31 Comments

The Emirates Goes Nuclear!

Deep in time added to stoppage time, Reiss Nelson gave us one of the great moments of the Emirates era, chesting it down and thwacking it home to seal a dazzling comeback win from two down. 

Nelson’s goal sparked mass delirium, with the bench emptying onto the pitch, our captain collapsing to the turf, an inhuman howl issuing from the stands, and all of Arsenaldom sharing in a moment of rapturous joy. I have heard a crowd make such a ferocious noise, so loud it gave the commentators’ mics distortion.

It crowned the hardest of hard-fought wins, against an awkward team that was always elusive on the counter, and found innovative ways to defend with their arms while avoiding punishment. 

Arsenal trailed for 70 minutes of the 98. This advantage played into Bournemouth’s hands, suiting their defensive gameplan and piling danger onto every turnover. Do not overlook the resilience and concentration to bring this back to 2-2 alone.  

To start, Bournemouth turned the kick-off into an attacking set-piece by overloading the right side of the pitch, drawing our players to cover. The left was empty and they advanced to the corner of our box without facing a single challenge.

The cross snuck under Gabriel’s foot, though he can’t really be blamed for it, putting it on a tee for Billing who had an open goal. It was more clever from them than sloppy from us, but we didn’t come out looking good. 

Our best chance of the first half came a couple of minutes later when Odegaard forced Neto to dive to the bottom right, and Saka followed up, striking the goalkeeper on the chest unawares. 

The remainder was intermittent pressure on the Bournemouth box, alleviated by time-wasting and two or three troubling counter-attacks. 

The most incisive of these drew a point-blank save from Ramsdale, although the replay showed that Solanke was probably offside when he broke, so it could have been ruled out. 

After Saka’s chance, our best hope of a first-half goal was via a couple of penalty shouts. The first looked like a clear handball by a disoriented Mepham after a botched header. 

Decisions like that make you doubt yourself, because I don’t know how it wasn’t given by VAR. I know even less now after the events of the second half. 

The second big shout, just before half-time, looked innocuous in the moment, but the replay showed that Tomiyasu was first to the ball and was kicked by the defender. It might have been soft, but they have been called in the past, for teams that aren’t Arsenal.

Trossard went off with what looked like a muscle injury, leaving us with three forwards injured, and Emile Smith-Rowe coming on. ESR hadn’t looked fully fit before this game, and it was a bit troubling to see him on the pitch so early, knowing that we needed a contribution from him. 

The second half was a harrowing blur of churning Arsenal possession, blocked shots, snuffled-out Bournemouth counters, wasted Arsenal corners, yet more potential handballs, and interminable time-wasting. 

Every time we worked space for a shot it was straight at Neto, and as our corner count racked up did anyone else wonder that it would be typical if Bournemouth scored from their first one? That’s just what they did, when Senesi lost Partey and doubled Bournemouth’s advantage after an hour. 

Partey had atoned within five minutes, seizing on the Cherries’ first moment of hesitation all game to get on the end of Emile Smith-Rowe’s looped header. Neto was booked in the aftermath, having successfully eaten into a big chunk of the game up to that point. 

Bournemouth had looked less assured even before they extended their lead, and for the final half-hour we were able to put the squeeze on them without respite. 

Smith-Rowe, evidently trying to find his feet, made way for Nelson, who has looked sharp when fit. The winger found space down the left, digging out a deep cross from the byline, met by White for his first ever Arsenal goal. 

That was not an easy chance, but he adjusted his stride like a seasoned poacher, and the ball had already flown two feet across the line before Neto could paw it out. 

I don’t have the energy to discuss all of the second half penalty claims. Maybe that’s how they get you, by grinding you down with confusion. 

The biggest came on the back of the equaliser, when Saka’s cross was elbowed onto the post by Stephens, who leaned into the path of the ball. Looking back, it’s no wonder all of our other shouts were dismissed, if the claim had to be even more clear-cut than this one. I remain mystified. 

With time ticking down, Martinelli went on a driving run from the halfway line, bursting into the box before blazing over. Saka, clearly flagging, then miscued. 

More time was lost to delayed restarts and fake injuries, including a long one in the first minute of stoppage time, which is what gave us that one final chance, angled into the corner so adroitly by Mr Nelson. 

