Tuesday, 31 December 2013

REFLECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS


AFC Goal Of The Year
 
So, what to make of 2013 for the Arsenal? A trophy-less year again (right that’s that out of the way) but a year that ends with the Gunners on top of the league on 42 points. At the start of the year we lay in 6th on 38 points so that undoubtedly indicates progress. Does this show a decline in standards in the Premier League, as Manchester United began 2013 on top with a massive 59 points followed by Manchester City with 52? Or does it indicate that we have caught up? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Hard to say, but we find ourselves in a healthy position and on balance 2013 shows that statistically we are the years most successful team at accruing league points.

The key to this success may very well be in the new model Arsenal’s capacity to bounce back and string together positive results, this in itself only tells half the story. I think that the chemistry is right within this set of players and with the summer being a stable one for a change there has been opportunity for the squad to grow and, more than that, to connect with the supporters and the spirit of the club.

A number of players who promised much have moved on and the big summer signing certainlt transformed expectation: as did the run at the end of the 12/13 season that saw us clinched that 'up for grabs' UCL spot from under the nose of that lot. 

The Arsenal of Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri, Song, Eduardo, Gallas and Arshavin may have been a more talented group of players; however, they had a tendency to fold and were more a collection of individualists. The Arsenal of 2013/14 appears to have that all important X factor: resilience. What that resilience will bring us in 2014 is a mystery. I don’t think the Champions League trophy will be hoisted at Islington Town Hall but I feel that the FA Cup is a realistic target and the Premier League, the true test, is achievable. Having said that, it is achievable for maybe four clubs so one step at a time.

Talk of the January transfer window and our managers shopping habits leads to the usual conjecture and this time a lot of people are looking at the purchase of Ozil as a policy change. Cup tied players and pricing are major factors and quality acquisitions arriving at Arsenal in Januarys past have been limited to Reyes and Arshavin so no one knows if we can expect fresh recruits.

If we retain the consistency of 2013 we can achieve something and a trophy may well be the catalyst for what is a pretty young squad to grab a slice of Arsenal history. Only time will tell but things feel better at the Arsenal and let’s hope that continues.


Happy New Year

Friday, 27 December 2013

THE TEAM THE WHOLE TEAM AND NOTHING BUT THE TEAM


the sum of its parts
 
Arsenal v Chelsea: a game that neither team wanted to lose and a game that offered little to cement anyone’s view on the destination of the Premier League Trophy. Not starting with Flamini seemed to be a mistake given that the Chelsea midfield were quite combative, as the bruising on Arteta’s legs showed. Team selection for both team’s highlighted the lack of a world class striker in either camp but on boxing day Arsenal turned dominance into three points and this game showed Walcott’s value and the return of Podolski to strengthen the goal scoring ranks. Manchester City have many options, as do Chelsea but you feel that when the chips are down City can rely on a deadly finish to settle things. Is it possible that in the absence of an Aguero, Suarez or Negredo that a team that contributes with goals from all over the team will come out triumphant in May?

Domestically maybe so, however in Europe the high level finisher is key to achievement. The question on most Arsenal supporter’s minds is probably that in reference to the January transfer window. Will a new striker be added to the ranks? Given that most top strikers are cup tied in Europe I suspect that our manager will stick with Giroud, Podolski and the unknown quantity that is Sanogo.

Perhaps this course of action is best, the whole team ethic has got us this far and with those around us due to drop points over this holiday period it is essential that the whole team contribute to ensuring that we start the year with a lead at the top in order to give us the best possible start to 2014.

World class strikers often settle big games but teams win the others. My contention is that this year the team that claims the Premiership will not be the one that wins the big games but rather the one that doesn’t lose the ‘smaller’ games. The Arsenal’s team approach may yet win the day: Victoria Concordia Crescit indeed.

Monday, 16 December 2013

GAZING AT THE PYRAMID OF GREATNESS



We lost to a rampant Manchester City side that have an exemplary home record in a game in which we may well have scored goals goals given some decisions but in all honesty were second best in. Dissapointment rained down as did media exlamations of "I told you so" but many overlooked that we retained top spot.

Then the Champions League draw where we were paired up with the current holders (again) and negativity prevailed, yet the Champions League is all about facing the best teams in Europe and my view is simply 'that's the way the cookie crumbles'. En route to Paris we may have preffered not to draw Real Madrid or Juventus but we did and prevailed, we may have in the past been happy to draw a so called lesser team and ended up being elimintaed: it's the Champions League folks.

