Advertise Your Company Here?

all enquiries to LondonN5@gmail.com

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Please send Buster Bloodvessel back into retirement vs Bournemouth on Sunday?


With my West Upper Homies in Highbury Heaven
Back in the day at THOF, our West Upper crew used to have a chant of "Arsenal loony, loony Arsenal" every time this bloke a few rows behind us blew a gasket, with his frequent rabid barrages aimed at all and sundry, players, opposition and officials. As a result, I'd often get teased with the same refrain, on those occasions when I began throwing my toys out of the pram too vehemently.

I always swear that the loony wound Sheffield Wednesday's Des Walker up so much with his offensive barrage of bile that Walker attempted to silence him, by aiming the ball in the direction of his huge gob. His verbal assaults were so abusive that I often recall turning around to see the blue veins in his neck set to burst, as he bellowed his disgust and I'd wonder why on earth this geezer spent a small fortune on his season ticket, only to put himself through 90 minutes of such unhealthy looking rage at every home game.

I have to admit that such has been my own level of frustration these past few games that hard as I try to continue to holler out my encouragement of our players, rather than accompanying all those Gooners who are a negative influence, coating off our own men, I'm beginning to think that those around me in the East Lower must be wondering if the Arsenal loony has been reincarnated in their midst in recent weeks.

I have some sympathy for those with the misfortune to be sitting directly in front of me, as my woefully limited lung function doesn't appear to have had an adverse effect on my decibel levels and despite my efforts to direct my incessant racket up over their heads, it must be murder to have me constantly hollering in their shell-likes.

I started from minute one on Wednesday night, incessantly imploring for some evidence of "pressure!" I've been wondering ever since whether it was a tactical plan to sit off PSG and leave them to have possession in their own half totally unchallenged, with a view to sitting deep and hitting them on the counter. Or could it have been in some way related to the fact that a 0-0 draw would've sufficed, leaving us with a superior head to head record with the French side, after Alexis' goal in the Parc des Princes back in September?

It's said that no team goes out intent on achieving a scoreless draw and while mercifully the current incarnation of the Gunners' defence seems to be finally stifling our long-standing slipshod reputation, the Arsenal still wouldn't exactly be anyone's first choice for our bus parking attributes, as a team emminently capable of effecting the sort of faultless shut-out that older Gooners amongst us cherished from the "boring, boring" Arsenal of the 70s.

Yet perhaps the knowledge that a 0-0 draw would suffice had some negative psychological impact, resulting in the sort of inertia we witnessed in the first half on Wednesday, with the Gunners feeling that the onus was on the visitors to try and break us down because we didn't NEED to take the game to PSG, unless, or until the Parisians put the ball in our onion bag?

It certainly felt like this was the case as I screamed myself hoarse, imploring us to "close 'em down" and "get hold of it" during an opening spell, in which we appeared to be gifting our guests with the freedom of London N5. I wonder if the fact that we've successfully managed to surprise opponents this season with a stand-off, counter-attacking style, compared to our customary keep-ball tactics (not to mention the achievements of the likes of Leicester), this has instilled the team with a belief that we no longer need dominate possession in order to win games?

Tottenham watching Eastenders
The surprise element involved in an Arsenal side gifting possession to their opponents perhaps makes for a suitable option away from home on the odd occasion, when the team is in sound defensive form. But I simply cannot countenance such a passive strategy in home games, especially against a PSG side controversially deprived of Serge Aurier, their man of the match in the 1-1 draw in France and the potentially influential likes of Di Maria.

My greatest gripe is that rather than starting the game at a high tempo, pouring on the pressure to maximise home advantage and stoking the nervous tension in the visitors to reinforce the sense that they are not going to be in for an easy night, you are instead gifting them all the time they want on the ball, to grow comfortable with their surroundings and to become increasingly emboldened by their unexpected amount of possession.

I'm loathe to join the bandwagon of fickle Gooners laying into the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi as principle scapegoats for our recent ills. He might be experiencing a dramatic dip in form but we should not forget that Iwobi began this season in seriously impressive style and was our star player in several matches.

As for Rambo, I must admit to having some concerns about a potential hangover from this summer's Euros, where he deservedly received such plaudits for his main man exploits in carrying Wales all the way to the semis. Yet as a result, Aaron has inevitably become a bit full of himself and appears to believe he's earned the right to languidly stroll around the park, much like Mesut Özil (which, as my neighbour is constantly reminding me, is somewhat unfair on Mesut because his mileage stats regularly prove that any apparent air of disinterestedness is a complete illusion!).

Still, instead of getting on the player's back, I'd rather be patient and afford Aaron sufficient time to see if it's merely a matter of him continuing to recover some proper match sharpness. Although watching some of his performances in the Euros for Wales on the box and witnessing him grafting his socks off, covering every blade of grass on the pitch, I'm certain I wasn't alone in having mixed feelings, struggling to contain my irritation, as I wondered where the hell this particularly impressive incarnation of Ramsey had been all season long in his Arsenal shirt!

However it's evident that Ramsey relishes the sort of no. 10 role that he adopts for Wales, with himself and Bale assuming creative responsibility for the entire team. Yet frankly, unless (heaven forfend!) Özil suffers a long term injury, Ramsey's never going to get an opportunity to play in this position for the Gunners and having made his mark on the International stage, Aaron's hardly going to be content with spending most of his time on the bench, in a bit part role for the Gunners.

