He’s Got No Hair.

May 31, 2019

I am still bruised and angry.

No point whatsoever looking at a one-off game and reaching conclusions about the future of certain players and whether they were responsible for that shitfest. Ozil was crap but he is one of 10 (Cech is excluded). It wasn’t lack of effort that cost us, it very rarely is, so what is it?

There is a simple answer …. look at our goals against record. I cannot recall a season when the defence was so porous. Goals conceded in the PL were 51!! Well over a goal a game. 13 conceded in the EL and we really only played 3 decent teams.

Is the personnel? I can’t say it is. Monreal may be a little slower but he remains a quality player. Kos and Sokratis are both experienced International defenders. Mustafi had a poor season but came good in the last couple of months. We have good young back-up in Mavro and Holding. AMN and Bellerin are both fine players with AMN doing well in a position which doesn’t suit his skills. Our GK’s made few mistakes.

Is this a new situation? Not really, we have been getting progressively more porous. 51 in the PL last season, 44 the year before and 36 the season before that.

Mr. Wenger was never a defensive minded coach and left a problem for Emery.  The problem seems to be that we do not have a viable defensive coach which considering who is our assistant manager is bizarre.

Steve Bould has been marvelous as a player and loyal as a member of the management team. One would expect him to be the man with the ability to create the defensive cohesion which is so clearly lacking. Why can’t he?  Is he not allowed to work on tactics? I cannot believe it. As a member of Arsenal best ever defence he has the knowledge and the experience, surely the defensive unity is his remit.

If we are to progress next season, the defence and especially the ability for the midfield to shield the CB’s has to improve. We may sign a defender or two but most of the players will still be at Arsenal in August …

Steve Bould may not.

written by BR



The return of the prodigal son… yeah, but which one ?

December 19, 2013

While we (still) sit pretty on top of the league, between two fixtures against sides that more than one Nostradamus-wanna-be pundit would have seen ahead of us by the end of the year, many attribute this success to the managerial consistency/continuity. But if the recent rumors of Arsène Wenger finally putting pen to a new three year contract in January will have fans rejoice about the stability ahead, the fact that Le Professeur will be 67 by the end of it has people start to consider a successor to the Frenchman (some started a while ago but they obviously have poor judgement so we won’t pay attention to them).

There’s a plethora of great coaches around, people with impressive careers and their bags full of trophies. But with The Arsenal’s tradition of welcoming back its former legends to see them work for the glory of the club, it is tempting to put the spotlight on these once top, top quality players and choose among them the One that is to lead us upon to the next chapter of our history.

Doing so would also ensure a relative continuity and is especially tempting due to the recent actuality seeing a lot of these aforementioned legends coming out, One about his hopes towards club and board, One about his views on the British coaching community and its segregation problem, One with a book, One with a documentary, and so On, I mean on.

I chose from the squads up until the Invicibles, considering most of those who came after are still playing. And with the idea of continuity in mind, I decided to choose only among the players that played under Arsène Wenger. So here you have it, among the players that graced the red and white shirt from 1996 to 2004 is the One. Pretty limited you will say, also considering that not every player, not even every great player, is coach material (that’s what club ambassador posts are for), and yet there is still quiet a few noticeable names that come out. So without further ado, here are the contenders.

Patrick Vieira (37) – The “Demolition” One

I will start with the One at the origin of this poll idea. Paddy’s declaration, though probably taken out of context by the media, about Arsenal’s lack of leadership threw discord among fans with some of them stating he was dead to them while others affirming their love for him, adding that they would be glad to welcome him back at the Arsenal, possibly as a coach.

Considering Patrick Vieira was only appointed as Manchester Shitty’s new reserve team and “Elite Development” (*Cough* what a load of crap) squad manager in May, it is still early to judge his managerial credentials. But, eager to find more so that you have all the information you need to make your judgement, I crossed the enemy lines to gather some intel. Yes, I went on the Shitty web site, looked through their video archives and finally got my hands on the Inspector Gadget’s post nomination interview. What I wouldn’t do for you guys. Paddy, it’s all on you !

To make it short, a few things popped out. The love of collective football he says he retains from his early age, playing with friends. The sense of responsibility he wants to instill in the young players as well as a winning mentality. For that last One, reflecting on Paddy’s declaration that he thought “Arsenal lacked what it takes to win dirty”, we all know what he means. And I for One am a little worried someone like him could coach the team, because that is so not Arsenal.

Dennis Bergkamp (44) – The “Godly” One

Here again it is hard to gauge Dennis Bergkamp’s managerial career. Slightly ahead of Vieira for he has already been in charge of a youth team and is now assistant manager of a team of the importance of Ajax Amsterdam, it is also good to note that the head coach under whom he is working, Frank DeBoer, is considered as One of the ascending talents of European football management. Undertaking the rebuilding of the mythical Dutch club, DeBoer has won three league titles in two and a half years at the helm. Learning from the mistakes that saw Ajax disappear from the European scene for a while, he is betting on youth and has revolutionized their academy. No doubt, seeing these methods baring fruit, Bergkamp could be tempted to consider them for his yet in gestation managerial style. That plus his Total Football education, Stillness, Speed, and the love for Attack he shared with Wenger and you might get a glimpse at what Iceman as a manager could look like.

Unfortunately, Bergkamp could have also been named the “Non-flying” One. And as long as his aerophobia problem isn’t solved, it is hard to see him appointed head coach of a team playing European football year in year out.

