January Transfer Targets Pt. 2

October 12, 2013

So …… Pt 1 raised some interesting responses. Some thought that TV should be given time in the first 11, many disagreed with my contention that Koscielny, despite being a top bloke and player, is not good enough to propel us to winning the title, others thought that Jenks is a weak link, which I agree with, but unlike me do not think he has the gumption to become Bacary’s successor.  There was more but if you want to know – go back and read the comments.

My conclusion remains that until we tighten up a defence that has kept only one clean sheet this season our campaign is doomed.

But, moving forward,

Midfield:  Ramsey, Wilshire, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini with back up from Eisfeld, Frimpong, Olsson etc etc  (In these days of fluid positions it is hard to say whether Ox and Mesut are MF’s, so for today they are attackers. )

This has to be the best midfield in England. So good that brilliant players will be forced to sit on the bench – players who would be automatic starters in 90% of the teams in the PL.

Creatively we are stuffed with riches but how about the much discussed DM position? Many, myself included, were surprised how well Arteta performed the role but questioned what would happen should he suffer a long term injury. If this was the question then Flamini was the answer. An inspired move both for himself and Arsenal. But is The Flamster a good enough solution? Would we be better off with a DM built  in the shape of a Northern Outhouse, someone like PV4 or Gilberto Silva?  Well, Alex Song was a big fellow and I would much rather be on the end of a tackle from him than Matthieu.

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“Oh, No Mr. Wenger. Not the Left Wing”

And what would be your ideal MF in a 4-3-3? My choice would be Ramsey, Cazorla and Arteta but I have a suspicion our diminutive Spanish genius is going to spending much time on the left wing.

Transfer Targets: No need whatsoever, but if the rumours of Khedira from RM are true …..

Attack:  Firstly, do we actually play with wingers anymore? Given that Theo spends as much time in an inside forward position or through the middle, and that Podolski has the pace of an overweight Panda, then the answer must be No. But I love a winger, I love a player who sets up a fullback and then leaves him bemused and wishing he were at home with a mug of Ovaltine and watching Midsummer Murders.

Walcott has proved to be a fine right sided attacker and certainly the best in his position (?) in the PL. Podolski is a great finisher and adds power in support of the centre forward.

Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up an injury at a vital point in his AFC development – a run in the team could see him become an AFC great, but will he get the chance, and if so, in which position?

We do have 3 pacy teenagers; Myaichi, who appears to be an old fashioned winger. We thought The Ox and Gnabry were as well but both suit deeper roles which brings us to the DB10 role – the crux of the attack.  We have so many players who can fill this role but €50m has bought someone who has lifted the entire team and in short time has made the role his own. Mesut Rules and the whole club should be built around him. The prospect of him and Cazorla is mouth-watering.

All pundits, fans, club employees etc etc know where we are lacking – We are over-dependent upon the fitness of Giroud. We need a fox-in-the-box. Suarez would have been perfect but he didn’t arrive and my guess is that resulted in Dick Laws’ fan being covered in the brown stuff. That Mr Wenger was prepared to spend €45m on a CF shows he recognizes where the squad is lacking.

We have alternatives; Theo and Pod can play centrally. Sanogo could be the next Anelka, but if it is to be our season then we need a body. Or we need for Giroud to become Bionic.

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” I, Giroud can play 50 games a season”

Transfer Targets:  The chance of getting a top quality striker in January is slim. There has been talk of LLorente but in my opinion he is similar to but not as good as OG. However, needs must and on a loan he would be a fine signing. Suarez in summer? Yes please. The problem is that every top club is desperate for strikers. Real are unhappy with Benzema, Barca do not have an out and out CF, MC are likely to lose Aguerro and are dissatisfied with Dzeko, Chavs – :-D, MU – BSR is coming 30 and a crock, Rooney doesn’t score enough. I could go on but you know the teams as well as I do.

What do you think? Can win the title without adding a striker?

written by an absent Big Raddy


Why did Wenger sell Alex Song?

January 29, 2013

Because he was………add your own four letter expletive.

I am sure this is the view of the majority of people who have stumbled across this site via NewsNow and thought they would give it a peek.

But this is not the only view: some of us rated him highly.

