Monthly Archives: March 2014

Questions over Wenger and the Team, however let’s not give up yet…

Wenger and Rice back in 96 vs Blackburn Rovers

Wenger and Rice back in 96 vs Blackburn Rovers

So, where do we begin after that embarrassment yesterday? Well I won’t begin by talking about the game because, to be quite honest, it’s not worth it. The only thing worth addressing is the fact that the referee fucked up and sent off the wrong person but that’s not in any way shape or form a justification. The reality is that even if he’d given it to the right player we’d have still been 3-0 down with 10 men. In fact even if he’d given a yellow for the handball because the shot was off target, we’d still be 3-0 down with 11 men. All things considered, the game was well and truly over at that point and everybody knew it – Chelsea more so, hence why they went on to rub salt in our wounds and put six past us. A day we’d rather not talk about ever again.

The overdramatic Arsenal fan base went ballistic on social media networks, with every person and his dog giving their opinion on what needs to change, where we go from here, why we lost, etc, etc. It was all rather boring and predictable if you ask me, which is why I barely went on any of them for the majority of the day. The worst thing about being an Arsenal fan is that when we lose, every person is against us. I expect it from the armchair Man Utd fans but when I see our own ones going over the top and calling for extreme measures, it just makes the situation worse.

So me being me and trying to find my inner realist and optimistic self, I see there are a few things that certainly need addressing after such a disappointing result.

Arsene Wenger
Before the game there was a lot of focus on the fact it was Wenger’s 1000th game for the club. A historic achievement and one in which many praised him for. There was a sense of hope that considering this landmark that the players would step up and deliver something special to celebrate the occasion. Of course that didn’t happen and I don’t think anybody will be more upset and disappointed than Wenger, and rightly so. However questions do need to be asked of him and after the game he blamed himself for the scoreline, saying

It was a nightmare and I take full responsibility for it. What is important is to give a response on Tuesday night and that is it.

Now those kind of results only come around so often and they’re not acceptable, but they’ve become a little too frequent in recent years. Old Trafford 8-2, Man City 6-3, Liverpool 5-1 and of course Chelsea 6-0. Those kind of scorelines aren’t dished out to lower table teams, yet how can one of our calibre be on the end of four in the past few years? It’s embarrassing. If it was a bad day in the office it may have happened once, but you can’t help but question the managers tactics.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Wenger doesn’t know tactics because he’s got more experience than the entire Arsenal fan base combined. He’s also managed to get wins against Dortmund and Bayern away plus Liverpool, Tottenham and more at home. He even got a 5-3 at Chelsea a few years back so he isn’t out of touch with it all, but it does leave you wondering as to how we’ve lost so heavily, particularly away from home against the other top three with 12:45 kick offs. Is he not getting the players psyched up? Is it too early for him to give his usual preparation? Is it poor tactics? A poor team selection? I don’t know the answer but something isn’t right that’s for sure.

The Team
Look, Wenger may have messed up something yesterday but ultimately the team let him down more. Tactics are tactics but they don’t lose you games 6-0. They can be the difference by one or two goals but a scoreline of that size is unacceptable. These are seasoned professionals playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, regardless of the manager and his game plan the blame doesn’t solely sit with him.

They should have worked their arse off for Wenger and given him a celebration for his 1000th game, not an embarrassment. He’ll forever remember that result and be reminded of it being his 1000th game and I would guarantee such a scoreline won’t stick with the fans as much as it’ll stick with him. They should all sacrifice their wage packets this week and give the money back to the away fans because they deserved better. My mate went to the game and left after 20 minutes – £50 ticket, £20 train, £100 on booze and for what? Those footballers will have been going home to their million houses in their six-figure supercars feeling disappointed whilst the fans drowned their sorrows in the pub. Where’s the fairness in that?

The Title
It’s a painful scoreline but not the complete end of our chances. If we beat Swansea and City win their games in hand, we’ll seven points behind them, four behind Chelsea and three behind Liverpool. It’s unlikely no doubt but no reason to give up hope. It makes the game against City next week all the more important to win if we stand a chance of getting back into it. It’s great that we’re at home as it gives us the strength needed to compete. Win that game and we’re four points off but both Chelsea and City both have to play against Liverpool. We on the other hand have six very winnable fixtures which we could use to capitalise on the points lost between those other three. I feel confident that each of them will lose or draw one of their other five games, that opens up the possibility of us finishing in and around the top. It won’t be easy but it’s all we have left to cling onto now.

