Goals Speak Louder Than Programme Notes

October 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Sometimes you just have to come out and say something.

Today Robin Van Persie did just that…

TWICE!

“I want to say something about my commitment to Arsenal because there have been many stories in the media lately.

“I am committed to Arsenal, and that’s how it is, despite people [in the media] making up stories. For example, they said I was selling my house, but that’s nothing recent, I moved house last year.

“I see stories which make me laugh, but I can see how frustrating it is from the fans’ point of view. But I am committed to Arsenal. I am captain, and fans should not believe everything they read.

“As for that house story, the house has been for sale for a while, but I’m not living on the streets or anything, I have found a really nice house, and yes, it’s in London! So I want to put that straight, I am committed, and I will show that on the pitch.

Two wonderful goals later, one of them the fastest goal Arsenal have ever scored in the Premier League, and I think that it is fair to say – and I am thrilled to do so – that many of us got this situation very wrong indeed!

Greetings fellow Gooners!

In a must win game today at the Emirates Stadium which saw, with the exception of Aaron Ramsey being replaced by Tomas Rosicky due to a tight hamstring, the expected first XI take to the pitch, the fans were treated to some interesting comments in the Captain’s programme notes. After a three week period during which the media speculation regarding Robin Van Persie and his “imminent transfer to Citeh” has been cranked up to a Spinal Tap crushing 12, the Dutchman decided that the best way to respond was on the pitch, and respond he did, in the very best way a captain and striker possibly could.

In truth, the comments reputedly made by him during his recent stint with the Dutch national team may have been misquoted, quoted out of context or even just plain made-up, but there needed to be an effort made in some way to put this issue to bed, once and for all. Clearly the programme notes were a step towards that, but a goal in only 29 seconds really put some weight behind his desire to let his commitment show on the pitch!

Sunderland were always going to struggle today, shorn of their star striker through contract obligations, a worse start to the season than us, a record at the Emirates that doesn’t bear much reading and an Arsenal team nd manager with thier backs pressed very firmly against the wall but when a fabulous lobbed pass from Rosicky to Gervinho was quickly squared into the path of Van Persie who took a simple touch with the outside of his left foot before drilling it past Simon Mignolet in the Sunderland goal from 18 yards. 1-0, less than 30 seconds on the clock it appeared that it would be even plainer sailing from here on in than we could have hoped!

It almost was too with Van Persie turning Kieran Richardson and lobbing the ball over Mignolet in the 12th minute, only to see his classy effort come back off the far post. Two minutes later and the Dutchman saw an attempt from the edge of the penalty area flash wide. Another two minutes passed before Gervinho, seemingly playing with a lot more confidence and looking all the better for it, took a long ball from Koscielny, cut inside but saw his shot fly just over the bar.

Had any of those actually gone in, we may well have been home free and looking at redressing some of our goal difference issues. Obviously that would be the easy way of doing things and the easy way simply isn’t our way! Can there be any doubt that we are by far the most dramatic club in the Premier League?! At times I think that there may be grounds for a class-action case against the club for hair loss, fingernail chewing or just general blood-pressure issues due as a direct result of loving our fine club!

With the exception of a slightly wild moment from “the Pole between the poles” which saw him rushing off his line to meet Stephane Sessegnon who, having already beaten the offside trap followed that by beating the young goalkeeper only to find the really rather excellent Alex Song there to intercept his cut back averting further danger, Arsenal spent the first half and hour of this match playing hair-replenishing, fingernail growing, blood pressure-lowering possession football that had glimpses of the “real” Arsenal about it. What a welcome sight she was to all that love her!

Of course, a free-kick and, as always seems the case, an ex-Arsenal player, Sebastian Larsson, were all it took to spoil the party! The Swedish international stepped up and swept the ball over the Arsenal wall and into Szczesny’s top left corner, leaving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A wonderful strike from a player who has proved that not all who leave us end up in a downward spiral.

The immediate effect on the home players and crowd was obvious as the nervousness of recent times came crashing back in. Six minutes later Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole, after good work on the left from Larsson and then the effervescent Sessegnon, found himself with a free header from close range that he really should have scored from, only to see his effort saved brilliantly by Szczesny. A chance missed or an excellent save or both, but the alarm bells were ringing. Surely we were not going to let Sunderland take control of the match and see a repeat of so many performances where we were so obviously in the ascendency only for the opposition to take away the three points?

On the stroke of half-time the unthinkable almost happened with Elmohamady crossing for Larsson at the far post who headed down into the path of Colback only to see his volley from close range go flying over the bar. Had he managed to keep his shot down you may well have been reading at a very different match report, but the football Gods may well have decided that we have paid our penance for whatever sins we are deemed to have committed and the score remained at 1-1 as the whistle to signal the end of the first half was welcomed by all in red and white.

In a bid to provide some sort of relief to hair follicles all over the North London area, the second half did not carry on where the first half left off with the Gunners dominating possession although not creating a mass of chances.

A slice of luck came Sunderland’s way on 50 minutes when Walcott turned in the box and slid a low cross into the danger area which took a deflection towards the goal but Mignolet’s quick reactions saw him palm the ball away to safety. Andre Santos entered the fray immediately afterwards as the stomach muscle injury that threatened to keep Kieran Gibbs out of the match altogether proved too much for him to continue. A good decision in all honesty as he had not enjoyed the best of games with Elmohamady getting plenty of joy on the side.

15 minutes later Rosicky found Van Persie open on the left side of the area but his shot from a difficult angle found the boot of the Sunderland keeper and again the danger was cleared. A pass to Gervinho who was free in the centre was probably a better option, but anybody wishing to be critical of our captain’s performance today is more than welcome to take the short trip down the Seven Sisters Road and start supporting the “Title-less For Fifty Years” brigade!

On 67 minutes Steve Bruce made the first of two rather odd substitutions with Larsson, goal-scorer and the focal point of all that was good in Sunderland’s game, being replaced by Ji Dong-Won. A minute later and Arshavin was brought on to replace Gervinho to freshen things up in the final third.

The Russian made a fairly instant impact with an energy and willingness that has been far too often missing from his game for much of the past couple of seasons and on 74 minutes he almost got his reward after a jinking run in the Sunderland penalty area, passing four defenders in the process, saw his toe-poked effort run just wide of the far post with the goalkeeper stranded.

For all the possession, attacking play and chances being created, the game was starting to take on an all too familiar pattern and on 76 minutes Arsene tried to again freshen things up by replacing the tiring but excellent Rosicky with Israel international Yossi Benayoun. Two minutes later Bruce made his second odd change bringing on Connor Wickham for the constantly dangerous Sessegnon. Unless both players were carrying knocks, these two substitutions by Bruce have to be two of the strangest I have seen in years.

With Sunderland’s best two players and most obvious attacking threats on the day now off the pitch, Arsenal enjoyed more freedom to push forward, with excellent performances, and I mean EXCELLENT performances, from Mertesacker and Koscielny providing the “safety net” for Santos and Jenkinson to become more involved with those attacking moves.

On 83 minutes we finally got our just desserts, having dominated so much of the game, defended well when necessary and looking dangerous with almost every attack. Van Persie placed the ball for a free-kick about 25 yards out on the right side of the penalty area. After a slew of terrible free kicks had seen the likes of Walcott and Arteta troubling the 15th to 25th rows of the Arsenal supporters behind the goal, it was high-time the Dutchman had a crack himself.

And crack it he did! Keeping his nerve at the critical moment, he lifted the ball over the wall, under the bar and into the top right hand corner to give Arsenal the goal that was so desperately needed. In that moment Van Persie showed EXACTLY what commitment and captaincy are all about and, as his programme notes said, he let his football do the talking!

Aside from Dong-Won having a goal disallowed for being so far offside it was amazing the linesman didn’t keep his flag down, the game was won and it was a case of simply holding on. And that is what we did. Something we have been horribly guilty of in the past is our inability to stop trying to score more goals when the three points are in the bag. Today showed a difference that was entirely welcome with the likes of Arshavin, Walcott and Arteta guarding the ball for dear life and ensuring that the visitors were not going to steal a late point and spoil the party. There is a still a lot of work to do before we can say that this side is correcting all of the old problems, but today was a huge step in the right direction.

