Arsenal -“Hope Springs Exulting on Triumphant Wing.”

Sour face

Good morning to you from Norfolk on Saint Andrew’s Day. There may be dancing in the streets later on. Thus far not.


I do not intend to write much about yesterday’s game at Carrow Road. It was not a game that inspired the muse, well my muse anyway. On the day a point was earned. I have to be content. The PL ground we hoped to be able to make up on our rivals we did not, but other than Citeh none of those rivals did much this weekend to extend their scintilla of a lead or close the gap behind us. We lose two more players to injury, two players who had been injured came back. We require a week of rest and of careful preparation for the Black Cats who come into town with sprits and results raised by the balloon that is Fat Sam. As I mentioned yesterday perhaps after all, not a bad week to be out of the Capital One Cup and another potential battering. Sunlun appear to have unearthed a good young player in Watmore of whom we shall hear more. I shall be there. I expect every man to do his best. As we move into December our spirits traditionally rise, and so it should be this year.


Taking a pace back from the daily fracas that is the Premier League, or so it sometimes feels like, it does no harm to place recent domestic results in perspective. Two points off the front of the pack and no one in the top four/five/six teams playing with consistency. For each of the sides, other than Leicester ironically, one game excellent, by the next game their piecrust has crumbled. As we led the PL after 14 games two seasons back in early December we had 34 points. Chelsea had 39 points after 14 games last season. ( Whatever happened to Chelsea?) The joint leaders today have 29. The opportunity is there for us, indeed for any club, to seize this trophy.


Is there a reason for this pile-up at the top of the PL with clubs tripping over one another and not able to put a string of decent results together? In line with the discussions on here last week on the topic of ‘luck’ there is undoubtedly a set of elements causing the chaotic effect. I’m buggered if I can see what has changed so radically over the past few months.


If English League football is a riddle inside an enigma at the moment then our European form, horribly shakey at the start of the season, is now much more on track.   We were superb against Zagreb in case anyone’s memory has faded over the past six days. Progress in our own hands. I see Olympiakos had an straightforward win over the weekend at home and have two domestic games before meeting us on the 9th.


Right that will do me this Monday morning. I have my own opportunities to seize!





Arsenal Versus Norwich: Bouncing Back, Rolling Forwards


There was an interesting debate on the subject of dumb luck this week on PA. I think we all learned something. I for one now accept that when I say we as Arsenal fans were phenomenally lucky to have seen Arsène Wenger arrive at Highbury all those years ago, his arrival actually came about as the result of a chain reaction of deliberate decisions and events both predictable and controllable. When I say that we have been cursed over many years with unbelievably bad luck in the number and type of injuries suffered, I accept that the injuries are explicable and merely savagely coincidental rather than quantifiably unlucky.

All of that notwithstanding, no matter how explicable the minute alterations made to the universe which all together add up to create an unwelcome event, I still call it bad luck. Just as I call it good luck when we score a goal which from certain angles might look to have been offside. So if my flagrant abuse of physics and the laws of causality don’t offend you too much then please read on. Otherwise can I recommend maybe a book or a magazine instead. Perhaps listen to some music while tidying the kitchen. I don’t want my words to upset anyone.

You see I believe it was the most outrageous stroke of good fortune that Arsene Wenger persuaded Mesut Özil to come to Arsenal. I think we are lucky Aaron Ramsey showed the good sense not to choose Man United when he had the chance and the fact that we signed Petr Čech just as Chelsea’s keeper was about to get crocked is as lucky a thing to have happened as any other in many a long year. Someone certainly burned the right offering to the gods that day.

Despite these strokes of happy chance and the way they’ve started to bear fruit for us this season there is another player who has been on my mind lately. Not the luckiest when it has come to getting a kick in the first team but a lad who has shown himself willing to work his way into contention for a starting place and who, in our ‘make or break’ encounter with Zagreb was simply brilliant.

