Depressed of N5…

April 14, 2014

I remember the day we beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to earn our place in the 1979 FA Cup Final.

As an impoverished student at the time (well, alright, I’d spent my grant on alcohol) I couldn’t afford to go to the semi final at Villa Park and had to rely on radio coverage. Goals from Alan Sunderland and Frank Stapleton were enough to get us to Wembley.

When the radio commentator said the final whistle had gone I was a walking bundle of clichés: over the moon, cock-a-hoop, on cloud nine, walking on air, happy as Larry when Larry has just won the lottery and landed a date with Joanna Lumley (it was the 1970s, remember)…

But my reaction wasn’t unusual. Every single Arsenal supporter – and I really mean EVERY Arsenal supporter – was absolutely thrilled that we had made it to the Cup Final.

In those days before email and mobile phones we called each other up, met in pubs to celebrate and generally annoyed the hell out of anyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to be a Gunner.

The fact that we had beaten lowly, relegation-battling Wolves to get to the final didn’t come into it. Nor that our league form that season was average at best (we ended up finishing seventh).

The point was, we had landed a big day out at Wembley and the chance to claim silverware and glory.

The only emotion throughout N5 and the Arsenal supporting world was one of joy.

You can probably see where I am going with this.

After the drama of our penalty shoot-out victory over Wigan on Saturday most of the Arsenal community shared a similar feeling of joy.

But a significant minority of people who call themselves Arsenal fans were not delighted. In fact they were as undelighted as a man who inadvertently steps in doggie doodoo… only to realise he forgot to put on his shoes and socks that morning.

They grudgingly acknowledged that it was a good thing to be in the FA Cup final, but what they really wanted to talk about was the fact that (a) our performance in the semi final had been awful or (b) it was “only Wigan” and we should have rolled over them without a problem or (c) that the FA Cup isn’t really a “top rank” trophy like the league title or the European Champions League or (d) “it’s a disaster because now it means Wenger will probably stay”.

Without getting into the merits of points A, B, C and D, surely what is important is that we have a Cup Final to look forward to and a real chance to win our first trophy for nine years?

How anyone who self-identifies as an Arsenal supporter cannot find joy in that fact is completely and utterly beyond me.

But it may not be beyond the explanation of psychology.

Joylessness is a recognised indicator and symptom of depression. It literally means the inability to experience joy in situations where you would normally expect to do so.

For example, someone who normally loves beautiful scenery would, when in a joyless state, be left completely unmoved by a particularly stunning vista. Their mind may even tell them that it is a stunning vista and that they should be feeling overjoyed to look on it, but their soul is not touched by that joy.

Even people suffering from mild depression will often experience the phenomenon.

The sad conclusion of this train of thought is that a section of the Arsenal fan base is clinically depressed. They have become so accustomed to negative thought patterns that when something unequivocally positive happens they just can’t feel it.

The rest of us should not be angry with them: we should feel sorry for them.

Fortunately, there are some very well proven treatments for mild depression. They include exercise, eating whole grain food and meditating. So if you know a fellow fan who has been sullen and unresponsive since we defeated Wigan, why don’t you suggest they do the following: put on a pair of trainers; jog to Greggs; buy a whole grain sandwich; silently contemplate it for twenty minutes; then scoff it.

I guarantee if they do all of the above, before the last bite has slipped down their gullet they’ll leap into the air and break into a rendition of: “Wemberley, Wemberley, we’re the famous Arsenal and we’re going to Wemberley…”

And if that doesn’t work, just give them a hug.


* Despite missing out on the 1979 semi-final, I managed to get to Wembley for the final against Manchester United thanks to a United supporting friend from Dublin. It was the Liam Brady final and it produced memories I treasure to this day. Now we have another chance for more great Cup Final memories. How can anyone not be excited by that?