We have a six pointer against the Stamford Bridge rich kids: win that game and we take e a significant step forward from the 6-3 step back. Resilience is what is needed on Monday and so far this season we have bounced back from set backs.

An FA cup game against the N7 obsessives should be something to look forward to, as opposed to a comfortable drawer against an MKDons. Knocking out a Premier team will be a positive surely?
 
 
Context is everything and the need or wish is that the Arsenal are a big club with big aspirations but also a great club with the of DNA of greatness .The fact is that some are looking at the immediate future with trepidation, but isn't being involved in high stakes games what we desire? isn't it the way of things that to achieve anything one most deal with everything. I suppose one could choose to look ahead with fear but I prefer to look ahead with relish. Big games big opportunities, that's what the big time is all about. 

Comment from Captain's Arse:
We did not lose the game on Saturday, we lost it against Napoli where our non-astute manager surrendered top spot and misused the squad, running certain players into the ground in a game that we went on to lose anyway. It seems that he did not consider fitness levels for Saturday despite having spent years telling everyone how tired his players always are.

It does not really matter whether we play Bayern or their like in the this round or the next. If we lose then we are out of a competition that we are unlikely to win a round earlier enabling us to concentrate on the Premier League which we do have an outside chance of winning. If we beat Bayern then it should increase our confidence for the next round.

Our biggest problem is the return of virtually our full squad to fitness which means the manager has to make team selections that he consistently gets wrong and will continue too.

Captain's Arse

 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

ETM AFC


Another day at the office for the Arsenal; Three goals, three points and a nice seven point gap to see us through Saturday.
Dissenting voices now grudgingly suggesting that the arsenal can, in fact, win the league. Of course we 'can' that's the same for a couple of other clubs, it's more about 'will' we. I don't know but my mantra remains the same as it's been since the start of the season; Enjoy The Moment (ETM).
Our players seem to be enjoying the moment, possibly as a result of not  being viewed as genuine contenders by the pundits of this world. It's always good for team spirit to have a backs against the wall mentality and proving those given to bias against the Arsenal wrong must be a great motivator .
So on we go step by step, winning games, building a case for our title credentials, bouncing back from disappointments and growing stronger. These are the good times that have been a long time coming and who knows how things will pan out but one thin is for sure: all supporters of the Arsenal should be enjoying the moment.
 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

FAMILY AFFAIR


Didn't play great but won the game against the third placed team: that's the mark of a good team, particularly in the context of the second placed team dropping points earlier in the day. Everyone looked solid and when called upon Giroud stepped up. It was a bit like a business as usual result that we had grown unaccustomed to.
I attended with my brother in law and my two nephews and as a result I was in the family enclosure (well placed for goal number one). I found it a strange experience as a great deal of the families around me seemed almost to be attending a tourist event and many an eight year old child appeared to be rather blasé about the whole thing. I remember feeling a sense of awe when going over Highbury as a kid, and a sense of being in the adult world and therefore being a bit overwhelmed.
Times change though and maybe children being more confident in these scenarios is a good thing or maybe its another sign of innocence lost. I'm sure many a family go to the Emirates and enjoy the chance to sit together and watch the Arsenal and long may it continue but for me the whole family enclosure match day experience gave me pause for thought, pause to reflect on how things have changed, how things don't seem so special.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

THE SAINTS ARE COMING

International football breaks things up: momentum, loss, victory and controversy. Going into this break we lost a rather dull fixture at Old Trafford but still retained top spot in both Premier League and Champions League. Those pointing the finger at ex players and missing players were missing the point somewhat. Our season has been going alright: as alright as the other teams with whom we are competing only guess what? we are in the position that they would all love to be in. 

Bouncebackability is the attribute I think this model of the Arsenal has and the facts of the last 38 league games support that. Leading from the front can be viewed as a blessing or a curse depending on your mind set and often the talk is about handling the pressure. Well someone has to be in the lead and why not us. Young players, they say, can often deal with pressure in sport well as perhaps they tend to worry less and throb with ambition if that is the case it is to our advantage that we have a fundamentally young team but with that all important smattering of experience.

