Gervinho: The New Thierry Henry

April 30, 2012

One of the commonest complaints levelled at Arsene Wenger by his critics is that he hangs on to sub-standard players for too long.

He is accused of having ‘favourites’ and of continuing to select them long after we supporters have decided that they are not up to it.

‘Fawlty’ Manuel Almunia, ‘Sideways’ Den Denilson and Emmanuel “the Grinning Kamikaze” Eboue all spring to mind.

Now the critics are drawing up new lists. Some are comically long, leaving us with a squad containing just Szczesny, Vermaelen, Wilshere and van Persie, who in addition to their playing duties will also have to wash the kit, mow the grass and make the tea.

Others are more considered. The names most regularly seen on these lists are Diaby (too injury prone), Almunia (too error prone), Chamakh (too goal shy) and Park (too invisible).

But as our season approaches an anxious climax, I have seen Gervinho’s name bandied about as another player who should be packed in a cardboard box and deposited in ‘Goods Out’.

Is this fair?

Certainly he has been a frustrating player in his first year at Arsenal.

Against Stoke at the weekend he actually did a lot of good things – taking on his fullback and often beating him with a combination of skill and pace. But whenever he got free, he seemed incapable of making the right decision.

As for his finishing, well, let’s just say that he appears to have been getting tips from Jon Jenson.

But if you cast your mind back to the start of the season he was a promising addition to the squad. He was exciting on the ball and very, very direct. His first touch was (and still is) excellent and he can dribble past opposition defenders at will.

So far this season he has played 27 games, including nine as a substitute. He has scored four goals and made eight assists. It’s not a startling return, but nor is it awful.

My theory, for what it’s worth, is that Arsene Wenger had a notion that Gervinho could (I stress, could) turn into a new Thierry Henry.

Don’t laugh – I’m serious.

He came to us as a fast and skillful winger/forward with a French background. I’m sure it must have crossed Le Boss’s mind that there was a possibility he could blossom the way Henry did into a devastating attacker. Perhaps Wenger even thought it unlikely that van Persie would stay fit for an entire season and that there would be opportunities for Gervinho to play as a central striker.

Right now that idea seems ludicrous because we have come to think of the Ivorian as a player who lacks composure in front of goal (and, in fairness, his recent efforts have done nothing to counter that view). That puts him at the opposite end of the spectrum to Henry, who is arguably the most composed goal scorer ever to wear an Arsenal shirt.

But what many don’t realize is that Gervinho’s scoring record in France was better than Henry’s before he joined us.

Thierry bagged 20 goals in 105 games for Monaco (less than a goal every five games). In his short spell at Juventus just before Wenger scooped him up he got three in 16 (again, less than one in five).

Gervinho, by contrast, scored 28 in 67 appearances for Lille – the club from whom he joined Arsenal last summer. That’s a goal every 2.4 games – or twice as deadly as TH14 was before arriving at Highbury. Both were playing as wide attackers while in France.

It gives the lie to the suggestion that the dome-headed flyer does not have the ability to score goals. I don’t know why he’s not bagging more for the Gunners. He scored a peach at the ACN (in fact, it was quite an Henry-like finish) but in the red and white it has not really been happening.

I don’t watch French football so I have no idea whether he was played in a different role at Lille or whether it’s just a confidence thing at the moment.

Like most players who go to the ACN, he has suffered a dip in form since returning, but I really think it’s too early to give up on this young man.

Many people had doubts about Laurent Koscielny after his first season with us. Like Gervinho he had been good in parts; but, also like The Gerv, he had frustrated too. The Godawful cock-up that gifted the Carling Cup to the McLeish Relegation Team #1 seemed to be evidence of an underlying problem with the defender.

Fast forward to now and I suspect that, were it not for Robin van Persie’s ability to pop the egg in the basket at moments of personal convenience, young Kozzer would be Arsenal’s player of the season.

I am hopeful that Gervinho’s Arsenal career will follow a similarly upward trajectory and that next season will be a big year for him

Do I think he can become a new Thierry? Probably not, because players like Henry are very rare indeed. But if he can become 50% of what TH was it will still make him one of the best players in the league.

Do I think he can become a vital and effective part of the Arsenal attack? Yes I do.

He has now had a season of adjusting to the EPL. It would be crazy to jettison him at exactly the point where we can expect him to start showing why Arsene Wenger believed in him in the first place.

RockyLives


Brittania Revisited

April 29, 2012

A third trip to the Britannia in three seasons brought with it some mixed emotions. The 2009/10 game was played in February, a month after being beaten by the Stokies in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Ramsey’s leg snapped like a twig but the team responded magnificently to record a fine 3-1 victory.

2010/11 at the Britannia saw Arsenal in end of season free-fall and another defeat ensued. What would 2012 bring? Stoke always raise their game against us, refusing to lie down to superior footballing ability. The touchlines are narrowed, local aircraft given warnings of possible collisions with footballs and Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army gives the pre-match, rabble-rousing speech. Could Arsenal resist the bite of the cold steel? Anxious and expectant, the Arsenal away fans gathered in the Potteries.

