97 Comments

One On The Road?

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A guest post from @Labo_Goon this morning
After being edged out of the Transfer Trophy by the City of Abu Dhabi in the final days of August, Everton seem to haave slumped into a bit of a meltdown that has now turned into full depression two months on. Perfect time for a visit to Goodison?
With all the attacking purchases Everton has made its hard to believe that they’ve only scored 5 PL goals and are 8 points after 8 games. 4 points coming in their opening 2 fixtures (including a draw at the Etihad) and the other 4 in the 6 since.
Anybody looking at that and the quality we have in our Arsenal team, would expect this being a routine 3 pointer. But then there’s the other side of the coin: Arsenal is yet to win an away PL game this season. Which should give us pause for concern.
Of cause many of the pundits, looking at our away form, said the best we can hope for is a draw as they bought into the “no cajones” jibe and has offered Everton unsolicited advice to put the boot in and get in our faces. Something Ronald Koeman is not shy asking of his players.
And if today is gonna be one of those games, my only hope is that the referee officiates the game even-handed, because I know Arsenal can give as good as they get if allowed.
Going back to the Chelsea game and what we did then, we will need to give Everton due respect and stay on top of them from the get go, not give them any opening. Playing against a team so short of confidence, our biggest obstacle could be complacency. We will need to be focused for the entire 90 and need to get our shots away on target, need to keep Pickford and the Everton defence honest.
Team news is that Alexis, Ramsey and Özil are all expected to start, giving this team a huge transformation attack wise from the one taking the field last weekend.
Could this be the first game we see Lacazette, Alexis and Özil starting together? If they ignite they can be just as potent as Man City’s front 3. Jack Wilshere making a 10-15 minute cameo can also be expected. Hopefully by then the ref would’ve put Ashley Williams and company in their place who still had the stamina for a mass brawl in the dying minutes of their game vs Lyon.
And with Koeman edging closer to doing the walk of shame and there being 3 red cards in the last 4 games between these two  teams, this game has the potential to turn quite nasty. So prepare for fireworks Gooners!
Enjoy and good luck to all wherever you’re watching the game today, and don’t forget to keep them fingers crossed
48 Comments

Arsenal: Red Star at night, Giroud delight

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Good Morning Positives Arsenal,

A satisfactory result and, I thought, a good display last night from a line –up formed from returning casualties and youngsters, with just a hint of je ne sais quoi with the surprise insertion of Mo Elneny into the centre of the back three.

Of the game itself I admit just 14 hours on the details are fading and thee was not a lot of high quality football. My abiding impression of the evening is the crowd rocking noisily  from the appearance of the teams to the final whistle, all except one moment that is. On the pitch I have flashes of Jack surging forward with the ball at his feet, Francis crashing in and out of tackles, and Reiss Nelson always available and in space to deliver a series of good crosses. Petr Cech was the busier first half goal keeper and he was very much in charge at the back last night, shouting and pointing at his makeshift defence with gusto. For a long period each time Matt Debuchy touched the ball I crossed my fingers but for a man who has played no first team football for a season he looked genuinely sharp and fit. He has come a long and no doubt very frustrating road. His return does however open the options up for Arsene to rest Hector, if required.

If the game of a swirling mist of half images then it is illuminated by one shaft of light, a few seconds of footballing quality that will remain in the memory long after the 2017/2018 Europa League campaign is consigned to historical record.

The neat and speedy build up to create the chance for Giroud was good by Jack and Theo, but Olivier’s finish with his back to goal, surrounded by defenders and with a gently looping ball was superb. There was no luck, no random chance in his careful guiding of the ball into the corner of the Belgrade net. For at least five seconds even the Red Star hordes were silenced. I have stolen this from elsewhere this morning but the line “he may not be a world class striker by the conventional measure, but he scores plenty of world class goals” sums up our Frenchman perfectly. It was a night on which, until the 86th minute not a lot had gone right for him, with much sweat but no reward, but he persevered. He who endures conquers. When the season is over that goal is still likely to be among my best moments.

The only disappointment I had last night was the red card for the Rodic which I thought was a little harsh and Francis’ involvement in the player’s second yellow regrettable.

