Wanted a mauling, but don’t lose sight of fact it’s job done

In times of desperation you will accept anything positive. Let me tell you friends, yesterday’s three points most certainly fall within that category.

Effectively dumped out of two competitions within a week, it was imperative that The Arsenal didn’t effectively hammer another nail into the Champions League coffin by slipping up against what I can only describe as a young and bang average Aston Villa team. So much so that when the Aston Villa team was displayed on the scoreboard at kick off, there were two players I’ve never even heard of. Now, I’m not one that has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Premier League footballers, but I’m quite confident I could name a decent starting eleven of all of the Premier League teams. So to see some of the names on the Villa team sheet yesterday that I’ve never even know existed, it tells you quite a lot about the youthfulness and lack of squad depth in our opponents. And therefore by proxy, the expectation that we really should be tearing them a new one.

Unfortunately for a simple gooner for myself, that quite simply translates into a result that should in all fairness, be a foregone conclusion. Villa are struggling in the league and look like they could be going down. That they were within six or seven minutes of a draw at The Emirates tells you more about the limitations of our squad than it does of the ability of Lambert’s side.

It all started so well. Attacking intent from Arsenal in the first fifteen minutes was swiftly rewarded with a neat Cazorla finish. We looked like we were up for it at first and the players looked like they wanted to lay down a marker, taking out their aggression on a clearly vulnerable Villa team.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with this Arsenal team, capitalising on the fragility of opponents is a commodity that is found in short supply at The Emirates these days. We went in 1-0 up at the break, but if we’re all honest to ourselves, we hardly laid down a confidence marker. Thankfully, Lambert’s Villa didn’t fancy seeing if this Arsenal team could be ‘got at’ and the first half ended with little trouble from the fluorescent green/yellow opponents.

The halftime pints were sunk with much debate over the reaction the team would give in the second half, and such was the joking nature of the modern day Arsenal fan, we spent most of the fifteen minute interlude thankful that we were ahead for a change.

I expected a better reaction from the players in the second half, and to be fair, at first it looked as though they were going to give it to us, with some neat build up play at times. But as is par for the course with this Arsenal side, the final end product was often found wanting, with an overriding desire to square the ball rather than ‘have a go’. So it was with no surprise that Villa equalised with their only real attack of the second half on around the 70 minute mark. As expected, it came from an Arsenal corner and as Weimann bore down on goal, we all knew what was coming. Szczseny hardly covered himself with glory with a limp wristed flap at the ball, but we all know Arsenal have it in their locker to fall apart at any moment, so it wasn’t any real surprise that we conceded.

Today’s blog has been rather negative up until this point; perhaps indicative of the nerves and worries I have of our ability to finish in the Champions League spots. But I, as I’m sure many of you need to remind ourselves of, need to appreciate the fact that three points were the requirement today and three points is exactly what the team delivered. So perhaps I need to cut them a little stack. Football has so many variables in it that it is impossible to assume that ‘a+b=c’ I.e. three points in this instance, against a team that will probably go down, means that it should be a walk in the park. So I need to remind myself that providing the team gets the results, the methodology behind it is largely irrelevant. You don’t get extra marks for showing your workings.

So today’s blog should be tinged with more happiness about it. Indeed, the happiness did come in the shape of a neat Cazorla finish with just a few minutes remaining on the clock. You have to say it was no more than the team deserved and thankfully it means we can look to the West Ham v Spuds game in the knowledge that we have at least done what is needed from our perspective. Let’s hope that Yossi can get himself on to the field and provide us with yet more happiness by spearheading a victory for the irons to mean the gap is closed to just one point ahead of next weeks crunch NLD.

Before I sign off, some positive and negative individual performances to talk of. Firstly, the negative, lets get that out of the way. I thought Diaby was generally woeful yesterday and his injury, whilst of no surprise to any of us, was the icing on a pretty horrible cake if I’m honest. I also think Giroud failed to really show his true capabilities and I hope that was just a one off game as we head into a crucial period of the season. However, some real positives were the excellent performance (yet again) of Jenkinson, and I thought Cazorla also did well, cropping up with two vital goals.

All in all, it was yet more of the same from Arsenal as they frustrated us at times, but ultimately they did the job, and we can ask no more than that.

Roll on the spuds. Lets all hope we see the best from the team then.

Finally, just a quick signing off from me. I’m heading off to Thailand for two weeks and so won’t be blogging as I try to sizzle myself in the hope of improving my skin tone. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Ben and maybe Steve (oaf12), and lets hope that by the time I’m next spilling my thoughts onto the virtual blog page, it’s to the sound of an Arsenal team having beaten our rivals and marching towards a top four finish.

Until then.

C

Siege mentality needed to get fourth

It’s Friday, it’s my last day at work before I skidaddle off to Singapore and Thailand for a bit of RnR for two weeks, and today is the day that Le Boss gets himself ready to face the baying media. The last time he was in this situation it all ended slightly with an unsavoury and un-Arsene like rounding on a journo. So I’m not sure whether the assembled coyotes will want to tear at the fresh wounds that were opened up from Bayern or simply sit back and let Arsene off for a week. I’d be surprised if it was the latter.

