About Ben Leeder

Arsenal Fan

The teenage dreamer still burns bright.

Chris asked me to write 50 words on ‘What’s wrong with Arsenal’, it’s surprisingly hard. I was torn between a few avenues to go down. So I closed my eyes and pointed. Have a go and send them to me, I’d like to hear your take – Here’s my attempt. As you can see, I cheated. and I’m not sorry.

I’m not.

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury, is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy); that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one another to that required level. I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see – but you get the idea – losing simply wasn’t an option.

Re-reading that ‘The greatest team’ debate, it is obviously down to preference. Many would throw the 1990-91 side into the hat, but it all depends on what generation you’re from and I suppose the key component is nostalgia and your resounding memories. Tim Stillman recently wrote a marvellous piece on nostalgia, take a look if you haven’t seen it. You’ll enjoy it.

I feel this is a very important subject that won’t go away, and to be honest, I’m not willing to face, because it’s close to my heart. Like pulling a plaster, do it quickly, or it’ll happen in the shower when you least expect it. I suppose it’s become a more acceptable subject to discuss. Previously if you mentioned it you’d be lynched for such blasphemy. It’s, as you’ve probably guessed it, the manager and his future.

I was at the Hull game and as I was funnelling out amongst the disappointed home fans, two gentlemen starting singing “Arsssseeeeennnnneeee out, we want Arsène out”. Then they went onto slagging off Puma (which seemed bizarre, but who am I to judge?). Everybody near me looked very uncomfortable with the situation and hung their heads. Another man nearby replied “You’re on your oooowwwwnnn, you’re on your ooowwwwnn!” Which made a few people smirk. So I suspect I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about discussing it or making their opinions known. But I quietly got to a point last year where I was in the ‘Win the FA Cup, take a bow, be lauded for everything you’ve done…have a glass of red on the beach. You’ve deserved it’ camp. That sentiment has changed this season and we have experienced somewhat of a watershed moment. Tim Clarke (Arse2Mouse) described it as – When you realise your father, your hero, the great untouchable man you thought he was, see cry for the first time and it hits you, he’s just a normal bloke trying to find his way. I’d like to add that I think at that moment you love him more because you realise what he has actually achieved along the way.

I felt that way because the general consensus amongst the majority of the fan base (being at the ground, chatting with friends, social media, etc) seemed to want him to go. Initially, at that point for me it was unthinkable, because the young impressionable dreamer in me wouldn’t allow that Arsène poster to be taken down.

Our fan base had been spilt for a while now and I don’t think a new manager, success or not, will change that instantly. But back to Arsène – unless he wins something major and we break that glass ceiling, instead of rubbing our faces on it, opinions won’t change.

So, this season, where do we begin? We are a mess. Like leaving your toddler with a crayon & he creates a masterpiece in your hall. (I haven’t done this…or maybe I have done this…). There are lots of conversations about conceding the title in November, but the reality is that we were never in the title this season. I don’t want to be that guy that brings up the lack of transfers, etc, etc, but that (the lack of activity in key areas) killed any hope we had. I think it’s bizarre that that people thought we’d have any chance? If the activity wasn’t enough evidence then surely Martinez pulling down our pants at Goodison (again) was a clearer message, no?

As I mentioned above, unless Arsène has a certain quality of player, his management will struggle, when it really matters. His dream and vision is an ideology, not a coaching style, and that will only take you so far. Patrick Vieira has said it’s his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. I admire him for it but his dream is (has) slowly strangling him.

I’m not really enjoying writing this as Arsène has taken Arsenal to some unbelievable heights, but it has been fading for a number of years now. He’s making simply perplexing decisions, some that I’m starting to hate him for. Going into a season with one real centre forward option, not signing a centre half, passing up on Cesc Fabregas (I’ve taken that very badly, as you can probably tell). I understand all the variables for the decision(s) on Cesc but I was in the ‘buy what we need, and begrudgingly leave Cesc’ camp. I understand ALL the dynamics, but he did neither.

