence where even a fit squad captain cannot find a place?

Per and kossser 2

Second, one of the best revelations of the year was the discovery that Ramsey had developed into such a fantastic player. He was the subject of much of the blame and vitriol during our indifferent showing in 2012. Perhaps somewhat undeservedly. But our beloved Rambo rubbed all these adversities off his shirt, returned in style from his long standing injury, and has grown to the stature of one of the best midfielders in the League, perhaps in Europe as well.

Ramsey

He has shown a very mature head as well, leading for his country at a very young age. In tow, Jack Wilshere is developing into a fine player, if somewhat idiosyncratic on occasions. Together with Theo, the Ox, Gibbs and Jenks, they also form a British core to the team which had been somewhat deficient for a while. Who would have thought a year back that Rambo would develop into such a fantastic and dependable player, and Jack’s game will be coming along so nicely as well?

The English players

Third, one of the most encouraging developments of the year, at least for me, was the maturity with which the owner Kroenke, Gazidis and the Board conducted themselves. Perhaps the best development was that the Board did not interfere in footballing matters, leaving team and signing decisions to the people who know best, led by one Arsene Wenger. If you think that this is not a surprise, look around at other clubs. Several clubs have met with significant disasters as a result of owner power, such as the Spuds, Cardiff and even the Chavs, and in some others the environment is not very nice even if the performance has not been equally devastating.

The principles of the club, that a fantastic team can be developed without wasting money on the wasteful purchase of overpriced bench idols, was not compromised by a new owner and a new look Board. Surely, this was not a given at the start of the year, after the club had gone through a rather aggressive ownership contest and change of hands.

Fourth, amid the mantra of financial fairplay and traditional hesitancy to spend big money, and the recovery from an expensive move to the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would spend their money where it mattered most?

Ozil

In the procurement of one Mesut Ozil, who despite his tentative adjustment to English football and the Arsenal way of playing the game, has given the team something really special, Arsenal showed purpose and ambition, and real ability to deliver trophies. This came together with the free transfer of one Mathieu Flamini – ah, what a fantastic transfer move!

flamini

Fifth, against the backdrop of significant unrest and disquiet among good-weather fans, ably supported by the press and pundits, who would have thought that the positive outlook of a sane fan-base would shine through? The struggle against the doubters and doomday-usherers still continues in earnest, in ArsenalArsenal and elsewhere, but The Home of Football still reverberates with the positive chants and outlook towards the new dawn awaiting in the New Year!!!!

AA ers, what do you think? My final thoughts are:

COYG! Onwards and Upwards!! A fantastic year 2014 awaits!!!!

Written by arnie

Arsenal Record 2013 Calendar Year

P W D L F A GD Pts
38 25 7 6 70 34 36 82

Where would 82 points put us in seasons past?

SEASON Winners P W D L F A GD Pts AFC on 82 points
2008-09 Utd 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90 4th
2009-10 Chavs 38 27 5 6 103 32 71 86 3rd
2010-11 Utd 38 23 11 4 78 37 41 80 1st
2011-12 Oilers 38 28 5 5 94 29 65 89 3rd
2012-13 Utd 38 28 5 5 86 43 43 89 2nd

Chart by MickyDidIt

2013 Calendar Year League Table

P W D L F A GD Points vs Top 7 Total Home Total Away
Arsenal 38 25 7 6 70 33 37 82 10 19 19
Shitty 38 25 5 8 86 39 47 80 10 19 19
Chavs 38 23 8 7 71 40 31 77 10 20 18
ManUre 38 23 8 7 70 37 33 77 11 19 19
Spuds 38 21 10 7 55 46 9 73 10 19 19
Dippers 38 21 9 8 87 39 48 72 9 18 20
Everton 38 18 13 7 54 35 19 67 11 20 18
Toon 38 16 6 16 51 62 -11 54 13 19 19
Southampton 38 12 15 11 49 43 6 51 13 19 19
Villa 38 11 10 17 50 58 -8 43 11 20 18
Swansea 38 10 12 16 44 54 -10 42 12 18 20
Norwich 38 9 11 18 37 62 -25 38 12 20 18
Fulham 38 11 5 22 39 67 -28 38 12 19 19
West Ham 38 9 11 18 41 57 -16 38 12 19 19
Stokies 38 8 11 19 34 60 -26 35 11 19 19
WBA 38 7 13 18 45 61 -16 34 12 18 20
Sunderland 38 7 10 21 36 62 -26 31 12 19 19

Stat Overkill by GiE


Slog On The Tyne: Arsenal Report and Player Ratings.

December 30, 2013

So we enter 2014 as the star on top of the Premier League Christmas tree.

Will we still be there at the end of May? Who knows, but if we are it will be thanks – in large part – to grinding out difficult wins like yesterday’s at Newcastle.

Toon have been one of the EPL’s form teams in recent weeks so going up there three days after playing another away fixture and coming home with all three points should not be underestimated. Coming away with the win was hard slog indeed and made a fitting end to a year in which we have been the best team in the country, bar none.

If the league title was played from January to December, we would be Champions.

There were a number of reasons to be concerned before the kick-off yesterday: injuries or illness to Ramsey, Ozil, Monreal and Vermaelen had severely reduced the manager’s options; Olivier Giroud was on a long non-scoring run and the referee – Lee Probert – has previously shown himself blind to fouls committed on Arsenal players.

Nevertheless we started brightly, moving the ball well and finding our players at close range for little give-and-gos.

Unfortunately whenever our moves reached the point where we could hurt the opposition we chose precisely that moment to misplace a pass, miscontrol the ball or chose the wrong option entirely.

Even superb technicians like Santi Cazorla were found wanting.

To a degree we seem, as a team and a squad, to be slightly off our game at the moment (perhaps the result of mental and physical fatigue from a recent unhelpful schedule that might have been devised specifically to harm our prospects).

Newcastle, to their credit, worked hard to deny us space and to ‘get in our faces’. They are a big, physical team with some talented players and it was easy to see how they have been getting good results. I noticed before the game that several of the “experts” were tipping this game as a good bet for a home win.

Newcastle were set up pretty defensively against us so it was no surprise that Theo Walcott, in particular, had little space to exploit.

Referee Probert, true to form, was letting quite a few clear fouls on Arsenal players go unpunished but, in fairness, he also overlooked several fouls by our players. However, for the second game running there was an off-the-ground jumping tackle on one of our players (Williamson on Giroud) that went completely unpunished when, at the very least, a yellow card was merited. It seems like it will take another leg break before we start getting protection from this sort of recklessness.

