Vote: Should RvP Return?

March 13, 2014

Rumours are that Van Persie is going to leave that cesspit. Money and the chance to sate his inner child were the only reasons for leaving The Home of Football and now he has won his title he wants out. Should we resurrect his career?

Great players do not have to be great people (Shearer?) and RvP showed his true colours when shafting us just two summers ago. He had the chance to be an Arsenal great and have his own statue but instead took the 30 pieces of silver. This has coloured the way we look at him because he was,  let’s be honest,  fantastic in his final 2 seasons during which time he was the best striker in the PL if not the world.

Positives:

1. We need an additional striker; OG for all his talent cannot carry the attack. The loss of Theo has resulted in us not knowing whether they could really work in tandem as S&S do at Liverpool. Perhaps they can but given Theo’s proclivity for injury, we need back up.

2. RvP is almost at pension age and is doomed to the bench at MU, he needs a gig, perhaps he will accept less money.

3. He remains a wonderful, natural talent with the best left foot (and maybe right) in the PL.

4. Podolski, for all his Goonerdom, is not good enough for this team. He just hasn’t got a fast enough brain. RvP has.

5. Mr Wenger still has a fine relationship with RvP and looks upon him like a son.

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OK. Now why we shouldn’t buy him ….

1. He is a traitor

2. He is 31 in August.

3. He earns over £200k a week and has 2 years left on his MU contract – so we will have to buy him

4. He may not work well with a central striker like Giroud. It would require RvP to play off a CF, and we have plenty of number 10′s.

5. The players must have been very disappointed with his betrayal and he could cause problems in the dressing room.

6. He will never accept being a squad player.

My opinion is that we should let him rot in Manchester of try his luck at Galatasary (where old players with big names but no pace go before they play “soccer”.)

What do you think …..?

Written by BigRaddy


MU. Artisans vs Artists

November 10, 2013

The little boy inside me wants to write about one of the MU strikers but as The Godfather (Michael) said to his brother Freddie after he shafted the Family by dealing with  Hyman Roth in Cuba, “You broke my heart, You broke my heart” and now the traitor is “dead to me”.

Some folk in the media say we go into the game as favourites – are they nuts? No-one goes to the Toilet as favourites, at least not this century. Yes, we have a better chance than in recent years but we have only managed one win and a draw since that magnificent victory in 2004 and we have beaten them only once in the last 9 meetings!

022

But United have never won the league on our ground, have they?  :-D

So why the optimism? 5 points clear, top of our CL group, the away victory in Dortmund, beating the second placed team last Saturday, the developing genius of Santi and Mesut, the recently recognised (by the non-gooners)  CB partnership, the renewed form of TPIG, the work-rate and improvement of OG. Could it be for any of those reasons?

Or could it be because of the experience and solidity of Arteta , Sagna and Rosicky? If one were to believe the red-tops Aaron Ramsey could win this on his own!

Man Utd: Are they really a team in crisis? Surely not. No, what they are is a team of reprehensible, cheating mutants who if the world was a just place would be behind bars pleading with Mr Big.

Want to see a diver? Go to Old Trafford.

Want to see a bought ref and linesman? Go to Old Trafford

Want to see 60+ thousand prawn sandwich eating remedials? Go to Old Trafford

Want to see a manager completely out of his depth? Ditto

And I haven’t even started on the supreme awfulness of Rooney, Ferdinand and Evra . Have you ever seen such a triumvirate of shitehawks?

(Chary could have written this section :-D)

But seriously, it would be foolish to write off their chances of winning and not just today. They are the Champions and won the title with this very team by 11 points !  Yes, they have lost the red-conked miscreant but apart from him the personnel is the same.

They have few injuries with just Welbeck missing from their first choice 11.

Arsenal: 252 days since our last away defeat. It should mean something but at 16.10 today the test starts in earnest. We have the team, we have the tools and we have the tactics to continue the run.

It would be boring to review our form, we all know it and the reasons for the improvement.  So, I will highlight just one of the many recent positives …. Mr. Arsene Wenger.

At the end of the AV game I looked at him and thought “Arsene, I love you but this job will kill you. You are clearly not enjoying it and the stress is just too much.” How wrong could I be? The man is rejuvenated! He hasn’t looked or sounded this good for many a year.

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His pre-match interview was a return to the humourous, intelligent man we all know – a man who can play with the journalists and yet retain respect. Does he miss SAF? Highly unlikely. Will he under-estimate the task this afternoon just because they have The Ditherer at the helm? Of course not, but he is confident, you can see it in his demeanor.

