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Grace Under Fire

Monaco, ah Monaco. How well I remember your tight twisting turns, your dark tunnel, the difficulty of shaving a half second from my best lap time and the despair as Pete the Greek or The Lizard Man shot past me on the home straight. Our race evenings with the Sega Megadrive were dissolute affairs and towards the end of the night the driving had become more than a little erratic due as much to the thick coiling mist of dope smoke as to the occasional full bodied bottle of red despatched by the drivers. Looking back I can’t help thinking Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szczęsny would have fitted rather well into my social circle. These days I am of course chaste and pure and the Formula One games on offer are so ridiculously complex and cluttered with unnecessary petrol head pleasing detail about engines, tyres, pit stops and leaderboards that I have formally retired from the circuit. Monaco will never again thrill to my stoned, mercurial driving performance.

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Back in those halcyon hazy days the only other thing Monaco meant to me was Grace Kelly. Oh and there was that time when Bertie cancelled a trip to Monte Carlo preferring to spend Christmas with Bobbie Wickham and her family much, it has to be said, to Jeeves’ chagrin. Little did I know as I adroitly applied the tongue to a heavily laden four skinner and prepared to take my place at the front of the grid that a man called Arsène Wenger, unknown outside of Nancy where he had enjoyed an unremarkable managerial career, had recently taken over the reins at AS Monaco FC. To be fair I probably didn’t know Monaco even had a football team. You know what they say, if you can remember the nineteen eighties you weren’t there man. Anyway this young unknown manager replaced none other than Ștefan Kovács who deserves his own special place in the hearts of all adherents to the beauty of the game for his commitment to the total football of the Ajax teams of the early seventies. Monsieur Wenger revived Monaco’s waning fortunes winning the league in his first season and signing the likes of Weah, Klinsmann, Djorkaeff, Hately and some bloke called Hoddle, oh and while he was at it he oversaw the development of Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit and Lilian Thuram. Not a bad day at the office. Sadly in return, Monaco would treat the man destined to become our glorious leader in a somewhat shoddy fashion. They refused to allow him to discuss the vacant managerial role at Bayern München who were apparently very keen to talk to him, but then dismissed him not long after the Germans had become fed up of waiting and in their impatience gave the job to Giovanni Trapattoni.How they must have rued the day.

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If I’m honest I was an international illiterate when it came to football in the eighties and nineties and, unless Arsenal were in a European tournament, paid scant regard to what went on south of Dover. What a parochial little stoner I was. Shameful really. During my period of self imposed exile from the human race  Monaco enjoyed success and despair in almost equal measure both winning titles and being booted out of Ligue Une for financial irregularities (although that punishment was commuted on appeal). They endured seven years of the managerial merry go round before being relegated for real this time. In a sadly familiar twist to a modern footballing tale they were ‘rescued’ while languishing at the bottom of Ligue deux by, yep, you guessed it a Russian billionaire. Predictably enough the obscene torrent of spending has seen them rise with the smell of burnt feathers from first in the second division in 2013 to second in the first last year. They are currently fourth after a stop start season not dissimilar to ours in many ways.

Once again Arsène agrees with me (he so often does, great minds and all that, I believe we both gave up smoking at a similar time too) that there are parallels to be drawn between the two clubs saying Monaco are in a similar position to us. They came back into a good position in the league and their confidence level will be high.” I don’t know if our confidence levels will be high after the amusement at Selhurst Park on Saturday or not. I believe they ought to be as the untidy little scrap at the very end of the game should not cloud the ease with which we had held off a spirited Palace side and the consummate skill with which we had taken such a commanding lead beforehand. To attempt to play proper football on what amounted to little more than a Sunday league pitch against a side set up for kick and rush was always going to be a big ask and I think the players showed huge character to stick at it and get the job done. Those who want to whine and bleat about Palace hitting the post need to include our near misses as well if they are going to play ifs and buts. The simple fact is we scored more than them and played the better football. Our only mistake if it was a mistake was allowing them to put us under too much pressure in the final part of the match. Sometimes though, in football, the other side just dictates the play and you have to grin and bear it. As much as we’d love to put all our opponents to the sword in the way we dispatched Aston Villa you can’t expect it to happen every week. Had Alexis not had a rare off day with his finishing we’d have gone three up and I very much doubt Palace would have had any fight left in them, but then who knows? See I can play ifs and buts just as well as the next man.

Selhurst Park

Tonight we can put the nightmarish up and under of English mud ball behind us. Tonight is what so many other supporters can only dream of. Tonight they must look on in envy. Yet, incredibly enough, under Arsène Wenger Arsenal fans have come to think of this as the norm. The knock-out stages of the Champions league. So many have spent so much trying to emulate what Arsène achieves, and he has done it while simultaneously building a new stadium, while constricted by such a tight budget that he has been forced to sell his best players. Yet he delivers it every single year. We really are lucky Arsenal aren’t we? Lucky to have such a great man in charge, lucky to have such a fantastic stadium, lucky to be treated to some of the best football ever played. I love the feeling of waking up on the day of a Champions league fixture, let’s face it you are following the wrong sport if you don’t love it. It is the holy grail for every Premiership team and make no mistake if any one else achieved it year in year out while being outspent by nearly all of the competition they would be lauded as the greatest manager in English football.

