The kids did us proud – Match report

September 26, 2013

What can I tell you about our League Cup game against West Brom? Not a lot, just a few comments based on the seven microseconds of coverage the BBC made available, the Radio 5 commentary and a few bits and bobs from the tinternet.

But I can tell you that:

1. We won;

2. The first half was crap;

3. With a squad shredded by injuries, the kids from the Academy Squad featured heavily; and

4. The Arsenal fans were in great voice.

Taken from the away end by chas

Taken from the away end by chas

OK, there are a few other things to say. The most important bit was how the game was won with the kids holding their nerve to prevail in a penalty shoot-out, against more experienced opponents and on their ground. The performance may not have been a slick classic, but winning in those circumstances could be the making of some of those youngsters.

Nicklas Bendtner made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt in over two years. His reputation amongst fans has gone from bad to worse in that time, so it was sensible for a bit of humble pie to be eaten in the run-up to the game. And from what I saw, while he was certainly no world-beater last night, he was committed to the cause. His reaction when the winning penalty went in confirmed that. And he also made the goal we scored, when he received the ball from Gnabry, turned, paused while Eisfeld’s run opened up a chance and then played in the other young German with a perfect through ball. Well done to Eisfeld for slotting it home, but the goal was the creation of the big Dane.

He should have had one himself in extra time, when Gnabry played him through for what should have been a one-on-one but Bendtner took an age to compose himself for his shot, perhaps thinking the defenders were further back than they were. Unfortunately West Brom’s Dawson was able to catch Bendtner and dispossess him before he could get his shot away. The absence of preseason matches was there on display.

There will be plenty who will take a pop at Bendtner, and God knows he deserves it plenty of the time, but I thought he showed a real determination to contribute. It’s no minor thing that he took the first penalty in the shoot-out, that is taking responsibility.

Another serial under-achiever, Fabianski, had a pretty busy night and did well, making a number of good saves. He couldn’t stop Berahino equalizing ten minutes after we’d taken the lead, but that had more to do with our defenders leaving Berahino too much space when a recycled clearance from a corner was lobbed back into the box.

It was disappointing to hear relatively little being created by Arsenal in open play, though it did sound like things picked up significantly in the latter stages, in particular with the appearance of Olsson, Bellerin and Akpom from the substitutes’ bench. The 17-year old Akpom got especially positive reactions from the Radio 5 commentary team – I’ll definitely look out for that performance once I can see some proper coverage of the game.

A penalty shoot-out felt inevitable from a long way out, not that that alleviated the sense of dread about how the kids would do. That pessimism seemed well-founded, when Serge Gnabry missed our second penalty and the more experienced West Brom players (Reid, Rosenberg and Morrison) confidently despatched their first three spot-kicks. An early exit seemed very much on the cards, with West Brom on the verge of victory. Then Kris Olsson stepped up and scored (just about, the keeper was close), to make it 3-2. West Brom’s fourth penalty taker, Craig Dawson, bottled it, and put his kick well wide. The scores were level and the momentum was suddenly with us.

Next up: Chuba Akpom. The talented lad from Newham, who wasn’t even a year old when Arsène Wenger became Arsenal manager, held his nerve and put his kick away, the scores were level and we were in sudden death mode; the next miss would likely be terminal for that team’s continuation in the competition. And so it was: West Brom cracked again, when Morgan Amalfitano also blazed his kick wide, and now it was us about to kick for the win. We’ve seen plenty of failures in penalty shoot-outs down the years, but it was something of a relief to see an older head for the final kick: Nacho Monreal put his one away without undue fuss, and was rapidly bundled by some very enthusiastic young Arsenal players who’d sprinted form the centre circle.

Celebrations at wba

So there you go, our winning away record was extended to 11 competitive games in all competitions and our winning sequence is now eight games. We are into the next round, and once again we have a tough draw: we will play Chelsea at Ashburton Grove on 29 or 30 October, days before we begin a rapid sequence of games against Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United in the space of eight days. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to get tough draws in cup competitions, but we’re on a roll, with draws against Fenerbahce, Napoli, Dortmund, Marseille, West Brom and now Chelsea. Still, it’s better than facing Bradford and Blackburn…..

The Arsenal away contingent at the Hawthorns were fantastic last night, they were the loudest bunch in the house throughout. The Radio 5 bods were impressed at their old school refusal to sit down and the fact they had turned out in such numbers for a midweek League Cup game in another part of the country. Well done to Chas & Co, they remained in fine voice in what was, other than the shoot-out, largely a forgettable game and one in which our opponents were often on top.

There may be questions about what the presence in the squad of so many callow members of the Academy squad, and a couple of players most of us expected to have left by now. There may also be questions about first teamers like Mertesacker and Arteta being asked to play up to 120 minutes when we have an important and demanding run of two league games and a Champions’ League game coming up. This fear was made worse when Arteta was substituted, possibly as the result of an injury. Hopefully, that won’t turn out to be true. And fair play to the kids, they did us proud.

