One Day every Gooner Will Realise that Arsene Wenger is a Saint

So we gained a point in hard battle against the Foxes and also got our first clean sheet of the season. After a false start against Pool, I reckon an away point against the Champions is not a bad return. We all wanted more as we needed to bounce back straightaway, but we will have to wait for it. I can live with that – many fellow supporters, it seems, cannot.

It is a natural law that when Arsenal are not performing to expectations the fans will get out their personal theories, pet hates and simple solutions to solve all our problems once and for all. Furthermore, speak to any supporter of any club and they usually tell you that their team are two players short to become a super team, especially if they are not top of the league.

I have some of these theories, pet hates and simple solutions myself, but never do I believe that I actually know more than Wenger. Yet when you read the blogs and comments there are thousands of key board heroes who reckon Arsene is a fool and they could do much better.

Making suggestions on how to do things different and better for the purpose  of discussion is of course absolutely fine: where would blogs be without it? But the lack of humility and delusions of grandeur by so many fellow supporters is at best frustrating and at worst depressing…. especially if the comments and posts are full of derogatory terms about Wenger’s age, intentions, capabilities etc.

I can tell everyone that a manager who won the FA Cup twice and finished second last season in the last three years, deserves respect and support on its own. But for some reason, this does not seem enough for so many fellow supporters. With or without Wenger we may not win the league again for the next twenty years or so: this is a strong possibility as the PL has become so much more competitive over the last ten years – a period in which the BoD and Arsene invested in the long term future of the club  through building a big, modern stadium that will bring in the necessary revenue to compete with the national and European elite clubs for decades to come – and this is likely to become more challenging rather than easier. It makes the PL such an exciting league compared to the monopolies of Germany (Bayern), Italy (Juventus) and duopolies of Spain and the Netherlands.

I can live with the knowledge that it will be tough to win the league again, let alone regularly in the next ten to twenty years. The only thing I can hope for is that the club can fight for the title with a realistic chance of winning it, every season. And that we do/ will do without any doubt.

I hope that we will keep doing this through building the team with a long term philosophy and strategy, rather than trying to buy and let go lots of players every season. I like us to be great through a set of values and principles the Club, and all its 599 employees, will treat as holy.

I want us to continue to develop our own from the youth teams and from those bought around 16-20 years old from other clubs, home and abroad. I also like us to add experienced players to fill first team or back-up gaps, and I like us to add real, top-gem quality when possible. And that is exactly what the club is doing.

I have no doubt that we will bounce back soon and that Wenger will get the team to compete for the title once more this season, with or without adding the magic ‘two players’. This does not mean that I am convinced we will win the title, but we will have a decent chance to do so.

But what I also feel really, really good about is that the club is now well positioned to compete at the top year in year out, and as soon as Wenger decides enough is enough there is a good structure in place to continue our philosophy and strategy for years to come, which will be very attractive to whoever will succeed the great Arsene.

One day there will not be a single mentally well-functioning Gooner left who does not believe that Wenger was the best thing that ever happened to the club, and that him dedicating such a large part of his football management career to the club is why we are now always fighting for the top prizes. One day every Gooner will realise that Arsene was, and is, a Saint.

By TotalArsenal 

This post was inspired by Terry Mancini’s Hair Transplant’s superb post on ArsenalArsenal:

Transfers? Leave it to Arsene

Wenger and Wilshere are Right, and Xhaka Will Make the Difference

Whether we agree with Arsene or not about his performance in the transfer window (which is still open – so I reserve judgment), it is the lads on the pitch that will need to give it everything this season. Like many supporters, I would like one or two more faces but there is no doubt we have a super, top-talented squad.

In my view, the main thing last season acting as the undercurrent of our weak performances was mentality and leadership. I think that by correcting this, other aspects of our game such as conversion rate will improve as well.

I get the impression Xhaka has been brought in as a key part of improving the team’s leadership mentality, which feeds into our team spirit. Granit strikes me as someone who possesses the key ingredient of a leadership mentality: a great focus and seriousness of effort he puts into each and every moment he is on that green turf. This also refers to Wilshere’s reflections that this was a weak point in the team, which needs improving: see his latest interview of 1 min 30 secs in:

I think it’s not too far a leap to ascribe this weakness as part of a cultural disease: the ‘sign him up culture’ that football, and English football in particular, is corrupted by and that breeds a self-entitled, ‘I want it now’ culture among the fans. Signings are great, but as Arsene knows it is not always the answer. The self-entitled man who finds a solution with money and not through hard work and dedication.. in the players’ case playing great footy; and in the fans case, believing in and supporting the team.

I have just watched the pre-match press conference with Arsene, and am sorry to say I feel pretty disillusioned with the media and the culture of brainwashed consumer fans it has surely emboldened, if not produced. In what should have been an opportunity to explore Arsene’s thoughts on the actual football taking place over the weekend and beyond, about 90% of the questions fielded were about transfers and contracts.. Of course the media effectively are the mouthpiece of agents and some very rich men.. How much did Mr Raiola make from the Pogba transfer for example?

In the interview, Wenger said that football is about performance, not finances at the end of the day.

Of course finances have an impact on the performances but it is not the sole factor or deserving of 90% of the questions coming from the journalists today. I can see Xhaka (and other leadership initiatives/coaching) helping us overcome the mentality and leadership issues. But will it be enough come Sunday?

