31 Comments

Arsenal Lose Game But Not Belief.

Good Morning .

We lost a narrow match away at Man City. You can talk about schedules, fatigue and whatnot, but it’s hard to be upbeat about going out. This wasn’t the League Cup, which you can always shrug off; no, the FA Cup is part of Arsenal’s identity. 

Still, there are a few reasons not to go too far with a narrow defeat away at Man City, of all opponents. The first is that this was a horrible tie, against a team that has dominated English domestic football for half a decade. 

They almost never lose at home, and picked something approaching their strongest team, even if a Man City first XI is theoretical, given all their rotation. 

The other is that we made a lot of changes. Without injuries, I’d say that only four of the players who started would make our outright best XI, although that’s up for debate. 

And yet we competed well. Cheered on by what sounded like a stadium full of Arsenal fans who occasionally broke into Blue Moon, we had the better of the first half. We carved out some minor chances, and enjoyed spells in which we kept finding all of the dangerous space and they looked blunt. 

If you want more positivity, it’s that ITV will not cover another Arsenal match in 2022-23. Hopefully that will give you the warm glow you need to get you through the rest of this report.

I have no idea what formation Man City were playing in the first half. It looked like three at the back, with Rico Lewis playing as less of an inverted full-back than an all-out central midfielder. 

Our defensive plan was to play with an even higher line and get as tight as possible to Haaland, who was their only direct threat in-behind.

I say “only”. We nullified him tonight, but his presence affects everything around him. When he’s dormant, it’s like there’s an immense celestial body that can only be observed by its gravitational pull. 

Holding spent 45 frantic minutes in its orbit, in a battle that resembled a cartoon fight cloud, with fistfulls of shirts, a platinum bun and a toupee poking out of the dust. Once he got that yellow, few substitutions have been more inevitable. 

At the other end, all of the space was opening up on our left flank, and Trossard was eating it up. He set up Tomiyasu for a strike, tested Ortega and later found Nketiah following a great run, Eddie couldn’t quite make the right contact. 

At half-time, we were feeling good about things, knowing that Holding’s work was done, and that we had looked the more likely. Saliba came out, as expected, accompanied by Lokonga for Thomas Partey. Nobody wanted to see that. Please let this rib thing be bruising. 

The bad vibes stalked us into the second half, and in those first 15 minutes things began to unravel. Sambi Lokonga deserves some sympathy. Being thrown onto the pitch cold against a reinvigorated Man City is a test most central midfielders would fail. 

Just as everyone was starting to find their feet, Julián Álvarez slammed a long shot off Turner’s right post, City won the second ball, and Nathan Aké took advantage of our imbalance with a low, guided finish into the bottom corner with his weaker foot. 

The minutes that followed the goal were our best of the half and we carved out our best chance. Xhaka’s cross from the corner of the area almost picked out Nketiah, but was diverted by the lightest brush from Dias’s studs. 

We threw on our starters, but had lost momentum through a lack of midfield control, stuttering rhythm, and Man City’s maddening capacity to keep the ball and kill a game of football. 

Clearly, Arsenal can still improve, and if there’s something we can learn from tonight’s opponents it’s in those dozens of anaesthetising jabs that put a game to bed. 

Birdkamp

36 Comments

Arsenal Impress Again.

Hello all.

In this podcast we (well I say “we” it’s mainly me) get carried away with our performance against United and our setup.patterns of play and just about everything I can think of. I’m trying to keep a lid on my enthusiasm, but I can’t.

Pedantic George.

18 Comments

Only 3-2, But Arsenal Spanked United

Good Morning all.

As grownups, when Arsenal are rubbish we can put it all into context and step back a bit. But when we’re great, oh boy it will give you a permasmile, and a secret source of joy you can return to whenever you want. 

Because after about two hours of misery, a deft prod by Nketiah at 18:30 on a Sunday evening unleashed a rush of euphoria that will course through my week. I feel I can deal with anything now. 

Step in dog poo? Scuffing excrement off my sole will remind me how we dispatched Man United. Lock myself out? More time to daydream about Arsenal while I wait. 

Man United thought they had a formula, but drew the wrong conclusions from that battling win in September. They should have come here to spoil and nick something like Newcastle.

Instead, with Eriksen and Fernandes in centre, they acted like we would stand aside and wave their expansive counter attacks through. Nah, we’ve spent the last four months making sure that Old Trafford in September was an anomaly, and we kept getting back into position in that first half. We play beautiful stuff, but are sensitive to the ebb and flow of a game, and are happy to surrender possession for shape.

They were also buoyed by the misconception they were in a title race. And thinking this might be the start of something, they brought Alex Ferguson to the carpet. What he witnessed in that final 30 minutes was gruesome, as we rained blows on his club until at last they collapsed. 

For most of the game, this looked like a contest between Man U’s adrenaline, emboldened by a recent winning run, and Arsenal’s control, reinforced by unflinching faith in what we’re doing. 

