158 Comments

Arsenal: Checked Progress

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Good afternoon Positives,

Two points less than I was hoping for but on the balance of play between the teams a fair result. I had been hoping for a sharp start from us but it was Palace who came at us in the opening stages and but for some good defending from Shkodran and wayward finishing by Tottie reject Townsend we might have been behind. I thought we resisted  well but were far below the required standard once we got the ball over the half way line in the first 45. We could not string two passes together. I think Hector had one shot that was blocked, after which he was hobbling, but Hennessy had a v quiet half.

The first penalty ? We were almost at the half time whistle and our concentration dropped. Panic in the box from a corner for the first and only time all afternoon. Clumsy from Mustafi as he clattered into Coyote but not much he could do about it as the ball was bouncing free.

And then, dear reader, as happens game after game and week after week, we sprung into life after the break and hit then with the old 1-2. If I had any idea why we play football this way and the first and second halves don’t fit I would  write it down. I expect Unai would say the same. For the only time n the afternoon we took control of the game for 10 minutes.

Lovely strike from Xhaka then our turn to cause panic in the Palace box before PEA slipped in the second goal from a loose, spinning ball. The Man from Gabon thought a split second faster than his marker and that difference meant his foot go to the ball first. Nine millimetres over the line ? Fine margins but top, top quality finishing.

I expected ghat, having got in front and being in control at the time, we would carry on and get a third but Palace refused to follow the script. The home side surged forward and while Bernd did not have a serious save to make the ball was pinging around the Arsenal penalty box erratically. It was not smooth from us at all. When we did break with the ball and cross the half way line our close control and choice of passes was wayward. At no time did we ever look like adding to our goal tally, which in the end did for us.

Fair play to Hodgson – Palace have one player capable of turning a game on his own and that is Zaha who had given first Hector then Stephan a difficult time, “Get the ball to Willfweed’s feet lads” Woy yelled and lo and behold he did the proverbial trick. Couple of stepovers, Granit backed into the box, slightest of touches and over he goes. Cheating, cheating, cheating bastard. But hey ho. They probably deserved a point. We have sustained a mild setback, nothing more. Re-group, learn, move on.

My Man of the Match is Granit. At times I could see him looking over at Emery during the first half and mouthing silently “OI – BOSS – I – AM – NOT- A – LEFT- BACK”. Despite the Swiss’s obvious discomfort he did a good job on Townsend and, even with Zaha’s theatrics, had a good afternoon in a position that he clearly is not comfortable in. Add to that a superb free kick for the equalizing goal and this week the laurel wreath is yours.

Blackpool midweek and a really attractive contest between Klopp’s men and our lads  to kick off next Saturday late afternoon. We shall need all our energy and guile to earn the victory.

Enjoy what is left of Sunday.

 

94 Comments

Arsenal: It’s turned out nice again

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@LaboGoon strides toward the Palace for Sunday lunch

Good morning Positivistas…

Arsenal is making the short trip to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace with hopes of attaining another 3 points, another ‘W’, the business of the day.

The Gunners are purring under Unai Emery and haven’t dropped a single point since the second game of this season. Not only is there notable momentum but also a lot of enthusiasm in and around this team. Having won 11 in-a-row in all competitions, including seven consecutive PL victories… that buzz is understandable.

Trying to derail the streak will be a difficult task for the Eagles considering the clubs’ fortunes are of varying contrasts. Roy Hodgon’s team has won only one of their last eight Premier League games, that was away to Huddersfield on the 15th September and you must go to their opening fixture vs Fulham to find their only other victory. Since the 1st September they have scored two and conceded seven goals. With them goalless at home too the Palace faithful will be looking for an improvement as they are in for a bumpy ride with Chelsea, Spurs and Manutd to follow today’s game.

Scoring goals is the least of Unai’s concerns. In Lacazette and Aubameyang the club possess a one-two punch we’ve been lacking for years; if things don’t work out for the one the other pick up the slack, if both are on fire you end up with an attacking masterclass. If both can’t find the back of the net we have a good spread of goals amongst the rest of the squad for good measure.

What is a concern of Unai are 1) the slow start to games, here he emphasised the need for more urgency and responsibility from the players, and 2) still being too open at the back, with tougher games to follow soon he want us to show some defensive solidity if we want to continue breathing down the necks of the early log leaders. This shows an awareness of the areas which we need to improve on and taking steps to do so.

I’m not going to stick my neck out and say today will be a cakewalk, but the Gunners are in a rather bullish mood of late, so if it all clicks the Eagles could be in for a long afternoon, especially with their issues in front of goal.

PS: Pundits are questioning whether our winning streak against so-called lesser teams is a true reflection of where we are [looking at you Paul Merson]. While that remains subject to opinion, it’s results vs “the farmers” that will ultimately decide where we finish on the log at the end of the season. So today’s game is by no means less important than games vs top 6 opposition… and anybody that think otherwise can go kick rocks.

46 Comments

Arsenal: Lisbon Legs Eleven

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Good evening POSITIVE Arsenal fans,

A very pleasant early evening selection served up by our lads. By no means a faultless performance but a comfortable win, the six changes led to no serious loss of performance, and not too physically taxing. Forget the arithmetic, we have successfully negotiated the Europa League group stage and we are in the next round. And it is still not the end of October. The draw is on the 17th December. Tune in.

Of the detail a patchy first half from us. On a couple of occasions, the home side threatened Bernd’s goal without ever forcing a proper save out of him. They had a run of corners that needed our full concentration. We had the majority of possession but did not open up Sporting and their keeper had just two serious stops to make.

As happens so often this season after half time we came out like a team with half a yard more pace and duly cut our hosts open, twice from  Auba and once Danny rampant in three minutes, only or Ribeiro (good keeper) to thwart is twice and the heel of a defender to foil the Welbeast. The momentum of the game had been seized by us however and we dominated the whole of the second half. Leno had almost nothing to do. In contrast to our busy first half Holding and Sokratis had no work in the second 45. The Lisbon side barely crossed he half way line. I have no idea what the possession statistics said but it much have been 70/30.

I could tell Sporting were in trouble then first their keeper then Acuna ( another decent player I thought) collapsed to the turf for 2-3 minute injury breaks following the most innocuous of touches. Come on lads, it is 0-0 – you are at home, give it a bit of a go ffs.

The goal, when it finally arrived, was the result of an error by Coates but he had been under pressure all night and eventually he snapped. A professional finish from Danny. Mild irritation on my part, perfectionist that I am,  that we did not add another just to make it 100% but hey ho, game won, qualification assured.

 

Man of the Match ?? Oooohh – ummm – sucks teeth —- oh give it to Lichsteiner. I enjoy his combination of footballing talent and roguish cynicism.

Lively atmosphere in the stadium – a bit difficult to believe these are the same fans who stormed the training ground and threatened the players over the Summer. As for the statistic that Sporting had not lost at home since September 2017 and in 36 games ? Now that is a surprise.

On we go to the round dozen – Enjoy Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

105 Comments

Arsenal: The Force is with us

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Good morning you lucky, lucky Positive Arsenal fans,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Enjoy Tuesday !!

 

 

92 Comments

Arsenal: Tell me why I like Mondays

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

Good day Positivistas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

64 Comments

Top 4 or Tip Top? Arsenal On The Up!

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

Arsenal: Five Wins WWWWW Five Goals

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Good afternoon Positive Arsenal fans,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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