Friday, 18 November 2011

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Arsenal v. Marseille

After Saturday’s epic, the Marseille match was flat. It was almost as if, having beaten Chelsea, the team thought they just needed to turn-up to get another victory. Some first half chances went begging and little of note was created in the second. Overall, the movement was poor and the same early season lack of tempo was prevalent. Song had his poorest game for a long period – he appeared slow and cumbersome and his passing radar was in urgent need of re-calibration. The substitutions brought Rosicky, Arshavin and RvP onto the field but there was no discernible impact as the game petered out 0-0.

Marseille: pre-match food

Round to Piebury Corner on Tuesday night to sample the ‘Ian Wright’ which is lamb with vegetables in a flavoursome gravy just the kind that Mrs H would love. Unfortunately, the preponderance of peas in the veg would not be appreciated by her. All in all another great gastronomic experience but, perhaps, not quite good enough to break into the top three. So 4 pies eaten, 2 fixtures remaining - the two Charlies: Nicholas and George. The former is the Scotch pie while the latter is a 'lucky dip' - I'm not sure if this is just a random selection from the other 5 or whether it is truly something different.

Piebury Corner League Table:
1.     Dennis Bergkamp – eaten 1
2.     Tony Adams – eaten 1
3.     Reg Lewis - eaten 1
4.   Ian Wright - eaten 1

Chelsea v. Arsenal

Fantastic game at the Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea ran riot in the first 10 minutes pulling the Gooner defence all over the place. The movement of their front six was exemplary which is a change that I understand has been initiated by Villas-Boas and helped by the recruitment of Mata (who, I’m told, but for the want of a couple of million would have been wearing red and white). When going forward, they continue to push their full-backs to the touchlines to give width with Mikel dropping back to become a third centre-back. The ploy with the full-backs is not new and been used over a number of seasons. Initially on Saturday, it was particularly effective down their left as Cole found acres of space due to a lack of basic defensive organisation between Theo and Djourou.

Theo appeared incredibly motivated for the game. I guess because he was 1-on-1 with Cole and also because other England team mates were playing. This was exemplified by his goal where he went down but got straight back up to win the ball and forge forward.

There was another near racial incident in the game when, in the warm-up, John Terry called the Chelsea reserve keeper a ‘blackman’.  But it was ok as he is and that’s also his name – Jamal Blackman which is kinda ironic in a way. There was the usual pre-match announcement to the crowd about there being no tolerance of racial abuse but Chelsea also saw fit to emblazon the cover of the match-day magazine with a picture of JT in suitably aggressive pose. A lower profile might have been more appropriate until the investigations are out of the way. The magazine also had a feature on another reprobate, Graham Rix. According to Wikipedia, he is now coaching at a Glen Hoddle soccer school in Spain. Hopefully, it’s boys only but perhaps the CRB checks are not so rigorous over there.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Bolton: Carling Cup

Good to see Vermaelen back in the side and he put in a typical tough-tackling assured defensive performance.
Interesting to see AW finally play Arshavin in a central role. I wouldn’t describe his performance as outstanding but he scored one and created one so that’s not a bad return. His goal, a shot through a crowd of players, was typically Arshavin and caught the goalkeeper by surprise. He has the ability to do the unexpected and not many players would have gone for goal at the moment he did. As I’ve said before, he’s much more dangerous in the box rather than stuck out wide.
The second goal was an ‘Henry-like’ curling shot by Park – an excellent finish. Or, at least, I think it was Park - the chap behind me was having difficultly identifying Arsenal's Asian players though I suspect that his level of knowledge was suspect as he told his American companion that the football season runs from September (then corrected to last week in August) to June. That's the problem with the Carling Cup - you get a lot of people attending who normally don't and their level of knowledge is not on a par with the regular fan (tongue-in-cheek comment, of course,  and could equally be taken either way!). In fact, I was the only regular in my part of the front row - no Laurel, John, Dominic, Ali x 2, little man and his little son, Judy, Nigel or Peter.
Bolton came more into the game at 2-1 as they pressed forward. There was one heart-stopping ‘Flapianski’ moment when he contrived to mishandle a shot unintentionally over the bar. Mannone is back from loan and on the bench – he must be close to being #2.

