We Are Family

April 12, 2014

I am not a fan of the term “must win game” which we have heard so often (including tomorrow’s “title decider” -as if!) but today really is a must win. No excuses, no silly mistakes, nothing but victory is acceptable.

We need silverware to bring the club back to the fans. The bitching from the Me Generation who have grown up with the ludicrous premise that “second is losing” demand a Cup and Arsenal have an excellent chance to keep them quiet for a while.

I know Wigan have done wonders recently and that they are New Wembley winners far more times than us (have we won there?), but they sit a division below us. There will be no excuses for a loss.

I have to say I am nervous, Arsenal, of late, have a habit of falling over in sight of the winning post, the Koscielny/Szczesny comedy routine remains fresh in the memory, so I do not take anything for granted.

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Brilliant but Once is Enough

Wigan are nailed on to reach the play-offs. They are a good side playing attacking, pressing football so well that their victory at Maine Rd was well deserved – it was no fluke victory, they took on an over-confident City and beat them fair and square. They have been resting their players ahead of today’s match.

Managed by Uwe Rusler who appears to be a fine successor to Martinez, a good organiser and a man who may have a fine future as a manager. He has beaten lung cancer which shows he is a fighter. Rusler managed 3 teams in Norway before joining Brentford, before taking over from Owen Coyle at Wigan. Under Rusler’s management Wigan have only lost 5 of 29 games.

One fact to settle the nerves. In 20 matches between the clubs, Wigan have won 3.

Arsenal continue to struggle with both form and injuries.  Writing on Friday, we are missing Gibbs, Koscielny, Ox, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott, Myachi, Gnabry, Flamini (banned) and most recently Rosicky. 10 players plus Diaby – it is amazing we have a team to put out!! However, we are still able to send out 10 Internationals (Arteta) and they should be good enough to beat Wigan – maybe not a rampant Everton but …..

My Team – (prior to final fitness tests and assuming none pass)

fa cup semi

Hopefully we will have some bodies back – if not Steve Bould will have to be on the bench!

The fans will be really up for it today, well over half the ground will be Arsenal, and it will be a sea of red. Anything which brings the fans together can only help the players perform. We are the 12th man.

I am so envious of this going today. There is nothing like walking down Olympic Way  in the sun surrounded by thousands of fellow Gooners all excited and half-cut with the awful smell of dodgy burgers in the air.  The memories of those afternoons will be with me always and when I am stuck in a dentist’s chair or sitting disconsolate having missed a plane I have them to fall back upon. That is the wonder of fandom – those weirdo’s who look askance at us when we say we love football don’t have that, do they?

Will we win? Who knows? It all depends upon which Arsenal turn up today. In my opinion, if we revert to sitting deep early doors and getting to half-time at 0-0, which is a tactic Mr Wenger has employed each game following a nasty defeat, then we will not be the Arsenal I know and love. I want us to go at Wigan from the first whistle, pin them back, pepper their goal with shots from all angles, bemuse their defenders with our sumptuous passing game and score at least 3 by half-time. Wouldn’t that be great?

I will be wearing red today, I suggest you do the same – after all as the mighty Sister Sledge/Chic say “We are Family”

written by Big Raddy


Oh No!! We’re Favourites…

March 10, 2014

I don’t know about you but as an Arsenal fan of many years (not as many as some who frequent AA) I like it when we are underdogs. In fact some of my best memories supporting Arsenal and winning trophies have come when we were not expected to win, or facing the impossible task.

The first trophy I watched us win was the ’87 Littlewoods Cup, up against the all conquering Liverpool of the 80’s we had not seen a glimpse of silverware since our last FA Cup win in 1979. We went to Wembley with some optimism as George Graham had arrived to revolutionise the Arsenal team, clearing out the old guard and bringing through young talent and supplementing with purchases he had made from the lower leagues, players that were to go on to become club legends. The job was made more difficult when Liverpool took the lead, the fact that Ian Rush had now scored meant that we were now deep into underdog territory, as we all know from the commentary, up until that point Liverpool had never lost a game when Rush had scored. But Charlie changed all that, firstly knocking in when the ball bobbled around the box, and then Perry Groves came on with his pace, skinned the Liverpool fullback who was tiring and teed up Charlie to score the winner.

