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Arsenal: Another load on the road

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Good morning Positives,

Another road-trip, another defeat. And the 3-1 loss following a spanking victory at the Emirates a few days previously. The story of the first five months of 2018, play, pause, rewind, play.

Of last night’s game it was likely to be a ‘tricky’  fixture with Leicester’s players and beleaguered manager seeking salvation after their humbling at home by Moyes’ mighty Ammers at the weekend. Another limp display and Puel was gone (and may still be gone). Add to that spark in the home side our injury roster of Kosc, Ozil, Santi and Mrs Wilshere gulping down gas and air, and or other lads earning a deserved rest, and it was a proper football contest in prospect.

Early on I thought we had the game under control but slackness in GETTING RID OF THE F******** BALL WHILE IT BOUNCED AROUND THE BOX +  lax marking allowed Iheanacho in for the home side’s opener. Dinos then messed up and was dispossessed by the same player a minute later and off he went. Looking at the red card incident again on TV it was arguable that Holding could/should/would have got across if Dinos had let the striker go but that was not the way referee Scott saw it.

For a few minutes we wobbled alarmingly at 11 v 10 and the Foxes probably should have got a second. We did however steady up and gradually got back into the match by half time. The second half we came out and took control gain and duly equalised after some skilful and determined wing back work from AMN.

Our 10 pressed forward with Mhki, who was excellent all night, Ramsey and Xhaka all pressing high up the pitch, all prominent.  Kolasinac in his turn gave a further display  of what an attacking full back should do. Quite a left foot on him that boy.

And then, just as I was unpacking the bunting for the victory parade as AFC roll back to N5 with the three points, further self inflicted calamity. Another slack clearance, Mhki made a challenge he did not need to make, from an angle he should never have made any challenge from and Scott pointed spot-ward. At the time it looked like a horrible swing from Mhki, and actually it still does present as a real haymaker, but how much contact was there on Demari Gray ? I have watched it half a dozen times but even from several angles it is difficult to pick out on 2D what can only really be assessed in 3D. I shall leave you, gentle reader, to ponder the evidence;

http://arsenalist.com/f/2017-18/leicester-vs-arsenal/vardy-goal-2-1-pen-incl-foul.html

I recall something very similar with Hector and Musa about two seasons back, and on that occasion I breathed a sigh of relief.  Vardey blasts an unstoppable strike into the top corner and even with 15 minutes to go I sensed our players had runout of steam. We pressed forward again but not quite with the same conviction or purpose.Eddie can on with five minutes to go but he did not have a sniff of a goal. Mahrez caught us out again and Leicester comfortable by the final whistle.

Twas ever thus.

So enough of is gloom – a festival in prospect on Sunday for Arsene’s last game. Le’ts enjoy it and  intend to have a bit of a party to see him off. I do not know if any of you contributed to the banner flypast I put a link on here for a couple of weeks back but the fan running it @Orpheus79 got enough cash together in £5s and £10s largely for the plane to fly over Huddersfield on Sunday so keep your eye out.

One more game to go – Roll on Sunday, roll on next season.

 

91 Comments

Arsenal: And then there were two

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@LaboGoon serves up the starter for tonight’s game

Arsenal is taking the Arsène Wenger farewell show back on the road, and specifically the King Power Stadium tonight, to take on Leicester.

When the Foxes appointed Claude Puel back in October it was a decision that seemed to have raised a few eyebrows. Those fears were set aside though as he got them from the bottom three to 8th on the Premier League table – playing their particular brand of counter-attacking football and looking very fine-tuned at it. That unfortunately is not how you would describe them playing at present.

The early good form of Puel’s tenure, ‘new manager bounce’ if you will, is a thing of past as they are winless in their last six home fixtures and have picked up just one point from their last five PL games. Which has made Puel’s job now subject to a close and continuous review from Foxes fans and he received the dreaded “vote of confidence” from the club’s chairman.

