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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

FA Cup Final Promo

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Arsenal’s recent FA Cup Final History triumphs in about 5 mins

 

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,

 

A Sad Day

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A lot of my Twitter followers urge me to write more in my blog. I always find it hard because I don’t know what to always say that is no different to other Arsenal fans.

Well today, although probably no different to what many others are saying, is actually quite a sad day following the defeat to Everton. Today is the first time I actually went out on Twitter and called for Arsene to go (#WengerOut).

I am not going to forget what that man has done for us. We have gone from a provincial London club to one of the best and most respected clubs in world football with arguably one of the best club football grounds around. And for that we will be eternally grateful. I also know he has worked in the last 8 years under some great financial constraints.

But this was THE year when the Moon, the Sun, Saturn and Neptune aligned (aka big manager changes and big money available to us) in order for us to mount a serious title push. Unfortunately all we have aligned with is Uranus.

There are obvious deficiencies here that makes me believe Arsene is no longer the man to take this club as forward as we deserve paying the highest ticket prices around:

  1. Tactics
    1. Arsene won everything with 4-4-2. Now he won’t go near it with a barge pole. He simply has too many CMs and won’t drop any of them. This leaves us so limp up front and Giroud is not the man to get us out of jail.
    2. Arsene says he only concentrates on Arsenal’s game. If we play well then what the others do is not important. This is very naïve. Just look at the Lukaku goal. The bloke is lethal on his left and we just let him cut in on his favoured foot. The result was inevitable.
    3. Plan A is all we have. Many managers at HT would have shaken things up to get us back in the game. Time and time again, the sub changes come too late. Take the Liverpool game, we were 4-0 down at half time. Why, why wouldn’t Arsene out two upfront? What did we have to lose? There is simply no Plan B, C or D.
  2. Transfers
    1. Ozil was a masterstoke. But every fan said that although a great capture a CM was the last thing we needed.
    2. January transfer window debacle. Arsene knew Theo was out for the season and Aaron was also out for a while and we were pushing for the title, yet he only brought in an injured CM! 2008 was another year this happened. The title was in sight and he didn’t add to the squad.
  3. Injuries
    1. The same old sob story has become very boring. Unlucky yes, but every season? Something is clearly wrong with the training regime, style of football and the types of players we buy.
  4. Fight
    1. Or lack of fight. Clear on the pitch there is again no leadership and no desire. If Arsene has lost the dressing room then it is game over.
  5. Inevitability
    1. Many,many fans knew we wouldn’t win the league. The implosion was just around the corner like in most years. This cannot be repeated season in, season out. From top to potentially out of the top 5 in just 9 weeks will be the biggest one yet. FA Cup or no FA Cup.

I take no pride on writing this blog or tweet #ArseneOut. He deserves respect for everything he has done. But he will deserve even more by realising he can do no more and help the club find his next successor.

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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.

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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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