Ooh To Be A Gooner! #ICareToo

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A few years ago one of the greatest contributors to this site, Stu Black, wrote a lyrical piece about the end of the season and the onset of summer. ‘Goals dismantled on recreation parks, bare pitches turned fallow, thoughts turning to days of ease.’ His message was clear: time marches on, seasons come and go and the rhythms of the year lie just under all we do. If players need a break to allow spent bodies and minds to recover, then so too do football fans. And for me, never more so than the end of what is now thankfully last season, a season that initially promised much, but ended up under-delivering.

There were some exciting moments, of course, but also times of frustration, disappointment and downright bewilderment. The first year after Wenger was always going to be a difficult one, for players and fans alike:  some couldn’t wait to usher in the new, some couldn’t imagine life could ever be as good again. It must have been hard indeed for Emery to impose himself on a dressing room full of senior players who had learnt to play the Arsenal way, but hard also for players learning to dance to a different tune. The answer to begin with seemed to lie in hard work: more training, more running, more pressing, more tactics. And up until Christmas, that approach seemed to be working in terms of results, even if the strong suspicion lingered that at times we were unsustainably lucky. And so it proved, the turning point the away trip to Southampton where old familiar weaknesses resurfaced. And that was pretty much that, for despite the promise of an Aaron Ramsey-led revival in January and February, that too fell away, and the final stages of the season were dire. I felt that the players by then were exhausted (all that early pressing maybe), bewildered (by constant tactical tweaking) and disheartened (as the goals dried up). It was pretty dismal, and by the time the league season finished I had had enough. Unfortunately, so too had the players, failing to turn up for the second half of the Europa Final, having squandered reasonable chances to put the game to bed in the first half.

And so I turned my attention to all the other things: family, dog, work, reading, cricket, netball, holidays. And I did wonder whether football (and The Arsenal) would come back into focus, and all  the more so when I realised that the Transfer window was open and that I had never heard of the players I was told we had to buy, apart from Zaha, who was always going to be too good to be true (and what would be the point of signing a suspected diver when we don’t get penalties anyway?).

And I’m still not entirely sure to be honest, but fortunately I (or was it Stan, or Josh) was asked whether I cared, because apparently lots of people who have behaved quite despicably in denigrating the club, have now decided that, after all, they do care. And perhaps they do, in their own way: perhaps they do want to get whatever version of their Arsenal they hold most dear back; perhaps they do want to win all the trophies; perhaps they do want the shiniest new players to win them bragging rights once more. Perhaps they even want to cement their positions as the most important of all the fans, but goodness me, what a strange route to fame and fortune that is. And I guess that that is fine, and it is not for me to judge, as we all have our different reasons for doing anything, let alone for supporting a club whose fortunes we absolutely cannot influence.

But I realise that I do care. That I do want it to be the start of the season again (though not quite yet), that I do want to catch the train and then the tube to Holloway Road. That I will want it to be November with the smell of bonfires and burgers. That I will want to have my heroes. That I do want us to be the greatest team the world has ever seen and that I will be Arsenal ‘til I die. In short, that I will allow myself the temporary madness of belief and hope and love, with all the heartache and the joy that comes along with oohtobeingagooner.

Now, what about those signings then? After all, we’ve got a League to win.

Tim Head





Dennis Saurez Situation Explains Much-Sadly.

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Dennis Saurez gave interview saying that he was not even 50% fit after 16 days at Arsenal.

One game sticks in my head, I think it was Man City away we were 2-3 down with 15 mins to go.

Ozil was on the bench ( i thought he was coming on @ halftime but stayed on the bench(this was shortly after the claim was made that Ozil can’t play away because of the physicality by the manager) I was thinking at the time Poor away fans who traveled as it was clear we were going to get beat but the fans had nothing to cheer, (cant remember too many chances being created or any pleasing football) at that moment with 15mins to go he brought on Saurez who had been in the country 5 days, ahead of Ozil. I knew something was up then but this really confirms it.