Wembley Domination

April 13, 2014

Having just woken up at 8am having arrived home at 1:30 am this is going to be a quickie. Getting the train home last night with intoxicated Norwich fans singing “we’re shit and we’re going down” certainly adds some perspective to a day out at Wembley where yes we didn’t play well but also resulted in a return trip and another day out for those lucky enough to be there.

I have seen some criticism of the fans “celebrating like we won the cup” it’s hard to be in Wembley and not feel like that, and with the allocation of tickets for the final likely to be a third of what we had yesterday it is unlikely those who were there yesterday will have a chance of being back for the final itself.

We filled the Green Man pub at 1pm and we filled the ground more than two thirds. Waning support? Not in evidence here. The atmosphere at kick off was full of passion and hope.

Unfortunately as we failed to make the most of early possession the songs turned to frustration and worse very quickly, I’d say the split was 50:50 in terms of those preferring to man than support.

At half time we went in 0-0 with little of note being created for either side.

The second half continued in a similar vein until Monreal got pushed off the ball, Vermaelen didn’t want to commit to a last gasp tackle and BFG stuck out a long leg to bring down the Wigan forward. This actually stirred the crowd into action and we sang in defiance up until the penalty went in and Gibbs replaced Monreal.

That was actually the turning point to our performance Gibbs was prepared to get past Podolski where Monreal hadn’t bothered either because he knew he didn’t have the legs to get back to recover ground that Podolski wouldn’t.

A while later after Rosler went to three centre backs Arsene changed it again, unleashing Giroud and removing the disappointing Podolski and switching to 4-4-2.

That was probably the decisive change we played the percentages more and after a few more close shaves we finally breached the Wigan defence, Oxhitting the ball into the ground and finding BFG at the far post who headed home. I was waiting for the flag to go up thankfully it didn’t.

BFG celebrates

We couldn’t breach it again in the remaining minutes or in extra time and we went to penalties.

Fabianski the hero

Fabianski channelling the spirit of Arsenal keepers of the past stopped the first two Wigan penalties. Whilst Arteta and Kallstrom dispatched with ease. The next two Wigan penalties, were scored which meant after Giroud had scored with the nanananaaaaas ringing in his ears it was left to Santi to send Arsenal back to Wembley and the fans into ecstasy.

Written by Gooner in Exile

We Are Family

April 12, 2014

I am not a fan of the term “must win game” which we have heard so often (including tomorrow’s “title decider” -as if!) but today really is a must win. No excuses, no silly mistakes, nothing but victory is acceptable.

We need silverware to bring the club back to the fans. The bitching from the Me Generation who have grown up with the ludicrous premise that “second is losing” demand a Cup and Arsenal have an excellent chance to keep them quiet for a while.

I know Wigan have done wonders recently and that they are New Wembley winners far more times than us (have we won there?), but they sit a division below us. There will be no excuses for a loss.

I have to say I am nervous, Arsenal, of late, have a habit of falling over in sight of the winning post, the Koscielny/Szczesny comedy routine remains fresh in the memory, so I do not take anything for granted.


Brilliant but Once is Enough

Wigan are nailed on to reach the play-offs. They are a good side playing attacking, pressing football so well that their victory at Maine Rd was well deserved – it was no fluke victory, they took on an over-confident City and beat them fair and square. They have been resting their players ahead of today’s match.

Managed by Uwe Rusler who appears to be a fine successor to Martinez, a good organiser and a man who may have a fine future as a manager. He has beaten lung cancer which shows he is a fighter. Rusler managed 3 teams in Norway before joining Brentford, before taking over from Owen Coyle at Wigan. Under Rusler’s management Wigan have only lost 5 of 29 games.

One fact to settle the nerves. In 20 matches between the clubs, Wigan have won 3.

Arsenal continue to struggle with both form and injuries.  Writing on Friday, we are missing Gibbs, Koscielny, Ox, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott, Myachi, Gnabry, Flamini (banned) and most recently Rosicky. 10 players plus Diaby – it is amazing we have a team to put out!! However, we are still able to send out 10 Internationals (Arteta) and they should be good enough to beat Wigan – maybe not a rampant Everton but …..