If you had to pick a moment to sum up Man United’s threat, it was Rashford bundling through in the 55th minute, picking up ricochets before forcing Ramsdale to deal with a deflected shot. 

Rashford is playing the kind of confidence that allows speculative knuckle-balls from distance to swirl into the net. When Man United’s opener went in, someone who hadn’t watched Arsenal this season might assume the game was falling into our opponents’ hands.

But even when individuals aren’t at their best, and I’d say that White, Partey and Martinelli looked off it at times in the first half, our structure and an unsettling hive-mindedness seizes the initiative when it’s there to be taken. 

In those moments there’s too much going on at once—it’s like watching a savant solving a Rubik’s Cube. You want to all slow it down to pinpoint the decisive step.   

Such a phase of play began with the pressable Wan-Bissaka coughing up possession, cueing a swift interchange between Odegaard and Zinchenko, a smart run and perfect cross from Xhaka, and a point-blank header by Nketiah after wriggling clear of Wan Bissaka in the box. 1-1.

Given that White was on a yellow and off form, it was no shock to see Tomiyasu stripped at the start of the second half. What an awesome option he is to have in reserve. And with that swap, Manchester United’s biggest threat was neutered, barring that one run.

In the first ten minutes of the second half we turned up the heat. Odegaard Matrixed Xhaka through on goal, forcing Martinez into a block. They had no time to recover, as Saka worked a yard against Eriksen and blasted low into the corner from 25 yards. Saka cannot be shut down for a full 90. He will always say his piece. 

On the hour, Ramsdale gave up a silly goal to make it 2-2. If we’re going to concede I want it to be a thunderbolt like their first, not a cheap giveaway, in which we know we can do better. 

Their equalizer heralded 30 minutes of ever-intensifying pressure. Saka hit the post, Odegaard’s shot was blocked, Martinelli struck wide from a corner, De Gea saved sharply from Nketiah after McTominay had tried to catch the ball. 

It was nigh-on intolerable. De Gea and Fernandes both hit the turf in the last ten minutes, desperate to eke out the last few minutes, with 90 minutes and an underserved point now in sight. 

And then the pressure finally told. Trossard turned and drove at their backline, laid it off to Zinchenko whose cross found Odegaard. Oh dear God, the ball lurched across the box to Nketiah, who improvised the kind of goal that will mark his career. Twenty years too late, here’s the fox in the box, and your defence is in trouble. 

Game won, weekend made, Monday’s productivity ruined. 

The depressive in me will always keep one eye on the top four baseline, even if it’s so far below us that you have to squint. 

Now it all feels like a reality TV show where a specialist is called in to solve a problem. We’re Cesar Millan, and Tottenham and Manchester were problem dogs. Now, with their behaviour corrected we can look forward to a fulfilling relationship, in which they know their place and take points off our rivals.

Birdkamp

51 Comments

All Hail Arteta & Title Scent.

Hello positive people, how the hell are you?

In this podcast we have a look back at the NLD and wax lyrical about the players, team play and of course, Mikel Arteta. Then we consider the chances of going on to win the title.

Feel free to be critical in the comments section, the blog is nothing without you.

Pedantic George (@arseblagger)

19 Comments

A Day Like No Other.

Good morning you happy lot.

Yesterday really was a day the likes of which I’ve never seen in the on-line Arsenal community. The fan base, or at least most of them, went from the misery of learning that long time target Mudryk had left us standing at the altar, to the ecstasy of giving our fiercest rivals, what can only be described as a very good hiding on their own patch.

I have to say the game itself was also a little bit of a roller-coaster. The first half was football of the highest attacking quality. It was a joy to behold , almost total domination and control from whistle to whistle, while the second half was a much closer affair, while we still controlled the game, but in a more defensive way. Both sides of the game were displayed to great effect.

Our midfield three purred like a Rolls Royce engine, each complementing the others skill set ,passing around, dribbling and running past the Spurs two defensive midfielders like they weren’t there. Saka was running riot and Eddie seemed to be occupying all 3 of their centerbacks. Spurs look hapless in that first half. Magic I say.

Anyway, I’m sure you all saw it for yourselves and don’t need me to describe what you saw, so all that remains to say is “8 points clear people and roll on United”. I really believe that if we beat them we will go on to win the league, something none of us saw coming 6 months ago.

Have a great week people.

Pedantic George @arseblager

60 Comments

Arsenal Make The Grade At Oxford.

The FA Cup is great until it’s your team’s turn, playing on a windswept pasture versus rugged opponents, with Sam Matterface commentating from a different, dumber reality. 

It took us a while to get on top of the conditions and our opponent’s man-marking, but we did it comfortably in the end.

Bear in mind that not even Oxford United want to play at the Kassam Stadium, which is the third-biggest attraction in a retail park with a bowling alley and a Frankie & Benny’s. 

