Arsenal Middleman masters Milan


Good morning Positives,

What a good result! A 5-1 aggregate score and two legs in which we comfortably ended the games in  control is a rarity in European competitions at this stage where the ‘better’ clubs are coming face to face.

Of the game itself I thought we started a bit jittery and out of sorts, not helped by Kosc’s injury. The Frenchman immediately looked uncomfortable after going up for a corner, and not able to run so I was surprise it took 4-5  minutes to take him off.

With Laurent gone the teams traded possession for the next 30 minutes with neither side showing really testing the keeper or creating a clear goalscoring opening. Milan’s final ball was poor, as it had been to the San Siro, and our attacks ran went to the edge of the visitors’ box  before running out of ideas.

The goal from Calhanoglu on 36 minutes was entirely unexpected, for me as much as Ospina. Good goal, 30 yards, corner of the net. Could the Colombian have been more alert and at least got a hand to it? Could Bellerin and/or Mustafi have shut the striker down quicker as their shouting match after the goal went in hinted at ? We shall never know.

There was a bit of a groan around me I admit but the goal was exactly what the tie needed and we responded immediately. We  surged forward and within a minute it seemed Danny went down in a heap. Even from the other end it looked soft  as the referee and the 5th official eyed each other up coyly. The Swedish referee nevertheless pointed spot-ward and Milan players went beserk, as I suspect any group of players would do in similar circumstances. Nessun sente da che parte preme la scarpa, se non chi se la calza. For all the fuss Danny stepped up and despatched the generous gift left and Donnarumma dived right. A collective sigh of relief was heard as far away as Hampstead Heath as we knew it was not going to be one of ‘those’ nights. Referee Eriksson compounded his guilt a few moments later by denying Milan a penalty when Callum Chambers arm was up but  that  would have been harsh.

The rest of the game I admit is a bit of a blur although as I did not get home until 2 this morning is a bit fuzzy anyway. The main recollection however is of Arsenal largely controlling the game.  The pivot of that control last night being our Swiss midfielder, though whom it seemed most ball was channeled from back to front, and against Granit wall the RossoNeri battered to little effect as he covered ground and space, nicked the ball away and put a sly foot in as required. A really professional performance and capped by the killer second goal as far as Milan were concerned, a shocking cock up by a keeper who up until then in the tie had been excellent. Man of the match Xhaka. Enjoy your moment, you have worked hard for it. Merit points for Aaron, Jack, Mustafi, Callum and Danny.

Of the atmosphere 90% of Milan fans in the ground and singing an hour before kick off ! By Kick off + 5 I could see only a few empty seats in the upper tiers in the East and West Stands at the sides but it looked full to me. Plenty of noise throughout and lots of fans stayed after the final whistle to applaud all the players on both teams off the pitch. Arsenal fan next to me left immediately Donnarumma fumbled the second goal into his net – he’d seen enough.


At midday UK time we shall discover who the next opponents are in the Europa League and the hoopla will start again.

Enjoy Friday and the international break.


A Plan For Milan


There is one thing about this season that will stand out, we have had more “the biggest game of the season” games, than ever before. It seems like every game is the biggest game of the season and tonight’s game feels just like that.

We go into home game leading 2-0 from the first leg and if we don’t qualify for Friday’s QF draw the meltdown will be humongous. The cyber-gates of hell will open and everyone will be queuing up to stick the biggest hobnail boots in that the world has ever seen. The type Elton John might have worn in the 70s.



While we are throwing all the cliche about, it’s a must win tie.

We are led to believe that all the players that could be fit, are fit. So at least Ramsey will play. Kos, Bellerin,  and Monreal are also likely to be returning. Danny, Xhaka, Ozil, Mustafi and Mhkitaryan seem nailed on, with Ospina in goal. That leaves one place up for grabs. I expect it will be Jack but if it is then ElNeny can consider himself very unlucky, as he was excellent against Watford.

So lets hope for the best,

Oh, and up the Arsenal.




Arsenal: Squashed Hornet and Clean Sheet Sorted


Good afternoon Positives,

Six changes but the job done against a ‘muscular’ Watford side who, as we all too well know, have proven to be a damn nuisance before at the Ems.

The first half was no great advert for Premier League football and while both sides had flashes of quality passing I did not think was crisp or accurate.  Again our opener came from a dead ball and a defender scoring. Eight minutes gone and I assumed we were in for another Palace/Everton style scoring avalanche. Yeeeehaaah as us cowboys say. But NO, fool that I am. First, Sead slotted a sharp cross in to PEA but the striker could not connect, then Mesut danced through one on one on the visitors keeper only to be thwarted by a Greek foot. Goodness that second goal was elusive.

For our opponents Pereyera blazed over from 6 yards with the whites of Cech’s eyes clearly visible. Other than that the remainder of the first half I thought was even, with bits of attacking menace  and errors from both sides.