With injuries and fatigue accumulating, who’s to tell what other contributions he might make before the season’s up?

As the ecstasy softens into a happy buzz—had anyone else forgotten about the power of back-to-back wins? I know I had. Because in two weeks we’ve put together 12 points. It took us three months to amass fewer in the winter of 2020-21.

A final thought for rival fans, squinting at spyware-riddled streams to witness Reiss Nelson blasting the ball into the net and the deranged catharsis that came with it. 

Birdkamp

80 Comments

Arsenal beat Foxes and Officials

Hello all.

In this podcast we discuss ,what I believe was a great performance and I go on a rant about corruption in football.

Pedantic George

15 Comments

Arsenal Keep Foxes at Arm’s Length.

Can a game be called a nail-biter when the other team creates almost nothing—0.01xG to be precise—and doesn’t win so much as a corner? On today’s evidence, I guess so.

Arsenal were impossibly comfortable for an hour, before Leicester tried to get physical and turn it into a basketball match. From that point we had to be sensible, make sure the referee witnessed all of the many fouls against us, and close it out.

Even if you’ve only watched a couple of Arsenal matches this season, you’ll have noticed how things can swing wildly in 15-minute chunks. There are times when we are sublime, and make the other team look clumsy and inadequate. 


Minutes later we are suffering, and sometimes it appears to be by choice, like we’re trying to get more suffering under our belts. We are experienced sufferers at this point, and called on all of that practice to stroll to 1-0 win. 

In the first half we served up that smooth football that eases us from one box and one flank to the other.

You don’t need much of a tactical mind to know that Leicester are not a team to drill shape endlessly on the training ground. Arsenal found them very accommodating, opening up a lot of room in the parts of the pitch where we do the most damage.

In a pretty familiar pattern, the Leicester structure was being warped rightwards to cover Saka and Odegaard, and when we worked it left, we found Xhaka, Martinelli, Trossard and Zinchenko in boundless space.

Plenty of times this season the player who gets the ball on the left appears almost confused about how much space he’s in. And so it was today, with Martinelli overthinking his advantage more and more as the half went on.

Leicester’s threat in that first period was hypothetical—rare breaks that were easily cut out or broke down without much prompting.

At the mid-way point, after gliding up the pitch yet again there was a sense of the pressure becoming too much. Ward flapped at a corner, and it was laid off to Trossard who found the top corner with panache from the edge of the area. 

VAR then gave the goal a kind of scrutiny not seen since the Zapruder Film, and Ward was deemed to have been fouled, unable to remove his arm from White’s no doubt crushing grip. 

But for a penalty that should have been given on Saka, the long delay killed our momentum, and we drifted to half-time without a shot on target, for all of the danger we created. 

Again, if you’ve been watching Arsenal this season you’ll know that we start second halves on a mission. Today’s spell yielded our only goal. 

Barely a minute had passed when Gabriel passed/cleared the ball down the line for Trossard. The Belgian stood up Souttar, exploiting the Durdle Door-sized gap between his legs with a poked pass to Martinelli. 

Speeding into the area, Martinelli had no time to overthink things; he took a perfect first touch and then swept the ball into the bottom corner, getting a stamp from Ndidi on the away. 

For the next few minutes, we looked irresistible. First, Martinelli just failed to pick out one of the half-dozen Arsenal shirts in the box. Then Odegaard lifted the ball through for Martinelli to square for Saka, who scored what would have been a gorgeous goal, had Martinelli not been called offside. It was so tight. 

After that, Leicester brought on Vardy, whose main contribution was to bodycheck Jorginho on the touchline. Vardy set the tone for his team, who got stuck in, and tried to overload the flanks, but were repelled by our defenders. 

They got too aggressive a few times. Xhaka and Jorginho were roughed up in particular, but the closest they came to a goal was Souttar almost heading into his own net from Partey’s cross late on. 

Looking back, it’s hard to believe they got away without a single yellow card, while Martinelli was booked for the most nothingy foul in the game. 

Fine, it all ended with an away win, a clean sheet and two key players given a breather. So I think we’ll take it. 

Birdkamp

50 Comments

Arsenal Destroy More Narratives.

Hello all.

In this podcast we look back at the Villa game,a quick glance at the City defeat and a moan about children and their football jargon on twitter.