(photo courtesy of Stuart MacFarlane)

After an easy drive along the A50 we arrived in plenty of time to find a parking spot at a local bowls club which would enable a smooth getaway at the end of the game. A brief chat with a couple of Stokies in the pub before the game elicited the information that they were pleased not to be in Europe again as it had ruined their season. Mid-table mediocrity seemed to be the height of their ambition…..oh, and beating Wenger’s Arsenal, of course. Arsenal are lacking a player who puts his foot in was their considered opinion whereas none of their players minded being kicked!

We had a fairly good view but were much too close to the inbred hoards and soon realised the aggression between the two sets of supporters was going to colour how we would remember the game.

The first half began and it soon became obvious that only one team had any desire to play any real football. The first booking came in the first couple of minutes as Whitehead fouled Song. The Gunners began the game at a canter and Benayoun should have done better, scuffing a left foot shot after clever interplay with Robin. Then it was the Dutchman himself who drew a fine save from Begovic with a glanced header at the near post.

Stoke scored from their first effort on goal with a pinpoint cross from Etherington which found the head of the Human Pylon. Even with Vermaelen and Koscielny leaping front and back of Crouch, they still stood little chance of stopping the goal. “One Nil to the Rugby team” sang the Stoke crowd. If I was a Rugby player, I would have been offended.

Arsenal quickly responded with another straightforward goal in its simplicity, van Persie slotting home after good work from Rosicky. “He scores when he want” and “By far the greatest team” followed.

The first half petered out from that point onwards. Gervinho had a chance to shoot after a lovely through ball from Sagna but put his effort way over the bar. Another chance nearly came to Gervinho who just failed to get his immense forehead onto a whipped-in cross.

My brother went for a half-time pie and heard the following conversation in the queue in front him. Arsenal supporter, ‘What flavour pies have you got?’ Girl behind the counter, ‘Chicken Balti, Steak and Ale…. Arsenal Supporter, ‘Have you got any Meat and Potato? ‘Yes’ came the reply. Arsenal fan, ‘I had one of those last year and it was farkin horrible’. Cue the laughter from the serving assistants behind the counter. The news that Newcastle were getting thumped certainly improved the atmosphere behind the goal during the half-time break.

The second half began with the boys kicking towards us. Surely things would improve and we would earn the crucial three points. As far as the football is concerned, I thought the second forty five was pretty poor. Arsenal probed and prodded. Shots were blocked. Robin slipped on a couple of occasions when he might have sneaked a shot on goal. There were a few decent looking free-kick opportunities for the good guys but none really troubled the Stoke keeper.

At the other end Szczesny made a fine blocking save from a vicious drive and a long throw header was cleared close to the Arsenal goal line. There was a brief rendition of ‘We can’t spell his name, we can’t spell his name, Wojciech Szczęsny, we can’t spell his name’.

The other dominant impression from standing behind the goal in the second half was how hideous the Stoke fans were. They finally found their voice after Shawcross lunged in on Benayoun. They sang ‘He breaks things when he wants, he breaks things when he wants, Ryan Shawcross, he breaks things when he wants’. (It could have been ‘legs’ rather than ‘things’, it was difficult to understand the accent). Looking across at their fans there were gestures of breaking a stick in two hands which I found quite sickening. Hideous miscreants.

Yossi had a good shout for a penalty ignored by Foy who looked across at his linesman to see a totally blank expression and so he waved play on. The last twenty minutes were a pantomime starring Arsene Wenger. He began waving his arms in the air at the injustice of the penalty decision and other decisions which followed. The Stoke crowd began to imitate him by waving their arms in the air at every opportunity while singing, ‘ Let’s all do the Wenger’ and if an Arsenal player committed a foul singing, ‘He didn’t see a thing, he didn’t see a thing , Arsene Wenger, he didn’t see a thing.’

Arsène needed someone to tell him to sit down as he may as well have been the Stoke cheerleader, such was his influence in stirring the Stoke crowd to generate more noise.

At the final whistle, I felt disappointed that we hadn’t been able to rise above the overall poor quality of the game and produce a few moments of real class to win us the three points. A hard-fought point would have to suffice, a point which looks better in the light of Newcastle’s zero points. Whether it’ll look so good after Sunday’s fixtures, only time will tell.

Ratings

I don’t really do ratings but I’d say that Benayoun and Rosicky seemed to have decent first halves. The defence were resolute throughout, Sagna looking dangerous assisting the attack in the first half, too. Szczesny couldn’t do much about the goal. Sometimes I wish he would catch instead of punch, especially in the second half when the aerial bombardment was in full force. I’d probably give them all a 7, with Tomas, Yossi and Bacary 7.5.

P.S. The Man of the Match was announced over the tannoy as Dean Whitehead. Sums it all up really!

Written by chas


Nike Mercurial Vapor VI Football Boots

April 29, 2012


The ‘Fastest’ Selling Boots on the Planet

The Nike Mercurial Vapor Football boots are not only desired by budding footballers around the world, the most elite player’s on the planet insist on wearing them. Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Theo Walcott, and Robinho are all amongst an exciting list that showcases these boots. So why are they so popular?

Firstly, Nike has chosen a quite shocking and particularly eye catching design and colour scheme. Nevertheless, Nike insists this is not simply for marketing purposes. According to researchers, the high contrast flamboyant design allows team mates to spot you even faster.

