Arsenal vs Fulham Pre-Match. 110 years and we dream of Draxler

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Additional Intro by 17 Highbury Terrace 

Our Maestro of Match Previews, Oz Gunner, has brought the goods once again but things in our little world of Bergkampesque are different this week and 17 Highbury Terrace also had started a match preview.  I’d like to include it here as it mirrors some of my own thoughts. 

Arsenal – Fulham Preview –Dedicated to James Bond

Bergkampesque is a blog about Arsenal Football Club, emphasizing the more positive aspects of the club and the team as exemplified in the beautiful and professional play of Dennis Bergkamp.  We have a match tomorrow, against Fulham Football Club, but one of our own, in fact our top comment contributor, James Bond, is going through an extremely difficult moment in his personal life (see comments, previous post), and I want to dedicate this preview to him.  James is an extremely optimistic AND passionate supporter of Arsenal and a great contributor to this site.  Despite much cajoling, he’s yet to write a blog post of his own, but he’s put out many interesting and bold ideas.  Sometimes we’ve gotten small glimpses into his personal life, but nothing on the scale of what he wrote yesterday.  Though blog comments tend to be about Arsenal, over time a community of intriguing individuals builds and many of us feel as if we know one another.  I’ve had fun, interesting, and heated debates with James (I often call him 007 or our Superspy…), always with an underlying tone of intelligence and respect.   We don’t “know” each other, but we do… All I can say, Bond, at this time, is that we’re all pulling for you and hoping for the very best outcome for you and wishing that, sooner than later, you can be back here on the site, discussing goalkeepers and center forwards, matches, transfers, finances, etc., in your inimitable way.

Maybe Arsenal can brighten your day tomorrow with a convincing win over Fulham.  I know you’ve been eager for a strong performance and a lopsided score-line, and I’ll wish that for you—along with my much bigger and more important wishes for you.  Being me, of course, I’ll take the three points, however they come.  Every match presents challenges, and this one feels no different.  Your challenges are on another scale entirely.  Best of luck, stay strong, keep the faith, etc., etc., my friend…

17highburyterrace

Preview Intro

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A battle of teams on the opposite ends of the table, but Fulham will be looking to break a 110 year drought of losses against Arsenal at home. A win is a must for both teams but for different reasons. Arsenal needs 3 points to fend off the oilers, Fulham to fend off relegation.

A quick fire double saw Arsenal keep a resurgent Villa at bay taking it to 4 league wins on the trot.

Fulham were torn to threads (Shreds, Shreds of threads…) 4-1 last week by Sunderland making it 20 goals conceded in their last 6 games.

Let’s get in to it shall we: Draxler!

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Rosicky (Nose) – Broke it thanks to a gabby. A mask is an option but I don’t think he’ll be risked so soon unless absolutely necessary. Monreal (foot – this one worries me because info is water tight and Arsene appeared worried), Diaby (Knee/missing), and Sanogo (back – STILL!). Walcott (ACL – knee), Ramsey (Hip/thigh), Arteta (calf/shin), Vermaelen (knee), Bendy (Ankle/foot)…god we could almost field a whole team of crocked players.

Fulham: Etheridge (Hip/thigh), Briggs (Groin/pelvis), Amorebieta (Knee) – fitness test.

Draxler!

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (6)

The back four picks itself thanks to injuries. I expect Jack the lad to continue next to the junkyard dog Flamini. Ozil behind Giroud, Santi on the left, and Gnabry down the right. The only question mark is whether or not Arsene plays Podolski down the left. Gnabry down the right is a must because Fulham have really struggled on their left this season. Give the boy some legroom and he’ll make you pay! Draxler!

Previous Encounters:

Fulham v Arsenal 1 – 3

A bit of luck allowed Giroud to open the scoring and Podolski followed it with a brace. It was a confident and assured performance from the team, and it never looked in doubt. Bent managed to score a debut consolation goal in the 77’…he’s always had a bloody talent for scoring against us.

Fulham v Arsenal 0 – 1

Ex-gunner Sidwell was given his marching orders on 12′ for a dangerous tackle on Arteta. Despite this Fulham closed the game down in their predictable boring fashion. The BFG scored the breakthrough from a Theo free kick. A hard fought victory and it was 8 wins in 10 games for the mighty Arsenal! Draxler!

Arsenal v Fulham 3-3

This is the one which irks.  Early goals from Poldolski and Giroud made this seem an easy 3 pointer but Fulham, with 2 goals and an assist from Berbatov looked like they might actually take all the points.  A late header, from Giroud levelled it and then, at the very death, referee Phil Dowd awarded us a penalty when a desperate (and cheeky) Andrei Arshavin chipped a ball onto the arm of a Fulham defender Sasha Reither.  With such a strange turn of events and maybe not trusting normal forces (i.e. gravity, etc.) Mikel Arteta struck a weak penalty, easily beaten away by Fulham goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, costing us two very valuable points.

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

 

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWWWD         Fulham: LWLWL

Arsenal are unbeaten at the Emirates this season (not counting that diabolical opening fixture) and sitting pretty on top of the table. However, City and Chelsea are breathing right down our necks and it’s about as enjoyable as TMHT setting his sights on you… One slip up and it could be all over, red rover! We haven’t been at our best but like Man U of seasons past we are getting the job done anyway we can. We’ve heard it all before, sometimes you have to win ugly. I would like to see us belt a team soon though because this squeaky bum stuff is knocking years off my life.

Take away the one blemish game and we’ve conceded a mere 13 goals this season. A good defence has been a long time coming!

