The Boleyn: A Hammer Reminisces

April 8, 2016

 

And so it approaches, the very last ‘London Derby’ at The Boleyn Ground.  Gooners everywhere know exactly the emotions we Hammers are supposed to be experiencing.  But here’s the thing, a bit like when we sold our family home of 22 years recently, it’s only bricks and mortar – nothing more nothing less.  Well NO actually.  This is nothing like the sale of our 4 bedroom semi nestled in the suburbs of St Albans.  This is my bloody ancestral home they’re getting rid of and I’m going to miss it big time.

I should have been a Gooner, all my family supported them, Dad had been a season ticket holder in the 50’s and 60’s.  Used to take me along in the mid-sixties, lifted me over the turn style gates and sat me on his knee watching the likes of Jim Furnell, Georgie Armstrong, George Eastham, John Radford et al.  But then he stopped going due to Saturday work commitments and my next door neighbour seized the day.

The day in question was Saturday 21st September 1974.  My first visit to Upton Park.  I will never forget queuing for over an hour to buy my seat in the Upper West Stand as it used to be known.  Leicester City were the opponents and walking up the steps from the concourse just felt so different to visiting other grounds.  Various family friends had dragged me to all manor of stadia in the hope of a new recruit- Shite Hart Lane, Underhill, Brisbane Road, Vicarage Road, Stamford Bridge (what a shit hole that used to be!).  But that day at The Boleyn was just meant to be – I knew I was home.  We beat Leicester 6 -2, including a couple from Billy Jennings and 2 from ex-gooner Bobby Gould.  How could I be anything but hooked.

So as we move closer to our last ever game at Upton Park, I thought I would recount three special games at the place I call home.

The 70’s were symptomatic of being a West Ham fan.  Cup Final win in 75, Cup Winners Cup Finalists in 76 and relegation in 78.  But then we began to build a new team as we enjoyed three cracking seasons in the old division 2 and managed to reach another FA Cup final – some of you may remember it (The Cup Final that is, not the new team).  Brooking was now in his prime, Devonshire marauding down the wing, the industry of Geoff Pike, the steel and work rate of Billy Bonds and a hard as nails centre forward in David Cross.

Winning the FA Cup once again meant a run out in Europe and after an eventful 2nd round tie against Real Madrid’s second team, Casillas, played at home in front of just 262 spectators in what was known as the Ghost Match, we progressed to the last eight.  I was at Upton Park that night for the quarter final tie in March vs Dynamo Tiblisi. A night that for me said everything that needed to be said about true Hammers.  We were played off the park.  Tiblisi ran rings around a very good West Ham team.  35,000 packed into ground and when the final whistle blew, all 35,000 stood and applauded the Tblisi players for a good 5 minutes as they took a ‘lap of honour’.  Of course we were gutted, but this, Big Fat Sam, was truly ‘The West Ham Way’.

Obscene I Tell You, Obscene

By the early 90’s we were becoming a true yoyo club and the 91-92 season was one that ended in relegation.  The penultimate game was against Man Utd with the Mancs favourites to pip Leeds United to the First Division Championship.  We were already down.  We beat them courtesy of a Kenny Brown toe poke and Taggart described our effort as obscene, rightly pointing out that a similar work rate would have seen us comfortably mid table.  But that’s who we are – starved of success, denying others had become our reason for being.

And so we arrived at the last game of the 1994-95 season.  We were back in the big time (now known as The Premier League) and Jack Walkers millions had set up a superb end to the season as Blackburn and Man Utd slugged it out for the winners trophy.  We were comfortably mid table, but Ferguson spent the week recounting the 1992 season ending story and warning his players what they were in for.  Public Enemy No.1 Paul Ince was coming back and a season high attendance of 24,700 awaited the clash.

Michael Hughes’s opener mid-way through the first half was greeted with wild celebration.  United needed to score twice to have any chance of taking the prize.  Roared on by 20,000 manical cockneys (I’d forgotten how crowds had dipped in football in the late 80’s early 90’s), the team made the 1992 performance look like a training ground workout.  Ludek Miklosko (he comes from near Moscow) produced one of the finest performances ever seen by a goalkeeper at Upton Park (think Robert Green in our first visit to The Emirates and multiply by two).  He was eventually beaten by a Brian McClair header but wave after wave of subsequent attacks were repelled.

Half the ground had radio’s pressed to their ears listening out for the Blackburn result at Liverpool.  And to cap off a perfect day, Liverpool scored a last minute winner meaning Blackburn still won The Premier League, but we’d gone and stopped The Mancs.

The joyous scenes reminded me of days when we had won promotion.  Ferguson moaned and bitched, Ince cried and we celebrated long into the night.

It’s Happening Again

Which now brings me to the third game and one which all Arsenal fans will likely remember.

7th May 2006.  The day when The Scum were convinced they were going to make the top four at the expense of their best friends at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.

Once again, we had finished in a respectable mid-table position.  We had a Cup Final to look forward to the following week and Spurs had assumed we would rest a bunch of players and roll over in case of injury before our trip to The Millennium Stadium.

I can safely say I’ve probably never been so excited before a match at Upton Park.  I know Arsenal fans believe they hold the exclusive license for despising Tottenham and their supporters, but believe me, we in the claret and blue area of London run a very close second.

As we were getting ready to go to the game, the news started to filter through that a dodgy pasta was working it’s way through much of the Spurs squad, literally.  Doubts started to be aired as to whether the game would go ahead.  But due to a combination of the games importance and our impending Cup Final, the match was given the go-ahead.

