Join Together: Match Preview

March 31, 2012

Tough assignment writing about QPR.  Why? Because I have a real soft spot for Rangers, but and this is such a huge but, there is hardly a bigger but in the Western World  - not even J-Lo has a but this big. You know what I am referring to …. yes ….. two of the most unpleasant men ever to grace a football field,  Mark Hughes and Joey Barton. A match made in the deepest fires of perdition.

How can a fan of a proper club, a real family club accept the arrival of such odious men?

Imagine them arriving at Arsenal;  it would be enough to stop supporting the Gunners and return to watching park football. How many thousands of season tickets would be returned? Thankfully, it is a situation we will never have to face.

I really feel for QPR fans. End of last season they are deliriously happy with their return to the top flight after a long gap  (15 years ??).   New signings are made – big names, Wright Phillips, Armand Traore (good bit of business Arsene) , DJ Campbell, Anton Ferdinand . As a fan you think “OK, decent signings, nothing special but could be good”, then Barton is signed., and you think , “No, not to my club – we have values, we have principles”, but you also think Barton will add the fire needed to get mid-table (you are going to be sorely disappointed).

An OK start but Warnock is sacked despite winning over 40% of his games, could it get worse? Yes, the idiots sign Mark Hughes who left Fulham stating the Cottagers (now there’s a nickname ) were not capable of matching Sparky’s ambitions! The Fulham Chairman must be laughing loudest as Hughes sits in his sinking ship.

How does Hughes respond to QPR’s lowly postion? He keeps Barton as Club Captain, and signs Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse! Does this man have no shame? Or is he trying to be funny? Or could it be that he is one of the worst managers ever to litter the sidelines of the Premier League?

I have stated my opinion of this Welshman before, his record speaks for itself: 4 seasons at Blackburn –  4 times PL’s dirtiest team. Man City – 2 seasons. Spent over £150m on Robinho, Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Wayne Bridge, Wright Phillips,  Ben Haim and Jo ++  - finishes 10th and then loses 9 out of 11 games before getting sacked. Fulham – ruins a decent footballing team. And yet this hate filled, spiteful man keeps getting work!

We need a strong referee today because  judging from previous games against Hughes’s teams, our boys are in a for a physical battle, QPR cannot beat us with skill and Sparky knows that. My guess is he will tell Barton to concentrate on Song and Gervinho …. hopefully they have learned from their meeting with the little scrote at THOF.

OK …. enough of that. As I said I have a soft spot for QPR who will almost certainly get relegated thanks to investing in players and management who have no feeling whatsoever for the club.

Arsenal on the other hand have discovered a sense of unity.; the old fashioned “one for all, all for one” which is essential for our future success. We have superb individuals all over the pitch but Arsenal can be so much more than the sum of their parts – and we have started to show it. In my opinion the man to spark this remarkable turnaround is the most surprising – the ageing and crocked Tomacz Rosicky.  He has been magnificent over the past few weeks and reminded us of what we lost with his recurrent injuries.

My team:

I have a sneaky feeling Gervinho will score today; he needs a goal. Recently, Mr Wenger has opted for a more defensive left sided attacker (Benayoun/OC) when playing away from home but I hope he takes the game to QPR and attacks from the off. An early goal for the good guys will surely lead to 3 points.

Inventor from Shepherds Bush?  The stonemason George Wimpey who developed cheap house and road building methods resulting in ownership of the largest construction company in Britain.

Mr. Wimpey. Earned more a week than YaYa Toure.

And  …. 3 of the 4 members of The Who were born within a mile of Loftus Rd,( hence today’s song title)

We are in a great run of form, the atmosphere around the club is better than it has been for many a month, players other than Van Persie are scoring goals,  we have a dangerous frontline, we have a solid defence, at last we have 2 proper full backs, we have what could be the best midfielder in the country  in a midfield that is working superbly and we have a fine young keeper.

Worrying isn’t it?

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Au Revoir Arsène

March 30, 2012

On 28th August 20011 we lost to Manchester United 8-2. It was the heaviest defeat in our 125 year history. Two of our best players wanted out. We were 17th in the league with 1 point and heading for our worst start in years

The press were scathing

Ollie Holt from the mirror said:

“Liverpool have strengthened while Arsenal have gone backwards”

On Talkshite Adrian Durham started using this slogan when referring to Wenger:

“he used to be good, now he’s rubbish”

The press were unanimous that Wenger had lost the plot

The blogs were worse.

