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Villa Will Be Very Hard

A guest post from Andrew @anicoll5

 

Good morning Fellow Positivistas from a grey East Anglia morning with Autumn firmly camped across the land.

By land and sea, by air and digital pulse, our thoughts turn to Villa Park today. Even with the Holte End spoiled by seating, still a proper football ground full of long-suffering locals. We’ve not lost a PL game at the stadium this century, eight wins and seven draws, and even the bookies have us on very short money to win at 5-6 with Villa at an enticing 4 to 1. If I gambled I might be tempted to lob a shilling on the home side, disloyal though that would be. Surely you say “the points are in the bank?”

An oddity today as we kick off the game of association football at 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon!  It is the ‘traditional’ time and day for the contest based no doubt on an 1872 FA agreement among fishmongers and hat makers in Sheffield. I admit as we move into Autumn and Winter there is something comforting about football in its proper place on a Saturday afternoon. Mellow fruitfulness.

So unusual was the Saturday at 3 p.m. kick-off however that I looked up the last time we avoided being rescheduled for the convenience of the global TV dollar and saw it was the game at the Britannia on the 1st March this year. By complete coincidence no doubt, the man with the whistle that grim day in the Potteries, referee Mike Jones, is on duty a Villa Park today.

It is lucky I am not a man given to heeding signs or portents.

On to the game however. The Villa riding high and I have no doubt their fans as surprised as everyone else that Lambert has managed to manoeuvre what is still a fairly young and inexperienced team to ten points from four games and a spot just behind Chelsea in the table.

Toward the end of last season Villa were shocking and getting worse so, with Benteke a long term crock, and without any noticeable recruitment beyond the much derided Phil Senderos, it is difficult to explain the turnaround. (Personally always liked Phil as I do any player prepared to put his head in where the boots fly, but I accept he had his limits). They don’t score much but have a good defensive record, three in four clean sheets in PL games.

The media seem to ascribe Villa’s improvement to the arrival of Roy Maurice Keane and the papers have had a few puff pieces this week about the young Villa players “inspired” “terrified” “in total awe of” the Irishman. Hmmmmm. The fist waving, eye rolling and the glaring might work for a little while with the kids Roy, but football managing is a little bit more complicated than that, as you know from your time with Ipswich and Sunlun. No doubt Keane’s presence has put the wind up Lambert a treat though but not a word of that anywhere.

For ourselves, as we touched on yesterday, I expect a few changes in the side and across midfield with Jack and Aaron rested, perhaps Sanchez too and the Ox. Tomas and Santi coming in.  I see the changes as mixture of fatigue from some hard games over a short period and the fact that if you have a large squad you use it.

I do not anticipate a ‘hangover’ after our defeat in Dortmund and a night of some disappointing performances.  I do however anticipate a difficult contest.  A narrow victory and a solid performance would do very nicely.

Talk to you later.

237 Comments

Unlucky Arsenal Get A Lucky Draw (You what??)

I love watching a good game of football, and thats exactly what The Arsenal and Manchester City(the league champions by the way) served up to us yesterday.

Am I disappointed we didn’t win ? Yes, I always am.

Am I disappointed with our performance? Hell no, I thought we were fantastic.

I really don’t understand how people can suck the joy out of the game. It’s beyond pathetic the way fans ignore the good things and focus on the negatives. Why watch the game if you don’t appreciate the aesthetics of it. Just read the result in the morning paper if the result is all that matters.

Completely against the run of quite superb play we went a goal down. Flamini was at fault and they scored. But don’t all goals come from mistakes? Yes it was a poor goal to concede, but what went before was not instantly erased.

We then scored two wonderful goals and perhaps should have gone on to win. Sadly we let in another poor goal which if not for  Wojciech Szezesny’s supreme athleticism in getting a hand to it, Flamini would have nodded clear. A bit of bad luck on top of a bit of bad defending and it was all square.

We then rode our luck for a short spell and in the end I was happy with the point.

Hey, we are unbeaten and looking better, much better, much much better.

Plenty to be optimistic about if you ask me.

Jack was quite simply outstanding.

Alexis is looking every inch the player we hoped he would be.

Danny looks a fit.