My Team:

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I know, I know ….. hard on Rosicky who has been excellent, but he does need a rest. With the Interlull coming one could say he will get it then, but Tomas, like most of our squad, with be playing two meaningless friendlies.

The midfield battle will be interesting; MU rely upon their usual compliment of battlers and artisans; have they had anyone with flair since ….. ?? It seems to a non- MU fan that they only buy and develop flair attackers, stacking the midfield with horrible Orc types. Scholes, Keane, Butt, Robson, Ince, all grafters, and now Cleverley, Carrick and Fellaini.   Sadly, this appears to work, but which midfield would you rather watch – our artists or their artisans?

The title will not be decided by this game and we will be top at November’s end come what may, but it would be excellent to put another nail into MU’s challenge and pile more pressure upon Gollum (though as we have agreed. we give him our unconditional support ;-)  )

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


A False Hero

April 28, 2013

Firstly, BR would like to congratulate Sir Alex and his team upon yet another Premiership title. Well played – you have been the best team this season showing remarkable consistency and efficiency.

OK, that’s out the way :-)

Would Salford have won it without our craven submission over the traitor? Who knows, but Mancini insists this player was the difference and he knows more about football than I do. What is clear is that he has had another great season and achieved his ambitions; more money and a PL medal, but in the process lost any dignity or respect he once had.

Unknown-1

No Explanation Necessary

From a personal point of view I found watching the Dutchman score against us at Old Toilet one of the most painful of my footballing experiences, but I don’t want this post and today’s discussion to be all about one man. Man Utd at home is always one of our biggest games and today is no different.

Should there be a Guard of Honour? Definitely, we would expect one if it was the other way round.

I love this game – win,draw or lose. The tension, the rivalry, the battle between efficiency and artistry, it is all so blood-pumpingly exciting. Win today and we are well on our way to Europe, lose and we have problems.

Will United be less enthusiastic than normal? Can you imagine SAF telling his team that today doesn’t matter because we have achieved our season’s target? Beating Arsenal at any time is important to the red-conked Sweaty (cockney rhyming slang) and despite a softening of attitude Wenger and he are hardly mates.

Have we got the team to beat the Champions? If all our lads turn up then definitely. We know what to expect from MU – rotational fouling early in the game on both Santi and Jack, a closing down of Theo (whom Evra has in his pocket most games) and counter-attacking football.

My Team:

arse v manu

Losing Giroud for three games following a poor refereeing decision and an even more ludicrous FA tribunal could be costly. OG may not be scoring of late but he remains the fulcrum of our attack. His absence will allow Podolski to finally get his chance in the middle but perhaps it will be Theo. Who knows?

Knowing SAF’s propensity to pack the midfield we will need to play the 4-4-2 AW has used over the past few games. I have to say that I am not  a fan, and believe we play better with a 4-3-3. We need a big game from Wilshire but more than that we need a referee who will protect him from the SAF hackers.

Today’s English Explorer:  This series has concentrated on explorers who spent their time finding new lands but there are also those who explore by going up and today we have another of our finest, but almost unknown, heroes. Bill Tilman (1898-1977).

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Not a False Hero.

Major Harold William Tilman CBE, DSO, MC and Bar was both a sailor and mountaineer and as you can guess from his decorations, a warrior. At 18 he went to war and fought at the Battle of the Somme, by war’s end he had received the Military Cross for bravery twice. Bill started his climbing career in Africa, climbing both Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Rather than fly home he chose to cycle from East to West Africa!

After another war and more medals (he was at Dunkirk), Bill took on his life challenge which was of course the Himalayas. Starting with Everest (reaching 27,00ft, which was the highest any man had stood until the ’50′s) he was the first to summit numerous Himalayan peaks. Tilman then took up deep sea sailing and went both to the Antarctic and Arctic in search of new challenges and peaks to climb. In his 80th year he tried to climb Smith Island in the South Atlantic. On the journey back to Rio de Janeiro his ship sank with the loss of all hands.

Now that is the spirit we need today.

Another massive game. The return of a man who not so long ago was a hero. A Top 4 battle. Exciting times.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Virgin Sacrifice: I presume

November 2, 2012

There are games one anticipates with hope rather than confidence. You know the ones, the top 3 away and of late the trip to the Cave Dwellers. I have never enjoyed our games at the Old Toilet, we rarely do well and when we do it comes as a surprise – yes, we have had some wonderful wins and some sterling performances but on the whole we struggle. We have won once at OT in 10 years (PL) and just 3 times in 20 years.