Why did we only buy Gervinho?

Why do we have so much ‘deadwood’?

Why did we waste £16m on Oxlade- Chamberlain from Southampton? We need ‘ready made’s’ not more kids.

Some on here (including me) were beginning to question him.

Most people agreed we had no chance of top 4.

Arsène Wenger had lost the fans, the press and allegedly the dressing room. The board acted swiftly and he was sacked.

Au Revoir Arsene

In a parallel universe, the Board acts swiftly and appointed a new manager. The new man was young and unknown. He acted decisively, and in the little time available, he is busy in the transfer market.

He bought:

Per Mertesaker from Werder Bremen

Andre Santos from Fenerbahce

Park Chu-Young from Monaco

Mikel Arteta from Everton

And took Yossi Benayoun on loan from Chelsea.

He also shipped out Denilson, Bendtner and some other “deadwood” that the fans didn’t want

The fans and press weren’t entirely convinced…..

“who are Park and Santos?”

“Is Mertesaker is a crock?” (Even though some fans had been crying out for him 2 years ago)

“Arteta is not good enough to clean Fabregas’ boots”

But because he was a new manager most were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt (and some time) and because he was young and British the press heralded him as the man to lead Arsenal.

In the first game we got lucky and beat Swansea 1 nil at home with a goal gifted by their keeper.

The next result was a disaster, we lost 3-4 at Blackburn after leading 2 nil. The press and the fans said it was Wenger’s fault as it was mostly his team.

We then beat Bolton and lost away to the spuds courtesy of a handball by Van Der Vaart.

But then we had a run of 8 games unbeaten including the 5-3 demolition of the chavs at the bus stop in Fulham. The press and the fans were now heaping praise on our new manager. “He’s finally got Arsenal playing as a team”. Something Wenger was no longer able to achieve.

Things changed when we lost all 4 full backs and had to start utilising players out of position. The press and fans agreed this was bad luck and anyone would have problems trying to cope with so many injuries.

After a bad spell including 3 losses on the bounce we started to get our players back and results improved. We are now on a 7 match winning streak only matched in Europe by the Catalan diving club.

We’ve set a new Premiere league record by winning 4 matches from a goal down proving our “mental strength”, something Wenger talked about but couldn’t deliver. The fans are now more vocal and the Emirates is becoming the home it promised.

We sit third in the table, 8 points ahead of the chavs and 3 ahead of the swamp dwellers. The fans and press agree; we must not get complacent. We need to stay focused for the rest of the season to make sure we get at least 4th but hopefully 3rd and we need to persuade RVP to sign a new contract.

With a couple of new players in the summer and Jack coming back we may even challenge for the big prizes next season.

Everyone is agreed, signing a new manager was a masterstroke by the Board. He’s rejuvenated the club, the team and the supporters.

The future looks bright.

What a shame that senile old Frenchman couldn’t have done it.

Written by goonermichael


Missing Na$ri like a hole in the bench

March 29, 2012

How much is Arsenal missing Na$ri?

The departure of Nasri at the end of August last year was used by many journalists, and plenty of fellow Gooners, as evidence that Arsenal had become a selling-club and was no longer ambitious enough to compete for the top prices. Seven months on, after a rollercoaster ride of a transitional season so far, it is becoming apparent the sale of Nasri was actually very good business for Arsenal after all.

Wenger was desperate to keep hold of Nasri last summer: losing Fabregas and Nasri at the same time, was far from ideal. Nasri had shown glimpses of his potential at Arsenal, but it was clear to most of us he was no replacement for the Spanish Maestro. The vacant role of advanced midfielder – the one who orchestrates our attacks and dictates play – was meant to be filled by Wilshere or Ramsey, with Rosicky and Diaby as suitable back-up. Wilshere suffered a long-term injury, and it is gradually becoming clear that Ramsey would fit better in a deeper role – the one currently occupied by our new Spanish hero: Arteta. Rosicky has recently found his best form again and has played a big part in our resurgence into the top-4 since February. Diaby…same old story, I am afraid.

The few times Nasri had played in this pivotal position at Arsenal, he had been ok, but not more than that. Yes, he had some fantastic games in the first part of the 2010-2011 season, but mostly in a wide position.

