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Monday, 23 January 2017

Good Boys

The absolute dogs

The only thing Arsenal fans on Twitter could find to argue about last night was the banner with a picture of Alexis and his pets that has been displayed inside the stadium. I have never seen so much childish nonsense from apparently fully grown adults. Whoever runs the Red Action Twitter account made a silly (childish) error in criticising anyone who doesn't like the banner and basically saying they should stop supporting Arsenal. I actually had some sympathy with other parts of the statement they posted but that bit seriously let them down. What has followed has been like a scene from a primary school playground that is more embarrassing than any perceived shame the banner might have brought on anyone. I swear at any time now someone is going to threaten to get their Dad on to the others! For my part I actually don't mind the banner. It's a bit of fun and it is totally harmless. If it makes Alexis Sanchez smile then great. Could it be a bit more humorous? Yes. Does it matter? No. I can't actually believe I've wasted an entire paragraph on this rubbish but, honestly, some people would steal the fun and oxygen out of anything and decide it's "embarrassing". Oh, and then they'll also use their sense of entitlement to belittle anyone else. Grow the f*** up!

The game yesterday was worth a massive three points after the results on Saturday. I couldn't honestly say that Arsenal played well as a team, hence the need for a 98th minute penalty to secure the win. At the same time I'm struggling to find any player in the team that played badly with the exception of Aaron Ramsey who was generally awful throughout. From back to front the Arsenal players tried hard yesterday (including Ramsey) without putting too much together. The odd chance came and went but we couldn't really trouble Heaton too much. I thought Ozil had a fine game and certainly couldn't be accused of hiding, something I often level at him. At the back Mustafi was combative and won most of his aerial battles, even towards the end when Burnley went even more direct. Gabriel was excellent at right-back, while Iwobi grew in to the game in the second-half and his beating of defenders by running at them was the only thing that genuinely threatened to open up the opposition.
I had a decent view of Xhaka's red-card challenge from the East Upper and I didn't think it was a bad tackle watching it live in the flesh. I would agree that it maybe looks a little worse when you slow it down and view it on TV. I always say, however, that the reaction of players is often a decent indication when it comes to this sort of incident. Not one Burnley player went after Xhaka, nor did they crowd the referee. Tom Heaton's face when the red card came out showed that he was a bit surprised himself at the decision made. But then this is Jonathan Moss we are talking about. He has sent-off Xhaka in both games he's refereed at Arsenal this season. I couldn't argue with the one earlier in the season, and you could make a case that Xhaka obviously needs to be more careful on the pitch as his record speaks for itself, but I think it's that record and reputation that Moss judged him on yesterday. Moreover I believe that Moss is not merely an incompetent.
On the subject of incompetence the linesman on my side of the pitch yesterday was truly awful. The TV channels have highlighted that Koscielny was offside when Alexis crossed the ball in the move that ended with our penalty, and Sean Dyche has called for video to be used to stop these errors. I couldn't agree more. After all, if we'd had video evidence in use then we'd have seen at least two occasions in the first-half where Burnley players were offside yet the same official missed it. We'd also have seen Arsenal given a penalty when Mustafi was fouled in the area, right in front of the same linesman. You see, Mr Dyche, video evidence might have meant Arsenal didn't get their 98th minute winner, but it would also have seen Arsenal probably 2-0 up with before the end of the game. 
The bottle of Alexis is astounding. He had missed his previous penalties for Arsenal and they had been pretty awful efforts in to the bargain. To step up in the situation we were in yesterday and chip the ball like that was as ridiculous as it was brilliant. Those are the moments we go to football for. The reaction of the crowd, the feeling it gives you to see that goal go in, is something you can't truly get unless you're in the stadium. I don't get there often enough theses days, but endings like Alexis gave us yesterday make it a great thing when I can be there in person. 
I don't honestly think Arsenal will win the Premier League this season, but that goal means we've as good a chance as anyone except Chelsea. Before kick-off yesterday that had to be the objective and that's what was achieved, one way or another.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Thanks Carl Jenkinson, In praise of Olivier Giroud

He lived our dream

So it looks like Carl Jenkinson is on his way to Crystal Palace on a permanent deal. I, for one, am sad to see him go. I didn't buy in to the negativity that a number of the supporters showed towards him when he came back in to the team this season. After a year out with a serious knee injury you might have thought we would be cutting some slack to a player who is genuinely one of our own. Instead he got dogs abuse to the point where Arsene Wenger took him out of the firing line completely and has actually been playing people out of position at right-back rather than put the Corporal back in the side. That nearly came back to haunt us at Preston with Ainsley Maitland-Niles far further out of his depth than Jenkinson ever was. Gabriel has done okay there but we are one centre-back injury away from having Maitland-Niles (or possibly Holding) being asked to play there instead. 
Carl Jenkinson is never going to be a top class full-back but he is a more than adequate squad man. He was also good enough to get an England cap not that long ago. To see him cast out because the "fans" got in his back makes me a little sick. It will be a real shame to see Carl Jenkinson having to play in a shirt that isn't Arsenal's from now on as all he ever wanted was to be a part of his club. He lived the dream we all wanted as supporters of Arsenal. I wish him all the best and commend him totally for always giving us everything he had. In these modern times where we see greed ruling football ambition it should be a breath of fresh air to see a young lad achieving his goals like Carl Jenkinson has. Unlike many of the players Jenkinson "got it" where Arsenal are concerned because, quite simply, he is one of us.

Outstanding form from Giroud

On the pitch we've got back to winning ways since I last wrote on Christmas Eve. The performances have ranged from pitiful to brilliant all in the space of the same ninety minutes. The game at Bournemouth was absolutely ridiculous and I really don't understand why it took 70 minutes for Arsenal to start playing at 3-0 down. As it turned out we might have won  the game had we gone at them for the couple of minutes after Giroud's equaliser. To follow it up at Preston with a first-half that was perhaps even worse just a few days later was inexplicable and inexcusable. As at Bournemouth it was mostly the combination play of Giroud and Lucas Perez that earned us the result late on. I don't see why Lucas isn't getting a decent run in the team. The lad has scored goals and created goals when given his opportunity and seems to know where and when to run whenever the ball is played to Giroud. By the same token his presence in the near vicinity makes Giroud's job of winning the ball that much easier as Lucas takes one of his markers away. It may be a good "plan B" but how about making it "plan A" a little bit more often?
Giroud has been in wonderful form since his return. His goals this season have been crucial on a number of occasions - his personal contributions have directly resulted in points won for Arsenal and maybe he's finally getting some well deserved credit. As he closes in on 100 goals for Arsenal a look at his record stands up to scrutiny. For a player who is not much loved, and seen as being just below the top level of centre-forward, his goals-to-games ratio is impressive. There is also a lot more to his game as he has the ability to bring others in to the match with impressive hold-up play. He has become a much stronger, better player in his years at Arsenal and I was really pleased he signed a contract extension last week (as I was about Koscielny, who will just about end his career at Arsenal now, and Coquelin who I believe should be Captain of Arsenal). Of course Giroud's goal at home to Crystal Palace has taken all the headlines, though I don't trust the BBC to make it goal of the month, never mind of the season. However, my favourite goals he has scored this season have all been headers. He thumped one in at Old Trafford by attacking the cross, but even better were his goals against West Brom and Bournemouth over Christmas. He used his physical abilities to hold off defenders for each of them as well as directing his header beyond the goalkeeper. The goal against West Brom was especially outstanding in that regard and shows just how much Giroud has come on as a player in recent times. Long may it continue as he will be crucial from here until the end of the season.