We currently live on this completely different level of frustration, like spraining your wrist and trying to cut a steak (I haven’t done this… or have I have done this…). If you take everything into account, success is a real possibility for us but we seem to squander it in ludicrous fashion every year. To be honest, this could all be down to the unbeaten season curse. I’d be ok with that, Ha!

The skill of a great manager is to build a team which plays in a way that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we have more this season yet we are well below his par. I feel for him because injuries have haunted us for years. If I had one wish for Arsène it would be a season free of major injuries. Then it would be a great gauge on how he handles his squad.

The injuries have killed us for years but not compensating is probably the biggest deficiency. Something very obvious, if a team play often with one another in training and matches then they get to know each other better, sequences become more automatic. They become everything Arsène’s play is based on. If our players played together for longer periods, we would be better as a side, which I know is a really ‘no sh*t Sherlock way of thinking, but sometimes you need to say things things out loud to realise.

Our form this year has been poor. For a few reasons: Injuries, which prevent rotation; change in direction, to try to build cohesion. We’ve seen that in our low intensity (bizarre) pressing, it’s all a sign of a lack of harmony. If we could keep players fit it would give Arsène the ability to switch things up, rotate when needed instead of playing out of form players.

I guess I’m just trying to come to the terms with is accepting the inevitability of it – him leaving, whether that’s the end of this year or the end of his contract. Without going into it, it’s going to really hurt. Crying into a pillow kind of hurt. Staring out the window watching the rain pissing down screaming “WHY?!” As you eat ice cream, kinda hurt.

One thing for sure is, it’s not working now, and it doesn’t look like it will in the near future. This whole ‘success’ thingy we all want? I have to be honest, I don’t think the league is a real possibility for us with, or without Arsène. I think what’s wanted, and possibly what is actually needed, is fresh eyes.

Hearing Arsène being interviewed on beIN sport recently. Everything he says is spell bounding. I get caught up in his genius. I could listen to him forever and a day. He still makes me dream for that happy ending. My young impressionable dreamer side always barges in and says ‘give him time to build that side, win the Champions League before you go, complete your journey’. I hope he’s working towards a smooth transition. That’s the direction I believe the Arsenal wheels are turning. But deep down, I hope Arsène is still doing what he does best, which is to dream.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Benfica easily dismissed.

Now that was a breathe of fresh air. A very refreshed Arsenal performance, and an equally refreshing result. As Arsène said “You can’t draw too many conclusions from a game like that but it was a positive day for us”. No better way to describe the morale boosting experience.

This is how we lined up for day one:

Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell, Ramsey, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo

Subs: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Arteta, Wilshere, Giroud, Sanchez, Cazorla, Coquelin, Akpom, Miquel

Yaya Sanogo scored four times (YES..FOUR TIMES) as we obliterated the Portuguese champions Benfica, 5-1. The 21-year-old centre forward who was (and is) yet to score a competitive goal. To be honest in previous encounters he looked more likely to do his ACL than actually score a goal. Until Saturday, he claimed a first-half hat-trick and then stole the biscuit by adding the forth goal in the second half.

Sanogo tried his best to upstage
to upstage the arrival Alexis Sanchez, who came on as a late substitute. Our new Chilean got the biggest cheer of the day when he can onto the pitch. Arsène said after the game Alexis is likely to get 45 minutes this afternoon.

Joel Campbell was back at Arsenal after three seasons out on loan, and he appeared very desperate to make an impact. He certainly put on a good show and the Costa Rican scored the second goal. A lovely half volley from a Hector Bellerin assist. Arsène said after the game: “Sanogo and Campbell need to play… but they need to play here. Sanogo has slowly got better”. Looks like we will really get to make a proper judgement on our long lost wonder kid.

Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan got their only goal. You guessed it, from a set piece. Defensively there were some bright signs. Hard to really comment on the collective, but individually, some very promising stuff.

The game before was a 2-2 draw between Valencia and Monaco. Which leaves the standings like this:

Arsenal – 8 points
Monaco – 3 points
Valencia – 3 points
Benfica – 1 points

Arsène used the day to cast an eye over the new signings and some of the fringe players. Calum Chambers, recently signed from Southampton started alongside Nacho Monreal at Centre Half.

After Joel Campbell had seen an early penalty claim waved away, a fair decision. Nicolas Gaitan rattled the bar, after a glancing half volley took the paintwork off. Campbell then had scuffed a chance wide from Aaron Ramsey’s dinked pass. Campbell was getting into the areas, it was just a matter of time. Then it was Sanogo’s turn to come close, the young Frenchman put his chance the wrong side of the post, after a wonderful Hector Bellerin cross. We really seemed to ignite from that moment on.

Yaya broke the deadlock mid way through the first half with a clever back-heeled (Cruyff turn) finish from Ramsey’s right-wing cross. (Aaron Ramsey is very good at football, that is all). The second can through another Bellerin forward charge. He teed up Campbell to thump his left-footed volley home. Just before halftime there was enough time for Sanogo to complete his hat-trick. A very impressive dinked finish.

The lanky striker bagged his fourth at the beginning of the second half. He rolled the ball into an empty net after Artur Moraes, the Benfica keeper parried from Aaron Ramsey well placed strike.

With half an hour to go Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta all came on for Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini. Nicolas Gaitan headed in from a Rory Delap-esque long throw-in. But that was quickly forgotten as we got to see our new £30 million forward for Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez. He replaced Yaya Sanogo who’s afternoon ended on a sour note as he appeared to tweak a hamstring and limped straight down the tunnel. Meanwhile Sanchez, he looked very good. Our new number 17 almost created a goal for Francis Coquelin in injury time. Santi’s jinking run out foxed two defenders before he slid in Alexis who found Coquelin free in the box. But the young midfielders shot came back off the post. I have no clue how that stayed out.

Ignasi Miquel and Chuba Akpom joined Sanchez on the pitch as Joel Campbell and Nacho Monreal also came off. Gaitan nearly scored from an audacious backheeled effort from close range. Bebe then forced Martinez into a decent save from a dipping free-kick. While Maxi Perreira hit the post, cutting inside as the visitors attempted to lower the score-line.

We play Monaco today (Sunday) before we face Manchester City in the Community Shield next weekend. Very exciting quotes from Jorge Jesus: “The quality of Arsenal’s players exceeded our expectations”.

Enjoy today’s football.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Irrelevant as always

As I’ve been falling into a football-less vortex that is the remained of the summer. I’ve wondered about our squad and what it would actually need to challenge for the title. You know, a proper challenge, one that goes to the last day and ends with us flooding the Islington streets [or insert drinking hole of choice] with joy.

The gist of the summer so far: Arsène said going into it, he would sign “two or three” depending on the departures we had. The first to officially go was Lukasz Fabianski, the re-born again keeper signed for Swansea after his contract was up. I have to say I wasn’t sad to see him go and as he came hurtling out of his goal against Hull, it was a stark reminder of what he was all about. If you close your eyes for a second and just listen, you can hear the Wembley tuff scream “WHAT ARE YOU DOING… ITS BEEN 9 YEARS!”.

Typically I start writing a blog and it quickly becomes irrelevant, so I have to scrabble to change it. I start babbling about rumours and what does Ivan Gazidis do? Makes me look foolish and continues working on his A-game.

‘We’ve signed David Ospina’ *Deletes chunk from blog*

I have to be honest I hadn’t seen Ospina play prior to The World Cup. Something instantly stood out though – his pace. Maybe pace is the wrong word; speed or anticipation might be more relevant. He was very quick off his line. There’s always the risk he could find himself stranded in no-mans-land. He’ll have to learn very quickly about timing his charges.

He pulled off a few ‘impossible’ saves, unsighted, which just seemed out of his reach. He also appeared to have very good control over his box and handled crosses very well. Reading a few articles and seeing some stats, Ospina played behind a defence that was very unpredictable last season. As we saw from Fabianski last year, our improved defence helped him build his confidence.

Next to leave – Manchester City bound Bacary Sagna. Our long-standing fullback has been replaced with his French international counter-part Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. I think he’s a solid piece of business, with the fee believed to be around £10m. A few other players where mentioned but the Frenchman fits the bill for our current need. I do have to add this caveat though: I think we will quickly realise how important the modern full-back is and how rare quality full-backs are available…

As things stand, Thomas Vermaelen seems to be the only big name that could actually be sold by the club. A few rumours of Cazorla and Monreal to Atletico Madrid, and Podolski to the Bermuda Triangle. But with Madrid looking set to sign Antonne Griezmann I think that would right off their interest in Santi. Anyway, I want my cake and I want to eat every last bit this season (I want everyone to stay). Anyway, Vermaelen seems to have an air of inevitability about his departure from the club and Man United seems like it will be his eventual destination. My Arsenal concern of the week all stems from him and our defence. With the stink possibility of only having two (proper) centre halves at the club. To concern me a little more, Arsène said this at his press conference in New York: “I don’t think our German players will be ready for the first game of the season…” Reporter: “All 3″. Arsène: “All 3″. Erm… *looks blankly around the room* anyone got their boots?

The knock-on effects from Sagna’s departure will bring more issues for the squad than first anticipated. His versatility has come in more than handy to say the least. We managed to get away with not needing a fourth choice centre-back last season because Sagna was able to step in when required. What I’m trying to say is: No way, I so no way, it would be crazy, to sell Thomas Vermaelen before the season is underway (unless someone is brought in of course). We have the Community Shield and a Champions League qualifier to contend with. A scary thought for everyone *squeezes whiskey bottle* I think Miquel might just get another lifeline, until January anyway, just because of the circumstances.

So with all the outgoings covered, now the fun bit. The equivalent of football crack, the incomings. If anyone is a French cryptic mind-reader that would be great. Did Arsène mean two or three if Sagna and Fabianski stayed, or was it two or three if they went? I had thoughts and expectations before this all kicked off – I hoped for three. A keeper, a right-back and some sort of forward. Arsène threw a cat amongst the pigeons, by completely blowing our minds and signing Alexis Sanchez very early on. I could wax lyrical about the impact on the club he will have. I went on the stadium tour a few weeks ago and I took my brother-in-law (he’s nine) I bought him a shirt and he wanted Alexis, 17 on the back of it. Standing in the (very tedious) queue and pretty much everyone wanted Alexis. The guy printing said they sold roughly 150 Alexis shirts on the first day The Armoury opened. Never mind all that, he’s very, very good at football and his ability to run really fast and kick the ball in the net is outstanding.

Making two very good additions, very early on. Arsène has opened the gates to the chocolate factory and made me dream. But he has also left the window tittering on the balance of being good, with the strong hint of marvellous-ness.

In the last few days we’ve seen the rumours of Calum Chambers from Southampton escalate very quickly. (By the time you’ve read this we’ve probably signed him) The rumoured fee is being touted at £16m – I imagine that’s bonuses, Games played etc etc. So the initial outlay won’t be that much and don’t take your guff hat off just yet. It’s believed Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry will move in the other direction as a loan for the rest of the season. It’s very promising to see Arsène still using the money wisely. A window wouldn’t be a window unless a promising young-gun was signed up.

So…once a goalie is signed, will that be our lot? More importantly, is that enough?

To be honest, I’ve since had hopes for more. MORE.. Like I said, football crack.

I suppose on the back of last season the obvious places our squad need(ed) improvement was defensive midfield and up front. I suppose I should drop the token gesture of Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud ability as they have both really impressive. We were a proper mess before Arteta arrived, he’s been a God send considering our situation. The flip side of that gesture is their limitations. So a shinning new Arteta type midfielder [Insert description of choice, you may have your fingers burnt] would be superb. I feel like Arsène sees that as a luxury signing because we have ‘options’ – Mikel and Flamini. I do believe Arsène will search for players. He always does. I just think he will search high and low for a bargain, therefore making us missing out. Before you say anything. I’ve got the t-shirt, I own the drum, a tattoo and all the cards for a new midfielder. I do feel like that’s the piece we need to be a success at the tip top level. Whether it will happen is a completely different story.

So that’s four positions covered by Arsène: Goalkeeper: Opsina. A right-back: Debuchy. Right-back cover, Centre-back cover, Utility: Chambers. A Forward: Sanchez. So for me the only glaring hole is still centre half. If Arsène can conjure up some kind of midfielder, come centre back option. I.e. Javi Martinez. I’d be laughing haversacks. Versatile players keep the squad to a minimum, which Arsène is always keen to do. He likes a calm, hassle free environment. Versatile players have a much wider skill-set. An ideal example is Daley Blind. Played several roles for the Netherlands at the World Cup and always looked comfortable. More the all round attributes, better the ability to play several positions to a high standard.

I’ve heard, and seen very promising things about Chambers, (I hope he’s bloody marvellous). But i think he will be Jenkinson’s replacement and centre half will be a long-term thing,

Our squad may look something like this.

Szczesny – Opsina

Debuchy – Chambers
Mertesacker – (Chambers?)
Koscielny – Vermaelen
Gibbs – Monreal

Ramsey – Wilshere
Arteta – Flamini

Walcott – Sanchez, Chamberlain
Ozil – Rosicky
Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud – Sanchez, Sanogo, Walcott

**Gnabry and Jenkinson on Loan**

** I left Sanchez out of the starting XI because I don’t what formation Arsène will start with and who will drop out. A simple exercise on numbers and options we have**

Ideally I’d like two more added to the squad, or if he’s clever, just one. If he can do that, I’d feel really comfortable to say we can challenge on all fronts. Something feels really special about this squad. I don’t know if it’s because in revitalised because if the cup win or the signing of Sanchez, but we are on to something here.

Let’s hope Arsène springs another surprise in the coming weeks.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Dirty Sanchez

*Sits up after passing out*

*Rubs face*

Alright everybody? How’s it going?

Well…how the friar tuck did that happen?

If you like it or not, one big transfer can be dismissed as a slice of luck.
“Oi Gazidis!! You’re slowly putting the fun back into it!”

The other ‘reported’ deals previously for players never materialised, clubs would have said we went £30million, or say even £35m million for said player. Arsène would have previously turned down the opportunity, thus leading to our club (or Arsène), being labelled as ‘divery’ [or insert synonym of choice] in the transfer market.

It was no happy coincidence that Sanchez arrived on the same day we unveiled our new kit deal and one of the largest in Europe. I see it as a kick to the chops of World Football, well and truly enhancing the Arsenal name. We want to show everyone we mean business on and off the pitch by adding those players with that ‘extra quality’.

I think the club has grown enormously since the Özil experience (sounds like a rubbish ride at Orlando Studios, doesn’t it?), which really appeared to take the club out of its comfort zone. Not just from the spending money angle, but how the club is viewed world-wide. This quality of player is really starting to signal a new era for The Arsenal and subconsciously tells the players we already have ‘look where we want to go.’

*Continue the process until you feel really good about yourself and The Arsenal*

Santi Cazorla is a prime example and his comments about his position at the club – before Alexis was signed – drastically changed for the better. There is a rumour flying around that he and Mikel Arteta actually cheered when they heard the player was coming into the club.

Arsène Wenger on our new arrival: “Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks. He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad. I’m sure all Arsenal supporters will join me in welcoming Alexis to our club”

I think the most pleasing part about the deal is how efficiently we actually got it done. When I was trawling through the internet like some sort of football pervert, looking at Arsène in his tight, short shorts, I thought (hoped) there would be no way he would have gone to Brazil without any major plans in place and I didn’t expect for one second it would be someone of Sanchez’s quality.

I know this might be a little premature, but I get the feeling the Financial Fair Play rules are actually having an effect. I can’t fathom a reason why Manchester City and Chelsea didn’t bid for Alexis?

Anyone? …Seriously? …Speak now or forever hold your peace…no? Well then, I’ll continue…

I’ve always believed the power has been (and will always be) in the wealthy owners hands. Let’s be honest for a second. They will always find a way of slipping one under the radar and what is for certain is that the money bag teams won’t be able to ‘SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS!’ if they don’t ‘need’ them.

We all knew we have plenty of coppers in the bank and that had been recently topped up by our new buddy’s from PUMA (Love the kits by the way, the away strip reminds me of the ’89 shirt and wouldn’t it be good to replicate that this season) it’s still very pleasant to see Arsenal slap their money on the table – without even blinking. I really hope that Ivan strutted into Barca’s office, dropped the money on the desk (that he just withdrew from a cash machine on the way from the airport because he doesn’t give a SHIT about the exchange rate) and started throwing gang signs at Zubizetta.

It’s long been said 2014/15 would be the time for us ‘to go’. With Arsenal in recent times there has always been an air of uncertainty and as fans we’ve been through times when Mark Schwarzer was actually a thing, an actual thing that could have happened and we would of been happy with it.

Compare that to right now – we’ve spent £80m(?) on TWO players and we’re a club now looking at the top end of the transfer market. Bravo Arsenal, bravo.

We spent all of last season talking about the lack of runners, pace, power and what does Arsène do? Solve it in one transfer. Sanchez fits the bill perfectly his combination of technique, incredible work rate and electric pace make him ideal for the rigours of the Premier League. He was also one of top (entertainment factor) performers at the World Cup. He also comes off the back of a his best (end product wise) season at Barcelona. I saw Graham Hunter recently compared him to Gervinho, in terms of his sporadicness, which I’d say his a fair shout for his earlier Barca career but last season, I’d completely disagree.

At times last season when our passing game became very predictable and add that to one of the slowest Arsenal sides I’ve ever seen, ponderous comes to mind. It was all down to the absences of our runners – Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil. The idea of Alexis and Walcott darting passed Giroud will completely revitalise the frontman. It will give Özil more options which will definitely bring more balance to our attack.

Put all that gibberish together, it appears we are moving towards that new era. What happens on the pitch will be down to the performances of the manager, staff and inevitably the players but things are looking very bright. In a very perverse way, even the naysayers will be happy,
their main excuse evaporated quicker than a puddle in the Sahara. One thing for sure though is that only time will tell us if all these plans will be a success, but hey, I’m going to love the ride.

*rides off into the sunset*

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Can the real football philosophy please stand up

Hello! Me again…How’s it going? Lots of strange, when I say strange I mean frustrating, things have happened to Arsenal in recent weeks and Chris has covered them perfectly. I wouldn’t expect anything less. We’ve finally got nothing to really fight for, so we decide to turn up in typical Arsenal style.

I’ve finally got something to write about, so…It’s okay, you don’t need to say anything. But let’s not pretend you haven’t missed me either (Ed: I missed you Ben, I missed you. Chris)

We witnessed the recurring ‘evolution’ in footballing styles debate after the Champions League semi finals this week and the overreaction that comes with it. You can almost set your alarm clock to it. It’s that regular.

Football goes in cycles and unfortunately for Bayern theirs at the tip top level came to an end – In such emphatic style.

It was interesting what Carlo Ancelotti said after the heavyweight bout:

“Tiki-Taka isn’t dead, football doesn’t die”

– when a different style comes out on top the media decide to slaughter said manager and the style. I remember watching a World Cup finals when I was younger. David Beckham spent the majority of it on his arse, hypothetically speaking. It was claimed all wide-men needed pace, and without it, they are as useful as a chocolate teapot. Poppycock.

Gary Neville optimised the irrational debate Tuesday night on Twitter. To be quite honest I thought he’d had a few extra large sherbets. He came out with something along the lines of “we don’t need any of this tippy tappy stuff…Pace, power, that’s what we [Untied] are all about”.

To be honest, I think he’s just pining for Ronaldo. Get an early night next week Gary…

The downfall to these cycles comes down to a combination of things; A team stamping their mark/philosophy on a game better than the opposition; Also, if either team are in transition. At the highest level it’s all about fine margins. If a certain players quality, or an officiating decision positively or negatively effects the game, it gets the cogs moving and the magic begins.

We saw how the finest margin completely swings a game. Firstly poor defending led to the flood gates opening at the Alianz Arena. Then a ‘Strikers Challenge’ cost Chelsea late on in the second half. I wanted to say just, regarding Bayern and Madrid but Real tore Bayern a new one. Chelsea’s downfall was self inflicted in my opinion. Jose went far too defensive in the both legs and that backed them into a corner. Eventually costing them a route to the final. Mourinho gets a lot of praise for his tactical prowess, but he got that drastically wrong.

I say transition because Jupp Heynckes had Bayern playing absolutely monstrous football last term. The same football that beat Barcelona, the previous champions 7-0 on aggregate. *cough cough* end of a cycle.

Taking a step back and looking at it – it seems strange that Bayern hired a manager who played a style of football they completely destroyed a year before?

I’m not even going to dare to say it was a mistake hiring Pep Guardiola, because it’s PEP GUARDIOLA. The man is a marvel, an innovator. They went unbeaten on route to the title. He has them playing scintillating football blowing teams off the park. What is clear though, he has tried to change them too quickly, which has cost them at the top level.

I imagine when he manages to get all the pieces of his puzzle SHIT WILL GO DOWN. Lewandoski being the first piece. We’ll see a more clinical, complete, Bayern.

The Polish international strengths are his versatility and ability to score goals in a number of ways. You could argue he possess key attributes of Muller, Mandukic and Gotze – that special element Pep’s football needs too really make it purr. Lewandoski can run into channels, slip past defenders. Beat players one-on-one or hold up play in the attacking build-up. He can also score from distance and poach goals inside the box. Also very comfortable in cramped areas.

There’s no way to get away from the fact that Pep hasn’t achieved the same things Heynckes did. But even the most marvellous managers can take time to achieve their goals. That’s the risk you get when hiring a new manager. The task Isn’t as easy as it seems and a bedding in time needs to granted. We’ve seen closer to home with Manchester United, they [SAF] hired a manager who was similar to Sir Alex, rather than a manager who fits the style of football they believed in.

Only time will tell if Guardiola will achieve Über success with Bayern, and if United will turn things around. *whispers* they will…

Granted we are dealing with different variables but Arsenal, please take note and learn from the mistakes of others.

Focusing on Arsenal and carrying on the theme of transition. Looking at the transfer window ahead – Do we (A) fix a style and get players to enhance it, or (B) get players who you can & decide style around them.

It’s something I struggle to decide with. I can see the positives in both concepts. But in the same swing of my preverbal bat It’s something completely out of my control so why bother? BECAUSE I LOVE IT dear reader, so come be hyperthecial with me.

We have a summer of firefighting ahead. I.e. backup goalkeeper, a right-back and possibly a centre half assuming all of the rumours are true. That’s even before we begin the hunt for STRIKER2014 2.0.

I think what’s key this summer is for Arsène to sign the players he thinks will balance the squad, rather than just appeasing the fans making it rain with large sums of money.

He’s in a tricky situation, does he throw money at 2 magnificent players. Or does he fill the squad adequately?

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

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