Get on the Good Foot

November 6, 2012

Hands up who thinks we will win tonight?  Mmmmmm seems I am in the minority. OK, Schalke dominated the game at The Emirates and were deserving winners, but tonight is a chance to rectify those mistakes and continue on our path to winning the Champions League  ….. And before you start to say BR is 3 sheets to the wind, may I remind you of who is the current CL Champions and how they won Big Ears?

We can win and here is why ……

First and foremost, Mr Jack Wilshere. We are unquestionably better with him in the side. I guess that under normal circumstances AW would rest Wilshere for tonight but given his coming enforced rest, Jack must start. I would like to linger on Jack for a moment. How did he escape media and fans rebuke for getting sent off? How could it be that it was Mr Wenger who took all the brickbats for JW’s stupidity? Wilshere is an established International, he has played over 60 games for Arsenal, yet at Old Trafford he was on a yellow, had been warned by the referee as to his future conduct and still committed a foul that in the ref’s view deserved a yellow. Why was he so reckless? To say AW should have taken him off is unreasonable – should every player on a yellow get subbed?  No, of course not. A great player needs to be on the pitch to assist his team and JW let us down, tonight he will make amends.

Another plus:  Bacary Sagna:  At least BS should get some decent crosses into Giroud who I predict will score tonight.

The second Leg: Mr Wenger  will address the way Schalke double teamed Santos. Gibbs remains unavailable so a different solution must be found – perhaps playing Coquelin in place of Podolski?). Much mooted is the idea of playing Vermaelen at LB and bringing back Koscielny. My concern with this tactic is the pace of the Schalke’s wingers. TV  is a fine player in a poor run of form and works best as a CB. I would prefer to continue with Santos and make TV aware of his covering responsibilities.

Schalke are good, very good but we should remember that for the first 20 minutes of the last game Arsenal were well on top, we looked comfortable and the following hour remains a shock . That Affellay, Farfan and Huntelaar  are quality players should come as no shock.

The injury list is just so annoying – Ox, Gibbs, Szczesny, Diaby , Gervinho – all fine players, all would be vying for a start tonight. And that is without important squad members Rosicky, Fabianski, Ramsey etc. Will there ever be a time when we can choose from an injury-free squad ?

My team: …. I was asked whether this my ideal choice or those I anticipate AW will make – it is the latter.

The news that Walcott is doubtful due to sickness came after this post was written, your guess as to his replacement is as good as anyone’s

We have to be more attacking than we have been in the last few weeks. I understand the need to secure the defensive side of our game and in the absence of both Ox and Theo there were few alternatives but the team has been dreadfully short of creativity.

The Schalke fans were superb at The Emirates and they are fervent at home, 60,000+ will be willing their team on. We almost silenced the German fans at Borussia Dortmund, we can do the same tonight.

Today’s explorer:  John Rae (1813-1893). Rae’s speciality was ice – lots of it. He tried to find the Northwest Passage – some say he did find it –  once walking 1200 miles through forest in two months during a Canadian winter. He learned Inuit and explored Greenland and Iceland .

Dr Rae anticipating a good performance tonight

Schalke have only kept one home clean sheet  in 14 games in Europe. As another great Scot  Dave Mackay once said “Attack is the best form of defence ” (Charles Buchan Football Monthly Feb 1964).

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Schalke: Speke’s Fighting Spirit

October 24, 2012

Schalke. An enchanting name, like a lover’s whisper on a hot summer night.

To be honest,  I know next to nothing about Schalke and from yesterday’s lack of response it seems none of you do either. Yes, we know that they beat Borussia Dortmund last weekend and that they finished 3rd in the Bundesliga last season ( a season in which we beat their  current Champions) but apart from Huntelaaar , their players, history and town are unknown. So following some research here is a short resume:

Managed by  Huub Stevens, Schalke play their home games in the 62k capacity Veltins Arena (Veltins is a brewer). They have over 100k members. The last time they won the Bundesliga was in Black and White (1957). Schalke have won the UEFA Cup (1997), twice won the Inter-Toto and in 2011 reached the CL semi-Final only to be knocked out by MU, who happily got hammered in the final. They have some fine players including a wunderkid – Draxler, a couple of old Arsenal targets, Metzelder, recently returned from Real Madrid  and Affelay, who is on loan from Barca. A player to watch (should he be fit) is Lewis Holtby, a young MF who has represented Germany at all levels despite having an English father. Schalke  (like BD) have a very fervent support – it is unlikely The Emirates will be quiet tonight.

No, not Chelsea …. Schalke Fans

Reports say that Schalke beat BD by playing on the break – this is not especially good news for Arsenal. That said, they are averaging two goals a game and clearly have attacking intent.

Podolski who knows a thing or two about German football states that Schalke will be our toughest opposition in the group. They rarely lose at home so tonight we must maximize our home advantage.

Arsenal go into the game under pressure to perform. We were pants at Carrow Rd and the team has taken a media battering. They deserved it. I don’t go along with those who say the team lacked effort or passion, what they lacked was team work, cohesion, inspiration and luck. Norwich’s goal was lucky –  a fellow takes a pot shot from 35 yards, the ball swerves unexpectedly, Don Vito is surprised. Holt who should be offside is onside because Santos isn’t concentrating, BFG couldn’t get back because he was doing his job of taking out the defence and we went 1-0 down. Norwich got lucky. But, there was no excuse for the total lack of inspiration in the next 70 minutes and tonight we must see a return to form or the knives will be out.