Having watched a few Citeh games this season in which Nasri made an appearance, it’s becoming clear to me that he has not made any progress since he left us. It looks like Nasri will remain a player with a few good games per season, who will operate mainly at the periphery of his new club – that is, mainly on the bench. He is simply not good enough to play centrally and is likely to be played on the wing for most of the rest of his career: would he have stayed at Arsenal, it would not have been any different.

Nasri joined a settled team with plenty of top quality in the squad. Mancini has played him centrally and on the wing, but in both areas he has been pretty ineffective. And there are no excuses for him: he is used to play in the PL, he has got the right age to perform at the required level and he has been fit since he joined the Etihad Oil Refinery (courtesy of Rocky Lives).

Despite of all this, he has had a mediocre season so far. In fact, compared to our three wingers at the club: Walcott, Gervinho and the The Ox, he is performing worst of all of them. In the end, that is where he left a vacancy: on the wing, and in order to answer the question of this post, he needs to be compared to our current wingers:

  Games played this season Goals Scored Assists Goals/Assists per game this season Career average per game
Theo 40 9 13 0.55 0.37
Gervinho 31 4 8 0.39 0.4
The Ox 20 4 3 0.35 0.4
Na$ri 36 5 7 0.33 0.29

Nasri was sold for £22m.Gervinho (£10.6m) and the Ox (£12m) were bought in return. Despite the fact that Gervinho and the Ox are playing their first season in the PL, and have had to find their way in an unsettled team that is going through a major transition this year, they are both currently outperforming Na$ri with a better average of goals and assists per game. Theo has had a significantly better season than Nasri as well. Surprisingly, all our wingers have a better career average of goals/assists per game than Nasri too, which to me is further proof that Arsenal did very good business in selling him last summer, rather than let him run out his contract, hold back the development of the Ox and others, and poison the atmosphere at our club. Two players for the price of one, and they are both better!

So, are we missing Na$ri? Like a hole in the bench! Good riddance and good business all round.

TotalArsenal.


Arsenal’s new manager

March 28, 2012

Times change, as do football supporters, what was gloom and depression for many fans a month ago, is bright and confident today.

What’s caused this change, have we shipped in all those superstars that were deemed necessary to our survival? Has that awful know nothing, worn out manager left the club, and the vital new assistant manager, you know the defensive coach we couldn’t possibly survive without, has he somehow slotted in seamlessly without me noticing it?

How come the best Tot’s team in years and their shoe in England manager, haven’t built on that ten point lead after having our shower of bargain basement panic signings for breakfast? It had to happen, just had to, didn’t the mega mouthed all-knowing football soothsayer Piers Morgan decree it. Likewise where have the ‘In Arsène we rust’ brigade disappeared to?

Nothing of course has physically changed, it’s just this team of potential has come of age. Uplifted by key players returning from Injury and showing a previously hidden capacity for resilience, they staged a remarkable turnaround  against the self-same Spuds, who when 2 goals ahead on our own pitch in our famously un-atmospheric new stadium, thought it’s all over, it was. 0 – 2 down  became a 5 -2 victory, as the team roared on by supporters who also came of age and finally transferred their pent-up passion to our new home and showed the watching TV world and cynical pundits that Arsène was right all along.

That resilience has stayed as has the belief of those doubting fans, now a mood of optimism pervades the Arsenal world, of course nothing has been won yet, except self-respect. But the pendulum has swung enormously to our advantage. True Man city and Chelsea  both feature in our run in, meaning spurs  probably on paper has the easier ride. But this new Arsenal with a fan base and team that has collectively found itself, are  a match for anyone, third place is in our own hands and I shall be surprised if we don’t take it.

Automatic qualification for the CL will allow Arsène to settle his transfer business in and out, without the distraction of an early start to next year’s European adventure.

Financial fair play awaits, our youth and reserve teams are awash with talent,  the odds are stacked in our favour.IMHO a new golden era is imminent and hopefully that goby Piers Morgan, will choke on his own bile after being banned sin die from the home of football.

Written by dandan


What does ARSENAL stand for?

March 27, 2012

The art of Arsetrology

With days to go before our next ‘must win game’ I thought I’d pass the time by examining the factors that have combined to deliver us to where we stand today in this rollercoaster of a season. Since karma is definitely involved, and the footballing gods have stepped in to restore the natural order of things, I have decided to use the mystic power of Arsetrology (the ancient art of using an acronym to explain events) to reveal those factors that have guided our fate so far this season.

