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Arsenal: Do you think we’d crumble, Did you think we’d lay down and die?

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Good evening Positives,

For the first 55 minutes of the game against Everton today I admit I was apprehensive. A game against the Toffees for which every tradition and statistic had marked down for a home win, and probably a confident performance from us, had gone awry. Our football during that 55 minutes was wayward, our passing was scrappy, our defensive organisation shuddering.

And the visitors, a team we have beaten regularly and by a significant margin as stated, WERE NOT THAT BAD FOR ONCE.   That Petr Cech  had performed so well throughout those 3,300 seconds of early action meant my mild discomfort was not replaced by the vice-like testicular pain of being 0-1 or 0-2 down. No.

To be fair Arsenal did get over the half way line during that first half from time to time, but we did not rattle EFC. 0-0 at half time was right. And in the opening 10 minutes of the second half we were pinned back in our half. I saw Dave on here earlier pondering the half time talk for Unai Emery. If that first ten minutes of the second half were to be relied on the coach and the players may as well have been doing a jigsaw together. It all began to look a little tricky.

And then I was delivered. A swift interchange of passes on the edge of the Everton Box, a change of position of Auba and Lacazette ( no doubt worked out over the jigsaw) freed our French striker to curl his beauteous opener. The quality of the goal the absolute difference between Everton and Arsenal today. Where our opponents had half chances they fluffed them or Cech managed to get in the way. In sharp contrast Alexander put his half chance away inch perfect. As I saw pointed out later on the TV Laca did not even look toward the goal from receiving the ball, to the net bulging. The Frenchman’s instinct had the goal exactly in his mind’s eye, and his foot did the rest. Goals of that quality win matches, as today, and even win titles and cups (on occasions).

After that decisive moment the game continued but the result had been decided. Marco Silva’s lads were done. Their effort was maintained but their confidence had been popped, and never recovered.

An error by the lino gifted Arsenal a second but even without the official’s largesse I think we had broken them. The game rolled on, they pressed for a consolation marker but even there Cech was resolute. A commanding performance on his 6 yard line as the crosses and free kicks rained in. A deserved clean sheet  in a busy game for our first choice keeper. Man of the Match –  no doubt.

Elsewhere among our lads this afternoon I was pleased with Torreira who was productive. He is still learning but he has a good mixture of steel and creativity. He also appears to be able to take a kick and carry on. Hector dominated the right hand side of the pitch as he launched attacks all afternoon. As I have said before I would like Bellerin to shoooooot more. Xhaka  was his tidy self, and Moss and the Albanian barely exchanged a glance, which was no doubt a surprise to both of them.

So onwards to the Bees on Wednesday – enjoy the remainder of your weekend.

(Top picture from the excellent Stuart MacFarlane – top AFC snapper)  @Stuart_PhotoAFC 

 

57 Comments

Arsenal: Wet day, but no sticky Sunday

@LaboGoon opens up the wrap this morning
After a slow start to the season Arsenal recovered well to now have four victories on the bounce in all competitions; and it’s off the back of that form that we host Everton at the Emirates this afternoon to cap off another great weekend of Premier League action that saw a few teams around us on the log drop points.

Good day one and all…

No disrespect to any of the last four teams (including Vorskla) we played but they were always going to offer us less of challenge than Man City and Chelsea in the first two fixtures, thus Unai Emery had the opportunity to use these games to iron out some creases as he work toward finding a balanced team.

Scoring twelve goals in that four games gives us reason to be pleased with our attack, failure to register any clean sheet however has been less distinguished. Unai himself highlighted it as an area of “disappointment” and hinted at tightening things up because he’s aware that the current sloppiness could catch up on us soon if we don’t nip in the bud, especially against opposition who are a bit more than just decent. A category I believe our visitors fall under.

The Toffees have their own story to tell as far as being too exposed defensively and their own failure to keep clean sheets. Their record away from Goodison isn’t better reading as they have won just three of their last 29 PL games on their travels.

Whether or not that make them ripe for the harvesting of goals for both Lacazette and Aubameyang will be answered this afternoon. Two players who will be key today in our quest to bag the points on offer. Auba is slowly getting his mojo back and Laca should be well rested as he looked very relaxed as an unused sub Thursday night. Lucas Torreira was impressive in his first start and Alex Iwobi looked like man reborn. Which leave Unai with a few headache selections for today.

