Arsene Wenger – One half of a great double act

Hello Gooners, it’s been a while since our last post, so i hope this is worth the wait. It has been 18 years since the boss took over as manager of our club and Sir Gunner gave us the opportunity to write a review of those 18 years. While we were very excited about doing a piece like this, we thought we would wait a little while as their were thousands of blogs about the same subject.

So where to begin. I remember 18 years ago the situation we were in. George Graham had been our manager for the best part of a decade and had been very successful on the whole, however he had to go due to financial irregularities, and that left the club in a very uncertain situation. We flirted with Bruce Rioch who had generally done very well with Bolton and he brought one of the best players of the modern game in Dennis Bergkamp to the club. However he was never going to be the man to take us back to the top, so in the summer of 1996 he left after guiding us to 5th in the league.

So we started the season with Pat Rice in charge, which was nice to see, but the situation was far from ideal. The bookies favourite to take over was Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, however David Dein had other ideas. I remember the looking forward to the game against Sheffield Wednesday and it was announced that Arsene Wenger was the man. Now i’m sure we weren’t alone in being completely confused by this, mainly due to the fact we had never heard of him. All we knew was what we heard in reports that he had done well in Japan with Grampus Eight.

At first, I thought: What does this frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks like a schools more like a schoolteacher. He’s going to be as good George (Graham). Does he even speak English properly?

Arsenal Captain, Tony Adams

Behind the scenes Wenger had already been getting stuck in, instructing the signings of French duo Patrick Vieira and Remi Garde. Straight away with signings like that it was clear that Wenger did things differently as both were relatively unheard of. That season showed progress in itself as Wenger guided us to finish 3rd in the league, our highest position for 6 years. It wasn’t so much the position we finished but the style of football we were playing was changing. Suddenly after 20 odd years of being labelled boring, we were starting to play exciting football.

Arsene Wenger training

In his second season, Arsenal won the Premier League and FA Cup to complete the second league and cup double in the club’s history.The team made up a 12-point deficit on league leaders Manchester United in the final few weeks of the season. Arsenal’s success was built on an already stalwart defence, assembled by former manager George Graham and consisted of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown. The defenders contributed to a run of eight consecutive clean sheets between January and March 1998. Wenger regarded striker Dennis Bergkamp as the “catalyst” for the team’s good form towards the end of the season. New signings, Petit as a partner for Vieira, winger Marc Overmars and striker Nicolas Anelka also profited from the manager’s attack-minded principles.

football-highbury-arsenal-everton-celeb-players_3046203

The following three seasons weren’t as successful as we were hoping as we were learning to balance european football with domestic success.There were a series of near misses. In 1998–99 the club failed to retain the league title as they finished second behind Manchester United. United also eliminated Arsenal in a FA Cup semi-final replay, with the winning goal scored by Ryan Giggs; Wenger rued after the match that “it was not our night and we were unlucky”. A year later, Arsenal lost the 2000 UEFA Cup Final to Galatasaray on penalties and in 2001, were beaten by Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup Final, even though we dominated the majority of the match.

Arsenal_Gala_2000

Back in those days I think it was Wenger’s methodical signings that defined him as a manager. Probably his biggest success was in 99 when he put his faith in a clearly talented Thierry Henry who had been in danger of being ruined in Italy. The rest of that story is history. Wenger flexed his muscles in the transfer market in the summer of 2001 going on a spending spree. That summer he brought in Van Bronckhorst, Inamoto, Richard Wright, Francis Jeffers…….. actually forget Francis Jeffers. Most notably he persuaded Spurs’s only decent player Sol Campbell to join the club, which angered a lot of Spurs fans. Wenger knew that the likes of Tony Adams and Lee Dixon weren’t able to go on much longer so he had to strengthen at the back, and Campbell was probably the best there was at the time. Now the rest of the players he signed that summer weren’t world beaters but what it gave us was a decent squad to cover injuries and to give the first teamer’s a reminder that there were plenty of players raring to go should their form drop. That season we won the double.

We had set a standard that was at times difficult to live up to, particularly as Alex Ferguson was facing the toughest test of their dominance in his reign to date. 2002/2003 season we missed out on the league however we won the FA Cup for the 2nd year running beating Southampton 1-0 in Cardiff.

Missing out on the league in 2003 hurt Arsene as winning 2 back to back titles is what really proves your worth as a manager. So in 2003/2004 we were more fired up than ever, Wenger had a point to prove to Alex Ferguson. How could outdo the man? What could he do that Fergie hadn’t already done? There was only really one thing, build an invincible team. Fergie had won it all but there was always the odd slip up on the way. Wenger had to retain the league in a way that had never been done before and that is what he did. He had built a team that had such strength in character that the went the whole season without losing a single game. To make that sweeter they clinched the title at White Hart Lane. Absolutely belting, beat that United. Whatever happened now, Wenger had cemented his place in Arsenal’s history, in British football history, it will take an exceptional man to beat what Arsenal achieved that year. Was that the point that Wenger reached his summit?

When you get to the very top like that, in that fashion, unfortunately the only way more often than not is down. Football changed after the 2004 invincible season. Suddenly money became the main catalyst in the English game, with the takeover that season of Chelsea by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich. With the kind of money being pumped into that club, they could just go out and buy whoever they wanted, effectively new boss Jose Mourinho was playing real life Football Manager. In turn, players and agents alike all over Europe became mercenaries.

Yes we mustered up one more trophy (the FA cup win in 2005, that realistically we were lucky to take) but things were about to go dark for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Slowly but surely we started to lose keys players rather than add key players, starting with captain Patrick Vieira leaving for Italy shortly after winning the cup for us. Reports said that he was becoming a bad influence in the dressing room urging other players to look elsewhere for the money. This was a player that Wenger found out of nowhere really, turned him into arguably the best player of his kind in the world and ultimately let him walk for the money, a trend that would rear its ugly head time and time again.