Bolton - pre-match food

Decided to try the stall close to the Arsenal tube that sells roast pork or beef in a baguette. Went with the pork with stuffing and apple sauce out of a large plastic catering size tub which was just as you'd expect large-scale catering apple sauce to be like. Pork was good and a generous helping. Baguette was soft and disappointing as it was slightly cotton woolly. A crusty baguette would, I think, be better.
I did notice that the stall selling steak baguettes in Drayton Park provides the afore-mentioned crusty baguettes so that is now on my mental to-try list.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Stoke at home - a win for football

In truth, a comfortable win in the end. 3 well-worked goals with Gervinho influential in all 3. After dominating the first, egregious defending allowed Stoke to equalise. Again, Gervinho had a part to play. Defending a Stoke free-kick, he was isolated on the left-hand side of the box with 2 Stoke players to mark. He called to his team mates which only resulted in him getting the ‘hand’ instead of a hand from Chamakh. Gervinho then failed to track the deep run from Shawcross who headed across goal unchallenged. A second header at the far post and the ball fell to Crouch who tucked away from 1 metre out. Poor defending but the free-kick that preceded it was highly debatable. Koscielny rose like ‘un saumon’ and hung in the air to win a fine defensive header against Crouch. Inexplicably, Lee Mason (remember him last season from Everton at home and Blackpool away) blew for a free-kick.

As expected, the only threat from Stoke was the long throw-in from Delap. It is almost as if Stoke have adopted the American Football approach of special teams as all Delap does is take long throws – thankfully, they can’t follow the model completely and keep him on the sideline until required though I expect Pulis will suggest this to the FA. In any case, Stoke’s ‘line-out practice’ failed to materialise in a direct goal threat as the Gooners’ defence dealt with the aerial threat no doubt helped by  having an additional centre-half as Djourou was at right-back.

Delap was substituted in the second-half and with him went Stoke’s creativity. A cliché, I know, but worth repeating nevertheless.

A good win. RvP took the media plaudits by coming off the bench to score twice, But my MotM was Gervinho. Arsene should produce a DVD of his contribution and give it to Theo so he can find out what he should be doing!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Monday, 3 October 2011


The dictionary definition is:
Sentimental pessimism; sorrow that one feels and accepts as one's necessary portion in life; the feeling all Arsenal supporters currently have.

For the cunning linguists amongst you, it is a compound German noun: welt, "world" and schmerz, "pain." The term may have been coined by Jean Paul Richter but was popularised in German literature by Heinrich Heine.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Spurs away

Sky Sports web report sums up Arsenal's performance perfectly: "though their three-man midfield controlled long spells, familiar frailties told".

A big contrast in composure in front of goal - Gervinho failing to open the Gooners account after good work by RvP - Van der Vaart handling his chance much better, firing across the goal and into the far side to open the scoring. Taken with aplomb but you (I) have to question the absence of basic defensive organisation that allowed him the freedom of the right-side of the Arsenal back four. 

Ramsey equalised early in the second half when Song made a penetrating run behind the Spurs defence and pulled the ball back as Aaron made a good run across the face of the defenders. Theo - please note Song's run, RvP - please note Ramsey's movement.
Arteta had moments of great control and ability, Coquelin kept it simple, worked hard and shows a lot of promise, Ramsey, goal apart, was disappointing as was Theo. There were a number of players who were up for the physical challenge, there were others who were definitely shirking in this area - Ramsey, Theo, Gervinho.
A great strike from Walker made it 2-1. Arteta failed to track Sandro's run into the box and the ball broke free on the edge of the box.

AW's substitutions, Arshavin and Benayoun for Theo and Gervinho had little impact and the play became very narrow.
Arsenal had a couple of corners at the end for which Szczesny ventured up but to no avail. Overall, Szczesny made some good saves from chances that, unfortunately, were created mainly by defensive lapses.

Spurs away: today's ref is?; Malaga; MOTD

Mike Dean according to the ashburtongrove blog.

I've posted on Mike Dean before - it's impossible to ascertain if he is prejudiced or just plain incompetent. We'll see what happens today.

Btw: watched MOTD last night for the first time in ages. Didn't watch in real-time as I recorded the start while watching the end of Malaga v. Getafe. Malaga winning 3-2 with 2 late goals, the winner being a spectacular overhead kick from the 'Beast' who had no such memorable moments when playing for us. Need to dig up some info on Malaga. They've clearly had an injection of pesetas. Looks like a new stadium plus a cast of ageing players such as Ruud van Horseface who scored their 1st goal. Santi Cazorla, who was once touted as a possible Gooner, is also there but I can only think for the money. Having said that, Malaga went top with the win but the big boys play today.

Watching a recorded MOTD meant I could skip Lineker's smarmy, self-indulgent comments and the 'analysis'. Martin Atkinson had a shocker in the Merseyside derby with an unbelievably inconsistent assessment of tackles made by the boys in blue. Again, I've posted about Atkinson before. I believe he and Howard 'ManU' Webb are the EPL's only two Fifa refs - can't understand why as Atkinson is really poor.