I’m afraid I can’t give ratings, I haven’t seen enough of the game yet to make those judgments. But it seems that Fabianski, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bendtner, Hayden, Jenkinson, Bellerin and Akpom all did well, and that Gnabry and Miyaichi had off-nights.

Written by 26may89


Match report …..Viva Ramsey!

September 23, 2013

I make no apologies for saying that I dislike Stoke City. Hardly an original view from an Arsenal fan, but about the only thing I can think that commends them is the time spent in the Potteries by the great Lee Dixon and Steve Bould, before they found their way to the home of football.

That is not nearly enough to outweigh my resentment for the wilfully reckless maiming of the then teenage Aaron Ramsey, and especially the way in which the Stoke fans revelled in that incident in the years since, even baiting the young victim. Stoke’s destructive fear of real football, shown up most effectively by Swansea’s success in combining financial caution with quality football, only underlines why Stoke are a club to wish bad things for. True, Mark Hughes has brought a reintroduction of football at Stoke, but I’m not one to forgive and forget.

Arsenal came to the game on an excellent run: one defeat and two draws in 18 competitive games, two defeats and three draws in 20 PL games, a defence that has got into the habit of almost never conceding more than one goal in a game etc etc. The game was always going to be significant for two things: the Ramsey factor, given the opposition and the Welshman’s form this year; and the home debut of the refined and expensive talent that is Mesut Özil. And on both counts, things went well.

Ramsey v stoke

In the fifth minute, Jack Wilshere’s run at the Stoke defence drew a foul from the busted flush that is Charlie Adam in a perfect area. Adam’s incompetence put Özil in a position to line up a good shot on goal, one that Begovic didn’t handle well, pushing it out in front of goal and into the path of the boy wonder, Aaron Ramsey. Watching him able to lord it over the Stoke fans in his celebrations was exquisite. And that was reflected in the chants of the Arsenal fans, who loved ramming it down the Stoke fans’ throats.

We continued to control the game pretty much throughout the first half, but against the run of play Stoke produced their one moment of quality when Gibbs ceded possession on the flank and the ball broke to Steven N’Zonzi. His floated diagonal ball was perfectly weighted and was despatched early enough to deny the defence a chance to set themselves properly. When Arnautović met the ball first time, he was unlucky to hit the post, but it ricocheted into the path of one of those hardworking American players, Geoff Cameron, whose shot was carefully placed beyond Szczesny’s reach.

Sanity was restored before halftime, once again from a dead ball. The Stoke centre backs, Robert Huth and lovely Ryan Shawcross, players unable to do their jobs without cheating, were so intent on manhandling Giroud and Koscielny in the build-up that Stoke neglected to cover Mertesacker. The BFG was easily able to evade the cover assigned to him, and looped Özil’s perfect corner to the back post. With Koscielny running interference to confuse Begovic, the ball dropped into the net. Hey presto, 2-1 up.

Mert celebrates with Rambo and Ozil

The tempo dropped in the second half, which was perhaps unsurprising after the team’s wonderful efforts in Marseille. But fortunately for us, we weren’t facing a side that had the ability to exploit that. Jones was largely isolated and when Hughes subbed him, for some reason he passed over Peter Crouch, and preferred to put Mark Walters up front, which was an odd decision. But, without another goal, we remained vulnerable. That goal arrived from yet another dead ball, a free kick that was once again won by Wilshere driving at the Stoke defence, who were only able to terminate Jack’s run by taking him out. This wasn’t shooting territory for Özil but he floated a ball across the penalty area, where the goal machine that is Bacary Sagna was able to outjump his two opponents and loop a header over Begovic and into the far corner.

Sagna celebrates

And so it was that we were returned to the top of the early season league table. With Man United’s embarrassing capitulation to City, we are already five points clear of van Persie’s team, but the other good sides are clustered together. It was a shame to see Spurs win in injury time, but I do enjoy seeing the two North London clubs at the top, with the good guys in poll position.

We will see much, much better performances from Mesut Özil than yesterday’s, but, even while he’s adapting to a new team and a new league, he was able to provide three assists. It was a quiet, efficient win yesterday, but, even beyond winning three points in a game against a disliked opponent, there were numerous positive aspects for us: Arteta’s return to the fray, Gnabry’s energetic and fearless performance (which meant we were able to cope without Walcott), the solidity of the defence (after the frayed edges shown against Sunderland), selfless hard-work from Giroud and Flamini and a good performance from Wilshere. But the greatest satisfaction came from seeing Ramsey score and play well against our bêtes noires. Viva Ramsey!