The atmosphere inside the ground was nothing short of surreal.  Grown men’s faces were contorted, saliva foaming from their mouths and abuse was flying in the direction of the blue and white half of London like I can’t remember.  Once again, Upton Park resembled Radio City as trannies were held to ears all over the stadium.  Thierry Henry put The Arse one up vs Wigan.  One Nil to The Arsenal sang 7/8ths of the ground.  Wigan equalised and there was an audiable groan throughout the ground, closely followed by mass celebrations from 3,000 pieces of Scum.  But then Carl Fletcher put us 1 up from 25 yards.  Paul Robinson tried to keep it out, but it’s not easy diving whilst you’re trying to keep your bum cheeks firmly shut.

Somehow Spurs managed to stay in the game, and Defoe drew them level before half time.  More goals followed at The Library and at half time, Spurs were clinging on to 4th place and a very short sojourn into Champions League Qualifying.

The second half continued at a furious pace, with Tottscum players visibly wilting.  At least two threw up on the pitch.  Every Aaron Lennon corner was greeted by a toilet roll being lobbed onto the pitch from the Chicken run.  Arsenal went 4-2 up.  “It’s happening again” sang three quarters of the ground.  Spurs had to match Arsenal’s result.  But West Ham looked the more likely to score.  And then it happened – The 80th minute and Yossi Benayoun hit a pearler from 10 yards.

Now I’ve witnessed some fantastic moments at Upton Park.  Ray Stewart’s 90 minute penalty vs Villa in a Cup Quarter Final, at least 3 Play Off wins, Di Canio’s volley versus Wimbledon, A Clive Allen tap-in securing promotion back to the old division 1.  But I can remember no goal being celebrated at wildly as Yossi’s.

And of course, as we approach the end of our era, it is worth remembering that the result that day made for a far better celebration as Arsenal spent the rest of the afternoon saying goodbye to Highbury.  I am told that at one point that afternoon, the sound of bubbles echoed around the old ground.

Our last ever game at The Boleyn was supposed to be against Swansea City, but due to our Cup run and a delayed Quarter Final replay coming up next week, we now have the delicious prospect of the last ever Cup and League games being against our old mates from Manchester and both evening games.  Somehow I think the supporters have at least one more magical night to look forward to.

And so to Saturday.

We are on a great run, but Bilic is clear that the Cup is our priority.  You boys are doing what you seem to do every year – fall away in February and then come back with a rattle in the final few games.  I’m a little pessimistic about this one, but I’m going to hold out for an entertaining 2-2 draw with both teams reduced to 10 men (Gabriel and Carroll).

See You at The Olympic Stadium!

written by West Ham Bob


What’s Your Highlight of the Season?

May 17, 2012

Having watched a video of some spuds struggling to find a highlight to their ‘best ever team’ season, I started to ponder which were the highlights of my Arsenal season. As I went back through the games, I realised that, even though this was a big dipper of a ride, with lurching troughs and exultant peaks, there were so many truly memorable moments this season I could have chosen.

5-3 at the Bridge
A game with so many highlights, but the king of the chavs munching turf for our 4th goal sticks out for me. This clip doesn’t show the goal perfectly but I love Cashley in the foreground and the Gooner faithful in the background.

Best away fans
When Dortmund came to town their fans really put on a show. The North Bank upper tier always used to bounce on big nights. This was the first time I’d felt the upper tier at the Grove bouncing. What a phenomenal atmosphere and a great footballing occasion.

Biggest away victory plus Sir Chez sings
It was my third away trip to the pie-eaters in three seasons. We’d seen two successive comebacks by the opposition in the previous two trips. Four goals, two in each half, a clean sheet, “He scores when he wants” for the first time and Szcz leading “We’re by far the greatest team” at the end of the game. What more could you want?

Arsenal’s goal of the season?
The sublime technique of Mr van Persie unlocked the door of the Everton bus and provided the perfect present on our 125th birthday

Benny’s winner at Villa
After coming on as sub with less than 10 minutes to go, Yossi snatched a crucial 2 points for the Gunners with his stooping header.

The Return of the King
Thierry returned home in January and produced two moments of such magical timing, they left our hearts aglow. First was the exquisite Henryesque ‘open up the body’ finish on his comeback against Leeds in the FA Cup.

The second was his athletic winner from an Arshavin cross at the Stadium of Light which provided another crucial 2 points and started a run of 4 league matches where we came from behind.

Mashing the spuds
Quite simply this was one of the top 5 games I have ever been lucky enough to witness. Two nil down to the N17 pondlife, the knuckle-draggers tempted fate singing, “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” and “Your season’s over”. Five glorious red and white goals later they weren’t singing anything with most of them half way up the Seven Sisters Road before the final whistle. The turning point of the season without a doubt.  Enjoy.

A Krul joke
Thomas Vermaelen’s winner deep into injury time caused by Tim Krul’s persistent time-wasting was the perfect answer from the footballing gods to petty gamesmanship. Another exquisite capture of 2 vital points right at the death.  “Cam on Theo, do summink Theo”

The cleanest strike of a football you could ever see
When Mikel’s boot connected with the back of the football against Villa, the red and white angels carried it with speeding wings past Shay Given. This was my favourite goal of the season.

Arsenal do the Poznan
Arteta again gave us a season highlight with his late strike to dispose of the Oilers at the Grove.

The new Home of Football has seemed more like home this season than at any time since the move from Highbury. Even the Upper Tier were doing the Poznan. Great moments like this help to cement the stadium in the hearts of the supporters. Joyous stuff.

