Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sparkling display destroys classless Chelsea

I have to own up to being too nervous to watch today's game, I kept up to date via radio and the web, my plan is to watch the full ninety when the dust has settled, and how I will enjoy that now. This was a monumentally big game for us, we could not afford to lose another game, in fact many would have taken a point, hence Arsene must take immense credit for really going for Chelsea's atherosclerotic carotid from the very off.

The vast majority of 'expert' media pundits lazily wrote us off before the game, they assumed chelsea's arrogant spoilt brat millionaires would simply brush us aside, how wrong their shoddy assumptions turned out to be. Anyone who has watched us play at the bridge in recent years would know that this game is very rarely one sided, we often push Chelsea hard even when we lose.

This win is an emphatic statement of intent from Arsene Wenger and I have to say he has proved a lot of people wrong in recent weeks. He got things spot on today, and even with some key men absent he took the game to Chelsea when lesser managers would have taken the more cowardly damage limiting option.

I will comment in more detail when I have had a chance to analyse the game in the cold objective light of day. It must be repeated that the weak repetitive drones in the media have been cracked firmly in their abhorrent flabby chops by Arsene Wenger today. Arsene deserves great credit for turning things around after an unsatisfactory summer of dawdling, his young side have dispatched a far more experienced and pricey Chelsea side. In a league that is losing part of its soul thanks to classless little clubs like Chelsea and City, this is heartening to see.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Chavs and other business

So the AGM has been and gone, unfortunately I have had to rely upon other peoples' accounts and comments, but it seems pretty clear that there is a bit of a vacuum in our boardroom in certain areas of skill. Arsene was impressive as always, there was a lot of talk of a united front which is reasonable, but certain key failings were avoided in a way that was slightly disrespectful to the supporters who care for our club and want to know why these errors have been made.

Our win against Bolton was impressive given the players we rested and it adds to an excellent recent run of form. However the awful start to the season that included a humiliating defeat in Manchester, a home defeat to a mediocre Liverpool side and an away defeat to a poor Blackburn side was partially avoidable. We left our squad too weak, sold key men and brought in signings so late that it was bound to take us time to find our feet, and as a result we have thrown a lot of points down the toilet. I think all a few of us want is to know what happened and why errors were made, and then what is being done to prevent any future disasters from occurring.

Anyway I do not wish to dwell on this matter, we have a huge game against a rather small club from west london tomorrow, a club that is so big it has to give tickets away for its champions league home ties as no one will buy them. I hope Vermaelen is not given another game so quickly, he must return in a graduated manner, plus Kos and Merte have been outstanding of late. The good news is that our nemesis Drogba is out suspended which has to be a good thing. There are some intetesting choices for Arsene, at last we have a few fit playes and some options. The brave option would be to play Arshavin alongside Song/Arteta in the midfield with the same front three that played against Stoke.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

3-1 to the football team

There are footballing sides that deserve respect and there are some that quite simply don't, and Stoke fit snugly into the latter category. I have never understood the English media's love of Stoke City and Tony Pulis, they represent all that is dire and negative in the English game. Today they did not disappoint in this regard, there were endless long balls and hoofing, there was plenty of falling to ground easily (Crouch the chief culprit), there was time wasting from early on and there was very little attempt to play what most of us would call football in the true sense of the word.

Stoke were utterly outclassed today and got exactly what they deserved, precisely f*ck all. Although our nerves were a little jangled at 1-1 when Stoke undeservedly scored following some poor defending, it should be remember that Stoke should never have got the joke free kick that led to the goal. Crouch was cheating yet again, his theatrical reaction to losing a header won it, Shawcross was not marked from the subsequent free kick and he headed in back across goal, we lost another header, Crouch then tapped home the knock down.

It had been one way traffic until Stoke equalised, our passing and movement had been decent, several chances came and went, Ramsey was very close with a thumping drive from the edge of the box having been set up by the outstanding Gervinho. It was then Ramsey's turn to repay the favour, he dinked the ball through to Gervinho, the Ivorian's chest control and powerful left footed drive gave us the 1-0 lead that our play deserved.

The midfield worked well together all day, the three of Song-Arteta-Ramsey had a nice balance of power and guile, they knocked the ball around neatly and never allowed Stoke much time to breath. If there was to be a criticism today then it had to be of Theo Walcott and Chamakh. We were not incisive enough in the final third, part of this was down to Chamakh's mediocrity and lack of cutting edge, while Theo's movement was a tad predictable and one dimensional for me.

Gervinho has brilliant all game long and it was his direct attacking play that set up RVP for our second and third goals. Arsene must take some credit for introducing the Dutchman at the right time. For our second goal, Gervinho expertly jinked outside his man on the right flank and supplied a brilliant cutback that RVP cleverly knocked home. While for the third he strode past his man in the inside left position and cut the ball back again for RVP to tap home, perhaps Begovic should have done better too. The sub Arshavin also added something that Theo had failed to.