The list of reasons is long as to why Arsene sold him to Barcelona. They range from the straight forward idea that he was simply not good enough which is a slightly more polite version of calling him a four letter expletive but the sense is the same, to the idea that Wenger made a mistake, especially when the calls for a defensive midfielder who can play centre back are as loud as they are right now.

The most common reasons given by the group who didn’t think he was good enough were that he picked up needless yellow cards and that he was not disciplined enough in his positional play. We also had the rumour that Song was a bad influence in the changing rooms; he was late for training and acted as though he didn’t care.

I have been waiting a long time to explain my theory as to why he was so hastily despatched and it is not connected with any of those views above.

No, it is all about tomorrow. For the first time this season all the midfield heavy weights are fit and Arsene Wenger will be faced with a serious team selection dilemma when attempting to pick his side to face Liverpool.

Wilshere, Rosicky, Diaby, Ramsey, Cazorla and Arteta

So tell me, with all these players available how would Alex Song have fitted in?

The answer is he wouldn’t. We would have had too many midfielders and this, in my opinion, was anticipated by Wenger and was the reason why the deal with Barcelona was completed so quickly.

Barcelona to Arsenal: Are you interested in selling Alex Song, if so how much?

20 mil……..12………15……….done.

Alex Song vehemently denied that he wanted to leave the club in interviews given after he had signed for Barcelona; he also emphasised that he was fully committed to Arsenal. You may say, yeah, yeah, yeah but the unusual thing is that he said this after he had signed to Barça. Can you imagine Nasri or Van Persie saying such things?

Wenger can be quite ruthless when it comes to making room for the new. Silvinho was told not to return from Brazil to the UK to make way for Cole; Lauren was never played again after his injury to make way for Eboue (lets not go there).

A similar thing has happened to Jack Wilshere; our captain in waiting is Arsenal’s most prized asset; he is a player who when fit has to be played. This would have meant that Song might well have had to spend the best part of his new contract on the bench which would have been an absolute waste and so for that reason he had to go.

Alex Song brought so much that went unappreciated to the table, the most tangible evidence is just how less effective Arteta has been without him.

Song didn’t leave because he was home sick, he didn’t leave because the little boy in him was always Manchester United, he didn’t leave for City’s millions; the fact is given the opportunity he would have happily stayed.

The fondest memory I have of Alex Song is the superb pass he made to Thierry Henry enabling him to score on his return, tell me you didn’t go wild and I will tell you that you shouldn’t be on this site.

So Alex I thank you for that memory and wish you and your family happiness.

Written by LB


The revolving door – Where’s the legacy?

August 23, 2012
“…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings”
                                    ~King Richard, Richard II

What a start to the season last weekend. It started with the heir apparent running off before his coronation, continued through a war of attrition in our first game, and ended with us Songless. It’s the two men who’ve left I’d like to address as one word has been bothering me with regards to the way players seem to leave us these days…

Legacy.

I go to games with my dad, who drives 300 miles to games and has been going to the Arsenal for 50 years. I learned a lot about the history of the club, the players who’ve passed through and the managers who’ve overseen it all from him. My dad always…ALWAYS… speaks well of the players of the ‘60s, ‘70s, early ‘80s even…and the late ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s he gets misty eyed about them. Players like McLintock, Radford, George, Graham, Rix, Brady, Nicholas, Merson (responsible for a haircut my dad made me have that I’ve never lived down) and more are remembered very fondly……but time moved on and so did they.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a procession of players sold by Wenger. This is nothing new, he did it before the oil barons started throwing their cash at him. Shockingly, even Rioch, Graham, Howe and Neill sold players. The managers before them sold players, too. Were we angry? Rarely. Why do we get so angry now? It’s how they leave.

Brady left us way too early…my dad was gutted, not angry (even though he’d named my brother after him in ‘78!). McLintock went off to ply his trade in west London just two years after captaining us to the Double. George…Derby….Graham? Manchester United. Were people angry? No…disappointed. When Frank Stapleton went to Manchester United, though…that’s recalled with some resentment as he forced through a move to Old Trafford, with the fee having to be set by a tribunal…he was top scorer for three years, part of a team that went to Wembley three seasons on the spin, scoring in game against Man Utd…but now? Persona non grata as far my old man is concerned.