This leaves Wenger with a bit of a conundrum because on the evidence we've witnessed to date, it would appear to be impossible to shoehorn Ramsey into the team in any other role, without this having some sort of detrimental impact. Even if it's only a nominal starting position out wide and Aaron is not restricted to the wing, much like with Jack Wilshere, it seems blatantly obvious to me that we'll never get the best out of either of them because they just don't enjoy playing on the right or left and both players will never be totally happy and therefore won't truly fulfil their potential, unless they're afforded a central role.

Nevertheless, Wenger simply can't play everyone in the middle of the park and as evidenced on Wednesday night with Alexis utter ineffectiveness playing on the flank during the first half and with the Gunners woeful lack of width (not helped by Hector's enforced absence), it seemed as if the price of selecting Ramsey to play alongside Coquelin was far too high, both in sacrificing Alexis impact and because Aaron just wasn't busy enough to be deserving of such a significant role.

No matter their form or match sharpness, for my money, the very minimum required of the central midfield partnership is for them both to be constantly on their toes, in order for them to be able to react to any signs of danger, especially when facing such pacy opponents as the likes of Matuidi. Thus it irritated me no end to see Aaron strolling around in a flat-footed fashion.

I'm certain that both teammates and the opposition must pick up on this sort of body language and it feels somewhat disrespectful to both, as if to suggest "I don't need to be on my toes to deny you" and because it takes a flat-footed player that bit longer to react, it infers that he's leaving Coquelin and the rest to do all the donkey work.

I also felt that we suffered on Wednesday from the fact that Jenkinson is still some way short of looking comfortable with a spot in the starting XI. No one would be happier than me to see Carl force his way into the first team reckoning because in these mercenary times, it's so rare nowadays to have a genuine Gooner in the squad, who can kiss his badge without the slightest hint of insincerity. Moreover Jenkinson's consistency for the Hammers last season suggested that we might regret losing him.

Yet hard as I try to continue to cling to the hope that it's merely a confidence issue with the Corporal and all he really requires is a run of games, when I compare Carl's ungainly looking efforts with the silky smooth skills of Hector, sadly I can't help but feel that the lad simply doesn't have the appearance of an Arsenal left-back.

Additionally, with Carl only finding himself selected as a result of Bellerin's injury, I get the distinct sense that he is so desperate not to mess up this rare opportunity that this inevitably impacts upon his willingness to forage forward, for fear of leaving a gaping hole at the back. It's a pity because from what I recall of his performances for the Irons, Jenkinson is eminently capable of getting to the bye line and whipping in a decent cross, but there's an obvious timidity to Carl's efforts in red and white, compared to his far more confident displays in claret and blue.

With the forgotten man, Mathieu Debuchy popping up with a goal for the U23s against Spurs the other day, I wonder if Wenger will persist with Jenkinson during Bellerin's absence? Sadly, I fancy that we'll continue to miss Hector, no matter who Arsène chooses to play in his stead At least not unless AW surprises us all with a rare bold move and throws the Ox in at right back.

Hector's a keeper
What Bellerin brings to the party is not just his ability to scamper down the flank and stretch opposition defences, but it's also the threat of Hector's bristling pace that puts opposition defences on the back foot, knowing that they don't dare leave space for him to exploit. Consequently his continued absence might well leave us coming under more pressure, with the opposition knowing there's less jeopardy involved in attempting to stretch our defence down that flank.

However instead of focusing on individual positions, with so many Premiership managers beginning to follow the trend for playing three at the back, the Gunners fast need to find a wholesale solution to combatting this set up. Against PSG on Wednesday it seemed to me that our failure to apply any pressure on the ball in the opposition's half ensured that the Parisian side were easily able to take advantage of the extra man in the middle of the park and the width of their two wide men.

It always angers me when we fail to set a high-tempo from the start in home games and I felt we needed to press PSG, in order to push the two wide men back and to ensure we weren't outnumbered in midfield. I rarely trust my memory nowadays, but as I recall Alexis adopted a more central role after the break and this appeared to contribute to somewhat more competitive second half display.

Like most Gooners, I am just grateful that (unlike Spurs!) we are still in the hat for the Champions League knockout stages and largely down to the inconsistency of others, we remain in the frame at the top of the Premiership table. Yet surely we simply can't continue to drop points, without at least one of our competitors putting together a consistent run, which will result in them establishing the sort of points gap that's likely to put the kibosh on any hope of a title challenge.

The arrivals of Mustafi and Xhaka had me bubbling with optimism early this season. At long last it looked as if our defence had acquired the sort of resilience and determination, which meant that I wasn't left bricking it every time we conceded a corner and where I finally felt we offered a threat at set-pieces at the other end of the pitch. But truth be told, with the exception of the 6-0 win against Ludogerets (which in itself was a misleading result because it was no walkover), not since the 3-0 demolition of Chelsea back in September have the Gunners produced any real form.

