101 Comments

Arsenal: Small steps, right direction

 

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Good Evening Positive AFC fans,

The first game of the 2018/2019 season under the belt, so to speak, and I feel a lot better with that opening obstacle concluded. A real thumping would have cast a pall over my week and I could not have that. Not the result we hoped for but a team performance that I thought was good overall.

Of the parts that impressed me most our teenage debutante Guendouzi stood out, and he earns his first MoTM award. Matteo was able to cope with the physical demands of the game, tackle cleanly, and showed himself able to control the ball with no time or space. There was some pre-match discussion on SKY about the speed/pace of the English PL game troubling foreign players. He had no obvious problem I saw. For the young Frenchman  to put in the full 94 minutes with no obvious slacking toward the end also suggests good stamina. Lichtsteiner’s introduction at left back, although the circumstances of it were unfortunate, showed us what the highly experienced Swiss can do. He reads the game well and has that edge of cunning that we need in a cruel, cruel football world. In Michel Oliver’s face, pointing, shouting, even tearing a strip off Mesut at one point. On another day his goading of Aymeric would have seen the opponent on his way back to the dressing room with a red card for his cranial lunge. I like him.

I thought Petr pulled off a string of good saves today, and for a period in the First Half kept us in the game.. The notion that he should have done better on the Sterling goal is bollocks. The kicking out or passing out from the back though between Cech/Matteo/Sokratis/Skhodran ? THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES!! Sort it out Mr Emery.

Of things we could have done better ? We created a number of half chances and potentially useful positions on the Citeh final third that we did not exploit. We looked rusty. At the key moment the pass to an Arsenal attacker went astray, too long, too short, Auba went left as the ball went right et cetera.At 0-1 we all know a goal for us would have left Pep’s boys reeling. Against good teams like Citeh we can expect only limited possessions around the opposition box and I felt today it was not used as it could/should have been. Scoring goals eh ? That is a thing.

I would also like to see more of Mkhi on the ball and challenging in midfield and  that it was Aaron who got the hook first and the Armenian playing the full match was a surprise. He did OK but in the first 35  minutes he did not provide AMN with enough support. He worked better with Hector after the changeover but even then he had a air of Theo at times, always available but never involved.

Onwards to the Bridge next week to meet the currently table-topping Chelsea. Probably a busy week at Colney, identifying the parts of the machine that need to be sharpened, tightened and oiled.

Enjoy your week.

51 Comments

Arsenal vs City: A New Era, Familiar Foes.

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Good morning one and all…
So here we are, the page turning on a new chapter as the Arsenal kick-off their season at the Emirates against the Premier League Champions, Manchester City.
As the start to new seasons goes, unless you are from up the road, teams tend look a bit different to the one that started the preceding season. We had quite a few players that moved on since last August and were also met with new arrivals. The changes in personnel has added more depth and balance to the previous group.
Of course our highest-profile signing of the summer has seen the arrival of Unai Emery who replaced the legendary Arsène Wenger, to mark the dawning of a new era.
The questions most asked since then is what does this mean regarding playing philosophy? Will he do away with Wenger-ball and be pragmatic?
While answers to these are subjective as you can only do so much in pre-season games, there has been a prevailing theme in Emery’s pressers thus far that doesn’t appear to differ much from that of his Gallic predecessor; on the ball he wants attacking, possession-based football, and off it he want us to press our opponents “aggressively” for the purpose of winning the ball back as quickly as possible.
What does all this mean for today you ask?
As opening fixtures goes, results can go either way because players are still cold and looking to find their mojo, while new signings are still adapting to their new surroundings. So I guess for both teams all that matters is getting the first one out of the way, preferably with a positive result by fielding a team capable of outscoring the other.
In the PL young Unai won’t find more difficult opposition than the Citizens, so his first game as Arsenal boss will be, as the saying goes, a real baptism of fire.
That said, looking to the season ahead we have every reason to be hopeful and optimistic to put the disappointment of last season behind us, by looking no further than the attacking trinity of Özil, Aubameyang and Lacazette. Auba scored 10 and assisted 4 goals in 13 games, to give us a glance of what a special player he is. Lacazette in his first season, that went under the radar, scored 17 and assisted 5 goals in all competitions. Those are not numbers to scoff at. With the majestic Özil to provide the service we know he can, they have the potential to form quite a formidable partnership that can really terrorize PL defenses.
To think some twitters on twatter had the nerve to say Unai inherited an “awful squad” that would take “few windows to fix”? Ha! I’m so looking forward to be entertained.
To everybody watching the game from wherever… time to mark out the technical area as hopes and dreams are waiting to be consummated over the next nine months.
@LaboGoon
74 Comments

A Pod In A Blog

As I cant be bothered writing a load of rubbish about all things Arsenal, I’ve talked a load of rubbish instead.