We were not perfect today by any means. Jenkinson did little defensively to convince that he is quite ready for the step up that the injury to Sagna has forced upon him, but a little patience may yet see him come good. Walcott still looks like a blind alley is so high on his list of favourite place that he literally runs into one whenever he gets the chance. Gervinho faded as the game went on and was rightly substituted. Szczesny had his “usual” moment of madness, although most of the truly great keepers appear to do that too! Arteta did not really get hismself into the game as much as he has recently.

On the positive side, Rosicky looked excellent and, perhaps more importantly, sharp. Santos and Arshavin both looked very good after coming on as substitutes. Song was an absolute rock today, destroying almost everything that had the cheek to even come close to our half of the park. Koscielny and Mertesacker were absolute rocks in the centre of defence and where the constant criticism of them, Mertesacker especially, is coming from, I simply cannot imagine. Mertesacker again showed how much quicker his brain is than his feet, stepping up to snuff out the danger before it even had a chance to develop on a handful of occasions.

As for Robin Van Persie:

29 games, 23 goals and 6 assists

Those are surely amongst the best stats for any striker in Europe, let alone one who is being played out of position and looking to leave as Robin Van Persie “clearly” is!

Oh, and as I write this an added bonus has just come our way…

The Title-less For Fifty Years have given up the lead twice today and ended up with a 2-2 draw at St. James’ Park!

Overrated Lillywhite Shite!

Come on you top half of the table at last Goooonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!

Would The Real Arsenal F.C. Please Stand Up?

October 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Ok, we can whine about handball, and with good reason. We can whine about Van de Vaart (or Van de Fart as Gary Neville hilariously pronounced his name!) even being allowed to stay on the pitch after two obvious yellow card offences, and with good reason. We could even whine about bad luck and even more about the freak goals that the Spuds continue to score against us. In fact, we could just whine because we damned well want to. But in truth, we didn’t get anything out of today’s North London derby because, quite frankly, we didn’t deserve to.

Whilst I spent a lot of the first half feeling slightly smug, believing as I am sure many of us did, that it was only a matter of time before we hit that extra gear and took a Spuds team that didn’t look particularly special in any area of the pitch to the cleaners, we created nothing of any real danger and they had three good chances, all saved by the yet again, apart from one painful mistake, excellent Szczesny. If we are completely honest with ourselves, going in 1-0 down at half-time didn’t look irretrievable, albeit slightly unfair in terms of the run of play and even moreso in terms of the handball that VdV employed to get the ball down and create his goal in the 40th minute.

Half-time oranges were again laced with some magical potion and the response after the break was exactly what was required. Possession was being kept well in and around the Spuds penalty area. We were winning the second ball for the first time in the match, thus creating a spell of pressure that Tottenham looked decidedly uncomfortable with. Pushing men forwards into dangerous positions and, most importantly, getting the ball to them with simple passes into players in space.

Song, filling in at centre-back once again in the absence of any other fit choices, came tearing down the right, received the ball to feet, pushed forward and into the penalty area and drilled a cross that Van Persie and Ramsey were fighting over to get to. Ramsey won the tussle and the merest touch saw the ball rocket into the roof of the onion bag.

1-1 and surely, with the obvious dominance we were showing overall as well as the new attacking mind-set that the half-time team talk had instilled, it was just a case of watching us leave the small club in North London trailing in our wake.

Alas, as is so often the case with this version of Wengerball, the players took their foot off the gas, applied the handbrake and gave the opposition the chance to settle and get into their rhythm again.

In terms of doing the simple things, we failed dismally, and that is where the real downfall was. Handbrake or not, if you cannot simply pass the ball to another player in a red shirt, you are going to struggle. And struggle we did. Our inability to keep the ball was not as a result of some spectacular effort on behalf of the Tottenham players, far from it. It came as a simple result of trying the most complicated or downright brainless option when a perfectly simple ball rolled out wide would have done the job.

In the end we got exactly what we deserved. Kyle Walker picked up the ball about 35 yards out after some scrambling and pinball had gone on in the Arsenal penalty area and taking a touch to push the ball forwards he unleashed nothing more than a hopeful pile driver that Szczesny somehow lost in the air. Moving viciously in the air, as the ball never seems to do when our players strike it, it sailed over his outstretched hand. He should have done a lot better and at least got a hand to it, but it would be hard to slate his performance overall when he did such a good job of keeping us in the match prior to and after that moment.

Yes, we can begrudge them the goal, yet another “wonder goal” to win the derby. We can even begrudge them the win, but until we learn to do the easy things like stay switched on at set pieces, pass the ball from one of our players to another of our players or even to one who isn’t being marked by two or three players at the time, we are simply asking for trouble.

Spurs did not deserve a win today, not by any stretch of the most fervent imagination, but when players of the quality and technical ability of Arteta, who had a dreadful game basically doing nothing right whatsoever, Ramsey, who apart from his goal looked like he was actually trying to get caught in possession most of the time, Gervinho, guilty of many things, greed being one of them, the inability to pass being another and worst of all an inexcusable miss after Van Persie had given him a shooting opportunity from which he had to at least test the goalkeeper but instead he dragged the ball limply and aimlessly wide of the target and Walcott, who was clearly nowhere near match fit but selected ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain anyway who did not even make the squad, you don’t deserve to win.

The knives will again be out for Arsene Wenger, that is to be expected, but in the real world players getting paid tens of thousands of pounds a week to play football should be at least able to maintain a level of passing consistency and intelligence that one would expect from a half-decent semi-professional side. But, for whatever reason, confidence, form, pressure, lack of preparation, inability to follow basic instructions, it just wasn’t happening today. To blame Wenger solely for this failing is short-sighted and frankly a little ridiculous to say the least.

On the positive side, Mertesacker was generally excellent once again, snuffing out the majority of the Spud’s attacking play around the box rather than inside it. His reading of the game is truly a joy to watch ad something that the likes of Koscienly and Djourou will hopefully benefit from in the long-term. Szczesny, apart from the aberration that let Kyle Walker write his name on the same page of the history books as the likes of Danny Rose, had another excellent game. His progress rate is truly phenomenal and it is easy to forget that he is only 21 years old. Coquelin, preferred as predicted to the recently disappointing Frimpong, was probably the calmest and most sensible of our midfielders, choosing his passes carefully and marshalling Scott Parker into near anonymity for most of the game. Gibbs had another outstanding game, surely leaving Santos wondering why he came to a club that “famously” had no left-back after the sale of Clichy! Ok, he has to keep up this level of performance for a while yet to be totally convincing and to keep the Brazilian out of the reckoning and, more importantly, he has to stay fit, but he is surely the most improved player in this team and going from strength to strength.

Sagna played well enough, although not up to his usual high standards either, until he was brutally removed from the game by a challenge that would have fitted in well enough in a WWF ring. Seriously, was it just me and am I so biased or did everyone think that Assou-Ekotto had no need nor good reason to be hitting Sagna in mid-air at near-on waist height “challenging for a ball” that was sailing out of play near the centre circle?! The sight of him on a stretcher leaving the pitch in obvious and considerable pain was a sad and worrying sight for a team that is, yet again, looking at an injury list that boasts more talent than most bottom half-clubs and some top-half ones too.

But that was about it. Arshavin and Benayoun, substitutes for Gervinho and Walcott, made the best part of zero impact on the game whilst Jenkinson again demonstrated why he was playing non-league football about 5 minutes ago with a performance that made the, certainly up until the loss of Sagna, ordinary-looking Bale look, well, special! Could that be Bale’s secret? Is it possible that he is actually utter shite but better than the majority of the half-arsed right-backs in the country! If that IS the case, what is Theo’s excuse?

I cannot believe that an Arsenal team that showed how easily it could dominate Spurs for a few periods of the game simply didn’t. They just didn’t look like they had the first clue what to do when they got the ball. Hopeful passes into thrice-marked players. Long balls from defence to Friedel, fatter than ever but tested so rarely it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference. Dribbles that did nothing more than go round in circles and, inevitably, end up with a Tottenham foot being enough to steal the ball and launch a counter-attack.