Bonkers you may say, but just think about it….. Arsenal, Arsène, Arteta, Arshavin (OK, he’s not everyone’s favourite), its no coincidence, the answers lie in ARSENAL.

A is for Arteta

I have made no secret of my appreciation of the vital role Mikel plays in the team. I am certain that had we not secured his services in the final hour, we would be several positions lower in the league table as it stands today. His reading of the game, work rate, range and accuracy in passing have all combined to make him the lynchpin of our midfield. On top of that, he seems to be having the time of his life and has chipped in with important goals. He took a pay cut to join us – watch and learn Na$ri, this guy has real class.

R is for Robin van Persie – who else?

Apart from the small matter of the 33 goals he has scored for us so far this season, the main and somewhat surprising bonus is that he is an excellent captain and has galvanised the players in a way few thought possible. Mr. Wenger’s habit of making the star player (or should it be wantaway player) captain hasn’t always been a success. Robin has been a much better captain than either Henry or Fabregas. His first thought after scoring is always to seek the player who provided the pass as he knows (and he wants those watching to know) that we are not a one man team. His support of Theo Walcott in particular has been unwavering and probably has a lot to do with Theo’s rich vein of form at the moment.

S is for Simple

Football is essentially a simple game. The technically gifted players we’ve had in recent years have engendered a style that often sacrificed incisive attacking play for clever possession. The new players and dare I say, the departure of some ‘stars’ has encouraged a return to basics. The effect has been to make us more solid at the back, to use width and pace down the wings, to move the ball quickly through the midfield (forwards) and to take a risk once in a while and have a shot instead of looking for the clever pass.

E is for the Emirates Stadium

Gradually Ashburton Grove is beginning to feel like home. I think I’ll always be awestruck whenever I walk up those stairs and emerge to see the perfectly manicured pitch, the sea of red and white and to be reminded that we have the best stadium in the Premier League. What many don’t realise is that without the extra £30-40m income the Emirates generates more than  Highbury, we would be struggling financially. But more than that, the Emirates has played host to some wonderful games recently and the memory of those games is now ingrained in the fabric of the stadium. Visiting teams are beginning be intimidated by the power and stature of the Emirates and as a by-product of that, our supporters have sensed the change and begun to find their voices at last.

N is for No Surrender

Some of us will have found the repeated trotting out of phrases like ‘team spirit’, ‘belief’, ‘mental strength’ etc hard to stomach in seasons when we have capitulated too easily at the vital time. We all now know the reasons for those past failings, but we also know that this crop of players, led by RvP really does have those attributes in abundance. Coming from behind 4 games in a row is testament to the strength of character and the harmony that now exists in the squad. Goal celebrations tell you a lot about a team, and ours this season have been the most inclusive and joyous I’ve seen.

A is for Arsène Wenger

What can you say about the man that hasn’t already been said? He’s been under pressure on and off the pitch more this season than ever before. No-one knows what goes on behind the scenes, but what we do know is that if he can keep the team playing as it is now, he will once again have confounded his critics. Arguably finishing in the top four this season would rank as one of his greatest achievements.

L is for Lady Luck

Well I don’t want to upset the old girl just as she is finally smiling upon us, but we’ve had some dreadful luck in the last few years. I wonder what odds would you have got for a top 4 finish from the bookies last summer if it had been known that we would be selling our best two midfielders and the rising star destined to take their place (Wilshere) would be out for the season, not to mention the loss of all our fullbacks for a large part of the campaign? The balance is slowly being redressed. We’ve had a slice of well earned luck recently in games we’ve won when not playing our best. Key players are finally returning from injury and the squad looks strong, unified and focused, maybe luck is no longer needed, we have the quality.

That’s my quickly assembled ARSENAL list – the challenge now is to come up with one of your own using the letters of our name to reflect the way you have viewed our changing fortunes this season. The theory also works when applied to the names of our rivals but strangely the associated definitions are less flattering …. I’m thinking particularly of the team that starts with S!

Written by Rasp


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


Alex Songinho, He Assists When He Wants: Match Report

March 25, 2012

Having endured the first 60 minutes of the Chavs’ vs. Spuds’ collective attempt to discover the best cure for insomnia, I was extremely pleased to find a half-decent stream to watch the mighty Red & White take on the Villains. I expected AV to put in a performance, partly based on their half decent effort during our last encounter with them in January (FA-cup), and partly on the fact that they have nothing really to play for anymore, which makes these sorts of games a bit of a bonus for them.