141 Comments

Do We Have A Clue Who Starts vs City ?

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A guest post from Seebs

 

Well the new season is only a few days away and the real stuff is truly upon us. Arsene has really gone and the new breed are bedding in. I’m not totally sure there are more differences than matches in the way things are set up now, of course apart from the set up which has evolved over the last couple of seasons and is now totally different if you know what I mean.

The preseason has ended, and the season starts with us, as are most other clubs, still looking like we are in preseason, its all very strange. We certainly look like we need another four games to gel the starting eleven as these half a half games really don’t give you a good idea of how the team will perform over ninety minutes and against sides that will perform over ninety minutes, the whole thing is one big anomaly.

Would anyone have said Unai’s reign would start with Ainsley as the only sure-fire starter in the whole squad? I know there are other players probably with their name already on the first team sheet, however, the strength of the squad that has been build up over the last few seasons  is such we really have different players for every position and again those players could interchange depending on the system we decide to adopt.

We know Cech is approaching his twilight years, but Leno is a top-quality keeper?  Although I think the more experienced man will get the nod the decision will be close. As time goes on Leno’s distribution above anything else will make him the clear winner as we play the ball out from the back more and more and just as happened at city the necessity to have a footballing keeper will determine the pick.

At right back its close again but Stephan’s lack of game time with us will see Hector get the nod. As for the CB’s I am a massive fan of the Rob and Callum partnership and I believe they are the best footballing pair we have however, I again think the more experienced duo of Shkodran and Sokratis will start the first game.

The Midfield becomes difficult to call as systems, fitness and cohesiveness all come into play here. I’m guessing that as were at home and judging by the friendlies the midfield three will be Aaron, if fit, Guendouzi and Granit although Elneny could cover anyone of these three if needed.

Up front It would be Pierre, Henrikh and Mesut in quite an attacking line up and Laca unfairly missing out but that’s the quality we have at present.

That would leave the bench looking like Leno, Stephan, Callum, Lucas, Elneny, Alex and Lacazette. So, most of the new lads starting their ARSENAL careers from the bench and most the youngsters missing out for the first game.  I do think Eddie is very close and will get game time soon as will they all in Europe.

So, in conclusion, we’re not ready, but maybe readier than some of the unready we are playing early. There are things to be worked on and ironed out but in the main the preseason has gone well, and the integration of players has gelled quite nicely. Of course, I’m massively excited for next Sunday and will very nervous coming up to kick off.

Enjoy it everyone here we go again.

773 Comments

Is Stan Kroenke Now Arsenal’s Saviour ?

So the great new dawn is upon us. We have rid ourselves of Arsene Wenger and his gang of incompetents, and replaced them with high class people that can bring us the success we deserve.

It’s absolutely fantastic. The players are drinking water, smiling,training hard, young players are involved and the manager is hands on on the training ground. These things never happened before , now did they?

That there have been major changes in personnel is undeniable. That they are all top people in their fields of expertise appears to be the case, they are certainly experienced with good track records.  Its more people with more individual responsibility and a coach with much less. Modern football? Or should I not say that because “modern football” is frowned upon by the “we want our Arsenal back” hoards. But I digress.

The point is almost every fan is happy, us included, the future looks bright. But what has actually changed other than our perceptions?

We have spent about £70m up until now, I suspect there will be outgoing and our net spend will be considerably less. So are we spending more? Is the new regime spending the money Arsene refused to? Seems not ?

Have we dipped into the £250m in the bank that should be spent on making the team as good as it can be? Seems not ? Perhaps that’s not for spending then, or not anywhere like that figure?

Are we competing for the likes of Marhez ,with City, or are we still buying from the second shelf ? It seems we are not and we still are  ! So what’s the big change?

Have we tied Aaron Ramsey down to a new deal, or is it dragging on? Dithering?

Now here is the rub, the moment many readers start shifting uncomfortably on their seat, searching for an answer that doesn’t destroy all their hard earned narratives.

If you are happy with all things Arsenal now, you have a certain Stan Kroenke to thank.

Without spending any more of the clubs money, and of its reserves ,or dipping into his own pocket for a single silver dollar, he has given everyone what they wanted ? Without being a football man or spending time at the club he has granted the wishes of the permanently malcontent.

His useless puppet (Ivan) is now the dogs bollocks. We are Kroenke FC , being driven by Ivan, and he is the very image of a none football man.

