10 Comments

Arsenal: The Force is with us

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Good morning you lucky, lucky Positive Arsenal fans,

The glow of satisfaction after last night’s thumping of Leicester remains, the remembrance that I saw art and science in  action. Each goal a precise, almost perfect combination of mind and sporting body, each goal a combination of players, with each the cog that levered he next, with the ball finally stroked past the hapless Schmeichel. The  canvas was complete.

Drawing back from this sighing reverie and toward the game a bit of a ropey opening from us, but fair play to Leicester who came at us hard from the first whistle. We have seen  these disjointed starts to games, for no obvious reason,  over many seasons so it was not much of a surprise. Was it playing two right backs with one on the wrong side ? I dunno. The visitors deserved their lead when it came on 31 minutes, despite Hector’s contribution.  As we all know it could have been worse by 31 minutes with Bernd pulling off a couple of smart saves and Mr Kavanagh interpreting the accidental hand ball by Rob Holding with great wisdom.

Having had the cattle prod of Leicester’s opener jabbed into the collective team rectum however the response was indeed ‘electric’. It really looked as though a switch had been flicked with players in red scurrying hither and thither with the ball at their feet, pulling the Foxes backline about, and  looking like the goal scoring side that had finished the game at Fulham. The initiative was clearly with us and our opponents were breathless in our wake.

The equaliser came, with Hector teeing up a sweep for Mesut just before the half time break which must have further punctured Leicester’s balloon. 30 PL goals for Mesut – and not one a tap in. The second half we stated well and had loads of possession without really creating a clear chance. A rather good header from Ndidi rattled the Arsenal bar to remind us that possession = good but goals = better.

Whether that let off  caused Emery to decide on changes who knows but three minutes later on rolled Guendouzi and “supersub” himself, PEA. Faced with a faster, more direct threat Leicester were cut to pieces over the next six minutes, with our third goal (I am told) involving nine Arsenal players, 16 touches and nine passes. Six minutes of lightning.

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Last night’s win was one of the games when I hesitate to pick out individual players because in the victory every man played well and contributed. But as you have forced me then I shall award Alex Iwobi Man of the Match. He got the balance between creative work with the ball, and being more disciplined in his covering duties right. Alex was still running hard at the end and his stamina has built up as he has matured.

Up to Fourth in the PL and a useful two goal cushion on the neighbours who I see take on Citeh next domestically after what I hope is a wearying tie in Eindhoven. For us the road to Lisbon and a different set of challenges.

 

Enjoy Tuesday !!

 

 

92 Comments

Arsenal: Tell me why I like Mondays

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@LaboGoon swoops in like a hungry hawk in search of prey 

Good day Positivistas.

It’s finally back to Premier League action for Arsenal after an international break that seems to be a bit longer than the last with us having to wait ’til Monday night under the lights of the Emirates for our game against Leicester.

Since defeat in the opening two fixtures the Gunners are gelling well under Unai Emery, with a great positive aura in and around the club nowadays.

Prior to the inter-break we have been absolutely sensational and ruthlessly dispatched of Fulham in our last game with a performance reminiscent of the days of yore, and it is that form we will be hoping to carry into this game with the Foxes in search of our 10th win in-a-row in all competitions.

Claude Puel’s man have been a real hodgepodge this season; 4 wins and 4 defeats from their 8 PL games, in which they scored 14 and conceded 12 goals. They’ve beat the teams you would’ve expected them to and lose against those that force them on the back foot – something we should have good memories of having lost just once to them in the previous three seasons. That loss came last season at the King Power when we weren’t happy travellers at all.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking this should be a comfortable evening though. In our enthusiasm to push players forward we do leave gaping holes at the back and Leicester does possess an attacking threat that have it in them to exploit those, which is something we know of all too well.

When these teams met last season the Foxes scored three goals in both home and away fixtures; first when we beat them 4-3 defeat at the Emirates and then a 3-1 defeat to them in the return fixture. If anything, there is potential for this to be a very entertaining game from end to end with goals to show for it. So our boys will need to have a good all-round game, especially in the first 45, if we want to keep all the points at the Emirates.

With our main rivals winning their games, bar Chelsea and ManUtd sharing the spoils, there will be pressure on us to get this one over the line. I think Unai and his men will be mentally prepared for the task at hand.

63 Comments

Top 4 or Tip Top? Arsenal On The Up!

