Old wine, or new bottle, or old wine in new bottle?

December 31, 2013

End of the year, and part of the ritual is to take stock, and look forward towards the future with glorious plans and renewed expectations. And what a fantastic year this has been for Arsenal fans! At the midway stage in the Premier League last year, Arsenal was lying 7th, well off the pace for Champions League qualification, and even off Spursday football places. Qualifying second in their group, Arsenal faced a tough round of 16 encounter against Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe at that stage. With significant changes to the Board, a new owner in tow, there were uncertain times for the club management. The fans were up in arms, with substantial ammunition provided by a negative press, dubious pundits and even the Arsenal Supporters Trust. Difficult times indeed!

But Arsenal managed to make a fantastic turnaround. Attaining qualification for CL was nothing short of a miracle! Yes, Arsenal lost out in a two leg epic battle against eventual winners Bayern, but before that showed their mettle in an amazing 2-0 away victory. Despite all the negativity, good progress was made in the summer transfer window. The progress continued in the current season, and Arsenal is sitting at the Top of the Premier League at the halfway stage. Qualification to the Champions League was gained from the aptly termed “Group of Death”. Grudging acknowledgement of Arsenal’s strength and mettle is gently arising from beneath the rubble of disdain and the green fumes of envy. Indeed, if the league was played over the calendar year, Arsenal would have been Champions of 2013. Oh, what a year this has been!!!

 

per and kosser

All in all, a good year in prospect. There are plenty of challenges yet to be met. Plenty of time still before we even begin to celebrate the achievements of this team. But, also plenty of positive vibes and expectation in tow. So AA ers, looking towards the future, what did we learn new about Arsenal this year, and what were we reminded of afresh, that we did not know with so much certainty one year back? Let us discuss. Here are a few of my tentative suggestions. It was not all rosy, though. Injuries continued through the year. The squad seems a bit thin. Progression to the round of 16 in the Champions League was gained, but only in second place. Like last year, we have drawn Bayern Munich. Lovely games in prospect, but significant challenges as well. And if the vitriol from the fans is a bit subdued due to the sustained run of fine results and resilience in the field of play, the negativity from the press and pundits continues unabated. Perhaps most importantly, whether by luck or design, Arsenal continues to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. Alas, some things never seem to change!

First, same time last year we did not know what a fantastic central defensive partnership, together with a very competent goalkeeper, we were developing. Indeed a large part of our success this year owes itself to the fantastic defensive pairing of Per and Kos. What a duo!!! And what a great leader in our beloved BFG! When Verms got injured, who would have thought we would have such a strong defence where even a fit squad captain cannot find a place?

Per and kossser 2

Second, one of the best revelations of the year was the discovery that Ramsey had developed into such a fantastic player. He was the subject of much of the blame and vitriol during our indifferent showing in 2012. Perhaps somewhat undeservedly. But our beloved Rambo rubbed all these adversities off his shirt, returned in style from his long standing injury, and has grown to the stature of one of the best midfielders in the League, perhaps in Europe as well.

Ramsey

He has shown a very mature head as well, leading for his country at a very young age. In tow, Jack Wilshere is developing into a fine player, if somewhat idiosyncratic on occasions. Together with Theo, the Ox, Gibbs and Jenks, they also form a British core to the team which had been somewhat deficient for a while. Who would have thought a year back that Rambo would develop into such a fantastic and dependable player, and Jack’s game will be coming along so nicely as well?

The English players

Third, one of the most encouraging developments of the year, at least for me, was the maturity with which the owner Kroenke, Gazidis and the Board conducted themselves. Perhaps the best development was that the Board did not interfere in footballing matters, leaving team and signing decisions to the people who know best, led by one Arsene Wenger. If you think that this is not a surprise, look around at other clubs. Several clubs have met with significant disasters as a result of owner power, such as the Spuds, Cardiff and even the Chavs, and in some others the environment is not very nice even if the performance has not been equally devastating.

The principles of the club, that a fantastic team can be developed without wasting money on the wasteful purchase of overpriced bench idols, was not compromised by a new owner and a new look Board. Surely, this was not a given at the start of the year, after the club had gone through a rather aggressive ownership contest and change of hands.

Fourth, amid the mantra of financial fairplay and traditional hesitancy to spend big money, and the recovery from an expensive move to the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would spend their money where it mattered most?