Not only had Denis Saurez not acclimatised to a new country , different way of playing , food, culture, language etc, the guy by his own admission was less than 50% fit.
I think that was the day i decided that this manager had his own interests and not the team or the fans interest at heart.
He played Saurez just to make a power statement and it has had a detrimental affect on team morale.
Look at the start of the season, everyone was bubbling looking forward to the season, people putting themselves forward to be captain, people saying they want to follow in legends footsteps, to how we finished the season low on morale and without a Scooby Doo.

I want the manager gone because i seen more conflict with the team than working to harmonise the team and make them a coherent unit.

Victory through harmony it certainly has not been.

Rant over




Jose and Arsene On Identity

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Arsene and Jose had an interesting chat on Saturday in their CL pundit work or BEIN sport, where they, mostly Arsene, talked about a team’s identity, it was about Liverpool and Spurs, but it touched on the wider issue. Both went for a Liverpool win, cos Liverpool has a team identity, “you know what you will get from Liverpool”, both tactically and formation wise was the consensus from both of them. Liverpool have their preferred formation and tactics, yes there are slight tweeks in games, but by and large Klopp sends them out with little tactical or formation change. While spurs change both.
Arsene and Jose implied that teams that change tactics and formations constantly only confuse the players, and also play with a small mindedness, they are signally their fear of the opponent, instead of trying to impose their game plan on them, be that game plan attacking or defensive and playing on the break. Both Jose and Arsene said a team should have a vision of how it wants to play, its formation and its tactics, without this it has no identity, and players are confused.

Many saw this conversation as Wenger having a pop at Emery for his constant changing of formation and tactics, and so have dismissed it as just sour grapes, but Jose was in full agreement. I would say that what these guys said was very similar to what Martin Keown said earlier in the season when talking about Arsenal’s defensive problems, namely when you keep changing from a 4 to a 3 to a 5, at the back, the defenders can’t get settled in a formation, too much alterations from game to game, or even half to half or every 20 minutes, only confuses your team, not the opposition. The old saying of the less a player has to think about the easier his job is.

I thought early season Emery was a man of his convictions, he was set on playing out from the back no matter what, but despite the 22 game unbeaten run, he jumped ship, of course he had to change it so often at half time that he had to do something, but how can you go from a thing being a main tactic to it barely being used at all. We went from playing it out from the back to cut back FC.

eduardo792  @edminton1966


Arsenal and Emery Season Review.

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As the final whistle sounded in Baku, it brought an end to Arsenal’s first season of the post Wenger era. A European final, even one where the result didn’t go our way, does not indicate a bad season, and certainly not a bad start for a new coach. But looking back, this should count as a season of regret for those at Arsenal. As the likes of Cech, Welbeck and especially Ramsey say goodbye and move on, this regret could potentially expand to a cause for concern about the future as well. It is with this trepidation that I decided to take a look back at the season and try to make sense of what happened.


The Goodbyes to Wenger had taken place last season, the memories and messages all shared, tears shed, and the chapter drawn to a close. Then… a palpable sense of excitement. Who would take over and lead us into this new era? Turns out it was PSG’s former manager. We pored through his record, his matches, his statements. Some were excited, some were disappointed but virtually everyone was looking forward to a fresh start, no matter what it would bring. Even the more cynical ones saying it would need time, were prepared to be patient.

The only jarring note was struck by Ivan Gazidis inserting himself into every photo, video and interview, indicating he was the boss. Unai Emery was pointedly introduced to us as Arsenal’s new Head Coach. He immediately won us over with his spirit and courage in facing the press and answering questions in his very broken English. We wanted to get to know the man and his vision for the club, and together he and the CEO outlined the process they were aiming for. Everyone was on board, and couldn’t wait for the season to begin.

Including the players. Mesut Ozil cut short his holiday to join the Arsenal tour. Young hotshot midfielder Guendouzi rejected the call up for an international youth tournament. Torreira was playing well with Uruguay at the World Cup and it was reported how excited he was to join us. Leno seemed like a good addition who would help with playing out from the back. Our dynamic Dortmund Duo were to be joined by the serious CB Papa, and we added Old Man Licht as backup RB.

The PL threw us, and Unai Emery, a curveball with the fixture list, but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits. This was a new Arsenal. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we had a new coach in charge, new players, a new plan, and football was here!