Then there was last season’s freak humiliation. And before you Kent United fans get uppity, the 8 goals came from 14 shots on target. we had 9, you had 3 corners, AFC 5. A freak result which owed much to good fortune and a dreadful defensive performance from a patched up Arsenal – Traore and Jenks were our FB’s (CJ’s first PL game).

All football fans know that SAF signed a pact with the devil – the percentage of dodgy refereeing decisions and decades of outrageous good fortune are testament to his trip down to the Crossroads but last season the Oil money bought his luck. The Chavs shameful CL victory and MC’s last-second PL win must have shaken The Gorbals  Guzzler down to the tip of his steel toed boots. Having already sold his soul Ferguson is surely looking at other avenues to ensure his team’s dominance over the fickle fates….. see below

Sir Alex prepares for the game

Let’s get the unpleasant stuff out of the way early. Brave Sir Robin. An inspired purchase by SAF, a purchase which could win them the title. For us, a shambles of Titanic proportions. To BSR we are the lover scorned and he will pay the price whatever Mr Wenger says.

What can we expect of today? None of the MU players who conceded 5 (as we did!) midweek will start, as such, Scholes, Cleverly and Carrick will be doing their best to cripple Santi and Jack.  Their defence is said to be shaky but whose wouldn’t given their injuries at CB ? We can but hope that SAF has a meltdown and includes Wooton.

It goes without saying that MU sport some of the most odious men playing today. Evra, Rooney, Nani, Rafael, Ferdinand , Anderson, Fletcher, Young – all  beetle headed baculum (look it up!). I hesitate to put Ashley Young amongst these miscreants but despite being a Gooner, if the cap fits…..

I expect Mr Wenger to take a conservative view; he will not want his team humiliated again – if last season was tough for us, imagine how it was for him.

My Team:

I fully expect to see both Arshavin and Walcott at some point, especially Theo after his fine performance at Reading. But today we will need solidity, should we reach the hour point on level terms I hope AW will bolster the attack.

Much focus will be upon the performance of Jack Wilshire. So much riding upon his stocky frame and the strength of his ankles. If he returns to the form of two seasons ago this Arsenal team will be very, very strong. It is one thing to close down Cazorla with 2 players but having another creative genius allows Arsenal to continue to threaten. We must pray that the referee (Mike Dean – the world is watching) will protect him because you know SAF will be telling his miscreants to kick two colours out of young Jack

It is a great shame Diaby is not fit as this would be his type of game, we will miss Gibbs as well because it is inevitable SAF will target Santos.

This is a game which George Graham would have relished; put the Famous 5 in place of the current back 5 and we would stand a much better chance. Actually, scratch that ….. put Seaman into this team and it would be transformed. The stats show we have conceded just 6 PL goals which is astonishing given our goalkeeping frailty; it is a testament to a team ethic. But and this is a huge BUT, no team wins things without a top goalkeeper and we are lacking. Let us pray to Dennis that AW has a proper GK in his sights this January – watching Julio Cesar perform heroics for QPR last week made me wonder why he wasn’t in our goal.

Today’s Top Man:  I promised you David Livingstone (1813 – 1873) and here he is in all his pomp and glory:

No Beard – Not Knighted

A Scottish Protestant Missionary, he was the first white man to cross Africa. He also tried to find the source of the Zambezi, a 6 year expedition during which he “discovered”/named Victoria Falls and Lake Malawi. He then traveled into the East African jungle where he got “lost” for 4 years. Such was Livingstone’s fame that the New York Herald sent out Henry Stanley to find him. They met on the shores of Lake Tanganyika with Stanley humorously greeting him with the famous words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”  Livingstone died in Africa (malaria), his heart was buried in Zambia, and his body brought back to England where it was buried in Westminster Cathedral

BR doesn’t make predictions but he would be thrilled with a point and promises to buy Mrs Raddy something expensive should when we win.

Written by Big Raddy


Rivals: Can Arsenal win the League?

September 8, 2012

Given the evidence of the first 3 games, where do you think we will finish in the league this season?

Today’s post is a look at our rivals, starting with the current Champions.

Manchester City

Man City have strengthened in areas which Mancini identified as weak – Garcia, Rodwell, Sinclair and Maicon arriving with the very average Savic, Johnson, De Jong and a few others leaving. Maicon, despite being 31, is a top quality player and will definitely be an asset, but did they need to sign anyone? MC’s first team  improved steadily over last season and with the return of Tevez to the fold they continue to look formidable. My guess is all the new arrivals will be spending most of the season sitting down.

