About Ben Leeder

Arsenal Fan

Game 1000th part 2

Welcome back!

Today being Arsene’s 1000th game, we’ve decided to treat you with some more stories of joy that Arsene has brought to us over his reign. Some fellow bloggers have kindly shared their stories. Strap yourself in, and enjoy…

Michael – @Block_5_Gooner – Congratulations to Michael who has just joined the 89th Minute team

When Suburban Chris asked whether I’d like to write about “Your favourite Arsene Wenger match” I was like a rabbit in the headlights when I first heard. There’s been so many great victories over the last 18 years where do I start?

I think you tend to instantly think of success either cup or League titles victories, such as the 4 FA Cup trophies he’s won. Thinking about them they were/are great moments but none I could say were my favourite match. Likewise with the 3 League titles Wengers won but it’s hard to pick out an individual match but you remember Everton, White Hart lane (twice) & Old Trafford.

There have been pivotal games like the 4-2 win versus Liverpool during the ‘The Invincibles’ year. We almost lost that game after being 2-0 down and that game was off the back of going out both of the Champions league and to Man Utd in the FA Cup. Big game to turn around but not my favourite.

There have been big Champions league victories too like 5-1 at away at the San Siro versus Inter Milan, 1-0 away to Real Madrid, 2-1 at home to Barcelona. Great games, great memories.

However if I’m to choose a favourite it has to involve going atleast goal down and coming back. I hate it at the time but it’s the roller coaster of emotions during a 90 minutes you sometimes just can’t be beat it. That Liverpool game is certainly up there but there’s a game that beats it for me. Spurs 5-2. The first one.

Beating Spurs can be a real joy. Another favourite match, aside from the other 5-2, was the 2-0 the year before that. Still celebrating the Van Persie’s opener, Cesc nicks the ball from the re-start and beats most of the Spurs team to make it 2-0. I’d only just recovered celebrating the first when absolute pandemonium broke out!

Back to my favourite game.
Within 4 minutes we go down to a soft goal from Saha. Then on the 34th minute things go from bad to worst. Bale runs into the box and overruns the ball falls over Szczesny Mike Dean (typical!) awards the penalty! Who steps up? Adebayor to score. 2-0.
I never leave early, but that day I really really considered going and not returning after the break. I’d been pondering it for a while but just then Van Persie hit the post, Arteta returned and chipped the ball for Sagna to head in to make it 2-1.

Then 2 minutes to the end of the half Van Persie scores a ‘worldy’. He turns and makes space for himself back to goal before curling a sublime shot top corner around Friedel. Game on.

Quickly after the break on the 50th minute a goal from Rosicky.
Then some breathing space for all, Theo on 65 from lightening break.
Another moment I like is quick session goals and 3 minutes later Theo yet scores again beating the offside trap.

By then the games over and the banter really begins and all that’s left is a dismissal to Scott Parker to add insult to injury a couple minutes from time.
It’s a warm Sunday lunchtime victory and the rest of the day…and the week will be joyous wonderful.

My Wenger XI
Seaman
Cole Adams Campbell Dixon
Pires Vieira Petit Ljungberg
Bergkamp Henry
( Note: I only choose Ljungberg for balance in the team, otherwise I’d pick Overmars.

Subs: Lehman, Bould, Gilberto, Cesc, Overmars, Parlour, Wright

Also from 89th minute, Jeremy Lebor (@JeremyLebor)  has very kindly shared his favourite Arsene XI with us; Seaman,Lauren,Cole,Adams,Campbell, Vieira, Petit, Pires, Ljunberg,DB10,Henry

Jeremy wrote a marvellous article this week on Arsene and his Arsenal career, a must read – Arsene1000

Daniel Cowan – @thedanielcowan – You can find Daniel at NorthLondonIsRed.co.uk and The Goonersphere Podcast

Ray had a knack for having an impact on big games, mainly cup finals and it was that knack that probably gave me my favourite ever moment in football. I was watching the 2002 cup final with a Chelsea mate who laughed when Tim Lovejoy had his infamous “It’s only Ray Parlour” moment. I don’t know who cheered more when “Only Ray Parlour” smashed the ball into the net, Bradley Walsh or me. I don’t have a video of myself on youtube to compare but I know that after that final I never spoke to the Chelsea lad again.

Favourite Arsène XI: Seaman – Dixon Adams Campbell Cole – Parlour Vieira
Ramsey (say something) Pires -
God – Henry

Lehmann, Keown, Cesc, Freddie, Wright

Ben – @BenLeeder

Champions League football captures my sole, my mind, and makes me dream. Lots of my favourite games with Arsène at the helm, have been evening games under the Lights at Highbury and The Emirates. The glow, the atmosphere is something to behold. It seems to make our football even more scintillating and helps build a fantastic narrative.

Wednesday 26 April, 2006. We played Villerreal in the return leg of the Champions League semi final at the Estadio El Madrigal. A Kolo Toure goal at home, gave us a led we so desperately needed and longed for. Confidence was obviously high coming into the second leg and there seemed to be some real belief.

We started with a back four consisting of Eboue, Toure, Campbell, Flamini. We had Hleb, Fabregas, Silva, Ljungberg, and Reyes in midfield and Thierry Henry up front. Initially, the game didn’t pan out like I hoped. Flamini pulled his hamstring 9 minutes into the game. Clichy came on for the versatile Frenchman. It seemed maybe things were going to go from bad to worse. Franco and Riquleme were putting us under immense pressure. We definitely rod our luck for the entire game.

Villarreal continually tried to beat down the door, time appeared to be running out. The Spaniards were handed a lifeline, Clichy was judged to have fouled Jose Mari in the area.

Let the drama begin….

As Riquleme picked up the ball and walked towards the penalty spot he looked nervous. The TV camera panned from his face back to Lehmann’s very quickly. I was sitting very close to my dad, I asked him, ‘will he score?’. He couldn’t give me an answer, and looked as nervous as Riquleme. The only person who seemed confident was our imposing German goalkeeper. His body language was full, and his typical manic-esque boldness.

Riquelme buckled under the pressure. LEHMANN SAVE!

Raptures in the Leeder household. What turned out to be a largely forgettable evening, it eventually was our most momentous European night in history, thus far. For that reason, my favourite game.

Thank you Arsène for some marvellous nights of European football and equally marvellous football.

Favourite Arśene XI Seaman – Lauren Adams Campbell Cole – Vieira Fabregas – Overmars Bergkamp Pires – Henry

Thank you for reading,

Be happy,

The Suburban Gooners

Arsene reaches a landmark – 1000!

This Saturday will see Arsene Wenger take control of his 1000th Arsenal game. Throughout 18 years in charge we have seen momentous games and jaw dropping displays, but we have also had our hearts broken. In this blog we pay homage to Le Professor by asking fellow blogger to take us through their favorite Arsenal game as well as their all time Wenger XI.

Alex – @The_Beck_

Nothing captures your mind quite like a win against United in their prime, a United with Ronaldo, an in-form Rooney & Berbatov and a later subbed in Tevez.

On November 8th, 2008, we played United after losing and drawing quite a few games early on in the season, setting doubts deep within fans that our style of play was no longer worth watching, that it was a luxury with no end product and no Plan B.

We started the game with a French back four, Sagna, Gallas, Silvestre and Clichy, with Nasri. Cesc and Denilson in the middle. Bendtner started upfront and Walcott and Diaby were on the wings. The ferocious Almunia occupying the place between the sticks.