Overall I was generally very impressed by today's performance, we looked a good side and a bit spark was appearing in our passing game, our players are definitely looking more of a unit and the new signings have made a lot of progress since their arrivals a few weeks back. It was excellent to see the football team win and Stoke comprehensively outplayed. The main area we need to improve in is in the final third, Theo needs to up his game and we need our squad strikers to provide more depth behind our leader RVP. Well done the Gunners, I hope we keep building momentum and grow as the season progresses.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Average Arsenal edge mediocre Marseille

I don't mean to be negative, I am just trying to be realistic and objective, but up until the last few minutes we were really very average in the final third and hadn't created much at all of note despite a hell of a lot of possession. Still the introduction of Gervinho had given us that little bit more spark up front, Djourou's excellent cross was flicked on by Gervinho, Ramsey was in the right place at the right time and finished expertly, a great late goal and an invaluable three points gained. Great result but definitely not a great performance.

There were some real positives which I shall start with. Koscielny was absolutely superb, he timed every header and tackle to perfection, while Mertesacker was decent alongside him. Jenkinson had done well before his injury midway through the second half. Santos was terrible in the first half, he gave the ball away cheaply on several occasions and was defensively poor.

Arteta had a cracking game, he did a lot of excellent defensive work, he used the ball intelligently as well, while Song played with great discipline alongside him. Rosicky did ok, he worked hard and did his best, but if one is going to be critical he didn't do enough going forward. RVP was not supported well enough, Theo did reasonably and was a definite threat, perhaps his final ball could have been a bit better. Arshavin was absolutely awful, sloppy in possession and utterly ineffective in attack, he really should have been substituted off sooner.

I was deeply unimpressed with Marseille, they were very very mediocre, they gave the ball away as cheaply as us, provided very little attacking threat, Remy had one decent dribble that led to his shot being deflected just wide but that was about it. It did look like a draw until Ramsey's winner and really we were a tad fortunate to come away with a win in the end.

The thing that concerns me is not our defense, other than Santos' dodgy defending we looked very solid at the back. Mertesacker and Koscileny are a solid emerging partnership, while Arteta and Song played very well in the heart of our midfield. The thing that concerns me is our average play in the final third and the terrible form of Arshavin. Marseille were there for the taking tonight and we only just scraped home.

Gervinho's spark and dynamism contrasted with Arshavin's complete lack of an attacking threat, he looks like a man lost at sea, bereft of confidence and belief, he appears to be floating away into a abyss of mediocrity. We lacked great options on the bench, the Ox was strangely left at home, while a hell of a lot of weight is being put on RVP's shoulders, he really needs another striker to take some of the load. I do not mean to whinge after a win but we have to see tonight's win in context, there were certainly some big positives, but we cannot ignore the fact that there are some rather big problems staring us in the face.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

RVP galvanises shaky Gunners

Firstly thank you Robin Van Persie, two fantastic goals, almost the goal of the season in the first half when his fantastic turn and chip was denied by the post, a fantastic captain's performance that proved the difference in the end. He is a truly top class talent and would get in most top sides in any league in world football.

Secondly well done to all the lads, it was not perfect by any means but small steps are being made forward, slowly I know but it will take time and patience for things to be turned around. Defensively we need to have a settled back four and this has not happened yet due to never ending injuries, we need more continuity.

Overall the work rate was there, we have looked more of a team in the last couple of games, things are starting to gel a bit. Sunderland did have that dangerous spell in the first half where our defense looked a bit shaky, but other than that we looked pretty solid. Szczesny's magnificent save from Cattermole's header to stop us going 2-1 behind was pivotal, brilliant keeping again from him. Larsson's free kick was top notch, Arteta silly to leave his arm high when going for a header, still it was still slightly harsh to call in deliberate handball given that his opponent also had his arm raised.

Suunderland made things tough, they packed their midfield and were allowed to repeatedly break up our game with a lot of rather deliberate little fouls, Webb was rather slow to clamp down on this tactic and really should have shown some earlier yellows to stop this negative cynicism. Having said that we should have been out of sight before Sunderland equalised, RVP terribly unlucky with his chip and then Gervinho blazing over when in an excellent position in the box just afterwards.

I don't think our 4-3-3 system did us any great favours today, RVP didn't get a great deal of support from the midfield, Gervinho started excellently but faded, while Theo was generally poor and not in the game. Song and Rosicky played well, Arteta slightly less so. I would have liked to see 4-4-2 today but the chances of this look slim unfortunately.