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Good day Positivistas.
With 11 games into the season, eight of them in the Premier League, I think it’s fair to say that the Unai Emery era is now well and truly under way. It hasn’t been without pause for concern though, especially in defence but with the slickness of our attack it has moved from the front of our minds. Thankfully not Unai’s as he said he is working with the players on tightening things up, so best to leave him to it then.
Now the main story surrounding Arsenal going into the international break hasn’t been the barnburner of an attacking display vs Fulham, nor Aaron Ramsey’s goal of the decade but rather a section of the away support at Craven Cottage singing “we got our Arsenal back”. I’m not going into their reasons for singing it and the stupidity of it all, however I do acknowledge that there’s a real positive buzz around the club and match going crowd at present.
After the disappointments of the last two PL campaigns, finishing 5th and 6th respectively with an FA Cup win the highlight, it do feel like we are turning the right corners at the moment. Maybe it’s the new manager bounce, having new voices and faces amongst the coaching staff… whatever it is, it is something new, refreshing and reminiscent of the great Wenger years combining well with some Spanish flair.
Last season wasn’t complete trauma though as only Mancity had a better record than us in home PL fixtures, but it was our results on the road that has been the cause of frustration. So for Unai to have us collect three out of four wins on our travels, after winning only four in nineteen last campaign, it is already an indicator that this team is on the ups.
The mentality of the players were also questioned many a times, not so thus far. In the six game winning PL run the boys shown great resilience to come out at halftime with great desire to get us over line. Who can forget even in defeat to Chelsea how we fought very hard till the final whistle?
Following a slow start to the season Lacazette and Aubameyang look like they’re developing quite the lethal partnership that can be a handful for any defense, even the younger players have grabbed some of the headlines. Lucas Torreira has just been a source of inspiration with his ability to guard the midfield bulldog-esque and Holding, coming in for the injured Sokratis, has been amongst the top three performers on each matchday he played. Alex Iwobi has earned the praise of some of his harshest critics, Mattéo Guendouzi are just a bundle of youthful excitement and Hector Bellerín is now a seasoned professional.
There’s no doubt that Unai got a great head on his shoulders and that the players are responding to his managerial philosophy.
Some are asking if Arsenal can be seen as PL title contenders being a mere two points behind the early log leaders after a quarter of the fixtures gone. Well I think it is too early to make such pronouncements, however qualifying for next years Champions League may now be a genuine expectation… if José continue to self-destruct at Manutd and we only have Totnum to battle it out with for 4th spot.
With the current form of this group of players, the mood in and around the club and our uncanny ability to slip under the radar…  I don’t think we have reason to feel inferior to anybody.
@LaboGoon
235 Comments

Arsenal: Five Wins WWWWW Five Goals

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Good afternoon Positive Arsenal fans,

Top performance and a 5-1 result that accurately reflected our dominance in the midday  match. It barely seems credible to me that a few months ago the prospect of a game ‘on the road’ even against clubs around the bottom of the PL seemed to fill the players, the fans ( and me) with the jitters. From the start there was a disciplined approach from our lads, with concentration good and the ball rarely squandered.  Our performance today was by no means faultless but we did far more well and right, with the error(s) few and far between. Toward the end I thought there was a brio in our play, a sense that every time we moved over the half way line a goal was 50/50,  that I have has seen for a while.

Goals win matches and all five of our strikes  were at least good, and with one in the good going on exceptional bracket. Ramsey’s goal was a thing of clockwork precision and, as it brought us a two goal cushion over the home side, decisive.  Hector’s back heel flick was sublime, Aaron’s clever diversion into the corner of the net quite beautiful. To that point, 67 minutes gone, our opponents were still in the match. Afterward it was a matter of how many we would win by.

Laca and then Auba’s movement was too sharp for Fulham all afternoon. Allow either to take a position on the 6 yard line with the ball at his feet and his back to goal and you, my defensive friend,  have trouble.  Alex Iwobi put in another creative performance, the main spring of our left sided raiders. He improves week to week in picking the right pass in and around the opposition box. Nacho, despite his culpability for the Fulham equaliser, put in a fine attacking display all afternoon. I thought Holding and Shkodran held the line well against a Fulham side who do indeed look like “they have goals in them” to quote the excruciating Robbie Savage.

My man of the match though ?  Well he comes from Uruguay, and he’s only five foot five. Competent, combative and Torreira seemed to be running as hard in the 93rd minute as he was in the 3rd minute.