Concerns started to raise for me when Wenger let Vieira go but failed to replace him. We were not the same without him and that showed in our final season at Highbury that ended with no silverware, something that Gooner’s were not used to now. Wengers man management and tactical decision’s were also starting to come into question for the first time in his reign. Take the champions league campaign, with Ashley Cole injured for a large part and Flamini doing a great job deputising out of position, only to be dropped for the final as Cole was fit again. For me that was completely the wrong way to manage the situation, particularly as Cole screwed us over that summer to push through a move to Chelsea of all clubs, apparently all over 5k a week. The decision resulted in an unhappy Flamini who the following season walked on a free to Milan.

It had become apparent that the club was getting left behind financially and mentally aswell. What followed was sickening, our club seemed to get itself in numerous embarrassing situations on and off the pitch. In each close season we lost all of our key players. We let Pires go because of policy! Henry left to further his career (fair enough). Bergkamp had retired. Sol Campbell left for no apparent reason at all, along with Gilberto Silva, Lauren and Lehmann. Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Toure and Adebayor all allowed to leave mostly to our rivals. The replacements brought in? – Arshavin, Chamakh, Squillachi, Fabianski, Arteta, Andre Santos, Giroud with a Cameo role from Julio Baptista. I have summarised about transfer windows there but my point is the huge gap in class in who went out and who came in.

santos

Question’s have been asked how this was allowed to happen, and there have been mixed answers from no money due to the stadium debt to player power and the lure of ‘bigger’ clubs. My question has always been how can sides with less money go out and sign players like Luis Suarez, Jan Vertonghen, Van Der Vaart, even abroad like Huntelaar and Raul for relatively low price tags and we end up with the above.

I don’t want to labour any more on the past 8 or 9 years as its been at times just farcical but there are many situations that shouldn’t have happened. I can’t believe that it is all Wengers fault which many would have you believe.

The biggest loss of all? DAVID DEIN. I’m not one to believe in coincidences, things started to slide the day that man left. He was Wenger’s partner in crime, he did the business while Wenger ran the team – brilliantly I may add. Essentially Arsene has been doing the job of two men for the last 8 years, in the middle of football’s own financial crisis, in the middle of a funds sapping but essential stadium move. It’s hardly surprising things have slipped with that amount of weight on his shoulders, this is a man under ridiculous pressure. When you think of those circumstances you have to commend the man for keeping us in the top half of the table let alone in the champions league. Just look how it worked out for United and Liverpool in recent  years. Also Wenger has had many chances to leave but has stayed  to finish the job, when others would have jumped ship for an easier life.

dein

Is it time for a change? I don’t know any more . In my opinion though if you want the Great Arsene Wenger back – get the Great David Dein back!

 

until next time…………….

 

 

@northbankgents

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What’s happening with Mesut Özil?

Hello and welcome to AGA!

Today our resident guest writer Paul W. has a piece on our German maestro.

I’ve been a strong supporter of Mesut Özil since he joined Arsenal. When the criticism came his way last season I remained steadfast in my support of him and again this season when questions have been asked, I’ve held firm in my support. However I feel it’s time there was an honest debate about him, his performances & contribution to the Arsenal team.

German Dispute

German Dispute

So far this season, apart from away at Villa, has there been a game where Özil has had a significant contribution in a match?

To be fair to him, he came back to the club late, with no preseason after winning the World Cup with Germany in the summer. He’s had little recovery time and has had to catch up quickly. Those things need to be factored in to his early performances because they are relevant. Now we are in October, the season is well underway and I don’t think those issues should now be relevant.

Against Chelsea, there was a massive opportunity for him and indeed the entire team to right some wrongs after last season’s mauling & our long-standing struggle to beat the big teams. Özil is a hugely gifted, world-class player who has the ability to be the difference in a game. With the best will in the world, it won’t always be the case but with some drive, determination & application it can happen, at least sometimes. Today what we got from Özil was absolutely nothing, he was anonymous from start to finish. Yes his body language is usually lethargic but his end product isn’t and shouldn’t be. What looks to be lacking is his drive, determination & frankly on occasion, his effort to at least try to influence the game. He isn’t & shouldn’t be the scapegoat for the result but it’s not unreasonable to question him?

If I was Santi Cazorla, I’d be incredibly pissed off after the Chelsea game. As one of the more creative & influential players in our team, he got substituted whilst Özil who contributed much, much less stayed on the pitch. Is that fair? I think not.

What concerns me is that right now Özil is getting in the team week in, week out on reputation alone, not on his form or contribution.

Lots of people say, Özil is a £42 million pound player therefore we should expect more. I say, forget the price tag, he didn’t choose how much Arsenal chose to pay for his services. However we did so because he is a world-class talent, a potential game change who can & has influenced games brilliantly in the past. Maybe the price tag is a weight on his shoulders but if it is it shouldn’t be. It’s recognition of his immense talent.

Last season we saw glimpses of the real Mesut Özil. His early season form in particular was outstanding yet and understandably so it tailed off, in part due to the injuries to the players around him who he fed off but mostly due to the rigours of the Premier League which for any player take their toll in their first season. Now that’s not an issue, nor is the lack of talent around him. Yes, he’s not always playing in his favoured number 10 role but he’s a world-class player and world-class players find a way to fashion the best from what they’ve got. After all, for Germany he hasn’t always played that central role yet he’s often thrived.

So, I have come to feel that I, as I know other Arsenal fans do, have a problem with Mesut Özil right now. He is too good a player to be delivering so little. We can and should expect more & if he can’t deliver then Wenger should have the guts to say, sorry Mesut I need to substitute you or leave you out of the team.

I am delighted that he’s an Arsenal player, I don’t buy into the “if we didn’t have Özil we could’ve got Cesc back” line of thought and I don’t buy the “Özil isn’t that great” line either, but I do think we have every right to expect more from him and if I was Wenger right now I’d take him out of the team and get him to work harder to deserve a place in our next starting line-up. Also, if I was Joachim Löw who was apparently at the Chelsea game, I’d leave him out of the Germany starting line up right now too.

Mesut, I love that you play for us but please prove to us why you should be in the team right now?

-Paul W

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Arsenal vs Chelsea Post Mortem

Hello Gooners! Today, we’ll have a guest piece by a Sydney Gooner, “JF” who shall be looking at our trip to Stamford Bridge. 

What’s your take on the match JF? 

Well, it has been a couple of days since the game and after having the day to contemplate what happened, we cannot be too disappointed. Yes, we lost 2-0 to Chelsea and Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, but looking at the game as a whole neither team played well. We all knew this game would come down to the little things, a save, a goal, a foul and so it did, because no way were Wenger and the players going to allow what happened last year to happen again.

As with any game it all starts the team line-up and it was standard at the back with Szczesny in goals with Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Chambers the back four. Though as was the case with last year’s game our midfield was going to determine how this game would unfold, and with Flamini, Wilshere and Cazorla I believe we had a good balance in the midfield. Obviously Flamini would be the anchor of the three providing protection to the back four and diffusing the counter attacks that would surely come and with Cazorla and Wilshere further up we had two players that would provide that link between Flamini and our defenders and the forwards up front and create chances and hopefully get a goal or two themselves. Our forwards however proved to be the debate of the night. Alexis on the left, Welbeck down the middle and Ozil on the right. Alexis on the left was a good decision because he did well there mid-week and it allows him to cut in on his stronger foot to take shots, something he loses playing on the right. Welbeck was the obvious choice down the middle, had a brilliant game mid-week, though I personally would of like to have seen Oxlade-Chamberlain instead of Ozil on the right as he would have provided a better option on counters and would track back more. This was demonstrated in the Galatasaray game where Oxlade-Chamberlain had a really good game, always providing that pace on the counter and protecting chambers behind him.

JF 1

 

     JF 2

Now don’t take this as an attack against Ozil, because he is a great player, but just as Welbeck so beautifully pointed out this week after a brilliant hat-trick mid-week, no striker will have a great goals to game ratio if played on the wing, the same for Ozil. Ozil is a number 10 and one of the best in the world but no way are we going to get the best of him playing him out wide either left or right. He needs to be played centrally allowing him the space to move and roam and pick out his passes and create goals and give assists. Yes, Wenger has said he can roam anyway if played out wide, but then who then takes up that space when he roams, because in a game like Chelsea I do not want to see our fullbacks bombing up too much leaving us exposed on the counter. The solution someone misses out, whether that is Cazorla or Wilshere but that is the decision of Wenger he is the manager and not us and we just have to trust him.

JF 3

Now to the game and not a really exciting one.

We started alright, neither team really having many good chances in the opening exchanges, mainly a feeling out process, probing to find the weaknesses. Already a big improvement on last year where we looked from the get go like a Sunday park football team could of put 6 on us let alone Chelsea. So already positive thoughts started, maybe we could get a victory against the bus that was surely going to be parked in front of their goal. But just as stated above the little things would prove the difference and it surely did. I really ugly challenge by Gary Cahill on Alexis, 20 minutes in went punished with just a yellow, something you could tell by the fans, let alone Wenger was ridiculous and should have been red. This led to probably the most exciting aspect of the game, a little bust-up between Wenger and Mourinho.

After this you could sense that things were not going to go our way, and not more than 2 mins latter Chambers barely fouls Hazard and receives a yellow. Yes, Chelsea were on the counter and maybe Chambers could of done better but Hazard was not going anywhere and if that was a yellow than surely Cahill’s tackle on Alexis was red, let alone the continual strategic fouling done by Chelsea throughout the game. Personally both Oscar and Ivanovic were lucky not to see double yellows themselves if it was not down to the ref not taking control of the game early on and showing yellows to the continuous fouling done by Chelsea whenever we attempted to break. Yes, we were lucky that Chambers did not received a double yellow himself and that Koscielny and Welbeck did not see red, but it comes back down to the way the ref allowed Chelsea to continually foul us and you could sense the frustration in our players.

 JF 4

Now people may see well we should of sensed that, that is the way Chelsea were going to play and yes I agree but it still does not give reason for the ref to allow such play to occur. However either way we cannot put down the ref for our loss. That still lies with us and it was the usual frustration, the inability to show that killer instinct in the final third, or the other way of putting it, the search for the perfect goal.

Throughout the game on many occasions, especially in that second half we were dominating possession, but just like against that team down the road (Spurs) we lacked that decisive pass, the killer instinct to create a golden chance. Too much of the time we spent passing the ball with not much thought on what to do to create a chance or even just having a dig at goal from distance. We did create a few though, the best probably falling to Wilshere, where a heavy touch let the ball get away from him, allowing Courtois to gather it up. Other than that not much was created, there was a penalty shout but we should not be requiring penalty shouts as our only chance to score. Furthermore, on too many occasions Welbeck, Ozil and Alexis had to drop deep to receive the ball and once they did where just pressured off it, with at times three Chelsea players attempting to win back the ball. In the end, as the stats show we technically did not have a shot on target.  Though we have to give credit to Chelsea, it was a typical Chelsea performance with 11 attacking and 11 defending. On every occasion we had the ball, it was started by Costa pressuring our centre backs, then handed over to Schurrle, Oscar and Hazard, who pressured Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla and Ozil never allowing them to get their heads up to pick that pass to our forwards. When they did get a chance all they could see was a wall of blue led by Fabregas and Matic. I never saw once a pass get through to Welbeck or Alexis in order to place Terry or Cahill under any sought of pressure.  In terms of substitutions, Oxlade-Chamberlain was the only one with time to try to influence the game, when he was subbed on for Cazorla, and there was occasions where he provided that extra outlet on the right beating Ivanovic a couple of times. It was too late for Rosicky or Podolski to do much, though Podolski did have a chance to get a goal at the end.

