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Thursday, 31 March 2016

A real Arsenal Man

David Rocastle

Fifteen years have now passed since David Rocastle passed away at an impossibly young age. On this date, since I started it, this site has been dedicated to remembering Rocky. When I was a boy he was my Arsenal hero and he remains one of the greatest players our Club has ever seen. 
Rocky was a player who had everything in his game. He was quick, had unbelievable skills, was strong and tough, he could tackle as hard as anyone, he worked for the team, and he could score goals - unbelievable goals. When I hear people talk about what a great player David Beckham was it astounds me as he couldn't do even half the things that David Rocastle could do. If you think Beckham was a great footballer then you never saw Rocky play. This video has a number of his greatest moments as an Arsenal player.

He wouldn't have been out of place in the other team here

I was at work fifteen years ago today, having swapped a shift in order to go to the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham a week later, I was having to miss the home game with them instead. It was a colleague who told me that Rocky had died. I had a radio with me to listen to the game later on and I immediately tuned in to Radio 5 to hear the tributes coming in. I had to leave the office briefly to compose myself. Rocky was the first of my childhood heroes to pass away. It took me back to the day when he was unforgivably sold to Leeds by George Graham following a wonderful season in which he had dominated the centre of Arsenal's midfield - I was emotional that day too when I saw the back of the newspaper announcing Rocky was on his way out of Arsenal. I was 13 years-old and Rocky was my Arsenal hero. 
We are fortunate that there are a number of Youtube videos in honour of the Great Man, and this year there is a new one. It features voice-overs from Nigel Winterburn, Michael Thomas and an extremely emotional Ian Wright. Wrighty talks about his childhood friend in the most affectionate terms and if you haven't seen the ITV film made about Ian then I urge you to try and get a viewing of it - Rocky taught him what it mean to "be" Arsenal. He was, quite simply, a true Arsenal Man.

Beating the scousers at Wembley

If you are going to the Watford game this Saturday there will be a minute of applause in the seventh minute of the game in order to pay tribute to David Rocastle. Sing his name loud and let him know we all still remember him, one of the best players I have ever seen, or ever will see.

RIP Rocky.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Effort, where have you been?