Southampton are a good side, let's be under no illusion on that score, but as challenges go its within our grasp to take three points from the fixture. The month of November has been a bit of a pain in the arse for us and the naysayers will be waiting with breath baited to see us stumble.

The games between the Southampton clash and the double header with Man City and Chelsea are all winnable which sets up these potential six pointers nicely and in reality I feel that these two sides are the ones with the most realistic chance of winning the league (coincidentally the two richest). These are the games that represent the real tests of the credentials of the Arsenal as serious contenders, when they arrive we should have a larger healthier squad to choose from so there will be no excuses But lets not get ahead of ourselves, the Saints await and this has been a good fixture for us over the years: let's hope it remains so on Saturday.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

ARSENAL ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS


For the first time in a long while I sat pitch side at the Emirates last night: row 2 to be exact, an interesting perspective on the game as I generally sit upstairs. What struck me was the pace and control of our midfield against a rather flatfooted Liverpool side. At times it was 5-a-side stuff out there as Rosicky, Carzola, Ramsey and Ozil, ably assisted by Arteta, bossed the middle of the park. This was a midfield with Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlaine, Flamini, Wilshere and the promising Gnabry absent and perhaps therein lays one of the keys to our excellent league form. A squad that is certainly on the thin side has an abundance of players in the centre of the park (I haven’t mentioned Diaby as unfortunately his career seems to be on permanent standby).
The back four look increasingly confident and our keeper, one aberration aside, looks to be a proper player now. Giroud may lack the clinical qualities of an Ageuro, Suarez or Van Persie but he gives us an out and has a work ethic that has been remarkably team based, he causes other teams problems and is growing in stature.
Come the final whistle you could see what the elusive clean sheet meant to the defence as they embraced in victory and a defence with belief is the foundation of a good team; these players seem to have a growing belief that they can shut out opponents now.
The atmosphere at the Emirates continues to improve and there were genuine rumblings of content as the stadium emptied at the final whistle.

Questions keep being asked and at the moment we are responding in the league. Those same questions are still floating about in regard to Europe so the next game against Dortmund is another opportunity to take a step in the process of answering those questions with a hearty “yes, we can”


Saturday, 2 November 2013

DON'T GIIVE HATE A CHANCE


For some it’s difficult to talk about other clubs without recourse to cheap insult and slinging of mud. I always feel it far better to look to my own club first and view others with a detached logic. Where Liverpool are concerned there is often a fear that one may (for want of a better phrase) put ones foot in it and have to bear the brunt of outrage: the suggestion being that Liverpool fans, rightly or wrongly, can be touchy.

Lets be clear. As far as English football is concerned there are really only three clubs that have been the benchmark: Manchester United, Liverpool and The Arsenal: that may change in the future but without decrying any other clubs this is the case and has been for a century.

Manchester United, since Ferguson’s arrival have mostly had the upper hand and Liverpool have been in the doldrums for a while, as have we. This fact should not cloud judgement on the historical greatness of either club rather it should fan the flames of aspiration to return to the summit.

All the other stuff that surrounds Liverpool FC seems to have painted them into a corner somewhat and in that they have a uniqueness: which is probably hard for the average supporter who just wants to follow their club. I’m not saying it’s hard any harder being a Liverpool supporter but it certainly can’t be easy at times. Us Arsenal supporters have to put up with bias, ridicule and unsavoury comment aimed at our manager but not the level of cruel and disgusting chants and so called jokes that are sometimes aimed at the Koppites.

I like to think that Arsenal as a club have always been respectful and thoughtful towards Liverpool and that may create a mutual respect between fans, yet I see more and more of my fellow supporters talking about hating them.

My view is this: Love the Arsenal rather than hate the opponent, beat them on the pitch and silence them in the seats but don’t hate. We showed that in Anfield in 89 with flowers and dignity in victory and many a Liverpool supporter appreciated our gesture and conduct that fateful night.


To my mind there is no room for abstract hate generally and as a concept it brings a lot of bitterness. For ninety minutes today I want us to crush Liverpool and I want their fans to leave early and endure a long journey, sad eyed and pissed off. Then again that’s what I want for all visitors to the Emirates.

Friday, 1 November 2013

BACK IN THE BIG TIME?