Some, like Ozil and Aaron, are not up to their usual ridiculously high standards but I’m sure it is just a matter of time.

I loved the way we played yesterday. How could I not?

Right. below is a bonus from @anicoll5 with his recollection of the fixture some 50 years ago

 

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My heart hoped for the home win, and on the balance of play it could have been. Citeh are however a wily serpent, slithering and striking around the defensive shield and it was not to be.

My head, to its credit, had settled for the draw. As I left the house in the morning, trotted after Steve towards the stadium and finally settled in my seat at 12.40 it was certain the points were to be shared.

How !?! You cry – such certainty of a draw, such a limit of ambition, so little of the Positivistas joie de vivre – it cannot be.

Well it was the cycle of history turning my friends. Fifty years ago was my first game at Highbury ( I know I have bored you with this theme before but stay with me a little longer).

The sun on that day shone in 64, it shone as bright yesterday. I sat on the North Bank, actually on the terracing but as I was by the fence at the back and the ground was half empty it was easy to see the action. It was a time of rosettes and rattles, and dark clothing, men wore dark clothing. I sat yesterday in the North Bank, wedged tightly between Arsenal fans other than when the goals went in and we popped up like a seed pod bursting. Some fans yesterday wore short trousers as they used to be known, clad in replica shirts mostly. In 1964 no adult owned shorts, let alone wore them out of doors irrespective of the weather. In 1964 I wore short trousers to the match (undoubtedly), so Ah – ha.

To be honest fifty years ago watching the tiny figures whizzing round miles away was pretty much beyond me and I suspect my mind wandered pretty soon. I persuade myself these days I know and understand a little more of what is going on, but I am prone to self delusion. Those replay screens have saved me from moments of embarrassment more than once.

And on that day many years ago you know what happened on the pitch ? The opposition scored first, the crowd groaned and tutted. Had I been more mature I expect I would have heard a few discontents muttering about Billy Wright. Our brave Arsenal lads battled back, then late on Joe Baker scored what in my mind’s eye I can still see as an excellent strike from outside the box in front of my North Bank perch to level the contest, and both sides went at it to the end. Some long forgotten referee blew his ceremonial silver whistle and the players exited for a plunge in the communal bath and for our visitors a fish and chip supper on their long, long journey back to East Lancs by stagecoach.

And “So What?”  concerning all this misty eyed sentimental reminiscing you ask, what relevance might it have to yesterday’s events ?

Well just to say that I do not think that football has changed very much. Players were exceptionally talented athletes 50 years ago compared to the men and boys on the terraces, and they are exceptionally talented now, another breed. They are dedicated to their craft. If they were not they would be the same as us, and spectators in the theatre.

The geographical origin of players has changed, and it was pleasing to see an old Arsenal player called Johnny McLeod on the pitch at half time (who even pre dates me) talking about how he had persuaded his former Hibernian teammate Joe Baker to sign for the Gunners. From what I saw on the pitch yesterday the joy of playing, the excitement of scoring, and the frustration of letting in a goal has not changed for players or fans. Admittedly the notion of Joe Baker ripping off his shirt after his goal to reveal a perfectly rippling torso would be from another Universe compared to Alexis yesterday, but Joe had his moments, in a 1964 kind of way. Eye contact, manly handshake, firm but friendly pat on the shoulder, you know the form.

That I do not think the attraction of watching a real contest that had lured me to Highbury fifty years ago and has kept me returning year after year, though not always week after week, since has changed very much.

Every single game is a clean slate which will be won or lost by an unknowable amalgam of physical skill, game intelligence, perseverance, organisation and always of luck. Luck in some games consists of a few grains, in others it is delivered by the bucketload.

If football had changed, or the object of my affections had changed then my life may have been different. Nothing has changed, other than the colours perhaps. The flame burns bright. My appetite for the game, for the Arsenal and for the contest is as sharp as it was then. I suspect the hunger may carry on in the future as long as there are sunny days like yesterday, great players, great contests, though perhaps not for 50 years.

 

I thank you.

83 Comments

Will The Arsenal Test The Champions?

It’s been a decent fixture in recent years for the Arsenal. Some of the City players, including their captain, have said that Arsenal are the best team they’ve faced in the PL in recent seasons, and they should know. I’m happy to agree.

