Arsenal Out Of The FA Cup Thanks To Their Own Doing.

This was a bad day at office, a really really bad day at the office. There’s just no scope available to defend it. We were terrible from the first whistle to the end and can have no complaints about the final result. We are out of the FA Cup; we started the day talking about going for number 15 and ended it wondering when we will break this 2022 New Year’s resolution of losing every game.

We had the luxury of the game being beamed free and to all on national television. No subscriptions needed, this was on ITV and the whole nation had the chance to witness the new Arsenal being formed in Mikel Arteta’s vision. The new Arsenal that went toe to toe with Manchester City and but for an awful referee’s performance should have walked away with all three points.

Bad day at the office

We spent the last couple days applauding the club for their bold and inspiring No More Red campaign which meant we would be donning the unique white only kit in the aid of awareness and support for an end to knife crime violence. Unfortunately what was an amazing gesture was then left tainted by a performance that didn’t allow the shirts and the cause a result it warranted. The campaign hasn’t fallen on deaf ears and I’m sure it will result in so many positives for the youth of today, it’s just sad that on the pitch there was nothing memorable to recall.

So, one of the biggest problems with yesterday’s game was the personnel that were available to be utilised. We went into the game with an absolute threadbare squad and questions have to be asked why we put ourselves into such a position?

We all are excited by the talent that is being churned out with such regularity these days from Hale End but the bench we had for the game yesterday was a worry. Filled with a majority of youngsters who haven’t played for a single minute in the first team is not ideal in the worst case scenario where we need to chase the game.

Yes, the argument is due to AFCON call ups, Injuries and Covid-19 this forced the hand of Mikel Arteta and we had to hope the quality on the pitch was enough to do the job asked of the manager so that we wouldn’t be in desperate measures.

This is where I argue why we have made the move to loan out players without adequate replacements signed or available within? Now I’m not saying having Ainsley Maitland Niles and Forlarin Balogun would have single handily won us the tie but you cannot deny these are players of first team experience which could have been options.

At what point do we honour the wishes of an unhappy player over the needs for the club at that very moment in time. Could we not have decided to loan out AMN until after the FA Cup game? At the end of the day we are making a loan deal here, not a multi million pound sale with the risk of losing a big fee due to a potential injury. Whilst we were struggling to get a foothold in the game at the City Ground Ainsley Maitland Niles was in action for Roma against Juventus.

Player we could have done with yesterday

The AFCON that has reduced the availability of Thomas Partey, Elneny and Pepe, all players that would make a difference for us yesterday was not a surprise competition that came out of the blue. The loss of these players has been anticipated well in advance so why hasn’t any potential cover/replacement been acquired in preparation?

Names have been mentioned but nothing has materialised at what could be a make or break week for our season. The first hurdle of the FA Cup is now gone, we face a testing trip to Anfield this Thursday  for the Carabao Cup Semi Final followed but a battle against our North London rivals Tottenham on Sunday. We need personnel, personnel that can hit the ground running because at this stage it would be massively unfair to now burden our untried youngsters with the responsibility to salvage our hopes for a top 4 finish and any last remaining chance of silverware.

As it stands we are left with Xhaka and Emile Smith-Rowe returning to bolster our options. I just don’t think it’s enough to rely on because we would be making a massive assumption no other injuries or Covid-19 infections will occur between now and when/if anyone comes in.

I know Forlarin Balogun has had a lukewarm impact this season so far but he still would have been a viable option starting or from the bench yesterday. Eddie Nketiah lacked any impact for the frontline yesterday and it would have been more reassuring if Balogun was available in addition to Lacazette. Like I said we have a three game week and should have been in a position to have some players afforded minutes only in emergency and not a self inflicted emergency due to some questionable decisions on transfers/loans.

I had mentioned in my blog yesterday that I didn’t think Mikel Arteta would start Charlie Patino yesterday due to the fact that we were playing away. That’s not to say Charlie wouldn’t be able to handle pressure but more to fact youngsters have usually been afforded starts with a home crowd behind them to ease them into a game. The belief is there in Charlie and it’s hoped the start for him was more to do with faith and not down to lack of options.

I’m not a football manager and never have been but I would question blooding any young starlet it would be beneficial to have an experienced partner next to them to help guide them. In such a game Xhaka would have been a good partner but as we know he is out with Covid-19. So what we ended up with yesterday was Patino partnered with Sambi Lokonga. Sambi has had a great start to his Arsenal career but he is still technically in his integration phase into the Arsenal midfield. He’s very young and still developing his game, he then had the added responsibility to look out for a younger more inexperienced partner in Charlie.