Everton will be looking at Richarlison to be their source of inspiration, as he make his return from a three match ban, because they don’t have a particularly good record against us. We have beaten them in seven of our last eight meetings.

Despite their defensive failings Everton are playing better football under Marco Silva than in recent years though, and with both teams so willing to commit attackers forward this could be a very open and entertaining game with end to end action.

Historically this fixture brings goals… many goals. Last season we scored five against them in both victories. So fingers crossed for more of that.

LET’S GO!!!

72 Comments

Arsenal: A stroll on Thursday evening

 

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Good morning All Positives,

An evening we all expected to be an easy run out developed as planned. The Ukranian side had some ability and were fit and organised but never threatened an upset or even, unfortunately, to give our fringe players who stepped up for the evening a hard work-out. The half empty stadium  was a bit different to the riotous FC Koln riot opener last season.

I don’t think anyone in red had a poor game and because of that my eye was drawn to our younger players for most of the evening. I was pleased to see Torreira have a start and he did not disappoint. The game allowed me to see a bit more of the Uruguayan’s creative and passing side rather than his tackling and shutting down attributes. Even a cheeky free kick to test the side netting which was not expected!  In the few weeks LT  has been with us I see him a little sharper, a little more confident. Guendouzi put in a good 35 minutes as his replacement and his tackling has become cleaner and more decisive in just a few weeks. I  have no qualms about either, or even both,  starting on Sunday against Everton.

Our other young starting debutante Leno never really had enough to do to prove himself. If the German is indeed “good with his feet” we will have to wait and see.  Our keeper was a little unlucky to concede two goals in the closing stages but neither were shots that he was responsible for or could have stopped. Smith-Rowe flashed like greased mercury for 20 minutes. Our oldie new boy Lichsteiner performed wholly as expected, professional to the tips of his highly polished Swiss boots.

Four goals, all well taken, not too much sweat or drama. A solid Europa League foundation before we set off for our next fixture in Baku on the 4th. I can see our qualification for the knockout phase, and this group stage therefore being over before the end of October.

Enjoy your Friday. The weekend beckons.

121 Comments

Arsenal Taking Goals To Newcastle

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A nostalgic look back, no wait – back to our away-winning ways with Unai Emery

by @ArsenalAndrew

Once upon a time, any action that could be likened to “taking coal to Newcastle” was the sign of a needlessly pointless activity.

That Arsenal scored two goals and, for the first time in a year, earned maximum points from two consecutive away games, can be considered anything but pointless.

That our current go-to whipping boys found themselves richly rewarded at the goal-face could really have only been bettered had the these-days-permanently-errant Hector Bellerin found himself also on the scoresheet. It never fails to amuse me when this happens, not least because it happens a lot. ‘Useless Xhaka’ and ‘Lazy Ozil’ both inconveniently on target to ruin the naysayers’ current targets of choice. Almost worth a point in itself in my mischievous book.

And of this game of two halves itself?

Well a flattish first half was quickly superseded by a super-charged second which had most observers nodding sagely on the evident efficacy of Gunner Emery’s Half-Time Talk.

That such a talk was considered necessary was perhaps the only disappointment against a poor team trying to sell itself to the highest – or indeed any – bidder. The pre-match Geordie protest, said to have centred on the club shop, brings back the less than fondly remembered recent ‘protests’ of our own but whilst our Kroenke worries (if indeed such ‘worries’ are a ‘thing’) are unlikely to get relegated any time soon, the Emery honeymoon period continues with some gusto as we hurtle towards October.

At the start of the season I suggested, with profound wisdom, that it would be 10 games before we could make any half-stab of a judgement on Unai.  And, still safely stroking my chin, I stand by that, five games in, with three wins, two defeats and zero draws under his belt. Drawing any kind of conclusion, let alone matches, feels a little beyond the likes of most of us this early into the season, though I know it won’t stop some from sticking their reckless necks out.