While on refs - what a comedian Halsey is - pointing to where the Wolves player landed as the spot for the free-kick rather than giving a penalty as offence was clearly in the area. I think I've posted previously about his revision to the offside law during a match at the Emirates v. Middlesbrough.
From Wikipedia: Mark Halsey (born 8 July 1961) is an English professional football referee who officiates primarily in the Premier League. He was formerly based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, currently in Bolton, Lancashire, after a house move engineeered by a series of positive appearances at Old Trafford. (Guess which bits aren't true - clue: start with the 8th word)

Olympiacos: late thoughts on match

Arsenal's 10¼ men survived some good football from Olympiacos, compounded by Arsenal's usually defensive frailties, to achieve a 2-1 win - an essential result given that Marseille beat Dortmund. Good goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santos set them on their way until horrendous defensive organisation allowed the visitors back into the game. AW has noted in the match-day magazine that defending starts from the front but apparently he has yet to convey the message to AA23. Perhaps the Russian translator is on holiday - perhaps we've never had one as it works both ways. Perhaps AW thinks AA likes playing wide left but the latter has been able to explain why it's a big No in Russian

Olympiacos: Pie update

As forecast, I made a pre-match visit to Piebury Corner and ordered the Reg Lewis which is the vegetarian option. The very kind lady at Piebury Corner insisted I sample the other pies I had yet to try. So my plate consisted of the Reg Lewis and samples of the lamby Ian Wright and Charlie Nicholas which, of course, is the Scotch pie. And no ordinary Scotch pie it seems as it is the 2011 Champion Scotch pie!

The Reg Lewis was good but imho doesn't dislodge my current table toppers (update below).

Will, of course, try full versions of the the other two as the season progresses. I am particularly looking forward to the Scotch pie as the pastry is different from the others. According to a Google search, it's hot water pastry which is made using lard. Apparently, the filling can vary: "a typical Scotch pie recipe will have meat, salt, pepper, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, onion and pastry. Many local Scottish bakers will keep their Scotch pie recipes secret, especially the spice ingredients and quantities."

Piebury Corner League Table:
  1. Dennis Bergkamp – eaten 1
  2. Tony Adams – eaten 1
  3. Reg Lewis - eaten 1

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

AW's comments on the Bolton game

From his post-match email:

"In the first half, we had to show patience and intelligence"
"We improved a lot after half-time. Before that we were a bit impatient at times, we didn't move the ball quickly enough"

As I've posted before, I believe a lot of Arsenal problems result from slow movement of the ball. AW recognises this but why don't we start that way, why does it takes 45 minutes and presumably a half-time team talk before we start playing properly?

Btw - I saw no evidence of impatience. In fact, exactly the opposite as we dawdled on the ball in the 1st half.

What's up, doc?

From a collection of camera phone photos sent to me by my daughter.

Bolton come to park the bus (again!)

Bolton came to ‘park the bus’. Not sure if Owen Coyle reads CBP but his formation had two solid central defenders and two solid central midfielders – see my previous post about AW’s success with this base formation. What Bolton lacked was the much needed complementary flair in other areas. Chris Eagles, who looked tricky when playing for Burnley, was disappointing in the extreme. Ngog kept on getting his head to the player rather than the ball and after the second or third clash was replaced by Davies whose only real impact was a stray arm that caught Kieran Gibbs. Kevin’s main contribution was to back into the defender when challenging for high balls.  He’s now too slow to get close enough to engage in dubious challenges on the ground.

Having said the above, it was Bolton who nearly took the lead early on. The ball was played back into the box, Gibbs dithered and didn’t attack the ball. A Bolton player got there first and Szczesny pulled off a good save to defend the goal.

The overall tempo from Arsenal was, all too typically, slow in the first half. Sir John, who sits next to me, said Sagna was our best player with some good runs down the right – he was correct though Theo, swapping to the left flank, did have one good run inside which resulted in a powerful shot just over the bar.  In the first half, he looked more dangerous on the left. Cutting in, like he did, he can use his pace to create space for the shot without actually having to go past his man. On the right, he needs to get down the outside and he doesn’t have the skill to dribble past the opponent. Contrast this with the second half, when as the game opened up, the Arsenal midfield were able to slot balls between the full-back and central defender for Theo to run onto.

Arsenal started the 2nd half well and the early goal meant, as mentioned above, that the game opened up, the more so after Wheater’s dismissal for hauling back Theo. Arsenal played at a higher tempo and exploited Theo’s pace by providing through balls for him to run onto. He looks a different player when his talent is exploited though there is still, perhaps, a lack of confidence as shown when he had time but failed to convert a 1-on-1 with Jaaskelainen.

‘I’m Juskerlineman for the county’ made some good saves as Arsenal increasingly attacked. Two further goals were the reward for a better 2nd half performance – great cut-back from Theo to RvP and a superb curling effort from Song who showed great composure.  A comfortable win in the end against a somewhat disappointing Bolton side who offered very little. I thought Coyle was supposed to be a footballing man – in the past, someone even he suggested to me that he was a FAM (Future Arsenal Manager).