The home side ? They have a bit of football quality about them in midfield and up front. Schurrle, Seri, Sessegnon all possess a good touch and, particularly the German, a football brain. FFC are better than the Cardiff and Toon sides we beat. At the back though ……..If they don’t learn how to lock the back door then it will be a brief return to he top flight.

Finally peruse the Premier League table with me. We sit,  briefly though it may be,  in third spot;

 

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I think I would have probably settled for that, if anyone had asked me in August.

Anyway, roller skates on. It is all kicking off at St Mary’s.

51 Comments

Arsenal: Blade of a feather

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@LaboGoon in the bow this morning and Go or Row

Good day one and all…

Arsenal will be making the short trip to Fulham this lunch time looking to extend on their run of good results.

The Cottagers coming into this game off the back of a heavy 3-0 loss at Goodison Park is a bit of an enigma even if they managed  just one win of their seven Premier League fixtures thus far.

On the road they’re terrible but  at Craven Cottage they are more competitive. In their last two home fixtures they have beaten Burnley 4-2 and went toe-to-toe with Watford in 1-1 draw, which reflected a missed opportunity as they hit the post late.

Their defense are rather charitable as they have shipped 16 goals in the seven games. While at the other end of the pitch they have Mitrovic who proved himself capable of rattling any defense. With the class of Seri and Schurrle providing him good service he helped himself to five goals and an assist – good returns in seven games.

It’s almost as if, unlike their attack their defense hasn’t caught up with the demands of the PL yet. But I guess Slavisa Jokanovic encourages them not to sit back but try and play good football, even if it does leaves them vulnerable at the back.

Opposition being too open in the final third is where the Gunners are thriving. Whilst not so convincing elsewhere our attack has the ability to grind for results which encouraging as we scored 22 goals in our winning run of eight games. Defense is slowly coming the party though with three consecutive clean sheets. Now I’m not suggesting they are there yet as we still have our share of hairy moments… but small steps right.

With a short turnaround after Thursday night’s game we can expect Unai Emery to make changes to that side, with only Leno and possibly Sokratis and Monreal (who only played a half) the ones making the matchday XI. Meaning the rest should be well rested and returning fresh. Aaron Ramsey could possibly miss today’s game with his wife ready to give birth.

With Bernd Leno coming on for the injured Petr Cech last week we may be witnessing what could be a changing of the guard as he may use this opportunity to make Arsenal’s number one gloves his own.

Eight wins on the bounce got a nice ring to it but ‘nine on the bounce’ so much better as we go into another international break following today’s fixtures. For that we need a win though.

With Fulham so keen to play attacking football and Arsenal in good form, I got a feeling this is going to be a great game to watch.

LET’S GO!!!

46 Comments

Arsenal subdue Baku crew with very little ballyhoo

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Sabahınız xeyir Positives,

An evening with Unai experimented with the formation and gave our younger and squad  players a good run out. An easy win in  the end. Had our hosts managed to get a goal, particularly to get it back to 1-1 during a first half when they created plenty of half chances, it may have been different. The 60,000 Azeris were desperate to cheer on their side but Sokratis’ very early opener rather punctured their ballon.  The crowd got quieter and quieter. The chances  Qarabag did create, or we provided with some dodgy defending, were wasted. When they hit the target Bernd pulled off 3-4 good saves. Not their night. Can I say however, to any Azeris reading the post today “Congratulations” on the pitch, its green surface put Wembley to shame.

I think for us the experiment with a back three did not show much promise and, understandably, at half time it was abandoned. Given the number of games Monreal has played recently I am not sure that emery intended to carry on for the full 90 on that formation even if it had been a revelation. I can understand why Unai might look at it as we are not particularly secure in defence. He may, in fact, look at it again as 45 minutes in Azerbaijan is hardly proof either way. I very much doubt however we shall see the three centre backs deployed at Craven Cottage, or any time in the next two or three games against domestic league opponents.

In contrast to the back three experiment the performance of the young players drafted in and relied on last night was far more pleasing. Smith Rowe demonstrated what we know is his excellent technique and did not flinch in the charged atmosphere. His goal was the cherry on  the cake for the 18 year old. I heard last night from the commentator that Emile  meant to “nutmeg” the keeper as he put the ball away. Yeah – right. Guendozi I also thought brought all the energy he has to control of midfield and  again the 19 year old finished his evening with a goal. And my man of the match ? Alex Iwobi – did you see his bit of skill  on the two Qarabag defenders. I shall drop in the film below. The young man is in a great rum of form at the moment and improving every week.