More recently, in the Wenger era, we’ve become Barcelona’s favourite shop. Hleb and Song have left in acrimonious circumstances…Henry and Fabregas only slightly less so, with their moves to Catalonia seen as inevitable by most, although neither move was welcomed. But what about the first two they bought? Overmars and Petit left us in 2000 for the Nou Camp. It was dealt with quietly – we got a pile of cash (by 2000 standards) for two of our best players – and it was very much in the traditional manner of moves, nothing but a sense of disappointment and a shout of “good luck” from Arsenal fans.

Then there’s the moves of Adebayor, Nasri, Flamini and most of all Ashley Cole to make my point. Cole…who admitted to nearly crashing when heard of a derisory £3m a year contract offer from Arsenal is now busy revising history to suit his new, 2012 version of events…it’s no longer about the money, y’see, he left to “win the European Cup”. So what if it’s 6 years later? From his armchair made of cash he laughs and shouts “F*** you, Cole don’t care…whatever…you’ll believe any old crap”. The other three, too, have been portrayed as mercenaries. Adebayor seems all set to fill Bogarde’s place in the record books as most expensive reserve team player ever.

Nasri…same as Cole. Bleats about leaving to win things when everybody knows the truth…otherwise why does he feel the need to go on? Two others have made the same move to Eastlands in the Wenger era…both are recalled fondly, neither encounter the boos and vitriol that the other three do. Clichy and Toure. Why? Because they were “good leavers”. When asked about our club, they’re always complementary. They didn’t force through moves publicly, didn’t badmouth the manager, the board, the fans and have acted with humility. See! It can be done!

RVP is a tough one…can see why he left (29, last big contract, wants trophies…*pukes*…), but not the ridiculous statement made on his website. Did he tarnish his legacy? Will it always be one of injuries and treachery or will we remember the glorious goal at Charlton, his magic 2011 and his decent captaincy?

If he went abroad…I’m sure it would be the latter. But Man Utd?! Sure we’ll find out at OT when 4,000 away fans get to vent their feelings…

As for Song – I remember (although I may be mistaken) early on in his Arsenal days, Wenger tried to sign one of the de Boers from Barca. Bid was turned down and he “threatened to go on strike” according to reports. Wenger refused to sign him after that…honourable. Is a player ever right to force through a move? Will Song’s legacy at Arsenal be one of a bad attitude, laziness and forcing his way out?

With all the transfers out of club over the years…which have left you with the worst memories? And which players do you think handled their exits in a way that didn’t tarnish your memory of them?

Written by Rhyle


Is this midfielder Arsenal’s second best player of the season?

May 15, 2012


There would be little value in doing an opinion poll on who has been our best player of the season. No doubt, a vast majority would opt for our captain, top goal scorer, and the PL’s Player of the Season, Robin van Persie. But it all becomes a lot more difficult when we have to choose our second best player of the season.

There have been many fine performances throughout the season, but not many players have actually been able to play through the whole campaign, with only the odd week out as a result of a slight injury. Only a small number of players were fit, and judged good enough, to play more than 70% of the games: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koz, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, and Ramsey (and of course RvP). Rosicky and Ramsey both had good spells this season but have not done enough for me to be included in a shortlist for ‘second best player of the year’, so I suggest we choose our favourite out of the remaining six players (but feel free to suggest any other player in today’s post comment section).

Szczesny – Played 48, 29 clean sheets

He has had a good but not a great season imo. Wojciech makes us feel generally comfortable when he plays in goal and although he has made a few mistakes this season, I think most of us will agree that he has done well. He has enjoyed only very few periods of consistency with regards to the four defenders in front of him, which of course does not help when trying to get some defensive reliability and solidity. He has done enough though to be our Nr1 in goal again next season, but it will be interesting to see whether Arsenal will buy an experienced back-up keeper who would provide a bit of healthy competition for Szczesny. Not my second best player of the season.

Vermaelen – Played 39, 6 goals, 2 assists

He has had a good season, but again, not a great season. Thomas was a key player in our unbelievable recovery in February and March, but in the last few games of the season we have been able to see a few weaknesses. We all love his tenacity and energy, his surging forward runs, and his ability to battle with any attacker, on the ground and in the air. But in those last few games, he should have been one of the players with the intelligence and experience to maintain our shape and defensive discipline, and to lead our team at the back, and for me he did not do that enough. Not my second best player of the season either.