Written by 26may

Player ratings by LB

Szezcney: I have never played goalkeeper and because of that I have never professed to know too much about that position but every part of me shouts that this keeper is the real deal; another good game. 8

Sagna: definitely one of his better games, back to where he plays best with the BFG next to him. Patrolled the line well and scored a goal to boot. 8

Mertasacker: Captain on the day, steered the ship from the back with calmness and authority. 8

Koscielny: these two CBs remind me of Adams and Bould, the BFG being the former. On the rare occasions that Adams didn’t play you got to see the actual ability of Bould and realised then just how good Adams made Bould look. Laurent had a perfectly good game but a BFG he is not. (yet) 7

Gibbs: Ramsey may rightfully be the player who has received all the accolades for being the most improved player this season but there is no doubt that the second most improved is Kieran Gibbs; that said, yesterday was not one of his better days. In the first half he was a bit too slack at times. 6

Ramsey: how is it possible to praise him anymore, he was by some distance the best player on the pitch for the first 45 minutes, scoring yet another goal, and celebrating in front of the Stoke fans. He faded a tad in the second half which is the reason I have not given him the MOTM but still another great day at the office. 8

Flamini: after watching him three times on TV I was close to concluding that our second most important signing was no more than a 2013 version of Giles Grimandi: a jobbing utility player; well, yesterday I saw him in the flesh for the first time and realised I was wrong. His passing, his positioning, his tackling were superb; none of them world class; but, a bit like his career path; he really knows how to make the most out of the limited ability that he has. A very impressive game and a worthy MOTM. 9

Wilshere: one step forward, two steps back; he was not at his best yesterday, I got the feeling that he was filling in because others were injured, had Rosicky or Cazorla been fit, Jack would have certainly been on the bench; still, what he lacked in fitness he made up for in a determination. 7

Gnabry: I was going to tear into the young German but having read a few comments from some of the more esteemed regulars on here, arguing that he is not a winger, maybe I should hold fire. Nevertheless, he was poor in the first half, he slowed the play down almost every time he got the ball, when a simple pass was possible he tried to show off. It is, of course, early days, but this is a match report on yesterday’s game and yesterday, in my opinion, he was not very good. 5

Giroud: his passing is improving, his control is improving and his positioning is improving, he always works like a Trojan and yesterday was no exception. 8

Ozil: Three assists on his home debut. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I went with my Mrs who asked when he ran close to us to take a corner: why are they all standing and clapping before he has even taken the kick, to which I replied — for just being. 8


Marseille 1 Arsenal 2 : Breaking records again

September 19, 2013

M. Wenger must have breathed a sigh of relief that last night we were at least adding to the team that started against Sunderland rather than having another injury/sickness to deal with. For many of us watching it was a great relief to see Mertesacker return to the starting line up, and Sagna moving back to his more familiar full back role, this is nothing against the young man Jenkinson replaced but more to do with the calmness and organisation Mertesacker gives the team. The midfield and attack presently picks itself with so many regulars injured.

The Marseille home following were certainly keen to create an oppressive atmosphere and in the first half their team responded for them, it was uncomfortable viewing for most of it, passes going astray for us, and pressed at every opportunity when we looked to have few options, when we look back at the stats though it becomes clear that this is more about our expectations than the team performing too badly, we were pretty equal with Marseille in terms of possession and passing.

We were allowing them to play rather than stamping our authority on the game and we were giving them encouragement to continue their game plan with some wasteful use of the ball in and around the half way line. Thankfully for us they were not making the most of their pressure in the final third a free header sent wide with Szczesny stranded and later a useful clearance from BFG with the striker behind him, we were equally toothless and apart from Theo’s early effort (when he was probably being fouled) struggled to find a way through the Marseille defensive line.

The second half was a more open affair, Marseille struggled to press us as effectively as they tired and we started to play the channels more and have more of the game, Marseille also kept probing and Szczesny was called upon several times to show good handling and deal with shots from distance.

With fifteen minutes of the second half gone it could have easily been a different story, a hopeful cross from our right had BFG swinging a right leg as Szczesny came to claim, the ball looped over the latter but thankfully Gibbs reacted to head the ball off the line and back into Szczesny’s hands.

Five minutes later saw us take the lead, another overlapping run by Gibbs saw him deliver a good cross into a threatening area, Marseille’s left back made a hash of the clearance and the ball looped up towards Theo, who waited for what seemed an eternity before smashing a volley into the net. This was such a good finish, anyone who has played football will know what it is like waiting for the ball to drop, how many times do you see players snatch at it thinking they have less time and failing to make good contact, Theo set himself kept his eyes on the ball and cracked it home.

Theo like Thierry

Half chances came and went at either end, Szczesny dealing with everything coming his way and us nearly finding a way through for the second.

The second goal came from our man of the moment Aaron Ramsey, receiving the ball from Gibbs and with white shirts in attendance he spun and drove into the box before finishing into the bottom corner (with the aid of a little deflection). Watch this goal again if you don’t believe me but Giroud was key to this goal, his run took two defenders away and Ramsey had the room to burst into.

Gibbs and Rambo v Marseille

Unfortunately we blotted our copybook at the very end by giving away a sloppy penalty, tired legs from Ramsey (its about time he looked a little leggy given the yards he puts in) saw him take a heavy touch and was adjudged to have fouled the forward as he tried to recover. Szczesny could do nothing about the penalty but thankfully there was not long left so we didn’t have to sweat on the result for long.