I trust they are doing their best and that they will knuckle down to some serious footy from the off this time. If we also do our best by believing in the team and supporting them all the way, then I think we will be in with a real chance.


By FMJ14

Arsenal: Frequently Kind and Suddenly Cruel but Always a Woman to Me

The art of enjoying football is hard to grasp. I reckon my 70+ old man gets it about right: do not support a team but just look for the beauty in each and every game is his mantra. There might be a few teams he likes to do well but these change as much as the seasons in a year. He can watch – and enjoy – up to eight games in a weekend and tell me about each of them in surprising detail, whereas I can only really talk about the Arsenal game.

I used to be like him till about my late twenties, when Dennis joined Arsenal and I gradually became a monogamous lover of the mighty Arsenal. I would not change this for anything now and I am happy I found my red and white footie woman for life. When she spoils me with her attractive and winning moves I am happy, and when she disappoints me with her shortcomings I am saddened; but that is life. Arsenal, like in the Billy Joel song, is always a woman to me.

“She will promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you’re bleedin’
But she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me”


I have some sympathy for those who want Wenger out. We are humans and do not look at what we have as much as what we could have. Under Wenger we have done remarkably well, especially given the economic/financial changes the club had to endure both as a result of building THOF and managing through a severe, worldwide economic crisis.

We are witnessing progress now but for some it is not (fast) enough: their vision of the Garden of Eden is simply more rosy. We are keeping our stars now and add real gems if and when we can. Cech picked us and not any of the other clubs out there desperate for such an experienced and professional world class goalkeeper: that in itself is an achievement. We won the FA Cup twice in a row and beat the Chavs and Citeh for the season-opening Charity Shield twice in a row as well. We are still in with a shout for this year’s league title.

But some gave up on the latter months ago: they are having that deja-vu sensation of having seen it all before – of that ‘same old Arsenal’ experience. A few cuts and we are bleeding, and then fear the worst.

Arsenal, just like Billy Joel’s woman, is frequently kind and suddenly cruel, and, whether we let Arsene go or not, this will not change. Support for your team comes with joy and pain, and hopefully with more of the former and less of the latter.

The art of loving this woman is to take her as she comes and enjoy the beautiful moments as much as possible, without looking too much ahead or having too high expectations.

I loved our fightback against the Spuds. A twenty year old nearly-man passing a beautiful diagonal ball to Alexis who takes an instant diagonally placed shot past the surprised Lloris. Ten-men Arsenal pushing on for the winner at WHL and almost getting it but for a tired Rambo opting to take another touch and letting the Spuds of the hook – but then there is that cheeky back-heel by our Welsh-Wizard to make up for this. Ospina taking his chance and fighting off any self-doubt with two outstanding performances. The composure of Elneny and dynamism of Iwobi against Hull on Tuesday. I can look at Theo’s and Ollie’s goal time and again: the quality of our own Joel’s assist for Theo’s first goal; the fine first touch and cool finish by Theo; the anticipation and positioning of Ollie for both goals; the sound of the net when Theo’s second hit it.

I am hoping for more beauty against Watford at the weekend and that our woman will be kind to us again. 😉

CoyG! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal’s Strategic Vision and Arsene’s Loyalty is What Sets Us Apart

Managers, in general, are treated like dirt.

Failure is in the eye of the beholder! 😉

Liverpool and Chelsea already changed their manager this season not even half way through it. Rodgers made Liverpool play some sublime football – in my view among the best football on show anywhere in Europe over the last few years – that was not that far away from being successful too, but the fans and owners did not stand by him and you have to be a hell of a manager to fight such collective doubt about you and come out as the winner. Klopp seems a good match for Pool but they still will have to be patient with him which is in very short supply.

The Chavs let Mourinho go a few weeks ago and this after winning the title with him just a few months ago. The self-adoring one had vowed he was going to stay at Chelsea for a long time and leave a legacy, but the so called ‘third year syndrome’ affected him once again. Mourinho’s niche is coming in at a top club, with top players already available, and then have an immediate impact, often helped by spending a lot of money. He puts his personality and energy into it as well, and that has led to a lot of successful albeit mostly boring football. But, after a while, he loses interest and the bad sides of his character become more and more to the surface, and this has been very entertaining for us Gooners over the last few months. 🙂

Mourinho has no staying power; so much has become clear now. If you end up near the relegation zone with a squad that just won the league and the team look clueless and without desire, then you literally don’t know what you are doing. The often branded tactical genius, even by fellow Gooners, turned out to be absolutely tactically clueless, seemingly unable to make changes to the team to get them back to winning ways. Jamie Carragher was spot on in his assessment: Mourinho has never been in this position before and just did not know how to get out of it. A specialist in turning failure round he will probably never be. Yet it was ridiculous that the Chavs’ BoD let him go so soon and not give him the opportunity to turn things round (unless of course he did not want to be at the club any more…).

Wenger had once again the last laugh but he did well to keep quiet over the departure of his nemesis who tried to ridicule him on many occasions.

We all know that flat-faced Dutchie, LvG, is a dead man walking at MU as the fans cannot stand the football their team plays nowadays, and they also believe they have a God-given right to beautiful winning football. This is of course good news for us. The lack of patience by the fans, and now their shirt sponsor as well, will lead to the sacking of LvG and the whole cycle of building success will start again; and there are no guarantees they will get it right any time soon, even if the hottest team manager ticket in town, Guardiola, decides to have a few years at the red side of eternally rain-wet Manchester. And what a blow it will be to them if restless Pep decides to replace – the equally to LvG job-vulnerable – Pelligrini in the summer!