Arsenal has build up a phenomenal momentum since the dark PL days in January, mainly based on grit, togetherness, perseverance, and an occasional sprinkling of quality. It is fair to say that the encounters with Pool, NU, and Everton were not the most beautiful games of football Arsenal has ever played, but, at this stage of the season, we don’t care one iota!

However, our game against Villa was very different from our recent incredible achievements as a result of blood, sweat and thunder: there were periods of free-flowing football and, on more than a few occasions, of individual brilliance. In fact, I felt I was watching a game of the Fabregas-era yesterday; you know, one of those where we were in total control from the start, as a result of an early goal. This probably was our easiest game of the season and it is fair to say that the Villains’ lacklustre performance, combined with the early ‘easy’ goal, helped us a long way.

First Half

Arsenal suffered a mini-blow when, unexpectedly, Koscielny could not start as a result of a knee-problem. However, Djourou was ready and fit to take his place, and his mind was instantly taken off any nerves he might have felt, when Heskey planted inadvertently the back of his arm firmly in Johan’s face. Another great example of Johan Cruijff’s fantastically simple quote: ‘Every disadvantage has an advantage, and every advantage has a disadvantage’! JD never looked back and had a fine performance during the entire game.

Both teams started with a formation of 4-2-3-1, with an aim to press early on the opposition’s goalkeeper and defenders. This led to an open start in which Arsenal dominated and created a number of chances. However, AV had a few half-chances themselves as a result of quick breaks, mainly from the right, through their promising – yet disappointing on the day – young talent of Albrighton.

On the 9th minute, Arsenal produced a great move on the right by the almost telepathically aligned duo of Theo and Sagna, and goal scoring machine RvP. The latter’s lay-off reaches Theo who shoots at goal from close range but straight at Shay Given, who is able to parry his effort, albeit straight in the path of Sagna, who then fluffs his shot with his weaker left foot. Arsenal keeps up the pressure and it does not take long before we score.

Most of the pressure had been coming form the right, but it was Gibbs and Gervinho who were able to breach the Villains’ defence first. In the 16th minute, Gervinho, who played quite centrally during the first period of the game, picked out a good run by Gibbs and the latter found himself in the box with a half decent shooting opportunity. I expected him to pass sideways to another player, but he decided to take a shot himself and was richly rewarded for it: 1-0! The goalkeeper should have done better, but one should not look a Given-horse in the mouth, and I am sure Gibbs won’t do that either: his first PL goal, so early in the game, was just what we needed.

AV kept pressing high up the pitch, forcing Szczesny to demonstrate to us the one skill he still needs to improve on: kicking the ball out with some precision. Arsenal, though, managed to pass itself with relative ease out of the Villians’ inconsistent pressing, and a few quick attacks made sure we kept the pressure on our opponent. TV found Theo with a fine diagonal cross and our right-winger demonstrated once again that he possesses a fine first touch, leaving Warnock for dead in a fraction of a second. This time though, it was not to be, as his second touch pushed the ball just a bit too far so Cueller could clear it at the last moment.

The first of three top-quality moments of the game materialised at the 25th minute. Alex Song, who probably has the most complete skills-set in the PL – he can play as a CB, DM, AM; he might even be good as a nr9 or a goalkeeper! – produced once more one of his trademark lofted balls over the top. This time, it was not aimed at RvP but at Theo, who made another clever horizontal run towards the box. His first touch was excellent again and he finished clinically past Given: 2-0!! Some will argue the Villa defence should have done better, but the sheer quality of a) Song’s lofted ball, b) Theo’s first touch and c) his controlled finish were a joy to behold: football at it’s very best!

The second top-quality moment happened on the 39th minute. Song and RvP combined through the middle to reach into the box: RvP seemed to have lost the ball but somehow drags it back from the defender with his left leg, moving it swiftly onto his right, but his shot somehow hit the head of Warnock: it could so easily have been the third goal. It was a brilliant piece of skill by our captain.

Second Half

AV started the second half with a low tempo and similar tactics. Arsenal was able to pass the ball round with relative ease but we lacked a bit of urgency and focus in our attacking endeavours. Gervinho was involved in a few attacks but was no longer able to deliver a precise final ball for his teammates. But the damage was done in the first half, and with the Villains lacking the spirit to start a fight-back, the sun shining nicely, Arsenal enjoying the ‘easiness’ of the game and the supporters singing in unison, we allowed the game to peter out a bit in the second half.

