Sexy Alexi, Sanogo the Shaper, and Terry Adonis: Match Day Report

Arsenal 2 – 0 Dortmund – a match day report.

Sexy Alexi a joy to watch! :)
Sexy Alexi a joy to watch! 🙂

Blogging, in some ways, is a weird phenomenon. You can be ‘in contact’ with people for years but never actually meet in person. Yet, virtual friendships develop and we get to know each other quite well, even though we often do not even know the real name of the persons we are blogging with on a daily basis.

To then meet two fine Bergkampesque bloggers in person, before and during the match against Dortmund, is special. It makes supporting Arsenal a whole lot more human, if you know what I mean.

Nik, who looks like a mixture of the BFG and Fernando Torres, is based in Germany, not far from Dortmund and has been a Gooner from a very young age. He has written a few posts for the site and has watched the Arse live both in Germany and London. He is in his early twenties and is into sports science, and boy does he know his football.

Terry Mancini Hair Transplant – ‘Terry’ in short – looks like a short-haired, Greek John Travolta, and he has teeth that blind you and could bite through a mahogany table with ease. He has never written a post, but we all know him for both his many very funny anecdotes and his love for Arsenal and Arsene (not just platonic, I fear!). He also really knows his football.

Nik does not know a fellow Gooner in the small town he lives in, whereas Terry, who lives in North-London and has literally split his house in two to live separate from his estranged wife, is totally surrounded by fellow Gooners: two very contrasting ways of supporting Arsenal, whereas I sit somewhere in the middle. However, what unites us all is of course the love for Arsenal.

I drove from Norwich to London wearing the mighty red and white. It was two hours before darkness would set in, but the sun never came out and the sky was deep grey, which made the shirt stand out more. Driving from Norwich – a very small ‘city’ – to the metropolis of London offers the perfect mental preparation for the game. There is nothing between the two places but woods and agricultural land, and about 200km of it. What else can one think about but our beloved team?

Once I got to Cockfosters, I felt ‘at home’ straightaway. The colours of the mighty Arsenal can be seen everywhere, even as early as 5pm. There are smiles on people’s faces and there is a buzz in the air which only an imminent home game can bring about. If you love football, you know what I mean. I was a bit early for meeting Terry and Nik, so walked around Finsbury tube station for a while. All of a sudden I heard a collective, guttural sound and before I know I am confronted by an enormous and very load yellow and black caterpillar. A few thousands of Dortmund fans were making their way to the ground, whilst onlookers were taking pictures of, or filming, the ‘experience’. It was pretty awesome to watch.

Terry, Nik and I met up at the Arsenal shop under the shirt of AR16 and went straight for something to eat and drink. A Turkish restaurant looked clean and tidy enough to suggest we would not end up with an icky belly. There were plenty of fellow Gooners inside and as soon as we entered all the women looked up. For a split second I thought it was me who created those expectant looks, but then I realised it was Terry’s ‘ray of light’ smile that was the babe-magnet.

Terry got spotted!
Terry got spotted!

We had a great chat about footie, Arsenal, life and women and then we walked to the ground. Terry walked with a wobble and made us believe he had a dodgy knee. However, it was clear that he held us back with his rubber-necking and touching up of every woman that walked past us. It was a pleasure to watch the Adonis at work, finding his many Aphrodites in the crowd; and Nik was eagerly making notes of the master’s endeavours.

Thanks to Terry’s dodgy knee, we entered the ground late: too late for both Terry and me to watch the first goal, but young Nik jumped up the stairs, four flights at a time – the BFG would have been proud of him – to just see Sanogo put it away. Good on him.

As soon as we took our seats we realised we were surrounded by both Gooners and BVBers. We sat not far away from the away supporters, and as expected they made a real racket, with a pre-medieval drum and more guttural sounding Dortmund songs. The sound and movement of the away fans were very impressive and it drowned out most Gooners’ singing around us.

The game was good to watch and we played well in the first half. However, it was clear that Dortmund played with their foot off the gas, as it seemed they were not too bothered about the outcome of this game. They hardly pressed as a team and when in possession there was not enough movement in front of the one with the ball to be able to hurt us. The tempo was often low and Cazorla, our playmaker, regularly found himself in space he would normally not get. 

