Sunday, 29 May 2011

All we need to do is look at Barcelona

While they are a team  I hate with a passion, I must admit that they are the perfect role models for our trophy- less team. I don't hate them because they have won a lot in recent seasons or because they play beautiful football, I hate them for their tapping up of Fabregas, their disrespectful comments about our club- a club with a great history to be very proud of, and for their cheating on the pitch (waving imaginary cards, diving and surrounding the referee).

But, they are a similar team to us, one with similar philosophies and we only need to look at them for inspiration and faith in our policy and our quest for trophies. I have looked at the Spanish records and Barcelona went on a run between 1999 and 2005 of not winning anything. Not the Spanish league, not the Spanish cup, not the Champions league, not the Spanish league cup, not the annual Spanish raffle.

So that's six years without a trophy. Let me think, who does that remind me of? Hmm, let's see, oh yeah, Arsenal. We have gone six years without a trophy whilst we have invested in youth such as Fabregas, van Persie, Walcott, Song and Wilshere but to name a few. Just like Barcelona did in between 99 and 05. This was the time when Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Pique and Messi were coming through, at different stages just like our lads and their investment in youth has proven successful.

I'm surprised at how similar the two situations are. The likes of Fabregas, Wilshere and Ramsey need only look at that team and think 'that could be us in a few years, there's no need to panic about lack of trophies in recent years, look at Barcelona's records'. There is plenty of reason for faith and we have plenty of talent in our squad to achieve something like Barcelona in the years to come, and our chances will be enhanced if the likes of Fabregas and Nasri stay and show their belief in this team of very talented players. And we couldn't ask for a better manager to guide us towards similar achievements in Arsene Wenger. We also have the financial stability that Barcelona don't have, therefore it's not just a short term plan,it's a long term one.

Barcelona- 1999-2005   NO TROPHIES

Arsenal- 2005- 2011   NO TROPHIES

Friday, 27 May 2011

Season 2010/11 Awards

Not all these award are going to be honourable, but here are my '... of the season's. First up:

Player of the Season

While Jack Wilshere has had an amazing season, and isn't undeserving of the award, my player of the season would be Robin van Persie. Just. If he'd have been fully fit for the first half of the season he probably would have won it hands down. The best striker in the world in my opinion and that shone even during the extremely bad times at the end of the season. He's scored here, there and everywhere and always shows a first class attitude. God knows what he would have done this season had he been fit throughout the whole season. If he was English, the pundits wouldn't ignore him.

Break-through of the Season

Jack Wilshere just pips Szczesny. Both have done a lot better than expected but Wilshere's constance in the team wins it for him. He has shown the sort of attitude more Arsenal players should be showing, has excelled in all sorts of games from games against lesser teams in the Premier League to European giants like Barcelona, Man Utd, Blackpool (just checking you're paying attention) and Chelsea. His performance against Barcelona at the Emirates was the most impressive performance I have ever seen. To come up against a team like that and to have the confidence as well as the ability to outwit and get the better of Xavi 'The Tapper Upper' Hernandez, Iniesta and Biscuits throughout the game was unbelievable. Let's not forget also that his season didn't start so well either, giving the ball away on the edge of his own box at Liverpool who went and scored as a result. But he bounced back from this with some great performances. And he's one of a few players that actually clap the supporters when he comes out on to the pitch at the start of a game. (Not that that's a contributing factor to this award, just fancied mentioning it).

Team Performance of the Season

Has to be one of two. Whilst things have been bad lately and everyone is looking at the negatives, Arsenal have put in a lot of excellent performances this season. But the Barcelona (home) performance just, just edges it ahead of the Chelsea (home) performance. Defensively solid, efficient and stylish going forward and we beat them all over the pitch, pressing them well and showing a real superiority against them in the second half. If Man utd want to beat Barcelona tomorrow, they should watch a DVD of that game and study Arsenal's performance that incredible night. Especially Evra.

Player Performance of the Season

Hmmm. This is one I haven't thought about before writing this. Jack Wilshere vs Barcelona is the obvious candidate but Alex Song against Man utd earlier in the month is a contender. But you have to bare in mind the quality of the opposition and the workload so Wilshere gets it. Excellent from start to finish. Although Nasri has some 1st half of the season contenders such as at Everton, Man City and Aston Villa away and at home to Fulham. Oh, and Koscielny v Barcelona is a close call to Wilshere too, as well as Vermaelen at Blackburn.

Goal of the Season

A lot of thought has gone into this. Arshavin vs Barcelona just beats van Persie vs Barcelona and Nasri's second vs Fulham. A terrific team goal, from the defensive sharpness of Koscielny to Bendtner's pass in- field to Wilshere's quick release to Fabregas who played an exceptional pass to Nasri who showed good composure as I and many other Arsenal fans were thinking 'shoot!',  he knew better as he played a perfectly weighted pass to Arshavin who placed it beautifully, not just past the keeper, but past the Barcelona defenders in the way. He could have easily blasted that over the bar but just when you need a cool head to finish a move off, there's Arshavin at his best.

Disappointment of the Season

Cesc Fabregas. Last season's player of the season, argubly. He has been hampered by injuries which is the biggest disappointment but his impact when not injured wasn't as big as we have come to expect. He didn't play terribly as he has had some brilliant performances such as Chelsea at home, Man City away, Barcelona at home and Tottenham away but his injuries have held him back and he has also had more poor games than usual, e.g. Newcastle at home and away (where we needed him as a captain to calm things down), as well as Liverpool at home. Additonally he has made a couple of silly mistakes which you wouldn't expect from him, Barcelona away and S***s at home. His no- show last Sunday doesn't help him either.

Signing of the Season

Laurent Koscielny. Marouane Chamakh contributed highly during the few months of the season but Koscielny has contributed throughout the whole season. Yes, he has made some mistakes and looked panicky occasionally, but he has been impressive especially in the big games, which is probably where it's most important and harder to be so. Plus, let's not forget he's played more than expected and not really had a regular partner at the back, coping wth the dodginess of Squillaci quite a lot too. Even the people of Arsenal- mania think he's good, so blimey, there must be something there if they think he's good!

Surprise of the Season

Szczesny pips Wilshere as he has been even more of a surprise than Jacky boy. Who would have thought a year ago that he would be our current number one now? He has been very impressive with is confidence, consistency and ability as well as his fantastic bounce back after the Carling Cup disaster. He showed great mental strength, those two controversial words around Arsenal.

Johan Djourou also deserves a mention here as despite a couple of late season blunders, generally he has been outstanding when in the team this season, most notably his form during our only period of having a regular centre back partnership with Koscielny between Christmas and the cup final. And he broke the Drogba whoo-doo, keeping him quiet throughout and I've never seen an Arsenal player deal with him as well as he did that night.

Highlight of the Season

Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona. The memory of me jumping up and down around the room whilst screaming 'YESSS!!' whilst my phone propelled out of my dressing gown pocket and onto the floor is one that brings back such great feelings for me! Plus the atmosphere that night was fantastic, the sight of thousands of Arsenal's fans at the game holding up their arms and scarfs after the second goal whilst singing 'By Far The Greatest Team' is one of the nicest for me. And a great performance as I have said.

See, it's not all been bad has it?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A look back on the positives...

No matter what happens tomorrow, let's try and look back on the positives this season rather than depressing ourselves about the negatives and the pain from the past season.

If we finish fourth it will be a massive disappointment, but I know we are so close to being the best. If we finish three places off the top below Man City it won't look that way but this team is very close. I think there were two moments this season that have had a massive impact on the end of our season, the Carling Cup final and Bendtner's miss at Barcelona. If we'd have won the League Cup or beaten Barcelona on aggregate like we were incredibly close to doing (not that anyone outside Arsenal ever mentions this) then I think the last 2 and a half months would have panned out very differently.

Our team just needs one or two additions like Scott Parker and Chris Samba to jump to the next level, they will make us a better team, especially defensively. Also they will be two leaders in the team and will add more mental strength and ability to see out games and grind out wins especially in the run in when you need these sort of players to win you games. We will improve at defending set pieces too and I think that almost every aspect of our game (especially our weaknesses) will be improved because of them. That's why we should sign them.

So what were the positives? Despite how everyone likes to paint the doom and gloom picture when it comes to The Arsenal, there have been lots of positives and highlights this season. Here is a list of my highlights:

1. Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona

A terrific night, amazing atmosphere and probably the best night of my short time as an Arsenal fan. A late turn-around over one of the best teams on the planet and a team I hate because of their dis-respectful off- field comments about Arsenal and Fabregas. Also arguably the best performance of the season.

2. Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea

Another great night that broke the whoodoo Chelsea and Man Utd had over us, a welcome win and maginificent performance, arguably better than the Barcelona performance. The timing of the goals made it even better as the 3-0 lead shortly after half time sent us into ecstasy. A great atmosphere too.

3. Tottenham 1-4 Arsenal (CC)

A nice bit of revenge on our bitter rivals and my first Arsenal win at SHL. And it made my first day at college the next day more enjoyable.

4. Man City 0-3 Arsenal

A game I was very nervous about and a game where class beat wealth. Very good performance and satisfying win that put us back into a good position in the title race.

5. Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal

A game I went to and sat in the Arsenal section and a very good, gritty and determined performance from the boys. And it was a more impressive win then as BR were a much better team under Allardyce. Sweet revenge for our late season defeat there last season where I was also attending.

6. Arsenal 1-0 Man Utd

A beautiful reprieve after a difficult 2 months as an Arsenal supporter. Always nice to get one over Man Utd and our first win over them since November 08. Another short whoodoo broken.

7.  Everton 1-2 Arsenal

Another game I was in attendance for, sat near 3000 ish very noisy Arsenal supporters for a professional, stylish but also steely win at a hard place to do so. Made even better by Chelsea's shock home defeat to Sunderland later that afternoon.

8. Arsenal 2-1 Fulham

After returning from Christmas shopping and listening to the radio anxiously I returned home, flicked on football focus and with a few minues left the in form Samir Nasri scored a delightful winning goal in a great christmassy win!

9. Arsenal 3-0 Ipswich

The win that sent us to the Carling Cup final with three very relieving second half goals.

10. Leeds 1-3 Arsenal

As a Leeds inhabitant this was a victory of pride against my locals, and one of special personal feeling to me.

I don't know if I've missed any there that should have been in the top ten, hold on, I've just realised I left out Villa 2-4 Arsenal, which would go just above Fulham and into 8th, as walking to the Everton game I checked my Dad's phone to find out Jack Wilshere had settled the win with a fourth goal. A very good win with some good goals that saw us move top. Oh and the Newcastle away 4-0 win in the CC, I was there and a very enjoyable night and good win. I'll put that just ahead of the Ipswich win.

Soon, I'll talk about the positives of the squad, such as the emergence of Wilshere and Szczesny and the form of Nasri, Walcott and van Persie.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

How today summed up our season...

On the one hand, unlucky and robbed by the referee. On the other hand, naive, sloppy and wasteful. I didn't watch most of the 1st half as I am too stressed at the moment with this team to watch them. And I'm glad I didn't. It sounds like we didn't start the game until we were 2 down and those 2 goals were sloppy defending, getting caught from long balls. We created more chances than we did in the Sunderland , Blackburn and Liverpool games combined, it seems, and yet still only scored one goal, however...

This is where I switch to my other hand as we had a stone-wall penalty turned down and we had a perfectly good goal disallowed. So that's two, probably 3 goals we would have got today had the referee done his job properly. Will he be criticised or punished? No. Disgrace.

Robbed again, like so many times this season- Newcastle away, Wigan away, Sunderland away, Sunderland home, Bolton away, almost Everton at home. It's unbelievable how referee decisions have gone against Arsenal this season and how they've gone for Man Utd. They haven't really been better than us this season, they've had favourable refereeing and a lot of teams have gone to Old Trafford already beaten.

Yes we were poor today at the back like we have been a lot this season but come on, that's only part of the problem. Things have just gone so against Arsenal this season with ref's and injuries. Yet Man Utd have had points given to them by ref's at West Ham, Wigan, Blackpool and West Brom. Plus, they've got lucky with games like yesterday where Olsson hit the post with a header that could have made it 2-0 whereas it just misses and moments later they're at 1-1. Yet Tiote's volley from 30 or so yards at Newcastle against Arsenal flies beautifully into the net! When does he ever shoot even with his right foot? If that'd had have been against Man Utd it would have flown into the crowd or he wouldn't have done it!