In the wider media the same old trolls are trolling the Arsenal fans, as usual: Arteta, no power in midfield, yadda yadda yadda… Arsenal are D**Med. Because they have no D**M. You all know the drill. Which, of course, ignores Arteta’s record in these games (his record overall!) and the speed and control of the Arsenal midfield in the recent super cup/community shield game. It also ignores the comparisons some Old Skool Gooners make between Paul Davis and Arteta, which is interesting fodder for the rest of us who like our football. None of us expect the skipper to play every game, but if he’s fit for the next two Big ‘uns that’d be nice.

 It’s Pellegrini vs. Wenger. Two of the best managers in the game with two of the best teams. A game of football that will excite all football fans. Not only do these two giants of the game trade tactics (whatever they might be!) they trade players too (easier to spot those!). Though to be fair to Pellegrini his new club, The Arsenal B Team (even their stadium is a smaller cheaper knock off), have been keen on AFC players for a while. For some reason that the Groaners can’t understand. Perhaps because they are good at football? Maybe, it’s a possibility…

The last league game was the 1-1 in N.London in the Spring. During this game quite a few were having meltdowns because Olivier Giroud is an Arsenal striker.  I even heard some S&M fetishists start to cry and groan when OG found some space down the right hand channel when Arsenal were a goal down and scream “What is he doing there! Useless!” as the ball then wound itself around the arc of frustration following an attack set up by the accursed Giroud before arriving at the feet of Flamini for his one and only goal of the season. And what a nice goal it was too.  Quite a good celebration too.

City are a dangerous opponent and even with a jaded Toure they’ll be capable of taking advantage of any or too many errors. After that game in the spring meeting City friends  all we could do was wish them luck in their title bid at that stage of the season. City over Liverpool or Gazprom-upon-Fulham, all day, every day. And they wished us luck in the cup. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

What scares me is the pace of Navas and one or two others. Who will MP start? That is one question. Dzeko is a good player, but there are not light years between him and Giroud, and he’s not super fast either! An example of the poor punditry we football fans have to put with was the description of Chambers getting beaten for pace when he was simply out thought by the more experienced player.

Does Mertesacker in for Chambers change things for the Arsenal? Is the BFG looking down over his shoulder? Not quite just yet, but it’s good to know he has an apprentice.

Speaking of which will the Master return to continue his duel with Yaya Toure? My money would be on minutes for Rozza back in Dortmund, Wilshere to play today I guess. Cazorla too should start after sitting out Spain’s last game.

In the Super Cup game (what with all their cuts to grass roots footy, etc. I don’t think the FA believe in community) the rookie Sanogo had a fun first half as Arsenal tore through City. Slated by the Arsenal trolls, the new scapegoat for these demented people, this is a young footballer who in his own words arrived at the club “on one leg” following horrific injuries for a young player. A player who was essentially re-learning how to play football last season, to run, shoot, the works. Not hard to understand why. We won’t ask the self-declared redzone experts to acknowledge this, that would be, well, it would be honest, would it not?

In that Super Cup game our young Bambi terrorised two City CBs who have more experience than he does, who are older, and who between them probably cost upwards of £40M! The aforementioned trolls, they will continue to troll the gullible, when all they need to do is listen to what their players and coaches actually have to say for themselves. It’s not rocket science, it’s just anatomy.

I wonder how the new senior striker  will get on against the senior CBs for City, will he start or will Sanogo soften them up for a half?

Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m looking forward to this game. The trolls have been ignoring Arsenal’s good record at Home of late, let’s hope they keep it up.

A guest post by Finsbury

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A Fan’s Road To Arsenal

A guest post from Out For A Corner  

When people think of football, not many think of Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus, but on a cold, spring morning in 1988, it was the only place to be. Or, more accurately, it was the only place where tickets for the upcoming Littlewoods Cup Final were about to go on sale. An Algerian Gooner I worked with had invited me to come with him to try to get tickets: Arsenal versus the not-so-mighty Luton Town. After an hour or so standing outside in the cold, our turn came, and we bought our tickets to the final.