The swagger in Joel Campbell’s play on Tuesday evening was evident almost from the kick off. He set up two clear chances with vision and panache and a fair slice of technique within the first 11 minutes. For the first he intercepts a loose ball in the area while surrounded by five Zagreb defenders and plays it calmly out to Hector Bellerin. He drifts wide and holds a good position as the defence are dragged infield by a mazy Cazorla run. Mesut Özil who sees things human eyes don’t even realise exist can’t resist Campbell lurking in ten yards of space and drills a precision pass to his feet which the Costa Rican controls with the outside of his left foot, two touches as he runs forward are followed by a swift step over and then he eases the ball wide with his right foot before pickling out Santi Cazorla with an exquisite pull back which the Spaniard balloons over the bar – his unwelcome speciality these days.

Campbell of two or three games ago might have tried to score in the crowded penalty area when the ball first fell to him, might have wanted to be certain of his control and so shifted to his left foot rather than risking his weaker right and might have lofted a hopeful cross to no one in particular. But now that he has been given a few games and his confidence is growing we got to see why Arsène liked the lad in the first place. Aren’t we lucky?

The second chance came about through a combination of positioning, skill, control, strength and vision and the confidence to link with the great Mesut Özil. His pass to Alexis deserved far better as the Chilean hesitated when one might have expected him to shoot. Only eleven minutes on the clock and we saw that we have a player on our hands. I hear you say ‘So what Stew? Should Aaron or Oxlade-Chamberlain boot him straight out of the side then he won’t be getting the chance to show us again any time soon.’

Let’s not be so hasty. Injuries will happen, substitute appearances will happen and rotation will happen. When the time comes again however we will see a confident Joel Campbell, known and understood better by those around him and ready to come in and make an impact, Zagreb was a game changer and I sincerely hope he reaps the rewards because while he is capable of finishing he looks like a provider to me and we can’t have too many of them in our team.

I know I shouldn’t be talking about a forward player when we’re all supposed to be getting our knickers in a twist about Francis Coquelin but it seems to me that isn’t really a terribly interesting or complex discussion. Francis has two hugely capable and experienced understudies who can partner Santi in the middle. One, Mikel Arteta, is injured, so Mathieu Flamini comes in. If he has to come off for any reason young Calum Chambers is most people’s favourite to fill in or of course the ever versatile Aaron Ramsey would give us guile and passing and boundless energy from the centre of midfield. There. Not really complicated is it?

Whoever plays against Norwich today our style will remain the same, pass and move and everyone back when we lose the ball. Close from the front and gradually press higher and higher upfield as we attempt to squeeze the opposition into submission. Santi will wriggle and twist away from their advanced midfielders and Mesut will conduct the orchestra like no one else on earth can do. Alexis will pop and fizz like the fourth of July in Baton Rouge, and at the end Olivier will patiently await his chance while our full backs stretch the defenders to tearing point.

So what of our opponents today? Norwich City are not performing to their full potential so far this season. They are currently languishing in sixteenth place in the table having won only one in their last six so they are either in a horrible downward slide or due a change in their fortunes. Let’s hope the former is the case. Not that I wish them any ill will but if they’re going to enjoy a resurgence let it begin in a few weeks time when they play Man United and not today please.

We are in a curious position. Our last league outing was a crushing disappointment but our performance on Tuesday a revelation. Which result if either will influence us today? And even if it is the surprise reversal at the hands of the Baggies that plays on our mind then our hosts at Carrow Road are in just as bad a position if not worse. They lost their last fixture to Chelsea, perhaps a more humiliating defeat than being beaten by West Brom.

I shan’t speculate on the precise formation Arsène will choose today but I will be fascinated to see if a certain young man from Costa Rica has done enough to allow Aaron another substitute appearance. I’d be happier if our Welsh wonder were to be eased back in gently but that’s because I’m a superstitious fool and not possessed of the facts and fitness information available to those paid to make the decisions.

I read an excellent blog yesterday praising the work of Mesut Özil which was blighted by only one sentence. The author described Arsène’s decision to play our German maestro on the left of midfield last season as ‘inexplicable’. This is the problem I have with many of us armchair experts. The decision to start Mesut on the left or Aaron on the right isn’t ‘inexplicable’ it simply hasn’t been explained to you or to me. There is a world of difference between something that has no reason and decisions taken for reasons to which we are not party.

I much prefer to comment on what I think I see on the pitch, revel in what goes well and forget what goes wrong as soon as I possibly can. The rest I leave to the professionals. As our old friend Mel O’Reilly is fond of reminding us, he doesn’t tell Mr Kipling how to bake cakes, does he?


Arsenal Shine with Goals Divine


Positivistas Ho,

A little glow of satisfaction this morning I am sure warming us as we go about our daily chores as a result of last night’s events. I admit after Saturday’s disappointment and bad luck at the Hawthorns I was a little worried we would take the field under a cloud and take time to get going. The ‘cloud’ such as it was lasted all of five minutes. After that clear skies and warm sunshine.

Not just a satisfactory result, but a night on which our players showed what they can do with the ball, and just as importantly without the ball, to take apart Zagreb. I see the stats of possession on arse.com split the game just 53/47% in our favour. I don’t care, our 53% was twice as good as their 47%.

3-0 was, in my view, probably a slightly generous score to the Croatians given the balance of the contest. If we had knocked in five or six it might have better reflected our dominance.

I hardly need to point out our top performers in Alexis and Ozil, both superb even by their own lofty standards, but sound performances all over the pitch. ‘PROFESSIONAL’ that’s what we were last night ‘PROFESSIONAL’. The much derided Flamini bossed the centre of the park and I have noticed, whisper it quietly, he no longer gets booked every game. He may be 31 years old but he is an intelligent player who still is learning and adapting his game. If you keep fit and continue to keep your aggression under control Matty  you have a long run in the side in front of you.

Talking of ‘much derided’ wasn’t Joel Campbell good last night ? Best game I have seen him for us, playing with real confidence in his touch and in taking on opposition players. His good effort provides Arsene with a bit of dilemma for Carrow Road on Sunday as to who to start on the right.

And Aaron ? Good to see him back and getting 25 minutes of action under his belt.

For our visitors a torrid evening but far play to them, they cracked but never shattered. The main reason we did not get to five or six was a top performance from keeper Eduardo, another gloved guardian who can look back on a good night at the Ems. 16 shots on target – that is busy !

So where does this leave us ?

With our fate very much in our own hands for what will be a HELL of a night in Piraeus on Wednesday the 9th. The killer issue for us is scoring goals. The question for the Greeks is whether to stick or twist. Intriguing, and I trust we will be getting UEFA’s top, top referee, for he will be in for a busy night. More of a steep hill than a mountain, but eminently conquerable if we show the same attitude from the first minute as was on display last night.

Enjoy your Wednesday and we shall meet later in the week.




Arsenal Versus Zagreb: Holding Out For A Hero


Zagreb then is it? I wonder if our fortunes will be reversed from earlier in the season when our league form was scintillating and our European scorelines so disappointing. I suspect not. Life seldom runs on such neat and predictable lines. People are glibly, or airily if you prefer, predicting that the return of some injured players will be the magic bullet needed to get everything back into the groove from which we have so recently slipped.
What is it with all this magic bullet baloney? Bullets aren’t magic. Firearms are simple machines, what comes out and where it ends up are dependent on what you put in and how well you aim them. There seems an almost superstitious Arthurian bent among much of our fan base. People spend the entire season believing that some mythical saviour will come riding over the hill, sunlight glinting on his shield, to save us from the dragon or lift the siege and free the city.
All the evidence points in a far more prosaic direction. Success comes from patient hard work. From sticking remorselessly to first principles and doing the right thing and when the right thing appears elusive continuing to try to do the right thing until over time a run of good performances and results have dragged us back into contention.
No single returning player can achieve what diligent hard work and nerve can do. The big problem with the returning player as saviour script is that injuries wreck our good form not just because we lose players at the top of their game and because the replacements are wont to be ring rusty. These things are of course significant, but what really gums up the works is disruption.