Overall today was definitely a small step forwards and we need to keep doing this, we need to edge forwards slowly but surely, we must be realistic about what this squad can achieve. Realistically even with Jack Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen all fit, this squad is still well short of challenging for the title, there is plenty more work to do in many areas. Still a win is a win and we should be grateful for that, booing any players during the match who are giving their all is not productive and does not impress. Let's be decent fans and get behind the lads at games.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Rooney harsly punished by moronic UEFA

I am no Wayne Rooney fan first of all, in fact I would go as far as saying he is a rather odious individual, so the fact that even I think he has been harsly punished by UEFA should say a lot to you. Rooney kicked out, yes, but it was a pretty mild act. If that was an Arsenal player then I'd have said it was a very harsh red card and arguably it should have been just a yellow. Rooney wasn't helped by the theatrical reaction from the defender.

If you watch the 'kick out' in real time it really is a very very mildly violent act. Even if you accept it deserved a red card then he should have only got the standard one match ban. The fact that UEFA have increased this ban to three games and labelled it an 'assault' is utterly pathetic and incoherent.

UEFA are much like the FA in many ways, they are an unaccountable bunch of biased tossers who like to perpetuate their own vested interests and their victimisation of Rooney proves this. Rooney is an idiot but his little kick out does not deserve a three match ban, this is not fair and it is not proportionate.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

My money is on Koscielny at right back

I am sometimes a man of few words and so I shall prove with this short post.  The options at right back with Bacary Sagna out for several months include Jenkinson, Koscielny, Coquelin and Santos.

My money is on Kos.  He has played there in the past, thus he has some experience and he seems to have the right attributes for the right back slot.  Young Jenkinson is not yet ready, this has been clear so far.  Coquelin is happy in the midfield and should play there.  Santos is as one sided as they come and the right is his side.

I would be very surprised if Koscielny does not become our regular right back for the next few months.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lady unluck, the pathetic media on Adebayor and Finances

Watching the Tottenham game again in the cold light of day it was really clear that our performance was far better than in some previous games and that overall we were rather unlucky not to come away with at least a point. We controlled long periods of the first half and cut open Spurs several times, Gervinho and Walcott the most guilty of missing excellent clear cut chances. Spurs looked like the away side, struggling to get hold of the ball, completely outplayed in midfield and relying on the occasional counter attack.

One key moment that went against us was Van der Vaart's deliberate handball for their opener, it was overt cheating, he had no chance of controlling the ball without using his arm, he knew exactly what he was doing and his sly use of the arm enabled him to score. If we had technology, this would have been a second yellow card to Van der Vaart and no goal to Tottenham, surely it must be time for technology.

The sad thing was that after the deserved Ramsey equaliser came following some excellent work from Song down the left flank, we didn't go on to win the game, we fell away and lost it. The negative for me was how wasteful we were in the final third, Gervinho and Walcott were frequently the chief culprits, we found time and space in dangerous areas again and again, but too often the wrong option was taken or the final ball was simply not good enough. The lack of a defensive shield in front of the back four was rather evident for Walker's winner, Song made a great initial block, but Walker was afforded far too much time and space in a dangerous area, we need to protect our back four far better in the future.

The other major negative was our lack of quality attacking options to change the game from the bench. We have precious little striking backup to RVP and this is a major concern, personally I find it very strange that we didn't bring on Park, Chamakh didn't even make the bench. Arshavin came on but he hardly scares a mouse these days, let alone a defender, while Benayoun didn't really get into the game.

There were some significant positives, Francis Coquelin was superb, outshining Scott Parker by a country mile, repeatedly tackling the gravity prone Modric and looking a general class act in the centre of the midfield. It will be a great shame if Coquelin has to move to right back now as a result of Bacary Sagna's unfortunate injury that sees him out action for at least 2 months or so. Arteta look calm and assured throughout, running the game for the most part. Kieran Gibbs had a very solid game, his best of the season thus far in my opinion.

Overall Tottenham were rather fortunate to come away with a win and the way in which their management and players behaved after the game summed up the complete lack of class that the club has. Clive 'chav' Allen's behaviour after the game was more befitting of a hooligan that someone who works for a football club, while Harry Redknapp's rose tinted view of the chants from both sets of supporters took the piss. Given the disgusting violence and abuse that Tottenham fans have dished out in recent seasons it is thoroughly hypocritical of Redknapp to drone on about the abuse dished out to Adebayor.

Firstly Adebayor is a shit of an individual. He is a self-obsessed egotistial waste of space. He has repeatedly shown that he is a lazy arrogant individual and not worthy of much respect, his own rank unpopularity with his own team mates at several clubs prove his status as one of the biggest idiots around. The Daily Wail tried to turn Adebayor into some kind of saint, hardly wise journalism and utterly lacking in any kind of perspective, shadowing Redknapp's pathetic hypocritical comments from after the game. It is worth remembering that Spurs fans dished out just as bad to Adebayor when he didn't have a Spurs shirt on, strange how the media and Redknapp were so quiet when this occurred.