My Team – (prior to final fitness tests and assuming none pass)

fa cup semi

Hopefully we will have some bodies back – if not Steve Bould will have to be on the bench!

The fans will be really up for it today, well over half the ground will be Arsenal, and it will be a sea of red. Anything which brings the fans together can only help the players perform. We are the 12th man.

I am so envious of this going today. There is nothing like walking down Olympic Way  in the sun surrounded by thousands of fellow Gooners all excited and half-cut with the awful smell of dodgy burgers in the air.  The memories of those afternoons will be with me always and when I am stuck in a dentist’s chair or sitting disconsolate having missed a plane I have them to fall back upon. That is the wonder of fandom – those weirdo’s who look askance at us when we say we love football don’t have that, do they?

Will we win? Who knows? It all depends upon which Arsenal turn up today. In my opinion, if we revert to sitting deep early doors and getting to half-time at 0-0, which is a tactic Mr Wenger has employed each game following a nasty defeat, then we will not be the Arsenal I know and love. I want us to go at Wigan from the first whistle, pin them back, pepper their goal with shots from all angles, bemuse their defenders with our sumptuous passing game and score at least 3 by half-time. Wouldn’t that be great?

I will be wearing red today, I suggest you do the same – after all as the mighty Sister Sledge/Chic say “We are Family”

written by Big Raddy

Oh No!! We’re Favourites…

March 10, 2014

I don’t know about you but as an Arsenal fan of many years (not as many as some who frequent AA) I like it when we are underdogs. In fact some of my best memories supporting Arsenal and winning trophies have come when we were not expected to win, or facing the impossible task.

The first trophy I watched us win was the ’87 Littlewoods Cup, up against the all conquering Liverpool of the 80′s we had not seen a glimpse of silverware since our last FA Cup win in 1979. We went to Wembley with some optimism as George Graham had arrived to revolutionise the Arsenal team, clearing out the old guard and bringing through young talent and supplementing with purchases he had made from the lower leagues, players that were to go on to become club legends. The job was made more difficult when Liverpool took the lead, the fact that Ian Rush had now scored meant that we were now deep into underdog territory, as we all know from the commentary, up until that point Liverpool had never lost a game when Rush had scored. But Charlie changed all that, firstly knocking in when the ball bobbled around the box, and then Perry Groves came on with his pace, skinned the Liverpool fullback who was tiring and teed up Charlie to score the winner.

Then there was that Friday night at Anfield, going to Liverpool with the task of winning by two clear goals, again the stats were against us, Liverpool had just won the FA Cup, they hadn’t lost by two goals at Anfield for over three years. Smudger nodded in a Winterburn free kick, and then we had to wait wait and wait until…well you all know what happened next….Thomas charging through the midfield….it’s up for grabs now. I smashed a light in my living room having jumped high from my armchair. Arsenal heaven.

Was that it for being underdogs? Not really, the English FA hated that we were getting successful again so deducted 2 points and Manchester United only 1 for a 21 man brawl at Old Trafford (Big Dave didn’t like getting dirty or a hair out of place unless it was absolutely necessary and stayed out of it), somehow on the day Nige and the Super Swede got booked for having the temerity to be kicked whilst on the ground by Mclair and Irwin who suffered no punishment from Hackett, and the latter punishment of points deduction probably started our dislike of the FA and theory that we don’t always receive the rub of the green from the officials. Anyway come May we were telling the trophy presentation committee to stick the f’ing two points up their arse, as Manchester United players had to applaud us on to the pitch with a guard of honour in the return fixture at Highbury after Nottingham Forest had ended Liverpool’s title chances earlier in the day.

