What is the score The2-0 Wal2-0tt? Reflections on 12 tough days

ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM

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A reflection of a demanding 12 days

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Due to a mis-communication, the review is somewhat later than might have been the norm for such an important game like an NDL. But maybe we needed some time to celebrate the victory, without analysing the various aspects that went to produce such a stunning victory.

Perhaps Jack Wilshere summed it up best when he said … ‘Arsenal have clicked’?

So let me just roll the clock back to where our Christmas schedule began: December 23rd, a home-tie against Chelsea. We had not won a match since December 4th. We drew 1-1 in a very open game against Everton, Then lost away at Napoli in the Champions League, but it was enough to get us through to the group stages. Then came the dour home game with Chelsea that finished 0-0. Not surprising, given how few shots on target by either team. But that point is the difference between us and the rest of the chasing pack right now. It might have been a disappointment at the time, as a win would have pushed us 7 points clear, but less so now?

Three days later we travelled the short distance to West Ham. This was the game where we lost Aaron Ramsey, and welcomed the return of Podoski from the bench. Two goals from Theo Walcott and a sealer from Lukas Podolski, meant we ran out comfortable winners in the end. For Theo it was an impressive return to his best, after being shut out against Chelsea. It also got us back to winning ways.

Three days later we make the long trek to Newcastle, who were in impressive form themselves. Another game remembered for injuries and sickness before the game, and big ones in it: the changes that were made because Vermaelen and Monreal did not travel through sickness. Ozil was left behind because of a shoulder injury. Then, both Gibbs and Giroud came off with injuries that would mean they would miss the next two games at least.

Despite starting the stronger of the two sides, it took until 65th minute for Olivier Giroud to have a glancing header and thus break the deadlock. It left it for Newcastle to dominate the final 20 minutes, but our defenders stayed calm and we secured a 0-1 victory. Those three points took us back to the top of the table going into the New Year, but it was MOTM performance by Tomas Rosicky that gave the team the drive and determination that helped maintain this winning sequence.

Yet another 2-day break before we took on Cardiff at home. Nacho Monreal recovered enough to replace Gibbs, while Jack Wilshere replaced Rosicky, who had a slight injury from the previous match. But it was over to Lukas Podolski, making his first start as the central striker, replacing the stricken Giroud, with Waclott continuing on the right and Santi Cazorla on the left. This game needs little in the way of refreshing the memory, it being the most recent. There was the disappointing return of Podolski as the main striker; and Cardiff seemingly able to keep us out. So it was no surprise to see him being replaced Nicholas Bendtner in the 65th minute, along with Tomas Rosicky, after Flamini was withdrawn.

Almost immediately the balance of the team looked better, as Arsenal lay siege to the Cardiff goal. The dramatic concluding minutes will long remain in our memories? A nice interplay with Cazorla and Monreal and his cross to the far post, Sagna sees his header saved by the ‘keeper, but only to witness Bendtner arrive and rifle in a bullet across the goal and into the far corner.

1-0, but the drama did not end there. Nicky B landed on his right foot and it got caught under the diving keeper. Yet another injury, out for 4 weeks minimum with a sprained ankle. But he had barely made his assisted walk around the pitch to the much relieved fans applause, when a quick breakaway saw Walcott dink a second goal. His first home goal of the season. 2-0, and still TOTL!

That was the backdrop to this FA Cup and NLD match.

I felt it was worth taking that in, to place this fixture in context if you like. It was not just any Cup game. It was not just any NLD. It came on the back of some extreme physical effort from the entire squad that took part, and could be forgiven if the whole thing suffered because of it.

However, nothing could be further from the truth – apart from the opening few minutes when Spurs moved the ball about nicely, and a misplaced clearance by Koscielny went straight to Ericksen. He got first run on Sagna and only had Fabiansky to beat, but delayed too long and Fab blocked it away for a corner. Thereafter it was Arsenal who made the quick passes, got the better chances, and really dominated the game with ease.