In America in the late seventies and early eighties, there were two ways to see football from Europe. The annual broadcast of the FA Cup Final on ABC’s Wide World of Sports was the only time all year that a match was shown in full (or nearly full – I think they still cut away for ads and maybe some ten-pin bowling). The weekly broadcast of Soccer Made in Germany was generally a better bet. It was a highlights programme, and it not only showed Bundesliga matches but also European matches that involved German teams. With a British commentator and featuring impossibly exotic-sounding teams such as Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, the programme offered a tantalising glimpse into a very different world.

Even with this limited access to watching football, I knew that having a Cup Final ticket was something special. As we entered Wembley Stadium, the sight of packed terraces reminded me of the matches I had watched on television a few years before. It was impressive to see more than 95,000 people squeezed in to the old, crumbling stadium, but it was not so enjoyable to be one of them! After a long struggle, we finally found a place to stand. As we settled into our spot, I noticed that one of the people behind us must have spilled his drink, and it was trickling down the terrace. On seeing a second and third stream of liquid, the penny that others had spent eventually dropped. We quickly shuffled sideways, out of the path of the dripping liquid.

The terrace-based sprinkler system notwithstanding, it was an entertaining match. Arsenal conceded an early goal but came back after halftime, scoring two goals in three minutes to take the lead 2-1. The Arsenal goals gave me my first experience of being swept forward in a mass of euphoric supporters – frightening, but thrilling. With about ten minutes left, the referee awarded a penalty to Arsenal, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to finish off the match. However, Nigel Winterburn had his penalty saved. Soon after, Arsenal defender Gus Caesar (“I came. I saw. I fell over.”) gave the ball away in the Arsenal penalty area, and Luton equalised. Then, in the 90th minute, Luton scored the winner. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory! (© Arsenal)

As the Luton fans celebrated at the other end of the ground, I asked myself: what kind of a team throws away victory in a cup final? More importantly, did I want to support a team that throws away victory in a cup final? The answer to the second question was no – or, rather, not yet.

Having had my budding passion for Arsenal extinguished so painfully, I moved into the next stage of my football-watching career: I became an interested neutral. Without an allegiance to any team, I was free to appreciate good football wherever I found it – sometimes in the most unlikely places. Yes, dear reader, I am not afraid to tell you: I visited White Hart Lane several times, and I often enjoyed it. Those were the heady days of Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, and Terry Venables. It goes without saying that Spurs won nothing; they did, however, manage to put together a good end-of-season run to finish third. You probably don’t need me to tell you that they have not finished that high in the table since then.

Some matches I attended in this period were notable from a football perspective. Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut for Manchester United, Real Madrid’s 5-1 demolition of Olympiakos in the Bernabeu, Atlético Madrid v Bobby Robson’s Barcelona in a Copa del Rey match that featured three future managers (Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Luis Enrique), and Manchester United knocking Internazionale out of the Champions League at San Siro. Other matches stay in the mind for more unusual reasons. On the way to Adams Park to see Wycombe versus Brentford, I was a victim of football-related hooliganism. Yes, I was hit by an egg. (Annoyingly, the Brentford fans I was with escaped without a drip.) At Old Trafford, the sight of Dave Busst’s horrific leg-break led Peter Schmeichel to be sick on the pitch.

More than any other, though, a match at Plough Lane (Wimbledon v Tottenham) in the late eighties summed up the era. At halftime, there was an announcement that crowd trouble had interrupted the FA Cup semi-final that was being played at Hillsborough between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The people on the sparsely populated terrace around us booed the Liverpool supporters and sang songs about the ‘drunken Scousers’ who they assumed had caused the trouble. After the match, on our way back into London on the District Line, I overheard a group of lads next to us discussing the other matches that were being played in London that day. Their conversation had a chilling conclusion. After identifying which teams were playing, they decided to head to Kings Cross – to attack the Newcastle supporters who were on their way home after seeing their team play Arsenal.

That reminds me, what about Arsenal? Despite their success in the late eighties and early nineties, I found the team of that time difficult to like. They seemed a bit thuggish: they were punished with a points deduction for a brawl with Manchester United, and their captain went to prison for drink-driving. However, their most obvious flaw (in my eyes) was that their football was not very enjoyable to watch. They did, however, have an amazing will to win. I watched the finale of the 1988-89 season at my Arsenal-supporting friends’ flat on Liverpool Road. As Liverpool lost the ball with seconds left, I told my friends that Arsenal were about to score – and so it came to be. Aguero, my arse – there has never been a more exciting finish to the season than that match. But even after Anfield, they weren’t my team.