We already got our first snippet of information yesterday, as the official site announced that Arsene had confirmed the absence of Sagna for this weekend as well as Gibbs. Thankfully, the acquisition of Monreal is working so far and he’ll slot comfortably into left back, plus with the amount of games Jenkinson has played this season he’s become more acclimatised to first team football so I doubt there will be many of us that will be too nervous. Certainly not as nervous as a sight of Squillaci trotting out onto the field of play come Saturday 3pm. I thought Jenkinson did well against Sunderland when he played last and, two silly fouls aside, again looked the part. We know what we’re going to get with him and so I hope he puts on another stellar display against the Villains.

I find Jenkinson’s build quite interesting for a full back. He looks like a big unit that should be more adept at a central defensive position, but his ability to get down the by-line and get very good balls into the box is something that we should certainly be utilising more often than we do. It’s for his crossing ability that I hope Arsene opts for Giroud at the weekend. The Frenchman offers more of a physical presence than Walcott and is most certainly better in the air. But more on the match itself tomorrow methinks.

Right now, the biggest topic of debate is the future of Arsene, or lack of if you read some of the reports in the press. I’ve already said my piece about Arsene, and if you read my random thoughts around Arsenal regularly, you’ll know that I am a bit sad because I am coming to terms with the increasing likelihood that there could be a parting of ways. But Arsenal is Arsenal and whatever happens I’ll support the team and those representing it until the end. That is the case for this Saturday and every game that they play. And as fans I think that is the only way to be. Talk of wanting the team to lose is pathetic in my opinion. Support your team or go home. Or become a watcher of non-team sports, for this type of game is not for you.

I’ve found a lot of the recent interviews by players a little worrying as well. Last season, when there were similar mumblings from fans and the media trolls trying to dig up some content to sell their chip paper, I don’t remember seeing many of the players coming out in defence of Le Boss. I am beginning to wonder if that is because the players themselves just thought the noises about Arsene’s time being up last season were complete rubbish and so ignored it. It was a minor inconvenience from people that didn’t really see the bigger picture and so the players treated comments about Arsene ‘losing it’ were just treated with a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘what do they know?’. However, already since the Bayern game we have seen Jack, Theo and Thomas Vermaelen come out in defence of the manager. To me it is the clearest indication that the manager is under more pressure now than he’s ever been in his career. Otherwise, why would the players take so much time and give so much media profile by talking about backing the manager?

It’s up to him and his players to prove the doubters wrong, and I hope they do, but I hope that the players don’t start mentally planning for the next boss. I know it’s an extreme statement to make, but the last time I saw players coming out in defence of the manager so much was for Roberto Di Matteo and a host of other Chelski managers they’ve had down the years. I know it is pointless comparing us with the classless chavs, but I just can’t help but see these similarities – much as I don’t want to. The Chelski players are notorious for their ability to oust a manager, and with that comes the mentality of planning for a new one. I seriously doubt any of the Arsenal players want to oust Arsene, but who knows if some of them are wondering what life at Arsenal would be like without him?

Of course, all of these negative noises from various sections of the media, roared on by the bitterness of Stewart Robson and the king of the trollers Adrian Durham from TalkSport, could also serve a more beneficial purpose for the cause. It could create a siege mentality amongst the fans, players and other stakeholders at Arsenal. It could see us all collectively batten down the hatches, surround the king and mount a hell of an offensive before the end of the season. The next few Premier League games will tell that. We have Villa at home and the Spuds away. A proper siege mentality with success would see us get maximum points from those games, although to be fair, if you offered me a win on Saturday followed by a draw at Shite Hart Lane the week after I’d probably take it right now.

Theo, Jack and Thomas are right: it is the players that must now take the responsibility for delivering Champions League football next season. They have to stand up and be counted. They need to get angry. They need to show the fight we saw us get to reach third spot last season. Starting with Aston Villa this weekend.

And we need to give them all the help we can.

The fear of mediocrity at Arsenal

With two days behind us since the Bayern defeat and two days stretching out in front of us until Villa visit the Emirates, I’m in a reflective mood today. Reflecting on what we currently have with this Arsenal squad and what might become of the team come the end of the year.

We’re effectively out of all competitions. We have serious question marks over the ability of a number of players. Many of us have issues with the structure of how the club is run and the apparent ignorance of the owner to take any kind of lead in driving the club ‘Forward’. Heh, ‘Forward’ is looking like some kind of twisted irony right now, because we haven’t moved anywhere but sideways at best for some time now. Some blame the manager, but I believe the issues are much more than skin deep at the club, so much so that it’s impossible for me to accept that he is the sole root cause of our current issues.

