Arsène Wenger, Arsenal, Uncategorized

Merci Arsène

A man I’ve never met, yet through one shared love, and a universal language of Football, I feel like I’ve known you my entire life. Separately, but together, we have shared anguish and pain, celebrations and euphoria. 

Your example is unrivalled, and your legacy will remain with those that truly understand your ethos, for the rest of time. 

I hope one day we will meet, even for the briefest of moments to share even just one Football anecdote. 

We will forever be in your debt for your loyalty and sacrifice throughout the years. 

Though I’m sad we’re at this point, I know that if you made the decision, then it is the correct time. It is testament to you as a man and Arsenal lover that you put the Club before yourself yet again and for one final time.


I hope now that you will receive the warmth and affection that you deserve and you will know how well revered you are.Thank you for everything, Boss. 
#MerciArsene @arsenal #OneArseneWenger 

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Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal, Aubameyang, Europa League, Uncategorized

Post Arsenal vs Milan 15/3/18

That was a good win against A.C. Milan- who might not be the force they once were but were dangerous throughout.

There were a few raised eyebrows when Hakan Çalhanoğlu smashed a long-range, swerving effort past David Ospina, but our reaction was spot on.

I don’t agree that it should have been a penalty. Even if Ricardo Rodriguez has grazed Danny Welbeck’s arm, it isn’t a foul. That said, the officials gave it and Welbeck, who was without a European goal for three years, slotted it calmly and confidently past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

I think it was important to go in at half-time at 1-1. Dwelling on being behind at the break could have been detrimental to how we began the second half.

That said, we were certainly cagey for large parts of the second half. And on another day, Patrick Cutrone fires his volley on target, Nikola Kalinic generates greater power on his header, and the deflection off Mustafi’s back catches Ospina out. So we rode our luck and had another huge slice of it when Granit Xhaka’s venomous strike span off of Donnarumma’s hands to nestle in the net.

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It’s great to see Jack Wilshere and Welbeck back in the England fold. Hopefully, both can generate a run of form and take that into the World Cup. Seeing them combine and give Welbeck a goal from open play was a good sign for both Arsenal and England and hopefully a huge boost to Welbeck’s confidence. With Aubameyang cup-tied in the Europa League, he has the opportunity to flourish whilst Alexandre Lacazette rehabilitates.

We’ve got nearly two-and-a-half weeks off now, and Aaron Ramsey has to undergo a “minor procedure”. I’m hoping this will be a good rest for the squad- many of whom have played a lot of games- and we can maintain this confidence and form when we return.

We’ll play 5 games in 15 days when we resume action, so we’re going to need everyone ready.

Thanks for reading!

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Arsenal, Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin- “Fan Visit” and Football

This morning I watched the video Hector Bellerin posted on YouTube, titled- “Fan Visit”.

After the Crystal Palace away game, Hector spotted the young girl (Claudia) with her brother Austin and their Dad, holding a banner with his name on in some pictures from the game. A few weeks ago, Hector arranged the visit with their parents and spent some time one evening with Claudia and Austin.

Both of the kids were proudly sporting their Arsenal shirts, gleefully handed him a third Wii controller to play Mario Kart and then presented him with a bag of presents.

Claudia had made Hector a Valentines Day Card, and the Austin delighted in showing Hector the Top Trumps he had included. “I was gunna ask you… if um… you wanted to play that with me?” Austin asked a little nervously.

In return, Hector unfurled the shirt he wore that night at Palace, and gave it to Claudia. He then handed Austin another match worn shirt, and signed both.

After that, the kids wanted to show him their bedrooms and Hector was great with them throughout, chatting to both and admiring everything that they proudly showed off to him.

It was a beautiful short video- and it encapsulated everything that we all can recognise from our origins of supporting a football team, and finding our favourite player(s). Ok, not necessarily meeting our idols but that awe and wonder of following our team, our heroes, week-in-week-out.