Yesterday, Benitez was sacked by Real Madrid – Perez’s 10 managerial sacking during his Los Blancos reign ffs! – after just seven months in charge. Perez had sacked Ancelotti in the summer because he felt like it, and then appointed the highly unpopular Benitez instead…. because he felt like it. The most arrogant club management in the world by a country mile (yes even more than Chavs’) does just as it pleases and treats managers like entertainment-fodder – as if they are Roman Emperors flippantly entertaining a blood thirsty mob.

The lack of long-term vision and decision making and ability to stick with strategic decisions by so many clubs, is just ridiculous.

Van Gaal and Rodgers are managers who build towards long-term success based on a football philosophy, but, just as with any other businesses, success seldom or never establishes itself along a 45-degree upwards moving line.

There will be ups and downs, and the dips in performance and success can be severe; and yet, sticking to the strategic direction and plan remains key. If you get a guy like Van Gaal to manage your club, you have to give it 3-5 years to fully embed his philosophy and then start enjoying the fruit of all the hard work that has gone into recalibrating the club; his managerial record, with personal successes as well as good evidence of legacies left behind at clubs like Barcelona and Bayern – two powerhouses in the modern game – speaks for itself. Rodgers and Klopp are also ‘football-philosophy-implementation managers’; and the same goes, of course, for Wenger.

I am very, very glad that we have had visionary, business-like BoD members at Arsenal for the last few decades, and that Arsene Wenger is a loyal type by nature, which is of equal importance. By building the new stadium and achieving a sixteen year presence in the Champions League, Arsenal have established themselves at the very top of European clubs in terms of turnover and respect – all of this achieved through sensible business strategy and planning, whilst playing football the Arsenal Way. Everything is in place to translate this newly achieved status gradually into the shiniest silverware available, and then remain a national and European powerhouse for a long time to come.

I must admit I am not entirely sure whether Wenger is the man to get us to that next level of success, but given our recent successes and Arsene’s keenness to stay put and complete the journey – and of course a supporter’s duty to repay the loyalty given by him to Arsenal over so many years – I happily await and see whether he can do it.

And if not, everything will be in place for the then hottest manager ticket in the world to take over from him at THOF.

By TotalArsenal.

Ozil King of Assists, Gibbs Glows, Debuchy is Back: 8 Positives from NLD

Mesmerizing Mesut - King of Assists!
Mesmerizing Mesut – King of Assists! (thanking The Guardian for picture)

The Spuddies came to the home of football to show us how much progress they have made and that they are ready to fight for the title, or at least a top four finish. We all know that they have a good mini-phase every season, only to implode towards the end of it. Having said that, they gave us a good game based around a physically strong central midfield and a few players who can play more than a bit of football. It was not hard to motivate our players for this one, but with the large number of injuries and a challenging schedule over the last few weeks, it was clear that many were running on their last legs.

It has to be said that the Spuds also had a busy schedule, but missing out on the League Cup 12 days ago will have allowed their players to rest that little bit more. Against Sheffield Wednesday, we lost Ox and Theo and we also played Mertesacker, Cech, Campbell, Giroud and Debuchy; and they played two more big, taxing games after that. Today, Alexis, Campbell, Mertesacker and Cazorla all looked like they were playing one game too many.

For the first thirty minutes it was an even battle, but we were easily beaten by a decent ball by Rose to Kane on their left flank, who slotted calmly past our enormous Petr Cech, after Koz was unable to play him offsite or get back in time to put in a block (not helped by the BFG being out of position, though). This setback had a negative impact on the players as we were unable to fight back during the rest of the first half.

In the second half, we tried to take the game to them and we had a few good chances, with especially Giroud being unfortunate/lacking sharpness to capitalise on these. But the Spuds, to their credit, were able to escape our periods of pressure regularly and be dangerous themselves; and it took some fine saves from Cech to keep the score at 1-0. Wenger took off the knackered Campbell and brought on Gibbsy, who moved to the left wing as Alexis moved to the right. Almost immediately, Ozil found him with a perfectly weighted diagonal cross and Gibbs took his first opportunity, reminiscent of a super-fit, inform Alexis.

Cold of the bench but Gibbsy Glows straightaway!
Cold of the bench but Gibbsy Glows straightaway!

1-1, and now we smelled victory: oh how we wanted to mash those very well cooked spuddies! We fought hard to get a winner but it was also clear that we were grateful to have gotten the equaliser and that we had given a lot to achieve it. The Spuds did everything to not end up losing the game; and a draw was a fair result in the end.