The realist in me thinks Chelsea will go onto win the league which I’ve said all season but hey, football is crazy at times so who’s to say it’s over? It’s not over until the fat lady sings. There’s still eight games to go and a lot can change in that time. Keep the faith.

Conclusion
At the start of the season every Gooner would have said that a title challenge, top four and the FA Cup would have been a fantastic year. Now that we’re on course for it, they’re not happy. Our fan base is the only one that could win £50,000 on a scratch card and still be unhappy they didn’t win the lottery. Last year we scraped fourth by the skin of our teeth on the last game of the season and continued without a trophy. We then went onto sell the majority of our deadwood, sign Ozil and compete again. It’s been a huge step forward in my eyes and that’s all thanks to Wenger.

Every manager has their downfalls, none are perfect and none get it right all the time. Wenger is a hungry, passionate winner and will no doubt be hurting more than any of us after yesterday’s result. He wants that FA Cup badly and if he wins it I can’t help but think that it’ll be the stepping stone towards greater success over the next two years.

Let’s not forget yesterday we was without Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott and Wilshere, all of whom would have likely started and made a significant impact. With some strengthening in the summer plus those key players back in the squad, we’ll be in a great position to take another step forward. Wenger has been our managed for almost two decades and still doesn’t have the Champions League to his name – do you not think he wants that more than anyone? Do you not think he’s looking at that £100m in the bank and everything he’s worked his arse off for the past decade to get to where we are now and thinking “I’m going to give it one last go and if I can’t do it, then I’ll retire.”

I know he’s not done everything he could have but he’s still our manager. We’re still in a far better financial position than we were ten years ago and it means even more now because of the impact of the wealth that Chelsea and Man City possess. The season isn’t over yet, there’s still games to play and still reasons to be happy. We can still support our great club, our historic manager and our FA Cup campaign, not to mention our season. We’ve had some damaging losses but it’s not a reason to consider the season a disaster.

At the end of the day I’d take our position this year to any one of those over the past nine – because it might end with a trophy for once. Come on you Gooners!

To dare is to do, 13 league titles, you’ve only won two!

I am somewhere in the bottom left behind all the arms

I am somewhere in the bottom left behind all the arms

Hello and good morning readers. It’s been a few days since we went to Shite Hart Lane and played the Sp*rs but I’m still feeling elated about the game and the result. I managed to get three tickets for the game, two in the bottom left of that photo (literally very bottom left) and one for a friend who can be seen above the ‘R’ in ‘Shitspur’ in a white t-shirt. All three of us were in agreement that the game is the best Arsenal game we’ve been to. The atmosphere was amazing, the fans were unbelievable and most importantly – after not doing so in the league since 2007 – we won in their back yard.

The game started brilliantly with Rosicky and Ox combining to create an opportunity which led to one of the goals of the season. I actually missed the goal as I was looking round and very much in the euphoria of actually being at away for the North London Derby (something I’ve dreamed of for years) but I caught the highlights after the game and what a goal it was.

The most impressive thing about it is that sometimes players just hit them with all their might and connect with that sweet spot which does the work for you. You’ll see it in lower league football every weekend in fact. However with Rosicky’s goal he could have certainly hit it harder (although 70mph isn’t exactly slow) but he decided to put more precision on the strike and it combined into one hell of a goal. The technique was superb and it put the Arsenal 1-0 up inside a couple of minutes.

The goal pretty much silenced the Spuds for the rest of the game, which made the atmosphere for the away fans all the better. A short while later Oxlade broke through on goal with a golden opportunity to put us 2-0 up but unfortunately scuffed it wide. Those kind of chances need to be at least testing the keeper but hey ho, it wasn’t meant to be.

The half from then on was pretty even I’d say with neither team producing anything massively clear-cut. The second half was a certainly more tense due to the fact that Tottenham had a lot of the ball but really they did nothing with it. Our defence were outstanding all day and gave them little or no opportunities to score. In fact the only chance they did create was one which came from a Szczesny error where he missed the ball and gifted Chadli a chance a goal. Of course Chadli didn’t stand a chance because both Per and Koscielny did their jobs and blocked the ball at the goal mouth.