Fulham on the other hand have let in 46 goals this season. 11 more than any other team. This is a far cry from the Fulham we’ve come to know of seasons past. Previously I’d dread this fixture because I knew a goal against Fulham was like getting blood from a stone. The loss of Mark Schwarzer, a long term injury to Hangeland, an unsettled defence, and ex-Arsenal defender Senderos have made them easy to break down. Just ask Hull, they knocked 6 past them in Fulham’s last away fixture;  Relegation zone Sunderland also put 4 past them at Craven Cottage a week ago.  Since then, however, they dispatched Norwich in the FA Cup 3- nil. Two spots above the relegation zone means every point is vital for Fulham. Draxler!

Arsenal Archive

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s a 2 goal victory against Fulham during the 2004/05 season. Henry was on another level that day. What a team we had! Have a look: (Draxler!)

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is ex-spud and ex-red devil Dimitar Berbatov.

Berbatov-Arsenal-Shirt

From the opening of the January transfer window he’s been linked with Arsenal (heaven forbid he actually came). I think he’ll be out to impress the home crowd and Arsene in this fixture. With Berba it all comes down to enthusiasm. Last season he was motivated, this season his clear cut chance conversion has dropped from 59% to 33%. He’s capable of great things but I expect Kozzer to entrench him firmly in his pocket.

Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than Santi Cazorla. Despite Podolski scoring 2 goals last time the two teams met I would have given the MoTM to Santi. The pitch was wet, the midfield compact and he had Parker snapping at his heels constantly, but he was on another level and oozed class. He hasn’t had the best of seasons (partly because we hold him up on a mantle after his exceptional first season) but when it all clicks for him magic happens. I’m sure Arsene would have told him how important he is going to be with Theo going down, and I have no doubt Santi will begin a meteoric rise once again.

Pre-Match Finger:

pre-match finger - injury curse

This week’s finger goes to our injury curse…again.

Come on, it’s getting a bit ridiculous now. We would like to win the title this season, rather than thinking back to what may have been. Surely the balance of luck should be tipped in our favour for the next 100 years.

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

This week’s pat on the back is going to the Big Feckin’ German.

bfg-by-zama

great work by @The_Zama

What a massive difference he makes to this team! I really can’t say enough good things about the BFG. When he first came to the club I was over the moon. After a few performances… Not so much. The game against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago sticks in my mind. He appeared lightweight and despite his large stature he seemed to decrease in size when he went up for a header. Something changed. Now he tackles, he barks, he scores goals, and best of all…he organises the troops. Over the years I’ve thought a few players deserved to be taken out back and slapped around bit so they might pull their finger out and start to perform. After Mertz’s first season he definitely did extract a digit. Whether that can be attributed to getting his body right, settling into the EPL, getting to know the players, or Bould taking him under his wing, I’m not sure, but whatever happened, he has transformed into our most important player. I do enjoy seeing/hearing him let his teammates recognise when they’ve made an error out on the pitch (first the Ozil incident and then the Santi situation against Villa). It’s hard not to love the man. Draxler!

Ask the opposition fulham

‘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 Cookie-6262 and dempsey’s revenge…there were others but let’s just say tensions are high for Fulham supporters these days. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:

1. What are your thoughts on the Morrison ‘taping up’ row?

Cookie – The tapping up row is a load of rubbish, Rene was asked about transfers and he replied “we have bid for Ravel Morrisson but it has been rejected.” He was then asked, “Do you think he wants to come” and he replied, “Yes, I think he does want to come.”  Hardly the crime of the century; he was just saying what he honestly thought.

DR – It’s nothing. They’re not playing him, so why would they care?

2. How is Senderos travelling?

Cookie – hopefully Senderos is travelling via Beijing and won’t arrive at the Emirates until next Thursday…. Most fans have him as our fifth best Centre back and our weak link yet he still sometimes gets games. Our chance of getting something from this game is 10% at best; with Senderos it’s about 2%.

DR – He’s an idiot, so he frequently loses his luggage. Hope to God he’s not playing.

3. What do you want during this transfer window?

Cookie – A left back is a must–someone who can go straight into the team.  To keep Berba but if he goes we will need a striker and possibly a centre back although young Dan Burn has come in for the two cup games and looked very good.

DR – All new players except for Riether and Parker.

4. What position/ player is your weakest link?

Cookie – Weak link is centre back, just look at the goals against column.  But Hangeland is back after 3 months out so hopefully he will make a difference.  Left back is an issue as well. Iif Walcott were fit he could have done double figures.

DR – All positions except where Riether and Parker play.

5. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

Cookie – Do Arsenal have a weak link???  Possibly up front if Giroud is off form.  You are light up top, but does it matter when you have a midfield including Ozil and Carzola plus Podolski?

DR – Manager thinks he’s God.

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

Cookie – Ozil is world class and a joy to watch

DR – Nearly all of them. I’ll make this observation; Arsenal players nearly always thrive after leaving the team (but not Senderos), which shows that a) Wenger has a good eye for talent and b) the coaching there is top class.

7. What is your match prediction?

Cookie – Not expecting anything from the game but just hoping for a half decent performance and not getting a thrashing.  A good display in a narrow defeat wouldn’t be a disaster for us though you never know, a Mertesacker red card in the 2nd minute and Berba slots away the pen.  (You can but dream…)

DR – We will get our heads handed to us and probably slip into the zone as a result.

Prediction:

It will be an improved performance by Fulham thanks to the return of the big Norwegian Hangeland. However, it won’t be enough and I think he’ll be lost at sea out there as the team crumbles around him. Watch for them to park all the buses in Fulham in front of their goal. It won’t be enough though because Gnabry is going to kick a hole through them en route to a  4-0 victory!

What is your prediction?

What starting line-up would you choose?

