Wigan Review: One Step Back

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Dec 312010

I’ve found it hard to begin this post. What do you say in response to such a very disappointing performance and result? I’ve seen various comments in the media and on blogs about the line up, most of them criticising AW for fielding a ‘weakened’ or ‘second string’ team. It wasn’t either, it was squad rotation based on the necessities of the fixture list brought on by the idiotic FA. ManUre had a longer rest. They always seem to get a better deal from the FA, or am I alone in thinking that?

That said, such drastic changes resulted in the right-footed Eboue at LB, and the midfield trio of Diaby, Denilson, and Rosicky who offered little creativity. Ironically, Diaby’s injury improved our performance, as Wilshere came on and added urgency and inspiration to midfield, which qualities (Diaby,) Denilson, and Rosicky failed to deliver with any consistency over the 90 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the highlights by now so I won’t bore you with a breakdown of the game. If you haven’t seen them, go to the excellent Arsenalist. It wasn’t a bl**dy penalty, N’Zogbia dived like Tom Daly, and the ref bought it.

Suffice it to say that all the positive aspects of the Chelski game were forgotten. There was little collective desire, a complete lack of unified pressing of the opponents when we didn’t have the ball; virtually no organisation in defence; and we didn’t have any leaders on the pitch. It seems the squad needs another visit from Jacob Marley, aka George Graham.

Admittedly only 2 outfield players that faced Chelski started against Wigan, so hopefully those that didn’t play are rested, and the importance of the qualities we showed against Chelski were made even more clear to those that played as well as those that didn’t.

The only positives we can take from the game are that Arshavin scored for the first time since September and had some excellent patches; v Persie came through the game without an injury; Bendtner got a run-out; and err… that’s it.

In terms of negatives, apart from everything I’ve already mentioned, Diaby picked up a calf strain and will be out for 2-3 weeks. A real shame, as I believe a fit Diaby offers us something that currently only Song provides – a genuine box to box hard tackling midfielder. Pity his legs are made of polystyrene.

What is more troubling than the fact that AGAIN we missed a chance to get to the summit of the league is the lact of communication and leadership on the pitch. Cesc was rested, but in the absence of our captain, no-one t=picked up his mantle. Fabregas is never overly vocal, but whoever wears the armband, having a vocal player in the back 5 is not just a plus, it’s a necessity.

In the Sun, AW is quoted as saying:

There was no need to concede the corner which led to Wigan’s second goal. We have to make a bigger effort to communicate better.

I tell you what, Arsène, there was no bl**dy need for their second goal at all – I have no idea what the f*ck Squillaci was doing. One thing he wasn’t doing was looking at the effing ball, that’s for certain. Anyway, in typical Sun style they blamed it on the lack of good spoken English among the players. I don’t care if they shout to each other by Tibetan throat singing, they just need to start shouting, and someone needs to take charge.

In midfield and up front, the lack of drive, pressing, leadership and tracking back was blamed on a lack of leaders on the pitch. After the game AW said of our set-piece organisation:

It is a concern because nobody looks from the outside to take charge on the organisation side. There is no voice when the focus drops a little bit. You don’t feel that anybody takes charge on alertness and we need to communicate much better than that.

I’d like to see our Pole between the sticks becoming more vocal at the back. As I said above, we need one of the back 5 to step up and ensure everyone knows what they’re doing, and that everyone does it well.

In terms of the midfield and attack, and in Cesc’s absence, I’d like to see the boy Wilshere pick up this rôle. He’s a driven, technically gifted player whose talents include a great awareness of others, so he’d be ideal.

On Saturday we go to St Andrew’s, another potential away banana skin. They haven’t lost at home since the 2nd October, and let’s not forget that in between then and now, Chelski went to St Andrew’s and came away without any points. Their defence hasn’t conceded more than one goal for 6 games. We need a better team, and a better team performance than what we had against Wigan if we are to get the win we need.

I hope we see the benefits of having rested most of the ‘first team’ in Birmingham on Saturday.

Against the Russian rabble from Fulham, we took two big steps forward. Against Wigan we took one step back. Time to start marching forward, or we risk losing sight of the Manc clubs at the top of the league.

Arsenally Yours


A Christmas Carol

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Dec 282010

It was Christmas night. All was quiet at the Emirates, as the players trudged through the halls. It was Theo who first noticed the bust of Herbert Chapman change. The familiar face of the great man morphed the features of a man few of the current Arsenal squad knew well. Then it spoke or rather screamed at them.

“What the hell are ye daein’? And what the f*ck happened against Spurs? If I were still the boss, you’d all a been cleaning booots fr’ae week, ye wee slinkit timrous beaties, ye.”

“Mais qu’est-ce que c’est que ça? Aah, George Graham. T’as prend un bribe aujour’hui?”, asked Koscielny, as the French players sniggered and the English one/two looked bemused.

But then silence from the squad as the bust grew to the size of a man, its shimmering features turning purple. No-one knows what Graham whispered in Kos’s ear, but he would never speak of it, not even till his dying day.

“Come with me, and see how real men play”, the spirit spoke, and all of a sudden the squad were at Wembley, 1993, FA Cup Semi-Final vs Sp*rs. The squad were amazed by the collective passion, the organisation at the back and the workrate throughout midfield and attack. They jumped for joy as Adams scored the winner.

