It’s Just One Loss: 5 Reasons for Optimism

After our season opening loss to Aston Villa at home, many Gooners everywhere were very very down and pessimistic. As a result of this, our very own Total Arsenal asked me (one of a few optimistic Gooners) to write a post to try to bring optimism back to people. Now we find ourselves in a similar situation, and TA has asked me to do this once again. So let’s start this off:

1. We’re in first place!

table

Guys! We are top of the league and lost to a team unbeaten at home! If someone had told you after that Villa loss that you would be disappointed in the team after game-week 16 when we would be top of the table….. you would tell them that they were insane. Look at the positives. We’re still top and we now have 9 days until we play a team that just barely ground out a wi against CrystalPalace this weekend. This team is good enough to win games, and overall, being in first is technically the best position we could be in. You could argue that points and goal differential are issues, but we’re in first. We just have to focus and not make any more mistakes like that.

2. We still have players to return from injury!

players

Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain are still not back from injury. Once we have two more wingers in the squad we can move Santi and Rosicky back into the middle in the CAM position and therefore we can give Ozil (someone with famously low stamina) a rest. This will allow him to get back to his best and take some pressure of him. The more players we have in the squad, the more rotation we can do and the less physical and even mental fatigue will affect the squad. Even though there are no excuses for our performances, everyone must concede we’ve had a tough schedule as of late. You can argue that champions have to deal with that and it’s true, but the injuries are compounding these problems and with those players back we will be able to play fresher squads in every game, therefore scoring more goals and winning more games.

3. January is right around the corner!

transfer-window

January. The time of unsettled players moving on and desperate clubs making big buys in attempts to save a season. This year players like Di Maria, Cavani, van Persie, Berbatov, Chicharito, Benzema and more, are rumored to be unsettled. As well as the big name Lewandowski available for free on a pre-contract. This is a year where Arsenal have openly admitted to having plenty of money to spend and the team is clearly ambitious. The purchase of Ozil has shown the club is willing to spend and Wenger has admitted our strike options are low. Hopefully we can see at least one big signing this January. It is not unlikely that we will sign a winger or a striker to shore up our attack as well as a younger defender to begin learning from Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Vermaelen as they age. Keep your chins up and let’s see where the team is come February 1st.

4. The team wants to win!

Post-Game

Some may think that Ozil not applauding the away fans is disgraceful. But one positive to this is that it shows that this team finds anything less than a win unacceptable. We fought until the end at City with Per scoring late on. We didn’t give up and fold like one would expect after letting in so many goals. This is a team that will work hard all week to redeem themselves against Chelsea. We need not berate and attack them, just let them work this week and let’s judge them based on how they respond against Chelsea now that fatigue is not an issue. Let’s not judge them on a defeat to a side undefeated at home this season after just returning from Italy having played a game last weekend as well.

5. It’s just one loss!

We are 11-2-3 in the Premier League this season. Last time we lost in the league was a 1-0 away at United. We followed that up with a 2-0 home to Southampton and then a 3-0 away at Cardiff. This team knows how to respond. In the grand scheme of things we’re still top of the league with a nice opportunity to gain points at home after a 9 day rest. We can keep our position at the top of the table next week. In reality, our loss to City was not that bad. In fact, it could set us up for a nice run of wins. Let’s turn our eyes to the next game, everyone slips up (See: Manchester City 4 – Manchester United 1, Tottenham 0 – Liverpool 5, Manchester City 6 – Tottenham 0, etc.).

In conclusion, stay positive guys! It’s one loss to a very good team and quite soon we could have more points as well as more players. Let’s assess where we are after Chelsea, and then at the end of January. There are bigger milestones than this. We just have to get behind the team for Chelsea and trust in the team and Wenger.

Have faith you Gooners!

Written By: Dylan.

Manchester City v Arsenal: Predicted Line-Up and Preview

 ManchesterCity v Arsenal

Or

4th v 1st

Will Koz score again?! :)
Will Koz score again?! 🙂

The Home View:

They seem to be our mirror image in some respects. Check this out;

Unsure of best GK, although it probably will not be Hart. Pantilimon has kept 3 clean sheets at home in their last three starts.

Had trouble in getting a settled back four, but their likely set up will be;

Zabaleta, Kompany, Demicheles, and Kolarov.

However, in midfield they have the return of Silva for Navas?, Fernandinho, Toure, and a choice of Nasri, who was rested, or playing Milner who had a good midweek. More defensive with Milner, more creative with Silva?

Their strike force is the best in the Premiership;

Aguero, Negredo … and have Dzeko waiting in the wings.

Of those who played midweek. The back four bar Kompany, all played, although Zabaleta from the 16th minute( for those wishing Richards on us in the TW?). In midfield and strikers, Toure was suspended, Silva played 73 mins, after returning from injury, when Negredo took over. Aguero and Nasri missed out, although the former was on the bench.

Unlike Arsene Wenger, allegedly, I do think it focuses the mind of players and fans alike to see where the opposition are strong, as well as their weaknesses. Without doubt their strength is in attack, which luckily for us, our defence, or defending, has been one of our strong points. So if we can nullify their best bits, we need an attack that punishes their weaker defence?

So I predict our line up will be as follows:

Ars v Man City

Bench; Fab, Verm, Monreal, Arteta, Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski,

However, Gibbs could be replaced by Monreal if Silva returns, and Navas drops out. If Sagna is fit then Jenks may drop out altogether?

So if it is a battle of the midfields, how do we fare?

Flamini will have to organise it well to keep out Toure and Silva from controlling things deep, and I can see Nasri having fun against Jenkinson, as he has been in great form recently. So it will require both Wilshere and Walcott doing a fair bit of tracking back, given that Kolarov likes to get forward a lot too? Likewise on the other side, Navas will keep Gibbs busy, as Per and Kos will have their hands full with Negredo and Aguero, but his pace will be essential if he is pressing forwards, and so keeping Zabaleta back.

Let us not kid ourselves; this is going to be a tough game to win for the above reasons … The reasons to be fearful?

The reasons to be cheerful are in what we have going forwards. If they are all pumped up on some of HT’s expresso, because a fast start is essential. We can worry about fatigue late on, and it tends to be less if you are winning? The good thing here is, we know we are up against a strong side, particularly at their home ground, so they should be keyed up for it. And with Rosicky, Cazorla and Podolski we will have a strong bench to provide fresh legs when it starts getting tough.

Quick movement and pace with Walcott from the start will be key. I would love to see Rosicky in there too, but I think we may have to save him for the last 30 minutes, and a start against Chelsea.

Ozil is going to have to dance around Fernandinho while Wilshere can drag Toure all across the pitch, but importantly, keep him pressed back. But where we should do well is with Giro getting one on one with Demichelis, while Ramsey can get Kompany making late tackles. I think we must be due a game where we play against 10 men? All of this sub play should see Walcott being able to cut inside and leave Kolarov cursing.

I do not see much point of us going there thinking our defence is strong enough to cope with their attack for long periods. Whatever happens, we will be ToTL, so let us go for it without fear. This game is only half time remember. We should recover any dropped points on our patch, so the important thing is to try and impose our game on them. They cannot do much without the ball, so make them work hard to get it. We can afford to put all our effort into this game because we have a tidy 9 day break before we play the Chavs, so get out there with all gun(ner)s blazing.

We are The Arsenal!

 Written by: Gerry.

Flamini for Arteta, Gnabry for Rosicky, Walcott on bench? Match Preview.

Arsenal vs Manchester United Pre-Match

Intro:

arsene 300

This week we take a trip to Old Trafford to face our bitter rivals. It’s a little unusual this time around though because instead of sir red nose it’s David Moyes at the helm. Early days have been rough for him (as you’d expect). He has big shoes to fill and he’s slowly dragging United back up the ladder. A loss for United will see them languishing 11 points off the lead. A position they have not been in for a very long time.

A win against United would boost our confidence through the roof and really act as a springboard for the long season ahead. Wins against Pool, BD, and Man U in a week would make a serious statement to the rest of the competition!

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring) – back in training and aims to be back in December, Ox (Knee), Diaby (Knee), and Sanogo (back). Wilshere, Flamini, and Walcott face fitness tests.