The pace and power to scare defenders

I suppose the signs have actually been there in the performances against Barcelona and away at Spurs. There has been an improvement in some of Arsenal's play in the last couple of weeks, albeit the end product has been missing and the defending woeful. Yesterday Arsenal put in one of their best performances of the season. The first-half was as good a 45 minutes as we've put together since August. Where has that kind of effort and organisation been since Christmas? Leicester's win at Crystal Palace almost certainly renders it too little, too late so it has to raise questions as to what has gone on. Why have the players been so devoid of this kind of display for so long? Where was it at Old Trafford? Where was it at home to Swansea? Where was it last Sunday against Watford? Arsenal were brilliant yesterday and it just makes me full of regret that they have let us down so badly in the preceding three months.
The unchanged nature of the team (Coquelin played more than half the game on Wednesday) was a surprise. Given the way that Arsenal went on to dominate the play I never want to hear excuses of fatigue ever again. Iwobi and Welbeck are a pair whose game is full of pace and power. This has the ability to frighten a defence. The first time Danny Welbeck got the ball yesterday he took it past the nearest defender and ran in behind. From that moment on the Everton defence was on the back foot, worried that trying to get in ahead of him would leave them beaten. You'd have to question why we've been forced to sit through Theo Walcott's non-existent form in recent months when Iwobi has been little more than a lad who is on the fringes, only to see him burst on the scene now. Perhaps it's a sign of how desperate things had got that Wenger had no other option than to gamble on a youngster - though his continued side-lining of Joel Campbell remains a mysterious anomaly.
The first goal was Arsenal at their best. It was the sort of move we've seen so little of as we've passed across the defence of the opposition and back again without ever threatening a goal. Alexis made one of very few passes to an Arsenal player with a perfect through-ball for Welbeck to run on and go past the goalkeeper for an excellent finish. When being instinctive like that Welbeck finishes well. When he has time to think about things he seems to get his feet mixed up. He could have scored at least two more goals, only to not get a shot away - the one in the second-half when he pressed Stones in to an error sat up beautifully for a right-foot finish but he failed to take the chance, as with last week against Watford in injury-time.
Alex Iwobi was superb in Barcelona on Wednesday and he was very good again yesterday. He is strong on the ball, has a bit of skill, and is a very willing worker. He won the tackle in his own half yesterday that saw the ball reach Hector Bellerin in the build-up to his goal. Iwobi didn't stand around admiring his work, but saw the gap in the defence and got on his bike. Bellerin played a lovely ball in to the space ahead of him and the first-touch from Iwobi, on the run, was superb. He finished coolly and celebrated as he deserved to. He may fade away as quickly as he's come on the scene, but wouldn't it be nice if we had uncovered a real diamond from the youth setup? 
A few other things were key yesterday as well. David Ospina was exceptionally brave when the threat came after half-time and played on despite, for me, being clearly not really able to do so. Since coming in for Cech he has restored his reputation and hasn't let us down. In front of him the two centre-backs were excellent. Gabriel, who has been poor in recent matches, dealt with Lukaku brilliantly and was as strong as the big Belgian throughout. Wenger got one of his substitutions right with the introduction of Kieran Gibbs totally nullifying the emerging Everton threat down our left side. Then in midfield we had Francis Coquelin back to his absolute best. That was due, in no small part, to the energy of Mohamed Elneny alongside him. Even in injury-time the Egyptian was running down the opposition midfield. Coquelin has not looked so good since his return from injury, but yesterday he had a midfield partner doing basically the same job that Santi Cazorla does in that position, and not the constant running around too high up the pitch that we get from Aaron Ramsey. It really was a great team performance all round.
Having won the game, and won it comfortably, I can have a free run at the officials without being accused of sour grapes. Mr Clattenburg really ought to be investigated by the FA. His decisions yesterday went beyond scandalous. Alexis was denied a penalty despite being fouled by two different defenders in one move in the penalty-area, Clattenburg ignoring his own unobstructed view of the incidents. He was failing, or choosing not to, give Arsenal free-kicks throughout the game for obvious fouls, while awarding our opponents some extremely debatable decisions. We had a perfectly good third goal disallowed for something only Clattenburg seems to have seen. And then there was the warning issued to Seamus Coleman after his coming together with an innocent Coquelin (whose laughing in the face of tough-guy Seamus was a joy to watch) only to be warned again less than a minute later for a disgusting kick to the knee of Nacho Monreal. To say Clattenburg's display was "questionable" would be an understatement. 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

And then there was one...

Well played young man

I'll start by wishing a Happy St Patrick's Day to my Irish readers. I suspect they will mostly be celebrating this evening, regardless of the current malaise at Arsenal.
Down to business and there was inevitable disappointment last night but it wasn't, for me, found in the end result. My disappointment stems from the missed chances in both games against Barcelona (merely a continuation of league form since Christmas) that cost us the chance of making it as close as it should have been. I don't see an aggregate score of 1-5 as a fair reflection of the play, but it is a fair reflection of the gulf between their strikers and ours. Barca were thwarted a few times last night by the outstanding David Ospina, whereas we only actually tested Ter Stegen four times from twenty shots at goal. Therein really lies the rub here. Another source of disappointment to me is that, of the five goals we conceded in the matches, only the Suarez volley last night could be considered as a result of their outstanding brilliance in attack, as opposed to our cock-ups in defence. At home we gave them their first goal through comical defending and their second through a horrendous hospital pass from Mertesacker to Flamini (who was excellent before limping out of the game last night). In the second-leg we saw Ospina make one of THE great saves from Messi, only for Koscielny to lose his head less than two minutes later allowing Neymar to be played in for the opener. The final goal came from a slack pass by Giroud in his own half, and a weak tackle by Koscielny, leaving Gabriel with no chance against their trio of strikers - though he gave it a damn good go and played quite well last night I felt.
It's fair to say Arsenal very much turned up last night. If they'd played like that at Old Trafford, at home to Swansea, or against Watford on Sunday, we wouldn't now be staring a season decider in the face at Goodison this Saturday. The leaving out of Joel Campbell irked me in the starting line-up last night, but everything else was about right. There was the usual carping about Flamini being in the side, but a look at results since Coquelin came back in for him tells its own story to be honest. The absolute trump card, as it turned out, was in Iwobi being put in the side to come off the left and get alongside Welbeck, with Alexis on the right. Sanchez wasn't at his best again, but the balance of the side seemed so much better. Iwobi and Welbeck linked up superbly with their pace and movement a constant thorn in Barcelona's side. Ozil looked bright early on, but his passing actually picked out Barcelona defenders more than Arsenal attackers at times. If he'd turned up and played well then we'd have created even more opportunities to miss. Iwobi has laid down a real marker after last night and he will have to hope Wenger takes more notice of his contributions than he has Joel Campbell's - bringing on Walcott ahead of the Costa Rican again last night was frankly embarrassing from the Manager.
All in all I can't be upset with losing to Barcelona. They are the best side there is at the moment. There is no shame in not beating them. We competed with them really well and showed, yet again, that they are as awful at the back as they are superb going forward. It's also very difficult to beat a team that has the match officials absolutely in their pockets. At our place Jordi Alba should have been sent-off at 0-0. That would have made a huge difference. Last night we should have had a penalty at 0-1, with Mascherano being shown a red card. Again, it would have made a massive difference to how the game panned out. As Chelsea found a few years ago you have to produce something super-human to get past Barcelona and their particular line in corruption. I'm not having a pop at Arsenal for losing to that.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Stick your boycott up your a**e