In recent weeks it has felt as if my optimism and any confidence that this team had built up, has been bleeding away, game by game, to the point where the whole club is fast becoming positively anaemic. Arsène's laissez-faire approach doesn't exactly help. When it's patently obvious to every watching Gooner that the team is crying out for some sort of tactical readjustment because our opponents have the upper hand, or because what we're doing just isn't working, Wenger refuses to intercede, seemingly investing far too much faith in his players ability to resolve the problem themselves.
Cavani came, saw and conquered

I've not been particularly impressed with Cavani in the past, but on Wednesday night he suddenly looked transformed into a world-beater, leaving Mustafi and Kozza for dead at almost every opportunity. Perhaps our centre-halves were guilty of an off night, but where the two of them started the season looking as if they were fast developing one of the best partnerships in Europe, of late they've both been guilty of the sort of lapses in concentration that is once again leaving our back line looking as porous as ever.

As in the Man Utd game, against PSG Arsène was guilty of leaving it too late, to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted, when another manager might've rung the changes at half-time. It's no coincidence that Chelsea and Liverpool, the two clubs not involved in Europe are both enjoying domestic success. Nevertheless, I can't help but covet the enthusiasm and the pro-active approach of both Klopp and Conté, compared to Arsène's Alsatian sang-froid.

Personally I much preferred it when Chelsea had a manager who I despised, since my growing respect for Conté leaves me feeling somewhat conflicted. What I wouldn't give to see an Arsenal manager frantically geeing up our apathetic theatre audience because he's dissatisfied with the support and frankly there are few grounds more in need of a metaphoric cattle prod to galvanize our feeble home fans!

--
email to: londonN5@gmail.com

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Kozza's Gonna Get Ya (And If He Doesn't Mustafi Will)!

If revenge is indeed a dish that's best served cold, then after five agonisingly long years, Saturday's thrashing of the Blues came straight out of the freezer!

After having endured Chelsea's piss-taking humiliation of Arsène's previous two big anniversary celebrations, there was plenty of anxiety in advance of the commencement of the stubborn old bugger's third decade in the box seat.

Tweets to the Sweet
Moreover, after hearing the line-up, I don't think you'd have found many Gooners wandering around the concourse prior to Saturday's game who'd agree with the sentiment that "Arsène knows", since pretty much everyone was moaning about his team selection.

With the cracks that had been exposed in Conté's team in the past couple of weeks, myself I was praying AW would capitalise on Chelsea's current frailty, with a "nothing to fear" statement of intent, by putting out our most positive XI, pairing Santi and Xhaka in the middle of the park. And with my nephew, Shane and his girfriend over on a rare trip from Dublin (and with her being a Gooner virgin), I definitely didn't want to see us struggle for goals, playing without a recognised centre forward.

Nevertheless, with all the brouhaha about the managerial merry-go-round, I'm guessing it's top of Arsène's agenda to avoid having his pants pulled down, by any of the limelight hugging Premiership newbies. As a result, I was certain le Gaffer would be more conservative, not wanting to risk playing without the proven protective instincts of the likes of Coquelin.

With me not being sufficiently match fit for the trips to Hull or Nottingham and with a tally of eight goals in our last two awaydays, I've been wondering if I should avoid travelling more often!! Knowing quite how frequently the comments of those who've watched the Gunners play on the box have contradicted the opinions of those who've seen the game live, I tend to avoid passing judgment from the comfort of my armchair (although I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to my laziness being a contributing factor in my failure to post these past couple of weeks!)

Still I could understand the logic in not wanting to tinker with the team that trounced Hull's paper Tigers and with the infuriating consequences of our red card history against Chelsea, I could appreciate Arsène choosing his players from those who were least likely to cost us victory by losing their cool in a tetchy contest.

Yet while I chuntered about the absence of Xhaka and Giroud, others were whinging about Walcott's inclusion and absolutely everyone seemed to be walking into the ground irate. It was some contrast to the ecstatic mood fifteen minutes in, when much like London buses, you wait three and a half years for a derby goal against Chelsea and then two come along at once!

No sooner had I commented to my neighbour that Ivanovic was past his "sell by" date than he played Cahill into trouble, to have his pocket well and truly picked by Alexis. But if we were dancing in the aisles after our first, we were left tripping over our own open-mouthed jaws, with the gobsmacking gorgeousness of our second.
No stopping Hector!

Then just as Chelsea were beginning to recover some composure and threatened to spoil the party by pulling the goal back just before the break that might've changed the course of this match completely, our German playmaker entered stage left. We were right in line with Mesut's effort and he seemed to have an eternity to think about his volley, as Sanchez set it up on a plate.

I thought he'd missed the target and many seem to think he fluffed it. Yet after his glaring miss at Hull, I reckon Özil was concentrating so hard on making contact and keeping his head over the ball to keep it down that this was how he ended up striking it into the deck. It was one of those "car crash" moments, where I was convinced the ball was about to bounce harmlessly off the post, which only heightened the euphoria as it bobbled into the back of the net, knowing this was pretty much "game over".

I've been plagued by neck pain the past few weeks and having been prescribed some different meds by the doc on Friday, I made the mistake of taking them for the first time, only an hour or so before KO. While they didn't seem to do much to alleviate the pain, I didn't really care because they left me so gaga that I struggled to make it over the south bridge to the turnstiles. Moreover, after suffering so many years of "men against boys" misery against Chelsea, with Mesut making it 3-0 up before the break, I really needed to pinch myself to make sure this wasn't some fantastic imaginary trip.

It was hilarious seeing Alex Iwobi getting a mouthful from Nacho in one ear, presumably for failing to assist Monreal with William's advances down our left flank and more "agida" in his other shell-like from Mesut, for not offering an outlet at the other end of the pitch, when all the while, young Alex was having one of his best ever games in an Arsenal shirt.

I guess it was inevitable that we would take our foot off the gas after the break. In the absence of John Terry's determination, you sensed that so long as we remained solid and didn't offer our guests a glimmer of hope and a route back into the match with a goal in the opening period of the second half, the three points were in the bag.

Yet while my head knew this was sensible football, my heart wanted the Gunners to return some of the humiliation we've endured, with interest, by turning the choke-hold we had on this encounter, into a psychologically damaging strangulation, with the sort of scoreline that would truly put the West London "no history" wannabees back in their rightful place.

Not that I wanted to see Franny limp off, straight down the tunnel for treatment, but I'm sure I wasn't alone in welcoming Granit's arrival into the fray, with us already two goals to the good. To my mind Xhaka's stunning long-range strikes in successive games are symptomatic of the way in which he only plays in forward gear.

From what I've seen of Man City's extremely impressive start to the season, the most noticeable difference has been the scintillating tempo of City's play, compared to our more deliberate advances. Yet with Xhaka's reluctance to dawdle on the ball, we appear to make the transition from front to back so much faster, denying the opposition the opportunity to get bodies behind the ball.

It occurs to me that this might be why he's not started a Premiership game because his refusal to play sideways or backwards risks losing possession more often and our statistics obsessed leader prefers more caution? Or perhaps Xhaka didn’t rate consideration merely because AW feared his tendency to incur the official’s wrath? It also occurred to me that Granit's had success with his long-range efforts because of the surprise element and with 55,000 shouting "shoot" every time he receives the ball, he's hardly going to catch anyone on the hop.

Meanwhile football is all about chemistry and le Prof’s struggled in recent years to chance upon a recipe that might result in the perfect feast. It would be foolhardy to go overboard based solely on a single result, especially when you consider that up until Saturday’s game we were all whining about assorted missing ingredients. Nevertheless, it’s hard to keep a lid on the cascade of optimism that’s sprung since Saturday’s magical victory.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in relishing the opportunity to return home and savour the highlights again (and again!) on MOTD, Goals on Sunday and every other review of the weekend’s games and frankly I was flabbergasted by the limited attention given to our result, by all the pundits and the media in general. I agree with those who said to me that it’s better for us to remain “under the wire”, out of the limelight. Yet to my mind, compared with Man U scoring a few set-piece goals against a Leicester side that’s a shadow of the team that won the title, or the Scousers rolling over Hull at home, much as we did on the Tigers own turf, our supremely dominant defeat of a team that many assumed would be title challengers was far more momentous and deserving of much more recognition.

Then again, if our own fans can’t be bothered to demonstrate due appreciation for such a sensational result, why should we expect it from others? Just how long have we been waiting to be able to stick two-fingers up at Abramovich and all the dodgy millions he’s thrown at his plaything? When I reflect upon quite how deliciously satisfying Saturday’s result was, it absolutely baffles me that there were so many Gooners departing their seats before the final whistle, as if this was just any old game!

I sat there on Saturday wondering what sort of hot date, or precisely what sort of exciting event would be more enticing than the pleasure of lingering to relish such a rare occasion. Exactly what sort of Gooners dash off merely to beat the traffic, the queue for the tube, or to seek any such mundane advantage, rather than savour such a marvellous moment?

Perhaps the same Gooners heading for the exits before full-time were those crass folk giving Fabregas the bird. I'm all for absolutely anything that adds a little atmosphere to the overly sedate environs of our theatre-like surroundings at home games (and have never understood how the same fans who sing their hearts out at away games, sit on their hands at home matches?) and I was coating off Costa as loud as anyone. 

Yet I can't forget that Cesc pretty much carried our team on his young shoulders for a couple of seasons and if it wasn't for his desire to fulfil a boyhood ambition of playing for his home team, in front of his Catalan countrymen, I can't help but think that he might have become a one-team Arsenal legend. And so while I might've momentarily, instinctively joined in with the booing, on account of my dodgy eyesight, I'd much rather we applauded a player who gave so much of himself to the Gunners and who, as far as I'm aware, has never said a bad word about his former home.

The significance of chemistry is patently evident in the difference seen in Kanté’s influence in Chelsea's midfield, compared to his crucial contribution to the Fox’s success last season and more importantly, although it’s still early days and I’m only ever one disastrous performance away from contradicting myself, there appears to be a very promising chemistry between our new centre-back partnership.

Is this our "shall not pass" partnership?
After enduring all those years of first Drogba and then Costa making monkey’s out of our defence, perhaps the most pleasurable aspect to Saturday’s display was the way in which Koscielny and Mustafi completely nullified Chelsea’s goal threat. In fact I was almost as satisfied with the clean sheet, as I was with our three goals. Personally I feel that if these two can fulfil the promise of their burgeoning relationship to the point where we no longer have to fret about conceding sloppy goals, we might at long last have the capacity to mount a genuine title challenge.