What position is our weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Fulham?

What two players would you buy during this transfer window and why?

By Oz Gunner

Draxler! (hey if I say it enough he just might come!)

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.

Cardiff review: Arsene’s trust in Bendtner pays off

Arsenal 2 – Cardiff City nil — Never a Doubt… 😆

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Having missed the request to write a match preview, I wrote the following hoping that our fearless leader (on holiday in Scotland) might be available for a late post. Alas, it didn’t happen. But still, some of the questions seemed prescient (if I say so myself, and I do… 😉 )

(Preview Title…) Are We Deep Enough to Cope with Injuries and Illness and Rotation as We Enter 2014?

Arsenal, the best team in England in calendar year 2013, begin the new year top of the table but with question marks. Cardiff City, in our home ground, with only a caretaker manager, and coming off a very disappointing late draw vs Sunderland, would seem an automatic three points, but, in the English Premier League, nothing can be guaranteed.

Our most productive midfielders, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey, are missing, as is our workhorse up front, Olivier Giroud. Many have argued that the only reason we’re still top of the table has been the remarkable production of those three players. Can we cope without them and will our offense create the chances necessary to see off a team which might be compared to a wounded animal?

Late reports suggest Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will be taking the Cardiff job. Will the players selected today be auditioning in a merely technical fashion for the new manager or will they be showing that they’ve got the grit and drive to steal a result from a weakened Arsenal team? Finally, the weather to start the year in London appears on the heavy side. It might not be as bad as it was for the Chelsea match 9 days ago and the Cardiff defense is probably not as tight, but our offense has been known to stutter when conditions aren’t ideal. Can we still make chances and goals with our re-arranged attack or will this one be another close, low scoring affair?

Today’s line-up appears a strong one, given the injuries–plenty of attack with both Poldolski and Walcott (carrying a knock?) in there. The bench offers options as well with Bendtner and Gnabry as well as Rosicky and Ryo Miyachi available if we’re still chasing a result. Still, by opting for both Arteta and Flamini as cover ahead of the back four, it appears that Wenger is thinking “defense first.” Can this be achieved against a Cardiff team with “nothing to lose?” Can the offense click without its spearhead Giroud? And I don’t refer only to his hair…

Bergkampesque welcomes your comments on these questions as the match plays out as well as afterwards. Please join us… 😀

Well, that’s what I was hoping to post, plus the (confirmed) line-ups…Instead we had to continue with only Gerry’s match report from the 1 goal victory at Newcastle… So, what transpired? Did any of the questions (above) get answered?

Hmmm…

I could do the minute by minute thing (to remind us of our frustrations) but instead I’ll talk about patterns and try to answer my own questions (comment writers please add yours!…)

The weather WAS heavy and comments on my television feed suggested that there was ample wind to go with the rain. And, similar to the Chelsea match, basic mistakes were on display. An early pattern was set with long (and misplaced) passes to Theo Walcott being the principal area of attack, mostly from deeper lying Santi Cazorla, ostensibly starting from a left wing position. Arsenal appeared happy to cede possession to Cardiff and there was very little pressing from the front, with both front man, Poldolski, and “hole” player, Wilshere, happy to follow Cardiff passes at a trot.

This strategy seemed almost uniquely ill-suited to match conditions but so too did the more intricate passing that seemed on tap as we tired of losing possession with the longer ones. Cardiff time wasting seemed more and more effective with each passing minute and served to subdue the home crowd. That Cardiff were able to draw the only save of the half, albeit a basic one at the near post from Szczesny, did not help to buoy our hopes. As the half drew to a close Poldolski dropped deeper, almost as a midfield outlet while frustrations in basic play from Walcott, Wilshere and Cazorla continued. The dual pivot of Flamini and Arteta were largely untroubled by the Cardiff attack (a single point clearly would have been seen as a huge victory) but we created not a single shot on target in the first period and only 2 corners from which we also didn’t threaten.

I guess I should mention the penalty shout where Wilshere kept his feet as Medel missed the ball and likely got Jack with not one but two swings. The fact that our man kept his feet for the first tackle probably undermined his claim as he fell on the second. I didn’t hear boos as the players left the pitch, but the home support was clearly underwhelmed; 63% possession was the only sign of any sort of dominance. We most certainly didn’t look like league leaders, to my eye at least…

The 2nd period began much as the first: bad weather, bad football from Arsenal. The pitch was taking pace off the ball but it was also lacking in our movement. With little speed (beyond Theo) or size, early calls for the likes of Rosicky and Bendtner seemed obvious.

Wenger, as any oddsmaker would have predicted, allowed the first group to persist until the 65th minute before those subs were made. The supporters, less patient by nature, twisted in the wind (and rain) and tried to create a sense of greater urgency. In the smallest of ways they were rewarded as more of the match was played closer to the Cardiff goal with shots and corners starting to come and fewer balls out of play. Our better play in this part of the match was down our left (Poldolski, Cazorla and Monreal working well together), but still we were constrained to high angled shots. Wilshere also did well from the same side during this period, forcing corners and having a shot hit the post. Still, Cardiff was able to run the clock down whenever they could.

