Hull Tigers Tamed?

December 4, 2013

Who would have thought that Hull Tigers would be in 10th place and in the top half of the table? Justifiably so – any team who can hammer Liverpool (even sans Sturridge) deserve plaudits. – but it should be remembered that prior to this they had lost to relegation fodder Crystal Palace and Spurs.

I had the misfortune to watch the first half of the Spurs game and it is a testament to the human spirit that people didn’t die of boredom.

Of course Hull have an ex-Spurs midfield pairing of Fattlestone and LillyLivermore. Despite being shipped out of Spurs as even more useless than the lemons whom they signed so expensively, they are doing well and Fats and Lilly are only 4 points behind their ex-employers!   Luckily for Bruce’s team they have a decent player in Elmohamady alongside them but I think for the first time in a couple of months we are going to see a large bus parked in the Hull half of the pitch. Expect Hull to play long ball up to Sagbo and then hope to score from set plays.

Bruce chose to play with 3 at the back against the Scousers and it proved to be effective but there is no chance he will do so tonight, especially if Walcott starts.

Unknown

Tom Fattlestone. Pre-Season Training

I am no Hull expert though I have had the honour of visiting the town which rightly has been chosen to be UK City of Culture in 2017.  Anyone who has driven over the suspension bridge and into the green and vibrant city will surely agree.

Stats: Hull have lost 5 out of their last 6 away games, and have won only one of their last 30 games on the road. Arsenal have been winning at both half time and full time in their last 5 home games. Before I get too confident it should be recalled that Hull beat us at The Emirates just a few years back (2008 – tempos fugit!). A repeat would be painful.

Arsenal:  Mr Wenger has already spoken of rotation so who gets rested? Looking at who has played most minutes this season (including internationals) it has to be Ozil, Ramsey, BFG and Giroud. Sagna is out with a hamstring tweak. Do we dare go into an important game with Bendtner and Walcott upfront? Can we drop over half the midfield? I don’t think so …. 3 points against Hull is just as valuable as 3 against Chelsea.

My Team:

a v h

I am averaging 9/11 so far this season but am very hesitant about the above team. The balance of Cazorla and Rosicky may be a bit lightweight and I would love to rest Giroud but think he has to continue until Walcott has game time and Podolski is fit. I hope to see Gnabry get some minutes tonight – it will be the first time I will see him in the flesh because …..

BR is going to the game and will be indulging in pre-game dinner and drinks. See you there.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


The Departed

October 31, 2013

On Tuesday there was an almost empty stadium at the 80th minute – apart from a few diehards and 9,000 jubilant mutants. We started to discuss this yesterday and with little time to prepare a needed post, here are my thoughts …..

If this just happened at Arsenal I would be more concerned. Sadly, it happens at many London grounds.

Unknown

I thought Arshavin’s comment of “The atmosphere at the Emirates were mostly weird. It felt like the crowd was there to see the theatre.” was appropriate,  but he hasn’t had to sit in the stands of a ground in which one feels divorced from the game. (it also shows how poor his English is after 5 years of living in London!)

I usually sit front row, Clock End Upper Tier. You would think this is right in the middle of both the singing and the action on the pitch, but as Andre says for most of the game it feels like the theatre – no, not theatre, because a theatre audience doesn’t spend its time talking about work and texting.

How can the club change the potential toxicity of the fans? It can’t. To me this is a social problem and nothing to do with the Arsenal. It is another facet of the Me Generation – ” I have spent all this money and travelled all this way, and used my leisure time (etc) and you (Bendtner, Ramsey, Eboue, Arsene, the team +++) are not giving Me what I want and what I spent my hard earned cash on”

“I have paid my money and therefore have the right to boo a player.” No arguing with this sentiment BUT, if and it is a big IF, you are an Arsenal supporter then it is fair to assume you want the Arsenal to do well, so how does booing help the team? What would you do in front of 60+k people who you knew were examining your every move. hoping you will fail so it confirms their narrative that you are rubbish? To say that you would ignore it is naive – you wouldn’t. You may re-double your efforts and improve for sometime but then you will make a mistake and all that good work is forgotten, after which you would do everything you could to avoid the ball.

A perfect case in point is Gervinho. Talented lad who is tearing up Serie 1 and has instantly proved what approval and love can do to a player. It is hardly rocket science, and is the reason why Mr Wenger tries to protect some players by playing them away from home – how terrible a reflection is that upon our support?