Their first two games showed some weaknesses, particularly at Anfield where they were a defensive mistake away from defeat. they trailed at home to Southampton before getting a squeaky win and walloped QPR.  City travel to Stoke for their next game afar which we can compare our game to theirs.

In my opinion the title will be City’s to lose; they have a powerful and high quality squad which is well prepared for inevitable losses of form and injuries. Plus they have a manager who knows how to win titles

Manchester United

Essentially the question is “Can RvP deliver the title to MU”? The lack of investment into an ageing and non-creative midfield would be a cause for concern in any other team,but Ol’ Bacon Face has won the PL so many times with what to outsiders were average teams we cannot dismiss them. So far RvP has saved them humiliation at Southampton and scored the first in a fortunate win v Fulham and they have lost at Everton – hardly the stuff of champions. Yet despite having a thin squad, particularly at the back where Carrick has played CB, they must be considered a threat – MU always are. Kagawa looks quality, a player in the Giggs mould and SAF has looked to the future with the signings of the highly rated Powell and Buttner.

But have they got enough?. Are 3 world class players (RvP, Rooney, Vidic) enough to compete with the other challengers? Can they continue to rely upon the ancient legs of Scholes to give them impetus? Not in my opinion. There is a fragility in defence which teams will expose, though it has to be said, the Old Red Nose knows a hell of a lot more about football than I do!

Chelsea

A very impressive start to the season for the history lacking Southern Oilers. The new signings look superb – the combination of Mata, Hazard and Oscar is frightening (though this must be tempered by the very average Obi One Mikel). Hazard will light up the season as Silva did when he arrived at MC, he has deceptive strength, vision and pace – what a pity AW couldn’t persuade him to sign a few years back.But as good as they are in midfield where Fatboy Lampard will struggle to get a game, there are problems at The Bridge. An over-reliance upon the questionable gifts of the PL’s most expensive player will prove costly, and there is not much else. How do you replace a player like Drogba? Sturridge isn’t the answer, Victor Moses despite being quality will not score the missing goals. So if teams can stifle the midfield threat, then Chelsea will struggle.

In defence there are also problems. JT is a  …., we all know it, he is thankfully at the end of a career which has disgraced English football but in Cahill they have a decent replacement. Add in the “mercurial” (read unreliable/nuts) talents of Luiz, the ageing legs of Cashley  to the quirkiness of Ivanovic and we can see cracks.

Then there is the manager. An incredibly lucky CL win (has there ever been a more fortunate win in the history of football?) led to his appointment. One can only assume RdM is a stop-gap appointment prior to Guardiola. But what happens if it all goes TU? Will Abra give him time?  We all know the answer.

Tottenham

Yes, laughable as it may seem the knuckle draggers are rivals. Can they win the title? Of course not – they haven’t won it since Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister and he was born in 1894!!! (love that fact) but they finished 4th last season and must have chances of a repeat performance. One can only assume that Monkey Boy has no ambition as he remains at  Sh*te Hart Lane; whilst Ratboy and FanderFart have had enough of the lack of light in the caves. As usual the Totts have made some decent signings – Dempsey was an AFC target as were Vertoghen and Loris; Dembele should have been. Ade will continue to score goals and infuriate with equal measure, and Defoe will sit on the bench.

Their problems lie in defence where Gallas’s pace is constricted by his Zimmer frame. Dawson was out the door until someone realised Kaboul was too fragile and King has retired. They do have some very good youngsters coming through and I guess they will blood them this season should Vertoghen struggle.

Then there is their new manager. I like AVB and expected him to be a huge success at Chelsea. Will the fans (gimps) and the board give him breathing space? I hope not because he will improve them given time.

Liverpool

Two thoughts come to mind: You’re having a Turkish and Calm Down.

Newcastle

Did well last season and definitely punched above their weight. Again the defence has to be their weak point. They have managed to retain their best players despite the attempts of AW to sign Cabaye. Newcastle have beaten the Totts (easily) lost to the Chavs (easily) and fortunately drawn with AV. A difficult start but 4 points is OK and about on par. My expectation is they will have a good home record but struggle away.

Others

Everton have a decent first team and started better than normal, AV are dull in the extreme, but Top 4 ? No chance.

Conclusion:

There can only be one outcome …… Arsenal will be crowned Champions in late April.

1. Arsenal

2. Chelsea

3. Man City

4. Man Utd

5. Newcastle

6. Stoke

7. Wigan

8. The Noisy Neighbours

What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy


Simply the Best: Georgie Boy and Watson. Two Authentic Heroes. MU Pre-Match

January 22, 2012

For today’s introduction we are going back into the mists of time, when men were men and not floppy overcooked strings of spaghetti like Busquets, Nani and Pepe.