Tony Adams (47) – The “There’s only One Tony Adams” One

Mr Arsenal had an amazing career as an Arsenal player. He is the only One to have captained a major club in three different decades, and to the first League Cup and FA Cup double in England. He is One of the “Famous Four”, the back four that made the fame of the Arsenal offside trap. On his way to redemption after alcoholism blighted his career, Big Tone is a deep an attaching character. “In March 2003, BBC Sport named Adams as the former Arsenal player that the club would most benefit from returning” (Wikipedia). And he wants to return ! In June of this year, Adams said he had postulated to enter the board only to be snubbed and see Chips nominated. Now a board position isn’t exactly a coach position (not even close actually) but Tony clearly stated he would do anything at the club, even the tea, so I guess that also means head coach. At the same time he suggested Arsenal was ill prepared in case Arsène Wenger decided to leave. Very subtle.

Unfortunately, like mentioned above, not every great player makes a great coach. And with an average record of 27.73% wins in his three different spells as a manager, and a habit of quitting or being laid off within a year, Adams isn’t exactly in the league of an Arsenal coach contender.

Steve Bould (51) – The “Baldy” One

“He has no hair, but we don’t care ! ” Another of the “Famous Four”, Steve Bould has already an interesting managerial career to show off. Appointed head coach of the Academy team, he won two Premier Academy League and a FA Youth Cup. He knows the young guns and they know he can lead them to victory. How’s that for continuity ? Assistant Manager since last season, Bould bolstered our defense. His style might be very different from Arsène’s attacking style, but the same way, as an assistant, he complemented the Frenchman’s style, the appointment at his side of a Dennis Bergkamp could do the trick. Steve Bould would also undoubtedly provide the most seamless transition but One might argue that Arsenal needs to evolve.

For all of these reasons, Bould may look like the ideal candidate, and yet there might be another One…

Arsène Wenger (64) – The “Invicible” One

Who said 67 is too old for a manager ? Especially One gifted with such cunning intelligence, meaning that even if his body couldn’t move anymore, his head would still be able to win a few league titles and the Holy Champions League Grail.

Another thing, Arsène is nothing like Ferguson and he would certainly not quit while the club is still under reconstruction. Because the record signing of this summer was only the start. The “German speaking” Öne, as we could also have named him, is the reason why Mesut signed and, let’s face it, this Bizarre Sex Appeal is his and his only. If he keeps signing top, top quality players during the next three years, will he then leave like Red Nose after BSR followed his siren chant up north ? I believe not, because Arsène isn’t after legend, he is after Legacy.

Here are the candidates.


You can vote for up to 3 choices in the poll

I apologize to those of you who were hoping for more nostalgic faces, but feel free to add any suggestion in your comments. Same thing for any player you feel should have been on this list. I also apologize for the post kind of answers to itself but I look forward to standing corrected in the comments. Let the debate begin !

Written by Benjamin Rochet

Vote for the Next Arsenal Manager

November 22, 2013

Having a few minutes free I start as I often do  to consider life after Mr Wenger. Who doesn’t?

The man has been a stalwart but even he will have to let go at some point. SAF was approaching his dotage when he retired and my hope is that Mr Wenger will retire in time to enjoy the evening of his life. He is approaching 65 and it would not surprise me if he refuses to sign a longterm contract. In which case, let’s play the “Manager Game” …….

I have certain requirements; they must be Arsenal men, they must be under 50, they must be winners,and they must be comfortable with the press. So that rules out most chaps. But who could possibly take over?

Many of our ex-players have taken coaching badges over the past decade and as such can be considered.

1. Tony Adams. Don’t laugh. This is Mr. Arsenal we are talking about. He has PL and foreign managership experience, he has interesting views on Arsenal and football in general which could improve the club. He knows how to organise a defence and above all else TA is a winner. So why not? Well …..

2. Remi Garde. This little fellow is definitely in the frame. Currently manager of Lyons in France and a self-confessed Spurs hater. He has the experience and has already (according to the Redtops) been approached to be Director of Football at THOF.  He speaks fluent German as well so will be able to chat to our new signings.

3. Dennis. The people’s choice. Currently working at Ajax and doing his badges. Could DB10 really become an Arsenal manager? The flying is the first problem, then there is the doubt that he could ever be a Number One. I can easily see him as an assistant manager or a coach but The Big Man? Somehow I doubt it but it would be nice and he does look good in a suit!

4. TH14. Why not? The man is hugely intelligent, absolutely loves the club, has massive experience and an excellent understudying of tactics. A man motivator, brilliant with the media and a true Arsenal icon. Manager material? Why not?

5. Steve Bould. He certainly must be considered. He has been working his way through the manager ranks at Arsenal and now gets to learn from The Great Man. Has he the “nuts” for the job? Well, he would certainly command respect! Woe betide any player who dared diss him. He has done very well with the youth team and is well thought of by the club. Has he the gravitas to take over from AW? You decide.

6. Patrick Vieira. I have said for a few years that PV4 will manage Arsenal, he has everything we need; intelligence, leadership, the badges, media savvy, a love for The Arsenal and above all, he is a winner. It would be excellent if he could be the first black manager of a big PL club. Some say that his time at MC makes him a traitor and his criticism of some of our recent (last season) form was ill-judged but he is a man who speaks his mind and for that we should congratulate him – after all he was only saying what we all were!