This is what a crowd can do to players

Sunday's game is the eighth home cup-tie of the season so it is not included in the season ticket price. As such Arsenal have given people the chance to "opt out" of taking up their seat for the match. Certain "supporters" groups have seized this as their opportunity to give Stan Kroenke a bloody nose by organising a boycott of the game. If they think Kroenke would be remotely bothered then they are crazy. Nevertheless they claim to have had great success in terms of people deciding to not go to the game. Whether that is true or not you can judge for yourselves based on what I write further down.
Among the main people calling for this boycott are the Arsenal Supporters Trust and Red Action. The AST have long been a target of my serious dislike. They are fronted by a spokesman who seems to think that putting on a big rosette and turning up at the AGM makes him number one fan. The man in question is Tim Payton and he talks utter b******s. His groups advocating of the boycott is no surprise - the self-publicists among them will be champing at the bit in the hope of getting their ugly mugs on Sky or an interview with Radio Five. The fact is that if Payton doesn't turn up then nobody will notice the difference - he spent the last Ashes tour in Australia at the height of the football season, so he was almost as absent as Silent Stan himself. Equally deplorable are Red Action. Here we have a group (albeit of no more than a few men) who claim to want to build the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium. How do you propose to create an atmosphere from your living room? Today, having announced they will not be attending the game out of protest they want people who do turn up to help display one of the crowd surfing flags before kick-off. I hope Arsenal tel them all where to go from now on - there are plenty of fan orientated people employed by the club who could easily take on the job.
I have to say at this point that I am not going to the match. However, I am not boycotting it. I never would. I am working on Sunday so my ten year-old is taking my place in the stadium. If I wasn't working then I'd be attending. I don't care how much I disagree with Arsene Wenger, or with the way Kroenke is having the club run, I go to support Arsenal. The only thing that would stop me from going is being priced out. I'm fortunate that I have a decent job that means I can still afford to go. I'm also fortunate to have been brought up by a Dad who has supported Arsenal since 1950 and has been going for over 60 years to watch the team play. On the way back from the Swansea game an acquaintance of ours said on Twitter that he won't be renewing his season ticket as he "has better things" to spend his money on. His choice, obviously, but he is clearly nothing more than a glory hunter. Having gone through the 50's and 60's, the mid-70's an early 80's, my Dad has seen plenty of lean times but, in his own words, "I've never considered not going" - and that is exactly how I feel. Arsenal is my club, my team. Win or lose, thick or thin, it is going to The Arsenal that is one of lifes pleasures. Why would I deliberately choose to not go in order to "make a point"?
It would seem that this boycott is doomed to failure in any case. A brief look at the website this morning shows limited availability for tickets. It would appear that not many are boycotting after all. If they are, then the silver and red members are lining up to take their places. Red Action are back-tracking this morning with their Twitter feed describing a full stadium as a "win-win" as the team will get the support while Kroenke won't get their £35 in his pocket. I think they realise the game is up. I hope that those who do turn up create a real cauldron to support the players - you can be sure the 9000 Watford supporters will be right behind their boys. 
I am not anti-protest against Kroenke. However, turning your backs on the team is simply not the way to do it. What is the way? That's not for me to decide. I would be more than happy to join in with proper protests outside the stadium that were directed at the majority owner. The fact is that share holders have ample chance to make their feelings genuinely known by making a stand at the AGM. Whatever the protest may be it shouldn't be one that involves not supporting the team. How can you expect the players to turn up on the day when you make a conscious decision not to? I also hope that anyone boycotting the game by opting out won't be expecting a ticket for Wembley if we are lucky enough to get there again.
We shouldn't underestimate the role that fans support can play. You hear all about the hostility in many of the away European grounds. Look at the effect of the "yellow wall" in Dortmund, for example. I chose the picture at the top of this post as a reminder of what the Arsenal fans can do to an opponent at a crucial point in the game. If you can't appreciate it from the photo then here is the video of it - just look at the North Bank, and then compare that with what a half-empty Emirates would be like...

