A long night’s partying means that the opportunity of lying supine on the couch and enjoying an afternoon’s football is very attractive, an Arsenal victory would make it doubly so. Given the condition of the man writing this post it will be short and to the point …
What stands between us and 3 points? A host of injuries, a stubborn Cardiff side and ….. well, nothing really, we should beat a managerless team who are in disarray. We beat Cardiff just a few weeks ago with another superb display from Ramsey but little can be predicted as Cardiff will be playing a very different Arsenal.
I watched the recent Cardiff vs Sunderland game and Cardiff for most of the game were strong and well-organised; expect the same today.
A domestic dialogue from earlier this morning …..
“BR: I am really interested in seeing our B team
Mrs BR: Oh, come on Big Raddy, you know that isn’t strictly true – a B team doesn’t have BFG etc in it.
BR: You don’t understand, Ozil, Ramsey, and a host of others are crocked.
Mrs. BR: Doesn’t that give the excellent squad members a chance to shine? You may even see that little fellow Gnabry whom you speak of so often. And I will have a chance to see my mad countryman Big Nik start a game.
BR: Exactly, doesn’t fill me with confidence. Hopefully Podolski will score a brace and Santi will return to scoring ways.
Mrs BR. See, you are already feeling more confident as our “B Team” is still made up of 11 internationals who have easily enough talent and experience to beat a team likely to be relegated.
BR: You are right as always , my Dearest.”
My Team (assuming the injury rumours are true):
The bench should be interesting!!
2013 was an excellent year in the development of this team, in particular it was a good year for Mr Wenger who once again has shown himself to be a manager of the very highest order. Hard to believe that he has worked as AFC manager for longer than all the other PL managers have managed their teams added together. We have been blessed.
It was another trophy-less year (though in any just world there would be a trophy for the team which wins the PL in the calendar year ) and many will say we have once again not achieved anything solid, but I beg to differ, we have seen some outstanding football, lots of goals, the founding of an excellent defence and the development of real world class talents; much is made of Ramsey’s improvement but what of Cazorla, Gibbs, Koscielny and BFG?
My personal year highlight has been sharing many hours with my friends on Arsenal Arsenal. Thank you all (except the troll)
Happy New Year
written by Big Raddy
So we enter 2014 as the star on top of the Premier League Christmas tree.
Will we still be there at the end of May? Who knows, but if we are it will be thanks – in large part – to grinding out difficult wins like yesterday’s at Newcastle.
Toon have been one of the EPL’s form teams in recent weeks so going up there three days after playing another away fixture and coming home with all three points should not be underestimated. Coming away with the win was hard slog indeed and made a fitting end to a year in which we have been the best team in the country, bar none.
If the league title was played from January to December, we would be Champions.
There were a number of reasons to be concerned before the kick-off yesterday: injuries or illness to Ramsey, Ozil, Monreal and Vermaelen had severely reduced the manager’s options; Olivier Giroud was on a long non-scoring run and the referee – Lee Probert – has previously shown himself blind to fouls committed on Arsenal players.
Nevertheless we started brightly, moving the ball well and finding our players at close range for little give-and-gos.
Unfortunately whenever our moves reached the point where we could hurt the opposition we chose precisely that moment to misplace a pass, miscontrol the ball or chose the wrong option entirely.
Even superb technicians like Santi Cazorla were found wanting.
To a degree we seem, as a team and a squad, to be slightly off our game at the moment (perhaps the result of mental and physical fatigue from a recent unhelpful schedule that might have been devised specifically to harm our prospects).
Newcastle, to their credit, worked hard to deny us space and to ‘get in our faces’. They are a big, physical team with some talented players and it was easy to see how they have been getting good results. I noticed before the game that several of the “experts” were tipping this game as a good bet for a home win.
Newcastle were set up pretty defensively against us so it was no surprise that Theo Walcott, in particular, had little space to exploit.
Referee Probert, true to form, was letting quite a few clear fouls on Arsenal players go unpunished but, in fairness, he also overlooked several fouls by our players. However, for the second game running there was an off-the-ground jumping tackle on one of our players (Williamson on Giroud) that went completely unpunished when, at the very least, a yellow card was merited. It seems like it will take another leg break before we start getting protection from this sort of recklessness.
In the first half we managed to get off a few shots from medium distance, but the ball was magnetically drawn to Tim Krul’s midriff on each occasion.
Newcastle came on strong in the last couple of minutes before the break, forcing a fine save from Szcesny from a long distance effort and hitting the crossbar with a speculative lob.
Half time 0-0.
The second half continued much like the first with Arsenal having the majority of possession and looking like the better team, without fashioning clear goal scoring opportunities.
Newcastle were most dangerous down our left flank where Gibbs was often up against two players because Cazorla had been pulled infield.
But the real battle was in central midfield – a place where Newcastle have been particularly strong and combative this year
Tomas Rosicky and Matthieu Flamini were our stand-out performers, constantly breaking up Toon moves, winning tackles and keeping the ball moving when we were in possession. Rosicky also looked the most likely to provide a breakthrough going forward.
Jack Wilshere also had a very combative game. He has a tendency to turn into trouble and over-elaborate on occasion but I thought this was a much better performance from him than in recent outings. His overall pass success rate was 83% – but it was 100% in our defensive third of the field, 90% in the middle third and 67% in the attacking third, where he was trying lower percentage options. Defensively, he won two third of his tackles. He has also been reading Arsenal Arsenal I reckon, because his body language was much better and he (mostly) got straight back up after being fouled/falling over.
The breakthrough, when it finally came, was from our handsome, non-scoring French centre forward.
Not much had been working for Olivier Giroud (a lot of his lay-offs went to black-and-white shirts) but, as ever, he laboured tirelessly for the team, taking his usual quota of knocks into the bargain.
But when Theo Walcott floated a beautifully weighted free kick into the box, Ollie got a slight contact with his head – just enough to guide the ball past Krul’s left hand.
What a pleasure it was to hear “one nil to the Arsenal” ringing around St James’s Park. It goes without saying that our away fans were fantastic (and were just a fraction louder than usual, thanks to the presence of Chas and Ant).
Soon afterwards we almost made it 2-0, when Theo managed to get a toe-end on a through ball which then rebounded back to him off Krul. Theo’s second stab at it – a little lob – was goal bound but was headed onto the crossbar and out by an alert Toon defender. The ball then came to Giroud on our right of the six yard box for a gilt-edged chance to at least threaten the net. Sadly Ollie showed why many people still have doubts about him as a finisher, shanking the ball away from goal. In comments yesterday Rasp put this down to his lack of a decent right foot.
Gibbs was removed with an injury and Flamini moved to left back, while Arteta slotted into midfield.
Then came perhaps the hottest debating point of the game. With about 15 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger opted to go completely on the defensive, taking off Walcott, putting Carl Jenkinson at right back and moving Sagna into the middle to give us three centre backs. In post game interviews he said this was because the team was looking tired and he thought it better to close out the game. He even referenced mistakes from previous seasons where we had let in goals late on through not being defensive enough.
According to some who commented yesterday it was tactically astute and enabled us to cope with the extra forward players that Alan Pardew (Arsene, Arsene knock him out, Asrene, knock him out) had thrown on to try and salvage a point.
To me it seemed crazy. It led to a final quarter of an hour that made The Alamo seem like a pyjama party as we basically said to Newcastle: “OK, you have the freedom of the park to bombard our goal.”
There were numerous Toon crosses into dangerous areas; countless heart-in-mouth moments as the ball bounced around our penalty area; last ditch clearances and headers; frantic hoof-outs from the back.
We failed to control the ball for more than 10 seconds at a time and were, in my opinion, slightly fortunate not to have conceded.
Meanwhile with Walcott off and a ponderous Giroud up front, there was never any chance of countering with speed.
The one real counter-attacking opportunity came when Tim Krul came up for a Newcastle corner. We cleared the ball and got a throw-in in their half. Krul was desperately legging it back up the field. All it needed was a quick throw-in from Jenkinson to the screaming Bendtner (who was on for Giroud) and Bendy would have had an open goal to aim at (albeit from about 40 yards out).
Unfortunately young Carl had been possessed by the Eboue fairies and as he diddled and dawdled the chance went begging.
The final whistle, when it came, was a huge relief.
In summary, we deserved the three points for being the better team for 75 minutes, but boy did we make it tough on ourselves at the end.
Szczesny: one great save from a long range shot; some fine work as we were under siege at the end… but there were a couple of howlers from our young Pole in this game. Following his gift to Carlton Cole a few days earlier I hope the carelessness of last season is not creeping back into his game because he has been fantastic so far. 6
Sagna: very solid defensively and offered plenty going forward: 7
Mertesacker: thank Dennis for the BFG. We really needed his calm head and composure in this game and he was excellent during the final onslaught. 7.5
Koscielny: back in the side and back to his best – which he needed to be at times. 7.5
Gibbs: had real problems in the first half because Cazorla was caught inside and the Toon fullback kept making overlapping runs. Overall though he was as solid as we have come to expect and contributed to our attack when he could. 7
Flamini: a very good game from the Frenchman, tackling hard, covering brilliantly at times and doing well when forced to move to left back after Gibbs’s injury. His pass success was an outstanding 95%. 7
Wilshere: better than in recent outings. His defensive work was solid but he still has a tendency to run or pass into trouble at times. 6
Cazorla: some good moments from the wee Spaniard, but too often his touch was off where it really mattered – in and around the opposition penalty area. 6
Rosicky: all action from start to finish and our stand-out performer. Without Tomas it’s unlikely we would be coming home with three points. 8
Walcott: Newcastle’s approach to the game meant there was little or no chance to exploit his pace. But he made the goal with a beautiful free kick and was very unlucky not to have scored. 7
Giroud: was having one of those games until he scored. You can’t fault his effort, but he will still need to do more to convince some people that we don’t need an extra striker in the January window. He gets an extra point because of the goal. 7
Arteta: seemed a bit off the pace. 6
Jenkinson: aside from falling asleep when he could have given Bendtner a chance at an empty net, he did his defensive work well. 6
Bendtner: did all he could for the short while he was on. 6
Notwithstanding the fantastic results that Arsenal have been producing most weeks and in midweek games since the beginning of the year, and the consistency with which the team have been turning whinging disbelievers and useless pundits into muppets, if there was ever a moment when the good guys proudly donning their red and whites on the field had to prove a point, this was it.
Playing away from home at the home of the formidable Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund, having succumbed to the ignominy of an embarrassing loss to the same club at The Home of Football, and knowing that their dreams of progressing from the Group of Death lay in their own hands (erm, feet and heads), this was the moment of destiny.