In the first half we managed to get off a few shots from medium distance, but the ball was magnetically drawn to Tim Krul’s midriff on each occasion.

Newcastle came on strong in the last couple of minutes before the break, forcing a fine save from Szcesny from a long distance effort and hitting the crossbar with a speculative lob.

Half time 0-0.

The second half continued much like the first with Arsenal having the majority of possession and looking like the better team, without fashioning clear goal scoring opportunities.

Newcastle were most dangerous down our left flank where Gibbs was often up against two players because Cazorla had been pulled infield.

But the real battle was in central midfield – a place where Newcastle have been particularly strong and combative this year

Tomas Rosicky and Matthieu Flamini were our stand-out performers, constantly breaking up Toon moves, winning tackles and keeping the ball moving when we were in possession. Rosicky also looked the most likely to provide a breakthrough going forward.

Jack Wilshere also had a very combative game. He has a tendency to turn into trouble and over-elaborate on occasion but I thought this was a much better performance from him than in recent outings. His overall pass success rate was 83% – but it was 100% in our defensive third of the field, 90% in the middle third and 67% in the attacking third, where he was trying lower percentage options. Defensively, he won two third of his tackles. He has also been reading Arsenal Arsenal I reckon, because his body language was much better and he (mostly) got straight back up after being fouled/falling over.

The breakthrough, when it finally came, was from our handsome, non-scoring French centre forward.

Not much had been working for Olivier Giroud (a lot of his lay-offs went to black-and-white shirts) but, as ever, he laboured tirelessly for the team, taking his usual quota of knocks into the bargain.

But when Theo Walcott floated a beautifully weighted free kick into the box, Ollie got a slight contact with his head – just enough to guide the ball past Krul’s left hand.

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What a pleasure it was to hear “one nil to the Arsenal” ringing around St James’s Park. It goes without saying that our away fans were fantastic (and were just a fraction louder than usual, thanks to the presence of Chas and Ant).

Soon afterwards we almost made it 2-0, when Theo managed to get a toe-end on a through ball which then rebounded back to him off Krul. Theo’s second stab at it – a little lob – was goal bound but was headed onto the crossbar and out by an alert Toon defender. The ball then came to Giroud on our right of the six yard box for a gilt-edged chance to at least threaten the net. Sadly Ollie showed why many people still have doubts about him as a finisher, shanking the ball away from goal. In comments yesterday Rasp put this down to his lack of a decent right foot.

Gibbs was removed with an injury and Flamini moved to left back, while Arteta slotted into midfield.

Then came perhaps the hottest debating point of the game. With about 15 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger opted to go completely on the defensive, taking off Walcott, putting Carl Jenkinson at right back and moving Sagna into the middle to give us three centre backs. In post game interviews he said this was because the team was looking tired and he thought it better to close out the game. He even referenced mistakes from previous seasons where we had let in goals late on through not being defensive enough.

According to some who commented yesterday it was tactically astute and enabled us to cope with the extra forward players that Alan Pardew (Arsene, Arsene knock him out, Asrene, knock him out) had thrown on to try and salvage a point.

To me it seemed crazy. It led to a final quarter of an hour that made The Alamo seem like a pyjama party as we basically said to Newcastle: “OK, you have the freedom of the park to bombard our goal.”

There were numerous Toon crosses into dangerous areas; countless heart-in-mouth moments as the ball bounced around our penalty area; last ditch clearances and headers; frantic hoof-outs from the back.

We failed to control the ball for more than 10 seconds at a time and were, in my opinion, slightly fortunate not to have conceded.

Meanwhile with Walcott off and a ponderous Giroud up front, there was never any chance of countering with speed.

The one real counter-attacking opportunity came when Tim Krul came up for a Newcastle corner. We cleared the ball and got a throw-in in their half. Krul was desperately legging it back up the field. All it needed was a quick throw-in from Jenkinson to the screaming Bendtner (who was on for Giroud) and Bendy would have had an open goal to aim at (albeit from about 40 yards out).

Unfortunately young Carl had been possessed by the Eboue fairies and as he diddled and dawdled the chance went begging.

The final whistle, when it came, was a huge relief.

In summary, we deserved the three points for being the better team for 75 minutes, but boy did we make it tough on ourselves at the end.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: one great save from a long range shot; some fine work as we were under siege at the end… but there were a couple of howlers from our young Pole in this game. Following his gift to Carlton Cole a few days earlier I hope the carelessness of last season is not creeping back into his game because he has been fantastic so far. 6

Sagna: very solid defensively and offered plenty going forward: 7

Mertesacker: thank Dennis for the BFG. We really needed his calm head and composure in this game and he was excellent during the final onslaught. 7.5

Koscielny: back in the side and back to his best – which he needed to be at times. 7.5

Gibbs: had real problems in the first half because Cazorla was caught inside and the Toon fullback kept making overlapping runs. Overall though he was as solid as we have come to expect and contributed to our attack when he could. 7

Flamini: a very good game from the Frenchman, tackling hard, covering brilliantly at times and doing well when forced to move to left back after Gibbs’s injury. His pass success was an outstanding 95%. 7

Wilshere: better than in recent outings. His defensive work was solid but he still has a tendency to run or pass into trouble at times. 6

Cazorla: some good moments from the wee Spaniard, but too often his touch was off where it really mattered – in and around the opposition penalty area. 6

Rosicky: all action from start to finish and our stand-out performer. Without Tomas it’s unlikely we would be coming home with three points. 8

Walcott: Newcastle’s approach to the game meant there was little or no chance to exploit his pace. But he made the goal with a beautiful free kick and was very unlucky not to have scored. 7

Giroud: was having one of those games until he scored. You can’t fault his effort, but he will still need to do more to convince some people that we don’t need an extra striker in the January window. He gets an extra point because of the goal. 7

Substitutes

Arteta: seemed a bit off the pace. 6

Jenkinson: aside from falling asleep when he could have given Bendtner a chance at an empty net, he did his defensive work well. 6

Bendtner: did all he could for the short while he was on. 6

RockyLives


Character, Desire and Strategy: Symphony drowns Heavy Metal!

November 7, 2013

Notwithstanding the fantastic results that Arsenal have been producing most weeks and in midweek games since the beginning of the year, and the consistency with which the team have been turning whinging disbelievers and useless pundits into muppets, if there was ever a moment when the good guys proudly donning their red and whites on the field had to prove a point, this was it.

Playing away from home at the home of the formidable Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund, having succumbed to the ignominy of an embarrassing loss to the same club at The Home of Football, and knowing that their dreams of progressing from the Group of Death lay in their own hands (erm, feet and heads), this was the moment of destiny.

Would they remain a bunch of kids led by a handful of immature generals trying to play a game meant for men, or would they show the strength of character, desire and strategy that separates the sublime from the ordinary? On a rain-drenched evening in Dortmund, in front of formidable opposition and a vociferous crowd, they fought valiantly with heart and mind to achieve a memorable victory that dreams are made of.

The stage for the show was set up well. The set was immaculately chosen in advance, and the background music was perfect for the occasion – perhaps the tune of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. At the disappointing loss at home to Dortmund a fortnight earlier, Arsène Wenger, a man known for his economy of words and measured temperament, rather uncharacteristically chose to criticise the team in public for their alleged ‘naivety’. Adding salt to injury, Jurgen Klopp, the respected Dortmund manager tried to take the art of mind games to the level of Symphony Fantastique.

“[Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes” he said,”It’s like an orchestra, but it’s a silent song, yeah? And I like Heavy Metal more. I always want it loud! I want to have this: ‘BOOM!’ “.

It was time for the true mettle to shine through the din of Heavy Metal, and it did! The good guys of Arsenal fought their heart out, played with their minds sharp, and manufactured a fantastic away win!

It was a very tough test against the skill, aggression and hard work put in by a truly fantastic team, Borussia Dortmund, and in front of their home crowd as well. On the night, the entire team was fantastic. In the first half, both teams played a measured game, Arsenal sitting deep in defiant defence, and Dortmund piling on attacks without creating that many chances. Mkhitaryan squandered the best chance curling his shot wide of the post, but that apart, the central defence of Mertesacker and Koscielny nullified every chance that Dortmund created, with the able support of Sagna and Gibbs.

Arteta and Rosicky worked tirelessly to organise the midfield, and together with Ramsey, Santi and Özil maintained the threat of counter attacks. Giroud was left a bit isolated up front, but it was really that kind of a game. For me, our attacking threat in the first half was captured in the one occasion when Özil beautifully controlled a pass at the top of the Dortmund box, made the turn towards goal, but the moment the ball was pushed less than a foot forward, along came two defenders to snatch it away. Such was the tireless industry of the Dortmund defence, it was a treat to watch and admire! Anyway, the half ended a relatively event-less all-square.

There was all to play for in the second 45. But along came Dortmund with renewed vigour, and piled on attack upon attack. Most of these were repelled by the resolute Arsenal defence led by the fantastic Mert-Kos duo. For a nervous few minutes, the relentless pressure appeared to work. The nightmares of the Emirates appeared close. Once, Reus got through unmarked, and just a few minutes later Blaszczykowski had a low shot on goal. On both occasions, Szczęsny brought off fantastic saves. And that was it. No more serious attempts on the Arsenal goal followed.

Aaron Ramsey

Instead, it was a moment of magic at the other end. Rosicky, an ex-Dortmund player, latched on to a ball at the left flank and tried to move towards the centre, lost the ball, won it back and spread it wide to the right. Özil held on to it and sent a cross into the box, Giroud towered above his marker and used all his strength to nod the ball back towards the centre, and Ramsey lurked in with a great heart and headed the ball home almost right from the Subotic’s raised boot.

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The goal opened the floodgates somewhat, no not from Dortmund attacks, but Arsenal’s threats on goal. From a Giroud cross, Ramsey forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi corner, Giroud saw a shot somehow cleared off the line. Per came along into attack with great vigour and came close to scoring twice, the second time sending a loopy header to the top of the net.

The mighty Dortmund, worthy finalists of last year’s Champions League, undefeated in the Bundesliga so far this season, did not know what hit them. Perhaps they were not used to losing. They were completely rattled and disheveled. Apart from a muffled attempt from Reus, they offered hardly any threat. The 11 brave men of Arsenal defended resolutely and saw the game through.

In the middle of all this, one man stood tall in midfield, led from the front, and for me captured like no other player the spirit that Arsenal stood for. It was Mikel Arteta. He manned the centre of the field like a fighter, defending and winning balls throughout the 90 minutes, earned a yellow card for his troubles, somewhat unfairly, for tugging Blaszczykowski’s shirt, and came disastrously close to a second as well. But he kept fighting. At the other end, Reus tugged back Rosicky but was not booked, and neither was there a penalty for bundling valiant Kos over. Injustices galore. But the brave and good guys stood tall amongst the ruins, and came out valiant winners. What a night of Champions League football! Lucky Micky and Raddy who represented AA in the ground!

How did we manage to win this game against all odds? Hard work, perhaps even more than skill, but what was most important was strategy. The strategy of sitting back and defending resolutely, the strategy of going all out in counter attack, but only when the opposition had got somewhat tired and demoralised, and most importantly the strategy of knowing how to get the best efforts out of the players. Going even to the extreme of publicly criticising the team for naivety. In a game characterised by character, desire and strategy, STRATEGY came out tops for me. In a game between symphony and Heavy Metal, the mettle displayed by the team was beautiful SYMPHONY. In a game of strategy between two great managers, Arsene Wenger came out on top! Arsène Wenger is my Man of the Match!
Arsene
Every player did his bit on the night. Here are some tentative scores.

Szczesny: 8 Had little to do on the night, except to make two fantastic saves. And they were crucial.

Sagna: 7 Measured performance in defence and attack. 

Mertesacker: Excelled at the heart of defence, went out in counter attack, almost scored as well. What a performance! 

Koscielny: Fantastic in defence, great combination with Mert, played with a big heart.

 Gibbs 7 Measured performance focusing on defence, cricial interventions when Mert and Kos had moved up and Dortmund attacked on the counter.

Arteta: 9 A true leader on the day, leading from the front. Valiently marshalled the midfield all evening. Outstanding.

Ramsey: 9 What can you say! The “Welsh Messi” Aaron Ramsey did what he does best – deliver the sucker punch.

Cazorla: 7 Good, solid, if somewhat underwhelming performance on the night.

Ozil: 8 Good performance, great cross that led to the goal.

Rosicky: 8 Fantastic performance. Together with Arteta, maintained the midfield, fighting for every ball, moving forward on every occasion possible.