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Two good days in a row for Arsenal fans

The best player on the pitch...and Olivier Giroud

Safely through to the quarter-final of the FA Cup, followed by the announcement that Arsenal will be selling all away match tickets for our fans at £26 from next season. What a time to be alive. It's not often the Club does something that is right for the supporters but this is certainly one of them. Home ticket prices are frozen, of course, but the next thing should be for those prices to be reduced in order to help fans further. One step at a time and all that. For now Arsenal should be lauded for what they have done. The change of heart, having previously opposed a £30 limit, to go even further than the new price-cap is unusual but creditable. This may well lead to a way in which away match credits are generated, but that is for the future. For those who go to a lot of away games things just got one hell of a lot cheaper - it will be a price-drop of more than 50% on games at Chelsea and West Ham, for example. No more £50+ for the likes of Norwich, or exorbitant prices for restricted views at Crystal Palace and Liverpool. It can only be a good thing so well played Arsenal.

The game last night was won comfortably 4-0 but the performance was tedious for the first 70 minutes. We were going through the motions again, sideways and backwards passing, slow and slower build-up. It's difficult to tell on TV but I suspect the movement up front was as non-existent as it has been in most of the recent games - what a difference Danny Welbeck makes when he plays. When we went forward with pace near the end of the game we cut through an inferior team almost at will. Surprisingly enough it brought out the best in Theo Walcott, for example, who had been dire up to the point his cross fortunately found Giroud for the second goal - it's amazing what can happen when you actually try to find your centre-forward in a dangerous area, rather than passing it back to your full-back and starting all over again. The same thinking applied for the fourth goal - yes, Theo should probably have been crossing to Joel Campbell at the far-post, but the deflection in to the net was his prize for buying a ticket in the first place. All credit to him for that. Credit to him also for being a captain who chose to talk to the referee and put pressure on - would Giroud have got a second yellow for diving instead of a free-kick had Mertesacker still been there?
It was important for Giroud to get those couple of goals last night. There is no doubt about it he has been woeful of late. Maybe his heavily pregnant wife was a distraction - we don't know how off the field problems can affect even the millionaire footballers - but his only performance worthy of an Arsenal centre-forward since Christmas was in the Leicester game. When the chances came last night he made no mistake. I know the first was a gift but you have to be in there to take advantage, while the second was a superb finish on his weaker foot. If he could get on one of his runs of goals then all is not yet lost this season.
There were a few players I was impressed with last night. Ospina again did all that was asked of him, while Calum Chambers dominated the penalty area once he moved to centre-back. Kieran Gibbs has also given the Manager a choice to make with his contributions in the last couple of games, but Monreal is also capable of playing well in the middle as he did last night. The other player to come out with genuine credit from last night, for me, was Joel Campbell. He wasn't as impressive as against Swansea but the injuries meant Wenger wasn't able to take him off last night. He capped another good display with that superb pass for Theo's well taken first goal. It was an unbelievable ball he played through the defence and this wasn't the first time. If Ozil had been the man picking that pass we'd have been hearing about it all week. Campbell should never have been left out in the first place, but he should surely be first-choice now. By the same token, whenever Ozil isn't there he should be the man filling in for him behind the striker. I really like Campbell and have done since I wrote a piece about him during the World Cup a couple of years ago.
There's been plenty said on social media about the fans who produced the "thanks for the memories" banner following the game. They've paid their money and they're entitled to their say. A 4-0 win at a second division side doesn't erase the memories or the effects of what has happened in recent weeks. Those who want the Manager to go are usually criticised for keeping quiet when the team wins, and now they are branded as idiots for sticking to their principles despite a victory. I have no problem with what they did. However, I do have a problem with one of the main protagonists with the banner, who is one of the regulars on Arsenal Fan TV, abusing Ian Wright on Twitter and expecting people to back him up. Indeed the individual concerned spent the night on a campaign of self-publicity on Twitter which maybe tells us his motivation for showing the banner has more to do with personal aggrandisement than it does with seeing Arsene Wenger move on.
We now move on to Watford on Sunday where Wenger will hopefully be prioritising the FA Cup over the forlorn hope that is a result in Barcelona next Wednesday.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Got the bottle back