I guess the early goal was a tonic for us and sedated further Die Gelb-Schwarzen and then set the scene for the rest of the game. It was good to see Sanogo giving us structure and his hold-up play and passing was good and reminiscent of Giroud. He also had good positional awareness and passed on the ball quickly and often accurately; and more than once he managed to start an attack from receiving the ball with his back towards the goal. He makes it look simple, but yet it is so effective; and the whole team benefited from his game.

We all laughed a bit when Sanogo wasted a good chance to make it 2-0, as his movement and control of the ball looked comical. He still has a lot to learn but he is a very interesting prospect for us: let there be no doubt about it that he is a great talent.

Both Ox and Alexis were active on the wings and the FBs were a great help in making things happen. We won most of these ‘two or three against two or three’ battles on the flanks this time round – a strong contrast with the return game a couple of months ago. Santi, often with time and space, moved the ball round well and was a joy to watch. This would have been a great game for Rosicky, but his time must be up now (unless he is injured). Arteta and Ramsey had been industrious and effective, but were also given an easy time given the lack of pressing and movement by Dortmund.

Dortmund had just a couple of chances and Martinez – totally in bright orange to have a strong presence, which I liked – made an excellent safe at a crucial moment.

During the break, Terry seduced a few more women, leaving Nik and me to analyse the game in peace – good man! 🙂

The second half was more of the same, with Arsenal controlling the game and Dortmund not giving enough to be able to hurt us. The Ox hit the bar with a fine volley just before THE moment of the game. Alexis received the ball, from a very alert Santi, outside Dortmund’s right side of the box: he looked at the goal and placed a brilliant, diagonal, curling shot to the keeper’s left side, leaving him no chance whatsoever: a moment of supreme skill that finished the game off for good.

With a sex god next to me – attracting gorgeous women all around us 😉 – and sexy Alexi on the pitch, what had started as the dullest of days ended up bright and positive. A two nil win – three out of three wins for my Emirates visits this season! – fine company, lessons in the art of seducing the other sex, and a brilliant goal by Alexis….. days don’t become much better than that.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Message to all Regular Bloggers on Bergkampesque

Blogging on here is of course free and there are no nasty, intrusive adverts spoiling your blogging experiences. I earn nothing from running this blog and pay for the admin costs myself, which is fine with me.

I have chosen the Willow Foundation as the site’s chosen ‘Charity of the Year’. Bob Wilson, an Arsenal Great, is the president of the foundation and it offers truly fantastic help to those who have become seriously ill at a young age.

Willow is the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days. These Special Days enable them and their families to reconnect and refocus on each other while enjoying an activity of their choosing. A day for them, a day about them and a day that will create memories they will all treasure forever. – See more at: https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/about-willow-0#sthash.dZZ2e9Od.dpuf

Please make a donation to the Willow Foundation – whatever you can afford. 🙂

See:

https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/

Click on ‘Donate’ on the right hand side.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Frank, aka TotalArsenal.

Mesut, Aaron, Jack, Santi, Tomas: ideal cure for PTB.

Arsenal-form

I don’t know about you but when I have to do tedious tasks, like completing spreadsheets, peel potatoes or listen to MotD analysts, my mind often wanders to Arsenal moves and goals as a coping mechanism.

Our second goal against Pool-victors Hull, for example, serves as the perfect tedium killer. Every time I think of that goal a smile forms in my face: the way the Hull players wanted the ball over the line, the perseverance of Nacho and Ozil, the sharp combinations between Ramsey and Ozil whilst moving constantly, and the beautiful, beautiful measured ball into the box by the Welshman to the German, followed by  a fast, precise, deadly finish by Ozil. Stuff of day dreams.

Watch it again, from about 58 seconds onwards:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQkVFHWzUKY

Arsenal currently have five fit, multi-talented midfielders who can combined so well in tide spaces that we seem to have finally cracked the Park The Bus approach of some of the teams coming to the Emirates. Of course it helped that we scored an early goal against Hull, but it was also clear to me that they just could not deal with the movement and passing of our midfielders on Wednesday.

