Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3 : How Not To Start A Season

August 18, 2013

I’m not even sure where to start, as no one else has offered to do the report i’m going to try and fill the breach.

I have to admit that I missed a portion of the first half between our opener and their equaliser (parenting duties called).

There were no surprises with the team and bench, we are down to bare bones before a ball has been kicked, the absence of Arteta was a concern to all. We had seen in the Emirates Cup that Ramsey and Wilshere are not yet ready to partner each other in the deep lying midfield roles, this is due to a mixture
of inexperience and lack of understanding between them when it comes to one staying and one going.

We started brightly our opening goal a lesson in how to break quickly and clinically, Rosicky playing a great ball down the line to Oxlade-Chamberlain, he in turn picks out Giroud who finished well having made a good run in the box.

What was all the fuss about? We were going to prove the doubters wrong.

What followed was a combination of our old failings, individual errors that brought pressure and lifted Villa, an injury stretched squad
picking up more injuries in innocuous challenges, and our complete inability to get a ref to do us a favour once in a while.

The Villa equaliser came from a bit of good play from Abonglahor, he drifted past too many half challenges with ease no one getting close enough in red and white and was hurtling into the box, Szczesny had few options….stand big and hope he fluffed his shot or go for the ball, he chose the latter and raced out to the feet of Abonglahor, he lost the race Abonglahor pushing the ball past him and taking the contact. Taylor let play go on to see if there was an advantage but as the Villa player stuck it in the side betting he brought it back for the penalty. (Remember this later when I give a full assessment of Taylor).

Szczesny got down well to save the initial penalty but Benteke was first to react and nodded it home. That was disappointing as when watching the replays you see Benteke stop after he takes his kick which should have meant we could at least make his second chance more difficult but Szczesny was left exposed and the Villa front man nodded gratefully home. I should say I think Szczesny made a bad choice on the rebound, he jumped towards the ball, which made Benteke’s header a bit easier…..not that I am blaming him, it’s just another lesson our young keeper can learn.

Not long after we were being forced into a reshuffle, as Gibbs challenged for a header, his forehead connected with the back of the Villa players head. I was surprised at the amount of blood on Gibbs forehead and unable to be stitched and return he was substituted, I guess with the midweek trip in mind as much as for the players safety.

This is where the first calls about our squad lightness will appear. I have two comments:

1) If Monreal had been fit it wouldn’t have been an issue, if anyone believes we should have three senior left backs in the squad please do not moan about squad bloat or paying too high wages to squad players ever again.
2) Even if Monreal was fit he wouldnt definitely be on the bench, after all you don’t have one player in each position on the bench, and we could have easily seen Jenkinson on anyway.

For me I would have left Sagna at right back rather than switch two positions, although to an extent I can understand why you wouldn’t want to young players making combination on the left.

We made it to half time at 1-1 with a couple of scares along the way and not much more created going forward.

We started the second half ok, Cazorla on for Oxlade-Chamberlain another injury….Cazorla seemed to help the team retain possession and do a bit more with it but it also unbalanced us, there was no real cover for Sagna on the left side of midfield.

That was until we undid ourselves again, the ball moved far too easily through the midfield leaving Koscielny tracking back to win possession, which he did with ease, clearly playing the ball, it looked good on first viewing it looked better on replays, Taylor and his linesman decided otherwise awarded the penalty and booked Koscielny. Koscielny’s look of disbelief and smile said it all.

Benteke took the spot kick and sent Szczesny the wrong way.

Just six minutes later Taylor decided to put the icing on the cake of one of the worst refereeing performances I have seen by producing a second yellow card for Koscielny, he had hardly touched the Villa man (if at all I haven’t watched a replay) but he made another step before sprawling himself to the floor. Taylor bought it and showed Koscielny the second yellow.

At this point it was game over, if we wanted to get anything from the game anyway, we could have opted to shut up shop and go away with a 2-1 defeat, but instead we tried to find the equaliser, which was always going to leave us wide open at the back.

We went close a couple of times, Rosicky sending one high and wide and another into the body of the Villa keeper. Giroud had a half chance to hit one with his right peg but chose instead to try and bring it back to his left.

Villa took the opportunity to add a third as we had over committed to attack and Szczesny was left 2 on 1 and no chance.

It is hard to deny we are light on numbers, however the only position that would have helped us yesterday would have been defensive midfield, as with (the panic bought) Arteta missing there was too often a big hole in the centre of the park, and I would guess with his presence we would not have conceded so much ground on Villa’s opener. But this comes down to when we want to spend and who we are trying to spend the money on…do we want a Premier League defensive midfielder or a Champions League one? In two weeks time it may be irrelevant, but surely better to wait and buy the best we can get than rush in and buy average, remember no one likes average squad players on good wages.

As I said earlier despite injury to Monreal surely spending on a left back would be frivolous unless we plan to let one go as well. A centre back would be handy at this point, loaning out Miquel seems crazy if we don’t plan to buy big in this area, as I’d prefer a young centre back raised the Arsenal way to another Squillacci.

The same goes for the spear head of our attack.

