Arsenal test fans faith with 12 goal thriller against Reading

Words cannot describe the events at the Madjeski stadium last night. This game had everything, I mean everything. I really don’t know where to start, after 30 mins the overwhelming condemnation of the arsenal team was enough to send Arsene Wenger into hiding indefinitely.

Arsenal lined up with a young team, some experience was thrown in to even it up but embarrassingly we just did not get started. The pressure was on from early and I really worried at one point that we could have a repeat of the old Trafford score. We started the game so badly and it seemed that our senior players just weren’t doing enough to protect the fragile confidence of the youth.

Poor young goalkeeper Dami Martinez did his reputation no help whatsoever in the game and must hold his hand up to a couple of the goals that flew in against us last night. It’s never easy for any young player especially a keeper after making a big mistake, for all the good things he did in the game his errors will be remembered most. Arsene has a big job to do to try to rebuild his confidence and the public perception of him as after last night is wedged firmly into dodgy keeper category.

Serge Gnarby was the name on all fans lips before the game as we really wanted to see this exciting talent on show. To be honest he was quite disappointing, maybe he tried too much with the weight of expectation on his shoulders to make things happen. He will learn from this and I’m sure in a less raw team he would really shine; time is on his side.

Theo Walcott made the game his last night, whether or not he get credited with the hat-trick is not relevant. After a timid first half the young forward came to life in the dying stages of the first half to give us a glimmer of hope with an excellently dispatched goal. Running through the middle he latched onto an Arshavin through ball and made no mistake. 4-1 at half time and even then the most optimistic fans were not envisaging everything that happened after.

The real turning point in my eyes is the substitution in the second half when Giroud and Eisfeld replaced the disappointing Frimpong and Gnarbry. It really changed the game on its head as our French forward was up for it. Soon after coming on he arrowed  a pinpoint header into the back of the net to make the score 4-2. A lifeline indeed and now fans were really starting to believe. Eisfeld was cool and classy in the middle of the park and it really does make you wonder why the German has not been afforded more opportunities with the first team so far.

With our new-found impetus we really took the game to reading though the threat of a goal was always there. Our defensive partnership of skipper for the night Djourou and Koscielny did not cover their selves in glory as we looked very weak at the back. Especially to balls played in the box. It’s worrying as these two are our back up centre backs and should have instilled more security for the defence. They were not helped by the baffling lack of protecting from a midfield that had 2 defensive midfielders. We actually looked more secure when Frimpong went off though I will cut the guy some slack since he has been out for a while with that injury.

Just when it was looking like reading weathered the storm up popped Koscielny to nod in a corner with 3 minutes left. Our Frenchman had an eventful night after scoring an own goal and counting himself lucky not to receive a 2nd yellow card. I believe the ref felt sympathy for him considering we looked out of the competition.

All the better for us as we reaped the benefits of his presence on the field. Once it hit injury time it was not looking good. The referee’s assistant held up the board saying 4 minutes of injury time. Reading took it upon themselves to work the ball into the corner, I really hate that and there was still plenty of time for a break. Reading did not heed the warning as we broke forward and nearly scored from a rapid counter attack. Reading again tried to work the ball in the corner to the delight of their fans however we had different things on our mind as we again broke, the ball was lofted forward in the 4th minute of injury time however the ball broke to Theo who shot at goal, the ball was half stopped on the line but continued to roll over the line. The defender kicked it out but it was clear the whole ball went over the line. Luckily Carl Jenkinson blasted the loose ball into the back of the net to make sure.

The reading backroom staff were livid especially the recently substituted Jason Roberts but they only have themselves to blame. We pulled off a remarkable comeback to take the game into extra time. Funnily enough someone forgot to mention that to Giroud and Coquelin as they threw their shirts into the crowd at the final whistle. They were ordered to go and get their shirts back, luckily the fans gave them back.

Onto extra time and now it only looked like there would be only one winner now, the psychological blow reading must have felt left them as lambs to the slaughter. Now we were able to get into our stride and play our game at our pace, there was no need to panic and rush things and eventually we went ahead.