And if the movement and passing is good now, just imagine what it will look like in the future. Ramsey and Wilshere maturing further, Ozil settling properly into the team, Santi in his best form again, Rosicky coming in to replace tired legs at the start or during the games, and Ox returning fit and hungry to the team. Add to that the super talents of Eisfeld and Zelalem, and one or two others, and you know the future is bright.

It does make me think, though, what sort of football Arsene and Steve are aiming to play mid to long term: is this it or will we see another dimension added to our game?

I mention Steve Bould on purpose as I am equally impressed with the current defensive shape and discipline of the team. What initially seemed an awkward relationship between two strong-willed and passionate characters has slowly developed into one of great strength and depth. In recent seasons, there often was an obvious split in the team of the ‘defence seven’ – GK, defenders, and two defensive minded deeper laying midfielders – and the attacking four with the a limited amount of integration between the two ‘blocks’.

It worked for us when we needed to get results, but it was often hard on the eye, and was always going to be an interim measure as long as Wenger is ultimately in charge.

Now, after a summer of stability through keeping all our key players (except Gervinho, who I reckon we should have kept at least another year), and adding the extra dimension of Ozicle and the steel and extrovert leadership of the foxy Flamini to our talents, Wenger and Bould have evolved the team to the next – yet I feel not final – stage.

There is a lot more fluidity to our play and our team no longer look like two autonomous, task-orientated units. Only when we play the bigger teams, we still struggle a bit with playing as an integrated, holistic defending and attacking team. This is something the team will get better at the longer the players are together, and our two games against the Oilers will show us how far they have come.

We can look forward to the likes of Santi, Jack, Mesut, Aaron, Alex and Tomas becoming more and more a free moving, all conquering midfield attacking machine this season, with Flamini or Arteta offering defensive support behind them and Giroud being the pivotal, holding attacker up-front. On top of that, they get constant support from one full back at a time. There is growth in Gibbs and Jenkinson, and Nacho and Sagna are solid, safe pairs of hands for us.

Mid to long term, other than adding some strength in depth in some key areas (CB, DM, RB, CF), I can see us getting a top quality 24/25 year old left midfielder/winger. He would add another dimension, especially if and when combined with Theo on the right. That for me would be the next stage of growing our team into an all conquering machine again. It would give us variety in our approach to opponents and style of play.

cropped-henry-dog-008.jpg

We have not been lucky with our purchases for the LW/LM position in recent years; in fact, it seems to have some sort of curse ever since the one and only Pires left us, with Reyes, Arshavin and Gervinho, and to some extent Podolski, all failing to properly make it there. Let’s hope Arsene’s can find the final piece of the jigsaw in 2014 – either in January or the summer – and this team will become even better.

But what do you think fine fellow Gooners:

  1. Have Arsenal found the cure for PTB teams now?
  2. What style of football would you like Arsenal to play and are we there yet?
  3. Is the LW/LM an area in need of real improvement (rather than adding cover as in the DM, CB, RB and CF positions)?
  4. Who would be your nr.1 choice for the LW/MW?
  5. Who would be your nr.1 priority purchase in January?

Let’s have a heated debate! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Deserved praise for Ozil and Ramsey, but Giroud is our beacon, our lighthouse

Sexy football is back, baby! 🙂

Happiness is a warm Gunner!
Happiness is a warm Gunner!

Frustratingly, I had to travel back from London last night and was not able to watch the game. The only thing I had was my blackberry on which I could read comments on my own site but not respond (for some reason), as well as regular updates on the BBC website.

I could gather from the comments how well we were playing and that made it even harder to only have written words of the good guys’ performances, whilst others were getting the Full Monty at the ground or on TV.

I was able to watch ‘the highlights’ on ITV later on, and although they did not give our game much time, I could gather what a special night it has been at the Home of Football.

I know the footie statisticians focus a lot on goals and assists, but it is about time we start to measure ‘penultimate assists’ as well. The big question for me is: where does a goal originate from: is it the assist maker and/or the one who starts the attack? Ultimately, a goal is a combination of actions on and off the ball and most goals are scored as a result of efforts by a number of players.

Last night, Ozil was praised to heaven for a very, very fine performance in the first half. His goal was simply Bergkampesque and so was his assist for the second one. It is impossible to over-estimate what this German footballing Genius is adding to our team right now, and that at half the money of Bale muhahahaha! 😀

Ramsey’s assist was also Bergkampesque in terms of vision and accuracy, and this guy – the ultimate professional footballer – deserves all the credit he is getting currently.