10 away games won on the trot a new club record and much deserved for this group of players that are really starting to repay the belief the manager has placed in them.

Win the three home games and we will see the knockout round.

Ratings:

Szczesny – 8 A solid display from the young Pole, great handling and comfortable shot stopping all night. Didn’t actually have to make any worldies and you would be disappointed if he had conceded any of the shots on target.

Sagna – 7 Not his most prolific display but did the important stuff well

Mertesacker – 7 Minor blip with the Gibbs goalline clearance, but otherwise the usual reliability we have come to expect.

Koscielny – 8 A solid commanding performance, constantly pressures the forwards high up the pitch gives them little space and competes for everything.

Gibbs – 9 MOTM Two assists, goalline clearance, he has come a long way from the player I used to get frustrated with turning inside whenever he received possession, has grown in stature immeasurably over last two seasons.

Flamini – 7 Bit of a struggle in the first half as the others in midfield left him a little exposed, looked more comfortable when we had better shape in the second half.

Ramsey – 8 Very nearly another man of the match performance. Cracking goal, fantastic tackling back he really is an all action midfielder the kind we haven’t had for a while.

Wilshere – 7 Another game under the belt, he is getting better and is moving more confidently with the ball, unlucky with a half volley at the far post.

Özil – 7 Quiet first half as we struggled to get the ball to him, came into the game in the second half and was unlucky not to have a couple of assists to his name by the end of the night.

Walcott – 8 Exceptional volley to give us the lead, could have had another couple but did well all night to provide a threat.

Giroud – 8 His silent assist for Ramsey’s goal sums up this lad, constantly willing to work for his team mates, could do with a rest soon!

Subs:

Monreal, Miyaichi – No real time to judge.n

Written by

Gööner in Exile


Forward The Arsenal

September 18, 2013

Cannon to the Right of them,

Cannon to the left

Onwards in to the Group of Death

Rode the Mighty Arsenal

So we start yet another CL season, our umpteenth campaign. Consider this …… Only MU and Real Madrid in the whole of Europe have taken part in more consecutive CL seasons. This is quite some record for a team for whom 4th is a Trophy 😀

Of course, we haven’t won Big Ears yet and I doubt we will do so this term but you have to be in it to win it (Are you watching Tottenham?).

What of Olympique de Marseille? We played them in 2011 and won at the Stade Velodrome 1-0 thanks to a Ramsey goal. However, OM go into the game having only lost twice at home in a year and with 6 new signings who appear to have quickly settled. We know about Valbuena, Gignac and Ayew who gave us a test last time, but they just signed Florian Thauvin who is being touted as the new Hazard. Last year he was signed by Lille from Bastia but loaned back for a season, he had such an impact that Marseille paid €13m for him, giving Lille a €10m profit on a player who had never played for them!! Thauvin is a playmaker in the Hazard/Ozil mould (but not as good).

Then there is Payet, a CF who has scored three times in OM’s first 5 games.

images

Not sure what Ché has to do with Marseille!

Arsenal:  Injuries. Many have fallen before we hear the sound of musket fire. Those that are left will be roused by trumpets and sent against the heathen ranks. But will our glorious survivors have enough to overcome the infidel? Your guess is as good as mine, and mine is that the answer is in the positive.

The return of Merts is important because it allows Sagna to take his place at RB where he will face the flying Ayew. This will be one of the key battles. If Bac can stop the balls into Gignac and Payet we are almost home. If not, we must hope that BFG and Kos are on form.

Koscielny. What to say? 6 games played. 2 stupid penalties given away. Red and yellow cards. Shape up man, you are a brilliant player and you don’t want to lose your place to our club captain.

The midfield is superb even without the influence of Arteta. That said, we haven’t really been tested by any team other than AV who had 14 players on the pitch. Even with the loss of Cazorla, Arteta, Ox and Mozart (which is a formidable midfield) we look strong.. The addition of Mesut is just the cherry on top.

Upfront. Theo has to get amongst the goals before it starts to affect his confidence. He grows when he knows he is dangerous. OG is going to take a kicking both from the Marseilles defenders and his fellow countrymen in the stands who are less than impressed with his recent performances for the national team. Let’s hope he sticks up a metaphorical two fingers and scores a brace.

My Team:

18th sept

The bench still looks weak and we have few attacking options. The inclusion of Akpom shows how constrained we are. Can anyone explain why Bendtner isn’t fit and raring to go?

The pundits think this will be a draw. If we are to progress from the group then tonight is a must-win. 3 points away from home  will propel the team forward into the next round of matches. The tough games are yet to come……

Forward you Gunners

“Charge for the Guns”, AW said,

Into the Group of Death

Rode the Mighty Arsenal

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Confounding the Critics : Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0

September 2, 2013

This is not a match report, its a bunch of ramblings from a very happy Gooner with no real structure.

Lets start as we mean to go on, with a bloody good laugh. Laugh at the media, laugh at Levy’s £109m investment, laugh at AVB sprinting down the touch line to tell Kyle Walker to launch the ball in to the box because he was too thick to realise it was 30 seconds to go, laugh at all those who say Arsene Wenger doesn’t do tactics.

