Sunday, 30 October 2011

Van Persie on fire at Arsenal outclass Chelsea

Well the Everton v Man Utd game disappointed. It did so in terms of how entertaining the game was, how many goals there were and what the atmopshere was like. But what certianly didn't disappoint was Chelsea v Arsenal.

And to think, I was only 10 minutes away from my 3-3 prediction being spot on correct! Not that I'm disappointed as I'm truly ectstatic with the 5-3 win. John Terry's slip to allow Van Persie to run in clean through on goal to put us 4-3 up with 5 minutes of normal time left has got to be one of the funniest things in football during my lifetime as a football supporter. The irony of it happening right after this whole racism row about John Terry was comedy gold too.

In all seriousness though, it was a fantastic win, that could be massive. No exxageration. It could boost our season immensely. Confidence will increase, belief will increase and opposition teams will fear us more now. I think it was fabulous, especially for the likes of Koscielny, who had a terrific game, Djourou, to up his confidence, Ramsey, Arteta, Van Persie and in particular Walcott and Gervinho who contributed highly and Theo had his best game yet this season. Which will up his confidence and perhaps spring him into form.

Quick Fact: Robin Van Persie scored more goals at Stamford Bridge on Saturday than Fernando Torres has managed in his career there. Says it all.

This is a quick article though, and I may elaborate on it more tomorrow but for now I'm just going to wrap up with my match ratings:

Szczesny- 7
Djourou- 7
Mertesacker- 7
Koscielny- 9
Santos- 6
Song- 9
Rambo- 9
Arteta- 8
Walcott- 9
Gervinho- 9
Van 'the man' Persie- 9

Jenkinson- 7
Verminator- 6
Rosicky- 7

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Everton v Man Utd is imminent!

It's been a while since my last post, but I'm back with a preview of the game I am attending on Saturday.

This is of course at Goodison Park. As a neutral Everton season ticket holder my second most eagerly anticipated game is Everton v Man Utd. Whilst I look forward to seeing Man Utd more as a team because they are better than Liverpool, the derby still probably just shades top spot because it is the derby. However, this is like a 'second derby' for Everton and the hate in the ground for Man Utd is just as obvious as it is at the Liverpool game. You can't help but enjoy the rip- roaring atmosphere. Pre- game and during the game.

It's a very interesting time for this fixture because of Man Utd's 6-1 thrashing by Man City on Sunday. Also, Everton have had a mixed week, winning in the last minute at Fulham after 3 consecutive defeats, but then losing after extra time at home to Chelsea in the league cup.

Man Utd's line up is highly unpredictable, so much so that it's pointless to try to predict what it will be but whoever plays for them it will be a fiery, exciting, interesting game that could go either way. I've tempted fate there by using those words, but that is what I think. It is always an intense and exciting fixture that usually delivers the goods, especially last season when Everton scored 2 stoppage time goals to draw 3-3.

I'm looking froward to the atmosphere which is always fantastic for this fixture, I am also looking forward to seeing the likes of Rooney, Nani, Hernandez and possibly Young play, although who knows which of them will actually start? Even if some of them don't there's the likes of Valencia, Giggs and Berbatov who are possible entertaining replacements.

Everton will also provide plenty of entertainment and it wouldn't be an Everton v Man Utd game without a controversial incident and/ or some Man Utd players winding up the crowd, to get things buzzing even more.
I am looking forward to this and I am anticipating an Everton win, although it could go either way. Everton could win, it could be a draw or Man Utd could leave victorious. Who knows?

One thing is for sure, I am buzzing about this game and I can't wait to get to my seat at about 11.50am on Saturday. Infact, I am even looking forward to stuff before that. Setting off at 8.45am, getting to my Grandparents house for breakfast, enjoying a nice brunch and then driving to our usual parking place near the ground. Then we'll walk to the ground, soak up the pre- game atmosphere on the walk, maybe walk around the ground before we take to our seats (after the usual pre- match bog trip of course- or is that too much information?) and stand at our seats for 10 minutes- ish, again, soaking up the atmosphere before watching what is surely set to be an entertaining game. Ooh, I'm getting all excited!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Robin Van Persie: A Class Act

That was a vital win. ‘Phew’ is the right word to describe my feelings after yesterday’s clash with Sunderland. Another one could be ‘impressed’, relating to the performance of our very own Dutch master.

He is the sort of player you want to watch in every game, he must be a delight from a neutral perspective, but even with your attentions elsewhere as an Arsenal fan concentrating on the game, you still can’t help but enjoy watching him.

One of his many qualities is that he is so consistent. With his goals, his skill, his link up play, his work ethic and his class. He just makes you want to stand up, applaud and bow your head. He is a perfect role model for young players.

What about the game then? Arsenal, like Van Persie, started off like a train, on steroids, with a full tank of petrol, going at 120mph, with the wind behind it. They were classy, hard working, kept the ball well, moved it fluidly, quickly and looked liked scoring every time they went forward. We played beautiful football, which was a relief to see as I was worried that side of us might have disappeared after this summers events. But it was the best I’ve seen Arsenal play since the Barcelona home game last season. Magnificent. Like the Arsenal of old; energetic, urgent, skilful, threatening and wonderful in possession.