You must know by now that I have long held a belief that Stan Kroenke is sticking around until the club can renegotiate its commercial deals and he can pull out of the club with a vastly inflated share price in just over a year and a half or so. You must also know by now that I see the ageing ‘board’ as nothing more than an old boys club; content to sit in the directors box and enjoy the trimmings but incapable of driving the club towards where it’s potential truly lies. So to say that this is all the fault of Arsene I think is to miss the point. He is to blame for many misgivings, but he shouldn’t be shouldering the blame for all of the problems.

Yesterday, as I was on my way back from work, I started to try and picture a ‘worse case’ scenario for the end of the season. Perhaps it’s endemic of how our season has declined – hope wise – that I automatically started to think of the worst possible outcome for the club rather than the best. But by doing it, I build a quite low foundation of expectation and so as D-REEM said, things can only get better. Anyway, I was trying to picture what would be the worst thing that could happen to Arsenal this season, and what would that mean for next season and for the club. I came up with this:
- defeat to the Spuds
- an inability to catch them on points by the end of the season and a fifth/sixth place finish
- Arsene announces that it’s the end and he doesn’t feel he can perform at the highest level for Arsenal.

Now, that all sounds a bit depressing, I grant you, but is it the worst thing that can happen to a football club? Have we ever not been in the Champions League? Obviously the answer to both of these questions is ‘no’, so given that we’ve had it worse than our current plight, why is everybody so frustrated? Why is there the in-fighting amongst gooners?

I think for me it is a few things. Firstly, we see examples of other once dominant English teams that are now languishing in the middle of the table. Liverpool are the most obvious example, but Aston Villa were a side that only five or so era ago were challenging us for fourth. So fans like me look at those two teams and worry about what will become of Arsenal should we not qualify for the Champions League and all of the wealth that it brings. I think that is where most of this fear of not being in the Champions League comes from. The fear that I have with this current owner and board are that despite all of the educated guessing in terms of cash reserves from educated people within supporters groups like the AST, the board have effectively padlocked the cash to cover the fact that we may not be in the Champions League. That cash then gets used to ‘top up’ the wages of the existing squad and ensure that we don’t feel the strain of not having the Champions League cash.

There are people that will counter my fear above with the retort that ‘we don’t spend the cash anyway, so what difference does it make?’ and I can certainly see that point, but without the cash and without further investment in the playing staff it looks even more unlikely that we’ll be able to get back to the top table of not just English, but European football. The fear is that a succession of failures will put us in the position Liverpool are in, where their squad is so average apart from one or two ageing players, that they effectively have to start again and again. And I firmly believe that with this board and owner that is a very realistic future. I know the addition Premier League TV money comes in at the end of the season, but it comes in for every team, so it doesn’t give us any kind of additional footballing advantage when it comes to buying the best players. Which is another fear. We may not buy the best players and pay top dollar at the moment, but with no lure of Champions League football I fear that it is yet another excuse as to why we don’t go in for players. The club has enough excuses at the moment, we don’t need them to throw another one on the fire to see how hot it burns.

But what of Arsene? Would it be the worst thing in the world if he left the club? Personally, I’m getting to the stage where I wonder whether it would be best for all involved. Get a fresh perspective in and give Arsene the break he probably needs. But again, my fear is that if we continue to spiral downwards in terms of the squad and our league position, that we have to start looking at managers that are at the Roy Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers level. Somebody even asked me yesterday if I’d consider Roberto Martinez as the next Arsenal manager. ROBERTO MARTINEZ. Let me allow that to sink in for you for a minute…..

Quite often I don’t really know which direction my blogs are going to go when I write them. I just have thoughts about Arsenal and want to get them down on proverbial paper so I can reflect and review later on, and I suspect this blog has sort of moved into that realm, but to try and bring this back into some form of structure I’ll go back over my general thoughts in some form of summation:

I don’t fear Arsenal not being in the Champions League.

I don’t fear Arsenal without Arsene (although as little as three years ago that was certainly not the case – it shows how much we have declined) any more either.

What I do fear is that with this current board and management that we will descend into the bowls of mediocrity in the English game and find it very difficult to recover. I really hope we’re not seeing the start of that.

Until tomorrow people.

The sad demise of Arsene’s Arsenal

Morning all. It’s not a great one if you’re a gooner.

I’ve tried not to be too melodramatic with the title of today’s blog, but I fear I might have failed, so apologies if what you read on from now seems very despondent. But the problem is, I am very despondent after last nights 1-3 defeat at home to Bayern Munich.

Firstly, the congratulations to Bayern. They were an accomplished and efficient attacking unit with a solid defence that, other than a lapse of concentration on our goal, looked like they had all the confidence in the world. They pressed Arsenal all of the park and had quality throughout the team. They fully deserved their victory.

Now, on to Arsenal, time to dissect this team unfortunately. We simply aren’t good enough to win this competition. If we’re all frank with ourselves, we never have been. We had hope – sure – but it was never really anything else and now to all intents and purposes our time in this competition is over. Sometimes in football, miracles happen, but that rarely seems to occur at Arsenal. Unless we’re dishing out lifelines to other teams.

