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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Gunners Sign Off Final Home Game With Win

The home schedule is over for another season at the Emirates, with fourth place secured the only motivation for the Gunners were to get three points on the board to send the Arsenal fans home happy one last time. Of course the FA Cup will be the final thank you (if won) to the fans but as we know the majority won’t have the opportunity to support the team at Wembley.

The football wasn’t the greatest yesterday, the pressure was off after Everton conceded fourth place to Arsenal and even though West Brom tried in the back of their mind they see themselves safe from relegation. Norwich did manage to come away from Stamford bridge with a point as Chelsea’s pathetic end to the season spluttered on however the chances of being overtaken by the canaries still are a very long shot.

Both sets of fans were in a good mood, the weather was sunny and kept the mood jolly. West Brom fans came armed with a variety of beach balls which we’re bouncing around the away end until the stewards got their hands on them.

Giroud saluting his winner

Giroud saluting his winner

 

With fourth placed secured many wondered if most the 1st team would be rested for the game, news filtered through before the match that Abou Diaby was on the bench and Aaron Ramsey would not be involved. I suppose the possibility of wholesale changes would be slim since all week the team would have been set out in training to get the win, the bonus of Everton losing came too late in the day to change all preparation for yesterday’s game. Ramsey was afforded the break which was good however a much weakened team would be expected for the Norwich game.

It would have been nice to see Abou Diaby make an appearance in front of the fans but an injury to Nacho Monreal equated to the final substitution of the day being a forced one. Arsenal’s very own ‘Mr Glass’ is likely to still be around next season, hopefully for a lot longer than he managed this season. The same can’t be said for Kim Kallstrom, he will be returning to his parent club once his contract runs out. After all the kerfuffle over his transfer to the Gunners his impact was quite minimal. No fault of the player himself but by the time he was finally ready; our premiership campaign was effective dead and buried.

One person whose future is still uncertain is that of Bacary Sagna, he hasn’t signed a new contract and the chances of him staying are pretty slim now. In the stands we sung his name during the game, letting him know we want him to stay however we have been in this position many a time over the years . To lose the Frenchman would be a big loss however no player is irreplaceable (ahem. Thierry Henry?) in most cases. Those right-back shoes would be big ones to fill but if it happens we just have to get on with it. My only hope is if Bacary does move on it isn’t to a premiership rival, it just doesn’t sit right with me. The Robin van Persie transfer to man united never should have happened and although the club had a say in that transfer it is more or less powerless with Sagna. We can only ask him to think about the fans that have supported him all these years before signing on the dotted line for another premiership club.

 

sagna

farewell?

 

Looking back now on what could have been this season, a top four finish and (hopefully) FA Cup trophy is far from disaster. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes this season and put them right next.

IMG_1916

The Norwich game is meaningless to me now; all I would like from it is some youngsters to play and stake a claim for next season. Victory on May 17th is vital to finish the season right.

Enjoy your day people.
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Will Arsene make key signings part of his New Year resolution?

So Arsenal start the New Year in 1st place, a hard fought victory over a stubborn Cardiff team ensured they stayed there. The proud record of being the best performing team of 2013 can be seen as the perfect springboard to continue the improvement into 2014 and hopefully reap the benefits come the end of the football season.

The fans are happy (well most of them) and will no doubt be settling back into their normal routines following all the festive fun. As the majority of us tend to do in the New Year goals are set, a chance to put right the wrongs of the previous year with new gym routines or money saving tactics. We all enter into these with the best of intentions unfortunately the motivation dies before March is with us.

It would be nice to think that Arsene has incorporated some resolutions to help Arsenal for the second half of the season. The ideal resolution would be to make some key January signings.
As we all know Arsene isn’t a big fan of January buys, the Frenchman has a lot of faith in his squads and doesn’t tend to put his hand in his pocket at this time of year unless his hand is forced or a super bargain is available. One of the main requirements this season is a top quality striker to share the burden with Olivier Giroud. Will Arsene buy or will he see the recent change in Bendtner worth waiting for him to recover from his recent injury rather than purchase a player? Although whilst still an Arsenal player I’d back Bendtner 100% every time he goes out on the pitch I don’t see Bendtner part of any long term plans and for that reason it may suit both parties that he finds new employers during the transfer window.

bendtner

Arsene is also a big fan of adaptability in his players and he has said it in the past that Walcott and Podolski are very much able deputies to the central striking role. The recent return of Podolski has already prefilled the possible quotation of “like a new signing” though the German hasn’t quite grasped the opportunity in that role with both hands. His goal in the West Ham game reminded us of his valuable contribution to the team though his starting role in the Cardiff game in the central striking position was slightly underwhelming.

Podolski is one of the best finishers at the club and certainly offers a goal threat but at the times he has played in the central striking role it hasn’t quite clicked. This is taking into account times he played there before his injury also. One game does not condemn a player and you never know he could well grow into the role; he also didn’t have the luxury of the creative talents of Ozil and Ramsey at his disposal. Flamini has been a great acquisition to the Arsenal team this season but his performance in an advanced role on New Year’s Day was rather limited in the attacking third whilst Arteta covered.