Then there was that Friday night at Anfield, going to Liverpool with the task of winning by two clear goals, again the stats were against us, Liverpool had just won the FA Cup, they hadn’t lost by two goals at Anfield for over three years. Smudger nodded in a Winterburn free kick, and then we had to wait wait and wait until…well you all know what happened next….Thomas charging through the midfield….it’s up for grabs now. I smashed a light in my living room having jumped high from my armchair. Arsenal heaven.

Was that it for being underdogs? Not really, the English FA hated that we were getting successful again so deducted 2 points and Manchester United only 1 for a 21 man brawl at Old Trafford (Big Dave didn’t like getting dirty or a hair out of place unless it was absolutely necessary and stayed out of it), somehow on the day Nige and the Super Swede got booked for having the temerity to be kicked whilst on the ground by Mclair and Irwin who suffered no punishment from Hackett, and the latter punishment of points deduction probably started our dislike of the FA and theory that we don’t always receive the rub of the green from the officials. Anyway come May we were telling the trophy presentation committee to stick the f’ing two points up their arse, as Manchester United players had to applaud us on to the pitch with a guard of honour in the return fixture at Highbury after Nottingham Forest had ended Liverpool’s title chances earlier in the day.

And then maybe our most famous underdog win, George Graham’s side by 1993-94 had become a dour side to watch, route one football was the order of the day, we were now a long ball side, up to Smudger, get the knockdowns and let Wrighty do the rest. We were a cup team now, this style wouldn’t win any Leagues, the previous season we had won two cups, we were neither favourites nor underdogs, Sheffield Wednesday played a very similar style to us, so fans that attended made their own entertainment whilst the ball was in the air, and in the brief moments the ball actually touched the ground got interested. But Parma, well that was a mother proposition, made worse by the injury to John Jensen and Wrighty’s suspension, the media gave us no chance, Brolin, Zola and Asprilla all featured for Parma, whilst we had Selley, Morrow and Campbell in ours. But somehow Smudger scored probably his only goal from outside the area on his wrong peg in his career, and we held out for a triumphant 1-0 victory.

So what about when we were favourites?

Well I’ll do my lifetime:

League Cup
1988 – Arsenal 2 – Luton 3
2011 – Arsenal 1 – Birmingham 2

FA Cup
1980 – West Ham 1 – Arsenal 0
2001 – Arsenal 1 – Liverpool 2

So am I disappointed Wigan knocked Manchester City out yesterday……well as the draw had been made we were only going to be underdogs for the Semi Final so in the grand scheme of things I guess it doesn’t matter. But I hate being favourites…..can we talk up Wigan please, after all surely the holders are favourites?

Gooner in Exile


Deep Breaths. Wigan Pre-Match

May 14, 2013

We all know what is at stake and tonight, we, and I mean those fans who are lucky enough to attend, have to push our lads to 3 points.

As a child I had an idea that if all the fans on the North Bank simultaneously sucked in air at a corner kick then the ball was sure to go into the net. It just had to be delivered into the right area and the ensuing suction would ensure another goal for my heroes. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t recommended in the programme!

In later life I found that in times of stress and challenge a few deep breaths helped considerably, and I have a feeling many will be needed tonight because this is going to be a nervous 90+ minutes.

Let us begin by congratulating Wigan on a wonderful achievement on Saturday. To overcome the Northern Oilers with a team that cost less in total than any single player of the opposition was superb (and almost true!).

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Brilliant. 

How the win will affect Wigan is anyone’s guess; they could be exhausted by the emotional strain or be running on adrenalin.

What excites me about tonight is that a draw is useless to both teams – like us, Wigan’s future is in their own hands, win two games and they stay up, and as such it should be an all-out attacking game.  This should (?) play into Arsenal’s hands as we are unquestionably the better attacking team, even without Giroud. In fact, we have better players in every single position – in my opinion, there isn’t one Wigan player who would be first choice at Arsenal.

As always, look elsewhere for tactics and statistics. Those that interest me are that Arsenal have won 9 out of 10 games at home to Wigan and Wigan have only lost once in May over 2 seasons. If Podolski is subbed tonight he will set a new AFC record of being subbed in the PL – 22 times!