We were superior in virtually every department. Spurs had moments of individual skill, but Arsenal had the collective skills, and it was that which proved decisive. Perhaps also, it was the speed at which we could move the ball forwards. No surprise then, that it was another master class from Mr Endeavor himself, Tomas Rosicky, who provided much of that, and for once he got his reward with a goal he created by that very tireless running that I speak of now. That was an individual moment which he thoroughly deserved.

However, in the collective spirit he was ably assisted in the running of Walcott, the interplay with Cazorla and Wilshere, but special mention has to go to Serge Gnabry. 18 years old, playing in his first NDL, indeed, having his first start since September, and he positively shined. His interplay with Walcott was great. The perfect pass for Cazorla’s goal was sublime. He made a couple of others of equal merit, and had a snap shot from the edge of the box that skimmed over the bar. If it was somebody’s first visit, they would not have known he was: a, not a regular team member; or b, just 18 years old, such was the mature performance he put in.

The second goal came about after Danny Rose thought he’d be clever and twist away from the rapidly closing Rosicky. So, in failing, and being the last defender, he doubled his ignominy when Rosi darted away for a one-on-one with the keeper, and delightfully chipped him with a sand wedge instep.

It was not a game without flashpoints. Wilshere squaring up to Bentaleb, the Spurs youngster, but the ref dealt with that quietly. Chiriches clipped Wilshere late, but advantage was played and he escaped a booking. Indeed, he escaped a ‘second’ one where he caught Walcott on the foot when he had no chance of getting the ball. A couple of penalty shouts, both denied.

Other things like injuries did not leave us alone though. First Vermaelen was replaced at half time with a cut just below the knee. Then, after we had changed Arteta and Wilshere for Flamini and Ozil – nice to have replacements like that? -Walcott picked up a knock, accidental this time, and had to be stretchered off.

This led to one of the photo moments of the game, as he was carried past the Spurs fans who, it is reported, sang some distasteful songs at him while he was being treated, to which, two fingers and a zero reminded them of the score. One for the album without doubt, but the unfortunate stretcher bearers received more missiles than some of their counterpart did at times in WW1.

Very sensitive, and no sense of humour these Spurs fans?

So the final 10 minutes or so we were down to 10 men. But even then the Spurs could not muster a worthwhile shot on goal.

It was expected to be a tough encounter, but with the ease that Spurs were brushed aside, I think we can safely say … …. ARSENAL HAVE CLICKED!

Discuss: Key battles?; Does 4-3-3 always beat 4-4-2?; Overall tactics?; Greater loss – Giroud or Walcott?; MOTM… majority say Rosicky, and I agree.

But remember what the squad has achieved over this short period is nothing short of a miracle, built on sheer hard graft and a collective desire to win, and keep winning. 

Written by: Gerry.

Why Arsenal will still be ToTL on New Years Day…and win the League

Per+Mertesacker+Arsenal+v+Stoke+City+Premier+s-NKOnkZ6wtl

Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle, and Cardiff: Four games to renew our statement of intent.

Much has been made about our loss against the Northern Oilers by the media, and IF we were to lose to the Southern Oilers on Monday as well, expect it to get much, much worse. We the supporters need to stay calm and focus on the war rather than the battles. This is not a tournament but a 38 stages competition, and the only thing that really matters is, who will have collected most points after the last round of games in May.

I think we will finally beat the Maureen-Chavs on Monday if the referee is fair and consistent, but this is for another post, which our esteemed fine fellow Gooner 17HT will provide. But ultimately, it is really just another game; not more or less important as the next game and the game after that. Beat the Chavs and lose to the Hammers, or vice versa, and it’s still three points lost.

We are entering a period of 216 hours in which we will play four times and twelve points are at stake.

