Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Off to Brussels with The Arsenal!!!

A football match 44 years in the making

Arsenal travel to play Anderlecht tomorrow for the first time in over 44 years. That night, at 3-0 down, a Ray Kennedy goal changed the course of Arsenal history and set the Club on it's way to the Double a year later. What followed at Highbury, according to anyone who was there (I wasn't born until 9 years later), was the greatest night the old place ever saw as 18 years of frustration was finally wiped out with a trophy. For people of my age, who have grown up with the stories of that night, the name of Anderlecht is almost mythical and it has a special place in Arsenal folklore.
I'm off to Brussels first thing in the morning to see the game. The Belgian capital is no more than ninety minutes or so from Calais, which is itself an hour away from me via the Channel Tunnel. A £50 return trip for four of us makes going to this particular European away jaunt a very affordable one. It's my first European away game since Paris in 2006 so I'm very much looking forward to it. In the times that I have been away with Arsenal in Europe I am still waiting for a win (I missed the Cup Winners Cup Final in 1994) so I hope tomorrow breaks my duck. We'll have to play better than on Saturday but an Arsenal side playing properly should have far too much for the Belgians. I just hope Arsenal are up for it on the night.
The team news is that Emi Martinez comes in for the suspended Szczesny. It seems that David Ospina is out for three months, I assume from the late thump he got from the Galatasaray forward in injury-time a few weeks ago. Youngster Ryan Huddart seems to be the beneficiary of the spare place on the subs bench. Martinez has played a couple of times for Arsenal before. On his debut against Coventry City I thought he looked a fine prospect, but he followed that with the 7-5 game at Reading. In pre-season I was very impressed with the Argentinian and the way he commanded his penalty area. If he can show the same dominance in a Champions League game then he can really lay down a marker. 
It will be interesting to see how we line up at the back. Does Calum Chambers play at right-back or at centre-back? If he's in the middle then does Bellerin play, or are Gibbs or Monreal put at right-back? My personal choice would be for Coquelin to play on the right of the defence but that isn't really likely to happen. It's something we shouldn't have to be thinking about, but we are where we are. Chambers will play, it's just a case of where.
Jack Wilshere was in training today and has travelled with the side, as has Lukas Podolski. I'd be tempted to give Podolski a game tomorrow simply based on his brilliant dismissal of rumours of a move to Spurs yesterday. I've never understood why Arsene Wenger doesn't give Podolski a proper run, and there is a chance tomorrow to go with him (or Joel Campbell) up alongside Welbeck - the shortage of properly fit midfield players and the need to win the game might influence other bosses. Theo Walcott also trained with the team but I haven't seen any photos of him in the travelling party - that's not to say he won't be a surprise inclusion on the bench but it seems unlikely given his time out injured.
Too often Arsenal have been lacklustre away from home in Europe. We've failed to get decent results against some fairly poor opponents. With our last two games being at home to Dortmund and away in Turkey the need to win the two games with Anderlecht has never been more stark. A fast start is essential and I'm hoping Welbeck's pace will cause them problems. If it does then he needs to have brought his shooting boots with him.
I'll write a review of my day at some point on Thursday, hopefully with a big three Champions League points safely in the bag.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Geordie provides the highlight on another bad day for Arsenal

