3 goals, 3 points and we are back on track.

April 21, 2014

Arsenal fans always seem to find a whipping boy just now it’s Arteta and of course Giroud, but I will come back to that in a moment.

There is no such thing as an easy game in the PL (ask Chelsea)  and confidence seemed to be coming back after the midweek win against West Ham so expectations were high for our visit to Hull, especially with the return of Koscienly, Ozil and Ramsey. However, for the best part of half an hour we again seemed off the pace and Hull created one or two chances notably when Livermore hit the post from distance.

This seemed to be a wake up call. I had asked beforehand if Cazorla and Ozil could play together, but more importantly open up a very physical and determined Hull defence? The answer was an emphatic yes, but it was the inclusion of Ramsey, who is going to be a world class player, that gave us the extra impetus and it was he who opened the scoring, ably assisted by Ozil and Cazorla.

ozil and rambo

Ozil seemed to have a free role and after a reasonably long lay off showed all the doubters that he oozes class. Further excellent goals by Podolski, sealed the match and at times we were seeing the Arsenal of old with pace, fluidity and a renewed confidence.

ramsey v hull

Giroud comes in for a lot of stick from many sections of the fan base but he laid off the ball for the second and takes a bruising every single game. Despite his twenty goals this season, he is not a natural clinical striker but he has a part to play in the squad and we will see come the end of the season if he stays or goes or even possibly gets demoted to an alternative forward if we venture into the market .

poldi scores v hull

Arteta is slowing up and still had a reasonable game but we need someone with a more physical presence for next season. My only beef about him is that often he slows the game down especially when we are counter attacking.

All in all it was a pleasing performance and still kept us on track for CL qualification yet the main talking point was how much we had missed the Welsh Wizard who considering his long lay off really made a huge difference to our attacking options.

Confidence, returning players,and goals are back in abundance, so all in all a positive position to be in for the final run in.

kelsey


Wham Bang, thank you Arsenal.

April 16, 2014

What I want to know is this: exactly what happened in the dressing room at half time? Any ideas? Was it even legal?

The first half was one of those end of season games between two mid-table sides with nothing to play for. Only it shouldn’t have been. Sure, the odd bit of skill here and there, but generally looking more like twenty two footballers who had never met before.

So, the first half rumbled on until, and oh thank you West Ham, a goal, and then all change. Arsenal reacted, and no surprise it was Podolski who pulled us level. The Man can shoot accurately and hard.

Into the dressing room at 1-1. Now, I’ve never had Arsène down as a natural motivator, which is fine so long as you have natural leaders and fighters on the pitch and I’ve had my doubts that we do. I was beginning to believe the gutter press, particularly with regards to Santi, but he in particular, but also the entire side in general, were clearly introduced to each other at half time, and a new side emerged for the second forty five.

Energy, drive, understanding and desire was evident from the Arsenal XI.

In the fiftieth minute, Ollie climbed into DB10’s football boots, controlled the ball with the most exquisite of touches and buried the ball with a superb finish. Sheer quality. Twenty odd minutes later, and Podolski slammed home his second and Arsenal’s third. Job done.

At this stage of the season, and given the closeness of the battle for forth with Everton, it was always the points that most mattered, but the nature of the second half performance gave room for massive optimism.

Verm played a disciplined and excellent game, and the importance of quality in depth was further highlighted by the introduction of Aaron late in the game. With the likely return of Mesut for part of the run in, and of course my favourite Ox in the wings, I’d image we could be savouring some great performances as well as the necessary points.

Written by MickyDidIt

 

We have two posts today, here are kelsey’s thoughts on the game……….

 

Arsenal burst West Ham’s Bubble.

Many questions were asked before the game. Would the draining one hundred and twenty minutes on the Wembley turf would take its toll on our depleted squad with only three  days respite between the two games? Who would have recovered in time yet keeping a balance in the side?

Wenger decided to make five changes and in the end they were more than justified. Every game in the run in is a massive match and the jostling for fourth place might not see an outcome until the final day.

For the first half an hour apart from a glaring miss by Giroud, our play was nervous and generally lacked pace and a real threat, then invariably in one of West Ham’s rare attacks Jarvis scored a header which in all fairness was a messy goal and thoughts returned again to “oh no”.

Of course the ideal situation is to fight back immediately and just before half time Podolski let fly with his lethal left foot.

“Goals change games” , a phrase often used and the Arsenal team that came out in the second half had a spring in it’s step and was more like the side we had been watching a couple of months ago .

Giroud, the enigma he is, scored a fantastic goal and the when the tired Rosicky game off the introduction of Ramsey showed how much we had missed him and within minutes his dinked header into the path of our left footed German nearly broke the net, and the game was won.

It was a much changed team and it was nice to see Cazorla back to his best after a slow start. He seems to save his best performances for Home games and I just can’t work Giroud out. He generally misses the easy chances yet converts the more difficult ones. Maybe with him and even Podolski to an extent it’s just regaining confidence.

Another who surprised me was Arteta, though not foot perfect, he and mainly the whole team seemed to have been revitalised after the Cup win, and that bodes well for the run in.

I keep repeating it, but Sagna should be retained if possible. He even found himself in the centre forward position on one occasion and his energy levels are amazing. He maybe getting on,but a player who can naturally play in at least three different positions is invaluable.

All in all a very satisfactory performance and a vital three points. Others are still to come back and by the weekend including most probablty Ozil and Oxdale-Chamberlain, we may well then  have a selection problem. It’s a “Funny old game”, that’s why we love it and emotions swing up and down several times in just ninety minutes.