Yesterday I saw a top eight team from the English Premier League get dealt a hammer blow by the best of Germany. But what was more irksome than anything was the way in which we conceded goals two and three – both of which were entirely avoidable. Szczesny has been superb for us over the last couple of weeks, but he showed that he still has mistakes in his game when he parried a ball into the grateful Muller’s path who stabbed home from two yards. For the second, Lahm put in a good cross but Mertesacker made a hash of dealing with the ball and Sagna was nowhere to be seen as Mandzukic scrambled the ball in. It was vintage calamity Arsenal.

Nothing really went right for the team yesterday. Even Jack was having an off day. Some of the performances from individuals left a lot to be desired and I am now coming to the realisation that there is no way Theo Walcott can play as a striker in our current formation. It simply didn’t work yesterday and he found himself isolated and absent in the first half.

It was a sad thing for me to watch Bayern yesterday and think ‘we used to be like them. We used to confidently pop the ball around and play teams off the park on Champions League nights like this’. It was a stark reminder of how far we have fallen from the top footballing table. We simply don’t have the players to eat there any more. We have sold family china after family china and now that we’re eating from Tuppaware plates we still want to be invited to sit with the elite. In sorry Arsenal, but that just doesn’t happen. You need to have the quality silver in you’re cupboards to done with the finest. Plastic knives and forks may fool the local people, but on a world stage you’ll get nowhere.

There are people that have said they want us to lose this tie because it will force the board to act and possibly sack Arsene. There are other people who have said that us going out would force Arsene into the transfer market in the summer. But I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care about signings. I don’t care who takes to the field for Arsenal. As long as they win. As long as they show passion, desire and a will to win. Right now, from this current crop of players and the management team, I’m just not seeing it. And I don’t think we’ve seen it for a while.

I hope nobody that professes to support Arsenal is taking pleasure in defeat this morning. I hope everyone is hurting as much as me. Because I don’t want to see Arsene like this and I don’t want to see Arsenal like this. The man has done so much for Arsenal. He has bought us so much success and overseen an essential transition period in the clubs history. But unfortunately he just doesn’t look like he has all of the answers any more. At times he had the air of a man that doesn’t have any answers at all. And that is heartbreaking to see from a fan like me. His faith in his players isn’t being rewarded and he has failed to act on that by augmenting the existing playing staff to the detriment of the team and possibly our hopes of Champions League football next year.

The Emirates has a resigned feeling to it. A feeling that the end is near. An end of an era: Arsene’s era. I always knew Arsene would one day leave the club, but if you’d have told me that it would most likely Peter out like his reign is doing at the moment, I’d have called you mad. And if you’d have told me that an increasing number of fans would be happy with his exit, I’d have called you doubly mad.

I am clinging on to the hope that there is fight in the old dog. That Arsene and this Arsenal team comes out swinging and give us a swashbuckling end to the season that sees us secure Champions League football for next year and look to reassess the squad capability in the summer. But given all that has come before us this season so far, I am skeptical that we will see that. All I can see right now is a fizzling out to the season that results in the clearest indication that this is the poorest squad under Arsene’s reign: fifth place finish and an eighth year without a trophy.

Sorry guys, I’m sure I’ve depressed you all by now – assuming you’ve read this far – but today is a dark and low day for Arsene’s Arsenal. It’s probably compounded by the lifeless display against Blackburn at the weekend, but the fact still remains that we’ve effectively been knocked out of two competitions in less than a week. It simply isn’t good enough from The Arsenal.

That’ll do for me today. Try to have a good one people.

Bayern at home: Redemption can be swift

Football is a wonderfully forgiving world. You can be at rock bottom one day, then within a day or two gone by you have the opportunity to wash away your sins by that sweetest of things: victory. Football is a fast paced world and that can sometimes work to your advantage. Redemption can be a swift and wonderful thing in football. All you have to do is win.

That is certainly the mantra that I would be saying to each and every one of the players that are elected to play tonight. Each player has to know that they must put all of their previous transgressions to one side and focus purely on the opponents for tonight: Bayern Munich.

Arsenal rarely make it easy for themselves and tonight is testimony to that. Instead of finishing top of the group we slipped up to Schalke which meant a more difficult tie earlier on in the competition. Aside from Barcelona, I don’t think you could get more difficult than last year’s finalists, Bayern Munich. They have a plethora of attacking players that can carve open defences at will and probably should be the reigning  Champions of Europe, but for Roberto Di Matteo and his selling of soul to the Devil to win the FA Cup and Champions League last year. Unfortunately for the Italian he paid the price of being at Chelski, but the way that Bayern played in that final against the Chavs should serve as both a stark reminder of their quality, but also of their weaknesses. Look, I’m not suggesting that because Chelski won on penalties, it will be an opportunity for us to do over the Germans. But I think that despite the media savaging that seems to be happening at the moment, we can win tonight and then get a result away from home. I have to believe that. Hope is the last bastion of the desperate man, and after our desperate performances in the cup competitions this year I have to hold on to hope that this Arsenal team will come out swinging tonight.