Personally I’ve not learned all that much from the new boss’s post or pre-match ‘pressers’ but that possibly says more about me than him. I frankly don’t expect to hear that much from a man so recently appointed to a role where the previous incumbent’s mastery of the media was so evident for so long. Wisely, UE is doing his talking on the pitch, largely. Or at least in the half-time dressing room. This semi-silent approach has certain positives and negatives – the most notable being that in the absence of an actual story – or even a real sound-bite snippet – the usual media culprits won’t shy away from quite literally making stuff up that is immediately repeated as fact, throughout the online world.

I can not recall a single season since before Wenger (BW) when I have paid less attention to so called ‘news’ about Arsenal. Like taking coals to Newcastle, I can hardly think of anything more pointless than to read the half-witted ramblings of a headline desperate Daily Mirror, for example.

I note we still have many wonderful players for the new manager to call upon and Ramsey is still at the club (for now). But along with Wenger, sentiment largely left the club last Spring.  Aside from the bloodbath amongst the back room staff (at least some of it hard to fathom), the heavy influx of new players and the steady stream of player exits suggests a work very much in progress. The significance of Match Day 10 will give us an idea of how long Emery is likely to continue this revolution. On current form, he may well end up on 6 wins and 4 defeats which would be enough to put us far off the pace of the league leaders, yet high enough up the league to allow further progress to be attempted, with the next transfer window becoming the next moment of truth for the post-Wenger set-up.

At the very least, as insurance, Emery needs to deliver us the Laughing At Spurs Trophy and to do that he may need to be blessed with the great good fortune of their continued collapse, as our homeless, hapless neighbours look anything but ‘grounded’ this season (feeble pun intended).  In some ways, sadly, failing on this point may have been Wenger’s greatest crime in the eyes of the ‘average’ AFC fan, whoever he/she is.

Personally I suspect a fifth or sixth-place season finish is on the cards as it’s hard to imagine our Kroenke-reined-in budget (boo, hiss) will allow for much more given the expansive budgets of most of our nearest rivals (no I’m not looking at Watford, before you ask).

But a win:lose ratio of 3:2 by season’s end is unlikely to see a parting of the ways for young Emery. On the other hand, those recently joined fans who became ‘Arsenal’ on the back of Le Prof’s success and who, in the sporting world’s most richly ironic moment, became his fiercest critics, may just get bored and clear off. To leave those of us who could appreciate a good ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ scoreline from the BW days which was as aspirational as it was factual.

As yesterday’s scoreline suggested, getting the ‘nil’ back into the AFC scoreline could prove Unai’s greatest challenge and, ironically, his ability to dig up the next Adams, Winterburn, Dixon etc, could be the key to his own longevity at the club.

And who’s going to queue up to appear on the ever-lamentable AFTV, with those kind of results? Consistent, albeit unspectacular victories are hardly going to generate the online hits of old.

Oh dear, online world, what have you done?!

81 Comments

Arsenal: Going To Newcastle With Lock Pickers

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Today’s lock-picking contributor is @labogoon

Newcastle have endured a grim start to this season, and sit in the bottom three with just one point to show for their efforts; hopefully Arsenal will add to their misery as we visit Tyneside this afternoon.

Good day one and all …

With a better start to the Premier League campaign than our hosts, we found good form in attack to score eight goals in our last three outings. Gunner-in-chief Unai Emery will be hoping that’s not impeded by the international break as we look to build on that momentum to string together a run of three consecutive wins.

Easier said than done though.  For all the Magpies’ uninspiredness they are a very stubborn side that don’t just roll over. Rafael Benitez knows the value of every single point and usually sets his team up to play a deep defensive line, looking to exploit gaps on the counter. And if it don’t open up he won’t go search for it either because he’s more than happy to rather frustrate you and scrap for a draw; and today won’t be any different.

With our attack being the key to victories, Lacazette could again lead the line to make sure Rafa doesn’t get any ideas. He embraced a similar challenge last outing on his first start by producing a match-winning performance and combined well with Auba to open both their goal accounts. Since Auba signed for Arsenal him and Lacazette have shared a mere 471 minutes together on the pitch, in that time they scored 11 and assisted 5 goals between them. So there’s a good argument that we would be better off utilizing this immense firepower week in, week out. They share great chemistry on and off the pitch and given our defensive issues they may well be an ideal antidote.

We still need to get a lock on the back door though before it gets observed as a weakness to be exploited.

