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


A Commendable draw but if only we had a Striker

March 30, 2014

Many of us feared as we approached this match with trepidation could the team pick themselves up after a pretty poor week but more importantly would there be a commitment and desire to silence the growing number of critics.

What was to unfold literally was a game of two halves.

City were quicker to the ball and had us mostly pinned in our own half with most of their attacks aimed at our left side  and  at eighteen minutes the ineviatable happened when Silva bundled the ball over the line after a ricochet off our post and thoughts turned to another drubbing on the cards.

The second half was a completely different story and credit to the lads as they slowly regained composure and possession and it was no surprise when Flamini out of all people slammed in the equaliser with the best part of forty minutes to go. His first league goal since 2008 and didn’t he just enjoy it :)

The Home crowd were fantastic. Rosicky ran his socks off and even Podolski put in a shift but defending doesn’t come naturally to him – he could have won the game but at the end of the day we drew with honour but IMO it’s a game we could have won.

Toure and Kompany had been booked in the first half which may have played on their mind but we didn’t have the know how to try and make them commit a second foul, as they are undoubtedly the drive and defensive rock of man city.

Santi always plays better at Home and being two footed is wasted on the wing.

Szczesny concerns me. In the first few minutes he cleared a ball which was inches away of being met by a City player and that could have been one nil down. He flapped again in the second half and in the melee we may have conceded an own goal. He needs competition for his place.

I watched Giroud carefully and apart from one lay off he was completely useless. He can’t control a ball, beat a man, head on target, has no pace, and his long punt from the halfway line was embarrassing. He is the worst striker I have seen in an Arsenal shirt for years, despite his stats. I stress the point about him because at 1-1 a top quality striker would have got that vital goal and most probably won us the game. I know many will say he often gets no support but then I say change the system, or buy a clinical striker not an average hold up player.

All in all a great game to watch and in all reality we could definitely win the FA Cup and it’s a straight fight for forth between us and Everton.

I don’t expect you to agree with me with my observations, but if only a few of our walking wounded especially Ramsey and Koscielny could feature in our last three or four games that would bolster the team enormously and give us CL football yet again.

kelsey


Draxler? Not as Good as Cazorla

January 28, 2014

What has the title got to do with this evenings trip to St. Mary’s I hear you ask? Read on …..

Arsenal go into this fixture on a superb run of results which have brought joy and good humour into every Arsenal home. Southampton have won their last two games as they look to rediscover their early season form. Injuries and boardroom problems have affected them but the return of players should see them climb the table again – starting next weekend!

Do you think players are affected by BoD strife? Can you imagine Rickie Lambert being concerned about the loss of  a chairman? Manager perhaps, coaches certainly, but a Chairman?

images

“What’s a Chairman?”

Southampton welcome back Wanyama who has been a major loss but they are still without the “naughty” and suspended Osvaldo, Lovren and Ramirez. Lambert is a doubt. Pocchettino says he will send his team out to play “on the front foot”. Great, I hope he does because two attacking teams makes for an exciting game. Imagine having to suffer watching a Mourinho team through season.

We saw in the home tie that Southampton have some fine players and tonight will be a tough test.

Arsenal: Arteta, Ramsey, TV and Rosicky are back in the squad though I doubt they will start. Wilshere has another ankle-knock so my guess is that Oxlade-Chamberlain will start against his old club.

My team:

saints v arse

This may be too attacking in an away tie but what the heck. As long as we score more we take the points! Mr Wenger may disagree and play Arteta in place of Ox – we shall see. Ramsey is an automatic starter when fit but another few days R & R wouldn’t hurt.

Now – why is Santi better than Draxler? Because he is naturally two-footed, one of the best dribblers I have ever seen – his close control is exceptional – he has a wonderful spirit and he loves The Arsenal. This is not to say that Draxler will not develop into a marvellous player, he certainly has the physique which Cazorla lacks but ….. Let us assume Podolski comes good through to the end of the season and ends with 15+goals, why spend €35m to replace him? And if Drexler does come do you really think Santi will get to play centrally when the Wizard of Oz is in the team?

Nope. Get Theo fit and the squad is strong enough  in the opposition half. I would prefer we buy a top defensive shield. An Essien style player.