When I posed the question as to who was my neighbour’s man of the match, he rightly pointed out that there were so many brilliant performances that it was far easier to pick the couple of players who weren’t worthy of this prize. For his last minute, last ditch tackle alone (not to mention the assist for Theo’s goal), I suggested Bellerin, but one could just as easily pick Nacho, Kos, Mustafi, Iwobi, Alexis, Mesut, even Theo and it was perhaps only Santi, or Xhaka who didn’t produce stand-out displays.

Aside from being far more irritated than usual by the early leavers, the only other disappointment on Saturday was the complete and utter lack of vocal appreciation shown to Wenger. No matter which side of the fence you happen to sit when it comes to our manager, surely everyone can agree that his twenty years of loyal service to the Arsenal cause merits our appreciation and respect?

Beating Basel Weds, The Tollington Thurs
I heard Chelsea’s Neanderthals singing their offensive ditty about our leader, but in his seat in the upper tier my nephew was most disappointed by the absolute lack of response to his attempts to lead a chant of “one Arsène Wenger”, which will only perpetuate our library like reputation upon his return to Dublin. His girlfriend had sprung a surprise birthday present of the trip over to the Chelsea game and all her pals had told her that she was bonkers because it was bound to be a miserable weekend with our customary defeat to the Blues. I’d joked with her that with it being her first ever game, we had better win, or it would be her last!

Mercifully Shane and Aoife departed beaming at their good fortune and with Aoife being instantly converted to the Gooner faith, I had to try to explain to her that it wasn’t quite this euphoric every week. But with them both being such lucky charms, if it was down to me, I would’ve paid to change their flights home to try and maintain Saturday’s spell against Basel tomorrow night.

COYG

Bernard

--
email to: londonN5@gmail.com

Kozza's Not Pleased To See You He's Just Got Costa Still Stuck In His Pocket


If revenge is indeed a dish that's best served cold, then after five agonisingly long years, Saturday's thrashing of the Blues came straight out of the freezer!

Tweets to the Sweet
After having endured Chelsea's piss-taking humiliation of Arsène's previous two big anniversary celebrations, there was plenty of anxiety in advance of the commencement of the stubborn old bugger's third decade in the box seat.

Moreover, after hearing the line-up, I don't think you'd have found many Gooners wandering around the concourse prior to Saturday's game who'd agree with the sentiment that "Arsène knows", since pretty much everyone was moaning about his team selection.

With the cracks that had been exposed in Conté's team in the past couple of weeks, myself I was praying AW would capitalise on Chelsea's current frailty, with a "nothing to fear" statement of intent, by putting out our most positive XI, pairing Santi and Xhaka in the middle of the park. And with my nephew, Shane and his girfriend over on a rare trip from Dublin (and with her being a Gooner virgin), I definitely didn't want to see us struggle for goals, playing without a recognised centre forward.

Nevertheless, with all the brouhaha about the managerial merry-go-round, I'm guessing it's top of Arsène's agenda to avoid having his pants pulled down, by any of the limelight hugging Premiership newbies. As a result, I was certain le Gaffer would be more conservative, not wanting to risk playing without the proven protective instincts of the likes of Coquelin.

With me not being sufficiently match fit for the trips to Hull or Nottingham and with a tally of eight goals in our last two awaydays, I've been wondering if I should avoid travelling more often!! Knowing quite how frequently the comments of those who've watched the Gunners play on the box have contradicted the opinions of those who've seen the game live, I tend to avoid passing judgment from the comfort of my armchair (although I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to my laziness being a contributing factor in my failure to post these past couple of weeks!)

Still I could understand the logic in not wanting to tinker with the team that trounced Hull's paper Tigers and with the infuriating consequences of our red card history against Chelsea, I could appreciate Arsène choosing his players from those who were least likely to cost us victory by losing their cool in a tetchy contest.

Yet while I chuntered about the absence of Xhaka and Giroud, others were whinging about Walcott's inclusion and absolutely everyone seemed to be walking into the ground irate. It was some contrast to the ecstatic mood fifteen minutes in, when much like London buses, you wait three and a half years for a derby goal against Chelsea and then two come along at once!

No sooner had I commented to my neighbour that Ivanovic was past his "sell by" date than he played Cahill into trouble, to have his pocket well and truly picked by Alexis. But if we were dancing in the aisles after our first, we were left tripping over our own open-mouthed jaws, with the gobsmacking gorgeousness of our second.
No stopping Hector!

Then just as Chelsea were beginning to recover some composure and threatened to spoil the party by pulling the goal back just before the break that might've changed the course of this match completely, our German playmaker entered stage left. We were right in line with Mesut's effort and he seemed to have an eternity to think about his volley, as Sanchez set it up on a plate.

I thought he'd missed the target and many seem to think he fluffed it. Yet after his glaring miss at Hull, I reckon Özil was concentrating so hard on making contact and keeping his head over the ball to keep it down that this was how he ended up striking it into the deck. It was one of those "car crash" moments, where I was convinced the ball was about to bounce harmlessly off the post, which only heightened the euphoria as it bobbled into the back of the net, knowing this was pretty much "game over".

I've been plagued by neck pain the past few weeks and having been prescribed some different meds by the doc on Friday, I made the mistake of taking them for the first time, only an hour or so before KO. While they didn't seem to do much to alleviate the pain, I didn't really care because they left me so gaga that I struggled to make it over the south bridge to the turnstiles. Moreover, after suffering so many years of "men against boys" misery against Chelsea, with Mesut making it 3-0 up before the break, I really needed to pinch myself to make sure this wasn't some fantastic imaginary trip.