That ended somewhat after a dodgy 5 minute spell when Sunderland came back into the game more and Larsson bent in a brilliant free- kick to equalise Arsenal’s quickest Premier League goal, that was nicely taken by Van Persie on his so called ‘chocolate leg’. I’ve never understood why people have called it that as he has never really been totally one footed; he has always shown ability with his right foot and scored goals with it, like today. They must be referring to Rooney’s left foot, but getting mixed up. Because have you noticed how Rooney never gets criticised for being totally one footed? It’s never even pointed out. English biased- ness one suspects.

After half time though Arsenal stepped up the tempo once again and were completely dominant. Eventually, Robin beautifully curled in a delightful free- kick to send me and an enormous amount of other Arsenal fans, no doubt, into raptures. The relief! The joy! He deserved to score a free- kick of that class as he is often so unlucky with them, hitting the woodwork and forcing top class saves. He has always been a marvellous free- kick specialist.

Arsenal held on to claim a valuable 3 points to send us to, wait- take a deep breath, 10th! We are now only 3 points of the Scum and 4 points off Liverpool and with our fixture schedule over the next 2 months, we should be able to get level with them or above them, or at least get closer to them and really put in our claim for a top four finish.

It would be ideal to get to the half way point of the season in a good position, especially because I think the team will get better as the season goes along, much like in 08/09 as the team will gel together more and players like Gervinho, Mertesacker and Jenkinson will get better as they adapt. Also, players like Sagna, Vermaelen and Wilshere should be available then.

Robin Van Persie was man of the match, 2 fabulous goals, a breath- taking performance and some amazing skill. His touch past Richardson and chip over Mignolet, with his weaker ‘chocolate leg’ I might add, was sublime and worth seeing over and over again even though it bounced back off the post, very unluckily.

But special mentions also go to Szczesny, for his amazing save from Cattermole to keep the score at 1-1 going into half time, and Rosicky whose driving runs, ball retention and creativity were fantastic. That’s the best I’ve seen him play for a very long time. Class. Also, Arshavin who came on with urgency, skill and a real threat that helped push Sunderland back and Arsenal forward. His mazy run at 1-1 was brilliant and he really did have a big impact when he came on, which will be reflected in my match ratings.

The crowd also played their part, encouraging better than usual for this sort of game and helping the team towards victory. That’s not a dig by the way, the atmosphere at Arsenal is very good for the games against the top teams and I understand why it’s quiet for games against the lesser teams, like everywhere else is to be fair. Now, a great chance to kick on and get up the table, come on Arsenal!

Match Ratings:

Szczesny 8- +1 for the Cattermole save. Literally a tremendous save.
Jenkinson 7
Mertesacker 7
Koscielny 6
Gibbs 7
Song 6- Got better as the game went on. His passing was generally poor, and at times, bizarre. Only high expectations have resulted in his 6. A younger player like Jenkinson would have got a 7.
Rosicky 8
Arteta 5- Below par. Passes sideways too often and a silly handball for their goal.
Walcott 6- Struggled to have an impact, but it’s harder out wide to do so. But OK.
Gervinho 7
Van Persie 9

Santos 7- You wouldn’t expect a left back to come on and improve the team and have an impact on the game like he did. Impressive.
Arshavin 8
Benayoun 7

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Top Four battle + Ian Wright's OTT comments

Arsenal sit 15th in the table. We are basically like Liverpool were this time last year. We don't look good at the moment for a top four finish whereas our rivals are in better form and with a significantly higher amount of points than us. But it ain't all over yet...

First of all, there are 31 games left this season. Second of all, Arsenal have key players out injured at the moment that will improve the team when they are back. And thirdly, EVERYONE has at least 1 bad spell a season. And to add to that, I don't think Liverpool or Tottenham have a better team than us. That is why I think Ian Wright's comments are a tad over the top about being 'delighted' if Arsenal finish in the top 6 or 7 this season.

I'd be gutted with that, so it's either a lack of ambition on his part, or just sheer panic about the club that he loves. Probably the latter. And let's bare in mind, he's not exactly the brightest tool in the box is he? First of all, who else apart from Liverpool and Tottenham is going to finish above us? And secondly, Arsenal will improve. We have had hard fixtures so far and I expect us to pick up a lot of points over the next couple of months, what with our fixtures being Sunderland (H) Stoke (H) Chelsea (A) Fulham (H) Norwich (A) West Brom (H) Wigan (A) and Everton (H). Even if we lose at Chelsea (which I have a sneaky feeling we'll win- you heard it hear first) then we're bound to pick up points from those other games, even the away games are quite nice ones compared to most.

If we were to win at least most of those games, it would be a big confidence boost going into the Christmas period. Players would be playing with more happiness, more confidence and hence more quality.

Plus, if you look at Tottenham and Liverpool do you really see a better team? Or a better squad? I don't think so, both are bound to lose a fair amount of games and both have problems as we do. Yes, that's right, other clubs have problems and weaknesses, it's not just the ever- highlighted Arsenal.

Tottenham will have problems up front, Adebayor is so inconsistent and always fades after a short burst of form when joining a new club. They are also unconvincing away and their players have short spells of form and then drift away for a while, e.g. Bale, Defoe and van der Vaart.

Liverpool have defensive issues, with players like Agger, Skrtel and maybe even Coates not being top four material. They are also over- reliant on Suarez and Carragher and if either of them get injured they will be in serious trouble. They also have the problem of being bad travellers.

Don't get me wrong, Arsenal have problems too, but we have a lot of top quality players, probably more so than the other two in Szczesny, Sagna, Wilshere, van Persie, Song, Vermaelen and Walcott. Plus 'good' players like Gibbs, Mertesacker, who has huge potential and will be a great partner for Vermaelen once he's fit, Arteta, Gervinho, Ramsey and more.

I do however think all three clubs are very, very tight and it will be a close battle with Everton maybe threatening too, and it will be extremely interesting from a neutral point of view. But Arsenal need to get firing very soon to make this happen.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Arsenal need a change of direction

I think to move forward Arsenal need to change manager. Arsene Wenger is a legend, without doubt, but his time has come to go. Either that, or change his philosophies but that isn't realistically going to happen as he refuses to adapt to the way the game is now.

We've lost our best player and another key creator this summer, so something in our style had to change as playing with a centre midfield playmaker was never going to be as effective without Fabregas, as there is no-one better than him at this. The 4-5-1 formation is dead, we need to change to 4-4-2.

We have the players now to do this, Walcott is now ready to play up- front for example. We have brought in players like Arteta and Benayoun who are suited to a 4-4-2, as would players like Wilshere and Diaby. It would make us a better team going forward and bring out the better in Van Persie rather than him being isolated and marked by 2 centre halves every game. Look at Man Utd, they player Hernandez AND Rooney up front which gives the centre backs two forwards to worry about, rather than just ganging up on one. Plus, if one has an off day, you have another one to keep you going. Look at Tottenham even, they had Defoe AND Adebayor up there, giving Arsenal two players to worry about there as well as threats from midfield in van der Vaart, Bale and Modric. They had threats from out wide, in the middle and even at full back in Walker. We should return to playing 4-4-2.

We also need to change tactics in defence. I don't think our defensive problems are individual, I think they are collective. We need to be a more organised team at the back and this comes from coaching and tactics used my the manager and coaches. Of course, we miss Vermaelen but you look at the defence today and think; Sagna is a world class right back, Mertesacker is a very good centre half, Song is and Gibbs is a very good left back. So I don't think we have a liability in there, I think it's a collective thing and a leadership issue, but I think that will be solved more by Vermaelen returning from injury.

I think the only way our tactics are going to change is through a change of manager, I can't see us moving forward with the way we defend at the moment, we need a manager or coach to come in and deploy a different philosophy of defending. A more tight, communicative, no- nonsense, compact way of defending where the priority is 'to get the ball away from the danger area'. Because we just invite problems at the moment. Add this to how much potenntial going forward we have that is hindered by the 4-5-1 formation.

Time to say thanks Arsene or time for Arsene to change the tactics and bring in a defensive coach who will have a senior role at the club in terms of how the team defend and the tactics of this.

Saturday Adventures

In my last blog article, I wrote about some of the Everton 'characters' and wondered if they'd all be there. Well, the ones I listed were all there and what a day it was for one of them: 'Referee Hater'.

The man seems to love hurling abuse at anyone who wear the referee's uniform, no matter who it is or how they're refereeing the game. What a day he must have had. He must have got home and his Mrs said 'Good day?'

RH* replies 'Yes, fantastic.'

Mrs RH responds 'Oh good, they won then?'

'No we lost' he says.

'Well why so happy?'

'The referee had a shocker!' He answers with a huge grin on his face. 'Can't believe it, that was the worst refereeing performance since Clattenburg in '07!'

Because let's face it, Martin Atkinson had a shocker. I very much enjoyed the eagerly anticipated (by me) Merseyside derby but I can't help but think it would have been better, with a better final result had the 'ref' not sent off Jack Rodwell for an excellent tackle on Luis 'DivesALot' Suarez. I expect it would have at least finished in a draw, with Everton the more likely to have won, judging by how the first 20 minutes panned out before the sending off.

The point is that the rules on football have gone loopy. Whenever a player's foot leaves the ground for a tackle nowadays he's sent off, even if he does win the ball. It's ridiculous. It spoils games and ruins one of the arts of football: tackling. It additionally punishes players who are good at this art. It's got to stop otherwise the game will not be as good anymore, and we'll get more and more games with less than 11 players on the pitch for each team.

It was however, like I say, an enjoyable day that just missed the more ideal result of Everton winning. I'll look forward to the next Goodison Park Merseyside derby. Maybe God will treat me to an FA Cup and/ or Carling Cup clash between the two rivals at Goodison Park. Or Wembley? Oh the thought of that does make me dream!

*Referee Hater