And then maybe our most famous underdog win, George Graham’s side by 1993-94 had become a dour side to watch, route one football was the order of the day, we were now a long ball side, up to Smudger, get the knockdowns and let Wrighty do the rest. We were a cup team now, this style wouldn’t win any Leagues, the previous season we had won two cups, we were neither favourites nor underdogs, Sheffield Wednesday played a very similar style to us, so fans that attended made their own entertainment whilst the ball was in the air, and in the brief moments the ball actually touched the ground got interested. But Parma, well that was a mother proposition, made worse by the injury to John Jensen and Wrighty’s suspension, the media gave us no chance, Brolin, Zola and Asprilla all featured for Parma, whilst we had Selley, Morrow and Campbell in ours. But somehow Smudger scored probably his only goal from outside the area on his wrong peg in his career, and we held out for a triumphant 1-0 victory.

So what about when we were favourites?

Well I’ll do my lifetime:

League Cup
1988 – Arsenal 2 – Luton 3
2011 – Arsenal 1 – Birmingham 2

FA Cup
1980 – West Ham 1 – Arsenal 0
2001 – Arsenal 1 – Liverpool 2

So am I disappointed Wigan knocked Manchester City out yesterday……well as the draw had been made we were only going to be underdogs for the Semi Final so in the grand scheme of things I guess it doesn’t matter. But I hate being favourites…..can we talk up Wigan please, after all surely the holders are favourites?

Gooner in Exile

Arsenal get stuck into Toffees

March 9, 2014

A quarter final played on a Saturday against a very resolute and good team, always wets the appetite and the main talking point before the game was would Wenger put out his strongest team in a competition that in reality we have a good chance of winning or would he have one eye on the Bayern game to follow just three days later.

There were doubts about Koscielny who has been outstanding all season and his partnership with Mertesacker has usually a telepathic understanding that has been vital to us for most of the season

He wasn’t risked and Vermaelen stepped in and the biggest surprise, and not for the first time in such an important game, Sanogo was asked to lead the line.

We weren’t to be disappointed and the failure at The Britannia the week before was quickly forgotten. Cazorla and Ozil combined perfectly for Ozil with pin point accuracy gave us an early lead. It was an open game and then a rather messy goal by Lukaku nearing half time put Everton right back in the game.

The second half began and there was more resilience and fight by our boys and eventually the persistence payed off with Barry bringing down the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain in the penalty box and Arteta had the dubious task of having to twice take the penalty awarded.

To me that was the pivotal moment in the game and after some astute substitutions, Giroud came on for Sanogo and scored a brace. The game was done and dusted…..

I make no excuse in naming three players as Man of the Match in fact everyone who played made a significant contribution.

Ozil for the vital first goal and the way he reads the game and put more effort in than lately, especially as he has been under the microscope.

ozil scored v everton

The Ox, as he caused problems all over the pitch, his enthusiasm, directness, and general play improves all the time, a real contender for the England squad but more importantly for us,hopefully for years to come.

Arteta under immense pressure having to take the penalty twice and restoring the lead gave us that extra impudence.

arteta pen everton

Others also played their part and I am sure you will add to my considerations.

Santi who with Ozil ran a good part of the game and was much better than recently and though he didn’t score he is always looking for an opportunity to shoot or play a decisive pass.
Vermaelen, hardly played all season, made one slip but generally had a very good game against stiff opposition.

Ollie had a rest, a couple of affairs :) and looked sharp.

Flamini, though prone to get carded always urges the players on.When Ozil scored and a few congratulated him he urged others to join in..

Sagna one assist and one assist to an assist, we would dearly miss him.


Everyone went home happy, not a day to be judgemental about those who didn’t play or who we should buy in the Summer, so may the momentum continue. Wembley here we come.

Written by kelsey

She wore, She wore, She wore a Yellow Ribbon

March 8, 2014

Wouldn’t it be great to get to Wembley? Just a couple of wins and we can walk up the Empire Way with a song on the lips and hope in the heart, but first we have another difficult task – beating a very good team who are in form.