Hopefully the man is back now

If only the players had played with such effort and endeavour at home to Swansea and away at Manchester United. On Saturday they were outstanding and should have won the game. Had Coquelin not been totally stupid (just as well it wasn't Flamini or the idiots would have destroyed him) then I didn't see any way we weren't going to win that game. I still say they were certain things wrong - Ramsey on the right meant absolutely no defensive help for Hector Bellerin and allowed Rose to come forward at will - but the spirit could not be faulted. It says a lot about Spurs, given what's been written about our lack of bottle this week, that they still couldn't win a crucial match against Arsenal despite being in front against ten men. If Arsenal lack the necessary mentality then I think Spurs can certainly be placed in the same bracket after Saturday.
The BBC had spent the day before the game calling it the "biggest North London Derby" in history. Utterly ridiculous - the League Championship has twice been decided in this fixture, three FA Cup semi-finals and some epic (not just 1987) League Cup semi-finals. What the BBC really meant was that it was massive as it would give them another chance to get at Arsenal. Sky, meanwhile, led their 4pm bulletin on Friday with Manchester United, slowly followed by Leicester and then Spurs v Arsenal. Of course, if Sky aren't covering a game then it doesn't exist.
For thirty minutes on Saturday we weathered the expected Tottenham storm. We had one opportunity to break, only to see Ramsey with one of his stupid back-heels waste a three-against-two opportunity. I might have mentioned before that I am fed up with Ramsey's ridiculous show-boating and it cost us again there. I suppose all that practise must have paid off though when he got the first goal. In fairness to Ramsey it was the only way he could score as the pass from Bellerin wasn't the best. The chance came from more fantastic work from Danny Welbeck who was brilliant on the day and had the beating of the Tottenham defence throughout the game. I think we'd have all taken 1-0 at half-time but it actually should have been even better. Arsenal dominated the last 15 minutes of that first-half and were in total control. 
After the restart we maintained that control. I was feeling totally confident that we had Spurs there for the taking. In the ten minutes after half-time they weren't in the game. I can not even begin to fathom what went through the mind of Francis Coquelin. Arsene Wenger said after the game that they had warned him not to do anything that would get himself sent-off. To dive in like that was amateurish and inept. In that moment we basically gave the game away. The way we then conceded two goals (and were within about three inches of letting in a third) within five minutes was so disappointing. We had nobody marking Alderweireld at the corner that came in (and nobody went near Harry Kane at any set-piece as he stood all alone beyond the far post) and that left the excellent David Ospina with no chance. As for their second goal I just don't know what Per Mertesacker is up to at times. He is becoming a total liability and is currently worth a goal per game to our opponents.
Having gone 2-1 down the players suddenly woke up again and took the game over. In that final 30 minutes I thought Arsenal's ten men were superb. Kieran Gibbs took up the task first of all with a barn-storming run through midfield - I don't know why Nacho was dropped but Gibbs more than took his chance to impress at both ends of the pitch - and it seemed to spark the rest of them in to life again. Giroud came on and Welbeck moved wide and this saw their centre-halves even more overrun. Dier should have been sent-off, there is no question, and I'm sure that we would have gone on to win had they been reduced to ten men as well. The equaliser was totally deserved and brilliantly taken. Bellerin's pass to Alexis was an unbelievable through-ball - it was only on the second replay of it that I realised it wasn't Ozil - and the finish superb. If that sees a turning point in the season for Alexis then we might still have a chance. Unfortunately our final chance fell to Ramsey who was simply too slow to get the shot away while failing to get his body between the defender and the ball.
To win the Premier League from here we will have to win every game and hope Leicester and Spurs trip up. I've seen this team fail so much this season that I have no faith in them going on that kind of run, but the way they went about their business on Saturday tells us all that we do have the necessary quality. Everything is down to attitude with this group of players. If they go out and show more effort than everyone else they play domestically this season they can win every match. It's up to them to show they want it. I am more than happy with the way they performed at Tottenham. Now they must keep it up, starting tomorrow night at Hull City.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Lying Wenger is running out of friends