A reflection of this negativity is that blogs (ours included) get far more hits when the club are in trouble than when we are Top of the League (can I write that again …. We are Top of the League).

Tourists: To castigate fans who travel the world to come to The Home of Football is downright insulting. It isn’t them who leave early. Yes, they take pictures of the inside and outside of the ground because to them it is special – very special and attending the Emirates is one of the highlights of their lives. And they know almost all the songs – check out Youtube.

images

To be even-handed Mr. Wenger has stated that it is up to the players to ignite and engage the crowd and he is right but we seem to be a damp squib unless we are beating high class opposition. We played some great football in the loss to Chelsea, football that the Chavs could never achieve, brilliant close passing and link up play and the team never stopped trying to win the game – they just did it to an empty-ish stadium for the final few minutes.

A potential solution is to have random (not pre-booked) seating behind the goals, something I highly approve of. The fact I cannot sit with my AA friends when attending a game is a sadness and groups of friends are more likely to sing together. Another solution is to have trained singing leaders. It works in may foreign clubs who have one chap who starts the songs – unfortunately he is usually a fat, bald bloke covered in tattoos with his shirt off! But it would be something to try as most people who would like to sing are afraid of starting a chant for fear of looking stupid when no-one joins in (I know – I have tried it!)

If the stadium was full of singing fans enjoying themselves despite the team losing there would be less desire to leave early. I assume that once there is a flow of people leaving then it spreads like winter flu and everyone gets antsy. Rasp’s idea of not standing up to let people pass until the final whistle is a fine one but I fear he will get sorely kicked legs!

We all know the arguments as to why some people leave early, especially at night games, but if you are one of those folk, please tell me how it helps the team you say you love?

N:B: This is purely a discussion starter and as full of holes as my very expensive moth-eaten cashmere sweater (I bloody hate moths).

written by Big Raddy


What can Arsenal Realisticaly Hope to Win This Season?

August 14, 2013

We are about to enter the new footballing season. For a soccer supporter it is almost like a New Year of the Gregorian calendar, but better. All the hopes, dreams and the impossible will happen THIS season. Our team, whatever it might be except for Spurs, will reach the highest honours and we will scoop all the trophies. We can already picture ourselves attending celebrations, bus parades, the CL final in Lisbon. We must plan our holidays carefully so we don’t end up missing any of the important games! We have all heard about the idiot that handed over planning of his wedding to his fiancee and ended up missing the final in Paris!! What a div!!

So what are you hoping for this coming season? It would be nice to win a quadruple, obviously, but it is not going to happen, So let us be grown up about it and see what we can realistically hope for.

EPL – can we be the League winners again? I cannot see why not. We will be competing against Manchesters, Chavs, Pool and Spurs. All of these teams are good, with some excellent squad members, but none of them without problems. Both Mancunian teams have new managers, who are likely to introduce changes that will require time to take effect. Same with the Chavs – can Maurinho pull it off again, or has he finally calmed down after the scorching attack from Real Madrid’s representatives. Pool and Rogers are going to struggle without or with demoralized Suarez. Spurs I am not even going to entertain, they will never win the league.

CL – your guess is as good as mine. We have seen the greatest teams in Europe winning the trophy and the likes of Chelsea keeping it for at least 1 season too long. This competition is all about luck, which teams and at what stage of the season we are going to draw. Of course we can win it,but we could also be knocked out by Fenerbache this very month. Would this be a tragedy? I think not. It could be a good thing for the team – less competitions, more time to concentrate on the domestic league. We would suffer abuse for a few weeks from those supporting lesser teams, but hey,we are big enough to handle it. Please don’t get me wrong – it is the last thing I want to happen and I sincerely hope that we will go to Lisbon in May and come back triumphant.Yes, for me it would be the biggest achievement for the Club ever and the one I personally want most.

There are 2 more trophies to be won, ie the FA cup and the Capital One cup. Both of these competitions are the ‘easiest’ in my opinion because of the fewer fixtures, including playing lesser teams that we should beat. Yes, I do remember Bradford City and Birmingham, but that’s in the past and we are concentrating on the future here. Luck and referees play big parts in these competition, but a strong resilient Arsenal squad should/could win both. Frankly, if it was just the Capital One cup for takings, I’d rather we didn’t win it. It would give scope to those who love to belittle our club, so why encourage them. Let’s give the ‘Carling cup’ a miss.