JF 5

On the other hand, neither did Chelsea create much. I barely remember Szczesny having to make save and it came down to a lapse in defence where we allowed Hazard to receive the ball centrally and drive at our defence beating Cazorla, Flamini then beating Koscielny and receiving a penalty which he put away with ease. The second goal, was us chasing for an equaliser, with Wilshere playing a lofted ball in Alexis, which was pinched and two passes later played to Fabregas which we have to admit played an exquisite ball over the top to Costa which finished quite easily in the end with a chip over the rushing out Szczesny. Our defensice display was one of the better one’s against a top 6 team.

Overall both teams did not play well, with either keeper having to do too much. In the end it was our inability to create that half chance and when it was created to put it away, proved to be the difference, whereas Chelsea did.

 -JF

 

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Arsenal vs Chelsea Preview

Hi all! A new writer joins us today from Down Under. GoonOfOz! Give him a big welcome and let’s take a look at Chelsea together.

The sound of Sunday is already giving me goosebumps. We have a Chelsea collision in a matter of hours and I’m excited. I shouldn’t be, but I am. As football fans, the one day where rationality suffers out and is blocked out by the natural blend of alcohol, red/white and loud voices, it would have to be GameDay.

 

 passionate per

But hey, for good measure let’s quickly take a look at that context thing.

Reason to be worried? No Arsenal fan needs reminding of what Chelsea the football(?) club represents to us. They are despicable and we don’t like you! The 6-0 thumping of last season is still fresh within our memory banks, most probably entrenched in a deep, dark pocket somewhere in all our heads. What’s more, it’s no ordinary Chelsea side we’re dealing with now is it, the high-flyer of the Premier League so far. But how scary is this Chelsea team really? Okay, they have league points backing up their pretentions of dominance, a striker resembling the face of a UFC fighting career as opposed a footballing one, and they have “Mourinho.” (Okay that’s strike one, two more and I’m out) Wenger’s never beaten the bastard, and it’s no coincidence for that matter. From the one perspective, we deserve the right to consider the financial outlay at hand during this period. Since 2003 Chelsea’s Net outlay on players was  £56,451,800 ($103,926,116) per season. Arsene’s net outlay in that same period,  £1,573,182 ($2,896,182) per season? They have spent roughly 37 times more than we have, but that doesn’t tell the full picture does it.

arsene

Arsenal’s record against the top four teams of the Premier League is something that needs putting right. It’s unacceptable; we lose more than we win to put it mildly. If we look back at the past three campaigns, out of the 18 matches facing the “big four” Wenger has sadly claimed three victories whilst suffering 11 defeats. But as @MiguelDelaney points out, how come this problem is so unique to Arsenal? In the last three years, Everton’s points-per-game record in such games has been 1, while Wenger’s has been just 0.72. Southampton have, meanwhile, managed 0.82 points per game against the top four in two seasons since getting promoted. Wenger’s tally in that same period is 0.58. From the outside, it appears Wenger too loosely defines how his teams should not only set up but how they should respond to a greater physical threat. Will he do something specific to counter Chelsea’s play, something from left field, rather than just maintaining faith in his side to go out and play? Doubtful, but that doesn’t mean we’re not in for a shot. As Arsene has put it so many times, football is “unpredictable”. As he continues,

 “We have to adapt a little but, you know, let’s be honest, any single player at Chelsea can make a difference,” he explained.

“If you say you mark [Diego] Costa, [Eden] Hazard can score as well; Willian can as well score; Oscar can as well score. So what is important, of course you adapt, but it’s more focused on defending well as a team when you have not got the ball. It’s always difficult to find the balance to adapt to your opponents’ strengths, without restricting your expression of your own strengths.”

 

One might read the stubbornness from such remarks, but at least he made mention of a collective response from the back. Looking at our team and there is reason to be skeptical in concern to our backbone. Former Arsenal midfielder powerhouse Emmanuel Petit adds to the conversation:

 “Arsenal have players who are great on the ball, but when they lose possession, they have a problem.

At times, it seems like Arsenal have forgotten how to defend. They are missing some power in their team.”

And just for that split second we’re made to think what it would be like for that man to be roaming the middle of the park in red today. But moving on, our middle core is made susceptible if left isolated, which is why it is so important Arsene backs his words up via his side’s collective defensive display. Starting with Welbeck and Alexis from the front, and from the flanks, but also it’s crucial that our central players of Ozil, Carzola or Chamberlian can reinforce our press. Too many times this season I have witnessed a fragmented pressing display that has lack system and coordination. It has to be stressed that our off the ball work needs to be employed collectively and efficiently. Otherwise we will be made to look foolish as our frontal players waste their energy and their skillful ones find pockets of space between our mis-shaped lines. But on the other hand, our frailties are too obvious for Wenger not to do something and for Mourinho to so openly exploit them surely. Our present defensive midfielder shares this sentiment, as Flamini tells us of how we should approach the clash:

“It’s important to go there and be strong defensively. That will make the difference and help to keep a good balance in the team,” he added.

