FA Cup Final Day – Bring It Home Gunners

Cup final day is finally here, the wait is over as the opportunity to lay to rest the trophy-less tag has never been greater. People play down the credibility of the FA cup when compared to earlier years but when your team is in the final try telling the fans involved it has no value and you would be roundly laughed at.

The FA cup holds a special place in the hearts of fans involved, not so much for the losing side at the final whistle but all the same the build up and experience is second to none.

WEMBLEY WAY

Those fans lucky enough to experience the game at Wembley will have tales to tell their grandchildren in years to come. The limited allocation to the centrepiece makes the experience all the more exclusive and the memories cherished.

The players will be up for it, you always hear foreign players recalling their memories of FA cup games watched on TV in their countries when growing up. No other domestic cup competition around the world holds equal prestige and I’m sure any Arsenal player not involved today will be greatly disappointed.

The keeper situation is a dilemma Arsene Wenger will have to consider carefully. Lukasz Fabianski has not let anyone down in the run up to the final whilst first choice Sczcesny will argue his right as first choice keeper.

Personally I would stick with Fabianski, he is hardly a rookie that would weaken the clubs chances if he was selected. He may be leaving at the end of the season but he accepted the role of cup keeper at the start of the season and has earned his place in the starting line up.

I believe the same situation can be argued in the Giroud/Sanogo debate. The young Frenchman had been preferred in the previous few rounds due to certain indiscretions and a period of poor form from Olivier Giroud but with the return of key midfield players from injury Giroud has certainly found his mojo again.

Sanogo put in shifts when called upon but the lack of that first goal for the club sways for the choice of Giroud up front.

It is could be Sagna’s last game for the club, he has been a great servant to the Arsenal and it would be fitting that he signs off with a silverware, something which has eluded him ever since joining.

The rumours of joining Manchester City will taint his legacy but it’s something we can address at a later time, it’s only a rumour for now.

For now it’s all about getting behind the team and cheering them on to victory, for those of you lucky enough to go to Wembley do us proud. I will have to settle for the screening at the Emirates but being surrounded by fellow Gunners fans will make the experience all the more rewarding.

EMIRATES

Get down there if you can, 25000 fans are already expected, it could possibly be one hell of a party.

Enjoy the final people.
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New week but Swansea woes remain.

It’s Monday; can we put the events of the weekend behind us? Hardly, this is getting all too familiar now, the poor performances and results are becoming too frequent for any Arsenal fans liking. All teams go through bad patches but you would think the 5-2 win over Spurs would have been the launch pad to a positive run of results. Instead the opposite effect has happened, the performances have been way below par and the concurrent results prove that.

jenks

The Swansea result pushed us to a new low on the morale scale; I’ve never witnessed such negativity around the emirates when the game ended. Something has to change because right now we seem to be equivalent to a volcano bubbling up and ready to blow and the potential devastation of that eruption is frightening. I’m not part of the Wenger out brigade but I am unhappy with the where we are at right now.

Still, I’ve managed to compose myself after the initial red mist on Saturday to reflect on some points from the weekend’s events, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

Wenger is under pressure like never before.

I believe this time that Arsene has lost the faith of a high percentage of fans this season. A culmination of several factors has pushed the limits of many arsenal fans, those being the continuing lack of silverware year on year, the selling of marquee players each season, the lack of quality signings to replace the marquee players and perseverance with the poor quality players. Those are just a few factors but seem to be key to the current bad feeling. It’s nothing new hearing the press mention the uncertainty of Wenger’s job but this season it seems slightly more real it could be a possibility. I don’t think the time is right for a parting of ways especially with a transfer window opening in January; there is an opportunity to right the mistakes and spend some of the so-called extra cash at Arsene’s disposal. I feel our next few transfer dealings can make or break our season and Arsene’s fortunes. One disturbing thing I noticed leaving the ground on Saturday was the witnessing of some fans chanting at Wenger: “you’re just a French Jimmy Saville, Paedo Paedo”. Although some frustrations can be justified to start attacking the manager using the kind of nasty, crass material we wouldn’t accept from opposition fans is taking it too far. That’s just a spiteful, personal attack on a human being which is uncalled for, any criticism for the manager should be kept to football reasons alone, they were just a handful of fans but I hope it doesn’t spread to more unhappy fans.