Ozil

In the procurement of one Mesut Ozil, who despite his tentative adjustment to English football and the Arsenal way of playing the game, has given the team something really special, Arsenal showed purpose and ambition, and real ability to deliver trophies. This came together with the free transfer of one Mathieu Flamini – ah, what a fantastic transfer move!

flamini

Fifth, against the backdrop of significant unrest and disquiet among good-weather fans, ably supported by the press and pundits, who would have thought that the positive outlook of a sane fan-base would shine through? The struggle against the doubters and doomday-usherers still continues in earnest, in ArsenalArsenal and elsewhere, but The Home of Football still reverberates with the positive chants and outlook towards the new dawn awaiting in the New Year!!!!

AA ers, what do you think? My final thoughts are:

COYG! Onwards and Upwards!! A fantastic year 2014 awaits!!!!

Written by arnie

Arsenal Record 2013 Calendar Year

P W D L F A GD Pts
38 25 7 6 70 34 36 82

Where would 82 points put us in seasons past?

SEASON Winners P W D L F A GD Pts AFC on 82 points
2008-09 Utd 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90 4th
2009-10 Chavs 38 27 5 6 103 32 71 86 3rd
2010-11 Utd 38 23 11 4 78 37 41 80 1st
2011-12 Oilers 38 28 5 5 94 29 65 89 3rd
2012-13 Utd 38 28 5 5 86 43 43 89 2nd

Chart by MickyDidIt

2013 Calendar Year League Table

P W D L F A GD Points vs Top 7 Total Home Total Away
Arsenal 38 25 7 6 70 33 37 82 10 19 19
Shitty 38 25 5 8 86 39 47 80 10 19 19
Chavs 38 23 8 7 71 40 31 77 10 20 18
ManUre 38 23 8 7 70 37 33 77 11 19 19
Spuds 38 21 10 7 55 46 9 73 10 19 19
Dippers 38 21 9 8 87 39 48 72 9 18 20
Everton 38 18 13 7 54 35 19 67 11 20 18
Toon 38 16 6 16 51 62 -11 54 13 19 19
Southampton 38 12 15 11 49 43 6 51 13 19 19
Villa 38 11 10 17 50 58 -8 43 11 20 18
Swansea 38 10 12 16 44 54 -10 42 12 18 20
Norwich 38 9 11 18 37 62 -25 38 12 20 18
Fulham 38 11 5 22 39 67 -28 38 12 19 19
West Ham 38 9 11 18 41 57 -16 38 12 19 19
Stokies 38 8 11 19 34 60 -26 35 11 19 19
WBA 38 7 13 18 45 61 -16 34 12 18 20
Sunderland 38 7 10 21 36 62 -26 31 12 19 19

Stat Overkill by GiE


Character, Desire and Strategy: Symphony drowns Heavy Metal!

November 7, 2013

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.

Aaron Ramsey

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.

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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!
Arsene
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: Excelled at the heart of defence, went out in counter attack, almost scored as well. What a performance! 

Koscielny: 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:

D1

D2

D3


Another great game of Football?

November 6, 2013

Big night ahead. Can we really beat last season’s finalists at their massive ground?

There will be 80+k fans in the Signal Iduna Park including two of our very own AA’ers and very excited they will be!

Given the manner of our home defeat there is cause for cautious optimism – I really believe we can get something from the game. Two silly defensive mistakes cost us the points and we can be sure the Welsh Messi will not try and dribble his way out of trouble in our area again.

So – we have seen why Dortmund are so highly rated but they have seen why we smashed Napoli and the Scouse. Both teams will have respect for each other after the excellent game at THOF.

Dortmund:  As I gave a breakdown in my last BD post it seems superfluous to repeat it, but I must make mention of Lewandowski. One chance at THOF and he scored, a 16 minute hat-trick on Friday, 12 goals from 14 games so far this season, the man is on fire – the chances of his coming to THOF in January are almost non-existent.

But is he as good as Ollie Giroud? Could he execute that flick to Wilshere in the goal of the month? I don’t think so.

Another major threat is Marco Reus. Now here is a bloke who should be playing at THOF. Left sided attacker, 20 goals in 43 games for BD and 7 in 17 for Germany, 24 y.o. – perfect. Apparently Man Utd are trying to buy him, but who would want to go to that flea-pit when he is already at a bigger and better club?images

Must be windy in Dortmund

Klopp has been very complimentary about both Mr Wenger and Arsenal. Stating that he should be Sir Wenger and that AFC have been the best English football team over the past 10 years, maybe he is shovelling it on in case of defeat, but who knows  perhaps Klopp is sincere.

Arsenal:  Once again we have to talk injuries; Jack and Gibbs are out though thankfully we have excellent replacements. The absence of Flamini and the long-term absentee Theo are less easy to accommodate. Away in the CL is just where these two flourish.

My concern tonight is lack of pace on the counter. On Saturday we saw Ramsey lead a counter-attack but the defender outran him and AR was forced to turn and pass back to an oncoming player. If Theo had been there then  ……..

A major plus is the return to fitness of Santi. I love this bloke,his imagination is boundless.

A repeat of Arteta’s fine game at the weekend and another lesson in hold up play from OG will be the keys to our success.

My Team:

Szczesny

Sagna    BFG    Kos    Monreal

Ramsey    Arteta    Rosicky

Ozil   OG    Cazorla

We are still struggling for attacking options from the bench, hopefully Gnabry is fit enough to travel.

The team showed on Saturday a determination and work-ethic which will hold us in good stead tonight. If we manage to press BD higher up the pitch we can do well tonight and given some luck and the run of the ball and a decent referee, then we can bring him the points. Why not?

Unknown

BR will be wearing a red jacket & Micky a red and white scarf – in case you are looking for us!

p.s. Mickydidit and I will be your foreign correspondents at the stadium as, thanks to Chas ,we have tickets for the game. No doubt we will be full of bratwurst, sauerkraut and Lowenbrau as we look down upon our heroes.

For most games Peaches has the armchair fans in her pocket as she cheers on the lads, tonight I can return the favour. Photos will be taken but probably not uploaded to the site until Friday.

Written by BigRaddy


When is a test not a test? Arsenal 2 – Liverpool 0

November 3, 2013

I hate playing Liverpool, when it is a match that has a lot riding on it I hate it even more. The first two trophies I watched Arsenal win Liverpool were the side in our way, so with those in the memory bank I shouldn’t be as fearful. And even though our record against them has been good in the last few years there was the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Quarter Final, last minute penalties in the League and dodgy offside goals all weigh heavy on my mind when we come to play the red half of Scouseland.

After the last two midweek results some serious questions have been asked of the squad, the manager and our chances to challenge for titles.

The early kick off on Satutday saw Newcastle take three points off every pundits title favourites Chelsea. At that point I would have been more than happy to take a point from yesterday’s game to retain top spot.

How stupid was I? What did I have to worry about? The long and short of it is Liverpool have two good strikers, one is considered to be worth more than £40m+£1, the rest of their team is distinctly average. Rodgers thought his new tactic of 3-5-2 and hard pressing would nullify Arsenals strength and highlight our weaknesses…he was wrong.

The defence were disciplined, full backs tucking in to help the centre backs out and Arteta playing the anchor role to perfection picking up loose balls and being precise in possession.

Giroud occupied three centre backs by firstly trying to win every ball, and secondly holding up the ball to bring the midfield runners into the game.

And the midfield is where we won the game, the speed the football moved between Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil and Rosicky was electric, their runs off the ball even better. The only time Liverpool got close was when we gave them the ball, but we were ready to fight to win back possession as soon as we lost it.

This was probably as complete a performance as we have seen from Arsenal this season , and we got our reward for the way we played.

The first came from Santi Cazorla, I think we can safely say he is now over his injury, Arteta carried the ball through midfield to release Sagna who headed for the touch line and produced a cross into the area, it was behind Giroud but Santi arrived to head powerfully towards goal , the header cannoned back off the post to the little Spanish magician who volleyed into the empty net with ease.

Cazorla v liverpool

After that goal we were all out attack but unable to extend our lead through a mixture of missing the final pass or not connecting with the final shot.

Liverpool rearranged at half time bringing on Coutinho to attempt to adopt a more natural 4-4-2. In reality this just gave us more time in midfield and less bodies in the way through the middle when playing on the counter.

Giroud was unlucky not to add a second twice in quick succession, first nicking the ball ahead of Skrtel from a generous Toure backpass only to see his dinked effort slide wide of the post. Moments later a combination of Rosicky and Santi provided him with half a chance but he could not make a strong enough contact to get it past Mignolet.

Liverpool always had a chance, Suarez can, if given the room, score a goal from nowhere, we needed a second, and it eventually came from our player of the season so far, Özil found Ramsey arriving in space, he took a good touch and as the ball bounced in front of him and the defence backed off he decided he may as well add to his total for the season and dispatched a screamer past Mignolet into the roof of the net.

Rambo v Liverpool

During all his on the pitch troubles Ramsey never stopped working hard and showing for the ball, it’s why I always had time for him and asked others to get off his back, but I had no idea he had this kind of football in him. After the game the Sky pundits asked if he thought he could get 20 a season midfielder like Gerard or Lampard, if I was Aaron I would have said “only if I get given penalty taking duties”.

Wenger sent on reinforcements to close out the game, Monreal for Rosicky, Vermaelen for the injured Gibbs and later Jenkinson for Cazorla. Liverpool went close a couple of times in this period but the result wasn’t really in doubt.

To answer my own question in the title. It’s not a test when you play a team that are above their natural league position.

But guaranteed to be a win clear of the nearest competition come Sunday evening after ten games I am more than happy.

Ratings

Szczesny 8 – Apart from his little one two with Sturridge was assured and commanding, couple of good blocks too.

Sagna 8 – Solid performance lots of energy good passing helped the centre backs when necessary

Gibbs 8 – More defensive than Sagna as he was covering Sturridges wide runs, second half he continually nipped in front to take the ball off the intended receiver.

Mertesacker 8 -still for me Arsene’s best signing of the last three seasons, his leadership and distribution have made us so much better at the back.

Koscielny 9 – More apparently World Class centre forwards in his back pocket, he is everything you want in a defender.

Arteta 9 – Mopped up everything dropping in front of the back four, passed to a red and white shirt for 90 minutes.

Özil 7 – Slightly quiet game from the new arrival, but everything he does is wrapped in silk.

Ramsey 9 – Cracking goal capped a fine performance, goal scoring is his biggest improvement second is his ball retention and use, all this added to his work rate and energy levels equals a very special player. Shame on you who unjustly wrote him off.

Rosicky 7 – Worked hard without the ball and used it well when in possession.

Cazorla 8 – Some thought Özil’s arrival may have limited Santi’s pitch time, it’s pretty hard to see us start a game without him. The lad is class.

Giroud 8 – His hold up play makes the midfields job easier, unlucky not to get a goal that his work rate deserved. Bossed three centre backs around for 90 minutes.

Subs

Monreal 7 – I like using Nacho as a sub to give some protection in the latter stages, he is good enough with the ball that he doesn’t totally nullify our attacking threat.

Vermaelen 7 – did what was needed at left back.

Jenkinson 7 – not really enough time to give a rating but he was on the pitch so I don’t want to leave him out.

MotM? Maybe we should have a vote…

Gooner in Exile


Reasons to be Cheerful

October 6, 2013

If we win today it will be our 9th away PL victory in a row – an Arsenal record. Given WBA’s last victory this is no given, they are clearly a decent side.

There is a cautious optimism around the club (= euphoria) the like of which we have not seen since the Highbury days. Could 7 PL and 4 CL games really have engendered this remarkable turn around? Well, if you choose to believe the red-top’s narrative. In fact we have been on a roll for most of the year; since the beginning of February our PL record is P22  W18 D2  L2. Read that again!!  56 points out of a possible 66 – we lost to THFC & AV, drew with Everton and MU.

56 out of 66! Astonishing, and almost certainly the reason why Big Raddy has been in such a good mood this year.

Can we keep it up today?

WBA have some decent players – none that would get in the AFC first 11, but in Sessegnon and Amlfitano they have players in form. However, WBA , like us, have serious injury problems in attack with Long, Anichebe, Sinclair and Anelka out (could change pre-game).

The CC game is no indicator to today’s match though some of the personnel will remain. Nor is Albion’s home form of two losses and just the one win. What is relevant is their win at Old Trafford last weekend – it shows this is a decent side who will cause us problems. They have scored just 6 goals so far which may be due to the injury problems.

Positives: There are many.  We have not lost in 6 visits to The Hawthorns. We are the only team to have scored in all our PL games. We have won our last 8 away games etc etc etc

and We are walking in an Ozil Wonderland

We seem to be pressing higher up the pitch aided by the tireless Giroud who is adding much more than a goal-scoring threat. It is helped by the arrival of the energetic rampaging style of The Flamster, we looked very solid when he teamed up with Arteta. This could be the answer in away fixtures where we will play more on the break. However, This means that Wilshere is once again on the bench – a luxury but surely one which needs to be sorted, he is too good to ride the pine. And what happens when Santi and Theo come back?

My Team:

hpm1

Of course we could play Jack in place of Tomas but AW (and I) love what Rosicky brings to the team – energy, pace of thought and action and huge determination. Expect to see Wilshere on the 70 minute mark. We have little attacking threat on the bench should Arsenal fall behind, the sooner Podolski and Walcott return the better.

The results were predictable yesterday – let it be so today (apart from a humiliating defeat for the Lillywhites) because, let’s be honest, given the spirit at Arsenal it would be surprising if we lost.

Come on Arsenal, make Big Raddy a happy man (and in turn he will make Mrs. Raddy equally joyful)

Written by Big Raddy


A challenging evening ahead ……..

September 28, 2013

Big game for both teams. Swansea need to push ahead with their recent run of results – beating Palace, Valencia, WBA and drawing with Liverpool is proof that last season’s surprise package are still a very good team. They have had a very difficult opening fixture list already played MU, ‘Pool and Spurs.

There is a growing belief that this Arsenal team have potential to do very well and a win at the Liberty Stadium would heighten expectation even further.

Swansea: I watched the draw with Liverpool and it was a very entertaining game which Swansea would have won but for some inexplicable play from Jonjo Shelvey. Hard to believe but Shelvey is a decent player away from the Anfield hell-hole.

There is quality throughout the Swansea team. At the back there is the (supposed) AW target of Ashley Williams, and he is just the type of player we like; strong in the tackle, good in the air, a natural leader and the beating heart of the Swans. Upfront the much admired Michu and the record signing Bony, who has scored 6 goals in 7 starts.

There is pace down the flanks with the spoilt brat Dyer and Routledge. An enduring memory of last season was Dyer’s tantrum after not being allowed to take a penalty at Wembley – a perfect example of the Me generation. Hard workers in midfield and a quality keeper make Swansea a tough prospect, especially at home.

Michael Laudrup seems to be a spiky personality with there being press-talk of his problems with the Swansea BoD, but he certainly knows how to create a football team. Anyone (even Evonne) could go to Old Trafford and get into the top 4 but what makes a great manager is the ability to build a team. SAF did it many times as has AW., Laudrup appears to made of the same stuff. As he remains loved at both RM and Barca, his future is assured. Future Arsenal manager? Possibly.

Arsenal: We are so blighted with injury in the forward areas that Mr Wenger will be forced to play Mr Giroud upfront on his own. Yes – the Christmas tree formation, with Özil , Jack and Ramsey running hard to create a forward line. It has worked before and we have enough attacking talent in midfield for this to be a successful tactic.

Theo’s absence allows Arteta to come back into the team and The Flamster to stay rooted as DM. I look forward to seeing how Arteta performs further forward. Of course, this assumes that neither Gnabry nor Bendtner start the game and given they both played the full 120+ mins at WBA, it seems a reasonable assumption.. My hope is that both sit on the bench until required and we play a slightly defensive game. The surprising possession stats. against Stoke show that we can sit back and attack on the break.

My team:

swans v arse

Problems arise due to the absence of Rosicky and in particular Cazorla who could really make this formation work.

We are on a remarkable run of form. 8 winning away games on the bounce and just the one stupid referee induced loss in a very long time (can’t be bothered to check the stat). Can this Arsenal team really be this good or is it purely that we haven’t played any quality opposition? Today is yet another test.

With confidence high and both teams committed to attacking football the prospect of an exciting game lies ahead.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Arteta: player of the season? No.

August 12, 2013

As things stand we don’t have a “Defensive Midfielder” that’s to say someone who by nature actually likes defending.

To help my point I regarded Gilberto as a natural defender.

Neither, Arteta, Ramsey nor Wilshere and certainly not Diaby fall into this category.

In 80% of the games we play, this lack of a defensive midfielder doesn’t matter, because the majority of teams defend against us (park the bus) and so the challenge is always to find a way of breaking them down — we need Suarez so badly it is not true.

In the other 20%, or even less, we are attacked, or the teams seriously knew how to counter attack.

We got caught out time and time again last season by the 20% and this is one of the reasons we had such a poor record against the three teams who finished above us.

It is also why I could not have voted for Arteta as player of the season, a fine player when we are playing against a Bus but his lack of pace and lack of natural defensive know how lets us down against fast attacking teams. The first game against Bayern Munich demonstrates this best for me. This also makes a player like Gustavo a must; there is no reason why he can’t play along side Arteta or give him a rest which he will inevitably need as the season progresses.

I think since Saturday most people have acknowledged that we have a good core squad, capable of beating anyone at this point in the season but injuries being what they are, I am doubtful that we can hold together for longer than — what — Tuesday week!

Written  by LB


Who should be Arsenal captain next season?

July 12, 2013

There seems to be a feeling amongst Arsenal fans that we haven’t had a truly great captain since Vieira. Henry, Gallas, Cesc. Some fine players there. But apparently not great captains. Two seasons ago we seemed to have solved that problem, but the manner of his* departure must also bring into doubt his leadership qualities. (* He who shall not be named)

TV captain

That left Thomas Vermaelen to take over the armband. He was a popular, and seemingly natural choice at the time. His steely eyed look of determination, his all action style, very visible fist pumping and gesturing to his teammates, seemed to suggest he was made of the same stuff as the stereotypically great captains that we remember. (Yes, I do have issues with typecasting a certain type of attitude as being the sign of a captain.)

But Vermaelen never recovered his form, and eventually lost his place in the starting 11 as well. Can anyone argue that he should start ahead of Koscielny and Mertesacker? Which actually begs the question, will he leave? Should Arsenal let him go?

Arteta captain

Assuming Vermaelen stays, should he retain the armband? Does a captain have to be a regular starter? If so, who is to be the new captain? The stories from last season suggest that Mikel Arteta was in fact the real leader of the group. Arteta had a fantastic season, changing his game tremendously to adapt to a new role, because that is what the team needed him to do. His statistics last season were brilliant, as was his attitude. So, should he just formally take over what he seemed to be doing informally anyway?(After all, you don’t need the armband to lead)

I would say yes, but there is a risk that Vermaelen will feel undermined. Also, if TV is precluded from being captain due to not being a starter, what about rumours of Arsenal bidding for Fellaini or Bender? What will that mean for Arteta, especially in light of his age?

Sagna captain

Who else could be captain? In my view Sagna could stake a real claim, despite his poor form last season. However, his contract having only one year to run might mean he should be overlooked. Another player who could get a shout as captain would be Per Mertesacker. He’s the organizer in defense, and seems to make his defensive partners better. He’s also already an authority figure of sorts at the club as he’s responsible for collecting fines from the players. A 2 metre tall defensive stalwart would suit many people’s idea of an Arsenal captain, even if he is German.

Mertesacker captain

Of course if it were to be down to popularity amongst the fans, then I think a certain Jack Wilshere would be installed as captain. As far as I’m concerned though, the only thing in his favour would be the (relatively assured) long term continuity in captain, which would be lacking in Arteta, Sagna, and maybe even Vermaelen’s case. For the rest, I think he’s still too young (and a little reckless). He should concentrate on getting his fitness, and then his place back. He has a long future ahead of him and there’s no need to rush to make him captain, especially when there are better candidates for the role.

Jack captain

So who would you vote for as Arsenal captain? (Bonus. Who should be vice captain?)

Written by Shard


Do we need Wanyama?

June 14, 2013

Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla,Ramsey, Rosicky, Frimpong, Coquelin, Oxlade – Chamberlain, Eisfeld. Everyone a midfield player whom I would be happy to see play in most games. Yet ask most fans what is missing and they would say a muscular defensive shield – someone we have lacked since Gilberto Silva.

Unknown-1

But do we really need this player?

The performance of Arteta last season was superb; he kept the team going forward, he worked tirelessly to cut out danger and in tandem with Ramsey proved we can hold onto a one goal lead. The final few games when the defence ensured our progress to 4th showed we can be effective with Ramsey and Mikel working in tandem.

Coquelin and Frimpong? Reports from the trenches are that Frimpong ‘s injuries will severely hamper his aggressive style of play and I expect him to move on following rehab. Coquelin is difficult because I see a quality player in this fellow. He has energy, an eye for a pass and technique. What he lacks is tactical awareness but that can be taught and Francis is still young. Sadly, I expect him to ask for a transfer, though perhaps he is not good enough to become a first choice DM.

