Good Weekend All Round For The Gunners

So, Arsenal fans we can reflect on a weekend that couldn’t have panned out any better (unless in some alternate universe Man City and Chelsea could both lose). Liverpool losing, Man United losing, Spurs losing and Everton slipping up at home to Palace.

Even with Chelsea and Man City drawing it was amusing in the fact that Frank Lampard was the one who stuck the thorn into Mourinho’s side.

The professional Arsenal haters were sharpening their tools on Saturday ready to drive a nail into their often wished coffin of Mesut Ozil and if that failed they had the failsafe of pointing out how many games Danny Welbeck has gone without scoring for the Gunners. You don’t need me to tell you how that one worked out for them.

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I am not one to utilise this platform to deride other teams’ fortunes (unless it’s Spurs) so I won’t but what I will do is highlight the evident case and point that midweek European football can affect domestic form at the weekends. It seems a much more even playing field this season and some of the results this weekend are testament to that. At the moment Chelsea seem the main beneficiaries when you look at the table since they played Man City at the best possible time; that gruelling trip to Munich certainly made for a less vibrant City.

Everton, everyone’s favourite neutral team who won plaudits left, right and centre last season with their brave sustained challenge for a top four place stumbled with their first test yesterday. Liverpool too, who came within a whisker of winning the title last season struggled against West Ham; in their defence without their SAS strike force they’re not as formidable.

My theory does fall flat after this as the Gunners also endured a gruelling away trip to Germany; they were well and truly beaten that day yet swept Aston Villa away with ease. Until the first goal went in Villa did pose problems but Arsenal carried equal threat as their quality shone through. I suppose the freshness of switching up the team and deploying Ozil in the no.10 role was a tactic which threw Aston Villa’s preparation out the window.

Alexis Sanchez is synonymous with all that is good about the Arsenal attack that any team facing the Gunners would make provisions to neutralise his threat. The fact he didn’t start was the curveball the Villa management didn’t see coming.

The pressure on Mesut Ozil was intensified by a minority few in the press last week but enough to trigger a response from Arsene Wenger in his pre match press conference. If anything Ozil’s pre match motivation talk was already done by that minority of haters, You can ask any of the Aston Villa players how much of a ‘passenger’ Ozil was on Saturday.

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Same applied for Danny Welbeck who smashed in his first goal for the Gunners and was a constant menace in the first half. Young Welbeck enjoyed his days work on Saturday and must surely have cracked open a wry smile yesterday as his former team with all their superstars that deemed him surplus to requirements crumbled under the pressure from Premiership giants Leicester City.

He has a new team now that will support him and give him the chance to prove how good he really can be in his favoured position. There’s no need to look back Danny, onwards and upwards.

Enjoy your day people.
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Arsenal show Defensive Solidarity of Old at Villa Park

An interesting stat was highlighted on Monday night that few Gooners or football naturals would have known: Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have never lost in the Premier League when they pair up for 90 minutes.
The run, which began when Mertesacker made his debut during a 1-0 win over Swansea in September 2011, now stretches to 28 games as Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud’s goals kept us top of the table in a (slightly nervy) 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
The pair have kept 16 clean sheets over that time at a cost of 0.5 goals per game.
per and kos
It is incredible to think such a stat exists when you consider how poorly Arsenal began last season, but since both players have been fit, few fans of live football commentary would argue Per and Laurent  have not been the best defensive partnership in the Premier League.
So what can we expect in the coming weeks? Mertesacker’s reaction to the midfield giving the ball away for Christian Benteke’s consolation goal on Monday suggests the Germany international has no desire to give up his streak. Both players are fit, playing considered football and, for maybe the first time since Campbell and Toure, continually talk to each other on the pitch.
While the front guys have grabbed most of the headlines this season, it is Arsenal’s regimented defence that has been the main difference between this season and last. We witnessed in Munich last year, after Bayern had split us apart in the Champions League last-16 first leg, how much they were hurt by the 3-1 home defeat and since then this defence has toughened up.
Of course, there are a few hiccups such as our 6-3 defeat at Manchester City last month but every team has a dip in the season and, by the looks of our strong resolve to grind out results, our dip has already passed.
The Gunners host a relegation-threatened Fulham this weekend and, with only the slightest possibility of an upset  if you check out the online football betting, it is more than likely Per and Laurent’s run will stretch to 29.

Enjoy your day people.

Guest post brought to you by Royce Williams

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Will lack of signings dent performance against Villa?

