Valentine’s celebrations all round for the Gunners.

Now that is the way to end a game, to win with effectively the last kick of the game you would struggle to find a scenario which can be bettered in football. It may not be the winner on the final day of the season but when you consider the turn of events during the game the relief, joy and ecstasy experienced in one special moment will live long in Gunners’ fans memories. The fact that it was Danny Welbeck who got the winner made for a Hollywood script in its execution.

Other than the fact that many Gunners fans most likely spent the rest of their Valentine’s day with a loss of voice I’m sure the spouses of those very same fans will have enjoyed the company of their partner in one of the best moods of their lives (well, those who didn’t decide to celebrate the victory down the pub for the rest of the day).

Leading up to this game the pressure was on the Gunners to get a result to avoid losing touch with Leicester. Home advantage meant little, you only had to see Leicester’s result at the Etihad last week to realise that Arsenal were coming up against a team in top form playing with no fear whatsoever. Much talk was over how the Gunners would cope with the pace of the Leicester attack and the overwhelming consensus was the choice of Gabriel to partner Koscielny at the back was best to deal with the threat of Vardy, Mahrez et al.

About an hour before kick-off news filtered through that Gabriel was in fact injured and Per Mertesacker had returned to the line-up. Not the news everyone wanted to hear however it is easy to forget Mertesacker has got to where he has in his career never having pace. Reading of the game and 100% focus is equally important and I stand corrected for also having kittens when the team news first broke.

Generally we did ok handling the pace of Leicester, understandably the red card to Danny Simpson made defending somewhat easier in the second half but it is those very moments in the past where Arsenal have shot themselves in the foot from a comfortable position. You need to be focused, well organised and concentrate at all times to reap the benefits of the victory gained.  Not forgetting Koscielny was replaced at half time and the slightly raw and less pacey Callum Chambers replaced him. The chances that Leicester did create were more down to great build up rather than exposing any lack of pace.

This post is less focused on providing a match report and more focusing on the key points of the game so it is definitely worth touching on Ozil’s performance.

Now if I’m being honest yesterday happened to be one of the worst performances I have seen from Mesut Ozil in a long time. I am one of his biggest backers and this season has certainly been one of his best in an Arsenal shirt but yesterday absolutely nothing was coming off for him. Every neat flick and trick did not come off; he dwelled on the ball that micro-second longer than usual which resulted in him getting dispossessed in good positions and his head seemed to drop at the frustration. I do not even recall hearing his recent chant being heard from the stands and that can only be testament to a performance below the excellent high standards which have been set.

Another assist.

 

Having said that the key assist to the winner came from the very boot of Mesut Ozil. If anything it proves that when you have class players on the pitch even if they are having a bad game there is always the possibility of that one piece of quality that can be produced to win you the game. Take your star player off at your peril, well done Arsene on keeping the faith.

Special notice goes to Danny Welbeck for his fantastic winner after such a long time out injured. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he certainly endeared himself that little bit more to Gunners fans in his time with the club. His naming on the bench came as a surprise given Arsene’s caution in handling his comeback but at the final whistle the choice was justified.

The tough games are coming thick and fast with Man United, Barcelona and Spurs game not too far away it hits home how important 3 points were yesterday. It is hoped the recent blip is now behind the Arsenal and a chance to prove true title resolve will be taken with both hands.

Enjoy your day people

 

 

Good Weekend All Round For The Gunners

So, Arsenal fans we can reflect on a weekend that couldn’t have panned out any better (unless in some alternate universe Man City and Chelsea could both lose). Liverpool losing, Man United losing, Spurs losing and Everton slipping up at home to Palace.

Even with Chelsea and Man City drawing it was amusing in the fact that Frank Lampard was the one who stuck the thorn into Mourinho’s side.

The professional Arsenal haters were sharpening their tools on Saturday ready to drive a nail into their often wished coffin of Mesut Ozil and if that failed they had the failsafe of pointing out how many games Danny Welbeck has gone without scoring for the Gunners. You don’t need me to tell you how that one worked out for them.

happy

I am not one to utilise this platform to deride other teams’ fortunes (unless it’s Spurs) so I won’t but what I will do is highlight the evident case and point that midweek European football can affect domestic form at the weekends. It seems a much more even playing field this season and some of the results this weekend are testament to that. At the moment Chelsea seem the main beneficiaries when you look at the table since they played Man City at the best possible time; that gruelling trip to Munich certainly made for a less vibrant City.

Everton, everyone’s favourite neutral team who won plaudits left, right and centre last season with their brave sustained challenge for a top four place stumbled with their first test yesterday. Liverpool too, who came within a whisker of winning the title last season struggled against West Ham; in their defence without their SAS strike force they’re not as formidable.

My theory does fall flat after this as the Gunners also endured a gruelling away trip to Germany; they were well and truly beaten that day yet swept Aston Villa away with ease. Until the first goal went in Villa did pose problems but Arsenal carried equal threat as their quality shone through. I suppose the freshness of switching up the team and deploying Ozil in the no.10 role was a tactic which threw Aston Villa’s preparation out the window.