They will get upset when we lose. But they won’t really know the negativity and hostility that has floated around the club- and nor should they. When do we learn to be like that off the back of a poor result?

Around a poor run of domestic form, this video is a beautiful example of the power that Football holds beyond the pitch, and a reminder that these players may well earn millions of pounds, but they are people too.

Hector has faced a lot of criticism in recent weeks due to his on pitch performances, and his clothing choices at London Mens’ Fashion Week. But in the midst of that he still spoke openly and articulately at Oxford Union, and now spent an evening with two young fans making their dreams come true. He’s a superb example and a great guy.

He even stayed to play Top Trumps too.

You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_ho3R3LbHU

Thanks for reading!

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Uncategorized

PSG vs Real Madrid

It’s the fixture that I originally thought would contest the final of the competition this year.

PSG’s quest to dominate Europe continues against the most successful side in the competition having lost the first leg 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A Cristiano Ronaldo double in the first leg took his total knockout stage goal tally to 56- more than anyone else in the competition- before Marcelo capped off a wonderful second half performance from Los Merengues.

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The holders line up in Paris tonight knowing that they cannot concede the momentum that they wrestled with those two late goals last time out, early on. A goal in the early stages for the Parisians will put the holders under intense pressure- even without superstar Neymar.

Despite the Brazilian missing out through injuries to his metatarsal and ankle, PSG will have quality cover in Julian Draxler or their former star Angel Di Maria. Real themselves have recalled Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to their bench, though doubts remain as to how ready they are for action.

It appears Real will start in a 4-4-2 shape. The same shape that shifted the balance of the first leg.

| Navas; |
Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo
Lucas, Casemiro, Kovačić, Asensio
Benzema, Ronaldo

As I mentioned, this set up worked as the perfect foil to PSG’s strength in attack. We know Carvajal and Marcelo love to maraud forward and provide width to Real’s attack, and Casemiro drops deep in order to cover the space in behind if Real lose the ball.

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With Lucas and Asensio playing wide of the the midfield, they will offer greater protection both against the counter and the pace/ trickery of PSG’s wingers. Let’s not forget, they both have proven their own attacking credentials in the past months. In particular, Lucas is a player that I feel is vastly underrated by Madridistas.

Benzema and Ronaldo almost speak for themselves. A constant menace, and only need a half-chance usually to take advantage of. The longer this tie remains 0-0, the greater emphasis PSG will need to place on attack. Real though, cannot afford to sit back and must test PSG early on.

If Real take the lead, it cancel’s out the home side’s away goal, and the Parisian gloves will have to come off.

Thanks for reading!

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Arsenal, Aubameyang, Brighton, Calum Chambers, Uncategorized

“We’re going to keep fighting, we know we need to turn it around and we need a positive reaction.”

We are in a negative cycle, no doubt about it, but Brighton deserve a lot of credit for their performance today.

I said in my post Manchester City match thoughts that Sunday’s game at Brighton would be different. I didn’t mean any disrespect to the Seagulls, I just thought they would set up in a different structure, allow us to try and work through them and then hit us on the counter attack.

As it turned out, the hosts took full advantage of our lack of confidence- like a boxer who has his opponent on the ropes, nose broken and both eyes swollen- and were 2–0 up within 20 minutes.

I’m disappointed with how the goals came about. Shane Duffy managed to beat Petr Cech to a really deep cross, nodded it across goal and Lewis Dunk prodded in to open the scoring. Cech has to do better- but I also wonder about his positioning. It was a long way to go not to win the ball. Could our defenders have reacted quicker to prevent a tap in? Perhaps. There’s an argument that you want your keeper to be big and commanding, and take the pressure off your back line. But perhaps he should have trusted his defence to alleviate the danger in the first place.

But then you trust your defence not to give the ball away in bad areas too. Laurent Koscielny’s poor pass to Jack Wilshere was pounced upon, fed out wide immediately for Pascal Gross, who whipped a brilliant cross in for Glenn Murray, who towered above Shkodran Mustafi to head down and under Cech.