So if everything is rosy in the garden, and I hope it is, then we should be very much KROENKE IN ? He has come through big time and perhaps all the hate was for nowt?

 

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100 Comments

Arsenal’s Away Form Explained – Our Narrative.

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I was reading through the comments and found this from Eduardo, it perfectly explains my own thoughts on the subject. For anyone calling bullshit on it , Shotta has given us data to back this up in several of his blogs.

“I would say that we did not approach away games any different than home games, but two things, three as the season went on, altered the results

1. The biggest one for me, the refs away from home really did give us an awful time, lack of clear cut penalties, phantom penalties against us, the non calling of fouls for us cos Arsenal don’t like it up them,

2. Simple mistakes by our players, we seen our players make some crazy decisions in away games that we just did not see at home, we also played with a little less tempo away, meaning our attack was blunted,

The third thing was as the season went on, and the away form struggled, the players’ confidence away from home fell apart, it might only have made a 10% drop in performance, maybe even less, but that was enough. Our players got to the point where it seemed they just expected the officials to not give us the penalty, to flag us offside, to hand a penalty to the opposition, or for one of our guys to fuck up royally, if you like a self fulfilling prophecy. At home we were winning, so they played expecting to win, away we were losing and so it continued.
Its a new season, a new dawn, it could very well be that we will go the season unbeaten away, and struggle at home. A lot of this can depend on how we start the season, get the early wins and things can flow, struggle either at home or away and not only can it get in the players’ heads, but the NARRATIVE will be set in the media, in the blogs, etc, and it will make it so much harder. Of course get on a run of wins and maybe, just maybe, the Narrative will be Emery to lead AFC to title in first season.”

 

203 Comments

The VAR Revolution; English Football and Arsenal

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VAR at the 2018 World Cup is the 21st century Russian Revolution. It is the football equivalent of  “Seven Days That Shook The World” over 100 years ago.  As happened in Europe and the world, for decades thereafter, nothing in football refereeing will remain the same after the VAR revolution at the 2018 World Cup.

Despite the bitter, vicious whingeing in the media by the luddite pundits who bang on endlessly that it is the end of football, i.e. the end of those “good times” when referees, wittingly or not, could erroneously award penalties and off-side goals without real-time review, despite the doubters, VAR has burst on the world stage proving that with technology the accuracy of refereeing decisions can decisively increase, especially on those game-changing decisions.

VAR is 99.3% correct

According to FIFA’s referee committee head, Pierluigi Collina, so far at the World Cup, 99.3 percent of “match-changing” decisions were called correctly at — “very, very close to perfection” — based on assessments by him and other senior ex-referees.  Who in their right mind, after seeing world cup after world cup (my 12th tournament since 1970) where usually “smaller nations” get screwed over by a decisive penalty or off-side call, could be against VAR? Which England fan, with two working neurons and the ability to think independently, could be opposed to a video ref review after Maradonna’s infamous “hand of god” goal? Which Gooner, having experienced in the PL a 120% plus increase in Penalties-Against the club in the ten years up to 16-17 compared to the previous period, be satisfied with the current state of affairs?

Defining the revolution

So why is this a revolution?  There is no bloody uprising, no raging factions of Girondists vs Jacobins, Mensheviks vs Bolsheviks, etc. engaged in terminal struggle. Yet it is my hypothesis that the impact of VAR is potentially as significant as any other revolution in the sport. First, the absolute power of the refereeing authorities to make game changing decisions without recourse has ended. It may take some months to become reality but the success of VAR on the world stage is the beginning of the end of those refereeing organizations who have delayed and procrastinated on the use of technology to ensure football officials get the big decisions absolutely right.

It is remarkable that up to 2018, football will be the last among the major sports to adopt technology. Is there anything more incongruous; in a world of 4k, ultra definition TV, where viewers can literally see every bead of sweat on a player’s brow, much less a blatant foul or hand-ball offense in real time, the Premier League with all its multi-billion tv revenue, will be the last among the major European leagues to adopt VAR. Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.

How often have we seen referees dismiss with arrogance and impunity appeals made by players-managers-fans to reverse decisions that were blatant errors on their part. A mealy-mouth apology at end of season via a journalist or some other friendly audience regretting the error will not bring back 2 or 3 points dropped because of a bad decision. Multiply such “errors” two or three times over a season and three lost points multiply to as much nine. One doesn’t have to be a statistical genius to appreciate that in a league of fine margins, with a top-4 place more than a trophy (now the equivalent a gold or platinum plated Preferred Card to the riches of the champions league) that refereeing errors are simply unacceptable in deciding the results of games.