“Nous pouvons jouer comme ça. Peut-être un peu plus de la haîne à Sp*rs – ce n’est pas un mauvais idée, ils sont vraiment les bell-end” said Squillaci.

“Speak English you Fritalian bell-end,” retorted cheeky Jack.

“He said we could play like that, and maybe a bit more hatred for Sp*rs wouldn’t be a bad thing. They are scum after all,” translated Sagna.

“Aye ye can, and aye, ye should play like that,” said Graham. “Now, let’s look at the present. Ye haven’t beat Chelski or ManUre for a few years now. So pull ye fingers out ye arses and start playing like we all ken ye can. Time tae look to the future.”

Everything shimmered for a moment, but nothing seemed else seemed to happen. Then Robin looked up and saw a sign above the ancient bust of Chapman – Property of UzbekInvest.

“Oh my God, what happened?” said Robin.

“Can’t ye guess Robin,” the ghost replied, “Ye all f*cked oop. Ye played like boys against men, ye lost your Champions League place at the end of 2011 – tae fookin’ Sp*rs – for shite’s sake. And so ye lost yer captain to Qatarçelona, and yer gaffer to the same place. And the noo, Arsenal is mid table shite. Fans are leaving in their droves, and some fattie from fook knows where owns oor club. So fookin’ wake up, play with some spirit and beat that rabble from Fulham!”

And with that, the ghost of Graham vanished, and the squad left for their homes in Hertfordshire with an ever-burning desire to play better. To compete all over the pitch, to defend with organisation, to track back properly, and to make the most of goal-scoring chances.

And they did beat Chelski. All the players were on top form, playing with the words of Graham burning in their ears. Alex Song got one, so did Cesc and Theo. Ivanovic scored for Chelski, though. Some say Koscielny thought he saw Graham in the stands and was paralysed by fear. From keeper to striker, all played well, and the spectre that was our record against Chelski and ManUre was buried.

But would they forget the lesson they learned that fateful Christmas Eve at the Grove when it came to play the likes of Wigan? Time will tell, dear readers, time will tell.


Apologies to anyone Scottish! I’m off to spend the Arsenally quids I won yesterday – 13-8, 5-2, and 18-1. Ker-Ching!

Arsenally yours,


Fixture Congestion, Ryo Miyaichi, youth news, and mental fragility.

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Dec 202010

Hi folks, have we been saved by the snow? I’m glad the players now have a chance to prepare properly for the visit of Chelski next Monday. But the fact that we’ll have to play an extra match, and one against Stoke, is hardly good news as we approach the season of good cheer. Knowing the way our fixtures always fall at the worst possible time, we’ll probably have to face them two days before we play Barça in February. At which point Shawcross will break Fabregas and v Persie’s legs in an ‘accidentally late’ challenge before doing Nasri’s cruciate as he walks off for an early bath.

We’ve signed an 18-year-old Japanese striking wunderkind, Ryo Miyaichi, who’ll join us in January. Accoding to his wikipedia page, he’s still at High School! I hope he accustoms himself pretty quickly to daily training and life in England, and doesn’t miss his books too much.

You can see some clips of him here, but I have to say they’re meaningless – until we see him against proper opposition, we can’t really say a lot with any certainty about his prospects. He does show some good touches and a bit of pace, it has to be said, and what’s more he did – apparently – get some interest from other big European clubs.

But the cynic in me did raise his ugly head when I saw this in the Guardian:

Wenger, who coached the Japanese side Grampus Eight before joining Arsenal in 1996, also said that “it’s very important that Asia is represented at our club”.

Now I’m all for expanding our global appeal, and I’m very aware of how we lag behind other leading English clubs in terms of our commercial success, but should we really sign a player, if putting him on the pitch is a financial and not a football decision? If he plays a few Carling Cup games, then that doesn’t disrupt our Premier and Champions League standing, but what about the English strikers who are excelling in our academy? Do we need him at the expense of one of the youth players we already have?

On which note, Steve Bould’s youth team destroyed Darlington to move into the fourth round of the FA youth cup a few days ago. Chucks Aneke got a hat-trick, and Benik Afobe grabbed a couple while for me, Özyakup showed some great touches in midfield. Like Miyaichi, the test for our youngsters will come against better opposition. Here’s the highlights:

Cesc has something to say here in the Guardian about our mental fragility against the big teams, and most recently ManUre.

Sometimes we seem scared of losing these big games – we don’t really go for it and we’re tempted to drop back and see what the opposition do.

A worrying thing for our captain to say, but at least he recognises the problem. He should, as club captain, do his best to put a stop to this and try to ensure the lads are confident, and that we play our game, rather than responding to the oppostion’s.

I think a large part of this mental fragility could be down to the Home/Away, divide. Away there’s less expectation on us to play our own game and not respond to the opposition, whereas at home, we’re expected to play our own brand of attacking football. Perhaps this provides some explanation for our contrasting home and away form. We need to be more confident wherever we play, and make others dance to our tune. Easier said than done though.

To get you in the Christmas spirit, here’s a pic of Gibbs and Wilshere looking festive. And this from a gooner on Facebook:

I met a fairy today who granted me only one wish. I said, “I want to live forever.”

“Sorry,” said the fairy, “I’m not allowed to grant wishes like that.”

“Fine,” I said, “I want to die when Sp*rs win the league.”

“You crafty bastard” said the fairy.

Back with more on Chelsea tomorrow.

Arsenally Yours,