Unluckiness has been a bit thing in our season but so has poor defending and naivety and a couple of signings will sort this out. I don't really know why but the last 2 or 3 three months are harder than the rest of the season and this is the time when you need experienced players to win games. Arsenal are probably the best team in the league between August and March but then we lack the experience to grind out results and keep our calm near the end of the season. Chris Samba and Scott Parker would be very good signings in my opinion, though I have my doubts about Parker. But someone experienced who plays in midfield or at the back would be great to go with Chris Samba. I don't think we need to make loads of signings, just a couple would change us into a better enough team. Let's not forget that most of the time, this is a very good side and that, I think, it just needs a bit of improvement and experience.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Stupid. Silly. Dumb. Naive. Just some of the words that some up this Arsenal team today. Let's sum up the situation: Arsenal had a slim chance of the title still and a decent chance of finishing second. The title was very unlikely yes, but there was a slim chance if they won today. So how the hell can they be so casual and careless in the game when they're in a situation where they need to win all their games? Does Djourou actually give a monkeys? He's played like a complete idiot today. Don't get me wrong, I generally rate him and have sung his praises a few times this season; he's a good defender. But probably just not good enough to win the league. For the first goal, he was asleep. He didn't follow Jones and Jones didn't even have to power above him to head it home, he just easily strolled in and bundled it in with his stomach. Easy. Peesy. Lemon Squeezy. Embarrassing.

When you go into a game at Stoke, you know what they're all about. How they're going to attack, how they're going to defend, you know how they're going to go about trying to stop you. So why did Wenger pick the same old 4-5-1 formation with minimal height in the team? Why play tippy tappy football and prove the critics almost right. This sort of situation is where the stereotypes about Arsenal come from. They're a much better team than they showed today. We passed the ball around Stoke's area, they flood it with red shirts and force us out wide. So predictable. And deep down, you know that the move is going to come to nothing.

All week in training they should be practising how to attack and defend against Stoke. Practise crossing and heading, practice attacking and defending long throws and corners. Play one of Bendtner or Chamakh from the start and actually go four four fucking two. There's no point in Ramsey playing today. He was excellent last week, scored the winner but today's a completely different game. Make the tough decision and leave him out and play a different formation, instead of being so bloody predictable. It frustrates me because it's embarrassing. Same old, same old all the time. Which moves me neatly onto the other end of the pitch...

Our defending against Stoke is even more of a joke than attacking. Arsenal were comfortable throughout the first half, Stoke put no pressure on us and yet we concede a silly freekick and the marking is a complete disgrace. I'd love to know what they've been doing in training this week, because they should have been practicing defending set pieces, particularly seen as that's our main weakness anyway. But especially when we're playing a team who's main strength is set pieces. They should get Arshavin and Walcott out wide on the training pitch. They can hoof ball into the box while Bendtner, Chamakh and van Persie attack the ball and Djourou, Koscielny, Song, Szczesny etc defend it. Get the attackers to mess them about and they can practice dealing with it. It doesn't take a brilliant coach to work out you should be doing this going into a game at Stoke.

Also, they were the makers of their own problems, as they often are. Giving the ball away casually and stupidly for the second goal and inviting the shot on. Silly, time and time again. Season after season it's the same old things. Stoke literally did nothing in the first half up to the goals to cause Arsenal problems and yet they still manage to go in at half time 2-0 down. What the fudge?

We're a better team than Man Utd, in my opinion, but I can't see that happening to them. It's just embarrassing how naive we still are and how silly mistakes and old weaknesses just don't stop and aren't sorted out. What will they work on in training over the next few weeks and in pre season, defending set pieces? I hope so, but it wouldn't surprise if they hardly do.

Then just as Arsenal start playing well once they've made the subs and put Stoke under considerable pressure, they score. 2-1. Ten minutes plus stoppage time left. Plenty of time to put pressure on and create a couple or so chances. But no, lets go staright back on the defensive and clear the ball like a disabled old woman and go 3-1 down staright away. Awful from Djourou again and awful from the other defenders who simply didn't react. They had a great opportunity to get something out of the game and have a good 10-15 minutes of piling the pressure on Stoke with four strikers on the pitch and two creative midfielders. I think we'd probably have scored again if we hadn't gone 3-1 down. But it doesn't matter because we stupidly did. Same old Arsenal, stupid at times.