Let us look at the possible forward combinations. We have a choice of Pod, Gerv and Giroud. Podolski has a minor injury and in ideal circumstances would be rested, but can we go into the game with just OG and The Swerve upfront? We could if we had a potent midfield ….. but we don’t. Could Chamakh make a comeback?  No –  that isn’t a joke! And what of Arshavin who will surely get some pitch time tonight?

Rosicky, Sagna, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Diaby, Szczesny, Gibbs and Koscielny. That is some team and every one is injured. – 9 top players out which  may be part of the reason for Norwich.

My Team:

Which is exactly the same team that started at Norwich. Apart from Coquelin or Arshavin there are few alternatives. There is a possibility that Koscielny will be fit but I wouldn’t start him ahead of TV and BFG.

Enough of football and onto Raddy’s current interest which is those intrepid English explorers. Today’s great man is John Speke seen looking lovely and tidy in a portrait below ….

John Hanning Speke

Speke discovered the source of the Nile which had been a mystery for over 2000 years, he called it Lake Victoria (known by locals as Nyanza Ukerewa). To cross through Central Africa in those days was a major undertaking with over 80% of the explorers dying from illness or attack, it took not only great courage but lots of money – Speke had both. Speke fought in the British Army in India, he explored the Himalayas and even tried to climb Everest. He died in a shooting accident in 1864.

Would a man who was captured by Somalian tribesmen and stabbed several times before freeing himself and his friends go belly-up because of a crap result at Norwich? Would he hell, and neither will The Arsenal.

3 points tonight and we are almost assured a place in the next round. You know it will not be easy, it isn’t the Arsenal Way but ….. Victoria Concordia Crescit

Written by Big Raddy


Let’s get down to the important business ……….

August 31, 2012

So the Champions’ League 2012-13 is upon us. Here’s a bit of info and ill-informed thought on our oppo this time around.

Schalke 04

Stadium: Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen (61,000 capacity). Has a retractable roof.

Manager: Huub Stevens (Dutch, appointed in September 2011)

2011-12 performance: 3rd, but 17 points behind champions Dortmund. Lost 10 games and conceded 44 goals.

The players: Their most significant players are probably Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (“the best box player in the world at the moment” said his manager in April), Jefferson Farfan (good quality right winger) and Christoph Metzelder (experienced though slow defender). The loss of Raúl to Qatari football will be a big loss – he had two excellent years at Schalke, and worked very well with Huntelaar. But the dangerman remains Huntelaar, as confirmed by 48 goals scored in 47 games last season. Control him and we’ll be a long way to dealing with Schalke.

The fans: Club has 100,000 members. Recently departed Raúl said “In each game, how they [the Schalke fans] live for the club, it’s almost like a religion if you want to put it that way. This is really wonderful.” And having gone there in 2001 when we lost 3-1, I can confirm it is a great place to watch football, there is a real passion for football and for their club.

Olympiacos

Stadium: Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus (32,000 capacity).

Manager: Leonardo Jardim (Portuguese)

2011-12 performance: Olympiacos are the reigning champions and are Greece’s most successful club; they have won 14 of the last 16 league titles. (Being a fan of their bitter rivals, Panathinaikos, must be even more annoying than being a Spurs fan.) Last season, they conceded only 17 goals, so they may be pretty effective at the back.

The players: This is a team of veterans. There will be at least one familiar face, in the form of Roy Carroll. The loss of the Greek Super League’s leading scorer, Kevin Mirallas, to Everton will hit Olympiacos hard. But they will look to Rafik Djebbor and experienced Marko Pantelic to make up the difference. Ariel Ibagaza, David Fuster, and Djamel Abdoun will be the principal creative forces.

The fans: They will be intense, as we know all fans from south-eastern Europe are. Their rivalry with Panathinaikos is called the “derby of the eternal enemies”. The derby in February was abandoned due to rioting, which included throwing firebombs and resulted in multiple injuries being suffered by police officers.

Montpellier Hérault SC

Stadium: Stade de la Mosson (capacity 33,000)

Manager: René Girard (French)

2011-12 performance: For the first time, Montpellier were crowned French champions.

Given that they started the season simply wanting to avoid relegation and they were competing with PSG’s money and the experience of Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lille, that is deeply impressive. They had only finished in the top three once before, more than 20 years ago. They’ve had some great players in the past, like Laurent Blanc, Eric Cantona and Carlos Valderrama, but winning the French title was a genuine shock. Their win was based on excellent home form (they won 16 out of 19 home games). Here’s what Girard said on seeing his players become champions: “It just goes to show that everyone can beat everyone and that money isn’t the be-all and end-all. We’re a club of mates, a club that brings young players through and gives them a chance. At the end of the day, it’s worked out well for us. We played some great football, with a well-balanced team and I’m overwhelmed.” Donchya love it?!

The players: The squad is based on youth, nurtured in-house and recruited from elsewhere – sound familiar? Losing Olivier Giroud to us will hurt, he was joint top scorer in Ligue 1 last year. But they have a bright young creative talent in the form of Younès Belhanda, and will be looking to him to weigh in with goals and assists. His manager has likened Belhanda to Robert Pirès. High praise indeed. They also have former Pompey striker, John Utaka. In defence, Henri Bedimo and (if we, Milan or someone else haven’t signed him) Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will provide a tough shield to get past.

The fans: After last season, they’ll be euphoric. Beyond that, I can’t say much, but coming from a university town in a pretty part of France, I’m sure they’ll be charming.

*************

So overall, we’d have to say the draw has been pretty kind to us this year. It won’t be completely straightforward (Olympiacos did beat us last year, for example). But this is a group we should feel we can cope with, and enjoy.

Written by 26may1989