Koscielny – Played 39, 2 goals, 2 assists

He has been our rock in defence throughout the season, and he formed a fine partnership with both Mertesacker and Vermaelen. Especially his partnership with the BFG seemed to get the best out of him. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and has improved physically, as he seldom or never was outmuscled this season. He reads the game well and can play with focus and discipline. In every game, he seems to play a number of wild forward passes which usually end up with the opposition’s defence, but other than that he had a pretty faultless season. If we take into account the whole season, it is fair to say that Koscielny has been our best defender. Koscielny is a strong candidate.

Arteta – Played 37, 6 goals, 3 assists

He has been our rock in midfield, and surprised many of us with both the position he occupied, and the skills he has displayed at Arsenal this season. We all loved his unselfishness, his work-rate, professionalism and the joy with which he played football for us in the last eight months. He has been the vacuum-cleaner in our midfield and linked up defence with midfield, and midfield with attack seamlessly. Since his injury, Arsenal have struggled to stick to its formation and play with composure. He has also scored 6 goals in 37 games, but his assists (three) were a bit on the low side, even when we take into account his deep position in midfield. Another strong candidate.

Walcott – Played 46, 11 goals, 13 assists

This season, he has been our best winger, and he produced the third highest number of assists of all our players (RvP was second 14). At the start of the campaign, there was a fair bit of criticism for Theo, but since then he has shown the thickness of his skin and the brightness of his football brain. 11 goals and 13 assists in 46 games is a pretty fine return, and during this season he has grown into a man. He scores goals and produces assists against any opposition – for example, this season he scored against the Mancs, Chavs, Udinese, and the Spuds (two). I would love him to sign a new contract and become a long-term Gunner, but I am not sure whether that will happen. He has really impressed me this season, but has not done enough to be my second best player of the year.

Song – Played 46, 1 goal, 16 assists

This season, the big question surrounding Alex was whether he has been neglecting his DM duties with the blessing of Wenger. A lot of fans have given him stick for not being disciplined enough in protecting the back four, which they regard as his main duties. Alex has suffered a lot from Arteta’s season-ending injury as the Spaniard proved to be his perfect partner in the centre of midfield. For me, Alex Song has been a phenomenal player throughout the season. I am convinced Arsene has asked him to play a free role in which he both helps out defence and supports the attack whenever he could.

A lack of creativity in midfield forced us to play Song in such a demanding role, and he has revelled in it. Other than Yaya Toure, I cannot think of another midfielder with such a diverse skill-set. Yes, he is a slow starter in games and loses the ball unnecessarily too many times, but these are minor compared to what he has brought to the team. At crucial times this season he has been world-class, both defensively and in terms of producing a high number, and match-winning, assists. His performance against Milan at home was one of the best I have seen in an Arsenal shirt this season. 16 assists in 46 games is simply exceptional – with two more than RvP and three more than Theo he produced  the most assists of all our players! At the end of the season his performance dipped a little bit, but overall Song has made a tremendous contribution to our team. Another strong candidate.

My choice

For me, the strongest candidates for second best player of the year are Koscielny, Arteta and Song, and taking the whole season into account, I think Song just shades it. I really hope he signs a new contract and Arsene is able to make him an even better player in the next few seasons.

But who would you choose and why?

TotalArsenal.



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


Need We Be Wary Of These Wounded Wolves?

April 11, 2012

DLLLLLL  

No, I haven’t just mashed my forehead onto my keyboard, the above letters are the recent record of tonight’s opponents Wolves since they sacked Mick McCarthy. Drew one, lost six, a run of matches that sees them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with a measly 22 points, six away from nearest relegation battlers Wigan.

Each club to their own, and we’ve enough to keep us occupied, but I think it was folly to sack McCarthy, after the transfer window and seeing as the players were playing for him, he could have kept them safe yet again. What was even worse was that they replaced him with Terry Connor – a man with no experience of managing a team at senior level or any other level at that. Talk about throwing the poor man to the wolves (not pardoning the pun).