I predict that over the four festive season games all top teams will have won and lost about the same number of points; it is how it usually goes around this time of the year. Key for us is to stay focused whether we beat the Chavs or not: quickly forget the result and move on to the next game. I also predict we will still be ToTL after New Years Day with a gap of two to three points with the rest.

I believe the recent adversity combined with a well-needed nine day rest will form the perfect platform for an Arsenal ‘through-start’, and it might well be that we will actually do better than our competition between now and 1st January. The combination of wanting to make up for the losses against Napoli and Citeh and a period of rest and regrouping of the troops, should serve us well in making a renewed statement of intent.

Why we are going to win the League

Structurally, there are four aspects to our game that make us a strong contender to win the league this season:

  1. Consistency and stability at the club: experienced and loyal manager and support staff, good long term plan and financial stability, money to add quality to the squad in January and hold on to our current talents.
  2. Best away record in the League (together with the Spuds). Arsenal won 16 points from 24 away, despite having played both Manchester teams away already; four more than Pool and five more than the Chavs and an amazing eight more than the Northern Oilers.
  3. Despite conceding six last Saturday, our defence is still slightly meaner – conceding 17 goals in 16 matches – than our direct title competitors Pool, Chavs and Citeh with all conceding 18 goals until now. With the BFG rested and an eager Verminator back in the team, and the rest of the ‘back-five’ fit and raring to go, we should see a continuation of our meanness in defence, which is absolutely vital for winning the league.
  4. Despite having played without last season’s plus-ten PL goals scorers Walcott and Podolski for most of the season until now (and Santi for a large part), we still managed to score third most goals in the league and we have the third best goal difference at the moment. There is space in our team to play the current Arsenal PL top scorers Giroud, Ramsey and Ozil with two of Theo, Pod and Cazorla. Once we can field such an attacking line-up on a regular basis we should expect the big scores, especially at home, to become more regular, and score more goals all round.

Our home record is good but not as great as our direct competition, with especially Citeh performing well in front of their crowd. We need to score more at home, but other than that we are doing fine if it was not for that horrible first game against the Villans. Of course, we can also strengthen the team in January and we’ll see whether that will happen. But for me, there are some good structural reasons why we will build further on our current FANTASTIC position and win the league come May.

Keep believing and supporting with all you’ve got fine, fellow Gooners, and let’s keep our eyes on the price by focussing on one game at a time (OGAAT). This team is going to win the League.

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Written by: TotalArsenal. 

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.

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

Arsenal vs Manchester United Pre-Match

Intro:

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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

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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

Ten games in: ToTL, and the best is yet to come!

Will Arsenal improve further once Pod and Theo return?
Will Arsenal improve further once Pod and Theo return?

First of all (of course) I’d like to begin by congratulating the team on an awesome performance against the other in form premier league team in the league. I’ll single out Arteta, Cazorla, Sagna and Ramsey for special praise for Saturday’s performance. They went about their duties in spectacular fashion. It’s good to see that Sagna is getting back to his best AND has learnt to put in a decent cross. Ozil had a quiet game yesterday but still managed an assist thanks to Rambo’s screamer. That’s the mark of a world class player.

Anyway, my focus isn’t just on yesterday’s game. We have reached the ten game mark of the season and there is plenty to be discussed so I’ll get on with it. Firstly, the premier league table speaks volumes on the leaps and bounds that Arsenal has overcome this season. We look a class above everyone else, especially in the league. Top of the table with a 5 point cushion is very significant in a league where competition is cut throat. Of course we have tougher fixtures coming up against Chelsea and ManCity but so far so good. Also, this season has marked the return of our swagger. We play such beautiful football that I could be stuck in the middle of the ocean and still find a way to watch our games.

We still haven’t hit top gear yet as we still don’t show consistently the dominance we should, considering the talent we have in our ranks. This is a good thing because we will still get better. I also think we don’t score nearly as many goals as we can but like I’ve just said, all in good time. There have been a lot of improvements in our team but the one that has impressed me most (and I attribute it to our form) is our spirit. These days Arsenal is a big team, pure and simple. Our ability to win on off days, hold on to a lead, secure points against the run of play and quickly recover from losses has reassured me that, barring a spectacular injury crisis, we are very much title contenders. The win at palace and the recovery at Liverpool are prime examples.