But what do I know – I am not paid squizillions to manage a football team, though I am available ……

Southampton: Founded in the stone age, the town really took off when the Anglo-Saxons (yet again)settled in the St. Mary’s area. Their town was called Hamwic, which gave rise to the name  Hampshire. By the end of the 9th C the settlement became known as South Hamtun. Those pesky Vikings raided throughout the next couple of centuries and South Hamtun floundered.  However, a fortified settlement  was established to keep out the scandinavian swine and by the time of Norman Conquest of 1066 the town had become important  as travellers moved between England and Normandy. By the 13th century fortifications were built including Southampton Castle (most of which still stands) and the town became a major port where French wine was exchanged for English cloth and wool.

Over the years the town became the major embarkation point for the British armies as they conquered the world, and later became the home port for cruise ships such as the Queen’s Mary and Elisabeth.

Back to the game: Another must win? Much has been said of the MU team which won the title but only won one game against a top 4 side, ( let us not presume we cannot win against strong opposition) and harvesting points against teams outside the top 5 is essential. We have done brilliantly so far and I see no reason why our run cannot continue.

Anyone think that Boruc will try to outsmart Giroud again?

Click here to relive the moment….

Hopefully the 3rd best Polish GK will gift us another tonight.

Big Raddy


Business as usual! The march at the top continues

January 19, 2014

The bottom line is simple. Despite the green fumes of envy from the clueless pundits and money spinning ignorable others, we stay Top of the League.

This was a historic day in the English Premier League, when goal line technology was used for the first time to the benefit of the Northern Oilers and the disappintment of the new boys from Cardiff. This was also a day when Arsenal had a job to do at home against Fulham. Fulham has had quite a Mauleen from all and sundry, and at The Home of Football they were clearly expected to receive a battering. Arsenal were Top of the League before the game. Despite the accumulation of injuries including a rather serious one to Theo Walcott, and despite the disappointment of fans from a typically unimpressive transfer window, we were not expected to drop points at home against an unfancied opposition.

However, Fulham came out with purpose, with a revamped central defence sporting the fit-again captain Brede Hangeland and “recalled from loan” six-and-half-footer Burn. The midfield sported the hacker mercenary duo of Parker and Sidwell, and ahead of them a frontline sporting one evergreen Dimitar Berbatov. At goal was the World Cup finalist “Mr Dictionary” Dutchman Stekelenburg, with 10 distinct letters in his surname (I kid you not!!!!!).

Arsenal came out with an unchanged starting lineup, which had only one omission from Raddy’s carefully considered choice. The little master Santi Cazorla was chosen over the little Mozart Tomáš Rosický. The “masked Czech” was left on the bench to nurse a delicate nose flattened in a previous brawl. Other than Monreal on the left, the backline was familiar – Mert, Kos and Sagna. The defensive midfield positions were manned by Flamini and Wilshere. Özil, Santi and Gnabry together with front-man Ollie completed the attacking line up.

For me, the starting line up made good sense. The left and right backs had freedom to roam upwards along the flanks. Flamini and Jack were positioned to start the cleanup operations and link forward. For me, the movement through the centre is perhaps the best way to use Jack’s speed and youthful exuberance. The wing play of Sagna and Monreal allows the attacking midfield freedom to move laterally through interchanging positions. This is perhaps the most natural movement for both Santi and Gnabry, and it offers the opportunity to use any lack of tightness in the opposition back four.

Arsenal fans everywhere, including the venerable Arsenal Arsenal family, have been clamouring for the addition of a striker in January, and that wish of a post-Christmas present has so far been steadfastly ignored by “Mr Santa” Le Boss. Giroud had unfortunately misplaced his shooting shoes during his nocturnal escapades on one fateful night in Kiev last November. Hence, the forty million and one pound question was: where would the goals come from? Despair not. The answer came later during the game.

Anyway, the game commenced in earnest. The initial exchanges were tasty. 5 minutes on, Gnabry moved inwards deftly from the right, and found a gap to send the ball forward, Jack met this with aplomb and fed on to Özil on the right end of the 6-yard box. Instead of shooting himself, the German wizard tried to pass to Giroud, but Hangeland deftly hacked away. Again, 20 minutes on, Gnabry cut in from the right and fed Olivier Giroud at the edge of the 18-yard box, but he fired the ball high and wide. In between, Arsenal continued to boss the game, Wilshere being particularly enterprising, but failed to create clear chances.

Something was amiss. I thought there was lack of coordination between the attacking midfielders at the centre. The way Arsenal plays, all three of them have liberty to move and exchange places. On the day, this exchange was not working quite right. When Gnabry moved in from the right and released the ball, he continued to move to the centre, but the gap on the right was not seamlessly filled in by the other guys. The same happened when Santi moved in from the left. There was crowding in the centre and the game could not be spread wide. As a result, the Fulham defence was able to close their gaps easily.

At the same time, Fulham were somewhat potent on their rare saunters upfront. On 27 minutes, Berbatov’s cross was cleared out of the box and fell to Steve Sidwell, who launched an audacious 20 yard stunner that Szczesny had to deftly fist over. The Pole made two other crucial interceptions in one on one situations, diving to the feet of Dejagah first, and taking the ball off the feet of Kacaniklic the second time. In both cases he superbly avoided a touch with the rushing shooters. Fantastic stuff.

Together, the robust rebuttal of Arsenal’s advances continued, through a combination of skillful defence, agricultural mercenary action and sheer luck. Some freekicks were conceded but no bookings – surprise, surprise!! From one of these freekicks, the good guys produced their first clear chance. From about 20 yards out, Santi drilled his kick into the wall and the rebound fell to Sagna on the edge of the box. His first timer glided through the crowd towards the bottom right corner, but Stekelenburg brought off an amazing reflex save, and immediately after from Giroud’s follow-up. Giroud was flagged offside, but the Dutch goalkeeper would not have known. Brilliant play.

In between, nothing much had worked for the Arsenal attack. Wilshere and Gnabry were enthusiastic without much success, Serge attempting three wayward and juvenile long rangers, and Jack trying fancy one-twos with Giroud that, unlike the Norwich game, did not quite work out. Flamini had a quiet game, doing his basic job without producing any moment of inspiration, but almost contributed to a disaster. Almost at the end of the half, Per Mertesacker ran in to head a ball, bending himself low to the ball, and Flamini lent his arm in support. Per dashed into Flamini, hurt his neck and stayed down for an anxious few minutes. To the relief of Arsenal fans, no serious damage was done. The teams went in at halftime all square. Fulham were competent in defence, and Arsenal attacked all half without much conviction. It seemed they could go up another gear, though.

At half time, there were plenty of nerves, and some disagreement among the faithful followers on Arsenal Arsenal who were unlucky not to be at THOF. Clearly, the shape and formation of the team was not quite right. The game was not spread wide. Raddy felt Gnabry should stick to the wing and not fight for space with Santi. Arnie thought, dare I say so, that being the central guy, Özil had the responsibility of moving over when either of Santi or Gnabry moved to the centre. In any case, a job needed to be done. Raddy moved over from lager to wine, Arnie continued to provide bloopers, and Rocky sat down with pen and paper to record Plobert’s errors of commission and omission.

As the second half commenced, Arsenal came out in earnest, trying to use the flanks better and upping the pace of the game. But Fulham continued to provide some potency on the counter, Berbatov holding the ball up well until support arrived from the other players. These attacks were clinically thwarted by the Mertesacker-Koscielny duo, with able support from Sagna and Monreal mainly, and everyone else in the team as well.

10 minutes into the half, Arsenal produced their first significant action. Gnabry provided a moment of individual brilliance, moving in from the right side-stepping three defenders before firing in a low shot which was spectacularly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. Then, Monreal whipped the ball in from the left, Sagna’s effort was cleared off the goal line. Gnabry poked it rebound forward and somehow Fulham again cleared off the line. The stalemate continued. Nervy times.