Yesterday's undoubted highlight

I was at Highbury nearly five hours before kick-off yesterday. I hadn't misjudged the journey, and I haven't suddenly become even more mad. I was up there early to attend the book launch of "Geordie Armstrong On The Wing" at The Tollington pub on Hornsey Road.
I'm not old enough to have seen George Armstrong play, never mind remember him. My Dad has only ever had good stuff to say about the man known as "Geordie" though, and it's the same with any of the players I've met from the Double winning side. Being there early yesterday meant I was able to have a long chat with John Radford as we walked to the pub together, and then a quick catch-up with Eddie Kelly. Frank McLintock was the other Arsenal legend in attendance, and it's always amazing to see how the other players react to their leader - the likes of Eddie and Bob Wilson absolutely idolise Frank. I was also to take great pleasure in meeting Dave Seager, the author of the new book, and especially Jill Armstrong (Geordie's daughter) who has assisted Dave greatly with what seems a glorious tribute to the Great Man. Jill took time out to greet everybody yesterday and tell us about her Dad and how the book had been a wonderful opportunity to share her memories, and those of her family. She also told me how great it will be for her children to know how special their Grandad was, and how important "The Arsenal" (her words) was in her Dad's life. Meeting Arsenal historian Andy Kelly was also a joy on the day. 
Having had such a good start the only thing that could possibly spoil yesterday would be the game itself. I was confident for a change. I know you can never truly predict football, but I was certain Arsenal would go out and win yesterday despite the injury problems at the back. For me we would always have too much going forward against Hull City. For the best part of the opening twenty minutes it was one way traffic. Arsenal were so good in the early stages, playing some of their best football of the season as far as I'm concerned. Alexis and Danny Welbeck were making great runs in behind the defence and Jack Wilshere was displaying his full range of passing. Steve Harper was being tested with shots from various angles and distances and it was so nice to not have to sit through the constant square passing as Arsenal played at pace for once. When we got the goal it was a lovely individual effort as Alexis squared up Curtis Davies before waltzing past him and hitting it low in to the corner, the old man Harper unable to get down quickly enough to stop it. Then it all went wrong.
Quite how the referee and the linesman managed to miss Diame's foul on Flamini is something that should be seriously questioned. The reaction of the Arsenal players (they never chase referees these days) was enough to show anyone that something was seriously wrong. However, given the way we'd been playing to that point it shouldn't really have been a problem. For some reason we then stopped playing the way we had been. The quick passing and incisive runs were suddenly missing. Everyone now wanted an extra touch, and the back and forth across a packed defence was back in evidence. Put together with Hull's tactical fouling in midfield, and interminable time wasting (more of which below) Arsenal suddenly looked devoid of any idea of how to break through. Aside from a Cazorla daisy cutter (which somehow saw Harper do damage to his arm) Arsenal had no more shots on target (and no more shots at all, really) until an 86th minute header from the tireless Alexis.
What happened at the start of the second-half was scandalous from Arsenal. Wenger says the players were lacking in focus. Thirty seconds after half-time? Whose fault is that, Arsene? I've seen some people blaming the makeshift defence. That's utter rubbish. The players at fault were the only two who would be there in any case. For some reason Kieran Gibbs was out of position in the Hull half straight from the kick-off, thus dragging Nacho Monreal towards the left (Monreal was Arsenal's best player to my eyes yesterday, and has been outstanding in every game he has played this season). When the cross came in the only person in the stadium not aware of the run