Giroud: 7Assist for the goal, tireless performance as the lone striker, holding up, running tirelessly after the ball. Almost scored as well.

Arsene Wenger: 10 Le Manager, what fantastic strategy, what a man, what a team. This performance was surely for him.

Monreal: 7 Came on 75 mins for Santi, reliable as ever.

Vermaelen: No time to make an impact.

Bendtner: No time to make an impact, but ran after the ball continuously for the 5 mins he was on.

Written by arnie

Our on the spot photographers have provided these pics of a view from the away end:

D1

D2

D3


When is a test not a test? Arsenal 2 – Liverpool 0

November 3, 2013

I hate playing Liverpool, when it is a match that has a lot riding on it I hate it even more. The first two trophies I watched Arsenal win Liverpool were the side in our way, so with those in the memory bank I shouldn’t be as fearful. And even though our record against them has been good in the last few years there was the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Quarter Final, last minute penalties in the League and dodgy offside goals all weigh heavy on my mind when we come to play the red half of Scouseland.

After the last two midweek results some serious questions have been asked of the squad, the manager and our chances to challenge for titles.

The early kick off on Satutday saw Newcastle take three points off every pundits title favourites Chelsea. At that point I would have been more than happy to take a point from yesterday’s game to retain top spot.

How stupid was I? What did I have to worry about? The long and short of it is Liverpool have two good strikers, one is considered to be worth more than £40m+£1, the rest of their team is distinctly average. Rodgers thought his new tactic of 3-5-2 and hard pressing would nullify Arsenals strength and highlight our weaknesses…he was wrong.

The defence were disciplined, full backs tucking in to help the centre backs out and Arteta playing the anchor role to perfection picking up loose balls and being precise in possession.

Giroud occupied three centre backs by firstly trying to win every ball, and secondly holding up the ball to bring the midfield runners into the game.

And the midfield is where we won the game, the speed the football moved between Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil and Rosicky was electric, their runs off the ball even better. The only time Liverpool got close was when we gave them the ball, but we were ready to fight to win back possession as soon as we lost it.

This was probably as complete a performance as we have seen from Arsenal this season , and we got our reward for the way we played.

The first came from Santi Cazorla, I think we can safely say he is now over his injury, Arteta carried the ball through midfield to release Sagna who headed for the touch line and produced a cross into the area, it was behind Giroud but Santi arrived to head powerfully towards goal , the header cannoned back off the post to the little Spanish magician who volleyed into the empty net with ease.

Cazorla v liverpool

After that goal we were all out attack but unable to extend our lead through a mixture of missing the final pass or not connecting with the final shot.

Liverpool rearranged at half time bringing on Coutinho to attempt to adopt a more natural 4-4-2. In reality this just gave us more time in midfield and less bodies in the way through the middle when playing on the counter.

Giroud was unlucky not to add a second twice in quick succession, first nicking the ball ahead of Skrtel from a generous Toure backpass only to see his dinked effort slide wide of the post. Moments later a combination of Rosicky and Santi provided him with half a chance but he could not make a strong enough contact to get it past Mignolet.

Liverpool always had a chance, Suarez can, if given the room, score a goal from nowhere, we needed a second, and it eventually came from our player of the season so far, Özil found Ramsey arriving in space, he took a good touch and as the ball bounced in front of him and the defence backed off he decided he may as well add to his total for the season and dispatched a screamer past Mignolet into the roof of the net.

Rambo v Liverpool

During all his on the pitch troubles Ramsey never stopped working hard and showing for the ball, it’s why I always had time for him and asked others to get off his back, but I had no idea he had this kind of football in him. After the game the Sky pundits asked if he thought he could get 20 a season midfielder like Gerard or Lampard, if I was Aaron I would have said “only if I get given penalty taking duties”.

Wenger sent on reinforcements to close out the game, Monreal for Rosicky, Vermaelen for the injured Gibbs and later Jenkinson for Cazorla. Liverpool went close a couple of times in this period but the result wasn’t really in doubt.

To answer my own question in the title. It’s not a test when you play a team that are above their natural league position.

But guaranteed to be a win clear of the nearest competition come Sunday evening after ten games I am more than happy.

Ratings

Szczesny 8 – Apart from his little one two with Sturridge was assured and commanding, couple of good blocks too.

Sagna 8 – Solid performance lots of energy good passing helped the centre backs when necessary

Gibbs 8 – More defensive than Sagna as he was covering Sturridges wide runs, second half he continually nipped in front to take the ball off the intended receiver.

Mertesacker 8 -still for me Arsene’s best signing of the last three seasons, his leadership and distribution have made us so much better at the back.

Koscielny 9 – More apparently World Class centre forwards in his back pocket, he is everything you want in a defender.

Arteta 9 – Mopped up everything dropping in front of the back four, passed to a red and white shirt for 90 minutes.

Özil 7 – Slightly quiet game from the new arrival, but everything he does is wrapped in silk.

Ramsey 9 – Cracking goal capped a fine performance, goal scoring is his biggest improvement second is his ball retention and use, all this added to his work rate and energy levels equals a very special player. Shame on you who unjustly wrote him off.

Rosicky 7 – Worked hard without the ball and used it well when in possession.

Cazorla 8 – Some thought Özil’s arrival may have limited Santi’s pitch time, it’s pretty hard to see us start a game without him. The lad is class.

Giroud 8 – His hold up play makes the midfields job easier, unlucky not to get a goal that his work rate deserved. Bossed three centre backs around for 90 minutes.

Subs

Monreal 7 – I like using Nacho as a sub to give some protection in the latter stages, he is good enough with the ball that he doesn’t totally nullify our attacking threat.

Vermaelen 7 – did what was needed at left back.

Jenkinson 7 – not really enough time to give a rating but he was on the pitch so I don’t want to leave him out.

MotM? Maybe we should have a vote…

Gooner in Exile


January Transfer Targets Pt.1.

October 10, 2013

Transfer targets. This two part post is an attempt to inveigle some of you to give us your ideas of where the team needs strengthening and more importantly, why.

Goalkeeper: We have signed an experienced Italian GK whom no-one knows about nor has seen play as back-up to our two Poles. Can’t see the point in that at the moment. Fabianski is a very good deputy to Szczesny who has been on top form so far this season. Apart from a poor game at home to AV, TPIG has been very good – just what we want to see from such a young keeper developing his skills. His decision making in terms of coming for crosses is a bit conservative (IMO) but he has eradicated most of his “Hollywood” tendencies.