Our very own Chamakh decided to remind fans he was on the pitch with a quite well taken goal from outside the box. Now we were ahead it was a standard formality we would go on and close the game. Reading had other ideas and mustered up an equalising goal from a ball lofted in the box. We really looked like conceding every time the ball was lofted in. luckily for us we pulled it together and with the clock running down penalties looked on the cards. With about 2 minutes to go Andrei Arshavin who had a hot and cold game drove at the reading defence when the space opened for him he drilled in a shot which was blocked on the line, the ricochet flew straight to Theo Walcott’s boot who couldn’t miss. He dispatched the ball into the back of the net and the game it seemed was won. What a magnificent comeback, the awesome away fans who sang from start to end really deserved the comeback.

Reading rallied for the last minute of extra time throwing the ball into the box at every opportunity, this time we stood firm and from a break Chamakh was free against the keeper who was well off his line. With a sublime dink over Federici’s head the ball was over the line and we had pulled of a 7-5 win.

What a win, what a comeback, I don’t think I have ever experienced such a crazy game before. The 4-4 against Newcastle was unique but this game took it to a whole new level with 12 goals in total.

Arsene in his post match press conference stated:

“We went from disaster to, I must say at least at some stage, pride”

That was a pretty much fair evaluation. It was a complete disaster and I was close to turning the tv off and going to bed, Walcott’s goal gave us hope and we really battled hard to come back. In the end I was proud of the efforts considering, there will be a lot of evaluation back at London Colney to discuss what had happened last night. We turned it around but we cannot rely on us scoring 7 goals to get us out of a hole again. This was a freak game and unlikely to happen again for a long time, im just glad for once we were the comeback kings.

Enjoy your day people.

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Lack of confidence stems from the strike force – AFC

Very few Arsenal fans would have expected the positive start Arsenal made to the Premier League this August and September, given the gloom surrounding the departure of Robin van Persie over the summer.
But as the nights started to draw in there appeared to be a confidence in the Wenger’s re-built squad both up front and at the back.
However, back-to-back defeats after the international break this month have suddenly exposed old, lingering weaknesses that could once again hinder Arsenal’s chances of a trophy this season.
The Gunners were shambolic in their 1-0 defeat to Norwich City, defending without communication and unable to puncture a solid wall of yellow in their opponent’s half. 
Against Schalke a few days later. admittedly against a stronger team bang in form, the side once again came up against a defence determined not to concede and happy to play on the break, with the 2-0 win the least they deserved
Assistant boss Steve Bould has put Arsenal’s recent slump down to mentality, stating: “It looks like we’re lacking confidence on the ball and that’s unusual. We looked a bit tired and jaded.”
Indeed, there is a distinct absence of confidence in the side, particularly in the forward line. As mentioned in plenty of champions league predictions. Schalke’s players went into the game knowing their defensive duties and kept the Spanish duo of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta at bay. Without Cazorla on the ball, Arsenal were forced more and more to go down the wings – but Theo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both out injured.
Whenever Arsenal did make a progressive move the ball inevitably fell to Gervinho, who – with the greatest of respect – consistently looks like he is unable to control the ball or play a quick pass. The striker far too often looks lost without the ball and headless with it and so his team-mates are becoming less and less confident in playing him the ball.
The apparent ‘footballing reasons’ for selling Robin van Persie (yeah, right) look distinctly shaky when you cast a glance at Arsenal’s current lightweight forward line. The win over QPR did give us something to cheer, but it was a thoroughly uninspiring victory and one that hardly gives us confidence going forward.
Arsenal have struck fewer shots that any other team in the Champions League this season – only 22 – with without the assurance of a main striker’s ability to maintain possession they will fare little better as the tournament progresses.
 
Guest post brought to you courtesy of Tom Brown.

Reading FC next up, Szczesny to start? AFC

Capital one cup tonight, many of the first team will be afforded a rest ahead of the premiership trip to Old Trafford this Saturday. Arsene’s line up is likely to include a number of fringe players in need of vital match practise while a few younger more raw players will be utilized from the bench. We have a high number of fringe players more used to first team action that can provide the necessary experience for a cup game like this. Reading will be no push over and the policy of fielding a team with the majority youngsters has been relaxed over the past couple seasons.

Although the capital one cup is way down the managers list of priorities to achieve each season there is still an element of seriousness in preparation for the competition. Arsene fields the teams he feels can win the games they play by ensuring the right balance between experience and youth is struck. In the home ties there are more opportunities to field more youth as the occasion and buzz from the crowd can have a positive effect on their performance. In away ties the pressure is a lot different and the younger players have to be in Arsene’s eyes up for the challenge.