Finally, keeper Marshall finally got a yellow card in the 60th minute for his time-wasting. A talking point was an uncalled handball by Monreal (in the 54th) very close if not in our own 18 yard box. Little Gary Medel, charged with marking the center of our attack got his yellow card in the 58th and was soon after withdrawn, which perhaps was a key. Wilshere certainly looked better immediately. One thing I will say is that the time wasting (very well executed by Cardiff) only served to antagonize the home support. Perhaps it’s a hardier bunch who brave the bad weather after the midnight merry-making (and against the lowly, and lower priced, C-ticket class opponent)?…

When the subs did come the urgency notched up just that little bit more and the increase in size up front and pace in MF made our attack more familiar looking. A clearance from Monreal which Bentdner got an awkward (Giroud-esque?) head to was well cheered as it kept our forward move alive. Frustration, however, continued, with not one but two Mertesacker headers put wide of the left post. Overall, however, there was extra bite in our counters and the threat from the 10 2nd half corners we earned was increasing. Merely having an extra big target (Bendtner in addition to Mertesacker) seemed to stress the Cardiff back line.

Nonetheless, we were still having trouble of our own and as the match moved past the 70th and then the 80th, it seemed we might leave frustrated. Mistakes in midfield didn’t help, even if Cardiff were not very potent when they did occur. Koscielny made a couple of key blocks after Arteta couldn’t get to a loose pass, though the 2nd one lead to a corner and a sequence where Arteta again mis-controlled. Luckily, Caulker’s shot was blasted well over.

The definitive spell of pressure began in the 83rd minute. A cross from Theo to Bendtner looked a sure goal but there was a hint he might have left it for a phantom teammate just behind him. Just before that, the big guy had delivered one himself to Sagna whose looping header was cleared off the line. Overall, Bendtner’s presence up front and solid ball work coming back was having a positive effect. Still, frustration seemed the order of the day as individual runs from Rosicky and Cazorla created danger but only lead to blocked efforts. When Theo blasted over from a difficult angle in the 86th some air went out of the crowd.

Fortunately, there was no giving up in the side and the knowledge that there had to be plenty of injury time wouldn’t have hurt. FINALLY, in the 88th the goal came. An intricate move featuring great control from Cazorla, a layoff from Walcott, a cross from Monreal to the head of Sagna (forcing a save) and a tightly angled first time smash from, of all people, Nicklas Bendtner, and the match was ours!

The irony is that it cost the man who used to wear his weekly salary upon his shirt. Replays showed the Marshall landed on Bendtner’s standing foot, causing what looks like ankle ligament damage. Finally Arsene’s huge gamble on the much maligned forward gave a bit of payback. Such a shame that he won’t get a warm welcome for the FA cup match against Spurs, on Saturday…

One-nil is nice, but two-nil is nicer. In injury time, a long ball from Szczesny (contested well again by Sagna) fell to Rosicky. A controlling pass and quick (and perfect) pass allowed Wilshere to flick onto Walcott, who chipped Marshall. The keeper got a finger to it but only caused the ball to hover for a moment before dropping into goal. A late save by our keeper, the only one seemingly aware that Cardiff were sending in a free kick, preserved the clean sheet. Relief AND reward for 95 minutes of hard work…

So, questions answered or do they remain?

Much depends on the injury situation. Poldolski, unfortunately doesn’t present the commanding (if somewhat technically lacking) figure that Giroud does. Wilshere and Cazorla though industrious seem to lack that little bit of acceleration and physicality which Ozil and Ramsey bring. With Bendtner supplying the winning goal, but then going down injured, our issues in attack remain in the spotlight. He likely benefited from coming on with Cardiff defenders already tired (much as Poldolski did at West Ham 6 days ago) but he may not be available even for late cameos. Clearly, we have nobody to offer us an hour or more as a lone striking option. I probably don’t need to point out that at least the timing is right given that the transfer window opened today. ..

Regardless, we’ll have one more: a cup match against the ancient enemy on Saturday. They will be lifted from their victory at Manchester United but perhaps also content and happy to drop out of the competition. Remember, they still have home and away games to play in the Europa league, as well as teams to catch if they hope to get back onto the bigger European stage. My thought is that Sherwood will have to rotate to see which (if any) of AVB’s purchases might come good. I wouldn’t expect as smooth or spirited a performance as they put on today at Old Trafford. Still, like Cardiff today they’ll come with nothing to lose. We’ll need even more spirit (if not bandages, duct tape and baling wire) to subdue them.

It should be noted however, that all 4 of our “questionable” players played today (3 of them for all 95 minutes). Perhaps the others nursing “injuries” might be a presence on the bench at least. After that one we have another 9 day mini-break for getting bodies healthy before matches that become increasingly more daunting as January passes into February.

All told, while today’s match (and other recent ones…) may not have been easy on the eyes, we got the result without a few of the players who carried us through the early season. The bodies may be weary but the spirit was (and IS) not lacking. If that’s our low-mark, 2014 offers a measure of promise…

Written by: 17highburyterrace

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

Arsenal-form

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

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

Watch it again, from about 58 seconds onwards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what do you think fine fellow Gooners:

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

Let’s have a heated debate! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Is there a better midfield in the PL than Arsenal’s?

Arsenal-form

If you think that our goals last season were almost entirely scored by four players – beautifully spread out between them – and three of them have hardly played any football this season, there is every reason to believe we can at least continue – if not improve further – our two goals a game average. Last season we did not score many goals from the mid-mids: Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey and Arteta (except for his well taken penalties) seldom or never got the ball over the all important line.

But this season, we finally are getting goals from our central midfielders and this is a great sign of good things to come.  Ramsey has been in red and white hot form, and Jack and Ozil have also scored a few goals already. And yet, the midfield is not fully clicking as we would like them to do; and so there is plenty of scope for further improvement.

With the likes of Rosicky, who unfortunately is less successful in finding the net, Ozil, Ramsey and Wilshere, we have four footballers who can play in various positions and be both finisher and creator whenever they feel like it. The more they will play together the better they will become as an attacking unit, and once they hit top form they will become unplayable.