It was hilarious seeing Alex Iwobi getting a mouthful from Nacho in one ear, presumably for failing to assist Monreal with William's advances down our left flank and more "agida" in his other shell-like from Mesut, for not offering an outlet at the other end of the pitch, when all the while, young Alex was having one of his best ever games in an Arsenal shirt.

I guess it was inevitable that we would take our foot off the gas after the break. In the absence of John Terry's determination, you sensed that so long as we remained solid and didn't offer our guests a glimmer of hope and a route back into the match with a goal in the opening period of the second half, the three points were in the bag.

Yet while my head knew this was sensible football, my heart wanted the Gunners to return some of the humiliation we've endured, with interest, by turning the choke-hold we had on this encounter, into a psychologically damaging strangulation, with the sort of scoreline that would truly put the West London "no history" wannabees back in their rightful place.

Not that I wanted to see Franny limp off, straight down the tunnel for treatment, but I'm sure I wasn't alone in welcoming Granit's arrival into the fray, with us already two goals to the good. To my mind Xhaka's stunning long-range strikes in successive games are symptomatic of the way in which he only plays in forward gear.

From what I've seen of Man City's extremely impressive start to the season, the most noticeable difference has been the scintillating tempo of City's play, compared to our more deliberate advances. Yet with Xhaka's reluctance to dawdle on the ball, we appear to make the transition from front to back so much faster, denying the opposition the opportunity to get bodies behind the ball.

It occurs to me that this might be why he's not started a Premiership game because his refusal to play sideways or backwards risks losing possession more often and our statistics obsessed leader prefers more caution? Or perhaps Xhaka didn’t rate consideration merely because AW feared his tendency to incur the official’s wrath? It also occurred to me that Granit's had success with his long-range efforts because of the surprise element and with 55,000 shouting "shoot" every time he receives the ball, he's hardly going to catch anyone on the hop.

Meanwhile football is all about chemistry and le Prof’s struggled in recent years to chance upon a recipe that might result in the perfect feast. It would be foolhardy to go overboard based solely on a single result, especially when you consider that up until Saturday’s game we were all whining about assorted missing ingredients. Nevertheless, it’s hard to keep a lid on the cascade of optimism that’s sprung since Saturday’s magical victory.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in relishing the opportunity to return home and savour the highlights again (and again!) on MOTD, Goals on Sunday and every other review of the weekend’s games and frankly I was flabbergasted by the limited attention given to our result, by all the pundits and the media in general. I agree with those who said to me that it’s better for us to remain “under the wire”, out of the limelight. Yet to my mind, compared with Man U scoring a few set-piece goals against a Leicester side that’s a shadow of the team that won the title, or the Scousers rolling over Hull at home, much as we did on the Tigers own turf, our supremely dominant defeat of a team that many assumed would be title challengers was far more momentous and deserving of much more recognition.

Then again, if our own fans can’t be bothered to demonstrate due appreciation for such a sensational result, why should we expect it from others? Just how long have we been waiting to be able to stick two-fingers up at Abramovich and all the dodgy millions he’s thrown at his plaything? When I reflect upon quite how deliciously satisfying Saturday’s result was, it absolutely baffles me that there were so many Gooners departing their seats before the final whistle, as if this was just any old game!

I sat there on Saturday wondering what sort of hot date, or precisely what sort of exciting event would be more enticing than the pleasure of lingering to relish such a rare occasion. Exactly what sort of Gooners dash off merely to beat the traffic, the queue for the tube, or to seek any such mundane advantage, rather than savour such a marvellous moment?

Perhaps the same Gooners heading for the exits before full-time were those crass folk giving Fabregas the bird. I'm all for absolutely anything that adds a little atmosphere to the overly sedate environs of our theatre-like surroundings at home games (and have never understood how the same fans who sing their hearts out at away games, sit on their hands at home matches?) and I was coating off Costa as loud as anyone. 

Yet I can't forget that Cesc pretty much carried our team on his young shoulders for a couple of seasons and if it wasn't for his desire to fulfil a boyhood ambition of playing for his home team, in front of his Catalan countrymen, I can't help but think that he might have become a one-team Arsenal legend. And so while I might've momentarily, instinctively joined in with the booing, on account of my dodgy eyesight, I'd much rather we applauded a player who gave so much of himself to the Gunners and who, as far as I'm aware, has never said a bad word about his former home.

The significance of chemistry is patently evident in the difference seen in Kanté’s influence in Chelsea's midfield, compared to his crucial contribution to the Fox’s success last season and more importantly, although it’s still early days and I’m only ever one disastrous performance away from contradicting myself, there appears to be a very promising chemistry between our new centre-back partnership.

Is this our "shall not pass" partnership?
After enduring all those years of first Drogba and then Costa making monkey’s out of our defence, perhaps the most pleasurable aspect to Saturday’s display was the way in which Koscielny and Mustafi completely nullified Chelsea’s goal threat. In fact I was almost as satisfied with the clean sheet, as I was with our three goals. Personally I feel that if these two can fulfil the promise of their burgeoning relationship to the point where we no longer have to fret about conceding sloppy goals, we might at long last have the capacity to mount a genuine title challenge.