I’m sure we’ve all had moments of great joy and excitement during this season that will live long in our memories. These are some of mine without even mentioning another glorious last day St. Totteringham’s. What’re yours?

Written by chas


Greatest St Totts Day Ever

May 14, 2012

Welcome, my fellow Gunners, to another year in which we faithful worshippers have been privileged to celebrate our favourite Saint’s Day.

And why is St Totteringham’s Day our favourite holy occasion?

Well, I believe it’s because it combines all the qualities of the other, lesser, Saints’ Days that we mark throughout the year.

It has the wonderful drunkenness associated with St Patrick’s Day; the love (for our team, our club and each other) that St Valentine is famous for and the unapologetic pride of St George’s Day.  Best of all, there’s a big dose of St Schadenfreude’s Day, the occasion on which it is acceptable (indeed, obligatory) to laugh at the afflicted.

St Totteringham’s Day bundles all those marvelous feelings into one – and you have to say, this has surely been the best St T’s Day ever.

Lasagna-gate in 2006 was fun, but that season the Spuds were behind us most of the way and only really closed the gap right at the end.

This year, of course, was different. This year they opened up a 12 point lead over us and that tribe of pox-eaten donkey pizzles who call themselves their supporters kept telling us to “Mind the Gap.”

Oh we minded it alright, you fool-born codpiece-sniffers. We minded it right up the Seven Sisters Road and shoved it up your collective jaxey.  How d’you like that gap?

In years to come, happy Gooners will sit around reminiscing about the 2011-2012 season.

Someone will say: “Do you remember when the Tiny Totts thought they were going to win the league?” and everyone else will just fall about laughing…. “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

Play the clip below whilst you read on…….


“Do you remember when they told us to ‘mind the gap’ and that the balance of power had shifted in North London?”  “Aaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

“Do you recall a certain Mr Henry Winter saying that Robin van Persie was the only Arsenal player with a chance of getting in the Spuds’ first team?”  “Aaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

This season has put us fans through the wringer, but it has not lacked for drama. And at the end of it all, the table does not lie. The team that finishes third deserves to be third.

Just pause for a second and consider that.

We finished third. After our worst start to a season for half a century.

We lost our talismanic captain late in the transfer window, followed quickly out the door by a fat greedy Frenchman. Our most creative player suffered a season-long injury. We started terribly and lost 8-2 at Old Toilet. Our new signings were all scooped up in a special edition of Supermarket Sweep (Yossi Benayoun came free with a packet of Daz).

We were as far up Smelly Creek (it flows into Tottenham Beck) as we had ever been in living memory and we didn’t have a paddle or even a boat. We were swimming up Smelly Creek. Without armbands.

And at that time do you know what smelled worse that the River of Runny Stuff? It was the attitude of the haters, those so-called Arsenal supporters who relished every mishap and calamity; who rejoiced in disaster because it meant they could say “told you so” about their campaign to oust the most successful manager in our club’s history.

How many times did they tell us that we would be lucky to finish in the top half of the table? Or that we would face a relegation fight?

Their attitude, just like the quality of their “support”, stank the place out and contributed to a mood of infighting and fractiousness that only made the problems worse.

But through it all Arsène Wenger kept working.

Recovering from that disastrous start and securing third place is undoubtedly one of his most impressive achievements. It proves as a lie the haters’ contention that he could never get his team playing well again, but I suppose the haters will move their goalposts to continue slaughtering him.

By the way, I have no problem with people criticising the manager or his decisions – I just have a problem with the ones who have become so obsessed with their opposition to him that they want Arsenal to fail. That’s like noticing that your brickwork needs repointing – and deciding it would be for the best if the house burnt down.

Anyway, enough, enough.

I am so proud of our team and our Club. I’m proud of every player and I’m proud of Arsene and I’m proud of Pat Rice and I’m proud of the fans (most of them, anyway).

Of course there’s work to be done to make us better next season. Quite a lot, in fact, but we have put ourselves in the best possible position to do it. What exactly should be done is something we can discuss in the days and weeks ahead.

Officially this should be a match report – and there is plenty to talk about from yesterday’s game. But right now I have no inclination to pick holes, talk about defensive frailties, questions Arsene’s team selections and substitutions.

We had a simple job to do – go to West Brom and win. We did it. We didn’t do it as comfortably as most of us would have liked but we did it all the same.

I will however, give some player ratings:

Szczesny: 10

Jenkinson: 10

Koscielny: 10

Vermaelen: 10

Santos: 10

Coquelin: 10

Song: 10

Rosicky: 10

Gervinho: 10

Van Persie: 10

Benayoun: 11 (joint MoTM)

Fulop: 11 (joint MoTM)

Subs

Walcott: 10

Ramsey: 10

Gibbs: 11 (joint MoTM)

Finally, a question: What do T*ttenham H*tspurs have in common with Hank Marvin?

Answer: Always in the Shadows.

And what grows in the shadows? You got it: fungus – stinky, weirdo fungus… the stuff God came up with as an experiment before he perfected plants and animals.

That’s you, Tiny Totts: the fetid, spongy mass that grows on decaying matter (in this case the decaying matter is your hopes and dreams. Enjoy).

Happy St Totteringham’s Day everyone.

RockyLives


The Best St Totteringham’s Day Ever

May 14, 2012

Welcome, my fellow Gunners, to another year in which we faithful worshippers have been privileged to celebrate our favourite Saint’s Day.

And why is St Totteringham’s Day our favourite holy occasion?

Well, I believe it’s because it combines all the qualities of the other, lesser, Saints’ Days that we mark throughout the year.