Oh nutsacks. I could go on like this all day!

Put simply, Tottenham in the Champions League next season would, despite Glenn Hoddle’s hilariously biased protestations (which also included “the ball hit him on the apex of the shoulder and chest” when describing the blatant handball!), require a miracle if they play as badly as they did today in more than a handful of matches this season but we didn’t deserve anything from the game and that is what we got. Nothing. Again.

Time to get back to basics Arsenal, or we will be looking down the barrel of the “who gives a shite” cup and not another year of Champions League football. To make matters worse, it may even be the Spuds take that wrest that honour from us and there will be little worth living for next season either.

Down but not out, but with a mountain to climb and the bulk of the team apparently wearing the wrong shoes.

Oh, and in case you give a monkey’s, that gobshite, money-grabbing, shitehole AdePayMeMore was UTTER CACK today!

Spuds, Away, Sunday? Yes Please!

October 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, nobody can claim that we haven’t had a tough start to the season. Losing to Liverpool, losing 8-2 to Manchester United, losing 4-3 to Blackburn, losing Cesc, Na$ri and Clichy, Champions League qualifiers against Udinese, 3 red cards, losing Jack Wilshere for most of the season, losing Thomas Vermaelen for something like 10 games in total (more on that developing saga later!) and now, just when we appear to be going in the right direction, the “anything can happen and probably will” North London derby!

It may sound like I am already making excuses and, to be honest, I think I could be forgiven if I were; but I am NOT making excuses, I am stating the facts. The excuses can wait until Sunday night!

This is a match that will offer no hiding place. Not on the pitch for the players nor after the game for the Gooners who will have to go to their workplaces, local pubs, family homes and look into the eyes of Spud’s fans eyes and either hang their heads or walk past singing proudly “One team in London..!”

In some quarters there is talk of this potentially being the end of our season. I understand the sentiment but there is, of course, another edge to that sword. If losing this game is the end of our season, winning it may just be the start of it. Ok, it is not going to be easy by any means. The general feeling is that Twitchy has the small club at the end of the Seven Sisters Road playing well and winning some good games, but their record is not quite as good as some may think. Indulge me for a moment, if you will…

– In the space of two games Arsenal lost to Manchester United 8-2 away and beat Swansea 1-0 at home…A club in crisis.

– In the space of two games the Spuds lost 3-0 to Manchester United away and 5-1 to Citeh at home…A club heading for the top 4!

– We have scored 9 goals thus far this season…Still a club in crisis.

– They have scored 9 goals thus far this season…Still a club heading for the top 4!

– If you discount the freak result at United, we have actually conceded FEWER goals than they have in the same number of games.

– They lost on penalties to Stoke in the Carling Cup. We won 3-1, accepted against a slightly lower standard of opposition, although anybody who has seen Stoke play lately will tell you that the divide is not so big! Nevertheless, we are in the hat and they are not.

– Funnily enough, the league table shows the Spuds in 6th place and us in 13th whilst the home games table shows us in 6th and them in 13th! Obviously we don’t really need to talk about the away table as it is not the least bit pretty!

– We struggled after going a goal down to Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup before coming back to win 3-1 whilst they struggled after going a goal down to Shamrock Rovers in some unknown European competition before coming back to win 3-1.

– In fact, if you are spending your time listening to the constant white noise spewing out of the tabloid media this will be the most unbelievable stat of them all: Should we actually win the game, we would go above them in the table!

And there you have it. In the real world we are not a club in a desperate crisis, we are a club that, aside from one particularly absurd result, are in similar form to a club said to be chasing a place in the Champions League! Red-tinted glasses or not, the facts are that simple.

To say that this is a crucial match is the understatement of the century, but I also truly believe that this is the perfect opportunity to make a lot of changes to how the players perceive their situation. I don’t think it would do the fans any harm either. To suddenly leapfrog the title-less for over 50 years would put a little reality back into things and maybe even provide a springboard to move on from this period, leaving the devastation of those horrific events behind us. We have won three matches on the bounce in all competitions, to add a fourth would start to look like form rather than a run of so-called “easy” games and what better team to do it against than the Spuds?!

And that is why I for one am actually pleased that we are going to the hovel on Sunday. Make or break it may well be, but you don’t win titles playing Shrewsbury, Bolton and Olympiacos every week.

In the run-up to Sunday’s game, Arsene Wenger chose to question whether or not the Spuds really are a big club, despite the constant media frenzy:

“At the moment we have been in the Champions League for 14 years and that is all we can say.

“Tottenham is a good side, I agree, and we have to try to be better and that is what we try to do. I believe the consistency has been on our side, but Tottenham has a huge potential. They played Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night and were sold out, so that is a massive potential.

“But we are at the end of September and the season finishes in May. Don’t come to quick conclusions about teams – there is a long way to go.”

And that is, of course, the obvious truth. Whilst the media circus is busy adopting them as their favourite footballing love-children, they are, in reality, no closer to outshining us than they have been in decades. Every season it is the same tired story. Every season is the season that Tottenham will overtake us and move into the top four. And every season they DON’T! A win on Sunday would go a long way to putting both the media and the Spuds back in their rightful place. Reason enough to motivate the team if ever one was needed.

On a more amusing note, I note that the Spuds fans are so desperate for a taste of a trophy, ANY trophy, that they are selling out in the “who cares cup” against Shamrock Rovers!

In terms of the line-up for Sunday, the injury list that looked like it would shorten dramatically has not exactly done so. Koscielny is definitely out even though he was scheduled to return. Djourou is out even though he probably wouldn’t get a game anyway with the form he has been in this season. Squillaci is fit but not match fit so thankfully he probably won’t play! Gervinho is a big doubt although he was scheduled to return. Walcott is a doubt even though he was scheduled to return.

So, adding the above to Jack, TV5 (like I said, more on that later!) and Diaby, we have, as usual, the best part of a Premier League team in the treatment room! With so many uncertainties over fitness it is difficult to say exactly who will play but I think that Gibbs was rested in midweek to get him ready for Sunday so he will likely play ahead of Santos. Song will almost certainly partner Mertesacker again in a central defensive partnership that looked as good as any we have had in quite some time. Sagna and “the Pole between the poles” will make up the rest of the defence.

In midfield Aaron Ramsey should return and will likely partner Frimpong, although I think that Coquelin may be edging his way into a start after Emmanuel had another “iffy” game against the Greeks. In the probable absence of Gervinho I think that Arshavin will get the nod and, should Walcott fail his late fitness test too, I think that we may see Benayoun and Arteta filling the final attacking midfield positions and rotating between them for the wing and central roles. I am sorry to say that I simply cannot see Rosicky getting the nod here. After looking so pedestrian at times against Olympiacos, I don’t see him having the pace to keep up with a blood and thunder match like this one.

Obviously Robin Van Persie will start up front and so the line-up will probably look like this:

Predicted Line-Up v The Spuds

If Walcott plays then I expect Benayoun to move aside. I also think that we may see Arshavin play in the centre behind Van Persie should Walcott not play and Benayoun out wide, although I think with those three starting, positioning would be a fairly fluid affair.

In terms of prediction, well, how on earth do you even start?! Obviously I am not going to go against our boys and the draw is just too easy a cop-out, so I will go for a 3-2 win with some heart-stopping football and even more arresting moments whilst trying to snatch that final goal and get out with all 3 points in the bag! What more could you want?! Even Mystic Meg doesn’t stick her neck out like I do!

The truth of the matter is, win lose or draw, the form book goes out of the window for these games and whilst a win may bring a little more much needed confidence, a draw little consolation and a loss the sky crashing down, this is just one game.

Trouble is, it is THAT one game!

Oh, and just in case any of you were wondering why I hadn’t mentioned that back-stabbing, money-grabbing, club-hopping, football whore AdePayMeMore, it is because I couldn’t give a monkey’s right nut about him. Mertesacker can just put him in his back pocket for 90 minutes or simply kill him in the tunnel for all I care. Whichever of the two he prefers. I will leave that up to him!

Doubtful Thomas

It appears that the phantom injury problems that deprived us of the much-needed talents of Thomas Vermaelen for most of last season are no are back again this year with the news that, after being told he would be out for a few days to begin with which was swiftly changed to not until after the international break are now being revised to 1 or 2 weeks after that. I am unsure exactly what seems to be the problem for Thomas, but the Arsenal medical team are again doing themselves no favour with the press or the fans.

As football fans all we can do is wish Thomas the very best and the speediest possible recovery. As Arsenal fans we can only pray that he is back in the centre of defence as soon as possible as, of all the injuries we have right now, and I include Jack in this, his is the most damaging to the team.

Fingers crossed, the next news we get on his injury will be good news.

Over My Cold Dead Body!

Arsene Wenger, whilst discussing his 15 years at Arsenal and how he would happily stay on for another 15, also stated that he would rather die than leave the club! Ok, that may not be EXACTLY what he said! Judge for yourself:

“I am up for [five, 10 or 15 years],” he said. “But it depends first of all on my club. Do they want me to stay?

“Then it depends on my health as well because that is something that you consider when you get to my level. It demands a lot of energy to win football games.”

This is tantamount to the same thing in my book! If the club want me I am here. After that I will worry about my health! Nice to see that, regardless of the vomit-inducing whinging pouring out of some corners, his passion for the club has not dwindled at all. He went on to confirm that not winning things still hurts him, but that he still believes firmly in the club’s plans as a means to ensuring a bright future:

“I miss winning titles. Very much. You only have one way, to fight and win again.

“I feel part of what is very important for us is to transform the club into a top-level club, into a club that has a fantastic future potential with values that we think are very important in the game.

“The style of play, the way we behave to develop young players, to give a chance to people who deserve it in life. That for me is very important in the history of the club. The vision is to make this club the best club in the world, it is as simple as that.”

It has to be said, becoming the best club in the world is a noble and worthy objective, though I wouldn’t mind concentrating on being the best club in England for a little while first, if that is all the same with the boss!

Van’s Still Our Man

As ever, I hate to say I told you so, but again, I DID tell you so…

My exact words were:

“January will be here soon and, with Tevez reportedly likely to never play for Manchester City again, I am sure that we will have to deal the tabloids spewing out enough Van Persie to Citeh stories to last a lifetime.”

Well, as it turned out, they couldn’t even wait until January with pretty much all of the red-tops trolling this one out as early as Friday morning! Wenger was unwilling to even entertain the conversation in his press conference, responding curtly with the following when asked if Van Persie would be leaving in January:

“This is a story created to create a story.

“There is no truth to it. There is nothing to say really.

“Anybody who wants to sign one of our players can call me. Everybody has my phone number.

I don’t know why we are even speaking about transfers. Robin is under contract until 2013.”

I would like to add that, whilst I agree with every word of that statement and do not believe that Robin will do anything other than sign his next contract for Arsenal, the sooner this contract situation gets sorted, the better it will be for all involved. I understand that it is not a good time as we are in the middle of a run of 2 games almost every week, but I also understand that the general levels of concern surrounding the club and, more importantly, the players, do not need extra weight adding to them. Losing our best striker, one of the best players at the club and a 5th captain since Vieira left in 2005, only 6 years ago, is not something that they need even to contemplate!

So, get him signed up and let’s move on to the stories about Walcott leaving for Italy, Arshavin moving to Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus or any of the multitude of clubs he was definitely leaving us for over the past 9 months! Oh, not to forget, Djourou will probably just be moving house when we could actually do with him leaving!

And on that note I bid you farewell.

Come on you Cock-Choking, Title-less Thumping, Neighbour-Annihilating Goooonnnneeerrrrrrssssss!

No Greek Tragedy As Saint Ox and Santos Lead The Way

September 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, nobody can say that Arsene Wenger doesn’t know how to pull off a surprise or two after that match, can they?!

The inclusions of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santos and Chamakh were, I have to say, all shocks when the team sheets were announced. The Ox was not the worrying kind of shock in the slightest after he showed against Shrewsbury that he has both the game and the maturity to play in the first XI, but I felt that Wenger would leave it longer before “blooding” him nonetheless, at least until a dead rubber match came up at the end of the group stage. Santos and Chamakh were bigger surprises and, if I am honest, worrying ones to lesser and greater degrees. Surprises aside, Song partnered Mertesacker as expected, filling in at centre-back in the absence of no less than three first XI players in that position which also gave Frimpong the opportunity to continue his steep learning curve in the defensive midfield role.

As if to repay the faith shown in them, two of those surprises, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santos, got us off to an absolute flier with a goal apiece on 8 and 20 minutes respectively. Oxlade-Chamberlain, after already showing some nice touches, passes and a clean pair of heels to their right-back, chested the ball down to himself on the edge of the penalty area, moved inside his marker who actually got a touch only for the ball to bounce kindly back into the feet of the ex-Southampton man who continued into the box before placing a precise finish through his markers legs into the bottom right hand corner to become the youngest ever English player to score in the Champions League, taking that title from a certain Theo Walcott!

A fantastic start and one that would get even better 12 minutes later when, after good work down the left, Santos crossed the ball to Chamakh in the six-yard box. The Morroccan international didn’t actually get to the ball as it was stolen off his toes by a good challenge from his marker, but it found its way back out to Santos who took a step inside the defender and beat the keeper at his near post. A touch of luck in the build-up to both goals, but it is about time we got a little of that and it was certainly nothing less than both players deserved for their determination alone.

The 12 minutes between the two goals were not entirely without incident. Four minutes after taking the lead, Chamakh, a lonely and hapless looking figure yet again I am sad to say, really should have at least tested the goalkeeper when a corner found him at the far post, but his header from only a few yards out went well wide. Two minutes later and Arteta was called into defensive action, clearing off the line after Djebbour got himself free at the back post from a corner. The rebound fell to him again but he could only manage to hit the side-netting with his follow up. In truth the Algerian really should have scored at the second attempt but all credit to Arteta for an heroic stop.

So, 2-0 up, playing some reasonably tidy football, passing fairly well and it began to look like it was just a matter of how many at this point. On 27 minutes the game was turned on its head in a typical Arsenal self-destructing style. A short corner on the left hand side caught us napping in the box and the overall fairly impressive David Fuster was given the freedom of North London and, with all the time to pick his spot, headed the ball into the net from about 10 yards out. A shocking piece of defending from the 9 Arsenal players in the penalty area and one that I hope Wenger will be ramming down their throats prior to the game against the titleless for over 50 years on Sunday.

A minute later Djebbour tested Szczesny with a rasping shot that the once again excellent “Pole between the poles” did well to tip over showing those reflexes that are threatening to make him an Arsenal legend!

The rest of the half was a story told many times over the past couple of seasons. Poor passing in midfield, mainly from Frimpong, and a seeming inablity to hold the ball up front, mainly the fault of Chamakh, neither of whom had games to remember, saw Olympiacos threatening more and more, albeit mostly on the counter-attack. If not for more excellent goalkeeping from Szczesny and some wonderful reading of the game coupled with some great tackling from the ever-improving Mertesacker, we could well have gone in for the half-time break staring down the barrel of 2-2 or worse. The Grek side could have been forgiven for feeling that they should have found that parity at least.

With Wenger banished to the stands for his final game of his absurd suspension, Pat Rice must again take a reasonable amount of credit for whatever he said during his half-time talk, with the start of the second half seeing us play a much more compact game with less space between the defence and the midfield and the wayward passing apparently also dealt with.

On 50 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain was released by a nice pass in a rare moment of quality from Chamakh, the young winger getting in behind the full-back Holebas, who, after spending the entire game doing little else but kick any Arsenal player he could find, had finally been booked a minute earlier and was thus unable to kick, tug, drag or barge the flying winger. Bearing down on goal The Ox took what was, in my opinion, one touch too many giving Costanzo in the Olympiacos goal time to settle himself, narrow the angle and beat out the eventual shot. A good save was needed nevertheless and the young man once again justified Wenger’s decision to pick him.

A few minutes later saw Holebas blatantly shove Oxlade-Chamberlain in the back after good work on the wing from the eventual Man of the Match winner. The referee, who up until now had been nothing short of pedantic in his constant use of his whistle, quite simply bottled the decision, waved play on and incredibly the left-back stayed on the pitch. The touch of luck we had enjoyed for the two goals deserting us again. Had he gone, as he should have done, the game would have been the better part of dead and buried, As it transpired, there was still some nail-biting life in it yet.