Finally, I’m in a cause and effect conundrum. Was the better 2nd performance due to Arsenal imposing themselves on the game with a higher tempo or did they get fortunate with the early goal and Wheater’s dismissal? Time will tell.

Bolton home - Piebury Corner

I attended an athletics coaching seminar in Stevenage on Saturday morning and afterwards it was straight on the train to Finsbury Park with no opportunity for lunch.  No problem, however, as it gave me another opportunity to visit Piebury Corner.  I approached the counter and ordered the Tony Adams Steak ‘n’ Ale.  I then noticed that my previous blog about Piebury Corner had been printed out and was attached to the front of the stall!  Having revealed my identity, I got talking to the proprietor, Scotch Paul, who gave me the background to Piebury Corner and his vision of Piebury Corners at every football ground in the world (well, the Premiership, at least). He also tipped me the wink about a high-class burger joint near Drayton Park close to the school with the lifeboat in the playground. So shouldn’t be too hard to find and is on the list for a visit once I’ve gone through the menu at Piebury Corner. With a home Champions League fixture on Wednesday night, it’ll be once again down to Piebury Corner for pre-match sustenance. At the moment, I’m tempted to go for the Reg Lewis which is the veggie option.

The Tony Adams was excellent but, on balance, I have a slight preference for the Dennis – see League table below. Incidentally, there is now a new sign outside the stall which is about 12 feet tall. So keep your eyes open so you don’t walk into it and take the opportunity to have some really tasty pre-match food.

Piebury Corner League Table:
  1. Dennis Bergkamp – eaten 1
  2. Tony Adams – eaten 1
Building on SP's vision, the two worst match day foodie experiences last year were at Everton and West Ham. So perhaps Piebury Corner could develop a 'Toffee' pie and a 'Bubbles' pie? Any recipe ideas? (Btw - any suggestions that the latter should be based on bushmeat will be rejected immediately!)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Shrewsbury at home - pre-match dining!

A slight change of routine - instead of the in-stadium CBP, I ventured down Gillespie Road to Piebury Corner and tucked into a 'Dennis Bergkamp' topped with a sample of the steak pie - the kind lady was most insistent that I could have a sample even if I was buying a pie. The chicken and leek 'Dennis' was excellent.
Pricing wise I discovered that for £5 you get the pie and a can of drink though the latter is not obligatory!

This morning (21st) I found I had a comment on my Swansea post from the people at Piebury Corner which complemented me on my discerning palate and listed their other offerings.

Shrewsbury at home - very random thoughts

On of the recurring themes that I’ve talked about with fellow Gooners over the past few weeks is that AW seems to have forgotten the attributes that made his successful sides successful. There’s a lot of talk about players not being good enough but they seem to forget that we won the cup with Oleg Luzhny at centre-back. The basis of the successful teams was solid central defenders with the emphasis on defender (Adams, Keown, Campbell), excellent goal keeper (Seaman, Lehmann) and solid central midfield partnership (Vieira, Petit, Gilberto). These players were all 6 feet plus and physically imposing, there being a stark contrast with recent sides. The move to 4-3-3/4-5-1 has exacerbated the problem as the midfield 3 has generally consisted of one holding player and two more attacking players. It was interesting, therefore, to see that the Arsenal lined up in a 4-4-2 formation against Shrewsbury with Coquelin and Frimpong in central midfield. Now these two an inexperienced and are not (currently) in the class of the trio mentioned above, neither is Djourou the same as the above mentioned defenders and, despite what AW stated in the match-day magazine (I thought it was a programme!), Fabianski is no where near Dave or mad Jens. But perhaps it gives an indication of revision to the formation in an effort to halt the poor run of form – let’s see how we line up against Kevin Davies’s elbows.

The other thing that occurs to me is that there appears to have been a series of poor decisions made concerning the team.
  • Building on the above analysis, the recruitment of Mertesacker seems odd given that Samba or Cahill should have been available.
  • The persistent failure to sign a reliable goal keeper post-Jens.
  • The acquisition of a number of number 10s and then playing then out wide Rosicky, Arshavin, Nasri. The failure to make use of Arshavin’s talents in particularly egregious.
  • Consistently playing RvP as a lone striker when he is not physically strong enough to do this.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Arsenal v. Swansea

First the positives! There's a new stall opened opposite the Golden Fish Bar in GillesPIE Road. It is punningly called 'Piebury Corner' and sells a range of Arsenal-themed pies. Samples were on offer - I tried the Tony Adams Steak 'a' Ale on the way to the Emirates and the Dennis Bergkamp, which is chicken, on the was back. Both were very tasty with good cuts of meat. At £5 a go they are more expensive than the stadium Chicken Baltis but are, I think, of superior quality. Piebury Corner together with last season's new addition, the stall selling roast pork or beef baguettes further along Gillespie Road, means there is now a choice of superior eating outlets though I did notice the traditional 'cereal' burger bars were still doing a good trade.