The football season is back at last, Aston Villa are the first opponents of the season at the Emirates as there is finally real football back to take our minds of other distractions. The frustration at the lack of transfer activity has reached boiling point as Arsenal kick off their campaign with only young French hopeful Yaya Sanogo the only acquisition. Such is the irony of his signing the youngster with a well known injury record is injured and cannot play a part in today’s game.

The injuries are racking up as Mikel Arteta has joined the crocked list with Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal and possibly Carzorla could join them also. Moral is low amongst the fans and the injuries merely add to the bad vibes. It shouldnt be like that on the first day of the season, it should be one of great optimism, looking ahead to possible silverware and excitement of what new signings can add to the team.

Arsene Wenger is a manager who has pioneered the importance of the psychological aspects of the game, whether it’s from the players on the pitch or the fans in the stands and confidence adds that extra percentage that can be the difference between a win a draw and a defeat.

By delaying the signing of players to strengthen the team especially when quality players have become available at reasonable prices only to sign on elsewhere it has added to the pressure the Arsenal players will face in the game today. A stray pass and the groans start, a missed chance and the groans get louder. These things can get worse over time and is certainly not ideal to start the season.

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Think back to last seasons opener when Olivier Giroud missed that golden chance against Sunderland to possibly win the game, he didn’t score, the fans gasped but cheered him on, they got behind him and willed him on. Imagine a similar scenario tomorrow with the  game poised at 0-0. If Giroud misses a similar chance you will see a completely different reaction, the personal built up frustration will be directed at the player and he will notice it. He’s a big strong lad and should be able to deal with any abuse but deep down abuse and criticism can affect the best of players.

When you try to look at Arsene’s reasons for not signing players so far I suppose apart from the obvious of poor negotiation skills and scouting there could also be some truth behind the theory that he could be putting a lot of faith in the youth.

Of course Arsenal and blooding youth is nothing new but in the past few years the focus on youth has reduced heavily as the need for experience to coincide with younger players has been recognized. we have been less dependable on youth than in the past as past projects have proved less fruitful, has there been an about turn? Gedion Zelalem will certainly play some part this coming season, Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpoom have been talked up by the manager not to mention the possible opportunity for Ryo Miayachi to finally prove his apprenticeship is over.

These young players do excite me don’t get me wrong but i think their time should come in the Capital One Cup and possibly some FA Cup action. The premier league and champions league assault will require more experienced personnel to make the difference when it matters.

This is just me speculating and you never know what could happen between now and the closing of the transfer window, I am sure we are all in agreement that the last minute buying is not healthy going into the season. whether players are 99% signed on the condition that we confirm qualification into the Champions League proper I don’t know but i am a little bit hoping this is the case and a glut of surprise marquee signings will storm through the Emirates doors once Fernebache are beaten.

For now its time to focus on Aston Villa and the threat of Benteke, it wont be as easy as we think. the boys (who are fit) will need to be on it from the start and win convincingly to bring back some good feeling. I’m looking forward to going to the Emirates today and will get 100% behind the boys.

per skipper

Congrats to Per Mertesacker who has been nominated as Arsenal Captain in the absence of Arteta and Vermaelen. A role that shouldn’t phase the experienced BFG. Clean sheet today please.

Come on Arsenal!

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Gunners back to winning ways despite flaws

Three points on the board and an advancement on the premier league table to keep us within touching distance of our London rivals. It wasn’t pretty, far from an enjoyable experience but in the grand scheme of things the win was recorded. It’s all the team can do right now, the past seven days have been a complete disaster for the club and so it was a bit of a relief to see us remember how to win at home. Confidence amongst the team is shot right now and it will take a while for the team to find a swagger in their play again. All be it that same swagger is what has infected the players with complacency in the games where they are expected to win. Maybe the realisation has sunk in now and the players now recognize what is required when you pull on the red and white of Arsenal.

The team have talked a good game this season, the players have come out (via the platform of Arsenal.com) with the calls to arms speeches for the big games, they highlighted the dangerss of taking teams for granted and they roundly spoke out in defence of the manager. The problem is all the talk seemed to count for nothing when they didn’t back up their words when on the pitch.

We have lost almost all our big games this season, we have fallen foul to inferior teams in the cup competitions and the players have let the manager down when he has staked his reputation on backing the players and their potential to achieve greatness.

jack v villa

Right now everyone in the club is hurting and despite scraping the win yesterday; you could sense a slight indication of unity between the players. They can certainly sense the negativity emitting from every direction and they are channelling it into their play to turn it around.There was definitely more effort put in from the players.