On 64 minutes Olympiacos captain and right-back Torosidis, their best player on the night, unleashed a curling left-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area that crashed against the bar. I think that, had it been the couple of inches lower needed for it to go in, Szczesny had it covered, but I have to admit to being relieved that we didn’t have to find out for certain!

3 minutes later and Pat Rice made the first of three changes, taking off Oxlade-Chamberlain to a standing ovation and introducing Aaron Ramsey. I said in the pre-match article that the excellent direct passing we saw from Ramsey against Bolton could play a big factor in the result of tonight’s match, and his introduction almost immediately showed us what we had been missing as he released Arshavin on two occasions, the first of which drew a decent save and the second resulting in a cynical barge from Fuster, rightfully earning himself a booking in the process. A good substitution at exactly the right moment from the assistant manager and it was not his last.

On 70 minutes Chamakh was put out of his misery, as were the majority of the Arsenal fans, and our newest centurion, Robin Van Persie, was brought on. The two Olympiacos centre-backs, Mellberg and Marcano, who had looked so comfortable shepherding Chamakh around, suddenly looked stretched due to the intelligent running and general menace of the Dutchman. Preoccupied with him the again excellent and incredibly hard-working Arteta found a lot more space in midfield and used it to great effect to slow the game down and ensure that we kept much better possession of the ball thus helping to tick down the clock.

Again, a good tactical decision from Pat Rice. I know that there are a few out there who think that he should have left the club in the summer and are already celebrating the fact that he will probably retire at the end of this season, but I believe that his role at the club is very much an unsung one and, after 41 years of the last 45 spent serving our fine club and with all of the knowledge and experience that time has surely brought him, he will leave behind a very large pair of shoes to fill. Tonight his experience showed once again and, should we win a trophy this season, I think that his should be the first hands to touch it in deference to his great service.

On 83 minutes, after a period of about ten minutes that saw Olympiacos threaten on a few occasions down our right side, Mr Rice once again made the necessary change and took off Arshavin, who had a quiet game overall, and bring on Kieran Gibbs to play more as a left midfielder than a left winger as the Russian does. The danger was immediately snuffed out and it was just a case of running down the clock and getting the three points that were needed above all else.

Whilst Olympiacos certainly played their part in this match and at times played some neat attacking football which saw them threaten to spoil the night from our point of view, the pairing of Mertesacker and Song looked as solid a partnership as Arsenal have seen at centre-back for quite some time, certainly in the absence of Vermaelen, and all credit to them for rarely looking troubled, showing good reading of the game and in the case of Mertesacker in particular, stepping out at just the right times to put in some great challenges to close the door on attacks before they got a chance to do any real damage.

In terms of the defence, apart from the terrible lapse of concentration that led to their goal and a couple of occasions where Sagna was uncharacteristically caught in possession, Szczesny had little bellowing to do at those in front of him and yet the general criticism coming from the media and “those who shall not be pleased” is of continuing defensive weakness. Whilst we may not have the best defence on earth right now and they may not have been devastatingly impressive tonight, I do think it is fair to say that they were not anything like as bad as is being claimed in some areas and the general direction they are going in is the right one.

With regard to Chamakh, I am at a loss as to what Wenger can do with him next. Chosen ahead of Park, probably in the hope that he may pick up a goal and the confidence boost that goes with that, from the moment his early header went wide he looked totally bereft of any confidence at all. His touch was heavy for most of the evening, his shooting and heading poor, his distribution presenting countless gifts to the Greeks putting us under pressure from the counter-attacking opportunities these provided and generally looking like the hole large enough to actually swallow him up would have taken the stadium with it. Aside from the one good pass to The Ox, nothing went right for him and he became a more and more tragic figure until his exit on 70 minutes. That said, he never hid and never stopped running and, should January see him move on, I for one hope that he finds better fortune elsewhere.

Many a critic has questioned our ability to “win ugly” and yet now we have done just that people want champagne football again! Tonight was no walk in the park, but it was never going to be and the most important thing was the three points. That was achieved and we can now look forward to getting a few players back from injury for the match against the Spuds on Sunday whilst Ramsey and Van Persie got a decent enough rest tonight too. All in all a good night’s work and the corner-turning continues.

And on that note I bid you farewell.

Come on you Spud Peeling Goooonnnneeeerrrrrsssss!

From 17th Best To 17th Best!

September 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League, Transfers

Greetings fellow Gooners!

I know, you expected something directly after the game against Bolton on Saturday and your hearts were broken when I chose not to write a single word on the topic until now!

The main reason for this is that for the last match report I broke the “golden rule of sports blogging” and wrote whilst I was angry which led me to decide that it was probably just a much a sin to write when I was happy too! In truth, the things I would have splurged onto the page on Saturday would have been much more effusive and unbridled than they will be now and so I believe that this was a good decision, standing accused as I am regards being an Arsene Wenger sycophant, which I am not, but you cannot convince anybody of anything in cyberspace these days!

Also, there are a lot of other things going on surrounding the club at the moment that I felt needed to develop before any reaction and counter-reaction could be brought to bear in a considered manner.

An understandably nervy crowd, given that we started the day in 17th position in the Premier League, one place above Bolton and having conceded a goal more than them, were treated to the news that a certain Mr. Cahill would not be joining us and, I am sure, a breath of relief could be felt all around North London! Not, you understand, because he is the best centre-back in the world and nobody scores against him when he plays, far from it in fact if you look at the stats for the Bolton defence since he has been a regular fixture in it, but because we have a wonderful habit of allowing the most ironic and usually painful coincidences to take place, right when we don’t need it…And Saturday we simply did NOT need a match-winning performance from a player that we have been and continue to be constantly linked with just to prove that “those who shall not be pleased” were right all along and Wenger must go now for signing that rubbishy German twit!

Whilst the Bolton team-sheet sported an early Christmas surprise, the Arsenal team sheet revealed no great surprises. In fact, it was exactly the team that I predicted would start with Gibbs getting the nod over Santos after his excellent performance midweek and Walcott getting the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain even though The Ox can feel a little aggrieved having put in a performance every bit as deserving of another start as Gibbs.

The fact that the first half was, regardless of your allegiances, one of the drabbest affairs I can remember since the days of George Graham would normally have been worrying, a little bit frightening and a touch depressing even, but not in this case. In fact it was 45 minutes of exactly what we needed. No histrionics, no ridiculous giving away of constant free kicks in dangerous areas, no over-elaborate passing game, no failed offside traps, no own-goals, no penalties and no red cards…A complete success!

In reality, we started a little nervously and the best chance of the half fell to Bolton’s Pratley in the 3rd minute. His volley was matched by a great flying save by “the Pole between the poles” to tip the ball away. Three minutes later and a swift attack saw Gervinho through against the seemingly always impressive against Arsenal Jaaskelainen (I am sure you said the same about Paul Robinson after the Blackburn game and you were right then too! -ed), but a poor touch gave the Bolton keeper the extra yard he needed to collect the ball and clear the danger. Only three minutes later and Van Persie had two attempts in one attack, the first of which required a smart save and the second, after a neat lay-off from the once again industriously impressive Arteta, sailed wide of the post.

Half an hour of basically nothing in particular was to follow until the almost impossible almost happened! Walcott struck from some way out only for the ball to rebound out to Koscielny on the edge of the area. His volley, struck as sweetly as any striker would have been proud of, sailed just wide of the target. His first goal for Arsenal came in this fixture last year and I think we could be forgiven for thinking that given his recent run of luck, including 8-2 thrashings and own goals, he may just have deserved a moment of joy and lighting striking twice. Alas, it was not to be.

This was the beginning of a period of ten or so minutes of Arsenal domination culminating in an effort for Van Persie being blocked by Wheater when he looked certain to score and Walcott cracking a long distance effort that whistled by the outside of the post with Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot able to play nothing more than the role of spectator.

The half-time whistle sounded and an all too familiar feeling was starting to seep in. The majority of possession, few clear-cut chances and no goals. Please no, not again!