Eight positives from the game:

  1. Ozil’s tenth assist in 11 PL games and sixth in a row: he never plays a bad game for Arsenal, but he is leading the team for us more this season, and he clearly has become a lot more effective with almost an assist per every game. We are lucky to have him and let’s show him (more) appreciation (and that includes you lazy TV pundits – bandwagon heroes)!
  2. Gibbs’ winner was very well taken after great positioning, and I like the impact he had from the start. On another day in which Alexis is not in form and Giroud is not delivering either, we needed players to step up, and Gibbsy did.
  3. Debuchy looked so much sharper than in his previous games. To play his third game in 12 days, after being out for so long, cannot have been easy, but Matthieu was in the zone and defended very well. I loved his passion and pride today.
  4. Cech was a calming influence once again. He has such an aura and his reading of the game and interceptions are so important for the team. He also does not make mistakes often, or has a rush to the head that puts the team in danger. He is making such a difference for us right now and we are lucky to have him.
  5. Giroud gave his all, and although he missed a few decent opportunities, he was in the right place at the right time regularly and that goes a long way for me. I am a huge Alexis fan but he was not in this game at all – Giroud was, but was not able to score this time round.
  6. The Crowd was great and I am really happy we played at home rather than away, given the injuries and team fatigue. The boys needed the home support badly today, and the fans really helped us to get back into the game. Especially, the atmosphere after we equalised was electric.
  7. Wenger’s substitutions: Flamini for Cazorla helped us with getting the balance right again, as the Spuds had dominated us with three physical, defence minded midfielders in the first half. Normally, Santi and the fabulous Coquelin can deal with this, but without Ramsey on the right to add to the midfield axis, and Alexis and Campbell being more attackers than midfielders, we needed to add a bit more steel next to Coquelin. Furthermore, Gibbs for Campbell was a gamble by Wenger, but it worked out very well: miraculously well!
  8. Seeing Arteta on the pitch again. Wenger kept players like Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky to help us see out games (like these) and to give our first players a rest now and again. This season, we have not had much fun out of either Arteta and Flamini, and none out of Rosicky, but getting these players back to their best will be key for the remainder of the season. Welcome back Mr Lego-Hair! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Liverpool review: Great 0-0 but why did Arsene take Giroud off?

Now that was a game of football – one of the best Harry Potter nose-bicycles I have ever watched live. We did not win and we did not deserve to either, despite a very good goal being cancelled unjustly. However, our second half display was more than good enough to win the game after all, and this gives us plenty of hope for the season ahead.


We all know how expectations can ruin our enjoyment of the game. The loss against the Hammers has turned us in to grumpy, nervy supporters already with just three games of the season played, as we are treating every game now as a ‘must win’. This is unhealthy and, to be blunt, idiotic. It also does not help the team at all as they are already tense enough to realise their own ambition of going all the way to win the title. Take a chill pill rather than frantically indulging in criticising Wenger or the team; or, by all means, dream yourself champions by adding loads of super expensive players; but whatever you do, stay behind the team and try and enjoy the football on display.

I always feel privileged to watch our team at the home of football: what is better than watching a game live with the real Gunners right in front of you? I sat next to Pete who told me about his mate Simon being unable to come to the game due to him still recovering from a long illness that kept him many months in hospital. It made me realise once again how much we need to appreciate our health and being able to go to the game – one day it might not be possible any more. Get well soon, Simon. The stadium was packed to the rafter and it was a feast of white and red colours everywhere I looked: it promised to become a great game from the start.

When Pete told me the news that both the BFG and Koz would not be playing, I told him he was taking the urine. But soon I realised that we were indeed trying to defend our goal with the untested combo of Gabriel and Chambers…

The first half was for Liverpool. The combination of playing with no concerns – having won the first two games, they were doing well, and nobody expected them to win this difficult away game – and well prepared tactics, gave to Scousers wings. The essence of the first half, as well as the second half (but that is for later) was compactness and numbers where it matters; and this is where the ball happens to be.

Liverpool were a determined six-pack and we were wobbly all over the place in first 45 minutes. We could blame young Chambers for a lot of our trouble but that would be unfair on him to a large extent. Pool boxed us in in our own half and made sure that whoever had the ball had only risky options to release himself from it. We lacked movement (which Pete rightly pointed out several times), especially for springing a counter attack or breaking through the ranks in our own half; and Pool, it has to be said, played with great discipline. And when we had the ball our passing was not sharp enough and our ability to break free from the Pool pressure not strong enough: they constantly outnumbered us in relatively small areas. The result was continuous loss of possession and many good chances against us by the opponent. Coutinho, and the rejuvenated and very impressive Milner, bossed us between our ‘D’ and the half way line. They played some fabulous football at times, occasionally reminiscent of our own team in the early parts of the last decade.

We did manage to create some half-opportunities and were very unlucky with the Rambo goal being disallowed, but Liverpool could have been in-front by two or three in the first half. Luckily, fortune was on our side, as the sound of leather slapping metal poles was heard regularly, and Petr Cech was in world class form. I saw all his saves right below me, and especially the low dive save at close range from Benteke’s effort was out of this world. I knew, I felt, I sensed it in my bones it would go in but somehow the long in the teeth Cech anticipated the next semi-second action earlier than anybody else, including the stunned Belgian, thus keeping out a certain goal. We hung on and the second half could not come soon enough.

Wenger proved once again how much difference he can make during the break…. And without taking players off. The team looked transformed in the second half as we effectively reversed roles from the start. We now kept them in their own half by playing compact and not allowing them out of our collective grip. We matched their numbers, and sometimes outnumbered them, when we attacked Pool and tried to break through their ranks from the left, with Ozil, Alexis, Giroud, Santi, and occasionally Rambo applying constant pressure with intricate passing and penetrative balls. It was great to see this all in front of us, which makes a big difference when watching it on TV, as it looks so much harder to break a defence then most of us imagine.