Pedantic George.

11 Comments

Brave Arsenal Bounce Back to the Top

Back in the early days of the Emirates, Wenger’s Arsenal gave the word “brave” a new meaning, at least in football terms. For some, bravery will always be about barrelling into the 50-50s and putting your face in harm’s way like Phil Jones. 

But for us, as we honed the short passing game that endures in Arteta’s Arsenal, “bravery” became sticking with your football principles in the face of setbacks, ridicule, and occasional violence. 

It was in those days, not the glory of the Invincibles, that Arsenal’s modern identity was forged. This is our Plan A. 

Our courage is about taking the difficult but more effective option. That might mean passing and receiving in tight areas, or looking for overlaps even when you know the other team is ready to pounce on the counter. Above all it means persevering, like Saka did all match, knowing you will be kicked. 

That devotion to technicality even bled into our corners, in which we kept playing it short, and kept finding players in dangerous positions, like Zinchenko to make it 2-2. 

Yesterday’s win at Villa, when Sauron’s eye was glaring at the manager and players was brave as hell. That was true for the final 20 minutes, when we continued to go for the win, knowing that counter attacks are Emery’s meat and drink. 

Villa’s two goals were clinical in a way that makes it hard to point fingers at our players, but even if they were out of the blue they put us in a position where there was no longer margin for error, even when we’d been playing quite well again. 

We revelled in that pressure this time. Take the passage of play before Zinchenko’s equaliser: Saliba tracked Watkins on a potential counter, ushered him down an alley and mugged him for the ball. It was a colossal piece of defending and exemplified a team shrugging off the baggage and rising to the challenge. 

The past two weeks—yes, it’s only been two weeks since Everton away—Arsenal have played like a good team going through a sticky patch, as opposed to an average team that had finally been found out. 

The way we look back at this run will always be coloured by the results, but in every game you could say that we’ve done the things that good teams do. For me, that applies most of all to the way we’ve worked the ball from defence to attack, only for things to break down. 

Throughout this run, it has taken something special or a unique set of circumstances to take points off us.

But Villa are nothing special, and were the most vulnerable of any team we’ve faced since Wolves before the World Cup. They’ve got a lot of talented players, and Emery is still one of the best at preparing for individual matches, but their momentum has ebbed since the new year.

And while we’ve been doing a lot of things right recently, we haven’t been winning. Good teams win, and this was a winnable game. 

There were other factors in play of course. One was the physical aspect, with under 72 hours between kick-offs. Another is morale. It would only be natural for heads to drop after a winless run.

And yet, even in the lowest point in this game, immediately after Villa had scored their second, we were brave enough to keep playing our football, attempting and succeeding with high-tariff passes through the lines to players in spots that made Villa uncomfortable. 

Good examples were Xhaka finding Nketiah in the area from deep, or Saliba clipping a pass out to Saka on the move, as we tried to assert ourselves the only way we know. 

Fast-forward to a match poised at 2-2, with six minutes added and a lot more wasted by Emi Martínez. If we had ridden our luck, Villa had burned through a season’s worth. And here we are, pinning them in their box, working it from side-to-side, looking for a yard. By hanging back, Jorginho found several, and he made the most satisfying connection. 

The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and then off the head of Martínez, as poetic comeuppance, as if some greater force had looked at Arsenal’s last two weeks, had watched that guy’s World Cup celebrations, and said, “You know what, you deserve this.” 

It was a fitting end to a week in which Arsenal were supposed to have been figured out and needed to come up with a Plan B. 

No way, Arsenal must live and die by our Plan A, because our Plan A is who we are.

Birdkamp

28 Comments

Arsenal Lose Battle, War Continues.

Good morning positives, how are you doing?

As if losing last night wasn’t enough, no Birdkamp today, so that leaves me to spout my inane nonsense, so don’t be expecting me to tell you anything you don’t know or didn’t see.

We lost a home game to a team I believe to be the best in the world. However, judging from the meltdown on social media, you might think we had been thrashed by a non-league pup team from the heart of Tottenham, with huge swathes of our fanbase behaving like demented toddlers that got the wrong Christmas present. Quite frankly, the reaction has been nothing short of pathetic. Sadly though, it was entirely predictable from the emotionally stunted morons.

I though it was an even start to the game , with us just shading it, until The Emperor hit a horribly short back pass for KDB to pounce upon and shin with his weak leg into the top corner. This of course instantly turned last years successful Japanese signing into the worst player we have and he should never represent the club again. Or so I was reading on twitter. For the rest of the half i thought we were very good. Jorginho and Xhaka completely bossed the game and in the 5 years of Pep, I’ve never witnessed City so comprehensively outplayed. Eddie earned us a rightly given penalty, which Saka dispatched with aplomb, and we went into the break with the very least we deserved.

City had been reduced to time wasting while kicking lumps out of our lad, in particular, Silva had 4 bookable fouls before he eventually was carded just before halftime. I say again, I’ve never before seen Pep’s City side reduced to playing second fiddle with possession and having to resort to thuggery. What came after the break seems to have made people forget just how good our young guns were before it.

However, in the second half things went badly wrong. To me we were pushing to hard, trying to be just too cure, and twice it cost us goals. As good as Xhaka had been before the break, he started to misplace passes, over hit ball and make some wrong decisions. Odegaard went AWOL and the control of midfield we had had, was no more.

Over the course of the game we made a few chances that we didn’t convert and we gifted them 3 chances that the did convert. The idea that we played badly a notion that I really can’t understand. This was a brave effort against a team that most others fear to take on in a game of football.

If we play as well as that until the end of the season we will still be in the mix for the big prize. I’m hugely proud of the way we took the game to them and like Mikel, I think I now have even more belief that we can hold up and keep our challenge going.

Although it’s disappointing to lose, remember, we have gone from a side that City simply brushed asise, to a team that van not only stand up to them, but actually put them on the back foot for most of a game.

Chin up.

Pedantic George (@arseblagger)

47 Comments

Brentford Remind Us What We’re Up Against.

After a disappointing result, it’s so predictable how some people will try to avoid the difficult questions by bigging up the opposition. Which is exactly what I’m going to do now. 

Seriously, I think we can spare a bit of praise for our opponents yesterday, can’t we? 

It’s hard to keep up with everything going on in the league. But during the week I’d heard The Bees were doing well, and had a quick look to see just how well. It was a bit worrying.

They are undefeated in the league since October, have lost the same amount of league games as Man City, and hadn’t conceded a goal in more than five hours before Saturday’s game. They are the league’s form team since the restart. 

Safe to say, Brentford are a well-coached outfit, and Thomas Frank is going to take over at one of the contenders before long. 

Worse, we are exactly the kind of team that they like to play against. They’ve beaten Man City and Liverpool since November, with exactly the kind of robust and direct football that confounded us yesterday.

Where Everton clogged up the pitch and packed the box for set pieces, Brentford combine a low block with unpredictable patterns of play in the transition, overloads that appear out of nowhere, and newfangled set piece routines that will be all over the league in a year or two.

Everton were all adrenaline and fire, but there’s a smooth efficiency to Brentford that tells you they’ve got innovative thinkers behind the scenes.

We can try to make sense of Frank as a coach and Brentford’s style, but it’s obvious that a lot rests on Ivan Toney’s muscular shoulders. As strong as he may be, his intelligence shines through in how he uses his body and spots his teammates’ runs, even mid-duel. 

A couple of times he was totally off balance when he played a pass, and still found the runner. He was the main reason we could never sustain our pressure in the first hour; if you can find him he’ll take the pressure off, and your defence can reset. Toney dominated Saliba, hit the crossbar, and scored the equaliser. 

OK, enough about him. That goal should never have counted. It was offside. And even before that, there was no foul for the free kick; Toney was the one with his arms wrapped around Saliba, echoing Jansson on Leno away at Brentford in 2021.. 

They had caused us a lot of problems, and should have gone one-up at 0-0, but their style is also labour intensive. 

Immediately after Toney shot wide in the 56th minute there were positive signs for us. Brentford’s automated passes stopped connecting, and patches of open grass suddenly appeared in their defensive third. 

Odegaard played Saka into one such sward, and his low, inviting cross was met at the far post by Trossard. 

A quick detour, but does anyone else feel this might have been a game for Trossard to start instead of Martenilli? I thought it made sense to use the Belgian’s intricacy against Brentford’s packed defence, and save Martinelli’s dynamism for the transitions against Man City.

Anyway, the match continued for another 20 minutes after the equaliser, of which the ball was probably in play for about five. We’ve been in the same position and seen games out, but I think an extra three minutes could have been played on top of the time added on and nobody would have been able to complain. 

This result will surely be seen as a continuation of what happened last week. I’d suggest there’s more to it than that, and sides like Brentford prove the quality of the league. For more proof just look out how the other teams at the top end of the table have toiled in the last few days. 

It leaves me unsure how worried we should be, but feeling a little better about our top four chances.

The good news is we don’t have to wait too long to find out where we are at the moment. The bad news is obvious—no wins in three, and last season’s champions are coming with a point to prove on Wednesday.

Birdcamp

63 Comments

Arsenal Wilt In Everton Cauldron.

As this match approached it was hard not to feel like an American meteorologist watching a hurricane gaining force out in the Atlantic. 

First, it became clear that Lampard was out the door, which would boost any football team on the planet. Soon, Dyche emerged as the only sensible option. Landfall for this perfect storm was an early Saturday fixture at Goodison Park, where we haven’t won for 5+ years. 

If you want a defining moment for the game, how about this:

In the 19th minute, after an uneventful opening, Saliba received the ball from Zinchenko and had to deal with a bit of attention from Onana. Everton’s No. 8 was the only blue shirt within 30 yards of Saliba, but he felt harried enough to clear the ball into touch. Onana pumped his fist, and the crowd roared. 

This action brought on a five-minute air raid, with a long sequence of corners and crosses that forced us to defend for the first time in the game. More importantly, it got the home crowd going, and the collective drive eventually led to a spell of good chances for Everton. 

We’ve seen that in most circumstances, Saliba has the ability to drop a shoulder and make an attacker look silly. Saturday’s match was not “most circumstances”. This was no ordinary new manager bounce we were facing. 

Going out was one of the worst coaches in organized football, and with him all the accompanying tactical confusion and low confidence. 

Coming in was one of the game’s all-time simplifiers, with a style and gameplan that can be assimilated in just one training session, let alone a whole week. 

Compounding that you’ve got a crowd so starved of quality that even the most run-of-the-mill stuff would send them into raptures. Such low standards, matched with the usual indignation and rancour made Goodison Park the perfect launchpad for them and trap for us. 

Checking the record Everton’s new managers get off to winning starts, especially if they arrive mid-season. Yes, even Frank Lampard pulled it off.  

To manage these circumstances, I think there’s a certain number of little actions that you have to perform under moments of pressure. 

Come out with possession enough times, and you reach a critical mass and your opponent’s tail will go down. That tenacity is the foundation for Dyche’s football. It’s the force that squeezes the gap between their lines to the width of a pane of double glazed glass. And on Saturday there was a massive reserve of it because of the freshness of the occasion.

Had Saliba dummied Onana, would the result have been different? Probably not, but that moment felt indicative and it stoked the flames. 

Throughout the 90 minutes we made interesting incursions into their half. We wrung some decent chances from their resurgent defence, notably with a Saka volley and an Nketiah slice in the first half. We could have created quite a few more, with a bit more lucidity. 

There were about half a dozen moves from back to front that will show up on a YouTube compilation showcasing our slick football, but they’ll leave out the miscommunications, overhit passes and iffy control that killed them, and for which Everton’s back ten deserve some praise. 

Looking back, it’s hard to single out a single player who disgraced himself. Maybe Ben White’s passing was a bit loose, and he gave up possession for Everton’s best chance in the first half.

For their goal, we ran out of tall players to mark their many big men, resulting in the mismatch of Odegaard vs Tarkowski. There’s not much you can say about a set piece goal like that. It was a deep cross, and Tarkowski muscled out our captain to get his run at the back post. 

On that subject it’s difficult to assess a performance against a Dyche team. Their goals come from split-second instances rather than passages of play. You can be probing, feel like you’re gaining the upper hand, then concede a set piece and suddenly be losing.  

The final 25 minutes yielded more promising moments, especially as Everton’s two banks looked a little less ordered. 

A sweeping passing sparked panic on the edge of the area, and Maupay’s attempt to shepherd Gabriel off the ball was clumsy. It should have been a penalty, and surely would have been a penalty at the other end. 

That was followed by several more flowing moves over the next 15 minutes, with no response from Everton who were puffing at this point. Trossard struck the ball straight at Pickford, A Saka shot was rushed by more committed defending, Trossard curled over after floating into ample space, and a Vieira cutback was just about dealt with.

Any hope of a final flourish was extinguished by a litany of fouls, two hopeful long-shots by Zinchenko and a scuffle instigated by the ever irritating Maupay.

The uniting theme, true at numerous points throughout the match, was a lack of composure, from Saliba’s rushed clearance to Zinchenko’s fight with Maupay when we had more important things to be doing. Let’s hope we can rediscover it against another boisterous team next week.

Birdkamp.

98 Comments

Arsenal Lose Game But Not Belief.

Good Morning .

We lost a narrow match away at Man City. You can talk about schedules, fatigue and whatnot, but it’s hard to be upbeat about going out. This wasn’t the League Cup, which you can always shrug off; no, the FA Cup is part of Arsenal’s identity. 

Still, there are a few reasons not to go too far with a narrow defeat away at Man City, of all opponents. The first is that this was a horrible tie, against a team that has dominated English domestic football for half a decade. 

They almost never lose at home, and picked something approaching their strongest team, even if a Man City first XI is theoretical, given all their rotation. 

The other is that we made a lot of changes. Without injuries, I’d say that only four of the players who started would make our outright best XI, although that’s up for debate. 

And yet we competed well. Cheered on by what sounded like a stadium full of Arsenal fans who occasionally broke into Blue Moon, we had the better of the first half. We carved out some minor chances, and enjoyed spells in which we kept finding all of the dangerous space and they looked blunt. 

If you want more positivity, it’s that ITV will not cover another Arsenal match in 2022-23. Hopefully that will give you the warm glow you need to get you through the rest of this report.

I have no idea what formation Man City were playing in the first half. It looked like three at the back, with Rico Lewis playing as less of an inverted full-back than an all-out central midfielder. 

Our defensive plan was to play with an even higher line and get as tight as possible to Haaland, who was their only direct threat in-behind.

I say “only”. We nullified him tonight, but his presence affects everything around him. When he’s dormant, it’s like there’s an immense celestial body that can only be observed by its gravitational pull. 

Holding spent 45 frantic minutes in its orbit, in a battle that resembled a cartoon fight cloud, with fistfulls of shirts, a platinum bun and a toupee poking out of the dust. Once he got that yellow, few substitutions have been more inevitable. 

At the other end, all of the space was opening up on our left flank, and Trossard was eating it up. He set up Tomiyasu for a strike, tested Ortega and later found Nketiah following a great run, Eddie couldn’t quite make the right contact. 

At half-time, we were feeling good about things, knowing that Holding’s work was done, and that we had looked the more likely. Saliba came out, as expected, accompanied by Lokonga for Thomas Partey. Nobody wanted to see that. Please let this rib thing be bruising. 

The bad vibes stalked us into the second half, and in those first 15 minutes things began to unravel. Sambi Lokonga deserves some sympathy. Being thrown onto the pitch cold against a reinvigorated Man City is a test most central midfielders would fail. 

Just as everyone was starting to find their feet, Julián Álvarez slammed a long shot off Turner’s right post, City won the second ball, and Nathan Aké took advantage of our imbalance with a low, guided finish into the bottom corner with his weaker foot. 

The minutes that followed the goal were our best of the half and we carved out our best chance. Xhaka’s cross from the corner of the area almost picked out Nketiah, but was diverted by the lightest brush from Dias’s studs. 

We threw on our starters, but had lost momentum through a lack of midfield control, stuttering rhythm, and Man City’s maddening capacity to keep the ball and kill a game of football. 

Clearly, Arsenal can still improve, and if there’s something we can learn from tonight’s opponents it’s in those dozens of anaesthetising jabs that put a game to bed. 

Birdkamp

36 Comments

Arsenal Impress Again.

Hello all.

In this podcast we (well I say “we” it’s mainly me) get carried away with our performance against United and our setup.patterns of play and just about everything I can think of. I’m trying to keep a lid on my enthusiasm, but I can’t.

Pedantic George.