However, Arsene Wenger must have said something to the players, Pat Rice put something in their half-time oranges or maybe even David Dein payed a visit to the dressing room?! Whatever it was, the results were plain to see. Almost from the moment the whistle signalled the resumption of play, there was a different purpose about the side. Gervinho and Walcott were both pushed out wider dragging their respective markers with them thus giving Van Persie some much needed space to pick up the ball deep and use his wide range of passing. Arteta had clearly been told to get closer to Van Persie and so we had, in effect, a 4-2-4 when we had the ball.

Ramsey and Song were also both pushed slightly further forward to break down the midfield play of Bolton earlier and Koscienly spent most of the second half doing a great and generally unsung job of stepping up to break up any moves that managed to get by the midfield before they got the chance to trouble the defence. I want to say at this point that, without question, this was his best game for some time without Vermaelen at his side and one can only hope that it brings with it some much needed confidence before the Champions League match against Olimpiakos and the Premier League game against the small club from North London.

The nerve-settling, thank Dennis we can breathe a little again, much needed breakthrough came after only 2 minutes of the second half had been played. A fairly rash tackle in the centre of the park on Gervinho saw the ball break loose to the advancing Ramsey and Mark Clattenburg, who had a good game all round, allowed the advantage. Ramsey carried it about 20 yards before passing to Van Persie who, on the edge of the box with his back to goal and a defender either side of him looked certain to pass it back to the Welshman who had continued his run into the box. What actually happened was a moment of sheer beauty that Dennis himself would have been proud of and may not have even attempted with the easy pass to Ramsey ready and waiting. He turned to his right, leaving one of his markers lonely and cold in the centre, span around the edge of the penalty area bringing the ball onto his left foot and, with the defender just throwing out a leg to block and Jaaskelainen covering at his near post, Robin found the only gap that left young Ramsey with nothing else to say except for “Well done captain!” as opposed to “Oi, I was free in the box you greedy fecker!” as he may have said had that gap not been so expertly exploited by a striker so in form it is actually a little bit scary!

The relief inside the stadium was only equalled by that on the pitch as the fear of another fan and media roasting suddenly melted away.

Instantly the infamous Arsenal “handbrake” was released. Less than a minute later Walcott released Van Persie with a defence-splitting pass only for Jussi to prove equal to the task, diving low to his right to deny the Arsenal skipper his 100th goal in the colours of our fine club. Don’t worry, he wasn’t to be denied that pleasure for much longer.

On 54 minutes another great through ball, this time from Ramsey, found Walcott bearing down on the penalty area and Wheater, somewhat inevitably being left behind, took the decision to attempt a sly shirt tug which was enough to give Walcott the chance to go down drawing the free-kick and the even more inevitable red card.

The attacking floodgates were well and truly opened at this point and a performance that Cesc and Na$ri would have been proud to have been part of took place. I have heard many suggest that it was easy as Bolton, down to 10 men, without their best defender and already 1-0 down were bound to fold. To that I say, quite simply, nutsacks! Nobody gave Arsenal any sympathy when a reserve team got murdered 8-2 by a Manchester United side that only had to think about shooting to see the ball end up in the back of the net so why should this be any different? In fact, I have seen so many games over the last couple of years where Arsenal really should have buried a game, failed to do so and then had to hear about how we are a bunch of useless, half-witted kids that cannot hold onto a lead and that Wenger has no tactical knowledge and in so many of those games the sending off would have seen Bolton lock the doors, grab one on the counter and slink out the back doors of the Emirates with a point whilst the fans screamed their disapproval at Wenger, the players, the board, the moon and the sun!

And that is, in essence, the biggest problem we have as a club right now. The division between the fans that I keep referring to causes the disenfranchised to be so determined to stay that way that they simply cannot hold their hands up and accept that sometimes, just sometimes, we seem to be going in the right direction.

Anyway, the old adage stays firm here, you can only beat what is put in front of you…and beat them we did!

Three minutes after the sending off saw Arteta drag his shot wide after a glorious pass from Van Persie that would have had any defence chasing its own shadow. Another three minutes later and Arteta brought another sharp save out of Jaaskelainen who, regardless of seeing his net bulge three times, could well have had a decent case for the Man of the Match award!

Then the inevitable happened…No, Bolton didn’t actually score, not THAT inevitable, but the increasing pressure at the other end of the pitch and the high lines that we were employing gave Bolton a good chance on the counter attack. A nice pass from Petrov found Eagles with a run on goal but Szczesny was not to be outdone by Jussi and got to the ball in time to snuff out the attack, in truth the only real attack that Bolton would muster in the second half.

After that it was truly one-way traffic with Bolton just trying to keep the scoreline respectable and on 63 minutes their hard-work was almost undone when Gervinho, after some nice work out wide, played the ball into Van Persie whose shot flew inches wide of the target. A minute later and the Dutchman directed a flying header that Jaaskelainen was equal to after a lovely floated cross from Walcott who, amazingly in my opinion, got a fair bit of stick after the game even though he was involved in almost every attacking move including getting an assist that you would believe from the general reaction never even happened. As I keep saying, this divide in the fans is not helping anybody and the quicker we can all get along and start supporting the players instead of fighting amongst ourselves, the better. I honestly believe that so many people have decided that Walcott is not good enough for Arsenal that he could spend the next ten games scoring a goal a game, notch up 20 assists, win eight Man of the Match awards and save four penalties and those same people would STILL be unhappy. In fact, I am starting to believe that there is a contingent in the fanbase at the moment that actually WANT Arsenal to fail so that they can be proved right. That is NOT why we are called SUPPORTERS. Think about that.

If I am honest, I believed that we were destined for some pretty terrible times when we lost 3 of our first XI in the summer and I voiced that opinion in many a forum. I have to say I am thrilled to bits that the players seem to be gradually putting the summer behind them and, with a little more help from some of the fans, I think that they could work through this process much more quickly. Only when they have had the chance to work together both on the training ground and on the pitch for a reasonable amount of time and gel as a team will we truly get a sense of where this new version of Wengerball is going and whether or not it is likely to be successful.

I digress…

5 minutes later and Van Persie AND Walcott got their just rewards. A delightful ball along the floor from around halfway by Ramsey split the difference between two defenders and released Walcott down the right. He left the two defenders for dead and cut into the penalty area. Continuing his run to the byline he sent in an inch-perfect cross to Van Persie who opened up his body and pushed a neat flick past the keeper thus securing his place in the Arsenal history books as the 17th player in our history to have scored 100 goals for the club.

And the first thing that he did after reaching this momentous milestone? Run over to the fans, ripping off his shirt to reveal an “I am the 17th Greatest” t-shirt underneath whilst taking all the plaudits?

No, he turned to Walcott and called him over to share in the praise being poured down from the stands. A true captain’s moment and proof that he is quickly growing into this new role as well as proving that the faith shown in him by Wenger through all his troubled times with injuries was indeed well placed. Class Robin, pure class.

Whilst that was obviously game over and I was quietly confident that my prediction of 2-0 was looking like a fairly safe bet now, a strange thing didn’t happen! Wenger did not take off two attacking players and bring on a centre-forward pretending to be a defensive winger and a defensive midfielder. Arsenal did not start aimlessly passing the ball to Bolton players. Our defence didn’t even thrash the ball into their own net! No, what actually happened was Arsenal continued to push forward effectively and stylishly, continuing in the manner that had been tearing open the Bolton defence for the better part of 40 minutes now.

On 73 minutes Ramsey saw his long range effort saved by Jaaskelainen and 2 minutes later Walcott got himself free after a great pass from Song only for Walcott to hesitate and give the Bolton keeper the chance to close down the angle. In truth, Walcott seemed to be trying to show the keeper to his bottom left whilst actually placing it in the bottom right in true Henry style, but by the time he made the decision he was too close to goal and a relatively simple save was all that was required to keep the score at 2-0.