Domestic Cups:

Let’s just get these out of the way. My attitude to this review, the attitude of most of the fans and the players. Not really our target, more like nice to have, but we weren’t starving after 3 recent FA Cup wins, so these were bonus matches. We beat a few lower league opponents, and went out against our league rivals in both the cups. No big deal. The only quibble I had was that we didn’t use the opportunity to play more of our young prospects.

Europa League:

Drawn into a group against Sporting Lisbon and with much travelling involved wasn’t ideal, but we entered as clear favourites. Not just for the group, but in many people’s eyes, for the whole thing. Which frankly, scared me. Arsenal fans should not be extravagantly optimistic. Never ends well.

Still, the group didn’t pose us any problems. 5 wins and a draw, and we went through as winners. Again, I would have preferred if we’d played some more of the youth against Vorskla and Qarabag, but ultimately, the job was done and we entered the knockout rounds with a tie against BATE Borisov as our reward.

It was in the first leg of this tie that we reached possibly the nadir of our season. A painful, turgid, even shameful 1-0 loss away to the Belarussian champs. In what was to become a running theme, this was treated by many as an unfortunate blip on an otherwise upward trend. BATE’s season is just starting so they are fresh, the pitch wasn’t great, the travel doesn’t help, and we’ll get the job done in the return leg. All of which are varying degrees of truth, but this Valentine’s Day loss seems to carry deeper meaning than that. It certainly led to some off field changes, but we can get to that later while sipping on a cup of tea. We did get the job done in the return leg, and on to the next round.

A few weeks later, and we were doing this job of falling over away from home again. This time in France to Rennes. The annoying Ben Arfa was having a laugh at our, and probably more at Emery’s, expense after our 3-1 loss. However, we turned it around again at home, beating them 3-0, Auba’s black panther mask was out, and we were through to the Quarter finals of the Europa League. Take that Ben Arfa!

A tough tie against Napoli who also were among the tournament favourites. But this time we weren’t having any of it. Victories in both legs, with not too much fuss as far as I can recall, and on to the semis.

Valencia, with Gabriel and Coquelin came next. They started well, came at us, and scored an away goal that we were hoping not to concede. But we countered immediately, scoring two quick goals through Lacazette. Aubamayang added another in the 90thminute. A 3-1 win. Still all to do in the return leg. Once again Valencia started well and scored an early goal. But route one football and a great long range finish from Auba changed the game. Arsenal were in control as we won 4-2 (7-3 on aggregate) and made our way to our first European final since 2006.

Premier League:

The toughest of opening day fixtures with the champions coming to the Emirates. No upset, but no cause for being upset, other than an injury to AMN. This was followed by a frustrating loss to Chelsea. Frustrating because we could have been out of sight in the first half if we’d taken our chances, despite the early goals we conceded. As it is Chelsea readjusted, and Emery introduced us to something other than the 68th minute subs we’d become used to under Wenger. All part of getting to know his team. Despite the result, some cause for optimism. Justified by the come from behind victory over West Ham with a 90th minute goal from Welbeck making it 3-1 to Arsenal, and confirming Emery’s first win as Arsenal manager.

As it turns out that was the first of a 7 match winning run, and a 14 match unbeaten run in the league. Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton, Watford, Fulham and Leicester went down before Crystal Palace held us to a draw right at the end of October. Two more draws to Liverpool and Wolves before a win over Bournemouth brought November to a close.

Then came the big one. December had us facing Spurs, ManU, and Liverpool. First up, Spurs came to our home, and Eric Dier decided he could shush us. Sit down he said, to one Aaron Ramsey who was a substitute but had a punch up with Dele Alli, the battle of words with Dier, and came on to provide 2 assists as Arsenal won 4-2. Legend. 3 days later, Manchester United and Arsenal battled to a draw. A bit of a blur this one, but I recall us conceding right after scoring to go 2-1 up. Games coming thick and fast now. Huddersfield next and a 1-0 victory with not much positive except the 3 points. Southampton then again proved to be our bogey team, ending our unbeaten run. This was followed by a win against Burnley, a draw against Brighton, and a huge 5-1 defeat to Liverpool to close out the year.