Walcott also offers a goal threat though question marks will always remain over his effectiveness with his back to goal as opposed to the outlet of pace he offers on the wing. What we gain in Walcott playing central we lose from him not playing wide.

Taking all this into account a striking addition to the squad would be the best option, a loan or permanent transfer? If a top quality player can be brought in on loan I don’t see why not. A permanent arrangement can be readdressed in the summer. If it’s the difference between playing over the odds fees for a player and assessing a potential signing up close in the short term for peanuts then we all know which option our manager would rather take.

In addition to that a central defensive signing would be reassuring, beyond the excellence of the Koscielny/Mertesacker and the cover from Vermaelen there aren’t much options at all. Given Arsenal’s injury history it would be foolish to rely on the current partnership not receiving another injury for the rest of the season. Vermaelen is an able deputy but in recent times the Belgian has hardly been injury free himself.

per and kos

Arsene has never been one to recall players from on loan during injury crisis’s and so if the worst was to happen the next step would be to rejig the whole defence by slotting Sagna into the middle or calling upon the services of Isaac Hayden. Not ideal given the massive chance the club has of winning the title this year, the last thing Arsenal fans would want to do is feel regret at the missed opportunity of strengthening to enhance the clubs chances for silverware.

Well, Arsenal has a month to hopefully make the right signings and give the rest of the season a good go. Signings for the future are not required at present, focus really needs to be on the now, it’s the clubs best chance in years to bring in a trophy.

Enjoy your day people.

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3 points are all that matters for Arsenal

Sitting in the premier league table above Tottenham Hotspur is a good feeling, one that has been taken for granted over the years by Arsenal fans but the general importance of the feat has never been underestimated. They have slowly chipped away at their north London rivals and with the win over Norwich have now climbed above their rivals.

poldi celebrates

Getting back above Spurs was the easy part; it’s now ensuring they stay there that becomes hard. It’s in their hands so there can be no complaints if at the end of the season fortunes change.

The game yesterday was one of high interest to me; based on my experience last year in the 3-3 draw with the Canaries I was quite desperate to get some sort of redemption with a victory.

Seated close to the Norwich fans it was a chance to go back and forth with the banter; despite a first half of wasted chances and no shots on goal for the visitors they still made a vocal presence in the stadium. The game last season was similar to yesterdays in the sense that top four and champion’s league qualification was very much undecided and Norwich had a chance to throw a spanner in the works.

The Norwich fans were not shy in ribbing the Arsenal faithful with chants of Thursday Night Channel five. Quite outdated considering the Europa football is screened on the ITV channels however it was nice to get the opportunity to throw those chants right back down their throats.

Based on yesterday’s game here are some points of note:

Wilshere was rusty.

The loss of Jack Wilshere was a big blow to the Arsenal team; he returned from his long term injury and eventually found his rhythm to become a key cog of the Arsenal midfield. Despite the team’s good record during his recent absence his return to first team duty can definitely be seen as a psychological boost to the team. Eyebrows may have been raised that he returned straight back into the starting eleven but considering last week’s two goal hero Tomas Rosicky was unavailable Arsene Wenger’s hand had been forced. Wilshere displayed rustiness in his game, although not awful he was way off his influential best, the Arsenal game was becoming stale as Norwich were relishing their backs to the wall defending and so Jack was sacrificed to inject new impetus into the Arsenal play.

Gervinho had one of those days.

It is inevitable that Gervinho will never convince all Arsenal fans of his worth. You never know which performance you will get from the forward and until consistency is added to his game he will split fans opinion. One thing he is even when at his most frustrating worst is he is a threat, his pace stretches teams and especially with the loss of Theo Walcott to injury he has played a part in the recent run of form for the team. We may have a laugh and a joke or moan at the times he messes up but he has pace and a box of tricks (that all be it has a success rate of 1 in 10) that when it comes off is a great tool. Yesterday wasn’t his day but his starting place was earned by his contribution in the previous two games, he may still play a big part in Arsenals quest for fourth place.

Defence was well despite conceding.

Yes a goal was conceded against the run of play but the partnership of Koscielny and the returning Tomas Vermaelen played well. That Norwich’s first shot on goal wasn’t until they actually scored was testament to how the Canaries attack was kept under control. As is the Arsenal default game plan they prefer to concede when under complete control however the goal was from a set play. I’m not sure who exactly was picking up Turner but that set play required a team effort to ensure all men were picked up and unlike the goal conceded against Blackburn in the FA Cup which was a complete cock-up there was fault but not entirely attributed to the centre back pairing.

I believe Vermaelen had a good game, he was determined in the tackle and dealt with the threat of Grant Holt. Although Per Mertesacker is likely to return to the starting line up after serving his suspension it was encouraging that the Arsenal captain had an event free performance. He has set a platform he needs to build on to win back the confidence of the fans and the manager.