13 minutes of total possession, and when I say total possession I mean passing the ball crisply and cleanly from one red shirt to another and rarely, if ever, giving it away and my 2-0 was looking golden! Then Song had to go and spoil it all in the 88th minute with a strike of the highest quality. The ever-involved Ramsey, another player who didn’t get anywhere near the credit that he deserved after the game, picked the ball up about 25 yards out, moved into 5 yards of space and passed out to the right hand side of the penalty area to the onrushing Sagna who, trying to return the favour, pulled it back to Ramsey to finish. The pass was a little too close to Ramsey and came with a little too much pace but found its way to Alex Song on the edge of the penalty area who controlled neatly, dragged the ball inside Pratley, took another touch and then curled the ball cleanly into the top right hand corner leaving Jaaskelainen with no chance whatsoever. A goal of the highest quality from a player who is improving with almost every game.

All in all a good afternoon’s work with some great individual performances, but, more importantly, a very tidy team performance. A clean sheet, three goals, a captain who led from the front, a defence that rarely looked troubled, no tactical disasters and, most importantly of all, three precious points that all the whinging and bleating of “those that shall not be pleased” can never take away from us.

Just what we needed! Now we need to turn this performance into a habit and that starts with a big game against the Greeks on Wednesday. More to come on that match tomorrow in the pre-match report!

Mass Exodus or Media Sexing Up?!

The tabloids had a field day when they realised that 4 Arsenal players ONLY have 2 years left on their contract! Yes, apparently Theo Walcott, Andre Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen and Robin Van Persie are all leaving the first opportunity they get as is made clear by the fact that they have not signed contract extensions yet!

Oh dear, anything to generate a story with these buffoons!

Seriously, this is just a ludicrous effort to try and stir up a storm over nothing by the media, but that hasn’t stopped certain sections of the Arsenal fans groaning and claiming that the sky will soon fall in!

To put this issue in some perspective, Manchester United have no fewer than 7 players whose contracts expire in LESS THAN ONE YEAR! Park, Giggs, Owen, Berbatov, Kuszczak, Gibson and O’Shea, but nobody appears to give a monkey’s, and rightly so. Contract extensions tend to get sorted out when there is time and, as much as it may not appear to have been obvious to the blinkered masses, the club was a little busy this summer with things like signing 10 players and loaning one, dealing with the Cesc, Na$ri and Clichy sales and the exit by way of sale, termination or loan of no fewer than 19 other players!

This has not stopped the media from already claiming that Citeh, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich are all ready to sign him in January for £30m!

Woah nelly…Hold on a minute…Citeh? Seriously?! Is there a player in the world that Citeh AREN’T going to buy?! They have Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli and tend to play with one striker! Why would Van Persie even think about going there even if he didleave?! It just wouldn’t make any sense. Captain, first name on the team sheet, scoring a goal about every game he plays in, enjoying his best run of form and his best run without injury for years. He just doesn’t strike me as somebody stupid enough to even consider giving that up to warm the bench for 9 games out of ten.

When actually asked for his opinion, days AFTER the media had already informed us that he would be leaving, he had this to say:

“Maybe I’ll leave it because the main thing for me is the team and that we play well.”

“I do believe you have to look for a right moment to sit down and speak about your own stuff.”

“It’s not only about me, it’s about the team. We are not talking now because we are so busy – we have games every three or four days.”

“I don’t think it’s clever to do that during the season.”

“I still have almost two years left here, so for the moment that’s fine. But I don’t know, we will have to look.”

“I’m happy with my contract, I’m good. That’s how it is, I can’t say much more. I can’t look into the future.”

Which all seems pretty sensible really!

Apparently nobody wanted to talk to any of the other three or indeed Johan Djourou whose contract also expires in two years time but the hacks took no notice of him! It’s almost as if running quotes from any of the others would not sell newspapers, isn’t it?!!

Lo-Jacked
Sad news today for Arsenal and England star Jack Wilshere as the club confirmed that, whilst his operation on his fractured ankle had gone well, they were expecting him to be out for up to four or five months.

“Jack Wilshere has this morning undergone ankle surgery at a central London hospital. It is envisaged that Jack’s rehabilitation will take a period of four to five months.”

“Under the care of two world-renowned surgeons, Jack has had the stress fracture of his right ankle repaired.

“The initial indications are that the surgery has been successful and Jack will now undergo a prolonged period of rehabilitation.”

I have to say that there were two things that realy amused me in that statement, saddening as it is. Firstly, that the club chose to emphasise the use of “two World-renowned surgeons”, either preparing for the inevitable backlash from the Bleaters in the Bleachers claiming that we hired in the same team that worked on Hargreaves at Manchester United in a bid to save £23.50 and secondly that they made it clear that he will be out for four to five months. This is amusing when you read Jack’s own “Tweet” on the topic…

“hopefully i will return to action around christmas time. i am in good hands! thanks for your support everyone!”

Hahaha! It appears that, with the benefit of hindsight, Arsenal Football Club may have learned a valuable lesson in predicting the return of injured players! Of course, it is already being spun as a huge conspiracy by “those that shall not be pleased”, but that is to be expected from them really!

Let’s just hope that Jack is as strong and determined a young man as he is a player and that he gets back in time to give us a great little stocking filler!

Get well soon Jack!

It’s Got To Be Per-fect

Arsene Wenger singled out Per Mertesacker for special words of praise after the defensive performance on Saturday saw him looking more settled and relaxed than in previous matches. In response, Mertesacker had this to say to the Arsenal website:

“We had a little bit more time [during the week] because of the Carling Cup match.”

“Some players had a little more rest and we trained a little harder, especially on the way we want to defend. It worked and on Saturday you saw we had a better defence. We were closer together.”

“After the four goals against Blackburn we lost a little bit of confidence but we were very proud of our performance on Saturday. We want to go on with this way of defending.”

“I want to do a good job, especially in the defence. That is my role. If the coach praises me then that is a great thing but I have to go on and keep on working. My performances can improve.”

Well said that man. I think that it is fair to say that after only a handful of appearances for the club and most of those in a defence desperately short of confidence, he is bedding in well. Time will tell whether Per can truly recapture the form that saw him called “the best central defender in Europe” a couple of years back, but, again, getting on his back every time he does make a mistake is not the way to help that process.

I must say that I cannot wait for TV5 to come back and to see the pair play together regularly. I think that with Sagna, TV5 and Mertesacker along with whoever is winning the right to play at left-back – the kind of competition for places that has been seriously lacking at the club for a long time now – we may even get to see a defence of outstanding quality and effectiveness.

In fact, speaking of competition for places, I think that the “battles” between Mertesacker and Koscielny, Santos and Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Arshavin, Van Persie and Park and Benayoun and anybody in the midfield are not only healthy but something we have been desperately lacking since Wengerball 3 was broken up and I am genuinely excited for the possibilities that this holds for the coming months.

And on that note, I bid you farewell. I have a rum and coke, a full packet of black tobacco cigarettes made in the jungles of Peru and a pre-match report for a game against a Greek team that I know very little about to start researching and actually write!

Come on you All Leaving The Club In January Goooonnnneeerrrsssss!

I Don’t Know What To Say!

September 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Next up, the visit of Bolton Wanderers to our fine home and whilst Bolton have provided some nasty moments for us over the years, including a 2-1 reversal at the Reebok at the end of last season for some reason I am not expecting that this year. Seriously, I have a strange and, if I am totally honest, slightly uncomfortable sense that things are about to go right for us.

Realistically speaking, this is yet another game that we really should be winning. There aren’t many clubs in the Premier League that can claim a worse start to the season than us, 3 to be exact, and Bolton are one of them, sporting a defence (including Cahill for those who simply defy logic by claiming that signing him would have made all the difference to this dismal start to our season) that has leaked only one goal less than our own.

For this reason, it promises to be a game with goals in it, to say the least, although I am secretly just praying for a clean sheet! (not so secret now eh!? -ed)

In terms of the line-up, we are missing Benayoun with a side strain, Djourou with a hamstring that will, with any luck, keep him out for a while yet and obviously Jack, TV5 and Diaby are still out. We will have the luxury of welcoming back Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna, the latter of which provides most relief for my money after another generally poor defensive performance from Jenkinson against Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

In truth, I am not sure that Wenger rested Santos on Tuesday expecting anything other than him starting against Bolton but after the performance of Gibbs against Shrewsbury it would be hard and possibly even harsh to leave him out for this one. When a player, especially one in our defensive unit, hits form even for one game, it would seem sensible to keep playing him. All of that said there is no telling what Wenger will do in this respect!