So off to Goodison on Sunday. I watched the closing few minutes of their game against Lyon last night. Dead man walking Ronald, dead man walking. Needless to say we shall have probably ten different starters at kick off time but, as Arsene made clear in his pre and post match, Jack is not that far away from the Premier League start he craves. The momentum is positive.

Enjoy your Friday.

40 Comments

Arsenal: Eastern Approaches

 

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Dobar Dan Positive Arsenal fans,

My apologies on behalf of the Board that we have been lax in failing to produce a proper pre game review for the  tie in Belgrade a little later but I trust you will find the evening nonetheless enjoyable.

Red Star are tucked into 2nd place in the Europa group and at home, in front of 50,000+ excited locals, they have to fancy their chances of nicking at least a point. Our last Champions League evening in nearby Zagreb was a little aggravating, if you remember. Red Star have not lost in Europe this season, are top of the Serbian Super League  and their home form has always been the foundation of their success. Given the largely comfortable results this week in the CL from English clubs my heart says be bullish, my head says we should be controlled and  wait our chance. No gung-ho, no charging in. A French referee and linos which may assist us. Let us take the points, which would pretty much guarantee progression to the next stage, and get back home.

Clearly we shall see a much changed Arsenal side from the starting line up at Vicarage Road and Jack appears to be champing at the bit to get at the Serbs. Olly is surely to lead the line and is it time to give Theo his chance?  There is one player who has no risk of fatigue depriving us of his talents this season. And the is a rumour of Matt Debuchy starting !!!!

For those of you with an eye for coincidence it appears that Dusan Savic,  who scored the winner in our only other game against to Serbs, has a son playing tonight. Listen to the strangest commentary from way back when. Nice goal though.

 

 

Kick of at 6pm UK – enjoy the game.

141 Comments

Arsenal Are Rubbish-Quick, Look AT ME

Fortunately for me, I’ve been stuck in the wilderness with no internet.This seems to have been a blessing in disguise, as the usual melt down occurred  with the normal lack of perspective. From what I can gather, the game changed when Watford were brought back into the game with a phantom penalty? Correct me if I’m wrong ? After that it seems a panic set in and the team did not perform well in the final knockings of the game.

So immediately, following a desperate wait of 7 games, the good and the great of Arsenal bloggers, tweeters and podcasters,were able to rush for their cyber tools, and launch headlong into their tried and tested attack on the manager, players, board and assorted scapegoats.

Well then, here is my opinion of what the headlines for these turgid efforts should read

“A BLOG IN THE PERFECT IMAGE OF ITS AUTHOR”

Every defeat is evidence of incompetence and every victory is evidence of the opponents’ incompetence.

Here is the thing, we are all disappointed following  a defeat. We all get annoyed by the mistakes made by footballers and the perceived mistakes made by management, but we don’t all behave like demented toddlers that have had their ice-cream taken from them. We don’t all have to break our necks, rushing to our phones or laptops, to take to Twitter and blogs in an attempt to be the leading prick on the internet.

You can be critical of Mesut Ozil for missing a golden opportunity, but can also see that he set up 3 decent chances in his cameo. You can be critical of Xhaka for not doing enough to stop the goal, but realise that after 2 international games and 90 minutes of PL action, he could be tired both mentally and physically. You can think that Jack should have been subbed on, but accept that because of an injury to out best CB, that wasn’t an option. In other words “be fair”.

We were basically cheated out of the points, as we were at Stoke, that’s 6 points. SIX POINTS.add them to the total and things would look a lot different. If you’ve been burgled, perhaps you could have bought a guard dog, or a better alarm system, but the fact remains, is not your fault that a ne’er-do-well broke into you home. Be disappointed with the performance of the team if you must, but at least be outraged at the dreadful officiating.

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82 Comments

Arsenal: Abnormal Herts rhythm

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Good morning Positive Arsenal fans,

 

I thought I would feel better in the morning after yesterday evening’s disappointment, and I do. The elixir of rest and time passing. It must be magic.

 

Part of the improvement in my mood comes from the realisation that our casting away three points that I had assumed that all we had to do was collect at the gate has not done us much material harm in the Premier League. With Chelsea losing we effectively where we were in the table among the big boys in the competition. A chance to make progress spurned. Citeh’s demolition of Stoke an unwelcome reminder of goal scoring at its best. What we must do is ensure that when Mansour and his 40 thieves stumble, as they surely will, we are close enough to take advantage.

