Thursday, 31 December 2015

THE ARSENAL: 2015 REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL



Reflecting on 2015 for the Arsenal it is always worth looking at context. The second half of the 14/15 season saw a procession to the title from Abramovitch's minions and smug condescension from the self anointed 'Special one'. Chelsea had deservedly won the title and the rest of us so called big clubs had our own issues to deal with: having said that the Arsenal put in a top drawer performance to retain the FA Cup, a highlight being that Alexis Sanchez goal: a true Wembley Cup Final classic. This proved that we have a group of players who can win things and that the FA Cup 2014 wasn't just a one off. 


That winning habit continued with the return to Wembley and a 1-0 victory over the champions in the Community Shield. This was a sweet victory not only because we had their ex goalkeeper between the sticks but it was the first sign that things were awry at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho's attention seeking display at the end of the game was a sign of things to come. Talking of Petr Cech he has certainly shown himself to be a very smart purchase. The fact that we made no other summer signings was certainly a talking point for the first couple of months of the season and our injury hit squad have risen to the challenge to end the year at the top of the table.


Belerin's ascendancy and Monreal's consistency have added a stability along with an attacking threat and Mesut Ozil is producing displays of real authority. Walcott apears rejuvenated and Giroud, despite the critics, is scoring on a regular basis. This set of players appear to have character and tenacity and a good deal of bouncebackability.

Some would rightly say that this current season is possibly proving to be the most unpredictable season in memory: the troubles at Old Trafford, Chelsea's demise, Liverpool's ongoing transition, Man City's inconsistency, Tottenham's defensive stability, Leicester's merited success and the newcomers taking points from all sort of unexpected fixtures. If this is a strange season then lets take advantage of that. I for one don't care about potential perceptions of a league triumph in May, being champions is being champions and we have as good a chance as anyone.


So we leave 2015 behind on top of the table, looking forward to the third round of the FA Cup and a huge task against Barcelona in the Champions League, Sanchez, Wellbeck, Carzola, Coquelin, Wilshire, Rosicky and Areta to come back and bolster the squad (not to mention any additions in the transfer window) and a team that have shown in the calender year that they have what it takes.


We've seen victories over Manchester United and Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich and in recent years we have come up short against these type of opponents so we should take positives from these statistics. And what of Arsene Wenger? I retain my reservations. I think that the Champions League is best attempted by another manager but the Premier League title is within sight and if we can't win that what about a third FA Cup in a row? either would be a great swan song for him.

Looking forward to 2016? absolutely.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

JERMAINE JENAS KNOWS?


On a weekend in the Premier League dominated by the petulant toddler in West London the Arsenal went quietly about their business dispatching a decent Swansea team with a minimum of fuss. The dull first half saw an Arsenal squad, struggling with injuries, keep Swansea at bay and then in a more urgent second half display convert three chances to take maximum points and retain our second place position. It was the sort of display that tells you a lot about our current mind set: that of getting on with it effectively, humbly and pretty confidently.

This was the sort of game that at this time of the season has typically given us problems but the nature of our display prompted that giant of Football punditry Jermaine Jenas to tip us for the League Title. But let us not get carried away, let us stay humble and see what the next run of League games brings, and to be fair the fixture computer has been kind to us.  Who knows, maybe this season we need not beware the ides of November and with injured squad members to return for the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 we could be in a very healthy position. Wouldn't it be something if Jermaine Jenas was right?...now that's not something I ever thought I would write.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Relentless



The thing about the Premier League is that it is kind of relentless. Those clubs who understand that their main goal is staying in the league have stubborn game plans that are as much about spoiling as they are about playing. Then there are those clubs that comfortably sit mid table looking to draw more than they lose,with the aspiration of a decent cup run to give the fans a couple of good days out. There are some clubs that feel that Europe is a realistic aim and look to gather points from those around them and then there are clubs that believe that they can win every time they send out a team onto the pitch. In this climate the Arsenal are going to face more opponents that will try to get away with an honourable draw than those that aim to win. 

Taking three points from Watford perhaps should be an expectation but that's an arrogant stance where humility with confidence is probably a better approach.

Second in the table at what is admittedly an early stage isn't bad, particularly as there is only a three point gap between first and second. Naturally the MOTD pundits maintain that we can't sustain our form of the last ten months, and perhaps that's true if the mercurial Sanchez gets injured for example or Walcott's goal return dries up, or Cech is dropped in key games (admittedly that seems unlikely) or we fail to bounce back from defeat and go into free fall for a week or two, as we have often done. The team are playing well and not conceding goals which is always a good foundation, but in Europe the same cannot be said. An early exit from Europe's premier competition would be our own fault and if that does happen perhaps it's a chance to gird our loins and go full domestic.

The League title's destination is unsure at this moment and who's to say it may not end up at the Emirates? Our failure to add to the squad during the ubiquitous window has been and gone and with players returning at the turn of the year a fresh impetus may emerge, but the players that have had to "get on with it" have done just that and I guess that one can't ask for much more.

Keep our key players fit and who knows: any team with Alexis Sanchez in it has at least a fighting chance:aside from his considerable ability he is relentless and in this league that can make a big difference.













Tuesday, 15 September 2015

DRAMA IN THE ECL


The Champions League, the Holy Grail of club football, a tournament that the Arsenal probably should have won in 2004 given the qualities of the team and the clubs that made the last four. A Trophy that the Arsenal were close to winning in 2006 had the game been XI v XI: but them’s the breaks.
Since those halcyon days of the early 2000s our club has failed to get anywhere near to winning the trophy and to be fair it has been pretty much monopolised by a small group of clubs, but both Liverpool and Chelsea have defied the odds and taken the trophy home in this fallow period for us. In fact it has been a long time since an English club won the Champions League/European Cup by comprehensively outplaying their opponent (Probably Liverpool back in the day) in a final, all the victories have had a slice of drama about them: late winners, late equalisers, missed penalties and glorious comebacks, and maybe that’s what it takes for an English team to triumph again.
The Arsenal have had great moments of drama to clinch domestic honours yet in the big one we have missed that little bit of good fortune/fate.
They say that you make your own luck but sometimes, just sometimes it’s about the stars aligning if you will and that is something no one has control over: or do they. Soljskar, Gerrard, Drogba all stepped up and quite possibly the managers to grab the trophy that was slipping out of their grasps. Do we have players and a manager that can repeat this sort of event?

Fact is that this season’s Champions League is probably going to be contested by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich so a moment of drama may be what it takes for any one else to win it. Maybe it’s our turn? Let’s get out of the group stage and roll the dice.

Monday, 14 September 2015

IT IS WHAT IT IS


Let's be honest, this season feels like a false start and the redeeming feature is that (Man City aside) the other teams that we would be expecting to be competing with have also had stuttering starts. It's the home form that is the immediate issue and beating Stoke may have been a pretty good opportunity to get back n track.

The disappointments, realistic criticism and hysterical over reactions to the transfer window situation all have to be put on hold as this is the squad we have and thats that.

The key thing, until January at least and probably after, will be injuries and specifically injuries to Giroud, Walcott and Coquelin. Until an effective crystal ball is invented we just have to keep our fingers crossed. Of course some would say that an educated guess would have helped a couple of weeks ago but as I've said, whats done (or not done) is done.

The first real test will be at Stamford Bridge: that hive of scum and villainy, next week and to an extent there will probably not be a better time to play them if we go into the game off the back of a victory. As much as we are not clicking, neither are they and more so than us they seem to have deeper issues at present.

Those voices that say "get behind the team that we have" are stating the obvious and often confuse criticism of the manager with criticism of the players. No one I know boos our players or slags the off from their Emirates seats and those that do need a reality check.

We have the squad that appeared in the recent Squad photo and for better or worse they now need to get on with it with our full support. What is also true is that the manager we have, we have for better or worse and supporting him may be a tough call for many: that's where we are at the moment, let's see what happens.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

THIS CHARMLESS MAN

Little Boy Blue

This blog is about The Arsenal but I thought A final word on Mourinho this season was in order given that he has a number of opinions about our team. 

Yes the season hasn't started yet but The Chelsea Manager is trying to make the 15/16 all about him. No surprise there as he appears to have transformed into Esspossito from Woody Allen's Bananas; each pronouncement seems more ludicrous than the next. 

Esspossito Mourinho
He took against the Arsenal manager from day one, most probably because he represented the erudite big city sophisticate that the self proclaimed 'peasant' despises. 
Now the press with whom he shares a love in have delivered some hysterical ramblings from their darling Jose

The disconnect with reality is hilarious. Teams trying to buy the title? Pot & Kettle.
A defensive display by the Community Shield winners? Look in the mirror.
And his latest on Talksport this morning: "I never refuse to shake a manager's hand in a stadium" ? You're having a laugh.
We all had gathered some time ago that the man is a hypocrite and delusional but he's finally confirmed that he is also a liar. 

Despite all his past misdeeds the media will continue to gleefully rub their hands at the sound bites he will inevitably issue over the course of the season. My advice? Ignore him. His antics are tired and now come across as desperate. He manages a very good team who have every chance of retaining the title and therefore he should let the football do the talking, but he can't; his ego won't allow it. 

I won't be surprised if he announced that "from now on the official language of Chelsea is Swedish"

That's that, he can safely be ignored for the next 10 months like the spoilt toddler pulling his pants down and waggling his bum at his older brother's birthday party. 

Carry on Crassly 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

RETURN OF THE "THE"


So is this it then? is this the culmination of a decade of building, a decade of frustration and a decade of civil war of words? Is this the season when we return to the promised land? It's a novelty: a close season without our better players leaving to earn more money and possibly win something. It's a close season without of players who, having failed to deliver, sought employment elsewhere to gain honours. The bitterness aimed at Flamini by some must be in part because he is a reminder of those that went before, players that ignored their part in failing to succeed and just chose the hypnotic allure of cash and supposed easy success-Song, Clichy, Nasri, Hleb, RVP, Fabregas etc; the list is a long one and each summer there was an inevitability about departures. 

Not so this year and perhaps that is due to winning back to back FA Cups and actually beating the so called 'big teams' or perhaps it's more subtle than that. This squad seem to have a unity that has been missing for a number of years, they seem, well they seem to be The Arsenal, they feel like The Arsenal if you know what I mean. This squad have a genuine superstar in their ranks, in the shape of Alexis Sanchez, but when is the last time you saw a superstar work so tirelessly for the team? This squad has exquisite ball players in Carzola and Ozil, yet they are certainly not luxury players. There are players vying for the same position and this is always a good thing. This squad has some youngsters who seem to just get on with it without the posturing of many a young gun. Could we do with a couple more players? well of course we could but I don't detect the 'buy,buy,buy' frenzy of previous summers. This squad now have those all important winners medals and that surely counts for something.


There is a solidity about this squad and let us not overlook the acquisition of Petr Cech. I have heard some say that he's not as good as he used to be and other disparaging remarks but the fact is that we needed a good Goalkeeper and we were not going to get the first choice keepers from Manchester United, Bayern Munich or Chelsea, so in my mind Cech is the best keeper that was available: a winner with vast Premier League experience, who is younger than Lehman at the time we bought him: I for one am happy with that.

So what of the 2015/16 Season? it starts with the curtain raiser of the Community Shield and to be honest we are damned if we win it and damned if we don't. Winning will be met with press headlines such as: "it was only a friendly, let's see them beat Chelsea in a proper game". Losing means that the media will bang on about; "they can't even beat His Highness Mourinho in a friendly" so it's going to be another chance for media opprobrium-nothing new there then.

A realistic title tilt and a proper go at the Champions League are now expected. Such is the price of being The Arsenal, and that's how I see us now. It's been a long time coming but I feel that we have not been The Arsenal for quite some time and we are now, and with being The Arsenal comes great responsibility.

Monday, 8 June 2015

THAT WAS THE SEASON THAT WAS


And so another season bites the dust, a season with positives and negatives, questions and answers.
It would be easy to focus on the manner of our Champion's league exit, our poor start to the season, our defeats in games that we were 'supposed' to win, our injury problems or the civil war of words that seems a part of each season but I have decided to post a positive blog to say adios to the 2014/15 season. 

Alexis Sanchez has been an obvious plus point: a sparkling talent with a tremendous work rate and likability. The sort of player that you would like to see follow up his debut season as a talismanic big game player in our pursuit of the Title next season.

Bruce Shad Forsythe seems to have sorted out our appalling injury record to a great extent and it has been something of a novelty seeing a full compliment of players vying for a place in our starting lineup.

Youth. Bellerin and Coquelin stepped up to the plate in the second half of the season and Chambers showed great promise in what was a flawed start to the season.

The FA Cup is that rarest of things: a trophy with real links to the romanticism of the beautiful game and to retain it in such a convincing manner was a fine way to end the season having automatic Champions League Qualification already tied up it was a day and an occasion of joy in triumph.