Man United: Fletcher (chronic bowel condition), Welbeck (Knee). Reports have suggested that Rafael (foot/ankle), Evans (back) and Carrick (calf/shin) could all return this week. Almost a full squad for United…no excuses.

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (12) (1)

Flamini to return in place of Arteta and Serge to step in for Rosicky. It’s probably too attacking away from home but I’d like to see us put them on the back foot quickly and score early. The likely scenario is Rosicky to play in Gnabry’s place just like he did midweek. An additional question mark is will Flamini be alright to go? If he is will he partner the ever reliable Zorro? Walcott and Wilshere will make the bench.

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Man U 1-1

A beautiful run by Walcott saw Arsenal go ahead in the 2nd minute. It was undone by a poor back pass by Sagna, followed by an overzealous challenge inside the box as he looked to make amends. The penalty was despatched by the treacherous rat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uami6cBa8ME

Man U v Arsenal 2-1

Vermaelen gifted BSR a goal in the 3rd minute. Somehow Evra scored with a header. Jack was sent off (The only Arsenal player on the day who decided to show up). Santi scored a conciliation goal at the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAVEaGRp1iw

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWWDW         Man U: WWDWL

Two massive wins in a row against Liverpool and German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund see us riding on cloud 9 at the moment. It’s been 252 days since our last loss.

Manchester United currently sit in 8th position…yep 8th! I’ve wanted to see them languish into mid table mediocrity for quite some time. It may not last but for now it’s better than porn. They were held goalless midweek by Real Sociedad, they blasted away Fulham either, and Chicharito saved them at home against Stoke. They’ve started to lift but by no means do they look convincing.

In saying that, Man U (away) still remains our toughest fixture this season…regardless of either teams form.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the famous Ruud Van nistelrooy incident in the 2003/04 season. I absolutely loved at how the team bandied together and gave him a mouth full when the final whistle blew. Keown’s jump and hit (probably still enraged after Red Arse picked him up and hugged him), Lauren’s and Parlours Push, and the rest of the team giving him a spray. God I’d love for the boys to do the same to Brave Sir Robin this weekend. Have a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1dfphE6jOs

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is Rooney. All Summer long he was linked with a move away from the Fergie-less United. It’s no revelation he stuck around, we’ve seen it take place before when he wanted more money. I’ve always hated him! Ever since he scored that outrageous goal during his Everton days I knew more despair was to come. It did come…in the form of a dive across Sol Campbell’s leg in the match that snapped our unbeaten run (. He’s scored 10 goals against Arsenal which is more than any other team…aren’t we lucky!!! He’s like a balder, whiter version of Drogba (I’m not sure which one dives more though). Hopefully Flamini can leave a few marks on both him and BSR. As Arseblog mentioned the other day, it’s only fair BSR and Rooney share the same fate as General Zod. Being trapped in the Phantom Zone as they waft through space forever is a fitting end after all the anguish/anger they’ve caused us over the years.

phantom zone

Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than “the enforcer” Mathieu Flamini. He’s tough, uncompromising, and fights to the very end! For years we’ve been torn apart by United on the counter. Flamini will have to marshal the zone in front of the back four and protect it with his life. The good thing about Flamini is…he knows no other! You know what you are going to get when he steps out onto the pitch. Let’s hope he’s fit enough to start.

Key-Match up:

BFG + Kozzer vs Rooney + Brave Sir Robin

grassy knoll

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny check list:

  • ·        Luis Suarez—–
  • ·        Daniel Sturridge—-
  • ·        Robert Lewandowski—-
  • ·        Marco Reus—–
  • Brave Sir Robin
  • Wayne Rooney

They’ve kept four big hitters quiet, now it’s time to close out another two. Rooney started off the year slow (no surprise given the controversy throughout the summer), but he’s stepped up in recent weeks and started to form a good relationship with BSR. Together they’ve scored 11 goals in the league this season (same number scored by Giroud and Ramsey) so our defensive duo must maintain their form if we are to win at Old Trafford. With the help of Sagna, Gibbs, Flamini, and Szcz I think they will. 3 clean sheets in a week…you got it!

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to none other than Ashley Young.

Dive Harder, Dive Hard 2 with Ashley Young-796633

The premier league was relieved to see the back of serial diver Christiano Ronaldo. However, in his place grew another diver in the form of former Aston Villa winger Ashley Young (I guess you can say he’s still a Villain (eh! eh! eh! Okay I apologise for that one). At Man United he’s become the new Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but instead of coming off the bench to score he comes on -> is touched by an opposition player (sometimes not even) and delivers a bewildering blur of twists and turns resulting in a split legged face plant -> whistle -> penalty (and sometimes a red card). The catalogue he’s developed over the last few years is truly astonishing. In a game that can be won or lost by the smallest of margins he is rightfully on the receiving end of the media’s blowtorch. Thankfully his dive against Real Sociedad during the week didn’t win them the match. Justice was served when Brave Sir Robin missed the penalty and Man United shared the points. It’s a real shame, as once upon a time he was considered a real talent. Now he’s resigned to forging a career in the England synchronised diving team. My finger is out to you Ashley…time to pull yours out too (just not this week and not for United).

I’m glad the ref in our game against BD didn’t fall for similar tactics employed by Robert Lewandowski. It was sickening how often he dived throughout the match. I’m still laughing about the foul Arteta was called for after he won the ball from Lewandowski. Amazing how Kozza can be absolutely poll-axed in the box and receive nothing, yet these blouses can get rewarded when they go to ground after a pass of wind.

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsenal’s Running Man Tomas Rosicky.

Running man

His importance to the team cannot be mentioned enough. When others are puffed out and out on their feet Rosicky is there! Terry is mesmerised by his hair flapping about as he runs, whereas we are fascinated by his determination and commitment to the cause. I had him as our MoTM against BD for obvious reasons. He chases, he passes, he tackles, he attacks…he really does do it all. He may not be able to play every game but when he does he definitely makes it count. The press is very important in today’s game and I think he’s the best in the team at implementing the strategy. He’s definitely got a lot more juice in his legs, and I hope he’s rewarded with a premiership medal at season’s end for his continual hard work. Well done Rosicky.

Ask the opposition Man U

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Dale O’Donnell from http://strettynews.com (@StrettyNews). Let’s see what he’s written for us this week:

1. What do you attribute to your slow start to the season?

It’s a transitional period. David Moyes came in and was willing to try different things. He had to do it at some stage and there was always going to be consequences, as you can see from the points we’ve already dropped. There has been signs of negative football and that must be altered. Attacking football is a key aspect to Manchester United.

2. How is Moyes travelling? He has big shoes to fill, will he make the grade?

Massive shoes to fill but he must be his own man and do things the way he feels is right. You don’t change a club like United, it will change you. Expectations are risen dramatically since his reign at Everton. Personally, I’ve got behind him from day one despite not being my initial choice. Moyes is a football man and he deserves time.

3. Your thoughts on Ashley Young being labelled a diver?.

Thoughts? It’s embarrassing. Young arrived and has yet to show any real consistency. Both Fergie and Moyes have said they’ve spoken to him about it but he still does it. And he’s still mediocre.

4. Are you happy with how your transfer window went?

Not particularly, but Moyes did name his targets. It was not his job to negotiate, so anyone hanging the blame over his head has not got a clue what they’re talking about.

5. What position/ player is your weakest link?

That has to be our midfield, but I’m not going to single out any player because it often depends on the combination. Carrick performs well regardless of who he is alongside. However, we still have fans that don’t appreciate the job he does for us.

6. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

I don’t rate Szczęsny at all. He’s been at Arsenal since 2009, so he’s had the time to do it.

7. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?

Ozil, hands down. What he has done for Arsenal so far this season does not surprise me one bit. It’s what happens when you add world class to your squad. Look at us last season with Van Persie. Remember him? Without your former captain, I doubt we would have won the league.

8. What is your match prediction?

We are at home, so I’m going for 1-1.

Prediction:

It’s hard to not get carried away and say we are going to win it easy, especially considering the way we’ve handled our opposition this week. The truth is we’ve played two very tough games in a row. Hopefully our physios have been working overtime and the players doing everything they can to recover 100%. In saying that it’s a massive game, if you can’t lift and find another gear in this game you don’t belong at Arsenal. I’d love to see us win at Old Trafford because it’s been a truly miserable place to play over the years; therefore, I’m torn between a 1-1 draw or a 0-2 victory. Frick it…0-2 to the good guys.