January went much better with wins against Fulham, West Ham, Chelsea and Cardiff, before ManCity again put the brakes on us in February. 5 days before the BATE debacle, we got ourselves a hard fought victory over Huddersfield. We closed out the month by taking revenge on Southampton, and destroying Bournemouth in a 5-1.

March again saw us face Spurs and ManU, with the results reversed this time. A draw against Spurs (Auba missed a penalty, but Ramsey owned the Wembley pitch. Say it with me…Legend….) and a good win against ManU with a long range Xhaka goal. April began with a win against Newcastle and a loss to Everton before the 1st leg of the Napoli tie. Sandwiched between the EL Quarterfinals was the hilarious win over Watford. Both good hilarious and bad hilarious for Deeney’s early red card and for how bad we were in the game, respectively. A sign of things to come.

We’re in the Endgame now”

Then came the giving away of the time stone, otherwise known as the Top 4 Trophy, as Emery Strange saw only one possible scenario to win the Champions League qualification gauntlet.

Crystal Palace – L

Wolves – L

Leicester – L

Brighton – D

And when it was all over,

Burnley – W

Finishing 5th. 1 point outside the top 4 behind Spurs, and 2 points behind Chelsea in 3rd. But at least we had the European Final to go to. Win a trophy, and we’d achieve our main target for the season.

The Final:

Travel and ticketing issues, Mkhitaryan’s safety and the politics, and a poor pitch were the stage for this final. Uefa pulling out all the stops to let us know just how second tier this trophy is to them. But a trophy it was all the same and we were facing a rival who had their own problems to deal with. We had the greater need since they’d already qualified for the big top next year.

Arsenal started off well enough, controlling most of the game. There was an appeal for a penalty, but I didn’t think it was one. As the game went on, Chelsea grew into the game, made some adjustments and by the end of the half we were already on the backfoot, with Cech making a couple of sharp saves.

I’ve tried to wipe the second half from my memory files, but the nightmare scenario of Giroud winning it for Chelsea remains. He scored the opener with a fantastic diving header at the near post, won a penalty for their 3rd goal, and most annoyingly, in a move reminiscent of his pass to Ramsey in the FA Cup final 2 years ago, he gave an assist to Hazard to wrap up the score at 4-1. Iwobi’s goal was great, but like much of this season will not live long in the memory.

Trust the Process:

So how to evaluate this season? What I can say for sure is that it has not been fun. Even for writing this review, I was struggling to remember much of what had happened. It was not pleasant to go over it all again, though I tried to make the most of it. It’s almost distressing to think about what has happened this season, especially when it held out so much hope, both at the beginning, and at the end. My opinion is that it has been an unmitigated disaster. If it were up to me I’d fire Emery, even if it meant replacing him with a relative novice like Freddie, or anyone else as long as he actually has the vision to match the words. Emery doesn’t seem to realise that above all, football is entertainment. Whatever joy there was in this side has been systematically sucked out. The system sucks. End of.

The counter point I’m faced with is that it’s only a transition season and despite some difficulties imposed on Emery, the results have basically been on par. It’s true that any coach needs time to build their side. We are often quoted the example of Klopp (who thankfully, saved football for all of us) But is good coaching and a rebuild a function of time alone? Trust the Process has become a mantra of sorts, but oddly enough, no one seems to want any discussion on the process itself. Merely on the results, and the fact that we’re a position higher in the PL table with 7 more points, and progressed a round further to the final of the EL.

But is football really only about the results? Would any serious evaluation not look further? Except when results are either spectacularly good or spectacularly bad, I’d always put process above results. That’s what you really control. Away from the spotlight, I’d hope Arsenal are carrying out a serious analysis of the season. I shall attempt to do the same here.


A large squad turnover in the 2017-18 season, was the start of a rebuild. At virtually no added cost in transfers and wages, in January we transferred Giroud, Walcott, Coquelin, Debuchy, and Alexis Sanchez out, and in came Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and young CB Mavropanos. We also extended Mesut Ozil’s contract within this budget.

This left us with a solid attacking core built around Ozil, with two top class forwards ahead of him, and Ramsey, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi to support him.

In the summer, the club spent 70m to fill the remaining gaps in midfield and defense. In came young midfielders Torreira and Guendouzi, experienced CB Sokratis and young GK Leno, who would help us build from the back, an area of weakness for our senior GK Petr Cech. A free backup RB signing followed with the experienced Lichtsteiner.

Although the rebuild would not be complete for another season or two, there was no rush to do so, as the high level of talent in attack and the experienced, if ageing, defense, gave us a good platform to compete well for the next 2 or 3 years. On the basis of this, a roadmap was laid out and presented to the fans by the club and the head coach.

  1. Play attacking football – Possession, pressing and playing out from the back.
  2. Not heavily reliant on the transfer market – Funds would be available, but the head coach is to work with the players at the club.
  3. Play and develop the youth
  4. Represent the club and its values well

Though left unstated, it was understood that the target was to qualify for the Champions League. Failure to achieve this in the first season may, however, be acceptable.


The expectations among the fans and at the club was that Emery’s more hands on, tactical approach would lead to a better structure for the players, which would help improve the defense, while still maintaining the commitment to attacking football.

However the underlying numbers are cause for concern. We have created fewer shots than last season, and have conceded more shots to the opposition. Individual errors remain high. Possession stats are down. The very visible plan to play out from the back was abandoned very early. Our distance covered numbers are up, but there is little evidence of a coherent press.

Midway through the season, there was some upheaval in the club’s upper management, which possibly impacted on some of the team’s cohesion and plans. Certainly, the decision to withdraw Ramsey’s contract came as a surprise to many, and it couldn’t have helped him or the coach. There was also some major incident between our head coach and our highest paid player. This too might have been triggered by management wanting to bring down expenditure and getting the largest contract among the squad off the books.

While this may be an extenuating circumstance, confining the analysis to the head coach, there is a body of evidence that his preferred style of play is incompatible with Mesut Ozil. Emery seemingly prefers to attack from out wide, using the midfielders more as conduits and shields for when the move breaks down. This is not an ideal use of the talents of one of the best creative midfielders in the world, and our highest paid player.

Attempts to freeze him out of the squad did not go down well with his teammates as he remains a popular member of the team. Following a series of poor performance and finally, defeat to BATE, things came to a somewhat public head with Ozil making a point on social media, and a few of the players ‘liking’ his post. Eventually it led to the coach reversing his decision and reinstating Ozil in the squad and the team. It remains a strained professional (and personal?) relationship and a potential flashpoint. This presents the club with something of a problem since the size of Ozil’s contract makes it difficult to ship him out, even if he were to agree to go, which is doubtful.

On working with the present squad, the head coach has not met the target. His plans seem in dissonance with what this team was built for, and the result has been a reduction in player value and added costs for next season.

In such a scenario one might have expected the youngsters in the squad to be given more game time. While Guendouzi has enjoyed a regular place in the first team, and Maitland-Niles as well, the rest of our youth players have not been deemed worthy of regular involvement in the Premier League. Emile Smith-Rowe played in the cups and the Europa League group stages, but was sent on loan in January. Despite the injury to Danny Welbeck, Eddie Nketiah has received very little time on the pitch. Similarly, Joe Willock has not regularly featured despite the injury (and absence) of Aaron Ramsey. Neither has Mavropanos in defense despite injuries to Holding and Sokratis at different points of the season.

The collapse at the end of the season, when qualifying for the Champions League seemed likely, must also count as cause for serious concern.

The head coach has stated his desire for going into the transfer market. Through a lack of funds in January, the club nevertheless signed Denis Suarez on loan – a player he had worked with before. This turned out to be more of a waste of funds as the player hardly played, and ended up returning with an injury.

If the head coach is retained for next season, to play his preferred style of football would need a major overhaul of the squad, accelerating the time line of the planned, gradual, rebuild. Unless the club is able to recoup much through sales, this would also represent a major loss through investments made not just in Ozil, but the window of opportunity for our attackers. In addition, there is the lost revenue and value from Ramsey’s departure.

A rebuild then would likely need the sale of one of our most valuable assets. The options for this are essentially confined to Aubameyang, Lacazette, or Bellerin. We could also look to sell some of the squad players like Elneny, Jenkinson and Mustafi, and replace them with younger players from the market, the academy, and returning loanees like Chambers and Bielik. Yet another option would be to let go some senior players nearing the end of their careers such as Koscielny and Monreal.