Players like to play in settled formations and to build understandings and trust with their partners all over the pitch. Taking people out and adding them back in just buggers all that up, and again it takes time and patience to get it back.  Give the returning players a chance for goodness sake. Let them bed back in and let their team mates get back into playing with them again. Nothing good happens in a hurry and the team will need a little luck and a lot of resolve to get out of the trough into which they’ve slipped.
There is no crisis just an understandable dip in form or rather in results. Some of the performances have been fine, some of the individuals have been wonderful. A couple of things go wrong and in some matches you get punished in others you don’t – that is the boring truth.
I am not going to waste much time on the nonsense I’ve had to listen to and read about injuries. How they were avoidable or that something more could have been done to prepare for them. Not so many, not all at once and not all affecting similar positions on the pitch. Not possible and the drivel that I’ve read suggesting such catastrophic and unpredictable events could have been better planned for is too feeble minded and frankly beneath my contempt and so I shall pass over it with ne’er a backward glance. The manager and the remaining fit players must somehow cope with all that is thrown at them and we as fans must hope, or pray if praying is your thing, and just wait and see what luck and hard work can bring.
I’d like us to do well tonight but it isn’t the priority, that is the league. The problem I have is with the unpredictable and frankly surreal spate of one injury after another I’m left reeling and I now watch matches just beseeching the great unknowable forces of the universe that no one else goes under. Which is a shame as I am lucky enough to support one of the most entertaining football sides on the planet and I ought to watch games with a mood of drooling anticipation rather that the world weary cynicism that someone else is just bound to get hurt.
However these feelings can’t hold a good man down for long, and they certainly can’t hold a weak, old fool like me down either and I shall begin once more to approach each kick off with the same level of belief and will to win as I did the first match I ever saw as an Arsenal fan.
What will Zagreb bring to tonight’s encounter? I would be amazed if they didn’t come with precisely the same mind set as when they hosted us way back in September. Soak up whatever we throw at them, hope the ref does them a massive favour and look to hit us on the counter. Lightning we have been assured since childhood does not strike the same place twice. I am no scientist but I’m happy to go along with this as simple fact rather than the colourful metaphorical language it almost certainly intended to be. I can’t believe the luck which saw us hit the post, miss an open goal and a penalty will curse us again tonight as it did in the Midlands on Saturday. Likewise I can’t see Zagreb getting the run of green in quite the same was as they did in our previous meeting.
I can’t predict an amazing reversal of all the poor results and rotten fortune that has so blighted our enjoyment of the beautiful game of late but just a small change of wind might help. A deflected goal perhaps, a glaring miss for an opposition player instead of one of ours for a change, a close off side call going our way that sort of thing. It won’t take a lot, I’m sure the application and willingness is there among the players – they like everyone else just need a helping hand every now and again.
We here are of course not called negative Arsenal and for a bloody good reason. If we want to wail and gnash our teeth and rip our shirts to bear the freshly bloody self inflicted wounds of torment we have plenty of other places we can go and do these things. There are myriad Arsenal related (I don’t say supporting) blogs where such veiled and open criticisms of the manager and individual players can be aired, there is always Arsenal twitter which loves a moan and there are newspapers and talk sport and BBC radio which thrive on an Arsenal hating, self loathing, alleged Arsenal fan venting their spleen. Here we try to maintain our sanity and our equilibrium and pick out that which went well rather that pore over a tiny defensive lapse merely because it led to a goal. Honestly what pleasure does that bring people? I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, looking at and discussing a conceded goal is like gazing into the toilet pan after a difficult, unpleasant and forgettable visit to the smallest room. Why on earth would you want to do such a thing?
We have much to cheer still. Santi has been a revelation this season, playing us out of defence with calm assurance, supporting the attack with invention and wit. Mesut and Petr Čech are on a different level and Alexis is too hot to handle. Olivier Giroud can’t stop scoring and Monreal is one of the best defenders in the league right now. Much to love much to get excited about, much to distract all but the most hopeless masochists among us.
So chin up boys and girls, we live to fight another day. Saturday is already history, glory beckons the faithful, fame and fortune await the brave.


Arsenal – Sandwell Surprise

Good morning Afternoon Positivistas, though only just.