Add Ox, Pod and Theo to the mix and it becomes even more interesting. The idea that we have three to four footballers who can score goals regularly and pick a defence splitting pass at any moment in the game, is simply fantastic. On Tuesday we saw some fantastic through-balls from Wilshere, Rosicky and Ozil, and it was good to see Jack in fine form again.

Jack in 'the hole' was a big surprise but he looked  rusty once again, unfortunately!
Nice fag Jack?! 🙂

Some are wondering what has changed in Jack and the answer is nothing, other than simply hitting form; or maybe his body is finally starting to feel good again. One thing is certain for me: it has nothing, niente, nada, rien, niks, nichts, to do with a change in attitude by ‘Jack the lad’. Being a huge fan of SJW, I have studied his behaviour and persona a bit, and I am convinced he is the total professional who gives his all in every game!

With Jack hitting form now and Theo returning to the first team, there is further opportunity for Ozil to get settled into the team and learn to master the art of being the advanced central midfielder in our 4-2-1-3 formation. This still seems to be a bit of a new challenge for him, especially when we play the stronger teams and we tend to sit back more. But I am sure Wenger will work with him on this, and his fellow midfielders will help out as well.

As you know, I am a big fan of treating every game as a cup match – OGAAT OGAAT! – and we should not look further than the next game against Cardiff. But I am also looking forward tremendously to us playing the Southern and Northern Oilers next month and to see how our midfield holds up against theirs.

If, with a bit of luck, we can keep our team fit for a while, and can play with our strongest midfield and defence and OG is available in those games, I reckon we can beat them both.

If we win those midfield battles, or are at least equal to  the Oilers’ midfields, I reckon we will win the league: December will tell us a lot, imo.

Will that finally shut up ‘those in the know’ – the Hansens, the Shearers and other perfect cures for insomnia – about Arsenal’s chances to win the title? Aah who cares, you should only rate an opinion of someone you rate as a person, and the rest is water of a duck’s arse stuff.

Let’s OGAATly play Cardiff on Saturday and work our socks off for another three points; that will bring us to 31 points and will put pressure on our desperate chasers to stay in touch with us (all playing on Sunday).

pat on the back

Let’s do it for Pat and show him our love and let’s help him beat that bastard called Cancer – Victoria Concordia Crescet! Pat we are thinking of you!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

What happens when everyone is fit?

Once again we are coming off a victorious weekend where we brushed aside a strong side while some of our rivals dropped points. Ok, brushed is too harsh a word because as predicted Soton proved to be difficult to break down and it took 2 mistakes from them to gift us the points. I am not complaining, though. Anyway, enough has been said about the game.

Tomorrow we play a Marseille side who even at their very best would struggle against us let alone the injury ravaged side they have currently. They have Gignac, Payet, Ayew, Valbuena and N’koulou all out injured. It was as if we went into a game without Koscielny, Giroud, Ramsey, Mertesacker and Ozil. Needless to say, I expect us to bag all three points. We can’t underestimate them or get complacent, though.

Its good news for us as Lukas Podolski is back in full training and is expected to play in a few weeks, which brings me to the subject matter of this article. Our team is currently bursting at the seams with talent and it’s only going to get better once Poldi and the Ox return. Once everyone is fit and firing, Arsene will have one of the biggest selection headaches in recent history.

If you look at teams such as city and Chelsea, they have massive squads but you find that there is a bit of a gap in class between the starters and subs. I mean at Chelsea save for the Juan Mata fiasco, the first-11 virtually picks itself. Even at city it’s the same thing. Dzeko is good but nowhere as good as Aguero. But here it’s going to be very different. For example once everyone is fit and in form, do you drop Wilshere for Walcott? Does Podolski replace Santi? How will the team line up?

Sick bay edit (1)

You have a pretty established back 4 but that is where certainty comes to an end. Do you play a double pivot of Flamteta? If so what happens to Ramsey, Walcott and Wilshere? If not, which of the 2 will you drop considering their form? Considering that an in form Podolski is a massive goal threat, do you drop Cazorla or Ozil? If not how will you squeeze them in and what happens to Walcott and Wilshere?

We all know that when Wilshere hits top form, he renders himself undroppable so what happens then? Ramsey has cemented his spot in the middle and Theo is the best winger we have so what then? Cazorla was our best player by a mile last season and Ozil is…well Ozil, so how do you work this team ensuring you keep everyone in top form and happy? Note that to sustain a players form, you have to play them.

Santi Cazorla celebrates after scoring against Reading

Also what does this abundance in class mean for the form of the team? I mean rotation MUST be employed but too much rotation will disrupt our momentum, so how does the boss strike the balance between giving everyone game time but at the same time ensuring the whole mechanism of the team keeps running? And I still feel that Giroud needs a world class striker helping him, and so does Wenger, despite his recent comments, so we have a real conundrum on our hands.

There is also the small fact that we are a team based on development so players like the Ox and Gnabry must also find game time one way or another making this a very very interesting situation on our hands. Ultimately I think it bodes well for the team but we risk losing some players, especially this being a world cup year if a balance can’t be struck. There’s already been murmurs about Monreal and Vermaelen leaving and it would be a massive shame if either of them left.

To conclude, I have to say that no one knew how to rotate a team like Sir Alex did. At the end of a season, every player felt they had contributed to the success of the team. Here though, I feel like Monreal deserves a bit more game time. When it comes to rotation Wenger has his well documented shortcomings. However I trust him to find a solution based on his experience at the top level. I am becoming more and more certain that we will end our barren run this season.

COYG!!!!!!!!

Written by: Marcus

Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere: who will be the next Fabregas?

Arsenal-v-Barcelona-002 

On a night when eleven South-Americans made Chile Con Carne of a disjointed and uninspired England team, Jack stood out as the only one with ‘football intelligence’. It keeps amazing me how not a single national manager has been able to get a particular style into the England team since many a year, and Hodgson is also failing in this respect.

Chile are a decent team but not more than that; yet, they made England look poor on the night. They put pressure on England all over the pitch and never allowed them to have a sustained period of pressure on their goal. And when the Chileans had the ball, they passed it round so much better and with so much more purpose and penetration. It was a lesson in modern football for the English boys and a clear indication they have a long way to go.

Despite some committed performances by Rooney and Lallana, only Jack was able to break the stranglehold of the Chileans and then move the ball forward intelligently – leading to the (few) best attacks on the night. Yet, it is clear that Wilshere is nowhere near 100% fit and in form, and we really need to hope hard that this will change rather sooner than later, both for Arsenal and England.

This brings me to the discussion of who should play in the hole for Arsenal, both short and long term. There are various candidates but nobody has totally convinced me they have all that it takes to perform all the required tasks for this position to a high level.

I reckon in a 4-2-1-3 formation the one in the ‘1’ – the one in the hole – is the most important player of them all. He should:

  1. Instigate our attacks
  2. Help out defensively in midfield
  3. Give shape and structure to the team
  4. Produce a large number of assists and ‘penultimate assists’
  5. Score goals regularly

For me, the player who embodies these five qualities in a 4-2-1-3 formation better than anybody else is Cesc Fabregas. Our former maestro has it all but is currently wasting it away at his other boyhood club.

Super Santi ready to move into another gear?!

I reckon Cazorla is good at 1, 4 and 5, but his defensive abilities are not great and neither is he able to give shape to our team very well as he lacks the presence and physical strength to boss the middle of the pitch. He likes to wander off and move where there is space, rather than hold the fort in the middle.

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Ramsey is growing into a great player now and offers a lot towards the above five points. He has started to score goals and produce assists, and his defensive abilities are impressive as well. He also has potential to give shape and structure to the team and instigate our attacks, but this is not showing a lot yet. I reckon he is best positioned in the box-to-box role right now, but could be considered for the AM role in the future.

Little Mozart needs an orchestra and a podium to perform on more regularly then currently is the case!

Rosicky adds drive and purpose and is great at instigating attacks. He does not score anywhere near often enough and neither does he produce a great number of assists, but his defensive abilities are great and, most importantly, he also gives a lot of shape and structure to our team when played through the middle. When Rosicky plays we often play our best ‘Wengerball’ football.

But for me, there are two candidates for the ‘man in the hole’ role: Ozil and Wilshere.

Arsenal-v-Barcelona-011

Jack is a natural midfield general and remains the best candidate in the mid to long term imo. He loves to stay in the middle and boss the area, he can defend and pick those defence-splitting passes, and he is starting to score goals now.

However, something is not right with him at the moment and it is more than a lack of form – and nothing to do with confidence as some believe, as I reckon Jack is a very confident person. No, something is not right with his body and fitness levels: it is to do with his running and feeling in his foot, and it all seems to stem from the operations he has had on his foot in the last 12 months or so.

I really hope he will come good and that we, the supporters, honour our role and support the guy through thick and thin (taking into account that he is still very young and what we were like around his age….).

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That leaves me with Ozil, who does very well with regards to most of the above mentioned required qualities. He instigates attacks really well, produces a lot of assists and scores goals regularly, and his defensive qualities are okay but not great.

The one area where I still have doubts is in his ability to give shape and structure to our attack: to really boss the midfield.

Fabregas was brilliant at this, and I would like to see more dominance and presence of our record signing going forward. Some believe that Ozil goes missing at times, but this is only true in a ‘shape-giving’ sense, as he will always give his all during the match. Mesut is just a clever player who constantly is anticipating what will happen next and how to maximise on this (similar to Fabregas), and he will keep doing this as long as he is on the pitch.

It might well turn out that Ozil is best positioned ‘on the wing’ – in a free role; a bit like Santi in a way. But I would like Ozil to link up better with his fellow midfielders and to start owning the centre of the midfield more; to drive the team forward and to give more shape to our football and attacking play.

And I hope Wenger will get him there gradually, just like he did with our former El Capitan.

7cb7581c-9624-4a25-b3dc-671eb4992883_OzilWenger_tussenbeeld

Or maybe, Wenger still has a space for our prodigal son? 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YzUVDUWB_A

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Do Arsenal have any DMs left: The Options. Chelsea – Man City: best result?

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With Flamini probably out for a few weeks and Arteta at least suspended for one game, the question we are all asking is: who should we play in our double-DM pivot against the Chavs?

Although the League Cup does not really matter too much, I still would like us to put out a team with the full intention of winning it. We don’t know whether Maureen will take this game serious – as in fielding his strongest team – but we can be assured he does not want to be beaten by us either; and with a strong squad he should not find it too difficult to field a team that has a good chance of doing so.

Wenger will want to rest a few players, though, and I expect the likes of Mertesacker, Sagna, Gibbs, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud to get a well-earned rest on Tuesday.

The starting eleven for the encounter with the Chavs is likely to be: Fabianski, Jenkinson, TV, Kozzer, Nacho, Rosicky, Gnabry, Cazorla and Bendtner – as all these players really need a(nother) game; but what is not so clear, is who is going to play in the double-DM pivot come Tuesday.

I have a feeling Jack will start in this game, and he might even play in the deepest of the two DM-pivot roles: the Flamini or Arteta position, if you want. Jack can actually defend very well and his positioning and anticipation skills are good too (especially, if taking into account his young age). But he is still a bit frail and will need to put his body on the line if we are to beat the Chavs, and it remains to be seen if he can do that for 90 minutes.