Would they remain a bunch of kids led by a handful of immature generals trying to play a game meant for men, or would they show the strength of character, desire and strategy that separates the sublime from the ordinary? On a rain-drenched evening in Dortmund, in front of formidable opposition and a vociferous crowd, they fought valiantly with heart and mind to achieve a memorable victory that dreams are made of.
The stage for the show was set up well. The set was immaculately chosen in advance, and the background music was perfect for the occasion – perhaps the tune of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. At the disappointing loss at home to Dortmund a fortnight earlier, Arsène Wenger, a man known for his economy of words and measured temperament, rather uncharacteristically chose to criticise the team in public for their alleged ‘naivety’. Adding salt to injury, Jurgen Klopp, the respected Dortmund manager tried to take the art of mind games to the level of Symphony Fantastique.
“[Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes” he said,”It’s like an orchestra, but it’s a silent song, yeah? And I like Heavy Metal more. I always want it loud! I want to have this: ‘BOOM!’ “.
It was time for the true mettle to shine through the din of Heavy Metal, and it did! The good guys of Arsenal fought their heart out, played with their minds sharp, and manufactured a fantastic away win!
It was a very tough test against the skill, aggression and hard work put in by a truly fantastic team, Borussia Dortmund, and in front of their home crowd as well. On the night, the entire team was fantastic. In the first half, both teams played a measured game, Arsenal sitting deep in defiant defence, and Dortmund piling on attacks without creating that many chances. Mkhitaryan squandered the best chance curling his shot wide of the post, but that apart, the central defence of Mertesacker and Koscielny nullified every chance that Dortmund created, with the able support of Sagna and Gibbs.
Arteta and Rosicky worked tirelessly to organise the midfield, and together with Ramsey, Santi and Özil maintained the threat of counter attacks. Giroud was left a bit isolated up front, but it was really that kind of a game. For me, our attacking threat in the first half was captured in the one occasion when Özil beautifully controlled a pass at the top of the Dortmund box, made the turn towards goal, but the moment the ball was pushed less than a foot forward, along came two defenders to snatch it away. Such was the tireless industry of the Dortmund defence, it was a treat to watch and admire! Anyway, the half ended a relatively event-less all-square.
There was all to play for in the second 45. But along came Dortmund with renewed vigour, and piled on attack upon attack. Most of these were repelled by the resolute Arsenal defence led by the fantastic Mert-Kos duo. For a nervous few minutes, the relentless pressure appeared to work. The nightmares of the Emirates appeared close. Once, Reus got through unmarked, and just a few minutes later Blaszczykowski had a low shot on goal. On both occasions, Szczęsny brought off fantastic saves. And that was it. No more serious attempts on the Arsenal goal followed.
Instead, it was a moment of magic at the other end. Rosicky, an ex-Dortmund player, latched on to a ball at the left flank and tried to move towards the centre, lost the ball, won it back and spread it wide to the right. Özil held on to it and sent a cross into the box, Giroud towered above his marker and used all his strength to nod the ball back towards the centre, and Ramsey lurked in with a great heart and headed the ball home almost right from the Subotic’s raised boot.
The goal opened the floodgates somewhat, no not from Dortmund attacks, but Arsenal’s threats on goal. From a Giroud cross, Ramsey forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi corner, Giroud saw a shot somehow cleared off the line. Per came along into attack with great vigour and came close to scoring twice, the second time sending a loopy header to the top of the net.
The mighty Dortmund, worthy finalists of last year’s Champions League, undefeated in the Bundesliga so far this season, did not know what hit them. Perhaps they were not used to losing. They were completely rattled and disheveled. Apart from a muffled attempt from Reus, they offered hardly any threat. The 11 brave men of Arsenal defended resolutely and saw the game through.
In the middle of all this, one man stood tall in midfield, led from the front, and for me captured like no other player the spirit that Arsenal stood for. It was Mikel Arteta. He manned the centre of the field like a fighter, defending and winning balls throughout the 90 minutes, earned a yellow card for his troubles, somewhat unfairly, for tugging Blaszczykowski’s shirt, and came disastrously close to a second as well. But he kept fighting. At the other end, Reus tugged back Rosicky but was not booked, and neither was there a penalty for bundling valiant Kos over. Injustices galore. But the brave and good guys stood tall amongst the ruins, and came out valiant winners. What a night of Champions League football! Lucky Micky and Raddy who represented AA in the ground!
How did we manage to win this game against all odds? Hard work, perhaps even more than skill, but what was most important was strategy. The strategy of sitting back and defending resolutely, the strategy of going all out in counter attack, but only when the opposition had got somewhat tired and demoralised, and most importantly the strategy of knowing how to get the best efforts out of the players. Going even to the extreme of publicly criticising the team for naivety. In a game characterised by character, desire and strategy, STRATEGY came out tops for me. In a game between symphony and Heavy Metal, the mettle displayed by the team was beautiful SYMPHONY. In a game of strategy between two great managers, Arsene Wenger came out on top! Arsène Wenger is my Man of the Match!
Every player did his bit on the night. Here are some tentative scores.
Szczesny: 8 Had little to do on the night, except to make two fantastic saves. And they were crucial.
Sagna: 7 Measured performance in defence and attack.
Mertesacker: 9 Excelled at the heart of defence, went out in counter attack, almost scored as well. What a performance!
Koscielny: 8 Fantastic in defence, great combination with Mert, played with a big heart.
Gibbs 7 Measured performance focusing on defence, cricial interventions when Mert and Kos had moved up and Dortmund attacked on the counter.
Arteta: 9 A true leader on the day, leading from the front. Valiently marshalled the midfield all evening. Outstanding.
Ramsey: 9 What can you say! The “Welsh Messi” Aaron Ramsey did what he does best – deliver the sucker punch.
Cazorla: 7 Good, solid, if somewhat underwhelming performance on the night.
Ozil: 8 Good performance, great cross that led to the goal.
Rosicky: 8 Fantastic performance. Together with Arteta, maintained the midfield, fighting for every ball, moving forward on every occasion possible.
Giroud: 7Assist for the goal, tireless performance as the lone striker, holding up, running tirelessly after the ball. Almost scored as well.
Arsene Wenger: 10 Le Manager, what fantastic strategy, what a man, what a team. This performance was surely for him.
Monreal: 7 Came on 75 mins for Santi, reliable as ever.
Vermaelen: No time to make an impact.
Bendtner: No time to make an impact, but ran after the ball continuously for the 5 mins he was on.
Written by arnie
Our on the spot photographers have provided these pics of a view from the away end:
Transfer targets. This two part post is an attempt to inveigle some of you to give us your ideas of where the team needs strengthening and more importantly, why.
Goalkeeper: We have signed an experienced Italian GK whom no-one knows about nor has seen play as back-up to our two Poles. Can’t see the point in that at the moment. Fabianski is a very good deputy to Szczesny who has been on top form so far this season. Apart from a poor game at home to AV, TPIG has been very good – just what we want to see from such a young keeper developing his skills. His decision making in terms of coming for crosses is a bit conservative (IMO) but he has eradicated most of his “Hollywood” tendencies.
Szczesny’s failings remain distribution, though he is definitely improving. His kicking lacks accuracy and as such he is tending towards the safe option of throwing to the wings in order to create a counter-attack which is fine as we are not a route one team.
Viviano in training for the Bench
My guess is that Viviano was signed in the knowledge that Fabianski will move on sooner rather than later. Without having seen him play it is impossible to judge but International caps for a country renowned for good keepers is a decent testimonial.
Transfer Target? No need, though I do accept some people are less than 100% secure about our No.1.
Full Backs: Starting on the left we have Gibbs and Monreal. I would suggest that after Ramsey, Gibbs is our most improved player and fully deserves his call up to the England squad. Monreal must wonder why he signed as he would surely have expected to be first choice given his high transfer fee. But that fee is further proof of Mr Wenger and the BoD’s commitment to creating a high quality squad. Having a player of Monreal’s ability both as left sided MF and LB cover is insurance in case Gibbs suffers yet another injury. Vermaelen has shown he is a capable understudy should both get crocked.
The New Lee Dixon?
Right Back: Bacary and The Corporal. Sagna is back to his best and Arsenal must make him sign a contract extension – whatever it costs, because he has AFC experience and is a senior pro, plus he can teach Jenkinson how to become a world class RB. As of today, The Corporal has much to learn; his crossing is poor, his defensive awareness average and his tactical nous lacking, yet, he has huge potential. The man has considerable energy, is a Gooner and clearly wants to learn BUT …… would you be happy to see Jenks start over a long period of time if Sagna gets injured (which as an older gent he is prone to be)? I wouldn’t. And this is where the genius of Mr Wenger raises it’s shiny pate – we have The Flamster, who is worth every penny of his, no doubt, huge salary.
Transfer Target: Once again, no need.
Centre Backs: Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen (& Sagna in emergencies). I love The BFG – he has brought a level of a calmness to the defence not seen since …. ermm ….. the last CB who was calm! But the other two? Koscielny is prone to a rush of blood and too often has given away silly fouls in potentially dangerous areas – just look at his push in the penalty area last Sunday. A red card and a penalty already this season is not what we want from what is an exceptional defender. He has pace, superb awareness, hence his high interception count, and is strong both in the air and in the tackle. Vermaelen is too good a player to sit on the bench and yet his career has been in reverse for almost 2 seasons. I love his rampaging style and his clenched fist attitude but he is so focussed upon winning that he can neglect his defensive duties. Sagna? A decent option and hasn’t let us down but we need a specialist CB. The decision to let both JD and Miquel go out on loan is baffling in the extreme
Transfer Target; I think we need to buy and buy someone in BFG’s class. If we really are going to challenge for the title we have stop conceding silly goals. One clean sheet in the PL and that against the Hapless Hotspurs is simply not good enough especially considering how well our GK and FB’s are playing. I realise Kozzer is a crowd pleaser and that he gives his best every time he plays but quite frankly, we need better. I would sell TV (even if he is Club Captain) and spend big in January, hoping for the new CB to bed in by March – ready for the CL Final in Lisbon.
Player Suggestion; Williams at Swansea has been mentioned but I don’t think he is good enough. I want top quality not decent PL. My choice would be Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund. Yes, he would cost a lot but he is only 24 and already played 36 times for Serbia. He lived in the USA (representing them at youth level) and as such is fluent in Americanish. Or better still, how about his more mobile partner – Mats Hummels, also just 24, he is fantastic player and already an automatic starter for Germany. If he won’t come mid-season, please Mr Gazidis make him ours in summer.
You heard it here first.
One would have to ask why they would leave BD but, as we know, money talks and the opportunity to join the German Invasion at AFC must be appealing. Buy, Buy Buy.
My next post will concentrate on the other areas of the pitch and who knows, with this excruciatingly long Interlull (©Arseblog) there could be a “Should Paul Lambert be the Next AFC Manager?” post to follow!
written by Big Raddy
I have to apologise. In the build-up to our second Champions’ League group game, I said Napoli would “be our toughest opponent in the season so far”. I had expected a real challenge would be presented by a team that has dropped just two points in six Serie A games to date, plus had impressively beaten Borussia Dortmund in their first CL game. They were a settled team that had been thriving under a new and familiar manager, and with a high quality replacement for the striker they had lost to PSG. This would be a true test of our resurgent team. Wouldn’t it?
No, it wouldn’t. Napoli didn’t turn up. They were utterly woeful in defence, naïve and disorganised beyond belief. And in midfield they completely failed to impose themselves. I can’t really comment on how they did up front, so little did we see of Pandev. Napolistas might point to the absence of their Argentine new boy, Gonzalo Higuain, as justification for their lame performance, but important as Higuain must be to his new side, that doesn’t explain or excuse the frankly pathetic, gutless and brainless performance from the Italians. They have other players of quality, like Inler and Hamsik, but the only players in camouflage kit (yuck) who came close to earning their corn were Insigne and Reina. You might think I’m going over the top, but I honestly cannot recall any visiting opponent underperforming in a CL game against us, and we’ve played some decidedly ordinary teams down the years.
Ok, enough of slating our oppo.
Arsenal were excellent on the night, though the limitations of what faced them makes it harder to determine just how good we really were last night. However, as the cliché has it, you can only beat the team that is in front of you.
In truth, we blew Napoli away in the first half hour of the match, arguably in the first 15 minutes. We played with speed of passing and thought, fantastic movement, cohesion, calmness and confidence. Wenger brought the recovered Rosicky back in, playing in attacking midfield alongside Ramsey and Özil, in front of a solid pairing of Arteta and Flamini. Wilshere and Gnabry were left on the bench.
If that selection looked conservative and cautious, the truth quickly showed that the opposite was true. From the off, we saw the ball being pinged around with consummate ease. The intelligence and understanding between the players was a pleasure to take in.
And then in the seventh minute, the breakthrough. And not just any old breakthrough; this was the moment, after some majestic interplay on the right flank between Giroud and Ramsey, Özil received a perfect cut-back cross from Ramsey on the edge of the penalty area. Özil opened out his body and placed the ball with precision into the corner of the net, with Reina flailing to get to the ball. This was it, the moment our new diamond went one better than provide an assist, this was the talented German’s first goal in the red and white.
After the goal, Arsenal continued to dominate Napoli, who just couldn’t get the ball. The Arsenal midfield ran rings around them.
Seven minutes after scoring this goal, Napoli’s left-back had a throw-in near his corner flag but stupidly didn’t launch the ball up the line, and instead threw it infield to his centre-back, despite the presence of several Arsenal markers. Flamini got in front of the man he was marking and nipped the ball away from him, nudging it to Giroud, who immediately laid it off to Özil, who quickly got to the byline and put in a short, low cross to Giroud, who typically had run towards the front post. The players tracking back were too slow to do anything about it, and big Olly did the easy bit and put the ball in the net. From the moment Napoli took that throw-in to the moment the ball hit the net was eight seconds. And to think, we used to be accused on lacking a cutting edge.
We could have scored more goals, but quite rightly, Arsenal played within themselves for the remainder of the game. Having scored two goals, the onus was on Napoli to force the pace, and show Arsenal that further effort was required. The Italians didn’t, and almost all their efforts on goal were high and/or wide shots from distance. Szczesny must have been disappointed not to be tested but outfield, Arsenal contented themselves with probing for further openings without busting a gut and without giving up their shape.
It was impressive to watch Arsenal play with discipline for the remainder of the game, denying Napoli any chance of reducing the deficit. Özil, Ramsey, Giroud and Rosicky continued to dominate the top third, with quick movements and passes, and further chances were created. Arteta and Flamini similarly dominated the middle third. Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna and Gibbs held their positions very well and afforded their opponents no gaps to exploit. Szczesny was denied the chance to play, so dominant was the Arsenal performance in front of him. When Napoli tried to press the ball when Arsenal defenders were in possession, a few passes sliced through their ranks and we emerged on the attack again.
Arsenal may not have scored any further goals, but they remained in control for the remainder of the game. Reina made a very good close save from Koscielny in the second half, but that was a detail. With Benitez failing to stir his players into life for the second half, the outcome of the match was clear from very early on.
Some might say Arsenal were so dominant that they should have scored more than two goals. There might be something in that, but it also feels a little churlish to criticise. With an epic first half performance, Arsenal took control of the match and challenged Napoli to show them why more effort was required. Napoli couldn’t rise to that challenge, and couldn’t undermine the shape and confidence of their opponents, so there was little need of urgency in the remainder of the game.
And, it was great to hear the positivity, the unity of the crowd was a pleasure to behold, as if the months of fractious division had never happened. And it was great to hear chants of “We’re the North Bank/Clock End/East Stand” – we are truly beginning to grow into this stadium.
So, six points in the bag already, we couldn’t have wanted it to go any better than this. One more win in the remaining four games and we will likely get through. It would be nice to get our business in the Group of Death done early though.
Were you watching Suàrez, Rooney, Higuain and van Persie?
Szczesny: 8. The Pole in goal did everything asked of him well, especially in dealing with high balls put into the box. The fact that he wasn’t asked to do much wasn’t his fault.
Sagna: 8. His link-up play was excellent, and much of our attacking play came on the right flank.
Mertesacker: 8. Not tested fully but his performance was nonetheless exemplary.
Koscielny: 8. It is great to see Kos rediscover his mojo – the panicky efforts of a few weeks ago have gone, to be replaced by unpretentious calm.
Gibbs: 7. Didn’t do much wrong, perhaps there were one or two misplaced passes, but Kieran had a good night.
Flamini: 7. Probably the only Arsenal player whose technical limitations were apparent, but his energy was valuable. And without his interception, Özil would not have had the ball to set up Giroud.
Arteta: 8. Marshalled the centre of the pitch well, and with the Flamster, completely dominated Napoli’s midfield trio.
Ramsey: 10 (but not MOTM). Simply magnificent. The energy and intelligence of an in-form Rambo is a beautiful thing to see. On another night, he’d have walked away with a hat-trick.
Özil: 10. Oh…. My….. God….. Just how good is this guy? Answer: really very good. Thank you, Florentino Perez, you are a gent and a scholar. And a fool. Silky skills, incision, vision, awareness, Özil has the lot. I particularly liked watching how he can sense a defender closing in behind him, and then shift the balance of his body so as to move effortlessly into the space the over-eager defender has just vacated. Nice. (And yes, that should be read in the voice of the jazz guy in The Fast Show.) Perhaps it’s no accident that Özil was able to impose himself most effectively in a game against an Italian side. I feel sure he will reach these standards in domestic games too, once he has the measure of our game.
Rosicky: 7.5. Tom misplaced a few passes but still slotted into the passing game brilliantly. Perhaps should have done better with a chance he had early in the second half.
Giroud: 8. Copy and paste from previous reports: great link-up play, great lay-offs, great movement to score his goal and great effort.
And the subs:
Wilshere: 7. Once again, Jack was played out of position, on the left, where he was efficient without being incisive.
Monreal: Had too little time to make a mark.
Written by 26may89
Who would have guessed that not so long ago this game would have been thought of as one for the purists? Not me. But that was how it was billed and rightly so as Swansea are a fine footballing team, this generous complement only works, of course, because Arsenal are an even better footballing team.
That said, we had to go through the ringer to prove it because that was one of the most nail biting games I have had to suffer in a while, but win we did, and three valuable points were brought back to North London and if that wasn’t good enough, results around us couldn’t have gone better if we had fixed them the night before: Manu and City losing, spuds and chavs drawing, what, somebody pinch me?
Onto the game, we were poor, well more precisely the attacking part of our game in the first half was poor; Swansea looked far more threatening going forward and I will stick my neck out and say that they had better quality attackers than we did. Michu, Dyer and Routledge are better than Giroud, Wilshere and Gnabry. Fortunately our defensive unit was in superb form and dealt with everything that Swansea threw at us.
We were getting nowhere fast, gone were those beautiful passes by Ozil into space for players to run onto when he first arrived; the kind he played week in and week out to Ronaldo at Real, these gems had to be abandoned as none of our attackers were capable of making the runs or in Giroud’s case, capable of controlling the ball well enough, this forced Ozil to have to try and beat more men than I am sure he would have liked which often led to him being tackled and losing possession. Some have criticised him, not realising, in my opinion, that circumstances forced him to play that way.
And then, just before half time, it happened, like a shaft of bright light shining through a thundery sky, Gnabry, clearly fed up being on the wing, answered the question of where he plays by making a powerful run through the middle, passing at least three men before laying of a perfect ball for Giroud — who wasted it. This was it, Gnabry had arrived, he is not a winger he is an Aaron Ramsey; people used to refer to this kind of player as a Steven Gerrard but that seems soooo passé now.
Gnabry started the second half with a new found confidence; he never got chastised for moving into the middle so he tried it again a few times and it worked, he also impressively started tracking back and then to make his day just about as perfect as it could get he scored his first goal for the Good Guys. It was pretty much the only way we were going to score: a slow build up made up of accurate passes, enabling us to find a way around the Swansea defence to set up someone with a goal scoring chance; on this occasion it fell to the young German .
Serge took his chance well. With a goal to the good it forced Swansea to take more risks in their pursuit of equalising which in turn gave us a lot more space and the possibility of hitting them on the break, which is exactly what we did. Within five minutes of going ahead we had a golden opportunity to score again through Ozil, unfortunately he missed but that just set the scene for Ramsey to save the day again. I have run out of meaningful superlatives and it isn’t even Christmas. The man is a goal scoring machine. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
The game looked like it was just going to peter out with Arsenal cruising to the finishing line but a well worked goal from Swansea put pay to that, it was up off the sofa, pacing in front of the telly time.
We got there of course and with hind sight I can now see how well Wenger managed to deploy his limited resources. Wilshere and Gnabry are not wingers and that is why I was so bold above to suggest that Swansea had a better quality attack. But needs must as they say; would this game have been the same with a fit Arteta, Cazorla and Walcott available? No it wouldn’t — we would have crushed them.
Lastly, I would like to show some respect where respect is due: after the Aston Villa opening game debacle, when many Arsenal supporters including some on this site where still questioning such things as the harmony between the management and the board; Wenger’s ability or inability to sign big money players and the most hennas, “spud envy” pointing far too respectfully at all the new signings being made in N17. Well, while this sea of excrement was going on one loyal blogger on this site stood firm and put his money where his mouth was and bet that Arsenal would be top of the League on October 1st.
26 May 1989…….I salute you.
Because we are top of the league, say we are top of the league.
Quick player ratings.
Szczesny: top game, plucked everything out of the air and did well when needed to get down. There was an incident in the first half but look at the back pass and you will see who is really to blame. 8
Sagna: Wenger must have promised him big things as he is playing better than he ever has. 8
Mertesacker: So, so good, so calm, so commanding I really want to give him the MOTM but for their goal. 8
Koscielny: Another solid display from the other half of our amazing centre-back pairing 8
Gibbs: disciplined performance from England’s future LB. 8
Ramsey: I can’t think of anything else to say, MOTM. 10
Flamini: hands up all those who thought he would be able to keep Arteta out of the starting line up when he was re-signed? Not me. He is getting better and better every week. 8
Wilshere: playing wide left is obviously not ideal but he did what he could. 7
Gnabry: I thought he was a waste of space, it was if Arsenal were playing with a man short – and then he made that run. Things will never be the same. 7
Giroud: a difficult day for Ollie, his inability to hold the ball and beat a man will lead to a “Super Quality” signing coming in and ultimately taking his place. 7
Ozil. The honeymoon period is still in full swing. I just can’t wait until Cazorla returns. 7
Written by LB
Cannon to the Right of them,
Cannon to the left
Onwards in to the Group of Death
Rode the Mighty Arsenal
So we start yet another CL season, our umpteenth campaign. Consider this …… Only MU and Real Madrid in the whole of Europe have taken part in more consecutive CL seasons. This is quite some record for a team for whom 4th is a Trophy
Of course, we haven’t won Big Ears yet and I doubt we will do so this term but you have to be in it to win it (Are you watching Tottenham?).
What of Olympique de Marseille? We played them in 2011 and won at the Stade Velodrome 1-0 thanks to a Ramsey goal. However, OM go into the game having only lost twice at home in a year and with 6 new signings who appear to have quickly settled. We know about Valbuena, Gignac and Ayew who gave us a test last time, but they just signed Florian Thauvin who is being touted as the new Hazard. Last year he was signed by Lille from Bastia but loaned back for a season, he had such an impact that Marseille paid €13m for him, giving Lille a €10m profit on a player who had never played for them!! Thauvin is a playmaker in the Hazard/Ozil mould (but not as good).
Then there is Payet, a CF who has scored three times in OM’s first 5 games.
Not sure what Ché has to do with Marseille!
Arsenal: Injuries. Many have fallen before we hear the sound of musket fire. Those that are left will be roused by trumpets and sent against the heathen ranks. But will our glorious survivors have enough to overcome the infidel? Your guess is as good as mine, and mine is that the answer is in the positive.
The return of Merts is important because it allows Sagna to take his place at RB where he will face the flying Ayew. This will be one of the key battles. If Bac can stop the balls into Gignac and Payet we are almost home. If not, we must hope that BFG and Kos are on form.
Koscielny. What to say? 6 games played. 2 stupid penalties given away. Red and yellow cards. Shape up man, you are a brilliant player and you don’t want to lose your place to our club captain.
The midfield is superb even without the influence of Arteta. That said, we haven’t really been tested by any team other than AV who had 14 players on the pitch. Even with the loss of Cazorla, Arteta, Ox and Mozart (which is a formidable midfield) we look strong.. The addition of Mesut is just the cherry on top.
Upfront. Theo has to get amongst the goals before it starts to affect his confidence. He grows when he knows he is dangerous. OG is going to take a kicking both from the Marseilles defenders and his fellow countrymen in the stands who are less than impressed with his recent performances for the national team. Let’s hope he sticks up a metaphorical two fingers and scores a brace.
The bench still looks weak and we have few attacking options. The inclusion of Akpom shows how constrained we are. Can anyone explain why Bendtner isn’t fit and raring to go?
The pundits think this will be a draw. If we are to progress from the group then tonight is a must-win. 3 points away from home will propel the team forward into the next round of matches. The tough games are yet to come……
Forward you Gunners
“Charge for the Guns”, AW said,
Into the Group of Death
Rode the Mighty Arsenal
written by Big Raddy
This is not a match report, its a bunch of ramblings from a very happy Gooner with no real structure.
Lets start as we mean to go on, with a bloody good laugh. Laugh at the media, laugh at Levy’s £109m investment, laugh at AVB sprinting down the touch line to tell Kyle Walker to launch the ball in to the box because he was too thick to realise it was 30 seconds to go, laugh at all those who say Arsene Wenger doesn’t do tactics.
Yesterday our wily old Frenchman won the tactical battle, and the players executed it perfectly. Looking at the line ups it appeared that Spurs had been set up to create a solid defensive unit and to spring counter attacks using the pace of Townsend and Chadli feeding Soldado (I’m glad at this point the teamsheet is there as it indeed shows that they had a centre forward on the pitch £28m worth apparently).
Wenger had a trick up his sleeve, their midfield three lacked mobility, so Wenger set us up not to push too high, their attacking three were isolated and red and white shirts crowded them out and regained possession with relative ease. And when we won possession we had the pace and numbers to look threatening running at the heart of the Tottenham defence.
Wenger was rewarded by his players with a beautifully fashioned goal, at pace the ball was pinged around and players moved with intent, Theo was set free down the right with Spurs defenders not knowing who to mark, Giroud pulled Dawson this way and that before darting towards the near post to produce a deft finish to the bottom corner from Theo’s accurate cross.
After the goal we were content to continue the game plan, sitting deep, defending strongly and maximising use of the football when we had it. We were so comfortable that AVB started to change his team pushing Paulinho further forward, which just gave us more room to play forward when we did have the ball.
Despite having very little possession we continued to look threatening on the break, a better pass or a better touch at the crucial moment and we could have had a second.
Just before half time Jack Wilshere was removed feeling unwell and was replaced by Flamini, it wasn’t long before we got to see why it was a “no brainer” for Arsene. Flamini slotted straight in, for the rest of the half and all of the second he was one of the first to press the ball, organising those around him not used to such a battle. Those around him responded, Ramsey, Santi, Rosicky and Theo all prepared to do the more unpleasant side of the game, winning the ball back, fighting for possession.
I haven’t even moved on to the defence yet, they were simply magnificent, Soldado did not get a touch from Koscielny, Chadli and Townsend were kept relatively quiet by Gibbs and Jenkinson and Mertesacker did what he does best, provides calm assurance to those around him and reading the game inside out. And when they did breach the defensive unit Szczesny produced an absolutely top class save.
With players tiring and Spurs throwing more bodies forward it did get a little tense in the last ten minutes. We struggled to clear our lines and hold onto possession further up the pitch, especially once Rosicky and Theo had been replaced by Monreal and Sagna respectively. Giroud had been able to rely on those two for most of the game to be his outlet when trying to hold the ball up, now off the pitch he was looking more isolated but what I think we are all beginning to love about Oli is his work rate, he does not stop competing for his mates. Anyone watch MotD on Saturday night? A certain Mr Berbatov (that player that Arsene should have signed last summer) was sulking around St James’s Park. I know which of the two I’d rather have in my team.
All in all a very good days work, this wasn’t our most fluent display, but it was the kind of performance many of us have been waiting for. So many of my Spurs supporting clients were quick to text me after our defeat by Villa, I’ve kept my powder dry, when should I text, first thing in the morning, or when we’ve announced three super super quality signings?
Szczesny : 9 comfortable handling all game, good distribution especially under pressure and two cracking saves.
Jenkinson : 8 disciplined at right back, considerably helped by Theo occupying Walker
Gibbs : 7 given a bit of a working over by Townsend early on but ordinary service was resumed for the next 70 minutes, not helped by no one occupying Rose.
Koscielny : 9 is he pleased to see us or is that a £28m striker in his pocket.
Mertesacker : 8 leads by example.
Wilshere : 7 not his normal effervescent self but considering illness unsurprising
Ramsey : 9 lead the team in tackles, touches and attempted passes.
Cazorla : 9 the boy is class
Walcott : 8 used his pace to worry Spurs when we had the ball and defended well when we didn’t
Giroud : 9 a great finish, constantly working for his team, goal line block.
Flamini : 8 it was indeed a no brainer
Monreal : 7 did what he had to
Sagna : 7 ditto
Wenger : 10 out tacticted the young pretender
Enjoy transfer deadline Gooners bathing in the warm afterglow of a North London Derby win.
Gooner in Exile
For years the accepted wisdom at most clubs and certainly at Arsenal has been that you should start a new season with four centre backs all ready and able to be called upon whenever needed.
As recently as last season, we started with Mertasacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Squillaci. The problem with this system becomes clearer as you move along the list; the drop in quality is substantial.
The practicalities have been to have two centre backs playing, one on the bench and one doing very little apart from losing match sharpness in the reserves and picking up a large pay cheque.
Now as tough as it sounds to have to pick up a large pay cheque for seemingly doing very little, there is an expensive trade off; the fourth choice CB will almost certainly lose his chance to play first team football, ok he will play one or two games here and there but that is it.
So it becomes a balancing act, clubs want the best player they can get while knowing that if the player is any good he will not want to give up the opportunity to play.
It is the same at all clubs, a forth choice CB trades his chance to play football for a wage that is higher than he would be getting at a lesser club and so it follows that the higher the wage a club is prepared to pay the better the quality of forth choice back up will be.
Man city had Kolo Toure on a huge wage for doing very little apart from putting on weight but even he got bored enough to take a pay cut and move to Liverpool in the hope of playing regular football. (Ok, the pay cut part is a punt)
It is a thankless task being a forth choice CB and even more so at Arsenal where the player is not getting a man city pay cheque and to make things worse he is constantly moaned about by the fans for not being good enough.
This is why I have always had a great deal of sympathy for our forth choice CB’s and defended them when ever I could. Take Squillaci, it was not his fault that his job was to simply be an insurance policy against disaster; that’s to say if illness befell the three other CB’s in front of him.
The point of this post is that I think the club may have changed its policy; they still know that we need the depth, hence Mertasacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen; but, now instead of having another in the reserves I think that AW views Djourou as the fourth. It’s the reason why he was never sold and there have been plenty of opportunities to do so.
It makes a lot of sense, far better to have a fourth choice playing week in and week out, keeping his match fitness than languishing in the reserves. The loan deal probably has a clause that says we can have him back in case of disaster.
Makes sense to me, why would someone like Williams of Swansea want to give up the opportunity to play first team football again; in fact, why would anyone half decent want to?
Written by LB