Even more revolutionary, to my mind, is how VAR will restrict the ability of the honchos who are the real power in the various leagues (Premier, UEFA, FIFA, etc.) from being able to appoint their favorite referee to manipulate a game to achieve a desired result. The biggest and most recent scandal, Calciopoli in Italy, centered on the fixers being able to have their favored corrupted referee appointed to do certain games. Fortunately for the Italian investigators, who busted the perpetrators, they had recorded telephone conversations between the plotters. No hard evidence has emerged of English referees being corrupted despite the increased legitimization of gaming companies being involved with English football, the massive rise in sports-related gambling rings in Asia and elsewhere and the reports of certain referees receiving favors from bookmakers. But some of us refuse to be intimidated by accusations of being conspiracy theorists, refuse to abandon commonsense, and refuse to ignore the laws of human nature. Throughout history wherever there is massive amounts of money to be had, without transparency and aggressive policing of the players, corrupting forces will flourish with gay abandon.

Disarray in the English media 

The striking thing to date is how the VAR revolution has the English media in general disarray. Until recently, anything about the World Cup, particularly Russia, was negative. Football lovers were urged to avoid land of Putin as it was a cesspool of racist, violent football hooligans. Apparently the legions of fans who traveled from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and many European countries to support their teams simply ignored the advice of certain media and were/are only too happy to enjoy the hospitality of the Russians and to party from city-to-city, unmolested.

Pre-world cup the English football media was generally united that they, with a few well chosen propaganda points, could deceive the public that VAR doesn’t or couldn’t work. One prominent example is Barney Ronay of The Guardian, in my opinion their best exponent of Orwellian double-speak, who as recent as last January after only the 3rd trial of VAR by the Football League concluded:

“The fact is, for all the expertise, the manpower, the money spent, VAR just doesn’t work in football. It diminishes the experience of watching in the stadium. It skews the game decisively one way. It is one of those ideas, like bendy buses, or communism, that would simply be better off abandoned.”

Notice by the way the allusion to communism. Apparently you have to be a communist to want fair-play in football. Is there anything more Orwellian?

Eight months later the Guardian is a little more “guarded” (pardon the pun), one may say even ebullient in their assessment of VAR. In a column headlined The video ref is the rising star of this World Cup, penned by a Jack Bernhardt and published on June 19th, long before the conclusion of the group stages of the World Cup, he wrote:

“Sure, there have been a few high-profile mistakes. VAR should have spotted Harry Kane being wrestled to the ground by Tunisia’s defenders last night, and if England hadn’t won the Sun would have run the headline “What a bunch of VARseholes”. But to me, VAR is much more than a silly extra gimmick, or something new and shiny that exists just to irritate Mark Lawrenson – it’s actually changing the dynamic of the sport.

“But if a referee knows they can review a decision, it becomes inherently less arbitrary. As such, everyone has more faith in the system, so there are fewer frustrated outbursts, and less of a need for a referee to stamp their authority on the game. That’s borne out by the stats: with no red cards in the first 14 matches, this is officially the cleanest start to a World Cup in 32 years.”

Beware the counter revolution

The success of VAR is not guaranteed. Like any revolution, there will be a counter revolution. Europe is replete with examples. The French are now into their 5th Republic. The Soviet Union has ceased to exist.

The Powers That Be (PTOB) may be off-balance by the current success of VAR but it won’t be for long. Without a vigilant footballing public I am absolutely sure it will be corrupted to the detriment of fair play. The referees are not perfect and they are swayed by their inherent, historical bias towards the traditionally big footballing nations (easily change that to big-spending football clubs). Carlos Quieroz is absolutely correct that Ronaldo should have been sent off for that deliberate foul vs Iran, not a yellow card after the VAR review. The Moroccans have filed a complaint to FIFA showing 10 instances where they were shafted during their game vs Spain. Similarly the Serbians are still incensed by decisions against them in the game vs Switzerland particularly that incident when Lichsteiner and cohort wrested Mitroivic to the ground with absolutely no call. Already The Telegraph via Keith Hackett are arguing that “VAR officials are hunting for decisions to make and interfering when not needed.” But, as the smaller footballing nations at the World Cup have experienced, there is need for more VAR when the referees have made errors, not less.

As for those of us who support Arsenal and follow the Premier League, it will be interesting to see how our lords and masters react to the success of VAR in Russia. As ArsenalAndrew, who is a long-time advocate of VAR tweeted:

All I shall add, there is a crying need to “ReformThePGMO.”