Understandably the past week contributed to the nerves in the teams play yesterday and the turnaround to regain confidence will take some time. There are some major flaws with the team but we missed the opportunity with the recent transfer window to address them so now we have to soldier on, accept what we have and keep the faith.

In terms of the game yesterday a couple things I noticed:

Santi Cazorla sure knows how to hit em.

Of all our players in the squad the one player I feel has that knack to blast a ball in from range is our Santi. His goals yesterday may not have been blockbusters or contenders for goal of the month but his range of shooting is vital to our recovery. Some days they skew off his boots at a 90 degree angle away from the goal but when he gets it right there are not many keepers that can stop ‘em. That threat around the box keeps defenders on their toes and can often create space for others. He took his goals yesterday very well and I for one am grateful for his persistence.

santi celebrates teamates

Monreal has a great delivery.

It has been clear in the games that Nacho Monreal has played this season that he has the best delivery of all our fullbacks at the club. One of the frustrations of the past is when our full backs work themselves into good positions then deliver a poor ball or start turning back inside and losing the momentum. With our lack of options up front it is important that we play to the strengths of what we do have. For what Giroud lacks in pace he makes up for in aerial threat so quality delivery is vital. Monreal had already walked away from the game with an assist for the winner but additionally he put in some terrific crosses during the game; the kind of deliveries that has people raving about Leighton Baines (calm down). Let’s hope he can continue that for rest of the season.

The team lacks ruthlessness.

Yes, we are coming off the back off our worst spell of the season and the team is working its way back to confidence however there were a high number of chances created to win the game comfortably. The profligacy at times had the fans pulling their hair out; at one goal up there was plenty chances to put the game to bed. Instead the team was punished for their lack of efficiency and ended up conceding a soft goal started from our own corner. All season we have lacked the ruthless edge to kill off games and nearly paid for it yesterday. Too many times the wrong decision was made up front and at other times we were just unlucky. We have paid for this many times this season and it is certainly something we need to fix if we are to charge into the top 4. I know players don’t miss on purpose and sometimes reacting on instinct can draw out fantastic goals but the glamorous efforts should be reserved for when we are 2-3 goals up.

Arsene really needs to stop using that ‘handbrake’ term

I know we understand what he’s trying to say when he says it but with every time he uses the phrase it comes across as some sort of parody. It’s like when you have a contestant evicted on big brother and they watch back their best bits at the end and discover that one phrase they use all the time; if Arsene was in the big brother house he would probably use it to describe a million situations much like the Smurfs use the word Smurf. He probably doesn’t realise how much he uses it and would blame it on TV editing.

Yesterday he used it in his press conference to say:

“It was interesting as well to see that we were focused, united, a bit nervous and you could see we played a little bit with the handbrake in some situations because the second goal didn’t come.”

I get ya Arsene

Anyway, let’s hope the recovery continues in our next game, away to Spurs. We can only take things a game at a time. Things won’t be fixed overnight so I think it’s important not to criticize yesterdays performance too much, just appreciate we achieved  a win and get behind the boys for the North London Derby.

I’m sure there’s nothing better to motivate the Arsenal players to raise their game than facing Spurs. The handbrake will be well and truly underused next Sunday.

Enjoy your day people.

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Time to move on from Villa and focus on Everton.

The mood has now hopefully settled amongst Arsenal fans; the result and the substitutions in particular left many fans directing their fury towards Arsene Wenger. A 0-0 draw is one result that is universally unwelcome to football fans; the prospect of no goals has no place in any person’s life and can result in blood boiling frustration to those who witness the event. A score draw is acceptable because at least the ball has hit the back of the net; that is unless the team draws after being 4-0 up a la Newcastle. Anyway, it seems the lack of goals was contagious as the games hosted by Swansea and Chelsea on Sunday followed suit.

The biggest gripe was behind that substitution of Giroud and the resting of Jack Wilshere. The Jack issue I suppose is easier to defend, the substitution not so much. Hopefully we have grunted and snarled all the frustration out of our systems, put Saturday behind us and now focus our attention on the tough game against Everton on Wednesday.

I do have some points concluded from the game on Saturday, they are a more constructive and reflective round-up of factors I have noticed. Don’t get me wrong I swear blue in the face, throw ornaments and kick furniture with the best of fans when a match is on however it can be better to take time to reflect on things rather than vent in the immediate aftermath. Here goes…

Ramsey can do no right.