I would like to invite you to vote in 2 polls

1. What is a minimum achievement this season that you are hoping for? – you can vote for up to 3 options

2. What do you realistically think we are going to win?  - you can vote for up to 3 options

And before you ask – yes, 4th spot is an achievement and if you are in doubt ask Tottenham how they feel about it.

This is not a secret ballot and you are encouraged to make your views known

And finally I would like to wish you all a Happy New Season!!

Written by evonne


Eyes down for a full house ?

May 18, 2013

One of the oft repeated remarks you hear from people following live coverage of our games is “Oooh, aren’t there lots of spaces in the crowd?” and “Aren’t the crowds falling?” and “What bollix, no way is the attendance 60,012!” (OK, scratch the last one, they don’t announce those figures on match days anymore).

So just how much below capacity are our home matches lately?

Below are a series of pictures taken from the Clock End upper tier for the Reading game on March the 30th this year.

The first is taken at 2.54pm so more than 5 minutes before kick-off and before the late arrivals who are caught in traffic/tube chaos or swigging a late pre match soother or nursing a road beer have got to their seats.

6 minutes before kick off

6 minutes before kick off

The second is taken at 2.59pm, just before kick-off, when one would think late drinkers have arrived but Club level are still quaffing the champers and scoffing the smoked salmon:

2.59pm, just before kick off

2.59pm, just before kick off

The third is at 3.17pm when everyone who intends to attend has arrived and before those hoping to beat the queues for £7.50 slices of microwave pizza have annoyed other people on their row by getting up just as the good guys are about to sling a cross into the oppo’s penalty area. Club level to me still seems only two thirds full – perhaps a warning sign that corporate hospitality is not as steady an income stream as anticipated.

Mid way through the first half.

Mid way through the first half.

Finally the fourth picture is just before the re start at 4.00pm where it can be seen Club level are still in the quaffing/scoffing stage and the queues for the Gents still snake into the concourse areas in front of the queues for the aforementioned extortionately priced fast food.

A few minutes before the restart

A few minutes before the restart

Incidentally when the stadium announcer reads out the results of some raffle type competition during the interval once the winner was number 18, at which point yours truly thought Squillacci was a half time sub and almost had an apoplectic fit of panic.

As well as attendances another complaint is early departees, especially during weekday evening fixtures with around up to a quarter of the stadium emptying by the final whistle; however that’s a topic for another day.

At the time of writing Champions League football had not been confirmed and the spectre of Thursday night football hanging over Ashburton Grove, and the attendant consequence of this being Sunday League fixtures replacing the traditional Saturday afternoon ones.

Just how this will affect overall attendances we will hopefully not have to find out, yet the thought of it sends a shiver up and down the spine of gooners and the money men at the Arsenal alike.

Those of the doomer/realist/AWOB persuasion may subscribe to the theory that a year out of Champions League football will get rid of the plastics and return the hard-core supporters to the fore.

While this seems a tad fanciful to me I’ll leave you with the most ludicrous thing I read about in relation to just such a scenario: “If we’re 5th we can get rid of the poncey tourist support and move back to Highbury”!

Move back to Highbury – you what?

By Charybdis1966


When Saturday Comes…..

November 30, 2012

On Saturday I am going to be making the (roughly) 7 hour round trip to the Emirates Stadium from West Yorkshire in order to watch a group of 20-30 something men kick an inflatable piece of leather in between some sticks!

Madness, some might say, but for me this is the completion of a childhood dream.

The first time i watched Arsenal on the TV was during the 1993/4 European Cup Winners Cup winning run, and I knew they were the team for me. That’s right people, I was a glory supporter! But seriously, with future club legends such as John Jensen, David Hillier and Eddie McGoldrick wearing the red and white, what wasn’t to love!?

From that day forward, even through all the grief suffered at the hands of adolescent Leeds supporters (you know the thugs that you see in the news now, imagine them as kids!), it has been my dream to watch Arsenal in the flesh, and on Saturday 1st December, at 3pm, my dream will finally come true. For that one afternoon I will forget about all the clubs current ‘issues’ and this group of finally tuned athletes will be forever etched in my memory the same way that the team of Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Bould, Davis, Morrow, Merson, Selley, Smith and Campbell are.

My question to you this morning, and for some of you oldies this may be a tad difficult, but can you remember when you first fell in love with the Gooners, and what was it that set them apart for you?

And on a side note, is there anything that I MUST experience on my first trip to the Emirates (apart from a win, of course!)?

Written by slimgingergooner


Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners ……..

November 17, 2012

Let’s start the day with a bit of word association. What is the first word which comes to your mind when you read the following….?

Highbury

Tony Adams

Arsenal

Thierry Henry

Tottenham

Gareth Bale

My guess is that the last two was less than complimentary! And that is all we need to know about the importance of today’s game.

I have been steeped in an irrational dislike of all everything associated with N.17 since childhood; the dreadful smell, the slime trails on the pavement, the hairy backed inhabitants, the guttural grunting noises and, above all else, the shower of excrement which purports to play football at SHL.

Most of my life the cave dwellers have been in our shadow. This is no accident., it is natural way of the world; anything else would be an aberration. There have been rare occasions when the fates have turned against us and the Miscreants somehow found themselves above us in the table but these were due to crass bad management of the resources at Highbury – nothing else.

My keyboard is set not to write this word but it must be over-ridden for the sake of this post – Spurs. OK it’s done. Spurs have spent a squillion over the years trying to finish above us in the table. During that time we have a new stadium – they play in a little shed; we have won Doubles, PL titles, Cups, they have won  doodlysquat.

Spurs have gambled on a manager who had a wonderful record before coming to England but is now struggling. One can only assume AVB had no knowledge of the rotten core in N.17  because he sure didn’t need the aggravation of having deluded fans telling him he is shite. I have sullied myself by going to THFC website’s, (needless to say the spelling and grammar is appalling) and the gist is this :- “AVB is an idiot because he plays Defoe instead of Adebayor,” the next day, “AVB is an idiot because he plays Adbeayor and NOT Defoe” ….. same blog! Spurs fans do not like AVB, they liked Harry, who was a crook and stupid (even if he is a dog-lover) – he fitted the club like a silk glove. AVB with his suits and his tactics and his intelligence does not.

We know their players … Cumberstone, MonkeyBoy, Ade, Lemon, WG, Conker etc etc. Dull, dull, dull. We know what to expect – a hard fought midfield battle with plenty of running and long balls to Lemon who cuts inside or crosses. They will not allow us the space we got last season. Should they lose today Spurs will continue their fine run of losses and prove their fans right – Let it be so.

Arsenal: What links Rosicky, Szeczesy, RvP, Gibbs, Song and  Benayoun? That’s right, they all started this fixture last year. So, we have over half the team replaced in a year. How can we achieve consistency with this type of turnover? Plus we have major injury concerns following the Interlull. After finding his form Giroud is struggling for fitness, as is Walcott, Sagna, and Ox. Gibbs is out which is bad news considering the speed of MB and Lemon.

My Team:

Let us assume Arteta, OG and TW are not fit, we could play

I really hope Arshavin gets some pitch time, he can be our super-sub.

Today’s Explorer. James Cook (1728-1779). Without doubt the world’s most famous beardless explorer and an absolutely top bloke. His list of achievements will never be surpassed. Just imagine it, you are on a little boat just 100 foot long with 93 others. That’s right, almost 100 men on a 100 foot boat. And then you go away through uncharted seas for years at a time, Cook not only did this but chose to do so many times. He led an expedition to map Newfoundland, then took the Endeavour to “discover” New Zealand and Australia (and Bora Bora) . The list of places he surveyed for the first time is too long to write here, but take it from a man who passed  Geography A Level (B grade) that it is impressive. Unfortunately Cook died in Hawaii at the hands of a rowdy group of inbreeds from the Paxton Rd End.

4-3-3  or  4-4-2  or  3-5-2?

This is a massive game for both teams who for different reasons are struggling (AFC because we are out of form and crippled by injuries, Spurs because they are rubbish). We need to win, we don’t need to score 5, though it would be nice, we just need to show this team has the potential to progress.

Lose and it will be Mugabe Lock Down for all Gooners.

Written by Big Raddy


Box to Box Supporters

October 14, 2012

In the wake of some Club Financials, I am going to assume that future commercial deals are in good hands. That leaves the biggest threat to our business being the renewal/take-up of Corporate Boxes, and the massive contribution to match day income (someone can correct me, but I believe it represents something around 30% of match day revenue). I have noticed some spaces up there, and this is worrying. What’s to be done?

Well, let’s begin by studying these creatures.

I have only been in a box once. While very generous of my host, and I did have a great evening sitting with real die hard Arsenalistas in our compartment, I have to say that the boxes surrounding us were filled with decidedly uninterested looking sorts. Their mobile telephones were very busy and I could only think that it was an okay evening out. Nothing more.

Firstly, I must point out that I have nothing against Corporations or Big Business, although sitting amongst them does not rock my boat. However, we at The Arsenal do need to show them a good time, and I’m not convinced we are doing a very good job. I think the most fundamental error is in assuming these people are here primarily for the football. I don’t think so. It’s to impress someone, meet someone, tick a box, its free, and ok some like a game but probably follow some other team, while overall I would imagine only a tiny percentage are serious Arsenal Fans.

In the name of research, I have just visited The Arsenal site and unearthed this picture. Let’s be honest, if we were comparing to hotels, then these boxes are at the Travelodge end of the market. I also downloaded these prices for the next home game.

Executive Box Package
10 Seater @ £4,500 + vat
12 Seater @ £5,400 + vat
15 Seater @ £6,750 + vat

Right, so £450 a pop including lunch and nibbles. Just had a look around options on the same day, and you can get best tickets to see someone called Cheryl for £100, or Swan Lake at The Royal Opera House for the same price. Alright, so no chicken legs included and no welcoming glass of fizz, but still.

Look, 90% of Corporate are male, and we know what generally constitutes a good night out. Think Stag Party, belching, farting, and throwing up. I know what I would do…ban women, improve the waitresses, cut the quality of the booze and vastly increase the quatity, and turn a blind eye to smoking and inhaling. Re-instate the 3rd floor as THE place to be for rich, fertile and highly obnoxious City high flyers, and turn this tier into a sea of vice.

I do understand that you may have other suggestions.

Written by MickyDidIt89


Gunners – Reasons to be cheerful are 3

June 5, 2012

The summer of unrest has descended upon us, bringing in the usual speculations subdued by delays in transfer activities, caused by the Euros and worsened by terribly bad weather. There are not many things worse than getting up on a Saturday morning and realizing that there is no footy and it is raining outside. I check the list of football fixtures regularly, in case I slept for 3 months and missed the beginning of the season. Sadly, I am just deluding myself.

But I’d be damned if I am going to be miserable all day as I remind myself that it was the biggest achievement of the 20th century to discover that we can change the way we feel. I therefore will highlight a few reasons to be cheerful and one to be miserable, the choice is yours.

Reasons to be cheerful are three –

1. We have the best stadium and best training facilities in the country.

Emirates Stadium is the most technologically advanced football stadium in Europe, incorporating state-of-the-art facilities with stunning features from Arsenal’s Highbury past. Since its opening it has won several prestigous awards and it is widely acclaimed the most modern stadium in Europe.

‘The magnificent Emirates Stadium has become a landmark piece of modern architecture dominating the north London skyline. One of the most technologically advanced arenas in world football, Emirates Stadium provides a stage befitting for Arsenal’s ambition to remain one of the world’s greatest clubs.’

I can hear voices complaining that the building of the new stadium ruined our chances of trophies and will cripple us forever. That is not the case. Highbury could not be extended further due to environmental factors (including residents protests), the fact that parts of Highbury were Grade II listed objects and because of the safety directives at footballing grounds resulting from the investigations of the Hillsborough disaster.

To compete at the highest level, the Club had to build a new stadium. Did you know that monies received from premium seating and corporate boxes is nearly as high as the revenue from the entire stadium at Highbury?

Ashburton Grove is ours and that my fellow Gunners nobody can take away from us.

2.  We have the best manager in EPL.

Arsène Wenger epitomises everything that is The Arsenal – class, culture, discipline and hard work. I have no doubt that many will laugh at me for saying that, simply because the team has not won in anything for 7 years. Does ‘not winning’ make him a bad manager? I think not. There are factors out of his control, including luck, poor referring, oil freely flowing from the soil in wrong countries and the unwanted transfer requests of players who want more money.

Wenger has never embarrassed the Club. There were some unfounded rumours about his personal life and a few refusals to shake hands with some dubious characters, but other than that he has been a gentleman through and through. I cannot even begin to imagine Fergie being in charge of the beloved Club. The arrogant, bullish, unpleasant little Scott throwing boots at players, with the hairdryer treatments, and embarrassing his employer by the horse racing dubious dealings. His notorious mind-games and manipulations are unpalatable.

Some of you could comfortably cope with SAF’s shortcomings in return for a few more trophies. Not me.

And who is to say that any other manager would win trophies within Arsenal’s financial constraints? Will any other manager stay and try to do his very best to achieve The Clubs ambitions?

We are often reminded that he failed to sign Ronaldo, Torrez, Mata and many others. No manager can sign all of the players, there are limits. Nasri and Hazard snuffed ManU for City and Chelsea respectively, it happens to other clubs too. Those that Wenger has signed over the years have not been bad, have they? Every manager makes poor signings, look at SAF’s Bebe, Veron and Anderson.

3.  We play the most tantalizing football in EPL.

Again, I have to refer to sir Alex Ferguson and for that I apologise to GM and Chary. However, he is held by many as the best manager in EPL, to which theory I do not subscribe. He has recently issued a message to the season ticket holders (are the numbers falling down already?) stating that ‘There is no club in the world who can create the drama that we created last year’. On your bike Fergie, if you want drama, you come to the Emirates.

I attended a horse racing meeting a few years ago. Bob Wilson was there as a guest of honour; he delivered a short speech promoting his charity Willow. When he was asked about Arsenal’s chances of winning CL that season, he replied ‘We never do things the easy way’. Tell me Mr Wilson!

Nobody would disagree that we play exciting and interesting football. The technical abilities of players are superior to most competitors. And although concentration and motivation can be an issue at times, there is no other team as watchable as Arsenal.

Take away half a billion of pounds from City and 11 penalties from United, and then let’s compare who’s more successful.

4  Ok, I was to write only 3 reasons to be cheerful, but there are so many more!

The new season with all its excitement, joy and pain is about 9 weeks away. New fixtures, the prospect of watching Podolski, Jack will be back, we might even have a new captain! Only joking, Robin is going to stay put.

We, the fans have a role to play as our belief is passed on to the team, so let’s give our best. The trophies will come, they will be ours, do not worry about that. But for crying out loud, do not spoil the fun of being the part of the greatest Club in the world and when the first whistle goes in August and the aura lifts, embrace the feeling that something special may happen. Oh boy, bring it on!!

Written by evonne


What does ARSENAL stand for?

March 27, 2012

The art of Arsetrology

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

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

A is for Arteta

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

R is for Robin van Persie – who else?

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

S is for Simple

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

E is for the Emirates Stadium

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

N is for No Surrender

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

A is for Arsène Wenger

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

L is for Lady Luck

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

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

Written by Rasp


Arsenal 3 – 0 Milan Report: The Ox and TR7 pair-up to rejuvenate our midfield

March 7, 2012

Written by TotalArsenal

4-0 down from the first leg in the San Siro, and only two midfielders to choose from by Wenger: the task of reaching the next round in this year’s CL competition could not have been harder. On the other hand, because the first leg result left us in an almost impossible position to go through, the players could go out on the pitch and play free and attacking football, as per the DNA of the Wengerball-era.

First Half
And boy, did they enjoy themselves in the first half! With Song as the only DM in midfield this time, we played Rosicky and The Ox in the more advanced midfield positions, and we pushed hard from the wings as well – especially our right wing, where Sagna and Walcott formed a constant threat, with which Milan’s LB, Mesbah, and his nearest CB, Thiago Silva, really struggled in the first half. Arsenal’s defence played a high line which was necessary so Song would not get swamped in midfield, as he had the enormous responsibility of controlling the midfield last night. We basically played the Barcelona-way in the first half, only better (lol)! The combination of The Ox and TR7 gave us a fresh and dynamic style of play, and the Italians had simply no answer to their energy and attacking ingenuity.

We played a high tempo from the start and never allowed Milan to settle. Milan did manage to get out of our grasp now and again, but it mostly led to quick passes to Ibrahimovic, who managed to be in an offsite position almost every time.

Incredibly, we scored three goals in the first half, reducing the two-leg deficit to just one goal.

The first one was from a corner that was whipped in with real venom and a strong curve by the excellent Ox. Koz, super Koz, was too quick for Van Bommel, who started the game sluggishly for Milan, and he manoeuvred himself in a free position to convert a relatively easy chance. The Milan goalkeeper, Abbiati, had no chance: 1-0.

