97 Comments

Red Sky at Night, Arsenal bite

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Good Morning Positive Arsenal fans,

The game was  billed a “pivotal” and “season defining” in some quarters for the club and if that was the reality then it was a test passed.  And we passed in the way that I want an Arsenal team to win a  local derby, playing football, scoring goals  and in displaying 90+ minutes of concentration and energy.

A roaring first 15 minutes saw us overwhelm Chelsea. Slow starters ? Not us, not last night. Whether the Blues had in the back of their mind that a draw would “do” I don’t know but during that opening they found it difficult to get out of their half. Our tackles were crisp, interceptions tidy and when we moved he ball it zipped across the turf. Kepa was busy, the Blues were rattled. Our opener came from a dead ball move, after staying  on his feet when most strikers would have hit the grass, rifled his shot into the top right hand corner. Another excellent finish from Alexander. Unstoppable.

We then had a short phase of panic as Chelsea surged forward.  It was not pretty to watch as for two/three minutes our defence wasn’t up to speed mentally. When the system clicked into place the panic subsided. Good players take charge, and Kosc is a very good player. Sokratis was all over Hazard like a swarm of angry bees. With Torreira/Hector on one side and Guen/Xhaka/Sead on  the other we forced Chelsea back and away from the danger area.

The second goal from what was out third free header on Kepa’s goal brought a gasp of relief from the tense home crowd (well me anyway). The decisive moment of the match, as it turned out. We went in at 2-0, it could have been more.

Second half ? They came at us but were held back by a screen of defenders, who were organised. We smothered them. One shot on target all night ? What we did to Chelsea clubs have done to us in the past, with them passing the ball on the final third but never quite getting into a position in the box to score. Good defending is not spectacular to watch, but if you have to  then an evening of observing  Hazard, Willian and Pedro run time after time into a wall of Arsenal defenders and never testing Leno is a good episode in the box set  to start on.

I see Sarri launched into his players last night;

“This defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach. We played against a team more determined than we were. And I can’t accept that.”

 He is right. We were more “determined”. 

Congratulations to the Emirates home crowd yesterday for reducing Oli to an emotional wreck before he even set foot on the pitch. He really was welling up. Much better than booing him. A favourite with Arsenal fans  and with Chelsea fans, and he barely got a kick in the half hour he was on.

Hector? Sigh – it is a bad ‘un. I have no idea what sort of bad but his reaction was immediate. The only blemish on a good evening. We will find out tomorrow.

I pondered the MotM this week;  Kosc ? Laca ? Ramsey ? Guendouzi ? Torreira ? On another day the performance each put in would have earned the prize.

In the end it had to be Sead Kolasinac though. His body check on Pedro was a thing of beauty, and a job forever.

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Enjoy Sunday.

122 Comments

Arsenal: It’s a Big ‘Un

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@LaboGoon casts off the weeks cobwebs and heads for N5 

Good day one and all,

The headline fixture this weekend will no doubt be Arsenal’s second London derby in as many weeks, with Chelsea taking the short trip across the capital to the Emirates Stadium.

Last Saturday the Gunners endured a miserable time at the London Stadium, compounded by wins for our top-six rivals, bar Tottenham of course who do have a seven point advantage. Now, six points off of top-four and beyond halfway through the Premier League season, Unai Emery will hope his side has put that Hammers’ game behind them with the visit of Hazard and co.

For all our concerns of how Unai goes about his business there’s no denying that his Arsenal project is still very much a work in progress. With the honeymoon period now a thing of the past though, we do hope he works out his best matchday XI sooner rather than later, because with games against the Blues today and defending champions Mancity on the horizon, the team definitely have their work cut out if they want to see a revival of their Champions League qualification hopes. Victory here today would give an invaluable boost in pursuit of that following a rather indifferent past few weeks.

In like manner, Chelsea will want to maintain their place in the top-four and a win for them would really turn the screw in the race for 4th place, as a nine point gap may prove to be too difficult a deficit to turnover for the Gunners.

Both sides have their strengths and drawbacks, which almost seem to even each other out; whereas Arsenal’s main struggles are at the back, the visitors lack a reliable finisher with Morata’s head in the Spanish capital and Giroud injured. Likewise, the hosts possess match winning attackers, whilst Maurizio Sarri’s team have one of the PL’s best defenses as only Liverpool have kept more clean sheets than them all season.

Where was this “match winning attackers” last weekend some may ask as both Lacazette and Auba started, well, they didn’t see nearly enough of the ball for us to be in control of the game. Which has led to what has been more than just a hot topic all week – Mesut Özil’s absence. It started with Sokratis saying post match that we lacked creativity, having had just three shots on target, two of them hopeful shots by Guendouzi from outside the box.

Now the question most are asking is will Unai draft in our creative enforcer who can deliver two to three golden chances per game. That’s anyone’s guess, but if Özil don’t play the onus will be on the forwards to make more of the half chances than recently.

Playing at home always seem to give the Gunners that bit of an extra edge but make no mistake, that’s not going make our opponents less difficult. And while I’m sure a draw won’t be frowned upon… in the context of top-four and Manutd hosting Brighton in an earlier game, we need a win more than anything else and now certainly is the time to play brave or go home as we eye more than just a fifth consecutive win in front of the Emirates faithful.

254 Comments

Arsenal: How it (didn’t) happen

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Good Morning Positive Arsenal fans,

Another morning, another inquest into an away defeat against an ‘Ammers side who I anticipated would be put away with a little bit to spare. The aim was to be back on level points with Chelsea by 3pm, even in we knew the chance of Newcastle getting anything at the Bridge was remote.

We started well, had control  of midfield and possession in the Ammers’ half, opened them up in the first twenty odd minutes on two occasions, but fluffed our lines. The home side got back into the contest, managed a couple of half chances themselves with Anderson v lively,  and young Rice misdirecting a header from one of their many corners. The first half ended a respectable 0-0. No worries.

We switched off at the start of the second half and were punished.  A poor clearance, Anderson and Nasri combine to clip the ball into the Arsenal box. Rice in three clear yards of space. No second reprieve. I hope Granit reflects carefully on his part in what proved to be the turning point of the game.

Within 30 seconds of the restart Laca bearing down on the goal only to put in another underpowered strike. And so it went on really. 40+ minutes of us trying to break into the Ammers box, with a change of personnel, with Aaron and Lucas on, and a change of formation. To be fair, for about 10 minutes of the 40 , we showed a real sense of urgency in our play to recover the deficit. After that flurry though the final 30 minutes the Ammers held us off with some ease. 2 shots on target all afternoon. Really not good enough. Of our players who emerge with a scintilla credit on a grey afternoon I would give Alex Iwobi a pat on the back as when the ball was at his feet he put the opposition on the back foot. Kolasinac did OK in working the flanks, and Leno did nothing wrong all afternoon. Ironically Leno had a quiet afternoon by our standards, away from home.

So another week off and then the mighty Chelsea roll into town. They have the advantage of being able to play for the draw and maintain their comfortable six point lead. If they were to win then six would become nine points and I suspect that the finance bods in Highbury House could start budgeting for another Europa League bonanza for the 2019-2020 season. If we were to win however the route to 4th reopens.

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KBO.

 

147 Comments

Arsenal and the early lunch

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@LaboGoon at the head of an orderly queue 

Good day one and all.

Arsenal is travelling to the London Stadium this afternoon to take on West Ham United; after a mini break from Premier League action last weekend as the FA Cup took centerstage.

Ah… West Ham. That 3-1 win against them at the Ems in the reverse fixture started so many good things. Unai Emery’s first win as Arsenal coach. The first in the 22 game unbeaten run. Players previously jeered getting cheered as they seemingly were finally got coached. Gooners full of joy as they sing and danced, “yea, we got our Arsenal back, wooooo”.

But we know what they say about good things right…

Without getting into detail I’ll just say the last two days has been fun and we got our Arsenal twitter and blog-sphere back. Phew!

The Hammers is a bit of a conundrum. History tells they have won just once in the last 23 meetings (in all competitions) between these two teams, yet we never expect them to be pushovers. Which I think is an acknowledge of the quality they always had over the years, they just haven’t always play to their strengths. This is where Manuel Pellegrini is sage.

Following a slow start to the campaign the Hammers are showing reasonably fine form despite a lack of points to show for it. Their summer recruit Felipe Anderson has been one of their standout performers and Arnautovic can single handedly turn games for his team. Throw the experience of Samir Nasri in there and you got a trio that can have a real go at any team that appear to be defensively suspect, especially in front of their own fans.

The Gunners did well to get some confidence back by starting the year with back-to-back wins after a heavy defeat at Anfield, but we know we can’t stop now if we have serious designs on getting back a Champions League spot and the riches it brings, so we need to be leaving our hearts out there as we near the business end of the season. Unai had a few problems in recent weeks most notably defensive injuries, but has been handed a major boost as six players resumed full training and now for the first time this season he has a full compliment of defensive players, bar Rob Holding of course, to select from. Being without a PL away clean sheet all season and an away win in four games (2D 2L), hopefully the right corners will soon get turned.