What is your prediction?

What starting line-up would you choose?

De Gea or Szczesny?

What position is their weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Man U?

What will be the top 4 at season’s end?

coaches bikes

Written by: Oz Gunner

Mozart shows his metal – BFG-Koz solid – Rambo’s knock-out – great team performance

Another Rambo Knock-Out by our Welsh Wolf :)
Another Rambo Knock-Out by our Welsh Wolf 🙂

Dortmund – Arsenal analysis and afterthoughts

After lacking a bit of luck a fortnight ago at the Home of Football, last night we definitely had it back on our side. As expected, both teams played chessball in the first half in which all players moved along like chess pieces to deny the other pieces space, and at the same time desperately trying to gain some themselves.

We defended really well as a team, give or take a moment or two. If you watched the simple demolition by Dortmund of Stuttgart on Friday, you will agree with me that our team did really well to deny die Gelb-Schwarzen space and time on the ball in the area where it could hurt us. To see our team play with such discipline and maturity, AND with such sacrifice to ‘our style’, was very satisfying. They still managed to create a few very good chances, but mainly from set-pieces, and it is fair to say we rode our luck at times.

I felt our weakest area was our left side of defence. BD are very dangerous from their right side of attack and they put a lot of pressure on Gibbs, Koz and our ‘DM’s from that area. Cazorla did his best to help out, but defending is not his strongest point and a fit Jack Wilshere would have been the better option last night.

The first part of the second half was more of the same. As in the first half, our attackers did not seem able to hold on to the ball for long in the areas where they could hurt Dortmund. We were not able to play close enough together to play our triangles and move forward with possession and sharp passing, and this tells us all about how good Dortmund are: they forced this on to us with their chasing and excellent positioning, which not many teams are able to do.

cid154462_bvbars_640x345

However, gradually the game opened up and the chess-positioning lessened, and we started to play some better midfield/attacking football. Arsenal’s first, and directly deadly, chance of the game came out of nothing. Ozil floated in a ball towards Giroud; the Frenchman won the aerial battle and laid the ball off to Rambo – who scores when he wants – and he wanted it badly: 1-0 to the good guys and game on!

And boy did it take the bounce out of Germans – Scheiße! hahaha 🙂

http://d3j5vwomefv46c.cloudfront.net/photos/large/775095792.gif

But Dortmund were not allowed back into the game by the collective ‘concordia’ of Arsenal. They did manage to produce a few half-decent chances but so did we, and it could as easily have been 2-0 as 1-1 at that stage of the game. Ramsey had a good opportunity to score a brace, after a perfect cross from our multi-functional CF; and the BFG launched himself in the air towards the ball like a B52 Bomber from an Ozil cross from the sidelines, but just could not reach far enough for what would have been a certain goal.

The team battled on and everyone gave what they had left in them to secure the win. Every single player deserves praise, but I would like to bring to light our CB-pairing and Rosicky’s performances.

No team will ever win something meaningful without a solid CB partnership, and the Koz-BFG partnership is developing into something special with now three clean sheets in a row. They are not fully there yet, and there will be a new test for them at Old Toilet, but boy are we lucky to have them playing together right now.

And then there was Rosicky, of whom I said he seldom performs well two games in a row. Yesterday, he proved me wrong with a MoTM performance against his former club after having played against the Chavs and Pool in an eight day period. TR7 was absolutely brilliant in all areas of the pitch and his defensive play and ‘professional meanness’ were outstanding. He put his body on the line for Arsenal and gave his all, and it is this hunger, passion for the club, talent and experience that make him such a valuable player for Arsenal. I hope he’ll stay fit and at Arsenal for a long time, and develop into our very own Ryan Giggs.

All in all a fantastic, and much needed, win in Europe and TOTT. These boys are making us SO PROUD. Same eleven against the Mancs…

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Who turned Arsenal into EPL title contenders?

Well, it is not just Ozil!

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

Over the last month or so, ever since we made Mesut Ozil our record signing for the club, not a day goes by without some sort of news or article regarding how Ozil has transformed the fortunes of a struggling team and how we have been taken from being consistently ‘in crisis’ to ‘oozing class’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the attention that having a true world best (and he is the BEST play maker in the world, period!) brings to Arsenal, but it made me think that it should not be taken for granted that a solid backbone of a team existed in which Ozil has seamlessly slotted in. Cast your mind back to right before Ozil’s signing, the loss against Aston Villa. Hell had descended and it seemed to be the end. Apparently Arsene had “dithered” and “dilly dallied” and the result was only one free transfer and a seemingly long barren season up ahead.

The point I’d raise here is that we still had a good squad, a squad that had topped the table based on points collected since Jan 2013 till the end of the last season. Arsene had sorted out our best defensive partnership, he had sorted our Rambo’s position and form, Rosicky was back playing at a good level, and Jack was fitter than he had been in the last few seasons (the last one is still relative, since I personally don’t think Jack is as fit as he can be, but at least he has been able to get a solid preseason behind him). Tactically, Arsene had also more or less figured out a good way to utilize our best players and it was working. We were solid and we were winning.

Going into the summer, the need seemed to be a CF and a DM in priority, followed by perennial need for a GK and CD. The need was also to get rid of the fat of the squad. A number of people pointed out at this point that a couple of good signings would transform our squad from being solid to being contenders. Unfortunately as the summer progressed and the frustrations increased, the narrative changed back to Arsenal having a weak squad, loads of money in the bank and Arsene having no clue. Bring on the Villa loss and we were a club at war with itself.

Mesut Ozil wasn’t what we needed, but he was that someone who Arsene has always talked about, the player who improves a position, and in turn the squad, and no doubt he has. He has the Va Va Voom that we loved to talk about when Thierry used to score goals for us. Add to the Ozil signing the genius signing of Flamini and we have a central midfield core that any team in the world can be fearful about. More than anything, Ozil changed the narrative around the club, gave the fans and players confidence and showed the world that we meant business. But let’s take a look at some of the players he’s joined in… just so we can remind ourselves of our squad!

In defense we have Szczesny, he who was once touted as the most promising GK since the days of Seaman and Lehmann. After going through a bit of a self searching phase, he began to reach his best towards the end of the last season, and has begun this season brilliantly (barring the Villa horror show). Behind him we have Fabianski and Viviano, good solid backups.

Then we have the indomitable pairing of Kos and Per, both phenomenal defenders who compliment each other’s game brilliantly. I would go as far as to say that they’d be up there as the best defensive pairing in the EPL right now, Per with his uncanny reading of the game and ability to organize, and Kos with his pace and tackling. We have TV on the bench, the club captain who is rearing to prove himself again! What has been heartening has been the fact that TV has been quite happy to take his chance when it comes. I had for a while thought that maybe he may want to move on (there was some interest from Barcelona at some point) if he couldn’t have games here, but I’m glad he’s still with the club.

Gibbs, Monreal, Sagna and Jenks; four absolutely terrific players who compete with each other and the result is an improving standard of play. Monreal in particular, I feel is hugely responsible for pushing Gibbs to be better than he had been. Sagna is a rock, I hope he gets a new contract. The only weak link (if I can call it that) is Jenks, who still needs to work on his game in order to be a regular starter, but the boy has great potential.

Centrally we have terrific options, and even before Ozil we had fantastic options. We have versatile midfielders who can play a variety of positions in Arsene’s 4-2-3-1 formation. We have Rambo in the form of his life (the boy really deserves all the praise he’s getting), we have Rosickly, Santi and Ozil, all players who could be playmakers or drift in from wide centrally to make the killer pass or even play off the CF. We have Arteta and Flamini, the passer and the tackler, and we have Jack, who is slowly getting back to his best. If this was not enough, we have Theo and Ox who can give us pace from the wings, and Poldi who will score goals coming in from either flank. Oh yeah, we also have Gnabry!

Up front we have Giroud, who last season I said would be a superstar to anyone who would listen, and he is showing his class. The thing that I love about Giroud is his sheer hunger to succeed and to help and to score goals. He wants to be the greatest at the club and he is working hard to get there. You couldn’t ask for more. His hold up play and his finishing have improved fantastically this season. As back up to Giroud we are perhaps a little short, but we do have Theo and Poldi who could potentially play in that position, as well as Apkom, Sanogo and Bentdner. Ideally if Sanogo had been fit I would have loved to see him start the Capital One Cup matches. Don’t forget it was the same competition in which Giroud found his feet (or head) last season.