 

Of yesterday’s game ? A fairly even first half with us just shading possession and ahead through the most unlikely of scorers. They all count etc. and Per absolutely hammered the ball with the force and direction that left Gomes static. My feeling at the time was that there was a lot of possession, but much to much sideways passing. The only real creative effort came from Alex Iwobi who took the opposition on with the ball at his feet. Or young dynamo even managed to stamp on Richarlison’s hand – pity it had not been his head but hindsight is a great thing.

 

Our second half display to the 71st minute carried on in the same vein, keeping ahead in the possession statistic and ensuring that when Watford crossed the half way line with intent then were forced to play in long speculative balls or try to shoot from way out. With Mesut’s arrival we opened the Hornet’s defence up twice and but for some good wok from Gomes would have had at least a decisive 2nd goal.

 

And then the PENALTY (see previous post for details and discussion).

 

Now with 20+ minutes left and having created a couple of highly score-able opportunities in the preceding few minutes before the setback my assumption was that we had more than enough time, and certainly the playing resources to put things right. We had not lost at Watford for 30+ years for goodness sake.

 

But No. Now since 7.24 last night I have seen and read the full range of accusations against individual Arsenal players individually, and I have seen then harangued collectively, Arsene, Bouldy and Vick Akers have been in the arrested and charged for their criminal incompetence.

 

It seemed to me, reflecting and rerunning that final phase of the game in my head in slow motion we could not decide what to do. In terms of attacking or “chances” the assault I anticipated on the Watford goal never even started. Our game without-the-ball disintegrated. We could not get control of the damn thing for more than one or two passes. When Watford had the ball then it seemed they had time and space to ass and open colleagues to choose from. For us we scuffled, seemed to have no time and picked the wrong pass. We found ourselves pinned back for long periods and when our defence managed to clear the ball it would come straight back with menaces. Under this barrage I make no complaints against the back three (including the surprised Rob Holding) or Cech, or even Hector or Kolasinac. The defence battled manfully as wave after wave battered our defensive wall. Eventually though the weak point was located, the sea rushed through.

 

We slunk away in defeat. While the devious penalty earned by the young Brazilian was responsible for us not earning at least a point it was the final 20 minutes that defined our evening.

 

Anyway we move onward to Red Star and thence to Goodison on next Sunday lunchtime. I shall make no predictions though Everton away has been a happy ground for us for most of Wenger’s rein. We could certainly do with one of our strikers scoring away from home, and I don’t care who. I shall keep my eye on the game from the Amex with more interest this afternoon as Koeman’s number may be up.

 

It is Mesut’s 29th birthday today so I trust he will enjoy his day, a I do all of you this sunny Sunday morning up in Norfolk.

89 Comments

Arsenal – Hornets beware

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@arse_or_brain sets the afternoon up nicely

We have all seen our back-up lads do extremely well at the start of the season and we all know they would be needed in the Premier league at times this season. With the international break taking its toll on already tired legs, wild emotions and injuring some of players that looked fully fit, then this could be the time those players on the edge to step into the spotlight, take centre stage and take the plaudits for the quality we all know they have.
The Hornets have done well away from home and this is the best start to a season for a long time but their home record so far has been poor, even though they have played top teams. Conversely our away form has looked poor on paper until you look a little closer and realise although we weren’t on top form at Stoke we were still very unlucky and against chelski gave possibly our best performance of the season.

JACK IS BACK and with most of the squad dusting down the international cobwebs this could be his re-coronation as young King and saviour of English football, even though Arsene has said he wants to be cautious with him. Talking of returning players Per could be back in and obviously his height could be vital and his experience calming for those around him.
I would suggest we need a fast start so in the later part of the game when the miles start to tell we can control the tempo and reduce the need to run at full pelt except on the counter of which we need to make more use of and make correct decisions at critical times. Our counter attacks are one of our poorest areas and if we get that right the goals ‘for’ column could be greatly inflated and teams would be finished off earlier.
Enjoy yourself wherever your watching P.A.s COYG.