A few years later, I moved to Islington. I was still a neutral, but looking to attend more matches. I suggested to my Liverpool Road friend that we get season tickets to Arsenal and Spurs so we could go to a match every weekend. He declined. As it turns out, that was the year of the first League title (and FA Cup) in the Arsène Wenger era, and there has been a (long) waiting list for season tickets ever since.

In the years between Anfield ’89 and the 1998 Double, I had looked out for whichever team was playing attractive football: the Neil Webb-era Nottingham Forest, Norwich City for a time, Kevin Keegan’s swashbuckling Newcastle, and then, in the years following the arrival of a certain Frenchman, Arsenal. They say if you watch enough football, a team will find you. Well, it took a long time, but eventually the Wenger-era Arsenal found me.

Years later, my friend redeemed himself when he pointed out that there was a residents scheme for the new stadium. Local residents who were on the season-ticket waiting list would be, in effect, allowed to jump the queue. This was Arsenal’s clever, if somewhat cynical, way of placating local opposition to their plans to build a new stadium and help to pay for it by building several high-rise blocks of flats. I signed up to the waiting list, and I was assigned number 37,000-something. I was one of the last to get a ticket before the cut-off.

One of the benefits of the residents’ priority scheme was that it led to life imitating art: in Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby described what he imagined life would be like when he moved to Highbury:

In my street, of course, it would be Arsenal supporters, rather than commuters, who emerged, and they would all be wearing flat caps and faded bar-type red-and-white scarves. And they would see me and smile and wave, and I would immediately become a much-loved and valued member of a happy, working-class Arsenal community.

It wasn’t quite like that, but it wasn’t too far off either. Several people in the neighbourhood have season tickets, and it is not uncommon on match-days to see people emerging at the same time, proudly wearing their bar-type red-and-white scarves. We even occasionally wave to one another.

As well as enabling me to join the local Gooner community, obtaining a ticket marked the end of neutrality. And so began the final part of my journey: as a supporter.

The first season after the move had some real highs: the Bergkamp testimonial (Marco van Basten and Johann Cruyff in the flesh – incredible), the last-gasp Henry header(!) to beat Manchester United – and then the trip to Cardiff to see the Carling Cup Final against Chelsea. I was sure things would be different. In some ways they were: this time, Arsenal scored first. But old habits die hard, and Arsenal still contrived to concede two goals to lose 2-1, Didier Drogba playing the Mark Stein role. Abou Diaby’s full-blooded kick to John Terry’s face was scant consolation.

Fast forward to 2011 for the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City at the ‘new’ Wembley. Arsenal conceded an early goal but equalised before halftime. The score stayed level until the 89th minute when, in a poorly timed homage to Gus Caesar, Koscielny and Szczesny conspired to give the ball away to Obafemi Martins who gratefully scored the winner. Three League Cup final defeats in three stadiums!

And so to 2014: the FA Cup this time –not the dreaded League Cup – and a semi-final against Wigan, the holders. Arsenal follow the usual script by going behind, but then something amazing happens. They don’t throw the game away. They equalise and then take the match to extra-time. No goals, so on to penalties! What are you made of, boys? Well, sterner stuff than previous years – Arsenal win on penalties. The final? A cake-walk. Arsenal spot Hull City two goals just to make things interesting. Santi tries to outdo Gazza with his free kick to pull one back. Kos emulates Per’s semi-final heroics by scoring the equaliser, and then it is left to The Man – Aaron Ramsey – to score the winner from a ‘gorgeous’ Olivier Giroud back heel. My twenty-six year wait is over. As the players parade the trophy, I look down and notice that the person behind me has spilled his drink. This time, however, it is only Coca-Cola.

So, in the end, what led to me becoming an Arsenal supporter?