Our bench consisted of Ramsey, Wilshere, Vela, Djourou, Song, all of them were around 20 or under, all of them felt like products of our policy, as were most of those who were playing.

We dominated them from start until finish, tired them out and made them look average on the day, it was a flash of Wengerball at its finest, a flash of what its been like over the last 9 years, no illustrious trophy but memories that remind us that whilst we’ve been the underdog, we’ve still made memories to remind the world that we’re The Arsenal. We’ve taken our game to the biggest of the bunch even when we didn’t have the quality/squad to be consistent enough.

We earned so much respect that day from all over the world, playing our way, reminding the world once again that underneath the politics of the board room, the spending policies and sales, Wengerball will always find its way to shine eventually and in the future, I am confident it will shine again.

Favourite Arsene XI – Lehmann – Cole – Adams – Campbell – Sagna – Vieira – Cesc – Ozil – Henry – Bergkamp – Pires – 4-1-3-2

Dave – @goonerdave66 You can find Dave over at – 1nildown2oneup.net

When asked to pick highlights from the Wenger era it would be easy to select Cup Finals or matched at which titles were clinched but oddly these are not the games to came to the fore of my mind. The matches that are so often special for the fans are so often the last home games of a season for me and in the Wenger era so many of these have been memorable but I will select 3 in succession.

In 2004 there was understandable tension on the 15th May as Leicester came to Highbury. The title had been secured weeks earlier but history , real history, was just 90 minutes away. Arsenal were one last performance away from an unbeaten domestic season in the league. An Arsenal old boy Paul Dickow had the nerve to opening the scoring for the Foxes and we all had to endure the half time interval still behind. Appropriatley perhaps it was Henry from the spot and then Captain Marvel, Paddy,who scored. The party began and a day to say I was there when Wenger and his team made history.

In 2005 with a Cup Final waiting the visitors in the penultimate match and last home fixture were Everton. A crazy game in which we scored 7 to no response and bid a fond farewell to Edu, allowing him a penalty to sign off. However the day for me was all about one man and how we felt about him. Amid rumours at 36 Dennis Bergkamp might be ready to hang up his magic boots, he made 3 scored one and the whole of Highbury rocked to 35000 Gunners singing ‘One more year!’ again and again and again. The Iceman did put pen to paper on one last year and I am sure all of us there that May day helped his decision.

In 2006 the last every game at Highbury saw the visit of Wigan and they were never going to spoil our party and nor did they want to. To their eternal credit in fact they stayed after the match and joined in. To be there 30 years after my first visit with my 10 years old son was special. To win with an Henry hatrick, to see Thierry kiss the hallowed turf, to hear Spurs had fluffed their lines at Upton Park and to be in the North Bank upper and feel it actually vibrate, all will live with me forever. Even the post match players parade and Roger Daltry’s one off rendition of an anthem, he had written just for the occasion were fabulous but of course there was the sadness mixed with the celebratory mood of Champions League qualification. My son probably did not quite grasp the magnitude of the occasion or why when the party was dying I shed a tear of two. If it is possible to have a private moment in amongst 38000 I had mine and then my thoughts turned to a trip to Paris……

I am awaiting for the truly memorable moments at the Emirates under Wenger but up until now the 2-1 victory over Barca and the Thierry Henry come back goal against Leeds sit glistening a top a small pile of gems.

Favourite Arsene XI – Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Winterburn, Gilberto, Vieira, Pires, Overmars, Bergkamp, Henry

Steve – @oaf12

Oh there are so many memories!! Press conferences, arms up to the crowd, etc. but my best memory has to be a recent one that nobody knew was coming.

The troll face that Wenger has when he obviously knew we were going to land Mesut Ozil. it’s up there with Sol Campbell turning up when everyone was expecting Richard Wright.

In terms of games, my favourite moment was when Henry returned to score that goal against Leeds. The Emirates erupted. It was just about the game, the cup or the the result, it was about the man. That moment will live with me forever and I feel privileged to have been there, so many people (mainly other supporters) doubted that bringing Thierry back was a good move, but Arsene knows!

Favourite Arsene XI – Seaman – Sagna Adams Campbell Cole – Pires Vieira Fabregas Ozil – Bergkamp Henry

Chris – @SuburbanGooner

When choosing my favourite game of all time, I’ve plumped for a match in which I was there live in the flesh, able to soak up the atmosphere and live the noises, smell the smells and savour the victory.

Of course, it has to be in that glorious old stadium with which we used to reside – Highbury – and it has to be a victory of which at the time was our hammer blow towards a fellow Premier League juggernaught.

I didn’t go to many games at Highbury, simply because I wasn’t a season ticket holder and my only source of getting tickets back in those days was through my Godfather, who had two. When he took me to The Arsenal I’d spend all week thinking about it, so when he told me one afternoon that he couldn’t make the upcoming game against none other than United, I was beside myself with glee.

It was the game in which Thierry, with the deftest of touches, flicked up the ball with his back to goal and swivelled to lift the ball over his touch-tight marker and above Barthez’s head. A majestic finish from a majestic player and do you know what made it all the more amazing? I was there, in a direct line of site in the East Upper watching it float into the corner. I knew it was in before it hit the net and that memory of seeing him wheel away and us getting the result will stay with me forever.

Whatever anyone thinks of Arsene now, however you feel about his current situation and the greyness that surrounds the contractual situation, we should all not forget that he has been instrumental in so many happy and successful memories bought to the club. I thank him for it.

Favourite Arsene XI – Seaman – Dixon Adams Campbell Cole – Ljungberg Vieria Fabregas Pires – Henry Bergkamp

Gareth – @Gareth_Stringer You can also find Gareth at 89th Minute.

Pick your favourite game, they said. That’ll be easy, I said.

Maybe not. The 4-4 at Anfield, the win over Bacelona at The Emirates, any number of games from The Invincibles campaign, especially Liverpool at home, winning the title at Old Trafford, winning the title at White Hart Lane….it’s not easy at all, it’s almost impossible.

Wenger’s Arsenal has given us so much, surely no one would disagree with that? Highs, lows, elation and heartbreak, the full scope of emotions and never a dull moment. It’s certainly never been boring and, as we approach his 1000th landmark in charge, it’s only right that we are challenging for the title and favourites for the FA Cup.

Thanks Arsène.

Favourite Arsene XI – Seaman, Sagna, Campbell, Koscielny, Cole, Vieira, Fabregas, Overmars, Pires, Bergkamp, Henry.

Mean Lean – @Arsenalvision You can find Mean over at Arsenalvision.co.uk

So you are asking me to choose my favourite Arsène, Arsenal match? How is that even fair? It’s like asking me to choose which one of my kids I prefer the most. I love them all. Well apart from that 8-2 kid who I am looking forward to the day when he moves out.

Anyway while essentially it didn’t mean much in the end there was something about the AC Milan 0 Arsenal 2 match that sticks with me. I remember half way through the game feeling a wave of pride rush across my body. No English side had beaten Milan in Italy during that time. It was a time when they had real quality. They had players such as Pirlo, Gattuso, Maldini, Nesta, Inzaghi and Kaka before he was Kak etc. They were one of the best teams yet we went there without a care in the world and made Milan look very average.

We played triangles around them from start to finish and they could not get near us. Hleb, Adebayor, Cesc and Flamini were immense that day. I am convinced that it was the reason why Flamini left us. Milan must have been very impressed by what they saw.

I have to say as much as I am enjoying this season, I miss the days when we were less pragmatic, when we would go anywhere and play our game. Yes it stung us badly sometimes but sometimes like at Milan we produced a performance that sticks in the memory and fills you with pride. So that is my match.

Best Wenger Team: Seaman, Sagna, Adams, Koscielny, Cole, Fabregas, Vieira, Pires, Overmars, Bergkamp, Henry

Sorry Patrick mate, you got your work cut out defensively. I couldn’t leave another flair player out. But good luck to the opposition dealing with those going forward though.

Cheers for reading,

be happy,

Suburban Gooners

Fullbacks are key to winning football matches

Morning you wonderful people, Chris here, but taking a back seat today to give Ben the floor. I know you’ll be extra nice to him, for no other reason than he’s an extra nice bloke, which he is.

Since I started watching Arsenal we’ve always had very good fullbacks. I’ve seen a number of formations, setups – from 5-3-2 to the current 4-2-3-1. As time passes football develops and roles progress, which ends up putting more emphasis on tactics. We’ve seen football clubs change and create a new football philosophy – Everton being the prime example. Which brings fresh ideas and leads to upping the performance levels of the given league they are operating in.

We’ve seen a shift in responsibilities in the fullback position from being a more solid, dependable (i.e. Lee Dixon) type, to a player with pace and being a lot more positive with and without the ball (i.e. Kieran Gibbs). Also, we’ve seen the modern day fullback needing the intelligence and ability to read the game, especially the offensive side.

The way the game is developing fullbacks are being used as auxiliary forwards. We’ve seen a lot of the major forces in European football get rid of the so-called ‘traditional winger’. You could argue the winger has lost it’s place in the modern game. Since the current adoption of the inside-forward, and the attacking playmakers, there has been a tendency of a lot of teams narrowing their forward line.

The way Arsenal and the majority of Europe’s top teams play has been transformed – two strikers are rarely used anymore. The second is dropped in between the lines to help link up attacking play and help flood the midfield for possession reasons. Midfield shape has also changed. This has shifted the focus of play onto the fullbacks and a lot of teams play with three in midfield. Barcelona and Ajax are good examples of this, their full-backs are so far up the pitch that the defensive midfielder – Sergio Busquets and Daley Blind respectively – become a third centre back. This leaves the fullbacks as the only players on the pitch with any real space.

If you add that to the wingers playing on opposite wings, i.e. Robben and Bale (when he was at Spurs) and things can become very compact. To ensure width isn’t lost, full-backs are licensed to get forward and support the attack, therefore creating space for others.

As we’ve seen recently, the main benefit of adventurous fullbacks is to allow teams to have two extra players in attack. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and now Bayern Munich utilised this well as have Spain throughout their recent domination.

It’s seen in the way he likes his team to build the play, he overloads and isolates the opposition fullbacks with the ‘winger’ in possession of the ball (or vice versa), and the fullback goes flying round the outside. At times it’s simply impossible to defend against.

Certain players are being instructed with various responsibilities within their standard duties. Some of these are fresh in my mind because I’ve been lucky enough to see them live – Pep Guardiola used Victor Valdez as ball playing option at the back. Javi Martinez at Bayern has a very disciplined role but he needs to be able to play through the lines as a third centre back or in midfield. The level needed for each players is slowly creeping up.

We saw from Thomas Vermaelen in the second leg against Bayern who defensively did very, very well. On the other hand, offensively, he offered little to nothing. The modern fullback has many duties to perform. It is no longer enough to leave an opposition winger battered and bruised on the floor.

A modern fullback must offer a huge attacking threat. He must have the ability to make a pinpoint pass, or deliver a perfect cross. He must possess pace, he must have discipline and most importantly, superb positional sense. This is also needs to be complimented by endless stamina to continually get up and down the pitch.

Steve McManaman famously said the first bit of Spanish he actually learnt when he moved to Real Madrid was ‘cover me’ as Salgado, his fullback, flew past him.

Arsene Wenger has always seen the importance of the fullback. He inherited two of the best in the business – Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. He eventually replaced them with Ashley Cole – who started out as a centre forward in the youth side, and Lauren, a ball-playing midfielder he signed from Spain. From the outside looking in it seems he opted to put more offensive players into those positions, which demonstrates how important the role is.

It will be interesting to see how a team will successfully counter this within culling their attacking threat.

One thing for sure is that the attacking fullback will be a constant but the role is ever evolving. Top sides field their most creative players in wide attacking positions and there is perhaps a need for full-backs to be strong(er) defensively, but only time will tell.

Arsène will have a very tough decision to make in the summer (If Sagna leaves). He has Jenkinson who is a decent player but not near Sagna’s standard. If he can have a good run of games he could be good player. Will he settle for good? He has Bellerin who offensively is very good and, in my opinion, the epitome of the modern fullback. Although question marks will remain over his defensive stability until he gets a run of games in the first team to prove otherwise. If Arsène does go into the market for a new addition, then spending a lot money on one will be completely justified in my opinion. It is a major part of the modern game and needs to be respected.

As things stand, Bacary Sagna seems to be closing the curtain on his Arsenal career. You know how these things work, as soon as I press the publish button, things will change. If he does leave then it’s going to leave a massive hole in our lineup. He’s been marvellous for us and I wouldn’t begrudge him a move after all the wonderful service he has given us. Whatever he decides, all the best Bac. Up The Arsenal!!

Cheers for reading,

be happy,

Ben

Bayern – What a game of football

On Wednesday night last week Ben and Chris frequented the Emirates to watch the Bayern Munich game. Ben said he wanted to write a blog on the evening, but didn’t bank on Chris and his ‘scheduling’, so we’ve had to wait until now to give it to you. Anyway, less chitter-chatter and more Ben. Take it away boyo.

The Bayern fans had great humour and wit. Signing ‘footballs coming home’ after the second goal, did make me chuckle. But a huge thanks and congratulations has to go out to Red Action for the marvellous card display. Proves hard work and endeavour can work wonders – well done.

I’d been excited for this game since the draw but I had my ‘dark thoughts’ about an absolute N5 murdering, who wouldn’t? I wondered how the night might pan out and I’d thought about every possible scenario in my head – How we’d track runners? The dribbling ability of Gotze and Thiago? Lahm in midfield? Martinez at centre back? Funnily enough, I forgot to incorporate ‘football magic’ into my thoughts. A red card and two penalties later, the game was well and truly dead and buried. Not what I hope for at all – I didn’t expect a win but I hoped for a valiant draw.

I have to be honest, I felt frustrated how the loss occurred rather than the loss itself. From an Arsenal perspective, the first 20 minutes went very well and we created a few very dangerous chances and exposed Bayern’s high-line.

Unfortunately for us that quickly changed and as soon as Szczesny saw red, the tie was over. It must be remembered, yes we lost, but it was deservedly so. Bayern are the best possession footballing side on the planet and demonstrated their superiority. That said, I enjoyed to see Guardiola’s take on possession football – He’s bloody good.

After our initial pressure, Bayern regained possession. We almost lined up with a 4-4-1-1. Özil kept drifting to the left and right to try and expose the full backs. At times, Bayern lined up in a 3-5-2 with Robben tucking in next to Mandukic and Martinez becoming a third centre back. This is where Mesut found a lot of joy creating all the early chances. We showed a lot of pace and physicality which is something we’ve missed in recent weeks and the Bayern midfield didn’t know how to cope.

The first 20 minute saw Mesut Özil at his best. Our catalyst, running with the ball, fast flowing possession and variety, simply keep Bayern guessing. The penalty miss threw him completely, and he seemed to become very nervous. He tried to take charge, but Munich completely blocked out our attacking zones of play. Mesut (AND OTHERS) were getting isolated when in possession and Bayern strangled out the tie like a python. We couldn’t even muster an attack, that’s how good Bayern were. You try and put out a chip pan fire with a bucket of water.

Also a side note – Özil was switched to the left because Santi wasn’t tracking Lahm efficiently enough and Pep switched the focus of play. Brought on Rafinha (Who was Dani Alves advanced) to put pressure on Mesut and Monreal. Pep was vindicated in his decision.

As expected, Bayern simply controlled the game and possession. I enjoyed to see Peps take on possession football. They didn’t press as hard to get the ball back as Heynckes Bayern did, but, as Arsene says about Özil, we saw Bayern demonstrate ‘shear quality of passes that just wear the opposition down’, and it did.

Bayern penned us back working the ball in triangles on either wing trying to slide either ‘winger’ to get in and behind our defence. The quality and precision on each pass was magnificent. Bayern really came into their own in the second half as we began to tire. Gotze who was on the left (He started on the right – Part of the switch of focus) tucked in, which encouraged Alaba to get round him. Thiago and Kroos worked the space for Robben and Gotze to try and break us down and It seems Pep sees Gotze as his Iniesta card. It would have been interesting to see how much damage Ribery would have done to us – scary stuff.

20140221-205615.jpg

With Bayern camped out in our half, they lined up with an almost 2-1-3-4. We simply couldn’t cope with the number of players Bayern had in advanced positions. Kroos and Thiago had acres of space and time. Late on, Guardiola brought on Pizarro to try and nick another goal. Muller and Pizarro were taking turns dropping between the ’4′ and the ’3′leaving Koscienly and Mertesacker guessing which eventually led to a goal. The German forward darted into the huge void of space that was meant to be our defence and killed the game. Another tactically brilliant move.

Lahm and Kroos

Your’re going to have to listen to me wax lyrical about Lahm and Kroos. They were magnificent and to think Bayern haven’t offered the latter a new deal (yet) seems like utter madness. Two technically perfect players. I was utterly in awe of their vision and their ‘football common sense’ – let alone they’re quality on the ball. It’s strange to see a player(s) provide that much penetration but be as equally as efficient. They are both steps ahead of everyone and the epitome of what we all think a German footballer should be.

I think it was very fitting that Lahm set up Kroos for his phenomenal goal. It was so good, It was heading towards Highbury before eventually bending in and behind Fabianski. I could honestly watch it on a loop.

Martinez – a lesson should be learnt Arsene

I found myself staring at the Javi Martinez the entire time. He dictated the tempo of play and made it a Bayern paced affair. His positioning was out of this world and perfectly placed himself between the attack and midfield. He is a piece of the puzzle who has taken Bayern to that uber level.

I was reading Four Four Two on the train on the way to the game. They had an in-depth and very fascinating article on all things Bayern Munich, and a little snippet that caught my eye which was they’re decision to sign Javi Martinez.

The Bayern board (who consist of ex German stars) sat and debated the transfer for what seemed like an eternity. They all deemed Martinez ‘too expensive and overpriced’. But they asked themselves, ‘Would Martinez add that little bit of quality needed?’ and they all agreed he would, so they decided to pushed the transfer through.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the Martinez transfer was fully vindicated for Bayern. The Spaniard played a starring role in their run to Champions League glory – Especially against Barcelona. Top level football is all about small margins and if you can try and help swing those in your favour, football can be made a lot easier.

I really hope Arsene backs his judgment this summer and gets the players he feels can move this Arsenal from a team in transition (Transition maybe a little harsh, slightly further forward that transition I’d say) to the uber force we can be.

I’m very excited for the second leg and hope the football gods sprinkle their ‘Football magic’ on Bayern, instead of our beloved Arsenal. Keep the dream alive…Stranger things have happened…

Up the Arsenal!

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben

Things change so quickly

What a difference a week makes. From having a mental block against the so called big teams, mentioned as some sort of inferiority complex, we’ve beaten a in-form Liverpool side, where tactics, formations, get chucked completely out of the window, then supposedly gone back to square one if you believe the British tabloids. Nah, me either, actually.

What’s interesting about this Arsenal side is that we only seem to evolve when we become confronted with adversity and the so called problem is pushed to one side. Considering Bayern last year was out trigger point, I wonder how the mainstay of the team will see this milestone, or millstone across their neck, if you will. Will they grasp this opportunity with two hands in the face of defeat to Munich?

I love a good football debate. It’s interesting to watch social media and watch people, babble, ramble on about an issue (which I might add, I enjoy) of a so called conventional problem. It then circulates, and funnily enough, usually isn’t the actual problem at all. I think we saw that case and point at the weekend. Giroud has been a talking point in recent weeks. In steps, the young,unproven Yaya Sanogo. In the grand scheme of things, was his performance that much different to what Giroud actually offers? Obviously technical differences are there for all to see, but the role, effort, work rate was very similar. It’s kind of a mute point really, but the issue has been and had always been the midfield. If the service is correct and the midfield functions, we will have success. ‘Feed the goat and he will score’. Or Ox, or sheep, or small gerbil. That last one probably didn’t work.

Midfield issue…

The midfield axis of Flamini and Arteta against Liverpool made for interesting viewing, and food thought. Flamini was deployed as more of the last line of defence, which left Arteta the freedom and ability to press high and very aggressively. I can’t quite remember if that’s what they’ve done in previous games together. Even so, It definitely helped Arteta feel a lot more comfortable and that was evident in his performance. One of his better performances this season as he’s been under par in my opinion. I don’t think Mikel has been as good as he used to be. Whether it’s due to age, injuries or his midfield partners, the Spaniard seems to be less influential than when he first arrived with his perfectly manicured barnet.

More importantly for the team, that cog in the midfield helped it work much better, well, better than in recent weeks, anyway.

With our current environment, well, midfield options, would you continue with it, just for stability reasons, against Sunderland? The first choice in my midfield would be Aaron Ramsey. His development has been simply remarkable. But, as we all know, he isn’t available. You’ve got Jack, he’s had the weight of expectation on his shoulders and arguably struggled since our shift in formation, then before that we had Alex Song and Fabregas, who have now departed. Considering we now have a winning formula, I’d say, stick with it. Jack played against Munich and unfortunately for him and most of the team he never really got the chance to prove himself after the sending off, so it’s difficult to work out the best course of action this weekend. I hope Jack can keep his head straight, and just play the game, if he is selected above Arteta. He needs to stamp his personality on the game. Just not let the opportunity stamp on him.

If we go back to the United game, Arsene wasn’t comfortable with us controlling the midfield. Our passing was off. Hence the hesitant attacking play.

Thinking long term, Arsene needs to find a partnership that’s solid and tactically astute, but doesn’t sacrifice any penetration in attack. Whether that’s Jack, Aaron or Alex in some sort of combination or a new addition (Which I would like) something needs to be done in the summer.

Drastic Özil improvement.. No doubt he’s our number 10

Özil was unplayable at the weekend. I was delighted to see his form slowly but surely return, but again, he struggled in midweek. Again, like Jack, he never really had the chance to shine against the German champions and he suffered on Wednesday by being crowded out every time he picked the ball up I their half. Let’s focus on the positives. The way he reads the game, the opponent, is just sublime. He waits for exactly the correct moment before attempting the daring, yet correct option. His understanding for what the team needs, is hard to explain, he can just feel it. You watch other playmakers in the league just attempt the tricky through ball when the time isn’t right. A lot of the time, the ball is just given away and the opposition regains possession. Thank god for Mesut Özil.

What to do with Lukas Podolski?

I think we can all agree something is going down with Podolski, and as I write this, it seems the writing is on the wall for the German goal scoring machine. We saw glimpses against Liverpool (and as we mentioned on the podcast) of what he should be doing on a regular basis – One-touch passing. Lukas is one of the best we have and up their in the league as one of the best in that skill set. His goal against Liverpool was very reminiscent to his goal against Montpellier – In terms of his sudden burst of pace. The way he goes through the gears, it’s pure brute strength. I hope he gets more opportunities, but more importantly, he grasps the chances he gets.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben

Wibbly, Wobbly Arsenal – Don’t let your knee jerk just yet

Unfortunately, the draw against United wasn’t enough to send us to the top of table but it still keeps us well in the mix up. As a fan, that’s all I wanted from this team this season, glimpses of brilliance. We are on the cusp of something magical.

I have to say I was very disappointed with the result – In truth it wasn’t up to scratch but a draw against Man Utd isn’t a bad thing at all. The issue is how poor we were and how weak United were Wednesday night and it just feels like a massive opportunity missed.

With other teams around us picking up points, could our race for the title suddenly turn into a race for fourth? I don’t really want to start thinking like that, my darker thoughts are always peering over my shoulder, but I won’t jump on the knee-jerk bus just yet (Ed: it’s a rickety old thing that makes you think you’re on a washing machine anyway). The league title is all about how it’s perceived – Opinions are fluid, it’s ok to change your mind.

Our next few fixtures will really map out our season so I wouldn’t worry just yet. I’ll keep my ticket for the ‘Negative Helter Skelter of Doom’ (Ed: Nowhere near as fun as it sounds I can assure you. Ben’s shown me pictures) just in case things actually bomb.

After being blitzed by Liverpool – who started like a chip pan fire with Arsenal only equipped with a bucket of water to put it out – Arsene’s main objective and concern was to not lose the game. I’m sure Dortmund still haunts him and rightly so.

It was clear from Wednesday night that our confidence was shaken. Apart from the tentative passing, the lack of runners was very telling. I can’t really remember anyone getting ahead of Giroud – even when Chamberlain came on, he sat very deep.

Thinking long term and considering our centre forward is still being used as a pivot – Would you have both Cazorla and Özil in your starting XI? Would you sacrifice one? Or maybe not?

Arsene really resisted the chance to go for the jugular. Begrudgingly so, I have to say, very sensibly. I felt like we knew we wouldn’t lose but did we have the courage to go and win the thing?

There came a point were we just went into Denilson mode. Arsenal/Arsene decided to accept the point, shut up shop, and go for a sing and a dance in the Armoury. Very, very frustrating to watch but sometimes you need to have a walk around the horse before you jump back on it, you don’t want to fall off the other side.

Jack Wilshere…

Is Jack ‘Roy of the Rovers’ Wilshere starting to become an issue in midfield? I wonder how Arsene sees this?

*Disclaimer* He is hugely talented. I never (ever) doubt his commitment to the cause. The End.

Jack wants to impact the game and he’s always looking forward. He’s young, and he needs to focus on his progression, his development. I think that’s what his goal should be rather than the teams success.

The two sides of developing a player – Jack is currently playing the transitional role in the team. He doesn’t fully understand his role or the impact he should be having on the game (yet). Saying that though, he does seem to perform better with responsibility on his shoulders – A predicament.

With and without the ball – The choices he is currently making are impacting the team and the players around him – The balance of the whole side is currently off.

He’s being targeted by the opposition. One, just because he is a level above everyone else and two, because he is an easy target. He encourages attention by not releasing the ball quickly enough. Which can be seen as very careless or utterly sublime. What’s scary is, he has the ability to draw in defenders and release the ball at the last second creating space for others. The issue with it currently is
he’s simply opted away from using the easier option when passing the ball which slows down our flow and, obviously, kills our momentum. Because of the lack of runners the space isn’t being created for him to operate correctly.

Jack isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a finished article. The way he often gets spoken about in the media etc, is as if he is. I personally don’t see him (currently) as a great option deeper in midfield especially in tougher fixtures although, he still has a lot of learning to do.

I think his decision making is careless at times. A prime example against United, Arteta lost the ball a few minutes in to the match, which granted RVP a guilt edge chance (Chesney shouldn’t have played it to him in the first place to be honest). Jack was in United’s half closer to Giroud, than Arteta. Just irresponsible in the early stages of such a big game. Yes, Arteta dilly dallied but if he had an option then we wouldn’t be talking about this.

If you compare him to our current injured Welshman, Aaron Ramsey who’s development has been simply remarkable. From scapegoat to hero within (what seems like) a matter of moments. His goals are an easy go to point but it’s intelligence all over the pitch stands out more for me.
His early season form was compared to Frank Lampard (of old) and rightly so. His success has been down to intelligence on the pitch and the timing of his runs – usually ending in a goal or a very good chance.

What’s key, and very reactionary of me to say, is he doesn’t let us get over run and get caught on the break.

To finish, we have two very special midfielders in our ranks, I can’t wait to see how they both develop and the headache Arsène is going to get trying to fit both in the starting XI.

Giroud…

I have to start by saying this – I think he’s confidence has gone. The first sign of it is when a players first touch goes. As well as that his link up play just seems to be a thing of the past. Giroud’s finishing has always left much to be desired but several opportunities he had against United didn’t even make the goal, let alone hit the target. I don’t think it’s too harsh to say it’s not good enough. He’s also a player who works best when others are making runs off him. We are really, really missing that from Theo and Ramsey.

Our overall cautiousness last night meant that players were very unsure how far to push on, so no little wonder that we were ineffective in attack.

Currently everything seems to be conspiring against him and us. Hope the tide will turn and pronto.

Up The Arsenal!!

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben

Ben’s match analysis: Thoughts on Marseille

Hi all, hope you’re well?

I’m enjoying this winning malarky. *whispers* it’s because we’re very good… Keep it a secret.

Are we doing better than expected?
Nope. We knew this team had it in them. They just need to do it when it matters. We have all the ingredients – We’ve gained maturity, chucked naivity out the window and we reek of defensive stability. A winning package.

We made three changes to the side that beat Southampton at the weekend. Aaron Ramsey partnered Matthieu Flamini in the double pivot. Tomas Rosicky played alongside Özil and Jack in midfield. Whilst Monreal came in for Kieran Gibbs at left back – Who was ill.

Before the game a French journalist bemoaned Marseilles ‘B Team’ ambitions – Partly down to injuries. But offensively they lacked bite. Dimitri Payet and Andre Ayew were out. Whilst they also rested Valbuena and Thauvin, due to there fixture pile-up (and being out). Rod Fanni wasn’t even in the squad – I’ll let you make the jokes.

Did we score too early?
Instantly from the kickoff Marseille broke forward with intent. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher mentioned on MNF, how the kickoff should be treated as a set-piece. Marseille had a plan. But they just didn’t follow it through and very limply gave away the ball. They pressed with five very quickly. But due to a defensive error the left back completely switched off, Jack broke down the right hand side, cut inside and finished with aplomb. Sumptuous. For the next 15-20 minutes we got much of the same and as the theme of season has been we completed dominated possession. Again I say: there’s a calm maturity about the team, caressing the ball around the pitch looking for an opening.

Our success in recent weeks has been our ability to overload the midfield. We didn’t need to overload against Marseille. Our midfield fluidly switched positions and formation throughout kept them guessing. Only Flamini and Giroud really staying in their designated zones. At times through the season we’ve almost played a 4-2-2-2 – Mainly down to the lack of wide players we’ve had available. We’ve opted for three ball playing midfielders with the aim to create openings with clever movement with guile. Instead of runs in and behind the lines.

I have to admit, however, that I became frustrated with our inability to finish the game off earlier. Because we’ve been so good in recent weeks. I’ve found it hard to expect even losing points let alone goals. Marseille were there for the taking. Our tempo slacked in periods I personally thought it shouldn’t of. In the final third where we are usually so dangerous we faltered and against better opposition we could have been punished. It must be remembered Marsielle were never going to win and so this game should have been seen off earlier.

Wilshere on the Right
The team looked very balanced. I’d argue that was our most balanced side. As I mentioned above, our only issue was our inability to take our chances. If Ramsey had finished his early chance and Özil scored the penalty. We may of had a cricket score. Football is reactionary. For fans and players. Emotions is a major part of the game, players aren’t robots. They do need the rub of the green sometimes.

Jack was deployed on the right, but he did drift. He had the freedom he craves, and enjoys. But, also had the players around him to make it all work for him. Rosicky and Özil are very mobile players and crave space which in-turn, gave Jack room to express himself.

Flamini (as well as others) has offered something we’ve missed as a team – well, since he left the club – defensively stability. The way he covers the defence, if and when they step out, is incredible (and yet so basic). His natural instinct is fabulous. When good fortune gave Gignac his opportunity early in the first half, Szczesny came flying out and collected the ball very efficiently. Flamini became a centre back then sprinted to the goal line for the brief second it looked like Gignac was going to round Szczesny. Priceless defending.

The shape of the team gave Jack not too many defensive responsibilities. Marseilles focus of played seemed to be more central, also allowing him even more freedom, whilst Flamini marshalled the team; when to push and when to press. Throughout Sagna and Monreal were almost in midfield – Even more cover.

I currently think that’s the way forward for him. He’s a special talent and needs nurturing. Protect him and let him grow naturally.

Mesut Özil
He’s bloody well good. The End. Kidding, well sort of. He’s exquisite but his price tag is going to confuse many. He’s never going to be a player who will own the ball the way Fabregas did or be a powerhouse like Patrick Vieira was. He has an effortless presence on the pitch, an ability to appear static for long periods, then suddenly spring into life. Opponents will try to keep Özil quiet – To counteract that, he will thread a clever pass into the path of a runner or embarrass defenders with a classy flick.

It’s what he does when he quickly bursts into the final third with the ball that will define Özil’s contribution to Arsenal. That’s why he can often be a player who frustrates fans.

Distribution
You may, or may not remember I’ve recently mentioned about our inability to pass the ball out from defence, when under pressure. We missed vertical movement at times. Tuesday night, we distributed the ball very well. For one thing, because Marsellie didn’t press as intensively as others have against us in the recent weeks. But Ramsey and Rosicky took turns dropping in and collecting the ball. It helped raise the tempo and confused the OM midfield – Not knowing who to track. Against Dortmund (at home) Arsène got the midfield three to drop deeper to try and help out. But, Dortmund counteracted that, penning us back even further. With a more fluid midfield, the opposition are unable to track our midfield and leads to more success.

I still think moving forward we need an improvement in the deeper position in our midfield – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Player reviews

Szczesny – Very impressive throughout the night. His impressive distribution continued. When he was called into action he dealt with it, with ease. Improves every time he plays.

Sagna – Very solid. Very, very advanced.The Frenchman found a lot of space in their final third so he continued to push. Didn’t have to do to much defensively.

Mertesacker – Awseome again. I can’t remember him misplacing a pass. He has ice in his veins. Player of the season so far?

Koscielny – Had a great game. Was very impressive with all of his one on one battles. Seems to really step up when needed. A few slack long passes. Positionally good.

Monreal – Excellent considering his lack minutes. Brings a much needed urgency in attack and defence. Always in the right place at the right time. I bet he wonders what he has to do to get a start…

Flamini – Made the whole operation tick. Orchestrates everything. Head puppeteer. His tactical awareness was fantastic. Slightly concerned about his distribution.

Ramsey – Put in a huge shift. A great team performance. Won the penalty. Should of scored his chance. Sloppy in the final third at times. Positionally improving.

Özil – A slack first half and an equally slack penalty. Still reeked of class. The way he finds space is class. A marvellous assist for Jacks second. He will purr like a Rolls Royce, just needs time.

Rosicky – One of our top performers on the night. Brought a lot going forward. Smartly runs with the ball. Positionally smart. Took responsibility in midfield giving others freedom. A proper adult.

Wilshere – He’s getting to grips playing out wide. Marvellous goals. His hunger, class and effort was never in question. Just needed some luck. ‘What ever Ramsey can do, I can do’. He’s almost back…

Giroud – Won a lot of duels with their defenders. Awesome work rate. The timing of his runs was fantastic. Still on a high from World Cup Qualification. A solid night from the Frenchman.

I’ll leave you with this. Tough questions are surfacing. Is Jack Wilshere better than Aaron Ramsey in the double pivot? Is Aaron Ramsey better than Özil as a ten? is Özil better than Theo out-wide? We’ll save that for next time.

Carry on the good work Arsenal. Good times.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben

Dortmund – My mind is now clear…

Hi all, hope you’re well?

Finished sulking yet? I always find I dwell on a lose for a lot longer than I should. It won’t change it, and it doesn’t even make me feel better. So I thought I’d write this instead.

First things first, what a great game of football. Enjoyed every minute of it. A magnificent tactical schooling from an awesomely clinical side.

Dortmund gave their all. They started very well and had a fantastic work-rate especially when they didn’t have possession. I’d like to think it could be a good lesson for us and teach us to be wiser in that situation in the coming future.

We made two changes to the side that beat Norwich at the weekend. Aaron Ramsey partnered Mikel Arteta in the double pivot and Tomas Rosicky played alongside Özil and Jack in midfield.

Looking at the lineups before the game I hoped our ‘way-in’ would be either Kevin Grosskreutz or Nuri Sahin. Grosskreutz isn’t a natural fullback, mind you, he has played all over the pitch for Dortmund. He’s even had a stint in goal. Positionally I hoped he’d be all over the shop – He was at points throughout, but he wasn’t left exposed on many occasions. But ironically, he made the decisive cross which lead the German’s winner.

Looking at Nuri Sahin’s lack of mobility, I hoped it could lead to them being over-run in midfield – Sadly not.

Our success in recent weeks has been our ability to overload the midfield, hence my thinking. We’ve almost played a 4-2-2-2 at times – Mainly down to the lack of wide players we’ve had available. We’ve opted for three ball playing midfielders with the aim to create openings with clever movement with guile. Instead of runs in and behind the lines.

Before the game started, I felt it was going to be the battle of the front 4′s. Who could create the most? Similar to two years ago, when we last played BVB, Dortmund’s ability to press as unit and defend smartly won them the game. Steve Bould has said previously we aren’t good enough to press as a team and we’d focus on pressing on individuals and at certain points throughout games. Which was evident to see on Tuesday night.

For the first 20 minutes I can’t even remember us having a successful spell of possession. Dortmund completely dominated the midfield – On a side note their work rate, plus efficiency was out of this world.

What I found very frustrating (it’s becoming my new ‘bugbear’) and something I haven’t seen since last season – Our inability to play out from the back, when under pressure. We missed some vertical movement. Is it down to Arteta slowing the play down? Or, lack of movement (options)? Are our ’3′ too advanced? During the game Arsène got the midfield three to drop deeper to try and help out. But, Dortmund counteracted that, penning us back even further. They are so, so good defensively; They coped very comfortably.

We had the advantage in our half of the pitch (number-wise) but we failed to play out of the back freely. It’s the position for me, we need to look at to upgrade this team, and to them to the next level (hence the interest in Lars Bender. But will that happen now, since the arrival of Flamini?).

I think it’s fair to say it was a fairly even match overall. It was intriguing (and concerning) that our narrowness and lack of width, led to our downfall against WBA, which equally played a huge part in the result against Dortmund.

When the game opened up in the second half, due to Dortmund’s change of game plan – focusing on pressing and crowding out Özil.

Once Santi came on there was a lift in our tempo. BVB where unable to pick up the little Spaniard, but with our inability to make runs in and behind the Germans backline. We had very little to no joy. Santi made some sublime passes into the fullback areas to try and force some width. Özil hugged the touch line to try and isolate Schmelzer and to try to breakthrough the efficient German unit, but to no avail.

It would be difficult to criticize Arsenal, as we didn’t play too badly. Dortmund where excellent defensively and soaked up our pressure. Once we where (finally) in control, we overcommitted and got caught in attack, just naive.

Özil tried coming deep for the ball in the first half – Out of frustration. Due to poor distribution. At the beginning of the second half he pushed up much higher. He had more success, too little too late.

We looked a step slower than Dortmund but I saw no (major) class gap in my opinion. We just needed some fresh legs, e.g Cazorla.

Don’t be too downhearted. We matched last year’s Champions League finalists and lost. A good performance after a very nervy start. I just hope the players realise they’re actually pretty good and press on.

Player reviews

Szczesny – His impressive distribution continued. I’m on the fence whether or not he should of done better with both goals. The first one was miss-hit, which would of thrown him a little. The second, was at such incredible speed, I’m not sure many would of saved it. Continues improving.

Sagna – Found a lot of space in their final third. Put in the decisive cross for Giroud. Did well against Reus. A get foot-race with Lewandowski, with the Polish international ending up on the deck. Caught out of position for the winner.

Mertesacker – A quiet night for the BFG. Solid as usual. Quietly went about his work.

Koscielny – Had a great game in my opinion. Was very impressive with all of his one on one battles. Seems to really step up when needed. Had his usual lung busting run late on in the second half. Positionally good.

Gibbs – Did well defensively, but didn’t contribute much offensively. Good positionally. Just pressed at the wrong time for the winner and got left exposed.

Arteta – Did well defensively considering Flamini was missing. His awareness was fantastic, always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Slightly concerned about his distribution (as I mention above).

Ramsey – At fault for the first goal, that’s the flip side of confidence. Dwelled on the ball for far to long at points. Put in a huge shift. I think the mistake hung heavy on him. Looked leggy from the beginning, needs to be rested on Saturday.

Özil – Completely crowed out. Dortmund did their job excellently. Couldn’t find little to any space. Did well once Santi came onto the pitch.

Rosicky – One of our top performers on the night. Brought a lot going forward. Went close with a shot. He will always be a risk taker. Shifted into the double pivot late on. Smartly runs with the ball. Positionally smart. Could be an interesting partner for Flamini in the future.

Wilshere – Still trying to get to grips playing out wide. Over trying is his main problem in my opinion. Concerned about the possibility of a ‘Glass ankle’.

Giroud – Has to be our man of the match in my opinion. Won a lot of duels with their defenders. Awesome work rate. The timing of his runs was fantastic, drastic improvement. I’d like to see him eradicate his flicks in random parts of the pitch.

A special mention for Cazorla – He benefitted from Dortmund’s change of plan. Was given space to roam. Excellent individual moments. Fantastic to have him back.

Chin up Arsenal, onto the next one!!

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben

A Podder metamorphosis into a Blogger: GoonerGirlKate

Good morning Gooners, still navigating the choppy waters of international pointlessness I see? Don’t worry, it will all be over soon and we’ll all be able to breathe, sigh and get on with our lives. With a host of international matches on tonight, the temptation could be to talk about the games that are being played, the Arsenal players that might start or even score. But we don’t go in for that over here at SG Towers, so we thought we’d open our doors to a fellow top Gooner and get a Podder to become a Blogger for a change. We made a few calls, pulled a few strings, and whaddya know? Up wandered GoonerGirlKate. She’s here to give you some of her thoughts on all things Arsenal, so make yourself comfortable and enjoy her musings. I’ll leave you be and give you more of my waffle tomorrow. Over to you Kate.

So, this is me. My first blog. Nervous? Yes. Excited? Very.

I wasn’t sure what to write about, but knew I wanted to give it a bash, good or bad. So, here it is….My story on the Arsenal roller coaster.

As many of you who have listened to our podcast may know, up to the age of 8/9 I hated football. Would walk out of a room when it came on.

Then my life changed. My Grampy, a massive Arsenal fan, took me to see them play for my Birthday. December 2nd 1990. The day I fell in love. Against Liverpool at Highbury. We won 3-0 and I’ve not looked back since.

I’ve supported them through good times, through great times and through bad times. And I will never stop. My love is unconditional.

Now, skipping a few years (thank goodness, I hear you say) I was lucky enough to meet a man who changed my world. Also a Gooner, we got together.

He introduced me to a man who wanted to start a female Arsenal podcast. We did a pilot, myself and 4 other women. It was AMAZING. I can’t put into words.

December 2012. I don’t mind admitting that I was crapping my pants the first episode. I’d never done public speaking before and was low in confidence. But Steve and the girls put me at ease and it was just like i’d known them a long time. But in reality, we’d never met. From there we evolved and built on what we had. The podcast has gone from strength to strength. And I still get nervous. Now we have 4 ‘family’ members, myself and Amanda (goonergirl1969) the originals, Kay(ladycaramelldn) and our token male Gareth (gareth_Stringer). The four of us ‘fit’ like a puzzle. We bounce off each other. Amanda has us in stitches with her innocent comments, like the ‘fisting’ comment. And Kay with her now famous ‘Napolee’ and Gareth, well, I don’t know how he puts up with us. And me, well I just host it, they make it easy for me.

We’ve had some controversial guests on in our time but we don’t regret it for a Second. Piers Morgan being the biggest and the most controversial. We all understood why so many Gooners hated him but we all stood by our decision to get him on and I’m proud that we did. Believe it or not we got some good feed back from that pod, and even a few saying it had changed their mind a little. Adrian Durham being another. But less people changed their mind on him. I wonder why? We’ve had Other amazing guests, including the legend that is David Hillier. A very funny man, down to earth and some amazing Arsenal stories. GeoffArsenal is also one of our regular guests and we love chatting to him. Even Ben has made an appearance. This last year has been EPIC. And we have settled into being the Goonergirls Podcast.

I’ve had some tough times but each of these guys have been there For me and my love grows for them every day. Twitter can be a pain in the arse sometimes, but without it I’d never have met these amazing people. And all the amazing people I know, we’ve all been brought together by one mutual love. A love of The Arsenal.

I’m positive about this season, even though a few have said I’m mad. But I’m more of a glass half full kinda girl. So with a little bit of faith, and help from the Wizard himself, this can be OUR season. We deserve some good times again.
I have to say a MASSIVE thank you to Mr Steve Bald who had faith in us.

And with that positive note, I leave you. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first attempt at blogging.

So, it’s goodnight from me……….

Thanks Kate for that insight into your world. You can find Kate and her crew on the iTunes library and I personally can’t recommend it enough. Do you know why? They are Gooners. Like, you, like I. They feel the highs and the lows and they are just as passionate about their club as we all are. And you can tell it when they talk about football. I listen to a lot of Podcasts, but all I want to her is Arsenal fans and the girls are definitely worth listening too in that regard. Give them all a Twitter follow, then subscribe to their pod.

Just before I wrap up today, I wanted to let you know that, inspired by Kate’s transition into the blogging world, Oaf12, Ben and I are also frequenting the other side of the fence by giving Podcasting a try. A little later today we’ll give you a post for our Pod, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it and chat with us in the comments and on Twitter.

Have a good one guys.

#Arsenal can be fun

Hi all, hope you’re well.

I wonder at what point on Tuesday night against Napoli Arsène thought, blimey, at last, this is working…

That game of football was one of, if not, the best games of offensive play I’ve seen Arsenal play, since the 2002 and invincible sides. We flowed, swept up the pitch, leaving Napoli in our wake – shattering their game plan. We where simply magnificent all of the pitch. We functioned beautifully.

Watching the game on Tuesday night with @Suburbangooner - It dawned on me. The squad rebalancing is in full swing. We currently have gaps, but that’s down to injuries. Moving forward I do expect to see Arsène build a smaller more fluid squad – With an influx of a higher end quality additions in the future.

I’ve sat and thought when will Arsène ‘go again’. After project youth didn’t reach its peak. I wondered what his next move would be. Arsène’s a dreamer and doesn’t do things by half. So I’m very excited to see where Project German(?) goes.

Someone order top quality football? *Arsene appears from the kitchen holding a gold Premier League Trophy* – Our football seems to have blossomed and unluckily for Napoli and everyone else we are just getting going.

To look at the Napoli game as an Isolated issue – The way Napoli set up, left themselves very exposed. At points throughout the game the Italians had four players in very advanced positions – Callejon, Pandev, Hamsik and Insigne. Which left acres of room for our forward quartet to reek havoc.

20131008-204620.jpg

Via @ShareMyTactics – Arsenal with acres of space

The Italians played into our hands throughout the game. I wondered why Benitez didn’t try and change things to try and rescue something – Pride at least. Behrami and Inler (who at times I forgot where even on the pitch) just got isolated in the centre of the park. With Ramsey and Rosicky swapping flanks, they left the ’2′ completely guessing for 90 minutes. The Interchanging between the three players was so natural, you can’t plan it, you can’t train for it. It was just Instinctive football. Beautiful stuff.

Meanwhile, our shining light, Mesut Özil, he’s bloody good isn’t he ?! He embarrassed the Italians on countless occasions, he conducted and orchestrated everything. The way he finds space is simply sublime. He stretches and drags players all over the pitch. He is almost as good as Suarez when he lets the ball role across his body. Magnificent awareness, we are very lucky to have him.

One of the main reasons why I was so excited watching the game – As a whole, how assured and how solid we where. Apart from the magnificent ‘Back 5′ – The base of the midfield – Arteta and Flamini. They where so solid and key to everything going forward. A calmness that has been there all season, was enhanced on Tuesday night and flowed throughout the team.

The platform our two experienced heads offered was very interesting and a very exciting prospect. Flamini would win the ball back very quickly and get the ball moving on very quickly. Arteta would offer the forward pass to begin the move. They gave the front four so much freedom and a means to express themselves. If the attack broke down, our safety net was there for protection. It was interesting and got me thinking because how fixed our ’3′ usually are and what does that hold for the future?

A sidenote – Many think Arteta can play higher up the field. Why do we think that? He is one of Europes best pivotes in the game. He has sadly lost his dynamism, but he adapted brilliantly. The big move saved his career and took him to a new level.

The balance of the team was perfect – In my opinion, a team should be all about balance. Without it, it won’t function to its maximum ability.

With our new fluid attack, what does that mean for Theo? Without Theo in the team, our game-plan changes. It’s more focused on possession confidence and slower build up. Without Theo (pace) in the team, they cannot be lazy and have to sit and be patient and wait for the right time to strike.

An energetic forward the way forward? An interesting thought I’ve had, watching Pep Guardiola football (Barca and Bayern) in recent history triggered it – Wingers and ‘number tens’ are the offensive future of football. A Centre Forward is now becoming a pivote. He’s role has evolved from just scoring goals. He has to share the ball, be mobile, hyper-active and contribute towards complete midfield control – Which is everything.

I wonder if long term Arsène will buy another Centre Foward or will he buy a winger with devastation and trickery you need to change a game. More than a Centre Foward who marks himself?

Watching Bayern Munich against Manchester City – Thomas Müller stuck out for many reasons. Confirming in my mind I’d like us to add a player of his quality/attributes to our team. He’s been described by the German press as a ‘Raumdeuter’ – Which is German for “space investigator”. If you haven’t seen him play, I suggest you take the time to watch him play. Outstandingly Brilliant. Muller can play in many roles, particularly central or wide attack. He has fantastic attributes: Strong and powerful, great finishing, Intelligent movement, tremendous work ethic. He will also contribute a lot defensively; to be honest, the list is endless.

What I like about Muller the most is some will see nothing exceptional in what he does and he goes very much under the radar. Sublime.

All Centre-Fowards are False! – Interesting that the term ‘False 9′ is being used for a lot to describe forwards, but as I mentioned above regarding a Centre-Foward. The modern forward needs all the following attributes – Mobility, hyper-activity, but a forward none-the-less. Carlos Tevez is a very good example. Just because he’s mobile, doesn’t mean he’s a false 9. He’s just the main reference upfront.

What I’m getting at is I’d like to see Arsène sign a Muller/Reus type player – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?

The point at Hawthorns – Funnily enough we got a taste of our own medicine against WBA. The Albion midfield anchor of Yacob and Mulumbu gave their playmakers space to operate.

With the devastating success against Napoli and with injuries to Theo and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal were intent on playing through the middle but without being stretched, West Brom were able to keep a narrow defensive shape. Jenkinson and Gibbs tried to get forward but did not create much. I wanted to see more of an emphasis on Kieran Gibbs and the left-handside, but the focus in the second half seemed to be on the right hand side. My major gripe really.

It was a little surprising that Arsène didn’t turn to Gnabry or Miyaichi to get in behind WBA, stretch the game a little.

I think the lesson we learnt (or I hope we learnt). No side can win with eye-catching football every week but teams that mount serious title challenges usually find a way of winning scrappy games.

Flamini, Arterta worked against Napoli. But West Brom gave us no room to play. Will Arsène bring players in who can win a game instead of going on seniority?

Also

How much will not buying a ‘cheat attacker’ bite us in the arse?

Problems we will deal with in coming weeks. Enjoy the football everyone.

Id also like to thank and recommend you follow @ShareMyTactics on twitter - Its a fantastic place to share your football tactics. Its a very easy and effect ‘Line-up builder’ to use. Get it in your life!

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben