Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mikel Arteta

Midfield Maestro

When we signed Arteta on deadline I couldn’t help but get engrossed in the whole ‘panic buy’ mentality. We had replaced our captain with a budget equivalent from Everton. When Arteta took the field against Swansea I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew he was cultured and usually at the forefront of all things good in an Everton shirt but what could he add to our side? To my surprise he settled into the middle part of our midfield three, with Ramsey given the licence to roam. This puzzled me somewhat and to be honest by the end of September I was wondering if we had bought Denilson II. He had already scored away to Blackburn but we were left with more questions than answers that day. In truth what was developing was a solid partnership between him and Song. We all know Alex looks a good old charge forward but Arteta’s discipline allows Song to good forward at will. He (Song) still recognises the need for protecting the defence as well but if he does have the rush of blood he is susceptible too, then we will Arteta protecting the back four, whereas previously there wasn’t anyone. Since that horrendous afternoon at Ewood, we have conceded 10 goals in 11 games (3 of which were at Chelsea) which is a huge improvement. I want to give the defence a lot of credit as well but we’ve had that many changes at the back that indicates to me Song and Arteta are the reason why we’ve had such an upturn in our fortunes. The protection they offer now is so much better that what was happening previously.


Arteta’s passing statistics since Blackburn have been phenomenal.

Opponent         Passes/Successful         Completed %
Bolton              62/71                           87%
Thursdays        79/87                           91%
Sunderland       66/73                           90%
Stoke               77/87                           89%
Chelsea           73/78                           94%
WBA               84/93                           90%
Norwich          63/71                           89%
Fulham             78/88                           89%
Wigan              85/97                           88%
Everton            57/64                           89%
City                 67/73                           92%

Now before we all get a bit Denilson about this, those figures are fantastic. Is it a coincidence that has best passing completion ratios are in our 3 biggest games in that list? He takes care of the ball and this clearly eases the burden off our back four. 

Only misplacing five passes v Chelsea (below) is some achievement but even more impressive is he only lost possesion once in our own half.. This game also provided his only assist of the season but that's not to say he isn't creative. He is also the leading league scorer from midfield as well; he has 3, Song and Ramsey are both stuck on 1. Obviously it goes without saying that Cesc’s goal can’t be replaced from midfield but we are currently accommodating that with RVP’s stunning efforts. I do think we need to get more from Aaron Ramsey and I fear it could be his position up for grabs in once Wilshere returns.

Arteta performance against City was equally as impresive. Only misplacing six passes on this occasion. He does seem to have a phobia of the opposition box if you compare the two graphics, but i'll let him off. His work rate is tremendous and in such a competitve envoirment in a packed midfield  it's good to see he can get on the ball and really dictate play. There was a notion from some quarters of Everton support that he went missing in big games. For me, he was probably just surrounded by lesser players. It has a huge impact, imagine the joy of passing to Van Persie instead of Anichebe?

He will never replace Fabregas as he's a completely different player. He's slotted in extremely well at Arsenal and he's only missed 10 of the 1160 minutes available to him! Which is a credit to him given he was thrown into the mix from the word go and he was injured at the beginning of the season. I think we've struck gold with Arteta and whilst Scott Parker laps up all of the praise, it's time Mikel started getting some recognition.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

We've Got Our Arsenal Back!

Recent weeks and months has seen us witness a lot of unrest amongst Gooners. We've all seen the billboards, we've all heard of the 'walks' to the ground and we are all well aware of the spiralling ticket costs. That said, one thing remains constant, our love of Arsenal FC. At the beginning of the season there was an unhealthy unrest in our support. Vocal songs about the dislike of Samir Nasri and lack of investement was all summed up in one dire display at Old Trafford. That day however has proved pivotal in our season. The Away Support instead of turning on the side united in face of adversity, our aspirations as supporters changed and we could only dream of days Bergkamp and Co graced our famous pitch. Whilst we did a lot of soul searching Wenger was quietly piecing together a side that was extremely low on confidence.

So it was only right that we were all a bit apprehensive going into the Chelsea game. The outcome however was unimaginable. I do believe that we took a lot of confidence from the two sitters Gervinho & Van Persie missed. I created a belief that we could create, something we have lacked in recent visits to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Wenger worked wonders at half time and we were on top in a matter of minutes. Then the fear returned, the nice kind. The stomach churning nervous tension, knowing we were unlikely to hold on with 35 minutes to play. The fact a big game was on the line demonstrated to me that Arsenal were indeed back. Koscielny threw himself at shot from Mata, much in the way Keown, Adams and Bould would have done. The midfield was full of running. I know you'll still have it saved on your sky+ box, check out Aaron Ramsey's run to the halfway line when Van Persie scores the fifth. He can barely run but his determination drove him forward. The header by Rosicky in that same move showed he was willing to put his body on the line for the cause as well. I hadn't experienced hat sort of desire from our team for a very long time.

The scenes at Full Time were that of relief but also it also instilled a belief amongst the players that they can compete. The Arsenal away end was that of joyous scenes.

A place where everyone wanted the same thing, no hidden agendas, no serving your own arguements, just pure support of the team we love to watch compete on a football pitch for 90 minutes. The negativity has gone and we are doing the right thing, backing those that wear the red and white. That to me is my Arsenal.

The week that followed was great, every football programme known to man was exhausted. My Mrs is sick to death of re-runs of the game. We drew with Marseille in an After The Lord Mayors Special but the fear set in before the WBA game. Surely we wouldn't beat Ch3l5ea and lose to WBA? If anyone could do that, it would be us. Especially after conceding 5 to them last season. In truth, they were the worst side to visit The Emirates this season. The offered nothing, although Fosters passing to Wenger was a joy to behold. We were patient, Ramsey slipped in Walcott with a very Cesc-esque pass, he should have scored but RVP was on hand to slot home and further celebrate his deserved monthly awards.  The feel good atmosphere was further enhanced when Vermaelen slotted home to make it 2-0. We completed crusied it. Arteta got the goal his 180 minutes v Ch3l5ea and WBA deserved and everyone went home happy (some earlier than others, as the usual 85th minute fire drill kicked in).

He isn't worthy!!
 Now we face a tricky fixture against the lively Norwich but the international games hasn't had it's usual knock on effect and in fact we are lapping up, even Diaby is training. Amazing how players return when things are going for you isn't it? That said a lot of players have enhanced their reputations of late. Mertesacker and Koscielny have been amazing recently, Dave even recieved a well justified call up and international cap for Les Bleus. Arteta is growing into the midfielder we need. I did have concerns we'd bought Denilson II but he has started moving the ball from back to front a lot quicker and that has helped free up the ever flourishing Ramsey and when that results in your striker getting more chances and if that striker happens to be Dutch, then everyone is a winner. He really has been a joy to watch, even John Terry has respected the ground that he walks on.

Lets hope things continue as they should do. Norwich (A) and Fulham (H), I expect 6 points.

Friday, 7 October 2011


So Premier League action has returned and we rely on Arsenal to brighten our weekends. The trouble with football is everyone thinks there are quick fixes and in some cases there are, but usually for very minor issues. If only we had minor issues to deal with, instead we have a team that needs intense therapy to aid it's recovery.

I welcomed the international break but I'm not sure Arsene would have. Very few players remained at London Colney and subsequently we can't expect any radical changes to our performances. I didn't think our display was as bad as some outlets let on in the NLD. Instead I saw a side that reacted to a half time team talk, came out fighting, got it's rewards and subsequently retreated back into it's shell. Our confidence couldn't be any more fragile than it is at present and I don't think it's realistic to fix that before the Chelsea game. Yes, two victories domestically against Sunderland and Stoke would help but there is no belief in this current set of players that we can compete in big games. If Chelsea score first, it'll be very difficult to recover mentally. That's not to say we can't score first and install some belief that we can compete. A victory at The Bridge is just what this side needs. It would be a massive shot in the arm for some and you can prepare all you like for a game of football but if you don't have the belief, it all falls down. If we get a result it would set us up well for November. Yes, the dreaded November. However the automated fixture system couldn't have been kinder to us. If it all goes to plan (nothing ever does), we could be looking at a swift climb up the table. Games vs WBA, Norwich, Fulham, Wigan and Everton await us after our trip to Chelsea.

Confidence aside our other main issue is our defence. Some fans say
Wenger inherited one of the best defences football has ever seen and that cannot be argued with but Wenger did create a back five of Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure and Cole. So the notion that he can't build a defence can be blown out of the water. What can't be overlooked is the panic buying of Mertesacker and Santos. If we still had Almunia in goal who knows what state we'd be in. In our two victories so far Szczęsny has pulled off crucial saves early on, we could easily be in a relegation place without him between the sticks. Wojciech aside the outfield defending is disgusting. The fact we now have to make do without our best defensive asset for 3 months is a hammer blow! I know fans like Jenkinson because he's a Gooner but the lad is nowhere near ready for first team action and you have to question the sale of Eboue. One of which I was open to but he needed adequately replacing. Sadly, this was a theme throughout all of our sales in the summer! Fans are eagerly awaiting the return of Vermaelen and whilst he is our best centre half, I can't help buy feel his reputation has only been enhanced because he's been injured. Vermaelen is over rated in my opinion. He ball watches a lot and last ditch tackling always looks great but good defenders should never rely upon that. That said, Vermaelen and Mertesacker are our partnership going forward and they could well be up against Drogba and co by the end of the month. They might hit it off together but whilst we persist with the highest line of defending possible, only time will tell. Our defending is also hindered by this ridiculous formation. There is always space to exploit and our midfield couldn't be more lightweight. Due to Jack's injury our midfield three is Song, Arteta and Ramsey. Hardly smacks of tough, disciplined and defensive minded players. Although when Song sticks to his task, there are very few better than him. Unfortunately that happens 1 in 10 games. Will this defence ever be cured? I don't think so. These issues have gone on for too long and we find new ways to concede goals.

Overall, we have two key issues that need addressing and one can be rectified but the Chelsea game is huge, personally I'm not expecting much myself but football has a habit of springing surprises and I didn't think we had any chance of a victory the last time we won there!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Should Wenger Go?

The Wenger Out saying used to be a complete non-entity amongst the Arsenal faithful but now more than ever it's an expanding topic of conversation. The problems are this; we are 15th in the league and have a squad that appears susceptible to a hammering at any point. We have replaced quality with average to good replacements and worst of all we have money to spend to enhance our squad.

Our form is horrendous by our usual high standards and to be quite honest we are lucky to be 15th, this is after 7 games too. 21 points available and 7 taken? If you were witnessing this happen at any other club would you think their manager should be sacked? We have sold some integral players and we have replaced them with lesser players. Nasri's record for us wasn't spectacular but would I have been as open to his sale if I'd known Benayoun was his replacement? Probably not! As for Cesc's sale, I was expecting a big name in to replace him but we got Arteta. Arteta and Benayoun are nowhere near the calibre of player we've let go and that naturally has an impact on our results. I'm not saying they aren't good, they just aren't what we had. If this was happening at another club would you be critical of their policy? I would.

Vieira's last act as captain  was to bring home our last trophy, 6 years ago

Then we come down to the financial aspect. Don't worry I'm not going all anti-Arsenal etc, I'll leave that to people with hidden agendas. We have money to spend on players and we didn't. The attempts to get Gotze were unrealistic and desperate. Dortmund were never going to sell and we seemed to adopt the approach of our closest rival in attempt to appease our support. Eden Hazard was a possibility but we never went in and subsequently we'll never see him in an Arsenal shirt because Zidane will get Real to sign him. Last summer might have been a great opportunity to bring in players with the lure of Champions League football. Let's be realistic for a moment, finishing in the top four would now be an excellent achievement and even the club are planning for life without the cash injection that is elite European competition.

So what do we do? I don't know which way to turn but someone is accountable. Is that man Wenger? From the sounds of it, yes it is. Kroenke and Co have said Wenger has complete autonomy at Arsenal. This isn't healthy. So he's the man we should be venting our anger towards right? Not so sure. With that question comes with it what the great man has done for our club. You don't need me to go through what he has done for Arsenal, it's a true legacy. The way I gauge the Wenger debate is you are either with him or you aren't, which is fine but ask yourself this for one moment. What would you do if Wenger did leave? No if's or but's. I'd be gutted but I'd also acknowledge that things are going in the wrong direction and possibly a change is needed. I used to worry that if Wenger left all of our world class players would follow him but now we don't have any players I'm concerned about losing (compared to the invincibles). Then there's the "who is out there to replace Wenger?" For some reason this discussion can only comprehend managers that are currently unemployed. We are a massive football club and with the exception of 3 or 4 clubs we can take any manager we want. Managers would jump at the opportunity to be in charge at The Emirates.

Back to reality, I did blog on Wenger in April and I wanted him to change his philosophy but I knew then that he wouldn't and he hasn't. Our defence is still a shambles, injuries are a constant nightmare, our squad is weaker than it has been at any point in the Wenger era and players aren't living up to their potential. Have you ever watched Premiership Years and you can see a team performing poorly but you know that next month they get the inevitable sacking next month? That's us right now but we have no idea how this is going to pan out. Other team’s supporters love our demise; look at the game last Sunday. Did you see their fans reaction at Full Time? They were happy but not as ecstatic as they have been in the past. It put things into perspective for me.

Where do we go from here? Even our own players are reluctant to commit to the club. How do we get out of this mess? Fans have lost faith at The Emirates (Just look around The Emirates, it speaks volumes). Our away support is immense and in fact I have just booked myself a ticket for Chelsea because I love watching Arsenal play but can't say I'm expecting much in return. I have no expectancy of winning trophies or at present winning big games, as the scars of Old Trafford are still quite deep.

A legend that will always remain!

Is it all on Wenger? Kroenke has been clear in his message and if he sticks to his word Wenger is as safe as houses. Stability is always a good thing but we need to turn this around, now. Arsene Wenger is an Arsenal Legend, that will never be questioned but there will come a time and a place when he does leave. I personally think he’ll never be sacked and it’ll all remain mutual but if there was ever a time to question his future it's now. Can he turn it around because time is running out! I want him to remain successful but now it's more hope than expectation.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Walcott Factor

At the end of last season I thought the time was right for Theo Walcott to make the transition from winger to striker. Unfortunately for Theo two factors stood in his way. First, we needed to change our formation and the secondly, Arsene Wenger believing he is ready to make the move.

Throughout pre-season Theo occupied the right wing and Wenger never gave him a sniff of playing through the middle. The arrival of Park Chu-Young makes than even more unlikely. Theo has netted a couple of goals already this season but his overall game has been poor and he sums up the poor attitude that demonstrated by this side at present.

We all witnessed Walcott's lambasting of Carl Jenkinson at Old Trafford and he might have had a point but the fact remains he was tearing strips off a youngster on the field of play. There are times and places for things like this and that was certainly not it. Jenkinson was later sent off. Walcott then took to the field against Swansea and displayed an arrogance that you would usually see in the likes of Thierry Henry. Although every TV production didn't show it, Walcott was booked at the beginning of the 2nd half. Theo was tussling with the Swansea Left Back (Taylor?) and he felt like he was being held back, instead of playing to the whistle Theo decided he was going to berate the assistant referee (whilst play was still going on). After it dawned on Theo that nothing was going to be given he launched into a tackle, fouled the full back and was given a deserved yellow. That in a nutshell sums up his attitude at the moment.

The summer saw us lose key personel in Fabregas and Nasri and I believe this has led to Theo believing he is a bit further up the pecking order in terms of status in side, he has been at the club for 5 1/2 years. This is a huge year for Theo, as he will want to make amends for his infamous axing from Englands World Cup squad. The summer could be defining in his career as he will have 12 months to run on his current deal. He doesn't look a player that is out to prove a point and strengthen his game, instead he's written a book ironically about growing up, fast!

Where has the innocent young lad from 5 years ago gone? Remember when he took a camcorder to Germany as he wanted to record every moment of such a brilliant experience?

I have no issue with players writing books but can't they at least achieve something in the game first? When I think of Theo's achievements I think of his hat trick in Zagreb for England (which is the only international game he's ever scored in), his tremendous runs against Liverpool at Anfield , goals against Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final and Carling Cup final and a hat trick against Blackpol. Not exactly an erray of outstanding achievements given most of the games didn't even see us win the actual game.

Theo couldn't have made it more obvious that he wants to play through the middle but the fact is that Van Persie occupies that role and Theo is never going to displace him. Wenger transformed Henry from a winger into a striker but the fact was Henry was a striker before his stint on the wing at Juventus. Walcott developed late in football terms and he's more manufactured and he has nowhere near the natural ability of Henry. So Arsene definitely knows best on this front and if I was Walcott I'd be out to prove a point.

Theo needs to influence games much more than he does. Look at the Dortmund game, in the first half Theo touched the ball 12 times, which to put that in context the next lowest was had 27 touches. (Thanks to @orbinho for the stat). Like any player he never likes getting subbed but his lack of consistency makes him an easy target when we have to look at alternative options. His best games for Arsenal do tend to come in Europe though and this season is already testimony to that. Goals at home and crucaially away at Udinese can not be overlooked, nor can despite his lack of touches in Germany, one did lead to an assist for Van Persie's goal.

The best barometer of Theo's lack of progressing has been the fact that many supporters already want Chamberlain in ahead of Walcott. Seems ridiculous but fans are tired of the lack of production on the right wing and AOC has been a sight for sore eyes recently.

That said, I just hope that Theo sticks at it. IF remains injury free and focuses solely on his game instead of writing books etc. Then I realise how difficult those two things are to achieve for him. He does have ability and Wenger is the best manager to guide him through this phase but if he determines that he's not ready then so be it. It'll not be long until he stabs Wenger in the back and seeks to engineer a move. Let's not forget the Bosman ruling now means players are much more likely to leave with 12 months remaining on their contract of which we have Walcott, Van Persie, Arshavin and Song in the situation.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Tactics or Attitude?

Since our defeat at Old Trafford a lot of fingers have been pointed and a lot of frustration have been vented but it's nearly a month since that awful afternoon and I don't think we've made sufficient progress since.

Where do we start?


This sides attitude stinks. When we played against Swansea, it was our first game since United and it should have been a statement game for us but no, we tried to play football but the most clear cut chances fell to the welsh side and they should have taken a point had it not been for Gateshead's finest lashing over the bar late on. Where was the desire to win the ball, prove a point and show commitment. Once you add those factors into our style of play you get performances like we witnessed at Stoke when we won 3-1. Proving the doubters wrong but again we failed to provide any confidence and we were just happy at the sight of three invaluable points.

When you dig a but deeper, look at our play at set plays. Wenger side in pre-season we had worked on improving this side of our game. Clearly whatever that was it hasn't worked and arguably it's made things worse. You can read about zonal marking until you are blue in the face but it's all about attacking the ball. If you don't attack it (the ball) you look like a bunch of twats. Song was on the edge of the 6 yard box against Blackburn and at no point was he focused and prepared to deal with a cross. Given they were about to whip a ball in towards him, that just isn't good enough I'm afriad. It subsequently hit his thigh and found its way into the net. Blaming zonal marking is the easy way out, it's been part of the game for years. If everyone does their job you'll succeed. Then we had Koscielny own goal, what a mess he got himself into by just running back to deal with a counter attack. He assumed Szczesny was going gather the cross, hehe wasn't going to have to defend but then that suddenly mass panic. His body position was appalling, it was obvious what was going to happen and he then attacked the ball with wrong foot. Why not put in in row Z with his left foot. This led calls for Arsenal to employ a defensive coach but of course we refuse to deal with such a massive issue.

The Immediate Future

We might be on the verge of a couple of false dawns, Bolton is followed by the North London Derby, which is tricky every season regardless of what Alan Smith might think about who the force in North London is. Then we play Sunderland & Stoke followed by Chelsea.  November looks brighter fixture wise but then it's November and we all know what that means.


Then we move onto the diamond in the rough. Our performance in Germany was first class, we defended well (for the most part) and looked a threat upfront, until we took off all of our attacking three. Only an absolute worldy stopped us taking all 3 points off the German Champions.

That got me thinking, we are massively respected in Europe and Dortmund were playing their first game in Europe's elite competition for eight years. They were scared of us, no idea why. They were making uncharateristic mistakes (Kehl especially), the occasion was getting to the them, they decided not to exploit clear weaknesses such as our left hand side. We are one of the best teams in Europe (based on reputation) and it's something I'm quite prepared to ride out for the duration. The knockouts will prove a different task, unless we get handed the kindest of draws (which never happens).


So Wenger still has a lot of work on his hands but thankfully for him our support has never been so united. We have been a laughing stock of late and the likes of SkySports News tried to jump onboard a poor attendance of 46,000, when you have the likes of Manchester City failing to sell out their first ever Champions League game. I love the togetherness that the supporters feel at the moment. We've been stabbed in the back by players we've adored (that's not directed at Cesc) but our love for the club grows ever stronger.To lose such an influential manager could be devastating to us but it isn't as bad as it would have been say seven or eight years ago. A win in the North London derby would do wonders for the club both on and off the field. Let's see that become a reality next weekend.


Jack Wilshere out for a period of months as he will need surgery on his troublesome ankle injury.

Things just got a whole lot worse!

Oh well, there's always next season!

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Morning After The Night Before

Do you ever get that feeling when you first wake up that you don’t know what day it is or what happened the day before and then suddenly your stomach sinks and you remember everything instantly? It was the best two seconds I’ve experienced since our horror show at Old Trafford yesterday. All I have is questions for the Arsenal Hierarchy and no answers. Who do I aim them at? Is there any point? I’m blatantly just pissing into the wind.

So where do we start with yesterday? Well the line up is a good place.

Wenger went with inexperience at full back, after the loss of Bacary Sagna to illness! Ill since Thursday but well enough to find his password for twitter and tweet "hello everyone..sorry for the silence but couldn't remember my password anymore. Glad to be back." and " I'm not playing because of a virus.feel sick since thrusday..I had high temperature until now..woke up to watch and support my team." We also had to deal with the loss of Thomas Vermaelen to a knock picked up in Udine. Now, I’m not one to usual question their absences but could they both have played? It was obvious we’d struggle without them.  A lot of people believed  Vermaelen should have been skipper and I hope i'm just being overly ciritcial but I'd expect him to play. Them we had the debutant Coquelin in the team to protect the back four. Upfront we had Arshavin, Van Persie and Walcott so we could offer something in attack.

Whilst it was a horrific team display, I thought Djourou was particularly horrendous. That performance is up there with Stepanovs v Dwight Yorke and co. He was so easy to expose. Countless 1-2’s had him like a rabbit in the headlights. Why did he try to shield a ball back to Szczesny, whilst it was bouncing and in our own box? He also got caught ball watching and unable to recover time after time. They just never learn.

If you want to compare that with Thomas Vermaelen v Liverpool, you'll see the difference.

For those that haven't used this great app (FourFourTwo Stats Zone), orange X's and O's are clearances. Purple are failed attamepts and the black triangles are fouls. This doesn't show how many times he was motionless and exposed by United.

In fairness to his centre half partner I didn’t think Koscielny did that bad but neither were dominating and we might as well have had some bollards at the back.

Then we move onto our midfield, the key to this entire formation. Poor debutant Coquelin didn’t have a hope with Ramsey and Rosicky. Rosicky was seen in the warm up trying to pass on some advice ahead of game, which was good to see but as soon as the match kicked off he (Coquelin) was fed to the lions. Neither Rosicky or Ramsey offered much in the way of support and he did quite well considering, especially when you take into account he was substituted when score line was 3-1.

Then we have the non dynamic forward three. I’m not sure whether the departure of Cesc and Nasri has led some players to believe they are more important than the actually think but Walcott stitched his ‘mate’ up at right back and woefully exposed him throughout, which led to an altercation between the pair and Jenkinson told Theo to ‘fuck off’. A lot of fans on twitter made the point it was nice to see passion but you can’t help but feel Theo wouldn’t have done the same to Sagna. Theo, as an experienced team member needs to focus on helping the lad not hindering him. Jenkinson became clumsy and was later sent off. A lot was also made of Van Persie’s poor pen but in truth I don’t think it would have had an impact on the result. We were going to lose yesterday, no matter what. Van Persie has been in sensational form all year but now he is captain he has to stand up and be counted. He does have questions over his big game mentality and yesterday did little in the way of quelling that. He got a goal, yes but it was a token gesture. As for Arshavin, well I’ve always been a fan of his because he creates but it obvious to us all that he is merely a passenger in this side and we can ill afford those at present.

The teams perfromance can be assessed by their influence on the game compliling all of their stats:

 The bigger the name the bigger the influence...

Post game Wenger looked for reasons behind the defeat

“You could see that we had not recovered completely from Wednesday night. We were as well weak in some departments and Manchester united has of course, class”

Even though we had made 5 changes to the starting line up.

Although Wenger declined to apologise for the performance in his initial SlySports interview, he did so in his press conference.

"The fans were great and I feel sorry for them. They do not want to see their team like that. We can only apologise and come back in our strength and desire in the next game."

Nice to see a bit of honesty for a change and that leads us to the highlight of yesterday. Our support, It must have lasted for about 15-20 minutes if not longer but chants of “We love you Arsenal, we do” rang out loud and clear around Old Trafford. Every one of our supporters in attendance is a credit to Arsenal Football Club. We’ve had to put up with a lot at Old Trafford in the way of gloating from the United faithful but in the face of adversity and a pathetic display, the support was phenomenal.

Moving onto overall support for a moment but off the field we are starting to see cracks in The Emirates project. I found this on Arsenal.com last night:

Swansea City at Home, 3pm kick off and it's a general sale. Astonishing,

Add to that approximately 11000 fans were wiped off the waiting list and the club is certainly heading in the wrong direction. I prefer to think supporters just can’t justify the obscene prices and it’s not a case of people turning their backs on the club. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Supporting Arsenal isn’t about winning trophies, it’s about watching/supporting your side play and should always enjoy that. No matter what.

So where do we go from here? Well Wenger, Gazidis and The Board have three days to work miracles because if they don’t there’ll be even more uproar. The Wenger Out brigade is now a majority and whilst it would be catastrophic for him to leave now, the end of the season might be the end for our legendary manager. A poll on Slysports.com asked if Arsenal would finish in the top 4. 85% voted no. Not surprising given the humping we received yesterday but our season could well be decided by our activity (or lack of) in the next 3 days. If we do promising business I will still believe but I’m not expecting anything to be honest.

Wenger said last night

“I know that in England that when you lose a game the signings are always the solution. First we need to get our players back. We had eight players out today and anybody would suffer with eight players out.”

I agree that signings are not always the solution but they aren’t needed just because we were thrashed off United, there is a much bigger picture to look at. Our squad is awful. Lot’s of players are either too young and yet to realise their potential or living off former glories.

When a manager leaves a side you have to go through a poor run of form, lose your best players and have a lot of discontent through the entire club. We are currently in the midst of that and the next 72 hours will determine whether we can turn this around or if we’ll persist with our current policy. If we do persist this love affair between Arsenal and Arsene will come to a tragic end.

Realistically I think we need approx 8 quality additions to the squad, even with 8 players returning. We need 2 centre halfs to replace Squillaci and Djourou. We need quality cover at right back and possibly a left back, as Gibbs is already showing he is not to be relied upon. We desperately need depth in midfield. Frimpong might have resolved the cover needed at DM but we need at least 2 more centre midfielders. We need depth at striker to cover RVP, which looks like its going to Park Chu-Young and another winger. That is too much to do in an entire transfer window and possibly two windows but we all know it won’t happen, no matter how many windows it takes. The sands of time are fast running out and we need to act now. Over to you Arsenal, we all want to believe but someone isn’t telling the full story or we are just being lied time and time again. Prove us wrong for once.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Transfer Anxiety - Same Old Arsenal

Over the last few months it’s fair to say we’ve all been put through the mill a fair bit with the comings and goings at our Football Club. Wednesday night was huge for some many reasons but if the worst case scenario had reared its ugly head it would have severely impacted our ability to bring in new players. We won and now we are days away from the window closing. It is clear we are trying to do business with Bolton and they attempting every trick in the book to drum up interest, which is a good sign but ultimately at this moment in time Gary Cahill is still a Bolton Wanderers player.

Wenger said in his press conference today

"I will try to strengthen the squad in depth because at the moment we are a bit short number-wise but if we get two or three players in we have the quality to challenge."

That is promising but he went on to say

"There is a chance [we could make no signings] because again we are dependent on the desire of the people who have the players to sell the players."

If you wanted to analyse those quotes you might come to the conclusion that we might not sign anyone, so is Wenger saying we won’t be able to challenge? Irrespective of our opinions I’d imagine AW would always believe we were challengers, given his notorious stubborn nature. However, for me the thought of us signing three players is quite positive talk from AW. I want to genuinely believe that this side can contend for major honours, at the moment I can only hope. I want to get carried away with the hysteria that comes with a new attacking signing and seeing the positivity flow through the club once again. We’ve be bogged down with so much negativity over recent months this club needs a facelift. The feel good factor needs to return.

Imagine the headline, Hazard signs for Arsenal. Arsenal.com would go into meltdown. The internet can barely handle the Arsenal rumour mill, my phone certainly can’t. I now have Eden Hazard saved as a search on twitter to see if rumours have any foundation and thus far all I can find is an article by a non-credible website from last night that has been recycled many times today. This is what it has come to, I spend time in my day translating various websites to find legit sources behind stories. However, I know deep down that it probably won’t happen but this is the sort of inspiration we need to galavanise our side. Arsenal want good commercial results, shirts would fly out of the club store; printing would go through the roof. After all you have to speculate to accumulate right? Every man and his dog know Hazard is a play that would help fill the void left by Fabregas and The Million Dollar Man.

I am at a point where I don’t care how much we pay for players. I’m not saying sign average players for 20m like certain sides but the likes of M’Vila, Hazard and Cahill for me can command 60m-80m worth of fees. It no longer matters that we get the best deals possible. I just want them signed, holding our shirt and telling me they’ve supported Arsenal all of their life. We moved to this stadium to compete financially remember.

In less than 5 days this will all be over and I can snap out of this pathetic routine that I have fallen into but Wenger needs to come up trumps otherwise the knives that are already out there will get that much sharper. We got lucky last year when we didn’t replace Almunia but this is multiple positions that need strengthening now and we need to buy. We cannot afford to take a gamble on the current squad but there is a part of me that thinks we won’t get what we want and we’ll have to make do. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Striking Dilemma

Van Persie's Arsenal

Much has been said about our defensive issues over the last season and more, but what also concerns me going into this season is our lack our depth at the striker. As our football club prepares for departure of Cesc Fàbregas, much attention will turn to the captain in waiting Robin Van Persie. This is now Van Persie's team without any shadow of a doubt. He is our leader in terms of performance on the pitch (all be it the wrong choice for skipper), he is in the form of his life but when we played Benfica last Saturday, he got clattered and was down requiring treatment. As every gooner collectively sighed cross the globe hoping this wasn't another injury like the one he picked up at Ewood Park last season, it suddenly dawned on me that it wasnt just a another case of 'van Persie ruled out indefinitely', this was now a situation where without the great Dutchman we carry very little threat in reserve.

Competition (or lack of)

Van Persie is without a doubt our leading striker but we all know he isn't exactly reliant... Hopefully he can overcome that this season and beat his best record of 38 starts in a season but if the worst was to happen, we have to look to our squad. Marouane Chamakh would appear to be the next in line and that worries me, immensely. First of all we are going to have to rely on him to get us through the first 90 minutes of our tie v Udinese. Relying on a player who has mustered 11 shots at goal (in the Premier League) since Christmas is nothing short of disgraceful and embarrassing. Of those 11 shots he's managed to get a mighty 2 on target, he's averaging a shot on goal every 215 minutes (via @orbinho). What is all of that about? Given our wealth of wingers and the creativity that Fàbregas brings/brought to our side it makes me wonder if we've put a square peg in a round hole. Chamakh looked a real threat during his time at Bordeaux and he even started his Arsenal career well but the phrase "form is temporary, class is permanent" doesn't look like it applies in the case. There is speculation about his private life affecting his performances but if that is the case it has now gone on for 8 months and that isn't acceptable. He didn't manage a single goal in pre-season, even against a Malaysia XI and the mighty Hangzhou Greentown. He is paid a reported 50k a week and I can't help but feel Bendtner's appetite for starts would be served better by staying at Arsenal, rather than being lower in the pecking order to Chamakh. His touch has been appalling throughout his baron spell and his ability to hide in games is unbelievable. Fans always get on the backs of Arshavin and Bendtner but they always put themselves up there when it comes to creating or scoring goals. Then we have Carlos Vela, who to be fair to him has shown that he is a lot more lively and ruthless in his appearances during pre-season. For a start, he's actually scored, twice! I would say he is ahead of Chamakh in terms of starting but that's more of damming indictment on Chamakh than it is praise for Vela. The Mexican does get into positions where he can hurt sides but are we in a position where a player that we loaned out to West Brom, who couldn't hold down a starting berth with them, suddenly becomes our number 2 striker, I don't think so. I would like us to convivnce Bendtner to stay with us. He may not be the regular starter but considering we can play approx 60 games in a season, when Van Persie has only managed over 30 starts once in his Arsenal career, that's as good as assurance you'll get for minutes on the pitch. It is however unlikely given Bendtner's claim that a transfer is very close to happening that he will ever pull on an Arsenal shirt again (much to the delight of many Arsenal fans).


We do also have striking options on the wings but giving the tactics/selection in pre-season I can't see Theo Walcott entertaining any time through the middle. Maybe an injury crisis will break out and Arsène Wenger will have no choice but to put our new age number 14 at the heart of our attack. I think Walcott would make an excellent striker (as I have blogged on at the end of last season), he has all of the qualities we need but it appears another season on the right wing beckons. Maybe once Oxlade-Chamberlain shows he is ready to play week in week out we'll see Theo make the transition from winger to striker. We also have a man for all forward positions in Gervinho but he has accommodated the flanks throughout all of his appearances so far. He certainly has the directness within the box to go for goal and he would definelty score us goals but given his career at Arsenal is in it's infantcy it's unlikely he'll move either. We've also deployed Arshavin as a centre forward in the past but that didn't quite go to plan. Especially when we lost 3-1 to United but he wasn't to be faulted given that fact he competed for crosses against Ferdinand and Vidic. How Arshavin paid for that cracking strike at Anfield.

Buy Buy Buy

We need to sign a striker, it's as simple as that. Van Persie needs competition for his place, the team needs more than one genuine goal source and maybe it buck the ideas of certain alleged forwards. No Plan B has often been a commonly used phase around the The Emirates and we may well start the season without a genuine plan A, if we are to lose Nasri & Fàbregas. Irrespective of those issues we will need to show intent in the transfer market and sign a forward, fans clamour for the signings of Benzema or Rossi. Players like Llorente may become available if we pay the right price. This is a worrying time regarding the direction our club is heading in but we seem to have so many issues that one transfer window may not be enough to sign the players we need. One thing is for certain, if Fàbregas and/or Nasri is to leave by the weekend, the club and the fans need top class players coming through that door or this may well prove to be a long season. After all Wenger said we wouldn't be a big club if we sold them, he can however prove we are a big club by bringing in proven players.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Keiran Gibbs

It's been over a month since my last blog, mainly due to the fact that little has happened surrounding our ongoing potential in's and outs saga. We do however find our side minus a left back, since Gael Clichy departed for Manchester City. Now transfer speculation may lead you believe we are going to sign Jose Enrique but given our inability to identify areas of urgent improvement I think we may well find ourselves replacing from.

Before I ramble about Gibbs, just remember that when Clichy replaced Ashley Cole, he had only started 35 games before taking over the role as the Arsenal left back. Gibbs has started 42 games. My point? Well everyone at the time was glad to see Cole leave (for none footballing reasons) because we had a potential replacement in the form of Clichy. Gael at the time was also a regular on the treatment table and he could only manage a maximum of 14 starts in any one season. Gibbs has had to endure an injury ravaged start to his career but he will have an excellent opportunity with pre-season ahead as he stakes his claim for the position. If Gibbs can't remain healthy then I think reluctantly, we'll open the cheque book for Enrique but Gibbs has until 31st August to prove himself.

Gibbs is a talented player, without any doubt. He is raw but then you don't see many mature 21 year old defenders (unless your name is Tony Adams) but he is very much in the mold of Cole. His forte is definitely attacgoing down the flanks, which is something we need to add to our side. Clichy contributed little in the way of goals and assists but I'm confident Gibbs will surpass that ratio pretty quickly. Gibbs has the ability to whip in quality crosses, he can beat a man, shoot from distance and on occasions get in the box. All things that you might believe Clichy had in his locker but ultimately the stats don't lie (although how GC22 kept that 'strike' at Stoke I'll never know). Gibbs will relish this role and he will also be helped from the feeling of being the Arsenal Left Back. I don't think he quite believes he has earned the respect of his team mates and he has at times played within himself but you don't gain 2 England caps without having some form of ability.

Wenger has prided himself on not killing off the talent we have at the club and with just under 2 months before the transfer window closes, it would be silly to attempt to sign a player when the answer could be solved in house. Ultimately though this is down to Gibbs, if we wants to remain an Arsenal player his time is now. No excuses!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Na na na na na na na na na Samir Nasri, Nasri, Samir Nasri....

A little over 5 months ago, I would have handed Nasri whatever contract he wanted. It would have been knee jerk but at the time I didn't care, we were flying, Nasri was on fire and we were going places as a result. Now, I couldn't disagree more with his demands that have apparently been made.

Samir wants parity with Cesc in the wage terms and he would like to receive a wage in excess of 100k per week but Arsenal are offering 90k. Our mythical strict wage structure has long gone and certain individuals have looked to exploit this in recent times, namely Mathieu Flamini. I'm now of the opinion that if this is the sort of attitude our players portray during one of the most difficult financial times, as supporters struggle to renew season tickets and/or hunt for buyers to retain their connection to Arsenal because they just can't afford to watch their beloved club, then maybe it's best Samir departed and we cash in.

Nasri does not deserve the same wage as Fabregas, that is obvious. Cesc is vastly superior to Nasri in terms of ability. His vision and passing ability is a joy to behold and he is as the term goes, world class. Nasri possesses exceptional close control and skill but Cesc's style brings much more production on the pitch. There's a reason why one is coverted by the best footballing side and the other isn't. According the Premier League site, since Nasri joined in 08/09 he has been involved directly in 25 goals. In the same time span, Cesc has been involved in 59 (Wiki states it's 42-82 in Cesc's favour in all comps).Those stats speak for themselves. Nasri did step up this season but it was mainly in the absence of our skipper, scoring over half of his goals when Cesc was not in the side. However, when Cesc plays, Nasri takes a bit of a back seat and his performances do dip somewhat. Is this a case of one or the other? There's only one winner there. Nasri needs to realise that accepting he is worth less in today's market than Cesc is still an extremely wealthy position to be in and when he starts posting the numbers his skipper has then he can demand some form of parity. This just smacks of Adebyaor's demand of 80k a week because that was what Thierry Henry was on before he left, obviously Ade added his own spiteful antics to that scenario but the principles of it remain the same.

So Samir, we've offered you 90k a week, sign it or ship out. He's a very good player but one who has not been consistent enough over 3 years and I'm sure we'd be able to get around 25m and reinvest (hopefully) in a more than able placement (Hazard). He's adored by the fans, gets on well with his teammates and he is coached by one of the all time greats but at the moment he's choosing the Flamini route and we know where that ended up.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Theo Walcott

It's quite hard to believe that it's nearly 5 1/2 years since we signed Theo. In that time he has played 174 times for Arsenal and his progression has been somewhat hampered for one reason or another. What is clear to me is that his days at right wing are numbered. Arsene Wenger has said that he sees Walcott as a central striker in the future but how long do we have to wait for this transition to take place.

The Right Winger

Theo's outstanding quality is without doubt his pace. However, pace alone will not see you through every game. Theo lacks the ability to deliver a telling ball, something highlighted when David Beckham tried to teach him about the art of crossing before being sensationally axed from Englands World Cup squad. Now since then Theo's crossing hasn't really improved. So either he didn't learn anything from the greatest delieverer of a football in modern times or it's an attribute that he doesn't possess. Theo's other problem is much like Beckham's main criticism, the ability to beat a man. If we can slip a ball in behind a full back, great. There's no stopping him. Unfortunately this is easier said that done. Often he has to confront a left back and if truth be known, he doesn't have a catologue of skills and tricks. Full backs get tight to him and he has little space to manoeuvre, always looking to drop his shoulder and get to the byline, there isn't an awful lot wrong with that but rarely do you see he do such things against the likes of Evra, Cole & Enrique. Theo is coming off his most successful season (13 goals) for Arsenal and only when you realise that do you think his performances really aren't living up to the expectation that his signing appeared to bring with it.

The Striker

Now first of all we have to get away from this unsuccessful 4-3-3, which is obviously easier said than done. However, if AW decided to bite the bullet and revert back to the tried and tested 4-4-2, I can see a good partnership in the making with him and Robin Van Persie. Theo can get into positions between the full back and centre half and latch onto balls into the channels. When he confronts a keeper head on his finishing is pretty impressive, often he takes his shot early and it catches the keeper in no mans lands somewhat. Look at the finishes v Shaktar, Newcastle x 2 and T@ttenham. Theo's best work in an Arsenal shirt often happens between the width of the box. His runs at Liverpool, his role v Chelsea this season & how he exposed Barcelona last season all demonstrate this. He can prove elusive when marking and when we gets one on ne the aim is much easier, get your shot in. He has options, left foot, right foot or assist. Whereas his right wing position is somewhar easier to predict. If TW14 was to become a striker he would certainly have to improve on his strength but that is something that can be rectified quite easily. That's not go get away from his main strength, his pace and that is something that troubles centre backs much more than full backs.

Will it happen? Probably not but with the likely departure of Bendtner and Vela we will be rather short in attack, even if we persevere with 4-3-3. Wenger often promotes from within and a positional change could be as good as a new signing. I think Theo can get 20+ goals and if he could strike up a partnership with the best striker in the country then we could be laughing.

Monday, 16 May 2011

An alternative look at our defeat v Villa.......

It would appear from yesterdays game that the players had their own 'walk'. Unfortunately for us it was displayed on the pitch for 90 minutes, starting at 16:00. Apparently it was called the White Flag Movement (Not sure how it got that name) but nobody told RVP, as he worked tirelessly to get us something from the game. The walk consisted of a refusal to defend for the first 20 minutes, which meant you weren't allowed to track your man, ball watch at every opportunity & not save any shots. Michael Oliver (The Ref) was also in on the act, as any foul in a significant area of the field could not go in our favour, it was only fair. For the remaning 25 minutes of the half, the players adopted a netball approach, where RVP was the only player allowed shoot in the opponents area, but he was allowed to be joined by Walcott (playing the role of goal attack) but he (TW14) wasn't allowed to shoot (saves embarrassment). So half time came and we were 2-0 down. Splendid.

Instead of sorting out tactics during the interval AW took the players up to the Diamond Club and they players had a 'gourmet hot dog off'. Early reports suggest Jens Lehmann won by a mile. RVP came second but the medical staff were unaware that having horse placenta fluid in his body it instantly burns off calories. Another misdiagnosis from our ever excelling medical team.

The players, not happy with their 1st half display took a while to adjust to playing on a full stomach and became completely immobile. To us it looked like a lack of urgency, but really it was because they all had the athleticism of Rick Waller. AW refused to take this seriously either, throwing on Chamakh when we were in desperate need of a goal. Oliver later disallowed a goal scored by Chamakh because he realised something most have been up for him to score. We weren't to be denied though as Nicklas Bendtner, poorly controlled a cross and whilst he never had any intention to score, the ball ricocheted into RVP's path to make it 2-1 . Only then did he realise what was going on, everything was explained en route back to the halfway line. Then with seconds remaining we got a free kick right on the edge of the box, prime position for RVP to strike. But no, he layed it off to a player who has barely walked since September. Needless to say it didn't go in. FT 2-1.

The players weren't finished there though, as it was a nice mild day they took the opportunity to walk around their beautiful surroundings and throw the occasional wave, as they won't see their home for another 3 months. Its been emotional for them all.

Walk over. Supporters OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Christopher Samba

Since our defensive nightmare at The Brittania on Sunday, one man has been earmarked as the saviour to our defensive frailties. That man is Blackburn Rovers stand in captain Christopher Samba. Now I can appreciate knee-jerk reactions but it appears many fans think we must sign this man. My opinion of Samba is simple, he's average at best. So to back my opinion up I trawled through countless footage of Samba. Well actually there's virtually no footage of him apart from a free kick he shanks 30 yards wide and a goal scored against us last season. There is however highlights of Blackburn's 7-1 rinsing at the hands of Manchester United. So in true George Graham style I'm going to do a report of him as he's playing against a big team away from home. Before I do though, why not take a look for yourself first and the click the link here

Now, if you chose to watch the highlights you'll see Samba had an absolute mare.

1-0. Samba appears rooted to the spot as a united player goes on to challenge Robinson. The ball richocets out wide and a cross is swung in and Berbatov scores. Samba had no idea where he was, who he was making or where any of the danger actually was. He was focused purely on the ball throughout the move.

2-0. Samba again with eyes only for the ball, which results in him getting far too square , Ronney plays in Park who strolls through to score.

3-0. A very poor pass back allows Berbatov in to score. Samba faultless but his reaction to the mistake wasn't the best. It barely raised a reaction, what would have happened if Robinson saved the shot? Could have been better.

Free Kick. Nani whips in a ball and Vidic completely loses Samba but he heads wide. A let off or the law of averages kicking in.

4-0. Samba ball watching again, he has no idea where Berbatov is. He gets attracted to the ball and the Bulgarian gets his hat trick.

5-0. Nani gets in behind the full back and scores. When the ball is played through to Nani the gap between full back and centre half is unbelievable. This allows Nani to come inside and smash home. That centre half by the way was Samba.

6-0. Samba blocks a Park shot after a pull back and whilst on the deck he swings a leg at the ball and directs it straight to Berbatov who is approximately 1 yard away. Goal.

7-0. Berbatov scores again, this time playing on Nelson. He gets a lucky rebound of the Blackburn defender to get his 5th goal of the game.

7-1. Samba scores. Sign him.

Now some of you may think highlighting one performance may be a little harsh but this highlights a lot of weaknesses that the Congolese defender has. He's immobile, he ball watches (a lot), gets caught out position, struggles against pace and he makes poor decisions (like Djourou did yesterday). Whilst I know some folk saw his block against West Ham as him being the answer to our problems because he's what we are missing, he isn't. I've also heard that his Premier League experience is an advantage too. What differnce does that make? We compete in 4 competitions and all be it we have come up short for too long, he's a player that has not played over 40 games in a season in his career (Koscielny is currently on 43) and given his 14 1/2 stone (according to rovers.co.uk) that he weighs, I'm going to say he's not in any sort of condition to be playing week in and week out for us. There's also the issue of price, well if we do sign him maybe BlackScarfMovement can walk against the wasting of money on useless players? Seriously, I'd be disappointed if we signed him on a free. He's a player who would do well to attract interest off Villa or Everton. We are Arsenal, one of the top sides in europe and we think a centre half from a side 15th in the table is the answer? We may not have world class central defenders but we certainly don't need one that is worse than we already have (squillaci included).

Anyway I see news is doing the rounds about Karim Benzema...now there's a signing I'd love to have. Oh wait, I think he's over rated. That's for another day though.

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Pro's and Con's v Man Utd

Our win over United on Sunday was a nice little confidence booster as the season winds down but what can we take from the game? He's my view on the performances of 4 players.

Alex Song

AS17 was immense . He was disciplined throughout, he protected the back four, he won his tackles and he kept possession.This is the player we need on a regular basis. Not the maudering midfielder who leaves us exposed but instead opting for a mature approach and realising his true worth to our side. I hope to see these performances on a regular basis and display that this is not an area for improvement as and when this team needs strengthening.

Aaron Ramsey

It's great having him back, isn't it? What more could we ask for? Maybe I've not picked up on it or has Ramsey's goal not received the hype it deserved? It was a finish of the highest order. The technique display was majestic, he executed a deliberate measured finish into the bottom corner past the keeper of the season. He could have easily lashed it and watch it sail high and wide into The North Bank, given the time he seemed to wait there for RVP to realise he was free. A bit like Jack did in the opening few minutes when he skewed his shot wide. Aaron's all round game was tidy and he looked comfortable in possession throughout the game. Hopefully the psychological issues caused by a horrific leg break won't hinder Ramsey as much as they did with Eduardo.

It's easy to forget before he was injured at the home of thuggery and violence that Ramsey was already showing signs of the promise. Yesterday led to a few individuals going along the 'Cesc who' route, which is so far wide of the mark it's untrue. Yesterday was one game and it certainly doesn't mean we should cash in on our star asset. Yes Cesc might leave one day but I'm pretty confident it won't be in the next couple of seasons. Aaron can learn from Cesc and his recovery from that horrifc injury will not be over until he's played a full season and he needs his midfield partner to achieve that.

Wojciech Szczesny

I really love the influence Szczesny has had on our side and the fact that he has resolved our ongoing goalkeeping issues. However, there is one side to his game that is beginning to frustrate me and it has played it's part in us dropping points. His distribution when we are under pressure is woeful. Away at Newcastle in the 2nd half from hell he launched ball after ball towards RVP, who stood little chance of a) winning the ball and b) keeping it and waiting for the cavalry to arrive. Against Liverpool he launched a massive hoof downfield and we lost possession and suffered directly as a result. Then yesterday whilst taking the ball to the furthest corner of the box (clever!) before thumping it downfield (defeating the object) and miles beyond anyone and allowing United one more attack! I hope someone at the club picks up on this because it's not really a case of lack of experience but going against Wenger's possession policy.

Gael Clichy

Left Back is very much a position of scrutiny and one that I have been pretty critical of myself. However on Sunday Gael struck lucky when his clear foul on Owen was missed by the hapless ref and his blind assistance. Just over 2 weeks since Eboue's awful decision cost us 2 points in a title race, Clichy showed a naiviety around the box that should cost us. Even though we got away with it, Clichy still warrants a form of criticism. It is these crucial moments in games that cost us in the title race and we can ill afford lapses in concentration.

All in all, Sunday was a very good day. Ultimately we didn't prove anyone right or wrong as the pressure wasn't on and those key issues will remain unaswered. However, if Chelsea beat United on Sunday we could find ourselves 3 points behind the league leaders and that 'what if' keeps growing ever stronger!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Arsene Wenger

One Arsene Wenger!

Arsene Wenger is fast becoming the most talked about aspect of Arsenal Football Club and it appears it isn't going to quieten down anytime soon. Arsene Wenger is beginning to see his popularity diminish amongst some supporters and unfortunately for those who want the legendary Frenchman to leave are classed as morons and branded not true supporters of AFC. The 'Wenger Out' arguement is normally stopped pretty quickly, as a lot of people have no time for this type of conversation and people never hear their point of view and reasoning behind such an opinion. Now I am most certainly not a Wenger Out type of person but I am willing to list concerns surrounding AW and how counter productive it has become for our club. Every gooner knows everything great he has done for the club and there probably isn't a manager in the land who could operate like he does, operating at a 11.5 million profit since 2004 compared to that of our near neighbours who have a deficit of 239.6m (via @jwtelegraph).

That unfortunately has been AW's achilles heel, the lack of spending on proven talent. We take gambles on talented players like Koscielny, Nasri and Theo Walcott. You need to compete both on and off the pitch these days and our work off the field since David Dein left the club hasn't been very spectacular. We need proven players, players with a winning mentality and players who are willing to thrive in the face of adversity. A few transfer windows ago we had the opportunity to sign Xabi Alonso but we turned that opportunity down because it would kill such talents as Denilson. Such decisions can and will be magnified as Denilson not progressed after showing signs of promise and argueably has been over used in past seasons and he could have done with an experienced head like Alonso around the club. A fee of approx 18m may have looked expensive but in truth it would have been a fantastic investment. Our team lacks a positive & winning experience throughout the side, all we know is how to lose big games when it matters and that has spread throughout the side. We have been labelled as chokers and bottlers and it's backed up by countless fixtures echoed by our inability to beat Birmingham City to win the Carling Cup. That is a fixture we should never lose, in fact they've only beaten us once in The Premier League and that was a week before we won the FA Cup in 2006. Experience counts for a lot at the highest level and we can't expect to realistically compete until we buy finished articles.