7. Someone else. Now this is the most likely bet given the youth and inexperience of the above group.  It is likely that if AW retires next summer or in 2016/7, we will have another Bruce Rioch figure before the Arsenal man gets the gig. There isn’t anyone who comes to mind – Deschamps, Low, Klopp are unlikely to come – yes, I know, Klopp would be brilliant. OK …. just for you I will put him in the vote

8. Mr Klopp. Top bloke, superb at managing BD but who knows how he would fare in the PL.

So vote away …. you have 3 votes so we can get a clearer picture

Vote for your favourite defenders from Arsenal’s modern era

June 22, 2013

Today you get to vote for your favourite defenders from Arsenal’s modern era. The articles published on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week provided in depth profiles on our best defenders spanning from Peter Simpson who played his first game in 1960 to the present day.

To provide a broader picture of readers’ preferences, you can vote for up to 3 players in this poll.

Thanks to GunnerN5 and Gooner In Exile for this excellent series of posts providing a forensic analysis of the best players in Arsenal’s history. Today we conclude the defence …. next week we start the midfield.

Arsenal’s Greatest Defenders – Day 5

June 19, 2013

Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we continue to highlight the defenders.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite defender by voting in the poll at the end of the week

14. Kenny Samson: 1980-1988

Kenny played in 394 games over an 8 year period.

He was born in Camberwell, London. While still at school, Kenny played for the Crystal Palace youth team, and made his first team debut for them at the age of just 16. In 1977 he captained the Palace junior’s team to FA Youth Cup success; he also skippered the England team at the same level. In his first 156 games he only missed playing in one league fixture. The team quickly progressed from the old Third Division in 1976, through the divisions to Division One, which they briefly topped by the end of 1979.

image027Arsenal had been scouting Kenny and in the summer of 1980 they put in a bid of £1million, with striker Clive Allen going to Crystal Palace in exchange; this was a controversial move, as Allen was a prized young player and had only joined Arsenal weeks earlier. That same summer he played for England in the 1980 European Championships in Italy.

He made his Arsenal debut in August 1980 and was a regular for the next two seasons, and a near-constant figure at left back for Arsenal for the next six years. He was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Year in 1981, but it took him seven years to win a trophy, with the Gunners largely underachieving through the early and mid-1980s.

It was from his England career that he earned the most praise and recognition he was rarely out of the team and played in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. He remained as the first choice left back for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and played in every game up to and including the quarter final loss to Argentina, and was one of the England players who witnessed Diego Maradona’s ”Hand of God” goal.

He rarely missed a game for England between 1980 and 1988, with the only competition for his position coming in 1987, when Nottingham Forest left back and Captain Stuart Pearce was given his England debut. However Kenny remained as the regular left-back during England’s 1988 European Championship qualifications. To this day, he remains as England’s second-most capped full back after Ashley Cole and only a handful of players have received more caps.

He finally won some silverware with Arsenal in 1987, captaining Arsenal to a League Cup final victory over Liverpool at Wembley; he was instrumental in the win as he set up Arsenal’s late winner, scored by Charlie Nicholas. The following season he fell out with manager George Graham and was replaced as captain by Tony Adams, who was just 21. He did, however, keep his place in the side even though Arsenal had just signed a long-term replacement in Nigel Winterburn, Nigel played at right-back in his first season rather than his accustomed left back.

He left Arsenal in December 1988; Arsenal had signed Lee Dixon and had reshuffled the side, with Dixon playing at right-back and Nigel Winterburn on the left. He continued to play for many years playing for Newcastle United, QPR, Coventry City, Everton, Brentford and Watford.

15. David O’Leary: 1973-1983

David played in a club record 722 games over a 20 year period.

He was born in Stoke Newington; London moved to live in Dublin at the age of three.

A Shelbourne schoolboy player O’Leary signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1973. He soon progressed through the ranks at Highbury, playing in the reserves at the age of 16. He made his debut for Arsenal against Burnley on in 1975, and despite being only 17, went on to make 30 appearances that season. For the next ten years he was ever-present in the Arsenal side, playing more than 40 matches a season (except for 1980–81, when he was injured and played in only 27).

article-0-0002B72F000001F4-475_306x452David was noted for his good positioning and elegant style of play. He won his first major honour with Arsenal in a win over Manchester United in the 1979 FA Cup Final. He also played in the 1978 and 1980 Cup finals, and the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup final, all of which Arsenal lost. In 1982 he became club captain, but relinquished it to Graham Rix eighteen months later.

O’Leary broke numerous appearance records at Arsenal; he was the youngest person to reach the 100 and 200 match milestones, making his 400th appearance while still only 26. He passed George Armstrong’s all-time record of 621 first-team games in November 1989. By this time, O’Leary was no longer automatic first choice (with the partnership of Tony Adams and Steve Bould at the centre of George Graham’s defence), but he still turned in over 20 appearances as Arsenal won the 1988–89 First Division title thanks to a 2–0 win over Liverpool, at Anfield on the final day of the season.

He won another League title in 1991 and an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993, though by this time he was mainly used as a sub. He holds Arsenal’s all-time record for appearances, with 722 first-team games, and over 1000 games at all levels in a twenty-year long association with the club.