Much has been made of the referee tonight, our record with the Dean is played 15 won one! This season Dean has been in control of our defeats to both Bradford and Blackburn and was referee at Wembley when we lost to Birmingham. Corruption? Bias? Who knows but whatever the reason it makes no difference tonight, we jut have to win despite Mr Dean. I said a few weeks ago that our season could depend upon luck and decent refereeing – I wish Mr Dean a successful and enjoyable evening.

Will we start with the same players who “thrilled” us in the opening 20 seconds at Loftus Rd and then bored us for the next 90 minutes, or will Mr Wenger make some changes? There is little alternative but to continue with Podolski at CF, though The Swerve may get a game in which we have to score.

Just for once and for Big Al here is the team I would like to see start but won’t:

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Ramsey has been outstanding recently but adds no goal threat whatsoever, Rosicky has flattered but not been consistent and we need goals.  Gervinho, despite being infuriating can score, and tonight we have to not only be secure at the back but also clinical in front of goal (clinical and Gervinho in the same sentence!!).

I want to see Wilshire. He may not have played well in his last couple of games but he remains our best player (IMO). He has the power and the vision to be the fulcrum of Arsenal’s future and we need him in big games. Yes, Ramsey does a better job defensively but good as he is Ramsey just hasn’t got JW’s vision.

Just read that JW will start from the bench thanks to the need for a summer operation on his injured ankle .

Defensively we are much improved  with BFG and Koscielny  developing a partnership which bodes well for the future – always assuming Koscielny doesn’t leave in summer. I prefer Gibbs to Monreal because Wigan’s main threat comes from Macnanaman  and we must hope that whoever gets the shirt does better than Clichy did at Wembley.

Would you prefer an all-out attacking display for our final home game of the season or a classic 1-0 to The Arsenal? I would take either, but prefer the former.

Today’s English explorer: Just a couple left before season’s end and we have just scratched the surface of England’s brave chaps, yet the traditions of Captains Scott and Cook live on, so today we are going to look at a remarkable young man who was born after Charlie scored “that” goal at Wembley;  Tom Avery (1975- )

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Still time to grow the “full set” and get Knighted

Born in London, Tom was given (as I was) the wonderful book of Captain Robert Scott’s attempt at the South Pole, it fired his interest in exploring. At Uni he led climbing expeditions to the Andes, New Zealand and the Alps. By the age of 20, he had scaled 9 unclimbed mountains up to 20,000 ft, yet his heart was set upon traveling to the Poles. In 2002 Avery became the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole and broke the South Pole speed record in the process.

Inspired by Peary’s North Pole expedition he set off to replicate the American’s journey, attempting to ascertain whether Peary did in fact make the Pole. Using the same equipment and sleds as Peary, Avery reached the Pole in just 36 days, thus becoming just the 41st and youngest person to travel to both Poles. His next project is to sail solo around the world.

The Premiership table shows that we are 5th, Wigan are 18th and over 30 points behind. Arsenal are at home, we have the best record in the PL over the last 8 games, we are on a great run – our last 12 games are W9 D2 L1 –  PL winning form.

And yet  …..  Why am I so worried about tonight???

Given where we were at Xmas the team have done brilliantly to get so close to CL qualification. Let’s continue the work tonight

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Are Trophies Everything?

May 12, 2013

Watching very happy Wigan fans enjoying their team cavorting with the FA Cup was a delightful sight, but as the actors always say “it should have been me”

Why wasn’t it us? We should have beaten Blackburn and then enjoyed a relatively smooth run to Wembley, and we would have beaten a surprisingly poor Man City . Did the Arsenal team deserve to lose that day?  Well, the fact  TR hit the bar and that we had a myriad of shots compared to Blackburn’s one would indicate that the best team lost. It happens – just like it did yesterday.

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What is wrong with this picture? … It should be Arteta and the Boys

I love the FA Cup and yesterday was no exception; the Wigan story had to be written as did Wimbledon’s freak win over Liverpool and Stoke’s over Leeds (back in the days of black and white). Or that horrible day when that ugly, whingeing Hammer, Trevor Brooking scored the only headed goal of his career.

I have been spoiled. I have seen The Arsenal win the FA Cup on many occasions – and yes, I know how long ago the last one was – all were brilliant days out. Even when we won having been totally outplayed and PV4’s last kick of his Arsenal career sent me home deliriously happy.