Joel Campbell was fantastic last night...and substituted

I've been trying to formulate this post in my head since the final whistle last night. I wasn't sure, walking away from the ground, that I could be more angry with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Being a passenger in the car I was able to keep up with the after-match press stuff and Wenger succeeded in winding me up even further. The lies the man tells are abhorrent and show a total lack of respect for the supporters who pay their money to go and support the team. And make no mistake, the fans do support the team during the games. If their is hostility then it is being directed at the bench more than the players. I'll elaborate on the lies a little further down the page.
Arsenal started reasonably well last night and most of the first-half saw us dominating a poor Swansea team, especially down the right flank. Joel Campbell was ripping them apart every time he got the ball - good passing, running with the ball, beating his man, getting the odd shot away - Joel was simply too good for the young full-back faced with marking him. This also allowed Hector Bellerin to get forward at will as Arsenal flooded that side of the pitch. Unfortunately Bellerin has become totally unable to pass the ball to a red shirt when he gets in good positions out wide. His crossing of the ball has become every bit as ineffective and embarrassing as every other Arsenal player. Nonetheless, with Campbell's ability and desire to work hard in defence as well as attack their partnership down that side was back at its best, as it was before Campbell was unnecessarily dropped for the Bournemouth game. 
It should have been no surprise that it was Joel who opened the scoring, after Alexis had already hit the post when he should have scored (twice) following more good work from Campbell and Ozil. The goal itself was a sublime finish following a fantastic off-the-ball run in to the penalty area, and a great chipped pass (just about the only really good thing he did all night) from Sanchez. From there we should have destroyed a team battling relegation, who had made six changes (including three in the defence) and had seen their boss taken ill earlier in the day.
Of course you know with this Arsenal team that one goal is not enough. They have the "ability" to concede a goal to any opposition at any time. Yes, there was a clear foul on Mesut Ozil that led to the equaliser, but the whole team stopped. Ramsey was sleeping (all night) in midfield, and Routledge had simply wandered away from Bellerin to go through and score. The team are amateurish at times. Francis Coquelin was visibly angry at times with the people around him as the game wore on and he was having to chase down opponents at both ends of the pitch as the others (except Campbell, and Ozil to an extent) did little more than go through the motions. There was still time before half-time for Giroud to miss an open goal when smashing a volley against the bar from about ten yards, but the fact that Mertesacker had chosen to nod the ball down to him instead of heading in to the empty net he was faced with summed up the way in which Arsenal play their football. Nonetheless it was a criminal miss by Giroud who has not scored a goal in his last ten games. 
How can a man be the centre-forward at a club like Arsenal and still be getting a start after ten games without a goal? Only Wenger would have a squad where he failed to realise that Giroud is simply not good enough to win you a Premier League Title. Neither Giroud, nor Walcott, would have got anywhere near the previous Wenger Champions teams that included Wright, Bergkamp, Anelka, Kanu, Wiltord and Henry. They would have played the Chris Wreh or Jeremie Aliadiere roles at best. Giroud does have qualities, but most of the time he is not interested. Last night he spent virtually the entire game standing still in an offside position. We couldn't lift the ball forward because he would have been flagged for it. When he did come forward to receive the ball he didn't once hold it up as he had against Leicester. Quite simply he wasn't bothered about playing for Arsenal last night, and he wasn't alone.
Swansea City had Fabianski in goal last night. At no point did we pepper him. We know what he is like and yet we failed to put him under any pressure. The one long-range shot we had (from Bellerin) saw him spill it, only to be able to recover the ball because Giroud and Ozil weren't following in. At set-pieces we allowed him to come and punch the ball clear or catch it - it wasn't until the last second of the game when Cech came forward for a corner that anyone stood in front of Fabianski - are our attackers so inept and so lacking in football instinct that it took our own goalkeeper to identify the main weakness of a man who played for us for years?!
Swansea's winner was again our own fault. Alexis gave the ball away with another stupid and awful ball that he totally mis-kicked across the midfield. From there, yet again, Gabriel dived in to a tackle around his own penalty area and gave away a free-kick. When Sigurdsson came on at half-time I said to my Dad that we can't afford to give away stupid fouls close to our goal. How did Wenger not convey that message to his own players? If I can appreciate the danger an opponent can bring then why can't our experienced boss? The free-kick was whipped in very well and, while Williams was marginally offside, we were marking space as usual and Cech made a rare error to allow the ball to be bundled in to the goal. The game effectively ended there and then. There wasn't a single player whose head didn't go down. Wenger's ridiculous assertion of the previous day claiming he had "leaders in every position" (or words to that effect) was shown up for the hot-air we already knew it was. We never threatened the Swansea goal thereafter.
So how about these lies I mentioned earlier? Joel Campbell was the best player on the pitch last night. There can be no question that that was the case. When he was taken off by Wenger (most regular observers will have called this change, as I did, in the first-half - as I said the other day Wenger does not run a meritocracy) and the crowd erupted in anger. The booing for Wenger was as loud as I have heard it. It was totally deserved by a Manager whose arrogance doesn't allow to him to see his own ineptitude. The decision to take off Campbell on the night, while leaving Alexis and Aaron Ramsey on the pitch, was despicable and totally beyond reason. So what excuse did Wenger give when questioned by the press?