As for Arsene himself , he may have forgotten how to win big games, it's apparent in too many freak results that we can't kill sides off. Keeping possession is our forte (unless playing against the might of Barcelona) but when we have our backs against the wall everyone panics. Our calm, measured passing game turns into a mass panic ensuing and the ball suddenly turns into a grenade and we thump it forward at the drop of a hat. When did you last see a play in red and white head for the corner flag? Sometimes the most simple of tactics can be the most effectve. Our defending from set pieces leads us to question what sort of training do we do to counter that? These aspects need to be addressed but we seem to approach the same situations with the same navievty time after time. The players also need to be accountable but how do their poor displays get rewarded? Usually with a start the following week. Our line up at Newcastle was followed up with 1 enforced change, how will this side learn? Jack and Cesc were anonymous in the 2nd half at St James' but both have become so indispensable that we can ill afford to axe either of them in fear of one of them wanting to leave. The same happened on Wednesday night, we blew a 3-1 lead and we made 1 change (again enforced) for the following game. How can this side ever learn when nobody is held accountable? Am I too naive to think a good stint on the bench would be beneficial to a players motivation? Do players not learn from having a spell on the sidelines? Alex Ferguson has benched such players as Beckham, Giggs, Yorke etc and it didn't do any of those any harm. Also AW continues to defend the indefensible, Take Emmanuel Eboue for example, Henry Winter stated last week that Wenger was so viciouris in his attack on the ref that Eboue probably didn't feel that he had done anything wrong. When the truth was he didn't need to be as close as he was to Lucas and subsequently threw away 2 points in a title race. Players can't be allowed of the hook that easy. Eboue needs to be told he cost us that that game and that he let his team mates down.

The big question for Arsene is will he change his ways? He doesn't have to change our style, just the personnel. AW hasn't spent much recently so it's not like we are writing off x amount of millions of pounds. It takes a big man to admit mistakes and every gooner would accept it was a venture that didn't go as planned and we would all happily move on. Look at the fact he has effectively spent nothing over the last 7 years and the board must be sitting on a budget worth far more than the anticipated 40 million. We need big characters such as the types that have graced us for many a year like Adams, Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Keown, Seaman Etc. Let's be a bit more flamboyant in our signings, they are out there. We need more creativity, a bit more strength and toughness, a ruthless streak to grind out that crucial win. We need to rid ourselves of players that have not progressed as we had hoped and cash in and reinvest. Let's get 3 or 4 good signings in, add a freshess to the side, create real competition amongst the squad and kick on. This has gone on too long now and AW needs to buy collectively like he did in 1997 and 2001, he reinvigorated the squad and didn't shy away from selling fan favourites such as Paul Merson.

The big worry will come if Wenger doesn't change, we stick to our current philosophy and we are in the same position next season. At presnt Kroenke and co are unlikey to pressure AW at the risk of massively falling out with the fans but should the fans begin to turn against him then that decision becomes much easier. That minority shouldn't become a majority anytime soon but someone at the club needs to sit down with the great man and tell him how close to success we have been and how investment can reap rewards. The club are desperately seeking ways to increase marketing throughout the world, well the best way is to be successful. It makes things a lot easier.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Asking The Enemy

It's North London Derby time and once again we find are title chances all but over heading into this fixture. Last season we lost 2-1 and we failed to recover until the final game of the season v Fulham. Let's hope this isn't another case of deja vu.

We are coming off the back of a catastrophic last 2 minutes v Liverpool and this sides ability to rise to a challenge is once again in question. The referee did get the decision right but AW refuses to accept that fact and who knows what the players made of all that. We still haven't managed to win more than 3 games in the Premier League all season and although we are unbeaten in the league since December 13th we find ourselves 6 points behind United. The sooner players and management start taking responsibility seriously we might just start seriously competing for major honours.

Anyway, enough rambling. This week see's a view from a different perspective. Sometimes we get a little lost in our on world of issues at Arsenal so I decided to ask a few questions of Sp@rs supporter Andrew King.

MJ: First of all, a little bio on you.
AK: 27, lawyer, Hertfordshire. Dad was a Spurs fan so inflicted upon me! First game when 6, 0-0 draw v QPR in 1990. First real memory is of FA Cup triumph the following summer, including THAT goal.

MJ: I know they always say form goes out of the window for a derby game but what sort of form are you bringing into this fixture?
AK: Not good. We took 9 points from Bolton and from trips either side to Blackburn and Sunderland which seemed to set us up nicely for the season run-in. However, since that famous victory in Milan, we've only taken 6 points from a very winnable 15 as well as exiting the Champions League. Of most concern is that in the 8 games since the San Siro, we've fired 5 blanks.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in this current Arsenal side?
AK: As always with Wenger's Arsenal sides, going forward, you can be a joy to watch. Plenty of creativity and although Nasri's form has dropped off since Christmas, Robin van Persie cannot seem to stop scoring. As for weaknesses, same old same old it seems. Szczesny looks a decent prospect but is very raw and will make plenty of mistakes as the Carling Cup Final showed. In Vermaelen's absence, you seem to have a soft centre that teams can exploit.

MJ: What areas of strength and weakness (if any) do you see in your side?
AK: We have built up a strong midfield with plenty of creativity. The difficulty for Harry will be striking the right balance when they are all fit. Our approach was far too gung-ho when we came to the Emirates earlier in the season and we paid for that by going 2 down before half time. Luka Modric has had a superb season and seems to get better each week. Defensively, we are much stronger these days. Weaknesses? A lot of talk has been made of our strikers which has clearly been the biggest problem of our season. The biggest frustration is that these scored bucket loads last season to fire us to 4th. In the interest of fairness, I have to point a finger at our goalkeeper too.

MJ: How do you see this impacting the game?
AK: For us, it depends on how we respond to elimination from the Champions League. This is the ideal game to get our season re-started. The Lane will be rocking on Wednesday and if Harry can get the players focused on the race for 4th, we'll have a decent chance of taking the points. Wenger rarely loses a NLD and has never lost both in a season. Even if your title challenge is now over, there's 2nd place, pride and revenge for the Emirates to play for.

MJ: Your strikers have been largely of the non-striking variety lately, so what is your likeliest route to goal on Wednesday?
AK: Down the flanks. We need to get Bale and Lennon on the ball and running at your fullbacks. Van der Vaart returning to form would also help!

MJ: What do you see as the key battle/s ahead of the NLD?
AK: If the game is tight, it will be won in central midfield. Wenger will presumably play 5 and I expect Harry to match that with Van der Vaart playing off Crouch, a little further forward. Fabregas and Wilshere will see a lot of the ball and we can't let them dictate play. Huddlestone is only just back from injury and was off the pace against Madrid so I would like to see Sandro in there alongside Luka, in an attempt to frustrate and break up your play. Van Persie v Dawson is the other key battle for me. RvP likes scoring against us and we need Dawson to play as we know he can.

MJ: Finally, what's your score prediction for Wednesday?
AK: I am hoping for a cracker but feel it may be tight, with few goals. 1-1.

I'd like to thank Andy for his contribution and you can follow him on twitter @ajk_thfc (especially if we win, feel free to take the piss).

Personally I think we'll win this one, they are very vulnerable at the back and as Andy said midfield will be key and Cesc can win that, even with a dodgy hamstring. RVP can't possibly be as poor as he was yesterday and usually does well in this game. A win would certainly get a feel good factor back amongst the team heading into our remaining games and our challenge of consolidating 2nd place.

Here's to an enjoyable Wednesday night and for those attending, good luck!