Well, we don’t need the hideous reptiles of the British sports media to tell us what we already know do we? Monaco were once lucky enough to have him and we’ve been blessed to have had him during the most vital years in our club’s modern history. This is a tournament in which we have come so close, enjoyed some famous victories and suffered some agonising defeats. Tonight and in all future rounds of the competition all I hope is that the fans and players give him the victory he has earned, no man deserves it more. I believe the team are good enough and I believe they are ready.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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133 comments on “Grace Under Fire

  1. Please be kind, anicoll. Please. There’s enough negativity out there…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Still can’t quite believe how often Alexis, Santi and Mesut gave the ball away tonight.
    Then Ox comes on and starts doing the same thing.
    Lovely goal though from Ox – an uplifting moment – shame it didn’t last.

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  3. Tonight too many of our players hid beside other in the middle, Cazorla, Ozil, Welbeck and Alexis all far too often took up the same area of the pitch, you could have thrown a blanket over them on many occasions, no width, and so it was no wonder Bellerin and Gibbs spent too much time joining up with the attack, as none of them wanted to play wide, I really don’t get it why Walcott is not in the team, I’d have him in their at the expense of any one of Welbeck, Cazorla or Ozil. I think Wenger needs to decide on one of Ozil or Cazorla, and also one of Giroud or Welbeck.

    I hope we now see Gabriel given his chance ahead of Per, and while I’m at it, I still don’t know why Ospina is in the team ahead of Szczesny, he just is not as good as our Pole.

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  4. To hell with Pogba – go get Kondogbia in the summer Arsène.

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  5. Arsenal were dire,
    Apparently despite warnings that Monaco defend well, it actually turns out they do defend well.
    Also on a night when 15 arsenal players individually make a case to get themselves banished to the reserves for perpetuity.

    Jack, Arteta and Wojo are safe for quite a while.

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  6. I know Giroud had a mare tonight, lots of missed chances, but was it a mistake to take him off, he was missing chances, but at least he was getting chances, welbeck did not cause them the problems OG was, when he moved to CF.

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  7. Anicoll
    10:35pm
    Take deep breaths mate, deep breaths.

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  8. passenal
    19 minutes ago
    Well, that was not part of the script going into this game! We were poor all round, even our big players let us down today. It was a mentally and physically tired performance – perhaps that boggy pitch on Saturday took more out of the team than we realised at the time. I just hope all concerned can put this horror show behind them and get back on track for Everton, which will not be easy. I hate to be a doomer but it looks like the CL dream is over for another season.”

    Andrew. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. i’m with you edu. but per still deserve another chance. remember we played with only coq doing all the closing down and winning back the ball, which we gave away too many times in the game. i cant blame ox for the third goal. he is cleary not a DM. kos should have brought down the player. bellerin did that and i expect a more experienced player to do that especially at such period of the game.

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  10. the players must take the biggest portion of blame for that tonight, the only thing I would question Wenger over would be the team selection, but regardless of who was selected, it is then down to the players to do their jobs better than they did tonight.

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  11. layksite I don’t blame Ox for the third goal, for me Koscielny’s defending on the third goal was a complete joke, half baked attempt by him.
    Per was woeful on the second goal, and for me he should have taken the hit for the first goal, yes he would have been very sore from that blaster of a shot, but isn’t that what he gets the big bucks for.
    Ospina got a hand to the third goal but failed to keep it out, also thought he should have at least made an effort to get a hand on the first goal, it went in right beside him, but it seemed that once he was wrong footed he gave up on it, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on him, would have to see it again to be sure, and I just at this time can’t bring myself to watch it again, my birthday has been spoiled enough from this mess of a game tonight.

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  12. i think wenger sub giroud out of anger and disappointment. i think it will sink deeper knowing he can be removed if he is performing below expectation. wenger treats this player like friends and sometime you need some strict measure to put your point across.

    we have players on the bench and even many who didnt make the squad. players who are not giving 100% should be subbed. i like the energy ox broUght into the game. some players are getting complacent and taking their place in the team for granted.

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  13. Here’s a quote from Arsene no one has posted yet:

    on over committing…
    “The players wanted to do well and come back when it was 2-1. They wanted to come back to 2-2 and forgot their elementary cautiousness.”

    They’ll be devastated tonight. As much as Arsene, and more than any of us. I won’t have it that they don’t care or that they gave up or didn’t try hard enough. They tried too hard. Mistakes in judgement all around, sure. But, geez, could we ease up with the piling on?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sport is not an exact science, Arsenal games even less so. I have chosen to support these players and their manager so I share their disappointment and hope they will do better next time. And even better when they go to Monaco for the second leg. And if they don’t do better then I will be disappointed and then look to the next match. Or the next season.