When I posed the question as to who was my neighbour’s man of the match, he rightly pointed out that there were so many brilliant performances that it was far easier to pick the couple of players who weren’t worthy of this prize. For his last minute, last ditch tackle alone (not to mention the assist for Theo’s goal), I suggested Bellerin, but one could just as easily pick Nacho, Kos, Mustafi, Iwobi, Alexis, Mesut, even Theo and it was perhaps only Santi, or Xhaka who didn’t produce stand-out displays.

Aside from being far more irritated than usual by the early leavers, the only other disappointment on Saturday was the complete and utter lack of vocal appreciation shown to Wenger. No matter which side of the fence you happen to sit when it comes to our manager, surely everyone can agree that his twenty years of loyal service to the Arsenal cause merits our appreciation and respect?

Beating Basel Weds, The Tollington Thurs
I heard Chelsea’s Neanderthals singing their offensive ditty about our leader, but in his seat in the upper tier my nephew was most disappointed by the absolute lack of response to his attempts to lead a chant of “one Arsène Wenger”, which will only perpetuate our library like reputation upon his return to Dublin. His girlfriend had sprung a surprise birthday present of the trip over to the Chelsea game and all her pals had told her that she was bonkers because it was bound to be a miserable weekend with our customary defeat to the Blues. I’d joked with her that with it being her first ever game, we had better win, or it would be her last!

Mercifully Shane and Aoife departed beaming at their good fortune and with Aoife being instantly converted to the Gooner faith, I had to try to explain to her that it wasn’t quite this euphoric every week. But with them both being such lucky charms, if it was down to me, I would’ve paid to change their flights home to try and maintain Saturday’s spell against Basel tomorrow night.


COYG

Bernard

--
email to: londonN5@gmail.com

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Bowler’s Holding The Batsman’s Willey

The home of the Champions, cudda, wudda, shudda.......!!

We shared a knowing look, sitting in the boozer before Saturday’s game in Leicester, as the Gooner tom-toms transmitted news of Burnley beating Liverpool, putting last Sunday’s opening day defeat into some proper perspective.

Personally, I was expecting the limitations of Klopp’s side to be exposed next weekend, with the Scousers getting schmeissed at White Hart Lane. Yet with them losing to the relegation favourites on Saturday, this surprising result only fuelled our frustration at having thrown these three points away.

And with Man U, City, Chelsea and Spurs all having banked a win, by the time we rocked up at the home of the current league champions (talk to us when you’ve won thirteen titles!), the pressure for the Gunners to get some points on the board had only intensified.

The happy memories of last season’s flattering 2-5 triumph ensured that Saturday’s game was a particularly hot ticket. With the Gunners “generously” gifting a further four quid discount off the flat-rate £30 price of all away match tickets this season, the demand for comparatively affordable £26 tickets has fast become far more intense, than for an astronomically priced pitch at our place.

            Mercifully the publicity-seeking “Time For A Change” banner wankers, were noticeable by their absence at Leicester. There was the odd individual displaying their own somewhat feeble, homemade A4 effort at the final whistle and the now customary cat-calls. Yet the fact remains (as evidenced by the attached video…if it is viewable?), away games are far more fun.

            Despite a minor fracas with the departing opposition fans and an embarrassing contretemps between our own opposing In/Out factions, for the most part, the fervent atmosphere in the Gooner corner of the King Power on Saturday was a gratifying contrast to the toxic undercurrent that is waiting to rain down the very instant anything goes awry at the Emirates.

Whilst setting our Arsenal world to rights, surrounded by genial Foxes’ fans in the rub-a-dub, it was a fairly constant theme to ponder on the motivation of the huge number of home fans who pay such extortionate prices, only to endure an afternoon in a state of such abject misery?

Whereas the mood of the travelling contingent improved on Saturday, with the realization that Koscielny, Santi and the Ox had been reintroduced to our starting XI. Yet this was tempered by the knowledge that our solitary recognized centre-forward had retained his watching brief, on our star-studded bench.

Ultimately, an engaging goalless game produced mixed emotions. There was a consensus that we’d enjoyed due reward for our effort, not with Mesut’s fifteen minute cameo, but with our World Cup winner’s single “tekkers” moment on the touchline in front of us late-on, which was worth at least double the cost of our reduced price admission.

It was interesting to hear Arsène once again refer to the fact that the Gunners continue to approach full-fitness. Although we immediately looked more threatening with the introduction of Özil and Wilshere, our subs' impact was compounded by the obvious evidence that it was the Foxes who were flagging. We might’ve taken more advantage, if only Wenger had sent Giroud on sooner, but then perhaps, like me, le Prof was overly fearful of the trademark Leicester sucker-punch, which might’ve left us heading back to London completely empty-handed and considerably more glum.

            With the familiar refrain of “spend some f#ckin’ money” ringing out at the final whistle, it was disconcerting to see Mesut and the irritatingly ineffective Alexis disappear straight down the tunnel, even before Clattenburg had finished blowing up. When we are all witnessing the positive impact of new arrivals amongst our competitors, I’m equally concerned about the psychological effect upon our two biggest stars of a perceived lack of ambition at the Arsenal, as I am about our prospects of competing with the current chasm in our existing roster.