Szczesny’s failings remain distribution, though he is definitely improving. His kicking lacks accuracy and as such he is tending towards the safe option of throwing to the wings in order to create a counter-attack which is fine as we are not a route one team.

images

Viviano in training for the Bench

My guess is that Viviano was signed in the knowledge that Fabianski will move on sooner rather than later. Without having seen him play it is impossible to judge but International caps for a country renowned for good keepers is a decent testimonial.

Transfer Target?  No need, though I do accept some people are less than 100% secure about our No.1.

Full Backs: Starting on the left we have Gibbs and Monreal. I would suggest that after Ramsey, Gibbs is our most improved player and fully deserves his call up to the England squad. Monreal must wonder why he signed as he would surely have expected to be first choice given his high transfer fee. But that fee is further proof of Mr Wenger and the BoD’s commitment to creating a high quality squad. Having a player of Monreal’s ability both as left sided MF and LB cover is insurance in case Gibbs suffers yet another injury. Vermaelen has shown he is a capable understudy should both get crocked.

Unknown

The New Lee Dixon?

Right Back: Bacary and The Corporal.  Sagna is back to his best and Arsenal must make him sign a contract extension – whatever it costs, because he has AFC experience and is a senior pro, plus he can teach Jenkinson how to become a world class RB. As of today, The Corporal has much to learn; his crossing is poor, his defensive awareness average and his tactical nous lacking, yet, he has huge potential. The man has considerable energy, is a Gooner and clearly wants to learn BUT …… would you be happy to see Jenks start over a long period of time if Sagna gets injured (which as an older gent he is prone to be)? I wouldn’t.  And this is where the genius of Mr Wenger raises it’s shiny pate – we have The Flamster, who is worth every penny of his, no doubt, huge salary.

Transfer Target:  Once again, no need.

Centre Backs: Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen (& Sagna in emergencies). I love The BFG – he has brought a level of a calmness to the defence not seen since …. ermm ….. the last CB who was calm! But the other two? Koscielny is prone to a rush of blood and too often has given away silly fouls in potentially dangerous areas – just look at his push in the penalty area last Sunday. A red card and a penalty already this season is not what we want from what is an exceptional defender. He has pace, superb awareness, hence his high interception count, and is strong both in the air and in the tackle.  Vermaelen is too good a player to sit on the bench and yet his career has been in reverse for almost 2 seasons. I love his rampaging style and his clenched fist attitude but he is so focussed upon winning that he can neglect his defensive duties. Sagna? A decent option and hasn’t let us down but we need a specialist CB. The decision to let both JD and Miquel go out on loan is baffling in the extreme

Transfer Target;  I think we need to buy and buy someone in BFG’s class. If we really are going to challenge for the title we have stop conceding silly goals. One clean sheet in the PL and that against the Hapless Hotspurs is simply not good enough especially considering how well our GK and FB’s are playing. I realise Kozzer is a crowd pleaser and that he gives his best every time he plays but quite frankly, we need better. I would sell TV (even if he is Club Captain) and spend big in January, hoping for the new CB to bed in by March – ready for the CL Final in Lisbon.

Player Suggestion;   Williams at Swansea has been mentioned but I don’t think he is good enough. I want top quality not decent PL. My choice would be  Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund. Yes, he would cost a lot but he is only 24 and already played 36 times for Serbia. He lived in the USA (representing them at youth level) and as such is fluent in Americanish. Or better still, how about his more mobile partner – Mats Hummels, also just 24, he is  fantastic player and already an automatic starter for Germany. If he won’t come mid-season, please Mr Gazidis make him ours in summer.

images-2

You heard it here first.

One would have to ask why they would leave BD but, as we know, money talks and the opportunity to join the German Invasion at AFC must be appealing. Buy, Buy Buy.

My next post will concentrate on the other areas of the pitch and who knows, with this excruciatingly long Interlull (©Arseblog) there could be a “Should Paul Lambert be the Next AFC Manager?” post to follow!

written by Big Raddy


Arsenal Arsenal’s Friday News Roundup

October 4, 2013

What an amazing week Gooners, a win on Saturday saw us remain at the top of the premiership and going two points clear after the totts and chavs managed to draw with each other. Ozil’s first goal for the Gunners in our Champions League tie with Napoli saw the Emirates stadium rocking and rolling to the old songs. Read on for more of this week’s news stories …………

Saturday:

Despite Swansea’s late consolation goal a debut goal from Serge Gnabry followed by Aaron Ramsey’s eighth in nine matches saw the three points safely in the bag and Arsenal sitting proudly two points clear at the top of the table. A draw between the Chavs and the Spuds coupled with defeats for both Manchester outfits helped to make it a very satisfactory weekend which was marred, only in part, by the Bin-Dippers gaining a regulation win over bottom club Sunderland.

Sunday:

No news was the good news, no new injury worries as a result of the confidence boosting victory at Swansea.

Monday:

One of Rocky’s best ever posts, on Per Mertesacker, brought memorable one-liners such as :- “like a slum-dweller from N17 on a looting trip at the Pound Store during the annual riot season” and “From the bargain shelf there was the mystifying inclusion of a job lot of Pot Noodles”.

Gunner’s legend Bobby Pires who was named as an ambassador for The Arsenal Foundation last season has been training at London Colney in recent weeks. Arsene Wenger said “It’s a great opportunity [for the young players]. He practices with the young players with the under-21 team, and I feel always there is no better education than playing players at that age with top-level players.”

Asked if there was any likelihood of him rejoining the club

“No Robert Pires will not join us, he was born in 1973. He is still very fit and a great player and we are always happy to have him in training but he just occasionally comes in to practice,” said Wenger.

Tuesday:

Arsene Wenger celebrates seventeen years as Arsenal manager. Yes it was on 1st. October 1996 that Arsene joined The Glorious Gunners and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just in case anyone is in doubt here are few statistics.

Games played (under Wenger) 965, 559 of which were wins, scoring 1788 goals in those games Le Professeur has used 187 players from 46 different countries, he has promoted 62 Academy graduates into the first team.

The morning news that Thomas Rosicky was available after injury was welcome indeed ahead of the home Champions League tie with Napoli.

Wednesday:

The front page of The Telegraph Sport section says it all

Masterclass Brilliant Ozil puts Napoli to the Sword

Will anyone who saw that first twenty minutes ever forget it? I won’t.

Thursday:

Jack Jebb could be fighting for his Gunners career before it has properly begun after racially abusing a young Norwich City player.