The upper has a synthetic lace cover which allows a cleaner contact with the ball, whilst also making them easier to keep clean (a huge bonus). Tipping the scales at just 220grams, the Nike Vapors will make even the slowest of players feel instantly quicker. A glass fibre chassis has been incorporated for ultimate agility, traction and responsiveness. The lightweight design makes these boots ideal for pacey, attacking players with plenty of skill to show off. However, the ‘new and improved sole plate’ is not all good. It is very stiff to break in and due to the rigid structure doesn’t allow the player to complete a full range of movements.

The Nike Mercurial Vapors are at the cutting edge of modern day football boot technology. Even the blades have been designed to ensure maximum grip yet remain lightweight. After wearing the boots for a short period, it is clear that this new technology works, and makes the player feel confident and agile.

Well the Nike Mercurial Vapor boots certainly live up to expectation. The sleek modern design and eye catching chassis may not be appropriate for all players, nonetheless if you are looking for a boot which compliments you’re attacking, pacey style, look no further. However, the latest football boots do come at a cost. With a price tag of £100 + http://www.sportsdirect.com/mens/mens-football-boots these boots may not appeal to your average Sunday centre back, but for me they are the best boots around.


If the Kid’s are United: Stoke Preview

April 28, 2012

Some time ago I made a decision to stop belittling our opponents. This was due to a rash of defeats to lesser team following an abusive prematch (yes, I have that much power). But sometimes needs must, plus I have to be realistic and accept my  posts have no impact whatsoever of the result of the game.

So let’s get down to business.

Stoke: If there is a more miserable, wearisome, beetle-headed bunch of bum-baileys walking the planet then my name is Luther Blisset. Managed by a man who in the words of Oscar Wilde “has no enemies but is intensely disliked by his friends.” Stoke are the reason why the PL has slipped behind La Liga and the Bundesliga in world football. You do not find teams in La Liga who cannot play the ball on the ground or rely on set pieces in order to score.

Orcs in their natural habitat

Then there are their fans. Amplified to make the armchair viewer believe they can create an atmosphere, they reflect their team. Aggressive and hard to like. And, they hate us. Pulis thinks Wenger is impolite (!), their fans think Gooners are soft southern pansies and delight in calling our team wimps and cheats. We are the positive to their negative.

But can we beat them in what is an important game for us? One thing is certain, Stoke will give 100% and we will have to be at the top of our game to win. I think patience will be vital. Add in the Ramsey/Shawcross factor and there will be some genuine needle at the Britannia. We cannot respond to Stoke’s provocation – the early season stupidity of Gervinho and Song will cost us dear if they retaliate in what is sure to be a physical game; the Orcs (Huth, Whelan ,Whitehead, Shawcross + +)  will ensure it.  A strong referee is essential because it isn’t the stupid rash tackle that Stoke employ, it is the constant physical battle.

Crouch has scored his wonder goal for the season (and a brilliant goal it was), he has a good record against us  as have Stoke. They have won 3 out of our previous 4 visits to the Britannia. Pulis believes he knows how to beat Wenger and our games are never less than highly competitive.  Should we win, it will not be an easy ride – it never is up there.

My Team:

You may look at my team and say “Chamakh?  You’re having a Turkish” but I think we have to try something different. I would play RvP behind Chamakh, give Bennie the run of the left wing and swamp the midfield. The defence picks itself, as does the midfield (in light of the fragility of Diaby), though Coquelin is likely to get some pitch-time, if fit.

The obvious solution is to play O-C or Gervinho on the wing but given the loss of our speedster and Arteta, we could start the above team which would allow some flexibility.  That said, we are most likely to start with a forward line of O-C, RvP and Bennie.

Stoke Inventor? There are a few as you would expect in any industrial area. Oliver Lodge invented the wireless telegraph, the electric spark plug and moving coil loudspeakers (according to Wiki). Whether he did or not is lost in the mists of time.

Surely, we have more than the long throw in?

Against opposition whose main ethic is unrelenting industry and teamwork, Arsenal have to respond in kind. We have yet to win in the PL without Arteta and today is the day to remedy this. Arsenal can win but it will be through endeavor, inspiration, unity  and harmony.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


What If Wenger Does A Guardiola And Walks Away?

April 27, 2012
La Liga (3): 2008–092009–102010–11
Copa del Rey (1): 2008–09
Supercopa de España (3): 200920102011
UEFA Champions League (2): 2008–092010–11
UEFA Super Cup (2): 20092011
FIFA Club World Cup (2): 20092011

So to tidy that up, that is four seasons in charge winning three League titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues, and one Copa del Rey – and yet, it seems, Pep Guardiola is likely to walk away from Barcelona after all but conceding the league to Real Madrid, and getting knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea’s bus. They now just have the Cup Final left to win some silverware.

“Coward! Coward!”

They are yelling it on Fleet Street and in their masses on the internet. But is he really? Apparently the going has gotten tough and Pep is doing a runner.