I suspect Unai’s greatest section headache will be whether to start Ramsey, who has shown good form and confidence, and Özil who we will need battle read with matches against Chelsea, Mancity and Manutd on the horizon.

West Ham are playing good football and look easy on the eye, but they are not a soft touch so we will have to be on top of our game if we want to return to the Emirates with all the points.

This could be a very anxious game of football for both sets of fans as both teams won’t want today to be their first defeat of the new year. However, with both sides possessing players that pose an attacking threat, it would be a surprise to see either keeping a clean sheet and this game could keep up on the edge of seats till the final minutes.

All the makings of a lunchtime classic.

172 Comments

Arsenal, Dean and the keen Tangerines

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Good morning Positive Arsenal fans,

An early evening victory over a genuinely plucky Blackpool was an easy watch. The game had a balance of decent football from both teams and was enough of a contest until our third goal to ensure that nagging doubt lurked in the back of my mind. We had seen the Seasiders at the Ems in the Autumn and they had put up a good show then so the final 60/40 possession statistics were no fluke. A certain hint of controversy for our first and second goals ? Well possibly, both tight calls and in the great scheme of football ‘things’, as I often say,  swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.

Of our lads Joe Willock is gathering the deserved praise for his two goals, both the result of his brain being half a second faster than the home defenders to a bouncing ball in the 6 yard box. Eddie Nketiah managed to create three chances but convert none, though Blackpool’s keeper can take credit for at least one very good save. And Alex Iwobi put on the sort of creative performance that we know he is capable of. Our  young Nigerian did his work in a highly disciplined way though, rarely wasting a pass or losing possession. At the back Jenko earned praise for his hard work and concentration. After a jittery start Sokratis imposed himself on the Blackpool forward line. AMN put a solid claim in for a starting place on the right flank.

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For our opponents they had their chances to score and on another evening the final score could have been closer than 3-0.  I have no idea what is going on at the club between the fans and the owners, other than it has been going on for many years, with fan boycotts, court cases and much, much abuse. It resulted in an elf clambering on to our coach roof in an effort to delay the start of the game, which on the scale of bizarre  protest is a 9.

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Instinctively I am on the fans’ side but the thousands of empty seats at Bloomfield Road last night, did not suggest to me that either side is on the brink of whatever constitutes ‘victory’. A snapshot for Arsenal fans of what life is like on ‘the other side’.

A week off now until a Saturday lunchtime kick off at West Ham, and a little break I am looking forward to.

Have a good  six days.

39 Comments

Taking The Kids To Blackpool.

 

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Good day to you positive Gooners.

A late kick off in Blackpool in the competition that has been kind to us in recent years.

I seriously have no idea what sort of a team we will put out. If Mr. Emery feels it’s a good game to reintroduce some of our walking wounded then it could be a strong line up with a sprinkling of youth. However, if it is too soon for some of our returning stars, we will see more of a second string with a good portion of youth.

Whatever the team I am quite looking forward to the game, I love the FA cup and like nothing more than winning it. Despite what many say ,cups matter to a lot of us. I was very disappointed to lose to Spurs in the quarter final of the league cup. I doubt we will be winning the league anytime soon, so winning domestic cups not only pleases us, but it annoys the teams that can’t seem to win anything at all. That’s fun.

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So enjoy the game and your weekend.

73 Comments

Arsenal: Eased into the New Year

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Good morning Positives,

A satisfactory result with the occasional hint of ‘good’ against Fulham, and a welcome salve to the bruising we picked up on Merseyside slightly less than  three days earlier.

Looking at the highlights again this morning the 4-1 result does not reflect the number of chances we created (16 shots inside the box and 9 on target)  although it does earn Rico the Emirates-visiting-keeper-of-the-season-so-far award. Auba on another day could have had 3-4 goals. The work of Sead and Alex Iwobi on breaking open the visitors for 80minutes of the afternoon was excellent. AMN again had a good afternoon.  It took to the 80th minute until we were really secure but going forward yesterday we were a potent force.

The first half we were a bit more jittery at the back, perhaps in reaction to Anfield. Was Mustafi unwell ? He did not look comfortable at the start and it was not surprise when he did not reappear. Fulham could have embarrassed us with a first half goal but for failed to hit the target with two scoring opportunities.

A straightforward week of preparation for Blackpool. Mindful of our humiliation  in Nottingham last season I expect Unai to field a reasonable starting line up and an experienced bench. Given the comments from the medical team it may be that Hector, Ozil and Nacho can use the tie to test their fitness. We shall see.

Enjoy the week.