Of our other players good to see THE TANK back on the pitch after his injury break. He will need a few games to get his sharpness back but I sense he is player that Emery will want to work with and improve. And finally I was gratified to see that having brought Laca and Ozil 2,500miles to Baku the manager got them off the bench to run about a bit. Never having been  a professional footballer I do not know what it would be like to travel all that way, in midweek, and sit on the bench for 90 minutes, and then go home with your kit all still clean. I imagine however it would be frustrating. If as a player you do get a chance to get on the pitch, kick the ball about even for 15-20 minutes, you can at least feel the trip has been worthwhile.

A day off I see for the players today after the long trip home and tomorrow preparing for the short trip to Putney for Fulham. A very different  set of obstacles on the tight ground beside the Thames.

 

Enjoy Friday.

 

 

 

192 Comments

Arsenal: The moment as little diamond

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Good morning the Positive Arsenal crew,

As the digital clock on the scoreboard reached 10:00 to go I had this morning’s match write-up sketched out in my head. It was along the lines of “an exciting game”….., “plenty of chances at both ends”, …..”some noteworthy performances from players on  both sides”…., “but an inexplicable result of 0-0″…. . I was going to ponder some dubious finishing by strikers at both ends, two generally solid defensive performances, great industry in midfield if not great quality, and pick a few names out on both sides that caught the eye.

I was, in fact, going to highlight what I thought was the key moment of the match, and still do, which was Bernd Leno’s save from Deeney’s volley on the 52nd minute (picture above). A curling free kick from Holebas picked out the Watford striker 10 yards out, a solid but well directed shot from Deeney, an a split second later, a  decisive leap by Leno to his left low down, very little time to react, and he still managed not just to keep the ball out  but push it round the post!! The art of goal keeping at its very best.  If that Watford goal effort had gone in ? ( Sound of sucking teeth) Well the way the match was unbalanced at that time, with Watford on top and driving forward. We were rocking. It would have been a hard road back for us. As with Lacazette’s excellent opening goal against Everton last week on such pivotal moments are games won or lost and, when they are all added up, trophies decided. Last week a world class goal, this week a world class save.

And as often happens when a flash of talent changes the game the side that benefits goes on to win the game. In our case yesterday  it took a almost another half hour but by that stage Watford wee out of energy and, like me perhaps, had settled for the 0-0.  Iwobi and Lacazette combined and the opening goal is scored, or as I saw properly last night an own goal, followed by a second similar move which opens the Orns’ back door again, and a slick finish by Mesut. The One-Two to leave the visitors flat on their back. We all go home happy. Three points, fifth place, touching distance of the top four and all to play for.

Of the players who impressed me as described above Leno stepped in after Cech went off and did everything that our first choice keeper could have done, punched, saved and efficiently dealt with Watford’s rough-housing at the dead ball situations. Above all  he kept that hard to acquire  clean sheet. If Petr is out for a few weeks with a hamstring he  may  face  a hard fight to get back in.

I thought Mustafi and Holding did well against an unusual two headed attack of Deeney and Gray. They saw off the muscle and physical aggression in the air of the ugly twosome, and it was not until Isaac Success came on that Les Hornets with his better ground game really got any space and broke through Holding. If you get booked for dissent again Shkordan, arguing over a f****** throw in on the edge of the Watford box, I will fine you a week’s wages. I don’t mind if a player argues with an official, if they feel it does any good or is to do with a game-changing incident, just don’t get booked.

Torreira was a one man bee hive of industry and ensured that the midfield battle was always vigorous. He seems comfortable enough in the PL. The Uruguayan had an eye on winding up Deeney and his spectacular tumble toward the end convinced me that Watford striker should have seen a straight red, never mind a second yellow. Looking at the incident again on the TV last night it was rather less certain which one of them might have picked up a second card, if Taylor had been in the mood.

Among our opponents Doucoure was very good all afternoon in central midfield, and Peyrera is a talented player, intelligent and quick with the ball at his feet.

On we go then with a little more confidence, another battle against difficult opponents – a long trip to Baku for an early game, I think, then the erratic Fulham at Craven Cottage to see whether we can convert 5 PL wins into 6. Interesting times.

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Enjoy Sunday.