He joined Leeds on a free transfer in 1993 after 19 years at Highbury. Throughout the1993–94 season he was a regular player in the Leeds side until he suffered an injury to his Achilles , which ruled him out for the whole of the following season. He gave in to his injury and announced his retirement from football at the age of 37.

The highlight of his 68-cap international career came in the 1990 World Cup. With Ireland in a penalty shootout with Romania, he stepped up to take the decisive final penalty to win the shootout 5–4. He only played 26 minutes in the tournament after replacing Steve Staunton in the Romania match.

When the former Arsenal manager George Graham was put in charge at Leeds United in September 1996, O’Leary was installed as his assistant. He remained as assistant for two years and he was made manager shortly after Graham moved to Tottenham. After several good seasons, including making the semi-final of the Champions League, the team went through a dramatic loss of form that ended with Leeds sacking him in 2002.

These are some of his thoughts (from Arsenal.com) after Arsenal won the FA Cup replay in 1993.

“We did a lap of honour with the trophy and before I got to the tunnel I thought to myself “‘this is the last time I’ll ever wear the Arsenal jersey again”. It was an amazing night, a brilliant way to end 20 years, but it was such a sad night for me as well.”

It was a night that stretched well into the early hours as the players let off steam after making history. And O’Leary went home with an extra companion when the celebrations finally died down.

“That night – I’ll always remember this – I took the FA Cup home. No one else seemed to be responsible for it so I took it with me.

“My wife drove us home and I remember sitting in the front with the FA Cup in my lap and somebody pulled up at the lights, seconds before it went green, and he looked over and then looked over again, thinking ‘is that David O’Leary with the FA Cup?!’ We pulled away and I still don’t know if that guy thought he was imagining things.

“I remember getting home that night and I thought, if my house gets robbed they are not going to take the FA Cup, so I took the cup up to my bedroom. My kids were young then and the following morning they came in and saw the FA Cup there on the side of the bed.

“That morning I took it to the club and gave it to Ken Friar. I said goodbye to Ken, I actually went to the steps of the old directors’ box at Highbury, had a look out there for the last time, and said to myself ‘hey, it’s been a fantastic 20 years, I’ve been so proud to play here, thanks for putting up with me’.

“Then I walked away, and that was that.”

(Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc.)

16. Steve Bould: 1988-1999

Steve played in 372 games over an 11 year period.

He was born in Stoke-on-Trent and signed for his hometown club Stoke City as a schoolboy in 1978, turning professional in 1980.

Steve-Bould-Arsenal-1992_1270336He spent seven seasons with the Potters and as he gained a reputation, as one of the best central defenders in the 2nd Division, it became inevitable that he would move to one of the big clubs. He was scouted by both Everton and Arsenal and after lengthy discussions Steve chose Arsenal and a tribunal set the price at £390,000 – a small fee compared to what Stoke was demanding. Signing in June 1988 he became a part of Arsenal’s formidable and famous back four with Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon, his former Stoke team-mate, winning 9 major honours.

He won the First Division title in both 1988–89 and 1990–91 but he was ruled out of the FA Cup and League Cup finals that Arsenal won in 1992–93, due to injury. He was voted as player of the year, by the clubs fans for the 1992-93 season.

Steve was a member of the team that won the Cup Winners’ Cup 1993–94, and was also in the squad that won the double in 1997–98 – he famously set up Tony Adams with a chipped through ball, for the final goal in Arsenal’s 4–0 win over Everton, the match that won them the Premier League title. Two weeks later they won the FA Cup.

In his final season Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-final, losing to Manchester United, and then a month later they also beat Arsenal to the Premier League title. Steve left the Gunners in 1999 and ended his playing career with Sunderland.

After retiring, he began working towards his UEFA coaching badges and in 2001 moved back to Arsenal and became a coach for the youth teams and was the head coach of Arsenal’s U18 Academy side, whom he led to winning the Premier Academy League 2008–2009, 2009–2010 and FA Youth Cup in 2008–2009.

He became assistant manager, to Arsene Wenger in May 2012, following the retirement of Pat Rice.

Written by GunnerN5 and complied by Gooner in Exile

The Bould Supremacy?

May 10, 2013

OK, the thesis I am about to set out is pretty simplistic and I expect it to be the biggest shooting-down-in-flames since the Hindenburg, but here goes:

To start with, cast your mind back to the beginning of the season.

We were nervous, but hopeful as we entered the new campaign. Our captain and lead goal scorer had abandoned us after hearing that Manchester United had a better medical room.

But we had signed Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud with Santi Cazorla to follow, giving us grounds for cautious optimism.

We started with clean sheets at home to Sunderland and away to Stoke. Admittedly, we didn’t trouble the opposition net ourselves, but after our calamitous defending of the previous season it felt good to be tight at the back again (no sniggering please, we’re all adults here).

Then we went to Anfield and beat the Scousers 2-0 with an outstanding performance. Abou Diaby, risen like Lazarus, was a titan in midfield. We followed up with a 6-1 thrashing of Southampton at the Emirates, we beat Monpellier in the Champions League and gained a creditable away draw at the league champions, Manchester City.

In six games we had conceded just three goals and scored 11. Robin van Who?

It was, at the very least, a decent start. Most encouraging of all was our defensive solidity. We had gone from conceding almost 1.3 goals per game in the 2011/12 season to conceding 0.5 this time round. The omens were good.

Then something a bit strange happened.