On the plus side, we will be shedding a significant amount from our wage bill as Cech retires, and Welbeck, Lichtsteiner and Ramsey are leaving. There will also be increased revenue from the new shirt sponsorship with Adidas.

A reported transfer budget of 40m would need some creative manoeuvring. The appointment of a technical director would be of help in this regard, and also in ensuring that while the coach retains focus on the season’s goals, the long term health of the club is not compromised.

Marketing and Brand Value – ‘Values’

This may seem a more trivial point, yet it is significant that even while introducing Unai Emery, the then CEO chose to make upholding club values as a target. For years Arsenal had struggled to match the spending and the trophies of our rivals under the stadium debt, and faced a lot of negative press for it. But the fanbase still kept expanding. Much of this was based around the marketing of the club’s history and values as unique in the football world. These values involve respect for players beyond just the strictly professional, honouring a given word, dignity in dealing with the press, and the commitment to attacking football and youth development.

This season has seen a major departure from how the club has done its business. From withdrawing Ramsey’s contract, the treatment of Ozil, and the unceremonious departure of an injured Welbeck, to the lack of exciting ‘on-brand’ football, and some disappointing statements from the coach to the media.

If the club is to retain the involved passionate support of many among its supporters around the world, it is imperative that it goes back to honouring its values not just in words, but in deed.


The final league position and improvement in points, and making the final of the Europa League are serviceable results. However, missing out on qualifying for the Champions League is disappointing, especially with the end of season collapse that caused it.

The quality of football remains suspect, issues with man management exist, and a major overhaul might be required in the immediate future.

There is once again division among the fans, and could potentially derail next season’s campaign. This makes it vital for the club to carefully, but quickly, assess their plans as pertains to the head coach, the technical director, playing staff, and budgets, and to communicate these effectively to the fans.

Shard @ShardGooner


The Season Defining game – Arsenal vs Chelsea.

You know … at different stages during the course of this season a fixture was labelled “the most important game of the season”, but that came and went as there was always the next one. Tonight though, for Arsenal: THIS IS IT. Some may even say the most important game of the Emirates era.
Good day one and all.
We are in Azerbaijan this evening and it is a London derby with Arsenal and Chelsea battling it out to be crowned 2018/19 Europa League Champions at Baku’s Olympic Stadium.
Leading up to this match most of the talking points focused on off-field issues like ticket allocation, too long a trek to Baku and Henrikh Mhkitaryan missing out due to political reasons, but for Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri it’s about winning a continental trophy in their first season as head coaches of the respective football clubs. Sarri by no means had it easy at the Blues and for his side winning the cup will mean ending what has been a fickle season, on a high – having already secured qualification for next season’s Champions League (CL). However, for the Gunners, there’s a sense they’ve got a bit more riding on it than just a first European trophy in 25 years, certainly more than banter and/or online bragging rights for their faithful fans.
In recent years Arsenal has lost ground on our traditional top-six rivals, and with both Liverpool and Tottenham guaranteed a massive pay day there’s a real concern that we could fall behind even further if missing out on the CL riches for a third consecutive season. Just recently Vinai and Sanllehi gave an interview where they said the club are committed to stick by its self-sustaining model in the foreseeable future, so any extra revenue we can get is needed to enhance our plans this coming summer.
In a nutshell: for Arsenal this is about one step closer to the promised land. No pressure then.
Seemingly, when you want to win a Europa League Cup, having the competition’s most decorated coach in the dugout is nothing to scoff at. Emery won the title an unprecedented three times in a row during his time at Sevilla and tonight will see him, following a not spectacular yet steady initial league campaign, back in familiar surroundings and no doubt with his tail up. Arsenal’s path to the finals came via an unbeaten run through the group stages with five wins and a draw. First leg hiccups against both BATE and Rennes were followed up by five knockout wins with relative ease.
Chelsea had a similar path with the exact same record in their group fixtures, however, whereas we lost two of our knockout games, they drew two. Both against Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals, a tie they ultimately won via a penalty shootout at Stamford Bridge.
Emery will be without Aaron Ramsey tonight but Danny Welbeck could see one final return on the substitutes’ bench. Players he will be looking at as match winners will be Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who both have been exceptional this season. Sarri has Loftus-Cheek, Rudiger, Hudson-Odoi and possibly Kante ruled out. We know Eden Hazard can win a game on his own and with him, possibly, heading off to a new and even more lucrative life outside of London, he will want to put on one last good show for the Blues.
This is a game that promises to be full of entertainment and goals between two sides that have fairly good records against each other, but the pressure may be on Arsenal.
Lose and the season would be defined as disappointing; win and we look to the future with renewed optimism.