Last week Everton were cheated out of a result at Chelsea (quelle surprise!). I watched the game and they deserved not just a draw but the three points – they were the better team. What this tells us is that Everton will take to the pitch full of confidence. Another reason for their positivity will be their last game at THOF, a game I was privileged to attend.


For want of something to write let me review that game in a couple of sentences …. We started well and then Everton took control. Our much lauded midfield was being bossed by the lanky teenager Barkley, who looks a wonderful prospect, and we were struggling to cope with Everton’s attacks. Fortunately, they were lacking a finish and Chesney was playing well. We improved during the second half and took the lead with 9 minutes remaining through an Ozil goal but Everton equalised almost immediately through the excellent Deulofeu.  With seconds remaining Giroud rattled the crossbar with his best shot of the season. Everton’s was the best performance by a PL side at THOF this season – they played with verve, fluency and control. Should they replicate this  form today we will struggle.

But …… neither team is in the form we were back in November.

Everton: Lukaku is back for Everton and apart from Jagielka they have a fully fit squad. With a midfield of Barry, Barkley, Mcarthy or Osman, plus Mirallas and Pienaar, Everton will  swamp the midfield and look to deny us space. An Everton player I like very much is Seamus Coleman whom, if Bacary doesn’t re-sign, I would love to see at Arsenal; he has pace, is a good crosser but above all can defend.

Arsenal: With JW knacked and Ramsey not back until Spurs we will line up with an ancient midfield – Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini  - Santi is the youngest at 29!! Of course, I missed out Mesut and Ox but for sake of argument they are attackers.

Fabianski will continue his FA Cup run and perhaps Jenks will feature after a fine game for England U-21′s. Koscielny is having an assessment pre-match but I wouldn’t risk him and hope to see our Club Captain. It may be wise to give Sanogo another game but I would love us to win the FAC so prefer OG.

My team:

fa cup arse v toffees

I doubt AW will agree with me – he rarely does, but given an important game midweek it may be wise to rest Rosicky. We will have a strong bench.

Looking at the remaining teams in the Cup there is little to be fearful of (apart from one obvious exception), win this and the Twin Towers (spiritually if not physically) await.

written by Big Raddy

p.s. If anyone ever sees Raddy in a bar and watches him move from drinking wine to cocktails and onto beer please take him by the arm and remind him that he is too old for such behaviour. Hopefully this will result in a more lucid and informed AA post :-D

Praise For Howard Webb

February 18, 2014

I never thought I’d write a sentence like this, but here goes: “Well done Howard Webb – you refereed really well at the weekend.”

It’s probably not a sentiment Webb hears all that often, particularly from a supporter of a team whose game he has just reffed.

Despite being recognised by the international footballing authorities as one of the finest referees of his generation, Webb has always come in for stick from English fans.

From the suggestion that he started shaving his head to avoid tickling Sir Alex’s back passage on the way in, to an alleged bias in favour of clubs from his native North of England the former copper has faced plenty of abuse over the years.

So the fuss surrounding his failure to award a second penalty to the Diving Uruguayan on Sunday will be like orange sauce off a duck’s back to him.

And, in this case, so it should be.


Let’s start with the context.

Arsenal v Liverpool in the FA Cup was a very good game of football played with plenty of commitment.

Liverpool had the confidence of having thrashed us just a week earlier and of being one of the form teams in the Premier League; we, on the other hand, had the incentive of getting revenge, putting our season back on track and making more than a few media pundits Neknominate their words.

I thought Webb handled the match well, showing some early yellow cards to stop things getting too overheated but generally allowing the game to flow.