But last night was also a great demonstration of the importance of our Big Fecking Frenchman: Ollie Giroud. He produced both penultimate assists and without him and his actions both goals would not have happened: it is as simple as that. I have been stressing for quite a while that Ollie is not just a classical nr.9; he is far more important than that to the team. His hold-up play and ability to play with his back to the goal, combined with his energy and his permanent goal threat, is absolutely pivotal to our system of football.

If Giroud had not scored yesterday, he might not have had much recognition for his contributions. Luckily, he did score which is good for him and us, but what matters even more is that he was at the very basis of both our goals last night.

His control and body strength, combined with good touches and pass, allowed Ramsey to penetrate the Napoli defence and have space and time to both spot Ozil and deliver an accurate pass to our nr.11. This was absolute sublime ‘holding forward’ football and without it Ramsey would not have had the time and space to produce his classy assist, and Ozil would not have been put in a good scoring position.

The second goal was another example of Giroud’s wider importance to the team. He was helping out with our pressing game and not just hanging around the box for ‘an opportunity coming his way’. The pressing let to him receiving the ball; he controlled it well, passed it to king of assists and then burst into the box himself. Ozil found him with sublime precision and our big Frenchman was rewarded for all his efforts with a relatively simple ‘blast-in’. Another fine team goal and another fine penultimate assist by OG.

Although his goals and direct assists are very important, his other contributions are just as important to the team. I reckon OG is the sort of striker we will see a lot more of in the future, although they might be hard to find. I reckon Chelsea and to a lesser extent Man City, who have Negredo and Dzeko, are crying out for a holding striker of Giroud’s pedigree, and the same goes for many other teams in the PL and Europe who want to play 4-2-1-3 or 4-5-1.

It might also explain why Dortmund did not allow Lewandowski to leave them this summer, as he is probably the finest holding forward around. The Pole is as pivotal to Dortmund as Giroud is to us, and I predict that not only the former but also the latter will become big transfer targets this summer. Not that we will let him go, no way Jose! 🙂

All ingredients for another feast of Wengerball football this season are here. Ozil and Ramsey, but also Flamini and Mertesacker, and many others deserve all the praise they are getting, and so does our mobile rock up-front, our beacon, our lighthouse, our linchpin, our giant of a holding forward.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Gerry produced a fine morning comment that should be read by a wider audience, so I have added it to today’s post:

So, the first 15 minutes. None of that cagey stuff I talked about pre-game. Instead, some of the finest, crispest, passing for such a long time I think we were beginning to think that that side of our game had gone? The grab an early goal and defend in numbers was fantastically left behind in this half.

Sagna – the times he slipped the pass along the line where there was barely room was amazing. He was on very good form, and didn’t he enjoy it?

Ramsey – whether playing tight one-twos or playing down the wing, switching play, tackling .. It was all the same. Probably one of his best displays without scoring. Brilliant!

Flamini – how did we ever manage to do so well without him? Right man in the right job, and invariably in the right place. Of all the missing pieces in our team, he has to be one of the best? Drove the play forward at pace when he wasn’t ‘Johnny on the spot’ defending.

Ozil – what can you add that has not been already said? Truth be told, he himself added a whole lot more with this display? His goal alone should be on Walcott’s I-pad on a continuous loop – the timing of his run was immaculate. When Ramsey reached the byline Ozil had only just left his marker about 10 yards inside their half, but running into space. Ramsey is so hot-wired at the moment that he saw the space … the SPACE(note Theo!) and not the fully marked Giro in the box. He then played the perfect ball accordingly. Ozil reached the point where their trajectories would meet and played the simplest of first time shots with his instep into the bottom left hand corner.
That was just the finish it deserved. Others added to it along the way.

Rosicky – I am so disappointed that he has hardly got a mention in a report I read elsewhere, other than to say he ‘tired in the 2nd half’. I am not sure that this display would have been possible without him in the side. True, he did not lay on the perfect assist, or score a sumptuous goal. But what he did, and always does, is drive the play forwards. He passed the ball quickly, whether on the left or right, up front or on the edge of our box. This on his first game back from injury, and the first alongside Ozil. He may get overlooked a star of this game, but don’t think for one minute he did not play his part.