It has the wonderful drunkenness associated with St Patrick’s Day; the love (for our team, our club and each other) that St Valentine is famous for and the unapologetic pride of St George’s Day.  Best of all, there’s a big dose of St Schadenfreude’s Day, the occasion on which it is acceptable (indeed, obligatory) to laugh at the afflicted.

St Totteringham’s Day bundles all those marvelous feelings into one – and you have to say, this has surely been the best St T’s Day ever.

Lasagna-gate in 2006 was fun, but that season the Spuds were behind us most of the way and only really closed the gap right at the end.

This year, of course, was different. This year they opened up a 12 point lead over us and that tribe of pox-eaten donkey pizzles who call themselves their supporters kept telling us to “Mind the Gap.”

Oh we minded it alright, you fool-born codpiece-sniffers. We minded it right up the Seven Sisters Road and shoved it up your collective jaxey.  How d’you like that gap?

In years to come, happy Gooners will sit around reminiscing about the 2011-2012 season.

Someone will say: “Do you remember when the Tiny Totts thought they were going to win the league?” and everyone else will just fall about laughing…. “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

Play the clip below whilst you read on…….


“Do you remember when they told us to ‘mind the gap’ and that the balance of power had shifted in North London?”  “Aaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

“Do you recall a certain Mr Henry Winter saying that Robin van Persie was the only Arsenal player with a chance of getting in the Spuds’ first team?”  “Aaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, aaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

This season has put us fans through the wringer, but it has not lacked for drama. And at the end of it all, the table does not lie. The team that finishes third deserves to be third.

Just pause for a second and consider that.

We finished third. After our worst start to a season for half a century.

We lost our talismanic captain late in the transfer window, followed quickly out the door by a fat greedy Frenchman. Our most creative player suffered a season-long injury. We started terribly and lost 8-2 at Old Toilet. Our new signings were all scooped up in a special edition of Supermarket Sweep (Yossi Benayoun came free with a packet of Daz).

We were as far up Smelly Creek (it flows into Tottenham Beck) as we had ever been in living memory and we didn’t have a paddle or even a boat. We were swimming up Smelly Creek. Without armbands.

And at that time do you know what smelled worse that the River of Runny Stuff? It was the attitude of the haters, those so-called Arsenal supporters who relished every mishap and calamity; who rejoiced in disaster because it meant they could say “told you so” about their campaign to oust the most successful manager in our club’s history.

How many times did they tell us that we would be lucky to finish in the top half of the table? Or that we would face a relegation fight?

Their attitude, just like the quality of their “support”, stank the place out and contributed to a mood of infighting and fractiousness that only made the problems worse.

But through it all Arsène Wenger kept working.

Recovering from that disastrous start and securing third place is undoubtedly one of his most impressive achievements. It proves as a lie the haters’ contention that he could never get his team playing well again, but I suppose the haters will move their goalposts to continue slaughtering him.

By the way, I have no problem with people criticising the manager or his decisions – I just have a problem with the ones who have become so obsessed with their opposition to him that they want Arsenal to fail. That’s like noticing that your brickwork needs repointing – and deciding it would be for the best if the house burnt down.

Anyway, enough, enough.

I am so proud of our team and our Club. I’m proud of every player and I’m proud of Arsene and I’m proud of Pat Rice and I’m proud of the fans (most of them, anyway).

Of course there’s work to be done to make us better next season. Quite a lot, in fact, but we have put ourselves in the best possible position to do it. What exactly should be done is something we can discuss in the days and weeks ahead.

Officially this should be a match report – and there is plenty to talk about from yesterday’s game. But right now I have no inclination to pick holes, talk about defensive frailties, questions Arsene’s team selections and substitutions.

We had a simple job to do – go to West Brom and win. We did it. We didn’t do it as comfortably as most of us would have liked but we did it all the same.

I will however, give some player ratings:

Szczesny: 10

Jenkinson: 10

Koscielny: 10

Vermaelen: 10

Santos: 10

Coquelin: 10

Song: 10

Rosicky: 10

Gervinho: 10

Van Persie: 10

Benayoun: 11 (joint MoTM)

Fulop: 11 (joint MoTM)

Subs

Walcott: 10

Ramsey: 10

Gibbs: 11 (joint MoTM)

Finally, a question: What do T*ttenham H*tspurs have in common with Hank Marvin?

Answer: Always in the Shadows.

And what grows in the shadows? You got it: fungus – stinky, weirdo fungus… the stuff God came up with as an experiment before he perfected plants and animals.

That’s you, Tiny Totts: the fetid, spongy mass that grows on decaying matter (in this case the decaying matter is your hopes and dreams. Enjoy).

Happy St Totteringham’s Day everyone.

RockyLives


Yossi Benayoun – the Anti-Na$ri

March 26, 2012

It may seem odd after Saturday’s trouncing of Aston Villa to focus on an unused substitute from that game.

But Arteta’s wonder strike, Theo’s returning confidence, Songinho’s transformation into the new Liam Brady and even Johan Djourou’s unexpected solidity have all been well covered.

I want to focus on our on-loan Israeli international because I caught a glimpse of him during the game as the camera tracked along our bench. He was smiling with the other substitutes and seemed fully engaged in the squad and the game.

It struck me what a model professional he is.

Talent-wise I don’t see him as being too far behind a certain fat French benchwarmer. Both players are capable of defence-sundering dribbles, both have an eye for goal and both are nippy, one-touch players.

Obviously Benny is older, but a more significant difference is that only one of them is a greedy, grasping, ungrateful pillock. And I’m not referring to the one who lights candles at Hannukah.