Reading is far from an easy game, they are a premiership level team now and will be highly motivated to progress in the competition. The relationship between arsenal and reading has been a good one over the years; many young players have experienced loan spells at the club to further their development. Steven Sidwell made a permanent transfer to the club after a good loan deal there and most recently Benik Afobe enjoyed the promotion experience after joining the club on loan towards the tail end of last season.

The game tonight will be a chance for players such as Andrei Arshavin, Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott to stake a claim for inclusion to the squad for Saturday. Theo is likely to receive the opportunity to play in his favoured role to continue his ongoing battle of proving his worth as a central striker. Arshavin has the opportunity to earn a role in the team now that a void has been created by the injury to Gervinho. There has still been no official clarification of the injury to Gervinho. At the game on Saturday he seemed to pull up after planting a cross from the byline. He hobbled off the pitch and as the game carried on the medical team spent quite a bit of time tending to the Ivorian. He was eventually taken from the field of play on a stretcher. Arshavin impressed in parts in the last round against Coventry and a repeat tonight will definitely put him in contention.

Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou are likely to continue their partnership at the back whilst Carl Jenkinson may get a run out after losing his place to Sagna on Saturday. Serge Gnarbry is likely to get more minutes on the pitch to impress the gunners faithful. Wenger clearly likes the boy and the capital one cup is the perfect platform to showcase his talent; he is likely to be joined at some point by his german compatriot Thomas Eisfeld.

Eisfeld is probably one who has yet to be given many chances to play first team football this season, after impressing with some goal scoring displays for the first team in pre-season I half expected more opportunities for the German. Understandably the role he plays is fully stocked in the first team squad so chances like tonight need to be utilised to remind the manager of his potential.

One possible surprise in tonight’s line up is the return of Szczesny. Although Dami Martinez warrants an opportunity to play against Reading the chance to blood our Polish keeper in some first team action may be too tempting to ignore. Sczcesny joined the squad for training yesterday and being a keeper the fitness side of his game is not as essential as say a midfielder. The old Trafford game on Saturday may be in sight for our number one so do not be surprised if he is named in the team tonight. This would be a massive boost for the team, the fans and all concerned with arsenal. No disrespect to Vito Mannone who has had some good games for us but it is quite clear he is not ready to wrestle the number one jersey from our Polish stopper.

Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to start the game to continue his rehabilitation from injury. Our Ghanaian Hardman will relish the opportunity to play in this game and is in no rush to force his way into the first team. The two injuries he suffered over the past two seasons are enough for him to be cautious and not rush back and risk breaking down again. I for one hope that he is over the big injuries and can now kick on to the next stage and fulfil the potential he showed before injuries. It all starts from tonight. Although slightly nervous of the outcome of the tie it is not impossible for us to gain a win. Reading although likely to contain more of their premiership line up can still be beaten. We have enough quality and experience to give as good as we get. Come on you gunners!

Enjoy your day people.

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Stuttering win against QPR halts the losing streak – AFC

A win is a win is a win, the boys made hard work of it but we came out from a horrible week with the three points on the board. Even the best win ugly from time to time and given the low confidence throughout the team of late those points gained against queens park rangers will go a long way towards restoring our lost mojo. The weather was cold, the rain was spitting down and such factors were enough to add to the frustrated vibes felt by the fans. We needed something to raise our hopes; I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was worried a scapegoat would be picked out from the game if things didn’t go to plan. The names I had mentioned were Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone. The current bad feeling had me fearing a repeat of the booing that greeted Emmanuel Eboue a few seasons back.

From my list Gervinho wasn’t selected in the starting line up so that saved him from the venom of the frustrated fans if he misplaced a pass. It seems Santos was the focus of most frustration; at times it was down to some parts of his game but given the negativity he has received over the past week he was blamed when things weren’t his fault. Such is the life of a footballer he is going through a bad period right now so he will need to work that extra bit harder to win back the fans confidence. His partnership with Podolski on the left hand side hasn’t clicked so far and so in comparison to Keiran Gibbs he is in the side by default rather than merit. His confidence does seem low at the moment and that was evident from his body language, fans in the stands are less forgiving and are sure to let you know how they feel about your performance with a few expletives thrown in. If we did not manage to win the game I am sure our cuddly Brazilian would have received the criticism full barrel at full time.

Mannone came though the game with little incident if I recall, when he came out for the balls in the box he made sure he connected. I remember one mis-kick in the second half but the ball still reached an arsenal player. He actually ensured our victory with an excellent block in the last minute of the game.