Giroud – I predicted his intelligence would help him connect well with Ozil, and it did in this game. It was Ozil this time that got to the goal line and somehow got the ball through a narrow gap between defenders and keeper for a simple tap in. However, when players are moving around him, his nod downs and quick flicks really do show off his skills to the full. I said early this season that he is like a lighthouse, a beacon from where the team know where they are .. and here it with this illuminating display?

I sought of skipped past Arteta’s contribution as I concentrated on the moves going forwards. He was his usual solid self. I did not see him going forward much in the first half, but Flamini was allowed to because he was there.

Again, not a lot to say about Szcz, Per, or Kos, as they had little to do, but what they did was solid enough.

Gibbs was not used so much in attack, as the right flank was getting most joy. It did not stop him making himself available though, which meant when he was having his one-two’s down the line it opened space for the others in the middle. However, his defending was questioned more than once. There was one occasion in the first half where he was not close enough to Insigne and allowed him a shot on goal, but shot wide. This was something happened, according to the audio, in the 2nd half too. And on each occasion it was down to Gibbs making the ‘right’(imo) decision to not allow the right back a free run in behind, but it is a fine line when trying to cover two players at the same time. If he tracks their wide player coming in, somebody should either take over so he can mark the overlap, or somebody else go wide? Gibbs is quick, but even he cannot be in two places at once? For the most part of the first half Flamini was there, with Rosicky tracking back. In the 2nd half when Wilshere came on for Rosicky it seemed to make the problem worse? Either the two are not communicating well enough, or Wilshere is a tad slow in reading the options?

And that folks is the nearest I can come to the report on performance. The match was decided by AW’s tactics to go all out from the off, so he gets top credit. But the players did all that was asked and then some.

This is why we are more likely to attract top players, whether next January or in the summer, as the video of this game gets spread around. Not only are we a top club, we have the players to match.

Written by: Gerry.

Return of Cesc-y football to Emirates? Barca, Fab and Arsenal to benefit!

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There are relationships that don’t work due to unresolved matters that one from the couple has had with his/her ex. Now, don’t worry, this is not going to be another Dr Phil-blog about how you can improve your relationship or how to get in touch with the woman inside you. It’s about one of those transfer stories that will make your fingers clickin’ and clickin’ until September 1st arrives.

If it is true that nomen ist omen, then there haven’t been too many omens written better than the one that makes Francesc Soler Fabregas’ short name “Cesc” similar to word “sex”.

He was 17-year-old when he showed that he can cope with much older people (yes, there is a cheap reference to his love life) and even impose himself as a true class player. His maturity when it comes to passing game seemed abnormal, as his pass completion was around 90 percent when he led Arsenal’s midfield on the Gunners’ way to Champions’ League Final.

During his time in Arsenal, hopefully the one we will refer to as “The First Time Cesc Was With Us”, he took the starring role from the very beginning. Arsene Wenger gave Cesc the keys of our midfield and sold Vieira to Juventus and, later, even our formation was changed to exploit Cesc’s abilities. He took those keys and led the team on the pitch with assists and goals that it made you proud that such a player plays for your club (just remember that goal he scored against Spuds or that drive that knocked out reigning champions of Europe, Milan, on their soil).

Arsenal with and without Fabregas weren’t the same; a brief look at the stats in the last season of The First Time Cesc Was With Us tells it all. Would we have had him against Birmingham in Carling Cup Final… When he was at his best, Arsenal played silky and classy, sexy football that could be called ‘Cesc-y football’ as well. And that was some consolation for the fact we have failed to win a single trophy ever since we won the FA Cup in 2005; one of two trophies Arsenal won with Cesc in senior squad (the other was Charity/Community Shield 2004).

However, there was always a story about Barcelona. Cesc is a child of Barcelona that was adopted and nurtured by Arsenal. Barcelona gave him a birth; Arsenal raised him to world-class level. Barcelona was his first home; London was the place where he built his own (metaphorical) home.