There were still some noticeable moments though. Rosicky had a decent effort on target in the 65th minute, and Santos, who had just come on for Gibbs, gave the ball away clumsily in his first minute on the pitch, which could easily have led to a Villa goal. He can be forgiven though as he, naturally, will have been a bit rusty after such a long lay-off. In the 73rd minute, RvP takes a cheeky free-kick from the left, only for Given to just tip it over the bar. In the 82nd minute, the newly-on Ox makes a blistering run on the right into the box, but a last-minute, great tackle by Ireland just keeps the young Englishman from pulling the trigger. I think Ireland just had enough of the ball for it not to be a penalty, so Dowd called it well imo.

The third top-quality moment of the match was left to the very last minute of the game. In extra time, Arsenal were rewarded a free-kick well outside the area, after a foul on Song. Arteta stepped up once again and this time he was successful with a thunderous bullet to the top right corner of the goal.

A magnificent effort and thoroughly deserved: 3-0!!! You won’t see a better free-kick this season.

Finally

Seven wins on the spin, another clean-sheet, a fitter than ever squad, and a real belief our team can go all the way and finish in the top-3 in May. Happy times!

We are in the driving seat and ahead of us are the Manc teams – the new Oilers and Old Bacon Face’s bunch of scrapers – and they are lucky there are most probably not enough games left to catch up with them anymore. In the rear-mirror we can see the sorry-Spuds and if we narrow our eyes with a bit of effort, we can see the old Oilers, the Chavs, catching their breath whilst desperately looking around who they can put the blame on this time. In the far, far distance we can see some ant-like spots that can only be Dalglish’s darlings. Ooh the virtues of momentum!

We are not there yet though – let’s be careful not to become complacent – but if we can keep this good run of form up, then soon we’ll be firmly positioned in third spot. Not only would this make us the top team in London once more, it would also provide a perfect platform for a firing-on-all-cylinders team for next season. It has been a year of transition, with some tough moments and big disappointment, but the road ahead is full of promise and potential, based on a sound foundation of all the things that matter in football: a great squad, a great manager, a financially healthy club with money for one or two more quality players, a great stadium, fantastic support, and a football philosophy based on total football. Class is permanent – long may it continue!

TotalArsenal.


Heroes and Villains: Match preview.

March 24, 2012

Imagine this: 2010. You support a club which has won the European Cup, your team has a wealthy American owner , they are Wembley regulars and are usually in contact with the League leaders, they are managed by one of the best PL managers (O’Neill)  and have some decent players in the squad.

Move forward a couple of years to 2012. Suddenly your club is owned by a  man whose personal fortune has diminished from 1.5 billion to less than the cost of your new striker. They have taken on a manager from your hated rivals with a football policy that harks back to the ’50′s, your club is over 50 million in debt, and sit 15th in the PL with little hope of improvement.

A Face like the Smell of Gas

Just think …. there are Gooners who think Arsenal have problems!!!

Aston Villa are one of those clubs almost everyone has a soft spot for. A family club with good traditions. Decent ground, decent supporters, no real challenge for The Arsenal (we have lost to them twice since 1999) – what is there not to like? OK, they beat us at The Emirates last season but we were awful that day, with Darren Bent scoring twice in the process of relegating poor Squllaci to the reserves

This season we beat Villa in a tight game with Benayoun scoring in the 87th minute. Can’t see Bennie getting a bench seat today. With the return of our first choice MF’s (bar JW) his days are numbered.

 Bennie and Arshavin. Will we see them again

I know many are extolling our fantastic run as a return to the Arsenal of Old but I am yet to be convinced. We were definitely second best at Anfield with the woodwork and Szczesny’s brilliance saving us, and at Goodison we were hardly outstanding. I have said previously  the difference is that we are getting the breaks which we certainly didn’t get earlier in the season when we hit the woodwork over and over again, and got beaten by teams who had 2 0r 3 shots on target all game. Luck matters, it is often the difference in a tight game.

My Team:

Having an almost full squad to choose from is a luxury we have not had for some time (1982?). Mr Wenger has options in almost every position which makes guessing the team considerably more difficult. The back 5 pick themselves though I expect to see Santos get some pitch time – he will be important in the run-in. The Gerv/Ox position is difficult. Ox plays deeper and can help the midfield more consistently than Gerv, but Gervinho is better on the break and we can win this game with pace.

