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.

No, we haven't forgotten how to win 👍🏼😉 @Arsenal #COYG #Thereslifeintheoldladyyet

A post shared by Mesut Özil (@m10_official) on

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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Uncategorized

“I think it’s just about sticking together and continuing to fight.”

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I was disappointed with a draw on Sunday, though on reflection we rode our luck at times and City probably deserved the win.

Looking at the bigger picture, we’ve managed to stop the slide of defeats, and after coming back from behind twice, hopefully restored a bit of confidence.

For me, that is what this Arsenal side are lacking at the moment. Arsene Wenger rarely says the wrong thing, and over the past couple of weeks, has again shown his wit and elegance in his comments, which coupled with coming back from behind twice Sunday, should give the players a boost.

When rumours about Alexis joining Chelsea surfaced:- “There’s only one team in London, so he’s happy.”

Post City on Sunday:- “Despite everything that happened, I thought the fans were fantastic today.”

These two are clearly aimed at the fans- who, though divided over him, are there to back the team on the pitch. He knows that a buzzing atmosphere is what the players will also thrive off of, and he swerved criticising those involved in the scuffles, though it would have been easy to.

He has said in the past:

When all goes well, all the managers in the world are good. But the quality of a manager [shows] when he stands in a crisis and has to face it- how quickly can he stop it.”- Arsene Wenger

Considering all of the criticism pointed his way from certain fans, and the press, I think his comments are superbly articulated.

Back to Sunday, and Pep’s Man City team are looking more solid with each passing week as they adapt to his systems- it’s an absolute joy to watch. They will be even stronger next season. The way they are seeking to play out from the back from goal kicks was beautiful to behold from the upper tier.

From our point of view, their opener was a poor one to concede. When they lack the space from a goal kick to play short, they look to go more direct.

This time, Mustafi was drawn high to win the initial header. The German did win it, but his header fell straight to De Bruyne, who played the most sensational first- time ball through (Yellow arrow) for Leroy Sane to race onto. Even the rapid Hector Bellerin couldn’t recover to stop the young German from rounding David Ospina and slotting home.

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As you see above, City engaged us high up the pitch, meaning Monreal (red dot furthest left) was high. Koscielny went across to occupy Aguero, and with Mustafi (pink arrow) engaged higher up, it afforded the visitors a lot of space to exploit in behind (which the image doesn’t really show!).

You could say we could have managed the space better, but then Mustafi’s header could have gone 5 yards either side of De Bruyne. Maybe Ospina could have been a bit more alert to the danger and anticipated the ball through the centre? I guess sometimes one just has to applaud a moment of magic.

Our equaliser was fairly scrappy, though Mustafi was again dominant aerially. This time, Gael Clichy couldn’t clear and Theo managed to nudge the ball past Caballero. It was so frustrating then to concede straight after getting ourselves back into the game with moments to go before halftime, where we could have regrouped and looked at getting on the front foot at the beginning of the second half.

That said, we responded perfectly, and Mustafi brought us level with a header from Mesut Ozil’s corner. Ozil gave the ball away very sloppily, which led to City’s second goal, but did show glimpses of regaining form. It was far from stellar from the German on Sunday, though.

I hope this result has given the team some confidence. And as we play another game in quick succession, I hope we can use this to grab a much needed win against West Ham.

 

 

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Uncategorized

Thoughts post Bayern Munich

Before the game I tweeted that the fans, but most importantly, the Boss, were due a big performance from the team in Munich last night.

It’s fine to question Wenger, but the onslaught from the media is just boring now. “Wenger Out” is so monotonous- it’s easy, lazy reporting and it just ties into the narrative because we’ve had a bad patch of form.

-and probably won’t win the league

-and, barring a miracle, won’t reach the quarter finals of the Champions League again.

You say “Arsenal can’t compete with the best anymore”. Bullshit.

We held PSG twice this season, and they’ve just stuffed Barcelona- one of the world’s elite.

You say “Wenger’s gone stale”. Not having that either.