I guess I have so far ignored one of the most important factors from yesterday’s game, which was the bold decision by Arsene to start Wilshere against QPR. Our midfield gem has not featured for the first team in over 18 months and it was a surprise to many Wenger took the risk. Bacary Sagna was also restored to the line up at the expense of Carl Jenkinson and I can probably see the psychological boost Wenger tried to bring to the team by adding our two long term absentees.

It was especially great to see Jack back in the team and he slotted into the midfield seamlessly. His class was evident for all to see: the trademark gliding past his man, the deft flicks and control were all still there and gave the fans a reminder of what we have missed for the past year and a half. To be honest the performances of Jack and Bacary were the only positive from a very flat performance from the team. We really struggled to take the game to QPR and although the threat of losing a goal was under control many of our attacks just didn’t get going. The times when we did carve out a chance Julio Cesar was on top form to thwart anything that came near his goal.

I feel from our starting 11 we lacked the required pace needed to stretch the QPR back four; we really struggled to get in behind their defence and made it slightly easier for them to defend against. As with all teams Mark Hughes brings to the emirates he ensured his players would frustrate at every opportunity, there was time-wasting even during the first half. This riled the home crowd and was surely part of Hughes plan to turn the fans against their team; the longer the game went on the more likely the fans would turn on the players.

For all the good Podolski and Ramsey can do on the ball they don’t possess the pace to really give the full back something to think about. The arsenal attack was screaming out for something to inject some new impetus. That came when Wenger finally introduced the returning Theo Walcott into action, Gervinho was added soon after and the change brought about instant results. Now the QPR team were forced further back, their fullbacks were kept on their toes and the chances came for the arsenal.

Although we looked more likely to score in the game the real turning point was the sending off of M’bia. The defender was deservedly red carded after stupidly lashing out at Thomas Vermaelen after initially winning a free kick after a tussle. That played right into our hands and the extra man advantage only added to the pressure on the QPR defence. Julio Cesar was on a one man mission to prevent an arsenal victory as he pulled off some excellent reflex saves to keep the score line level. At times it seemed like it just wouldn’t be our day as the ball would bounce and ricochet anywhere but into the back of the net. Finally the goal came courtesy of Mikel Arteta and I don’t think I have witnessed a scruffier goal before. Cesar managed to fling himself to deny a Giroud header as the ball bounced out Ramsey fired in a shot which deflected and looped in the air, Arteta got his head to the ball only for it to bounce of the bar, when the ball dropped the Spaniard was first to it to poke it hope from literally on the line.

There was a massive sigh of relief from the whole of the emirates that we finally took the lead. All we needed to do was retain possession and see out the last 5 or so minutes against the ten men. Easier said than done, as is the arsenal way we still managed to present QPR with two clear cut chances. They really should have taken one of their chances but for arsenals benefit I’m glad they didn’t.

On reflection it was important on so many levels that we got the three points in this game, with a trip to old Trafford next week to continue the bad run of results could have been the worst preparation going into the game. The midweek game against Reading holds no relevance as the squad for that game will probably not include any players that will start against united. I don’t even think Jack who has long been mooted to play in the Capital One game will be involved now after his appearance yesterday. We have a week where I hope we will get some positive news on the returns of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby and Gervinho who was stretchered off yesterday. We have some unfinished business from last season we need to address with the boys from Manchester and Jack just might swing things in our favour.

Enjoy your day people.

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Tension high for QPR, Adidas kit deal in pipeline – AFC

Match day, boy do we need a win today. The past week has been nothing short of depressing; two defeats in a week do not bode well for morale. The fan frustrations have been heightened and I suppose the timing of the AGM this week couldn’t have been timed better to let the people in the know get an indication of how feelings about the club are felt by the majority of the fans.

The funny thing about football is it is a sport for the now, whatever happened two weeks ago gets long forgotten and replaced with whatever happened now. Where a few weeks ago we were pulling off great results and moving up the table, the frustrations were at a minimum. If the AGM happened back then the meeting would have passed with little fuss and certain issues would have been overlooked because of the feel good factor.

The fact that we lost a couple of games in a week the undertones transmitting from fans are at the opposite end of the scale. Every aspect of the club gets looked at and all the progress at the start of the season is long forgotten, replaced with all the reasons we have not won anything for 7 years.