The attacking possibilities are so good there is no need for an addition – probably a cull is in order!

Eisfeld is an interesting player who appears to have a big future ahead of him, but will he get any first team chances and if not will he say “Thanks but no thanks”, as he sees a future on the bench.

Who gets dropped if we do sign a quality DM? Ramsey? Arteta? Don’t talk to me about rotation because a settled team is an essential in my eyes and a big money DM will insist upon a first team place.

I have no idea what Mr Wenger will do in summer, nor how he will pick his midfield next season. I cannot tell you who would be my midfield 3 or 4 and would like to hear your opinions.


Raddy’s Review of the Season.

May 23, 2013

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has had a go, so why can’t Big Raddy?

However, this post is not just about the pitch and boardroom – No, this review will go elsewhere… For example, what did we think about the team kit this season? I thought the home kit was excellent but was disappointed by our away colours. The team played well in both, so I guess it doesn’t matter to them. With the arrival of a Puma kit we can look forward to something radical – Borussia Dortmund play in Puma and they are doing OK.

And what of Mr.Wenger’s touchline attire? The man is looking a bit scrawny and must be a tailor’s nightmare. Do you think he buys off the peg at M & S or has them made by some bloke in Islington? Then there was the disaster with the “sleeping bag”; the merchandising chaps must have given a royal rollicking to the sweatshops in Vietnam questioning the quality of the zips. Given the harsh and long winter there was ample opportunity to improve the quality of the garment or give Mr. Wenger some instruction as to the use of a zip.

I have to admit to being disappointed by Steve Bould’s lack of sartorial elegance. Nothing in the Big Man’s wardrobe apart from freebies from the Arsenal shop, and he wore long tracksuit bottoms in winter despite spending 20+ seasons watching Pat Rice. Shabby work, Steve – better expected next season.

Did the substitutes bench look interested in events on the pitch? Were they Song-like in their total disinterest (or should it be Adebayor-esque) or kicking every ball like Jenks? I enjoyed seeing Arshavin looking like an extra from The Hobbit.

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The subs were brilliant at the final whistle at St .James. Proof that a real team spirit exists amongst our squad.

A disappointing season as regards ball-boys. No-one got a kicking, no-one handed out towels. Poor work. Nor were the mascots memorable – OK, we had a couple who had spent too long at the pie-shop but generally they were dull. I wonder if any of them will play for the mighty Gunners like Yennaris has.

And what of the team’s tatt’s? Coming from an older generation I am not a fan of the tattoo but accept that in order to be en vogue, a tattoo is a necessary evil. And what of ours? No-one can get near the Beckham or Agger though almost every player has some. I notice that Theo has extended his down one arm, as has JW, and Giroud has taken the needle of late (though he arrived with some). Do you think that there are cliques within the club that are tattoo related?

Hair: No-one can touch Arteta.- not even GoonerMichael can explain his immaculate locks; I have not seen the like since Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds.

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Mikels’s Dad?

Sagna’s beads have become passé and sadly it appears we have returned to the days of short back and sides. No dreadlocks, no silly shaven bits, no Song-like dyes – another poor showing from the lads.

We did much better on the message on the underwear front. Young Bendtner let us down at the World Cup with his green pants but he paid a heavy price for his stupidity (a years holiday in Italy). Since then we haven’t resorted to any silliness that I can recall; no “I belong to Jesus”, no “Happy Birthday, Mum” …. nothing.  I like the new found discipline. Ever since IW8 ruined his record breaking goal tally celebration by taking his shirt off a goal early, the whole vest message has upset me. What is it apart from another display of massive ego?

The only  acceptable message was Robbie Fowler’s support of the dockers.

Goal celebrations: Another good year. A few silly golf swings and a couple of thumb sucks apart our celebrations were quality. Almost always all the players celebrated together and in some style. I always like the knee slide to the corner flag and the around the back of the goal towards the fans, Theo was particularly good in this regard. Note to Gervinho – copy OG.

Part One ends on a high note. I was very impressed with the speed at which the medical staff reached an injured player.  Those sprint training routines under the watchful eye of Linford Christie are paying off. Well done.

Written by Big Raddy


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