After the game there were plenty of people saying that Tottenham were the better team. How the fuck does that work out? They had possession of the ball more but isn’t that expected when they’re at home? The fact is they didn’t produce a single chance all game, we produced three. Furthermore, Vertonghen 100% fouled Koscienly in the box. It’s a stone-wall penalty and should have been given. I don’t know how the fuck the linesmen or referee didn’t see it when even I could.

So no, I refuse to accept that they were the better team. They were the more inefficient, useless, tactically outplayed team. We let them have possession because we were both mature and intelligent enough to know they couldn’t do fuck all with it.

After the game was my favourite part without a doubt. Around 80% of our 3,000 fans stood around to continually sing “49, 49, undefeated, 49, 49, I say, 49, 49, undefeated, playing football the Arsenal way!” for almost half hour. It was unlike anything I’d ever been to in football and is a credit to our incredible away support. People like to talk up the foreign away fans but I gotta say – we’re up there with the best of them.

So, in terms of the significance of the three points, it means we’re still very much in with a chance of the title. Anything other than a win and I think we’d be counting ourselves out of it, but now we find it all very much in our hands. Our next three fixtures are Chelsea (A), Swansea (H) and Man City (H). I think if we can get a minimum of seven points from those games then we’ll go into the final six games with the wind in our sails and a probable chance of getting our hands on the trophy.

Of course we’d still need both Chelsea and City to slip up but I’m feeling quite confident they’ll do so – once. That’ll mean we’ll need to win all our games which I don’t think is beyond the realms of possibility. With the way this season has gone so far, I don’t think anything can be ruled out.

In other news it’s been announced that both Cazorla, Ramsey and Zelalem have committed their futures to the clubs with new contracts. Both Cazorla and Ramsey have been integral to our side the past few years so it’s welcomed news that they’re both happy to stay around longer. They join Rosicky, and Mertesacker in extending their contracts and it shows that the club are keen to avoid any more Nasri or van Persie situations.

Of course there’s question marks over Sagna’s future but it’s very much a yo-yo situation. One moment he’s staying, the next he’s gone. In my eyes he’ll be off in the summer which will mean a replacement will need to be bought. I did hear a few seasons back we wanted Piszczek of Dortmund but he’s 29 in June and been in and out of the injury room the past two seasons so I doubt that’ll happen.

I can’t help but wonder about the futures of those players that haven’t yet gotten new contracts too. Giroud and Podolski in particular because they’re both coming to a point where the next few years will be their most important in terms of a solid contract. Perhaps Wenger is doubtful over both of their ability to offer something to the team longer than their current deals so he’s therefore reluctant to offer them new ones. It makes a change to our usual approach of offering contracts in hope they’ll come good e.g. Bendtner.

Speaking of Wenger, I can’t help but have doubts over him too. On Twitter last night I referred to the fact that a few years back he said something like “I’ll step down when the club is in the best position for the next manager to come in” and it got me wondering – could he be leaving this year? He’s yet to sign an extension on his deal that expires in three months, so could it finally be the year?

When you consider he’s built a new stadium, secured the futures of our core team on lengthy contracts, got us competing for trophies again, quality young players coming through and £100m+ available in the transfer kitty, it does look as though the club is a golden opportunity for any manager should he decide to come in this year. The big question is though, who would that be?

Wenger said back in 2011 he’d love Dragan Stojkovic to take over after him but I can’t say I’d agree. I think he’s not a big enough name or personality and would struggle to handle the pressure of managing a club as big as Arsenal. Then there’s the possibility they’d go for a young experienced manager such as Roberto Martinez, or even promote from within through Steve Bould. Neither of them strike me as Arsenal managers (yet) though and that makes me feel the only real candidate is Jurgen Klopp. His footballing style, class and philosophy of producing young talent matches everything we want in a manager. Plus he’s been at Dortmund for a few years and won major trophies, so he’d more than capable of handling the expectation of the fans.

Anyway, it’s something to ponder over. Let’s hope Wenger signs a new contract as I think the club will be in a much better situation in two years and therefore give the next manager an even greater platform to start on. For now, let’s focus on this weekends game against Chelsea, where Wenger takes charge of his 1,000 game and will hopefully get that first win over Mourinho. Until then.