Steve Bould Summer

The media started to take notice of our improved defensive performances and identified the man they believed to be responsible for them.

Who was that man? I’ll give you a clue: He’s Big, He’s Bald, He’s…. that’s it – you’ve got it – He’s Stevie Stevie Bould.

Bouldie had taken over in the summer from the long-serving Pat Rice as Arsenal’s first team coach.

As a member of George Graham’s famous back six (Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Adams, Keown) no-one could dispute that he knew a thing or two about how to shut out the opposition.

And the press were quick to credit his influence for Arsenal’s better defensive start to the season. Journalists started asking Arsene Wenger about it and after initially priaising Bould’s influence, Arsene reacted a little, shall we say, ungraciously.

The BBC correspondent who covers Arsenal, David Ornstein, said recently that at the start of the season Bould was having extra defensive sessions with the team but that Arsene put a stop to them when Bould started getting a lot of praise.

Ornstein said Wenger did not want Bould to take too much credit for Arsenal’s defensive improvement because it might intensify feelings of disenchantment towards him from the fans.

He (Wenger) had already been prickly on the subject of defensive coaching in the previous season. When journalists asked him in September 2011 whether he should get a specialist to coach the back line he said: “I’ve just completed 30 years of coaching. I don’t want to answer this kind of question.”

Steve Bould tight lipped

If Ornstein’s report was accurate (and his contacts within Arsenal are said to be very good) it does not reflect well on Arsene. The same allegation was made by Stewart Robson, who said: “Steve Bould is not allowed to coach the defence. Wenger wants to do everything himself but doesn’t give players any explicit instructions.”

Given what an Arsenal hater Robson is I would normally lend no credence to what he says, but the corroboration from Ornstein adds weight to the story.

Whatever went on, our early defensive solidity tumbled like a Bale in a breeze and we went on to lead the league in goals conceded directly from individual errors. We started to lose touch with the top of the table and we were humiliatingly turfed out of both domestic cups by lower league opposition.

When we lost at the home of the N17 swamp dwellers in early March, the pundits had a field day about our defensive naivety and how it was costing us any chance of success. At that point we looked like no-hopers for the Champions League spots.

But that loss turned out to be a watershed moment. From then until now we appear to have switched focus back to the defensive side of the game. Wenger made (or was persuaded to make?) the significant move of dropping his captain and his “first choice” goalkeeper.

We stopped conceding stupid goals (apart from the Sagna tragi-comedy act against Manchester United) and clawed our way back into contention for the Top Four.

My theory? The stories about Arsene having initially given Bould his head with the defence, but then changed tack are substantially true. Whether it was because Arsene didn’t like someone else getting the praise or whether he felt it was leaving us too short in attack, I don’t know.

But I also believe that after the defeat at the Spuds – and staring non-qualification for the Champions League in the face for the first time in his Arsenal career –  Arsene did another U-turn and allowed Bould to take control of defensive duties once again.

Bouldy smiling

I expect to be duly slaughtered for having my opinion shaped by newspaper tittle-tattle (is the tittle still on Page Three these days?). But it is also based on the evidence of my own eyes: we were much more defensively minded early in the season; something changed; then it changed back again after the defeat in N17. We are now less fun to watch, but we are grinding out results.

The effect has been to leave us with a chance of sneaking into the top four after all.

There has been a cost: we are not creating as many goal scoring chances and the balance of the team is clearly not quite right. But better defending was undoubtedly what was needed to put us back on track for the remainder of the current season. The rest we can work on in the summer.

Steve Bould, it seems, may have won an important battle.


Wenger is Wrong. Bould is Right.

November 19, 2012

It would be nice to think that Emmanuel Adebayor, in kicking Santi Cazorla up in the air, has also kick started our season.

After some toothless displays (from an attacking point of view) against Norwich, Schalke and Manchester United it was also nice to see further evidence that our goal scoring touch has returned. Even against nine men and an ape, a five goal haul is impressive.

However, the worriers and pessimists will still have found something to chew on in the two goals we conceded. For the first Spud goal our defence did not seem sure whether it was stepping up or falling back so, in consequence, it did half of one and half of the other. Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Szczesny could all have done better for that goal.

As for the second Spud score, we gave Bale so much room to shoot he must have thought he was back at Windsor Safari Park.

Certainly we still don’t seem to have the balance right between attack and defence – and there have been rumours recently of a  fall-out between Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould over where the team’s priorities should lie.

Let’s assume that, like the majority of internet rumours, it’s mostly rubbish.

But even so, it is not hard to imagine that there is a grain of truth in it: that the Arsenal manager and his first team coach may have different ideas about whether our emphasis should be on defence or attack.

A couple of weeks ago Wenger was quoted as saying that he thought our players should stop worrying so much about trying not to concede and should, instead, be more cavalier in attack:

“I think what is most important right now is that we find our game back. Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive…

“That, at the moment, is missing a bit. I believe I have a team of great players and perhaps they have forgotten a little bit how good they are.

“What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than thinking about if we concede a goal or not.”

I was not alone in interpreting that comment as Le Boss reasserting his control over the team’s direction after an early season period in which we looked more solid defensively than we had done for a long time. Much credit for this perceived transformation was given to Bould by fans and journalists alike. And, indeed, Wenger may well have felt obliged to listen to his new coach, having just appointed him.

The problem was that although we were not conceding many goals, we weren’t scoring many either.