from Hernandez was Per Mertesacker. Regulars will know I am a Mertesacker fan, but that yesterday was a disgrace. He has been poor all season in truth, and the lack of competition for places has to be a factor. Yesterday we had Semi Ajayi on the bench as the back-up centre-half. It goes without saying that barring an injury (or maybe two) I had as much chance of getting on the pitch yesterday as Ajayi had. Mertesacker meanwhile is hoisted by his own petard. On Friday he was quoted on Arsenal's website talking about the need to attack the ball. Yet again an Arsenal player has empty words not backed up by what we see from them on the pitch. I'm sick of the talking and want more of the actual playing. Don't talk about the need to attack the ball if you're then going to stand still and watch an opponent run in front of you to plant a free header in to the corner. And, who knows, maybe Arsene Wenger might learn from this new brand of football we saw from Hull for the goal - the idea of getting the ball wide, playing in a good cross, and having a centre-forward in there attacking a header might just catch on, don't you think?
For the rest of the second-half we created nothing until Joel Campbell came on. I thought the Costa Rican was excellent and showed he is worth quite a bit more time on the pitch than we've yet seen of him. What I still don't understand, though, is why we never went to two men up front. Even at 2-1 down in injury-time (and then at 2-2 with our opponents rocking and rolling) we still had only Danny Welbeck up top. We could have gone on and won it through Kieran Gibbs in the final throes of the game, but it would have been thoroughly undeserved, though entirely welcome. As an aside I also don't know how Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spent 90 minutes on the field yesterday while Tomas Rosicky wasn't even invited to loosen up. The Ox never stops trying, but he was truly awful yesterday and he knew it himself. What goes through Wenger's mind? Maybe it's the same fog that descends over Jack Wilshere who was lucky not to get himself sent-off in the act of injuring himself. Yes, the ref should have given him a free-kick, but Jack is experienced enough now to not react the way he did.
The referee has had a real bashing after the game, and rightly so. The man was a joke from start to finish. It doesn't excuse Arsenal's display, and is not the reason for Arsenal not winning, but it has to be said that the ref allowed Hull to get away with murder. I read someone on the internet earlier saying that he "added the time on" that Hull had wasted and that is true. But it doesn't account for the way the rhythm of the game was upset by that time wasting that went unchecked. In the same way, Hull's persistent fouling and play-acting every time they were tackled, meant the game was bitty and Arsenal were prevented from flowing properly (if they were capable of doing so in the first place). You regularly hear pundits say "the red card spoiled the game" but the same people would laud Hull's tactics yesterday against a big club. You can't have it all ways. Their style yesterday spoiled the game as much as any red card might. The referee quite simply didn't do his job in stamping it out. In fact he positively encouraged it at times - allowing Dawson to take the longest route to the touchline when he was treated only six-feet away from it being one example, while booking Santi Cazorla for a non-existent foul he hadn't even seen (Mr East was looking in the opposite direction when the Hull player dived and writhed on the floor) another.
Two wins from eight games is unacceptable. We are behind this awful Manchester United side, who have played a game less. The challenge for the Premier League Title has simply never got started, while the battle for "fourth" (yawn) looks like it too might be a long way off. Right now we look like a mid-table side at best, and that is simply unacceptable. The pressure is also getting to Wenger, which is no bad thing, as anyone who has watched his interview with Jacqui Oatley can testify. Of course, the only person to blame is Arsene Wenger - after all, the Chairman of Arsenal told the AGM on Thursday that he "calls the shots".

