Liverpool walk alone as Gunners cruise to win – AFC

That’s more like it, what better way to get your first win of the season than winning comfortably at Anfield. This is definitely the tonic needed after the underwhelming feeling felt by gooners after Friday’s transfer deadline day. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up that I was not happy when no new reinforcements came in to strengthen the side especially a replacement for the loss of Alex Song to Barcelona. I still believe we missed an opportunity to snap up personnel at a reasonable price, when you see the likes of Clint Dempsey moving on for only £6m or Michael Essien going on loan to Madrid it does leave the feeling of missing out on good players when available.

With the deadline day inactivity fresh in the mind a trip to Anfield had the possibility of being the banana skin that would incense the arsenal fans even more and heap extra pressure on Arsene Wenger and the team. It was paramount that we came away from the game with at least a point and luckily for us Arsene’s men wanted more than a point and made sure they left clutching all three.

Now normally Liverpool away is a tough game, never mind the stats that we haven’t lost there for a while we have come away having to really earn our results in the past. They have never been easy games and we have had to ride our luck over the years to ensure we pull off the results. Yesterday I believe we came away with one of our most comfortable performances against Liverpool, don’t get me wrong it was not an easy game and they did cause us problems at times but in general we were in control of our destiny. I was waiting for the point in the game when Liverpool would step up the pressure and their overated world famous KOP would lift them as the twelfth man; im still waiting. Our fabulous away fans were in full voice throughout the game and it was only their voices I could hear singing throughout the game, of course this was aided by the team on the pitch as they provided the reasons to cheer.

Going into the game we were still without our no.1 Szczesny so Vito Manonne had a chance to build on his clean sheet in the last game, Mertesacker was signalled out as the weak link to be exploited by the pace and trickery of Luis Suarez by the Sky Sports team and our new signings were still looking for their first goals for the club.

It was nice to see Manonne put in an assured performance again, he did seem a bit uncomfortable with the physicality when the balls were looped in the air, but apart from that there were no complaints, he did everything that was required of him.

Mertesacker who is often dismissed due to his lack of pace took the opportunity to show football requires more than just pace. His 80 plus caps for Germany are testament to the fact he has faced all types of strikers and coped, for Jamie Redknapp and co to predict a torrid game for the German was naïve. Our big German played his heart out, used all his experience to put in a fabulous performance despite an early booking for a pull on Suarez. He even managed to pull out a goal saving tackle with his telescopic leg to deny Sterling; the Liverpool fans screamed for a penalty but all replays showed Mertesacker pulled off a great tackle.

In midfield we dominated the majority of the game, Abou Diaby was immense making the game look so easy for him at times, he made some great leggy runs reminiscent of Vieira in his Highbury days, an all round good performance which was a timely reminder to arsenal fans of what he can bring to the team when fit. Arteta was neat and tidy in distribution, tigerish in the tackle and seemed that little bit more determined in the game probably due to his Everton links; a great performance from the Spaniard protecting the defence. Now to Santi Cazorla our little pocket rocket, this guy is such a fabulous footballer whose stock is rising with each game he plays. Liverpool had no answer to his close control and vision, he really makes things happen when he’s on the ball and he provides the triple threat of being able to provide a key pass, able to shoot from distance with left or right foot and he has the skill to beat a man. The difficulty in defending against those three attributes led to the Spaniard laying on the opportunity in which Podolski scored to put us a goal up. It was important that our new signings made such a contribution to the team as Podolski showed his predatory skills to drill past Pepe Reina. Our German attacker did his bit in our win by playing an efficient game, he really helped out Keiran Gibbs on the defensive side and supported in attack. He was rewarded for his efforts with the first goal and also an assist when he played a slick one-two with Cazorla that ended with a howler from the keeper and the ball in the back of the net.

The game ended 2-0 as we racked up another clean sheet, what a difference from 12 months ago. The defence is really playing for each other and apart from a few dodgy balls across the pitch from Jenkinson they were very switched on. Up front the jury is still out on Olivier Giroud, he was often isolated up front and he tried hard to battle for the balls played up front, his work rate is not in question but what he needs to ensure is he takes the chances that come his way. Much like the game on the opening day against Sunderland he found himself with an opportunity to slot home, this time on his favoured left foot but he somehow managed to not hit the target with his effort.

I am very much behind our French striker and know he has goals in him but he needs that first goal for the club soon before it really affects his confidence. He doesn’t have the pace to speed away from the defender but he has the physical strength to work himself opportunities and his movement around the box is very good he just needs to score soon and banish any doubts about his finishing.

Overall I am very proud of our boys for their performance yesterday, we’ve scored our first goals and now we can go into our next game against Southampton with confidence up. This is providing our players come through the international break unscathed (light a candle in prayer for Abou Diaby who was called up for France).

One last point on the game, wasn’t it great to see Nuri Sahin struggle against our midfield yesterday? The Midfielder chose Liverpool ahead of us and to be honest showed nothing that we would have missed.

wrong dugout Brendan, you have to work with what you’ve got – good luck

In general Liverpool struggled trying to play us at our own game, you don’t learn tippy tappy overnight, those Liverpool players are used to direct long ball football and it was amusing to see them try playing triangles but just give the ball straight back to us after the third touch. They may get it eventually but for now the pass masters showed them why they are known for this football.

Enjoy your day people

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Laurent Koscielny: Providing stability in times of unrest

Robin van Persie. Yes, he’s virtually gone, but we shouldn’t let that dampen the optimism that surrounded the club pre-RVP statement. We all know that it’s a blow – any team who loses their captain, top scorer and best player can agree with that – but it’s definitely not the end of the world. Although, reports have transpired this morning, emanating from the ever reputable L’Équipe, that Laurent Koscielny wants to sign a new deal, a stark contract from our ‘captain’ and talisman.

In many Arsenal fans’ opinions, Laurent Koscielny was our best defender last season – I agree with that.

Ever since his arrival, in the Summer of 2010, from FC Lorient, opinion has differed on the pacey centre-half. The 2010/’11 season, his first in English football, wasn’t a resounding success. His calamitous blunder in the Carling Cup Final affirmed what Arsenal fans had believed to be the truth – he’s a ‘terrible centre-back’. Looking back on it, most of those Arsenal fans were justified. As previously mentioned, his Carling Cup Final mishap was nigh-on unforgivable. His ‘air kick’ ultimately denied our chance to put the ‘7 trophyless seasons curse’ firmly to bed. Not the best of starts for the French centre-back.

Although, Koscielny’s revival to form was meteoric. After his Carling Cup cock-up, he reappearaed in the Arsenal first-team as a new player, a rejuvenated man. His dominant, clean tackling became an iconic image during the latter half of Arsenal’s season. Koscielny’s reading of the game was something which any world-class centre-back could take pride upon – often breaking up opposition attacks before setting off on one of his own. This, once again, posed a problem as it would influence the fans’ perception of Koscielny, a perception which took a negative turn on 27th of February, 2011.

Laurent has forged a formidable partnership with Thomas Vermaelen.

Intelligent, pacey, strong and positive are all adjectives which Koscielny has inherited. His game revolves around his intelligent, future-thinking mind set, and this is his main asset. This is what, in my opinion, has endeared himself even further to Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. It’s an asset which most Arsenal player needs – a trail of thought which is capable to handle the quick-tempo, free flowing Arsenal philosophy.

This season has been his best in an Arsenal shirt, and offers much optimism for the future. He was most certainly Arsenal’s best defender last season and, in the process, repaying the faith in him from manager Arsène Wenger. The arrival of Per Mertesacker was a welcome incentive to up his game too. International honours came calling too – a destination which many thought was a long, long way away after his debut season at Arsenal. He travelled with the French squad to Ukraine for the European Championships after making his French debut against USA.

The arrival of Olivier Giroud to the Emirates was influenced by Laurent Koscielny himself, who’s a close friend to the former Montpellier man.

One thing that is needed when a member of Arsenal’s squad, something which Arsène Wenger looks for in any possible target, is the said player’s demeanor and ability on the ball. Composure, assurance and confidence are all musts for any Arsenal player, wherever they play on the field, and Laurent Koscielny has the aforementioned qualities in abundance.

It transpired this morning from French newspaper L’Équipe, on the 9th of July, that Laurent Koscielny was seeking a new contract at Arsenal, with the club keen to grant him one. No-one can say that he hasn’t deserved it. It’s reported that Laurent Koscielny was on the shopping list for Italian side Internazionale, therefore tying him down to a new contract is even more essential;

The London club would like to do re-sign [Laurent Koscielny] for three more years, until 2017.

Extracted from Monday’s L’Équipe

I, like many other Arsenal fans, are delighted with this positive news. With much negativity and disappointment surrounding Arsène Wenger’s side, not to mention the widespread unjust criticism of Arsenal’s hierarchy, it’s a welcome boost to the club. Much like he does on the pitch, Laurent Koscielny has now provided stability in a time of unrest.

As important as it is to challenge here and now, it’ still important that we have a stable foundation to build upon for the future – tethering down Koscielny to a long-term deal will go a long way towards setting that solid base. The long-term future of the centre-back position seems stable. The trio of Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou all have contracts which expire in the Summer of 2015, while Ignasi Miquel, the young Catalan cornerstone, and Kyle Bartley also look to have a bright future ahead of them, in particular the former of the two.
In a week of uncertainty and confusion, the news of Laurent Koscielny, as mentioned above, is a welcome boost to the spirits of the squad. Commitment and loyalty has all but disappeared from the modern game, but there are a few determined souls who’ll fight and truly love a club – Laurent Koscielny seems to be one of those. Mérci, Laurent! 
I hope you all enjoyed my guest piece! Follow me on Twitter: @LlewAFC

Euros start today, exciting times – AFC

It’s Friday 8th June and the Euros are set to start today, the long wait is over and I’m feeling a little excited. Operation “cope without premiership” has moved into phase two if you are wondering phase one was the spluttering of pre-Euro friendlies we have witnessed recently but in my opinion international friendlies just don’t hit the spot. We as football fans need football that matters, games that have that life or death feeling. The friendlies are an excuse to iron out the mistakes and get sharp; the tournament is the time when the mistakes are unacceptable. 

Our wives and girlfriends dread this time of year; the odd jobs we have promised to do are placed firmly at the back of the list of importance. They will have to wait a little longer for that shelf to be put up; they might as well buy a brand new washing machine because we are not taking a look at the current one now.

By the way no disrespect to the bona-fide football loving ladies, I know there are a lot of you and you will be enjoying the tournament as much as the next person.

Now the added interest to the tournament comes in the form of the Arsenal players that will be representing their countries.  Many past and present stars will be on show in the majority of the games to give gunners fans plenty to mull over.  We also have a category of potential former players which gunners fans will be divided over supporting through the competition. And a final category of potential signings, gooners across the land will turn into scouts and run the rule over the players linked with moves to Arsenal and give their assessment of those players and hope Wenger is taking note on Twitter.

I will give a brief summary of the players in question to look out for:

POLAND: Szczesny (current).  Our current number one will be playing between the sticks for Poland. He has earned his plaudits whilst playing for his country and now on the grand stage hopefully he can show what he can do. Will be a major boost for his confidence to have a good tournament and will benefit Arsenal in the long run.

RUSSIA: Arshavin (could be going). Our Russian no.23 will be captaining his country and will hope to have a good competition. He seems likely to move on after the Euros so expect him to have extra incentive to impress potential suitors.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Rosicky (current). Super Tom will also be captaining his country at the Euros. Given his form towards the second half of the season for Arsenal it will be nice to see him carry that form into the Euros and have a good tournament.

NETHERLANDS: Van Persie (could be going) our skipper will be going into the tournament after a fantastic season for Arsenal. His confidence will be sky-high so his contribution in the tournament could be that final piece of the puzzle that can push Netherlands towards success. With his future put on hold until after the Euros many AFC fans will be backing Robin for success.

Ibrahim Afellay (Scout watch). Will be interesting to see what the Barcelona winger has in his locker

DENMARK: Bendtner (could be going) The big Dane looks to have one foot out the door, after spending the season out on loan and vowing not to return to Arsenal. Reception from Arsenal fans will be mixed.

GERMANY: Podolski (current) a great chance to have a good look at our acquisition on the big stage. We have all seen what Podolski can do in previous tournaments but this time as an Arsenal player there will be more interest in his actual play and how it can fit in at Arsenal.

Mertesacker (current) the tall German will be coming into the tournament on the back of a long-term injury. Hopefully he is back fully fit and has a good tournament.

SPAIN: Fabregas (former) Former skipper, some may wish him well, some don’t really care. I’ll still have an interest in him but not too bothered how he does.

CROATIA: Eduardo (former) Dudu is still liked by many Arsenal fans and it’s still quite sad it ended the way it did after his horrific leg break. What’s good is he got his career back on track and I would like to see him have a good tournament.

FRANCE: Koscielny (current) Our Kos is coming into the tournament on the back of a great season at Arsenal. He improves with each game he plays and has worked his way into Laurent Blanc’s plans.

Nasri (former) No comment

Clichy (former) nothing against Gael, hope he has a good tournament if he can dislodge Patrice Evra from left back slot.

Giroud (Scout watch). Let’s see what the striker can do, he has impressed in recent friendlies.

M’villa (Scout watch). Another we will anticipate to see on the big stage if he overcomes his ankle injury.

ENGLAND: Oxlade-Chamberlain (current) hopefully the Ox has a good tournament for an injury ravaged England squad. He has nothing to fear going into the tournament and if used right by Roy Hodgson should have a positive impact on the team.

Walcott (current) this will be Theo’s first proper tournament. After being swept into the England squad for the 2006 world cup and was unused, he was then left out of the 2010 world cup squad by Fabio Capello. Theo will need to use this tournament to make up for lost time.

Cole (former) No comment

SWEDEN: Larsson (former) Former player Sebastian should star for the Swedes this tournament. Never quite made it at Arsenal before deciding on taking his career elsewhere. Amazing dead ball skills, will be interesting to see if he scores any trademark free kicks at the Euros.

 Well that’s the players with Arsenal links. Enjoy your Friday at work and then hurry home or to the pub for kick off. Roll on 17:00 (UK time of course)

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