FA Cup within our reach, Bayern average, bring on Spurs

Ozil, Rosicky and Giroud celebrating vs Everton

Ozil, Rosicky and Giroud celebrating vs Everton

Hello and good morning readers. It’s been exactly a week since I last wrote and since then we’ve gone on to play two more games, both of which were significantly important to our season and could have been seen as ‘make or break’.

Arsenal 4 – 1 Everton
The first was an FA Cup Quarter Final (or the Sixth Round if you want to be a bellend about it) at home against a strong Everton side. They’ve been doing pretty well this season under new manager Roberto Martinez and I was one of the unfortunate ones to be at the 1-1 draw earlier on in the season, so they really couldn’t be underestimated.

We didn’t line up with our best side though, with the manager opting to rest a number of key players with the focus being on the mid-week tie with Bayern Munich. Several fringe players including Fabianski, Vermaelen and Sanogo were handed starts and therefore chances to show their ability.

The game itself started pretty quickly when after seven minutes Ozil was fed through and managed to score a sublime finish, even though he was surrounded by two defenders and the goalkeeper. After all his recent criticisms I think the goal was well taken and will have gone some way towards reigniting his confidence and belief.

After that there were spells from both sides before we conceded a bit of a messy goal scored by Romelu Lukaku. It did create some doubts in the side but we showed our strength and saw out the half and re-emerged after the break a different side. I struggle to think in that second half where they had a chance. I believe Barkley missed an opportunity either late in the first half or early in the second but other than that they didn’t have a sniff.

It did of course only take until the 69th minute before Oxlade was brought down to give us a penalty. Our designated kick taker Mikel Arteta stepped up and very cooly placed it to the keepers left. Big pressure after Ozil’s miss and a big goal considering the circumstances. The referee however felt to cancel to goal and book Giroud for entering the box too early, although replays showed he was more thrown into there by the Everton defenders opposed to walking in.

Didn’t look to affect Arteta though, because he stepped up and delivered a perfect penalty into the roof of the net. The keeper went the right way this time but there was no stopping that. Credit to Arteta as well, to step up the first time and score is one thing but the pressure the second time must have been magnified greatly, so for him to not only put it in the net but do so in the way he did shows how calm and collected he really is. Just a shame he was suspended for Bayern.

After that it was pretty much one way traffic in the game before Giroud was eventually subbed on for Sanogo. That tactical change really kicked our quality up a gear and it showed when the Frenchman managed to score our third goal on the 83rd minute. Just three minutes later however, he’d scored another and the game was pretty much done and dusted. 4-1 to the Arsenal, two goals for Giroud, a goal and an assist from Ozil and a ticket to the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley.

FA Cup Semi-Final Draw
Prior to the draw every Gooner was praying for Sheffield United or Hull because it was inevitable that City would beat Wigan considering their strength at home. Of course the draws never go in Arsenal’s favour, although you’d like to think that after getting Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton in the rounds prior that we’d get some luck in the next round, but of course we didn’t. We was drawn against the winner of Man City vs Wigan, which everybody of course thought would be City.

But of course, football doesn’t work that way. It works in ways that makes it magical and unpredictable and one of the shocks of the season was Wigan managing to go and knock out Man City by winning 2-1. If you was a plastic armchair glory hunter City fan you’d have to pretty much hate Wigan now. Losing against them in the FA Cup Final last year was one thing but to go on and lose a second time within 12 months at home? Ouch.

Gotta say as well, fuck all the crappy English press that didn’t splash the headlines with the cliché titles and shite that they usually have whenever we lose those kind of games. The hatred towards Arsenal is a joke sometimes, so a big fuck you to all you useless, bloody-sucking, cretins that refer to yourselves a journalists. I just call you cunts. Big fucking cunts.

Anyhoo that means Arsenal now take on Wigan in the Semi-Final with a view of playing either Sheffield United or Hull in the final. You gotta feel that this is our best chance of a trophy this season and we must do everything we can to achieve it. We’ve gotta kill off that stupid nine year trophy drought and bring some silverware to the Emirates. We have to be considered strong favourites now and we’d better not underestimate our opponents in the slightest. Full concentration, full focus and we’ll win it I have no doubt.

