Where’s the learning?

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As you will see, I haven’t written a blog for quite some time. Just like Arsenal, I’ve seem to have been happily drifting into an abyss. 

What has caused me to blow off the blog cobwebs now? Well my Twitter feed is alive and well with all my current feelings about the team and manager, but I now have much more to say than I can get in a tirade of 140 characters in dozens of tweets.

Let me be clear, I didn’t expect Arsenal to beat Bayern last night. But I did expect Arsenal to get closer to them. 

True, they were magnificent at times, but we have faced them 3 out of the last 5 seasons and countless other top teams in this competition at this stage over the last 10 years and all I ask is, where is the learning? Where have the lessons of each humiliating experience year on year been stored and leant from and being used on at Conley?

I will tell you where, they are sitting in a nice Arsenal bank account along with our cash surplus, £ms in revenue from every home game, my Season Ticket money, the EPL TV deal, Sponsorship money and CL revenue. Of course it is also shipping out £ms in wages for players and a manager who this season aren’t performing on a consistently and alarmingly regular basis now. 

For 20mins in the 1st half we showed we could get a Bayern by applying pressure. Once again, what on earth did Arsene say at HT for the team to come out once again and simply not perform just like at City and Everton? In this 10 year groundhog cycle I could at least say that every season there were usually a collection of fine displays which ultimately would account for very little by the end. This season I think we’d all be hard stretched to pick great performances that would go beyond 2 digits on one of our hands. For me only the Chelsea(h) game springs to mind, and how much was that because Chelsea were all at sea at the back. Remember they went on a 12-odd game winning run while we slumped, and they now look odds on title winners.

I think it looks like the players know he is going and Ozil (another limp performance last night) and Sanchez are waiting till he’s gone before deciding what to do. Both have the right to look elsewhere if they want trophies of any stature.

Arsene has built the modern Arsenal and we will all be thankful and as we are seeing this gratitude is increasingly, season on season, turning into venom. He needs to do the right thing and decide to quit/retire, tell the world asap and let us fans unite to be really behind you and the team till the end of the season and give you a send off in May v Everton at home in the stadium you built that you deserve. 

Derby Draw

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AFC v Spurs

A North London Derby (NLD) is always special. It’s us vs them, when form goes out of the window and anything can happen. During recent years it is the twice (sometimes thrice) yearly ritualistic time of year when both sets of fans exhibit loud and proud their club’s history.

For me, this North London Derby was extra special. it was the first one for my little boy. I wish I could remember my first NLD. As it was in the early 80’s there was a good chance we got beat! so I am probably better off forgetting it! But I,like many fans brought up in the 80’s,90’s and naughties, I can count on just about two hands how many times them lot got the better of us. I only need one hand to remember how many times they finished above since 1993. We have been very fortunate, and I wanted my son’s first NLD memory to be a positive one.

I will repeat what I tweeted after the game – we could have won, we should have won, but when you are 0-1 down with 20 minutes to go, you take the draw.

We didn’t lose is all I was saying to my son as we came out. He loved it – the singing, the taunts and The Ox’s goal. Once we scored I think he was more vocal than me and all I could envisage was Spurs coming down the other end and scoring a winner. Sorry, that is just my phsyche,

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Only seeing a few reports, seeing a few Spurs friends and reading a few tweets/Facebook posts from each side since the final whistle, the usual double sided views were on display:

  • Can’t believe you (AFC) couldn’t beat our (THFC) pony team
  • You (AFC) should be embarrassed
  • We (AFC) should have mashed them Spuds
  • They (THFC) are bang average, we (AFC) should have won
  • We’re (THFC) disappointed we didn’t win
  • They (AFC) were there for the taking, we (THFC) should have won

I agree with some of the many comments but won’t get dragged into a verbal war of words – after a NLD everyone is right. I have spent years arguing with Spurs fans, neither ever wins. We are blinkered by our passion our team and not letting either get one up on each other.

