Arsenal have only themselves to blame in United draw

After 90 minutes Arsenal fans were left feeling frustrated at the waste of the chance to take all three points against Manchester United at the Emirates yesterday. If offered a point before the game I’m sure most Arsenal fans would take that offer but when the final whistle blew they will have looked back with frustration as Manchester United were gifted their equalizer.

afc v man u

With my rose-tinted glasses off Manchester united were in no way played off the field, they posed a threat on the break throughout and defended well but the goal conceded by the Gunners was easily avoidable. Bacary Sagna did himself no favours with poor concentration gifting the ball to Robin Van Persie, even from that point his error could be atoned however a rush of blood to the head resulted in an unnecessary sliding tackle which ended with Van Persie’s legs taken away and a penalty awarded.

The Arsenal fans groaned in frustration and you could also see on the Arsenal players faces similar emotions after having their hard work undone in a few seconds of madness. The last person Arsenal fans wanted to score in the game got his chance and took it. He didn’t celebrate must like in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford though I’m sure that respect was more directed to his former manager than the fans that once idolised him. He did not need to do anything, The Manchester united fans made sure they rubbed it in with banners highlighting Arsenal’s poor decision last summer with text such as “thanks for RVP”. The same fans that sung year after year about him being a rapist now sing a different song about the man whose goals made the difference for them taking the Premier League title.

Some points from the game yesterday:

Sagna madness

sagna tackle

Bacary Sagna had one of those moments yesterday, that moment everyone who has ever played the game at any level has experienced at least once in their life. When you make the wrong decision in a scenario which if performed 100 times you would do the right thing on the 99 other occasions. You feel stupid, your teammates look at you like you are a moron and you just want the world to swallow you up and take you away from that moment in time. Sagna will certainly have regretted his actions and I’m sure he got a barrel load from his team mates at half time. His game was definitely off for the remainder of the match as errors crept into his performance. The claims for Carl Jenkinson to be promoted to first choice grew stronger and it’s hard to argue as the Englishman has been usurped from the starting eleven despite playing well whenever Sagna has been fit to play. Arsene Wenger has shown some ruthlessness in other positions but has resisted the temptation so far to address the right back role.

Guard of honour

guard of honour

The guard of honour had been talked about all week and received a lot of press coverage. The whole ordeal had been blown well out of proportion, it lasted less than a minute and the players got on with the game. Fans booed as expected, I don’t think the Manchester United players will have sleepless nights about it, Van Persie didn’t milk it. Yes, it isn’t ideal to have to applaud a former player for his feats for a rival, it’s an embarrassment that the board and the manager will have to address but in comparison to the handshake furore of Terry/Bridge and Suarez/Evra it’s a non story to anyone outside of the club. Thank god it’s over and hopefully will never need to be talked about again.

Relaxed QPR

There is always the notion that it’s easier to play against a team with nothing to play for; I actually feel there’s more potential for a banana skin in such games. Arsenal travel to freshly relegated QPR for their next game and on paper it looks like a straightforward victory for the Gunners. With nothing to play for why would QPR even be bothered with the outcome? It is for that very reason that a carefree team playing with no pressure can be a massive threat. Arsenal does have something to play for and nerves can creep into their performance. I actually believe if they were not relegated and needed points to salvage chances of survival the psychological mindset of the QPR players would have been all over the place and played into the hands of the Gunners. With no pressure and there being a Spurs connection in their team I am pretty sure any points will be hard earned.

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.

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Is Project Youth at Arsenal on the way out?

Project youth comes under the spotlight once again with the news that promising young defender Martin Angha has signed a pre-contract agreement to join German club FC Nuremburg in the summer. Arsenal football club has created a reputation for nurturing young talent and blooding them into the first team earlier than expected at most big clubs. When it has worked it has really worked and at other times many fans have been left scratching their heads wondering what the manager actually saw in a player.

angha

Having the eye to see star quality in a young player is not a simple science at all; running rings around players in your age group does not automatically transpire into becoming a world star when thrust into the first team. Sometimes it can be linked to an earlier growth spurt or sheer athleticism that leads a player to stand out from the crowd but then there is the crossroads that is met where cutting it against men requires that special star quality that sets apart a youth star from the real deal.

Now given the growing barren spell of trophies at the Emirates over the years Arsene Wenger has been seen to gradually decrease his initial faith in bringing through youth and instead purchase more established players. He hasn’t completely done away with blooding youngsters and the Capital One Cup is still a platform for the potential to test themselves against more challenging opposition than what they are used to in the reserves and youth leagues. Though the past couple of seasons has seen Arsene Wenger produce more balanced teams thus ensuring enough experience is on the field to help along the youth. In the past it wasn’t a shock to see a Capital One Cup line up littered with young players; they would play with no fear and leave the fans in the stands glowing about how bright the future was.