Thursday, 16 October 2014

BBC going out of their way to attack Arsenal Football Club

Yes, they're expensive

The Arsenal AGM took place this morning at the stadium. I'm not a shareholder so I wasn't there, but it seems that you don't have to be one these days to get an invite. For some reason, what should be a private meeting of the shareholders, was attended by assorted invited press and media people, as well as the now ever present "friendly" bloggers. As for the content of the day it seems clear that Ivan and Arsene and everyone else dodged the questions in their usual inimitable fashion, though Sir Chips Keswick did admit that nobody at Arsenal questions what Arsene Wenger does. If you want a run down I suggest you have a read of one of those nice blogs that never criticises the Club in any way.

What I want to talk about today is the BBC's open attack on Arsenal FC yesterday under the guise of their "Price of Football" report. Every BBC journalist, and every BBC headline, and every BBC article was having a pop at Arsenal. There was even a report on an MP saying 3rd kits are unnecessary and at the top of the article on the BBC website was a picture of Jack Wilshere wearing the Arsenal 3rd kit. Of course, Arsenal are the only side who have a 3rd kit aren't they? In fairness Arsenal did not help themselves with the answers as to why they have one in the first place, claiming that it's because the fans want it. Since when did Arsenal do anything the fans want? And who are these people whose lives are improved by the presence of a blue Arsenal shirt? What the spokesman should have said, for it's a statement of fact, is that UEFA insist on 3rd kits being registered for Champions League and Europa League purposes. You won't be surprised to know, however, that the article didn't carry any quotes from Manchester United. Or just about any other side for that matter.
Yesterday morning I got in to a debate on Twitter with one of the authors of the report in to the cost of tickets who was determined to show how us Gooners are worse off than everyone else. Now let me make it clear that I am not about to defend the Club for the price of tickets - we all know they're too expensive, especially when the money generated is not then spent on properly improving the team we are paying to watch. Matt Slater is the journalist in question and all he wanted to keep saying in defence of the headlines is that Arsenal are the most expensive so that's the reason why they are the news. What the report ignored is that Arsenal fans pay for seven cup-ties within the price of their season tickets. One of the BBC idiots (re-tweeted by Mr Slater) pointed out that we might not play those ties, especially if we weren't in Europe (which we have been for nearly twenty years in a row) giving the impression that we being robbed blind. I pointed out that any unused tickets are credited back to the season ticket holder, but that received no answer - it doesn't fit the BBC narrative.
I also asked Mr Slater why no mention is made of the cut-price season tickets for OAP's, or the League Cup pricing at Arsenal. He told me that "all clubs do that" but then couldn't tell me who provides cheaper tickets than Arsenal in those cases. I would have said that, if you're producing a detailed report in to the cost of going to football, then such things are fairly important unless you are wishing to present deliberately skewed figures.
Another thing that wasn't looked in to in the report is the price that Arsenal supporters have to pay to attend away matches. For West Ham away at Christmas we are talking the best part of £80 to sit in the lower tier corner at Upton Park. That makes even Arsenal's Grade A match ticket prices look not so bad. My seat at Arsenal is £80 for those games, but I sit in the upper tier, level with the 18-yard-line (yes it's too expensive, but I use it as a comparison). Or maybe we could talk about the £50+ restricted view seats in the away end at QPR? And why no mention of promoted Burnley putting up their season tickets by over 30% this Summer? Matt Slater of the BBC had no answers for this because the fact is that this report was all about taking a pop at Arsenal. 
As I said at the top, I have no desire to defend Arsenal over ticket prices. But all the time they're selling them out they won't care. Why should they? And I won't feel guilty about paying for mine as a so called "boycott" of tickets would be a waste of time. If I didn't buy my season ticket then someone else would and then I'm in a position where I can't get in for the big games. Why would anyone cut off their nose to spite their face like that? What I can't abide, however, is an organisation like the BBC wasting public money to tell us all something that we already knew, and to then deliberately set it up as an attack on Arsenal.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Ozil injury does Wenger a favour and opens the door for The Ox

Winter break sorted

I didn't write anything after the Chelsea game. Due to being at work I saw only the last twelve minutes of the match live, and I would have been only going over old ground had I written a review. We all know that we're short of top quality in a couple of areas of the pitch and there is really no point now in going over and over it, or going over the reason(s) why. I could have written about the utter plank who set off a smoke bomb in the concourse of the upper tier of the away end, and the ramifications for other Arsenal fans (not only on the day), but if you follow my Twitter feed (@ARSENALDvbrisG) you'll know this was done to death on Sunday night - suffice to say the perpetrators mates consider themselves "real" supporters and people like me are not supporters at all. I shouldn't get in to rows with silly little boys, but I reacted to being called a "f***ing mong" in a moment of weakness. At the end of the day the flare incident was dealt with by the law and the young man will find himself banned from Arsenal. Well worth it, I'm sure.

On to business and we found out yesterday that Mesut Ozil has a knee injury. A serious knee injury. So serious that he couldn't train and was sent for a scan on his arrival at the Germany training camp. A tear/rupture to a knee ligament is the German diagnosis, and at least three months on the sidelines will now ensue. What we don't know now (and never will really know) is whether this is something he was suffering with before or during his worst display yet on Sunday. It would certainly explain the level of effort he was putting in after a couple of good performances in the previous week (though what can't be explained is his expulsion to the wing again by Arsene Wenger). I'm not going to go in to the fact that it's yet another Arsenal injury and whether or not there is something wrong with our medical team, or whether or not there is something else wrong at the Club, but there is more than coincidence to this, surely? I have theories but I'm only the same as any other bloke in the street. Whatever the problem is, I don't believe it's down to bad luck.
The injury itself could actually be a blessing for Arsene Wenger. For some reason he left Ozil on the pitch for the whole game the other day, and the reactions of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere showed there was unrest in the camp. It didn't do Ozil any good to complete that game at Chelsea (regardless of whether or not he was already unfit). Even the most generous of Ozil watchers would have to admit that he has been poor, especially since the start of this season. You can bring out stats about completed passes, or ground covered, but use your eyes and be honest - one goal and one assist is not the contribution expected of a £42m attacking footballer. Frankly I'd expect better returns from Yaya Sanogo, never mind Mesut Ozil. Wenger would clearly never want to drop a player who cost so much money, so the injury gets him off the hook. The potential embarrassment for Manager and player is no longer there. I would wager that we will see not very much of Mesut Ozil in an Arsenal shirt before he departs for Europe next Summer (he might have gone in January but for the injury). Sadly the player who should have replaced Ozil is now at Chelsea, but let's not go there again.
If there is a disappointment in the injury it is that Theo Walcott is due to return to the side in the next few weeks. We've spent over a year wanting to see Ozil combining with the flying Theo and now we won't get to. There are no guarantees, however, that Theo will stay fit (he never has done in the past) or that he is still blessed with the searing pace that is his only real quality against top defenders. Having said that, the injury to Ozil means having Theo available again couldn't be much more timely. Serge Gnabry is also returning with Theo, leaving us with plenty of wide options (and that isn't a dig at the fact that Gnabry has ballooned during his long lay-off). 
The player who might just benefit more than any other from Ozil's injury (and Ramsey's) is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It's fair to say that his most eye-catching performances have come in the middle of midfield. His power and pace is a huge asset, and he can go past opponents in there in the same way that Vieira or Diaby could. With the lack of options now in there (and that has nothing to do with squad "depth" - any club would be struggling with so many injuries in the same part of the pitch) The Ox has to be the man to fill the gap. It could be the chance he's been looking for and it could spark our season if Ox and Jack Wilshere can combine centrally. Santi Cazorla can also move back to where he's supposed to play and Danny Welbeck and Alexis should reap the benefits of that.
All in all, while I have to feel sorry for Ozil, I don't see that this injury particularly weakens Arsenal on the pitch. We're entering a spell of games where Ozil might have come in to his own against lesser opposition, but I sort of want my superstar signings to be dominating games against the likes of Chelsea somehow. Two woefully out of form, yet star, midfield players are out injured. I think a couple of in form midfield players should be excited at the chance to prove themselves once and for all. Now, can Ox and Jack stay fit for once themselves?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Danny Boy destroys Europe's scum

Arsenal's new star striker

It's irrational to have such a vehement dislike for a club you'd only seen Arsenal play against on one occasion. But that is how I feel about Galatasaray. Last night, fourteen years on from my other acquaintance with them, merely served to underline why I despise them and their supporters. Scum doesn't even cover it. More on that below, but let's deal with the good stuff first.
I had a very small bet on Danny Welbeck to get the first goal last night. I just had a feeling that it was his game and he'd get among the scorers. My friend Gary went one further and bet on him getting a hat-trick! From start to finish he dominated this game of football. Regulars will know I've always been a fan of Welbeck and considered him a top player since he first came on the scene (honest). What I will say about him is that he is a far better footballer than I ever gave him credit for. He is strong, quicker than I thought, and has fine touch - all of which was evident last night, particularly for his second goal. The way he muscled past Melo, leaving the hard man of Galatasaray firmly on his backside, before racing away and slotting the ball in the left corner, while falling over as he finished, was Henry-esque. Now I'm not going to compare Danny Welbeck to Thierry Henry, but that goal was a carbon copy of Henry's trademark finish. It reminded me of Henry's fourth in the 5-0 demolition of Leeds at Highbury in 2004. By a similar token the hat-trick goal was an Ian Wright style finish, running off the last defender and flicking the ball over an advancing goalkeeper. Following the nervous looking profligacy in evidence at Dortmund it was a great performance all round from Welbeck. Being English already has him at an advantage with the supporters, and the way he lapped up his deserved celebration with the crowd at his third goal showed me he is a man very happy to be here. With the pace and movement of Alexis and Oxlade-Chamberlain on either side he was given great support and service throughout - long may it continue. If Welbeck's confidence isn't sky high going in to Sunday then it never will be.

Thierry, is that you?

Aside from Welbeck there were great performances all over the field last night. The back four were exceptional, with special mention for both full-backs. Calum Chambers read the play brilliantly last night and made some great interceptions. Kieran Gibbs, meanwhile, showed why he is the best left-back in England. In midfield I thought Flamini was very much at his best and Ozil was more effective again, though on three of four occasions in the first-half he clearly saw players making runs in behind and chose not to play them the ball we're told is his speciality. Alexis was outstanding again, despite Felipe Melo doing all he could to break his leg. If the referee considered that foul worthy of just a yellow card then he isn't fit to officiate at any level. But Alexis isn't scared. He got up and destroyed the defence to get himself a goal (good ball from Ozil on that occasion). I just hope that the kick from Melo hasn't put him out of the Chelsea game on Sunday. David Ospina also made some confidence boosting stops when he came on, following on quickly from an unconvincing debut last week against Southampton.
It was a great performance from the players last night, by far our best of the season. I keep hearing that Galatasaray were awful and all that, and they were. But you can only beat what is put in front of you. They were bad, but they didn't have a chance to get going, so good was our display. The Arsenal team went out last night and destroyed their opponents. If it hadn't been for the red card I think we'd have comfortably scored another goal or two. For once we weren't sitting back and winding down and it was great to see. 


And so to the negative - the Galatasaray fans. I was outside The Armoury when their main support was escorted down Hornsey Road with their flares and firecrackers and their abuse for The Arsenal. Having watched that I am amazed that they were able to get so many of those fireworks in to the stadium. As usual, as I went through the turnstiles last night, my bag was searched by a steward. So who was searching the Turks? When Arsenal go to away games in Europe the supporters are individually searched. What happened outside the away end last night? Was anyone subjected to a search? And I don't blame the stewards for it. The Met Police should have been doing the searching, dressed in full riot gear, and making it clear that there would be no nonsense if it kicked off.
When the flares started being lit there was an influx of riot police who stood in front of the away section. If there was similar trouble being caused by away fans in Turkey (or just about anywhere else in European competition) the local police would have been steaming in. Why did the police not enter the away end with batons drawn to drag out those with the flares and firecrackers? I believe Sky managed to close in with their cameras on the perpetrators, so why couldn't the police do so? 
I wasn't upset when an announcement was made in Turkish with about fifteen minutes to go. It was obvious they were telling the Galatasaray supporters that they were being locked in. That tells you how bad things were, and how concerned the police were - it's years since away fans have been locked in at Arsenal. When I was a kid it was normal on any match day for the opposition support to be kept behind, and I wouldn't complain about it making a welcome return at most fixtures these days. Last night it was imperative.
The fact is that the Galatasaray fans are scum. Murdering scum. Worse than that they are encouraged by the Club itself with all the "Welcome to Hell" nonsense that pervades their stadium. There was an idiot (not a young bloke) in the row in front of me who thought it was funny when the flares were being thrown on to the pitch. There was a posh bloke down by The Armoury who thought it was "wonderful" when they were coming down Hornsey Road. Clearly neither of these prats were in Copenhagen fourteen years ago. It was a delight to see Arsenal thrash them last night.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Welcome to Arsenal - I hope it's Hell

Long memories

In recent times the Champions League group phase has lost a lot of its attraction. Over familiarity between the teams has meant that many can take or leave it, despite Sky's exhortations that it is something special. There is no longer anything exotic about playing Borussia Dortmund or Olympiakos or FC Porto - we've seen them all too often. Barcelona and Real Madrid remain a big draw, but we've had to get beyond the second round in recent years to get close to playing against them. Tomorrow, however, sees a group phase fixture with something a little extra added to it.
For the many thousands of us in Copenhagen in May 2000 the name Galatasaray represents a horrible day for Arsenal and our supporters, rounded off with a failure to convert chances and penalties that saw us leave without a trophy. What went on during the afternoon, however, is what the trip to Denmark is most famous for. It is the reason why many of us know that Galatasaray represent the scum of European football.
We always knew that there was likely to be trouble that day. Two Leeds United fans had been stabbed to death in Istanbul before their semi-final out there, and plenty of the Leeds boys were going to be in Denmark for our game. Put together with our own supporters of a similar leaning and it was always going to kick-off if the Turks provoked it again. It actually started the night before the game with stabbings in the city centre - those of us arriving at Gatwick early the following morning were offered full refunds by Arsenal if we decided not to travel (I believe two lucky sods chose to take up the offer). On arrival at Copenhagen airport we were met with Galatasaray fans giving their slit-throat gestures right in our faces. It was the same in the city itself. They were the most horrible fans I've ever come across.
What went on in the main square is well known. We spent the day in an Arsenal only pub (well, two Arsenal only pubs actually) and were fortunate to get on one of the very few coaches that actually came back in to the city to take us to Parken Stadium. Most of the others had to literally fight their way to the ground. All of this was because of the Galatasaray fans. Somehow they weren't banned from Europe for their behaviour, not just in that season, but in previous European campaigns - remember Manchester United fans and players being attacked in their stadium and outside?
Well plenty of people have long memories, just like me. And I've no doubt some of them are looking forward to tomorrow night. I know Galatasaray were invited to the Emirates Cup last year and that was relatively peaceful (though not without incident) but tomorrow is the first proper game between the Clubs since that day in 2000. There are men still banned from Arsenal for things they didn't do in Copenhagen (as Piers Morgan knows). There will be others with physical scars from the knives and iron bars. All of this leads to some pretty bitter feelings. I hope that Arsenal smash Galatasaray on the pitch tomorrow night, and I reckon Leeds might be backing us too. Outside the ground I'll be keeping my head down, but I hope the law have got the Turkish fans well marshalled all over the area.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Another two points dropped but I wonder what Billy Nic would make of it...

So much better again

Arsenal handed Tottenham a goal on Saturday and, with it, a point they didn't deserve. In the second-half especially Arsenal were totally dominant but, in truth, rarely looked like putting the ball in the net. We managed to make Younes Kaboul look a good player with some of the worst balls in to the penalty area you'll ever see. It amazes me that our players can be so precise with a ten yard pass anywhere on the pitch, except for in the penalty area where there is the aimless thump of the ball straight at the nearest defender time after time after time. The reason we had so many corners was largely down to our inability to put the ball anywhere near Danny Welbeck in the penalty area. As for the corners themselves I don't see how we can expect to score from them with just Mertesacker, Koscielny and Welbeck in the opposition box. Three men to "attack" a corner. Meanwhile Calum Chambers is on the half way line because Wenger's Arsenal is so formulaic in its set-up - you're playing at full-back so you stay in defence at a corner, never mind the fact that you're 6'2" and good in the air. It took six years for Wenger to work out that Sagna was his best header of the ball, for God's sake!
The most encouraging aspects of the other day for me were the performances of Jack Wilshere (despite being injured), the first-half from a dominant Danny Welbeck and, more than anything else, the display of Mesut Ozil. He was quicker, stronger and worked harder than at any time since his first few games for Arsenal. At no point did he allow his opponent to brush him off the ball. He was taking people on in the close exchanges and creating space. His passing was good, and he got in with a chance to score where he might have done a bit better, but it was also a good save from Lloris (the clear man of the match on the day). We all know what Ozil is capable of and I hope to see more of it on Wednesday night. The decision to leave out Alexis, meanwhile, was nothing short of mystifying. If the injuries to Arteta and Ramsey (this guy Forsyth is doing brilliantly with the preparation of the players) have a positive it is that we will see more of Alexis and Santi Cazorla.
For Tottenham's part I've never seen a Spurs side so devoid of football and attacking intent. The only tactic they had was to take it in turns kicking Arsenal's midfield in order to avoid any second yellow cards (though Lennon and Lamela should both have walked). Tottenham have always been famed for their style of football, and Bill Nicholson's great Double winning team were the blueprint. I wonder how the old man of Tottenham Hotspur would have reacted if he'd been alive to see it - I expect he'd be more than a little ashamed of them.
Ultimately, regardless of Tottenham's play it was Arsenal who disappointed the most on the day. We should have won the game. We didn't create enough to do that. Lloris made a nice few saves, and we might have had at least one penalty, but did we really create enough? The movement in the second-half wasn't there for a dominant Ozil to be able to weave his particular magic. That must change if Arsenal are to start getting wins instead of draws.