What’s wrong with English football? English players, mostly!

Hey party people oaf12 here and welcome to Suburban Gooners!

Its been a while since I last blogged (shock horror) and also a while since our last podcast. We decided to take a little pod break in the off season but the SG podcast will be back soon so don’t panic (not that anyone was, I’m sure).

Anyway, with emotional Chris (that’s what I like to call him, but don’t tell him – he’ll get emotional) sunning himself on holiday it has been left to myself and Ben to fill your need for football reading. Therefore, I apologise for the lack of the usual daily posts Chris ‘the blog machine’ usually provides you with.

A lot has happened since our last podcast, like an entire world cup, oh and we signed a certain Mr Sanchez – yeah baby! With more to follow, hopefully!

Now that the WC is over (big congrats to the German Gooners btw) I thought I’d take a look at all this complaining around how the EPL is ruining our national game – poppycock in my opinion! Lol is used the word poppycock :)

A lot of focus has been on introducing quotas around British or English players, I’m really not sure about this.

If these quotas were introduced around the number of players in your squad (such as the home-grown scenario) certain clubs *cough* citeh *cough* would just buy half decent English players, at a premium, to make up the numbers (Jack Rodwell), thus actually ruining said players development and further weakening the teams outside the top 4 – they’d be left with the bottom of the barrel like that hoofy centre back at Stoke.

You could then argue that there should be a quota on how many players are in the starting line-up….not for me I’m afraid sonny!

Imagine a scenario where you had to field 5 British players. So, for example, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, Gibbs – one would presume that most managers will fill the other six places with non-British players who may be better, but certainly wouldn’t cost as much. What happens when the next promising youngster looks like making it? One wouldn’t be crazy in thinking that the manager wouldn’t ‘risk’ them – keep that exciting prospect on standby just in case one of our quota gets injured. Not sure that would be great for them. Plus those idiots at Old Trafford would probably double Shreks wages again!

The other issue I can foresee would be the top teams pillaging the lesser teams youth system. This could cripple the smaller clubs in terms of sales and would lead to stockpiles of young British talent at the bigger clubs – farcical!

My main reasoning for not wanting a quota system is that, in my opinion, if you’re good enough – you will play! Regardless of nationality! I’m excited that the premier league has a plethora of talent on display and that it is multinational. Top players won’t want to come here if we make them out to be a problem. If anything they probably help – if you ask Carl Jenkinson if he’d rather have been learning from that French guys with the dreads that has joined the mercenaries at citeh or Justin Hoyte, I’m sure you could make an educated guess at the answer.

If England really want to make an impact they need to do a Germany and start again! However, they also need to get the obvious stuff right i.e. don’t build a team around a team that chocked under pressure, had a biter that carried them through the season and didn’t win anything – surely that’s obvious!

How Henderson played more World Cup games than Wilshere is beggar’s belief. I can understand the Gibbs injury prone worry but how many players were never getting a game anyway? Take a left back that plays champions league football!

The real reason we are scared to start again and field are youngsters must be that we don’t have enough talent, so we go halfway. Imagine an international team running at Shaw, Evans, Smalling, Jenkinson – scary thought!

In conclusion, I don’t think clubs should be forced into quotas. It’s Wenger’s job to make Arsenal better, not England.

That’s the job of the FA – get the coaching sorted, learn from others, observe best practice and invest in grass roots….in the meantime, if Gibbs, Wilshere, Ox and Walcott are fit, make sure they bloody well play!

Sorry for the rambling :)

Cheers all

oaf out!

Nothing can take away the special feeling of the FA Cup

Well, here we are folks, the most significant game of the season and potentially the most significant game since the last major trophy that was won back in 2005. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited and nervous in equal measure.

There’s no getting around it: success or failure today will ultimately define whether this season has been another one that we want to confine to the history books as a ‘yeah, we did the bare minimum, but other than that it hasn’t exactly been an amazing season’ or described as a season where we ended our trophy drought and ensured that we can continue to eat at the top table for another season at least.

We all like those Champions League nights, we all enjoy the fact it enables us to buy the Mesut Ozil’s of the world, but when a day like today comes around, you realise that all of the qualification deciders in the world could not match feeling that I and you probably have in your stomach as you count down the minutes until kick off at 5pm. The devaluing of the FA Cup has been something that has been well spoken of and much column inches dedicated towards, but looking back on football history as a fan and you rarely remember the sniping, but you do remember the feeling when Arsenal won the competition. I remember the elation of coming away from Cardiff in 2003. It may have felt like we’d blown the league and so this was a consolation prize, but it was my first ever cup final and I was exhilarated of the feeling, which I’ve wanted to recapture ever since and so the potential to replicate that feeling today leaves me with butterflies in my stomach the size of my fist.

But what of the game itself? What of our opponents and the way in which they line up? Who will Arsene give the nod to, to bring home the shiny big-eared bacon? How many questions can I fit in to a paragraph??

Firstly, i’ll give you my predicted team news, because I think it will help to also explain how Hull will set up. That’s not to say that Arsene will change his style or selection process based on the opposition, but I just want to find an interesting segue between questions and I think this might work.

In goal I think he’ll opt for Sczcesny. It’s an interesting one because it’s really the first time this season that the goalkeeping position is the hardest position to work out. I think the playing of Fabianski last weekend was telling however, so I expect the younger Pole to start, which is the right thing in my opinion. He is the future, he deserves to be in the team for his performances this season and he is the best goalkeeper at the club.

I think the defence picks itself and so a back four of Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscienly and Gibbs may leave club captain Vermaelen out along with boyhood Gooner Corporal Jenkinson, but as was discussed on last night’s GoonerGirl Podcast which I was fortunate enough to be invited on to, this is an FA Cup final and we simply must play the strongest team available. Unfortunately that means no place for either of those two players. In fact, I think with the returning Vermaelen and potential Oxlade-Chamberlain back in the team, I can’t see Jenks making the bench. After all, Wenger will more likely choose Vermaelen and Monreal as his defensive subs, using the rest of the subs for a ‘keeper and more attack-minded players to call on to the starting line up.

Midfield is where I think there will need to be decisions made and I think the right decision would be to have Arteta and Ramsey sitting just behind the trio of Ozil, Cazorla and Podolski. Hull will no doubt be looking to the likes of Huddlestone and Livermore to screen in front of the back four or three and operate a little bit deeper and, if that is in fact the case, then playing someone like Matthieu Flamini is not appropriate in my opinion. The Flamster is better at screening the back four and taking up defensive duties, but going forward he lacks the craft and ability on the ball that Arteta has a little bit more of. I think it is because Arteta is technically more gifted that he gets the nod more often than Flamini for most games, but in this instance today I think it would be the right call. If Hull are sitting deeper and trying to frustrate at any time, then we need those technically better players to show their creativity to unlock the Tigers’ defence.

The rest of the choices above are based on recent games and performances and I don’t think there will be many Gooners that could argue with that. Perhaps some might say there is a space for Jack in the team, but at the moment I don’t see it and I think the balance of that predicted team – with Giroud up top instead of Sanogo, obviously – works for what we want to achieve – a real trophy instead of a fourth placed invisible one!

As for our opponents, the return of Alan McGregor in-goal will be an important boost for them, because he’s a good ‘keeper that I’ve seen keep them in games on a few occasions this season. He’ll be stood behind a back four that will probably contain Bruce, Davies and McShane with wing backs of Elmohamady and Figueroa. Those two like to get forward and punch balls into the box for Long and Jelavic but, with both cup tied today it will most likely be Aluko and Fryatt that they’ll have to contend with. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Hull’s squad, but I don’t recall there being much pace in that front two so I think Hull will look to exploit the wing backs to get forward as much as possible and get balls into the box to trouble us, rather than balls in behind our central defenders.

The midfield, as I mentioned above, will most likely contain Huddlestone and Livermore sitting with Meyler being asked to push forward and support the front two. Livermore may also provide more of an advanced threat but the key to neutralising Hull may just be to not give Huddlestone too much time on the ball to pick out players.

We should, in theory, have enough to thwart Hull City. We have beaten them twice already this season and apart from an initial fifteen minute opening spell at the KC Stadium, we have pretty much been on top in these games, but we know today will be different. Hull will be running on an adrenaline that we have not seen in previous games and they will know that with our history of implosions there is a possibility of an upset.

I don’t want to talk about any negativity today, so I’m not even going to mention the unthinkable happening come 8pm tonight, so I’m going to end today’s blog with a positive quote that I’ve just Google’d:

When people ask me what my religion is, I say it’s the Arsenal

Marcus du Sautoy

SG Podcast 26 – One more game

Steve, Chris and Ben are joined by TheGoonerholic to discuss the last day of the premiership, to look back over the season and to look forward to the final!

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SG Podcast 25 – Bryan Silva

Podcast 25!! Who the hell is Bryan Silva??? The lads are back following a week off due to them guesting on the Gooner Girls Podcast. This week Ben, Chris & Steve discuss West Brom (briefly), transfers (extensively) and some of the other clubs in our division (regrettably).

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West Brom: Testimonial feel with fourth already secured

Yesterday’s performance at home to West Brom had all the hallmarks of a  testimonial match. The Emirates was bathed in sunshine for the most part of the afternoon and the Arsenal players were afford a relatively pain-free afternoon of football with which to wave off the home support for this season as the last home game came to a close on this seasons proceedings.

It’s hard to argue that the home form hasn’t been anything but pretty good this season. Undefeated in the Premier League throughout, except for the extreme circumstances of the first game of the season against Villa. A shocking Antony Taylor performance aside and we might have seen an unbeaten Arsenal on our home turf this campaign. So whilst the score line only reflects a narrow win, it was a win nonetheless and it was one in which we were comfortable for the most part of yesterday’s game against the Baggies. Indeed, when Giroud nodded home his 22nd goal of the season relatively early on in the match, one did wonder if the floodgates would be crow-barred open and the fans being treated to a cricket score before we head off to Wembley in two weeks time.

That we never managed to penetrate Ben Foster’s goal thereafter probably has more to do with a combination of some good saves from the potential England World Cup stopper, an Arsenal team knowing that this game was fairly meaningless given the security afforded to us after the Everton vs Moneychester City game, as well as the belief from our West Midland opponents that they are probably safe for another season. Barring an Arsenal ‘MEGA COLLAPSE’ against Norwich next week, that’s probably not a wholly unfounded perspective.

It’s difficult to mark too many players out as having really amazing performances yesterday, because it just felt like we had ‘done enough’ to win the game yesterday. In the first half we suffocated West Brom through manipulating possession and only fashioning chances when we had really good passages of play. You could tell from watching the team that they could turn it up a notch if they needed to, but with a big match looming on the horizon, going into tackles full-bloodied would achieve nothing but a potential injury or card resulting in no FA Cup final opportunity for said player. Podolski, Giroud and Ozil all had some chances, whilst Santi blazed over from a well worked effort on the edge of the box, but the name of the game was to retain the ball and we did that with consummate ease in the first half.

Pepe Mel clearly had a bit of an ear bashing in the second half, because the West Brom that appeared after the interval looked a slightly different proposition than the one that trotted around in the sunshine before the interval. They looked a little bit more spritely, had more of a spring in their step and even fashioned a couple of saves from a Szczesny that must have felt he could have set up a deck chair and a light reflecting device to see if he could start on his summer tan early. Indeed, when you look at the end of match stats and see that West Brom managed to rack up 11 attempts on goal, you have to think that eight or nine of those must have come in the second half alone.

We may have spent a little bit more time on the back foot than us fans would have liked the team to, but I never really got the sense that the team couldn’t just up it a bit if they needed to and, whilst the score remained 1-0, there was no real need to. We’ve seen this Arsenal team remain largely in control of all home games against opponents outside of the top six or seven teams and yesterday reflected what we’ve seen all season.

If we want to be challenging for the league next season, we probably just need to make sure we’re a little bit more ruthless against the bigger teams at home, but by-and-large our ability to ensure that there’s a zero against our name on the Emirates big screen has ensured that we’ve been able to dispatch many teams that visit us in North London. When you look back on the form of the Chelski’s and Moneychester City’s that have won the league, they build up long undefeated home records. If we can build our own record of not being defeated at home next season, you sense that we will have a real chance of once again having a go at the league.

So the players waved off the fans after the final whistle – some clearly doing so for the last time – and everyone with an interest in The Arsenal went home happy on this bank holiday Monday.

Now we wait for the big one (because Norwich is even less relevant to us). Wembley.

See you in the morrow.

SG Podcast 24 – Lukas PoGOALski

This week Steve, Ben & Chris are joined by special guest Glen Oglaza to talk West Ham, Hull and the ticketing situation for the FA Cup Final.

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absence makes the heart grow fonder

Happy Saturday to you fellow Goonerite. It’s an interesting one because as we hit the last few dregs of the season, Sky and BT Sport have their grubby mits all over the most important fixtures, which means the chances of seeing Arsenal play a Saturday 3pm kick off is about as likely as Miley Cyrus admitting that she is actually a clone of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. But with clear deficiencies in the cloning process obviously.

There was some interesting news as the working week drew to a close, which included Aaron Ramsey being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the year. It’s great to see his early season exploits have been regarded so highly and, had he stayed fit throughout the season and continued his form, one expects the end of season ceremony would have been more a case of ‘what time do you want me to collect the trophy?’ rather than ‘will I win it’ for the Welshman. His nomination also brings into stark contrast the challenges the team has faced missing in-form and key players for varying periods of time this season.

For example, I have seen a few Gooners (thankfully in the minority) bemoaning the form of Ozil before he was injured, yet some of those very same people are now overjoyed that he is returning to the first team fray, which certainly shows that the old adage of absence making the heart grow fonder a true one. As Gooners we’ve become accustomed to saying to ourselves “yeah but, what if he was fit? Where would we be now?” and whilst it’s a path that is both pointless and maddening, it’s still something we should all be aware of.

Thankfully we have plenty of players returning for this final push on the league and on Thursday Arsene confirmed what he had already said post West Ham: Ozil is fit and raring to go for tomorrow and we appear to miss just Gibbs, Walcott and the eventual return to fitness (albeit most likely to be fleeting) of Abou Diaby. Had there been some magic cream to rub on the wounds of the returning players a month ago we might still be clinging on to a league title aspiration, but such is life and we must accept where we are and what is in front of us.

Kim Kallstrom has had his say on his experience and after some shaky misplaced passes in the first half on Tuesday, I thought he grew into the game well, showing some good upper body strength and above all with Arsene Wenger teams retaining possession is important. He certainly seemed capable in that regard. He thinks his experience will prove important in the next month and whilst I’m inclined to agree with him, I’m not sure how many chances on the field he’ll get to actually play. With Flamini back from suspension I think Arsene has his hierarchy of more defensive minded midfielders and I think Kallstrom is certainly in at number three there. It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of the season. I don’t know if Kallstrom is available on a free transfer or not, but I’d be surprised if Wenger had the interest in making a 31-year-old a permanent offer, so perhaps this is just an opportunity for Kallstrom to market himself in the Premier League as much as possible and try to get a club. Perhaps the fact that he’s playing at Arsenal might be enough to convince a Premier League manager that he’s worth a punt next season, but I’d be surprised if he’s gracing the Emirates in a red jersey come August.Stranger things have happened I suppose.

Arsene has also talked up (as you’d expect) the importance of Giroud recovering his….ahem….mental strength in overcoming his recent transgressions both on and off the field and appeared to be back to his form of earlier in the season against West Ham. He also made an interesting observation about the number of headers Giroud wins from out wide in crossing positions, compared to the number of headers he wins when the ball comes from deep. He’s right of course; it’s interesting to see a player that is so good in the air in one type position not be as good in another. I guess you could say that you have to be a lot more accurate when heading towards a specific part of the goal rather than just winning the ball for it to ping off in any direction. You can’t say it’s a difference between how aggressive he is when he attacks the ball, as to win any header in the first place you have to be aggressive. It’s something I’m sure Giroud is conscious of too.

Personally, I just think that Giroud’s form has been linked to who we are playing as much as his fatigue this season. Every Gooner I meet accepts that he’s a player with limited abilities, so sure it must only be rational to assume that he is therefore a player that we are only likely to see score goals against teams who are also limited in their technical capabilities? If you want to make the difference in big games, you need ‘special’ players. Giroud tries hard, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an Arsenal player that agrees he’s ‘special’. So whilst we can all bemoan a missed chance against Chelski or Liverpool, perhaps we should just accept that from a striking position we’ve got what we essentially paid for, so it’s difficult to be too frustrated with the Frenchman in that regard.

The positive of this, however, is that if this is true, then we can expect Giroud to have a better end to the season than the last month. The next few games include matches from teams that are all in the bottom 10 in the league, where Giroud – like Arsenal this season – is a bit of a flat track bully and has been scoring goals. Providing he stays fit I’d expect him to play all of the remaining five games, with Sanogo only being used if the chips are down. Putting aside the sobering thought that we have a raw 19-year-old as our ‘go-to-guy’, if Giroud can hit some form then at least we could see him get to perhaps 23 or 24 goals.

Anyway, you’ve probably had enough of me for one day, so I’ll take my leave and request that you have a lovely Saturday.

Back with a match preview tomorrow.

SG Podcast 23 – Mentally Drained

After a mentally draining (but ultimately successful) semi final, Ben, Chris & Steve are joined by Jeremy Lebor from 89th Minute to talk all things Arsenal.

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SG Podcast 22 – Ben Bieber

Podcast 22, this week Steve, Chris & Ben are joined by the one and only FK! The lads talk Swansea, City, Everton and what would an Arsenal discussion be without the topic of injuries???

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SG Podcast 21 – More therapy required

Following the sorry display against Chavski Chris (for part of the pod), Ben & Steve are joined by Alex (@the_beck_) and, unfortunately, more therapy is required…..

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