And so to the big decisions that have brought him so much criticism in the last 48 hours (the Daily Mirror’s headline was: “Howard Webb Escapes Demotion Over His FA Cup Stinker”):

First there was Suarez dive Number One: Podolski undoubtedly tapped the Uruguayan’s ankle but, as someone said in comments yesterday, anywhere else on the pitch Suarez would have stayed on his feet. You can also see from replays that the Scouser threw himself to the ground a split second after the contact – not in the instantaneous way that would have happened had his fall been genuine.

Even so, I have no quibble with the award of the penalty. Podolski caught Suarez’s ankle, however lightly, and Webb was right to point to the spot. However, I also feel that Webb knew that Suarez has bought the penalty to some extent by exaggerating his reaction to the contact.

Then we come to Suarez’s second penalty appeal when the Liverpool striker toe-ended the ball away from himself (and away from goal) and Oxlade-Chamberlain clattered into him from the side.

It was a clumsy effort by The Ox, and even though Suarez had lost control of the ball there is a strong argument it was a penalty. (I also think there is an argument for it being a “coming together” and not a foul at all, but I may be alone in that interpretation).

What stopped it being a penalty (in my opinion) was Suarez’s impression of a freshly caught marlin on the deck of a fishing boat.

It was such a fake, over-the-top and comical piece of physical theatre that it must have sowed a seed of doubt in Webb’s mind as to whether Oxo’s contact merited a penalty at all. In the split second the ref had to make his decision, the Uruguayan’s fakery probably swayed the issue. Look at it from the ref’s point of view: if a player is clearly play-acting for part of an incident, how can you be certain he wasn’t play-acting for all of it?

Ironically if Suarez had just gone down naturally he might well have got the decision.

There were a couple of other controversial moments. We could have had a penalty when Skrtel caught Santi Cazorla’s foot with a high and late challenge in the Liverpool box. As the saying goes, “anywhere else on the pitch it would have been a foul,” and that may be true. But it would have been a bit of a harsh penalty (the ball had already eluded Santi before he was clobbered and Skrtel was going for the ball).

Finally, there was the argument that Steven Gerrard should have received a second yellow for a tackle on Oxo. Well, maybe. To be honest it was the sort of foul that sometimes results in a booking and sometimes doesn’t. This time it was not a booking and also not a big deal. I feel Arsenal supporters have been stoking up the outrage on this one purely to counter the Scouse squeals of victimhood over the Suarez non-penalty.

Webb also had a nice moment when Sterling “put hands” on him while disputing a decision. It was a chance for the referee to engage in his own bit of over-acting, feigning outrage and having a stiff word with the player and his captain.

All in all, “Fergie’s Rent Boy” had a good day and played his part in an excellent game of football with a particularly excellent outcome.

But Howard, don’t get carried away: it was only one game and in the balance of things you still owe us at least another 10 dodgy decisions in our favour to make up for all those years of being the 12th man at Old Toilet.


Entertaining and Vital Arsenal Cup Win

February 17, 2014

I would not have been alone in having at least one eyebrow out of line after seeing the Team Sheet.

Liverpool were always going to field a strong side as they have no mid week European Games, and we all knew Arsene would have to make one or two changes. Talk about “who would be a Manager?”. Without doubt the biggest shock was the inclusion of Yaya Sanogo. I had thought Ollie would be rested, and this would have led to the inclusion of Nic, or the slim possibility of Lucas through the middle. When the Team was announced, all I could say about Yaya’s inclusion was that the Manager sees the Lads in training.

Poldi goal v Liverpool

This was a very big match indeed. We had to restore some belief and confidence, try and progress in this Tournament as well as leaving eleven men standing, fit and ready to meet the challenge coming from Bavaria in a few short days’ time.

I won’t dwell on the details of the game as you all saw it for yourselves. Certainly though, the returning Flamini helped to stabilize the defensive side of our midfield. The defence itself had a superb day with Fabianski producing a MOTM performance. The other two stand-in’s at the back, Jenks and Monreal, showed discipline and spirit.

Further up the field, Mesut was back to his best and orchestrated events in a way only he can with sublime timing and awareness.