So, it would be good to add some proper steel next to Jack in the DM-pivot and the question is who that should be. I would say, Frimpong is a strong option, but then I don’t know how fit he his and whether Wenger still has plans for him. It looks like he is not going to make it at Arsenal, but I could be wrong. Frimmers would definitely add steel but the combination of a lack of games and proneness to get himself booked is not great right now.

Then there is the very promising, Chelmsford born, Isaac Hayden. I have not seen enough of him to decide whether he would make a good DM partner for Jack on Tuesday, but I welcome your views.

We also have the Leytonstone born, multi-skilled, Nico Yennaris, who really could do with a game and who really impressed me during a Norwich-Arsenal Reserves games I watched a year ago.

We could also chose for more experience in the middle and put Ramsey or Rosicky next to Jack, and if Jack is not fit enough to start, I would also not be surprised if Ramsey and Rosicky will start both in the DM-pivot against the Chavs. But Ramsey could do with a break and Rosicky is needed in the hole…. Not easy at all.

Finally, Arsene could do something left-field and put Nacho, Sagna or TV in midfield for this one….. Nacho would mean Gibbs needs to play another game, but that should be fine as he missed out on playing in the England games. TV would mean playing BFG as a CB, which is not ideal as he did play in Germany’s International games…. And Sagna could do with a break for the same reasons….

Really hard to say what Wenger will go for but still good to see we still have a few options for the DM-pivot on Tuesday.

Southern Oilers v Northern Oilers: ideal result?

Today’s game between the Oil-drugged clubs should be watched by Gooners with interest. Whoever wins this one will come out of it with a strong belief they are the bee’s knees this season, and whoever loses will suffer a setback. A draw would not be too bad for either and would probably help us in terms of having a mini-gap with both teams before we go into a couple of more challenging games.

In one way,  I want a draw but I would love to see the Chavs properly beaten today. I still feel they are our main competitors for the title this season, and we could really do with a morale deflating result today. Citeh are likely to continue dropping ‘easy’ points in away game this season, and I feel we have a good chance of beaten them in our direct encounters with them.

But what do you think: who should play in the double DM-pivot and what is the best outcome in today’s battle of the Oilers?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

OOHzils and AAHrons return to THOF: Wengerball is back!

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I have watched some dire Arsenal games in recent years. Norwich and Wigan away, and Blackburn (FA Cup) at home were all pretty poor live-games last season for example, but yesterday I finally saw Arsenal play fantastic football again. The atmosphere in the stadium was good, and in the North Bank it was even better. The banter between North Bank and the East Bank supporters was great – singing to each other for prolonged periods which became louder and louder every time.

On such a mild day as it was, and with the sun coming through just as the game started, the fans singing and with a collective sense of this season possibly being different than previous ones, it felt extra good to be a Gooner yesterday.

As predicted, Arsene started with FlamTeta in the double-DM pivot and no typical wingers. I had Ramsey and Cazorla starting, but it made sense to rest Ramsey and give Jack an opportunity to show everyone once again what a great prospect he is. And boy did he deliver.

Effectively, we played 4-5-1 again. A similar line-up attracted a lot of unfair criticism against WBA, but this time round there appears to be no complaints. And with our wide midfielders contributing with goals, assists and penultimate assists, Wenger will feel justified for sticking with his midfielders for another game.

Norwich were well organised and defended diligently at the start of the game. Arsenal took their time to find the openings as the so familiar ‘Sturm und Drang’ football seems to be a thing of the past. This Arsenal are calculated in their efforts: we try to preserve energy and like to sit back – we even do not mind to relinquish possession of the ball if it will mean the opponent comes forward and out of their defensive positions.

To some extent we play like Red Nose’s MU during periods of the game. We love space and we relish winning back the ball in our own half, as to start our counter-attacks with speed, precision-passing, and cool finishing. Today we scored a couple of goals from getting the ball in our own half and I expect this to become a regular occurrence this season.

This sitting back and absorbing pressure does come at a price, though. At times during games – and yesterday this was the case on each side of the break – we sit too deep and hand over control too much to the opponent. Norwich had their best spell between the 35th minute and when they scored their goal; and we were a tat lucky with scoring our second one before they scored theirs.

Partly, this was due to the early departure of the Flame: the team initially struggled with regaining its shape and dealing effectively with Norwich’s very effective and physical central midfielders. I thought Wenger and Bould would coach our midfielders during the break on how to regain control, but they continued to struggle during the first twenty minutes or so of the second half.

Norwich lacked the creative and finishing skills to properly hurt us, and with Arsenal brimming with both confidence and super quality talent, it was pretty clear we would come out as winners eventually.

Our first goal, watched from the North Bank so from afar, was pinball football. When an improvised goal through the middle comes off like that, the team deserves all the plaudits it’s getting. We just could not believe what we saw: what a cheeky, brilliant goal. And we all sang: ‘same old Arsenal, taking the piss’. It was wonderful to listen to the collective OOHS and AAHS when the replay was shown on the stadium screens just after the goal was scored. Wengerball is well and truly back!

The delirium from THAT goal did subside though, and even turned into some howls of derision towards the end of the first half, despite OG almost scoring a second after another blitz-attack: the North Bank are a critical lot! But Arsenal sat back too much and allowed Norwich too much space and time on the ball during this period. Szczesny saved us during this phase with a first class stop: not just keeping the ball out of the net, but also pushing it away safely under pressure.