While Samir Na$ri would rather have money than game time (and if you think I’m joking, you should read his quotes from last week, whining about how he played too many games at Arsenal and prefers being on the bench at Manchester City), Benayoun is exactly the opposite.

Yossi said recently that he did not know where he would be playing next season, but would like to join a mid table side so he could play more regularly.

It would almost certainly mean a pay cut, but Yossi doesn’t mind that. He’s 31 years old and just wants to play top flight football for as long as his skinny little legs will let him.

For Arsenal he has been no more than a bit part player this year and we are unlikely to see him in our famous strip next season. But the importance of bit part players is not to be overlooked and Yossi has certainly contributed in a positive way to our season.

For a start, without his 87th minute header to win the away game at Villa we would be two points worse off in the table. He has scored three goals in nine starts for us in all competitions (not a bad return) and has made 10 additional appearances as substitute – usually coming in games with about 15 minutes to go.

Whenever he plays he does a good job and his terrier-like hard work has earned the respect of supporters who, let’s be honest, undoubtedly raised an eyebrow or two when he joined us as a loanee from Chelsea on the last day of the transfer window.

Now that we have most of our squad fit his opportunities are likely to be limited, but earlier in the season, when our usual injury blight was wreaking havoc, we were fortunate to have someone of his ability and Premier League experience to bring on in games.

He even got to wear the armband in one game – our unlucky Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Na$ri and his fellow oil workers – and he made a fine contribution as one of the starting 11 in our 5-2 hammering of the Tiny Totts (he played until the 88th minute).

By all accounts he is a popular figure in the dressing room and has been generous with help and advice for the younger players.

In short, as I said earlier, he is a model professional and if his humility and sense of good fortune at being a professional footballer rub off on some of our up-and-coming young stars that can only be a good thing.

We certainly don’t want the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and others following the Na$ri path of greed and ingratitude.

In the horrible mess of last summer’s transfer business Benayoun attracted criticism from some supporters simply for not being Eden Hazard or Juan Mata or whichever marquee signing was flavor of the month.

But as a reliable squad player who has played at the top level in the EPL and was happy to do a job for us mostly from the bench, we could hardly have done better.

If he does get the move he hopes for this summer, I sincerely hope all true Gunner will wish him well.

RockyLives


Violently Happy, KOZ We Love You!

December 22, 2011

Aston Villa 1 – 2 Arsenal Match Report

1st half observations from a bad stream

The first 45 minutes were pretty different from what I expected. Aston Villa did not close us down frantically and allowed Arsenal plenty of space. Especially Gervinho and Theo saw plenty of the ball, as Villa sat deep in the beginning, allowing our wingers to attack them from the sides. Arsenal also allowed Villa a lot of space and there were plenty of chances for each team during the entire first half. The game was surprisingly open and yet the tempo did not appear to be very high.

After Gervinho had tried but failed to reach the by-line on a number of occasions – not being able to beat the ex-Spud Hutton – Theo was successful at the first attempt. He skinned the inexperienced Carian Clark just inside the box of Villa with a brilliant, ballet-like pirouette, after which he had acres of space to pick a pass. The young Villa defender pulled Theo back and the referee Jon Moss blew his whistle, even though Theo had not fallen down as a result of the pull-back. Penalty. RvP lined himself up to reach an incredible milestone: if he scores he will have equalled TH14 calendar year goal scoring tally. Is he nervous though? No, just BOOM in the roof of the net: 1-0 to The Arsenal.

After that, the game remained open, and after quick moves, both Theo and Ramsey got decent opportunities to score from just outside the box. Both missed the deadly accuracy and calmness of Boy Wonder and, as a result, two half-decent opportunities were wasted. Villa had their own chances, predominantly as a result of playing balls quickly into the box from Arsenal’s LB area to their ‘fox in the box’: the man with the warrior-like name of Agbonlahor (for a while, I dreamed of an attacking combination for Arsenal of Arshavin, Adebayor and Agbonlahor: it just sounded like the ultimate warrior-machine: the tree terrible A’s). I thought Vermaelen struggled a few times to put himself in the right positions in the first half, and as a result Aston Villa had a few opportunities to put the ball into the box from our LB area which led  to some half-decent opportunities for them. Luckily, AV were not sharp enough to pounce on these half-chances.

2nd half observations from another bad stream

Aston Villa started well. They allowed us less space and pressed us earlier in our own half. In the 54th minute, an opportunistic, high ball by Villa is defended by Vermaelen, who heads horizontally to Merkesacker. The latter is already on a yellow card and Vermaelen’s header is too short. Albrighton seizes his opportunity by taking the ball past the indecisive Mertesacker, and slots the ball calmly and professionally past the onrushing Szczesny. Quite an impressive finish.

Theo Walcott experiences an almost déjà-vu moment when, just as in the game against Citeh, he gets a decent opportunity to score a goal straight after our kick-off. The impressive again Richard Dunne makes a superb slide-tackle in the box to deny Walcott. Mertesacker seemed desperate to make amends for his and Vermaelen’s defensive error earlier. He was close to scoring a goal from inside the box, not with his head but with his foot, from one of the many Arsenal corners in the second half.

During this half, there is no more space for either Walcott or Gervinho to produce some effective wing-play. Wenger makes three changes in the last 25 minutes: Rosicky, Arshavin and Benayoun for respectively Frimmpong, Gervinho and Ramsey. Arshavin and Benayoun are only given ten minutes to make a difference which is not ideal of course. Frimmpong started to give away unnecessary fouls and both Gervinho and Ramsey looked exhausted.