Again I’d like to remind you all, fans and rivals alike,that we are playing this way yet we still haven’t had a full strength side all season. We still have Theo, Podolski and the Ox who are yet to return to the side. I expect the former two to greatly improve our goal output once they return to full body and match fitness. I also expect to see much more from some of our players such as Theo and the Ox.

Another great positive we have on our side this season is the fact that we no longer are dependent on one player. In previous seasons we’ve had players like Van Persie, Cesc and Thierry Henry, whose performances kept us above the surface. Now we have Giroud, Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, Podolski, who have all shown that they have the ability to win us games. It’s almost like with every game, a new hero steps forward.

Aside from all this though there are concerns that have risen in these first ten games that I feel must be addressed. My biggest concern as per now is the fear of some players suffering burn out. The players in particular are Giroud, Ramsey, Koscielny and less so, Ozil. As Bendtner showed against Chelsea, Giroud has no able deputy, especially with Walcott and Poldi still out. He has played virtually every game for us and an injury to him now would be monumental. Ramsey and Koscielny too have been piled with games because of their influence. Once this tricky run of fixtures is over, Wenger really should give them breathers.

My final concern lies within our football. We have been playing well but I feel the team doesn’t do enough when not in possession. Our pressing has improved, I must say, but still isn’t up to par. When we lose the ball in midfield we let the opposition run at us too easily, especially in Flamini’s absentia. There are players I have to commend for their tireless work rate off the ball and these are Giroud, Ramsey, Rosicky and Flamini. When we lose the ball, they are always the first to dive into challenges in a bid to win the ball back and I really rate them for that.

However, pressing can’t be the job of a few individuals but a team effort. There are players who are a bit lazy when we lose possession. Ozil and Cazorla mainly. Wilshere too is developing this but I suspect it has to do with his injury. These two players will rarely chase down the ball even if it is they who lost it in the first place. I sometimes find myself screaming at the TV when they casually escort our opposition players into our danger area.

This has proven very costly because whenever we’ve met teams that are ready to hustle, we struggle. Against Dortmund, we could only conjure some few minutes of possession in the second half, and for a team whose credentials are being questioned at every turn, this is just not good enough. It is something Arsene has pointed out twice so far so I’m hoping he is working tirelessly to improve.

In conclusion, I have to say that we have every reason to be positive. If we can navigate these two months without too many nasty surprises and in January bring in a Lewandowski or two, then the title will be ours to lose. For now, all we can do is take it a game at a time, keep the focus and showcase our premium brand of football that makes every match day worth the wait.

Come On You Gunners!!!!

 

Written by: Marcus

Arteta leads, Szczesny stands up, and Ozil, Rambo and OG pure class

But above all, another great TEAM performance!

The captain answered his critics once more...
The captain answered his critics once more…

Well, Well, ToTL with 22 points and a fine goal difference of 11 after just nine games! The boys did us proud today. Chris Foy tried his best to ruin it for us, but even he could not stop us.

I thought before the game this would either be very easy or we would have to dig deep; and as we all know, it became the latter. Just as against Norwich, Flamini had to leave the game very early, but this time it seemed a groin injury rather than a reoccurrence of his concussion. And just as last week, we lacked a bit of shape and rhythm once he had gone, although Arteta impressed with not just his positioning but also his willingness to put his body on the line.

The pitch was very slow and the Eagles defended resolutely, but we also played at too low a tempo and often not close enough to each other. And when we did play a bit closer together, our triangles did often not work out, due to inaccurate passing and under-par first touches. However, the boys managed to get into the box a few times and got close to scoring with chances for the (still very rusty) Cazorla, Rambo and Giroud.