The reverse is true – losing a Cup Final scars one for life. I can remember the pain of them all. The Man City fans will have that loss in their memories for a long time to come – whether they go on to win trophies by the dozen they will still be haunted by being beaten by a massive underdog. We know!

But – Are trophies everything? My immediate response is a definite NO. I immediately think of Kipling and the two impostors of Triumph and Defeat. Unfortunately, on an emotional basis I veer towards a positive response – maybe it is true – Trophies are what it is all about. Second is nothing, second is losing, come second and you have wasted both time and energy. Second is Nowhere.

Or is it? According to Kipling and many others, the taking part is all important not the victory; the journey not the arrival.

Be honest though, weren’t you just a bit jealous of those joyful Wigan fans? I was. And the truth is I am desperate for us to win a Trophy and not the bloody Emirates Cup.

Written by Big Raddy


Tangled up in Blue: Match Preview

April 16, 2012

Apart from supporters of the doomed bottom 3 is there a football fan who doesn’t want Wigan to escape relegation?  Their PL survival is a mystery given the small ground, low attendances and limited finances – they are the (Leyton) Orient of Manchester. And yet they survive without resorting to hoof ball and dull physical football, maintaining an admirable allegiance to playing attractive football. Their Chairman backs his manager and rightly so, Martinez is a top bloke – calm under pressure, always urbane and intelligent, a man who stayed at Wigan despite the attractive  job offer from Aston Villa. Wigan are a fine traditional club who deserve to stay up at the expense of Blackburn, Wolves and QPR but …….

We need the points, so sorry Wigan, tonight you are the enemy.

You all know the maths (to our American readers, there is an “s”  in Maths), another win and we go 8 points ahead of the chasing pack. True, they will have a game in hand but 8 points with so few games to go is a considerable margin.

More of the same, please

I am afraid I am going to be controversial. This run of wins is surprising because we are not a good team yet. It is my belief that the root causes of our improvement are luck, confidence and a fit squad. We have yet to see a full game of quality . Certainly the team has grown since being 2 down to the hapless crew who got humiliated at Wembley yesterday 🙂 but I still do not feel confident we can compete for the League next season without  surgery.  If we win tonight we will be 15 points behind an ordinary Man Utd  – do you really believe we can be at least 15 points better next season?

Yes, I know the counter-arguments. The dreadful start, the awful summer transfer window, the injuries to FB’s, the loss of JW etc but to counter this, we have found Arteta;  Song has been immense, so has Koscielny. and what can one say about  RvP?  Can anyone guarantee another season like this for our Captain? On past evidence, sadly no. He was not known as Chocolate Legs for nothing.

But enough of this rational thinking BR, which I must point out is purely my opinion and not representative of Arsenal Arsenal website. The bottom line is  – do we have enough to beat Wigan tonight? and the answer is an emphatic Yes.

Beating United last week was a major scalp for Wigan and they will come into tonight’s game full of confidence.  The Latics have tightened in defence and started to score goals. 2 months ago they were doomed but now there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, Wigan have only beaten us once in the last 13 meetings.(we threw the away game in a shameful  2-3 in 2010).

My team:

If fit, I would replace Bennie with Gervinho who is back in the squad. I hope AW sticks to giving O -C cameo appearances. I fear he will be picked for the Euro’s should he make a big impact over the coming month. Better The Ox stays at AFC and gets a full pre-seaso, much like JW. Club over country for me.  Ramsey to come on after 60 mins and score.

Today’s Gooner: Being the Titanic centenary it is only fitting I find a connection and of course there is one. According to Hollywood Kate Winslett was a survivor of the tragedy and she is a Gooner. Although born into the Man Utd stronghold of Reading, Berkshire, she discovered the wonders of Goonerdom through a friendship with TH14 and has remained a fan ever since.

Kate and some fellow sing “Let’s all Laugh at Tottenham”

A big night for both clubs but the footballing Gods are shiny on The Emirates at the moment. We have enough to beat them and beat them we will.

Written by Big Raddy


Life in a Northern Town: Wigan Preview

December 3, 2011

Can Arsenal return to winning ways on the road? We have won away at last and once again should be playing in the red and white, so the portents are good. In fact, I have slaughtered, then disembowelled a rare, green resting frog and after studying it’s grizzly entrails I am delighted to tell you that the augurs are well placed (the wife isn’t too pleased about my using her best sabatier vegetable knife, but needs must).

“Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”

Despite a little blip the atmosphere within the team and amongst the fans is full of confidence, the feeling is that a corner has been turned, and a trip to Wigan holds little to fear – but then so was a home game with Fulham and we only just scraped a draw. Let us hope the team are fully focussed.

Wigan will be delighted to have beaten Sunderland last w/e and gain their first away points. Everyone seems to like Martinez as he struggles to keep a team with limited resources in the PL. In my opinion they will go down this season (hopefully alongside Spurs and Stoke 🙂 ). In Al Habsi they have a fine GK and with the return to fitness of Di Santos are looking sharper up front, where Rodellaga (an AW target, apparently) has yet to repeat his fine form of last season (not today, please). Much is written of Victor Moses, he seems a bit lightweight to me but without a proper RB  he could cause trouble. Wigan have won only once at home this season – beating QPR in August, but I expect a hard fought game today.

Stats: Wigan’s home results this season DWLLLD. Top goalscorer: Di Santo with 4. They have scored 12 goals in 13 PL games (AFC: 26).  Only 24 yellows this season  (we have 23). Wigan have only scored one headed goal. We have lost and drawn on our last 2 visits to the JJB/DW.

My team: Usual suspects.

It would be wonderful to see Gervinho score, he desperately needs a goal to accompany his excellent buid up play. I like him very much; he is explosive, he works hard, takes up intelligent positions on the pitch and is lightning quick. A fine addition to the squad.  A top bloke and a lifelong Gooner  :-

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/dec/02/gervinho-arsenal-interview?

Inventor from Wigan? I bring you Thomas Highs (1718 – 1803), the genius who invented the Spinning Jenny which revolutionised the cotton industry and brought great wealth to the North of England. No pictures are available of the great man, instead we have a painting of domestic bliss in a Manchester home

“Get on with it woman – I’m waiting for my Tea” (said in gruff Northern accent)

An important three points on offer today. We all know how well our rivals for a CL place are playing and matches against relegation contenders have to be won.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


No repetition of stupid mistakes

January 22, 2011

A few weeks ago I left a room in deep despair about the team I love. Having made  many changes from the team that destroyed Chelsea, Mr Wenger’s second string team threw away two points against a 10 man relegation threatened Wigan side. I was furious, particularly so because there was an inevitablilty about Wigan’s equaliser. Admit it, when Wigan attacked and won that corner you knew, you just knew that they would score, that Fabianski would be in no-man’s land, that no-one would properly defend the back post and that once again Arsenal would be soft in the centre of defence against a set play. My language was to say the least, colourful.

Yet today I have no such fears. We are at the start of a runof 6 home games out of the next 7, and I expect us to win ALL of them. We are riding high in confidence, are relatively injury free, have cover in all positions (assuming Squilacci is on track) and almost all our players are in-form. If we are going to win trophies these 6 home games have to be won and I fully expect us to make a successful start this afternoon.

Wigan arrive in a sorry state having thrown away two points to Fulham following a very late equaliser. They are rooted in the relegation zone despite playing decent football. Martinez seems to have a good footballing philosophy (though there was some vicious tackling at the DW).

Someone wrote on the yesterday’s post that a player is only as good as the team around him.  I wanted to take issue but didn’t have the time. Wigan are a case in point. N’zogbia is a quality player – only 24 y.o. with plenty of skills – he could play at a much higher level than Wigan. In my opinion, if N’zogbia was really a star player he would be able to lift his team-mates performances and  take them out of the relegation zone. Maradona took a dull Argentina to win the World Cup almost single-handedly; Ronaldo’s 40+ goals took an average Man Utd to the Double.

I hope you have seen the excellent BBC interview with Mr Wenger (on the BBC website). What a privilege it is to have him as our manager. If ever a man represented the club with honour it is Arsene. He is intelligent, polite, erudite, humourous and above all a decent man. An Arsenal man.

I expect us to start with our A team. All are fit and rested apart from Fabianski :-

I have never had the pleasure of a trip to Wigan. I know there is a pier there (thanks to George Orwell), and that it is a town which benefitted from the Industrial Revolution.  Wigan’s current claim to fame is that it hosts The World Pie Eating Championship and is the home of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

If we are to win the Title we must take 3 points today and we will.

COYRRG