Now more often than not players that were tipped as standout players in the youth set up have been moving on to pastures new, what isn’t entirely clear is whether these players have moved on because Arsene has identified they don’t have what all it takes to transfer their quality into top level football or whether their impatience has got the better of them. Many young players experience first team football out on loan and when they return to the club the prospect of playing in front of one man and his dog fails to inspire them. The first sniff of an opportunity to become a first team player elsewhere can be too hard to turn down; the manager doesn’t seem to stand in a player’s way when he cannot justify a place ahead of the current players he has in the first team.

Last summer promising Dutch/Turkish player Oguzhan Ozyakup made the move to Besiktas, it seemed a bit of a shock at the time as he was on the fringes of the first team and seemed destined to take his Arsenal career to the next level. Fran Merida comes to mind as another who maybe left before the manager expected. This season there are a number of players who could potentially move on this summer as the club delays on the offer of new contracts. It’s a gamble the club plays on those the manager is not 100% certain of, the time spent thinking allows players like Angha to make other arrangements.

Was Angha a top prospect? I believe he was, he made his first team debut this season in the Capital One Cup. He was highly rated when signed a couple of years back along with Sead Hajrovic and the times I have seen him in various youth and reserve games he had been impressive and comfortable at that level. I think he is one that got away but it would be interesting to hear the view from the club and Arsene in particular if he regrets the loss of the player.

Personally I think the time is up for players like Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt; they have been given opportunities around the first team but have failed to advance their development to the level required. Their loan spells have produced mixed results and I would not be surprise to see them as former Arsenal player by the time next season starts. Chuks Aneke is another player who has had massive potential coming through the ranks and I feel that he may stay on with the club next season but it will be a make or break season for him. He has done well on loan at Crewe Alexandra this season but in all due respect he needs to be testing himself at a much higher level if he is to break into the first team.

chuks aneke

Successful loans don’t always equal a passage to the first team as the example of Henri Lansbury will show you. Despite a few outings for the first team the majority of Lansbury’s last few years at Arsenal seemed to be away from the club on loan. Although I wouldn’t class his departure to impatience, his time away meant that when opportunities presented themselves in the Arsenal midfield he was not around to take them.

It really is interesting to see how the project youth will take shape in the near future at Arsenal, there is undoubted quality coming through such as the likes of Serge Gnabry and Tomas Eisfeld but will those players have the patience to wait to compete with the likes of Arteta, Wilshere Cazorla for a start or fancy their chances of first team opportunities elsewhere? A lot of money is invested in the scouting system at the club and development of young players but at what point is the line drawn if players don’t hang around? Maybe the chance to unearth another Wilshere is worth cutting the loss on players just not at the required level yet.

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Let Djourou Stay in Germany

The news that on-loan defender, Johan Djourou, doesn’t want to return to the club shouldn’t disappoint too many Arsenal fans, who would rather we would cut our ties with the 26-year-old altogether.
 
The Swiss international told Neue Presse Hannover he is happy at new club, Hannover, where he has made 12 appearances so far this spring.
 
“It would be fantastic if the clubs could agree on a deal,” he revealed. “It is a difficult situation since I still have two years left on my contract in London.”
 
Djourou left the Emirates in January after making just two appearances this season and hasn’t been missed since, boss, Arsene Wenger, finding a reasonably strong partnership in Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
 
With Arsenal set to strengthen their defence in the summer, it is becoming increasingly clear Djourou will not be in the first team from next season.
 
DJOUROU Hannover
 
Although the majority of football betting pundits agree  Djourou should be nowhere near the first team, news he wants to leave Arsenal is nevertheless disappointing for a player Wenger put so much trust in during the early years.
 
Since coming up through the ranks in 2005, the defender made over 100 appearances for Arsenal yet is maybe indicative of our recent plight. He’s never won a trophy and ruined his only chance during the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
 
The fact he started in 2011 against Birmingham proved just how fragile Arsenal’s defence was at the time and, although the only real addition has been Mertesacker, at least we have some nous at the back handling dangerous situations.
 
If anything, Djourou is the embodiment of our partially failed youth policy that put too much trust and gave too many shirts to players who simply weren’t good enough. Times are changing and Wenger has realised relying on poor youngsters to come good isn’t the solution to his problems.
 
If Djourou wants to go then let him; Arsenal are better off without a player who has proven incapable of meeting the demands of top-flight football, much to the chagrin of fans who enjoy a football bet
 
Guest post brought to you courtesy of Joe Short.

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