A mood of fear was abroad among the Baggies fans on the way to the game, anticipating a bit of a drubbing. “Best football team we played last season” was muttered, through clenched teeth as they thought back to their demolition at the Ems last May. Greying skies as the afternoon wore on, floodlights on, Winter football. They had much to contemplate. We, other other hand, I felt had much to look foward to. Top of the table by 5pm perhaps ? It certainly looked do-able.


And we did not disappoint the locals for the opening half hour. Though our game was not quite its clockwork best we probed and pushed, and penned them back until the inevitable opener. The landslide was on its way. The locals began to head for the meat pie and Bovril counters to avoid the half time rush. Le Coq’s departure was an unpleasant jolt though my first expectation on seeing the incident in real time was for Clattenberg to pull out a red card for our combative Frenchman. A wild tackle with, apparently, unfortunate consequences. Arteta on though, safe pair of hands, or legs anyway.


And then five minutes of nonsense in which we gave away a soft first goal, then contrived to knock in a second own goal in a combination human movement that was bizarre. I shall not dwell. I will give MacLean a tip of my hat as he had a good game and made a couple of chances. There is indeed no purpose in my dwelling because you have seen then far more often than I. I was surprised, the locals were stunned, I kid you not.


I was not however, even for a moment, concerned. We had more than a half of football to retrieve the situation. Immediately we started the second half with more purpose. Mikel was immediately pointing to the bench to be taken off and Mattieu was quickly into the action.


We began to fizz and buzz. We were faster and sharper. Ozil really had his A game in action. WBA fell back, stretched, trembled, relied on the long out ball to relieve pressure temporarily. They did not however break and the equalizer would not come. A very rare Baggies chance saw our goal frame shaken but Clattenburg unmoved on about 70 minutes after which for the last 25 minutes it was solid, relentless Arsenal, attack v defence. Sanchez was tireless, he ran, he turned, he dribbled, he leapt. I cannot recall ever seeing any attacking player put so much energy into a game as the Chilean yesterday.


The home crowd were by this stage on the edge of hysteria, finally raised from their collective stupor, Clattenburg was receiving terrible abuse every time he called a foul of gave a decision in our favour.


And then the penalty, and my goodness it was a deserved penalty (if there is such a thing). The point was at least saved, and with ten minutes to go or more maybe the full set would be pocketed after all. I have exclusive edited 4 whole seconds of footage of what happened next, courtesy of Number One son.



I say edited because after the ball disappeared toward the M6 the next shots are of wildly celebrating locals. You will just hear the start of “Yeee…” I know we have no use for such undignified monkey business.


Undoubtedly any one who watched the game on the TV will have seen a lot more than me. From what I did see we controlled it to the first goal, lost our concentration for five minutes and paid a price. Then faced a durable and motivated home side, who defended well and had a little bit of luck to escape with the win. A good day out in the West Midlands spoiled only by the result of the game.


Word of thanks to Baggies’ fan Sam Foord for providing the seats and the barge trip. Have a Banthams on me.


Arsenal Versus West Brom: Bridging The Gap

That was the most enjoyable international break I’ve ever known. Like the Arsenal players I had been feeling a little jaundiced after a frantic start to the season. I was ready for a rest, a change of pace and a diversion from the usual routine. The Dreaded Break coincided with the November writing marathon that is National Novel Writing Month, popularly abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, and so I needed to remove all other distractions from my life, get my head down and focus on my characters.

Surprisingly this year’s novel has only referred to football twice and then only in passing and on neither occasion was the greatest team in all the land even mentioned. My subconscious telling me perhaps that I’d overdosed a little. I really must stop watching the pre season friendlies, charity shields and such. If my various addiction afflictions have taught me anything it is that you derive far less not more pleasure from an over indulgence in the things you love.