Yesterday our wily old Frenchman won the tactical battle, and the players executed it perfectly. Looking at the line ups it appeared that Spurs had been set up to create a solid defensive unit and to spring counter attacks using the pace of Townsend and Chadli feeding Soldado (I’m glad at this point the teamsheet is there as it indeed shows that they had a centre forward on the pitch £28m worth apparently).

Wenger had a trick up his sleeve, their midfield three lacked mobility, so Wenger set us up not to push too high, their attacking three were isolated and red and white shirts crowded them out and regained possession with relative ease. And when we won possession we had the pace and numbers to look threatening running at the heart of the Tottenham defence.

Wenger was rewarded by his players with a beautifully fashioned goal, at pace the ball was pinged around and players moved with intent, Theo was set free down the right with Spurs defenders not knowing who to mark, Giroud pulled Dawson this way and that before darting towards the near post to produce a deft finish to the bottom corner from Theo’s accurate cross.

giro goal

After the goal we were content to continue the game plan, sitting deep, defending strongly and maximising use of the football when we had it. We were so comfortable that AVB started to change his team pushing Paulinho further forward, which just gave us more room to play forward when we did have the ball.

Despite having very little possession we continued to look threatening on the break, a better pass or a better touch at the crucial moment and we could have had a second.

Just before half time Jack Wilshere was removed feeling unwell and was replaced by Flamini, it wasn’t long before we got to see why it was a “no brainer” for Arsene. Flamini slotted straight in, for the rest of the half and all of the second he was one of the first to press the ball, organising those around him not used to such a battle. Those around him responded, Ramsey, Santi, Rosicky and Theo all prepared to do the more unpleasant side of the game, winning the ball back, fighting for possession.

I haven’t even moved on to the defence yet, they were simply magnificent, Soldado did not get a touch from Koscielny, Chadli and Townsend were kept relatively quiet by Gibbs and Jenkinson and Mertesacker did what he does best, provides calm assurance to those around him and reading the game inside out. And when they did breach the defensive unit Szczesny produced an absolutely top class save.

With players tiring and Spurs throwing more bodies forward it did get a little tense in the last ten minutes. We struggled to clear our lines and hold onto possession further up the pitch, especially once Rosicky and Theo had been replaced by Monreal and Sagna respectively. Giroud had been able to rely on those two for most of the game to be his outlet when trying to hold the ball up, now off the pitch he was looking more isolated but what I think we are all beginning to love about Oli is his work rate, he does not stop competing for his mates. Anyone watch MotD on Saturday night? A certain Mr Berbatov (that player that Arsene should have signed last summer) was sulking around St James’s Park. I know which of the two I’d rather have in my team.

All in all a very good days work, this wasn’t our most fluent display, but it was the kind of performance many of us have been waiting for. So many of my Spurs supporting clients were quick to text me after our defeat by Villa, I’ve kept my powder dry, when should I text, first thing in the morning, or when we’ve announced three super super quality signings?

Ratings:

Szczesny : 9 comfortable handling all game, good distribution especially under pressure and two cracking saves.

Jenkinson : 8 disciplined at right back, considerably helped by Theo occupying Walker

Gibbs : 7 given a bit of a working over by Townsend early on but ordinary service was resumed for the next 70 minutes, not helped by no one occupying Rose.

Koscielny : 9 is he pleased to see us or is that a £28m striker in his pocket.

Mertesacker : 8 leads by example.

Wilshere : 7 not his normal effervescent self but considering illness unsurprising

Ramsey : 9 lead the team in tackles, touches and attempted passes.

Cazorla : 9 the boy is class

Walcott : 8 used his pace to worry Spurs when we had the ball and defended well when we didn’t

Giroud : 9 a great finish, constantly working for his team, goal line block.

Subs:

Flamini : 8 it was indeed a no brainer

Monreal : 7 did what he had to

Sagna : 7 ditto

Wenger : 10 out tacticted the young pretender

Enjoy transfer deadline Gooners bathing in the warm afterglow of a North London Derby win.

Gooner in Exile


Four centre backs at Arsenal is a thing of the past.

August 29, 2013

For years the accepted wisdom at most clubs and certainly at Arsenal has been that you should start a new season with four centre backs all ready and able to be called upon whenever needed.

As recently as last season, we started with Mertasacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Squillaci. The problem with this system becomes clearer as you move along the list; the drop in quality is substantial.

The practicalities have been to have two centre backs playing, one on the bench and one doing very little apart from losing match sharpness in the reserves and picking up a large pay cheque.

Now as tough as it sounds to have to pick up a large pay cheque for seemingly doing very little, there is an expensive trade off; the fourth choice CB will almost certainly lose his chance to play first team football, ok he will play one or two games here and there but that is it.

So it becomes a balancing act, clubs want the best player they can get while knowing that if the player is any good he will not want to give up the opportunity to play.