They have steadily trended upwards in the last decade, and aspire to more than this unfinished parody of Stoke’s Britannia Stadium.

With the ball wafting around like a penny floater at Cleethorpes, this was not a night for subtlety. The ball seemed to gain momentum rather than slow down with each bounce, and just wasn’t sticking. It took us about an hour to clock that fact and adapt. 

Every loose touch was punished by an organized and revved-up opponent. Of the men in yellow, I remember right-back Anderson, who matched Martinelli in a couple of races. 

Then there was Moore who went through the back of our attackers a couple of times. Brown with the man-bun was defending Saka. And finally you had the scowling Brannagan, who looked like an accident waiting to happen. 

Trying to put together a dainty move in these circumstances was pointless, like composing a watercolor landscape in heavy rain. Lokonga flailed, Saka and Martinelli toiled, while Vieira was having the worst time of all. 

We needed to be more direct, and much later on it was no shock when Zinchenko—fresh with instructions from Arteta—launched the ball behind the Oxford defence with his first pass. 

What you can say is that we were ‘on it’ defensively, tracking runners, winning headers and second-balls at the back. You can bet that Matterface wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to seize on a hint of defensive frailty. 

In the meantime, referee David Coote did intervene when we got buffeted, hoicked by the neck, barged in the back, even as the home crowd seethed. Still, Coote might have called a penalty for handball in the 35th minute. It was marginal.

So the first half drifted by without either side coming remotely close. For all we could tell ourselves that Oxford would tire after the break, it was hard to shake the idea that we might not rise above the conditions and stop trying to trap the ball with our shins.

Our prospects looked bleaker in the 49th minute when Holding was caught out. Their striker Matty Taylor went through before being put off by Turner, who looks good, by the way. 

Back to Fabio Vieira, who is happiest when has a clear picture of what’s in front of him. He is not one for a midfield scrap, but wants to move into space to use that left foot. So it makes sense that he found some clarity from a dead ball situation.

He whipped in a perfect cross, which found Elneny’s head and then the net. Did Elneny know much about it? Who cares! Elneny was as dependable as ever all night. 

From that moment, everything became a lot easier. The snap went out of Oxford’s game, and the distances between the lines grew, to the point that Vieira could receive the ball, turn and play Nketiah through to round their ‘keeper (can’t remember his name—oh, McGinty), for the second. 

Emile Smith-Rowe came off the bench for a 15-minute practice session, with all jeopardy removed by a delicate scooped finish after a neatly weighted pass by Martinelli. Was Nketiah offside? Who cares!

There was time for some comments about Arteta leaving his technical area. Now, a lot of managers are animated on the touchline, and a lot spend time out of that little box. 

Just like a lot of managers defend their players and avoid talking about contentious moments, like Arsene Wenger used to do. 

Is this going to be the new version of “I didn’t see it”? 

By then, Matterface had retreated into his alternate reality, claiming Arsenal had the benefit of no European football and could concentrate on the league and cup. 

Whatever, the win sends us through to a 4th Round tie at Manchester City. 

Birdkamp

164 Comments

We’re Going To Win The League…..Maybe!

Good day one and all.

In this podcast we look at the Wolves game and consider just what realistic chance we have of finishing above City and what may act in our favour.

Pedantic George

63 Comments

Arsenal Confirm Title Credentials ?

Hello Positives,

In this podcast I try to drag Shotta onto the sunshine bus against his will.

Are we going to win the title? probably not, but we should enjoy the challenge while it lasts, and who knows what might happen given a fair wind?

All Arsenal can do is beat what is put in front of them and we did that with quite some aplomb. It was a welcome return to our good play at just the time when we were becoming concerned.

Pedantic George

45 Comments

Arsenal Stutter at Saints.

Hello one and all.

In this podcast we try to work out how we went from deadly to dire in the space of 90 minutes. Referee is bemoaned and some players scolded. However, when you return from an away game, having been very hit and miss, still with a point to show and remaining top of the hardest football league in the world, we mustn’t grumble .

If you do listen or watch on Youtube, please like, subscribe and if possible leave a comment.

Pedantic George.

46 Comments

Lucky at Leeds?

Hello all.

Today we talk about how we got thrashed in the second half and somehow or other managed to come away with all 3 points. The first half was great entertainment from both teams. Both attacking and it was very good fun to watch. However, the second half was pasting for us, we had no answers and it looked like we didn’t even understand the questions being asked. All semblance of composure deserted us yet miraculously we held out, goodness only knows how.

Regardless, it’s 3 points that gives us 27 from a possible 30, the best start ever to a season and that’s great. We were quick enough to give it to Arteta in the neck when we were setting worst ever records the other seasons, so we have to put the same energy into praising him for us sitting 4 points clear after more than quarter of the season.

I honestly can’t think how anything could be much rosier in the Arsenal garden right now. It’s magic. Well done to everyone concerned at the club.

Pedantic George