I am in fact not even going to watch the match at 3pm today. I’m going to write this, then my daily NaNoWriMo diet of two and a half thousand words and then I’m taking my mum out for the day and will catch the game on Football Origin later this evening. We’ve all seen the insane over reactions and complete lack of perspective exhibited on the internet by those who can’t keep a lid on their obsessions and I do not intend to join their ranks. Let’s face it the result in the Midlands won’t be affected by my not being there or not watching the game live. At least the picture quality will be better this way and I can fast forward any time wasting, which we all know is a Pulis trademark.

I actually won’t be too far from the action this afternoon. After throwing mum from the Skoda in Tintern I’m driving on up the Wye Valley to Hereford to take some photographs as part of a long term project. I’m engaged in photographing all the river crossings over the Wye. I started as you can readily imagine with the title Bridge On The River Wye which has doubtlessly been used before but was too good to miss. I do like a good bridge from the merest plank over a small stream to the mightiest suspension bridge and I would love to dovetail this paragraph with some clever football/bridge metaphor without sounding trite but I can’t so I’ll just go on to discuss the two sides and compare their contrasting styles and standings.

Pulis against Wenger has always leapt out as a beauty and the beast encounter. One a baseball cap wearing troglodyte sending his budget players out to rough up the opposition and stick it high and often into the box all the while hoping for a lenient referee to allow multiple and rotational fouling to go unpunished. The other a debonair, highly intelligent aesthete sending out his expensive hugely talented show ponies to dance and trick their way around the opposition in a dizzying paso doble of dexterity and devastating one touch deftness. In truth this is often seen as a cliché, an attempt to reduce the achievements of one man and raise the profile of the other. You and I know it may be a cliché but it also happens to be entirely true.

Pulis is in some pretty poor company. From Phil Brown to Jose Mourinho to Fat Sam and Mark Hughes there have always been managers who have bought into the media pedalled illusion that you can simply kick Arsenal off the park and that they are weak at defending the high ball and set pieces. Statistic after statistic proves this isn’t true and it is only when one of these brutalist managers is given unlimited funds and the unequivocal support of the match officials that any of them have had any appreciable success over monsieur Wenger.

There are, in fairness, also stats which point to Pulis strengths as a manager of lower ranked teams. No one questions his ability to motivate players, nor to grind out points and occasionally take big scalps from unlikely places. He improved West Brom’s fortunes more than any other new manager when comparing the twelve months before his appointment with his first year in charge.

“West Brom won just 21 per cent of their games in the 12 months prior to Tony Pulis’ arrival at the club. They’ve won 40% of them since then though, an increase of 19 percentage points.” source http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/west-brom-data-improvement-under-10123175

This might be considered nothing more than New Manager Impact Syndrome, but that is thought to be only a short term phenomenon. I think there is more to it and Pulis has doing a reasonable job with the Baggies. He has still said and done many unforgivable things where Arsene is concerned and as such should not and will not be forgiven but he has at least attempted to soften the public comments of late. Nowadays he says things like

“I’ve got absolutely no problems with any of the managers. Nine times out of ten you will have five minutes with them after a game. I don’t know the person. I couldn’t say whether he was a nice guy, bad guy whatever… because you don’t spend time with them. And when you are involved in football a lot of people see you and they perceive you in this image that is projected. Nine times out of ten you turn the cameras off and we are different human beings. Softer.”

He even has a go at being humorous with predictably lamentable results saying that he would be happy to ask Arsene to sponsor him in his attempt to row the English channel, wait for it, here comes the punchlines, hold on to your hats, “I will also ask him the quickest way to Paris!” cue sound effect or Arctic wind blowing across the tundra.

Anyway today’s match isn’t about the relative cerebral gifts of the managers, it’s about one team’s quest for glory against another’s for mid table respectability. Both sides have their goals and both will, I’m sure give their all in their respective campaigns. Historically we’ve always done well over the Albion and in the last 18 premier league encounters we’ve only lost two and drawn two. More recently their home form has been uninspired. They’ve only won one of their previous six and that was against a Sunderland side who have been so poor this season they are only one place above Chelsea in the league. Overall Albion have lost four of their last six whereas the only blemish on our record is the two dropped points against Spurs.