121 Comments

Arsenal: Ignorance Is Strength

orwell speaking the truth

As an Arsenal supporter, something that both concerns and annoys me is the constant, unrelenting efforts by the mainstream media to sensationalize and manipulate bits of information to form a patently false narrative about our club. It is common to football as it is to politics and economics. The primary victim of the need to “sex-up” news and information is truth itself. Ironically, post “1984”, we have realized an Orwellian world where “Ignorance is strength”.

Thus, no more than five (5) weeks ago, just prior to the last international break and close of the transfer window, the usual suspects were trumpeting a narrative of crisis and total disaster (“shambles” is now the word of choice) because Arsenal had lost heavily to Liverpool. The ignorant were being led to believe that the Scousers were on the verge of sweeping all before them, Arsenal’s British core was crumbling as Oxlade-Chamberlain abandoned the sinking ship and both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil had no desire to play in lieu of non-renewal of their existing contract.

With the passage of time and the Premier League now on pause for another international break, a look at the tables easily discredits the dishonest, simplistic narrative.  Arsenal is now in 5th in position two places above Liverpool, albeit by only one point.

Premier League 17/18 League table
# Clubs P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man City 7 6 1 22 2 20 19
2 Man United 7 6 1 21 2 19 19
3 Tottenham 7 4 2 1 14 5 9 14
4 Chelsea 7 4 1 2 12 6 6 13
5 Arsenal 7 4 1 2 11 8 3 13
6 Burnley 7 3 3 1 7 5 2 12
7 Liverpool 7 3 3 1 13 12 1 12

It is only 114 games between all 20 clubs and thus statistically too early to draw hard and fast conclusions. But it is evident that the runners are already separating themselves from the stayers. Not surprisingly the two biggest spenders over the past two years, City and United, having splurged at least £400 million each on transfers, are already atop the table.

Like Pavlovian mice, the pundits in the mainstream media are already salivating, preparing for the coronation ceremony of either two as league champions. The fact that similar fast starts were recorded by both clubs over the past two seasons and they thereafter flagged down the stretch have not dissuaded these intrepid representatives of the mainstream media from their premature ejaculations.

A particular feature of  MSM and their echo chamber (blogs and twitter) is their refusal to present the unbiased data in support of their prognostications. Yet they have easy access to massive computerized databases and well paid interns who can generate information on the fly. This is further proof to a frequent observation that we currently live in an era where there has never been so much data and yet so little knowledge.

One such ignorancy the pundits currently repeat without challenge is: the title will be decided in games between the top-6. The proximate cause of this “profundity” is the fact that Man City, under their golden boy Pep Guardiola, has beaten two teams expected to finish in the top positions i.e. Liverpool and Chelsea.

Apparently the results between 6 teams are more significant than the result between 14, i.e. a maximum of 30 versus 84 points respectively. Something so patently unscientific motivated my research of 21 years of Premier League history, covering the period it became a 20 team competition, to see whether there are any observable facts to support this proposition.

Points from Top-6 teams

PL champion pts fr top-6

As evident in the above graphic, the number of points obtained by PL champions from the top-6 have meandered between 13 and 25 points. The mean is 19 points with a standard deviation of 4 pts. Statistically, therefore, a PL champion will 95% of the time earn between 15 and 23 points (between half and two-thirds of the total available) from their top-6 rivals. Assuming it takes approximately 85 points to win the title, clubs must earn between 70 and 62 points from somewhere.

Points from Bottom-14 Teams

PL points from lower 14

Cha Ching! The data indicates that on average 67 points or 78% of the total are obtained from the bottom teams, with a standard deviation of 5 points. In other words, 95% of the time a club must earn between 62 and 72 points from 28 games. Contrary to the blather from the pundits, it is clear a team that seriously aspires for the title must consistently maximize points from those 70% of teams that comprise the middle and lower reaches of the Premier League.

The challenge facing Arsenal is having a squad that is at least able to neutralize the top-6 while doing the business elsewhere, week-in, week out. In Part II of this series I will present the data for and against the Gooners.

PS: Part II of this series may be substantially delayed as I am currently heading to the hurricane ravaged Caribbean and may have limited if any access to the internet. Hopefully  I will have a presence in comments section of the blog.  Cheers.