But the thing that I love most about the squad (pre and post Ozil) has been the togetherness, the camaraderie and the hunger to succeed. It’s such a pleasure to see Instagram or twitter photos of players celebrating together. Poldi, despite being injured, seems to be the chief cheerleader. The big players such as Per, Flamini and Arteta seem to be stepping up to guide the younger players. Even TV in a recent interview alluded to the fact that a club captain can do much even if he’s not playing.

arsenal-spurs_ap_2658805b

So going forward I would love for this bunch to succeed, because in a long time I finally see the fruits of a long barren hard period coming to the fore. Win or lose, they will try, of that I’m sure, and as a fan I could not ask for anything more.

Let’s hope we have a terrific November and come Christmas we are still in a position to fight for the title.

Would love to know what you guys think!

Written by: Umair Naeem

Managing Expectations: Player Ratings against WBA with weighting allowance

Unaccustomed as I am to writing long wordy stuff on things Arsenal, I thought I would dip my toe in the water that is known as ‘blogsphere’.

So the purpose of this blog is a slightly different take on rating individual performance from the Wednesday night game against West Brom in the Capital One Cup. Or as us ‘oldies’ know it as, the League Cup.

So to explain the rating system – SHOCK HORROR – Yes, there is a numerical rating for each player, but with a weighting allowance for other factors. Unfortunately, I am the sole arbiter of points given, so it opens up at least one avenue for disagreement?

images

Ratings from a scale of 0-10 is the basic starting point. The target of all players should be to achieve a 75% score of their individual band. So, for example, take Per Mertersacker: he is a top class player, in form, fit from recent games, so his target is 7.5 points just to play up to the level he is already at. If he has brought something extra to his game, then he will get plus points over that. 7.5 points is what we, as fans, and presumably the manager too, expects.

That is the key: Our Expectation of an upcoming performance, which usually exceeds what the reality may be?

images (4)

How I reduce the expectation level will become clear – I should warn this is a work in progress, so feel free to suggest improvements, or criticise as you see fit. I will do my best to ignore, opps reply to such irritations err suggestions in the fullness of time. …. Now where did I find that smiley with two fingers by his nose, it may come in handy 😀

So, shall we begin?

FABIANKSKI ;-Final score. 8.1

Expectation level reduced slightly for lack of recent match practice: 6.8

Performance during the game he made important saves, particularly the one late on, as he gets a bonus for keeping concentration for 120 minutes. No fault on the goal scored. He did not get much joy out of the penalty shoot out, although guessing the right way on their last one may have brought about the error?

MERTERSACKER: Final score :- 8.5

Expectation level high: 7.5

Performance: He made many clearances throughout the match, and only one error that but that was cleared. An absolute rock!

VERMAELIN: Final score :- 7.6

Expectancy level reduced, back after injury, and only two sub appearances prior. 7.0

Performance: His good clearances over the 90 minutes, were matched by two free kicks he gave away. The second one resulted in the ball hitting the crossbar from the free kick. However, he picks up points for effort in extra time, and for giving Reid a mouthful for his late tackle on Miyaichi in that period.

MONREAL: Final score: :- 8.1

Expectation level slightly reduce for lack of match play, and when he has played he was doubling up with Gibbs: 7.3

Performance: He had a solid game. Got a booking (for the team -cliche), and generally supported young Miyaichi down the left. Was still going at the end of 120 minutes, and his crowning glory was to put away the winning penalty. Despite their goal coming back in from their right flank, it was Monreal who went out attempt a block, so no blame on him.

JENKINSON: Final score :- 7.9

Expectation level reduced, partly from not playing much, and that he is not yet a top class player: 7.0

Performance: Strong presence throughout. Supported the attack at every opportunity. Super crosses put in that were a whisker away from connecting a head for certain goal. Weaknesses came when beaten down the line, and allowing cross into our box. Strangely, he was also ‘in the vicinity’ when they scored. What drew him over there I am not sure, but he did not move when the ball came in to an unmarked player less than 2 yards away? He was facing goal, and there was somebody on the line looking out, but if push came to shove, I would say Jenks was nearer. His redeeming feature was the 80 yard dash to get back in position when an attack he was involved in broke down, this in the dying minutes off extra-time. Fit, that is!

ARTETA: Final score :- 7.3

Expectation level reduced due to return from injury. No game time coming into this either: 6.8

Performance: Solid performance from Arteta, and built purely on his experience. He let his fellow DM do the advanced running, but still covered a lot of ground. The game was quite cagey in the first half,  and this allowed him to play within himself, between bouts of action. The second half saw him probe a little further forwards to help the attacker/advanced midfielders. It was during this period where he got booked, for a foul on Sessegnon -(Nobody seemed to like him, Monreal decked him as well. (Mind, it serves the little tow-rag right for doing a sly one on Gnabry, flattening him by the centre circle, out of the officials view.). Overall, his quiet, simple stuff outweighed faults in passes and general rustiness. His game ended at the start of extra time, taking no chances, if the damage is not already done, on his calf muscle?

HAYDEN: Final score :- 6.4

Expectation, as with of all the debutants here, has to be brought down to a serious lower level than the above, but Hayden was at least in a position where he is comfortable playing. However, Premiership rivals add to that task, plus he has had little time playing: 6.0

Performance: Even with low expectation, he was not good in the first half. Add to that a bad tackle, for which he loses out twice; One for the nature of the tackle, two-footed, off the ground lunge which could so easily been a leg breaker, as he careered into Mulumbu’s standing leg. In fact the only thing that saved him was that he did not go in studs first. It was shin/instep to ankle, and so presumably taken as not malicious, and he lost the other point here because even so it could have been a red one? This in only the 32nd minute, 10 yards inside their half! You can expect some mistakes  from these players stepping up, but that was just stupid. On the plus side, whatever was said at half time had an effect, because he came out and played a solid game, putting himself in great positions, almost Flamini-esque at times. He also tried some long passes which were close to being perfect. Overall, I can only give him a marginal improvement over expectation, whereas with just the second half score, he would be sailing into the Arteta score area. Shame?

MIYAICHI: Final score :- 7.0

Expectation:: Lowered for lack of recent activity, only late substitutions with the first team: 6.3

Performance: A bit Jekyll and Hide. Some outstanding pace to get past experienced defenders, but the final ball seem to elude him too many times. Definitely a work in progress, and one that will get better with more exposure. He worked very hard up and down the wing, getting back to help the defense. This in a normal 90 minutes would be some achievement, but to try and keep going for a 120 minutes says a lot for his commitment and desire? I just hope he is not called upon for the next couple of games though, as he will need full recovery time to get over this effort.

GNABRY: Final score :- 7.1

Expectation: Quite high for an 18 year old, but realistically set lower for the task he had: 6.6

Performance: So much expected on the back of the hour he played on Sunday. The circumstances here were vastly different. No Ozil to provide pinpoint passes. No back up from quality midfielders. Out there trying to create things, but for every good thing there was a sloppy pass, a dead end run, a bundle of the ball. So did he shine? No. Did he put maximum effort into it, most definitely Yes! It was a big test to build on his previous game, and to go another hour beyond what he would normally do, before being taken off, took its toll. Mentally tired as well as physically, so by the time the penalties came around, his bolt was shot. When he took the penalty it was of someone who looked like he just wanted to get it done with, quickly. He will learn from that? So despite it not being his best game, he still comes out on the right side for sheer effort.

EISFELD: Final score :- 7.2

Expectation: Lowered by lack of activity in the first team squad, his debut in the starting line up, and to an extent, the role he needed to play: 6.0

Performance: First half, abysmal, headless chicken, lost … these are just a few words that come to mind. However, I come back to the last point I made above, ‘the role he needed to play’. If you ask Lucas Podolski to play ‘creative midfielder’, he would probably do okay, but not at the Cazorla level. Tomas Eisfeld is the future Podolski, imo. Now I can understand Arsene Wenger want to teach him to use the football intelligence he has to create for other, because he knows how and where the perfect ball should be played. I am not sure this was though, the ideal time for practical learning? Now whatever got said to him at half time, must have been along the lines of ‘get further forward’? Having had a near miss, and generally got more involved in play, it was till a bit tame. On the point of being substituted in fact, seconds before he scored a magnificent goal. It came from a perfect assist, but the finish was top drawer. The commentator said ‘That is what he is in the team for’. I beg to differ. That is what he can do for the team, but the job he was given was something else. It brought his a stay of execution, before being subbed for Akpom.

