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Monday 6 October 2014

Welcome To CHel

I sat there on Sunday afternoon wondering what a shrink would make of the masochism involved in stumping up sixty quid to rock up to the Fulham Road every season, only to suffer the ignominy of being herded like sheep into the comparative sh*thole of Stamford Bridge, for the purpose of suffering the repeated agony of having sand kicked in our face!

The only straw to clutch at after yet another soul destroying defeat to Mourinho's mob was the thought of how much sweeter an eventual triumph over Chelsea will taste, when it does eventually occur.

Yet as it stands at present, for us to beat the Blues we need all XI players to produce their very best on the day and what bothers me most about Sunday's loss was that the home side really didn't have to do that much to beat us.

Inevitably everyone will pick on Özil as once again, Mezut hardly covered himself in glory. When you see the likes of Di Maria and David Silva imposing themselves on matches for the Mancunian sides, it's hard not to criticise the minimal contribution of our own midfield playmaker, especially as we're likely to have to endure the "if only" influential exploits of Cesc Fabregas for the forseeable future.

From day one I always feared that Mezut might prove to be a bit of a luxury player, but frankly we didn't pay that obscene amount of money for him to be doing all the donkey work. Along with everyone else, I would like to see Özil putting in a far more industrious shift and I was amongst those bellowing for him to be replaced on Sunday. But I really think we must avoid making Mezut a scapegoat because rest assured, he's truly a class act and he will come good, when all his team mates begin to click and are all playing on song.¨

I also adore Sanchez and I absolutely love the fact that his appreciation of how far he's travelled from the torment of his poverty-stricken childhood is evident every time he take to the pitch. His enthusiasm for the game and his willingness to work his socks off in every single performance makes Alexis a most welcome addition to the squad. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder whether the Chilean will offer us as influential a contribution over the course of the season as Fabregas is undoubtedly likely to offer Chelsea?

Both Özil and Alexis played on Saturday in front of a midfield comprised of Flamini, Wilshere and Cazorla and from my most humble point of view, with their diminutive stature, the issue here is not with individual players, but the age old problem of the lack of balance that much to my chagrin, continues to exist in this Arsenal side.

Bless his cotton socks. Flamini couldn't possibly be more committed to the Arsenal's cause, but he's hardly that imposing, physical midfield presence who's capable of dominating the centre of the park and inflicting the same muscular attentions on Chelsea, as highlighted by Martin Keown on MOTD2 with his reference to the frequent use of the "reducer" by Mourinho's mob.

An Aussie Gooner pal of mine kindly forwarded his proxy for me to attend the AGM next week in his stead and this turned up in the post on Saturday. It has to be a good few years since an Arsenal AGM took place with our beloved club being in the embarrassing position of being the lowest place London side in the league (aside from lowly QPR)!

The resulting fusillade awaiting Arsène might prove interesting?

Big Love


As if a trip to Stamford Bridge wasn't stressful enough after last season's embarrassing six-goal humiliation, some idiot Gooner had to go and let a flare off in the Shed Upper before kick-off on Sunday. This was “the incident” which resulted in the temporary closure of the turnstiles, leaving all the late arrivals panicking about missing the start and getting seriously aerated outside the ground, up until the announcement of a delayed start.

Wednesday night’s 4-1 win and Welbeck’s hat-trick against Galatasary ensured that we turned up at the Bridge feeling somewhat less pessimistic. Yet after our pristine playing surface was left smouldering following the Turkish fans’ barrage of flares just before half-time, you would’ve thought we’d have had more sense than to repeat this misdemeanour.

It meant that even with a fifteen-minute delay, many Gooners missed the start. But at least we weren’t already 0-2 down with the game all but over by the time they took their seats, as was the case with my tardy arrival, only seven minutes into our previous traumatic encounter.

In fact, while we might have offered very little by way of tangible goal-mouth threat, much to our relief, the Gunners appeared to be holding our own. At least until Hazard took maximum advantage of the gift presented to him, in the form of Koscielny’s ponderous leg.

However, in contrast to our previous meeting, where Chelsea put us to the sword by starting the game at 90mph and pressurizing us into making mistakes all over the park, with the confidence engendered by Mourinho having the Indian Eye over Arsène, there was some sense of the Blues being able to patiently sit back, safe in the knowledge that our attacking credo would eventually present them with an opportunity to punish us on the counter.

In spite of the substantial changes to both squads since we left the Bridge with our tails between our legs last March, I’m sure the psychological damage was no less apparent in the dressing room than it was on the terraces. So truth be told, if offered it in advance, most Gooners would’ve gladly accepted reaching the break, with only a one-goal deficit and the game being still in the balance.

Nevertheless, no matter how delighted I might’ve been to see an Arsenal side compete with Chelsea for the first time in far too long, there was no denying the fact that Matic and Fabregas held sway in the middle of the park.

All our earnest first-half efforts amounted to a single opportunity, where if it wasn’t for Wilshere’s heavy first touch perhaps he would’ve conjured up the opening goal, which might’ve resulted in an entirely different story. But all our hard work was undone with Laurent's gift-wrapped penalty just before the break. Any remaining optimism evaporated, in the certain knowledge that this would inevitably leave us even more exposed to a second-half sucker punch.

It was perhaps fitting that when this eventually came, it was a combination of a perfectly weighted pass from Fabregas and Costa’s clinical finishing that opened us up like a tin of beans. There’s little doubt that with the arrival of Sanchez, Welbeck and Chambers, this is a stronger Arsenal squad than the one that rolled over back in March. But ultimately our first defeat of the season demonstrated that on current form, we continue to be some way short of both the personel and the personality, to mount a credible title challenge.

I don’t know about anyone else, but frankly I quite enjoyed the irresponsible bit of touchline argy-bargy. This did at least prove quite how painfully le Prof suffers this lengthy run of South London domination (let it not be forgotten quite how long Chelsea suffered in our shadow before that!).

Fingers will obviously point at Ozil because you simply cannot afford any passengers in this sort of contest. Yet Mezut was far from the only Arsenal player who might’ve benefited from the same sort of fire in his belly that was all too evident from our manager. As is so often the case with far too many of our top four clashes in recent times, I was left baying for someone in red and white to take responsibility and try to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, by imposing themselves on the occasion.

Sadly our inability to manufacture a single shot on target is pretty damming and the fact that we came away consoling ourselves that “it could’ve been a lot worse” is indicative of most Gooners fateful acceptance of chasm that continues to exist between us and the league leaders.

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