I was convinced we would score sooner or later, as the Pool defence would surely buckle and our lack of sharpness in front of goal could surely not continue. It reminded me of a typical high-quality chess game, after say 15 moves each: you are attacking a solidly defended corner of the board and are amassing more and more pieces to break through the wall; but the opponent allocates their pieces there as well and the variables of risk and opportunity multiply rapidly… something has to give but who is going to buckle?


Just as I thought we would definitely score that goal before our time was up, Arsene surprised me with taking off Giroud and putting Theo in. I wanted Theo or Ox to join the ‘chess game’ as we could do with more pressure from the right, or somebody coming into the box to add an attacking variable from there, but not instead of Ollie. Ollie had missed a few good chances, but so did Alexis, and it was clear that they were very close to scoring a few times, and were very keen to make the breakthrough.

Once Giroud was off, the game changed dramatically. By removing OG from the chess game, we were no longer able to play our triangles and break through their ranks as we missed the linchpin. We effectively let them off the hook.

The game became open again and Pool even got a few decent counter opportunities to steal the game from us, which would have been very bitter. We also managed to create a few opportunities, but they were harder ones and the Pool defence and defensive midfielders were well prepared to deal with this. Theo is not super-sub material and, although he tried hard, he did not add much to our attack during his cameo.

I felt it was a missed opportunity and would have loved to ask Arsene why he did not take Coquelin off for Theo rather than OG as his first sub (Coquelin was replaced by the Ox not much later in the game..), and pile on the pressure even more to finally get our goal.

However, the way Wenger and the team turned the game round in the second half and the number of chances we created as a result of this, are very encouraging signs for this Gooner. The team and manager that beat Man City twice, Man United away and the Chavs at Wembley in the last twelve months, will come good this season; I have no doubt about this. Whether we will win the title remains to be seen but we definitely have all the qualities for it and that is all that matters to me.

Every game is a mini-journey, and why should we bother ourselves with worrying whether we can/will win the title at the end of the season? I confidently predict six points out of our next two games and that will put us right there with Citeh. But next up is Newcastle and I for one cannot wait to enjoy the next mini-journey. We are on the road to nowhere, come on inside! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal – West Ham afterthoughts: Lack of composure cost the Gunners

Well there you go: high expectations and playing a relatively beatable opponent is often a recipe for disaster for Arsenal, as it was today. However, the notion that we were complacent, as some seem to suggest, is of course rubbish.. it was the total opposite: we were firing on all cylinders like Gunners possessed and did not know how to control the tempo of the game. We have seen us play such season-openers before: the adrenaline is pumping, everybody is super keen and the opponent must be destroyed as soon as possible. A few seasons ago, the Ox broke his leg in a similar break-neck-speed first game of the season, and we lost that one as well… Villa anyone?


We did create plenty of chances but very few were great ones. We just lacked that bit of composure for the penultimate as well as the final ball. And when the Hammers scored against the run of play, at a sensitive period of the game, we even became more desperate to force the ball into the goal. It has to be said that the Hammers played well as a unit and had huge bags of energy; and with a fine goalie between the poles in Adriano, and a good central pairing in defence, they were able to frustrate us time and again. For this they deserve credit.

I hated the crazy tempo with which we played today: it just felt like it was not going to work out for us all day long; and that is exactly how it turned out to be. It’s great when it pays off and leads to an early goal, but we never controlled the game; and although we created chances with this approach, our desperate tempo kept us from finishing them off. A lot of passes went astray and many a first touch was too heavy. It should also be said that we lacked a bit of luck in this game as the ball just did not want to fall right in the box today.

I reckon we need to take this one on the chin and the boys will need to find a way to start playing with more intelligence and composure. Some will say that a better striker would have made a difference today, and maybe they are right. For me, it was the lack of leadership in the middle of the pitch that made the difference. Ozil had a very good game in my opinion, even though he also got caught up in the wild tempo of it at times. Cazorla and Ramsey were very keen to force through our attacking game but I reckon at least one of them should have played a bit wiser – aiming to dictate the tempo and make sure WH would remain hemmed in around their ‘D’ area. I will have to watch the game again to see how much the Hammers’ midfield deserves credit for our lack of controlling the tempo. They definitely made it harder for us than we expected.

We missed Bellerin today, even though his replacement, Debuchy, did not play badly. Our Spanish RFB just has that bit more energy and thrust in his game right now. Having said that, Ox played well on the right wing and provided more than enough thrust there (if only we could keep him up there and away from our defence.. 😦 ) . On the other wing, Nacho was very keen and one of the most composed players on the pitch. So we had plenty of width and created many an opening from the sides, but a combination of below par finishing and positioning, and very good defending by WH, did not give us what we wanted and deserved.

Our opponent managed to do the absolute opposite with their first two opportunities: they took them both and our goalkeeper will feel a bit disappointed with letting them in. He saw the danger for the first one and decided to come out to either get the ball or put his opponent off: it backfired, but hey, at least he did not foul Kouyate and get sent off 🙂 . The second one should not have gone in, but Petr’s vision was blocked somewhat and he gambled towards the wrong corner with his bodyweight, leaving him unable to shift it in time towards the other one.

We put on Theo and then our mini-hulk, Sanchez, but they also lacked the composure and cold-bloodedness to get us back into the game. It seemed to be one of those days.

There was nothing wrong with our attitude and Arsene put out a fine team; there is absolutely no reason to ask for big changes or to start criticising the team, individual players or the manager. As a team Arsenal pitched this game wrongly and were never able to fully control it. When you go a goal behind against the run of play, the first priority is to fight for the equaliser in a composed way, rather than to up the tempo even further and end up with eleven headless chickens on the pitch. This is the lesson we need to heed from today’s encounter: more control of the tempo and space in our opponent’s half, and much more efficient use of our resources. For this we need to look at our central midfield leadership ability, but with the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Coquelin and Arteta at our disposal, we should be able to fix it.

The team is back on earth after beating the Chavs a week ago: we might have to thank the Hammers at the end of the season for giving us back our grounded-ness at the very start of it – the dreaded unbearable lightness of being has evaporated away: blood, sweat and tears are required to get us to the very top. The season begins next week: bring it on.

By: TotalArsenal.

The Singapore Select XI v Arsenal | Preview and Background Info


Bergkampesquers, we are very lucky to have a resident of Singapore commenting regularly on our blog who has now written a fine pre-view for our very first game of the season, including a rare insight into how football lives in Singapore..


An overview into Singapore local football scene:

Singapore has its own professional league: the S-League. Formed in 1996, the league has seven local teams and three foreign teams, with each team playing 27 matches in total.

Since 2011, a professional under-23 team named Lions XII joined the Malaysian Super League, after they left the Malaysian cup in 1994.The standard of the teams is similar to the English Championship, each with about 5 foreign players. For Singapore, football is the number 1 sport: it is the most watched and most played sport here.

However, S-League has its own ups and downs. Lately, attendance to a local league games averages about 100 to 200 spectators per game. For Lions XII games, average attendance goes up to 5000.

This makes such a poor case for local football scene; and it is because we prefer to watch Man***, Liv, Arsenal, Chelsea and other EPL teams, as they play better football and it’s more entertaining.

Our matches are always played around 7.30pm, due to the high humidity and temperature (27 degrees C to 32 degrees C, 80% humidity) throughout the whole year. Foreign teams mostly struggle in this heat and humidity, but the EPL players (Gunners, Everton and Stoke) should be able to adapt to this heat as the weather in the UK is not too dissimilar.

For me, watching Arsenal games has been all on TV. Most of us cannot afford the time or money to fly over (but some of us did, like a local supporters’ group went to North London to catch the FA Cup final). So to watch the game live in a stadium will be fascinating. I somehow cannot put it in words how excited I am waiting for them and seeing them all flesh and muscles.


Taking this post as a preview to the game in Singapore on Wednesday evening Singapore time, the below is a recap of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Singapore on Sunday.

Arsenal squad (subject to change):

Chuba Akpom (Tuesday) Mikel Arteta Hector Bellerin (Tuesday) Santi Cazorla Petr Cech Calum Chambers (Tuesday) Francis Coquelin (Tuesday) Dan Crowley (Tuesday) Mathieu Debuchy Mathieu Flamini (Tuesday) Gabriel (Tuesday) Kieran Gibbs Olivier Giroud Alex Iwobi Laurent Koscielny Emiliano Martinez Per Mertesacker (Tuesday) Nacho Monreal (Tuesday) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Tuesday) Mesut Ozil Aaron Ramsey Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Tuesday) Wojciech Szczesny Theo Walcott Chris Willock Jack Wilshere (Tuesday) Gedion Zelalem (Tuesday)

The players indicated with ‘Tuesday’ in brackets are most likely to start the match according to Le Prof.

This is the preferred starting line-up, filled with mostly young players:

Formation: 4-5-1

GK: Martinez DEF: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal MID: Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Zelalem, Coquelin, Wilshere, Ox-Chambo ST: Chuba Akpom

It might end like this:

GK: Cech DEF: Debuchy, Mertesacker, Kos, Gibbs MID: Theo, Cazorla, Flamini / Arteta, Mesut, Rambo ST: Giroud

This line-up will have a very good mix of first team players, and the players have enough pace to attack a team that parks the bus (think Chelsea, but with shorter players). The Singapore Select XI team will be playing route 1 football (our local teams are good at defending and pumping the ball up to the striker if they see spaces), so I foresee a game that will be one-sided, similar to Japan vs Singapore where the Japan team simply couldn’t find their scoring boots.

I, however, am confident that this will be a winning game for the Gunners, but whether it will be a high scoring match will depend on how many first team players Le Prof throws at the end of the game.

Your turn guys.


Welbeck and Gabriel to start | Can we make it eight in a row? Burnley v Arsenal Line-Up and Preview

Burnley – Arsenal —  

It Would Be Great to Get Number Eight

Wins, in the league, in a row, that is…

Turf Moor
Turf Moor

And, as much as Arsenal are clearly in their best run of form in many a season, and a full 16 places separate the teams in the table, the trip to Turf Moor cannot be taken as a guaranteed three points.  Burnley need the points as much (or even more) than we do, finding themselves two points from safety at the bottom.  Moreover, even if they can’t get a result, they still have far too much to play for to give anything less than their best.  Another good performance against another big club and they might conjure the confidence needed to climb out of the relegation places and stay up.

As such, any suggestion that they might be better served resting some of their best players or otherwise reserving their best play for other opponents, will find no traction.  Why would they, having held Tottenham a week ago to gain another precious point while taking all three from Manchester City a couple of weeks before that?  All told, they’ve claimed 18 of their 26 points in home matches.  Our trip up there will be no walk in the park.