This is something the Gunners would’ve taken notice of, to use selfishly for our own ends of course, to put a end to our awful travel form. With us coming into this game off the back of one of our best all round performances all season it does offer a great opportunity. And despite nothing to play for, being nailed on to 6th, the players will still be very determined to give Arsène a winning send-off. The boss himself said:

“I want to win the last two away games. I’ll go to Leicester to give absolutely everything to win.”

For me this is reason to feel motivated that we won’t leave the KP stadium empty handed.

We might see two to three changes to the line-up that trashed Burnley, just to keep things fresh and ensure we don’t go into the final game of Arsène’s reign with tired legs.

Good luck to everyone watching tonight’s game. I’ll end with a quote from the great man himself who have enriched our lives so dearly:

“The moral values I’ve learnt in my life I’ve learnt through football.”

54 Comments

An Adventure of a Lifetime – Merci Beaucoup Arsene

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@5MinuteFinal aka ‘Improper Fan’ puts the pen to work to describe his regard Arsene Wenger

Where do I start! There’s Ludovico Einaudi’s Oltremare playing in the background as I pen this, and the music is so deep that it’s evoked a slow-motion collage of Arsene’s finest moments running through my head. A tear drop hits my scroll pad.

As curtains call on a phenomenal 22-year career, so does my childhood, because Arsene is all I’ve known since I was 9.

Arsene Wenger is Arsenal, and so am I. I’ll die an Arsenal supporter, and a proud one. I owe that to Arsene Wenger.

The greatest change to have happened in English football. The man who made Sir Alex Ferguson rethink his footballing ideology. He led, we followed, for his ideas and vision were way ahead of his time. It’s quite incredible that I don’t know an Arsenal without him, and the thought of it happening now, is not pleasant.

His rivals cherished his failures and despised his incredible success. Speaks volumes about how he overshadowed everything in that land.

At his peak, Arsene Wenger was literally untouchable, as he led a team of warriors to become truly Invincible. At his worst, Arsene Wenger led his team to a domestic cup final and a European Cup, semi-final. Let that just sink in.

Arsene Wenger the manager; The Arsenal’s greatest. Arsene Wenger the human being, one of a kind, made of gold.

It’s the human being in Arsene that I will forever miss. His fierce belief in values. WOW.

An organization and its leader, first and foremost must be about the values they hold. Measurable success can be amassed with benefactors, and in the process, one can be derailed by the facade of glory, and lose track of the values and principles that the foundation of the organization was built up on.

The ones that stand-out are always the idealists, the philosophers, the purists and the principled, who will stand by these values, no matter what. Arsene Wenger a combination of them all.

Make yourself bigger than a man, and you will be a man of ideals. Arsene Wenger, will forever be remembered for being a fierce believer of his values, and a man who never gave up on people. A mark of a true leader.

I will always be a champion of the values and philosophy that Arsene imbibed into me, through my formative years. The shining light in my life, through a very dark phase. He gave me a reason to look forward to life. I can never forget that, never.

 

As we bid farewell to this gentle, kind, compassionate, and wonderful human being, I would like to thank him for every single moment, that I have witnessed as an Arsenal supporter over the last 20 years. An adventure of a lifetime, which I would relive, all over again, without a second thought.

With his departure, will end Arsenal’s most successful period in its 132-year existence. From the Marble Halls of Highbury to the lush green state of the art Emirates stadium. The man leaves us with a foundation that’s deep and a fortress that’s strong.

100 lifetimes from now, we wouldn’t find another Arsene Wenger. He has left an indelible mark on this football club and the lives of thousands, if not millions. As an Arsenal supporter, it’s been a privilege to have been a part of this club during his time, and I will always ensure that his legacy is upheld, and he is remembered and cherished for years to come.

It’s a new light for Arsenal, starting next season, and I hope that the Arsenal unite and stand for its motto Victoria Concordia Crescit.

I’d like to end this with one of Wenger’s classics.

“There is a kind of magic when men unite their energies to express a common idea. That is when sport becomes beautiful. The unhappiness of man, comes when he finds himself alone to fight against the problems he must face.”

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Merci Beaucoup, Arsene. I will always love you.

 

66 Comments

Arsenal: The Manner of Leaving

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Good morning Positive Arsenal fans,

We enjoyed a marvellous, historic day yesterday. As I said yesterday morning on here it is a day that will be with me for the rest of my life, and will be a recollection of the best kind, warm and clear. The whole stadium paid tribute to an Arsenal manager, and probably a man, we will not see the like of again  at the helm of our club. Everyone who was there yesterday was a Wenger fan, or at least seemed to be. Even Stan was there !

The humour on the afternoon came from the 3,000 Burnley fans who, after the usual run through about their Lancashire homes and “You’re Only here for the T-Shirts”, gave us a full throated rendition of “There’s Only One Arsene Wenger” – followed by a witty “You two-faced bastards, you got him the sack”.

Of the game itself we ran riot in football terms over Burnley, as we have against opponents in all but one home PL game this season. At the front Mkhi, PEA and Laca  pulled the Burnley defence apart. Iwobi weaved and prodded and our new, soon-to-be-cult hero Dinos roughed up Barnes and his replacement Vokes with commendable ruthlessness. Five good goals, and Laca’s first just before half time a real Wengerball pearl. Just one save for Cech all afternon so dominant were we. Perhaps it was Jack’s last time on the Emirate pitch in red and white. He played well, and got a good hand when he was subbed, so we shall see. And  finally we got to see the BFG whose every touch was cheered to the rafters. It certainly won’t be Per’s last involvement with the club but that opportunity to play a few minutes a final time must have been a tremendous burst of emotions.

The closing presentations and the speeches I am sure you have seen.

I was impressed that those final 20-25 post game minutes  were efficient. Bob Wilson was exactly the man to provide the opening. The original gold trophy the right award, valuable in itself, and irreplaceable in the club’s history. Vick Akers was rightly cheered and Alex Scott’s presentation was followed by a few choruses of “You’ve won more than Tottenham Hotspurs”. And then on to Arsene. Nothing mawkish or soppy. Eloquent, dignified, a delivered with light humour.  There was an excellent balance between  affection, mutual respect between Arsene, the fans and players past and present, and typically his first words were for old Blue nose. The manner of his leaving matched the work that AW has done these past 22 years.

And I miss you Arsene, I really do.

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si monumentum requiris, circumspice”— if you seek  his monument, look around you.”

 

 

94 Comments

Arsenal and Adieu

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@LaboGoon previews a day we will all remember for the rest of our lives – superb series of pictures by Stuart McFarlane @Stuart_PhotoAFC of the man last night at the stadium as the sun goes down. 

12 October 1996 – Arsène Wenger’s first game in charge of Arsenal, away to Blackburn Rovers.

19 October 1996 – his first home game at Highbury, hosting Coventry City.

Two very significant dates in Arsenal’s history ……. and then there were three.

Arsène Wenger will walk out at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal manager for the last time as we host Burnley. The 1233th game of his tenure, 2 more to go as we mark the final countdown to him signing off next Sunday at the John Smith stadium.

With both Arsenal and Burnley having nothing to play for except pride, one could be forgiven for anticipating the atmosphere to have that farewell touching feeling.

With ‘Le Professeur’, as he’s affectionately known as, being in charged for the last time at Arsenal’s spiritual home after 22 years at the helm, it’s bound to be an emotional outing for the Emirates faithful. A good chunk of them, us, have never seen any other man in the dugout, an even greater number of those who did has grown very fond of him since that 1996 autumn day… so it leaves one uncertain yet anxious to see how they will react to seeing him leave his (Emirates) seat for the very last time.

The emphasis of today will of course not be about the match, but about One Arsène Wenger. It’s going to be a celebration of an illustrious career with invited dignitaries, amongst them the Arsenal 100 Club and many, many travelling Gooners in attendance to pay tribute to a legendary manager. He himself will deliver a special message to everybody.

On to the game itself; it almost feel like it ought to be testimonial-esque, however we can be sure that each of the Arsenal players taking the field will feel motivated to give their manager, father and confidant a graceful send-off.

Sean Dyche may have ideas of his own though. During his time at Burnley they have played the Arsenal six times (five PL games, one FA Cup), with Arsène on the winning side in all six. The winner in the last three games came during extra time. Should be impetus for him to spoil the party.

The Clarets come into this game off the back of some good form, having lost just once in their last nine PL games – a reflection of an impressive season overall. Being crowned ‘the best of the rest’ they have earned themselves a European jaunt next season, and for a club with so little means it’s something their manager, players and all stake/pieholders can be very proud of.

For the Arsenal players this fixture will not be about our away record, nor Thursday’s result, but about a group of players who will be very honored to gave the great man a positive result for old times sake at the Emirates Stadium – conseptualized in his visions and now a lasting gift to generations of Gooners.

On team news: bar Cazorla, Elneny and Koscielny everyone else is available. Given the momentous occasion I would think a strong line-up will be selected. Still two games after this for younger and fringe players to impress the new man. Might we see a certain Saint on the bench… who knows!

The Emirates faithful will not be saying “au revoir” today, because the great man will forever remain one of us, their message will simply be:

Merci Arsène!

84 Comments

Arsenal: Eventually memory yields

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Good morning Positive Arsenal fans,

A disappointment for us all last night and a defeat by a highly efficient and, in some positions, very talented Atleti side. It was not the Wenger Wandaland we were hoping for (and you can thank your God that you have not had to put up with that headline in every paper this morning). And a sad night for Arsene who surely must have felt Madame Fate owed him one final, good hand before he leaves the game. As experience teaches Fate is implacable.

Of the game itself last night on this blog  provided just about the full range of analysis from conclusions, from identifying the individual errors and naming the culprits, to a review of the general psychology of the club and the stasis that gripped us over two legs against the Spaniards  when the opportunity was there to strike decisively, but we did not.   There was a view that we simply do not have the quality of players to compete at the highest level. All valid views and probably a little truth in each.

However I retain the view  that we are a good side and were narrowly beaten by a slightly better side last night, it was the semi final after all and almost certainly contested by the best two teams left in the EL. Atletico Madrid are seasoned knock out campaigners, their form since Christmas has been excellent.  The advantage of playing the second leg in their highly charged home stadium will have suited them perfectly.  The two goals that defeated us may have come from errors but those imperfections/misfortunes we seized on by first Griezmann and last night Costa and buried immediately. We were not playing against Charlie the  Carthorse  as we are often confronted with in the PL and have tackled in previous Europa League games. And Atleti’s defence ? de primera categoría/red hot.  

I know I know “Excuses, excuses, excuses”. Nevertheless I thought our lads gave all they had last night. I have no complaints.

Looking forward then.

We stand at the open door of a new era. There will be changes of playing and backroom personnel. Some of those changes will excite us and be those we would have chosen. Others will puzzle and grate. What will  be most interesting is whether the next manager will being a new “ethos” to the club. To do that he will need character, as well as to be allowed the time, resources and energy, to steer the vessel with the sure hand that has guided us for the past 22 years. And he will need the fans. It is a mighty job.

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I shall see you on Sunday. Be good and be positive.

 

80 Comments

Come On Arsenal, Do It For ……..Me.

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I expect to be put through a wide range of emotions between now and around 10 pm this evening. Already I can feel a knot in the pit of my stomach combined with a familiar sickly feeling that is normally reserved for just before kick off. Fear and excitement in equal measures will come and go until the outcome is settled. Then joy or depression will set in. For some of us weak souls, it will be a long day.

The way the first leg went, if we could have been going into this game 4 or 5 goals to the good , but as we know all too well, its 1-1 and the away goal is a killer.

I expect the team to be the same as started the first leg. The only change could be Mkhitaryan , but where he plays and who he replaces is beyond me. I suppose it would be either Danny or Jack, but given his injury and how well they both played, it would be both risky and harsh.

Honestly, I can’t remember ever wanting Arsenal to win a game of football as much, but I think that most weeks.

Let’s just hope for a good performance, a good Referee and a great result that gives us the chance of one last rousing goodbye to our greatest ever manager, and my personal hero.