The second one was a result of bad defending by Thiago Silva, who intercepted a misguided pass into the box by Walcott, only to clear it straight to Rosicky. The latter had time to control the ball with his first touch, after which he placed a shot into the corner of Abbiati’s left corner, whilst cleverly hiding his intensions by using the defender’s body in front of him that was shielding the view of the keeper: 2-0, 26 minutes played, and game truly on!

The third one came from the penalty spot. A few minutes before half time, the Ox took on Mesbah and whilst moving himself decisively into the penalty-area, he got squeezed between the latter and fellow defender Nocerinio, and he was clearly fouled: penalty! RvP steps up and scores with a text-book, absolutely unstoppable, penalty: 3-0.

Just before half time, Milan created an excellent chance to make it 3-1, which would have meant Arsenal needing at least 3 more goals to go through. El Sharaawy fluffs his effort, however, probably frightened by the menacing tentacles of the forward pouncing Polish octopus. Szczesny’s presence and ability to intimidate in the box is simply a joy to watch.

Second Half
The second half was of a totally different order compared to the first one. The pressure and nerves were back on, as we now had a very decent chance to go through to the next round.

We started well again, albeit with a bit less intensity, and cohesion in the midfield. Milan started to battle more effectively in midfield, and Ibrahimovic had decided to start putting in a shift for his team at last. But what really made the difference was the apparent hamstring injury to the Ox. It took a while before Wenger finally decided to take him off, and the possible reason for this is that the most like-for-like replacement, Ozyakop, was too nervous to come on (some on AA have suggested that he threw up whilst being on the bench?!). With the Ox no longer able to support Song and Rosicky, and both quickly tiring as well, leading to more and more misplaced passes and often unnecessary fouls, we slowly but surely lost the battle in midfield, which allowed the Rossoneri to play out the game without conceding any further goals.

Just before the hour mark, however, Arsenal was still able to create a golden opportunity to score the all important fourth goal that would have levelled the tie, but it was not to be. Gervinho, who had been worryingly ineffective throughout most of the game, saw his deflected shot from inside the box saved by the keeper, only for the latter to push the ball right in front of our Boy Wonder. Robin’s attempted delicate chip over the keeper is well-anticipated by Abbiati, and he is able to save at a very important stage of the game.

With the Ox out and Rosicky knackered, and nobody on the bench to help us regain the midfield, we left an enormous gap between defence and attack for the last 30 minutes of the game. As a result, we were no longer able to create decent chances, and we had to helplessly witness Milan’s late escape from our previously established deadly grip. What a shame!

To be fair, Milan produced the best chances in the latter part second half, but a combination of woeful finishing on their part and a very impressive defensive display by our back-five, ensured that we were able to keep a clean sheet till the end.

Conclusions
We played without fear and with real verve, especially in the first half. And in a transitional year like this, it is immensely important that Arsenal was able to erase the memory of the 4-0 drumming by the Rossoneri three weeks ago, by winning with a convincing display and a big margin last night.

Games like these build belief and character, and this ‘new’ team – as in a rapidly developing/gelling group of players – became a lot closer and stronger on this fantastic night of football at THOF.

We will never know for sure whether we would have won this game, with the required bigger margin to go through to the next round, if the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Diaby and Arteta would have been fit and available last night. In my view, just two of those on the bench would have been enough for Arsenal to be able to enter a plan-B in the second half, and go through to the next round. We really only had a Plan-A for this game due to the many injuries of our midfielders, and in the end it was just not enough to complete the miracle.

The boys have done us proud with a passionate and high-quality performance, and last night they showed us all that we continue to belong in the Champions League. The squad will develop further in the next few months, and hopefully we will be a bit less unlucky with regards to long-term injuries to key players, and in key positions next year. On top of that, we can add one or two players in the summer, and then we should be able to push all the way, in the PL and CL, from next season onwards.

I would like to finish with a few special mentions:

For the boys who came through the youth ranks, Szczesny and Gibbs: they were absolutely amazing and how good is it to see that our own talents are making it at the highest level;

For the partnership between TV and Koz that performed so well last night (a little bit against my expectations);

For that performance by Sagna last night: what a warrior, a legend in the making;

For the rejuvenated Rosicky, who played an absolute blinder last night; (especially the first hour or so);

For the battling Alex Song, who completed a very difficult task of holding a midfield almost continuously on his own;

And for the incredible, truly wonderful performance by the Ox, who became a man last night.

TotalArsenal


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