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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?

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Monday, 15 August 2016

Here We Go Yet Again!

"Where's Our Money" 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.


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!
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