Some are of the opinion that Lucas Torreira may be that bolt. He impressed in his cameo appearances by adding a different level of composure to a midfield that got found out to be too open, too often. So to utilise him best one can’t help to think he needs to play more.

This past week there has been a lot of “sweating” going on over his fitness after picking up a knock on duty for Uruguay, but he is available and it will be interesting to see if Unai, who is yet to find his best matchday XI, gives him the nod.

That said, given the concerns about our tendency to make sloppy mistakes at the back, some think Newcastle may sneak a goal and defend it with their lives …

However, if we keep our presence of mind, wisdom will prevail.

There has been plenty of signs of promise and I don’t doubt that once our defence match our attack there is greatness waiting to be unlocked in this team.

It’s Liverpool vs Spurs in the curtain-raiser and we know what that means right?

Arsenal has a good chance to gain ground on some of the early pace setters.

Everything crossed, dear Gooners!

50 Comments

Arsenal: All Change No Change

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@GoonerReverend and the Arsenal early Autumn vibe  

When Arsene Wenger said farewell at the end of last season the vocal element of the Arsenal fan base credited it as being the seminal day in Arsenal’s history and that everything would instantly get better now. With the appointment of Unai Emery the same section of the fan base had us winning the Premier League, the Europa League, The FA Cup & the chook raffle at Islington Working Men’s Club. After back to back losses to Man City & Chelsea and battling wins against West Ham & Cardiff the whispers have already started about team selections, players not putting in and the usual Bellerin & Xhaka not being good enough.

The level of abuse directed at Bellerin has been sickening & completely over the top. The man is abused about his hair, his choice of clothes, his modelling hobby and anything that the hateful minority can find offensive which is pretty much everything. The majority of this vitriol is driven by AFTV who have recent history with Bellerin after he called them out for what they are. Which is a business that makes its money out of promoting negativity causing unrest within the club and the fan base.

My brother who is a Man City fan (he’s adopted) said he loves AFTV because they take the piss out of Arsenal like no rival fan could ever do and the meltdowns are comedy gold. Watching Troopz drooling over Deli Ali and suggesting he was the equal of the great Dennis Bergkamp which is laughable & Robbie goading a fan into saying Anders Limpar was scraping the bottom of the barrel in the Legends game just goes to highlight the divisiveness of the channels content. The issue with AFTV is that they promote divisive and abusive behaviour from a section of the fan base and then deny it’s their doing. The recent intervention of AFC telling them not to use the Arsenal name anymore only serves to highlight the negativity the channel throws off and that’s why so many including the club want to distance themselves from the channel.

The expectation from the majority of the fans is positive and very supportive for the new manager and his ideas but the negative minority are questioning Emery and some are openly targeting individual player  and, of course, Wenger who some just cannot resist having a shot at even though he has clearly left the building. Last season it was all about Wenger being the source of all the problems at the club and once he left everything would instantly be so much better. It would appear that Wenger was not the sole problem at Arsenal as some suggested and it would appear that this same minority are going to moan and be divisive no matter what. Just look at Claude on AFTV he is still as miserable and negative as he was last season. I reckon the bloke would complain if he won the lottery.

The sad fact is that the fan base will never be united because AFTV will make sure it doesn’t because it’s not in their interest for that to happen. They are very protective of their turf and have a lot of followers who will do anything to protect their five minute heroes as I recently found out when I criticised the channel online and got a week’s ban for my trouble. Former Arsenal great David Hillier perfectly summed AFTV up when replying to an Ian Wright tweet when he said they don’t represent Arsenal FC & are not representative of the fans.

Whilst many would like to see the back of AFTV I don’t think they will be packing up any time soon but will continue to divide fans opinion because that’s how they make their money & with the likes of former Arsenal greats like Kevin Campbell & Ian Wright telling anyone that cares to listen that Robbie, DT, Troopz, Lee & Claude are the truth and they clearly love Arsenal I guess we have to accept that we are in this abusive relationship for a while longer. As for the call for Bellerin to bite his tongue & not fire back on social media, why should he? Why should he have to put up with all this abuse & have no write of reply? Freedom of speech is not only for the loudest mouth in the room & if you are going to constantly criticise then you have to expect a response whether you like it or not.