The 18-year-old creative midfielder — who left school one year early to join the club’s Academy — was charged after an incident that took place in March during an Under 18 clash against Norwich.

It is believed it was not a Norwich player or member of the management team that reported the abuse, but that the charge was brought forward by the match officials.

In July the FA charged him on breach of rule E3 — ‘using abusive and/or insulting words — but the allegation also ‘included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.’

He has now been banned for four games and fined £1,800 by the FA.

Jebb does not face the FA’s new minimum five-match ban for discriminatory abuse because the incident took place last season.

Definitely not the sort of thing that will advance the young lads career, let’s hope that somebody at the club can have a word in his shell-like.

Friday

Arsenal Ladies head into tonight’s Continental Cup final against Lincoln aiming to make amends for being beaten to the Women’s Super League title.

The Gunners lost the top-flight crown they had held for nine years, and also missed out on the top-two place needed for Champions League qualification.

“We’re the Continental Cup holders and we want to win it again to go with the FA Cup,” said manager Shelley Kerr.

For anyone thinking of attending the match kicks off at 19.30 and is at The Hive in Barnet.

No real Arsenal related news so far this morning, other than a couple of “Arsenal in race to sign” type items. Arsene’s news conference later this morning may produce some interest and team news for Sunday’s West Brom game.

Written by Norfolk Gooner


“We blew Napoli away” …….

October 2, 2013

I have to apologise. In the build-up to our second Champions’ League group game, I said Napoli would “be our toughest opponent in the season so far”. I had expected a real challenge would be presented by a team that has dropped just two points in six Serie A games to date, plus had impressively beaten Borussia Dortmund in their first CL game. They were a settled team that had been thriving under a new and familiar manager, and with a high quality replacement for the striker they had lost to PSG. This would be a true test of our resurgent team. Wouldn’t it?

No, it wouldn’t. Napoli didn’t turn up. They were utterly woeful in defence, naïve and disorganised beyond belief. And in midfield they completely failed to impose themselves. I can’t really comment on how they did up front, so little did we see of Pandev. Napolistas might point to the absence of their Argentine new boy, Gonzalo Higuain, as justification for their lame performance, but important as Higuain must be to his new side, that doesn’t explain or excuse the frankly pathetic, gutless and brainless performance from the Italians. They have other players of quality, like Inler and Hamsik, but the only players in camouflage kit (yuck) who came close to earning their corn were Insigne and Reina. You might think I’m going over the top, but I honestly cannot recall any visiting opponent underperforming in a CL game against us, and we’ve played some decidedly ordinary teams down the years.

Ok, enough of slating our oppo.

Arsenal were excellent on the night, though the limitations of what faced them makes it harder to determine just how good we really were last night. However, as the cliché has it, you can only beat the team that is in front of you.

In truth, we blew Napoli away in the first half hour of the match, arguably in the first 15 minutes. We played with speed of passing and thought, fantastic movement, cohesion, calmness and confidence. Wenger brought the recovered Rosicky back in, playing in attacking midfield alongside Ramsey and Özil, in front of a solid pairing of Arteta and Flamini. Wilshere and Gnabry were left on the bench.

If that selection looked conservative and cautious, the truth quickly showed that the opposite was true. From the off, we saw the ball being pinged around with consummate ease. The intelligence and understanding between the players was a pleasure to take in.

And then in the seventh minute, the breakthrough. And not just any old breakthrough; this was the moment, after some majestic interplay on the right flank between Giroud and Ramsey, Özil received a perfect cut-back cross from Ramsey on the edge of the penalty area. Özil opened out his body and placed the ball with precision into the corner of the net, with Reina flailing to get to the ball. This was it, the moment our new diamond went one better than provide an assist, this was the talented German’s first goal in the red and white.

Ozil scores v napoli

After the goal, Arsenal continued to dominate Napoli, who just couldn’t get the ball. The Arsenal midfield ran rings around them.

Seven minutes after scoring this goal, Napoli’s left-back had a throw-in near his corner flag but stupidly didn’t launch the ball up the line, and instead threw it infield to his centre-back, despite the presence of several Arsenal markers. Flamini got in front of the man he was marking and nipped the ball away from him, nudging it to Giroud, who immediately laid it off to Özil, who quickly got to the byline and put in a short, low cross to Giroud, who typically had run towards the front post. The players tracking back were too slow to do anything about it, and big Olly did the easy bit and put the ball in the net. From the moment Napoli took that throw-in to the moment the ball hit the net was eight seconds. And to think, we used to be accused on lacking a cutting edge.

team v napoli

We could have scored more goals, but quite rightly, Arsenal played within themselves for the remainder of the game. Having scored two goals, the onus was on Napoli to force the pace, and show Arsenal that further effort was required. The Italians didn’t, and almost all their efforts on goal were high and/or wide shots from distance. Szczesny must have been disappointed not to be tested but outfield, Arsenal contented themselves with probing for further openings without busting a gut and without giving up their shape.

It was impressive to watch Arsenal play with discipline for the remainder of the game, denying Napoli any chance of reducing the deficit. Özil, Ramsey, Giroud and Rosicky continued to dominate the top third, with quick movements and passes, and further chances were created. Arteta and Flamini similarly dominated the middle third. Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna and Gibbs held their positions very well and afforded their opponents no gaps to exploit. Szczesny was denied the chance to play, so dominant was the Arsenal performance in front of him. When Napoli tried to press the ball when Arsenal defenders were in possession, a few passes sliced through their ranks and we emerged on the attack again.

Arsenal may not have scored any further goals, but they remained in control for the remainder of the game. Reina made a very good close save from Koscielny in the second half, but that was a detail. With Benitez failing to stir his players into life for the second half, the outcome of the match was clear from very early on.

Some might say Arsenal were so dominant that they should have scored more than two goals. There might be something in that, but it also feels a little churlish to criticise. With an epic first half performance, Arsenal took control of the match and challenged Napoli to show them why more effort was required. Napoli couldn’t rise to that challenge, and couldn’t undermine the shape and confidence of their opponents, so there was little need of urgency in the remainder of the game.

And, it was great to hear the positivity, the unity of the crowd was a pleasure to behold, as if the months of fractious division had never happened. And it was great to hear chants of “We’re the North Bank/Clock End/East Stand” – we are truly beginning to grow into this stadium.

So, six points in the bag already, we couldn’t have wanted it to go any better than this. One more win in the remaining four games and we will likely get through. It would be nice to get our business in the Group of Death done early though.