There are problems up front.

One thing that was evident on Saturday was that the alternatives we have to Olivier Giroud simply did not do enough to back up any claims they can provide any genuine cover in that position. On this occasion I witnessed the central striking role being alternated between Gervinho and Podolski but the threat was minimal. I suppose it’s unfair to base this on one game after all I have called for Podolski to be given a run of games in that position. Gervinho earlier in the season managed to score from that position but since he has returned from injury he has looked quite poor up front and on the wing.  Olivier Giroud did make an appearance in the second half but his threat was dealt with quite comfortably by the Swansea defence. Giroud has proved himself of late but we still require a plan B for when he isn’t firing. Right now experimenting is not the answer, we do not have that luxury as we slip down the table. What is the solution? Well I suppose the transfer window since Chamakh is not even considered an option we have no specialist centre forwards.

Why is Rosicky thrown in so soon?

It was only last Wednesday that we got our first glimpse of Tomas Rosicky as he had returned to training. It was good news that he would soon be returning to the team. Arsene in his press conference before the Everton game informed us that Tomas would be a few weeks away from gaining match fitness. He was meant to gain that match fitness with a few appearances for the u-21 team however he was named as a substitute or the Everton game. To be honest I put his inclusion down to the fact that Lukasz Podolski was a late withdrawal and Rosicky was making up the numbers on the bench. On Saturday he was named again and he even came on the pitch replacing Wilshere in the second half. I question why he is being rushed back; especially taking into account how long he was injured for. I’m not linking his appearance on the pitch contributing to the defeat I am just highlighting how his inclusion smacks of desperation. Andre Arshavin was again missing from the bench and I really need to understand how he is behind the pecking order for someone who hasn’t played this season. The last thing we need is for Rosicky to break down so soon after returning, the results aren’t great at the moment but the need to rush back injured players is a bit much. Diaby should be a marker that easing back into the groove is the best policy or face more time on the treatment table.

What style do we play?

Lately I have become slightly disillusioned to the type of football we play, we have always been known to playing beautiful football that would win plaudits from all over. Even when we weren’t winning any trophies we still had a style of play that would destroy teams, our only weakness was the ability to maintain the results throughout the whole season, and we would generally lose form in the final quarter of the season. This season the performances have been flat, even when we have won games it has been more like a chess stalemate between us and teams who in the past were never the same level as us. We don’t dominate teams like we used to and our standard recently has dropped to the point we are battling to get anything out of games, it is not enjoyable to watch from the stands at times. The formation we played seemed more effective when we played our rapid passing game with Fabregas at the centre of everything. Since he left along with some other personnel the question is do we have the players currently who thrive in our 4-3-3 formation? This season it doesn’t seem so, we still have quality players who can grind out results for us but are we now playing a system that gets the best out of who we have? Do we have the kind of system that would scare the hell out of anyone who came to the emirates as we dominate and overpower them? It could just be a confidence thing at the moment but it is a dangerous precedent if teams become comfortable playing against us at home. Once you lose the fear factor you risk a hard battle to regain that back. I just feel apart from some games early in the season we don’t seem to have the balance right in our style of play, the Shalke game was a warning we have not heeded. If we are to continue with the 4-3-3 then we need the right personnel playing in the right positions and have quality back up when injuries occur. Some of the holes that have been filled at times have been with the wrong players and it has affected the shape of the team, again I refer to the transfer window; strengthening is required of the squad and the uncertainty of players’ futures does not help. We need committed players working together and making our game play click once again.

Well those are my thoughts; please feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

I must add that thoughts go out to Peter Hill-Wood and family after the news of his heart attack on Friday. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for him; no matter what your views on how the club has been run he is part of Arsenal and we stand by and support our own. Get well soon PHW.

On the F.A. Cup draw look at it as a chance for revenge. Swansea are not our rivals they are merely a club in our division, the sooner order is resumed the better. Wenger now has a chance to make up for Saturday at least.

Enjoy your day people.

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Gooners to enjoy week as Spurs help the environment – AFC

It’s now Monday; the north London derby result is still fresh in the mind. As gooners we cannot let the opportunity pass to remind our spurs chums of the score. When you return to the office today look out for your spurs supporting colleagues and make sure they know the score. They are hurting right now and they need to feel even worse. We’ve been there, on the end of a bad result, you want the world to swallow you up. To lose a north London derby hurts even more, it hurts the spurs folk given the fact in all honesty they have closed the gap on us. A win against them is not a given like in the past, they believe they can beat us nowadays and for that reason it stings that bit more when they get beat. A five goal tonking is the icing on the cake and I will be sure to remind every person I know that follows that team.

“and then AVB said they dominated the game…”

Special mention must go to every arsenal fan who crammed into the emirates on Saturday. I have experienced a rocking atmosphere at big games in the past but on Saturday I felt extra proud singing along with the fans around me. It was nonstop, we were up for it big time and let everyone know through our voices. Our away fans are famed for doing the arsenal proud singing strong whether we win, lose or draw. On Saturday the spirit of those away fans transferred into the gunners in the stadium as the decibels would have blown the roof off the emirates (if we had a roof). If the fortunes on the pitch were different maybe the atmosphere would have gone flat but they didn’t, we sang, the positive vibes from the stands can raise the players and so it dd. I wish we could maintain that atmosphere for the games deemed less important but that is something that would take time to instil. It is intimidating to play in a stadium with such electric atmosphere and I think the arsenal money men are missing a trick if they ignore ways to boost the atmosphere.

Special mention goes out to Tottenham football club for their efforts in improving the environment. In these days going green is the way forward and it was nice of our not so successful neighbours for going out of their way to ensure the arsenal fans save on paper and wasting electricity creating new witty posters to gloat about the score on Saturday. The fact that we repeated the result from last season ensured we did not have to search too far looking for material to throw in the faces of the spurs fans. We still have our collection of 5-2 jpeg’s and didn’t have to dig far to post them back on facebook, twitter or on walls and telephone posts in the streets.  Good on you spurs, by folding against us you helped the environment.

It’s a short post today; I’m still recovering from birthday celebrations over the weekend (backed up so perfectly by the result on Saturday) and have only just started to regain enough vision to write this post. Please ensure you give the Tottenham fans hell for the whole week whether you work with them, they are your neighbours or distant friends on facebook. Stretch out the torture as long as possible, we won’t play them again for a while so make it count.

Enjoy your day people

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Should He Stay Or Should He Go? (Part One – The Back)

We’re well into the close season, with the Euros imminent West Brom is but a distant memory. But who should we keep and who should be we saying “thanks for everything” whilst pointing to the door? Here are my thoughts on the 2011/12 squad, with a view to who should stay/go.

 

Goalkeeper

1. Manuel Almunia: Not a single appearance for the Arsenal this season, only one spot on the bench. Had some decent games, quite liked him for the reason that he was someone everyone could relate to. A man who ousted the better player through sheer hard work and a positive attitude. However, his errors were high profile and well-documented – he just wasn’t good enough to be a No. 1, none of the top sides would have had him. He goes with good wishes, but not before time. Go (already released.)

13. Wojciech Szczęsny: A solid second season, he has grown in terms of the authority and stature he possesses. And we’ve needed it, given the problems we’ve had in defence this season. I would say though that in the last few games his focus has been a bit lacking, his kicking a little suspect and he’s nearly come unstuck, booting the ball at onrushing attackers. That said, his shot-stopping has been immense and always good for a quote (see his post-match interview regarding his save against Lee Cattermole against Sunderland (H) for my personal favourite).  We’ve still got the real deal between the sticks, and I fully expect him to right-fully assume the no.1 shirt. Stay

21. Łukasz Fabianski: Pretty much whatever has been said about Almunia can also be said for Fabianski. Has made the odd decent save but unfortunately he was far too inconsistent and as a result, he never inspired confidence in his defence. It is said that Fabianski feels that his international chances are being hindered by not playing enough club football. Given that the very same player stands in front of him at both club and international level I think its fair to suggest that he move on, if anything not to see his tormentor on a daily basis. Go

 

Defence

3. Bacary Sagna: One of the most consistent full-backs in the Premier League, I feel he’s back to his best after not the greatest season by his lofty standards. A player who loves the club and always puts in a shift, I never want to see him leave! Stay

4. Per Mertesacker: May have been quite surprised by the pace of the Premier League and it showed as he was exposed a few times. On the flip-side, I’m a big fan of Mertesacker’s no-nonsense tackling and there were certainly instances where he saved our bacon. His untimely injury against Sunderland was unfortunate as I felt he was just getting into his stride. Ok, so he isn’t the fastest but neither was Tony Adams – a good Euros and a better reading of the game to make up that extra yard and I think he’ll turn out to be a great player for us. Stay

5. Thomas Vermaelen: Whilst I must admit defensively he hasn’t covered himself in glory towards the end of the season, it must not be forgotten what a difference he made on his return to the side from injury in 2012. Winning every header, last ditch tackling and just generally settling and organising the defence, it was a pleasure to watch this classy centre-back at work. And that’s before we mention his goals…Stay

6. Laurent Koscielny: What an incredible transformation in the space of 2 seasons. In 2010/11 aside from a couple of games generally he was not strong in the tackle, looked out of his depth and had a lack of confidence. These words do not describe the 2011/12 version. Some of Koscielny’s tackling has been simply outstanding this season, and he just looks fearless. It is a testament to him that he is not just in the side to partner Vermaelen, he is there on equal merit. His metamorphosis has had me gobsmacked at times…it really has been a while since we’ve had a decent no. 6! Stay

11. Andre Santos:  When he first arrived, he was one of those classic Eboué-like full-backs – decent at going forward, just not all that interested in defending. But the 5-3 seemed to be a watershed moment – not a very good defensive performance in the first half, an excellent goal later and it seemed to sort his defensive head out. I quite like his style of defending – text-book it ain’t, but you would not want to run into him. Always seems to have a smile on his face, just reckon he needs to be a bit leaner in his second season. A good start. Stay

18. Sebastien Squillaci: Another player who might as well not have been there. The writing was always on the wall – once Per Mertesacker was brought in, and with Johan Djourou already there, his slip down the pecking order was complete. Even with the injuries to Vermaelen and Mertesacker, Arsène preferred other options. And when his moment came away to Fulham, whilst he could have done more with the Fulham’s first, he gift-wrapped their winner with an inexplicable across-the-box assist to Bobby Zamora. Admittedly he had not had a lot of game time and criticism here is probably a little harsh, but I do think it’s fair to say for his own sake, probably best to move on. Go

20. Johan Djourou: Has actually been a valuable back-up in recent seasons, but unfortunately for him he wasn’t as good at it in 2011/12. In fairness to him he has been played woefully out of position, and it showed, culminating in his removal at half-time due to ‘injury’ filling in at right-back against Man United at the Emirates. To his credit I suspect he never complained about playing there, and you wish for players that just do what they’re told rather than challenge the manager. My gripe with him is even at centre-back I’ve always felt he was what I call ‘big-for-nothing’, easily beaten in the air for a man of his size. A nice enough bloke by all accounts, but if Ottmar Hitzfeld really thinks Djourou should leave and he happens to agree, (provided we have another centre-back) I wouldn’t stand in his way. Go

25. Carl Jenkinson: So you’ve mainly played non-league football, the highest level you’ve ever played at is League One, and now you’re playing at Old Trafford. And we’re not having a great day. Tough situation for any young player. Whilst eyebrows had been raised with his acquisition and immediate placing into the first-team squad, Gooners love a trier and he does give his all. And the positive soundbites and “My whole family are Gooners” stories aside, he is quite the crosser of the ball. He’ll not be replacing Sagna anytime soon, so I’m happy with him as back-up and who knows, could he be next season’s Koscielny? Stay

28. Kieran Gibbs: Continuing the fine tradition of young left-backs we’ve had at the club, always liked him. Yes, his injury record is not great but it’s worth remembering than he is still only 22 and will get stronger. My only concern is like the previous incumbent, when going forward Gibbs does at times leave a lot of space behind him. However, I think he is greatly benefiting from increasing Premier League game-time and will build on a good season. Stay

As for the other younger players, I feel that Ignasi Miquel is quietly building well on previous seasons’ appearances, and I’m certainly keen to see more of Nico Yennaris, whose lively 2nd half substitute performance against United at home certainly caught the eye.