I for one feel optimistic for the coming season & will support the team no matter what. We have to expect a few losses & losing to City & Chelsea 1st up is no disgrace. Emery’s ideas will take time to take hold but he clearly knows what he wants from the squad & will start the team he thinks will best achieve those ideas no matter how many fans demand their current favourite start over Emery’s preferred option.

Another win against Newcastle will help with confidence & ease the nerves and we all love a good Arsenal win don’t we so keep the faith because change takes time.

 

73 Comments

Gf60 + The Arsenal : “My most exciting game (outside of Championship deciders and Cup finals)”.

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Ian posted this in the Summer of 2017, the football match he remembered so well from almost 60 years before. 

Isn’t it strange that when you cast your mind back over literally hundreds of games that really got you going, drenched with sweat, hoarse, really exhausted as though you’d covered every blade of grass on the pitch yourself, that a lost game is the most memorable?

After all there are 1-0 wins that were so against the run of play but so exciting (as we, the fans, literally tried to blow the ball away from our danger area) that they live in the mind far longer than eminently satisfactory but easy 6-2 wins. Even some 1-1 draws have done that.

So why choose a loss? Simple. It was a game that not only lives; it also showed what Gooners could do when they believed in themselves (something that our recent sides have done so well) and it also had me crying but a few days later.

There was a day in 1958 when League Champions “Manchester United” was simply that…..not MFU or any other other acronym for cheatin’, lucky, dirty bastards.

They were footballing Gods, blessed with skills so far from the norm that they resembled our Invincibles. (Even so they never managed a season unbeaten which goes to show just how good we were.)

We all knew that our side was just there to act as the sacrificial lamb, but in those days watching football played at such a level was no hardship. So they’ve put 14 goals past us in the last 3 games? And, they’ll put 3 or 4 past us again today, so what? Miss this game and you miss out on seeing real skill….and football as it can be played.

Whatever time the kick off, probably 1pm in those archaic days of no floodlights and no substitutes, you got to the ground a good 3 hours before hand for a game like this. Establish your viewing position, programme and a paper to read, big bag of peanuts to hand and then start the ‘how big a crowd?’ game; do the raffle for first person to score….”please let me pull Tommy Taylor!” No, get Denis Evans instead but at least that left you with a chance of just maybe the Arse will get a penalty….if of course we ever get into their area!

At last the game starts. Look at them strut. Colman, Edwards, Byrne…Bobby Charlton , a mere 3 years older than me and playing in this side. And the lucky raffle winner is….Duncan Edwards. They tore us apart, Charlton getting a goal of such frightening power that “maybe”, we thought, “he hits a ball as hard as big Cliff”, and, as we expected they were 3-0 up at half time. We started wondering what was the worst ever Arsenal defeat at Highbury. Horrible as the score was, we were watching a truly great side and there was a sigh almost of contentment as they trooped off. We were lucky enough to have seen greatness in action.

What may have gone into the Gooners tea at half time is a matter of conjecture….within about 10 minutes the crowd was ecstatic. Not only had we scored against these non- mortals, we’d equalised and had them on the run. David Herd and Jimmy Bloomfield (twice) had done the, what seemed, impossible. Our side was level.

 

Even a crowd as passionate as that can only keep up such a noise level for so long. An injury, treated as usual with a sponge loaded with iced water, two wild clearances into the stands and a bit of other time wasting, left all of us, players and supporters, shorn of adrenaline and realising that there wasn’t much left in the tank.

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Had we shot our collective bolts? It would seem so. Another 10 minutes and we were 2 goals behind again. Violett and Taylor for the second time doing the damage. But the lads had realised by now that they could also play. Up went the sleeves, up again went the tempo and Derek Tapscott got our fourth. We were all berserk as the equaliser refused to come, but we were watching a game where the Arse was taking a better side almost to the cleaners. Almost but not quite and, as usual, the clock decided enough is enough.

 

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We had lost but lost gloriously. Any fan having a voice left, even those up in the directors’ box, might be assumed to be sub normal. Mine for sure was some 3 days getting back to normal…..in time to wail “Oh shit” as I saw the headline of the first newspaper I was supposed to deliver on my 6a.m. morning paper delivery round.

It was the first and only time I ever cried for Manchester United.