I understand what Le Boss was getting at with his comments. Successive Wenger teams have succeeded by dazzling the opposition with fast, deadly attacking play and scoring more goals.

He clearly felt that in some performances this season our creative approach has been constipated. The progressive players have been worried about our porous defence and have sacrificed attacking effort for the chance to help out at the back.

You can imagine training ground discussions (if not exactly rows) where Bouldie would be arguing that we should continue to give a priority to not conceding, while Wenger would be saying that it’s not the end of the world to let one in provided we get two or three at the other end.

Obviously both are right up to a point, but I think Bould is more right.

The reason our attacking players are anxious about us not conceding is that they know only too well that we concede far too easily. And rather than the conceded goals not mattering, in fact they regularly wipe out all the good work done by the forwards.

Our strikers scored three good goals against Fulham – but we still couldn’t win. They got two against Schalke – same result.

Just like us fans, the forwards know that we have become far too good at giving away STUPID goals.

All teams concede goals, but we really have been cornering the market on idiot ones:

  • Vermaelen passing the ball to the deadliest striker in the country in our penalty area in the opening minutes of the game at Old Trafford.
  • Letting the poisonous dwarf that is Patrice Evra score from a header in the same game.
  • Berbatov being allowed to head into our net unchallenged from the edge of the six yard box. Unchallenged because Mannone did not come to claim the ball and Sagna (who in any case should not have been marking Fulham’s tallest player) was inexplicably “marking” him on the wrong (non-goal) side.
  • Torres being given time to connect with a cross, again in our penalty area, which should never have reached him.

I’m sure you can add to the list – but you get the point.

We cannot expect to win games when we are so prone to shooting ourselves in the foot.

Most of the idiot goals we have let in have not come as a result of a poor “team defence” performance. Instead they have come from stupid individual errors. It’s a continuation of last season, when we would often dominate possession only to concede to our opponents’ first attempt on goal.

Until we can cut out those errors, our forwards will never feel secure enough to fully express themselves.

That means Bould’s work with the defence should take precedence over everything else. He certainly knows what it takes to defend at the highest level and he needs to impart those skills to our current back line.

I have no idea whether the “zonal marking” issue is part of the problem, but there must be a way of ensuring that our defenders do not keep making schoolboy errors.

I would certainly settle for a little run of “one nil to the Arsenal”s right now.

All of our defenders are capable of playing to very high standard and cutting out the daft individual mistakes. Bould needs to be allowed to continue prioritising working with them to ensure they do so.


The curse of Steve Bould!

November 8, 2012

When Arsene brought in the bald-headed rock as his number 2, Arsenal fans’ cheers could be heard around the world! We had been crying out for a defensive coach for a few seasons after watching our creaky defence ship goal after goal, non more embarrassing than the 8 we let in at Old Trafford.

Since his arrival, we have looked a lot more solid as a defensive unit, and at the time of writing this we have the best defensive record in the league after 10 games. So surely its been a blessing rather than a curse?

Well, no! because obvious improvement in defence have come at a massive cost to our attack.

Our attacking play has suffered immeasurably since the arrival of Wengers new right hand man. Some will put this down to the fact we have sold not only our leading marksman from last year, RvP, but also our leading assist maker, in Alex Song. However, i believe that with the arrival of the creative Cazorla, the return of Wilshire, and the signings of 2 International, goal-hungry strikers,surely we should still have enough in the locker to be creating a whole lot more than we have seen in the opening third of the season?

The problem seems to lie with the defensive work that is now being put on our 2 wide attacking players. Podolski and Ramsey have been the 2 filling the positions recently, and they are being asked to do a lot of work tracking attacking full backs and providing extra bodies in midfield. Whilst this has worked excellently against the big guns away from home like Liverpool and City, it has been a failure to switch back to a more attacking mind set against lesser teams like QPR, Norwich and Sunderland that has seen us produce limp attacking displays of late. Also, the inability to switch mind set during a game after going behind like we did against United and Chelsea, has given the impression that players don’t really care.

The clash of styles between Wengers free-flowing ‘Wengerball’ (apparently mooted as a possible title for the next James Bond film) and Steve Bould’s hard working approach seems to have confused some of our players who are showing less urgency to make attacking movements which has resulted in us looking uncharacteristically static as a forward unit. If rumours are to be believed that Wenger and Bould themselves have had heated exchanges about the teams tactics, then you can understand why the players are struggling with it so much.

Personally, I believe there is a place for both styles in the current Arsenal team, but not at the same time.

Against the bigger teams away from home, the merits of playing Boulds more defensive, counter attacking style is there to see and has already produced some excellent results away at Liverpool and City, but the players must learn to switch mind sets when falling behind so as not to produce lacklustre performances like the one we saw at United.

As for Wengerball, the team must get back to quick tempo, short passing and direct running if they are to produce the Arsenal play of old. We have a lot more creativity in the team this year, espescially in midfield, but this is no good to anyone if our wide players are too negative or deep to make the penetrating, attack minded runs. Wenger must find a way to take the shackles off against weaker sides, whilst also making sure we are not fully open to the counter attack, something he mastered for the first 10 years of his tenure.

The problem seems to be with trying to play both ways at once, and it is confusing the players. It’s time for Wenger to lift the curse of Steve Bould and make sure that the players know who’s in charge, and make sure that the players know exactly which game-plan he wants them to execute before they walk on the field.