I think that Walcott will still get the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain. Again, it would again seem that whilst Walcott is struggling for form and The Ox did such a good job in the Carling Cup match then the latter should get another run out, but I think that Wenger is planning a slow easing-in process for him. There is always the possibility that Arshavin will get the left berth and Gervinho the right, but I have a sneaking feeling that the little Russian may finally get dropped for his run, Swansea aside, of poor performances.

I don’t expect any surprises in any other positions and so the line-up will probably look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up Arsenal Bolton

And I think that is a team capable of doing the job.

Interestingly, this very same fixture last season saw us comfortably win 4-1 in the end, although when Bolton equalised just before half-time a wave of worry (the Arsenal version of the Mexican Wave!) went through most Gooners! Thankfully, goals from Koscielny (in THEIR net!), Chamakh, Song and even Vela proved to be more than enough on the day. Oh, and as if to prove how perfectly he would fit in at the club, Cahill, probably undeservedly, got himself a red card after ploughing through the back of Chamakh almost immediately after the Moroccan had scored the goal to put us 2-1 up!

As for this year, as I secretly said earlier, I would settle for a clean sheet (I am sure that the players and management could be forgiven for thinking that is as much the target as actually scoring at the other end) and, for that reason I am going for a 2-0 win with us managing to finish the game with all 11 players on the park!

Yep, 2-0, that’ll do nicely!

A Lucky Escape

Joey Barton has been running his mouth off and the Twitter servers into the ground again with his latest claims that he was actually involved in transfer talks with us and went as far as to say that he would have signed had it not been for the incident with Gervinho which saw our man sent off, probably for not throwing a good enough punch to knock thelittle gobshite out! Firstly speaking to BBC Sport he had this to say:

“If I hadn’t played against Arsenal on the first day, I may have signed for them. There were a couple of conversations [with Wenger] but that’s different to actually signing.

“The Gervinho incident happened and there’s nothing I can do about it now. If it happened again, I’d like to think I’d deal with it differently.

“Things happen for a reason and there’s a lesson to be learned from it. Right now, we sit above Arsenal in the table – hopefully that’s the case in May.”

So many things to discuss here I am not even sure where to start so I will simply plump for “If it happened again, I’d like to think I’d deal with it differently.” HAHAHAHAHA! The odds that Joey Barton will EVER learn a lesson in self-control are so phenomenally remote that I think that they would be better than “Right now, we sit above Arsenal in the table – hopefully that’s the case in May.” actually coming true!

Anyway, in typical fashion Peter Hill-Wood chose to comment on this to the Daily Star:

“It’s not something the board heard about and if it was a serious proposition I certainly would have expected us to [have heard about it].”

Not to be outdone, Barton then “Twatted”, oops, sorry, “Tweeted”:

“am not going to be drawn on PHW’s comments, he obviously needs to open a dialogue channel with Wenger, Pat Rice and Steve Rowley…..”

Followed by:

“…i feel i made the right move for me, am very happy at QPR and wish Arsenal the best of luck. Everything happens for a reason I believe”

Yes, soothsayer Barton, all things DO happen for a reason. One must assume that the reason this happened is because you are nothing more than a loutish thug and I did not hear one single fan of our great club mention anything remotely like “Ooh, Joey Barton. That’s a good idea. Cracking all-round midfielder that is. Right out of the Wengerball textbook!”

Of course, this has sparked a side debate amongst Gooners as to whether or not Barton actually WAS on Wenger’s radar and the board simply didn’t know about it. The general take appears to be that the “AKN” brigade are incredibly now claiming that Wenger is handling all transfer business and, in true dictatorial fashion, doesn’t even require board approval to approach or even sign players!

Well done Gooners. It is such a joy to see us split so directly in two over all things Wenger! Seriously, I there anybody out there who actually feels like I do, give the man a chance to fix this and gel this new-look side and, if he doesn’t, he obviously has to go. In reality there is no obvious replacement, there is no point in booting him out of the door after completing the new signings that all sides of the debate were crying out for and the chances of Arsenal getting rid of the most successful manager in our history are pretty slim anyway.

Divided & Conquered

I had the “pleasure” of a conversation in the comments yesterday with “ken” who I am certain has in the past spent an inordinate amount of time bleating about us needing experience and not winning anything with kids, then decided to bleat that Arteta is too old and Benayoun hasn’t played enough football lately to be a worthwhile signing. Yes, I know I shouldn’t bother replying to somebody who clearly isn’t actually WATCHING Arsenal games and thus actually seeing Mighty Mik or Yossi actually play for us, but he actually went on to actually claim that Arsene Wenger is actually to blame for Monaco being relegated last season due to his failed youth project there…In 1987-1994!

Seriously folks, is there ANTYHING that Wenger can do to get a break from this rubbish?

Look, the reality is simple; Arsene Wenger didn’t become a bad manager overnight, he just found himself looking for a more financially prudent manner of building teams than before. The fact that he was very involved in the reasons for that financial change in climate at the club, the Emirates Stadium, can of course be thrown at his doorstep as hard as any stroppy adolescent can manage, but sailing off into the nether regions of fantasy with claims like this simply aren’t going to help anybody.

To clarify, I am not an “AKB” nor am I an “AKN”. I am a fan of Arsenal Football Club. I have been a fan of this fine club since I was 7 years old, some 32 years ago now, and I will continue to be long after Wenger has shuffled up the stairs or out of the doors of Highbury House. In all of those years I have never seen anybody involved with the club, including Dennis Bergkamp, change our playing style, our success rate, the standing of the club or the feeling of pride that we had for so many years when replying “Arsenal” to the question “Who do you support?”

For those reasons alone I believe that the manager deserves his shot at getting this right. I do not believe that he will deserve any more chances should this season finish without a trophy once more, but I have a feeling that he will turn this around and that this team, with the returns of Vermaelen and Jack still to come, has the potential to play some great football whilst being a more hardworking version than Wengerball 3.

Only time will tell, but I am pretty certain that screaming until one of your lungs lands on the rug in front of you is not going to see any changes to the current structure at the club and, equally, abusing the players or other Arsenal fans is probably not going to convince either to do their jobs properly.

It is simple really; why not just support the team and give them the chance to succeed. If they fail, then we can start the protesting and the screeching but until then there is literally NOTHING to be gained by spraying gallons of vitriol into the faces of those that feel the same disappointment, pain and concerns as you do when we lose, draw or don’t sign Joey Barton!

Catch my drift?!

The Manager Still Believes

Incredibly in my opinion, there are some Arsenal fans claiming that Wenger has become so arrogant and impassive that he simply doesn’t care that we find ourselves 17th in the Premier League table and even that the problems that we have are “plain to see” and he is simply too stubborn and blind to fix them. I would think that anybody with anything other than a stone for a heart could see that the manager has looked a ghost of himself of late such is the pressure that he is, for the first time in his 14 years at the club, surely feeling. That said, I think that his recent press statements were partly designed to demonstrate that is not the case as well as trying to buoy the team a little ahead of Saturday’s game.

When asked about our current form, our league position and our chances of winning the league title, he had this to say:

“Of course I am worried, it is absolutely not realistic not to be worried when you have a team like Manchester United in front of you.

“But the only thing we can do is focus on our performances, win our games and hope they will drop some points at somestage.

“What is important for us is to give absolutely everything to do it (win the title), but at the moment it is too early to speak about that.

“Let’s come back to a better distance with the top teams before we speak about that. If the team gets momentum, we can be very strong.”

I think it is safe to say that all makes a lot of sense. In fact I would be surprised if the likes of Mancini and Villas-Boa aren’t thinking the majority of that too. Let’s just hope that the players are listening!

So, 2000 or so words later, it turns out I DID know what to say!

And on that note I shall away and buy myself a new keyboard because the fecking “w” on this one needs a sledgehammer to get it so much as out of bed these days! Must be all those times I use it to access www.wonderfulworldofwengerwebsite.com!

Come on you Clean Sheet Seeking Gooonnnneeeerrrssss!

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