Bayern 1 – 1 Arsenal
Won’t talk much on this game as there isn’t a great deal to say. I think we defended sublimely, the focus was there but we conceded one goal and it killed the game. We did score a few minutes later but it wasn’t enough. Had we’d scored our goal first I think we could have gone on to get a result but unfortunately it wasn’t to be and we ended up with the draw.

It didn’t help that Ozil was taken off during half-time with a hamstring injury. It’s rumoured to be grade 3 which is the worst of the worst, meaning he’ll probably be out now for around six weeks. Huge blow to our season but with Ramsey back and Oxlade delivering performances like yesterday, I still feel optimistic that it won’t end our hope of getting top four and that FA Cup trophy.

Would also just like to say Bayern looked shit. There’s a difference between playing attacking, passing football and just passing around your own half. Last year they were an exciting, dangerous and efficient German outfit who looked a match for anybody, last night they looked like a boring, timid bunch of diving wankers (Robben you useless prick) who didn’t want to win with pride. They were more scared of us then we were of them and I think that applied to both ties. It’s unfortunate that the tie was pretty much ended when the referee gave Szczesny that red card but we shouldn’t bemoan the outcome of the two games. We’re out now, we played with pride yesterday and the draw was a fair result in reflection. We need to move on and focus our efforts elsewhere and that starts with the league.

Final Comments
We didn’t qualify for the next round of the Champions League but so what? Nobody expected us to beat Bayern yet alone win it and that’s fine with me. At the start of the season I said we’d finish second and could maybe have a go at the FA Cup and so far we’re on course for that. The opportunity for top three and a trophy is very much in our own hands right now, so let’s take the positives and make sure we deliver. Our next game is a huge one and takes place Sunday at the worst part of London – Tottenham. We’ve got a North London derby to play, three points to go for and a league title still in the distance, let’s not dwell on a competition we probably won’t have won but focus on one that we may still just win.

We can only blame ourselves for Stoke, an important month + transfer talk

Glad to see these two will be with us even longer!

Glad to see these two will be with us even longer!

At the weekend we travelled to the shit-hole that is Stoke in a game where nothing but three points would do. In most cases three points is necessary for obvious reasons such as maintaining momentum and keeping up the pace for challenging for the league, however this game was all the more in need of those points because well, to be frank, Stoke are cunts. Their fans are cunts, their manager is a huge cunt and their team has more cunts than the Houses of Parliament.

After watching the first half, I couldn’t help but feel it would be one of those days where it’d be a bore draw or one goal would decide it. We looked lacklustre and lacked movement and pace all over the pitch to the point it actually made Stoke look half-decent. I know, Stoke and half-decent were used in the same sentence.

We limited Stoke to only one clear chance the entire game, which is pretty impressive from a defensive point-of-view. I say one clear chance but when you consider that a penalty was given, I suppose it’s technically two. The penalty well, that was as harsh as they get. I understand that Koscielny’s arm shouldn’t be up there but watch any footballer for 90 minutes and at some point his arm will be in similar positions – it’s only natural to use your arms to dictate or increase your movement. Koscielny did just that but he was unfortunate enough for the ball to come up and hit it.

By the letter of the law it has to be a) intentional and b) preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity. It was neither. Koscielny’s arm was up there before the ball had even been touched, so it obviously wasn’t intentional. As for the latter, well I don’t see how the ball was even under control yet alone preventing any form of a chance. It was a bad decision, it gifted them the game and it has severely dampened our chances of winning the league.

Now I’m not going to blame the dropped three points on the penalty because at the end of the day – we didn’t even bloody score. I’d be feeling bitter if it was 1-1 because I’d be thinking “well the referee cost us two points” but that’s not the case. He cost us one point in that game, because unless you score you’re not going to win. We failed to turn up and produce anything of real spark.

In fact, it was only when we conceded and Oxlade-Chamberlain was introduced that we actually started to perform. You could tell how badly we needed his pace on the pitch because at the moment we’re just so static and easy to control. When we play these smaller clubs we can often find ways to win through the quality in the side, the experience or the mentality of never giving up. When we go up against the big sides such as Chelsea, Man City or even Man Utd, we’re too easy to contain and control. Stick eleven men behind the ball, counter and/or take your chances and you’re guaranteed 1-3 points.