There’s no doubt that we have the ability to put on a show and prove the doubters wrong. There is no doubt that some of these players have something to prove to, well, just about everybody. but there is a doubt in their own confidence and their own belief right now. I haven’t met too many non-gooners that are giving us much chance over two legs. But we’ve seen the side grind out a result against Sunderland. We’ve seen them come back from the abyss against Liverpool after a shocking first half. So we have to believe that we can see them negate the attacking threat of Gomez, Ribery, Robben, Muller and Schweinsteiger.

I was told yesterday that Bayern have conceded just one goal away from home this year. well, I suspect we’ll have to double that tally if we want to take anything substantial to the Allianz Arena. That is a frightening statistic in its own right, but if it alleviates a little bit more pressure and provides an impetus for the players to play up to the ‘underdogs’ tag even more, then I won’t mind. We will need to see Podolski (rested on Saturday so you never know, he might actually make 90 minutes for us tonight!), Walcott and if playing, Giroud, to be on form tonight. We can ill afford profligacy in front of goal. We will need Jack to be his marauding self and Santi will need his vision and passing range to be at it’s best. I suspect we’ll see a back four of Sagna, Koscienly, Mertescaker and Vermaelen take to the field in defence, and it is my hope that the BFG can show his German international teammates a thing or two at the heart of our defence.

We will need to see an Arsenal that is quick off the blocks and up for this tonight. There are no opportunities in Champions League football for ‘second half Arsenal’ and if the same intensity is shown to Bayern as was shown to Blackburn, it will be a massacre. But here’s the thing; I don’t doubt for a second that the players won’t be infinitely better than the weekend. I think we’ll see a totally different Arsenal team that is pressing, chasing every ball and is giving the home fans something to scream about. Right now, that’s all I care about. Yes, we can assess why they can’t do that in every game should what I am predicting happen tonight, but that is a debate for another day. All we need to care about tonight is making the atmosphere amazing, the players are up for it, and we show the Germans what we’re made of.

A quick word on Arsene before I sign off for the day. I have to say I was a little embarrassed by his outburst in the presser yesterday. I’ve always admired Arsene for the dignity he has shown even in the face of some quite manipulative and spineless journalists. But yesterday had all of the hallmarks of a manager that is feeling the pressure and can potentially see the end in sight. It is a sad state of affairs. But I don’t really want to dwell on that too much right now, I want to make sure everyone with a stake in Arsenal Football Club, is behind the team and roaring them on to success tonight. I’ll leave my thoughts on Arsene for another day.

I’ll be there in all my Arsenal fineries cheering on the lads. If you are, or if you’re watching on TV, just make sure you’re screaming as much as me! Come on Arsenal!

Prevention is better than cure

Morning gooners. Still upset? Still angry? Still feeling? I know I am.

It probably hasn’t helped that just before I switched off my TV last night I saw the draw for the quarter finals of the FA Cup and noticed that Blackburn had avoided all of the other big teams in the competition and would be facing off against Milwall away for a place in the semis. I know, I know, if you can’t beat Blackburn at home, etc, etc.

It still irks me massively that the eleven players that took to the pitch on Saturday couldn’t really be bothered until we had gone behind. I know I didn’t go to the game, but hearing that Arsenal treated that first half like an exhibition match is possibly the most frustrating of all. It makes me annoyed to think that those players feel a match is beneath them until they actually go behind. Why can’t they be up for games from the start? Why can’t they show intensity from the first minute? That game on Saturday was indicative of the lack of motivation for some players unless their playing in ‘big games’. Well, guess what boys, you only get ‘big games’ when you dispatch lesser opponents.

I also read yesterday that the players had all gone into training yesterday on their day off. I don’t know whether its true or not, but if it is true, then so what? What is an extra days training going to achieve that hasn’t been discussed or planned between July last year and February this? Are they finally taking defensive coaching lessons? Has Steve Bould said “psst. Arsene won’t let me train you on my own, so we’re all meeting in secret at London Colney tomorrow. Pass it on”? Forgive me for not rejoicing at the prospect of the team working harder to rectify their own failings, but they should have been ironing out the kinks in the team long ago. Prevention is indeed better than cure and we could have prevented a hell of a lot of the lapses in concentration that have cost us continued cup competition entry.

Unfortunately, I’m just not convinced in our ability to be the best any more. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought we’d sweep all asunder this season, but I expected better than what we’ve been served up at times. And to then hear Arsene himself saying that perhaps the players haven’t shown ‘maturity on the mental front’ is as heart-breaking as it is irritating. Lets not forget that it was only last season that he spoke of the teams ‘mental strength’. So I’d like to ask Arsene where all that has disappeared to? When did we sell all the players with mental strength and replace them with limp impostors?