BENDTNER: Final score :- 8.0

Expectation: Lowered more than the usual because of other factors. He has not played for a long time, coming off an injury lay-off (amongst other things?), returning to the club he slagged off when he first got loaned out, and the need for it to go right? All piled big pressure on how he played. 6.0:

Performance: I have to say it looked very similar to early Giroud (as in ‘an early Picasso’ – I hardly touch the blue stuff now), and for very good reason. This forward line had been thrown together to make what they could out of it, or never darken the manager’s door again. So it was never going to be perfect, with knockdown balls invariably not finding their target, and very little to build on in a scoring sense, NB23 battled away throughout. lack of full fitness told when clear through on goal that could have saved the penalty drama. But again, when called upon to be the ultimate professional, he slotted away the first penalty with consummate ease. Form is variable, class is permanent, isn’t that what they say? There is little doubt in my mind that Bendtner, for all his flaws and weaknesses, can build on this performance and be a valuable player in the near future. What is not in doubt, is that his assist was ‘peach perfect’, and he comes out of this with a major plus. He gets bonus points on three counts: His assist; His work in defense; His shootout penalty.

The subs:

AKPOM: Final score :- 7.5

Expectation: Starting or coming on late are never easy to compare. I am taking the view that it can be harder get the feel of the game, so harder to put in high performance, at the end of a match. As it was a draw at both the start and when the subs came on, you cannot say they were facing a different task?. All three players in this bracket I am giving a similar low point of expectation. All three are making their first team debuts. and little or no time playing at this level: 5.8

Performance: So much to like about this brief showing. He had 11 minutes (including stoppage time), and the extra time, followed by a successful penalty. There is nothing showy or flashy about Akpom. He does what he does with style of and old pro. He gets up from a foul tackle, glances at the perpetrator, and moves on. No histrionics with the ref, pointing out the number of fouls. Just not him. He has quick close control, an eye for a pass, one that should have been an exquisite assist, when being the middle of a trio who got the ball from defense, to having Bendtner one on one with the ‘keeper in a blink of the eye. His efforts in taking the ball forwards probably did more to see out the extra time successfully, as when he came on West Brom were very much in the ascendancy. He was not successful with everything he tried, but the good was very good. Bonus points for the ‘assist’, the attitude he showed, the certainty in which he took his penalty, a decisive one, as it drew us level, and his chest thumping joy at being able to do it, and in style. He got the fans believing at that point, which put further pressure on the next one up.. Star player in the making.

OLSSON: Final score ;- 6.9

Eexpectation: Very low because he has not played at this level. He has never faced premiership opposition. It is a knockout Cup game away from home.: 5.6

Performance: Well he replaced Hayden in midfield, where he would normally ply his trade. But it has to be said it took him nearly all of the 8 or 9 minutes of normal time to get into the game. During the extra time period he took on the DM role very effectively. This was at a time when Arteta was starting to slow up, and WBA thought they could wrap it up. But Olsson was part of that magnificent mixture in defense that defied all odds. Whilst not being outstanding, he still contributed, and it is something he can build on if he gets further opportunities.

BELLERIN: Final score :- 7.8

Expectation: (From me, sky high, ha ha) Realistically, the same as the above, and for the same reasons: 5.6

Performance: He had the shortest time to impress. Replacing both man and position, the key defender in the amazing unbeaten since March run, one Miguel Arteta!

No, that has to be an error. Bellerin is a converted winger, now RB, and your asking him to play his debut match against Premiership opposition as a left sided defensive midfielder? Really?

What chance did Bellerin have to impress? Well Hector was the hero in my book. The first leg of that assist was a gem. He picked up a loose ball just outside our box, sprinted clear, pass to Akpom, who took it in his stride, and with a same movement pass that made the final leg which put Bendtner in the clear. But this was at the end of nearly 2 hours playing time for someone who had not had a competitive match in several months, so fitness told. It did not stop it being a great move though. As the game wore on Bellerin had a couple of shots at goal, and cleared one of the line at our end too. Some debut, but wait until they play him in his best position? No! Silly, RW.

Conclusions:

MOTM

PER MERTERSACKER – 8.5; Fabianski – 8.1; Monreal – 8.1 Bendtner – 8.0

Best Over Expectation

HECTOR BELLERIN – 7.8; Runner up; CHUBA AKPOM – 7.5

Well, I think that has covered the main aspects of the game from an individual players view. The whole team performed above my expectation. Not because it was a good match to watch, but because to get through a game like that you need character. Each and every one supplied a bit in their own way.

They fully earned that win. Congratulations.

Written by: Gerry.

Monreal & Gnabry instead of Gibbs & Jack? Ramsey to win it for Arsenal?

Arsenal vs the Orcs Pre-Match Report

ORCS (edit)

That’s right the Stoke City Orcs have landed at Ashburton Grove, and this time it’s without their goblin manager Tony Pulis leading the charge. Under Pulis, Stoke played some absolutely deplorable football, so much so that their FIFA 2013 controls looked a little something like this:

stoke playstation controller

This would be very annoying to any Stoke fan playing the game because an attempt at a low through ball would result in a sky ball hoof up to Crouch. But when you kill one, another equally evil manager, grows in their place…Mark Hughes. Mark Hughes has got them playing better football which would please the Stoke supporters. It’s something that should please Arsenal supporters as well because their old approach was our Achilles heel (RIP Delap’s towel). They are still a very dangerous team so Arsenal will need to be at their best today if they want to come away with the three points.

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring), Ox (Knee), Arteta (Thigh), Diaby (Knee), Rosicky (Hip), Zelalem, Santi (Ankle), and Sanogo (back).

Bear with me here, now my theory is Santi is not in fact injured but he has been given time off. It’s not the first time Arsene has done something like this in the past. It is strange that Santi played the full 90 minutes against Chile and showed no sign of injury. It was also very strange that nothing was said about him until after the Sunderland game. Santi had a busy off-season with limited time off, so perhaps Arsene is being cautious and doesn’t want to run him into the ground this season. Arsene is also renowned for suggesting certain players are injured, in an effort to shelter them from reports suggesting they’ve been dropped. Now call me a conspiracy theorist all you want, but it does seem awfully coincidental that Santi goes missing right when Jack is fit and Ozil has been signed. Arsene would prefer the ‘injured’ story over endless stories and questions about Jack or Santi being ‘upset’ about dropping to the bench. I think if Ozil or Jack picked up an injury, Santi would make a miraculous recovery. Rested or injured? You decide!!!

Stoke City: Whelen (Hamstring), Muniesa (Groin/Pelvis), and Ness (Hip/Thigh) will miss this fixture.

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (11)

I’m a bit torn for this game to be honest. We’ve got a good thing going at the moment but I’m a bit worried about some of our players entering the infamous ‘red zone’. Gone are the days where you could rotate your squad a little against lesser opposition. You can’t really get away with it anymore because every game is tough in the premier league. Gibbs has been in red hot form this season but based on his previous injury record (coupled with the ferocity of Stoke), I’d go with Monreal at left back. I’d give Jack a rest and put Gnabry out on the left. It may be a drop off in quality but that boy can play and could be an unknown quantity for Stoke. He scored a double midweek playing as a striker; add that to the match winner he scored last week and he’s in blistering form. I wouldn’t change much else though (partly because we have that many injuries so our options are limited, and I wouldn’t want to unsettle the squad too much.)

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Stoke 1-0

It took a deflected free kick from Lukas Podolski to see us over the line in this fixture. Although we were dominant in periods, Asmir Begovic denied us numerous times thanks to some brilliant keeping. We saw the emergence of newly signed LB Nacho Monreal, and based on the hype HH created from his excellent post Nacho did not disappoint. Shawcross did his best to intimidate the ref in an effort to overturn the goal (also thought he would have a go at Arteta to show just how big a w*nker he really is), but he did not succeed.