It was a penalty.

"it's not fair, they are time-wasting..."

“it’s not fair, they are time-wasting…”

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this non topic, the Norwich fans are bitter as you would expect from any opposition team who concedes a penalty but it was a clear pull on the shirt of Giroud from the Norwich player. Doesn’t matter who saw it a foul is a foul end of.

Enjoy your day people.

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Learning’s from the North London Derby defeat

Frustrating times once again for gunners fans across the land. With hopes of pulling off a result to get our season back on track we came up short once again. How do you put a finger on it to pinpoint the cause? The problem is a finger isn’t enough to identify the cause, two hands may not even be enough because the problems identified before the season are still there, the problems identified when the last transfer window opened are still there and right now there is nothing that can be done to fix this until the season is over.

giroud spuds

It‘s never nice to lose any game, double that feeling when it comes at the hands of your local rivals. We are at the business end of the season and now is not the time to throw things away, with each week we are losing time to put together this magical run of form which is meant to save our season.

With our champions league campaign over (I’m sorry but it is), all focus should be on the league, every game treated as a cup final (a cup final we win, get out of my memory Birmingham game!) as the players fight to the end to repay the managers faith in them.

It’s not quite working out that way so far and I hope that Arsene, if still in the Arsenal hot seat next season will take note of those that have underperformed, let him down and put his own position at the club under the greatest pressure it has ever been.

Some of my conclusions after witnessing the North London Derby:

Defence not solid as a unit.

It feels like Groundhog Day having to write this same problem up so many times this season. The Bould factor has long evaporated and each week we have come to witness our evident defensive shortcomings. In the games where we keep a clean sheet it tends to be pure luck that we do not concede. Our back line just does not perform well enough in games to form a basis in which to win a game. Every game we play the opposition know they are good for a goal against us, we guarantee in every game at least one golden opportunity for the opposition to score a goal. It just depends on the quality of the player that gets the chance whether they take it or not. When we concede goals we should be saluting the excellence in creating an opportunity against us but instead we end up noticing how comical the defending was that gifted the opposition the chance. This is a trend that needs changing and fast.

Giroud simply not big enough a player to rely on

Giroud was probably our worst performer in the match, totally ineffective, he was totally out of tune with the rest of the team and highlighted one of our biggest shortcomings. Up front we lack a match winner to make the difference in games finely poised. I believe Giroud has a lot of qualities we’ve lacked in previous seasons but those were qualities that were required as a plan B when things didn’t work. Our system does not allow Giroud to play up top with another striker and so we have to rely on him as our main attacking threat. Arsene didn’t buy a striker in the last transfer window to compliment the Frenchman or provide an alternative when things aren’t working and yesterday was a fine example why it may have been a mistake. In the early stages of the game when we were pretty much in control Giroud found himself in the position to run onto a couple through balls but lacked the pace or cutting edge to produce a goal scoring chance. I believe ruthlessness should be shown in front of goal at any time in a match, we should not be waiting until we are behind late in a game to put real effort in. sometimes a chance can be missed early in a game much like yesterday and when wasted it is shrugged off because the forward expects more of the same. In big games chances aren’t guaranteed in high numbers throughout a game so you have to take your chances whenever they come. Yesterday that was taken for granted and we paid for it.

Defensive midfielder still a priority

This is not a dig at Mikel Arteta, he is still one of our most vital players but his strengths are not fully utilized in the holding role. We have not replaced Alex Song who despite his tendency to drift forward to help in attack offered a physical strength that we currently lack. It was good business getting the money we did for Song but in not signing a replacement we weakened the squad.

Big game mentality lacking

We really have lost the knack to raise our performance for big games. When we have faced a top of the table clash we have come up short almost every time. This is a worrying habit and the only consolation is that we only really have Manchester United left to play from the top teams although Everton could maybe be added to the list.

Run of games for Podolski up front

With the limitations of Olivier Giroud and no possibility of signing a new striker would it hurt to give Podolski a run of games up front? Theo Walcott can play up there but struggles against teams that play deep. The German has been preferred on the left hand side by Wenger and hasn’t really tried him there. He can finish, he is mobile and I’m sure he could get on the end of the chances the midfield make for the forwards. It is only a suggestion but you look back to earlier in the season when Gervinho was given a run there and wonder why wasn’t Podolski given a similar opportunity?

What’s with Ramsey at right back?

This is a weird one for me, the use of Aaron Ramsey as a makeshift wing back. We were first introduced to this in the game at Sunderland when a red card forced the use of the Welshman there. Now we are seeing it more and more; on reflection Ramsey played well when moved there but Carl Jenkinson was also having a good game at right back. In the grand scheme of things it weakened our defence at a time when we were chasing the game and needed to ensure a third goal didn’t go in. I believe Jenkinson and Ramsey offered the same attacking threat and therefore found the change bizarre.

Try to enjoy your day people. Stay strong.

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