That’s it for the back, stay tuned for my thoughts on our attack.

CDrive77

CDrive’s Season 2011/12 Highlights (yes really): Part Two

Morning Gooners, here is the second part of my season highlights.

 

4. Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan (Champions League 2nd round 2nd leg, 6th March 2012)

After a derisory, meek 1st leg surrender in the San Siro, the second leg was pretty much a formality. No-one really believed we could make the tie competitive, but it was an opportunity to restore some sort of pride, and perhaps give Milan a little fright along the way. And Arsenal certainly did, going 2-0 up inside the half hour. Once Robin van Persie had converted that penalty before the break the stadium was delirious. I was so out of breath I nearly passed out, and it was only half-time! We dared to dream of a historic reverse in the tie, and though it was not to be, at least Arsenal could leave the pitch with their heads held high.

 

3. Robin van Persie v Everton (Arsenal 1-0 Everton, Premier League, 10th December 2011)

What a goal this was. One of the early examples of that brilliant Song-van Persie connection. I was lucky enough that my seat offered me a great view of RvP’s volley, right on line with its direction. The long floated pass, the sweet connection with that wand of a left foot, even the way it cannoned in off the post, I was completely dumbfounded. Quite simply, world class brilliance.

 

2. Thierry Henry v Leeds (Arsenal 1-0 Leeds, FA Cup 3rd round, 09th January 2012)

It’s approaching the 70th minute mark and it’s not looking good. Arsenal cannot find a way through and Leeds are already thinking about a potential replay, always a game we can do without.  Thierry Henry, the returning hero, comes on. Was this a good idea to come back? Would he be way off the pace in English football? Would he ruin his legacy? If there was a doubt about Henry’s prowess someone forgot to tell Leeds, who looked immediately intimidated by his presence. Then on 78 minutes Alex Song hits another one of those hot-knife-through-butter passes, Thierry reacts the quickest and rolls back the years with a classic trademark side-foot shot to send the Emirates Stadium absolutely crazy. When it was announced that he was on the bench everyone wanted him and only him to score. Henry did not disappoint and provided me with one of the greatest moments I’ve ever witnessed in the stadium. TH14 may have long left his throne, but with his subsequent performances, TH12 had come back to reclaim it.

 

1. Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (Premier League, 26th February 2012)

For me probably just goes ahead of Henry’s winner, simply because of the desolation I was feeling after half an hour.  2-nil down to a rampantly confident Spurs, typified by Adebayor’s ultimately premature post-penalty jig in front of us at the North Bank. At that point it was looking like this could be worse than the 4-4, and even surpass the 3-2 defeat last season when we’d thrown away a 2 goal half-time lead. Just before half-time Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie drag Arsenal back into the game with a force-of-nature header and a sublime curled shot respectively. The North Bank had gone hysterical at this point, as instead of Tottenham running away with it, we were now in the box-seat. What followed was a complete destruction. Tomas Rosicky completes his rejuvenation with a deserved goal and Theo Walcott punishes them to hit the 4th. Typically, everyone around me wants a 5th to quash any memories of the 4-4 and Theo responds with another fantastic finish. We then had 20 minutes to bask in the glory and eyeball the Spurs fans in the away end (those that actually remained). This is the match where Arsenal woke up – had Spurs have gone on to win comfortably I’m convinced we would not have finished 3rd. This was The Turning Point, and a highlight not just of this season, but of the entire time I’ve supported the Arsenal.

 

So those are my highlights. Admittedly I may have missed out a couple that might have been on your lists (Mikel Arteta‘s strike against Manchester City, RvP’s late winner vs Liverpool to name two), but it just goes to prove that despite a having frustrating season we can still have the pick of some truly exhilarating moments. Thank God we aren’t Wolves, thank God even more that we’re not Tottenham.

Ooh to be a Gooner indeed.