"Campbell hasn’t played for a while and he started to tire. He played against a very young left back and I thought Welbeck could give him some problems with his runs in behind. These kinds of decisions don’t mean that Campbell did badly. I think he did quite well tonight. I also think that there was room on that flank to be very dangerous."

Just about every bit of this direct quote is founded on a lie designed to defend the indefensible. It shows inexcusable disrespect for the supporters - he honestly believes we know nothing about football whatsoever. Let's take it from the start with the idea that Joel "hasn't played for while" - he played ten days earlier at home to Hull City in the FA Cup, and he was substituted then too! "He started to tire" - no, he didn't. Just a minute or so before he was taken off he had once again roasted the young kid at left-back. To say Joel was tired is a total untruth. "I thought Welbeck could give him some problems with his runs in behind" - Bellerin had been making those runs, beyond Campbell, all night so why make this change? Welbeck was then almost immediately shifted to the left before he'd even seen the ball come to the right - he was replaced by the totally ineffectual Theo Walcott who neither made runs in behind, nor took his man on as Campbell had. Bellerin, meanwhile, was no longer able to get beyond his winger as Waclott was constantly in his way as he tried to come forward. More lies. "I think he did quite well tonight. I also think there was room...to be dangerous" - by virtue of claiming there was room to be dangerous down that side he was totally ignoring the contribution that Campbell had made. Wenger is claiming that Joel Campbell hadn't done enough on the night. Was he actually watching the same game as the rest of us inside that stadium? When Joel went off our attacking threat almost totally disappeared. Wenger has lost the plot.
I'm sick of the lies. I'm sick of the disrespect. I'm sick of watching Arsenal throw away what should have been our Premier League Title (again). We all know where Arsenal are short in this squad, but the one man able to change that decided to sign only one outfield player in the last year - a player who doesn't get in the team and, from the little we've seen of him, is nowhere near being a top Premier League midfield player. It would be excusable if last night was a one-off. However, in the last three to four seasons this group of players (the core of this squad has hardly changed) have lost games like last night time and again. They've been humiliatingly thrashed at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Etihad etc. On Saturday there is every chance now that they will complete the set with a hammering at White Hart Lane. One man is to blame for this and he is now running out of support. The blind still want to place their faith in him, but more and more are seeing clearly what the problem is. The likes of Steve Bould should be ashamed for becoming the kind of "yes man" that allows this nonsense to happen while sitting there in silence week after week, game after game. We should be Champions-elect this season. Instead we are now looking over our shoulders at the teams behind us. It is a shameful situation and the saddest thing of all is that it isn't going to end any time soon.
I hate writing these words about Arsene Wenger. It is not meant to be this way. He created the best football team we've ever seen. He then destroyed it. He forced us to leave Highbury "to compete" and we are not competing. His legacy should have been to be remembered as Chapman and Whittaker are at Arsenal, Ferguson and Busby are at Man Utd, as Shankly and Paisley are at Liverpool, as Bill Nicholson is at Tottenham. Instead his legacy will be to be remembered as a man who destroyed it all by his own actions. Time will heal the wounds when he eventually goes, as it has for George Graham over the years. In George's case, however, we had a board who knew when to call time. Arsene will simply be allowed to keep going as long as he wants to all the time he's delivering a good balance sheet. Every bad result simply lengthens the time it will take for him to be remembered with the fondness that he should have always had in his favour.