“We know over there that they will probably wait for us and counterattack. We have to be ready from the beginning. We don’t want to make the same mistakes that we made last year. We have learned from our mistakes.”

percielny

And then there is the small tale of our very own once again gracing the pitch in opposing colours. “Gutted” the universal response from Gooners around the world as Cesc Fabregas, the player we made, held up that jersey of blue. A cold and confusing day for everyone. Yes people are going to release their frustrations via possible chanting responses within the stadium, “We said no Cesc, we said no!” But why did we say no? Wenger has told us why:

 “When he left, we bought Ozil to buy an offensive player and we already had Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are all offensive players. We were not in need of offensive players and it makes sense if you look at the balance of the team.”

But for a lot of us it still is unjustifiable. If he wanted to come back, refusing him appears suicidal. We made him the player he is, along with that journey stems an emotional attachment that is hard to break. It will be put to the test come whistle time, but as for the rational response to such, each to their own I say. Andrew Mangan of @arseblog recently wrote for The Guardian, and as he understand it.

“You can be as rational as you want, but so much of being a football fan is emotional. To see a once favourite player rock up and do well for a team you don’t much like, well … it’s not nice. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but neither is a kick in the nuts and it’s still a sensation nobody enjoys.”

From Arsene’s perspective, we find a more rational and professional take on the situation. We all know who made Cesc but it’s also important to remember where he is now and to move on. Wenger said:

 “I think Fabregas will have a great career because he`s a great player. When he looks back at his career he will find that Arsenal and myself had a very positive impact on his career. Nobody can dispute that.

“After that, I hope that, for every single person in the world, they have the feeling that we had a positive influence and that he had a great career. That is all you can do. I have no personal animosity against Fabregas. I wish him well. He`s a great player and a person and player I love. Once he left us, he left us. We are all professionals and we have to accept that.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom, especially if we put out a team with players in their preferred positions that contributes to a positive balance, rather than compromising it. This means playing Ozil through the middle, with preferably the Ox and Alexis out wide. It has been suggested not to start Oxlade and save him as an impact substitute, but I am a skeptic of Wenger’s when it comes to his tactical substitutions. He either leaves it too late or prefers a defensive alternative, even if that may be Coquelin God bless us. So I say best team starts that can hurt them where they’re most vulnerable, a lack of speed in which we are enriched with.

ozil

 Arsenal have lost just one of their last 14 Barclays Premier League games since defeat at Stamford Bridge in March. What’s more, Arsenal have one more away at that stink hole than any other in the Premier League, that’s 7 times. Of those last five times, we’ve had to come from behind to claim victory. So as long as we don’t get steamrolled, this could be a banga of a match. The honeymoon is over Mourinho (Okay, I’m going) and Fabregas. Whatever it be Cesc, you made a choice mate and you chose Chelsea. And we don’t like Chelsea.

It’s a scorching sunny spring day in Sydney today, with a public free day on the Monday. Kick off is 12AM tonight and I plan to be well drunk by kick off time, because we all know the nerves will kick in by then.

@GoonOfOz

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Arsene’s Gala

Hello Gooners!

Arsene’s 18 year anniversary was marked by a flourishing performance by his team against a dangerous side in European football. An apt celebratory gesture from the team to Arsene. A gala for Arsene.

It wasn’t a nervy win, a tight, backs to the wall performance after snatching the lead. No. It was a convincing win, a classy result, decorated by a hat trick but somewhat marred by red card, which I think is one of the game’s stupidest rules. Why was Felipe Melo allowed to get away with a two-footed lunge on Alexis while Szczesny trying to defend his goal as the last man (whose damn position is to be the last man!) is red carded? Penalty, sure. It was poorly timed and undoubtedly a foul in the box which amounts to a penalty. A red card though? Wrong. And stupid. Perhaps a few inches higher and Alexis’ season would have been over, his career taking an Eduardo-turn for the worse.

With our squad plagued by injuries as usual, Arsene’s selection was rather done for him. With the pace on the wings, constantly switching as well, Cesare Prandelli’s Galatasaray were in over their heads. With Theo coming back into the foray after the International Break next week, we’ll definitely possess an arsenal that’ll give defenders a nightmare.

afc vs gala

The night belonged to Danny Welbeck of course, who bagged a first professional hat trick. Only the 3rd Gunner to have achieved such a feat in Europe, he’ll surely take confidence from the night, moving forward. We’ll be hoping that Danny goes the way of one and not the other. No prizes for guessing which is which.

Gunner 3s

The Englishman’s finishes were eerily Henry-esque in that his movement, his body shape and awareness while slotting the ball into the opposite corner turned the hands at Clock End back to Highbury days.  This is not to say that Welbeck will be the next Henry, no. Merely that his finishing was classy and reminiscent of a golden time which, if he continues on the same path consistently without being hindered by lengthy injuries, should take him to dizzying heights. His three goals came from 6 shots, 4 of which were on target.
Clinical, compared to what we’ve been used to lately. Might this be a paradigm shift in Welbeck’s fortunes on the pitch? We’ll have to see.

hattrick

 

He needs time to integrate with the system at Arsenal, the tactics, the players and their styles. It’s not an easy task adjusting to a different style as top footballers are made to with each transfer, however, you’d hope that a top class talent would take less time than the average individual. Welbeck, we hope, will be a top class forward. Arsene was also impressed and partially surprised by Welbeck on the night, proving that the Englishman has plenty more to offer than first perceivable.

“I believe that, technically, he’s very sound. That was a surprise that he’s technically clean and that he’s a good passer of the ball. I didn’t know he was so quick. Honestly, I knew he was quick but he can be electric when he starts – he has great pace.

He was on the end of good movements tonight and we had good pace in our game. Our transition play and our finishing was good, and Danny was at the end of good collective movements. Of course it’s good to see that he’s slowly gaining confidence and finishing well. It’s nice to see the potential is there and he’s starting to get there – hopefully that hat-trick will help him gain confidence.”