The first moment of the Santi magic came on 57 minutes. Santi picked a ball from the left, passed through to Ollie on the top of the box and continued his run in. Giroud took a ball with his back to goal, flicked out a one-touch lay-off into the path of Wilshere, who picked up Santi on his run. Santi, oh beauty, slided in and with his right foot fired into the goal from close-rage. Absolutely lovely team goal. The Emirates erupted in unison, well, except the hapless away fans I suppose. Celebrations ensued. Giroud wrapped his arms around Santi and made some strange arm gestures that I found hard to interpret. Beyond, of course, the unimaginable!!

santi v fulham

Within 5 minutes, there was the second piece of Santi brilliance. This time, with his left foot. Monreal crossed the ball in from the left, and as it was hacked out from the box, Santi rushed in from the right, and fired in from the edge of the box into the corner of the net. 2-0 to The Arsenal.

The march continued, the fans sang loud and clear. Poldi replaced Gnabry, and launched a superb rasper from 20 yards out that was somehow fingered on to the upright by the Dutch goalkeeper. The Ox came on very late and almost got his head to a cross from the left, but not quite.

Still some nervy moments at the end. Mert sauntered on one of his escapades and failed to intercept a loopy cross which Szczesny failed to reach as well. Bent stepped around him and somehow missed from close range. Under pressure from Koscielny of course, who had an absolutely brilliant game. In the final minute, The Ox launched into an agricultural heave at the edge of the box, and off the resulting freekick, the Pole in goal spilled the ball in the first attempt and somehow grabbed for dear life in the second. Szczesny the Savior, on his 100th game for Arsenal as well. Absolutely fantastic performance from him.

Thus the game ended after a nervy extended injury time. Job well done. We are Top of the League. This was a thorough team performance, and the tentative scores reflect this.

Szczesny 8. Superb saves. His was a very crucial performance. Coming out and not reaching the ball in injury time the only major blip.

Mertesacker 6. Good composed performance. Missed a loopy ball towards the end that led to the Bent chance. A couple of other similar errors in judgment that could have proved costly on another day.

Koscielny 8. Superb. One of the true stars on the day. What a great performance, what a big heart!

Sagna 7. Good performance in attack and defence. Two good shots on goal.

Monreal 7. Like Sagna, good in defence and in overlapping. His cross led to the second goal.

Flamini 6. Decent composed performance without being inspirational.

Wilshere 8. Good enterprising and credible performance. Assist for the first goal. Fantastic.

Özil 7. Good performance. Nice interchanges and distribution. Would perhaps be more proactive in organisation of shape and formation on another day.

Cazorla 8. What can you say, except for Wow! Superb. Two goals. The star on the day. Man of the Match! The little master is back.

Gnabry 7. Very good performance. A future star. The development continues.

Giroud 6. A decent day in office. Missed a few chances. Tried a lot of fancy lay-offs that did not work. But one of these did, and it led to the first goal.

Podolski 7. Came on for the final 20 minutes. A superb effort on goal. The rehab continues.

The Ox. Too short to have a score. But nice to have him back. Almost at the end of a cross on the right post, but not quite. However, a terrible tackle in the end that on another day could have proved costly. The rehab has begun in earnest.

What lessons did we learn? Plenty of positives to take. Yes, this is work in progress, yes the loss of Theo is costly, but this is a team where everyone does his bit and steps up on the day. And yes, the conviction that we are resilient in defence and attack, and are not going to give away easy points. The defence and goalkeeping performance was superb. 10th clean sheet in the league, 8 clean sheets out of 9 games at home. Santi coming back to his best, the rehab of Poldi and The Ox continues. Onwards and upwards!

Arnie.


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 ………….

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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


Mesut Özil …… Sprezzatura.

November 16, 2013

Now, I don’t know many long words, and even fewer in Italian. However, a few years ago I stumbled upon this word Sprezzatura. No other language has a word encapsulating the same qualities. It means “Effortless Grace”.

If you want to be able to sound clever, then read the bracketed bit below, otherwise, skip it.

(Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier as a portrayal of an idealized courtier. This ideal courtier was supposed to be skilled in arms and in athletic events but be equally skilled in music and dancing. However, the courtier who had sprezzatura managed to make difficult tasks look easy. Concerning sprezzatura, Castiglione said that: “to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. In short, Sprezzatura means Effortless Grace.)

When I first discovered this word, my first thoughts were one Dennis Bergkamp. I decided the word was simply too good to waste, so I thought I’d bide my time and wait.

Enter Mesut Özil.

I believe he may become Arsenal’s Greatest Ever Signing. The Man oozes Sprezzatura.

I have heard that “He’ll take time to settle into the PL”. I say: “Bollocks he will. I have never seen someone so clearly settled”.

Look at his assists so far. On the whole they are fairly simple balls. Pinpoint accurate, yes, but fairly obvious balls. I remember Chas posting some of The Arsenal Gentleman’s genius cards, and Mesut’s “Special Move was: The Mesmertron, a hypnotic through ball”.

How many of these hypnotic balls have we seen? Very few, and the reason is that Mesut knows the players are not quite ready for him to unleash his full dazzling array of ball skills.

So, what’s going on? Quite simply, every player around Mesut is out of their depth, and he knows it, which is why he’s still playing it simple. I reckon that soon, through a combination of pitch time, as well as work on the training ground, the movement from those around him will improve.

Think back to Thierry Henry, and the impact DB10 had on his game. This is the reason I understand why some people are asking for a different type of striker. Someone who speaks the same football language as Mesut. I suspect we may see the Mesmetron deployed if either Theo or Podolski take up the central striker role.

I think we are going to witness Arsenal’s Greatest Ever Signing. He will elevate and educate those around him into superior players. Watch, savour, and enjoy. Exceptional things are about to happen in the Red and White of Arsenal.

Written by MickyDidIt89


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.

ad119835598dortmund-germany-e1383773999442

The goal opened the floodgates somewhat, no not from Dortmund attacks, but Arsenal’s threats on goal. From a Giroud cross, Ramsey forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi corner, Giroud saw a shot somehow cleared off the line. Per came along into attack with great vigour and came close to scoring twice, the second time sending a loopy header to the top of the net.

The mighty Dortmund, worthy finalists of last year’s Champions League, undefeated in the Bundesliga so far this season, did not know what hit them. Perhaps they were not used to losing. They were completely rattled and disheveled. Apart from a muffled attempt from Reus, they offered hardly any threat. The 11 brave men of Arsenal defended resolutely and saw the game through.

In the middle of all this, one man stood tall in midfield, led from the front, and for me captured like no other player the spirit that Arsenal stood for. It was Mikel Arteta. He manned the centre of the field like a fighter, defending and winning balls throughout the 90 minutes, earned a yellow card for his troubles, somewhat unfairly, for tugging Blaszczykowski’s shirt, and came disastrously close to a second as well. But he kept fighting. At the other end, Reus tugged back Rosicky but was not booked, and neither was there a penalty for bundling valiant Kos over. Injustices galore. But the brave and good guys stood tall amongst the ruins, and came out valiant winners. What a night of Champions League football! Lucky Micky and Raddy who represented AA in the ground!

How did we manage to win this game against all odds? Hard work, perhaps even more than skill, but what was most important was strategy. The strategy of sitting back and defending resolutely, the strategy of going all out in counter attack, but only when the opposition had got somewhat tired and demoralised, and most importantly the strategy of knowing how to get the best efforts out of the players. Going even to the extreme of publicly criticising the team for naivety. In a game characterised by character, desire and strategy, STRATEGY came out tops for me. In a game between symphony and Heavy Metal, the mettle displayed by the team was beautiful SYMPHONY. In a game of strategy between two great managers, Arsene Wenger came out on top! Arsène Wenger is my Man of the Match!
Arsene
Every player did his bit on the night. Here are some tentative scores.

Szczesny: 8 Had little to do on the night, except to make two fantastic saves. And they were crucial.

Sagna: 7 Measured performance in defence and attack. 

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

Koscielny: Fantastic in defence, great combination with Mert, played with a big heart.

 Gibbs 7 Measured performance focusing on defence, cricial interventions when Mert and Kos had moved up and Dortmund attacked on the counter.

Arteta: 9 A true leader on the day, leading from the front. Valiently marshalled the midfield all evening. Outstanding.

Ramsey: 9 What can you say! The “Welsh Messi” Aaron Ramsey did what he does best – deliver the sucker punch.

Cazorla: 7 Good, solid, if somewhat underwhelming performance on the night.

Ozil: 8 Good performance, great cross that led to the goal.

Rosicky: 8 Fantastic performance. Together with Arteta, maintained the midfield, fighting for every ball, moving forward on every occasion possible.