England were World Champions and Man Utd had recently won the European Cup. For the younger reader who has grown up in the Sky era, there can be no understanding of the excitement and national pride that both events stirred. Unlike today, all English football fans wanted MU to beat a brilliant Benfica team at Wembley, the scene of our only WC triumph just 2 years before. The following year (Sept ’69) when MU came to Highbury the side had already changed following the retirement of Sir Matt Busby, with younger blood joining Bobby Charlton etc.

At that time George Best was 23 years old, he had already played 300 games for MU and was the most famous footballer in the World. Moore, Charlton and Stiles may have been the faces of England’s WC victory but George was The Man. At a time when football was confined to newspaper  back pages, Best was front page headline news, top 10 songs were written about him, kids aped his clothes, copied his hair style, he was a friend of the Beatles, always had a super-model on his arm etc etc. But above all, he was a complete footballer, he was coming to Highbury and so was I.

A 60,000 crowd  in the same Highbury that was limited to under 40k a few years later. The North Bank was packed and swaying. An old man reminiscing is interminably dull so I will cut this short· Mclintock heads out a high ball to the edge of the area, Best leaps off the ground and sends a scissor kick volley flying past Bob Wilson. At first, there was stunned silence around Highbury followed by huge applause, we had witnessed a genius displaying his genius – what can be better on a football pitch? We drew 2-2 and I recall Stroller Graham scoring one for us.

George Best is the best player I have ever seen play live and I have seen Maradona, Cruyff, Van Basten, Gullit, TH, DB  (4 Dutchmen TA :-) ) etc etc  No-one could lift a crowd in the way he did, and he was a brilliant bloke to boot.

A young Best at what looks like Highbury (West Stand?)

Manchester United have always been a glamour club and their arrival at the Emirates guarantees tension and excitement, this fixture remains a highlight of  any season. Sadly, Ferguson’s MU are a pale shadow of the entertaining sides of their past; the cheating, spitting, vituperative Rooney being the emblem of their play. Yes, they thrashed a reserve AFC earlier in the season (a total freak result ), and today we could have problems due to our injury nightmare but the belief remains that a full strength Arsenal would beat this MU team with some ease.

However, we do NOT have a full strength team and are unlikely to see one for some time. Have we enough to win today? Certainly, if the players give their all and work as a team. There are fears about how our “FB’s” will cope with MU’s strength on the flanks;  the midfielders must concentrate and assist them.

My Team:

It would be brave to start with Oxlade-Chamberlain – his last outing at OT was hardly a success!

Famous Gooner: Today is all about courage, the ability to step forward when all you want to do is go home and play with the wife. One Gooner who has lived a life requiring a level of courage few of us can imagine is Michael Watson.

Having beaten Nigel Benn, Watson fought and lost to Chris Eubank for the WBO Middleweight title (1991, what great times for fans of British boxing), receiving a life-threatening injury which resulted in 6 brain operations and 40 days in a coma.  To go from being at the top of his profession with a healthy, immensely strong body to being  totally immobile must have been devastating. There followed a year in hospital during which time he couldn’t move, hear or speak, Watson spent the next 6 years in a wheelchair.  But Michael didn’t give up, he fought is disabilities and in 2003 even managed to complete the London Marathon (over the course of 6 days), being welcomed over the finish line by Eubanks and his neurosurgeon.

Not long out of hospital (1992) Michael was invited onto the hallowed grass at his beloved Highbury and at half-time was pushed in his wheel-chair to all sides of the ground – it was a highly emotional moment both for him and the fans who rose to greet him. I was there that day and am not ashamed to say shed a tear for an incredibly brave man and a true Gooner. In 2004, Watson was awarded an MBE for his charity work for Brain and Spinal Research.

Watson, wearing the Red & White he always wore in the Ring

Watson doesn’t find excuses when the odds are stacked against him. Can today’s Arsenal team win?  Ask Michael.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Overconfident Mancs? MU preview

August 28, 2011

“We won the League ….. In Manchester”

We won the League at Old Trafford etc……. “

Seems like a long time ago since Mr Wiltord ensured another title for the men in the white hats. It would be reasonable to say that whilst United have consolidated and strengthened, we have taken a step back. The reasons have been discussed ad nauseum across the AFC blogworld, we all have our theories and pre-match is not the time to further the discussion.

Rarely have I known Gooners go into a PL game with so little expectation, actually that’s not true – there is an expectation – we are goimg to get hammered. Why? …. oh, there are so many reasons for the lack of optimism:  Recent history at OT, injuries, suspensions, exhaustion,  inexperience, players out of their natural positions etc etc etc. BUT …..