I’d like to think (like a few other of my AFC and THFC friends) that I am pretty down to earth when it comes to analysing The Arsenal and our opposition. So here is my view:

  • We (AFC) didn’t fire on all cylinders offensively – partly down to us but also because (for once) they (THFC) were pretty well organised
  • I’ve always said Lloris is their best player by a mile and he kept Spurs in the game
  • Spurs are average – and we should be disappointed we didn’t win – we probably did enough to do so
  • They (THFC) scored with the one real clear cut chance that was literally gifted to them
  • I am not going to rant about our DM position – but Flamini – dear oh dear
  • I also blame Chesney partly for their goal – why he and the Defence insisted to always play out from the back – we were looking for trouble and with their goal, we got it!
  • I am glad the Ox scored – of all the attacking players I thought he was the most consistent throughout the game and really wanted it
  • Ozil and Jack had pretty good games – shame Jack picked up a knock which inhibited him in latter stages
  • Alexis should have started
  • Danny huffed and puffed in the first half, in the second, I forgot he was still playing

Overall, let’s take the draw and move on. Beating Spurs is always important, but we have bigger fish to fry this week (Galatasary and Chelsea). For Spurs, we are the cod of all cods and it is always fascinating to see that their three goals for each season remains by the way they celebrated:

  • We must not lose to Arsenal
  • We must not lose to Arsenal
  • There’s a third goal?

Gap

 As for The Arsenal, there are currently two unbeaten teams in the Premier League.Come 6pm on Sunday, there will only be one and they won’t be wearing red and white. I hope I eat these words next Sunday, but with our naive defence, no defensive midelfield cover, and an average GK at best, we are asking for trouble. But I live in hope. Come on you Gunners!

Blue Moan

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AFCvMCFC

I came out the game today feeling funny. I was disappointed, relieved and happy.

Disappointed – being 2-1 up with about 10mins to go I think we could feel disappointed, especially at the goal we conceded. Once again our defensive set up at set pieces cost us.

Relieved – once City got their second  goal, there seemed only one team going to win and they were wearing sky blue. No doubt the Debuchy injury took the wind out of our sales and I was glad to hear the final whistle after City came close twice to snatching the win (header off the post and a disallowed goal).

– overall it was a great game and 2-2 was probably the right result. Our first 15 mins were played at a high tempo with our midfield closing City down all the time. Danny Welbeck was inches and post away from scoring a memorable debut goal with that sublime chip over Hart. Danny had a good game and was always a menace – exactly what we need. After that period however City stamped their authority on the game and took an expected lead once we stopped battling in midfield and left wide open gaps in defence.

Aguero had a great game and took his goal well. Arsenal did well to ride out the rest of the half and come in 0-1 down.

In the second half I think Jack answered many of his critics after a having a great came rounded off by a very well taken goal. I’ve said a few times that Jack is a great player but I’m not quite sure what he actually gives to the team in the way of end product. Today I saw it all – really drove us forward at all times. Ramsey tried to do the same but I’m worried what his wedding and honeymoon has done to him because this season his passing (to an Arsenal shirt) has gone very wayward.

Jack Wilshere levels the score at 1-1. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Jack Wilshere levels the score at 1-1. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

A special mention for Alexis and that second goal. What. a. finish. That is why you spend the big bucks. If we go on and have a good run in Europe and challenge for the league, so far his goals and energy have a made a big difference. Ozil, take note. I think we are all delighted with Alexis’ energy and now finishing. I was privileged to see that goal today live. And I enjoyed doing the Poznan!

Alexis Sánchez puts Arsenal 2-1 up against Manchester City in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Alexis Sánchez puts Arsenal 2-1 up against Manchester City in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

AFC Poznan

But I can’t end all positive about today. We still struggle against the big boys and just can’t get the results we need. Our soft centre costs us against the very best and we know Wenger has simply not addressed this over the summer. I don’t expect him too in January, so unless the team really work hard getting tight in training, sadly, the battle for 4th will be on again come May.

A Pane in the Window

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AFC Defcon

 

Look, I tweeted some pretty bad thoughts as our transfer window non-activity was apparent during the course of yesterday. This was probably a little unfair as we have done some good business.

Welcome

 

In Alexis we have World Class talent and the signs already look good. in Ospina we have the goalie backup we need. In Debuchy we seem to have the ready-made replacement for Sagna. In Chambers we have a young English talent to play across the back and at DM if needed. In Welbeck we have one of England’s leading men with potential.

But for us Arsenal fans its the case of who we didn’t get, and more importantly, who we didn’t get in key positions:

 

Arsenal #£$^$^^

 

For me this was a Summer to show our true ambitions and flex our new financial muscle after 8 years in the transfer wilderness (Ozil apart). It doesn’t mean splashing all the cash on rubbish (a la Spurs 2013-2014) but getting key players in where we may need to pay a little over the odds. It also meant we could get World Class players in so they didn’t go to our rivals and make them better.

When you see Cesc, Balotelli and Falcao within our reach and pass us by without so much of a whimper – it was disappointing. Now, you can’t buy them all. But Wenger falls on his own sword when he says he looks for quality that can improve our squad/better than the incumbents. To be fair Welbeck is better than Sanogo, surely.

And despite any misgivings seeing him in an Arsenal shirt for his signing pictures has made me a little excited to see him in action

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Overall, I’m more worried about our performances and Leicester was extremely poor. The only way is up surely.

17

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After my own summer break, it was good to get back home to The Emirates, and to my shiny new seat in the Clock End. I made the move from the North Upper due to the fact my son now wanted to come to games and therefore I needed to make each week more financially viable. I smirk at the media when they talk about the cost of going to The Emirates. They of course mainly fail to mention that our ticket prices include 7 cup games (inc the CL). But for me, now in the Family Enclosure my son’s ticket is £15 on average a game and mine £45. That sounds pretty good to me. The view isn’t too bad either.

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So another CL Qualifier beckoned – our punishment for dropping like a stone in the league following Theo’s injury in January. I always worry about the qualifying tie when you play a team you have heard of and have no away goals. The build up was of course all about Giroud’s freak injury. How many more long-term injuries can we get. Unlucky doesn’t even come close to describing our injury issues, and it is always to our key players. In this instance our one and only experienced striker who sits nicely on the 4-5-1 Wenger formation.

The noises from the Le Boss are not encouraging that we will sign anyone within the next week. I always have hope, but have been let down many times. If we do not sign a recognised striker and the much needed DM we have been craving for, I am sorry to say that you can kiss the league goodbye. Winning the FA Cup and buying Sanchez hasn’t changed anything in regards to our depth in key areas. I am of course happy to be proved wrong.

As for the game, it was a tense night but always felt that we were going to go through. It was nice that our new number 17 secured our 17th successive year in the CL. Agreed, we will probably not win it but its great to be in it.

Sanchez scores

I thought our overall performance was OK. You can clearly see we need more time on the training pitch. At the back Kos and BFG were immense and Monreal was for once a lot more composed. Chesney really didn’t have a save to make. I think Debuchy has slotted in very well into the hole vacated by Bacary ‘I moved for football reasons’ Sagna. No way should he have been given two yellows as the round of applause he got as he trudged off would tell you. But when you had a ref who booked Chambers for apparently coming on a bit too quick and Chesney for time-wasting, anything was going to happen.

In midfield, many hailed Jack’s performance. It was better but still he needs to work on his distribution. At the end when the pressure was on we still saw wayward passing. The Ox started well but seemed to fade. Santi had moments. Flamini for me was superb and my MOTM. Sadly you know he can only play 5 games in a row until the inevitable next suspension.

As for Ozil – I always have time for him when others in the media don’t. Only 2nd game back aside, yes, he seemed to pull out of tackles a little too easily, lost possession in key areas and went down some numerous blind alleys, but his control and movement was good. For me, all this doesn’t matter – he played the ball to Jack/Sanchez for the goal and that is all that matters – one killer pass for the goal. I’ll take that every week.

Lastly to Sanchez. One of those moments you can say I was there for his first goal. He took that well and was a constant threat. His energy is astonishing and let’s hope he can keep it up. Wenger seems to think he the striker we needed, only time will tell. He now has even more pressure on him with Giroud’s injury.

draw

 

All eyes now on the draw at 16:45 UK time. Not holding my breath for an easy draw or us winning it- but man it’s always exciting to be in it. You’ve got to be in it to win it. 17th time lucky? Who knows.

 

All smiles at Members Day

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Well as my last post was titled “Shattered” describing the feeling after winning the FA Cup, it’s no surprise I haven’t blogged since then.

The World Cup has been and gone,and for the most part I enjoyed it. How can you not enjoy a World Cup? Well done to Per, Podolski and Özil, our three World Cup winners. Deutchland’s gain is Arsenal’s pain as we won’t have those three anywhere fit for the start of the season.

Of course I am excited at the prospect of Sanchez wearing the red and white and the other signings are all good additions too.

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So a new season is almost upon us so it was time for members day. Thanks to the AST we were invited to the Woolwich Suite on Club level and therefore got a great view of the players training.

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I remain very impressed with the players’ skill and ability on the ball

But the highlight for me was always going to be the Player Q&A. Again this was only possible thanks to the AST. Tom ‘Lofty’ Watt was on good form and I was surprised at the calibre of player they got for the Q&A, but it was clear who drew the most attention. A certain Chilean:

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The questions were very light hearted with Campbell, Ospina and Sanchez needing a translator. They all seemed pleased to be at the club and looking forward to the new season. I don’t think I saw Sanchez not smile once at any point. He looks very happy to be here and lead a special happy birthday to one junior member:

He also got involved in some table tennis:

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So good fun had by all. Smiles all round. Members day is a nice touch from the club giving fans some insight into Arsenal’s training methods but more importantly they enable the fans to get that bit closer to the players.

FA Cup Final 14: Shattered

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The best emotion I can describe how I felt come full time yesterday (FA Cup Final) is shattered. By the looks of those all around me at the stadium and down Wembley Way after the game, I think they felt the same.

Shattered after a long and disappointing league season, shattered after taking Wigan to penalties, shattered after going down 2-0 after only 8 minutes, shattered after clawing our way back, shattered after going into Extra Time, shattered after the emotion of Rambo’s winner, and above all shattered after ending the so called ‘trophy drought’.

Yes I want the League and Champions League above all else, but when you get to a final, boy it’s great and you just want to win it. Having gone to the game with my dad (@papalolly) and my brother (@darren200374) we realised that we hadn’t gone to an FA Cup Final together since Andy Lineghan scored in the last minute in 1993. 21 years ago.

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There was an air of expectation, but also an air of concern that we would do an ‘Arsenal’. After 8 minutes of the game, you now know what an ‘Arsenal’ is. Self-implosion and not turning up are just 2 terms to describe it. Hull are dangerous at set-pieces, and Arsene’s seeming disregard for planning against our oppositions tactics looked like costing us again. In all the big games we have conceded (a few) very early. We are lucky Hull weren’t Liverpool, City or Chelsea. We were lucky that Keiran Gibbs was at the back post.

Through all the euphoria of Rambo’s winner, we must not forget Santi’s wonderful free-kick. I don’t think I’ve seen a better one from someone in an Arsenal shirt in such a big game. Make no doubt about it, it was that goal after everything that happened, won us the cup. The technique from that distance was amazing. McGregor did a 1991 Seaman (went with outside arm) but no goalie could stop that.

Many may say we were lucky, but after their 2nd and then Flappy’s well Flappy moment, they didnt have a sniff at goal. I wasn’t convinced we could pull it off. We were pedestrian for many parts and the 2 main fall guys were rightfully hauled off – Poldi and Ozil.

When Kos scored, there was really only 2 outcomes – we would win or it was going to penalties. I don’t think any of us could have taken another bout of that after Wigan.

Sonogo made a real difference purely because of his energy and someone finally giving it a real go bar Rambo. Can we just have 1 whole season of The Ox and Theo being fit, because with pace and energy we are a different proposition.

I tweeted last night that if anyone wanted to see what Jack brings to the table, just watch his cameo appearance. Arsene’s substitutions worked a treat. Rambo’s winner was a class act when you watch it again. He was taking pot shots all day and thankfully some calm cool finishing gave us the cup. When Giroud hit the bar and Gibbs missed a sitter, you would have thought our name wasn’t on the cup. Well it was.

I don’t do many “away” games but have been fortunate this season to go probably 3 out of 4 big winning ones (Dortmund, Wigan and Hull – the other being Spurs). Enjoy the videos from yesterday.