Were you watching Suàrez, Rooney, Higuain and van Persie?

Ratings:

Szczesny: 8. The Pole in goal did everything asked of him well, especially in dealing with high balls put into the box. The fact that he wasn’t asked to do much wasn’t his fault.

Sagna: 8. His link-up play was excellent, and much of our attacking play came on the right flank.

Mertesacker: 8. Not tested fully but his performance was nonetheless exemplary.

Koscielny: 8. It is great to see Kos rediscover his mojo – the panicky efforts of a few weeks ago have gone, to be replaced by unpretentious calm.

Gibbs: 7. Didn’t do much wrong, perhaps there were one or two misplaced passes, but Kieran had a good night.

Flamini: 7. Probably the only Arsenal player whose technical limitations were apparent, but his energy was valuable. And without his interception, Özil would not have had the ball to set up Giroud.

Arteta: 8. Marshalled the centre of the pitch well, and with the Flamster, completely dominated Napoli’s midfield trio.

Ramsey: 10 (but not MOTM). Simply magnificent. The energy and intelligence of an in-form Rambo is a beautiful thing to see. On another night, he’d have walked away with a hat-trick.

Özil: 10. Oh…. My….. God….. Just how good is this guy? Answer: really very good. Thank you, Florentino Perez, you are a gent and a scholar. And a fool. Silky skills, incision, vision, awareness, Özil has the lot. I particularly liked watching how he can sense a defender closing in behind him, and then shift the balance of his body so as to move effortlessly into the space the over-eager defender has just vacated. Nice. (And yes, that should be read in the voice of the jazz guy in The Fast Show.) Perhaps it’s no accident that Özil was able to impose himself most effectively in a game against an Italian side. I feel sure he will reach these standards in domestic games too, once he has the measure of our game.

Rosicky: 7.5. Tom misplaced a few passes but still slotted into the passing game brilliantly. Perhaps should have done better with a chance he had early in the second half.

Giroud: 8. Copy and paste from previous reports: great link-up play, great lay-offs, great movement to score his goal and great effort.

And the subs:

Wilshere: 7. Once again, Jack was played out of position, on the left, where he was efficient without being incisive.

Monreal: Had too little time to make a mark.

Written by 26may89


Is Per Mertesacker The Best Centre Back In The Premiership?

September 30, 2013

Cast your mind back to early September 2011.

Our club was reeling from the loss of two key players (Fabregas and Nasri) and had made a terrible start to the season, capped off with a humiliating 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

Three days after that awful thrashing and with the transfer window about to slam shut, Arsene Wenger went running round Europe with his shopping trolley like a slum-dweller from N17 on a looting trip at the Pound Store during the annual riot season.

Anything he could lay his hands on went in the cart. Or so it seemed.

The Press – and a not insignificant minority of the Arsenal fan base – were quick to scream “Panic Buys.”

And indeed when Arsene got home and tipped his shopping out on the floor it was a mixed bag.  From the bargain shelf there was the mystifying inclusion of a job lot of Pot Noodles (Park Chu Young); there was a big round tin of Brazilian beef, well past its sell-by date (work it out); there was some fine Spanish ham and, finally, a giant German sausage.

As supporters it was hard to know quite what to make of it.

Mikel Arteta was a known quantity – a midfielder of skill and intelligence, though injury prone. Even if people weren’t setting off rockets in celebration, his arrival from Everton felt like a solid signing.

But the others?

Let’s face it, we had never heard of Park Chu Young or Andre Santos, so it was hard to get excited about them.

But Per Mertesacker was a different kettle of sardines. Even if we weren’t fervent watchers of the Bundesliga we all knew that Mertesacker was a very tall German international centre back with 70-something caps.

Remember, this was the summer when our clear need for a new central defender had led to strong campaigns in favour of us signing Gary Cahill, Chris Samba, Phil Jagielka and even Richard Dunne, who is older than dandan.

The one thing all those Premiership defenders had in common (apart from Dundun) was their price tag: all of them were supposedly going to cost well north of  £15m. The big German – with all that international experience – was only £10m.

I remember Mertesacker’s first few games for us. In his debut outing we beat Swansea 1-0. The German looked a bit disorientated and there were worrying signs that pace was not his strong point (it was rumoured that once, when playing in Switzerland for Germany, he was overtaken by a glacier).

His second game was a 1-1 away at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League (GiE in his match report commented on how Mertesacker’s pace was exposed), then there was an away game at Blackburn Rovers – a 4-3 defeat in which our defence fell apart like an Ikea shelf unit assembled by Stevie Wonder.

The press – still gorging on the ‘Arsenal in crisis’ story – were quick to write off Mertesacker as an ungainly, tardy waste of money.

The trouble with the media is that once they have given someone a label, it takes them years to remove it.

As far as they were concerned Big Per was a disappointment and wasn’t cut out for the Premier League. Some of them are still saying that even now. Given the general despondency around our club back in Autumn 2011 it is hardly surprising that quite a lot of fans agreed.

But let’s put things in context: Mertesacker had joined a team that was in utter turmoil – both from a sudden influx of new faces and from the emotional fall-out of the Man Utd defeat and the late departures of Cesc and Nasri.

He was in a new country, a new league, with unfamiliar team mates. If he had slotted in like a world beater from Day One it would have been the greatest footballing miracle since the noisy neighbours trained an ape to wear their tatty shirt and kick a ball.

History often hysteria look foolish, and if you think back to Arsenal’s slow-but-steady recovery in the 2011-12 season you’ll see that Armageddon never quite happened: we weren’t relegated, we climbed up the table, we “minded the gap” and we finished third.

And one of the biggest factors in our return to form was the tardy Teuton himself: the lumbering giant, the heavy-legged Hanoverian, the sluggish Squarehead. Except that by now most Arsenal fans had realised that if his legs were sometimes slow, his mind was like Usain Bolt when it came to reading the game of football.

Even by late September of his first season the Big F*cking German (as we now fondly called him) was earning these sorts of write-ups in the AA match reports: “Best game yet, calm and assured,” (Jamie, after we beat Bolton 3-0 on September 24th); “Reads the game so well, he can intercept the ball or break up the play higher up the pitch than one might expect… The BFG is growing into his role with us, a pleasure to see that,” (26 May after our 2-1 victory over Olimpiacos on September 28th).

Early in his Arsenal career I said he reminded me of David O’Leary in the way he read the game and was able to snuff out trouble before it got serious.