Anfield 89 , With The Superstar Raconteur Mel O’Reilly





From our archives 2014,you can follow Mel on twitter @MelOreilly1970 


Mel tells me that I should remember it is the anniversary of the great night at Anfield. He also tells of the the need for his award winning account of that night ,to be published today. And on this date every year. Forever.

This wonderful story was written by Mel, for another blog ,then picked up by Arsenal.com (for a reason no reasonable man can determine) .So here we are . Third in line.

Still ,nice of him to still remember his old mate.

Here it is then,Enjoy


“We’ll win cos we’re the arsenal !”,eternal optimists or deluded fools?

Not sure which camp I fell into as we boarded the coaches on the Avenell road and that chant went up.

I was still cockahoop at a workmate selling me his ticket (£12 including the coach !)a couple of days before this remarkable Friday.

I was at the game against Wimbledon when most believed our title dream had gone,but even if it was to most Gooners, as far as I was concerned if it was mathematically possible,I was gonna see us give it a go,anyway .I’d failed maths O level a couple of years previous so stick me in the deluded camp.

I was traveling alone (most of the mates I knocked about with at the time weren’t really into football,more acid house,the stone roses,ecstasy, raves and failing to chat up girls from what I remember. I was too, but Arsenal was “my thing” always was and always will be and in my 18 years I’d only seen us lift an fa cup and a league cup.

The mood going up to Liverpool  on the coach was helped along with some fierce drinking and singalongs . My Irish genes helped me put a good performance in on both counts,.I  remember as we closed in on our date with destiny that the driver told us it was touch & go whether we’d make kick off.In fact when the boys in yellow & blue ran on the pitch before kick off with the flowers for the Liverpool fans still mourning their 96 brothers and sisters who had died weeks earlier at Hillsborough just because they went to a game(this of course is why this fixture had been postponed and rescheduled to the Friday night after the cup final which tonight’s opponents had won)we were watching it on the coaches portable TV until the Merseyside constabulary decided to give us a fast track escort to the ground.

As we poured off  the coach that chant went up and for the first time I genuinely thought we’d do it.Nothing to do with the drink you understand!.I just fancied us(told you I was deluded).

Once inside, tucked into a corner,I found myself wedged up alongside a Demis Roussos lookalike(look him up kids),anyone that’s been to a massively important game and tells you they remember everything is a liar,the first half was gone in a flash but my new best mate Demis assured me that nil nil after 45 is good and George’s plan was working.

I  remember thinking Liverpool were subdued and there for the taking, and Arsenal were “at it” especially Rocky and Richardson,not surprising really Rocastle was truly one of us and Richardson used to tackle people with his face if he had too! We weren’t going down without a fight that was for sure.

Seven minutes into the second half we got our goal, an Alan Smith header that despite the Liverpool players insisting he hadn’t touched it,the linesman agreed with the 4000 behind him that Smith had,of course he had!, game on!

With about 15 minutes left we looked like we’d get another,Michael Thomas through one  onone with Grobbelar ,but he scuffed it straight at him.

“Don’t worry we’ll get one more clear cut chance” the portly Greek love god next to me whispered. I had my doubts though,neither side were creating that many chances but without hope and all that heh?

As the minutes ticked by that hope was strangling us in our corner but then in the last minute it happened….he was there again. Thomas coolly lifted the ball over Grobbelar and pandemonium was unleashed

Magical doesn’t do it justice.