Mercifully Rob Holding appeared to benefit from having the more experienced (man of the match?) Koscielny alongside him. Although on another, less charitable afternoon, Clattenburg might’ve given the home side the benefit of his doubt and awarded them the two contentious penalty claims and we might've been fortunate to finish the game with a full complement.

While the local radio commentator questioned whether Leicester were paying the price for the number of penalties they “earned” last season, in his post-match comments Arsène opined on whether the clamour for him to flash the cash would be quite so loud if he’d paid a humungous price-tag for our teenage centre-half..

Meanwhile, I suspect that as with our defeat to Liverpool, our hard-earned point at Leicester will only prove profitable should the Tinkerman prolong their home form with equally obdurate performances in the weeks to come. If the Foxes remarkable league triumph was only a flash in the pan and they begin to flounder against our competitors, this will feel like another two points lost?

--
email to: londonN5@gmail.com

Monday, 15 August 2016

Here We Go Yet Again!

   
"Where's Our Money"....in the bank, instead of on the pitch!!
They were giving away free matchday programmes at the Arsenal this afternoon, to celebrate ten years at our new home, but I'm sure that like me, most Gooners would've much rather that they took all of our £3.50s and put them in the pot for a new centre-half and a new striker!

Losing to Liverpool on the opening day was bad enough, but losing Iwobi, probably our most effective player on the day and Ramsey, an expected shadow of the influential player for Wales, was really adding insult to injury.

I joked at half-time that perhaps a 4-1 defeat would be the only thing that might convince Wenger that he can't get away with it this season and force him into some long-awaited transfer action. Yet I was only joking and really didn't expect us to be looking down the barrel of such a demoralising scoreline within the blink of an eye.

Credit to the Gunners for making a game of it by dragging themselves back into contention with two goals, but at the end of the day, while this might offer some psychological consolation, it still amounts to three points dropped, when, thus far, none of our competitors have slipped up, despite similarly unimpressive performances.

COYG
Bernard
_____________________________

Here We Go Yet Again!

AW counting out another £8m from these mugs
The fragile truce that’s existed between the Arsenal’s factions lasted all of an hour into the new campaign. After the sort of dominant first-half display that suggested “project Klopp” is still a work in progress, it was disappointing enough to be pegged back, following award of a soft free-kick that resulted in Coutinho’s stunning set-piece equalizer, with almost the last kick of the half.

However the sun was shining, the footie was back and we still had another forty-five minutes to prove that our uninspiring attack was sufficiently more potent than the Scousers, to pocket the all-important three points.

Sadly, the transformation which took place immediately after the break would appear to have highlighted, yet again, the crucial significance of some vocal personalities in the dressing room. After the high press and focus of the first-half, the Gunners ambled out after the break with a tepid lack of intensity. Whereas our guests returned to the fray seemingly fired up for the devastating fifteen-minute, three goal spell, which left the more fickle ranks of the Gooner not-so-faithful marching out the exits in absolute disgust, bellowing “spend some f#ckin’ money” as they went!

Personally I don’t know how anyone can walk out in protest, with nearly half an hour still to play. When first the Ox and then Chambers restored some respectability to the scoreline soon after, I couldn’t help but feel that it served these disloyal dolts right that they missed out on the Gunners admirable fightback to 3-4.

Nevertheless, the acute air of frustration was perfectly understandable. From the moment we became aware of the starting line-up on Sunday, every Arsenal fan was resigned to the likelihood that an opening day victory was going to be dependent on a performance that wasn’t quite as poor as that of our opponents.

The walls of Arsène’s ivory tower remain disturbingly impermeable, with le Prof seemingly the only man on the planet who has yet to accept Alexis’ absolute ineffectiveness in the central striker’s role. And it amounts to nothing short of blatant incompetence that a club of the Arsenal’s stature should be left kicking off a new campaign with a completely untried and inexperienced centre-back pairing.

I’ve not given up on Calum Chambers and Rob Holding looks particularly promising, but it was a very big ask to throw these two in at the deep end. In truth, we were fortunate that they didn’t end up on the wrong end of the sort of embarrassing thrashing that could’ve done permanent psychological damage to both their careers.

When we are seeing the likes of Everton replacing Stones, with the battle-hardened Ashley Williams, for a relatively meagre £11m, or Spurs taking a £17m punt on Janssen adding to their goal tally, frankly I just do not buy the argument that the Gunners are doing their best to plug the glaringly obvious gaps in our squad.

Moreover, with every other club having recalled their Euro stars in good time for the kick-off, I just don’t understand how Wenger justifies leaving Giroud, Koscielny and Özil cooling their heels, knowing that this could and as it turns out has cost us points! They might well return that bit fresher, but this will be of little benefit if we are already out of the Premiership picture!

Only the day before, I was criticizing Pochettino for his negative selection of two defensive midfielders at Everton. Presumably Wenger’s chose to play Coquelin and El Neny, in an effort to protect our callow centre-backs, but sadly this was at the expense of leaving all our creativity on the bench.

Arsène spoke of the last two weeks of the transfer window as “a poker game” in a press conference during the US tour, but this is not the case for those clubs willing to put the money on the table necessary to secure their targets. In our efforts to save a couple of million quid, in a game of bluff that is fooling absolutely nobody, it seems to be a calamitous false economy, as Wenger perennially leaves himself shopping for the last few remaining turkeys on the shelves!
--
email to: londonN5@gmail.com