Since then he has got better and better and is now one of the first names on our team sheet. When all our defenders are fit, the only question for the manager is whether he should be partnered with Koscielny or Vermaelen.

What’s more, he is clearly becoming a leader at the club, both on and off the pitch (as Arsene Wenger mentioned recently). You really get the sense that he is loving life at Arsenal and in London and even the journalists are belatedly beginning to realise what we Arsenal fans have known for quite some time now – that he is a top quality player.

In the weekend’s win at Swansea he had an 87% pass success rate; he won the one tackle he had to make; he made four successful clearances out of four attempted; he succeeded in both his attempted headed clearances and was victorious in all four of his aerial duels.

But what the stats don’t show is that he was always there to receive the ball and be the calming presence in our back line.

Which brings me back to my original question: is our Beanpole Boche the best central defender in the EPL?

His competition would come, I guess, from the likes of John “Jeremy Kyle has my family on speed dial” Terry; Gary “not to be confused with Tim” Cahill; Vincent “Two’s” Kompany; Martin “no Halloween mask necessary” Skrtel and Jan “Badly Advised” Vertonghen.

Some of them have qualities that the BFG lacks – mainly speed, as has been discussed. But in their overall contribution to their team’s defensive units I don’t feel any of them is currently better than our commanding Kaiser.

It is rumoured that Arsenal are planning to offer Mertesacker a three year extension on his contract, which expires at the end of next season. I hope it’s true and I hope the business is concluded quickly.

He may be a beanpole, but beanpoles are there to help things grow – and Per is certainly helping his Arsenal colleagues grow into a formidable unit.

RockyLives


Arsenal Serge to the Top.

September 29, 2013

Who would have guessed that not so long ago this game would have been thought of as one for the purists? Not me. But that was how it was billed and rightly so as Swansea are a fine footballing team, this generous complement only works, of course, because Arsenal are an even better footballing team.

That said, we had to go through the ringer to prove it because that was one of the most nail biting games I have had to suffer in a while, but win we did, and three valuable points were brought back to North London and if that wasn’t good enough, results around us couldn’t have gone better if we had fixed them the night before: Manu and City losing, spuds and chavs drawing, what, somebody pinch me?

Onto the game, we were poor, well more precisely the attacking part of our game in the first half was poor; Swansea looked far more threatening going forward and I will stick my neck out and say that they had better quality attackers than we did. Michu, Dyer and Routledge are better than Giroud, Wilshere and Gnabry. Fortunately our defensive unit was in superb form and dealt with everything that Swansea threw at us.

We were getting nowhere fast, gone were those beautiful passes by Ozil into space for players to run onto when he first arrived; the kind he played week in and week out to Ronaldo at Real, these gems had to be abandoned as none of our attackers were capable of making the runs or in Giroud’s case, capable of controlling the ball well enough, this forced Ozil to have to try and beat more men than I am sure he would have liked which often led to him being tackled and losing possession. Some have criticised him, not realising, in my opinion, that circumstances forced him to play that way.

And then, just before half time, it happened, like a shaft of bright light shining through a thundery sky, Gnabry, clearly fed up being on the wing, answered the question of where he plays by making a powerful run through the middle, passing at least three men before laying of a perfect ball for Giroud — who wasted it. This was it, Gnabry had arrived, he is not a winger he is an Aaron Ramsey; people used to refer to this kind of player as a Steven Gerrard but that seems soooo passé now.

gnabry scores

Gnabry started the second half with a new found confidence; he never got chastised for moving into the middle so he tried it again a few times and it worked, he also impressively started tracking back and then to make his day just about as perfect as it could get he scored his first goal for the Good Guys. It was pretty much the only way we were going to score: a slow build up made up of accurate passes, enabling us to find a way around the Swansea defence to set up someone with a goal scoring chance; on this occasion it fell to the young German .

Serge took his chance well. With a goal to the good it forced Swansea to take more risks in their pursuit of equalising which in turn gave us a lot more space and the possibility of hitting them on the break, which is exactly what we did. Within five minutes of going ahead we had a golden opportunity to score again through Ozil, unfortunately he missed but that just set the scene for Ramsey to save the day again. I have run out of meaningful superlatives and it isn’t even Christmas. The man is a goal scoring machine. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

rambo v swansea

The game looked like it was just going to peter out with Arsenal cruising to the finishing line but a well worked goal from Swansea put pay to that, it was up off the sofa, pacing in front of the telly time.

We got there of course and with hind sight I can now see how well Wenger managed to deploy his limited resources. Wilshere and Gnabry are not wingers and that is why I was so bold above to suggest that Swansea had a better quality attack. But needs must as they say; would this game have been the same with a fit Arteta, Cazorla and Walcott available? No it wouldn’t — we would have crushed them.

Lastly, I would like to show some respect where respect is due: after the Aston Villa opening game debacle, when many Arsenal supporters including some on this site where still questioning such things as the harmony between the management and the board; Wenger’s ability or inability to sign big money players and the most hennas, “spud envy” pointing far too respectfully at all the new signings being made in N17. Well, while this sea of excrement was going on one loyal blogger on this site stood firm and put his money where his mouth was and bet that Arsenal would be top of the League on October 1st.

26 May 1989…….I salute you.

Because we are top of the league, say we are top of the league.

Quick player ratings.

Szczesny: top game, plucked everything out of the air and did well when needed to get down. There was an incident in the first half but look at the back pass and you will see who is really to blame. 8

Sagna: Wenger must have promised him big things as he is playing better than he ever has. 8

Mertesacker: So, so good, so calm, so commanding I really want to give him the MOTM but for their goal. 8

Koscielny: Another solid display from the other half of our amazing centre-back pairing 8

Gibbs: disciplined performance from England’s future LB. 8

Ramsey: I can’t think of anything else to say, MOTM. 10

Flamini: hands up all those who thought he would be able to keep Arteta out of the starting line up when he was re-signed? Not me. He is getting better and better every week. 8

Wilshere: playing wide left is obviously not ideal but he did what he could. 7

Gnabry: I thought he was a waste of space, it was if Arsenal were playing with a man short – and then he made that run. Things will never be the same. 7

Giroud: a difficult day for Ollie, his inability to hold the ball and beat a man will lead to a “Super Quality” signing coming in and ultimately taking his place. 7

Ozil. The honeymoon period is still in full swing. I just can’t wait until Cazorla returns. 7

Written by LB