Wolves have been inept to say the least since McCarthy departed. They have no shape, no belief, nothing. Since the commendable 2-2 draw against Newcastle they have been hammered by Fulham and the Mancs, beaten comfortably by Blackburn and didn’t have the nerve to get results against Norwich, Bolton or Stoke. To add misery to their already massive mountain of misery, they have the insufferable Roger Johnson as Captain – the same one that sees fit to turn up to training drunk and pick a fight with their ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey who has had some fine games for Wolves.

As it is, I don’t see Wolves causing us much trouble tonight. A draw isn’t much good to them, so they will have to try and come at us some bit. They don’t have the nerve to defend for the 90mins either, so the only ones that can beat us are ourselves. We were fantastic against Man City on Sunday – Sagna, Song and Arteta particularly impressed, as did RvP who was unlucky that Kompany was the one good Man City player to play well on the day. We need to keep this going into tonight’s game and not get complacent. With the Spuds (and Chelsea) having the FA Cup next (and after losing to Norwich), we have a real chance to put some daylight between us in 3rd and everyone else. A good night’s shift should see us grab three points.

Gibbs is out with a groin injury (or groin fatigue as AW likes to put it – draw your own conclusions), and Koscielny is suspended. Santos will come in for Gibbs which is no bad thing – he will torment Wolves down the flank, as will Sagna down the right – and, is it just me, or are Bac’s crosses getting better and better? Wenger has said that Squillaci and Park will come into the squad but probably won’t get their arses off the bench (AW didn’t say the last bit).

Expected starting XI:

We need to win this game so no “resting” of Rosicky or van Persie, they can rest themselves all they want at the Euros. I’d give Yossi another start because he works so hard off the ball, and with Santos going up and down the wing like a mad man, he would provide good cover and has more experience than the Ox or Theo in doing that kind of job. I do expect the Ox to come off the bench with about 20mins to go.

I’m calling a 3-0 win for the good guys.

Before I let ye go debate the game, a shout-out to Tomas Rosicky for winning the Arsenal Player of the Month. He has been immense in recent weeks, this is the guy we signed from Dortmund, the player I’ve been harping on about that is so needed in the Arsenal squad.

Oh, and did you also know that you can do this and its all fine and dandy?

Nice one FA ….

Written by IrishGunner


Cash Is So Last Millennium – Class Is So Permanent: Match Report

April 9, 2012

Written by TotalArsenal

Today, Arsenal had a chance to make a statement of where it stands in the current hierarchy of English football. This was not just a game we needed to win to keep us in contention for a top-four finish – no, this was also a game in which we needed to demonstrate to ourselves again how good we really are. During a transitional year, progress is measured not only by finishing as high as possible – it is just as important to claim the scalps of teams like Pool, the Chavs, and especially, the Oilers. Winning these sorts of games builds confidence, belief and respect: they’ll become part of the DNA of this new, post-Fabregas team.

First half

From the first minute it became clear Arsenal were up for this game. During the first quarter of the game, Arsenal enjoyed 78% possession, leaving Citeh with nothing else to do than chase the ball and set up a fortress around their box. This must have been hard for Citeh, as it’s usually them who keep the ball, and pass it around, better than their opponents. Recently, Arsenal have been a little bit lob-sided towards our right, but we were constantly able to switch our attacking play from side to side in the first half. Although we threatened a lot with our energetic and innovative attacking moves, we did not manage a clear attempt on goal until the 16th minute. RvP made a perfect connection with his head to Arteta’s corner-kick, but his effort hit the back of Vermaelen’s head, whose own run had taken him to just under the Citeh’s crossbar. RvP was just so unlucky not to score.

Soon after that, MC had to withdraw Toure who got injured during a strong challenge by Song. Rather than the tried and tested De Jong, Mancini decided to replace the Ivorian with the relatively (PL) inexperienced David Pizzaro. Undoubtedly, this was a big blow for Citeh, as Toure has been a consistent force in midfield for them in recent months.

Citeh had only one half-chance in this half, and it came from a ball through the middle that almost reached Balotelli. However, Sir Szczesny did fantastically well in anticipating the danger and with a quick and timely run he reached the ball before the Italian hothead.

During the rest of the first half there were no more clear attempts on goal, as Arsenal dropped off a bit and MC were able to regain some possession, albeit without threatening our goal themselves. Balotelli was keen to grab all the attention with another petulant performance, and he should have seen a straight red card for his nasty, studs-up challenge on Song. The referee appeared not to have seen the incident, so the Italian got away with it. Luckily, Alex somehow survived the charge. After that incident, Balotelli fouls our RB, Sagna, twice, and he finally gets a yellow card. He should have had a second one for a handball before the end of the first half, but once again, he got away with it.

Second half

Arsenal started the second half tentatively, with a lower tempo and less hunting down of the opponents compared to the first half. This allowed Citeh to have more possession and create a few chances. After 8 minutes, Citeh create their first proper chance with a decent, weighted ball into the box by – the until then very quiet and timid – Na$ri towards Zabaleta and Aguero who, however, stand in each others way, resulting in a weak effort on target.

In the 63rd minute, Song produces another of his trademark, fine, lofted balls into the box towards the continuously alert RvP. For once, the yet again very impressive Kompany has not anticipated Song’s ball. Robin shows his top-striker instinct by heading the ball straight towards goal, beating Hart in a flash, but the post is in the way. Once again, Robin is unlucky, and I am starting to feel a bit uneasy; thinking this might be another one of those games against Citeh, where we play well but are just not clinically/lucky enough to win it.

My uneasiness grows further when Baloteli tries an overhead kick from a header into the box by Kompany – luckily he fluffs his attempt – and, soon after that, RvP is, agonizingly but correctly, ruled just offside, after yet another fine passage of attacking midfield play by Song, who found RvP in the box with a weighted pass.

The good thing is that Arsenal are all over Citeh again, and that the Oilers are starting to look tired in the second part of the second half. There is only one team who really want to win this game by now.

In the 76th minute it looked like we would finally, FINALLY get our reward. But yet again, it was not to be, as Citeh survived three attempts on goal in the space of a few seconds. Rosicky passes the ball into the box towards Theo who does not hesitate: he does not take a first touch, but strikes on goal with a low and placed shot towards Hart’s right corner. Hart manages to just get a hand on it, diverting it towards the post where the Belgian Rottweiler is ready to pounce. FFS, would you believe it! Inexplicably he slips, AGAIN, and his fluffed effort ends up with Benayoun who, two yards from goal, also cannot manage a clean contact and Citeh, miraculously, escape once more!

After that, I was convinced we would have to settle for a draw, but then, THEN the moment we had all been waiting for, still came. And it could not have fallen to a better, more deserving person: Mikel Arteta! After vacuum cleaning the ball away from Pizarro, Arteta moves forward, and I am sure we all felt that this was the moment. Arsenal’s Engine Room sees a rare opportunity to have a shot on goal. As soon as he lined up, I felt it would go in. Arteta cleverly uses Lescott’s body to block Hart’s view and unleashes a pile-driver from 25 yards towards Hart’s left corner. The England number one has no chance and at last we have our goal. Simply orgasmic: 1-0 to the good guys!

In the last minute of the game, Ramsey had a great chance to make it 2-0 and he should have done better. It sadly looks like my prediction that Aaron will become a victim of ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’ is coming through. He looks to be low in self-confidence and is starting to believe his critics. Arsene has got some work to do with Aaron over the next few weeks to get his pecker up again.

At the end of the game, Balotelli made sure he got some more attention by making another reckless challenge on Sagna, resulting in a second yellow card, and a sending off.

Conclusion

But, today’s game is not about Balotelli and how he let his team down. It is about a very mature and professional Arsenal TEAM beating a ‘collection of highly overpaid individuals’, supposedly fighting for the title, at a pivotal moment. And in a way, I am happy Balotelli only got send off at the end, as it would have been hard to argue now that an earlier dismissal had not weakened Citeh and therefore did not have a crucial impact on the result.

Instead, we beat them fair and square, 11 against 11, when they HAD to win to stay in contention for the title. There was a lot at stake on Sunday: this game was about putting the Oilers in their place, to show that class is indeed permanent – that it cannot be bought so easily. Beating Citeh is a scalp we badly needed, and it has taken away any remaining doubt that this new Arsenal team has become a force again – one that will be fighting at full strength for the top prizes next season.