Well played lads, today we are smiling :)

Written by kelsey


Arsenal Have Max’d Out With Giroud

April 2, 2014

I think it is incredible just how much we have been able to achieve this season with a striker like Giroud.

1I remember describing him as a French Andy Carroll without a pony tail: good in the air, slow on the ground and a poor first touch, then Carroll got the pony tail cut off…..hmmmmmm.

Ok perhaps a bit cruel especially when you consider that there is a genuine difference (sic) in the fact that Carroll is always injured and Giroud looks like he is going to go the whole season without a major injury.

I think it is this fact above all that has allowed us to punch above our weight in the striker department this season, although, to be a tad more fair to Giroud he has used his limited talents very well.

But there is an obvious difference between us and Liverpool, the team that is looking most likely to win the league, which is that Brenda purposely got rid of Andy Carroll ensuring that they couldn’t play the long ball game with all its limiting consequences that we are so often shackled to; the sale forced them to use the quick passing interplay that their present forwards do so well.

This is not a subtle dig at Wenger; I am convinced that he, above all, would have liked to have changed things, best demonstrated by the attempt to buy Suarez. And on that note don’t you find it irritatingly childish when Arsenal supporters say: well, why didn’t he go and buy someone else when it became clear that Liverpool were not going to sell, as though you can go into Tescos and just pick up one or two strikers at you convenience!

There has been a lot of talk recently about the aborted Suarez purchase attempt so I might as well add my tuppence worth.

Was there a buy out clause?

Of course we will never know the truth but on balance the chances are surely high. This is very common practice in Spain and so I am guessing that this also applies throughout the Hispanic world of football. I think the other significant reason it that there is no way that when Suarez arrived at Liverpool that he saw it as his last stop up football’s slippery ladder. His ultimate goal is Real Madrid and that being the case a buy out clause was even more likely.

Suarez may have a genuine chance of getting his dream move at the end of this season but he certainly didn’t at the end of last. We are talking about a man whose press was so bad that he was making Joey Barton look likable. Having bitten a chunk out of a chav’s arm, being banned for umpteen games, it is fair bet that the man thought long and hard about moving on.

Enter the enterprising Arsenal waving Champions League football around. I am sure that the club knew about the buy out clause and made their intentions known to Suarez by triggering it – 40mil and one pound, that is not exactly a shabby opening bid.

This was the point when Liverpool had to decide whether they wanted to sell him or not. If they did they could have named their price – but I am convinced they didn’t. Liverpool went into overdrive to try and keep him, excluding CL football they were in a position to be able to offer him any deal that Arsenal put forward and more, indeed Liverpool renewed his contract a few weeks after it become clear that we were not going to be successful.

It was not a lack of trying, it was not a reluctance to offer more money, the reality was that Liverpool didn’t want to sell and they could offer him as much if not more wages than we could.

So we were forced to start the season with Giroud, Sanogo and Bendtner. We could have brought some sub standard striker but if the purchase of Ozil has shown us anything is that we have moved on from that way of doing things. We are a club that will push the boat out if a player wants to come to THOF. There is nothing wrong in picking up a cheap filler here and there à la Flamini and Kallstrom when the Real McCoy is not available but when it is we will act.

I have read recently people making comparisons with RvP and Suarez in as much that it appeared that manu were able to force us to sell but we were not able to do the same. I don’t agree with this at all. Without having our whole future balanced on one man’s shoulders, namely a Sugar Daddy, we have to operate within sensible commercial constraints. A five year deal for RvP, at his age was an offer he couldn’t refuse and as we all know when that deal was tabled he did everything he could to get away. The club tried its hardest to sign Suarez but what could we have offered that would have made him want to come to us rather than stay where he was? Never mind about offering Liverpool more money they didn’t want to sell, I am talking about getting the Uruguayan on side first.

This brings me back to Giroud, I see nothing wrong with Kelsey’s cries that we need a new striker, I feel the same and the higher the calibre the better. The Suarez ship has sailed but with Ancelotti’s feet more securely under the table at Real Madrid he could decide to offload Benzema and buy the Uruguayan, I would be disappointed if we brought their Frenchman, for me he is too close to the one we already have but if this huge piece of wishful thinking does come about I would be content to pick up Morata.

Written by LB


A Good Man in Charge

March 22, 2014

Mr Wenger’s 1000th game in charge – may there be many more.

How do Chelsea and their manager celebrate this astonishing feat? By a typically snide remark which tells the whole story of our two clubs and why Chelsea, however many trophies they buy, will always be the 2nd club in London.

Rarely do two managers so precisely mirror the ethics of their clubs. Mr Wenger is a Gentleman – honest, intelligent, well-mannered,  believes in tradition and winning the right way. Me-rinho is a Snake Oil salesman – a man without honour – concrete evidence being the “eye-gouge”. His attitude is to win at all costs as long as He is the centre of attraction. If his team bore, foul or cheat so what – winning is all and it is the High Priest of the Me Generation who will take the plaudits..

And that is why if Arsenal win, lose or draw today Arsene Wenger walks away from Stamford Bridge a winner.

Given the choice of taking 3 points from an away tie against Chelsea or Spurs which would you choose? Yes, I know the answer is both but as pleasant as mashing the Spuds is, it has become an every season event whereas beating Chelsea is proving to be a stumbling block. So, BR’s choice is to win at Stamford Bridge.

Trouble is we haven’t won there since The Ox was in primary school. Can we break the hoodoo? Can Mr Wenger finally get a victory over Me-rinho? Will Arsenal break The Smug One’s incredible home record? Let’s be honest – it would be a shock.

Unknown

I don’t like Chelsea, I don’t like the way they have changed football hugely for the worse. I don’t like that they win thanks to financial doping (© AW). I don’t like John Terry. Nor do I like the diving antics of Oscar, Hazard, Torres, et al.

I may not like them but I do have respect for them. Me-rinho is unquestionably a superb manager and he has created an efficient winning side. He knows how to get the best out of his players even the decrepit Terry.

The loss at Aston Villa has opened up the title race with 4 teams having a realistic chance of being crowned Champions. Win today and Arsenal are sitting pretty, especially if we can get something from the Man City home game. Trouble is our record at the Bridge in recent years is poor, make that very poor.

I won’t bore you with tactics that I know nothing about nor stats that will depress you. So …. onto our team selection:

Back 5 pick themselves. And so do the rest of the team – especially if Rosicky is out.

chavs v arse

The bench looks light and we really would be in trouble were we to lose another midfielder or, heaven forbid, OG. Nonetheless we can count on Vermaelen, Monreal, Fabianski, Gnabry etc

Chelsea: The name originates (apparently) form the ancient English for “place on the river to land limestone or chalk”. Seems a bit dubious to me.  A church synod (meeting of church leaders) was held at Chelsea in 787 AD. The Manor of Chelsea appears in the Domesday book.

King Henry VIII bought Chelsea Manor and both Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleeves lived there – Anne was divorced after just 6 months of marriage and Catherine outlived him. Kings Road (Kelsey’s old haunt) was built in the 1690′s for King Charles II  and was his private road from St. James to his palace at Fulham. Charles also ordered the building of the Chelsea Royal Hospital at the suggestion of his mistresss, Nell Gwynn.

Enough of that and back to the game ….

We have been stuttering of late, good at home and not so good away. We defended magnificently at Spurs but Lady Luck was with us, so too at Bayern. If we play with so little possession and so close to our own goal we will lose this afternoon.

A last word about Mr Wenger: Whatever his skills as a football manager his greatest talent is that he is a thoroughly decent man.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


The Last Good Friday ….. Good Luck to Norfolk Gooner

February 28, 2014

Last Friday:

Gradually the furore over Olligate is dying down, only for criticism of Ozil over the penalty miss to be given more impetus. Surprisingly, at least to me, Wenger admitted that Ozil was not “over” the penalty miss, which seemed an odd way to restore the players confidence. The consensus among the pundits is that Le Boss will drop our record signing for the Sunderland game.

Saturday:

So for once the pundits were right, Mesut Ozil was left out of the squad with a thigh injury. Yes, Arsene, of course we all accept your explanation for his absence.

The chosen line-up showed a number of changes with Szczesny coming in for Fabianski, Monreal for the injured Gibbs, Arteta for Flamini, Podolski for Ozil, Giroud for Sanogo and, surprisingly, Rosicky for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

giroud scores againnst sunderland

Olly didn’t quite get the hat-trick that I had asked for but to score on two occasions was certainly acceptable, redemption? I think so! What a master stroke by Le Boss, Rosicky’s goal must be the best of the season so far, even outstripping Jack’s early season wonder strike. Koscielny wrapped up the scoring with a free header from a corner, before joining Monreal in the treatment room.

The missus wants him to stay

The missus wants him to stay

Sagna was my Man of the Match for the outstanding effort he put in, playing right-back, before swapping to left, when Monreal failed to come out for the second half, and then centre-back when Koscielny went off.

All this after running himself into the ground in the Bayern game.

Please Monsieur Wenger give him a new contract, give him three years and a pay rise if that’s what it takes to keep him at Arsenal.

We can’t afford to lose players of Bacary’s calibre.

Sunday:

The press just can’t let go can they? The Telegraph’s headline…. Giroud puts poor visitors to bed! Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s surely time to put that one to bed.

Monreal and Koscielny are expected to be fit for Stoke next Saturday, Wilshere may have a hamstring problem and Ozil should be back…shouldn’t he?

Monday:

No change at the top of the table, all four of the top four won at the weekend, The Chavs managed a home win over Everton with the only goal coming in injury time, City scraped a one nil home win against Stoke, Liverpool scrambled to a four three home win over struggling Swansea, while Arsenal took all three points with a handsome four one win over Sunderland.

The race for Europa League qualification hotted up as Manure won and the Spuds lost to brave little Norwich City.

Rosicky to stay for another year!

Le Boss confirmed that Tomas is ready to sign a one year extension to his current contract; “Tomas Rosicky will stay” said Wenger. “We have an agreement with him and it will come out soon. I am absolutely adamant that he has to stay at the club.” Well done Arsene, now get to work on Sagna and Vermaelen.

Tuesday:

Mesut Ozil was given special permission to return to Germany for an extended break after the Bayern game. He is due to return to training today and expects to be fit to face Stoke on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey is hoping to be fit in time for the game against Spurs on 16th March.

Apparently, and this is tabloid news, 31 year old Bacary Sagna wants a three year contract and £100,000 per week. Go on Arsene, split the difference, £100k and two years. You know it makes sense!

Wednesday:

Johan Djourou, has hinted that he does not wish to return to Arsenal but would like to make his loan at Hamburg permanent in the summer.

Arsenal target Julian Draxler has refused to rule out a summer move to Bayern Munich.

‘I am ready to play for Arsenal’ – Olympiakos hero Joel Campbell desperate for chance at Gunners.

Fresh from scoring a brilliant goal for Olympiakos against Man U on Tuesday, our young Costa Rican striker said “I believe I am ready to play for Arsenal next season,” “I have the capacity to play there and I am only waiting for the opportunity. With hard work I can get there.” Only a couple of weeks ago his agent said…‘Going back to Arsenal? He would not be happy sitting on the bench – even in a top league.’