The opening of the second half was somewhat uncomfortable – if you watched it with me I shall say no more and if you have not seen it yet don’t bother. We were under pressure and not really able to control the game or hold the ball for10+ minutes. However we held together. Repeated corners from Watford were dealt with well by Cech and our defenders. Shkodran and Rob Holding were a model of concentration and good co-ordination. Richarlison and Femenia pressed on the flanks but during this important phase we did not ‘crack’.

And then, as the rainbow emerges with little warning from the dark, wet sky so our second and decisive goal was slotted home. (That is not me below but I wish it was)


With the two goal cushion I was, for a full 60 seconds, chortling to myself and entirely relaxed. The game was over, the points settled. Off you go Watford, on you go back to Metroland.

Arsenal v Watford - Premier League

No – no and thrice no. AMN made his first rick of a good performance in the right back slot and up stepped Deeney to take on our helmeted stopper. And despite the 16 previous penalties required him to fish the ball out of the net today good fortune was on his side. A powerful strike by the ugliest man in Watford but an equally solid left hand from Petr send it spinning up and away. It had to be Deeney Karma, kismet, the Fates, the fickle Finger of Fate etc. – do you know what I mean ? .


If Watford had the services of a good finisher rather the tub of lard they employ at Number 9 who can say. It is good however when an outstanding competitor and general good bloke like Cech gets what he deserves. 200 up.

After that a final goal on 77 minutes from Mhki who spent the afternoon being abused by Alan Smith on Sky and kicked all over the shop by Watford. I felt like giving the commentating equivalent of Eyeore a kick at times during today’s game to be honest, but at 3-0 I am magnanimous.

So that was that. A useful three points. I am hard pushed to really to pick out one or two Arsenal players who stood out today as it was, like Thursday, a good 11 man performance. We shall see if Shkodran’s groin is up to another game this week later on.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.




Arsenal: The Ball in our Court


@LaboGoon and the Arsenal vs Watford programme notes

Good morning one and all.

Early kick-off for the Arsenal as they host Watford just after lunch.

The past few weeks leading up to the San Siro has been tough on all of us as football showed it’s unforgiving side, and with that the natives became restless. Playing on foreign soil proved to be the tonic as the players had to dig deep to snap out of whatever hindered them… and oh boy, how glorious was it.

The AC Milan result and indeed commanding performance were huge for so many reasons, more importantly it gave us back of that feel good stuff we lacked recently.

Firstly though, today will be anything but a cakewalk. Watford came into a bit of form of late, losing just one of their last five games and they also seem to have this irritating habit of lifting themselves whenever they play us. So be prepared for a contest.

With a Jack Wilshere tweet to remind Troy Deeney they had not forget him questioning their “manhood” after our last meeting, Watford too should expect our boys wanting their own back. So today could get a bit spicy.

Getting into top 4 may be beyond us at this point but winning each game is as important now as it has ever been. With Europa representing our best opportunity of returning to the CL next season it is vital we get it right in the PL to carry form, momentum and togetherness there.

Team news: after initial injury scares Chambers and Kolašinac returned to full training, so the same squad that did duty in Italy is available for selection. The talismanic Monreal also returned to training but will only be available after today.

Everything of the best to our players and manager today and may they give due reward to the Emirates faithful for their unwavering support through the sunshine and rain.

Home is where the heart is.


Arsenal: Working Accord in Milan


Good morning Positives,

A livelier spring in the step this morning as we emerge from the footballing fog of the past fortnight.

What a good performance and an even better result in Milan last night. We put together what I’d say is the best team performance this season. Against good quality opponents who were in form and in front of 70,000 Milanese our 11 players worked tirelessly over the 99 minutes of the game to fashion the deserved win. I do not think it was our best football performance this season, as we have purer, crisper Wengerball at other places sinceAugust, but last night every player worked for the  collective, the sum of the parts added up to more than the 11 components.

Particular praise to Granit, Aaron and Jack across the middle who were creatively tidy with the ball, and bloodhounds when Milan had it. Mustafi has endured a storm of criticism over the past fortnight but was excellent last night. Man of the match though for me was Danny Welbeck. I admit in the opening few minutes I was a bit “FFSDanny” as he skated about but  he raced about all night and provided an out-ball to stop us being constantly confined in our half. Toward the end of the game he still looked fresh and for a player who has played so little football his fitness was credit to him and to the backroom gurus who have brought him back. With Laca still a bit short Danny will have another busy Thursday next week.

The only slight cloud on the horizon was Sead and Callum’s injuries.  Our Bosnian had a first half tormenting the home side so his departure was disappointing. Hopefully both players will be swiftly restored but you never ‘know’ with injuries.

Of our RossoNeri opponents I doubt this tie is all over. Milan tried stuff and it either ran into the AFC defensive brick wall or it did not come off. They will be disappointed not to have got at least one goal. Suso’s a handful, I like him. Milan still think they are in it and will come to the Ems with the early goal in mind.