For me, like many I suspect, Podolski is a total enigma. However, he is a goalscorer, and since the tragic loss of Theo and Aaron, these qualities are in short supply. He delivered.

Sanogo. Ok, I missed twenty minutes of the first half, and about ten of the second, but I really liked what I saw. Very impressive indeed, His performance highlighted the interchangeability of our squad, and this reflects on what is done on the training ground. It was very hard to believe that he had not played alongside Pod, Mesut and Ox on a regular basis.

Finally, The Ox. Always said he would be an Arsenal Great, and he will. Love everything about him, and his post match interview revealed his modest, mature and intelligent nature. A true professional with all the talent required to make it to the very top.

The Ox v Liverpool

A few short words on Liverpool. I really like the way they play the game. It was an enthralling and highly entertaining game, and it requires two teams to achieve this. Their “Three S’s Attack” is superbly mobile and fluid, and a joy to watch. I realize Suarez divides opinion, but as a footballer, he is terrific. I think we all know the Ox challenge was a clear penalty, but I think we also understand that had the victim been any other player, it would have been given. Never a clearer case of “What goes around”.

Overall, a memorable Cup game, a vital win for The Gunners, and we come away in great shape for Bayern. Back on track.

My MOTM: By a country mile, Arsene. That was some selection and tactical performance. Well played Sir.

Written by MickyDidIt89

If at first you don’t succeed…….

February 16, 2014

Apologies in advance, I have no tub to thump, and no wish to anger today’s opponents, call me a superstitious pansy but I am beginning to see a pattern….the more incendiary the pre match the more likely it is we will not win. So with that in mind……..

Today we welcome the in form Premier League team and suddenly Championship rivals Liverpool to the Emirates to contest a FA Cup 5th round match. There has been much talk about prioritisation over the last few weeks, today we get to find out whether we are going to gun for them all, or are in fact prioritising one competition over the rest.

Some say the FA Cup represents our best chance of a trophy this season, I’m not so sure, whilst it is true that we only need to win four games to do it, there are still some tricky opponents that could get in our way, and on top of that we have in our own recent memory the League Cup Final defeat to Birmingham to remind us that on any given day anything can happen in a game of football, you can also ask Manchester City fans what happened last season. Would you really have us put all our eggs in the FA Cup? I certainly wouldn’t. I am very much behind the one game at a time mentality, although I understand why we might want to rest players before the visit of Munich on Wednesday.

What do we expect from Arsenal today?

Szczesny has been playing well of late but Fabianski has done little wrong in the other cup ties this season, so he will surely start. There is little option at centre back unless we were to launch a couple of youngsters into action, against Suarez and Sturridge that would be suicidal, they have scored 60% of Liverpool’s goals this season, stop them and we have a chance of stopping Liverpool, so the centre back pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny picks itself. I would go with Jenkinson at right back to give the ageing legs of Sagna a break and Gibbs at left back.

In midfield we have the luxury of Flamini returning from a self imposed spell on the sidelines, he surely starts to make Coutinho’s life a lot harder than it was at Anfield last Saturday, he will also help us win the ball back higher up the pitch as he is more proactive than Arteta in that respect. I would however keep Arteta alongside him, a blend of experience, passing and reading of the game should make us more competitive and provide more cover for our defence.

In attacking midfield is where we will possibly see the most changes, I would go Gnabry, Rosicky and Ozil. But I would give Gnabry and Ozil instructions to stay high up the pitch, and not to worry too much about defensive duties, Rosicky will be the man in the middle, he works hardest to win the ball back high up the pitch, and injects pace in attack by speed of passing and running from deep. This can only work if Gibbs and Jenkinson do not over commit, instead they should stay home to provide cover against Liverpool’s fast counter attacks.

