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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. 

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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?

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 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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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.

From Oblivion to Glory

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As I sit ready to watch the second FA Cup Semi Final of 2014, time to reflect back on yesterday’s first, which saw Arsenal equal Man Utd’s record of final appearances and seemingly a great change to equal their FA Cup successes.

Last week I joined the melancholy train of fans who said it is time for managerial change at Arsenal in the wake of the defeat by Everton. Enough was enough and it was interesting to feel that as we walked up Wembley Way, was this going to be Arsene’s last meaningful game. Defeat yesterday and you would have felt so.

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No matter how I felt, it is always exciting to be at Wembley. Only a max of 6 teams can get there every season,so we should have been pleased to be there and we were.

We were surprised by just how few Wigan fans there were in the ground. Of course for them this is the 3rd time in 2 seasons they have got here and hopefully for them hopefully a 4th is round the corner in the form of a Championship Play-Off Final. Also it is quite a long journey coupled with the fact Wigan is a real Rugby League city, not a football one.

So with the stadium having at least 75% gooners, it really felt like a home game and just makes a mockery of FA Cup Final ticket allocations where they will give each club about 25,000 tickets.

The scene was set for the Arsenal to really put their poor league form behind them and give this a real go. And after 5 mins it was looking this way as Songo was unlucky with his chance. Unfortunately, little did we know that would be our last real chance till about the 80th minute!

We were appalling for a majority of the game. We were clearly a team with zero confidence and zero game plan. Wigan came to ensure they got a lucky break and/or hold out till penalties. Of course they got both!

It was a poor lunge by Per for their penalty. No arguments.

From the minute Gomez scored Wigan’s penalty, the atmosphere within the Arsenal fans turned from nerves to anger. We simply could not see how we would score and it wasn’t because we were outplayed by Wigan, we just look dishevelled and wanting the season to finish with a whimper.

Some of the abusive language emanating from people around us levelled at the players and more specifically at the manager was dreadful, but it went on for about 20-30mins. At one point there was a brawl among Arsenal fans leading to Stewards being called it. Civil War had broken out again. Time for Arsene to go.

But up popped Per to make amends for his mis-demeanour following some good Arsenal pressure finally. We all felt we needed a 2nd before FT while the momentum was with us. Overall is was disgraceful to only show up from the 80th minute and of course at that point we would have taken ET and penalties. We were unlucky with a few chances from Gibbs and the Ox.

No matter how we won, we deserved it. Wigan didn’t register a shot at goal all game. But we should have put a Championship team to the sword. Wigan needed us to be off our game and we really were.

So on to penalties and I have been to hundreds of Arsenal games but this was my first ‘live’ penalty shoot-out. As I tweeted afterwards, hated the game but loved the penalties!

See Santi’s winning penalty here from where we were sitting:

So through we go to the final. But I couldn’t get over just how fickle fans we are. From literally wanting Wenger’s head on a plate to singing we are the worlds greatest team was remarkable.

The media may have a go at our over the top celebrations.It was a mixture of relief and real hope that we can shut the media up, because we have a real chance of ending this trophy ‘drought’. (As a side note, I havent heard once in any Liverpool game that it has been 24 years since they won the league.)

90mins away from a trophy. 90mins away from maybe Arsene’s swan song. 90mins away from ending Talksport’s Daily Arsenal. Just let that all sink in,

 

Sherwood’s a Gooner

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Some may say I only blog when we win big. Considering my last blog was when we beat Dortmund I can see the logic. However, follow me on Twitter (@jamesreuben) and I comment all the time.

However this blog is about more than just us beating Spurs but about the FA Cup 3rd Round.

I am a die hard Champions League man, usually gunning to want to ensure we qualify at the behest of any cup. I reality I am gunning to qualify for a competition that we will realistically never win. I am attracted the money, signings and competition we face, wanting Arsenal to be a European Super Power.

But this weekend we can see the FA Cup and all its traditions dying in front of our faces. Draws made during games, tea time finals, drop in attendances and Championship teams fielding weak sides.