It is the same at all clubs, a forth choice CB trades his chance to play football for a wage that is higher than he would be getting at a lesser club and so it follows that the higher the wage a club is prepared to pay the better the quality of forth choice back up will be.

Man city had Kolo Toure on a huge wage for doing very little apart from putting on weight but even he got bored enough to take a pay cut and move to Liverpool in the hope of playing regular football. (Ok, the pay cut part is a punt)

It is a thankless task being a forth choice CB and even more so at Arsenal where the player is not getting a man city pay cheque and to make things worse he is constantly moaned about by the fans for not being good enough.

This is why I have always had a great deal of sympathy for our forth choice CB’s and defended them when ever I could. Take Squillaci, it was not his fault that his job was to simply be an insurance policy against disaster; that’s to say if illness befell the three other CB’s in front of him.

The point of this post is that I think the club may have changed its policy; they still know that we need the depth, hence Mertasacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen; but, now instead of having another in the reserves I think that AW views Djourou as the fourth. It’s the reason why he was never sold and there have been plenty of opportunities to do so.

It makes a lot of sense, far better to have a fourth choice playing week in and week out, keeping his match fitness than languishing in the reserves. The loan deal probably has a clause that says we can have him back in case of disaster.

Makes sense to me, why would someone like Williams of Swansea want to give up the opportunity to play first team football again; in fact, why would anyone half decent want to?

Written by LB


Emirates Cup – Arsenal 2 – Napoli 2

August 3, 2013

Yesterday saw the return of the Emirates Cup after a years absence to accommodate the Olympics, due to the pessimism amongst fans this was seen as a cop out, because:

A) they know no one will turn up
B) we can’t even win our own pre season tournament anymore
C) some other conspiracy theory

star man kozzer

Anyway the club has re introduced the tournament this season and it was our first chance to look at the progress of the team and more importantly for me the progress of the youth team against slightly more robust opposition than the Indonesian Dream Team.

The Emirates Cup has introduced us to many of our youngsters in the past, having watched Jack conduct the FA Youth Cup final the following season he was electrifying those watching at the Emirates Cup, capping it with a wrong foot (hit with his left peg on the right side of the goal and the ball coming from his left) half volleyed goal.

Yesterday we got to see more of Serge Gnabry while the highly rated Gedion Zelalem sat waiting on the bench alongside Chuba Akpom.

Joining Gnabry on the right flank was the eager Jenkinson, playing alongside the more experienced Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs in front of Fabianski. In midfield the untested combination of Wilshere and Ramsey as the two deeper players with Rosicky in front. Podolski and Giroud completed the line up.

To be honest we started very slowly, either heavy legged from our trips to Asia or had it too easy whilst in Asia and therefore not ready for the sterner test provided by Napoli.

It has been known for some time that we are susceptible to counter attacks as we commit too many men forward, Napoli are probably the best European exponents of counterattacking football, they defend in numbers as all good Italian teams do, but they are very quick on the break, and know how to use the ball in those situations.

Having said that the first goal went to Napoli but not from a counter attack, we were pretty well set Jenkinson showed his inexperience by following his runner beyond the defensive line this gave the Napoli defender with the ball the opportunity to lift the ball over the rest of the defence and create a 50:50 between Jenkinson and the winger, Jenkinson won the header but the contact was unconvincing, Fabianski realised the danger too late and was not out quickly enough to collect whilst airborne leaving the young Napoli winger the relatively simple task of tapping home for the goal. Most goals are a result of a series of errors, the first one is most crucial, and the first error was not pressuring the defender with the ball, which was then compounded by the following errors and misjudgements.

The second goal conceded was more like what we are used to, too many men committed forward, Mertesacker’s man appeared to have him beat for pace but that said he was heading wide of goal and we had enough numbers tracking back, however Fabianski made it so much easier for Napoli by coming off his line which then forced other defenders to back away. I hope in a PL game we would have seen a little more commitment to blocking the shot but in a pre season friendly unnecessary risks such as throwing yourself full length at a shot should not be taken for fear of injury.

Arsenal struggled to find a shape that worked and Wilshere and Ramsey struggled to find a way to control the midfield they are both still too young to do it together. Although in time with guidance they showed enough understanding and ball movement to feel that they could become quite a force together….however they are both still learning the ropes when it comes to experienced opponents.

Gnabry failed to offer the required width on the right and most of our good work came from Gibbs and Podolski linking on the left, unfortunately their crosses did not result in meaningful shooting opportunities.

Gibbs did win a very soft penalty only for Podolski to use his left foot hammer as a feather duster and tickle the ball harmlessly at Reina.

We created other opportunities but a combination of the linesman, errant shooting and altruism (Podolski) we went in 2-0 down to unfortunately a few boos from the Emirates crowd.

One of those missed opportunities was perhaps indicative of why we were two goals down, Jack lifting a ball from the edge of the area to Ramsey in an offside position. Whilst the bit of play between the two was good, one has to question who they were expecting to be providing cover if the attack broke down.