Wilshere-Brighton

From a defensive point of view, Mustafi didn’t do enough to deter Murray, and then Cech faltered in letting the ball pass underneath his body. I’ve talked before about how individual errors have cost us this season but again, we’ve started another game poorly.

It did epitomise Brighton’s afternoon though. They were bold, strong and gritty. Duffy took a fist to the head in setting the first goal up. We took to venting our frustration at the referee rather than matching the home side for “fight”.

We seem crippled with a void of confidence both individually and collectively. I can’t count the amount of times Mustafi passed backwards to Cech rather than searching out a central midfielder. If no one is ‘on’, then play it into the wide areas and make the other side work. I love our philosophy and when it works it is beautiful to behold. But when you’re struggling, and find yourself 2–0 away from home, I don’t see why we don’t work this way.

Their second goal is my case in point. Ok, we no longer have a physical aerial threat up front but we still make their centre backs have to deal with the threat. The number of times we played nice little triangles on the edge of their box, to then be crowded out and play backwards, was frustrating. Sure, we kept the ball, but it’s easy for a highly organised side to switch from left to right, and back across time and again.

If Glenn Murray had pace, we would have been in bigger trouble today.

We had to rotate with Thursday night in Milan in mind. Welbeck will start up front, and Bellerin has played a lot of minutes recently. Ramsey was left at home, and he is big loss to this side.
So this meant Alex Iwobi started wide left, and Calum Chambers came in at right-back. I don’t think the latter did too badly considering the form and pace of José Izquierdo, but I would have liked to have seen Ainsley Maitland-Niles given the nod, and perhaps Chambers at centre-back with Koscielny.

On Iwobi, I have tried to show patience with him. But it’s just not adding up. Technically, he is a good player but his end product both in passing and finishing terms, are poor. I spoke of confidence, but he hasn’t shown a great deal since his breakthrough season a couple of years ago.

I’m really glad Aubameyang scored today too. Granit Xhaka’s assist was really good and despite a lot of criticism, I think he is one of only a couple of players that have deserved credit recently. On Aubameyang, a couple of people asked me already if they think he’s value for money- it’s ridiculous to appraise him in this country yet. All I know is he was wonderful for Dortmund and I’m sure he will score a lot of goals for us in the coming months/ seasons.

We did hit the post from Duffy’s backwards header, but The second half wasn’t much better from our perspective, but we did have a few chances to level it up. Matthew Ryan made good saves from Ozil, Mkhitaryan and then Aubameyang late on. We paid for mistakes and Brighton preserved their lead brilliantly.

We’ve got Milan on Thursday- and it’s going to be a big one.

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Uncategorized

Post Arsenal vs Man City 1/3/18

I’ve been banned from Twitter for a week (2 days 10 hours to go!) so sharing a few thoughts here for the first time in a long time.

Losing to this Man City team is not a disaster. They were clinical Sunday, but tonight’s goals were other-worldly. Show me three better goals in one game so far this season across Europe.

If Barcelona scored those goals everyone would be lauding them as the best in the world.

I can see this City side winning the Champions League.

Arsenal’s performance on Sunday was awful- tonight’s was better. Three goals will kill off most games, but we had some encouraging moments before conceding.

In the second half, you could say City eased off a little bit. If Aubameyang scores the penalty, it changes the dynamic of the game- as it would have done had he prodded home from inside the six-yard box on Sunday in the first 20 minutes. I’m not saying we would have won, but it puts pressure on them and we gain some belief.

There’s talk of an “empty stadium”- it was freezing, and the game was on TV. All conclusions will be drawn at the disparity between fans and the team, but people didn’t want to travel. Fair play to those that did make it.

Sky/ Gary Neville interviewed an Arsenal ‘fan’ afterwards who asked for “passion”- it seems like the biggest buzz word in football these days.