Unlike the Everton game I do not expect an 8 man midfield battle. I expect AV to park the bus and look to hit us with the ball over the top to Agbonlahor (Bent is injured). In N’zogbia, Ireland and Petrov they have players who can hurt us with clever through balls.

This week’s Gooner. How about another Old Timer?  The writer George Orwell was a Gooner. Born in India he became a fan during the late 1920′s. Orwell then moved to Hampstead and later Kentish Town where he witnessed the great Arsenal team of the 30′s winning absolutely everything. In his Collected Essays he writes of the pride he felt when 7 Arsenal players represented England in a game at Highbury. After WW2, he moved to Canonbury Sq.Islington where he lived until bad health forced him to leave the borough of his beloved team.

Real Man

Another important game today. Whatever the result at the Bridge we have to win. There are tough games ahead and Villa, despite being a decent side, are just the type of team we have to dispatch in what will be a tight contest for the CL places.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Chavs v Spuds: Which Result is Best For Arsenal?

March 23, 2012

On Wednesday night the planets were clearly aligned in a perfect pattern to benefit Arsenal.

We got a hard-fought win at Goodison Park, a ground where Chelsea, Manchester City and the N17 Reprobates have all crashed and burned recently.

And while we were doing that the Spuds, with their enduring sense of comedy timing, were dropping two points at home to Stoke and the Chavs were losing at the Oil Refinery.

Even Liverpool got in on the act, going down 2-3 at QPR.

It’s nights like that that make you believe God is a Gooner. (Oh yeah, He is… and He used to wear the No 10 shirt).

Now fast forward to Saturday, and the early kick-off between Chelsea and T*ttenham. What result would suit us best in that game?

Here are the options:

Spuds Win

The up side: if we feel that the absolute priority between now and the end of the season is to secure a top four finish, then the best result for us is probably a Spuds win. Chelsea are already six points behind us and, if we can beat Villa and the Spuds beat the Chavs, the gap between us and fifth place will be a very comfortable nine points, with eight games left to play.

The down side: the Rioters would still be only a point behind us. And a win at The Bridge might be the sort of result that could kick start them for a strong run-in.

Spuds supporters seem to think their final eight games are the easiest run-in they’ve had in years.

With home games against Swansea, Norwich, Blackburn and Fulham and away fixtures at Sunderland, Bolton, QPR and Aston Villa you can see what they mean. But several of those games involve clubs likely to be in the relegation dogfight, so points will be far from guaranteed.

Nevertheless, if the Spuds beat Chelsea the prospect of them pipping us to third place becomes more real and – perish the thought – that would mean the cancellation of this year’s St Totteringham’s Day.

Chavs Win

The up side: if the Chavs mash the Spuds, it’s possible that the Tiny Totts’ season will continue to implode and they will struggle to hang on even to fourth place. One point from 15 would be a terrible return for the Totts and would add even more volume to the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth that have been drifting across North London from the N17 slums.

That’s clearly a good thing. The Spudders began crowing very early this season and finishing outside the top four would be like teaching them a cosmic lesson.

And we would all get to celebrate St Totteringham’s Day. Hooray.

The down side: three points for Chelsea would keep them only six points behind us (or even closer if we fail to beat Villa) and would ensure that there was still a three way battle for the third and fourth spots.

The Draw

Up side: if we can beat Villa, the draw is not a bad result at all for us.  Chelsea would be eight points adrift of us and our lead over the Totts would have extended to three points.

Both sides will have gone in to the game feeling it’s a ‘must win’, and for neither to do so will be a psychological blow.

Down side: unlike the two “win” scenarios, the draw deals less of a savage body blow to either of our main rivals for the Champions League spots. Although they would be disappointed, but sides could portray the result as a part of their recovery process.

Of course it goes without saying that whatever the result we would also like to see a mass brawl, multiple sendings off and some major suspensions.

Conclusions

If we can continue our recent form – and I don’t see why we can’t now that most of our squad is fit and we have the twin weapons of confidence and momentum – then who gives a flying fandango what those other, second rate London outfits do?

But if you pushed me to plump for one of the three possible results it would be a Chelsea win. I just never want the Spuds to get anything and, if they miss out on Champions League this year, I will spend all summer laughing.

What result do you think benefits us the most?

RockyLives


Winning dirty – Match report

March 22, 2012

“We had a very strong start in the first 20 minutes, 30 minutes, dominating the game.  We didn’t take our chances and then Everton came back into the game. They became stronger and stronger and we became weaker in the second half, especially. Our link play was not good anymore.  I felt it was a psychological circumstance. We just wanted to keep the result because it’s so important at the moment. But Everton played very well in the second half.”

Those post-match words from Le Prof pretty much summed up the game. It was a fairly tense affair, in which we opened with waves of attacks and stifling pressure applied to Everton whenever they had the ball, before they fought their way back into the game with tigerish tackling and in-your-face pressing.

Everton would say they were unlucky to lose, citing a Drenthe goal wrongly disallowed in the first half for offside.  But then we had a perfectly good penalty call turned down in the second half, when Drenthe clumsily bundled over Rosicky on the edge of the box.  It looked a penalty at first glance and so the replay showed.

So on big calls, it was even (Gary) stevens for gripes against the officials. But the Toffees fans were sore about three poor offside decisions on the trot in the first half, and from that moment they decided the officials had it in for them, so even when good decisions were made later, they were met with howls of complaint. They shouldn’t have felt so aggrieved, most of the decisions were fine, and we were the victims of a big, bad call too.  And Tim Cahill was lucky not to get sent off; he seemed determined to add to his collection of red cards with a series of dirty, late challenges that betrayed his Millwall pedigree, and showed he’s not really up to playing in central midfield.  So I wouldn’t say that Everton were robbed in this game, they just didn’t turn their hour of dominance into clear chances.

One of the defining features of the game when we were doing well was the extent to which the newly-restored Aaron Ramsey supported van Persie up front.  Between them, they were able to carve out a series of chances for one another, with cushioned headers dropped back into space and sharp first-touch passes.  Ramsey completely fluffed the first chance he had, slicing a pass he received on the penalty spot and which he should have buried.  On other occasions, Ramsey’s efforts were on target but were blocked by Howard or defenders.

Van Persie ended the evening with the strange feeling of not going home with a goal against his name, and truth be told, wasn’t at his glorious best, but he still tested Howard on a number of occasions.  He hit the base of the post after Kieran Gibbs nodded down a cross-field ball from Alex Song.

But it wasn’t one or two touch passing that won the game, it was the simplest goal that we’re ever going to see and from an auxiliary attacker, Vermaelen, getting the crucial goal directly from a corner. In the 8th minute, from van Persie’s cross, Verlamelen rose above four 6-foot-plus Everton players, who bizarrely remained rooted to the ground while the smaller Vermaelen out-jumped them to nod the ball in.  The vulnerabilities of zonal marking were on display, with no blue shirt guarding the back-post, and a gaggle of defenders blocking off any chance Howard might have had to clear the cross.  With a traditional back-post defender, Vermaelen’s effort would have easily been cleared.

After the initial phase, in which we completely dominated the Toffees, we ceded control of the midfield and became inefficient in keeping possession.  Everton were able to overrun our midfield, and created a fair number of openings, but despite all their energy, the only time they really threatened was when Drenthe broke free on the Everton right after Song unwisely tried to pass from deep through the centre of midfield.  But Drenthe saw his legitimate goal chalked off by the linesman.  The only other time Szczesny was in a worrying position was when he stupidly tried to chip the ball over the onrushing Jelavic.  We were lucky the ball ricocheted off for a goalkick rather than towards the goal.  Other than that, Everton really didn’t threaten our goal.

I can’t say there were any startling performances from Arsenal players, with the midfielders in particular struggling to match Everton for most of the game.  But there was plenty of gutsy play, with a one-goal lead being defended for 85 minutes on a ground on which Chelsea, Man City and Spurs have lost this season.  We were probably assisted by having a 9-day break (tortuous as it is for us fans), during which time Everton had a Merseyside derby and an FA Cup Quarter Final.  But the most satisfying aspect of the game was the result.

Robin van Persie said it was time for digging in and winning dirty if necessary.  Well, this pretty much met that requirement, with a resilient, if imperfect, performance from the whole team tonight.  Fantastically, Spurs’ continued slump and our sixth win in a row (best run for two years, and this time against a better basket of opponents) leaves us in third place and top of the mini-league playing for the non-Manchester Champions’ League spots.  Chelsea’s defeat in the battle of petrol pump meant we’re six points clear of them as well.  Happy days.  Now just the small matter of consolidating and holding onto third place….

Written by 26may1989


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