The match itself was disappointing though a win is a win. The goal was fortuitous but it still required a lot of composure and skill by AA to put it away. Arteta passed the ball well in patches, RvP hit the post with a right-foot shot, Chamakh rose well but couldn't quite direct his header away from the goal keeper. Mertesacker failed to win one ball in the air and could be another Pascal Cygan - not convinced but it's early days. Frimpong was strong - couldn't believe another blog only gave him 4.5. Theo confirmed he's a fast runner but running with the ball is a big problem. He got petulant when not awarded a rather obvious free-kick and followed through with his tackle on the oppo full-back, rightly earning a booking. It's a pity he can't show that level of aggression, albeit in a controlled way, throughout the match. He put in a dreadful cross that disappeared high into the crowd but showed no sign that he was disappointed with his effort. It was almost as if he was saying: "look I can't cross, play me through the middle". For the remainder of the match, he demonstrated his unique ability to hide between two oppo players so he is no position to receive the ball. It did offer the opportunity for me and the chap next to me to engage in a good game of 'where's Theo?' Again the work rate from Theo and AA in particularly was poor though AA's movement when he came inside was good and created some chances. Even Ramsey gave up after driving forward into the box - the ball broke a couple of yards away but by then he had just turned aimlessly away showing no interest in putting their defenders under pressure.

So same old same old (whatever that means but it feels appropriate). No desire, no confidence, no commitment - it's gonna be a long season but only 34 games to go!

Monday, 5 September 2011

My season started so well!

A catch-up post!

The season started well with a Kangeroo burger in Newcastle city centre prior to the game against the Barcodes. I noticed a stall selling Vension and Aberdeen Angus burgers - good, thick meaty ones like you get on the deli counter in Waitrose. Then saw they were selling Ostrich burgers and finally Kangeroo! Nothing like the latter to increase the pre-season optimistic spring in the step. This was maintained for the first 20 minutes or so of the match when Arsenal attacked with tempo and look dangerous. Then came that all too familiar return to normality - slow build-up, let the opposition get organised and aimlessly pass the ball across the pitch and back.

Missed Liverpool at home as it was my daughter's wedding. Was initially disappointed when she organised her nuptials for the second week of the season but it turns out it was an inspired choice!

ManU away - missed as I was on holiday in the Lake District. Logged into and was only half--shocked to see the scoreline. Did record the match and was going to go straight to delete but my Gooner-supporting window-cleaner persuaded me to watch it - I've got through to half-time so far watching about 10-15 minutes at a time! For me, the RvP penalty miss sums it all up -it was a dreadful penalty that reflects the complete lack of confidence in the team. There are no runs into the box, no challenging for the ball especially Theo who likes to stand back and get a good view as the defender heads clear - he's getting paid for the best seat in the house while the supporters are forking out £50 ish. The only one really getting stuck in is Arshavin but he's going over the top, both figuratively and literally.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mindless Chants #2

From Sunday’s match at the Cottage:

“Spend some f***ing money”

It is unfortunate that the majority of fans, clearly from the video game generation, confuse reality with Championship Manager or some equivalent. The big question, of course, is who would you buy? But more of this later.

The fundamental issues, as I have mentioned before, are mental strength and style of play. The two goals against Fulham were brought about by rapid, direct movement. In the first, Diaby superbly lost Sidwell in midfield which opened up space for a quick passing movement for RvP to slot home. The second, a fantastic long ball from TV, skilfully knocked into space by Theo which took his marker out of the game and enabled him to run through on goal. For a second, once he was in the box, I thought he was going to pass but he showed the selfishness of all good strikers and stuck the ball in the net via the far post.
These two elements, quick passing and beating your man, were absent from much of Arsenal’s play throughout the 90 minutes as they have been for most of the season where the overarching approach has been: let the opposition get organised defensively, then we’ll slowly retain possession (until they fall asleep?).

What this achieves is, almost bizarrely, that both sides have all their players behind the ball. It is as if AW realises our defensive frailties and is organising the defence as we attack! The percentage ball is always played and no risks are taken – opponents are not taken on and men are not pushed forward into the box.

I believe that the current squad have the technical ability to play a high tempo game and take their man on. Whether they do is down to the manager directing such an approach and the confidence of the players to put it into practice. From the AW’s perspective, he may be unwilling to do this unless he feels confident in the defence. As for the players, that confidence comes from the habit of winning and mental strength.

So, summer purchases?
TV’s return is welcome and against Fulham he looked solid (though he should have put more of a challenge on Zamora when he scored their second). I would like to see a new centre-back who is primarily a defender in the Campbell/Keown/Adams type.
Left back is a potential problem area which is probably why there has been speculation regarding Baines. Clichy performance level has dropped off and he may go. Gibbs didn’t impress yesterday.
Midfield could see some changes – Fabregas and Nasri could both go as well as Rosicky and Denilson. With Frimpong and Eastmond waiting in the wings, a short-term purchase such as Parker may give the opportunity to get some of the right attitude into this area. If he rates Frimpong and Eastmond, AW won’t go for a 25 year old who will limit their medium term chances. A post-Fabregas team would allow Arshavin (if he stays!) to play as the point of a three man midfield or off the central striker in a 4-4-2. This is his natural position and, I believe, he’d be much more effective here.
Up-front: NB52 will go to Bayern and score loads of Bundesliga goals. With Arshavin playing centrally, a new wide player is required. The key requirements are pace and the ability to take on the opposition ideally cutting in from the left – Eboue?? AW has a history of buying central midfielders, typically the traditional #10 playmaker, and then playing them wide. I think the time has come for a change in approach with a more traditional pacey wide man in the mould of Nani, Valencia, Ashley Young. I’ve no one particularly in mind but perhaps we don’t need to buy: Ryo Miyaichi who joined in January and was loaned to Feyenoord could fill this role.

Finally, to end on a lighter note, another chant from the Cottage:

"It should have been Jedward,
You're statue is sh*t"

Friday, 20 May 2011

A further comment on the season

“they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

Monday, 16 May 2011

Have watched MOTD2

Key points:

  1. Bent's first - onside
  2. Bent's second - offside
  3. Poor defensive line for both
  4. Dunne took out Ramsey - no contact with the ball - penalty!
  5. Disallowed Chamakh goal - very soft decision
  6. Mark Lawrenson saying that everybody knows what Arsenal need but then not actually saying it - he's a complete waste of space, worse football 'pundit' ever!
  7. General MOTD2 coverage - shite particularly the cartoon of Kenny D pulling rabbits from a hat

A summation of Arsenal’s season?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

What the Dickens!

Time for a change of approach, AW?

From an article by Jonathan Wilson on Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the coach who achieved great success with Dynamo Kyiv.

"When we are talking about tactical evolution," Lobanovskyi and Zelentsov wrote in their book, The Methodological Basis of the Development of Training Models, "the first thing we have in mind is to strive for new courses of action that will not allow the opponent to adapt to our style of play. If an opponent has adjusted himself to our style of play and found a counterplay, then we need to find new a new strategy. That is the dialectic of the game. You have to go forward in such a way and with such a range of attacking options that it will force the opponent to make a mistake. In other words, it's necessary to force the opponent into the condition you want them to be in."

My emphasis!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Villa at home

A poor first half display and an equally poor response by a sub-set of the fans who booed at half-time and then, in the second, engaged in an extended "6%, you're having a laugh" as the team was showing the fight to get back into the game.
Some of the comments and player ratings in the blogosphere are ridiculous but are unsurprising given the attitude referred to above.
Bent took his goals well though there was a hint of offside for both - MOTD will confirm this or not!
First half was typical Arsenal - possession but no penetration and poor defending with Squillaci failing to cope with Bent's movement.
The 2nd, with Squillaci off, Chamakh on and Song dropping back, saw a more determined Arsenal with a more direct approach that created a number of chances.
Another 'where's he hiding' game from Theo though he actually blossomed towards the end rather than his usual start well and fade. He was lucky not to be substituted when NB52 came on, AW preferring to take off Arshavin who was actually exhibiting a lot of fight and causing Villa problems - this seemed odd (both the substitution and AA's effort!). But after that, Theo started to get involved a bit more, perhaps realising that with men in the box his crosses might stand a chance of being converted. One was but Chamakh appeared to be harshly penalised for a push on a Villa defender - again MOTD will clarify.
AW seems to have learnt nothing from the Stoke game. Arsenal look much better with a target man up front meaning RvP plays as the leading point in the midfield triangle (as in the 2nd half today and at Stoke) or is played  wide up front.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Keely Smith returns!

Top right! See previous post

Arsenal v. ManU

A great win for the Gunners despite the best efforts of another incompetent ref who received advice and guidance throughout the match from the ManU #10.

Arsene must read CBP! How many men did we get in the box for our goal?

Have seen headlines post-match that suggest Arsene now feels that he doesn't need to spend in the summer! Hopefully he is just being mischievous with the media. A good performance when essentially the pressure is off can't mask the difficiencies with regard to mental strength that have been apparent all too much this season. Arsene is continually talking up the spirit of the side but I think it is just that - like in politics, if you repeat something enough if becomes accepted even if untrue.

So a good result but still much room for improvement. Theo started brightly (again) but then lapsed into making those runs that see him hide behind defenders so he can't receive the ball. His movement off the ball in the lead up to the goal was first-class, however, as he created space for RvP - seem to remember him doing a similar thing in a previous match against ManU when he created space for Samir. Work rate off the ball from both Theo and Samir was poor especially the latter's non-tracking of Fabio that led to ManU's best (only?) chance in the first-half. There seems to be some kind of zone of responsibility thing here - midfielders track their man back to a certain point and then seem to assume that a defender will pick them up irrespective of whether that defender is already marking a player or not. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Schalke 04 v. ManU

I watched the ManU game last night from the perspective of a compare and contrast with the Arsenal style of play post Sunday’s debacle at Bolton. Admittedly Schalke 04 were pretty poor  though Neuer had an outstanding game – it seems he’s committed to leaving Schalke at the end of the season so we will see ManU or Bayern splashing the cash to gain his services.

My thoughts on ManU:
  • Strong central defence around VdS, Rio and Vidic (though not really tested last night).
  • Pacy full-backs who are better getting forward than defending.
  • Central midfield without a recognised enforcer although, as Souness pointed out, the modern game is less about crunching tackles than positioning and intercepting. Carrick stayed relatively deep providing a Gilberto-like wall in front of the back four.
  • Pacy wide-men who are willing to take the opposition on.
  • Pacy front two who show strength on the ball with a willingness to take the opposition on and commit players.
  • Break from defence, especially after defending corners, with pace.
  • Not afraid to play the long ball either from defence or cross-field.
  • Get bodies in the box.
  • Great movement and inter-changing from the front two and wide players.
  • Disciplined defence and high work-rate from the front –six when not in possession.
  • Confidence and belief.
  • Confidence and belief.
  • Confidence and belief.

The biggest differences for me are the tempo of the game, the movement and willingness to take risks by playing the longer ball. In my opinion, there’s not a lot of difference on paper between the ManU first XI and ours, though their strength in depth is greater.

The problem for Arsenal is that, unless the approach changes, bringing in new players and outing a few won’t make a whole lot of difference. The new players will be inculcated in the Arsenal way and any proclivity to get in the box or shoot will quickly disappear.

Bolton v. Arsenal

Random thoughts on Bolton away:

  • Why wasn’t Davies booked for that tackle on Song?
  • How does Davies, a big strong English centre-forward, draw so many fouls by falling over at the slightest contact when he has his back to goal?
  • Why was Theo taken off with Bolton visibly on their last legs?

The team looked as if they had no desire, as if all the fight has been drained from them.

Reasonable Balti pie - a bit small and chicken was small cubes but quite acceptable overall.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

3-1 and we f**ked it up (again)

Not much to say really. The inability to hang onto a lead is now totally expected!
Theo started brightly and took his goal with aplomb but, as the game wore on, he was increasingly making those runs where he hides behind a defender so is not available for a pass thereby absolving himself of any attacking responsibility. This, together with a less than committed work rate when we didn't have the ball meant he had the 'best seat in the house' - you can't get closer to the action than that.
In the second half, Fab4 gave the impression of being a) tired, b) injured or c) couldn't be bothered - perhaps all three. His work on the ball was ok-ish though his tendency to dwell and slow the tempo plus some misplaced passes meant it was not one of his better games. His work rate off the ball and his desire to regain possession were poor.
At 3-3 there was only going to be one winner, luckily Spurs didn't score again.
So nothing really changes - lots of possession, few chances, Hlebitis (the proclivity to pass in and around the penalty box rather than shoot), no leadership, substitutions by numbers (of which Bendtner for Walcott with B52 playing wide right is the most egregious).
All in all a fairly negative post but the problems with the team have been apparent for some time now.

Blackpool away - The Tangerine Army!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Just watched the match recorded from Football First. Some random thoughts:

  • Tony Gale is probably the most uninformative and uninteresting commentator in the universe after Mark Lawrenson.
  • The b(l)ogosphere has been laying into Denilson and Sagna. Denilson showed both the best and worst sides of his game, i.e., keeping the ball moving though it is very much in the mold of Ray 'The Crab' Wilkins/not being able to make a tackle. The team did improve significantly after he went off at half-time. Sagna, I thought, was strong throughout. Clichy seemed to forget that the idea is to pass to a team mate rather than give the ball away which he did almost every time he went forward. Crossing was poor. He lost possession immediately prior to the 'hit and hope' that resulted in their second.
  • Tony Gale is probably the most uninformative and uninteresting commentator in the universe after Mark Lawrenson.
  • What was Manuel doing? Inexplicable! Not only does he come rushing out for no reason, he then pushes Squillaci as he tries to get back at Odemwingie.
  • Tony Gale is probably the most uninformative and uninteresting commentator in the universe after Mark Lawrenson.
  • Stuart Attwell confirms how incompetent he is. Jerome Thomas should have been off for the tackle on Sagna in the first 5 minutes - studs up, over the top - no questions it's a red. But it seems there is a informal ruling that allows Sagna to be clattered in the first 5 - witness Pienaar at Goodison. And then the trip in the box on Sagna in injury time - unbelievable - well not really but compare that with Dowd's decision in favour of the Barcodes and you wonder if there's a conspiracy any consistency.
  • Tony Gale is probably the most uninformative and uninteresting commentator in the universe after Mark Lawrenson.
  • So a good fight back after a poor first half in which Arsenal dominated possession but created very little.
  • Bored with Tony Gale now.
  • Great strike by AA but he is woefully inconsistent. Needs to play more centrally. His talent is wasted out wide as he doesn't really have blistering pace.
  • What about Eboue?

Mental strength

No, not about the team, it's the fans. Didn't go to Albion but followed the game on's web text service from half-time. Watched the goals on the web in the evening and have recorded Football First for my delectation later today. For what I can gather it was a game of uneven halves if that is possible/plausible, whatever! Arsenal didn't play for 70 mins, Manuel proves everybody right and then the team kicks in for 20 mins and could have won. Will post an update once I watched FF which I think will demand oodles of fortitude.

However, I do note that the world and his wife, in particular the 'red-tops', are jumping on the 'Arsenal - lack of mental strength' bandwagon'. Read my post from 15th November 2010!

And now one for the future! Why is AW content to keep Eboue on the bench? He continues to juggle the lookalikies (I know that's rhyming slang but not in this context) and seems to forget that when Theo was playing he provided a different dimension to the 'identikit brothers'. Why not play Eboue wide right - he's got pace, skill, can run with the ball at speed and provide additional defensive support. Not as good as Theo in front of goal but then Theo himself is not the most composed in this area. Remember where you read it first.

Finally - Bendtner to the Bundesliga (as per last week's NoW or Sunday Peeps) - predicted that 4 weeks ago - ask Rob!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

AW on Gary Neville


The headline: Gary Neville 'without a doubt' the best right-back of the Premier League era - Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

Quote #1 from article:
"Best English right-back in the Premier League? Certainly," the Arsenal boss told reporters.

Quote #2:
"I respect what he has done a lot because he was certainly not one of the most talented players in the league," added Wenger.

Me: Ha, ha!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Was Saha offside?

Per Keith Hackett, writing in the Observer a couple of years back:

The law really is simple and well defined. First and foremost, it is important to know the key principle: it is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. Assistants will not flag the moment someone strays offside. A player is only penalised if he then becomes active.
The source of most confusion is clearly in the definition of 'active'. Pundits keep falling back on the dictionary definition of the word, or their own version of it, rather than the one set out in the laws. 
To be clear, the definition, in the laws, is this: in deciding whether to flag, assistants must watch out for three things, any one of which would make an offside player active.
First, is the offside player interfering with play? As advised by the IFAB since 2005, that means playing or touching the ball. Attempting to play the ball does not count - he must actually play or touch it.
Second, is the player interfering with an opponent's ability to play the ball, by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or movements, or by making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent?
And third, is the player 'gaining an advantage'? This last point is specific, and is not what Match of the Day seem to think it is. It applies only to an offside player playing a ball that rebounds to him from an opponent, the post or the crossbar. If he does not play the ball from the rebound, then he is not penalised for being in that offside position. Nothing else counts as 'gaining'.
And that's it. If a player ticks any one of those three boxes, he is offside. The three-part definition is remembered as 'PIG' - if a player doesn't Play, Interfere or Gain, he is fine.

So the nub of the issue is did the ball 'rebound' from Koscielny. He clearly wasn't in control of the ball and, if it had gone through to 'Chesney', he could have picked it up as it couldn't have been construed as a back pass.

So what is a rebound? Despite Hackett's assertion that the law is 'well-defined' this is clearly not the case here and is open to interpretation.

And talking of 'PIG' - a pig could probably have refereed the match far better than Lee Mason.

As a final point, Villa's first goal in the match around Christmas should have been disallowed as Carew was in an offside position and interfered with Fabianski's ability to play the ball by blocking his line of vision. Do the refs really understand the rules?

Pie update

Ipswich - good CBP - no complaints except the first pie I was served was Steak so I returned it minus one bite.

West Ham - no CBP on the menu this year so went for the Chicken Curry Pie. A complete disaster - gloopy curry sauce is a pie case with 2 or 3 minuscule pieces of chicken. Ate some pastry, left the sauce. Relegation will hopefully mean an improvement in the overall standard of away fare.