One thing that is clear is our Welsh midfielder is not the flavour of the month with many Arsenal fans. Forget the mantle of flavour of the month it has stretched closer to the past 12 months and longer for Ramsey. In an earlier post I had highlighted the Arsenal players most likely to be the scapegoat for the season, the player to feel the full brunt of the fans fury when fortunes don’t go our way. I predicted it was a toss-up between Ramsey, Andre Santos and Gervinho and to be honest I feel that title is being shared between the three. Gervinho stemmed the flow slightly with his purple patch of goalscoring form at the earlier part of the season; Andre Santos is out of the firing line lately simply because his appearances in the starting eleven have been heavily reduced more for his own sake than anything else. Ramsey has featured more in the team than the other two players and has come in for criticism for his performances regardless of what he contributes. I am not blind there are times he has struggled in games, more so when he has been deployed in the front three. In my opinion a position not suited for him but as a player you put in a shift wherever the manager chooses to play you. Ramsey’s problem is his performances are more under the microscope from fans than any other Arsenal players, any good he does is instantly forgotten and replaced by any misplaced pass or scuffed shot. On Saturday he was not awful, the team on a whole did not click but he still came out with the most criticism, he can do now right at the moment. I feel we need to ease up on him, he may still be looking for his best form but he won’t achieve that with constant groans and abuse. He is an Arsenal player at the end of the day and we need to support every player on the pitch not alienate individuals. Save the venom for the players that showed no respect for the club and left under acrimonious terms like the Van Persie’s and Nasri’s of the world.

Is Oxlade-Chamberlain suffering 2nd season syndrome?

It hasn’t quite clicked for the Ox this season, after such a prominent first season with the Gunners that elevated him into the England squad for Euro 2012 his development this season has stagnated slightly. Admittedly he has played a lot of football, he didn’t get much of a break due to appearing in the Euros this summer and suffering a few niggling injuries this season. It’s hard to single it down to burnout because he hasn’t had much of a run in the team this season but it was quite noticeable that his performances against Montpellier and Aston Villa were quite below the standard he has set for himself. He is still young and still learning his trade so he can be forgiven for not being at the stage where he wins games single-handed by just being on the pitch. We have though, witnessed him at his devastating best last season so when he is below par it’s quite noticeable. He still has so much to bring to the team and has that bums off the seat aura about him when he is on top form. 2nd season syndrome is more about players struggling to handle the pressure of the their achievements from the season before, I don’t think Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers from that kind of pressure, he is level-headed enough and the form of Theo Walcott on the right side ensures the fans are not overly dependent of Alex to perform. I hope the 2nd season theory turns out to be nonsense from me; the best way to rubbish my idea starts with Everton on Wednesday.

Defence continues to shut them out.

I suppose the one positive you can take from a 0-0 draw is the defence has produced a clean sheet. That’s the second game in a row we have managed a clean sheet and is a sign than we may have overcome the teething problem of soft goals conceded in recent weeks. With Kieran Gibbs returning to fitness skipper Thomas Vermaelen who was deputising the left back role was dropped to the bench for the Englishman to return. Vermaelen’s form had been a bit up and down when playing in the centre of defence in recent weeks but a reshuffle at the centre of defence was probably not required and was behind Wenger’s reasoning for his choice. Whether Arsene keeps the same back line against Everton is debatable, he will have hungry, fresher players to choose from and Vermaelen may have a point to prove if selected. The most important thing is the goals have stopped leaking and we need to continue that habit now.

Arshavin deserves more game time.           

I understand our Russian 23 is out of favour with Arsene this season; he is most likely to move on in the next transfer window however I feel when called upon he hasn’t let the team down. At times when we have had players missing through injury and been forced to play players like Aaron Ramsey out of position in the front three attacking role it does make you wonder why Arshavin hasn’t been considered. I don’t have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but I believe he could contribute more to the team than the Capital One Cup outings and the closing stages of Premiership games. Even if he is as good as out the door he has from the outside showed professionalism on the pitch, there has been no strops or rants in the press, he has just got on with it. I feel he can be utilized more until he has gone, when he does move then maybe he will let the cat out of the bag and give all the juicy details of what really went on but for now he is an alternative that can be used; we don’t have great depth in our squad but there are still players that maybe aren’t being used as much as they could.

So here they are, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section. They are just points, I can be convinced to change my views if you present a good case. What we can all agree on is three points at Everton on Wednesday would be nice.

Enjoy your day people

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