Now this is not to say the midfield was overrun by any means but my point is it’s not the ideal scenario to partner such limited collective experience in the middle of the park. And this is what takes you back to the question why did we have no other alternative options when we knew so many numbers would be missing for that position of the field?

We have had Jack Wilshere training with the club for the last few months; can you tell me registering him as a player even as cover for this month is such a terrible idea? The issue with Jack has always been the injuries not the ability. Having Jack Wilshere rather than nobody is not a crazy, ludicrous idea. He has been training with the club, would know the plays and would fill in instantly if needed.

An opportunity missed?

I just struggle to get my head around the decision to let bodies go and not have cover especially when you have one literally on your doorstep.

One thing we as a club suffer from is doing things the right way at detriment to our advantages. We often used to hear the term the team is too soft, you need a nasty, dirty bastard on the pitch to do the horrible things that benefit the team. The same almost applies in off field actions; you want the club to act in best possible way to achieve the end goals.

Look at Liverpool  for example, to determine they had the best chance of advancing past us in the Semi Final of the Carabao Cup they ensured the game for the first leg was postponed to benefit their cause in order  to have availability of their stronger players. We all know their Covid-19 outbreak excuse was very suspect but they used every sneaky tactic within the rulebook to gain their advantage. They ensured they could do whatever they had in their power to work for them rather than face a beating at the Emirates. That’s the mindset we need to incorporate at times to ensure Arsenal comes out on top. It’s fine being sneaky and have a dirty streak on the pitch but you need that off the pitch to maximise your chances to win things.

This is where as I mentioned earlier we have sent out Ainsley Maitland Niles and soon Forlarin Balogun on loan because they need the loan rather than stopping to assess, “wait, we may need these players this week, lets delay the loan deal and use them”.

So back to the game (although right now I’d rather forget it) lets touch briefly on the Tavares incident. We are all likely in agreement that the young Portuguese was not having the best of games. The passes and decision making were not quite coming off and Mikel Arteta decided in all his wisdom the best action was to hook the player after 30 odd minutes. Not only can that cause a potential disruption in the dressing room but it also provided great embarrassment to a player in a week where we need to make the most of the limited bodies we have available for some massive games.

He wasn’t having the best game as I mentioned but Mikel had the added advantage of being able to coach and provide instructions to the player as he was situated on the same side as the manager. This was the perfect opportunity to coach the player out of a bad patch of form on the pitch. Instead Arteta chose to substitute him rather than seeing out until half time. Now there may have been an exchange of dissent from the player not picked up by the cameras which could have played a part in the decision but I personally felt the 34th minute wasn’t the best time to flex the non-negotiable muscles.  Plenty Arsenal players were misplacing passes and not performing to the best of their ability so it just felt bizarre given the limited options we already had available.   I hope this moment didn’t lead to any backlash in the dressing room which could result in some disciplinary action because at this moment in time we cannot afford to cut off our nose to spite our face. We need every available player fighting for the team in harmony right now.

Now despite what seems to be coming off as a bit of a rant (I am writing this article immediately after the final whistle), I am not calling for the managers head. We are moving in the right direction, the players acquired match the DNA of how he wants to play and the team will hit inevitable bumps along the way. Yesterday I have to state he got things wrong, the team were lethargic and stale, his in game decisions could have been better and whether it is in his control or not the transfer business should have been timed to not leave us short in numbers especially for the competitions we have realistic chances of winning.

Right now it seems we are going to have to fumble our way through next few weeks with just plan A on the pitch as we have no alternatives to offer a Plan B or C. Our opponents will be able to telegraph in what team we play as we have limited options, I just hope we can ride that storm and our plan A team can do the business in the remainder of our make or break week and/or month.

Enjoy your day people

This post will also feature on Gunners Town site which I write for.

Try to enjoy your day people, better days ahead

Gunners recover to reach next round of FA Cup

I’m not sure what to make of the Arsenal of 2017, another win salvaged after another rotten start. I’m not sure the ticker can take such a roller coaster of a ride, on paper it’s a victory but to witness performances like in the first half do not make for an enjoyable experience.

The FA Cup is a different experience to the league games and a fired up lower league team will always be looking for a big scalp. Preston North End were not going to lay out the carpet for Arsenal, it was a one off cup tie that could go anyone’s way on the day. It was no secret many of the Arsenal big guns would be rested and/or were injured and Preston smelt blood.

The Bournemouth game is still fresh in the mind and it was a question of which Arsenal would start the game on Saturday night. Unfortunately the start was slow and after conceding an early goal it was a worry as to how many goals Preston would score.