After the initial going mental bit I remember Demis taking me in his arms, we embraced like grown men only did in at funerals and New Years Eve’s party’s,he could have held me “forever and ever” (I told you!,look him up), there were grown men around us in tears.Remember this was before the days of some blokes letting us down by wearing Ugg boots and applying fake tan but it was beautiful nonetheless.

The players and the trophy malarkey after was a bit of a haze.

We were all still congratulating each other but I do remember Rocastle,his face lit up and his eyes dancing,you see he was our bloke on the pitch despite MT getting the goal ,Rockys medal was ours as well and when he smiled we smiled.

One last bear hug from Demis and soon I was my back to the coach.

Leaving the ground was interesting. Some of the  Scousers  were fantastic, others less so! in fact i would like to thank the 3 Graeme Souness lookalikes that chased me back to the coach helping break the 100m drunken idiot dash world record.I think it was their encouraging words that did it,or the things they said they were gonna do if they got hold of me.

As I waved them goodbye from the safety of the coach there wasn’t a lot of noise at first,just exhausted Gooners with stupid great grins on their faces not believing what we’d just witnessed.

As soon as the first miles to London sign appeared the celebrations commenced.Not sure Ive ever seen drinking like it!.

All the while I was thinking “how did we just do that? How? Cos we’re The Arsenal that’s how”


Arsenal’s Transfer Strategy-With Wings

Our man Shard has been thinking and writing

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Since Sven Mislintat mysteriously decided to walk away, Arsenal have had no one in charge of strategically overseeing the recruitment at the club. This means not just identifying talent, but building a squad keeping in mind the club philosophy, administrative issues of age, homegrown status, and financial budgets, and long term plans.

Whether the (as good as) vacant position was the reason behind the January window fiasco or not, it’s hard to say from the outside. However, Arsenal certainly recognise the need of having someone in the role. It seems the rumour mill has turned full circle and is back to Edu – the former Invincible and current Brazilian national team coordinator – as the favourite to take over as Technical Director. Francis Cagigao will also be the Head of Recruitment. Honestly, I don’t know who does what in such a structure.

But regardless of who is calling the shots, this will be an important summer for Arsenal. With or without CL football, we need to up the quality of our play and of our squad, ensuring we’re strong enough to withstand the rigours of the season, and are flying high at the end of it. There’s a few ways of going about this, and I’ve taken the trouble to list 5 options below.

The Ostrich Option:

Do nothing. It’ll be alright. Problems tend to go away on their own. But lash out at the first target you spot and throw your weight around. The high wage bill must go! Sell the players you can, and stomp on those you can’t. You are an ostrich with razor sharp claws after all. May not be the most productive thing to do, but activity is good for keeping the blood flowing, and keep the remaining watchers entertained. Some might even bow their heads and pray for a miracle along with you.

The Crow Option:

Scavenge! Get the players you can find on the cheap. Send out your murder to bring you the chewed up carcasses of unwanted players hoping there’s enough meat on them. Work smart not hard! Take the easy pickings available from the agents’ own stables. Hopefully by the end you have a belly that is full, but not bloated by an unhealthy diet.

The Butterfly Option:

Store yourself away for a period of quiet contemplation and reflection. Don’t worry about the outside world. Take your time, grow, and when you’re ready, emerge, transformed into something more beautiful than you were. Fill the gaps primarily through the academy. Bring in players under 21 through the market, and get them all playing together. You may not get to zoom off into the stratosphere, but you will flutter your wings and fly.

The Peacock option:

Strut your stuff! Make it rain, baby. Make use of all the resources you have. The stats, scouts, agent contacts, and above all, the $$$. Use the treasure you’ve collected over the years. Cover yourself in fine jewellery. Redefine opulence. Fill all your squad needs by recruiting from among the best available players, and maybe even some that aren’t.

The Phoenix option:

Burn. Set yourself on fire. Let people mourn the loss of what is and what once was. But, and here’s the tricky part, re-emerge as the beautiful, mythical creature that you are. Find inspiration in the golden past. Reanimate, and radiate the joy, wonder, and warmth to all lucky enough to watch you. Clear house of those that don’t belong. Appoint a visionary coach that knows and plays the Arsenal way. Make signings that suit your philosophy. Aim to make it to the top within the next 3 years.