The changes had an immediate positive impact as Arsenal was able to retake the initiative. We started to control the game and were desperately looking for holes in the middle of AV’s defence. We were awarded corner after corner, and from the 11th corner-kick in the second half – just as every single Gooner had given up hope we would ever score from a corner again – RvP reaches a free Yossi Benayoun (Agbonlahor had not bothered to stay with him in the box), and a late, and no longer expected, Christmas present was delivered to all who love the Arsenal: most probably the lightest man on the pitch, our man on loan from the Chavs, scores with a close-range header: 1-2 with only three minutes to go!

Some conclusions:

A scrappy win: no doubt about that. Our passing was under-par and we seemed to be missing our FB’s a lot more in this game than against the Mancs. We really lacked a strong/effective shape to the team tonight. There were a lot of tired legs out there, but the same goes for Aston Villa; and that was our saving grace.

A few players were brilliant today: Arteta, RvP, and especially Koz: with their energy and never-say-die attitude they made a major contribution to us winning three points tonight. I also thought Coquelin, after a slightly difficult start, had a good game. I was especially impressed with his ability to play long-range passes towards Theo, or diagonally towards the other winger. This boy has style and, judging on these early signs, will go far at Arsenal. It was also good to see Rosicky back. He really gave us a better shape to the team, almost as soon as he was on the pitch.

And well done to Robin for reaching this incredible milestone. We all know how special Thierry Henry was: one of the best strikers I have ever seen. For Robin to equal his calendar-year goals tally is incredible, and with a bit of luck he will surpass Alan Shearer’s by scoring three more goals in the next two home games.

Three points are three points. It is a game best to forget quickly and for us now to concentrate on our next two home games: Wolves and QPR. The boys will now have a rest till at least Monday and Alex Song will be back. Hopefully there will be no further injuries coming from this game, so we can put out a good team against Wolves. Liverpool and Newcastle dropped points again, and today either the Chavs or Spuds, or both, will drop points. The race for third and fourth place is on and we are now very well positioned; just behind the Chavs and the Spuds. Before Big Ben strikes 12 times on New Year’s Eve, we could be snug as a bug in a rug in third place.

COYRRG

TotalArsenal.


Have we found our Park?

November 3, 2011

From the title, most people will think I’m going to big up our own Chu Young Park based on his impressive performance in the Carling Cup against Bolton, but actually, I want to take this opportunity to mention an unsung hero from the same game, Yossi Benayoun.

Man United have utilised Ji Sung Park as an attack based defender for the last few years now to great effect. It may seem harsh to class Park as a defender as he also had undoubted attacking ability, but let’s be honest, he would not have won these trophies with Man U had he not been able to use his immense fitness and attitude to such great effect. If he was at United for his attacking play alone he would have been moved on long ago.

Now, the reason I bring up this United workhorse is because, based on what I have seen of Yossi so far this season, I believe we could have our very own defending attacker. Yossi is an intelligent player with good movement and a great instinct for attacking the box, but it’s his workrate and defensive attitude that I have been impressed with so far this season. Something I didn’t know he possessed!

United’s Park is the first name on the team sheet when they play any big European or Domestic tie. This is due to his ability to harass the full backs and also the way he occupies the popular DM position with his strict attitude and positioning.

I believe we could have found a niche for our Israeli raider, and hopefully Wenger will see this too. With big games coming up without Sagna available, Yossi could be the man to protect our young Carl Jenkinson.

Fatgingergooner


Hopefully the final trip to Blackburn – preview.

September 17, 2011

Let me start by stating the views held below are entirely my own and in no way represent the views of the site.

Anyone who has read my pre-matches over the seasons will know that I am not a huge fan of Blackburn, I will go further and say that for many seasons they have represented all that is reprehensible in football – from top to bottom.

Let’s look at their recent record:

Managers: Graham Souness, Paul Ince, Fat Sam, Mark Hughes, Steve Kean.  Only Dalglish brought some respectability to this awful club and he was sacked (by mutual consent).  The last 3 seasons have seen them reach their nadir – from the non-football of the Walrus through to Kean’s  commitment to the “big man.”

Ownership.: Jack Walker (the first man to buy the PL), the Chicken chaps – the chicanery of the promotion of Kean by the Venky’s, whom it is said had no conception there was relegation in football and the PL was based upon the franchise system as in the NFL!

Players: El Hadj Diouf, Robbie Savage, David Bentley, Craig Bellamy (both players of the season!) –  they are united in their awulness.

If you enjoy utilitarian football allied to workmanlike players who are encouraged to “get in their faces,” then Blackburn is the club for you. The management are at best pragmatic.  There is a reason Blackburn are most peoples favourites for relegation.

Detail of Steve Kean’s tactics

What should we expect from a team based around the physical presence of Yakubu, Samba, Jason Roberts? Tactically, I guess they will be very energetic, pack the midfield, look to stifle our creative players, defend in depth to stop the pace merchants,  hit a number of long balls to the isolated front man and look to score from set pieces. They do have quality, Givet and Samba are two fine players, Dunn has been,  and in Hoilett they have the makings of a top player.

To turn to the men in the white hats, we celebrate the return of the violent miscreants: Song, Gervinho and Jenkison, two of whom I expect to play today. Song was outstanding in Germany and I look forward to a more mature performance from him than the idiocy with Barton.

My team:

Gibbs has played twice in a week and being fragile could use the rest, furthermore I would like to see Santos play – he is supposedly a fine attacking LB and despite Holliet being a right winger, should have plenty of opportunities to get forward. Should Benayoun start ahead of Arshavin? In a game which is likely to get physical – yes.

Today’s referee is Andy Marriner (I think). Let us hope he gets early control and that our team can keep 11 players on the pitch.

Blackburn as everyone knows has 400o holes in it  (Lennon was referring to the appalling state of the local roads). What is less known is that Mitchell and Kenyon who were pioneers in the development of cinematography  lived in Blackburn until 1901.

A tough away  game with Blackburn looking to dig themselves out of a hole (sic) having won just one point so far this season but one that Arsenal have reason to be positive about.

N.B. Don’t forget the 12.45 kick-off!

COYRRG

Big Raddy


A R-ight close SHAV IN-creases tension as the Vorm Turns? And Ratings…..

September 11, 2011

Arteta – Bright Start but faded…..

Its September 10th, a New dawn, new beginnings, from the ashes of Project Y’sssh and the dishevelled remains of a team that faced the Old Trafford onslaught, it was  Wengers regrouped band of footballers with a significant number of new recruits, grabbed on the supermarket trolley dash on 31st August, who took to the field, ready to drag Arsenal back to the upper echelons of the premier league………

Per – Slow Steady Start

There was an air of anticipation around the ground, as we all took our seats, Arteta and Mertz were in the Line up and the other new boys all on the bench…..A team selection rightly predicted by many, but from now on perhaps not so easy to predict, so the depth is there…

Little time to get the know the new players as our team returned from around the globe after their international endeavours with goals aplenty scored by our boys…….so they do know where the ball should go………?

Anyway, a bright start to the game saw a Spaniard look composed and assured on the ball, with deft touches and slide passes, he was playing with a smile and a zest about his play.  And the fans had their early voices heard…..

The first chance saw Arteta put Aaron through on goal, but he lost balance and smashed it high and wide. Arsenal continued to press and knock the  ball around. But the next best chance was seized by the Swans…….

A delightful cross in from the right from agustien, as Danny Graham attacked the six yard box (please note this arsenal), got in front of Per and stabbed it to the bottom corner, wrong footed, off balance and his eyes closed, ok that bit was made up, Szczesny somehow got down to his left to produce a stunning save…….

Arsenal kept up the initial pace of the game with the lively Arshavin releasing the ball through the middle to Theo who came from the right, Theo managed to squeeze the ball goal bound under Vorm, as it edged towards the goal, Caulker cleared the ball away…

Arsenal continued to move the ball around, but it lacked real zip and the movement in the final third was poor, as chances were few and far between. Frimpong back from suspension showed heart and the fight for a battle, had a dig from range, but it was dragged wide.

Gradually Swansea became more dangerous as their confidence grew with Dyer and Sinclair causing problems with their pace and directness, arsenal struggled to gel as a team. Another cross flashed across the 6 yard area, Graham nearly getting his head on it, with arsenal defence static Gibbs nearly steering in his own net as the ball came at him.

As we moved close to half time, no player really was standing out for Arsenal, Arshavin was certainly been more involved than of late and couldn’t have been lambasted for his usual laziness, as he chased and harried every ball, soon he got his reward.

Frimpong, passed into Theo with his back to goal, who turned inside to his right and done two men on the edge of the area, but flashed his shot high and wide with his left, a deflection looped the ball up high and as it edged towards the corner, Vorm collected the ball and rolled it out, but it hit the heels of the swan defender Rangel, Arshavin turned and with his left peg, curled a sweet shot into the empty and inviting net……..

Second half started lively with both sides knocking the ball about, but both lacked penetration. Sinclair raced towards goal; he tried to evade Kosceinly who scythed him down, yellow card. Sinclair’s free kick hit the bar and over.

Moments later, Arsenal moved forward down the left, Arshavin played into RVP, who took the ball with two players in close quarters, he shrugged them off and turned to his left and across the goal and unleashed a curler to the far right post which he clipped.

Arshavin came off for Benayoun on 63, which considering it was his best performance for a while was unfortunate.

Arteta, played the ball out wide to Sagna, who moved forward and curled the ball across the goal, just nobody attacking the box, Van Persie just too late……

Frimpong was replaced by Coquelin on 75; quickly he got into the game, he reads the game well, and he worked hard to close down players. On 81 Van Persie was taken off for Chamakh, which was a strange one, but later at the end, RVP limped as he walked on the pitch to applaud the fans, so maybe a precautionary move?.

Chamakh almost had an immediate impact; a long ball from Koscielny was headed back to Ramsey, who fed Gibbs on the left, who crossed perfectly first time, Chamakh rose, good contact but straight at Vorm.

In the last few minutes, Swansea pressed and won some corners and from one of them, the ball broke for Graham, who turned and couldn’t keep his shot down and fired over from 5yards…..

Overall:

So we end with 11 men, no bad ref decisions against us and we get a little bit of luck for a change, so has the Vorm turned?

Well it’s a win, a clean sheet and 3points. Important not to drop points, especially with the pressure at the end of the match, nervous but we didn’t concede a sloppy goal which was a trade mark last season.

Fair play to Swansea, they played well and looked good at times, need to find the scoring touch soon to stay in this league, but we are not prolific!!! My only gripe was way too many players went to ground holding their heads………

Ratings:

Wenger: 7:

Picked a team, most of us picked beforehand but 3 points so cannot mark down too harsh. I would love to know what instructions he sends Theo out with, his play no way as effective as against Udinese. Standard substitutions, didn’t improve the game, as we lost our shape, allowing and inviting pressure.