He’s become the scapegoat and the easy whipping boy.

He’s not out of touch;- we had a plan last night, and it worked for 40/50 minutes of the game. At which point, we are tied with Bayern.

We pressed high, causing them to mis- control the ball, mis-place passes and regain possession, before finding Alexis, and hitting them at pace.

And then, most unfortunately, our Captain and best centre-back got injured. But it’s no excuse.

Next, THE PLAYERS stopped executing the plan. NOT Wenger. There was no pressure high up the pitch, no balls in behind Hummels and Martinez. This was what worked well for a portion of the game.

And then our other leading centre-back, Mustafi made two mistakes. When you’ve got Lewandowski sniffing around, means you will be punished. Thiago was absolutely incredible last night too.

And then for Chamberlain to lose the ball in front of our box like that… he deserves a rollicking too.

As I discussed in my previous post- mistakes, or moments of magic decide big games.

And last night, they had Magic for the first, (hats off to Robben by the way) and then three massive cock ups mean that they are surely safely heading into the Quarter Finals.

We have to play for pride at least in the return leg. Never say never, I guess.

 

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Uncategorized

“We have to regroup and respond very well in the next one.”

I noticed that I hadn’t written on my blog for nearly a year. Perhaps it says a lot about Arsenal’s repetitive nature that I take to typing my thoughts out at a similar time of year again.

I thought we had moved past this tradition of struggling in the “big” games in the Premier League.

Saturday’s trip to Chelsea was poor. In the aftermath, I was seething about what I perceived as a blatant lack of gumption from our players on an individual basis.

I do not think it was a foul on Bellerin. Alonso had the run on Bellerin, and as a result, leapt higher and was stronger. Unfortunately Bellerin was concussed, but Alonso did nothing wrong.

Graeme Souness talked about how games at this level are decided by a piece of magic or somebody not doing their job properly. Theo Walcott was not alert to the danger (though watching it unfold before him) and Bellerin (who did really well to react after Costa hit the bar), was always going to be second favourite to win the header.

I hope somebody has lambasted Theo for not doing his job.

Souness was also spot on when talking about Francis Coquelin. Chelsea’s counter for Hazard’s goal came from Coquelin blindly flicking the ball with the outside of his boot. The Frenchman then burst forward out of position to try and rectify the error, deep in Chelsea’s half. The ball was knocked over, Costa won the flick on, and Coquelin did well to recover, but should have done better in attempts to stop Hazard.It’s cynical, but bring him down if need be. Laurent Koscielny should be held partly accountable too.

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The crux of this is the lack of nouse that  we failed to show on an individual and collective basis. We’ve got an experienced side- World Cup winners, a Copa America Champion, French Champion, Spanish Champions, a Premier League winner in goal…

Go back to the 3-0 win we had over Chelsea in September, and we displayed the characteristics of a strong and capable side. None of that was there on Saturday and it’s as if the players don’t believe they have what it takes.

Everyone makes mistakes. Petr Cech has bailed us out of jail on numerous occasions since joining, but he was poor on Saturday. I’d welcome giving David Ospina a run of games now.

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Mohamed Elneny returns to London this week (I believe) and I like what I’ve seen of him in Central Midfield. I’d like to see him given the chance to perform as well.

The ingredients are all there, we just didn’t rise to the occasion on Saturday. It’s annoying to me that a couple of bad results leads to “Wenger Out”. At some point, the players have to stand up and take the blame. For years, he has shielded whatever side he has assembled. You say “spend the money”, and he has, and let’s be honest, we were all happy with the recruitment in the summer. For me, these players have to now hold their hands up and say “We f*cked up twice this week.”

The title may be a stretch too far now, but I have no doubt they can put this right, starting with Hull on Saturday.

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Aaron Ramsey, Arsène Wenger, Arsenal, Calum Chambers, F.A. Cup, Gabriel, Hull City, Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker

“…be behind the team and judge our season at the end of the season…”

That was a thoroughly professional performance tonight at Hull.

But first- the negatives.

I find it absurd that a small section of fans would brandish ‘that’ banner. You know, the ‘Arsène, thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye’, rubbish.

It’s fine to voice your opinion, but we’ve just won 4-0 away from home, against a good Championship side in Hull, that hadn’t conceded a goal at home since December 2015. This, after a hard fought point away at Spurs on Saturday, and sets us up nicely  as we head into a F.A. Cup Quarter Final at home now on Sunday to potentially build some momentum- especially given the jammed schedule we have over the coming 12 days.

Basically- wait until the end of the season before starting this nonsense again. These ‘fans’ are just providing everyone else with a stick to beat us with. Our club motto is “Victoria Concordia Crescit” (Victory through harmony), so how about we all get on the same page.

As Arsène said post match: “…be behind the team and judge our season at the end of the season…”

On the injury front, Per Mertesacker had to come off after a clash of heads with Nick Powell, before Gabriel had to be replaced with what I think is a calf problem. Even more worryingly, Aaron Ramsey had to also be substituted after replacing Gabriel. Arsène Wenger said Mertesacker should be ok for the weekend, but is unsure about Gabriel and even more concerned about Ramsey due to it being a thigh complaint.

Fingers crossed they are all ready to rejoin the squad as soon as possible.

Having said that, Calum Chambers looked assured at centre-back when he shifted across from right-back, where we have Bellerin to come back to. Plus, Laurent Koscielny could possibly return for the weekend. I’d rather we didn’t rush him though, as Mertesacker should surely recover sufficiently to play Watford on Sunday.

Now, the positives.

I’m delighted that Olivier Giroud is back amongst the goals. He’s vastly underrated by so many, but for me, he is a great cog in our machine. Giroud always battles hard for the cause, works the channels and has scored some beautiful and important goals for us.

The same applies for Theo Walcott. He scored a vital equaliser against Leicester a few weeks back, but hadn’t built on that. Tonight’s first half was another poor showing, but in the second half he challenged his full-back by looking to run beyond him and draw fouls. Walcott also provided a great cross for Olivier’s second goal tonight, after a beautiful pass from Joel Campbell through Hull’s defensive lines.

This, added to the fact that we kept a clean sheet, is also a massive positive. I reckon we will see a similar starting XI on Sunday, and I’ll be really interested to see how we line up for the trip to Barcelona- especially as we then travel to Everton next Saturday.

 

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Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal, Tottenham, Uncategorized

“We’ve shown an outstanding performance, attitude and resolute spirit”

It was billed as the biggest North London derby in Premier League history- and it certainly lived up to the tag.

I was actually playing football myself- so missed the live game- but the highlights showed a high tempo-ed, intense battle.

From what I’ve seen, Tottenham enjoyed the better chances in the first half, and we took a while to get out of the blocks. But after Aaron Ramsey’s quality finish, we seemed to settle into the game, and could have been 0-2 up before Francis Coquelin’s red card.

Coquelin didn’t need to make the challenge on Kane, especially as he knew he had already been booked. The small silver lining is that he will miss the F.A Cup replay on Tuesday- a game I’m not sure Arsene would have started him in anyway.

They posed a lot of trouble down that flank, and we really should have done better to prevent Harry Kane from cutting in from the left so easily before bending a wonderful effort around Gabriel and David Ospina. I thought Gabriel could have done more to support his fellow centre back, but at the same time, it was a terrific solo effort from Kane.

2-1 down away from home and down to 10 men would have meant it would have been easy to capitulate, but the boys deserve credit for their hard work in claiming a point. Obviously, we want to win every game, but after a terrible week, a point at Spurs given their impressive form (bar their loss at West Ham in the week) is a good result.

And they’ll be bitterly disappointed not to have made the most of the man advantage. They had us on the ropes, but couldn’t deliver the killer blow.

I’m delighted for Ramsey and Alexis. Both have received a lot of (in my opinion) mis-placed criticism in recent games. I wrote in the week about how both seem to be trying “too” hard on the ball, rather than doing the simple things right. But both looked much more impressive on Wednesday and yesterday. Hopefully their goals will boost their confidence no-end.

As I mentioned, next it’s Hull away in the F.A. Cup replay on Tuesday. I’d expect the same starting line up that we began with against them in the original fixture. This is beneficial because it means the core of the side can rest before West Brom/ the Quarter Final of the F.A. Cup (should we win on Tuesday), next weekend.

 

 

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Arsène Wenger, Arsenal, Swansea, Uncategorized

“We had all the ingredients to win the game.”

I didn’t want to write about last night’s game until I’d had a chance to at least see some “highlights” from our second frustrating result in two games.

In nutshell: a bad night at the office.

We had a number of chances that should have led to a comfortable win. The first chance of note came when Alexis couldn’t adjust his body to volley a flick on from Ozil. He took a touch before cutting inside, but his effort hit in inside of the far post and bounced straight into Fabianski’s hands.

The Chilean then played a great through ball to Joel Campbell, and the Costa Rican swept the ball sublimely past Fabianski with a quarter of an hour gone.

Swansea’s equaliser came completely against the run of play. Yes, it was a foul on Ozil in the lead up to Wayne Routledge scoring, but Mertesacker and Gabriel were too slow to squeeze up from our goal kick- leaving a huge gap between them and our midfielders. That, coupled with the fact that we switched off and didn’t play to the whistle, meant that Routledge wasn’t tracked well enough to stop him scoring. I thought Bellerin should have done better too.

Before the half time whistle, Mertesacker nodded down for Olivier Giroud- who’s volley smashed against the bar. Agreed, Giroud should score there, but why didn’t Mertesacker try and guide the ball at goal himself? He was way past his man and in between the posts. Perhaps his miss against Leicester was playing on his mind.

Another chance for Alexis, from Ozil’s free kick, there was plenty of pace on the ball and any touch on goal would surely have taken it past Fabianski.

And that’s the issue when you don’t take your chances, you leave yourselves susceptible as games go on. We saw it against Barca. Played superbly for 70 minutes, but without taking one of our chances, we left ourselves open to the sucker punch. Swansea got their smash-and-grab when Sigurdsson delivered a superb cross and Ashley Williams tapped in.

For me, Petr Cech doesn’t make many mistakes. But I think he should have done better with the delivery. Such was the quality, it was difficult to defend, but surely Cech could have punch the ball clear?

Anyway, the point is- on another night, our chances hit the back of the net.

Which leads me to my next issue. Arsène Wenger has come in for yet more criticism since the full time whistle last night. How can Wenger be held accountable for that?

Arsene+Wenger+Manchester+United+v+Arsenal+KQ39EgkQueYl

“Why did he take Joel Campbell off?” Wenger said post match that Joel hadn’t played much football recently, he looked like he started to tire against a young full back and that he thought Welbeck could trouble him with runs in behind.

Campbell played 67 minutes against Hull in the F.A. Cup, and his previous appearance before that was almost a month prior to that, against Chelsea.

Fair enough, I think.

I know a week is a long time in football, but people’s memories seem to be getting shorter and shorter.

This is the same squad that has defeated Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Manchester City, qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League against the odds this season. Recently, we’ve stumbled, but for 70 minutes last week, we more than matched the reigning European and World Club Champions.

Wenger was the right manager on these occasions- and he still is now.

It’s easy to point fingers when the chips are down. Too many people get swept up in the media’s lazy criticism and piss-taking at Wenger’s expense. Time and again, people buy into it. A man of immense class, intellect and wit portrayed as a comic-book fool for an anti-Arsenal agenda, lazy and easy copy.

Let’s be reminded that we are six points off the leaders Leicester with 10 games to play. That’s 30 points yet to be contested. If Man City are still in the race, why aren’t we? It’s been a brilliantly competitive season, and whoever claims the title will be deserved winners.

As we enter the final furlong of this roller coaster season, we have most of our key ingredients available or soon returning. Wenger is the most important of all of these ingredients in making sure that this team believe once again- even if you don’t.

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