I suppose before I continue I better clear up a few things (these are my own personal thoughts and not those of AA as a blog)

  • Barcelona are over-rated. They are not “the best team ever” – Would the best team ever have a back five pretty incapable of defending? Valdes makes Almunia look good. Alves is a poor man’s Carlos, and while Puyol is a good defender, he is no Franco Baresi. Isn’t it funny how Lionel Messi didn’t perform over the two legs in the Champions League semi-final and they get knocked out? They are a great team, the best team CURRENTLY plying their trade, but the best ever? Surely I can’t be the only one that watched the AC Milan team of the late 80s and early 90s?
  • They have no Plan B.
  • Pep’s influence on the team has been over-rated. In 2008, he inherited a team that was largely been built up since the Academy days – the core being Xavi, Iniesta and of course, Messi. Gerard Piqué was also returned to the Nou Camp from Manchester United in the very first days of Pep’s reign, while the likes of Pedro and Busquets were been readied for the first team after coming through the youth ranks. All ripe and ready to form a winning machine – all coming neatly together after Frank Rijkaard had kept the ship steady over this period.
  • None of the above is not to say I don’t think Barcelona are a fantastic side and Guardiola a fantastic coach – he has embedded a work ethic in the side which is unparalleled - sadly it also extends to them largely diving as a team (Messi and one or two more gladly don’t take part) and to them waving imaginary cards and trying to get opponents sent off.

So back to the main point – Is Guardiola walking away?

Yes, yes he is. But he’s not walking away from the hard work ahead, or the cries of some greedy fans who want trophies every year, he’s walking away from a possible heart-attack. Pep has just turned 41, has a young family, and has aged considerably in the last season or two.

But Barcelona are a winning club you say, where is the heart attack waiting to come from?

I’ll tell you – the pressure. The pressure of being expected to win every game at a canter, to win every trophy available every season. The pressure of having a mad President that comes part and parcel of a top Spanish club who buys a player at a mad expense and tells you to play him whether he fits or not into your puzzle.

Pep Guardiola is taking a break from football for the sake of his health – both physically and mentally. And who could blame him? He has achieved so much in so little time, and at 41, will still be such hot property when, and if, he returns to football after a season long break. Besides, it’s not as if he might not have done this anyway, regardless of Barcelona’s “failed” season. He has only ever accepted rolling one year contracts and has always hinted he would take time out of the game after a few seasons.

So what has all this to do with Arsenal and Wenger? Quite a lot actually.

The pressure Guardiola is under is very similar to that Wenger is under: managing a big club whose fans expect to win every season playing perfect football. However, unlike Pep, Wenger can’t walk away from football for a while and then pop back into it again. At 62, he may feel that the time is slowing, closing in on his time as a manager, time closing in on his dream to win the Champions League.

So what if he decides to walk from Arsenal to achieve that? What if he thought to hell with the financial pressure he is under and trots off to PSG, Madrid or Barcelona? Sure, he’ll be under the same pressure as at Arsenal, but he’ll have more financial muscle. If anything, walking into Barcelona would be easier for Wenger, he will inherit the same problems there as he has here – dodgy back five, strike force that weighs heavily on the shoulders of one man, pressure to play proper football, pressure to win, but he’ll have the ££££ at Barcelona.

So just imagine if he said “sod it” and off he went. Where would that leave Arsenal? Would Pep Guardiola come over here and give it a punt – or the mouthy Jose Mourinho who knows best when it comes to all matters Arsenal? Yeah lads, we want all that Real Madrid and Barcelona have, but we want it without spending any more money than we make. Ha, that last one makes you think doesn’t it? Makes me think “We want everything that Barcelona and Madrid have – the Galacticos, the va va voom football, the trophies, the giant stadiums … but do it while making more money than you spend Mr. Wenger.”

Pressure?! Pressure, Mr. Guardiola, Mr. Mourinho? Pressure to win because they spend so much on their squads say Fleet Street, but Mr. Wenger is “under none” because we have a board with an ounce of cop on when Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers are dying. Pressure?! Come to an angry Emirates Stadium of a cold Saturday afternoon Pep, I’ll show you pressure.

Written by the lovely Irishgunner


Choose your favourite Arsenal partnership this season: vote now!

April 26, 2012

Arsenal has benefited from a strong increase of togetherness and collective purposefulness this season, and without any doubt this has been one of the main reasons for our recent super-recovery that led us into the top-three again.

In this blog, I zoom in on a number of partnerships within our team, as they have been big contributing components of Arsenal’s collective togetherness this season. During this transitional season, I have really enjoyed seeing partnerships develop all over the pitch. The most obvious ones are those between the five in defence, the three in midfield (the wall of ARS) and three upfront, but in this blog I would like to zoom in a bit deeper towards the mini-partnerships within AND between the lines: those between two players.

Today’s blog is an interactive one, and it would be great if you could score the partnerships at the end of the blog.

This is my main selection of partnerships, but feel free to comment on other partnerships you feel have also worked well this season.