To be fair on Palace, they played well in the first half and created a few good chances themselves, as once again we allowed them to play football in the space in front of our ‘D’ and were opened up a bit too easily. Part of their strategy was to get easy free-kicks in put-the-ball-into-the-box areas, and Foy easily obliged to support this ploy. But we also were a bit naïve in giving away such free kicks too willingly, making it easy for the 13th man to have his influence on this game. Luckily, we defended most of these free-kicks (and corners) resolutely, which was a welcome sight.

0-0 was a fair score to go into the break with, and it was clear we had to up the tempo of our passing and make better runs into the danger area, if we were to get the three points from this game.

We did not have to wait long for a break. Gnabry, who plays with such an incredible maturity and composure for his age (born in 1995, the same year Dennis arrived at Highbury!), found himself in the box with the ball – after good, patient and incisive triangle-combination football by Arsenal – and he cut the ball back superbly, denying the onrushing Guedioura any opportunity to control his adrenaline surge before it was too late. As a result, the Algerian fouled the young German in the box and this time Foy could not get away with denying us a penalty (we could have had one in the first half).

Up steps our captain, and you kind of feel if he misses this one we will not win today. But his penalties are as sharp and immaculate as his haircut and bionic stare, and he makes it 1-0 to the good guys with an unstoppable effort.

The game can now truly begin, as Palace will need to come out of their defensive setting to get anything out of it. We press and play with a lot more swagger and it seems only a matter of time before we will score the all important second goal. But Foy was still part of the ploy and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands when Arteta and our former Moroccan Gunner collided about a Boeing 747 away from our goal. The gel-man tried to compensate a characteristically bad first touch (his feet have never been his strength) from what was a very promising through-ball with barging into Arteta: they both went to the floor and Foy sends our captain to the showers. It is easy to be resolute if you know what you are doing…. 😕

Arsenal now had to defend and Arsene made excellent substitutions with bringing on our best all-round midfielder Wilshere and safe pair of hands Nacho for the tired Cazorla and, the tactically sacrificed, Gnabry.

We have discussed the need to keep a clean sheet more regularly if we want to beat the Chavs (and others) to the title this season, and today we really needed it to clinch all three points. Up steps our Pole in goal; first denying a beautifully executed shot by Joel Ward with a full stretch, ever so slight fingertips-touch onto the crossbar; followed by a strong, one handed match winning save from Jedinak venomous volley from just outside the box. Szczesny remains a work in progress but today’s performance, for which he was given the MoTM award, will help him tremendously – and he needed it.

The team looked tired but ALL worked hard to fight for the three points. I loved the way Ozil picked up balls in and around our own box and kept it to win time and space, and what a fine, strong balance he has. Jack was able to keep the ball under pressure and move forward with it, not allowing the Eagles to sustain their attacks. Nacho did great work on the left wing, both defensively and in attack, and almost scored a Theo-esque goal late on.

I looked at Giroud and Rambo and they seemed exhausted; the game against Dortmund and the 10-men second half efforts against Palace clearly taking their toll. But they never gave up and dug very deep into their reserves, and this is what we should remember when either of them has a less effective game: these boys really care about Arsenal – the absolute opposite of mercenaries!

And it came as no surprise that the final word of this exhilarating game was for our finest work horses. Giroud collects the ball in midfield with his back to the opponent’s goal – who is currently better in the PL at doing this?…. – and passes to Rambo, who is still able to accelerate past a few Palace players into the box, and somehow finds the composure to produce a measured ball onto the head of the onrushing Frenchman, who places the ball just above Speroni’s left shoulder, leaving him no chance to save it: 2-0 to the mighty Gunners and game over.

A hard fought win, three points, ToTL, and more evidence that this team has real backbone: Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Gooner! – Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Goooner!

http://www.fcsongs.com/Arsenal_FC_-_Ooh_To_Be_A_Gooner.html

Bring on the Oilers! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.