To say the team rode their luck is an understatement but rode their luck they did and having survived up to half time at just one goal down it worked in the Gunners favour. Arsene’s team talk at half time is probably one of the easiest he has had to make in his time at the club. The players will have known they were rotten but they had 45 minutes to prove they are far far better than the rubbish they displayed in the first half.

It needed a good start to get the belief back and it worked perfectly as Aaron Ramsey scored within a minute of the restart. 


The perfect way to deflate the momentum of belief the Preston Players had prior to the second half. It was a much better second half performance and once the equaliser went it you couldn’t help but think the winner would follow shortly. It didn’t exactly work out that way as it wasn’t until the last few minutes that Olivier Giroud finished off a quality back heeled pass from Lucas Perez to seal the tie and avoid an unwanted replay.


So into the fourth round draw the Gunners go, they made hard work of it but unlike against Bournemouth a winner was found. Olivier Giroud again the key man up front, he’s now in a run of form that makes him un-droppable. Arsene has a dilemma on his hands once he has a fully fit squad to pick from.

Danny Welbeck who it was great to see get a run out will add to the options up front. Hopefully a positive addition to the squad given the battle the club is in to gain silverware on three fronts this season.


The games will be coming thick and fast and the wheels have slightly come off the Arsenal train since the injuries started to build up so players returning (and hopefully a signing) will aid the Gunners as they march on. We are in the next round, the cup is out the way for now, focus now turns back to the Premiership where it is hoped the poor starts are a thing of the past and Swansea will be a team that wont get a chance to even test us as we stamp our authority from the first whistle. Enjoy your day  people!

 

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Can Gunners get their head right to beat Man United?

Nervy times ahead, nervy times indeed. The Gunners take on their old arch rivals Manchester United tonight at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter finals and Arsenal fans can be forgiven for not feeling overly optimistic. On paper the Gunners have every chance of getting something from the game despite the facts showing the last meaningful victory at Old Trafford was quite some time away. The current Manchester United team with all due respect is one of the worst in recent times, not that I am saying the team is awful but in comparison to some of the teams we have become accustomed to experiencing during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure this current crop fall way short of those standards.

My argument falls flat when I highlight the failings of Manchester United yet they are well in the mix for a top four finish and have walked away from Emirates with three points under their belt this season. The tie is evenly balanced however the home advantage pushes the odds in favor of the Red Devils. The victory that Arsenal pulled off at the Etihad earlier in the season exhibited that there is a big away performance in them against the bigger clubs.

united beat afc

The psychological hold that Manchester United has over Arsenal cannot be ignored. When it really matters the Gunners haven’t risen to the occasion and more often than not and have let United walk away victorious. For Arsenal to come away from Old Trafford with a victory (Or a draw) it really depends on what team turns up tonight. At times when Arsenal have had their backs to the wall after a bad performance when fans, pundits et al have written them off they have responded with the types of performances that leave you scratching your head wondering why those performances are not more consistently churned out.

I believe one of Arsenal’s biggest Achilles heels is complacency, being able to motivate their selves to pull off a high intensive level of performance when things are going well. The fight is replaced with a swagger and cockiness which they struggle to switch off when things don’t go their way, the swagger soon turns to panic and loss of composure and before you know it there’s too much mess to be undone within the 90 minutes. The Monaco game is a good example of such self-implosion.

Playing against Manchester United shouldn’t require much motivation for the players, it’s a massive game but it is hoped the Arsenal come out with all guns blazing. This is the type of game where the energy of Alexis Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky needs to be matched by their team mates. When the Arsenal are firing on all cylinders there aren’t many teams that can stand toe to toe, they just need to believe in their abilities, understand what is at stake and take the game to United.

The pantomime distraction of Robin Van Persie will not play a factor due to his current injury which is a massive boost. That’s not to say there aren’t equal threats from the United side, Rooney always has the knack of scoring in this fixture and even Falcao found the net during pre-season against the Gunners however Van Persie is the one you would expect to be the greater threat given his ties to the club.

Giroud

Goal threats aside composure in front of goal is vital, Olivier Giroud is in a rich vein of form and will need to maintain that to beat United’s biggest match winner David De Gea. This season the Spaniard has saved United’s bacon in so many games this season that no chances can afford to be wasted when they arise. Danny Welbeck is due a goal and if he starts i hope he can get one over his former teammate, that really would be the icing on the cake.
There is a lot at stake tonight, the FA Cup is a realistic possibility for the winners of this tie. I may have slight nerves for the game but i do have a lot of belief in the capabilities of the Arsenal to pull off a big win. Come on you Gunners!!

Enjoy your day people.
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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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