As a transfer fee of around £7 million had been mooted, the agent would be in danger of missing out on a sizeable chunk of that if Campbell returned to The Gunners. So some mixed messages there. The decision will be made in the summer, and it will be Wenger’s to make.

Thursday:

In spite of a trawl through all my usual sources I’ve been unable to come up with much that could be called news. One headline caught my eye, but the actual article was ambiguous to say the least.

Arsenal get transfer boost as Julian Draxler admits he’s ready to quit Schalke “Julian Draxler has cleared the way for a move to Arsenal at the end of the season after telling Schalke he is ready for a new challenge.

Draxler, who was subject of a failed bid from the Gunners in January, remains a top target for Arsene Wenger ahead of the summer transfer window.

And amid speculation that Arsenal are working on a new bid for the midfielder, Draxler has left the door open to a switch to the Emirates by revealing that he wants a new challenge.

‘I can make my own decision about my future and I want a new challenge,’ he told the German press.

‘It’s no secret that I have a buyout clause in my contract and so from year-to-year I think about what is best for my development.

‘It leaves room for a lot of speculation, but I am calm and it’s also good for all sides.’

The 20-year-old’s release clause is set at £37.5million but it’s thought that Schalke would consider doing business for less at the end of the season.

Arsenal’s offer in the January window was about £20million, but that is expected to be increased when the club make a new push for the player.

Now I may be a bit of a cynic, but where does it say that Draxler is interested in a move to Arsenal?

Ahead of Saturday’s clash Stoke-on-Trent newspaper The Sentinel carried an interview with City’s chairman headlined…

Ryan Shawcross treatment after Aaron Ramsey incident still rankles Potters, admits Peter Coates

The chairman admitted: “Yes, we have got this thing with Arsenal.

We were very disappointed with how the Shawcross incident was treated because we thought there was never any intent whatsoever on Ryan’s part.

angle devil

We thought he was very badly treated over that incident in various quarters and it was wholly unfair on him. “Players get bad injuries all the time in professional football and in the vast majority of cases there is no blame to be attached, but Ryan seemed to be unfairly singled out over this one, in my opinion.” Watch out Arsenal, The Orcs are stirring, and so is Mr. Coates.

Much of the “news” that I have summarised over recent months has inevitably been speculative in nature, written by journalists striving to keep their jobs in a very competitive market place. They come in for an awful lot of criticism and abuse, some of it deserved, some not so. Occasionally they do get something right as this headline about Olympiakos vs. Man U demonstrates.

Clueless, Aimless and Hopeless

I regret to say that this is my final round-up, at least for a while. I have cataracts developing in both eyes and as a consequence I must cut down on the time spent peering at a computer screen. I’ve both enjoyed writing the posts and reading your comments, which have been almost entirely complimentary. I’m sure I shall look in on Arsenal Arsenal from time to time.

Keep the Faith

Norfolk Gooner

A note from ed:

Many thanks to Norfolk Gooner for his wonderful Friday Newsrounds. They have transformed a traditionally dull day in football terms into a joy that we all looked forward to. We hope his problems improve and that we can enjoy his company in the comments section whenever he is able.


Arsenal’s confidence restored as the Black Cats get blown away.

February 23, 2014

Playing less than seventy hours after the extraordinary game against Bayern there were many questions to be answered.

Would Ozil be rested, could Giroud regain his place, would Podolski get a rare start and what physical and mental effect would it have had on those playing two games in such a short space of time?

Would Sunderland have one eye on The Capital Cup Final next week?

As a bonus we had the unveiling of the statue of the iceman, who was greeted with a standing ovation at half time.

Six of the team that started on Wednesday played, Giroud and Podolski were reinstated and we eagerly waited to see how the combination of Rosicky,Wilshere and Cazorla in midfield would perform.

Well, we didn’t have long to wait as the fluidity and pace had returned and it was nice to see Giroud being so clinical with both the opening goals. The pass and move that led to Rosicky’s delightful chip finish was much appreciated. The game was virtually over by half time yet Sunderland gifted us a forth,courtesy of Koscielny and the job was done despite a fine late goal by Giaccherini.

There were many positives but for me Sagna was the man of the match with his tireless running and interventions and having to play in three different positions during the match. If he leaves it would be a great loss.

Rosicky is like a man reborn and his energy levels are amazing and it was nice to see him rewarded with his first league goal of the season.Great goal but would a better team have let us walk the ball through their defence.

Wilshere was back to his best and to an extent took the baton from Ozil who had been rested.

Overall just the result we needed and though as with most matches we picked up a few niggles,hopefully all will be fit as we enter what will most probably be the toughest test of the season.

Ratings :

  • Szczesny 7.5
  • Sagna 8.5
  • Monreal 6.5 (Jenkinson – 45′ )6
  • Wilshere 8
  • Mertesacker8
  • Koscielny  8 (Flamini – 67′ )8
  • Cazorla7.5
  • Arteta7.5
  • Giroud 8
  • Rosicky 8 (Gnabry – 73′ ) 7
  • Podolski 7

Written by kelsey


A week of highs and lows ….. pants up and pants down

February 21, 2014

Last Friday:

Snippets from Le Boss at his press conference; On the title race…“It is very open, only Chelsea can lose it because they are in front and all the other teams can win it.” on why every other manager says they are not contenders…“It’s fear to fail”. On Sagna’s future… “No, he is not close [to signing]. It’s an ongoing process.”

Although there were no injuries due to Wednesday’s game, Cazorla is a doubt as he is in bed with Flo. Oops! Sorry flu! :D Flamini is back from suspension and raring to go. Just don’t get carried away again Mathieu!

Thanks to http://www.arsenal.com/

Robin van Persie

could be set for a dramatic return to Arsenal at the end of the season after his agent reportedly met with Arsene Wenger to discuss a move. Van Persie, who forced a move to Manchester United last year, enjoyed a superb opening season at Old Trafford – firing the club to the Premier League title. But the Dutchman has reportedly become frustrated with life under new manager David Moyes, and is now angling for a switch back to Arsenal.

According to Sky Italia

Wenger met Van Persie’s representative in London late last month where it was made clear that Van Persie wants to leave United – and go back to the Gunners.

Saturday:

The Chav’s despicable motor-mouth manager made a totally unwarranted attack on Le Boss, I’ll not dignify his words by repeating them here. Suffice it to say he got his comeuppance when City duly dumped his team out of the FA Cup.

Plenty of speculation about priorities prior to our 5th round tie with Liverpool. There’s bound to be a few surprises in the team selection.

Sunday:

Speaking ahead of the game Wenger said….“We have a very strong defensive record yet when we crack, we crack, but overall I must say defensively we have been very consistent and the real value of the team is the number of games that we have played [to get] that defensive record. On that front we have had a good stability.”

Arsene named the following starting eleven…

Fabianski, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Podolski, Sanogo.

A closely fought match ended with a 2-1 win for the good guys, goals from the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain, and a sweet strike from Podolski saw us through to a home quarter final tie against the other Scouse team Everton.

Liverpool manager Rodgers, along with most of the Liverpool pensioners masquerading as TV commentators, pundits and sports columnists bewailed the decision by top referee Howard Webb to deny Suarez a second penalty, for a challenge by The Ox. Perhaps if the Uruguayan striker had merely “gone to ground” instead of doing so only after a triple somersault with half pike Webb may have been tempted to award the penalty. Two Liverpool players were lucky to stay on the pitch, the carthorse formerly know as Gerrard, and Sterling. The former escaped with just one booking for two bookable offences and a series of debatable tackles, the latter who actually put his hand on Webb’s chest while complaining bitterly about a perceived wrong. The lenient Webb called over Captain Carthorse and told him to “talk” to the young winner.

One other match went decidedly in Arsenal’s favour when Le Boss politely but firmly put The Despicable One in his place following Saturday’s ridiculous outburst, “I do not want to go into those silly disrespectful remarks” said Wenger “I am embarrassed for him. Honestly. I am more disappointed for Chelsea than for me.”

Monday:

The Cup win is now in the past, the quarter final is to far in the future, looming is the small matter of current European Champions Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud showed a degreeCelia Kay 4
of naivety when he was caught in a tabloid sting, a “glamour” model Celia Kay “allegedly” entered his hotel room and the striker was photographed exiting the bathroom in his underwear. Giroud has publicly apologised to his wife, family and friends as well as to the manager, team-mates and Arsenal fans. Score a hat-trick on Wednesday Olly, and all will be forgiven….. at least by the manager, team-mates and Arsenal fans. Oh! In case you are wondering, this is what all the fuss is about.

Tuesday: Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich

The build up begins.

Wenger to make seven changes!

one headline screams. Well yes but, only to restore those players rested for the FA Cup tie and to replace the suspended Arteta.

Guardiola has problems as Ribery’s stand-in is ruled out!

yells another.

Pep Guardiola will be forced to reshuffle his attack against Arsenal after learning his Bayern Munich side would be without both Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri for the Champions League tie. Shaqiri tore a muscle in his right thigh on Saturday and is expected to be out for at least three weeks. That could mean he is also absent for the second leg of the last-16 game, which takes place in Munich on March 11.

The Balotelli rumours persist, another report say’s Talks are “ongoing” between the player’s agent and Arsenal. Meanwhile, the asking price has been dropped to just €40 million and with Puma willing to stump up £15 million towards the fee Super Mario is beginning to look like a bargain.

Wednesday:

A bright sunny day, at least it is here in Norfolk, a great game in prospect and endless speculation about the starting line-up. Will Giroud play? At home, not away! Will it be Wilshere or the Ox alongside Flamini?

As usual, the “experts” have written us off, as have the bookies, Ladbrokes quote 7/4 against a home win, 11/4 against a draw and 3 /4 on an away win.

In other news, Vermaelen’s agent has been quoted as saying our captain wants to leave the Emirates in the summer, That makes three defenders likely to depart, Sagna is no nearer to signing an extension and Fabianski has already signalled his exit. Injuries and loss of form have restricted TV to just a few appearances this season and last, so as long as Merts and Kos remain fit there seems little chance that Thomas will get much game time even when he regains fitness.

Sagna is out of contract in the summer and is free to “talk” to overseas clubs now. A report in Italy says Liverpool have made the player an offer in an attempt to poach Bacary from under the noses of Inter Milan. If this is the case then Liverpool stand accused of tapping up our right-back. Will UEFA do anything about it? Don’t hold your breath!!

Young right-back Hector Bellerin has been recalled from his loan spell at Watford and has been given the number 40 shirt and is currently listed as an Academy player. Sagna understudy?

Thursday:

Dream tie ends in nightmare for Wenger

Yes, as many of us secretly feared, our Champions League 1st leg tie with Bayern Munich turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. All seemed to be going well up to the point where Ozil’s weak attempt at beating Neuer, from the penalty spot, was comfortably saved by his former schoolmate.

That seemed to knock the stuffing out of Arsenal and give momentum to Bayern. Gibbs went off injured, Szczesny clattered Robben and was rightly red-carded. Even though Alaba hit the outside of the post with the resulting penalty Bayern had their tales up and the wind in their sails.

Down to ten men Arsenal, with the exception of Ozil, put up a defensive performance only bettered by the occupants of The Alamo, but like those heroes from the past, eventually they succumbed to superior forces.

2 – 0 down going into the 2nd leg at The Allianz Arena, a repeat of last seasons second leg would see us having to win on penalties. Would Ozil take one? Should Ozil take one?

Arsenal at home to Sunderland tomorrow offers the chance of redemption. A win and the resulting three points will help to put the Bayern game on the back-burner, at least for a while.

Everything is ready for the unveiling of the Dennis Bergkamp statue. It will take place outside The Armoury at 11.30 am on Saturday, Dennis will also make an on-pitch appearance at half-time. I’d prefer him to play the second half, but we can’t have everything.

TWTWTW

Norfolk Gooner


The Podolski Puzzle.

January 22, 2014

Let’s start with a basic premise – we all love our Lukas. Top bloke, committed to the club, and a fine player.

I cannot recall a similar player in the Arsenal shirt; immensely strong, a lethal finisher who possesses phenomenal shooting power and in the prime of his career at 28 y.o.. Yet despite having over 100 caps for the German National team he cannot find a set place in the Arsenal side. Why?

More to the point, why  is everyone calling for another striker when we have statistically one of the best strikers in world football in our Polish/German (born in Poland, left as a two year old)?

It is perplexing.

images-2

A few Pod stats: 111 caps, 3rd highest appearances for Germany. 46 international goals, 5th highest for Germany. In 2013 he scored after just 9 seconds vs Ecuador, the second fastest goal of all time (first is a San Marino gaol against England!!.). Winner of the German League and Cup Double.  Since 2010 he has played 115 games and scored 51 times.

Mr Wenger says he is the most lethal finisher at the club. Yet ….

Write down your Arsenal first XI (when all are fit!), is Poldi in it? Why not?

For Germany Prinz Poldi plays on the left with licence to drift towards the centre, just the same as he does for Arsenal but with one major difference, his fullback is Philip Lahm and his defensive MF Schweinsteiger! He doesn’t have the defensive responsibility which a left sided attacker has at Arsenal.

It seems that Poldi plays deeper on the left than he does for his country, he is regularly seen on the edge of our box tracking back. Unlike Theo, he doesn’t have the pace to join Giroud upfront on the breakaways and therefore if he is to be involved the play has to be slower from the back. I would like to see him played much further forward in the Pires role – I don’t recall Bobby crunching into tackles too often – and I think this is what Mr Wenger bought him for. Poldi may not have the artistry and guile of Pires but he is certainly as dangerous.

Then there is the question of his combination play with Giroud. Can they function as an attacking duo? We have yet to see evidence of an understanding between the two (apart from one thunderous volley from a cheeky OG pass) though this will hopefully develop as the season progresses. The lightning fast interplay between JW, Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey and Giroud is wonderful to behold, can Poldolski combine in the same vein? Perhaps – he can certainly finish off the moves.

When we signed Poldi much was made of his failure at Bayern Munich, critics said it was easy to be Jack the Peanut at FC Koln but quite different at The Arsenal or Bayern. At FC Koln he was loved like no other and remains so, at Arsenal he is admired rather than loved and I think this is because he has yet to cement a place for himself.

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The early season injury came at the wrong time because he was looking as though he had finally found his position in the team. I recall seeing him pull up as his oak-like thigh twitched and twanged, it was poor timing.

I stated recently that I believe Lukas will leave in summer. Why? For two reasons: Firstly, he is too  good a player to sit on the bench, especially at a time when goal scorers are in such shortage therefore he will be much in demand all over Europe. Secondly, the rumours of Draxler; a left sided MF who is likely to be groomed as a TH14 type player. Mr Wenger will not pay €40m+ to see him sit on the bench, so who loses his place?

That said, it could be Giroud who gets dropped. If Drexler can play in the middle an attack of Podolski, Drexler, Ozil and Walcott is frighteningly good, or drop Theo for Gnabry and have an all-German frontline!

But Drexler may just be paper talk and Podolski may well become an essential member of the team. I certainly hope so but it is clear Mr Wenger is looking for another striker.

Another cloud on his horizon is the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain who is certain to be a fixture in the team (though given the unfortunate timing of his injury,  next season is more likely), plus  the rise of Gnabry and Mr Wenger’s penchant for developing young players by putting them out on the wings.

If one looks at the current squad and the marvellous form of Cazorla and Rosicky plus the return of Ramsey, I just cannot see how Podolski will get a run in the team

It is interesting that Mr Wenger picked 18 y.o. Gnabry to start the last three games when Podolski was fit and on the bench. What must Lukas think about that, especially in a World Cup year? (yes, I know SG plays on the right).

Having Podolski on the bench is a major asset, he is a game changer when he comes on for the final 20 minutes but do you think that is satisfactory to an established German International?

Judging from his activity on social media Podolski seems to be really enjoying his time in London. It is time for us to find out whether he has a future as an Arsenal player. Poldi’s time is now – or is it?.

BigRaddy


Giroud Is The Key To Wengerball Mk 3

January 20, 2014

Few Arsenal players from the current squad are more discussed and debated than Olivier Giroud.

Our hunky Frenchman is something of an enigma.

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To some he is a selfless workhorse giving his all for the team and making the most of (relatively) limited talents.

To others he is a top quality centre forward who will be a 20+ goals per season man in time.

And to his harshest critics he is no more than a stop-gap: the guy who’s filling in until we can buy a “proper” striker.

My own opinion of him has fluctuated but, just recently, I have had something of a revelation. I now believe that Olivier has possibly been the most significant factor in Arsenal’s success during 2013 and 2014.

Key to this theory is the concept – touched on occasionally in comments here on AA – that this Arsenal team is playing a different game to its predecessors.

Broadly speaking we have had three styles of play during the Arsene Wenger years (including the current approach).

Wengerball Mark 1 was the style that brought us such success in his early years at the club. We played a fast-breaking, highly technical form of 4-4-2, with a lot of height and power in the team. Arsene took on the formation that was then prevalent in the English league but improved on it through his choice of players (highly technical Continentals) and through his coaching, training and health methods. Mk 1 culminated with the Invincibles, the best team in Premier League history, and came to an end shortly afterwards.

Wengerball Mk 2 was a combination of necessity and enlightened thinking: the gradual switch to an Arsenal version of tiki-taka. Necessity – because the move to a new stadium meant we would have to go years without any real money to spend and would have to build a team around our one emerging superstar, Cesc Fabregas; enlightened thinking because from around 2006 tiki-taka started to become the dominant style in European and world football and Wenger was an “early adopter” of the new approach. In Mk 2 we swapped out the powerful athletes of the Mk 1 era for small, fast-moving players who were even more technical than their predecessors. The second era of Wengerball came closest to working in 2008 but, overall, cannot be deemed to have been a success. Our lack of spending power meant we could not surround Cesc with enough world class players and our version of tiki-taka too often resulted in playing the ball from side to side in front of packed defences without breaking through. Meanwhile we were regularly out-muscled by the physically bigger and stronger players of Manchester United and Chelsea.

So what is Wengerball Mk 3?

To me it’s a style that borrows much from tiki-taka, but with a Velcro-covered battering ram bolted to the front. Those masters of the tiki-taka game, Barcelona and the Spanish national side, invariably build their moves from the back with a focus on keeping possession. The striker  generally only comes into play at the pointy end of matters, as his slick-passing midfield colleagues tap-dance their way into the opposition penalty area.

Arsenal tried this approach but it would often break against our opponents’ defence like waves against a sea wall. When we had had enough of the sideways passing and tried to penetrate we often lost possession very quickly and found ourselves caught on the break.

But Olivier Giroud changed all that.

Suddenly we had someone up front who could retain the ball; who was not bundled off it by lumpen defenders; who could bring midfielders into play and who could give us a plan B if we wanted to try just crossing into the box or if we were under pressure.

It meant we could persevere with the tiki-taka elements of our midfield (triangles, changing position, give-and-go) but also have a much safer outlet when we wanted to play the ball forward.

And that’s the way we play today. Now when our midfielders play the ball into our striker they do so knowing that they will not be forced back on the defensive immediately, as was too often the case in the past.

Mk 3 gives us the flexibility to play from the back tiki-taka style, and also to occasionally put an early ball out of defence up to Giroud who can then hold it up until our other attackers and midfielders come into play.

Why do we have the best scoring midfield in the EPL? Because of Ollie.

I know many will argue with the idea that Giroud is the biggest factor in the revival of our fortunes. I can imagine some will say it’s down to our new-found defensive discipline.

But to me, that defensive discipline is also down to Ollie in large part. Apart from the actual defending he does (defending from the front when the opposition are playing out from the back and contributing massively to our defence at set pieces), Ollie’s hold-up play also allows the rest of our team to defend better.

In the pre-Ollie days, remember, we were punished on the break so often that it was like a recurring nightmare: all those games where we would lay siege to the opposition without seriously threatening their goal, then concede on their first attack.

Part of the reason was that we were losing possession too frequently when we attacked.

Now that happens less often and when it does happen our players are more likely to have had time to get back into position and to nullify the counter-attacks.

Wengerball Mk 3 is probably the only way of making a partly tiki-taka based game work effectively in the blood-and-thunder of the Premier League and it’s to Arsene Wenger’s great credit that he has figured out how to do it.

I’m even inclined to think that that’s what he had in mind when he signed Chamakh. As we know, the Moroccan did not turn out to be the man capable of playing that hold-up role and we also got side-tracked by Robin van Persie finally hitting a purple patch, but the way we now play is what Arsene has been working towards for a few years.

Olivier Giroud has finally made it possible.

RockyLives


One week for Arsenal …….. Six months for Walcott

January 10, 2014

Last Friday:

Le Professeur had little good cheer to offer on the injury situation at his Friday news conference. Giroud 90% out, Ozil, Bendtner, Ramsey and Gibbs definitely out. The one bright spot was that Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to resume normal training next week.

Gilberto Silva was training with the first team, the last ex-Arsenal alumnus to do so was a certain French mid-fielder who then signed a contract and has been an important part of a successful first half of the season, could the “Invisible Wall” be back?

One important bit of news, whilst not exclusively Arsenal related was worthy of note, Mr. Blatter opened his mouth, and for once didn’t immediately put his foot in it, when he launched an attack on cheats.

In his FIFA Weekly column he urged a global crackdown on the “cheating” players who dive in football and even suggested “time penalties” to stop those feigning injury from immediately rejoining the game.

Blatter also reminded referees to continue with play “unless there is a serious injury”. “The ball is in the referees’ court” he said “The instructions are now clear on this matter: if a player is lying on the floor, the opposing team are not required to put the ball in to touch.

I don’t know about other AAers, but I for one would love to see a crackdown on the diving cheats and on the spurious injuries that waste so much playing time. I’m sure one of our stats fans could tell us how much of the ninety minutes playing time is taken up by such antics. I feel sure it doesn’t all get added on to the “injury time”.

Saturday:

Not even a hint of speculation about who we might buy, and Arsene ruled out any approach for Berbatov.

The dreaded sickness bug struck again, this time Giroud is suffering, is it time to buy the player’s lunches from a different kebab shop?

The pre-match entertainment on AA was supplied by Ant and Duck, on their alcohol fuelled  peregrination to the Emirates.

 

Sunday:

No question who has the NLD bragging rights, firmly fixed in the Arsenal camp!

There was a feeling of inevitability about the game from the very start.

Watching at home, it soon became obvious that the poor old Spuds were considerably less than the sum of their very expensively assembled parts. I had spent the early evening watching an excellent performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Little Theatre in Sheringham, a traditional Christmas pantomime, and later watching Spur’s twin strikers floundering and failing I felt I was again watching two traditional Panto characters, the Ugly Sisters.

One rather sour note towards the end of the game, as Walcott was being stretchered off he, and the para-medics carrying him, were pelted with coins and bottles and subjected to dog’s abuse by the Spurs “fans”. The selfsame “fans” who, last season, had jeered at Bacary Sagna as he lay pitch-side with a broken leg. Walcott’s response, a two fingered reminder of the score, was more than justified in my opinion. The FA would need to be entirely witless if they decide to take action against him.

Two more injuries to contend with, both Walcott and Vermaelen could be out for a while, while the latter is a cut shin, the former could well be a longer term ligament injury.

Hey Ho! Coventry at home is a good draw for the 4th round and will present le Professeur with more chances for squad rotation.

Monday:

There was no definitive news on the Theo Walcott injury, If it’s a knock he could make the Villa game, if it’s ligament damage he could be out for a month. Olivier Giroud is expected to be fit to play next Monday, as will Jack Wilshere who took a knock on an ankle. The scan on Thomas Vermaelen’s knee will be assessed this week.

One piece of definite news, we will not be signing Lewandowski either in this month or in the summer, he’s going to Bayern at the end of the season.

The FA are to consult with Police and “look into” the behaviour of the Spurs fans who hurled not only abuse but also missiles at Theo and the medics as he was carried off on Saturday. Obviously Arsenal were correct in reducing the Swamp Dweller’s ticket allocation for the game. If that’s the way they are going to behave the allocation should be reduced to zero.

The FA announced that they would be taking no action against Theo following his gesture towards the obnoxious crowd of loons purporting to be Spurs supporters.

Tuesday:

On a cold, wet and windy morning what could be worse than to wake up to the headline:-

MY WORLD CUP DREAM IS OVER

world cup over

Theo Walcott sidelined for six months with serious knee injury

Yep! The news we had all been fearing turned out to be worse than we thought, a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament means that Theo misses the rest of the season and almost certainly the chance to play for England in the World Cup Finals.

Dare we hope that Theo could emulate Roberto Baggio who, in 2002, returned from a similar injury in just 77 days? That entailed half day re-hab sessions eleven times a week.

At the moment the plan is for Theo to have surgery in the next week or so, depending on how quickly the swelling goes down, to be back running by June, complete a full pre-season programme and be ready to play when the new campaign kicks off.

Wednesday:

The FA Cup fourth round tie against Coventry City will take place on Friday 24th January, kick-off 7.45pm and will be live on BT Sport.

Coventry have already complained about the Friday evening spot, claiming it will make it difficult for their fans to attend, are so many of them subject to curfews?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in full training, could he feature in Thursday’s U 21 game away to Fulham? Another run out in the following week’s U21 match away to Middlesbrough and all being well, he could be ready for the FA Cup tie against Coventry.

Arsenal U18s thrashed Peterborough 6 -1 in the FA Youth Cup on Monday evening.

Thursday:

Our midfield maestro

Mesut Ozil has been named Germany’s national player of the year following a fans’ poll conducted by the German Football Federation. Mesut has won the award for the third time in a row, beating Bayern Munich pair Phillip Lahm and Thomas Muller.

Theo Walcott has been voted December Playmate I’m sorry PLAYER of the month.

In transfer speculation it has emerged that although both Arsenal targets Diego Costa and Jackson Martinez have release clauses in their contracts (£31.4 million and £33 million respectively) they do not come into effect until the end of the season. The Daily Mail seems to think that we are in with a chance of getting Real’s Alvaro Morata if we pay a £1.7 million loan fee.

Niklas Bendtner may be back sooner than expected, he could resume training in the next few days.

One piece of truly World shattering news, (not Arsenal related) is reported by Sky Sports, Fulham have not made an enquiry for Man City’s Joleon Lescott and, in case any doubt remains,nicole
I can report that I am not dating Lewis Hamilton’s ex,

Nicole Scherzinger.

Bayern Munich received 18 thousand requests for tickets to the Champions League clash at the Emirates despite the price of £62 each, Bayern are to subsidise each ticket to the tune of €30 thus reducing the price from €75 to just €45. Perhaps other clubs could take a leaf out of the German club’s book and help out the away support. What about it Arsenal?

According to The Metro Arsenal teenager Serge Gnabry is a summer target for Borussia Dortmund as they seek to rebuild following Robert Lewandowski’s agreement to join to Bayern Munich. Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp has been impressed by the attacking midfielder and is ready to splash out on his services as he transforms his side following the departure of the jewel in their crown. Well Herr Klopp Serge is one of the young jewels in Arsenal’s crown so keep your sticky fingers off!!!

That’s it for another week, enjoy the relaxing weekend.

Norfolk Gooner.


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