Alexis Sanchez is synonymous with all that is good about the Arsenal attack that any team facing the Gunners would make provisions to neutralise his threat. The fact he didn’t start was the curveball the Villa management didn’t see coming.

The pressure on Mesut Ozil was intensified by a minority few in the press last week but enough to trigger a response from Arsene Wenger in his pre match press conference. If anything Ozil’s pre match motivation talk was already done by that minority of haters, You can ask any of the Aston Villa players how much of a ‘passenger’ Ozil was on Saturday.

IMG_6535

Same applied for Danny Welbeck who smashed in his first goal for the Gunners and was a constant menace in the first half. Young Welbeck enjoyed his days work on Saturday and must surely have cracked open a wry smile yesterday as his former team with all their superstars that deemed him surplus to requirements crumbled under the pressure from Premiership giants Leicester City.

He has a new team now that will support him and give him the chance to prove how good he really can be in his favoured position. There’s no need to look back Danny, onwards and upwards.

Enjoy your day people.
Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

 

 

Returning Players Make The Difference For Gunners

The season is truly spicing up at the business end of the season for Gunners. The midweek defeat for Everton by Crystal Palace sent the pendulum swinging firmly into North London hands. The events of yesterday did little to divide the two clubs. Arsenal made short work of their trip to Hull while Everton also made easy work of a supposed banana skin in the form of a woeful Manchester United team.

With top 4 confirmation in Arsenal’s hands all they need to do is focus firmly on their games, winnable on paper but in hindsight stress inducing affairs. From now until the end of the season the psychological effect of every decision in games will be massive. With every goal conceded the doubt has potential to set in and affect the players’ performances. Not every goal will be a consolation after going four goals up, it could be an equaliser or the opener in a game and it’s from such situations that prove a team’s mettle.

Many suggest Arsenal has experience of chasing top 4 in the latter stages of the season and know what it takes to see it through whereas this is new territory for Everton and the cracks showed in midweek. Valid point to a certain extent however Arsenal have usually been the chaser, catching up to and then eventually overtaking a spluttering Spurs team with the kind of momentum being exhibited by Liverpool. This season (well recently) however the spluttering, sporadic form has been exhibited by the Gunners themselves meaning they can be also be seen as travelling in unfamiliar territory.

One of the main factors (fixture list aside) that could help the Gunners see it through to the end is the timely return of some of the more creative, game deciding players to the squad. It’s not hard to deduce that many of the poor recent performances have been at the times when the team has been stripped to the bare bones. The performance yesterday versus Hull containing Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil showed a marked improvement in the Gunners. Although far from perfect it was more reminiscent of the kind of performance the Arsenal put in pre February when things were going so well.

ramsey celebrates

The verve and swagger had returned and despite having the pressure of the top 4 race hovering to upset the apple cart the Gunners were focused and determined on the Job at hand. It does make you look back with slight regret at what could have been if the injuries suffered did not occur but equally there were opportunities to address the more long term setbacks in the January transfer window.

The return of Laurent Koscielny also resulted in a long overdue clean sheet for the team, goal difference could be vital and so it was important to shut up shop. I’m not sure why but we never seem to keep a clean sheet when Thomas Vermaelen plays in the team, the goals we concede are not necessarily his fault but it was turning into some sort of hex. I think Tom next time one of those gypsy women in the street offers you one of those little flower things you better take one and give her 20 pence because you have certainly upset someone out there.

Next on the agenda is Newcastle next Monday, although a team in wretched form Arsenal learned the other week when they played a Swansea team in a supposedly similar run of form that when the pressure is on these teams can smell blood and often take advantage of it. Additionally Everton will have played their game on the Saturday so if they take three points from their game it will make things extra nervy.

Anyway, let me move away from the pessimistic doom and gloom, Arsenal won yesterday with a performance much like we know they can put in. With Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil back to boost the squad there is no reason why they cannot finish the job. The toothless performances will be a thing of the past.

Photo 21-04-2014 08 36 53

Enjoy your day people.
Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

 

 

Is the Arsenal/Madrid business far from over?

The International break churns on, leaving football fans up and down the country yearning for domestic football to return. In all fairness the importance of the final group games to confirm qualification for the World Cup in Brazil has at least sparked some interest. England’s quest for qualification kept me firmly lodged in my armchair on Friday evening and the all-important deal breaker of a game against Poland will surely have me glued to the box. I just wish there were more Arsenal players to cheer on for the Three Lions to make it all the more worthwhile. No worries, a victory tonight will ensure that the seats on the plane for Brazil are merely being kept warm for the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott et al.

Anyway, enough of the mean old international break to slow down the momentum of the high Gunners fans are still on after the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Arsenal’s record transfer signing is still a topic of discussion amongst football’s elite a good six weeks after the German signed on the dotted line at the Emirates.