This is all very sad to me. Some people talk about how the ‘WOB’ brigade enjoy revelling in Arsene’s failings. I don’t know if that is true or not, I’m certainly not anti-Wenger, but I certainly am ‘anti-Arsenal-as-a-dwindling-European-and-English-force’ and right now you can’t argue that our ability to be competitive is dissipating. And unfortunately it happens to be on Arsene’s watch. His comments are no longer seen by yours truly as acts of defiance and siege mentality tactics to unify us all, but the desperate mumblings of a man that is looking older by the day. It’s sad because I’m sure even the staunchest of Wenger critics don’t want to see his reign tainted as it is, but by contradicting himself by those ‘mental maturity’ comments, it just looks to me as though its a man who is desperately clinging on to hope of a reaction from his players, rather than expecting one.

We’re becoming the very thing that we used to fall back on when the team had a poor result in the past. We used to be able to say “it could be worse, look at Liverpool/Spurs”, but we’ve tumbled head first into that bracket I’m afraid. We’re now in the next tier down from the top teams, scrabbling for a Champions League spot with very little expectation of any victory in the competition. We want to be in it because it strengthens the coffers. Sorry, scrap that, THE BOARD want us to be in it so it strengthens the coffers. And not so it can be reinvested. Talk of a ‘£70million war chest’ is spin, spin and more spin fed to the papers from the club to keep the interest of the dwindling fan numbers and timed perfectly before the next round of season ticket renewals. It’s pathetically transparent by the club. Even if there was the money available, we all know it won’t be spent by the manager, as he clings on with all of his might to the hope that he can do things ‘his way’.

Sorry if this is all a bit doom and gloom this morning guys. I try to be as positive as possible sometimes but it’s very hard when your faith isn’t reciprocated by players earning in a year what it might take you a lifetime, or a board with any ambition whatsoever. Back tomorrow with a match preview and more hope and blind optimism.

Blackburn – analysis of Arsenal becoming useless

I don’t even know what to say today. I don’t even know where to start. Thankfully other obligations meant I couldn’t be at the game yesterday, but I’ve seen some of the key highlights, the goal and our catalogue of missed chances.

What’s the point in trying to analyse this team? Why bother? They can be so abject and careless sometimes it just feels like a waste of my energy trying to evaluate them. The players talk about a desperation to win trophies. About a need to step up and win something. But they then provide lifeless performances like yesterday.

There is a culture of complacency at Arsenal Football Club that has unfortunately infiltrated the first team squad whilst Wenger is on watch. Players are content to coast through games expectant for so called ‘lesser’ teams to roll over. We can ignore the fact that Blackburn showed no ambition to get forward. We can ignore the fact that Mike Dean is a disgraceful toe-rag who is probably quite enjoying seeing us preside over defeat after defeat. But what we can’t ignore is the fact that a lot of the players yesterday just couldn’t be arsed.

I could talk about individuals that are not good enough for the club (a massive foreheaded Ivorian springs to mind) but what good will it do? We are stuck with these players for the foreseeable future and probably a bit longer after that as well.

I saw people on Twitter yesterday saying that people shouldn’t blame Arsene, they should blame the players, but I’m afraid I just cannot countenance that belief. He motivates. He trains. He buys. He prepares. He undertakes half time team talks. He is most certainly culpable.

I read Arseblog’s match review this morning and he alluded to the fact that this has happened so many times already this season that it simply cannot be coincidence. He’s absolutely right. There is no chance that this can be chalked off as a ‘one in a thousand’ fluke result. More like a ‘one in three’ result.

We play Bayern Munich on Tuesday night as our only cup competition we can win something in. But here’s the thing: in the FA Cup you can get a decent draw and potentially get to the semis before you play one of the bigger sides. But in the Champions League you pretty much play difficult side after difficult side and so you’re chances of scraping through that with a good draw are almost impossible. And it’s over two legs so you can’t usually fluke one result. Unless you’re Chelski. We’re not. We’re Arsenal and we screw things up all the time.

The manager and the players have two days of thinking time before they take to the field again. They better think long and hard.

That’s it from me. I can’t be arsed to waste any more of my Sunday afternoon thinking about Arsenal Football Club. Hell, the players certainly won’t in their massive houses and infinite funds that some simply haven’t earned.

Blackburn: more physicality we need to overcome?

FA Cup weekend people. I don’t care what anybody says about the romance dying a little bit, I’m still happy for Arsenal to still be in it, and it’s made all the sweeter knowing that the spuds aren’t. Yes, there are still most of the big guns in the competition and yes, Chelski have had their usual bye’s so far until they get to the semis, but I don’t care about that, only about The Arsenal.

It’s Blackburn Rovers today that come along to The Emirates to face an Arsenal side that, without anybody paying any real attention, has suddenly strung together a little bit of a run. We’ve won four out of our last six and even shaken off the ‘they don’t like it up em’ tag that limited northern teams try to perpetuate by kicking Arsenal players off the park. Both Stoke and Sunderland have tried, but to no avail, so the hope is that if Blackburn think an overly physical approach is the only way to go, they’ll come unstuck against a resolute Arsenal at home today.

The team news will most certainly include a bit of shuffling from the usual recognised eleven. I suspect we might see Vermaelen in at left back, Sagna at right back with the absence of Jenkinson, and Mertesacker possibly with Miquel at the heart of defence. In midfield I think Rambo will come in and I think Diaby will also get a start with Jack still not 100% recovered from his clattering against the Mackems last Saturday. Personally, I’d also like to see Rosicky get a run out instead of Cazorla too, as he hasn’t played much this season but on the occasions that he has played I’ve been impressed. Up top I think Arsene will use the relative security of a home game against lower league opposition to bring Gervhino back into the fold. The hope here must be that his confidence has risen after a good AFCON tournament, plus the opportunity to be on the scoresheet against lower league opposition, must surely lead to a start for the Ivorian. I think we’ll see him on the left and perhaps The Ox on the right with maybe Theo or Giroud up top. Personally I’d plump for the Frenchman but you just don’t know what Arsene is thinking.

As for Blackburn, they’re team is a slightly different one to the side that was relegated last year, with Jordan Rhodes being their most notable acquisition to help them to try and get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. I’ve seen Rhodes a couple of times and he looks like a good player at the lower levels, but whether or not he can continue to bang in goals if Blackburn get into the Premier League, is another matter. Of course, this probably means he’ll be first goalscorer this afternoon so get your coppers on him now I’ve said that.

Blackburn may not have some of the more creative players like Nzonzi in their team any more, but they will still pose Arsenal a threat and we’ll still have to turn up and dominate position and convert into goals to get something out of this game. And look, if we do turn up and show that we’re in a bit more form that the beginning of this year, we should have enough to win this game comfortably. But Blackburn will bring a vociferous away support with them – the unwritten rule of any FA Cup tie to lower league opposition is that you get nothing less – and we will have to silence them quickly and make this game safe before half time if Arsene wants an easier passage into the sixth round. We know we’re going to come up against a team that will try to be ‘in their faces’, but it’s up to us to be too quick for them to get even close to the players’ faces, by out passing and outskilling (is that even a word? If not, I’m patenting!).

If we are sluggish, if we are expectant that our opponents will roll over and let us tickle their bellies, we will come-a-cropper on our own turf today. So I hope we see a purposeful Arsenal from 3pm.

I’m not at the game for family reasons today, but I’ll be checking my phone every five minutes, so I hope to hear some positive noises from the red and white side of north London today.

Up The Arsenal!

Poking the Arsenal beast for a reaction

Happy Friday gooners, hope all is well with thee.

Bit of a delayed post from me because I’m on annual leave and there ent no way I was going to wake up before 9am for no man, beast nor blog. In many ways, I’m a lazy, lazy man.

One person who is not a lazy man is Le Boss. Arsene had his press conference yesterday and as usual there were one or two things on his mind. He did talk about Thomas Vermaelen being almost at full fitness, which is great when you think that we don’t have a left back for the Bayern game, plus said that both Kos and Jack will face fitness tests tomorrow. Personally, I hope neither play and they are both rested against the Lancastrians, because now is just the time in the year when gambling on player fitness can sometimes result in the old ‘we won’t see him for the rest of the season’ problem rising its ugly head. I know we need to take Blaburn seriously as an opponent, and the FA Cup is one of only two trophies we could win, but if we don’t have enough of a squad to cope with the absence of those two, then we really do have some issues with the overall team. Plus, our experiences with Blackburn over the years has only been marginally different from the orcs near the River Trent. They still have one or two annoying gits on their books and so I am hoping for a smasherising tomorrow.

I suspect neither Kos nor Jack will play and we’ll see some rotation in a few positions on Saturday, including attack and midfield. More on that tomorrow though.

I was interested to read Arsene’s quotes about us playing well when going behind to ten men. Arsene talked about the good response against Sunderland and also, aside from the two early goals against City, the good response we had at home against the oil whores too. Arsene is no stranger to seeing his side down to ten men over the years and so it was pleasing to see that the team has the physical and mental faculties to deliver three points when against the kosh like they were last Saturday. Don’t get me wrong though, it was not pleasing at the time of watching that last ten minutes, I can tell you.

What I do find interesting is the ability of the team to react to adversity as they do. Whether that be being a goal behind or playing so poorly in the first half, or being down to ten men, we can’t deny that they team has shown that they are up for a fight. You do have to question however, why this continues to happen. Why do we constantly need a catalyst in order to spark into life? Why is it only when you poke the beast with a sharp stick that it roars and lashes out? The mark of championship and trophy winning teams is their ability to turn the screw and be motivated to win from the first whistle, and if I’m to be slightly critical over the team, it’s that they haven’t really exhibited that enough this season.