Much today will depend on how well our patched up injury riven squad comes back after the break. Olivier Giroud is still in fine form in front of goal, it’s just a shame Manuel Neuer doesn’t play for West Brom as our huge Gallic symbol can’t seem to stop scoring against him. Good news about Hector but only if you’re not Matthieu Debuchy who was just getting back some sharpness and now will be relegated once more to the sidelines. The life of a millionaire premiership footballer can be tough sometimes.

A question. Am I hoping for too much from Joel Campbell? He’s had a few games lately and should be over any nerves and ready to start strutting his stuff. But time is of course running out for the lad and being so far down the pecking order that it takes every other possible starter in your position to be injured or on loan before you get a game must be dispiriting. He needs to do a Hector or a Koscielny but he surely needs more time to do it. Looks like Ox will soon be back so I fear for the boy, but again Arsenal is a big club and the very best of the best is all that is good enough.

I anticipate West Brom holding out for a draw while hoping to nick a win but how we will approach the game is less easy to predict. We’ve seen our side bamboozle opponents and we’ve seen them incoherent, tired and shattered by injuries. Something in between the two ought to be good enough but a return to form will be really heartening. People say the league isn’t won in November but that’s poppycock. It is won in August, September and October it is won in November just as much as December, and all the way through to May. It’s the one true test of greatness in the sport we love and if we want to win it we need to be able to ride the storms as well as coasting on the crest of the waves. Can we do it? Of course we can. Will we? Today might be a good indication.

Those of you with the outrageous good fortune to be at the game will, I trust, be treated as welcome guests by the Baggies fans, as to the rest of you I hope you get a half way decent commentator and a stable stream. I’ll catch up with you all later on and should you be canoeing under the Wye Bridge in Hereford this afternoon and you see an old man setting up his tripod – please don’t shout out the score.


Arsenal – Fragments From France




Good Morning Positive Arsenal fans,


A shockingly sparse landscape as far as Arsenal related stories, real or fabricated. These past few days with events in Paris on Friday night, and the aftermath, still the main focus of both the real news as well as football headlines. I was surprised to see the Belgium v Spain game called off overnight because of “security fears’. One man’s defiance in the face of terrorist threat may be another man’s prudence with the safety of fans and players.


I shall watch the England v France game tonight and probably would have done so anyway. Plenty of Arsenal interest in Les Bleus and while it is very unlikely to be any sort of a footballing spectacle. Hopefully everyone involved will enjoy the game and return safe.


As mentioned in last night’s comments Callum Chambers put in a sound performance at centre back against a rather good Swiss side in Brighton on a foul evening. The visitors were very quick and dangerous. Four starts in a row for the player for the U21s so he is getting some useful real game time although his chances in the first team have been limited. It seems clear the boy’s future is centre back rather than at full back.


A last minute test for Alexis Sanchez in Montevideo tonight before he goes into combat with the Uruguayans. I expect him to play as if he fails a fitness test then it is probably because he is really, really injured. Just at the moment that would be a blow with the trip to the Hawthorns then Zagreb, and injuries still pressing. The match kicks off at 11.00 pm London time tonight so I shall be ignorant until tomorrow.


Later in the week the trip to West Brom and, as I may have mentioned earlier in the month, I shall be attending the game with No1 son. We have tickets among the home fans so it will be a somewhat subdued Anicoll5 in the ground. It is a very long time since I have stood or sat among the opposition. I am confident times have changed. Ideally, for reasons of personal comfort, an uncontroversial 1-0 win would do us nicely. Clattenburg has the whistle so that is cause for mild relief.


I have also obtained tickets for travel to the ground by canal barge from Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham. It is about an hour and you are dropped 20 minutes walk from the Hawthorns. Again I suspect we shall be surrounded aboard by locals on the “Baggies’ Barge” but travelling to the football by canal is an outing that it was too good to avoid.


Be assured that the match review will be available Sunday, win, lose or draw, and hopefully a few snaps of the game not to mention the trip to the ground.


Enjoy the rest of the week. ‘Til Saturday comes ……..


*Cartoon by Bruce Bairnsfather at the top from his “Fragments of France” collection


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