Written by slimgingergooner

Gervinho and Podolski clinical finishing saves our day: match report

September 19, 2012

Montpellier 1 – 2 Arsenal

Firstly I should say I got it totally wrong with regards to the team selection tonight. I was convinced that Arsene would prioritise our game against Man City and would give the likes of Podolski, Cazorla, Gibbs and Gervinho a rest, or start them on the bench. He did the opposite by playing his strongest team from the start and with hindsight, despite the fact that most of the aforementioned players appeared to be very tired in the second half – something I was anticipating – Wenger definitely made the right call tonight.

These are the sort of games that can go either way, but I am convinced had we not played our strongest available team tonight we could have easily lost two or even three points, and even then we had to rely on a large dollop of luck to come away from la douce France with maximum points against a very spirited team. Maybe Arsene learned from Man United’s mistakes last year, when they thought they could cruise through their CL group with weakened teams, and ooh how they paid for it! Lol.

In order to qualify in the Champions League, we normally need to win our three home games and get something out of one or more of our away games. It also really helps to start well in order to gain momentum. We managed just about to do that and we should be happy, but our display in the beautifully named Stade de la Masson was far from convincing, and I think we will need to analyse it further properly over the next few days (I have no time tonight to watch the game a second time, so I am afraid you will have to settle for my initial findings and gut-feelings about the game).

I believe that key to it all was our midfield not functioning properly on the night, and especially Diaby, despite no lack of trying, failed to repeat his phenomenal performance against Liverpool two weeks ago. I guess it did not help that he collected a yellow card in just twenty seconds after kick-off, but Abou looked rusty throughout the game: he struggled at times with keeping possession as well as safeguarding the shape of our midfield. Arteta was our rock once again and as usual he put his body and soul on the line. Cazorla had some strong moments, but especially as the game went on, he seemed to disappear for large periods.

As a trio, though, they lacked shape, calmness and composure: we were unable to dominate play in midfield for large parts of the game, and it almost cost us dearly.


First Half

Not totally unexpected, Montpellier started the game without any fear and with a clear game plan. From the first minute, they did not allow us to control the game by passing the ball around as we have become so used to again this season. They started with a high line and were keen not to allow us to build up attacks from the back, or even just to pass the ball around towards the midfield. Very often Montpellier committed two players to attack any of our players who were in possession of the ball, and our usually so effective triangles were constantly broken up.

It also did not help at all that our captain, who has been so good at leading by example this season, made an error of judgement after eight minutes, both in terms of taking an unnecessary risk – there was no need to take on Belhanda there and then – and in the execution of his tackle. Diaby’s yellow card and TV’s foul that led to the penalty, which was put away with ooh-la-la cheekiness of the highest order by Belhanda, somehow set the tone for what turned out to be an uncomfortable evening.

Luckily, we were able to convert our first proper chance to level the match, and it only took us eight minutes since we conceded to do so. A beautiful, smooth move through the centre of midfield which had started with Diaby who passed the ball to Cazorla; the Spaniard then found Giroud at the edge of the box, and the ex-Montpellier player managed to put a very good through-ball in to the unmarked and on-site Podolski. The latter had time to pick his spot and fool the keeper in the process, and he showed his experience when he slotted the ball with apparent ease past Jourdren: 1-1, game on!

This appeared to have bamboozled the CL-inexperienced French team, and Arsenal went for the kill once more only two minutes later. And it was another beautifully worked goal. When the opposition is hunting us down and triangles are being suffocated, the only thing that seems to work sometimes, is taking on a player of the opposition and move into the space behind him. Jack Wilshere did this so well against Barcelona in that famous home CL win two years ago, and in Gervinho we have another player who excels in it (and the Ox is not far behind too).

Gervinho made a quick and smooth move to go past a player of the opposition near the right sideline, after which he passed the ball to Giroud. The latter did not manage to reach the ball but it bounced perfectly of the leg of a Montpellier player into the path of Jenkinson. Incredibly, from the moment Gervinho passed the ball to Giroud he sprinted into the box, as you would expect from a typical fox-in-the-box kind of striker. I think it is fair to say that most of us had not pictured him like that! Jenkinson delivered a razor-sharp cross into the box towards Gervinho who, with only a metre between him and the goalkeeper, stayed calm and finished with deadly accuracy: 1-2 to the Mighty Arsenal and it all looks very promising for us again.

However, after going in front we fail to continue controlling the game, even though we don’t give away much either. They simply keep a lot of their players in our half and make it really difficult for us to find our passing game.

The throughout the game very impressive, Cabella, probably had the best chance in the first half for Montpellier with a well-placed, low shot, after a fine run across our box, that just whizzed past Mannone’s left post.

Second Half

I expected Arsenal to start the game a lot more organised and more capable of holding on to the ball, and to be able to dominate the game again. But we were never able to sustain possession and take control again of the game during the second half, which is a bit worrying.

Just after the restart, Diaby had an unfortunate slip in the box, leaving Cabella with a golden opportunity to equalise, but the 22 year old lacked the composure/experience which is so important at this level, and was demonstrated so incredibly well to him by Gervinho, and especially, Podolski earlier in the game. Although, it is fair to say he was simply unlucky when his lovely, bergkampesque attempt to chip Manone hit the bar rather than the back of the net in the 54th minute. I think we might see more of Cabella in the future.