It is still a game of 11 versus 11, and whilst we may not have our first choice team available we still have a very good side. MU may be Champions (and deservedly so) but they have their own difficulties: An very youthful and untested CB pairing, a lack of a creative midfielder, a dependence upon the talents of Rooney, a dodgy keeper. etc etc

Where MU undoubtedly have an advantage is with the officials. However MU fans may like to suggest otherwise the facts point to an undoubted bias towards MU at OT. Since the beginning of 2009 – over 2 seasons, only one penalty has been awarded to the opposition at OT, whereas 8 were awarded to MU ( Arsenal stats for Emirates AFC . For 9, against 8). This is before dodgy offsides, non-goals, cards given for an MU dive, 110 minute games etc. This bias is so prevalent that it has become accepted by everyone outside of OT. Harold Webbis today’s victim, let us hope he has a good game.

This is a huge game in our calendar, one of the highlights of the season and whomever AW decides to play, they will give their all. We have match winners despite our problems and despite the shuffles , the defence looks sound. Suggestions have been made that Djourou could play in midfield …. seems a reasonable shout, better than throwing Lansbury into a massive game.

Our record at Old Trafford has been poor in recent years, no win since 2006, Furthermore, United have not lost a home PL game for 17 months! The Manc blogs are united in their optimism – most predict a home win by a least 2-0 and a comfortable victory. It is true that MU have started the season very well, the seond half against a sub-standard Spurs was an exhibition of superb attacking football to which the cave dwellers had no answer (and still have no points).

But …… our win in Italy was founded upon a determination which has rarely been seen in the squad since Sol and PV left. We are expected to lose yet we have real firepower in our front line, hard workers in our midfield and a beginning of a solid defence based around a superb goalkeeper. Should we score first, I rate our chances highly.

My team:

Either JD or Kos could play as DM. They both have shown an eye for a pass and the ability to get forward. Just read there could be a problem with Sagna, in which case, Lansbury has to play MF and Koscielny can go left …. tough times!

There have been many inventors from Manchester, my favourite being Roy Chadwick who designed the Lancaster bomber as well as the Vulcan bomber upon which Concorde was based.  Chadwick died in 1947 testing one of his own designs.

A question was posed midweek …. which game would we rather win, Udinese or MU. Almost everyone said the CL match. I disagree, I want to win both.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Should Arsenal emulate Barca or Manu?

May 14, 2011

In the absence of a post this morning I thought I’d write a short piece and ask this question that has been playing on my mind. It is over to the technically gifted observers to develop the debate and flesh it out with tactical analysis.

We are shortly to see how these two highly successful yet differing footballing cultures match up in the Champion’s League final. It’s a one off game, so the answer will not be definitive, but it is nevertheless a mouthwatering prospect.

The main difference I can see is that Barca is overflowing with talent and invariably manages to get the best out of their gifted players. They have superior players in every game and a system that maximises their potential, and that is why they are winning La Liga and in the CL final.

Manu are also going to win the Premiership and join Barca in the final, but they have managed to win or at least gain a draw in many games whilst not playing the best football. This is not a criticism, if anything, it is to be greatly admired.

Arsenal, like Barca, has many gifted players. We compare our team to the opposition man for man before a game and conclude that ‘we should win’. But we lose when we should win as frequently as Manu win when they should lose.

Why is this?

My answer may not be popular. We have some fantastic players but most are not at the level of their Barca counterparts. With our budgetary constraints we are unlikely to ever be able to compete with Barca for buying top players. So we should forget the rather high brow distraction of thinking we are the English Barcelona and examine how we can be more like Manu (sorry chary)

Manu have the advantage of a winning dynasty that permeates throughout the current side. They are not the greatest group of players but they are a very good team. They have a rock solid defence and respect the basics of football. They have strength at the back, power and passing ability in midfield, pace on the flanks and goalscorers up front. Add those traits to a steely determination instilled by their manager and it becomes obvious why they are so successful.

How could we make Arsenal more like Manu? – it sickens to even ask the question, but if we want to add trophies to our much admired playing style, I think that is exactly what we have to do.

I’m not going to answer the question…. over to you…


How many Man Utd players would get into Arsenal’s First Team?

March 31, 2011

I spend much time discussing football with fans of other teams. Inevitably we play the “but he would never play in our team “game, and this could be the first of “How many Arsenal players would get in  ……… first team”?

Let us look at the current leaders of the PL,  Man Utd, taking what I believe to be Mr Wenger’s first choice 11 v Aaron’s view of the SAF’s first choice.

Note Well. This team is set-up in Arsenal’s formation , not the Man Utd 4-4-2 !

 

Van de Saar v Szczesny.

Not as obvious as one might think. Van de Saar has huge experience and has been a superb keeper. Had AW signed him 5 years ago we could well well won a title or two, but at 40 y.o. his powers are fading and retirement beckons. Whereas our new GK is but a slip of a lad and has a glittering future ahead – he dominates the area, is a fine shot-stopper and is learning quickly.  Experience v Youth?  It has to be the Pole.

Sagna v Rafael.

Rafael looks major find. Comfortable on the ball, can cross, likes to attack, and can tackle but he has already shown a questionable temperament and has clearly studied tapes of Dani Alves’s cheating  techniques. Sagna is quite simply the best right back in the PL. I would like to see his crossing improve but in every other area he is superb.

Centre Backs.

Man Utd are truly blessed in this area. Ferdinand and Vidic combine footballing skills and strength. They are both on-field leaders and the rock around which MU function. Arsenal’s first choice CB pairing is unclear, who are they? TV/JD? TV/Kos? Kos/JD?  The JD/Kos pairing seems stable and they combine well but neither is at the level of either of MU’s CB’s

Clichy v Evra.

I love Gael, I detest Evra, but my feelings are not based around their footballing ability.  Sadly, Evra is a fine footballer, a winner and very consistent. Gael, as we all know, has lapses, I think he is a better attacking force than Evra but Evra is more solid. I am afraid Evra gets the shirt.

Song v  Carrick

No contest here. When Carrick was at West Ham he looked as though he could develop into the new Bryan Robson – it didn’t happen, whether through lack of ability or injury, we will never know. Either way, he hasn’t the control or vision of Song who at the tender age of 23 is already one of the most influential players in the PL.

Fletcher v Wilshere.

Jack’s progress is nothing short of astonishing. At the age of 19 to be the central figure in the England team indicates a truly great player in the making, but Fletcher is the key player in a dull yet effective MU midfield. A terrier and a man who doesn’t accept losing – just the type of player we are lacking at Arsenal. So it is with heavy heart that I take Fletcher, because I believe that with him in the team we would already have won the PL, though I fully accept this is a controversial decision!

Nani v Theo

Another tough one. Nani has all the tricks, has pace and a fine shot. He also has a very questionable attitude and dreadful hair. Theo has better hair, more pace, less attitude and could be a future Arsenal great. However Nani has 9 goals and 16 assists and is the most effective player in the PL this season, whereas despite having his best season to date Theo has 7 goals, 6 assists. Shame on me but it has to be Nani

Rooney v Fabregas

This is difficult because they do not play the same roles as MU normally set up as 4-4-2-. If one assumes that Rooney is MU’s playmaker then we have to pit him against our own playmaker,  I could duck the issue and say it depends upon the opposition or shift Rooney out left to be compared with Nasri, but a direct comparison it has to be. Let’s look at this season’s stats – Cesc: 31 apps,  9 goals. 13 assists. Rooney: 29 apps, 9 gls, and 11 assists (?). On these stats Cesc is more slightly effective though both are the talisman of their sides. When either of them plays at the top of their form, their teams win. I love Cesc and this is an Arsenal site so Cesc gets it.

RvP v Hernandez/ Berbs.

I asked my MU mad friend Aaron who would be SAF’s first 11, and he chose Hernandez ahead of Berbatov. I would pick RvP ahead of either of them. Simply put, our Dutch striker is World Class, a player who can score both the spectacular and elementary goals.

Nasri v Valencia

Valencia is a fine player and I expect him to have a major impact on the PL next season, but Nasri is at another level. That Samir became France’s new National Captain last weekend is evidence of his rising stature and reliability. A fine player and with Valencia only just returning from injury, the obvious choice.

So a team of:

Quite how this team would function would be the managers concern though he would have a fantastic bench should the team not perform.

Clearly MU’s defensive steel added to Arsenal’s greater ball control would be a frightening prospect for any opposition and I would expect this side to win the PL, but they would be unlikely to go through a season unbeaten – only a truly great side could do that …. ;-)

Finally, today is the 10th anniversary of Rocky’s untimely death. We all loved Rocky, he was a Gooner through and through, a hero to all who watched his development through the youth teams and into the wonderful player he became. My favourite memory of him was his goal at the Lane in the League Cup Semi-Final – one of the most exciting moments of my life. Gone but never forgotten.


Up for the Cup??