With Welbeck’s hat trick stealing and sealing the night for the Gunners, our Chilean forward was running riot all over the pitch. His pace, quick turns, shimmies, step-overs and passes caught the eye of many. His pass to Danny Welbeck which opened up the space for the Englishman to maraude down the centre of the park, was simply majestic. Many Barca fans were sceptical and mocking Gooners that were excited by the Chilean’s arrival at London Colney. At the Nou Camp, seldom was he give the chance to shine compared to the likes of Messi in the front line. However, he did not shy away and was still a handful in La Liga. Truly proving his doubters wrong with each passing game though. Like Welbeck, Alexis needs more time to completely acclimatise and integrate to our game play. Watching their displays on the pitch of late however, you’ve got to say they’re in fine fettle to really click with the rest of the team.  Besides their goals, both Summer additions have been working their socks off for the team, defensively and offensively, which has often been the difference between our victories and defeats, the nature to work as a team and not a bunch of individuals. A brilliant performance marred only by Szczesny’s needless red card and the flares thrown onto the pitch by an over-zealous Galatasaray section. No doubt the club will face UEFA sanctions in the coming days as a result of the poor actions by a few.

Some other stand our performers of the night included Ox and Santi, both of whom were absolutely superb moving forward and put in solid shifts while defending. Their movements and passing was incisive with an air of resolute purpose to it, which augurs well for the future, especially with a trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Let’s hope everyone is fit for the game, especially our Chilean who seemed in a little bit of pain with an ice-pack wrapped around his right foot when subbed off. The system played against Gala won’t work on Saturday, that much is clear. Gala weren’t great but that won’t be something to expect from Chelsea given their current form and Spanish partnership between Fabregas and Costa. However, we shall discuss that a little later on.

Here’s hoping that our boys truly carry the confidence from this game to Stamford Bridge. A unit must perform together as they fall together and consequently must rise and grow together. Arsene’s orchestration will be instrumental in a harmonious balance. Time will tell if it will pay off.

‘Til next time then Gooners. Keep it classy.

-Sir Gunner

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A Gala at the Emirates

Hello and welcome to A Gentleman’s Arsenal.

We have plenty to discuss with our clash against Galatasaray ominously looming over us with but a mere few hours in hand. The clash will be on the night of Arsene’s 18-year Managerial anniversary at Arsenal. Congratulations to the most successful, longest lasting manager at our club!

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With a loss away from home against Dortmund, our boys will look to get things back to winning ways in Europe against the Turkish outfit at the Emirates tonight. Not only will our result need to be a mirror reflection with 3 points coming our way, our performance will need to markedly improve. The statistics of the Dortmund trip narrate a very dismal story.

It’ll be no mean feat by any measure, but as the man at the helm points out, winning all our home games in the group stage will be absolutely crucial in qualifying for the next round. 10 points is the bare minimum that Arsene thinks we should be achieving in the group stage exploits which equates to 3 home wins and a draw away. However, I think that our should be at least 11 points which means a MINIMUM 2 draws away from home which will ensure we come very close to topping the group. Our record has been fairly positive in the past, qualifying consistently for the Round of 16 for the last 17 years, though we’ve shot ourselves in the foot too often by failing to capitalise on the opportunity to top the group, fluffing our chances and facing a very daunting opponent in the Round of 16.

Tonight, we’ll be put to the test against Roberto Mancini’s replacement, Cesare Prandelli, who’ll be calling the shots for the Turkish side tonight. As we all know from our meetings with Fenerbache, Besiktas and Galatasaray in the past, Turkish fans, even though they’re travelling, will create an avid support for Prandelli’s side, so our fans at the Emirates will need to be at their vocal best to give our boys the support they need.

Considering our injury woes defensively, we’ll be needing a presence in front of our defence tonight. Flamini has lost a touch of pace and bark from last season and Arteta, whether adequate or not, is out of contention with an injury (until at least just after the International break). Talking to Arsenal.com however, Diaby midweek has revealed his discussions with Arsene on playing in the deeper lying midfield role. Diaby has been a fantastic box to box player when fit, however, with our current lot of midfielders, he would struggle to vie for a starting berth. If the fragile Frenchman can stay fit, he would be required to curb his attacking mentality in order to establish a more important role of breaking up attacks and creating a link between defensive play and attack. His positioning, reading of the game and consequently, his tracking, will be imperative to this role and while his positioning has been suspect at times, his reading may be apt for the position. He won’t be playing against Gala tonight, as Arsene pointed out he’s not completely fit yet, but that’ll definitely be food for thought in upcoming fixtures.

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The boss spoke of our Summer acquisition Calum Chambers as well pointing out Chambers’ fantastic engine, over-lapping Ox for 90 minutes straight. His defensive work-rate with tackles and passing accuracy amounted to 100% and 83% respectively against the Spurs according to Squawka stats proving his dedication to his role in the starting XI with top-notch performances since his induction. I’d definitely expect to see him in start tonight, again at right back with our options limited defensively already. The rest of our defence should pick itself easily(including the Pole in goal) with Gibbs continuing at left back from the weekend. It’s promising to see the young Englishman progressing as such, with his past of niggling injuries hampering his development, stunting his progress in the footballing world. Arsene discussed Gibbs, saying:

“It looks to me that he’s going into second gear now and he realises that he can trust his body, he can trust his talent,” the manager said.

“On Saturday he also showed the personality to impose himself and took the game by the scruff of the neck for a long period in the second half. That’s what you want to see from him because all the talent is there.”

Let’s hope we witness an injury free run of games for Gibbs, for a while to come now. He boasts excellent work rate stats defensively and offensively which is a welcome addition to our team, given our immediate transitions from defence to offence and vice versa. We can also expect to see Jack in the line-up tonight, however, it’s not quite confirmed whether he will start or not after the terrible stamp on his ankle by that lot down the road (how that wasn’t a penalty is beyond me). Aaron and Mikel will return following the International Break next week, with Aaron 3-4 weeks away and Mikel somewhat sooner. Theo and Gnabry will be in full training next week which will be a very welcome boost for our squad, especially playing the likes of Alexis, Theo and Welbeck up front, with Ozil (hopefully) right in behind them. Tantalising to say the least!

I’d expect tonight however, that  Flamini will take up the defensive mid position, with Alexis will take up position on the right and perhaps Ozil and Wilshere alongside him and Santi Cazorla on the opposite wing. That of course, allows Danny Welbeck to continue up front, where we’ll be hoping he can finish his chances off with a little more grace than his failed attempt last weekend prior to Ox’s equaliser.

The facts and figures against Gala, European teams and all favour Arsenal greatly, but as we all know, that means absolutely nothing on the night. All it can bring to the team is an iota of confidence that there is heavy precedence for victory. In a short time, we’ll observe just how much confidence the boys have taken with them. You can hide nothing on the pitch.

‘Til then Gooners. Stay Classy.

-Sir Gunner

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Can there be a defence for our lack of depth in defence?

Hello Gooners! Today, we have another guest piece by Paul on our defensive issues. Over to you Paul!

Thanks Sir Gunner.

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With a long-term injury to new boy Debuchy now confirmed at 3 months and a short-term injury to Monreal, our defensive options are getting weaker & weaker.

Even before the Debuchy injury, many if not all Arsenal fans were bemoaning the lack of an additional centre back signing to replace the now departed ex skipper Thomas Vermaelen, so what is going on when it comes to our defensive options (or rather the lack of)?

I recall in a press conference during the summer when Wenger all but confirmed Vermaelen’s departure during pre-season, he stated categorically that he would be replaced. Having already taken steps to replace the departed Sagna with Debuchy & Chambers (whilst allowing Jenkinson to leave on loan to West Ham) there was no reason to doubt Wenger’s intentions in the centre back department. So why did he not do what he promised?

Perhaps when he signed Chambers, presumably seen as a backup right back, at least initially, he realised just what a competent centre back he is and it persuaded him that maybe he’d inadvertently already signed his replacement centre back, albeit we now know that young Chambers can’t possibly cover both centre back and right back positions regularly, especially when there’s a long-term injury as we now have with Debuchy,

Was the problem in signing a centre back, as some have suggested, that players looked at the Koscielny/Mertesacker partnership which is now so embedded and thought they’ll always be 3rd choice and rarely play so opted to go elsewhere? I find this hard to believe. Good players have egos and they’d believe they were good enough to get into the first team & break up that partnership. After all, we didn’t have trouble persuading Ospina to sign even though Szczesny is clearly our no 1 keeper.

Perhaps Wenger felt our young players provided the required cover? I write this just after we went out to Southampton in the Capital One Cup with a line-up that featured the likes of Hayden & Chambers as well as Coquelin in defence. Could these players offer the backup we need in the Premiership and Champions League too?

Until they get that chance it’s hard to know if they’re all up to the task although in Coquelin’s case he isn’t really a defender, yes a defensive midfield player but not someone you’d naturally choose in your back four. Also, he’s been knocking around the first team for a while and failed to make the breakthrough.  As for Hayden & indeed even to some extent Chambers too, they’re young & raw and will inevitably make mistakes whilst learning on the job. Is that really the best we should expect as our defensive back up?

Maybe the real crux of the issue was that Wenger simply wouldn’t play what was needed to land the players we were interested in & who were available? It’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t at least looking to bring in another defender. That he’s opted to go in to the season with only two experienced centre backs is astonishing, Last season I felt we just about got away with having only 3 centre backs plus Sagna as back up so to have even fewer options this season is impossible to defend. With the Debuchy injury, it is already coming back to haunt us. Just think what might happen if Mertesacker or Koscielny picked up a suspension or worse still got injured between now and Christmas, the consequences are unthinkable yet were completely avoidable.

There has been some suggestion that we night now look at free agents as a potential solution. I doubt this will happen. If they’re a free agent, my question is why? Good quality players are snapped up by someone during the transfer window. I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll go down that route but Wenger must act in January to strengthen our centre back options because the bottom line is there is no defence for our lack of depth in defence.

Stay classy Gooners.

Paul_W

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North London Derby Summary..

Hello, Let’s start by quickly summing up the week for us Arsenal fans, Let’s face facts it wasn’t a great display against a strong Southampton side. There was a few positives however I thought the defence were pretty solid for an inexperienced back four, Bellerin was good, up and down the pitch and looked more comfortable than against Dortmund, Chambers put in a decent shift too and to be fair Coquelin done well at left back, The one i was most impressed with was Issac Hayden, comfortable on the ball, won everything on the ground and in the air, he has been impressive for the youth sides but to see him do it against that standard of opposition made me think he has a big future at the Arsenal, Sanchez was as good as he has been and scored a sublime free kick, we all know what the negatives were that evening and I wont single them out as that isn’t my style. Although we lost hopefully it will give the younger players the push they need and some of the senior players that were poor that night a kick up the arse!

Now onto the more important thing, Saturday 17:30 we play the enemy in the North London derby, form goes out of the window and nothing else matters. Last season we beat them 3 times without conceding a single goal. Can we do this again?800px-Spurs_vs_Arsenal,_Avril_2007

I for one am as nervous as I usually am about it, form suggests we should beat them, also we are probably stronger than we were last season without the injuries. Pochettino takes charge of Spurs in his first North London derby can he be the man who guides them to a victory at the Emirates? I think Mr Pochettino will soon find out that there is no other game quite like this and his team will have to be up for a massive fight.

On to the team, last week at Villa we see glimpses of Mesut Ozil perhaps getting back to his best with Welbeck buzzing around him he looks to have found a front man he is going to love to play with, obviously Alexis missed out playing on Saturday so i am looking forward to seeing what all three can achieve when played together and hopefully in there favoured positions.

Arsenal celebrate Danny Welbeck's goal

If we put in a performance like we did against Villa bar the first 15 minutes we should come out of the game with a win, but as said earlier you just can’t predict how these games go. If you fancy predicting a score leave it in the comment box.

Thanks for taking the time to read this brief piece, hope you enjoyed and until next time when I hope were writing about a massive win cheers.

@NorthBankMen

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Mesut Ozil responds to his critics – Aston Villa vs Arsenal Preview

After a mid-week demolition in Dortmund, Arsenal had to bounce back and quickly and so Arsene Wenger decided to change-up his tactics a little bit. For the first time this season Mesut Ozil was playing in his favorite position and he was obliged to deliver.

Aston Villa started very well – breaking up Arsenal’s attacks and counter-attacking brightly and also very organised in their defensive duties and Arsenal were almost behind when a brilliantly taken free kick was taken by Tom Cleverley and Clark, unmarked at the far post, forced a brilliant save from Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal were pressing and the breakthrough finally came, a great one touch move from Arsenal saw Welbeck, this time, send Mesut Ozil through on goal and with his class and calmness slotted it home and gave Arsenal the lead.

One minute and a half after the goal, Ozil decided to return the favour – Great first touch football again from Arsenal sees Ozil whip a delicious, inch perfect ball in and Welbeck, with his great movement tapped it in.

Arsenal celebrate Danny Welbeck's goal

Arsenal celebrate Danny Welbeck’s goal

It got even better for Arsenal when Kieran Gibbs’ cross met Aly Cissokho in no man’s land, inadvertently putting it in the back of his own net and from then on, it was, as many could say, a training session. Nothing much happened in the second half – Arsenal were passing the ball around very well making sure that they walked away with the victory which they did.

Another successful day at the Villa Park for Arsenal who has never lost to Aston Villa at the Villa Park since 1998.

“It was the response we needed after Tuesday. Aston Villa started quite well and they had one or two dangerous situations, but after that we were in control and we scored three goals in three minutes. Then in the second half it was a possession game, a controlled game, because they didn’t come out too much. Overall it’s still a convincing win where [Danny] Welbeck scored, [Mesut] Ozil scored, and that’s important as well.”

Mesut Ozil, with his great performance earned the Barclays Man Of The Match award who scored one goal and created another. Well Done Mesut!

– @DareToWilsh

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A Disaster in Dortmund

I’ve been racking my brains all day trying to find a positive from last night. I normally look forward to blogging but todays insert is not one I have been looking forward to at all.

So, about last night….. On paper the teams were evenly matched before the game, both sides had significant injuries (Dortmund missing Reus, Hummels, Gundagan etc, we were missing Debuchy, Chambers wasn’t 100% and Giroud, Walcott etc). Comments from Klopp suggested that they were worried about how much we had strengthened over the summer.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the game itself (otherwise I might explode), so I will summarise. Basically from kick off we didn’t get out the traps. Dortmund were set up as a unit and they played as a unit. I looked at the clock at it was 15 mins gone and I couldn’t actually recall us having the ball. Long story short this was the theme of the game, Dortmund had complete control, every time they moved forward it looked as if they were going to score. Either side of half time they walked straight through our defence and put themselves 2 goals to the good with Immobile and Aubameyang notching all too easy. All in all we had a handful of chances most of which fell to Welbeck but we rarely threatened. It was all a bit embarrassing. We were so far off the pace it was unbelievable.

To be fair to Dortmund they looked a class act as they always do, but we made it all very easy for them. The question is why. In recent years I have tried my best to defend Wenger and looked to justify his reign at our club. If you look back, my first piece for this site was all about why we should keep faith in the boss. However I cannot begin to justify how he set us up last night. For a start the all too predictable scenario happened in that we had back up in defence and no protection in front of them. Why? simple because Wenger didn’t sign a DM that we all know we need, and he let half our defence go in the summer and didn’t replace them. So how on earth do you expect to go to teams like Dortmund and will just overpower you and get a result? What doesn’t he get about it? It’s very simple, and it has been for several years now, as soon as we come up against physically bigger sides than us we look like kids out there.

Arteta was asked the question; was this a one off? He answered yes. NO IT WASN’T! It happens every season, we have some fundamental issues. Look back last year City we conceded 6 Liverpool 5 Chelsea 6. I don’t think the issue is going forward is it? as actually we are now set up very well offensively. Wenger is an intelligent football man, so how the hell does everyone else see it and he doesn’t. Does he expect us to believe that we can go out and get a players of Alexis’ and Ozil’s calibre, but we can’t get Khedira or Schneirderlin or anyone that can play the role we NEED! And while we’re on the subject of Arteta and DM’s, he is finished, he’s not good enough anymore for us, its sad but true. We have to be more ruthless in letting these players go that are becoming liabilities, it doesn’t do the player or the club any good. Having dead wood in the side has always clouded Wenger’s tactical judgement and has always been a weakness of his.

It was painful to hear what Souness and Merson had to say but they were spot on in their analysis and their overall observation of where the club is at right now. Simply we are not gelling at the moment, I just hope something clicks soon and others can stop criticising or laughing at us.

Sorry for such a negative and erratically written piece, its more just putting how I feel in words.

until next time

(the rather deflated) @northbankgents

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