Partnership 1 Mertesacker and Koz:

It seems a long time since these two players formed our regular CB pairing. It took Mertesacker some time to adjust to the PL, which is quite understandable given the fact he had to hit the ground running, due to his late arrival. What Mertesacker missed in mobility he made more than up in his reading of the game, his positional play and his ability to bring calmness and organisation to our defence. Koz has had a fine season and seemed to thrive next his German counterpart. Koz is good in the air and great on the ground, and his excellent reading of the game, high energy levels and tackling skills made him a fine match for Mertesacker. In a way, it is a shame this partnership was not able to complete the season, as undoubtedly, it would have grown even stronger.

Partnership 2 TV and Koz:

It took this partnership a few games to gel again, but once they did we have seen some very fine performances. TV and Koz are quite similar: very energetic, strong in the air and on the ground, relatively small but with a big jump, and good readers of the game. They are both fast and like to support the midfield with pressing and making forward runs. At times, I feel they lack calmness as their over-exuberance can get the better of them, but over time this could well grow into our regular CB pairing. In recent games against Milan (at home) and Citeh we have been able to see how strong this partnership can be.

Partnership 3 Sagna and Theo:

This partnership became so strong during the season that Arsenal became quite lob-sided towards the right. Arsenal really missed Sagna during his long lay-off, especially when his direct replacement, the very promising young talent of Jenkinson, also got injured. Theo and Sagna have a fine understanding of each other and are prepared to work hard for each other as well. Theo could sometimes provide better defensive cover for Bacary, but opposing teams have often opted to attack Arsenal on our left side, where we have been our weakest at times. Sagna’s support in attack is great, really working the available space well with Theo. His crossing has improved quite a bit too (remember his cross for RvP against Pool?!). Since the return of Sagna, Theo has had a number of fine games resulting both in goals and assists that have coincided with our good run of results.

Partnership 4 Theo and RvP

Theo and Robin have become an assist-making and goal-scoring super machine this season. RvP’s partnership with Theo has been significantly stronger and more effective than the one with our attacking midfielder. In previous years, Robin had a close and effective partnership with Cesc, but since the latter’s departure it has shifted towards the right winger. Theo, like most wingers, has had high and lows this season, but in the last few months he has shown what he is capable of again. Robin has been very appreciative of Theo’s assists and general play, and has mentored him successfully back to form. I hope we can cope with the loss of Theo in the remaining three games: it won’t be easy.

Partnership 5: Ramsey and RvP

Aaron has had a tough learning season. Arsene preferred him in the advanced AM role at the start of the season. Initially, Ramsey played close to Song and Arteta and he moved closer to RvP as the season progressed. I thought he had a good spell during the last two months of 2011, but overall he struggled to make this role work effectively. Although there have been moments of good cooperation between RvP and Ramsey, with the latter making good runs in the box on a regular basis, it is fair to say there has not been much partnership between them. It somehow just did not click enough, and it has become more and more clear that this is not the best role for Ramsey (although one or two AA-ers might disagree with this!).

Partnership 6 Rosicky and RvP

The big question here is: is there a partnership between Rosicky and RvP? It is definitely nowhere near as close as that between RvP and Cesc last season. When Rosicky plays for us, we seem to have a better shape to the team, as he is better equipped to play the advanced AM role. His return to form has coincided with the team’s good run of form, and he deserves a lot of credit for it.

However, he seems to prefer a free role all over the pitch in which he collects/wins balls with the aim to move them on quickly as to create an attacking move. He does not play very close to RvP in front of the ‘D’ a lot, which makes it much harder to form a close partnership. Rosicky scores seldom and also does not have many assists, but his drive and ability to speed things up are important assets, as are his abilities to support the midfield defensively.

Partnership 7 Arteta and Song

I am sure most of us will agree that Arteta has been our best new arrival this season. Wenger did not slot him into the attacking midfielder role, but partnered him with Alex Song for almost the entire season, instead. Slowly but steadily they have formed a very fine understanding of each other and together they posses all the midfield skills you could hope for. Alex is the better defender, but can also produce world-class assists. Mikel reads the game really well, links up defence with attack seamlessly, covers very effectively, and can score with long-distance shots and free-kicks. They have formed the axis, the centre of our team and have carried us through many difficult games with their skills, energy and work ethics.

Partnership 8 Song and RvP

I don’t think many of us would have anticipated at all a possible partnership between Alex and Robin at the start of the season. For a start, they are positioned too far away from each other to form an effective partnership. But then not many of us knew that Song was capable of such an incredible, long-distance lofted pass. RvP and Song have developed a telepathic understanding of each other and it is fair to say that most of our magic moments this season were a result of this very understanding of each other, combined with their phenomenal individual skills. Together they were able to break walls down in front of them and to win games between them for us.

Other Partnerships

There are other partnerships that I could have included, but these were the main ones for me this season. Arsenal had too many changes on the left hand side to include any of them, although I really liked the short one between Santos and Gervinho at the start of the season. I also could have focussed on the partnership (of 3) between Szczesny and the CB’s, but again there have been too many changes this season to do it justice.

So here we are. I am looking forward to find out how the various partnerships will score on a scale from 1 to 5 (one being the lowest and five being the highest) and which one will come out on top. Please elaborate on your scores as much as you like in a separate comment.

Many thanks for taking part.

TotalArsenal.


Arsène, its time to say goodbye

April 25, 2012

These are words I never thought I would utter, if we qualify against all odds for the Champions League again this year I would like to see Arsène Wenger resign as Arsenal manager.