March 12, 2011

Lucky Arsenal? This season we have drawn Newcastle and Spurs away in the Carling Cup, Barcelona in the CL, and now Man Utd away in the FA Cup.  I can only imagine Mr Wenger has spent the season walking under ladders and crossing the path of black cats. No-one wanted this fixture, neither Arsenal who are coming off the back of an emotional defeat at Camp Nou nor Man Utd, who are facing Marseilles in an important contest on Weds.

And yet neither manager will give up on this game. In my opinion both will put out as strong a team as injury permits, pride will dictate their actions. However, we are without (I hate writing this …) Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabregas , Song, Fabianski and Szczesny, and United are without Nani, Ferdinand and Park.

The loss of Szczesny has brought about the situation that (almost) all Gooners feared – a run of games for Almunia. Many point out that Manuel had a fine game in Spain and it would be churlish to argue. However, there is a reason why two Poles under the age of 23 are ahead of him in the AFC rankings and that is because Almunia is notoriously inconsistent. It was said at the start of the season by most pundits that Arsenal cannot win the league with Almunia, unfortunately we are about to find out. That said, I am sure he will give his all for the cause (and promote his flagging career). He must be given 100% support.

Having a more reliable defence will give Manuel confidence. We have tightened  to the point where there appears to be some understanding at the back; something missing since Sol left. Who would have thought that Djourou would be the man to come to the fore (apart from GG, and yours truly)?

We still have the midfield creativity problem in Cesc’s absence. Many have called for Nasri to take Cesc’s role, which make much sense. He has the vision and pace to push the team forward and has been given the Captain’s armband (though Almunia will take it tomorrow) which indicates he has the character to lead the team, and character he will need because at OT Fletcher has the licence to kick anyone off the park. Song is a big loss – Diaby plays better when he has the security of a strong defensive midfielder. Will Mr Wenger dare to start Ramsey rather than Denilson? I would take the risk but this is more a reflection of my opinion of Denilson. The Brazilian has much to recommend him, but not at a team at the level of Arsenal. I am sure he will be a huge success in Malaga, Mallorca or Juventus but not at the Grove – sorry.

Up front Van Persie will be chafing at the bit after his infuriating red card, he is playing as well as any time during his Arsenal career.  Bendtner will be desperate to show that with more than 10 minutes on the pitch he can score, but if Nasri and Arshavin are to start I see no place for him. I expect Nik to leave in summer (and I will be sad to see him go), if I was him I would be fuming that having played in most rounds of the Carling Cup and being one of the main reasons we got to the Final, he was dropped for RvP.  Vidic is back for MU which is a huge fillip for them, and a negative for us. Time for Arshavin to rediscover his shooting boots.

Man Utd have been an anomaly; at no time have they looked a title winning team and yet they have led the Premiership for most of the season. With a dull but effective midfield they rely on power rather than guile. What would they give for a young Bobby Charlton? In losing their last two big games they have seen that Giggs and Scholes fading powers are useful but not dependable. Expect a buying spree from SAF this summer –  a GK, a left back (who wants the lamentable Evra?), 2 creative MF’s, and a CB –  Modric, Rodwell, Bale, Cahill, Neuer have all been mentioned. Valencia has suffered from injury and can perhaps become the Giggs replacement, but MU have yet to replace the brilliance of Ronaldo. What they have replaced is Ronaldo’s penchant for acting with an even worse cheat in Nani. – fine player, shame about the histrionics. Rooney has flickered all season, capable of the brilliant but then petulant and obnoxious – once again his career has been boosted by SAF’s influence at the FA. . Berbatov is the PL’s top scorer and yet remains as unreliable as ever – another capable of brilliance or anonymity. His place is under threat from Hernandez who looks a fine signing –  that valuable fox in the box.

Mr Wenger has continually stated Arsenal will fight on all fronts this season, and I expect him to put out his strongest available 11.

My team:

Personally, I expect us to lose; we are not playing with fluency nor with confidence; we usually go down at Old Trafford and we will be forced to play against 14 men (11 players and the officials). Arsenal have yet to score more than one goal in a game at Old Trafford in the PL, so we are unlikely to see a goal-fest. To win we need to score first and force Man Utd to come onto us, thereby allowing Arsenal to play on the counter-attack. And above all, we need a good and fair performance from the referee, Chris Foy.

It is the final game of the season against Man Utd on Mayday which is more important to me and I imagine to both managers –  this is just the Hors d’oeuvre. I would give the Claret- nosed Caledonian (Thank you RL) the win today in exchange for the 3 points at the Grove.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


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