Have a look at the goal and aftermath here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKObQFVnq4M

Stoke v Arsenal 0-0

We were held to our second consecutive goalless draw. We defended well but despite taking over the game for large parts we were very toothless in attack. Santi was mesmerizing and Giroud nearly pinched it late with a magnificent lob attempt. You can see the highlights below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNvp9hQoisQ

Form Guide:               Arsenal:  : WWWWW        Stoke: DWWWL

We’ve won 5 in a row now and seem confident in getting results when the heat is on (quite the change from previous seasons). Arsenal will be in a confident mood for this one.

Stoke have had a good start under Mark Hughes. They were unlucky to lose against Liverpool, they beat West Ham away, and they held ManchesterCity to a goalless draw.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the 1970-71 FA Cup semi-final against stoke city. Those old enough to enjoy it saw Peter Storey drag Arsenal back and force a replay (which we eventually went on to win!!!). Have a look at this article detailing how Arsenal denied Stoke FA Cup success in the 70s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3Sl5tmzbuM

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/stoke/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8472000/8472714.stm

One to Watch:

Former Blackburn midfielder Steven N’Zonzi. I’ve found him officers; he’ll be at the Emirates on Sunday. Those who haven’t heard N’Zonzi is ‘being hunted by police for his connection with a roadside altercation with a cyclist.’ You can read all about it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2418523/Steven-Nzonzi-hunted-police-roadside-altercation-cyclist.html

I for one am glad I will not be at the Emirates for this one. The thought of getting mugged in the stalls by Pennant or N’Zonzi haunts me in my sleep. Those going to the game should jump on Arsenal direct; they’ve got a special on now for this game, here’s an image below:

Arsenal riot gear

In all seriousness though, N’Zonzi is a bulldog in midfield. Although he handed in a transfer request in the summer, he’s put his head down and stuck to the task. He won man of the match honours against both West Ham and ManchesterCity this season. He shackled Yaya last week…this week he has Ozil to deal with!

This week’s one to watch has to be AARON RAMSEY. I can’t say anything more about his season thus far that hasn’t been said already. He’s a menace all over the pitch thanks to his endless gut running, and more importantly he’s becoming a constant danger to the opposition. His importance to this squad can’t be exaggerated enough at the moment. With Giroud in top form (5 goals from 6 shots on target this season) and World Class Ozil on the pitch, we could fall in to the trap of becoming too over reliant on them. That sort of over reliance can easily be targeted by opposition managers. Aaron Ramsey isn’t allowing that to happen. Both he and Walcott will not allow opposition players to double or triple team Ozil. Bring in Santi and you have a nightmare scenario for any opposition manager. It’s the sort of situation which could see more and more teams drop off in the second half (good prediction midweek Alcide) as their press is stretched all over the pitch by Walcott, Ozil, Santi, Giroud, and Ramsey.  We all know Ramsey’s history with Stoke so there is no need to explain why Aaron will be fired up for this one…and he’ll have a crowd full of supporters backing him every step of the way!

Key-Match up:

Arsenal vs Asmir Begovic

Before Begovic signed from Portsmouth in 2010 he was a keeper I wanted to see playing for Arsenal. While I am very happy with Szczesny, but Begovic is a top quality goalkeeper (probably not well liked in England considering he’s keeping Butland out), and he has proved it time and time again against us in the past. If he makes a couple of good saves early on, you’re going to have to pull something special out to get past him for the remainder of the game. Begovic could be the difference between a win or draw so let’s hope he’s having a bad day.

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to penalties!!! Like Szczesny they are getting on my nerves! It’s as though the umpires guess their decisions half the time because they aren’t in the correct position to be 100% certain. Please for the love of Christ (Dennis) get some 3rd umpire technology. It’s not like it’s going to the slow the game down that much (some games you won’t even need to use it). Plus if you are going to overlook players rolling around on the ground and diving…it’s the least you can do! It’d kill two birds with one stone because we’d be almost 100% certain on the decision, and the refs can decide whether or not the person involved dived. It’s not fair that commentators can say “every forward does it”…it’s CHEATING!!!! The game should be doing all it can to cut it out and strengthen its image. I’m sick and tired of hearing “Man U won because player X went down in the box and player Z was sent off”. I don’t want to hear fossils whinge about the game changing either…it’s an improvement! The technology is there, USE IT!!!

Pre-Match pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsene Wenger. It may be early days but he’s got the squad looking in tip top shape again. I don’t think there has been a manager in recent history that has copped as much flack as Arsene has.  Once upon a time Arsenal fans adored Arsene, but as trophies dried up the supporter base began to turn. He’s not perfect, he’s not without fault but he’s still got his magic hat! He deserves to go out on top, and I hope this Arsenal team can start delivering for him!

arsene-you-shall-not-pass

Ask the opposition (5)

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Jowlermonkey and Waddos_Legends (both from the StokeCity board on www.not606.com . Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:

1) You cleared out quite a few players during the transfer window. How do you rate your transfer window (ins and outs)?

JOWLERMONKEY: Glad to see the back of some players, fantastic that we now have a left back, needed to buy another striker.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Our transfer window was quite good with the exception that we did not address one of our weakest positions and that is we needed two fresh young fresh strikers. Marko Arnautović was a great signing and he looks a beast so I’m really looking forward to what he can do in front of goal. We have another one coming in January from the USA, Juan Agudelo but we needed another sooner as we cannot score goals.

I was pleased to see a lot of the “Pulis Deadwood” players moved on and also pleased we at last bought in a recognised left back in Erik Pieters. Stephen Ireland was another great signing and the retention of Jermaine Pennant was another good piece of business. Loaning out Cameron Jerome for me to Crystal Palace was a mistake.

 

2) How is Mark Hughes travelling? Will he take you places? Better than Pulis?

JOWLERMOONKEY: I didn’t want Mark hughes, but said i’d give him his chances to hang himself. much better than Pulis.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Early days yet to see if Hughes will take us places but we are certainly playing better football under Hughes than we ever did under Pulis. i actually feel confident going into certain games now especially away from home as before I looked on all away games as we were going to lose. Our current league position and points tally does suggest we are on the up!

The football under Tony Pulis was dire and towards the end he lost the Stoke crowd. The attendance is still suffering now and it will take a few seasons to change this back.

3) What player/position is your weakest?

JOWLERMONKEY: Strikers, neither good or hungry enough.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: As mentioned above our weakest position is in front of goal and Jon Walters as probably cost us 4 points so far this season so I would have to say him. Missed a 88 minute penalty at Liverpool this season away and 2 clear cut chances on Saturday against Manchester City.

The player just loaned out to Wigan Ryan Shotton is Stokes worst player now that is still technically on the books!

4) Which Arsenal player would you like and why?

JOWLERMONKEY: Wilshere, fast dynamic, good feet.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: The only Arsenal players I would like to see in the Stoke shirt would be either Ozil or Santi Cazorla, as I don’t think any other player would slot into our style of play and these 2 players are top players.

5) Which player/position do you feel is our weakest?

JOWLERMONKEY: Defence.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: I feel Arsenal are weakest at the back, can’t name one player in particular but this is definitely an area you struggle in hence why you brought in the ex-Stokie and old school friend of mine ” Steve Bould”.

6) Özil, will he live up to the hype?

JOWLERMONKEY: Fantastic player. Will need to be protected but has always produced the goods.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Ozil already is showing his brilliance and will definitely live up to his reputation as a class act!

7) What is your prediction for the match?

JOWLERMONKEY: Hoping for a draw but you should beat us comfortably.

WADDOS_LEGENDS: Stoke have yet to get anything from the Emirates in the duration of our stay in the premier league. Again as i have said above I’m more confident this season and I predict a close game with 1-1 being the outcome and us picking up our first ever points there. No doubt Ryan Shawcross will be booed from start to finish as per for the “Ramsey Incident” but this helps him to lift his game and fire up his sparring partner Robert Huth!

Prediction:

Stoke have had an impressive start to the season but I do not see them troubling us at home. We’ve beaten them 5/5 at the Emirates, and Mark Hughes has lost his last 6 games at the Emirates (in that time he’s managed Blackburn, ManCity, Fulham, and QPR…how on earth does he keeping getting jobs??). Crouch will be isolated up front so they’ll only get joy out of set pieces (we’ll have to lift our game in this department because we let Marseille have a couple of cheapies midweek). A comfortable and assured performance should see Arsenal victorious 2-0.

shawcross scared

For this week’s psychic prediction I contacted ‘Eagle Star’ for the third week. He better lift his game though otherwise I’m going to have to consult our very own Jgc-damus. Here are his responses:

Oz: Will Arsenal beat the Stoke City Orcs?

Eagle Star: Hmmmm 1-1 I feel.

Oz: The way they play it wouldn’t surprise me if they went for the draw. Will we concede from a set piece?

Eagle Star: Dangers…yes, score…no!

Oz: Can you please put a curse on Ryan Shawcross. I’m not sure what but maybe some Paranormal Activity type scares when he’s at home.

<insert Shawcross Scared pic>

Eagle Star: That’s not my area of expertise Oz but I can contact someone who is.

Oz: You’re a star Eagle…get it????

Eagle Star: <disconnected…and blocked>

 

What is your prediction?

Theo or Giroud…who will score?

Will we shut down their set piece game?

Written by: Oz Gunner

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Is Arsenal’s Tight (small, tiny, down to bare bones…) Squad Actually an Advantage?

cid150319_WengerVI01_640_640x345

Wednesday evening’s CL opener, sandwiched between tough league matches (Sunderland away, Stoke City at home) asked the question: is this team ready to fight on multiple fronts? We got the needed result in our very difficult group, but a quick glance at our bench – or a (necessarily) longer look at our guys out injured – suggests that we have a much more complicated task in the longer term. 

It appears we escaped the South of France without any new injuries, but there was some concern expressed when Theo Walcott came off (walking slowly and not smiling) not long after his sumptuous volley which put us ahead.  A quiet match from Olivier Giroud in his old stomping grounds was also a worry given his twisted knee late in the Sunderland match.  If either of those two are not fully fit going into the Stoke match, who do we have to step in?

The answer, at the moment, is youth players or guys who are in the squad but not necessarily for their goal scoring.  Fingers crossed and I won’t dwell on the hypothetical questions.  It’s no great secret that Arsenal was looking at strikers throughout the transfer window and that coming away without reinforcements in this area is (one of) the biggest question marks hanging over the squad.  Regardless, barring any “miracle” recoveries from the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, our best bet for Sunday is that the same 11 who started in Marseille are ready to go again.  We have a few fresh bodies to shore up matches we’re winning (Jenkinson, Monreal, Vermaelen) but not much firepower if we had to chase a result.

On the other hand, watching (or hearing and reading about…) the struggles of our rivals, it’s questionable if a bigger squad is the answer.  

Chelsea lost at home to Basel Wednesday night and were booed off the pitch.  Did Jose Mourinho do the right thing in letting Romelu Lukaku go back out on loan or leaving Fernando Torres and André Schürrle out of the team for his CL opener?  With players like Oscar, Hazard, Mata, Eto’o, Willian and Demba Ba (not to mention Frank Lampard…) the list of their attacking assets would seem enough to see off Basel, wouldn’t it?   Still, they couldn’t.  Is this their wake-up call (equivalent to our Aston Villa opening day debacle) or is it a sign that, despite all the talent, they don’t have players who are comfortable taking on the moments which turn losses into draws or draws into victories?  And, of course, this was on the heels of losing at Everton and drawing at Manchester United…

The other silly money club, ManchesterCity, is in a similar quandary.  After bludgeoning Newcastle in their first league match, they’ve been a lot less convincing.  Some of the issues appear to be at the back with injuries in defense and mistakes by their (still very young) keeper, Joe Hart.  Again, however, there seems, amongst the options further forward, a lack of that player or two who will really make it all happen.The loss at Cardiff, the draw at Stoke, with the Manchester Derby looming, along with David Silva injured on international duty, would seem to be taking all that hair of Manuel Pelligrini further towards the solid grey sported by our own Arsene Wenger…

And speaking of hair issues and Manchester Derbies, how goes it for United?  For me, Rooney with the protective headgear is better than seeing his arse to forehead transplants, and there appears some notion that he and the guy we made prematurely grey (RVP) are finding a measure of togetherness.  Still, prodigious talents like Nani and Kagawa have become fringe players and the English/Welshmen in United’s midfield (Carrick, Cleverly, ancient Giggs…) seem serviceable if deathly unexciting.   On the plus side, Moyes at least seems to have a pecking order even if it would seem to favour the older English habits of strong wing play (Antonio Valencia) and crossing married to the “new” English diving of Ashley Young (and the old French variety in Patrice Evra).  With £27million, Maroune Fellaini (and his fro) strongly in the mix and Rooney wearing the half-cap, the wide players certainly have things to aim at.  Big match there on Sunday…

Of course it’s all far too early to tell and we’re just getting started on these extra midweek matches.  Still, points are points and, after getting all the tensions out with our opening day slip on the proverbial banana skin (…slip, rhymes with blip…) we are looking better.  

Mesut Özil, even if he might not have impressed in Marseilles as he did at Sunderland, seems a very good addition.  Pound for pound Mathieu Flamini looks even better (winky face)… Certainly they’re not obviously displacing any healthy players and thereby causing disgruntlement or consternation… In fact, it could be argued that it’s just the opposite and that others are playing better with the new midfielders around them.  

While new signings are relegating former stalwarts to the benches and shadow squads up in Manchester and across town at Chelsea, our new players are filling obvious holes and are already showing big dividends. We are thin, but we seem unified.  

A question, I believe, in this era of mega-money clubs might be: How many (high quality) players can you keep happy and productive and fully focused on getting results for your club?  Corollary questions might include: Is there a tipping point where a club loses collective focus by having too many quality players?  What is the ideal sized squad and is it perhaps better to have blend of established stars and up and comers?

I’m curious what people think and most certainly Arsenal are charting a different course than the three clubs who finished above us last season.  While (very, very) risky, I think there’s a chance our club may have an intangible advantage (to which Total alluded in the previous post) which may allow us to compete with the bigger squads and even eclipse them.

The proof (however, of course…) is in the pudding and all the clubs will be judged match over match and season over season.  The focus then must be on what’s in front of us and our match on Sunday (preceding the “big one” in Manchester…) is a “must-win.”  There’s no love lost between “Sparky” and Arsene, nor between the players left over from the Tony Pulis era and our own.  Will Stoke revert to their defensive roots?  They have a keeper in Begovic who all the bigger teams (supposedly, according to the tabloids…) lusted after during the transfer window, and a central pairing of galoots and set-piece specialists in Huth and (Ramsey-reducer) Shawcross.  

In other words they won’t necessarily be easy to break down.  Scouting reports suggest that their offensive play and work on the break—N’Zonzi is not the worst as a fulcrum player–is more sophisticated, these days, than just trying to win throw-ins.  One would guess that, while we’ve been travelling in Europe, they’ve been drilling in ways to neutralize and/or beat us.  

Do we have enough resilience—clearly, at the moment we lack the quality in depth—to get the needed result?  At this point in the season conclusions are premature yet, with each match, declarations will be made… 

For me this is a(nother) real opportunity…For 3 points and to establish, in front of our home support, that we are onto something genuine with our team.  Coming off the back of a gutty 1-nil against our local (and most hated) rivals AND the signing (and presumed first home outing) of Mesut Özil, we should have good home support.  Still, if we struggle, or if referee Mike Dean does his usual thing and calls everything against us, it could quickly turn into a repeat of opening day.  As such (for me at least) the match seems extra critical… In my opinion the home support—and being able to replicate our awesome away form—10 wins in 10 matches(!!!)—is the next frontier for the Gunners (and the Gooners…) and could give us the boost we need as we move into more difficult parts of our fixture list.  

What do you guys say? 

Written by: 17HighburyTerrace 

The one ingredient Arsenal have and our competitors are missing

arsenal-spurs_ap_2658805b

After we lost to the vile Villains, who would have thought Arsenal fans would feel so upbeat just one month later? Don’t worry though; I am not getting carried away, YET.

I know for sure that I am not the only Gooner who was getting worn out by consecutive seasons of transition. At one point, it started to feel we would never come out of transition, as Arsenal appeared to be unable to hold on to its best players season after season.

But this season appears to be different: all key players stayed, even Vermaelen and Sagna! And instead of losing quality players, we have been able to add, but without overdoing it. The latter might be key: too many new (quality) players mean time and effort is required to fit them into our first team, and that would have meant another transitional year. We only have to look at the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and ManCity, and indeed ourselves, in recent years to know that buying loads of players in one go does not lead to instant success.

Looking back at our recent hard-fought wins against Spuds, Sunderland and Olympique Marseille, there is something about this Arsenal team that our competitors are missing; and long may it continue!

Arsenal have resilience and cohesion: we battle as a team and look like we are in February rather than in September, if you know what I mean.

The media have not picked up on this yet, but it will come sooner or later. I expected ManCity to be in transition, and to some extent, Manchester United, but definitely not Chelsea. My wife always tells me not to repeat a good experience by going there, or doing something, again (holiday resorts, restaurants, climb the same mountain etc), and it usually turns out she was right.

Could the same go for the Chavs:  is the reunion with the ‘happy one’ destined to fail? I certainly hope so, but let’s not get lulled into a false sense of security, yet. It is too early to say whether Maureen can get his team firing on all cylinders again and a period of adversity might just be the thing he needs to get this team focussed again.

For me, they remain our main competitors for winning the league and the more we can create a gap between us and them now, the better. The Chavs play Fulham at home (derbies are never easy) and then Spuds away, and let’s see how they get through these two games.

In the meantime, we just need to focus on our own games: one game at a time (OGAAT). Although I believe we are ahead of our competition right now in terms of team cohesion and competitiveness on the pitch, I will not get carried away as yet.

There are a few areas that need attention:

  • We concede goals too often, and too many in total;
  • We defend too deep, with our midfield often unable/willing to push the opposition back;
  • The lack of back up for Giroud and our increasing reliance on him.

The first point is just an observation right now; let’s wait and see how our defence/team defending will fare over the next five games. We could really do with a couple of clean sheet to get the ‘back five’ properly settled.

The second point seems more of a theme right now. In recent games Arsenal have been pushed back by the opposition during periods of the game, with our midfielders opting to play close to the defence and not allow any space between the lines. This allowed the opposition to get too close to our box and we have been left exposed at times. We got away with it until now, but I hope that Flamini and Ramsey, Ramsey and Jack, Jack and Flamini, or whichever players are positioned in the double DM pivot, will be able to readdress the balance.

There is a theory (Gerry?) that Arsenal sit back deep on purpose – similar to what Chelsea and Manchester United like/liked to do: absorb pressure, and as soon as the ball is won back, counter attack with speed and direct, incisive passing – and this could well be true. But I reckon, we need to work hard on keeping the opposition ten to fifteen yards further away from the box, as it is likely to cost us against the better teams. It will be interesting to see whether we will be able to push the opposition a bit more away from our box if and when Areta returns to the first team.

We have spoken about our over-dependence on Giroud in previous posts. This is not only about his goal and assist contributions which simply have been fantastic until now; it is also about his ability to be our central hub – our ‘holding’ striker – in attack. Let’s hope he’ll last the whole season somehow and that we get reinforcement in January’s transfer window.

But there are quite a few positives for us Gooners at the moment: Giroud’s and Ramsey’s fine all-round form and ability to find the net; the ease with which both Flamini and Ozil have slotted into the team whilst giving us additional robustness, spirit and creativity; the imminent return of the Verminator and Zorro; and the general focus and battle-readiness of the team.

All of the above will be needed but most importantly we need to take it OGAAT! Arsenal are a team in the groove and the next cup-final is on Sunday.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

OGAAT 🙂

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Özil fits Arsenal like a glove, Ramsey roars on, Flamini leads: Match Report

Match Review: This is what champions are made of.

StartingvsSunder

After two weeks of international football, the Premier League returned today. Fans of many Premier League teams were desperately awaiting the debuts of many of their new signings; especially Arsenal fans, awaiting the debut of deadline day signing Mesut Özil.

And those Arsenal fans would not be disappointed.

Today’s match against Sunderland had ups and downs. In the first half, Arsenal were on fire, but after the break Arsenal’s tempo slowed for a while before we regained our form again at the end.

Arsenal started the day full of confidence and with the away-crowd behind them. Everyone involved was very excited to see the debut of Özil. He would come good in the 11th minute: our nr.11 controlled a long ball in the air wonderfully, touched it out in front of him, and played a fantastic ball to Giroud in front of goal. He happily fired the ball into the near post and gave Arsenal the lead: it is now four goals in four Premier League games for Giroud, and an assist for Özil on his debut.

After this goal, the whole game changed. The home crowd was essentially silenced and Arsenal began playing some of the most beautiful football they’ve played in a while. Wilshere did a wonderful job of taking on Santi’s position and drifting inside to help out the midfield. His understanding with Ramsey seemed improved, and both Aaron’s and Jack’s excellent understanding with Özil (and vice versa) was mystifying, especially because they have only trained together a very short time and they don’t even speak the same language.

Özil provided multiple chances to Theo with perfectly weighted through balls, but unfortunately Theo still is not in scoring form, however I give credit to Westwood for some fantastic saves.

We went into half time only 1-0 up, but with about 70% possession. Arsenal had dominated the first half, but perhaps this was their undoing at the start of the second half. Three minutes into the second half an overzealous Koscielny made a stupid challenge on Adam Johnson in the box. There was really no need for the tackle as he had no clear shot on goal and was on his weaker foot; however, he slid into him and the ref awarded Sunderland a penalty. Gardner rocketed the penalty into the lower left corner and Szczesney couldn’t do anything about it.

After this penalty the game changed once more. The home crowd roared and Sunderland suddenly stepped up and began dominating the game. Sunderland had numerous chances and really stepped up to the plate. However, this is where Arsenal showed that they are ready to win titles and just how important the signing of Flamini is.

I think that this game is very comparable to the Villa game: an early Giroud goal followed by a fairly soft penalty and then the crowd turns against the mighty Arsenal. In both games the ref was awful (although, the ref at Villa was worse, but let’s not discuss that). Point being, Arsenal were up against it in both games. In the Villa game Arsenal crumbled a little bit after the penalty and ended up losing, however this time Arsenal banded together. They fought through the bad part of the game and kept themselves in it.

Flamini was very critical in this; running about, clapping his hands, generally screaming and putting in tough tackles. The team banded together and fought against a Sunderland side that really wanted to win.

Arsenal finally found a breakthrough in the 67th minute. Jenkinson picked up the ball on the right flank and saw Aaron raising his hands; he swung in a low cross to the edge of the box, and Rambo venomously volleyed the ball across goal and in. The team’s reaction was fantastic and as I said before, spirit will do a lot for us this season. And getting down to business and pushing through that difficult time was all down to the team’s desire and hunger to win.

However, Sunderland did not just lie down and die. In the 70th minute Altidore broke down our right flank and all Sagna could do was grab his jersey and pull him back. This was perhaps the most controversial decision of the game and the main reason I’m not too angry with the ref, despite most decisions going Sunderland’s way. As Altidore reached the top of the box the ref blew the whistle. Sagna stopped, but Altidore played on and just managed to sneak the ball in the net after Szczesny slowed it down. The play was called back and Sunderland were given a free kick instead of the goal. Obviously, I’m happy with this and I believe it was the right decision, but I’m curious about what others think.

After this, Sunderland seemed to have the life sucked out of them. Arsenal found their groove once more and in the 76th minute Ramsey scored his second of the night. He darted in behind their defense and finished the ball right under Westwood.

Substitutions were made with Vermaelen making his return from injury and Nacho coming on for Walcott. Unfortunately, at the end Giroud seemed to twist his knee and Akpom had to come on for him. I don’t have any news on that, but I hope he’s not injured.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/table

The game ended 3-1 to the mighty Arsenal and things are looking up: top of the league at least for tonight! Özil already seems to have gelled with the team, Giroud is on fire, it seems to be Rambo’s year, and the team looks to be a team of winners at last.

For now, I’ll leave you all with a few more questions than usual:

  1. Is this Arsenal team ready to win trophies?
  2. Is this Rambo’s year?
  3. What did you think of Özil’s debut?
  4. Can OG win the golden boot?
  5. How important is Flamini to this team?
  6. Should advantage have been played when Altidore scored?

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written by: Dylan.

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