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 arsenal.com 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.