Is it a question of motivating the players better? Is it their preparation for the games that needs to be questioned? In all honesty I’m not 100% sure. What I am sure of though is that we are now putting together some momentum at a crucial time in the season. We have to ensure that we maintain this momentum through winning games and where better to do that than on you’re home turf on Saturday and then the following Tuesday.

That’s all folks. See you tomorrow.

Are we in a better position than last year?

This may sound like an idea that is draped with hope, faith and blind optimism, but the title of today’s blog is something I’ve been toying with in the deepest darkest recesses of my mind for a while now. So I thought I’d crack open my mind – in a literary sense – and let all the goo ooze out to see what people think.

We’re now at the business end of the season and we sit four points adrift of the spuds with twelve games to go. It’s hardly the easiest run left by us to get to our end goal of fourth spot, but if you look at the excellent piece written by 7amkickoff it shows that the current favourites have a slightly harder run up than we do. So it’s delicately poised. However, what I wanted to debate is less the upcoming games, and more the assumption that we are worse off than last year. It’s something that I’ve heard on the terraces a few times this year and I’ve even thought it myself at times. After all, we have lost a guy that smashed in over 35 goals, so how can we not be, right?

Now, the way I look at it, this blog title question has two clear inferences that you could take from it. The first is that I am implying that I think we have a better team than last year overall. My honest opinion to that is that right now, at this moment in time, we actually do.

Last year we relied on one grey-haired goalscorer. Granted, he was one of the top three or four best players in the globe, but the entire team looked to him to the extent that other players clearly didn’t need to step up to the plate when called upon. Theo Walcott is a classic example. Happy to make assist after assist for the ‘one man band’ up top, Theo settled for high assists instead of the glory of self praise by hitting the onion bag himself. This year he is on course to smash his own scoring tally for the season. He has stepped up and we have profited from the extra responsibility that has sat on his shoulders. And he’s improving every week as his confidence rises. It’s good to see for most of us gooners that have watched him grow or six years and seen the potential that is now starting to be realised, much to the disappointment of Stewart Robson and Chris Waddle. And you could see how he has grown in stature against Sunderland. Yes, he didn’t score, but he was a menace to the Sunderland team throughout.

Both Giroud and Podolski were bought in to spread the TEAM burden of scoring goals, and both have done so. Both have had off days, and both have taken time to settle, but both are now established and are starting to look the part.

The role of the ‘talisman’ has also shifted. Our talisman is now no longer the goalscorer and captain combined. The role of Captain has shifted to Vermaelen, or latterly Arteta, with the role of talisman having been assimilated by the ever-marauding and always awesome Jack Wilshire.

In my mind, we’ve taken the role that the Dutch player who used to play for us (but could never be as good as Dennis) had, and we’ve hung, drawn and quartered it. We’ve allowed the rest of the team to tear at the role like a pack of savage coyotes and pull off their own bloodied strips of it to devour for their own. And as a result we must be better off for it. How can we not? An injury to any of Walcott, Giroud, Podolski, Wilshire, Arteta or Vermaelen and we’re all sad to see it, but we’ve spent time this season without all of those players for one reason or another and we still find ourselves four points from the top four spots.

The second connotation that you could infer from my question at the top of the blog is that i feel that because we are closer to the chasing pack than last year, we are better off. This is a ‘yes and no’ from me in this instance. Factually we are better off. We have less of a mountain to climb than last year to reach the top four peaks, but we still have quite a way to go in my opinion. The Spuds team that fell apart last year did so because of the Redknapp effect. AVB may be a lot of things, but I think he’ll be focused enough to ensure that a fall apart like that doesn’t happen to them this season. So in effect, we have to rely on ourselves in order to secure top four, and not the whim of a twitchy old man who has his eyes on a different prize. So I see this years mountain as just as steep as last years.

If we’re going to look at facts, you also can’t discount that we are worse off points wise than we were last season. It’s been rammed down our throats by the British media since Spetember/October time. Arsene doth protest that we’ve played harder games away from home to date, but the fact remains that we haven’t done it at home when we really should have. It is when you look at some of the results against lower league opponents that you start to raise your eyebrows at any assumption that we are better off than last year. How can we be when we’re losing at home to Swansea and drawing against the likes of Fulham and Sunderland at The Emirates? It becomes very difficult to justify progress when you look at the gradual decline of points gained at this stage of the season over a five or six year period.

I’m not one for throwing facts after facts at you – regular readers will know that by now – I just like to go by my gut. I know that our dwindling points tally of this season hardly fills fans with excitement that the club are executing its mantra of ‘forward’ to great success, but I do feel that there has been some baby steps made to the overall TEAM in comparison to last year. Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of work that is needed to turn the squad into the competitive outfit that we need it to be in order to sit at the top of the tree again, but I am clinging on to hope that we’ve seen the worst and the club will now start to build on some of the momentum we’ve had recently to propel us into the top four, then further build on the squad through player acquisition in the summer.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Catch you laters.