It’s games like Stoke where I sit there and think how much we truly miss Walcott. His pace would be absolutely devastating right now and I think had he’d spent the past few months in the side, he’d be leading the goalscoring charts at the club, and I don’t doubt Ozil would be smashing it for assists too. It’s gutting for us but it’s part and parcel of football. We’ve lacked depth all year in comparison to City and Chelsea but it’s starting to show through now and it’s starting to genuinely worry me.

We now sit four points behind Chelsea and Man City (should they win both of their games in hand) and there are ten games to play for. The season is far from over but this month is absolutely crucial. We’ve got to firstly bounce back with a win this weekend against Everton in the FA Cup. Progressing through to the semi-final is a must because it’s no doubt our best chance of silverware this season. We’re at home and will want to make up for the 1-1 draw here earlier in the season.

Then after that we take on Bayern in which if I’m being honest, I’d rather us rest for. I can’t see us scoring three goals away against the best team in Europe when we can’t get one against Stoke. We might get one, perhaps even two, but three? I can’t see it. And let’s be brutally honest – we’re not keeping a clean sheet, therefore three is the only thing that’ll do. Besides, I don’t want to score two and goal into extra time because then they will beat us. They have more depth, more energy and a lesser fixture list. We really don’t want to be sacrificing our weekend game for the sake of an extra half hour.

Why? Because that game is Tottenham away. That game is a must-win. Rivalry aside, if we want to be back fighting for the league then we need to take three points from them. After that it’s Chelsea away, Swansea at home and then Man City at home. The Swansea game was fortunately rearranged so it’ll give us a bit of a breather between the two big fixtures but from those three fixtures we need seven points minimum. I don’t think we’ll beat Chelsea away but we can draw. As for City, they’ll be timid and I think will settle for a close win – that’s exactly why we need to go at them at full throttle.

If we get seven points that’ll mean we’ll be six off the top. It’s still too big of a margin but I do think Chelsea are gonna drop points. They’ve still got to play Tottenham and Liverpool plus I can see them slipping up against one of the lesser sides. It’s imperative that we manage to get points off them and City if we want to stand a chance. At this rate with all the fixtures considered, it’s hard to deny that they title will fall to one of them, but we can at least try to be the thorn in both of their sides, make a decent attempt at keeping up the momentum and walk away with 2nd or 3rd spot and perhaps the FA Cup.

That to me is a brilliant season and the platform for an even better one next year. It’s all within our reach, within our capabilities and within reason, we’ve just got to make sure we do everything possible to make it happen.

In other news it seems as though both Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky have signed new contracts with the club. Great to see as both of them have been stellar this season, offering quality, experience and their own respective talents to a squad with nobody similar to either of them. I won’t go into too much detail due to the length of the post so far but I do think it’s a positive move from the club. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Cazorla and Ramsey are both set to sign new contracts as well, not to mention Mr Arsene Wenger. If so, it’d be a further boost as I think they’re all essential to the club and still have plenty to offer.

It does make you wonder for the futures of some other players however. Sagna’s future is up and down like a yo-yo at the minute. One second he’s gone, the next he’s staying, we really don’t know what the final verdict is going to be. We’re all hoping he stays but I’ve had a feeling all year he’ll be going. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Then there’s the fact that Viviano, Fabianski and Bendtner all set to leave, plus the possible departures of Podolski, Vermaelen and Miyaichi, our squad is starting to look like it requires some major investment this summer. We might be looking at a shopping list of two goalkeepers, a right back, two centre backs, a power-house midfielder, a left winger and a striker. That’s a hefty list.

We could fill a few roles from promoting within such as Damian Martinez or Josh Vickers being third choice goalkeeper, Gnabry and Zelalem being handed more opportunities for the winger and midfield positions and on-loan players such as Djourou and Coquelin given chances to be decent squad members but it’s still not enough. We’d still need to buy a second choice goalkeeper, a right back, two centre backs and a striker. It’s going to be a busy summer folks and I think the worrying thing is I can only see us buying four players as an absolute maximum.

Anyway, that’s still months away and we’ve got plenty of football to focus on before then – with the first being an all-important FA Cup fixture against Everton. Until then.