It is not the first time that the media have spun things in Tottenham's favour, it is well worth remembering that some rather disgraceful chants continue to be directed at our manager but he does not drone on about it after games, it is also worth remembering that Spurs fans have launched violent assaults on our team bus in the past with the media saying far less than they have done recently in trying to protect Adebayor's 'dignity'. Adebayor has very little dignity left, he epitomises the modern day football mercenary, a money grabbing whore who has sold his soul for hard cash.

Anyway moving onto AFC's financial results, I would suggest you all read this excellent summary by SwissRamble which points out just where we need to improve in the years ahead. This is a critical period for football with revenues generally dwindling, and for us it is even more key, we have some big commercial deals up for renegotiation in a couple of years time and it is vital that our footballing results don't drop off in the meantime as the combination could be quite catastrophic. In my opinion we have to do three key things, maximise our commercial revenues, keep achieving on the field and restructure our antiquated wage structure. The problem is that two of these things cannot be forced in terms of time, while turning around the current football results is going to take some doing.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

4 league defeats by early October

I am sure many of you will be feeling the same frustration that I am feeling now, it is hard to take defeat to one's local rivals at the best of times but when it is after such a shambolic start to the season, it becomes rather gloomier for me anyway. The sad fact that is dawning on me now is that we are now not significantly better than Tottenham as a first eleven or as a squad, this is the first time I have said this in my adult life.

It was a close game, it could have gone either way in the end, and our players on the field tried their best, there is no doubt of this. Also we are looking far far better than the shambles of a side that took the field at Old Trafford a few weeks back. These are positives no doubt, but how far backwards have we gone in recent years for these to be the positives, quite a long way it appears.

There was an element of bad luck to the defeat, the Van der Vaart goal should have been disallowed for the clear handball by the goalscorer and Szczesny would probably save the second goal if he got another chance to face it. Still we are still at the point of early October where we have lost 4 league games, we do not have much understanding and cohesion in the side with so many new players coming in so late, and as a result we are playing catch up with the big boys such as City and United.

The thing that has been concerning me for a while is where on earth are our goals going to come from if not from RVP? We have so little quality goalscoring striking backup to our Dutch maestro that it beggars belief. Seeing Arshavin come on as the final throw of the dice said it all, his lack of threat and pace has been evident for a while. We blatantly lack striking options and it frustrates the hell out of me. This is a decent Spurs side but no more, the fact that we were about as good as they were is depressing as it means that we are no better than a decent side ourselves these days, we are no longer one of the best sides around.

I'm fast running out of patience with the current direction of the club, big preventable errors have contributed massively to this appalling start to the season that we have had. There is no denying that the board and manager have both contributed to this disaster in progress, it is arguable as to how this blame should be spread between them, even so to deny it is a disastrous start is to be living in cloud cuckoo land. Results must improve and fast, what we have been served up thus far this season has simply not been good enough for Arsenal FC.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Results not talk and defending as a unit

There has been a lot of chatter in recent days and Stan Kroenke has spoken with the Telegraph. Obviously he has backed Arsene and who would have expected anything else? What has become clear in recent weeks is that Arsene is under pressure and he has had to change his approach, the flurry of signings including several experienced players on deadline day was a sign of this change.

I care not too much for all the talk, Arsene will now live and die by the results and a massive one will be Sunday at the Lane. There were some encouraging signs against the Greeks in midweek, the back four played well on the whole and we had a decent defensive shape in the second half. I think it is going to be absolutely key that whichever team plays in Sunday, we have a good defensive shape as a team and we make ourselves hard to break down, otherwise things could be dismal.

Personally I would prefer to see a return to a more of a 4-4-2 system but realise this probably won't happen, this would give much more support to the full backs, my idea would be to play both Gibbs and Santos down the left to give us more solidity. If we play 4-3-3 it is vital that the wider players get back to support the full backs sufficiently. It looks like Song will remain at centre back, Coquelin consequently must have a good shout to start in the centre of the midfield as our holding player. I just wonder if the Ox will get a game, it probably depends on whether Theo passes a late fitness test.

Irrespective of the formation we employ, it will be absolutely vital that all our midfielders and forwards help out our defense and that we defend as a solid overall unit. It was clear that this didn't happen in the first half against Olympiakos, we were outnumbered too many times and midfield runners were not tracked well enough. We cannot have passengers in our eleven today, our forwards all need to get involved, epically the wide forwards in assisting the full backs. I hope we can get a result on Sunday, it will be a big test and we need one badly.