The start of the second half was also for Norwich, but another brilliant break from the back led to the second goal: the one that won us the game as Norwich just did not have more than one goal in them at best. Cazorla found, the brilliant throughout the game, OG in the right-wing position: he looks up and sees Ozil making a run into the box and produces a beautifully weighted cross into the box which finds the head of the German. Ozil cannot believe he scored with his head from a cross from our CF – something Ronaldo would never have done for him – but it is two nil to the Good Guys and we all sing ‘we are walking in an Ozil wonderland’, soon followed by the Beatles inspired Giroud tunes – and rightly so. The Frenchman’s ability to ‘serve’ the team is second to none, and just for that I love the guy.

A collective relieve across the stadium can then be sensed: the party can now truly begin, it seems. But Norwich get a reward for their fine team play and get a goal back. The BFG could have done better clearing the ball but Howson’s first touch is very good, and he hits the ball with venom and precision past Gibbs’ leg, leaving Szczesny, who sees the ball going past the Englishman’s legs late, with absolutely no chance this time.

The introduction of Rosicky for Santi gave the team a much needed renewed purpose and drive, and with Arteta improving significantly the longer the game went on as well, the Ramsey-show could truly begin. Our third goal was another superb one. Ramsey’s touch, control and spatial awareness in the tightest of area were unbelievable; and to see all of this right in front of me was pure ecstasy.  We all went mad in the stands and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. The boy whose leg was snapped in two, who was booed by his own fans and wished all sorts of diseases on the blogs, had scored a Bergkampesque goal of the highest order. Chapeau, chapeau!

It was not over yet, as the team remained hungry for more goals, and the likes of Ozil, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ramsey kept driving forward and combining at will and with great invention and penetration. Ruddy, the Norwich goal keeper, kept doing really well during this period, but he could do absolutely nothing when Ramsey found Ozil with the daftest of touches, as the king of assists was for the second time in one game royally presented with a fine goal scoring opportunity himself. Rosicky had spread the ball from left to right, finding Ramsey at the left post with precision, and catching out the Norwich defence in the process. Beautiful football by beautiful people.

After that there were individual songs for Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud, but the most poignant song was kept till the end: ‘WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, We are top of the league!’

And so we are and long may it continue! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Reintroduction of Arteta has disrupted the squad

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Now let me begin by saying that I like Arteta and he is a good player. The game against West Brom was a difficult one by all measures. I still think it is a game we could have won had we had taken them as seriously as we did Napoli, especially in the first 15 minutes. We were in complete control but looked like we were toying with them, rather than trying to score, unlike against the Italians. Anyway, credit to the team for winning the point in the end.

We have been playing very well, up until we met with the baggies. So what changed? In my opinion, it is the fact that Wenger has forced Arteta back into the team, without really looking at the balance. Against Napoli, we needed a double pivot to neutralize the threat posed by Hamsik, and it worked perfectly. Against WBA however, forcing Arteta alongside Flamini had a number of negative effects. First of all, it meant that Ramsey and Wilshere were pushed out wide. Wilshere had a shitter of a first half and it is only until he was brought back in the middle that we began to feel his presence.

As for Ramsey, we know he’s played wide before. However it has its downsides. Firstly, on the wing his movement is somewhat limited, and more so when playing in front of Jenkinson. This is because Jenko always bombs forward so Ramsey had to do a lot of covering work which in the end shackled him. Secondly, his influence and energy in the middle of the park which (dare I say) has been one of the main reasons we have dominated games, was sorely missed. You see Arteta is very good at reading the game and calm it down from deep, but lately it seems that’s all he’s good at. Do you know that against WBA he attempted only one forward pass in the opposition’s half, which was intercepted? All he does in pass sideways.

Arteta is no where near as good at dispossessing players as Ramsey and Flamini are. That’s what has made that partnership so good. Flamini will sit in front of the back four and Ramsey will support him when needed but then bomb forward and cause havoc on the other end. Ramsey also presses the ball very high (to great effect) which helps us win possession in very dangerous places. Both Flamini and Ramsey have a tenacity that neutralizes physical opponents. Yesterday you saw how we were bullied in the middle. Let’s not forget Ramsey’s goal threat is neutralized when he’s played out wide. Given his form, had he been played where he’s supposed to, he could and probably would have won us the game.

Second of all, bringing in Arteta gave Flamini the license to roam forward and this gave Sessegnon the space he needed to really terrorize us, which he did. When Ramsey and Flamini play together, they both know that Flamini protects the back and Ramsey moves forward. And because of Ramsey’s incredible engine, it works even when we are under pressure. Arteta just sits deep. This meant that Ozil was largely isolated and was therefore crowded out and neutralized. This made West Brom’s defending very easy. With Wilshere and Ramsey out wide, Mulumbu just needed to take Ozil out and they had a handle on us.

Flamini was the one (of the defensive two) going forward and let’s be honest, he’s no Ramsey. He had a few shots on goal which he hit straight at the keeper. Ramsey would have done much better. Even putting all this logic aside, if there’s a player who this season has earned the right to play where he feels most comfortable, it’s Aaron Ramsey. This game was very similar to the one we played against Marseille, except in that one Ramsey was played through the middle and won us the game.

To conclude, I will reiterate that I have nothing against Arteta. The thing is with the form of our three central midfielders (Flamini, Ramsey and Ozil) it is unfortunate but he is the one to lose his place, at least for now. I feel that we showed great character to salvage a point. That said, this is a game that could have gone either way and that shouldn’t be the case. If West Brom were better goal scorers, we could have lost. There’s a saying that goes ”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The team is anything but broke so changing one of its fundamental elements will only disrupt a flow that has been steadily building over the past few weeks.

On the plus side, Spurs were humiliated yesterday. COYG!!!!

 

Written by: Marcus.