It wasn’t the winning or the new stadium. It wasn’t the glamour of new signings. It certainly wasn’t the long-running tendency to lose big Cup matches. Two things made the difference: the way they played – breathtaking, attacking football allied to a miserly defence – and they way they operated. I came to recognise that the Club’s values were compatible with my own. Where others had oil money, Arsenal had stability. Where others had expensive, ready-made star signings, Arsenal had unknowns (or little-knowns) who became stars. Where others mortgaged their future, Arsenal lived within its means. Where others had a new manager every year, Arsenal had the pioneering genius Arsène Wenger. It took me a long time to make my mind up to become an Arsenal supporter – about eighteen years – but, having made the decision, I haven’t regretted it once.

136 Comments

Arsenal v The Parked Bus

A guest post from Sensational Arsenal.
 
Three games into the premier league, we already came across two teams defending resolutely and in numbers. Pretty soon we are going to come up against the Chelsea bus too.

So, how do we crack such teams that we are no doubt going to encounter frequently throughout this season? At our devastating best, no team can stand in our way, but what about the times when we miss some personnel?  The times we are at 90%? How do we overcome defensive walls then? I thought it would be an interesting problem for us to discuss and put forth ideas during this this inter-lull. We are not privy to Wenger’s ideas so let’s just have some fun and discuss solutions that will ultimately have no bearing on how Wenger lines up the players.

My thoughts based on reading up Michael Cox, Adrian Clarke, a few blogs and my own limited views:
 

At times during the Leicester and Palace games, there were six to eight of their players in their back-line. Even if you have Mesut Fucking Ozil, he would not be able to thread many through balls. Especially when the opposition back-line drops back to leave a space of only about 10 yards between them and their goalkeeper. What about the chips over the top we tried? Yes, they are inventive, but that can’t be our sole answer and the goal keeper has a head start over the striker to sweep up.

Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey and Ozil tried one-twos inside very crowded areas and ran into traffic. This is definitely a possible way through and if successful, it puts a player one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Though it has greater chances of failure, it is something I would encourage the players to try as we are very, very good at this. Again, this cannot be completely relied upon. How about pulling the defenders wide and putting crosses in? With Giroud out, we don’t have that kind of presence in the box for knock-downs anymore. Welbeck and Sanogo might disagree with me.

How effective is pace if there are six – eight players defending in the box? What about a front three of two wingers and one striker? Could work (personally, I like this idea), but it also leaves us with a three-man midfield. With Cazorla on the left, him and Ozil swap positions and at times the extra playmaker counts.

In conclusion, I have no idea, and can vaguely say that our best chance to score is probably to try a variety of ideas and not be one-dimensional. Also, tempo! Tempo! Tempo!

On another note: One of our wise contributors to Positively Arsenal, ZimPaul has been sick. He is one of the guys who will keep his cool when everyone else is losing their heads. We would like to wish him the best and a speedy recovery, and will miss his contributions until he comes back here.

 ***

Message from George:

I can’t begin to express the distress that Paul’s post has brought to me (see below). It seems so horribly final. I hope for once the great man has chosen his words poorly or that I am reading them wrongly.

It’s clear that I’m not alone in holding Paul in such high regard, he truly is a prince among men and should be an inspiration to us all. 

Love you Paul.

Pedantic george.

 

ZimPaulSeptember 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm Edit

Hi folks. I’m just writing to say hello. It is not clear whether or when I could post again. Long story, medical-related. I’ve been in intensive care unit for some weeks, now home.

I just wanted to say what a lovely experience it has always been, on PA and the earlier vintage, meeting you, chatting and engaging. I consider a number of people here my very good friends, over many years.

Wellbeck was always going to be controversial, AW and Co settled on 16m, a tidy amount so rest assured AW rates him extremely highly already. I doubt, like a few deals it was any kind of a short term damage control idea, but an idea AW has been mooting for a while, fast-forwarded by the injury. As usual, shrewd.

We haven’t played to potential, and yet, with a tricky start, we have not lost. Now a testing run to come! We look good. Theo to come, a few fitness issues here and there.

Otherwise, a team to truly admire; balanced, fast, exciting, bold. I have to say I have been impressed with Jack too, even though he has been criticized. His work rate is good, his passing and movement is better then one thinks (he makes it look easy). He is a star, and he will get better as he gets playing time.