The other problem in our attacks as well as a lack of width was the fact that all our attacking players appeared to be bunched on their eighteen yard box when attacking, so there was only one passing option and it was very congested, we had no depth to our attack.

From the start of the second half we appeared to have a better shape. Soon the substitutions were made, Jenkinson and Gnabry off, Sagna and Theo on. Later came the more telling substitution, Ramsey and Wilshere replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta. Immediately our shape seemed better, we retained possession in their half better and were not as susceptible to counter attacks. With a more solid presence in midfield in Arteta, Mertesacker and Koscielny began to make lighter work of dealing with Napoli attacks.

Rosicky was still the man providing most inspiration going forward, helped by Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the outlet Sagna and Theo provided.

giroud over-head

The start of the comeback came from a corner, Theo floated the ball onto the penalty spot, Giroud held off his marker and performed a bicycle kick which was heading wide, but clipped Bacary Sagna and went in the bottom corner.

We were pretty much camped in their half for the remainder of the game, but without providing the finishing touch to equalise.

It eventually came from a free kick in the final third, Arteta put a great delivery into the box which Mertesacker rose to meet, Reina could only party the ball upwards and Koscielny was first to react and raced to bundle the ball in at the far post.

As pre season friendlies go I think it was a very helpful game, some harsh lessons learned for the younger players in the squad, and a step up in quality opposition with only two weeks to go to the season opener.

For me the standout performer was Koscielny, the way he dealt with Higuain you would think that he had a personal vendetta against him. It’s almost like he couldn’t let the Emirates crowd see what they might be missing out on so he wouldn’t give them a sniff.

Arteta showed once again why he is so crucial to our chances of competing, the knowledge and calmness his presence brings to the side are invaluable. Rosicky continued from where he left off at the end of last season, as did Ramsey, although the latter was hampered by being partnered with Wilshere.

Jack will prevent a real problem this season, the English media will be happy to see him rested, the Arsenal crowd will want him to play, Jack himself will be desperate to make up for lost time. For me he is about moving with the ball from somewhere in the opponents half and attacking from there, but with Santi and Rosicky in the squad is that where he can be used?

All in all more questions than answers yesterday, lets hope for a few more answers today.

Written by Gooner in Exile


Who should be Arsenal captain next season?

July 12, 2013

There seems to be a feeling amongst Arsenal fans that we haven’t had a truly great captain since Vieira. Henry, Gallas, Cesc. Some fine players there. But apparently not great captains. Two seasons ago we seemed to have solved that problem, but the manner of his* departure must also bring into doubt his leadership qualities. (* He who shall not be named)

TV captain

That left Thomas Vermaelen to take over the armband. He was a popular, and seemingly natural choice at the time. His steely eyed look of determination, his all action style, very visible fist pumping and gesturing to his teammates, seemed to suggest he was made of the same stuff as the stereotypically great captains that we remember. (Yes, I do have issues with typecasting a certain type of attitude as being the sign of a captain.)

But Vermaelen never recovered his form, and eventually lost his place in the starting 11 as well. Can anyone argue that he should start ahead of Koscielny and Mertesacker? Which actually begs the question, will he leave? Should Arsenal let him go?

Arteta captain

Assuming Vermaelen stays, should he retain the armband? Does a captain have to be a regular starter? If so, who is to be the new captain? The stories from last season suggest that Mikel Arteta was in fact the real leader of the group. Arteta had a fantastic season, changing his game tremendously to adapt to a new role, because that is what the team needed him to do. His statistics last season were brilliant, as was his attitude. So, should he just formally take over what he seemed to be doing informally anyway?(After all, you don’t need the armband to lead)

I would say yes, but there is a risk that Vermaelen will feel undermined. Also, if TV is precluded from being captain due to not being a starter, what about rumours of Arsenal bidding for Fellaini or Bender? What will that mean for Arteta, especially in light of his age?

Sagna captain

Who else could be captain? In my view Sagna could stake a real claim, despite his poor form last season. However, his contract having only one year to run might mean he should be overlooked. Another player who could get a shout as captain would be Per Mertesacker. He’s the organizer in defense, and seems to make his defensive partners better. He’s also already an authority figure of sorts at the club as he’s responsible for collecting fines from the players. A 2 metre tall defensive stalwart would suit many people’s idea of an Arsenal captain, even if he is German.

Mertesacker captain

Of course if it were to be down to popularity amongst the fans, then I think a certain Jack Wilshere would be installed as captain. As far as I’m concerned though, the only thing in his favour would be the (relatively assured) long term continuity in captain, which would be lacking in Arteta, Sagna, and maybe even Vermaelen’s case. For the rest, I think he’s still too young (and a little reckless). He should concentrate on getting his fitness, and then his place back. He has a long future ahead of him and there’s no need to rush to make him captain, especially when there are better candidates for the role.

Jack captain

So who would you vote for as Arsenal captain? (Bonus. Who should be vice captain?)

