Wembley Domination

April 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BFG celebrates

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

Fabianski the hero

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

Written by Gooner in Exile


Just two minutes of Magic and Mozart Composes another beauty.

March 17, 2014

North London Derbies are always that little bit special and with the tightest race for years as to who will eventually become Champions, together with the implosion of United and the resurgence of Liverpool and of course not forgetting the two big mega bucks clubs, this was a game we just had to win.

Within under two minutes the ever enthusiastic Oxlade Chamberlain set up Rosicky to what can only be described as a wonder goal, if not our best long range shot of the season.

We were ecstatic and yet not for the first time, instead of taking advantage of the early lead, we handed possession to Spurs and apart from Oxlade Chamberlain missing a sitter or passing to Podolski we retreated further and further back and left Giroud as a lone attacker. For the rest of the match he was largely nullified except on the few occasions he was brought into play.

Alex v spuds

This is a dramatic change of tactics by Wenger as we have been always an attacking team with neat fluid passes which more often or not produced pleasing football to the eye and invariably some spectacular goals. A better team may well have punished us. Spurs huffed and puffed had 60% of the possession but in all honestly only mustered one or two half chances

It’s a dangerous tactic to employ especially with practically the whole game to play after the early lead. Having said that Mertesacker and Koscielny were outstanding, is there a finer defensive partnership in the League ?

kos per and olly

We have several players still out and perhaps the after effects of the Bayern game took the edge from our overall performance but the need for support for Giroud with a world class striker really became apparent in this game.

Three points in the bag though. I wouldn’t say we won ugly and we certainly weren’t at our best but a massive improvement is needed next weekend against what I consider our hardest game in the run in, or so my crystal balls tell me :)

I have to give Rosicky Man of the match purely for the reason that his goal won us the game. Koscielny a close second and The Ox for his never ending drive and directness always looking for goal.

Finally a word on Szczesny. Allowing for the fact he had missed the last two games and made a fairly straightforward save, twice in a minute he dropped a cross, once he was fouled but on the other occasion he got lucky and if you look carefully was flapping and nearly brought Adebayor down, which could have resulted in a penalty. He is by no means the finished article and I still maintain he needs competition for his place.

Players after spud victory

Written by kelsey


Surgery, Victory, Injury, Jittery

January 17, 2014
 

 Last Friday:

  Walcott turns down a quick fix

The news came that Theo had opted for the most risk free treatment for his ACL injury. It is also the treatment that will keep him on the sidelines for the longest time.

Theo will undergo a patella tendon graft which is thought to offer the best long-term guarantees after a gruelling period of rehabilitation. Using a synthetic tendon could have got him back in time for the World Cup but there is a risk of the body rejecting it. Likewise with using a tendon from a dead body. He could have chosen to use a sliver of his own hamstring but as his game is based on speed his hamstrings are vital.

Arsene Wenger said;

“Theo is handling it as well as you can when you have had such a shock because he is mentally strong, he’s very balanced as a person and he can put it into perspective. We know that he will have the dedication and serious attitude to come back as strong as ever”.

Diaby suffers new set-back

Arsene Wenger says he is unsure if Abou Diaby will play for Arsenal this season after he suffered a new setback in his rehabilitation.

Diaby, who has been dogged by injury trouble during his time in north London, has not played for the club since last March after damaging his cruciate knee ligaments.

The Frenchman was expected to return in the next few weeks, after having extensive rehab in Dubai, but Wenger says he is nowhere near ready to come back; ‘His recovery is going very slowly,’ said Wenger.

‘Will he play again this season? I don’t know. He is still on a long-term recovery programme.’

Diaby has told supporters at a recent charity event that he hopes to be back on the pitch shortly, but Arsenal are no longer giving a predicted return date for the midfielder.

 

 

Saturday:

A predictable win for the Chavs over Hull City saw us toppled from the top, temporarily we hope as a win against Villa on Monday would see us bounce back regardless of City’s result against the Magpies on Sunday.

More Morata speculation, the loan deal could be on again as Real Madrid, after initially ruling out any departures during January, may be willing to let him go “later in the month”.

A bit of late news, and by late I mean two days late, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain played the first half of an U21 match against Fulham on Thursday evening, he came off at half-time in a pre-planned substitution, it was the lad’s first action since getting injured on the opening day of the season against Aston Villa. Now it seems that he could be on the bench against the same opposition on Monday.

Oh! And I forgot to mention, Eisfeld scored the only goal in the win over Fulham.

Sunday:

Arsene Wenger compared Oxlade Chamberlain to Steven Gerard, speaking on www.arsenal.com le professeur said

“At the moment he is still in formation. It is good for his education as he plays left, right and centrally when needed. After [the age of] 23 or 24 you settle in a definite position”.

“He will be deeper as he has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard.

Now I may not have Wenger’s insight but to compare the gracefull, pacy, youngster to that lumbering carthorse “Stevie G” is just a bit unkind.

Monday:

All the results are in, the calculations have been done and the outcome has been tabulated, Arsenal drop to third in the table but with the chance to bounce back by beating Villa later in the day.

Kieran Gibbs announced on his instagram page, whatever that is, that Theo had a “successful” operation on his knee and is recovering in hospital.

Team news, Monreal came in for Gibbs, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ozil and Gnabry mixed it up in mid-field while Giroud mixed it with the Villa centre-backs.

Tuesday:

Wilshere drives Arsenal back to the summit

A goal by Wilshere followed by one for Giroud, from a Wilshere pass, just seventeen seconds after the restart, was enough to take us back to the top of the table despite a second half goal for Villa.

Injuries to Nacho Monreal, possibly a fractured metatarsal, and Tomas Rosicky, a broken nose, were not good news and both players could be out for a while.

Bacary Sagna, whose contract expires in the summer, is set to renew talks over an extension. Sagna’s preference is to stay at Arsenal and finish his career at the club but the best offer so far is two more years at about the same wage £70,000 per week. Sagna has never agitated for more money or for a move away but feels his loyalty and experience deserves some recognition. Come on Arsenal, give him three years and a raise, you know it makes sense!!

Two more players in negotiations are Tomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker, can we afford to pay them more or can we afford to lose them?

From The Evening Standard:- Mertesacker made his 100th appearance for the club against Villa and has come to epitomise this galvanised Arsenal. He is the organiser-in-chief, the debt collector and, last night at least, every inch the captain of this team.

The Germany international provided composure amid the chaos. He knows the importance of maintaining Arsenal’s advantage at the top of the table and developing that ruthless efficiency required to win major honours.

Contract negotiations? Just get on with it Mr. Laws!!

Wednesday:

More recognition of the vital part Per Mertesacker is playing in Arsenal’s so far successful season came in an article in The Telegraph. Together with Laurent Koscielny the pair have brought a “perfect blend for solidity” Arsene Wenger has often in the past described Arsenal’s defending as naïve, yet no team have conceded fewer goals (19) or registered more clean sheets (nine) than Arsenal this season. The statistics behind the centre-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are even more compelling. Monday’s 2-1 win against

Aston Villa was their 28th completed game together and, in those, the club have registered 20 wins, eight draws and 16 clean sheets. Also very much to the point is the fact that we are unbeaten in those 28 games.

Mertesacker and Koscielny have formed a natural partnership. Koscielny’s speed and athleticism have often covered for Mertesacker’s lack of pace, although the German’s organisational skills have been perhaps the biggest single factor.

While they both remain fit and available our title challenge should stay very much on track.

Any chance of signing Schalke’s Julian Draxler were scuppered when it emerged that the 20 year old has damaged his ankle ligaments and will be out of action for up to three months.

Thursday:

Le Professeur revealed the latest fitness situation ahead of Saturday’s three o’clock kick-off against Fulham.

On Theo Walcott’s surgery…
It went very well. The damage was real in the knee so he will have to take the needed time, so let’s not be hopeful that he will go to the World Cup – that is not possible. But overall his long-term future is very positive. It’s about being fit for next season now.

on Monreal and Rosicky…
Monreal looks a doubt for Saturday, a big doubt, because he twisted his foot on the kick. It is not the bruise, he turned and twisted the ligament. Rosicky had surgery with a general anaesthetic for a broken nose in two places. With a mask he may be available, but we have to monitor it closely.

on Arteta (calf), Vermaelen (knee) and Ramsey (thigh)…
Ramsey and Arteta are both out for this game. Vermaelen too. I personally believe the three will miss the Coventry game as well and will be available after that.

on Bendtner (ankle)…

He has a little chance to make Coventry. But in all probability it will be after that.

Thanks to

www.arsenal.com for permission to reproduce the above.

Jack Wilshire is to appear alongside Lionel Messi in the 2014 advertising campaign for Pepsi.

Arsenal will red and white shirts with white shorts and socks, the ‘keeper will be in all green for Saturday’s match. The referee will be Lee Probert who drew this comment from Wenger after officiating in the same fixture in January 2012 when Johanne Djourou was sent of and Arsenal lost 2 – 1. “The referee influenced the game completely the wrong way in my opinion,”

That’s it for another week.

Norfolk Gooner.


The centre-back conundrum that nobody mentions….

January 11, 2014
Since the beginning of the season, Arsenal has been solid defensively in most games (the game against Man City, remaining one important exception) as the team has learned to defend as a block but has also benefited from the strong defensive display of the “Per-Kos” pair and the discipline and dirty work carried out by Flamini and/or Arteta.
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However, Flamini, Metersacker and Koscielny are very much prone to injuries (all three of them!) and/or suspensions (esp. Kos and Flamini). With everybody calling our for a new striker or forward to enhance our bid for our first EPL title in a decade, one should not overlook the importance of having quality defensive players at our disposal…
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If Flamini can be somehow replaced by the likes of Arteta and even by Ramsey/Wilshere/Rosicky on occasion (Will Diaby ever get fit again?), it seems that at the moment, we are a bit short at the centre-back position. Vermaelen is not the “Verminator” anymore and although he is hard-working and committed, his injury and error-prone records in the past two years does not really make him a “truly reliable” back-up. As a result and since our team’s good form this season has been strongly based on our defensive strength, wouldn’t it make sense to (also?) look into purchasing a quality centre-back to give reliable back-up to the “Per-Kos” pair?
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If so, which players could be approached?
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Written by RC78

Quotes of the Year: Arsenal New Year(ish) Quiz

January 6, 2014

What a fine year 2013 was. We were the best team in England during the past twelvemonth, confounding the doom sayers and the “experts” who make a living from sitting on TV studio couches with too-tight trousers and bad haircuts. Now 2014 is a few days old and Gunners everywhere will be hoping for more of the same. Today, for a bit of a diversion, I thought we all might like a bit of fun. Below is a list of quotations relating to The Arsenal, all made during 2013. All you need to do is match the quotes to this list of fine (and not-so-fine) folk: Arsene Wenger, Piers Morgan, Sir Chips Keswick, Lord Sugar, Andrei Arshavin, Per Mertesacker, Ivan Gazidis, Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Santi Cazorla, Andre Villas-Boas, Harry Redknapp.: All answers are at the end. Good luck. Arsenal Related Quotes of 2013

  1. No mobile signal in directors box, assumed was correct. Composed tweet in stand, got sent after game.”
  2. Arsenal cannot win the league this season, no way, they haven’t proved anything yet.”
  3. I promised myself I would make sure I did things well and, considering the money that Arsenal spent on me, I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
  4. What does Wenger see in Ramsey? A complete and utter liability.” (January 2013).
  5. We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they (Arsenal) are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.”
  6. I wouldn’t compare the two squads (Arsenal and Tottenham). Tottenham are much stronger, no doubt.” (August 2013).
  7. It felt like the crowd (at Arsenal) was at the theatre – good seats, expensive tickets and they wanted to see a show, not to support the team.”
  8. It can’t just be all happiness, peace and pancakes.”
  9. Don’t mind and don’t care.” (On being asked by journalists for a reaction to Tottenham being knocked out of the Europa Cup by Basle).
  10. “Yes there is a poster of Gareth Bale in Times Square, but he no longer plays for Tottenham – he now plays for one of our rivals!‘”
  11. “I am greatly honoured to have been appointed _______  of Arsenal Football Club. This is one of the great clubs in the game, recognised and loved by millions. I am looking forward to leading the Club to future success.”
  12. “If they just wanted a figurehead, they should have gone for me. It would have been a better visionary decision.”

RockyLives

Scroll down the page to find the answers ………….

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Answers to Quiz:

1. Lord Alan Sugar, after getting Spuds fans all excited about a non-existent Newcastle goal against Arsenal on the final day of the season)

2. Alan Shearer

3. Santi Cazorla

4. Piers Morgan.

5. Andre Villas-Boas

6. Harry Redknapp

7. Andrei Arshavin

8. Per Mertesacker (explaining why he roasted Ozil for not saluting the away fans)

9. Arsene Wenger

10.  Ivan Gazidis

11. Sir Chips Keswick on being announced as Peter Hill Wood’s successor as Chairman

12. Tony Adams, responding to the appointment of Sir Chips.

RockyLives


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


Slog On The Tyne: Arsenal Report and Player Ratings.

December 30, 2013

So we enter 2014 as the star on top of the Premier League Christmas tree.

Will we still be there at the end of May? Who knows, but if we are it will be thanks – in large part – to grinding out difficult wins like yesterday’s at Newcastle.

Toon have been one of the EPL’s form teams in recent weeks so going up there three days after playing another away fixture and coming home with all three points should not be underestimated. Coming away with the win was hard slog indeed and made a fitting end to a year in which we have been the best team in the country, bar none.

If the league title was played from January to December, we would be Champions.

There were a number of reasons to be concerned before the kick-off yesterday: injuries or illness to Ramsey, Ozil, Monreal and Vermaelen had severely reduced the manager’s options; Olivier Giroud was on a long non-scoring run and the referee – Lee Probert – has previously shown himself blind to fouls committed on Arsenal players.

Nevertheless we started brightly, moving the ball well and finding our players at close range for little give-and-gos.

Unfortunately whenever our moves reached the point where we could hurt the opposition we chose precisely that moment to misplace a pass, miscontrol the ball or chose the wrong option entirely.

Even superb technicians like Santi Cazorla were found wanting.

To a degree we seem, as a team and a squad, to be slightly off our game at the moment (perhaps the result of mental and physical fatigue from a recent unhelpful schedule that might have been devised specifically to harm our prospects).

Newcastle, to their credit, worked hard to deny us space and to ‘get in our faces’. They are a big, physical team with some talented players and it was easy to see how they have been getting good results. I noticed before the game that several of the “experts” were tipping this game as a good bet for a home win.

Newcastle were set up pretty defensively against us so it was no surprise that Theo Walcott, in particular, had little space to exploit.

Referee Probert, true to form, was letting quite a few clear fouls on Arsenal players go unpunished but, in fairness, he also overlooked several fouls by our players. However, for the second game running there was an off-the-ground jumping tackle on one of our players (Williamson on Giroud) that went completely unpunished when, at the very least, a yellow card was merited. It seems like it will take another leg break before we start getting protection from this sort of recklessness.

In the first half we managed to get off a few shots from medium distance, but the ball was magnetically drawn to Tim Krul’s midriff on each occasion.

Newcastle came on strong in the last couple of minutes before the break, forcing a fine save from Szcesny from a long distance effort and hitting the crossbar with a speculative lob.

Half time 0-0.

The second half continued much like the first with Arsenal having the majority of possession and looking like the better team, without fashioning clear goal scoring opportunities.

Newcastle were most dangerous down our left flank where Gibbs was often up against two players because Cazorla had been pulled infield.

But the real battle was in central midfield – a place where Newcastle have been particularly strong and combative this year

Tomas Rosicky and Matthieu Flamini were our stand-out performers, constantly breaking up Toon moves, winning tackles and keeping the ball moving when we were in possession. Rosicky also looked the most likely to provide a breakthrough going forward.

Jack Wilshere also had a very combative game. He has a tendency to turn into trouble and over-elaborate on occasion but I thought this was a much better performance from him than in recent outings. His overall pass success rate was 83% – but it was 100% in our defensive third of the field, 90% in the middle third and 67% in the attacking third, where he was trying lower percentage options. Defensively, he won two third of his tackles. He has also been reading Arsenal Arsenal I reckon, because his body language was much better and he (mostly) got straight back up after being fouled/falling over.

The breakthrough, when it finally came, was from our handsome, non-scoring French centre forward.

Not much had been working for Olivier Giroud (a lot of his lay-offs went to black-and-white shirts) but, as ever, he laboured tirelessly for the team, taking his usual quota of knocks into the bargain.

But when Theo Walcott floated a beautifully weighted free kick into the box, Ollie got a slight contact with his head – just enough to guide the ball past Krul’s left hand.

og

What a pleasure it was to hear “one nil to the Arsenal” ringing around St James’s Park. It goes without saying that our away fans were fantastic (and were just a fraction louder than usual, thanks to the presence of Chas and Ant).

Soon afterwards we almost made it 2-0, when Theo managed to get a toe-end on a through ball which then rebounded back to him off Krul. Theo’s second stab at it – a little lob – was goal bound but was headed onto the crossbar and out by an alert Toon defender. The ball then came to Giroud on our right of the six yard box for a gilt-edged chance to at least threaten the net. Sadly Ollie showed why many people still have doubts about him as a finisher, shanking the ball away from goal. In comments yesterday Rasp put this down to his lack of a decent right foot.

Gibbs was removed with an injury and Flamini moved to left back, while Arteta slotted into midfield.

Then came perhaps the hottest debating point of the game. With about 15 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger opted to go completely on the defensive, taking off Walcott, putting Carl Jenkinson at right back and moving Sagna into the middle to give us three centre backs. In post game interviews he said this was because the team was looking tired and he thought it better to close out the game. He even referenced mistakes from previous seasons where we had let in goals late on through not being defensive enough.

According to some who commented yesterday it was tactically astute and enabled us to cope with the extra forward players that Alan Pardew (Arsene, Arsene knock him out, Asrene, knock him out) had thrown on to try and salvage a point.

To me it seemed crazy. It led to a final quarter of an hour that made The Alamo seem like a pyjama party as we basically said to Newcastle: “OK, you have the freedom of the park to bombard our goal.”

There were numerous Toon crosses into dangerous areas; countless heart-in-mouth moments as the ball bounced around our penalty area; last ditch clearances and headers; frantic hoof-outs from the back.

We failed to control the ball for more than 10 seconds at a time and were, in my opinion, slightly fortunate not to have conceded.

Meanwhile with Walcott off and a ponderous Giroud up front, there was never any chance of countering with speed.

The one real counter-attacking opportunity came when Tim Krul came up for a Newcastle corner. We cleared the ball and got a throw-in in their half. Krul was desperately legging it back up the field. All it needed was a quick throw-in from Jenkinson to the screaming Bendtner (who was on for Giroud) and Bendy would have had an open goal to aim at (albeit from about 40 yards out).

Unfortunately young Carl had been possessed by the Eboue fairies and as he diddled and dawdled the chance went begging.

The final whistle, when it came, was a huge relief.

In summary, we deserved the three points for being the better team for 75 minutes, but boy did we make it tough on ourselves at the end.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: one great save from a long range shot; some fine work as we were under siege at the end… but there were a couple of howlers from our young Pole in this game. Following his gift to Carlton Cole a few days earlier I hope the carelessness of last season is not creeping back into his game because he has been fantastic so far. 6

Sagna: very solid defensively and offered plenty going forward: 7

Mertesacker: thank Dennis for the BFG. We really needed his calm head and composure in this game and he was excellent during the final onslaught. 7.5

Koscielny: back in the side and back to his best – which he needed to be at times. 7.5

Gibbs: had real problems in the first half because Cazorla was caught inside and the Toon fullback kept making overlapping runs. Overall though he was as solid as we have come to expect and contributed to our attack when he could. 7

Flamini: a very good game from the Frenchman, tackling hard, covering brilliantly at times and doing well when forced to move to left back after Gibbs’s injury. His pass success was an outstanding 95%. 7

Wilshere: better than in recent outings. His defensive work was solid but he still has a tendency to run or pass into trouble at times. 6

Cazorla: some good moments from the wee Spaniard, but too often his touch was off where it really mattered – in and around the opposition penalty area. 6

Rosicky: all action from start to finish and our stand-out performer. Without Tomas it’s unlikely we would be coming home with three points. 8

Walcott: Newcastle’s approach to the game meant there was little or no chance to exploit his pace. But he made the goal with a beautiful free kick and was very unlucky not to have scored. 7

Giroud: was having one of those games until he scored. You can’t fault his effort, but he will still need to do more to convince some people that we don’t need an extra striker in the January window. He gets an extra point because of the goal. 7

Substitutes

Arteta: seemed a bit off the pace. 6

Jenkinson: aside from falling asleep when he could have given Bendtner a chance at an empty net, he did his defensive work well. 6

Bendtner: did all he could for the short while he was on. 6

RockyLives


Vote for Arsenal’s most improved player

November 19, 2013

To make this as even-handed as possible the time-frame is from January 2013.

Let’s look at the runners and riders:

Goalkeeper: The man has come on leaps and bounds and Rocky made him his player of the season. Do you agree? Personally I don’t, TPIG started his career with such aplomb that many called him a potential world No 1. He had a dip in form and then a return to the quality we all know he has. Is a return to form an improvement? You decide.

Defence:  Kos, BFG and Gibbs have surprised many with their cohesion and developing understanding which is based upon fine individual form.

In my opinion, Kos’s lapses have cost us points this year and although he was superb in the run up to our excellent 4th spot, he remains just a tad below the immensity that is Mertesacker.

BFG has become my favourite AFC player. His humour, his calmness under pressure  - even if he is not blessed with Sprezzatura, BFG has galvanised the team. Is he better than this time last season? Certainly, but has his improvement been to the level of ….

Keiron Gibbs? At last the lad is having a relatively injury-free run and his qualities are becoming evident. He is keeping Spain’s LB out of the team which gives an indication of how highly AW thinks of him. IMO he is already better than Cole and Baines and should be England’s first choice LB for the World Cup. Improved? Massively

Midfield: Arteta sets such a high standard he cannot improve. Cazorla the same. Jack has yet to find form and fitness. Ozil  and Flamini are too shiny and new to include which leaves Tomas and Aaron.

Rosicky has been wonderful this season and his absence at Old Trafford could well have cost us the points. Given that he was written off by many (including BR) just a few months ago his rehabilitation has been neigh on miraculous, as has been the form of ….

Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh Messi is playing at a level none could have imagined a season ago. I wonder if even Mr Wenger envisaged such a transformation – quite simply, he is the best player in the entire Premier League this season. And if you disagree, name me another?

Attack. Only Giroud to look at but OG must be carefully considered because his improvement has been immense. Developing from a French journeyman who had many a Gooner in serious doubt as to his signing to a man who every game has all Gooners singing his anthem, he has had a fine year. Loads of goals, loads of assists but more importantly a focus for the attack, he has improved immensely . But is he good enough? You decide.

written by Big Raddy


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


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


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