On Saturday we see the first meaningful league clash between Arsenal and Liverpool for quite some time and it is very much a top of the table six pointer: and we haven’t had one of those for a while. Both clubs are looking to restore the glory years and this season is huge for both of us, possibly more so for Liverpool who, by their own admission, have drifted further from the standards that they once held.

The loss against Chelsea has been and gone and losing is not habit forming if you take losing in context. Losing in the League Cup to a poor lower division side last season is not like losing to the team below you in the league who have a deeper squad. Put simply Chelsea were better and they won because they were better and we made errors. It wasn’t a capitulation or a humiliation it was simply a loss in a competition that is fourth in the pecking order. Don’t get me wrong though, I wanted us to win the game and the trophy but a moment’s reflection would tell anyone that we don’t have the capacity to compete on all fronts at the moment.
Now there are three trophies to consider, two of which I consider reasonable targets and one that I think we are not yet ready to mount a serious challenge in.  

The two domestic honours are pretty much ‘up for grabs’ for the club that is able to sustain performances from the players that slot into gaps that will be made by inevitable injuries. Injury free the arsenal have as much chance as anyone else and looking back to midweek you begin to acknowledge the value of having players like Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlaine, Flamini and  Podolski  available as opposed to some of the contingent on show.


My contention is that this squad, although not as gifted as I would like, now have a resilience, and on Saturday I hope to see that resilience come to the fore. After all isn’t this what it’s all about?  high stakes top of the table clashes. Remember when we were in the big time?  Could this be the start of a return to those days?


Sunday, 27 October 2013

“If winning isn’t everything why do they keep score?”-Vince Lombardi


 
“Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work”-Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s and one of the great thinkers in sports history had a plethora of quotable adages about team work, sporting excellence, motivation and the qualities in life that count for so much: almost embodying what team sport is all about.

Commitment as a group is key, particularly when there are forces massed against you. Enemies from without is to be  expected so Alan Hansen's negativity on MOTD is par for the course particularly given his past status with Liverpool FC (haunted by ghosts of '89 perhaps?). Personally I record or pause MOTD on Sky+ and FF through the inane punditry as I do the commercials, so rarely pay heed to such nonsense. What did make me pause for thought was an interview on ArsenalFanTV with a rather negative Arsenal supporter following our 0-2 success at Palace.

Now I'm not one for name calling of fellow supporters and I do think that we all have opinions that we are entitled to but, and it's a big but, this chap seemed to show no comprehension of the realities of the Premier League in 2013. I think that making comparisons with the Henry, Vieira,Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp team only gets you so far, as does plucking names of players you want to join the club out of thin air (yeah, let's have Ronaldo, Messi and Maradona). We won. Yes we won a game in a Premier League that is an arduous journey rife with banana skins and the accumulation of points is everything. Good teams aspire to play the beautiful game to achieve success but good teams are also prepared to win ugly.


Our away support is, and has always been, magnificent and I don't believe this fellow is indicative of Arsenal supporters en masse. What he represents is hard to say but his views certainly pushed a lot of people's buttons. To my way of thinking the reaction to his interview is due to the lack of individual commitment to a group cause. At this time in Arsenal's history unity is vital. The team look unified and yesterday showed a resilience that, so far this season characterises why we have been so successful. There is also a unity among the support which promotes that elusive feel good factor. Guys like this chip away at that and unlike Hansen, you expect fair and reasonable comment and yes, criticism, not out and out sour derision. There was no discussion, no rational argument just invictive and I think the interviewer kept his cool where others may have acted differently.

Anyone who has read arsenalism before will know I do not opt for the 'everything's great/everything's terrible' approach but I would like to believe that pausing for reflection would bring context to any result and a victory to retain top spot in the league following a loss in the previous game to one of the best teams in Europe would be something to crack a smile over...at minimum.  

Enemies from without are par for the course, particularly as, for a Northern centric football media we represent the suave urbane Londoner stereotype, but we can do without enemies within; particularly those who will not enter into a debate. Debate may have led to the realisation that the win at palace could be three points that have genuine meaning come the end of the season. Commitment to the cause from all can reap rewards, and commitment is hard for supporters; freely chosen but hard, and maybe this time a reward will be reaped that is tangible. Vince Lombardi embued this philosophy with his teams and the support alike and through unity of purpose a philosophy came out on top.
 
"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."-Vince Lombardi

Views, opinions and that...

To Contact me you can
E-Mail
twitter
@realarsenalism

Loading...