Both sides played a fair game last night and congratulations to Calhanoglu for not chucking himself at Ospina to win a penalty. Were you watching ‘ArryKane ?  For referee Turpin an easy game to control and he responded by allowing the game to flow and whipping out only one card.

Before starting this morning I picked up a ticket for the second leg – lower tier North Bank £18.50. You won’t hear about that ticket price in the media or from AST.

Enjoy Friday.




Arsene Has Lost It? GTF.



Friends, Romans, Arsenal men, lend me your ears I come to praise Arsene, not to butcher him.  There is feeding frenzy involving second rate hacks, Billy big bollocks bloggers, podcasters and hate filled attention seeking halfwit fans, all picking over the not yet dead corpse of our greatest ever manager. A man that is a legend in the game, a visionary and easily the most intelligent, classy man I’ve ever know in football.

They say he must go! Nay, he must be driven out, ridiculed and his greatest moments disparaged and downgraded.

After 22 years at the helm his work is done, we need him no more, off with him, drive him into the wilderness, once we have tarred and feathered him of course!

But here is the thing, it’s with a heavy heart that I accept the end is near, and that a tipping point has been reached. I don’t think he has the time, or the backing from the board, fans and players that he would need to turn the ship again.  Perhaps after 22 years a new voice is needed. Maybe it is all stale. But what I don’t accept, and will never accept, is that Arsene Wenger is not a great manager, let alone that he never was one. I’m simply calling bullshit on that much used soundbite.

How many times has José Mourinho gone stale at clubs? I can think of three occasions where he has been sacked, where his tactics have failed, and he has been cast aside. But what happened next? Another massive job.  People claiming he was one of the world’s best managers, and yet he couldn’t survive beyond 3 years.

Were people claiming he was not the manager he once was when he won the CL in 2004 with Porto?

No, they were not. They were using this 14 year-old achievement as evidence of his greatness.

Jürgen Klopp lasted almost 7 years at Borussia Dortment before flirting with relegation and being sent on his way.  Did people say he used to be great and now he isn’t? No, they didn’t, and it doesn’t look much like it either, now does it?

Carlo Ancelotti, currently unemployed after being sacked for the umpteenth time. Yet many people are suggesting he could replace Arsene. Why, if not keeping success going is evidence of a decline in managerial abilities?

Even Pep Guardiola ran out of steam at Barca and needed a year out, and felt 3 years at Bayern was enough before he got stale.

So if we accept that Arsene’s race at Arsenal is run, it does not follow that it’s because he is no longer a great manager, visionary and football intellectual. In fact I suggest the very opposite, that he has taken 22 years to reach the point that these so called great mangers reach in a fraction of the time, means he has most likely proved he is greater than them, rather than their inferior.

Oh and by the way, there is only one ARSENE WENGER.



Arsenal: Sunday, Bloody Sunday


Good afternoon Positives,

There we are then, a poor week finished off for all sports of footballing and no-footballing reasons by a defeat to Brighton.

Reviewing in my mind’s eye the performance today we lost the game as a result of a period of incomprehensibly poor defending during a 35 minute period when our defensive core, Cech, Kosc and Shkrodran looked never to have met one another before and Brighton physically brushed them aside. Each time a corner came in a big blue head got on the end of it. What was puzzling was the back four we put out, including Kolasinac and Chambers is physically the most imposing group of defenders we have at the club as viable starters. Why lads … Why … Whisper it in my ear – please – I won’t shout – I promise ! It was 2-0 after 27 minutes but in truth it could have been worse.

In any event having recovered consciousness and found ourselves flat on our back we suddenly flickered into life. Oddly the turning point of our afternoon was Jack’s 40th minute wild challenge of Knockaert, for which he was deservedly carded, but after which we had some energy about us and physically began to compete. Over the remainder of the half we matched Brighton challenge for challenge,  and certainly in the second  half went on to dominate our opponents, over 80% of the pitch at least. That goal just before half time, neatly despatched after good work on the left, surely provided the platform for a storming second half. Or so I thought …..

In spite of our momentum  going into the second half Brighton defended deep, deeper, deepest, were organised, and allowed us only an occasional sight of Ryan’s goal throughout what seemed a very long 45 minute indeed. I thought Jack and Granit were very good throughout the second 45 and the Englishman was constantly poking at the centre of the Brighton line. In front of them PEA and Mkhi also twisted and turned and tried to find space but Gawd it was crowded in there. We tried to hit them again and again on the same axis, and they defended again and again in the same way. I cannot criticise the sweat that we put in, or the commitment of our players once they had come to their senses. The guile to cut open Brighton however was just not there. Is that 16 goals in 15 PL away games this season ?

So well done to our hosts today, a deserved three points won with two well taken chances and a commendable second half defensive display. I know it is a subject I could bore for my country on but oh how I wish we had a nippy winger like that Izquierdo who was a constant thorn in our flank all afternoon.

We must stop meeting like this.

Enjoy Sunday and I trust like me you are looking forward to temporarily putting the clanking chains of Premier League football aside and enjoying the prospect of the San Siro and Milan.