Chambers is probably the best buy and most important decision we have made, all things considered, exceptional, immaculate, controlled (player) and clever (the manager). I tip my old hat to AW! I never heard of him. I am so impressed at his game.

Bye Arsenal friends!
Love you lots!
ZimPaul “

359 Comments

Looking In And Out Of Arsenal’s Window

There we have it then, the window is firmly shut.

Looking in through the window of summer 2014 I can see a nice collection of players have been acquired for our future entertainment.

We have some genuine competition for the goalkeeping position in David Ospina. He may or may not be better than Fabianski but I feel he is a bigger threat to Wojciech simply because he has no baggage; he has never been dubbed with a disrespectful nickname like “Flappianski”.

The French No.1 RB Debuchy has replaced the French No. 2 LB Sagna, and he looks to have a better delivery and be equal to Bac in other departments.  He is of course younger.

Chambers can play at CB, LB and we are assured CDM. That is good news for us going forward and he looks a real gem.

We wanted a world class striker, well that is exactly what Alexis Sanchez is. It’s no good saying he is not a striker – Arsene says that is what he has bought him as. Therefore that is what he is.

Joel Campbell has come in and Arsene has been good to his word and kept him at the club. Had we bought him, people would be very excited about his acquisition.

That’s 5 very good players who have come into the squad before yesterday’s madness.

People (very stupid people) say most, if not all, of these players are replacements and not additions. Completely ignoring the fact that with a fixed limit of 25 squad players, ALL incoming players can only be replacements. All that it is possible to do is replace squad players with better squad players. As far as that goes I feel we have done just that.

In addition to these, yesterday we signed Danny Welbeck from MUFC. With Giroud being long term injured we needed a player who can play at CF and link-up play. It seems he is ideal for that.

Back in June I was arguing on twitter with someone who suggested we should sell Giroud and replace him with Welbeck. This was my tweeted reply

“If we replaced Giroud with Welbeck, I’d join the BSM, AST, start reading Le Grove and be a WOB overnight.

I stand by that.

Giroud is, in my opinion, a better player than Welbeck, and I would have been furious if we had sold Giroud and Welbeck was his replacement. However as an understudy and cover for injury, he will more than suffice. He is also of an age that a big leap forward could easily be achieved.

Now, looking out of the window I can see some players walking by that we could have bought.

A CB seemed to me a must. Goodness only know why we didn’t get one, and when I next see Goodness,I’ll ask him why!

Perhaps I would also have looked for a DM that could learn from Mikel and cover for him when he needs a rest. But we do have Flamini and perhaps Jack too. I think if jack wants a starting place, the holding role looks his best bet. We’ll see.

All in all I think its been a good window. I also think if the right players had been available then we would have gotten them and it would have been even better.

I feel that had Giroud not been injured it would have appeared a lot more impressive a window than it is currently perceived.

However, whether we are completely happy or not, we march on with the troops we have, at least until January when the madness will begin again.

 

By pedantic george aka @Blackburngeorge

110 Comments

Arsenal Draw Again – But That’s Not The Half Of It!

So Arsenal drop yet more points in games they should be winning.

This, aside from transfer matters, was the message for many observers, of the whole weekend.

And yet time and again, when Arsenal results are said to disappoint, my personal disappointment, (aside from the points that have been dropped), tends to rest heavily on the shoulders of two groups of people not actually involved in the loss of those points. And that combines with irritation with two other groups which, all in all, means that anything less than victory is going to be far more painful than really should be the case.

So what – or who – are the disappointments and what are the irritants?

First and foremost are groups – noisy ones, at that – of the club’s own fans, too many of whom anticipate cricket scores in our favour against supposedly ‘lesser’ opposition. By now, they really should know better.

One of the key features of a league such as the PL awash with money successfully shared (compared with, say, it’s Spanish equivalent) throughout the division is that there are now rarely any whipping boys or ‘rollover’ matches. And this is not a recent development – all games now have to be won; it’s no longer sufficient to merely turn up as was once the case. This is true for all clubs as conveniently demonstrated by both Manchester outfits already this season.

Given that this is not a new thing, the tendency for our own fans to erupt on social networks at the first hint of a setback, especially DURING games, is particularly disappointing. Whilst you might reasonably expect the fans of other clubs to talk nonsense about our club, when it’s our own fans doing it, it’s particularly regrettable.

The second group to disappoint – and this seems to be the case for most games these days including those not involving Arsenal – are the performances of the men in black.

Many accept they (the refs, the linesman/assistants and the ‘fourth’ official) are no longer fit for purpose and some of us are only waiting for the inevitable introduction of video technology to ride into town to save us all from the lottery that plays too big role in the outcome of far too many of today’s games. But it is not their inability to keep up with the play, to see through blatant (let alone thinly disguised) player gamesmanship or even the ill-advised current fashion to ‘manage’ as opposed to ‘referee’ games (ie, apply the rules) that generates disappointment in these game-weary eyes.

My fundamental problem with the officials is their failure to perform consistently.

Yesterday in two games we had the perfect illustration of this with Liverpool benefitting from the softest penalty award we are likely to see this side of Xmas (or, as some wag will inevitably suggest, until Liverpool next play again). Meanwhile, down in the Midlands, Cazorla is illegally ‘displaced’ in the penalty area, goes flying immediately in front of the ref as the game is allowed to continue ‘to flow’.

So one game is allowed to flow, thus benefitting the lesser talented side needing to take a more ‘muscular’ approach to the match, and the other game is governed – at least at one critical moment – with an iron-fist, to the benefit in an up-to-that-point even game, of a Liverpool side still working to achieve dominance. That Liverpool should benefit in this way is particularly galling for any observer familiar with the thuggish defensive practises of their own defensive lunatic Skrtel who is routinely permitted penalty box assaults without penalty (let alone free-kick, booking etc) for any and all set-plays – but maybe that’s another story, albeit a closely related one, in truth.

I understand that offside is hard to call correctly.

I get that throw-ins and corner decisions go wayward on an all too frequent basis.

At a stretch, I understand that to some referees, certain players get sent off thanks to embarrassing cases of mistaken identity.

But it is unacceptable on any level in the same competition for one ref to ‘let the game flow’ and for another to apply the rules to within an inch of the game’s life. That continental referees veer towards the latter suggests ours should follow suit if only to prepare players for life playing in European cup competitions/international games. Either way, standards need to be agreed and applied. Consistently.

So those are the disappointments, what of the irritations?

My primary irritation lies with those clubs who consistently turn with cup final-level performances one week against Arsenal, only to roll over a week later against the next scheduled opposition. We can reliably guess that Leicester will not prove as obdurate again this season unless they make it to a cup final. Or play Arsenal again. It must be said that Man u had to overcome this many times in years gone by when they were still a giant of a club – the phenomena of teams playing out of their skin in the full knowledge the eyes of the majority of the footballing world would be on them. So yes, Arsenal have to deal with this but I do wonder why those sides, capable of virtuoso performances one week, let it all slide the next. I genuinely feel sorry for their short-changed fans and, regardless, find this whole syndrome incredibly annoying. Especially when, as they usually seem to, their goalies turn into Gordon Banks for the day.

Why am I imagining they do this so much versus Arsenal? I can only guess that it’s something to do with our penchant for playing the game in the way it should be played – as a thrilling, attacking spectacle – that incentivises opponents to try to beat us by exploiting our gaps and by playing the heroic underdog card. They are entitled to, of course, but their fans must sometimes wonder …

My final irritation lies with, almost inevitably, the media and its reaction to any perceived Arsenal set back. Images on newspaper back pages of broken cannons, doom-laden studio analysis, apocalyptic radio phone-in debates are rarely truly matched when Citeh drop points, for example. Man u never seem to crash and burn in quite the same way as AFC in the eyes of the media and Liverpool are rarely hung out to dry, no matter how many times Steven ‘slippery’ Gerrard loses his footing, in quite the same way or with as much gusto as is reserved for Arsenal. There was a glee attached to the ramblings of Jamie Redknapp on yesterday’s Sky coverage that was fuelled rather than moderated by Ed Chamberlain, the Sky anchor, which just doesn’t happen in the wake of the unexpected defeats of other ‘big’ clubs.

Defeats?

Oh, that’s right, it was a draw yesterday, wasn’t it?

Who’d have known?

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