Big Game Mentality: something that media pundits have delighted in banging on about, has been addressed with impressive wins at the Ethiad and Old Trafford and a rousing demolition of Liverpool showed that we can deliver on the big occasion and this will prove crucial going into next season where aspiration and expectation will, rightfully, be higher.

Premature Elation was once again an ailment that spurs fan's suffered from. The annual 'balance of power' epithets were wheeled out following Harry Kane's late winner at WHL and yet guess what? The Arsenal finished above the Lillywhites for the twentieth consecutive year. Don't get me wrong I'm not looking at this as a major triumph, it's just that if they learnt to keep their powder dry and resisted counting their chickens, the inevitable falling off of their cub wouldn't be so damn funny.

Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool. This game has a special place for me as I got married that day entering Islington Town Hall around kick off time and the  Arsenal slotted home three times as I tied the knot: how's that for symmetry?

The Future of the Arsenal seems one for optimists. A proper tilt at the title following what should prove to be an interesting Community Shield (damned if we win damned if we don't) is what I would be looking at. I still feel that The Champion's League is beyond us and looking at the teams that made the latter stages I think the same applies to the other English clubs entering, but I feel we have a good squad and with the right additions (I'm not going to speculate on this as that's a job for lazy journalists and fantasists) you never know, we could be going into April/May 2016 with things "up for grabs"

Have good summer dear reader.



Monday, 27 April 2015

BEING BORING

I’m not one for match reports: others do that much better than me, but what I will say about yesterday’s Arsenal v Chelsea game is that we looked physically combative and were not bullied by Mourinho’s mob and it’s been a while since I’ve seen that, our finishing and final ball let us down but let’s face it Chelsea are the best team in the league when it comes to not losing and a draw is decent in context. 
Given that it wasn’t the most exhilarating of games it was predictable that the press would prod a snide answer out of Mourinho (again). The chants of “boring boring Chelsea” seem to have ruffled the feathers of a club who frankly shouldn’t care less: they are going to be champions, and rightly so, therefore why even comment on a bit of chanting?
It is, as I say, predictable that the cloying sycophants of the media feel the need to elicit a cheap and petty sound bite from the self-anointed Special one.

These uncouth and snotty quips from Mourinho are a predictable facet of his character and his never-ending capacity to deliver them is extremely, predictable and therefore, ironically it makes him very, very boring.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

WE CAN BE HEROES


Good v Evil, Pride v Prejudice, Pragmatism v Idealism, History v New Money, there are so many headlines to tag onto Sunday’s fixture against Chelsea: the club with a corrupt owner (not alone in that), a despicable albeit successful manager, an offensive but effective captain and a fan base of racists (well some of them anyway). So in reality Chelsea is a bit of a Pantomime Villain and a team under Mourinho who have an annoying habit of not losing against us. To feel an emotion as strong as hatred towards Chelsea is a bit like hating Katie Hopkins: it’s easy but ultimately a waste of time.
On Sunday Chelsea are the enemy and yes there is much to dislike and certain demon's to be driven away, but there is only one thing to think about and that’s winning to tighten out grip on second place. Chelsea will inevitably win the league and that is by virtue of this season’s Premier League not being of a very good vintage and the fact that Chelsea strengthened that all important spine in the summer.
The Mourinho side show will be front and centre with those sycophants of his in the media and to an extent the presence of Chelsea’s number four will add to the hoop la. Fabregas used to play for the Arsenal and now he doesn’t and I for one don’t want our support to be seen as one that is hung up on ‘returning players’ it can get all a bit unseemly and comes across as bitterness. I remember when Manu Petit returned to Arsenal in a Chelsea shirt after his stint at Barcelona: the crowd’s reaction that day? Indifference towards the player, and that’s something that I would like to see more of.

I believe that we can out gun them on Sunday for the first time in quite a while and if we do, beating Chelsea would be another scalp in a season when we have had some pretty good results against the so called bigger teams and a chance to put some breathing space between us and the team in third place. Yes this is quite a measured post today but to let you into a little secret, in a football landscape where hero and villain status is designated easily Arsenal currently wear the white hat and Chelsea the black and I would enjoy seeing Mourinho’s balloon of pomposity pricked, and the heroes prevail even if only for one day.

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