Sami Khedira was quoted in the papers as saying the Real Madrid team seems weaker for the loss of the talented playmaker. Some may say the two players are close and it is just a sign of affection shown to a friend. Well, if Khedira misses his German colleague there is plenty of space here in North London for him to link up with his buddy.

ozil bromance

Over the years the closer link to Arsenal has been from Real’s Catalan rivals Barcelona with the likes of Emmanuel Petit,  Marc Overmars, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Thierry Henry to name a few who have hopped on an Easy Jet flight over to Spain for a new adventure.  The favour hasn’t been reciprocated quite so much.

Could the door that has been opened with the arrival of Ozil stay open in future? For much of the summer the pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain dominated the Arsenal transfer news. Real were prepared to let the Argentinian join the Gunners only for (depending on which rumour you believe) Arsene to pull out of a deal to focus on another target alleged to be Luis Suarez.

To be linked with Real Madrid players is a big thing for Arsenal; we are not talking about 18 year olds looking to gain experience but full international accomplished players. Higuain may not have been in his managers plans for the season but he was hardly an underperformer for the Spanish giants.

All those years back the signing of Davor Sukor was a big one for the Gunners, his lob over Peter Schmeichel at Euro ’96 was enough to place him into hero status. Although the move itself didn’t quite work out a great success it was one of the few times Arsenal were able to negotiate a deal with Madrid for a player and that cannot be understated. Especially when you look back to the years of Vieira speculation Arsenal fans had to endure summer upon summer it was quite an amazement that he never ended up at the Bernabéu after all that pursuit. Arsenal were always the team that had to fight to keep their better players if a team like Madrid came calling but the events of the summer gone have no doubt created a shift in the pulling power at the Emirates.

I mentioned Luis Suarez earlier and the Uruguayan could play a big part in potential future business between Arsenal and Madrid. It has been widely speculated that Suarez has been holding out for a move to Real Madrid. No such move materialized during the last transfer window but there are strong rumours that the move can become a reality in January. It could well draw the Madrid fans back to the Bernabéu in their droves not that the fans have been keeping away but the impact Suarez could bring could re-spark the underwhelming bang that Gareth Bale has produced so far.

benzema

Such a transfer could signal a move for Karim Benzema, the Frenchman seemed like he needed some convincing to join the Gunners when speculation arose in the summer. I am sure the impact that Mesut Ozil has had at the Emirates is likely to change the striker’s initial views.

Let’s see how this all plays out, a potential meeting between the Gunners and Madrid in the latter stages of the Champion’s League? A mouth-watering possibility that is sure to make tickets for the Bernabéu and the Emirates the most in demand on the market.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

Napoli win showcases strength of Arsenal squad

Given the recent loss of Theo Walcott to his mystery abdominal illness the Arsenal team in recent games appeared to lack the outlet of pace which only Theo could provide. I suppose over time Arsenal fans have become accustomed to the threat posed on the right hand side and the special attention paid to Walcott to nullify his strengths.

When all of a sudden Walcott was removed from the team there was apprehension as to how Arsenal would cope without an outlet on the flanks. How would Arsenal scare teams and get in behind them? Serge Gnabry was drafted into the starting eleven and took the opportunity to prove his worth and readiness for Arsenal duty. With all due respect to the talented German his attributes are more similar to that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Stocky and strong, excellent dribbling skills and the eye for a shot. The obvious pace is used sparingly and the dribbling is more directly at defenders rather than storming down the flanks playing of the shoulder of the fullback.

theo w

In other words the style of play has had to adapt to compensate for less pace on the wings from Theo. Arsenal fans have developed an almost complacent expectation that the right wing is for a pacy winger to stretch teams, if Walcott is not available then an identical player should surely be waiting in the wings to step up when he is not available.

So when the line up to face Napoli was revealed last night Arsenal fans could be forgiven for wondering how the team would line up and where the pace would come from. Tomas Rosicky was drafted back into the team following injury to line up alongside fellow returnee Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Matthieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil. The starting quintet did their best to dispel the notion that pace is the one and only commodity for success in football.

The quality of the football produced by the Arsenal team as a whole was something to behold. The passing at times was exquisite as each of the midfielders on the pitch so comfortable in possession stroked the ball around with such finesse that at times in the first half Napoli were reduced to mere spectators. They would have been best advised to take advantage of the comfortable seats in the stands at the emirates and join the fans in admiration of the football on show.

gunners celebrate

That Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were not starters on the pitch during the fantastic display is not an indication that their contributions are surplus to requirements now but a mere indication that the squad as a whole is a lot stronger than people take for granted. Theo and Jack are key players for Arsenal and the thought of them waiting in the wings alongside the likes of Cazorla, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain is one to trigger an excitement for the team that hasn’t been felt for quite a few seasons now.

The football yesterday was a joy to watch especially in the first half, with Napoli despatched qualification from the difficult group looks ever the more realistic. Despite their defeat in the opening game week of the Champion’s League Borussia Dortmund is still the team to beat for Arsenal. It seems such a long, long time ago that uncertainty clouded over Arsenal on whether they would even get past Fernabache to qualify for the competition proper. The performance yesterday made a mockery of there ever being the possibility of the Gunners not gracing the competition. Arsenal belong in the competition, they are literally part of the Champion’s League furniture and they intend stick around this season.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter