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 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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SG Podcast 20 – 3 out of 3

We beat the spuds, again!! In the 20th SG Podcast Ben, Chris & Steve are joined by Gareth Stringer from 89th Minute and GoonerGirls Podcast.


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NLD: It’s the waiting wot kills ya

It is indeed, the waiting wot kills you, you know. Here we are, Saturday, Premier League football this weekend, yet we have to wait until 4pm tomorrow before we get our fix of The Arsenal. I don’t like it I tell’s ya, I don’t like it.

It’s worse when it’s the North London Derby away from home. It doesn’t matter where the two teams are in the league, I always look at this fixture with apprehension and tomorrow’s game is no exception, in fact it’s probably heightened because of the precarious position we are in because of the league and the way the fixtures are falling over the coming weeks. I can’t help it, i’m what would colloquially be known as a ‘worry wart’. I’m not really sure why a wart should have feelings in the first place, let alone adopting a more negative emotion, but it is what it is and our fixture this weekend falls where it falls. I just need to deal with it.

I am worried because I don’t want our eyes to be taken off the Premier League prize. Or at least the Champions League prize. It’s something that Arsene has always secured and up until the Stoke game away, I haven’t really looked at the possibility of us not getting in to the Champions League. But with a really tough game this weekend, and the next weekend, and the next weekend and the next weekend, we could conceivably find ourselves outside the top four spots if the worst case scenario plays out. Boy, I hope the worst case scenario doesn’t pan out, that would be tragic. It would also mean that Europa League football would turn our season into an endless array of horrible Sunday games. I shudder at the prospect and I should probably move my thinking away from that particular path – negativity breeds negativity and we wouldn’t want all Arsenal fans to hit one of those ‘spirals’, would we?

It’s the perpetual curse of the football fan actually – looking ahead with trepidation I mean. I remember the season we went unbeaten. We had an amazing team, they played great football, yet it wasn’t until the league title was confirmed that I didn’t stop worrying. Constantly looking ahead at the next three or four games and trying to concoct a route to success rather than living in the now and appreciating what I/we had in that team. Even after the title was won, I worried about being defeated in the season and so on the last game against Leicester, whilst I was at Uni, I sat by my radio in my student digs and waited tentatively for the final whistle to be blown so that I could be happy, or more accurately, relieved.

It’s why days out like the semi final (and hopefully the cup final) are so important and should be treated as great occasions to enjoy – even if the result goes against you. I’m not suggesting that in 2011 we should have be bouncing down Wembley Way after the game, but certainly before the game I wish I hadn’t have been so nervous. I keep trying to tell myself that the game against Wigan won’t be the same, but it’s simply not the way I’m built to function; I am a worrier and come 12th April I’ll be supping pints with colleagues pre-game, getting concerned about what will transpire in the upcoming hours.

Which brings me back to this weekend. I’m sat here in my PJs in my lounge at 8.30am blogging away with a knot in my stomach thinking about tomorrow’s game. It doesn’t matter that the Spuds appear to be imploding at the perfect time for us, it doesn’t matter that we’ve just come off the back of a good Everton victory and a morale maintaining Munich draw, I’m concerned that there will be a backlash from a Tiny Totts team that hasn’t tasted defeat at White Hart Lane against us for seven years. Seven years! That’s quite a record when you think that Arsenal have been a consistent performer at the top of the league for most of my lifetime, yet even if I go back further I see that we have tasted victory just five times in 25 matches since the beginning of the Prremier league. And that’s in all competitions. That’s a 20% win ratio people. It shows that it’s not a happy hunting ground for us usually and I can’t see the game being easy on Sunday.

Arsene was asked about the fact we hadn’t won for a while at theirs and replied as expected, focusing on being a bit more positive and talking about the positive memories we have of victories there, but it must be playing on his mind. AS we’re slap bang in the middle of this ‘Death Run’, it’s obvious that victories are essential to keep our fading title hope alive and with a game against Chelski coming up after this weekend and a full weeks rest for the team, imagine the powerful effect a morale-boosting victory would have? Conversely, what does a confidence-sapping defeat to your nearest (geographical) rivals will do. A draw might maintain the status quo between the two teams as far as points differential, but in reality it does little for anyone’s hopes of achieving their goals. Fine margins people. And the margins are so fine at the moment that victory or defeat will be heightened to ‘nth’ proportions tomorrow. THAT’s why i’m even more worried. And guess what? Writing today’s blog hasn’t helped!!

So if you’re on Twitter, message me with nice things and make me feel better today. Tell me it’s going to be ok. Because it is, right? Right?

SG Podcast 19 – Man on the Moon

What a weekend! In the 19th SG Podcast Chris, Ben & Steve are joined by Dean (@DeanLDN22) to discuss the awesome run in the FA Cup, City’s defeat to Wigan and the upcoming games against Munich and then the spuds…


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SG Podcast 17 – My wife misses Ramsey

This week Ben & Steve (no Chris again as he is down an alley somewhere) are joined by Alex (@The_Beck_) to discuss Munich, Sunderland, injuries and the Orcs from Stoke!


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SG Podcast 16 – I resign

Podcast 16!! This week Ben, Chris & Steve are joined by Kris (@AFCfreddie8) to talk about the FA Cup triumph over Liverhoof, Jose Bourinho & Bayern Munchen…


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SG Podcast 1-5: (or was that 5-1)

Podcast 15 (or was that 5-1)! This Week Steve & Ben (Chris is missing as her was, erm, watching…..Strictly…) are joined by Billy (Educated Gooner) & Luke (Block32AFC) to discuss the 5-1 defeat to Liverpool and the up and coming fixture against Manchester Utd.


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