With queens park rangers the next opponents at the Emirates today anything but a convincing win will do for now. The game today will be a real test for the players; they know the fans are not happy right now. They of course are not content with losing games, they know the arsenal faithful expect and today the support will be border line. Of course the fans are behind the team and want them to win but on the back of two defeats in a week it is guaranteed that every misplaced pass will be met with groans of dissatisfaction. The groans will be louder than usual and it is hoped this does not affect the performance of the players too much.

I’m slightly worried that there could be a scapegoat today if things don’t go to plan. Players in danger of the brunt of fans frustrations could well be Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone.

Many fans are divided on the influence of Gervinho in a central role; the problem for the forward is that even when he was scoring in that position many still didn’t think he looked the part. It was inevitable that as soon as he doesn’t score he will receive a backlash. The biggest problem I suppose was the fact that as soon as he looked to start scoring regularly in that position he was moved back to the wide position he usually occupies. Many players need a run of games to find their form and Gervinho’s run of form halted when he was shifted back wide at the expense of Olivier Giroud; he hasn’t quite hit top form back out wide. The fact that Arsene is swapping around the central striking position isn’t benefiting the Ivorian or the Frenchman at the moment.

Giroud still has the patience of the fans since he is new to the team and still acclimatizing to the premiership, Gervinho doesn’t have that luxury after a season already under the belt at the arsenal. He really needs a good performance to reassure fans and possibly recreate that level of appreciation he felt when receiving a standing ovation when coming off in the game against Southampton last month. The timing of his latest article on the arsenal website is probably a couple of weeks too late.

Andre Santos has returned to first team duties due to the injury to Keiran Gibbs and so far his performances have not gone down well with the fans and pundits so far. On Wednesday the Brazilian was caught out of position on too many occasions to be overlooked. He struggled at times facing Farfan and really did his chances of forcing Wenger’s hand when Gibbs returns no help at all. He will really need to up his game today to appease the fans. The problem is his best attributes are his attacking instincts but right now the defending needs a lot of attention, a more reserved performance focusing on protecting the left flank will go a long way to changing the views on him.

Vito Mannone’s goalkeeping has been under the spotlight of late, many believe his mistake led to the goal last week against Norwich. In midweek he couldn’t have done much to prevent the Shalke goals but he did have a questionable penalty appeal which luckily went in his favour. Right now the fans see him as nothing more than the third choice keeper, when we were winning his limitations were overlooked in the knowledge that he is merely keeping the position warm for our polish number one. Now that things aren’t going to well his faults are highlighted much more. I mean I do recall his tendency to parry the ball back into danger area and last week was no one-off; it’s just that we have been lucky enough to have an arsenal boot first to the rebound in earlier games. Hopefully this will be worked on at the training ground because he has good enough reflexes to reach the shots in the first place he just needs to get it away from the danger zone. Right now he is our only option and requires our full support. I believe the fans understand this and will most probably hold back on the criticism however any major gaffs today will not save him for too long.

It seems quite a while since our last premiership home game and summer seems to have fully handed over to autumn since my last game. We will need a good win to warm the fans today, the cold weather is likely to make us grumpy and I’m praying for an early goal. I definitely don’t want to see any players singled out today, I was there the day Eboue got booed and was not proud of what I witnessed. It is the last thing we want to see even if it would send a reminder to Silent Stan and the board. Arsenal fans are better than that so anyone else going to the game please give the guys 100% support no matter what happens.

In other news it looks like the teams association with Nike will come to an end when the current deal runs out. Our kit deal with Nike which comes to an end in 2014 will not be renewed and it seems that there will be an imminent announcement that Adidas will be returning as our kit makers. The positive thing about the deal is that we can now command the kind of money that our rivals are pulling in from their deals. It has been mooted that we will be earning £25m a year compared to the £13m we currently receive; whether that goes towards team investment is another story.

As we know the adidas/arsenal partnership is one that old school fans remember fondly, we’ve had some good and some bad kits. Hopefully the partnership can lead to some of the more fondly remembered retro kits being manufactured just like the old kits. Seeing fans with the old ’89 kits minus an adidas badge seem incomplete to me. I still own a few old shirts with the JVC and badges half fallen off but they still feel more complete for having the adidas badge. I welcome the deal for financial and nostalgic reasons; I just wish we didn’t have to share the brand with all that is wrong about a team like Chelsea.

Enjoy your day people.

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