A primary reason is the physicality and commitment to the cause which Burnley present.   We should remember that, in the reverse fixture, Burnley held out until the 70th minute before succumbing to quick goals from Alexis Sanchez and Calum Chambers.  In the end, it was a bit of a romp–and the best 10 minutes we’ve seen from Theo Walcott and Lukas Poldolski in recent times–Alexis added a third goal in injury time.   In front of their home crowd, Burnley will surely be even more resolute.  Unlike other teams in that part of the table, Burnley did not go crazy with the riches distributed through the Premier League television contract.  Instead, they’re an unsung group who are attempting to hang together through good times and bad.  Only leading scorer Danny Ings (whose next goal will be his 10th of the season) gets much in the way of back page transfer speculation.

By contrast, the media (including the most active blog-o-sphere in English football) love to torture Arsenal supporters.  Activity in our circles has already jumped to summer transfer speculation and early denouncements on how FA Cups and late rallies in the league are just further variations on the Groundhog’s Day theme; another example of Wenger and his “specialization in failure,” as a certain Chelsea manager has intimated.  Still, despite an identical record from a year ago (31 played, 19 won, 6 lost, 6 drawn), I doubt we’ll see in-match comments punctuated by calls for “Wenger Out”, as we did last year in a similarly timed match at Everton (which we lost 3 nil).  In truth, we’ve come a long way since that nadir and, for the closer observer at least, the future looks a whole lot brighter.

No, Wenger seems on solid footing and getting as close as possible to Mourinho’s team seems a worthy goal, although, of course, any wobble will bring out those who have staked themselves to the alternative viewpoint.  We play Chelsea in two weeks time, which will be the true test, but they also face an always tricky West London Derby against QPR this week and a match with Manchester United before ours.  It’s true, we can only play the team which lines up against us, but we must use every trick we can to maintain focus.

Wherever people would like to point the finger of blame (or credit), Gooners must rue a difficult first half of the season and the big disappointment of our recent play–our untimely exit from the Champions League, based on a panicky showing in the first leg, vs AS Monaco.  Early on, it was mostly down to the health of our squad–injury ridden in the first half, but now almost fully restored–but, just as it could also be argued that the manager was responsible during the darker times, it might also be suggested that he has done his part to keep the collective together and foster a fine group dynamic.  As the results have come our way, we also find an extremely stiff (but healthy) competition for places.   At Arsenal the work of the team always comes first, but these final matches may have a real bearing on many players’ futures.

Given that only Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is definitely out with a groin problem (which may require surgery–ouch!), Wenger has almost the entire first team to choose from.  Laurent Koscileny faces a “late test,” while Mathieu Debuchy will be “just a bit short”: Wengerspeak for “will not be in the squad at the weekend,” but it is still a very crowded group.  This makes me very curious who will make the first 11 and the substitutes bench.   My hunch is that the team that beat Liverpool will be largely unchanged, but a player or two returning from long term injury may get a boost by being called into the substitute ranks.  Here then is my call for the starting 11.


Substitutes:  Szczesny, Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Rosicky, Cazorla, Walcott 

Even this group of 18 leaves out several players I’d love to see on the pitch or even just in uniform, including Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby (and I know others have a hankering to see Serge Gnabry).  My feeling is that this match will give hints as to how Wenger will rotate for the FA Cup semi-final, next weekend, where surely more players will get a chance to impress before the bigger (or, at least, more symbolic) one vs Chelsea.  All told, even if we don’t drop points (or struggle vs Reading in the cup match), it could be an interesting couple of weeks as in suggesting how the squad is shaping up for the longer term.  This is how it should be: a privilege to wear the shirt, and a responsibility by our players to take chances as they are given.

Or not.  As always, I am not privy to how the mind of the manager is actually working.  Perhaps he sees some tired players amongst his regulars and will rotate more this weekend while sporting a stronger squad for the cup match.  What say you, fine (or fickle) fellow Gooners?  Anything to generate a bit of banter, I say, and a ton (or is it tonne?…) more fun (and a bit more subtle…) than “Wenger Out” (or “Ozil is a lazy lady-part”) or other, more typical, one liners the tweeters (or tweakers…) seem to enjoy with each comment… Let’s hear it from the WBW’s (Would-Be-Wengers) and anybody else who cares about the Arsenal…And, let’s hammer them up in North Lancashire…

Go on then…


By 17highburyterrace

Arsenal – Liverpool: A Defining Moment in the Progression of Two Big Clubs?


Finally this break for international football is ending and we can get back to real football–Arsenal football–and the final 8 matches of the Premier League season.  Not only that, but we do so with a highly anticipated match in our home stadium.  Liverpool, on exquisite form–at least until their most recent match vs Manchester United–were looking a real threat to grab a coveted top 4 position and try and do a bit better with another go-round in the Champions League.  With that 2-nil defeat at home, and the loss of two real leaders in Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtl to red card suspensions, they find themselves very much on the outside, looking in.  Five points is not an insurmountable number but failing to get a result against either of their two nearest rivals (ManU and now us) could prove a psychological hurdle.

As such, I expect Pool, despite their depletions, to bring full commitment to the task and a nothing-to-lose attitude.  After an even worse early season than our own, with many calling for changes in management, Liverpool regrouped around defensive solidity.  Their matches haven’t been easy on the eyes and their fall out of Europe was rather spectacular (they failed to make it out of their CL group and lost over two legs to Besiktas of Istanbul), but they have also risen steadily up the English table.  Their away form has been particularly impressive and this match will represent an attempt to add to their amazing total of six consecutive away clean sheets.  If they could do that–and perhaps nick something in the other direction–they could be right back in the fray.

Arsenal, however, should be ready for this one.  Our squad is deeper, we haven’t suffered too badly over the international break, and we even have additional players returning to full fitness for the run in.  Competition for places has not been stronger at the club in recent memory and several players are hitting top form as the season comes to its climax.  This match could move us further towards a return to CL football, and set the stage for our next, even more massive, home match, two weeks hence, against Chelsea.

Of course, anything can happen on the day, so, as always, focus and patience will be watchwords.  I believe Arsenal have the quality to win this one, but commitment to overcoming whatever the opponent–and fate–have on offer will  be the true task.

Unlike our match at Anfield, which finished with a very disappointing draw from an injury time Skrtl header, I don’t believe Arsenal will set out to defend.  In that one, Liverpool had 73% of the possession in the first 15 minutes and had the better chances as the half wore on, but it was not until a Phillipe Coutinho effort in the 45th minute that they took the lead.  Arsenal responded instantly to equalize from a scrambled set piece, with Mathieu Debuchy getting the final touch.  In the 2nd half, still playing on the break, Arsenal took the advantage with a well executed counterattack: Olivier Giroud finished the goal through keeper Brad Jones’ legs after a calm 1-2 with Santi Cazorla and good work from Kieran Gibbs to spring the play forward.  Arsenal defended stoutly and Liverpool were further weakened when substitute, Fabio Borini took two yellow cards and reduced the home team to ten men.  It appeared we would escape with all the points, until a late corner was conceded and defenders missed their assignments and Skrtl powered home the demoralizing equalizer.

It should be noted, however, that Liverpool are a changed and much improved side since that match which served to open the festive period.  Simon Mingolet has been outstanding since returning to the #1 position.  Coutinho, in addition to some spectacular goals, has learned the value of a pass.  Raheem Sterling, mooted in the press as a future Arsenal player (or perhaps swapped with our own Theo Walcott) might be keen to impress.  Even Mario Balotelli has added beyond the presence of his physicality (and reputation).  Jordan Henderson has been given the armband by manager Brendan Rodgers and improved his play substantially, which will make the loss of Gerrard less damaging.  Adam Llalana might also play in a deeper mid-field role if he can recover from a groin injury.  Skrtl may be harder to replace but Kolo Toure, who might be given the job, will be keen to show Arsenal fans that he’s still a solid defender.  Rodgers may also opt for a central back 3 with wingbacks.  Players like Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno can get forward quickly and still be dangerous from these deeper positions.  Given the way the other match ended, set pieces will always present a problem.

I doubt Arsenal will sit back as they did at Anfield and will rather try and take the game to Liverpool.  Alexis Sanchez, a man who only can play at full effort, needs to recover quickly from disappointing international displays with the Chilean National team.  If it had only been the 1-nil defeat to Brazil (at our own stadium) I would not be concerned.  Losing 2-nil to Iran, however, along with his struggling for form since the new year is more worrying.  Still, I think this is too big a match to rest him.  On the other hand, Mesut Ozil has been talking big about winning a future Balon d’Or, and perhaps paces himself better for the long haul.  He’ll be keen to back up such a bold claim with assists or goals.  Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey will also want to return strong.  Olivier Giroud, who continued his run of goals on duty with France, has stated a goal to finish ahead of Alexis as high scorer at the club this season.  In other words, despite Alexis’ difficulties and the fact that Danny Welbeck took a knock on duty with England, confidence in attack should be strong.

Defence may present some selection issues.  There’s no reason to drop David Ospina between the sticks, but Arsene Wenger may have a decision to make at center back.  Laurent Koscielny will surely play, but, Per Mertesacker, to many, is too slow and represents our past, while Brazilian Gabriel Paulista, fresh off his debut with the Selecao, will likely represent the future.  Mathieu Debuchy has recovered from his second major injury of the season but likely will wait at least a match before slotting back in at right back, having played in a mid-week Under 21 match.  This means Hector Bellerin likely plays in that position.  Fellow Spaniard Nacho Monreal seems to have made the left back position his, but Kieran Gibbs, having played and practiced with the large Liverpool contingent on the English National team, might also get the call.  Ahead of the back line, Francis Coquelin seems un-droppable.  It’s amazing to think that it was his late appearance as a sub in the reverse fixture which served as his first in Arsenal colours since his return from a loan spell at Charlton.

Here then is my call for the starting 11:


arsenal v pool April 15

Subs: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott

What do fellow Gooners think?  Might Wenger try and go a bit deeper into the squad or, like me, will he want his absolute strongest group out there?  In addition to the ever-present need to get a result and perform well in front of the always nervous home support, beating Liverpool would also bode well for our chances in the FA Cup.  They still have a replay in the quarterfinals (and a semi-final to win if they get through) but they are by far the highest rated opponent we could face at Wembley.  All in all, it’s a great chance for the team to make a real statement against another big club.

Go on then…


By: 17highburyterrace