The same lack of composure was shown by the equally promising talent of Belhanda (also 22 years old) late on in the game: after a rare mistake by Mertesacker in the box – at the end of a fine move by Montpellier – Belhanda was left with space and time to take a first touch and pick his spot – he does not keep his shot low to the ground but shoots right at the arms of Mannone, who does well not to panic and keep hold of it. That could easily have been the deserved equaliser for Montpellier, but luckily we escaped once more.

Other than Diaby’s fantastic, surging run from our own half all the way to the penalty box; where he fed the ball to Cazorla who could have done better with his shot on goal, we had very little to offer in terms of our attacking efforts.

In the end we held out and can now move on to the next game. Suffice to say, Wenger and Bould have some work to do with the team, as we are unlikely to get away with a repeat of tonight performance against Man City on Sunday.

Player ratings:

Mannone: I really liked him tonight, even though he did not have to make many big saves. He was calm and oozed confidence: 7.5.

Jenkinson: Tenacious, solid performance and a great cross for the winner: 7.5.

Mertesacker: Really read the game well and was desperate to keep discipline and order in an increasingly becoming disorganised team: 8.

TV: Silly mistake to give the somewhat harsh penalty away, but recovered well after that and worked well with Mertesacker to just about stay in control in defence: 7.

Gibbs: Less dominant and present this game than in previous games. I felt he left TV too often exposed this game: 6.5.

Arteta: Reads the game as well in midfield as Mertesacker does in defence. Another solid, totally committed performance: 8.

Diaby: As per the Match Report comments; below par / too rusty on the night: 6.

Cazorla: Not his best performance this season, but his class still shone through at times. He seemed to disappear a lot in second half: 6.5.

Podolski: He also seemed to disappear a lot in the second half, but took his goal very well when it really mattered: 7.5

Giroud: Great assist for the all important early equaliser and worked very hard all over the pitch. He did not get great service on the night and will feel frustrated not have come close to scoring a goal against his former team: 7.

Gervinho: Instigated and finished fantastically the second goal. Worked hard to help out midfield and defence and was a joy to watch: 8 and my Man of the Match.

Total Arsenal.

Can Arsenal win at Montpellier’s Carrelet?

September 18, 2012

I love the late summer CL fixtures. Warm nights and the opportunity for fans to watch decent football midweek.

Our first game is challenging – playing the French champions even sans OG will be difficult. A compact ground filled with 33,000 fervent fans awaiting  (what I believe will be) their first CL game.

Montpellier: I have to admit to knowing almost nothing about Montpellier HSC. I have been to the town and didn’t even know they had a club! We all know about their fairy tale La Ligue win last season but beyond that? Mbiwa, the captain is much admired and it is unlikely he will be at the club next summer.  Another player known to English fans is John Utaka who was signed by Portsmouth in 2007 for £7m and given a wage of £80k a week …. yes, you read that correctly! More than Theo is being offered in 2012!! You will not be surprised to read that Utaka was signed by a man who has a Rosie account. Montpellier’s most famous ex -player is Eric Cantona – shame he couldn’t make it in the English game.

The night’s talking point will obviously be the return to Stade de la Mosson of Oliver Giroud. It will be a special night for him and I expect OG to mark it with at least one goal.

Montpellier’s form is poor. They have won just one of five games in La Ligue, the latest resulting in a 3-1 loss away to Reims.

Stade de la Masson. Home of the French Chapions

Arsenal: There are so many possible permutations of the team tonight but I will start at the back and with our ‘keeper. Mannone will play due to an ankle injury to TPIG. It would have been interesting to see which GK would start had TPIG been fit.

The Corporal has been outstanding, an astonishing improvement in one so young and inexperienced. He isn’t the finished article yet but he deserves to keep his place. Centre back is not so simple;  Mertsacker is quality but Koscielny is too good to leave on the bench. I would play Kos tonight and Per on Sunday when it is likely Djeko will start.  Despite Gibbs improvement, I would prefer to see Santos start tonight. He is a better crosser (Gibbs must keep practicing) and OG needs something to feed on.

Midfield is also difficult to predict. My choice would be Coquelin, Cazorla and Arteta..  Diaby’s height will be important on Sunday – no risks should be taken with our fragile Bambi – and Coquelin is an able deputy who performed very well on Saturday. However, Ramsey ‘s vibrant substitute cameos are evidence of a player in good form.

Upfront we finally have options. The Ox is likely to be rested having played 2 Internationals and on Saturday. Assuming Giroud starts, The Gerv will not play centrally, so I expect the team to line up like this:

My Team:

And what a  bench….. O-C, The Gerv, Merts, Gibbs, Shea, Diaby, Ramsey.

Mr Wenger usually likes to get the 2nd round qualification achieved as soon as possible and as such I expect him to play our strongest team despite the difficult fixture on Sunday. For once, playing Tuesday will help us.

I was going to write a “where are they now?” feature for this season, it is on the back-burner at the moment but here is a taster. This gentleman is currently living in sunny Malta and owns a pub….

Fashion can make a fool of Heroes

It is hard to know what to expect of Montpellier, they could be excellent and win the group or be whipping boys. A poor start to the season does not mean that Montpellier are a poor team (AFC 2011) and tonight will be one of the biggest nights in the clubs history, they will be playing in front of a full, expectant stadium and be desperate to start their CL campaign well.  Should be a good game.


Written by Big Raddy