The transfer saga about Cesc’s inevitable return to Barcelona made a lot of web-site owners happy, as they had a lot of to write about. Finally, after an ugly summer of negotiations, silent strike of Cesc, and Wenger’s reluctance to accept the fact he’ll have to sell both Fabregas and Nasri, Barcelona managed to take Cesc back in their ranks. I was angry at our manager that Barca got the player of his class so cheap – especially, after knowing that any possible replacement for Cesc would cost a lot more.

So, Cesc couldn’t resist to the call of Barcelona and he has been there for two seasons. He has already won European Supercup, Club World Championship, La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercup. Five trophies in two years – don’t sound bad. His statistics haven’t been that bad either – 20 goals and 24 assists in 60 matches in Primera is a very decent return…except something is missing. That magical thing that made Arsenal and Cesc capable of making the other one special hasn’t recreated at Barcelona. That special thing is reserved for Lionel Messi; and even Andres Iniesta, who can arguably be called one of the greatest European players of all times, can’t come anywhere close.

Arsenal – on the other hand – went through two tough seasons without Cesc. Sure thing, Arteta, Rosicky, Cazorla, and to a certain extent even Song, in his first season…replaced Cesc in terms of goals and assists, but it seems like there have been no signs of sexy football at Emirates since Cesc left the building. Arsenal have been on a 11-game unbeaten streak in all competitions – with 10-game unbeaten streak in Premiership – but most of the games in that streak were as sexy as pulling your teeth out with rusty pliers and no anaesthetics.

Obviously, all three sides can find something for themselves in Cesc’s return to Arsenal.

Barcelona have their hands tied regarding Cesc’s sale to third club, due to first option Arsenal have and a 50%-sell-on-fee clause; so selling Fabregas to Arsenal for say £10m would be a better option for them than to sell him somewhere for £15m. And it would also free up space for Thiago Alcantara, who has been labelled as the next big thing from La Masia for some time.

Cesc would get a chance to return to the place where he truly belongs and where he would get the starring role that his talent deserves. He would get another chance to win a trophy as a key member of Arsenal team, as he was still a youngster when Patrick Vieira lifted the FA Cup in 2005. He didn’t get too much credit for Barcelona trophies he has won, so he might have an additional motive: “I don’t want to be remembered as the one who was part of the squad that won trophies; I want to be the one that leads his squad to the glory!”

He doesn’t need trophies; after all, he has already been a world champion with both club and national team. He needs trophies which are won mostly as a result of his contribution: that’s something that divides excellent players from legends.

Also, this Arsenal might be more appealing to him than it was when he joined in 2004. Unlike the Arsenal that was predominately built around French players and manager, this Arsenal have Spanish flavour with the likes of Arteta, Cazorla and Monreal with important roles in the squad, not to mention youngsters like Bellerin and Toral.

What is most important in the whole story is what Arsenal would get?

Arsenal would get a fantastic player who would add creative dimension needed to play proper Wengerball again. With newly found solidity in defense, Cesc’s connection with Arteta and Cazorla in creative department would propel us to title challenging heights, and probably clean the dust from Emirates’ trophy room. Also, Cesc would come as an experienced midfielder who won a championship with his best years yet to come.

Finally, let’s not forget one important fact – Cesc didn’t play any role in 2003-04 season but he participated in 49-match-unbeaten streak that ended through the well-known circumstances at Old Trafford in 2004-05, which makes him one of the rare “Arsenal 49-ers” (this one is my own coin that I use for Arsenal players that participated in 49-match-unbeaten streak – maybe it loses its worth when you know that it’s something that players like Pascal Cygan and Jermaine Pennant can brag about, but what the hell!) who are still playing at the highest level. And that might be a symbolic connection of Arsenal history (Invincibles) and future team, the one that is still, hypothetical, built around Cesc, Wilshere, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sczszesny, Cazorla, Arteta, Walcott…that might spoil plans of Manchester duopoly and Mourinho’s Chavs next season.

Who knows, maybe at this time next year, every proud Gunner at their deserved vacation will order “Cesc on the pitch”-cocktail!

Written by: Admir.

For some Fab Cesc pictures, check out this link (TotalArsenal):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/picturegalleries/7739588/Cesc-Fabregas-Arsenal-career-throughout-the-years-in-pictures.html?image=4