When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

April 9, 2014

Unfortunately, Arsenal has left it to a last gasp scramble to get over the line for a Champions League qualification place and the first silverware in a long long time. Now, where have we heard that one before? It took a herculean effort, and plenty of nerves, to get over the line this time last year. And yes, the good guys have left it late this year as well.

So, can we do it? Can we make it again? And will we top it up with glory at Wembley? And finally, what does this bode for next year?

Only seven games to go in a season defining final push for Arsenal. First up is Roberto Martinez’s former team Wigan Athletic. The current holders of the FA Cup, Wigan has had recent and remarkable success at Wembley and have defeated Manchester City not once but twice in two consecutive years in the FA Cup. Can we do it? Oh yes, certainly. But will we? Why not? With our talisman Rambo back from injury, and the team hurting after a sensational collapse away to Roberto’s current team Everton, what better time to show your mettle than now? Surely, we back them to show fine spirit and passion and clinch a FA Cup final appearance!

With another appearance in Wembley secure in the bag, what arrives then is the significant matter of securing 4th spot in the League and Champions League qualification. Five games come up in succession:

v West Ham (H) – Tue April 15
v Hull (A) – Sat April 19
v Newcastle (H) – Mon April 28
v West Brom (H) – Sun April 4
v Norwich (A) – Sun 11 May

Winning all five games will not guarantee a CL spot. Unfortunately the outcome is out of our hands now. But there is plenty to play for. And if I were a betting man, I would say we will do it. Everton have a difficult run-in and are expected to drop points. Then, 5 wins will get us through.

Further, all these five games are extremely winnable. It took Liverpool two lucky penalties to defeat Big Sam’s West Ham, but they are at best a mildly competitive mid-table team playing away from home this time round. Koscielny is scheduled to be back for this game.

Hull is another mid-table team and equally uninspiring. But they are competitive and also play in the FA Cup semis. This game could be a dress rehearsal of the FA Cup final in case Hull manage to edge Sheffield United out in the semis. The Wizard of Ozil could be back from injury in this game. This is be another great boost in our final push.

Next up are home games against Newcastle and West Brom. Newcastle are in a run of poor form home and away, and West Brom are just about edging their way away from the drop-zone. That then leaves a final day scramble against Norwich away. A terrible team under a new manager, but a crucial game that could prove immensely important for us. Absolutely no reason why we should not edge it. In short, just the small but not ignorable matter of 5 games that we should win. And we will win, aided not least by the return of Ramsey and Ozil. Oh, how dearly we have missed the duo.

And finally, the FA Cup final against the survivor of the Hull vs Sheffield United tie. Once again, a match that we should win, and thereby clinch our first silverware in 9 long years. A lot of history associated with this game. Our previous silverware was the FA Cup as well, won against Manchester United in penalties. Ah, what a day it was!

And that is not the only Manchester United connection this time round. The Cup game this weekend will be Arsenal’s 27th FA Cup Semi-Final appearance, equalling Manchester United’s record. Our FA Cup win will also see us equal Manchester United’s record of 11 triumphs.

Is that all that the end of the season holds for us? Not quite. The junior Gunners have had a mixed season this year, but will also play the FA Youth Cup semifinals against Chelsea this week. On show are, among others, Chuba Akpom, Leander Siemann, Gedion Zelalem and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, all potential names for the future.

So friends, all to play for. A big effort required from all and sundry, the manager and the team, but most importantly the fans. Back the good guys, chums, and revel in their big efforts in the end of the season gambit.

If there was ever the need for passion, big heart and unconditional support for whoever puts the shirt on, now is it. Other things can wait! 7 games left, only, and 7 wins is the target. No more, no less! It is achievable, and let us put our hands together and make it happen.

COYRRG!!!

Written by arnie


Are We Witnessing The End Of An Era?

April 8, 2014

There is an old Chinese curse that goes: “May you live in interesting times.”

It is aimed at impatient people; people who are bored; people who want change for the sake of change.

The implication is that although you may hate the status quo, you would be wise to beware of what comes after.

When the third goal went in up at Everton I had a strong feeling that we may be witnessing the end of era.

And not just any era. When the end of the Arsene Wenger era comes it will be the footballing equivalent of the Fall of Rome.

Compared with M. Wenger’s tenure, the reigns of other football managers are mere hillocks in the landscape of history. Wenger’s reign is a mountain – an elegant, ice-capped peak whose stature is rivaled only by the craggy, fractured slopes of Mount Fergie – a once-thunderous volcano now sitting sullenly dormant.

Why did I wonder if we were watching the end of this era?

Because it seemed unfair to ask him to take much more of this punishment: to watch his team (and by extension himself) humiliated again; to know the vitriol and hatred that would inevitably follow; to turn up to work the next day and have to start all over again.

If we fail to beat Wigan this weekend I now feel he will call it quits at the end of the season.

If we get to the Cup Final and lose, ditto.

If we win the Cup and finish fifth… again, ditto.

If we win the Cup and finish fourth… well, that’s a tougher one but I still suspect he will call it a day. He will see out his contract as he famously always does. And then he will bid us all farewell.

Few of us would blame him. Few of us could take the incessant criticism and abuse without it seriously affecting our mental health and our sense of our own worth. The fact that he has stuck it out this long is a testimony to his fortitude and intelligence.

But when he is driven out of the club to which he has contributed so much, we will be entering “interesting times.”

There is a lazy assumption that we will snap up some hotshot young manager who will immediately achieve the success that has eluded M. Wenger. Not so long ago the people who advocated this approach were all for us bringing in Michael Laudrup or Paul Lambert. Or even Andre Villas Boas, heaven help us.

Well, if Arsene Wenger quits we should prepare for a rocky road.

Yes, we could do an Everton. We could find a younger manager who lifts us to another level, but there is a greater likelihood of us doing a Manchester United.

And it will not take too long before people start looking back on the Wenger Era with nostalgia and affection.

This is not a Post about whether or not he should go. For the record I think he should stay because I believe that with a proper transfer budget this summer building on the excellent squad we currently have he can again fashion a team of champions.

If we flattered to deceive at times this season with our table-topping run, the heavy away defeats to big teams are equally an unfair reflection of our capabilities.

However I can understand those who feel his time is up, that the failings have become chronic and beyond his ability to fix. I am happy to accept that he is far from perfect: that he should have bought another striker in January; that he should have got to the bottom of our injury issues by now and much more.

Many decent and respectful Gunners have now reluctantly come to the conclusion that he should go. They tend to be drowned out by the clamour of the ignorant and the abusive who express similar sentiments in unacceptable ways.

And we are fast approaching the time, I fear, when these people will get their way.

I am not looking forward to it.

However, for now I will make a particular point of appreciating our manager whatever the results, whatever we achieve or fail to achieve in the remainder of the season.

These may be his last days and I will give them the respect they and he are due. It’s more important than winning and losing.

After one of our recent heavy defeats a better man than me had this to say:

Football is only truly a business to those who A, rely on it for their salary or B, own shares in it. For the rest of us it is either a passion, a way of life or in many cases a family tradition.

“For me it has been a distraction and motivation through life that has taken my mind off business and filled the boring hours on uncountable motorways and airports and created opportunities to meet and make friends on many a terrace and in many places when I would have been lonely without it.

“Funny game football, which is why I find it amusing that so many of us who have no first hand experience of the business called AFC feel qualified to pass judgement on the course and direction of an entity for which we have no first hand knowledge. Even the mighty guardians entrenched in the fourth estate pontificate their perceived wisdom based on at best second hand information or at worst self published claptrap. As for living in the past – knowledge is gained through experience and what we see today is often relevant to the history of which we are all part.”

But then dandan always did have a way of finding the right words to encourage the better angels of our nature.

RockyLives

 

 

 

 


Déjà vu …….. (and a tribute to dandan)

April 7, 2014

This has to be one of the most difficult reviews that I have ever written. Hearing of the sudden death of one of our stalwarts, dandan, left me and several others numb before the game.

We are a diverse but close community on Arsenal Arsenal. We endeavour to show respect to one another regardless of our differing views and despite another dismal performance by the team yesterday, one realises that there  is more to life than football.

As to the game I think all has already been said, but the fact is that we have now dropped twenty points out of a possible thirty three in our last eleven league matches .

Yes we have had multiple injuries and going to Everton was never going to be an easy game, but the team whoever plays was flat, lacked pace and power and seem nervous and disjointed, but above all a lack of confidence and with a Cup semi Final a week away and what seems on paper a reasonable run in it is not a given that we will sweep all aside. The Ox and Rambo are a plus and surely must start games but the inevitable happened with Flamini getting carded – he will miss the next two games. Oh how we miss Kos, but most of all we lack real leadership maybe on and off the field.

The very thing we have been famous for in the past was our ability to counter attack and score and that is the very thing that is now happening to us far too regularly

I feel it is not appropriate to single out any one player on this occasion but I will leave you with the post match interview from our manager.

Arsene Wenger had this to say:

“Was there a lack of fight? You could say that. It is a massive worry to lose a game like that.

“We have to analyse it well and come back with a different attitude, with more personality and stronger challenges. We have to go back to basics.”

Make of that what you will.

The last words must pay tribute to our friend Dandan …..

Dandan (Cliff) was a brick to me and sometimes a lifeline. We had different views about the direction the club was heading but had a mutual respect for one another.

We recalled GN5′s article only a few days ago about the week we won the double in 1971 but what he didn’t tell us on the site was that he missed the Cup Final as his father was tragically killed a day or so before the game.

Despite his own health problems and that of his dear wife Anne, he always tried to cheer me up and we spoke at length about a multitude of things, other than football. His brother is in remission and I know how much Cliff loved and cared for him. He was a decent man who will be missed by so many. I am not ashamed to say that I wear my heart on my sleeve and can be at times very emotional but this sudden death has knocked me sideways.

Anne will let me know when the funeral will take place and I know if any of you can attend, she would appreciate it.

R.I.P. Dandan, you made many friends across the world with your generous and positive attitude to life and the Arsenal.  Our thoughts go out to your wonderful family at this difficult time …….. you will be missed but not forgotten, COYRRG…………

kelsey


Loss of a Gooner

April 6, 2014

Hi this is Mike, dandan’s youngest son. It is with profound sadness that I have to inform you that my Dad, Cliff, died yesterday evening. It was completely unexpected and from what we can gather happened instantly. I got here as fast as I could to find the paramedics trying everything to save him. It was not to be.  I know he had many friends and contacts on his beloved blog, so I thought it only best to let you all know.


End of the Difficult Games

April 6, 2014

Another must win game? Of course not, we can afford to lose and still get a top 4 spot. Yes, I know that mathematically Everton would be favourites if they win today but they have some difficult games ahead and will certainly drop points – if they don’t and win what will be 12 games in a row then they deserve to be in the CL, plus if any team is to take our 4th place then I would like it to be Everton.

Phew, that was a long sentence!!

This is the 3rd game of the season vs Everton, we have won one, drawn one and perhaps will lose one. Will we? Who knows – the form book would certainly favour the Toffees  and they have been better than us for parts of both previous games.

That is enough negativity. Draw or win today and we are almost guaranteed CL football next season, and I see no reason why we cannot get a result.

Everton: Lovely old-fashioned ground which is a euphemism for a ground in desperate need of a rebuild, but Goodison Park is still one of the PL’s most atmospheric grounds.

As to the team, they are strong all over the pitch. Loan players have hugely added to their performance this season and if one took away their loanees Everton would have been 11th instead of 5th at the turn of the year. We have discussed this at length and no doubt will do again, but Mr Wenger agrees with me – players should only be loaned out of their club’s division. Lukaku remains their strongest attacking force, a lethal striker with a shot accuracy rating of  64%  (Giroud’s is 40% :-(  ). Barry is Everton’s most active player who has most passes, tackles and influential contributions. Both loan players.

My hope is that Mr Wenger spends much of his transfer budget upon Ross Barkley, this kid looks superb and has all the physical attributes. Imagine him alongside Rambo, Ox and Jack in years to come. All British as well. But we know he won’t – Barkley will end up in Manchester, probably at the end of next season.

UnknownFuture Team-mates?

Much has been made of Arsenal’s injury list especially when compared with Everton’s who have only one player with a soft tissue injury. Some have pointed at the manager’s training regimes to account for this. Reasonable??

Martinez is much lauded and rightly so. If Mr Wenger signs his new contract , probably a two year term, will Martinez still be at Everton and available to come to THOF? He appears to be a natural fit for us – intelligent, multi-lingual, attack-minded but with a knowledge that a strong defence is essential and an organiser. The coming man.

Arsenal: We come to the end of Death Cluster 2 and will have some vital players back for the run-in. It is my opinion that Theo and Aaron would have added another 6-8 points to our tally and as such their injuries have cost us the title – not the first time this has happened. (I know I am biased!)

Sadly, none are available today and our poor exhausted troops must soldier on, though a weeks break must help. My main concern is the link up play between our Midfield and Giroud, too often he is isolated, especially against a team which closes us down in our own half – a team like Everton.

This is another twist or stick game, by that I mean do we keep the same side which drew so admirably against City or give the fit again Rosicky a start?

My team:

dc2

Podolski had a fine game last saturday but Rosicky brings more pace to the side- perhaps not through his running but with his speed of pass, and he always brings the ball forward. I do not understand why Gnabry has seen so little pitch time, he has a wonderful future and needs to be blooded in big games – hopefully he will get a subs appearance this afternoon.

As I wrote earlier, I do not believe this is a winner takes it all game (Mrs Raddy has been listening to Abba)  but a win would be just brilliant, in fact like last week I would be happy with a draw.

The two games against the Toffees this season have been great entertainment with the two teams bringing the best out of each other. Let us hope for the same today.

Big Raddy


Should we have held on to the Deadwood?

April 5, 2014

It is a widely held belief that lack of squad depth has attributed to our slide away from the top of the table to a position where some fans are concerned about our ability to hang on to fourth place.

This is a perfectly reasonable stance, but I have a question….did it have to be this way?

During most of the 12/13 season and the one before that and probably the one before the most popular references to out of favour players was deadwood, a fairly unkind term used to describe players who in the blogger’s opinion had become surplus to requirements if Arsenal wanted to achieve things.

At the end of the 12/13 season several of these players left the club:

Gervinho
Mannone
Arshavin
Chamakh
Squillacci
Santos

Also on their way were a whole raft of youth teamers who didn’t make the grade, plus some who just couldn’t quite make it in to the first team squad.

One name on that list leaps out at me…..so here’s the question would our squad look better with Gervinho still in it?

Would we be looking at the left side of midfield thinking “if only we had a pacy winger”.

I know Gervinho was not a world beater, but he gave us options, the level of criticism fired at him meant Arsène felt compelled to sell him for his own benefit.

And this is where as Arsenal fans we probably need to alter our thinking, we seem to judge every player as if they should be a World Class talent or at least as good as the man he could replace in the team. And when we have judged them with that yardstick and decided they don’t measure up we hammer them until we ask “Why doesn’t Gervinho look up for it today?”.

We appear to be heading in a similar direction with Giroud and Podolski, some fans have decided they are not good enough so send them back from whence they come….wouldn’t it be better to find better players but also keep the players we have in the squad too?

Gooner in Exile


An Arsenal Blast from the Past No. 8 1970/71 – Arsenal’s 1st Double

April 4, 2014

Let’s start off with a picture of one of our most Famous teams.

1970 71 team photo

Arsenal’s first double in 1970/71 was a triumph for collective efficiency and steely resolution. At one point in the league they were seven points behind Leeds United and of all places to go the Gunners had to travel to White Hart Lane, for the final game of the season on Monday May 3rd, 1971. They knew that they needed either a win or to secure a scoreless draw to bring the title back to Highbury for the first time since 1953. A score draw would not do as Leeds United was waiting hoping for an Arsenal slip-up.

programme

51,192 fans managed to squeeze into White Hart Lane (The Cockerel Coop) with thousands of fans outside hoping to get in – (GN5 included, but sadly to no avail). Spurs were desperate to deny Arsenal the bragging rights in North London. It was a difficult situation to be in for the Gunners as oddly enough if they scored, they still couldn’t dare concede for as I mentioned above, a score draw would have shattered Arsenal’s dreams.

A Spurs goal at any stage was most unwelcome. Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings was in splendid form and made many fine saves throughout as Arsenal tried to break the deadlock. In the end, Arsenal was the team to break that deadlock.

In the 88th minute, Ray Kennedy headed in a George Armstrong cross via the underside of the bar.

kenedy goal

The goal only meant Tottenham increased their pressure further in hopes of preventing Arsenal winning the title. A Tottenham goal would have been enough for Leeds to win the title, but there was very limited time for them to do it in.

In the end Arsenal prevailed. Bob Wilson prevented any Spurs equaliser from happening and Arsenal sealed the first half of the Double by winning the league in front of Tottenham supporters at White Hart Lane, much to the delight of our ecstatic fans.

One of GN5’s program’s from the Double season with some very famous autographs.

gn5s programme

Next up was the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday May 8th, 1971 – it turned out to be a classic encounter with Liverpool in front of a crowd of 100,000 raving supporters.

Arsenal had been drawn away in every round of the Cup and in the semi-final were 2-0 down to Stoke City, before equalising with a very controversial last minute penalty.

peter storey

This forced a replay at Villa Park four days later, a game Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from George Graham and Ray Kennedy.

Now to the small matter of the most important game in our history – The FA Cup Final

A victory over Liverpool would give us our 1st League and Cup double.

Due to the clash of Liverpool’s red strip with Arsenal’s red and white colours, Arsenal wore their away strip of yellow shirt and blue shorts.

Arsenal won 2–1 after extra time, with all three goals coming in the added half hour. Steve Heighway opened the scoring for Liverpool with a low drive past Bob Wilson on his near post. However, Arsenal equalised with a scrambled goal from substitute Eddie Kelly – the first time a substitute had ever scored in an FA Cup final. The goal was initially credited to George Graham, but replays showed that the decisive touch came from Kelly after Graham had struck the shot. Charlie George then scored a dramatic winner late in extra time, when his long range effort flew past Ray Clemence. This prompted George into a famous celebration – lying on his back on the Wembley turf waiting for his team mates to pick him up.

CharlieGeorge_468x301
The match was played in a great spirit of sportsmanship by the players and was responded to as such by the fans. When Liverpool’s Lawler was floored with cramp late in extra time, he was helped to recover by two Arsenal players. Arsenal’s victory – and double win after a gruelling 64-match season – was greeted with an ovation by both their own and Liverpool’s fans at the stadium, and Liverpool were also cheered by both sets of fans as they took a lap of honour after the presentation of the trophy and medals.

c g with medals
This picture is reprinted from Gunner N5’s original copy of the Evening Standard. Boy oh boy – that’s hair to make even our own Kelsey jealous.

Finally some more details of the Double winning team.

newspaper
GunnerN5


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