    We were not very good tonight. There will be other times when we are not very good again. And sometimes we will be brilliant. That goes with the territory with this team.I have my suspicions as to the players that aren’t good enough in the games that are difficult, and I suspect the manager does too, but we will only know about it when they are replaced and not before then.

    In the meantime I shall do my best to stay cheerful, and if Steww has any ideas as to where to get any of that gear he was talking about earlier then I suspect we could all do with reliving the eighties.

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  15. Sorry; have just read what I just wrote. What a pile of pretentious shit.

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  16. we will win the second leg by 4 goals

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  17. Eduardo: I happen to think that too. And funnily enough I hope we forget all about tactics and just go and play football. We will blow them away if we do.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I didn’t think it was pretentious, FH. I thought it was pretty good.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. we are not out yet. i mean we just cant be out! cant accept being kicked out by a poor team as monaco. they didnt even come to win. they just dont want to lose – by wide margin. and they couldnt even do that because they gave away so many chances that we could have easily won by two or more goal margin. we simply gave the match away. simple. at 2-1 i was jubilating confident we’ll beat them o their own ground. but elementary mistake cost us the third goal. we can win the second leg for sure. but we must put players who really want to die to get through. we did it against milan and inter. we can do it again but not with this type of attitude.

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  20. if we go there and get a goal within the first 20 mins. we’ll blow them away. players with the right attitude should start. impossible is nothing.

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  21. the players may be disappointed. ofcouse they should. but they should have avoided that. the whole of first half was poor. they should have been disappointed at that point and turn on the style like they always do in the second half but the didnt.

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  22. i’m not even sure monaco will know what to do in the second leg.

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  23. If they scored three away from home, we can score three away from home. We can, if we play the way we expected them too. I admire that Graham Souness was angry at being deprived of the Arsenal performance he was expecting. We must not concede though…..

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  24. We simply lacked the players to play possession-football. With Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere missing there wasnt enough players able to control the game from central midfield. Sanchez tried to come deep, Coquelin tried to go forward, Cazorla tried to dribble away from pressure but the natural link between midfield and forwards that either 13/14 Ramsey or 10/11 Jack could provide just wasnt there.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Ed: “Gains of course our work rate played a part, Monaco had loads of time on the ball all game long, we did not put in the work rate to close them down as a team.”

    That tends to happen when you’re chasing the game.

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  26. gains it happened all game long, not just after they took the lead, in fact they took the lead from one such incident of having lots of time on the ball. our forwards never closed them down as a group, in was in ones or twos well spread out, there was not a joint effort to close down, such as Monaco done to our players a lot of the time.

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  27. The Twelfth Man @_The12thMan · 3h 3 hours ago
    So many fans left at 0-2. The first fans near me to leave were on the 71st minute. Pathetic. Don’t come back.

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  28. ok ..ok..ok joe peci leathel wepaon 3…..after 6 pints and two double jd and coke and two spliffs all i have to say is this :

    ( i totally believe we are capable of a job in monaco…)

    but

    fuck you arsenal fans…cant fucking get together to sing a song for youur team and you all join in to boo your players…wankas…fuck you ..wholeheartedly….too many middle class with entitlement..go fuck yourselves..get out our house…

    sorry geirge..im relaxed now

    mesut…dear friend..arsene paid 46 million for a reason yeah ? if not in these games…where? come on buddy.

    per mertesaker…come on man…all three goals youre threre… come on dude….

    yes we were patheti..but theyre shit..we can do them…so do them! aaaaaaahhhhhhh roll quickly the next one

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  29. cannon stop with your middle class nonsense, are you trying to say can’t be a real fan unless you are working class, next thing you will be telling us you have to be from Islington to be a Gooner, some of the biggest moaners we have are the local fans, the few Gooners I know who live in Islington and go to games are some of the most negative fans I’ve ever seen, they would most likely have been booing tonight, that is if they stayed to the end, which is likely as they never miss a chance to have a good old moan.

    as for Ozil, give him the runners and he will pass it to them, give him a shower of guys blocking others paths and trying to fill the same spaces, and what is he to do. He had exactly the same problems Cazorla had tonight, no one in front of him actually making runs in behind, it was all “no you have it”, “no lets pass it for the sake of it”, “after you sir”

    Our woeful standard of finishing tonight was only beaten by our totally inept defending, we actually created at least half a dozen very good chances, Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott all had clear cut chances that they should have scored, but lets blame Ozil,

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  30. Cannon13: “( i totally believe we are capable of a job in monaco…)”

    I felt this the minute the final whistle was blown.

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  31. i wonder how wenger will feel if i feel this terrible even hours after the game.

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  32. Awful night. Even though I have been lurking, I had to keep away from posting.

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