Those who know me, will think I have gone stark raving mad. This wish has nothing to do with whether I think he can take the team further, if he is too old, that he doesn’t want to spend money or any of the other criticisms aimed at our manager.

Its none of those reasons because I don’t think I am in a position to judge him, or his decisions, the man knows more about football, players, fitness, psychology, economics and probably just about everything else in his little finger than I will learn in a lifetime. In short he is a genius.

After we lost 8-2 at Old Toilet many pundits said it would be Arsène’s greatest achievement to get this side/squad into the Champions League, they were still saying it after the new (hastily rebuilt) squad lost away to Spuds, and Blackburn.

So with Champions League qualification in our hands and assuming we manage it what better time to leave the club? You will have just performed your greatest miracle. You have achieved again what so many say isn’t a trophy, yet use as a stick to beat you harder with when it looked like we were nowhere near getting it, remember some people said we would be lucky not to be relegated let alone qualify for Europe.

So why, why do I think Arsène should leave us at the end of the season? If its not football, if its not transfer dealings, if its not for a better chance of trophies why do I ask him to leave?

Well my mind was made up at the Wigan game, I know its not ideal to decide things in emotional circumstances, but my mind was made up after ten minutes of that game. I hadn’t been to the Emirates for a while, the first chance I had had to get down since Villa in the FA Cup. It wasn’t the performance that made me think he should leave, it wasn’t the fact that we had carelessly given a team fighting for their life a two goal head start. It was the reaction of those around me.

After 9 wins in 10 premier league games, after amazing comebacks against the cretins from N17, against the goal shy dippers, a spirited performance to beat City we found ourselves  2-0 down against a side at the wrong end of the table. Suddenly every fan around me in Clock End lower thought they could do a better job than Arsène again, “Bring on Ox”, “Theo’s useless why do you play him”, “Ramsey’s useless in centre midfield”, “Djourou you’re useless, why didn’t he buy a centre back” etc etc etc. Did I hear encouragement? Very little. And I hate watching football like that.

Some fans I guess just have a sense of entitlement, “We should beat Wigan”. Well yes we should, but sometimes shit happens. You’d think some fans had never been to a football game the way they wet themselves every time the opposition attack.

I fear now that it wouldn’t matter if we went on a 37 game winning streak and lost the 38th and the title to United on goal difference of 1 (it is possible) fans would blame it all on Wenger rather than luck, “if only he’d have bought Cahill/Schwarzer/Alonso/Hazard/Mata we would have won it”. There is discontent bubbling away under the surface waiting to boil over at the slightest hint of weakness. I am afraid it is here to stay, and no matter what has been achieved this season, or what is achieved in future this discontent will remain, and my enjoyment of going to watch my Arsenal play will be ruined by having to sit alongside these entitled few.

So sorry that this is rather a personal request and will not sit easy with regulars here, but Arsène, for the sanity of one of your most loyal supporters, its time to say goodbye. Thanks for the memories.

Written by Gooner in Exile


The Next Three Games All Hinge On These Factors

April 24, 2012

Three games to go in this extraordinary season.

Three games to secure third place and a guarantee of Champions League football next year (not to mention the increased likelihood of retaining the services of a certain Dutchman who finds the net at moments of his own choosing).

Or three games to slip to fourth, maybe even fifth and re-ignite the poisonous debate about the future of our club and its most successful modern manager.

After a poor performance against Wigan and an unconvincing (though far from terrible) one against Chelsea, it would take a brave man to confidently predict a smooth run-in from here.

I’m not that brave.

I think it’s POSSIBLE we could win our next three games at a canter (Stoke away, Norwich home and West Brom away). I also think it’s possible we could lose two or even all three.

So let’s look at the balance sheet of pros and cons as we go into those games.

The Pros

We have a full week to rest between each game. Not that it seems to have been doing us much good lately.

None of our remaining opponents have anything left to play for.

We have some margin for error – particularly over Totteringham, but also (slightly) over Newcastle thanks to our far superior goal difference.

In recent weeks this team has beaten Totteringham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Everton, AC Milan and Manchester City.

Benny the Goon will be available (he was ineligible to play against Chelsea).

Diaby is back and managed to complete half an hour on Saturday without injuring himself again.

Coquelin is fit again to provide more cover in midfield.

Tomas Rosicky has been in his best Arsenal form for years.

We have two of the best central defenders in Europe.

We have the second highest number of scorers of any team in the EPL this season (17).

We have Robin van Persie and he scores when he wants.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

We are The Arsenal.

The Cons

We are losing key players at this vital time.

Walcott is the latest to add to that list after idiotically trying to run off a hamstring pull. He reminded me of John Cleese playing a knight in The Holy Grail and getting his arm chopped off: “Just a flesh wound!”

With Walcott, Arteta, Mertesacker and Wilshere all unavailable for the rest of the season we can’t afford to have any more of our top players out – especially the PFA Player of the Year (Lord Dennis hear our prayers).

Arteta’s absence may well be the most crucial, as we tend not to win games without him and he dictates the tempo of the team. So far his replacements have been more garden gnome than metronome.