Written by Shard


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


St Totteringham’s Day – Report & Player Ratings

May 20, 2013

That was a very, very nervous experience made all the more intense by the fact that we were expected to win. Some how being the underdog in crucial games makes it just that little more bearable when a loss is inevitably considered before and during the game. But win we did and by doing so we secured the chance to play Champions League football next season which I believe makes it sixteen seasons on the trot, no mean feat when you consider just how desperate and disappointed those around us were at missing out again.

Does that introduction work? Nah, it was nail biting hell, ninety four minutes of torture before the release of the final whistle and the opportunity to laugh at the pained faces of those left wondering “if only” at White Hart Lane. That’s better, that’s more like the introduction that this game deserves.

kozzer scores 2 v toons

It was in fact a very professional win, every player followed the game plan, nobody panicked, all of which lead to our just desserts safely being locked away at the home of football.

As I sit hear in the afterglow, looking back at the season I think it has to be said that the single most important decision made was that to drop Vermaelen. This is not meant as a poke at the Belgian, I am convinced he remains a very popular player amongst Arsenal supporters; it’s just that everything points to him being put on the bench as the spark that galvanised the defence.

Do any of you remember the debate that divided us over which centre back paring would be the most successful? Half the people said Vermaelen and Mertesacker and the other half said Vermalen and Koscielny, I was one of those arguing that the later combination would be more mobile. But I think it is fair to say no one argued for Mertesacker and Koscielny.

kozzer celebrates v newcastle

Well there you go, those two flanked by Gibbs, Nacho and Sagna have proved to be a very solid defensive unit indeed.

Did you notice how much more controlled Sagna was in his attacking play today, no wild crosses and solid as ever in his defensive duties.

I can’t finish the defence without giving Koscielny special attention; he was the standout player of the day and the Man of the Match by some distance. Koz, you have no idea how much happier you have made all of our summers; for you, your performance and your goal we salute you.

The midfield worked well together. Ramsey was immense and will rightly pick up the AA award for the most improved player. He started the season coming on as a sub on the right wing and did very well; he then got his chance to start in the middle and was poor, poor to the point of serious abuse. From there he disappeared back to the bench, reappearing after the spud loss to progress to being undroppable which is where he is today.

Sadly for our Spanish Captain couldn’t lead us to the end of the game but the Ox came on and added fire to the midfield belly. Have you noticed how well he and Walcott work together? Theo is the senior player and is able to tell the Ox exactly what he wants to happen, the upshot is that Theo plays with a greater confidence.

If I have one minor moan it would be that Rosicky was a bit sloppy by his usual high standards. Many will not like me saying this but I think we were a bit fortunate that Wilshere got injured when he did because if we had carried on playing the same way we did against spuds I believe we would not be in this happy position today. Rosicky is an attacking midfielder who interacts well with the most talented player we have at the club and Wilshere is nowhere near that yet.

And on the subject of the most talented player at the club I am sure we are all agreed that the AA award for best player of the season goes to Cazorla, he ran his socks off again and boy what a great buy he turned out to be.

Podolski, not being so brilliant in the air, forces Sagna and Gibbs to send the ball into the box along the ground rather than hoofing it high which is one of my pet hates; his tally of assists this season is very impressive. As to whether he is the answer to our number nine issues I neither know nor care today, I am just pleased with our not quite so BFG.

It was a good day to be an Arsenal supporter, we need to push on from here with some quality summer signings but I will leave you with my favourite image of the day. Remember the end of the game when the Sky cameras went over to White  Hart Lane? Well think of despair of their faces and chuckle.

Have a great day.

Written by LB

Following on from LB’s excellent report Rocky would like to offer these player ratings:

Szczesny: little to do but exuded confidence. 7

Sagna: very solid performance. He still seems a fraction slower than before his leg breaks but he defended well against Newcastle. 7

Gibbs: got pulled out of position a bit in the first 20, but played very well thereafter. 7.5

Mertesacker: typically good showing from the BFG. He is one of the best CB’s in the EPL. 8

Koscielny: a perfect performance at the back, augmented by as coring the all-important winning goal. 9 (MOTM)

Arteta: it was clearly a risk starting him, but he played with his usual efficiency before having to retire with injury early doors. 7

Rosicky: not everything came off for TR7 but he was involved in some of our best moves and his work rate was incredible. 7.5

Ramsey: phenomenal effort as we’ve come to expect. Some of his best work is unspectacular and, therefore, is missed by many. An invaluable player on the day. 8

Cazorla: drifted out at times but was a persistent threat to Newcastle and fought very hard for the cause. 8

Walcott: plenty of effort and skill from Theo, who was double- or triple-teamed throughout. It was a relief that his late effort that hit the post after great solo play did not turn out costly. 8

Podolski: Lukas was up for this one and fought hard in both attack and defence. Got a head on the ball to set up Koscielny’s winner. 7.5

Subs

Oxlade- Chamberlain: it was a surprise when Oxo slotted in to the holding midfield role vacated boyar teat, but hE did well. 7.5

Giroud: his hold-up play was good and his presence helped see us through to kids debating. 7

Wilshere: not time enough to do anything special. 7