My front man today would be Podolski, and that is another reason I would give Ozil and Gnabry the licence to stay up the pitch, he will need help a lot quicker than Giroud when playing with his back to goal, I also think the understanding between the three German’s could be the key to unlocking Liverpool.

So my starting eleven would look something like this:

arse v pool

Let’s hope we are celebrating an Arsenal win come this evening, and we can put this week behind us and start looking forward to an exciting run in to the end of the season.

Gooner In Exile

Two Death Clusters To Make Or Break Arsenal’s Season

January 27, 2014

Look away now if you are easily frightened.

For example if you have to cover your eyes during the scary bits of Scooby Doo or you run screaming from the room when Alan Hansen appears on TV, the next bit may cause you to swoon:

Within the next 10 weeks we have two horrible groupings of fixtures – what you might call “Death Clusters.”

Here they are:

Death Cluster 1

Sat Feb 8thLiverpool A

Wed Feb 12thMan Utd H

Weekend of February 14 -17 – FA Cup 5th Liverpool H

Wed Feb 19thBayern Munich H

Death Cluster 2

Weekend of March 7-10 – FA Cup QF

Tues March 11 – Bayern Munich A

Sat March 15 – Spuds A

Sat March 22 – Chelsea A

Sat March 29 – Man City H

April 1 or 2 - ECL QF 1L

Sat April 5 – Everton A

April 8/9 – ECL QF 2L

In Death Cluster 1 we play four games in 11 days against opponents who include our title rivals, the Champions of Europe, a team aiming to get in the quarter finals of the FA Cup and Manchester United.

Death Cluster 2 is even worse: one month with (potentially) eight big, big matches including (again) the reigning European champions, our noisy neighbours and the two money-doped petrodollar juggernauts.

So what do we do about these daunting anomalies of the fixtures merry-go-round?

Well, we could all go into hibernation and come out with the daffodils and crocuses in mid April.

But, as my dear late Dad said when he threw me – a non-swimming six-year-old – in the deep end of Charlton Lido: “You have to confront your fears.”

Later, as the lifeguard resuscitated me, I pondered the wisdom of his words but was, perhaps, too young to fully take them in.

These days the sentiment is reflected in the saying: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I’ve never been too sure about that one either: if you narrowly avoid death from a debilitating muscle-wasting disease or lose three of your limbs in a combine harvester accident you probably don’t end up stronger.

But that’s just nit-picking.

When it comes to Arsenal, what’s abundantly clear about these Death Clusters is that if they don’t kill us, they absolutely WILL make us stronger.

And that’s why I see them not as the terrifying storm-on-the-horizon that some supporters are worrying about. Instead I see them as a great big gift-wrapped golden opportunity.

Because much as these sorts of fixture runs can derail a team’s season, they can also turbo power it.

Let’s look at Death Cluster 1: if we win or even draw at Liverpool then beat ManUre at our place (getting that particular Bale off our back at the same time) the confidence and togetherness in the squad – which is already excellent – will get even better.

Then we have the 5th Round of the FA Cup. As I write this I am praying that Dennis bestows on us a comfortable home fixture against lower league opposition so we can rest and rotate. Written before the draw.

Then it’s Munich at home. If we avoid defeat in that game we will have come through Death Cluster 1 in great shape. Crucially, good performances and/or results against Liverpool, ManUre and Munich will put us in great shape to face Death Cluster 2.

By the time we start on that second run of tough games we will have that most important quality in football: momentum.

With a head of steam behind us we can roll through mid March to mid April scattering our foes before us like James Corden rolling downhill through a field of size zero models.

And yes, I know this is all speculation and what ifs. And I am aware that if we fail to get past Bayern the second Cluster eases up a bit. But I want to emphasise the point that if this Arsenal is to be the team we all want it to be, these huge games need to be seen as springboards not obstacles.

Squad fitness, new signings (?), refereeing competence – all will play their part. But really it’s down to our team and our club to make the most of these opportunities.

Let’s laugh in the face of Death Clusters.



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