We still haven’t entirely shaken off last season’s bad habit of hitting the self destruct button (witness the two goals in two minutes conceded to Wigan).

In recent weeks this team has lost to both QPR and Wigan.

The zip and zing seems to have vanished from our open play. We need someone to just rip out the handbrake.

Tomas Rosicky is starting to look tired.

Robin van Persie has stopped scoring and looks jaded.

We have Arsène Wenger as our manager.

Which Arsenal are we?

When our strong run of results started in February (coinciding with the return of our orthodox fullbacks) one of the most striking things was the obvious camaraderie among the players.

Led by the captain, the team seemed really to be enjoying each other’s company and relishing one another’s successes.

Lately things have been harder going and the joy and togetherness engendered by some great wins and stunning late goals has been harder to spot.

If we are going to finish the 2011/12 season the way we all hope, the crucial factor (in my view) is going to be the players themselves. Arsene Wenger and the coaching staff can do their bit, but in these last three games it’s going to come down to the players refusing to fail.

In the last few seasons our players have not had the strength of character to finish strongly when it counted.

This year I believe we have a team with greater moral fibre, led by a captain with far greater powers to motivate and inspire than his sulky predecessor. Robin van Persie, regardless of his own scoring form, needs to remember that his role as leader and inspiration could still be the deciding factor in us finishing third.

(I’m sure you have your own ideas of ‘pros and cons’ that I have failed to include. Please share them in the comments).

RockyLives


Sex and Drugs and Robin van Persie, Sex and Drugs and Robin van Persie

April 23, 2012

Ian Dury and The Blockheads’ famous song ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is often on my mind when something exciting happens in my life. The lyrics of this song are rubbish, but the title is very strong as it captures in a few words those diversions that provide us with a lot of pleasure in our lives – that help us to relieve our worries, fears and occasional boredom, a lot.

In a season when Arsenal had to play a more conventional, less sexy, style of football in order to reclaim a top-four spot, Robin van Persie has provided us with the rock ‘n’ roll in our lives. He treats us to the sort of sexy football that intoxicates us, that makes us proud to be a Gooner, and that makes us happy to be alive.

Robin is the kind of football player that makes people want to go to football matches, just like his Arsenal ‘PFA Player of the Year’ winning predecessors, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry (2x), did/do.

He scores the sort of goals that we fantasize about when we are bored in a meeting, in a class room, at home whilst doing the washing up, or when we are stuck in a traffic jam. His technical brilliance and spatial awareness are of the highest level, and the sheer quality of his performances this season has enriched our lives tremendously. He has scored many beautiful goals this season, but the ones against Everton (home), Liverpool (away) and Newcastle United (home) will stay in our minds forever, just as Bergkamps’ goals against Leicester and Newcastle United, and many others, do.

Last night’s announcement that Robin van Persie has won the PFA Player of the Year award is fantastic news for Arsenal supporters, in more ways than one. Firstly, it is a well deserved recognition for what he has brought to the English game, something in which we can all take pride. Secondly, it is the sort of recognition that will make him feel appreciated and, most importantly, fully at home in England. The latter is very important as I feel strongly it will help him decide to stay in England and with Arsenal for the rest of his career. Those Dutchmen who decide to work and live in England become very often anglophiles, and I am convinced it means a lot to Robin to get this prestigious award in England. It will make him feel he belongs here.

Judging from his comments last night, it did indeed mean a lot to him. He said: “If other people are saying it, it is special, but it is even more special if your opponents are saying it….”If they make up their minds that I’m the best player it is a big honour.” Winning this award might well lift his performance once more, and see him get back to scoring goals again in the final three games of the season. And we need him to as well!

Robin has been a great captain this season and he has done wonders in motivating the players around him. Even when he received the award he had time to praise his teammates: “Without them I could not have achieved it – for example Theo Walcott, he has given me more than 12 assists and I do really appreciate that”.

Robin, well done for winning the PFA Player of the Year award: you totally deserve it! Many thanks for the fantastic football and the great leadership of our beloved Arsenal this season. You belong at The Home Of Football, and you know what you have to do next: sign a new contract and lead our team to the title next year! Your reward would surely be Arsenal immortality.

TotalArsenal.

I would like to invite you to tell us what you think is so special about our captain, the PFA Player of the Year, Robin van Persie.


Traffic Update : Parked Bus causes congestion in N5

April 22, 2012

At the final whistle Arsène turned to shake Di Matteo’s hand and you could feel the disdain, as has been commented many times before Arsène is an artisan, he expects both teams to at least try to win the game, Chelsea to his surprise didn’t or at least didn’t try by playing attacking football. Why it was a surprise I am not so sure, Chelsea have a history of coming to our place shutting up shop and trying to nick a goal on the counter.

Chelsea set up in what Sky ambitiously called a 4-3-3 but which the watching audience could see was a more pragmatic bus shaped formation last seen employed at the Bridge against Barca it was simply a case of driving it to the home of football, changing some wheels to preserve tyres before its long journey to the Camp Nou on Tuesday night to be positioned somewhere around the penalty spot. Thankfully they were without Drogba, so often a thorn in the Arsenal side, which meant that they used the unhappy Torres up front in the lone striker role, or in this particular formation the most advanced defender.

The game started slowly, Arsenal dominating possession as Chelsea dropped into their formation, conserving energy for any counter attacks and looking to put bodies in the way of all passing channels. On a couple of occasions in the early stages sloppy play from Ramsey and Song led to us losing possession deep in our third and gave Chelsea the encouragement to attack, solid defending by Vermaelen, Koscielny and Szczesny prevented any real danger.

The first clear cut chance fell to Arsenal, and Robin Van Persie, Theo providing a whipped in cross from a free kick that Vermaelen and Van Persie raced to meet, Robin won the race but could not find the back of the net with his touch. Had this goal gone in I think we would have seen a very different game. With the way Chelsea had set up it was imperative that we found an early goal which would surely have brought them out of their half a bit more.

Another chance from a set piece found Koscielny unmarked on the penalty spot, he flicked Van Persie’s delivery goal wards but it came back off the bar with no-one following in.

The half played out with only one more clear chance in front of goal, Song picking out Van Persie with a delightful chipped pass into the 18 yard box, Robin found space but could only fire his volley straight at the onrushing Cech.

The only other meaningful attack was a counter from a Chelsea corner, the ball eventually made its way to Oxlade-Chamberlain after some quick passing through the team from defence to attack but Bosingwa managed to recover and put the Ox in two minds as to whether he should drive for the box or cut back to find another pass, he chose the latter and Bosingwa read it well and managed to break the momentum and allow his teammates to get back.

Overall we lacked width, Sagna and Gibbs were clearly conservative, concerned that the pace of Kalou and Sturridge would be dangerous if they were caught upfield. Oxlade – Chamberlain was moving infield to find possession, and Theo was getting swamped whenever he got possession, and he had few passing options when he did have possession.

The second half started in a similar pattern to the first, Arsenal a bit sloppy in possession and almost trying to give Chelsea some encouragement to attack more to then give us more space, any danger was quickly averted by good solid defending on our part.

More chances came and went for Robin, the best of which saw him cut back twice before seeing his eventual shot blocked.

Gervinho, Santos and Diaby were all thrown into the action to try and find us a new dimension, Gervinho’s movement caused more concern to the static Chelsea defence, but they just pulled more midfielders into the back line to cope. Both Diaby and Santos retained possession better and tried to find some killer balls but to no avail.

Robin was also denied a penalty, a victim of recent refereeing blunders or too soft to be a penalty? For me Cahill puts his hands in Robin’s back and anywhere else on the pitch thats a free kick, also if an attacker does that to a defender in the box its a free kick, for some reason referees seem to believe that it has to be a bit more of a foul to be a penalty.

Another point earned on the way to Champions League qualification, a point made better by Spurs demise at Loftus Road. Three points would have been better but it wasn’t to be, several players are running on empty, and I wonder if rather than Podolski we need to find ourselves a 6ft 4 battering ram to throw on in games like this for the last ten to fifteen minutes.

Ratings

Szczesny – 7.5 - Strong commanding presence as we have come to expect from our Pole in Goal. Quick to arrive at a couple of dangerous counters, good handling and a couple of solid saves.

Gibbs – 7.5 - Showed what a good engine he has, up and down the flank, and kept Sturridge quiet all afternoon

Vermaelen – 7.5 - Solid performance from our number 5, good in the air, quick across ground and quick in the tackle.

Koscielny – 8 - A number of good blocks and saving tackles, unlucky not to score, brought possession out of our half well.

Sagna – 6.5 - Not the best game from Mr Reliable, didn’t seem to have the energy to get up and down as much as normal (suffering from his lay off with the broken leg?)

Song – 7.5 - Slow start (which seems to be part of his makeup) but eventually bossed the midfield area, and almost chalked up another assist with some through balls to Robin.

Ramsey – 6.5 – Our young welshman is struggling at the moment, but there is only one place you can recover your form and thats on the pitch, he doesn’t hide and towards the end of the game as he was pushed further up the pitch was beginning to produce more threat with attacking passes (especially when assisted by Santos and Gervinho and their movement).

Rosicky – 7 - An off day for the in form Czech but it was made clear that he has been suffering from illness this week.

Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5 - Hopefully some of the over exuberance about this young talent will start to ease now, he will undoubtedly be a talent in the future but he is still young and yesterday struggled to impose himself on the wily old fox Bosingwa.

Walcott – 7 - Struggled to find room to operate, lacked the support of Sagna which he needs to thrive. Unfortunately we won’t see Theo again until next season after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring pull.

VanPersie – 7 - An off day from the skipper, he had enough chances (half and better) to win us the game but failed to find his scoring boots today, kept getting on the end of through balls and crosses.

Subs:

Gervinho – 7.5 - Showed good movement played some good one touch pass and moves, was key in creating the chances towards the end of the game.

Diaby – 7 - Some touches and passes to remind us what he is capable of, a couple of tackles. He should probably get a 10 for coming through unscathed.

Santos – 7.5 - Would have raised a few eyebrows coming on in the attacking half of the pitch, but he has that side to his game and tried to find the passes to unlock the game.

Written by Gooner in Exile


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