Szczesny: 8: Just for that save, which truly was world class, Number 1?, commands the box and is more considered with his distribution now.

Sagna: 7: Not spectacular but dependable and solid, Sinclair will cause problems for who ever he faces. Got forward well.

Koscienly: 7: Reads the game well, under rated for me, I’ll say as always, he just lacks aggression for me. Rightly booked

Mertesacker: 6: Steady and slow start, little time to acclimatise to premier league so will mention a couple of good tackles he made.  My big concern was he didn’t attack the ball enough and use his height effectively

Gibbs: 6.5: offensively was probably better with some good crosses, but again he failed at times to attack the ball in defence, one very notably near the end that could hav cost us. Positionally naïve or still learning? Needs to up his game or Santos will be coming early this year……..

Frimpong: 6: Heart and fight, plenty of drive, his effort alone endears him to the crowd, a favourite of mine already. But his passing was poor. Although when he gets it wrong he chases till he gets it back…..Young and will be a stalwart for years…….Tired towards the end, before been subbed.

Ramsey: 7: Heard some comments knocking his performance, thought he did well, looked for the ball and moved us forward. Had an early chance that he blasted wide. Never hid and worked tirelessly. Heard someone say he isn’t good enough for Arsenal, balderdash…….have a word…….

Arteta: 7: Really lively start, probing and laying off deft touches, a Spaniard orchestrating the midfield, he is his own man and he will do well for us. Hacked down several times, showed that he was seen as dangerous by the swans. Dropped off in the 2nd half as our shape went apples and pears……

Arshavin: 8:  A much better performance, worked hard and close down defenders, always looking and probing. Definitely not a lazy boy today…….Took his goal well, it might have been an open net, but most would have missed that from that angle. Went off before 65 as usual….Just gets my MotM for his goal and work rate.

Walcott: 7:   A crowd splitter, he tends to frustrate more than he excites, but just what he instructions does he get? The team doesn’t aid him and he is not suited to balls in tight areas to his feet. I will defend him, but I agree without pace he wouldn’t be as useful, but he has pace so that statement is pointless, he does give us an outlet, he needs to become consistent to realise his full potential. But I would say, he has an Ox breathing down his neck…… I know quite a few will disagree with me but for all his knockers, he did more than Van Persie.

Van Persie: 6: Didn’t get involved enough, if he plays point, he needs to attack the area with more vigour. Great shot in the 2nd half that hit the post. Subbed late on, took a knock? Play him in the hole…….

Subs:

Benayoun: 6: Lively

Coquelin: 6: Tenacious

Chamakh: 6: Had a header, but little time.

Next up:  Dortmund……….Champions league, we need a better shape and more movement in the final 3rd. Defenders need to attack the ball and not let it bounce. With Gervinho and Song back in the team, we will step it up again……..

End Note: Condolences to Brendon Rodgers, Swansea Manager, whose father died on Friday.

Written by Harry


Four days that shook The Emirates

September 1, 2011

That was a very strange few days. We spend years carefully, slowly building squads, with obscure players brought in from far and wide, punctuated with highly profitable sales. This modus operandi became familiar to all of us. But in this transfer window, that has all been ripped up, culminating in an insane final evening yesterday. To recap:

Brought into the squad: Arteta, Mertesacker, Benayoun, Park, Santos, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Miayichi (and Campbell was also signed)

Sold: Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Eboue, Traore, Emmanuel-Thomas, Randall, Cruise and Sunu

Loaned out: Denilson, Bendtner, Lansbury, Vela, Wellington, Bartley, Afobe, Bothelho, Galindo and Campbell

That is a scale of business we simply haven’t seen before, ever. And in addition to the new youngsters, seeing the recruitment of solid, experienced players, some from within the PL, some from elsewhere, also marks a break with the past.

We can pick over the bones of how the summer was managed another time, and there will be those who continue to query how we can be ambitious and make trading profits (I reckon we’ve made something like £20m this summer). But what cannot be denied is that our squad today is deeper and stronger than it was a week ago. Before Sunday’s decimation at Old Trafford, we were already screaming for signings to be made; the crescendo only grew louder when those eight goals were shipped, despite the fact the team on display that day was freakishly weakened.

I reckon our strongest starting XI is now:

That is a line-up that should give any opponents cause for concern. Also, the very fact that we’ll now be able to debate whether Ramsey or Koscielny or Gibbs or Benayoun or Arshavin etc should be in ahead of the eleven I’ve listed means we are in a far healthier state than we were. There will be competition for places, alternatives for the manager and education for raw youngsters like Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Miyaichi. And as Jack W’s superb tweets through yesterday evening showed, these signings will lift the squad at a time when morale was in danger of collapsing.

However, let’s not pretend it’s all rosy. Arteta and Benayoun are talented, experienced, creative players with substantial PL pedigrees. But neither one can match the talents of Fabregas. And Mertesacker is undeniably slow, which given our naive fondness for a high defensive line, could create difficulties. We’ll also have to see whether Santos and Park can make meaningful contributions when called upon. And above all else, this revolutionary change to our squad means that there is a hell of a lot of work for Wenger and the coaching team to do to assimilate the new elements into the squad after the international break. Having already given up eight points, we need to get our season going quickly, and that means these new Gunners need to knit together immediately.

Is this squad better than the one that last season promised so much but ultimately failed so miserably? Difficult to say with so many unknown factors, but plenty of Gooners will have a spring in their step this morning. Quite a contrast to the miserable embarrassment we all felt after Sunday.

Come on Swansea, let’s be having you!

Written by 26may1989