And now the ref…..where do I start. He allowed Villa to get away with numerous fouls before being booked, the same did not appear to apply to us. He played advantage on their penalty, but rarely have us advantage for innocuous fouls when we had the ball. I can remember two clear occasions, Rosicky fought to turn his man, once he had turned and had taken him out of the game Taylor blew his whistle for the foul to allow Villa to reset, a late foul on Wilshere by their full back in our half, the ball was with Cazorla ready to get moving and Taylor pulled it back and allowed Villa to reset. Garbage,

And then bookings:
Koscielny 2 fouls, 2 bookings
Cazorla 1 foul, 1 booking
Abonglahor 4 fouls (repetitive ankle taps) 1 booking (last one)
Westwood 4 fouls 1 booking (last one)

And then the curse of rotational fouling, we suffered 18 fouls, 8 on Wilshere, targeted? Just a bit! Allowed to get away with it….absolutely….but of course it’s up to Arsenal Football Club to protect Jack for England…do me a favour!!

So what did we learn, well nothing new really we already knew it all, but it makes it harder to judge when all the other footballing gods appear to be against us.

I do know that this coming fortnight is going to be very tough, and we will see signings one way or the other, it’s just a question of what level of player they are.

If anyone wants to rate the players they can, I can’t after that result because I don’t think it would be fair.

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds: Genius Never Gets Old

January 10, 2012

It’s not a trick of the eye, it’s not a fancy photoshop job. That is indeed Thierry Henry in an Arsenal shirt, an Arsenal shirt of 2012, wheeling away to celebrate a goal.

And not just any goal, but an Henry goal. Song played in a brilliant through ball that split the two covering defenders, Henry took one touch to control the ball, and himself, and then he curled right into the corner of the net away from the keeper’s despairing dive. This was a goal that was a blast from the past – the good old times when it would be Bergkamp or Bobby Pires or Freddie playing the ball into Henry. It brought a joy to the Emirates that we’ve not seen in some time.

More importantly, it also brought us into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup where we play Aston Villa.

Leeds came with one objective last night: shut up shop and try to get a return leg at Elland Road to bring in some much needed funds. In the first half we had 63% possession, but created little in the way of real chances. Arshavin, Ramsey and Arteta all had half-chances but none that really caused panic in their defence.

I must give a word to the three mentioned above. Despite his wayward shots and odd bad decision, Arshavin put in as much effort last night as he has done in a long time in an Arsenal shirt. He kept going until the last minute, and it was pathetic he got the yellow card (although deserved) when he was the one kicked and dragged all night. Ramsey and Arteta also put in a massive shift in midfield, both are neat players who aren’t afraid to get stuck in. Wenger’s choice of Captain was spot on – Arteta is a calming influence in there, and with Jack due back soon from injury we’ve a nice midfield forming.

As for our younger players, Chamberlain had a decent game. He is a willing lad, always game to run and try the odd trick to get around his man, he’s not afraid of a shot either. What I liked about him last night was how he would spot a man free on the other wing and switch play with a good pass. Ramsey did the same on occasion. It was a great shame Coquelin went off injured, he has played well of late and was proving he was deserving of his run in the first team, hopefully his injury isn’t serious. Yennaris had a decent game with he came on for Coquelin, didn’t do anything rash and wasn’t afraid to get on the ball.

As for Ignasi Miquel – can someone make sure we wash all that Barcelona DNA bullshit out of him so when he becomes a top defender he’ll stay at the mighty Arsenal and not whinge to “go home. ” Here is your home Ignasi! He is only 19?! Is he?! Composure or what? (Although I know it is Leeds and they didn’t threaten much but this is based over his few games this season). (PPS He also has lovely hair).

At the back Kos and Squidgy did what was needed, which wasn’t much. Szczesny also did well to stay alert and make a good save right at the death – however, he needs to remember that sometimes it is okay for the keeper to just boot it into the stands. His fancy dan stuff out on the sideline that gave the ball to a Leeds player could be more costly against a better side.

Aside from that, Chamakh started well for ten minutes and then did little. I’m not sure if its him not trying or us not playing to his strong suit (whipping balls into the box for him to attack) but at the moment I’d rather see Park getting the spot on the bench and having a shot – with Chamakh off to Africa he should have his chance now, or will Henry take it?

And so we are back to where we began – with Henry. The headlines are all going to be about him tomorrow and why not? Look how much the goal meant to Henry, meant to Wenger, meant to everyone at the Emirates, to Arsenal fans worldwide, to non-Arsenal fans worldwide.

You see, genius doesn’t get old. No matter who a man plays for, you have to appreciate when they are good, when they are great. There was just this more than horrible belief that Henry’s career would be overshadowed by that handball against Ireland because that was the last “big thing” Henry did. Until last night. Last night’s goal was so simple to Henry, it brought back all those other 226 goals with waves of emotion.

THIS IS HENRY! This is the Henry that must be remembered. Twitter was absolutely mental last night with people proclaiming the “Return of the King” and it wasn’t just Arsenal fans. All the Arsenal players were buzzing, players from other clubs, commentators, celebs, nobodies, everybodies – think what you may of Henry’s return but isn’t the buzz that moment created reason enough to smile and be happy?

That handball against Ireland will be put into the annals of history and everyone will be talking of 9th Jan 2012 and where were you for the second coming of the king?

Me? I was at home in my room in Ireland going mental, thanking Henry for the one birthday present I wanted more than most (ask Peaches), and while you are reading this I will be at work, wearing an Arsenal shirt from the Unbeaten season with “Henry 14” on the back and telling any Irish person that wants to argue otherwise that 78 minutes into last night’s match is Thierry Henry, Son of Arsenal and one of the finest players the world has ever seen.

With 12 minutes remaining, Henry scores his 12th goal against Leeds in 12 appearances wearing number 12 on his Arsenal shirt in 2012

Tell me it wasn’t meant to be?!

Written by IrishGunner