This is probably the defeat of the season which means least, in the league. But it still winds me right up and I thought we'd sorted this out at Arsenal. Silly mistakes and set piece disasters, but no, it continues and it probably will next season. It's probably our worst performance of the season away from home and what worries me worst is the naivety in which we lost today. It was just too predictable and too easy. Yet last season we went to Stoke and played our hearts out. there was grit, determination, desire, quality. As there was at Blackburn this season when we faced a similar threat. And at Birmingham and Wolves. But today we didn't. So frustrating.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

That feels better...

The perfect tonic for a bad couple of months. There's not much of a better feeling in football than beating Man Utd. It would have been even better had we still been in the title race. But today is not a day for complaining about what could have been, if you can't enjoy days like this, what days are you going to enjoy in football?

I was extremely nervous about this game and came very close to not watching it, but after pressure from my Dad and the feeling of obligation to watch it, I took my seat just before Jack Wilshere shot wide. Arsenal dominated possession in the first half and started very well. Theo Walcott's crossing impressed me a lot and so did Arsenal generally early on. We should have had a penalty and Vidic a red card when he blatantly handled Walcott's cross, and heroic defending from Sagna kept it at 0-0.

But Arsenal were always in control thus far and Aaron 'Rambo' Ramsey slotted in beautifully in the 56th minute to give Arsenal a deserved lead. An ironic goalscorer considering he was the stand- in for the injured Fabregas. However it was after this goal where Arsenal impressed me the most.

The grit and determination was there for all to see. (Apart from Martin Tyler of course who was dieing for Man Utd to equalise.) They positioned themselves well and sat back and did the dirty stuff when they needed to. Wilshere and Ramsey stayed disciplined, the wingers worked back well, particularly Arshavin who impressed me a lot. Song was absolutely colossal, harsssing and houdning Rooney and not letting him have a say on the game at all. The only times Rooney could do anything was when he dropped back so deep he wasn't a danger. This was nice to see as it was good that Arsenal came up with a very clever and effective game-plan to stop Man Utd's danger man. Hopefully we will have a game plan to defend the obvious threat from the knuckle sraggers next week. Song's overall performance was excellent, he didn't just shackle Rooney, he defended well against anybody who came up against him. He stayed very disciplined protecting our back four, which was especially good to see as he stopped Man Utd counter attacks a lot (which is how they beat us here last season), putting in some great challenges and worked very hard. His distribution was also good and his desire was clearly visible today, he sums up Arsenal today.

It was great to see the team being so solid, even when Djourou hobbled off. Squillaci came on and stayed solid alongside an excellent Koscielny who has been at his best in the big games this season. Everybody was fantastic after the goal today, being so un- Arsenal like in their defending, hoofing it clear when need be, staying disciplined and getting men behind the ball and defending set pieces well. We have seen plenty of glimpses of this though this season, don't pay too much attention to the pessimists who only comment on Arsenal when it's negative. I've seen plenty of good defending this season too. We have some very under-rated defenders.

What also brings a smile to my face is how much respect Man Utd show us. Or, more to the point, how much they fear us. Everytime they play us, they pack the midfield and daren't attack us. OK, it has been successful recently but it just goes to show how talented our youngsters are as an experienced midfield that included the likes of Park and Carrick and an experienced defence that included Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra backed off and were too scared to come at us. Ramsey, Song and Wilshere dominated the midfield and out- witted Man Utd's throughout the game, not letting them bully them and kept possession very well. Oh, and one of them grabbed the winner.

This win keeps us comfortably in third and gives us a chance of catching Chelsea. If their game against Man Utd ends in a draw next week and Arsenal beat Stoke, who knows- there might be whispers of a late chance of the title. You never know.

Match ratings:

Szczesny 8
Sagna 9
Djourou 7
Koscielny 8
Clichy 7
Song 9
Wilshere 8
Rambo 8
Walcott 8
van Persie 7
Nasri 6

Arshavin 7
Squillaci 7
Eboue 7