If a manager doesn’t jump up and down on the touchline, he lacks passion, he’s clueless and not the right man.
If a team lose a game, they lack passion, they’re millionaires that don’t care like the “fans” do.
Just because a side loses, doesn’t mean they lack the desire to win.

I don’t get the link between the two.

Jamie Carragher said: “What we’ve seen – and not just tonight is the best football in Europe. The football is breathtaking, some of the best I’ve ever seen.” But in the same evening, said: “[Wenger] is a legendary figure – not just for Arsenal, in the English game… but they have to change it.”

For me, the two statements don’t add up. Only one side has defeated City in the Premier League this season- and even Liverpool nearly allowed them to claim a point. Yes, Wigan beat them 1-0 last week, but that is an absolute freak result.

It will be different Sunday, without disrespect to Brighton. The intensity won’t be at the same level physically, and we will dominate the ball more.

When the chips are down it’s easy to pick flaws in every detail. Two losses against the best in England isn’t the end of the world. Ok, we’ve lost games in places we should have won, but individual errors have been the main contributor to that.

All the talk about Arsène Wenger’s replacement is just media conjecture and parasites looking for clicks.

The media can talk about this, that and the other, question whether the players still believe in the manager, say “I dunno” repeatedly when asked what Wenger has to do to “lift things” now (great punditry Carragher), interview a couple of emotionally raw fans and cast aspersions all day long. This is why these pundits aren’t in managerial roles, and why Thierry Henry should be nowhere near our set up. Well played Sky in stirring that up.

If you want Wenger gone, fine- but try and see the big picture until the end of the season at least.

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Arsenal, Emiliano Martinez, Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott, Uncategorized

“No, we haven’t forgotten how to win 👍🏼😉”

3-0. Three points on the board, three different scorers, a clean sheet.

Hopefully, this means we’ve got our mojo back. Without disrespect to West Ham, they didn’t pose too many threats to Emiliano Martinez’s goal (who hasn’t played in the Premier League for three years), but the Argentinian did make a couple of tidy saves from Lanzini when called upon.

Mustafi also built on his performance from Sunday against Man City. Shkodran was dominated aerially and nullified any threat that Andy Carroll was supposed to pose. West Ham really didn’t provide him enough service to test us tonight. Carroll is a good striker, and not just aerially, but English press don’t seem to pick up on that.

Attacking-wise, Özil, Alexis, Walcott and Welbeck seem to be synchronising effectively. On Sunday, we struggled across the team in piecing three-four passing moves together as we progressed up the pitch, and therefore lacked rhythm.

This was different tonight, as we played ourselves out of compact areas with swift one-and-two touch pass and moves.

Elneny started ahead of Coquelin, and that axis with Granit Xhaka seemed much more confident in all aspects of central midfield play. Elneny seems to offer us a calming influence in there, as he picks the ball up deeper, allowing Xhaka freedom to find positions slightly higher before feeding passes between the lines to our attackers. And some of those passes tonight were sublime.

I’ve often criticised Theo Walcott’s general contribution to the team. However, tonight he worked hard off -the-ball and contributed to Özil’s opener. Theo pressurised West Ham’s defenders after his cross was cut out, forcing the ball to fall to Bellerin, whose attempted cross was only cleared to Özil before the German bent a precise effort low to Randolph’s right.

Then, he took up a great position centrally in the box, and after Alexis’ lush little flick to Özil just wide left of the box, the German fed a sumptuous ball across which Theo fired home with great composure. That’s his 19th goal in 32 appearances this season.

Let’s hope we continue to see more of this fired-up Theo. Mesut too is clearly finding form again after a dip and then injuries before the international break. Mesut regularly gets criticised for his body language, and perceived lack of effort, but made effective runs from deep, created space for his team mates and bagged a goal and an assist too.

Tell me the guy doesn’t care…

Palace away on Monday night, so let’s keep the momentum going!

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