Giroud: 7Assist for the goal, tireless performance as the lone striker, holding up, running tirelessly after the ball. Almost scored as well.

Arsene Wenger: 10 Le Manager, what fantastic strategy, what a man, what a team. This performance was surely for him.

Monreal: 7 Came on 75 mins for Santi, reliable as ever.

Vermaelen: No time to make an impact.

Bendtner: No time to make an impact, but ran after the ball continuously for the 5 mins he was on.

Written by arnie

Our on the spot photographers have provided these pics of a view from the away end:

D1

D2

D3


Another great game of Football?

November 6, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must be windy in Dortmund

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

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

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

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

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

My Team:

Szczesny

Sagna    BFG    Kos    Monreal

Ramsey    Arteta    Rosicky

Ozil   OG    Cazorla

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

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

Unknown

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

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

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

Written by BigRaddy


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

November 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cazorla v liverpool

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

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

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

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

Rambo v Liverpool

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

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

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

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

Ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subs

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

Vermaelen 7 – did what was needed at left back.

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

MotM? Maybe we should have a vote…

Gooner in Exile


A Look at Lewandowski

October 22, 2013

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now”

M. Wenger is 64 years old today and as a gift UEFA have given him a mouth watering challenge at THOF; our Professor must be hopping with anticipation at the prospect of pitting his wits against a team and manager who represent the finest in football.

Our season has started (apart from a ref-affected first game) brilliantly. Reflected not only in the points tally but also the possibilities of the team’s future – we are already very good and we are going to be the “couilles de chien”.

Dortmund: Not much to tell you that you don’t know already. They are very good, they are in form, they have a superb defence, a better midfield and a lethal attack ! Klopp will be in the stands following an ill-advised impression of the Ferguson rant  - how was it SAF was never sent off for abusing a 4th official?

I am looking forward to watching Mkhitaryan, the man signed to replace the treacherous, Goetze. And of course the performance of Lewandowski will be under the spotlight, what with the media speculation of a transfer to The Emirates. Cannot see it myself but he is a top striker and we could squeeze him in somewhere!

Last time BD came to THOF we won 2-1 with goals from some fellow whose name I forget. BD beat us in 2002 with a goal from Rosicky, it would only be right for the Little Mozart to score for the righteous tonight (70th mins sub?)

I wrote recently of my admiration for both Subotic and Hummels and how they cope with the wingless Arsenal attack will be one of the keys to the game.

Then there is their fans. It must be wonderful to have such support – our away boys are brilliant but these loonies are on another level completely!

Arsenal: Once again the absence of Walcott’s pace could be costly. I love our tiki-taka but some unadulterated searing speed undoes defences, if nothing else it forces the defenders to sit further of the player.

However, the addition of Özil has brought an added dimension. His headed goal on Saturday came as a result of a lung-busting late run  -  a part of his game which has surprised me. Not only is Mesut brilliant with the ball at his feet and a master of space, he is also an extremely hard worker.

The recent run of success allied to the two CL wins must give the entire squad huge confidence. It is this rather than the personnel which will inspire the team tonight. The return of Cazorla and Arteta brings wizardry, calm and authority to an already fine side.

The development of the understanding between Santi and Mesut will be one of the highlights of the coming seasons. Both hugely intelligent, both two footed (as are we all – no disrespect to uni-peds) and both team players.

I have been wracking my brain to find fault in out attacking play and have decided that we do not score enough goals from outside the area. Can someone remind me of the last time?

The defence remains a concern. We have to start getting some clean sheets or the season may unravel. It is all well and good relying upon the attack to score more than we concede but eventually we will get caught out. Thankfully, it seems that the problem lies in lapses of concentration rather than a deeper lying malaise.

My Team:

a v bd

An attacking team. The bench is getting stronger and amazingly Bendtner is looking threatening. If we are winning on 75 mins expect to see Monreal

Tonight is one of the highlights of this (or any) season. Two teams who are committed to attacking football on a warm autumn evening in a packed, noisy stadium. Given a decent referee it will be a great game. I wish I could categorically state that we will take the points, what I can state without fear of contradiction is that every Arsenal fan watching on television would love to be there.

Win this and we are almost through to the next round.

Written by Big Raddy


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 423 other followers