I know we cannot go back to the days where winning the cup meant more than finishing 4th. Of course you have to blame UEFA for the Champions League and destroying the Cup Winners Cup, and the money flooding into the Premier League. But without these we wouldn’t arguably have the best league in the world. We wouldn’t have seen Henry, Pires and Bergkamp amongst others. We could also blame the redevelopment of Wembley. Without those twin towers nothing seems right.

I used to love everything about the cup. This was before we won our haul in Cardiff – I’m harking back to the 80’s where Spurs had won more than us. I used to love the draw, the magic and giant killings. A few cup games in my early Arsenal years provide both strong and miserable memories, Semi Final defeat to Utd in 1983, York in 1986 and Wrexham in 1992. Gazza’s free-kick was probably the biggest low. But I also saw delights and the 1993 final, although dire, will always be up there because it was my first Final ( and the replay).

But back to the 3rd round. A time for clubs to change focus and for the lower league teams to try and take some scalps. It was also always the best time to take the young’uns to a game if drawn at home. My son’s first game was a few years back when we faced Plymouth in the 3rd round.

Arsenal v spurs

So I wasn’t too thrilled to get Spurs in this year’s 3rd round. We have a had an energy sapping but confidence boosting holiday period and they had just beaten Utd. Not  a great time face them and have to field a semi-strong side.

I don’t know why I was worried. The 2-0 scoreline flattered Spurs who from the off were in trouble. To beat Arsenal at home you pack your midfield and play tight. It is like ‘How to try to beat Arsenal for Dummies’. Sherwood showed his inexperience by playing 4-4-2 and a high line.

I have talked before about Wenger’s Eco-System – the ability to bring players in to play the Wenger Arsenal Way. Yesterday saw this again with TV5 and Gnabry slotting in seamlessly. There was a slight tweak in style with Theo playing up top. I am delighted Wenger learnt from the Cardiff game where playing like we had Giroud upfront without him just didn’t click.

Thanks again to my friend Michael Samuels (@msamuels75) for the ticket and we agreed that Santi needed a big game changing performance. And bang did he deliver with his sublime finish past Lloris. He is so calm, cool and collective on the ball and the fulcrum of many a passing move. The way we play is like no-one else in the EPL and at the back we are providing some much needed steel. TV5, LK6 and BFG held strong all game and Arteta picked up everything.

Theo and Gnabry also interchanged very well and Gnabry seems to have a bright future. Jack also played really well.

However it is ‘Super’ Tomas Rosicky who gets his own paragraph here. He epitomised everything The Arsenal are – hungry, skilfull and passionate. He drove us forward all the time and got his just rewards with his goal. I think we are all delighted he showed Danny Rose up, laying the ghost of goal he scored against us a few years ago. That is all he was known for. Not any more. Tommy came forward and cut across the defender to set up the delightful chip that sent us in the North Bank lower into a nice frenzy. No way Spurs were going to get two goals yesterday.

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As for the ‘Theo what’s the score?’ incident. It is like the Adebarndoor City goal celebration. Really, some football banter/incidents sending grown men and women into fits of rage that they want to storm the pitch, assault staff and seats and hurl bottles and hard earned money? Get annoyed but calm down!

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The reaction in the North Bank Lower – seemed in bad taste that Spurs fans could boo a  player obviously injured. If they were annoyed at time wasting, The Arsenal could have gone home and they would never had scored. Any injury should be met with compassion. When Capoue went off earlier in the season the Arsenal fans were respectful. There are always some idiots a la when Sagna was carted off at WHL with a broken leg. Should Theo have done what he did? probably not but was very funny. Let’s not forget what Bale did last season shall we!1388925778334

So a great win. It’s always great beating them lot. A nice few days off now for the team. Every game in the EPL is hard and Villa will be no exception but let’s exact some revenge for the opening game.

I leave this blog with its opening, the best chant of yesterday – Tim’s Sherwood’s a Gooner!

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Umlating

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Sublime

Wow! What a performance in the first half by Arsenal. After 15mins we were ‘umlating’ with delight. I can’t remember, during the Emirates years anyway, a more complete first half performance like we saw against Napoli. Were Napoli poor? I don’t think we gave them the option. We had a high tempo, tackled hard, got to every ball first. Oh, and we were sublime going forward.

Symbiotic

Fans were worried that Jack and Gnarby were rested. Don’t mess with a winning team? I think we may be seeing the culmination of a 10 year plan. A symbiotic football team. A team that acts as one and players (in the right positions) can come in pretty seamlessly, a la Rosicky and Arteta tonight. The interchange between Ramsey, Ozil, Flamini and Giroud was great. Wilshire also slotted in well in our current symbiotic state.

Special

Many of us will remember Wrighty’s, Bergkamp’s and Henry’s first goals for The Arsenal. Well tonight, 1 October 2013, many will remember Ozil’s first. A great move, a great pull back by Ramsey, and Ozil just slotted it home like he was messing about in the garden. That is what you get for £42.5m. At last Arsene realizes it!

Mesut Ozil’s first goal v Napoli 2013

Ian Wright’s first goal for Arsenal v Leicester 1991

Dennis Bergkamp’s first goal v Southampton 1996

Thierry Henry’s first goal v Southampton 1999

The Arsenal Oxymoron

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A very good win on Saturday. A return to the free flowing counter attacking Arsenal. We got just what we needed following the poor Villa result- a rubbish Fenerbace and barely an even better Fulham. You can only beat what’s in front of you and we did both with aplomb.

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It was nice to see Fulham (or Tottenham Rejects) have 2 things we don’t.

A new chairman/owner who, like those who want their new teams be a success on the field, paraded himself of the pitch like a kid with a new toy. Ours never attends games, so Fulham fans should be encouraged that their new one will invest some more on the pitch.

That leads to the 2nd thing Fulham had that we don’t (and probably helped us win), new signings. They clearly hadn’t had time to work together and got their tactics wrong.

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Take nothing away from our performance though. It was the Arsenal Oxymoron. Playing like this with excellent flow and fluidity and an on form, good starting XI, we are good enough. But we all know there will be dips in form and more injuries, and we simply do not have the squad to compete on all fronts. Wenger knows this and transfers will happen. Flamini would be an obvious signing, but we need more.

Where though?

Goalkeeper – Chesney has had an OK start. Made some good saves in both Istanbul and West London. But we can get better and he needs someone to learn from. Too many times he pushes shots into the danger zone, rather than out to safety. To be fair, he did recover well for the one he saved at Fulham.

Defence – Playing Sagna at CB is crazy and with TV5 out and all others gone or loaned out obvious we must be in for a CB. Knowing Arsene he will prob stick with Sagna as an emergency.

Midfield – Hats off to Aaron Ramsey. He was the fall guy for everything that was wrong last season (like Denilson on for example before him). He has started the season very well and becoming dare I say a better fulcrum in midfield than Jack. Aaron is a couple of years ahead of Jack in returning from a horrendous injury. Santi was sublime as he usually is against lower EPL teams. Big test on Sunday. I want to see him produce against the top teams. Theo has also made a good start, seeming to be playing with a better air of confidence and skill. With Arteta and the Ox to return (forget Diaby) we have a good midfield.

Upfront – Giroud has had an excellent start too. 3 goals from 3 games is excellent and the way he took the ball down for our 3rd at Fulham left me purring. Poldi finally showed his true worth and he actually looks fit! But it remains that Giroud is really our only out and out striker.

We need depth. Our bench against Fulham was very lightweight. This is going to be another marathon this season. We need more players to come in and make a difference when we need it. Not everyone will be a bad/open as Fulham. I think it is at home where we have a problem and 4-5-1 does not really work. Away it works pretty well. So if we revert to 4-4-2 we need different players.

Overall I think we need a new GK, a CB, an exciting midfielder to replace the Ox and an out an out striker. I will also never, never pass a chance to have more DMs. There, I haven’t said anything different to others. We all know, but I don’t think Arsene knows anymore.

We have a good team but we need more. It’s the Arsenal Oxymoron.

Probably, see you all on Monday night on Twitter for my half seasonal Transfer Deadline rant!