Player ratings:

Szczesny: fine, confident performance, remained focussed throughout the game: 8.

Sagna: super warrior as always, worked incredibly hard and did not let himself get provoked by Balotelli once. Supported our front men time and again, and he is a total team player: 8.5.

Vermaelen and Koz: very powerful, energetic performances, bossing their area with ease and composure, great support to our midfield as well. 8.

Gibbs: fine performance, unfortunately had to go off early. 7.5.

Song & Arteta: what a duo today. They are working together better and better and totally bossed the midfield, even before Toure went off. Song has so much to offer: is there a more all-round midfielder in the PL at the moment? Arteta had a great game as well and also showed what a complete midfielder he is for us, and of course he scored the all important goal. For me, they are both Man of the Match today (with Sagna not far away). 9.5.

Rosicky: worked hard and always wants to attack quickly and incisively but does still miss accuracy at times. He did a lot of chasing down opponents and is also a total team player: 8.

Benayoun: a good team performance, he also did a lot of chasing down opponents and supported Gibbs well. 7.5.

Theo: was not given any space by Citeh, as they were well aware of his danger and provided plenty of protection for their LB. He still worked hard to be a constant threat as he stuck to his role well, and he put in a fine team performance too: 8.

Robin van Persie: worked his socks off, always making clever runs and making himself available. Very unlucky not to be on the score sheet today, despite having to combat with one of the finest CB’s in Europe: Kompany. 8.5.

TotalArsenal


Arsenal: back to earth with a jolt.

April 1, 2012

Few people have wanted to write about our losses this season – there have been too many sadly – and yesterday was no exception. Watching the game on a good stream it was difficult to draw any positives from a lacklustre performance that was more reminiscent of the dark days in January than the recent exciting football we have witnessed.

There were a few shocks. The team selection was strange for a start. It seems that Arsene hasn’t noticed that the team is unbalanced when he starts with Song, Arteta, Rosicky and Ramsey, who out of that four is supposed to run the left wing? Yesterday it was pretty clear that none of them were going to be, which meant that we only had an attacking outlet with Theo on the right.

Why does Ramsey have to start? Why can’t Gervihno or Oxlade-Chamberlain play for 60 minutes and then bring on Ramsey? If Ramsey starts then surely one of Arteta or Rosicky has to be dropped and Ramsey play in their role but Arteta and Rosicky are pretty undroppable at the moment so what’s the answer? Clearly Arsene needs more time to decide but we struggled against Everton away precisely because the aforementioned four started and yesterday the same problem occurred.

Wenger’s post match pretty much laid the blame at the players feet

It is very frustrating because they left us the ball and waited for our mistakes. We took the ball, did not do a lot with it and made the mistakes. At the end of the day that made the result.

Our performance was not good enough to win this kind of game, especially in the duels. They had a little bit of extra special commitment that took advantage of us in some specific positions defensively. Overall we can only congratulate QPR for their attitude and be unhappy with our own performance.

Playing teams that are fighting to stay in the Premier League are always going to be extra difficult to play against but it looked liked one of our senior players had decided to take control of the game all by himself. What was up with Vermaelen? He deserted Koscielny early on in the first half, was culpable for QPR taking the lead and seemed to not want to be a centre-back. In addition Song was finding it difficult to make his Fabregas-like passes find an Arsenal player. I don’t have a problem with Song or indeed any Arsenal player looking to play an eye of the needle pass except when a simpler pass would have done the trick and yesterday there were a few occasions when just passing the ball would have worked better.

Anyway, moaning apart, we started well, but after 5 minutes of not scoring we allowed QPR to get into the game and they went ahead in the 22nd minute. In the 37th minute Robin was fouled just outside the box but the ref allowed the play to continue and luckily Theo was alert and managed a shot that hit the post and rebounded into his path for him to slot home. I always like it when we come from behind but could we push on and actually craft out a win?

We started the second half brightly but were hampered by not really being able to find the right ball for Robin who seemed to be limping. At around the hour mark Robin hit a great free-kick that was pushed away by Kenny and in the next minute Robin is through again but Paddy Kenny makes a great save. The pressure had been building and it did look like we would score but in the 66th minute Mackie skips past Vermaelen and squares a ball to Diakite to score. 2-1.

There was a change in the 69th minute with Gervihno coming on for Ramsey but QPR were happy to dig in and make it even harder for us to play through them. When that change didn’t achieve anything Chamakh and The Ox were brought on for Gibbs and Arteta in the 82nd minute. I’d like to see changes made earlier when we’re chasing a goal, I can’t see how either Chamakh or The Ox really had time to change the game.

And so it came to pass that we lost our 9th game of the season. We didn’t play very well, we certainly didn’t create enough and probably didn’t deserve to get anything from the game. Was it complacency that led to this, certainly I didn’t think that we would falter in west London. We are still in third though and hopefully will see the weekend out there. The chavs won, the oily chavs dropped points and the scum play today. Seven games to go and still I think there’ll be  some twists and turns on the road to staying in the top four.

I’m optimistic that we’ll return to winning ways next Sunday against the oily ones.

Written by peachesgooner

And the following was written by LB

Yet another one of those infuriating games in which on paper we start as favourites but as the reality of the game dawns we are left with the very same paper embarrassingly crumpled in our hands.

Damn that was frustrating, made even worse by the fact that I have at least ten good friends who support that team, I am going to have to suffer smug knowing looks every time I see one of them. And believe me they have memories like elephants I still find myself from time to time in ear shot of them telling that silly story of oh I was there when John Jenson scored and Impey and blah, blah, blah they won three one if you didn’t know; still, at least they will have a new story to bang on about.

What? You want me to talk about the game? Are you sure? Well, we were crap but some players played more crap than others and I am not going to do the polite thing and just say oh well that was just a bad day at the office and we should all move on and focus our attention on the next game. That my friends makes for a very, very boring blog. Match reports are supposed to be about the opinion of the author, it has to be surely because if it was just about describing the game we could all just go and read far more articulate reports from the likes of Henry Winter.

Ok the game; there were two clear managerial strategies in play: QPR’s was to sit back and wait for us to make mistakes and ours was to play a close, tight, quick passing game in the hope of finding a way round them. The result says all we need to know as to whose strategy turned out to be the most effective.

For long periods we moved the ball around the half way line with all the penetrative thrust of a two month old banana. QPR just waited until we made mistakes and picked us off. And that is the fixture and the match report consigned to the dustbin after one sentence.

Szczesny: starting to believe his own hype, he is taking more and more risks and because of that he will not go the whole season without one major embarrassment. Should have held onto the ball and calmed play down just before QPR’s winning goal. 5

Sagna: a shinning light in a sea of mediocrity. 7

Koscielny: just when I was sitting back smugly thinking, well TA do you still prefer Mertasacker’s slow, giraffe-like style to the lightning mobility of the Frole and the Belgiun, Kozzer goes and puts in a scatter brained performance like that. 6

Vermaelen: Tom you were all over the place mate. 4

Gibbs: time for a change, I expect Santos to start in the next game, we needed attacking nous today and Gibbs left us wanting. 5

Song: you can’t blame him for the lack of chances created, well I can’t anyway. I wish he would be a bit greedier and have a shot when he gets the chance. 6

Arteta: The Spaniard gets my MOTM if one has to be awarded; he at least looked as though it really mattered to him. 7.5

Rosicky: went back to his ineffectual dreadful self, missed placed passes, running into dead ends, poor tackles. 4

Walcott: now you would think that I of all people would save the bulk of my wrath for Theo but even though there was very little space to operate in and his control still leaves a lot to be desired he was not bad, the goal obviously helped but all in all I liked Theo’s attitude. 7.25

Van Persie: service, what service? Isolated for most of the game, not at his majestical best when he got the ball it must be said. 6

Ramsey: we have a problem here, young Aaron is too good to be left on the bench and not good enough to be playing. Wenger knows he would never accept being on the bench for any length of time, he would be off, so the Welshman is shoe-horned into the left wing which as we all saw was no good for him and no good for the team. Yes, I know he is young and yes I know he will improve but this comment is about his performance against QPR. 4.5

I have gone from not caring one way or the other as to whether QPR go down to yelling: open the trap door now and let the bunch of banned words drop.

Written by LB (Not a happy bunny).


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


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.


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