Stuttering win against QPR halts the losing streak – AFC

A win is a win is a win, the boys made hard work of it but we came out from a horrible week with the three points on the board. Even the best win ugly from time to time and given the low confidence throughout the team of late those points gained against queens park rangers will go a long way towards restoring our lost mojo. The weather was cold, the rain was spitting down and such factors were enough to add to the frustrated vibes felt by the fans. We needed something to raise our hopes; I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was worried a scapegoat would be picked out from the game if things didn’t go to plan. The names I had mentioned were Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone. The current bad feeling had me fearing a repeat of the booing that greeted Emmanuel Eboue a few seasons back.

From my list Gervinho wasn’t selected in the starting line up so that saved him from the venom of the frustrated fans if he misplaced a pass. It seems Santos was the focus of most frustration; at times it was down to some parts of his game but given the negativity he has received over the past week he was blamed when things weren’t his fault. Such is the life of a footballer he is going through a bad period right now so he will need to work that extra bit harder to win back the fans confidence. His partnership with Podolski on the left hand side hasn’t clicked so far and so in comparison to Keiran Gibbs he is in the side by default rather than merit. His confidence does seem low at the moment and that was evident from his body language, fans in the stands are less forgiving and are sure to let you know how they feel about your performance with a few expletives thrown in. If we did not manage to win the game I am sure our cuddly Brazilian would have received the criticism full barrel at full time.

Mannone came though the game with little incident if I recall, when he came out for the balls in the box he made sure he connected. I remember one mis-kick in the second half but the ball still reached an arsenal player. He actually ensured our victory with an excellent block in the last minute of the game.

I guess I have so far ignored one of the most important factors from yesterday’s game, which was the bold decision by Arsene to start Wilshere against QPR. Our midfield gem has not featured for the first team in over 18 months and it was a surprise to many Wenger took the risk. Bacary Sagna was also restored to the line up at the expense of Carl Jenkinson and I can probably see the psychological boost Wenger tried to bring to the team by adding our two long term absentees.

It was especially great to see Jack back in the team and he slotted into the midfield seamlessly. His class was evident for all to see: the trademark gliding past his man, the deft flicks and control were all still there and gave the fans a reminder of what we have missed for the past year and a half. To be honest the performances of Jack and Bacary were the only positive from a very flat performance from the team. We really struggled to take the game to QPR and although the threat of losing a goal was under control many of our attacks just didn’t get going. The times when we did carve out a chance Julio Cesar was on top form to thwart anything that came near his goal.

I feel from our starting 11 we lacked the required pace needed to stretch the QPR back four; we really struggled to get in behind their defence and made it slightly easier for them to defend against. As with all teams Mark Hughes brings to the emirates he ensured his players would frustrate at every opportunity, there was time-wasting even during the first half. This riled the home crowd and was surely part of Hughes plan to turn the fans against their team; the longer the game went on the more likely the fans would turn on the players.

For all the good Podolski and Ramsey can do on the ball they don’t possess the pace to really give the full back something to think about. The arsenal attack was screaming out for something to inject some new impetus. That came when Wenger finally introduced the returning Theo Walcott into action, Gervinho was added soon after and the change brought about instant results. Now the QPR team were forced further back, their fullbacks were kept on their toes and the chances came for the arsenal.

Although we looked more likely to score in the game the real turning point was the sending off of M’bia. The defender was deservedly red carded after stupidly lashing out at Thomas Vermaelen after initially winning a free kick after a tussle. That played right into our hands and the extra man advantage only added to the pressure on the QPR defence. Julio Cesar was on a one man mission to prevent an arsenal victory as he pulled off some excellent reflex saves to keep the score line level. At times it seemed like it just wouldn’t be our day as the ball would bounce and ricochet anywhere but into the back of the net. Finally the goal came courtesy of Mikel Arteta and I don’t think I have witnessed a scruffier goal before. Cesar managed to fling himself to deny a Giroud header as the ball bounced out Ramsey fired in a shot which deflected and looped in the air, Arteta got his head to the ball only for it to bounce of the bar, when the ball dropped the Spaniard was first to it to poke it hope from literally on the line.

There was a massive sigh of relief from the whole of the emirates that we finally took the lead. All we needed to do was retain possession and see out the last 5 or so minutes against the ten men. Easier said than done, as is the arsenal way we still managed to present QPR with two clear cut chances. They really should have taken one of their chances but for arsenals benefit I’m glad they didn’t.

On reflection it was important on so many levels that we got the three points in this game, with a trip to old Trafford next week to continue the bad run of results could have been the worst preparation going into the game. The midweek game against Reading holds no relevance as the squad for that game will probably not include any players that will start against united. I don’t even think Jack who has long been mooted to play in the Capital One game will be involved now after his appearance yesterday. We have a week where I hope we will get some positive news on the returns of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby and Gervinho who was stretchered off yesterday. We have some unfinished business from last season we need to address with the boys from Manchester and Jack just might swing things in our favour.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page.

Tension high for QPR, Adidas kit deal in pipeline – AFC

Match day, boy do we need a win today. The past week has been nothing short of depressing; two defeats in a week do not bode well for morale. The fan frustrations have been heightened and I suppose the timing of the AGM this week couldn’t have been timed better to let the people in the know get an indication of how feelings about the club are felt by the majority of the fans.

The funny thing about football is it is a sport for the now, whatever happened two weeks ago gets long forgotten and replaced with whatever happened now. Where a few weeks ago we were pulling off great results and moving up the table, the frustrations were at a minimum. If the AGM happened back then the meeting would have passed with little fuss and certain issues would have been overlooked because of the feel good factor.

The fact that we lost a couple of games in a week the undertones transmitting from fans are at the opposite end of the scale. Every aspect of the club gets looked at and all the progress at the start of the season is long forgotten, replaced with all the reasons we have not won anything for 7 years.

With queens park rangers the next opponents at the Emirates today anything but a convincing win will do for now. The game today will be a real test for the players; they know the fans are not happy right now. They of course are not content with losing games, they know the arsenal faithful expect and today the support will be border line. Of course the fans are behind the team and want them to win but on the back of two defeats in a week it is guaranteed that every misplaced pass will be met with groans of dissatisfaction. The groans will be louder than usual and it is hoped this does not affect the performance of the players too much.

I’m slightly worried that there could be a scapegoat today if things don’t go to plan. Players in danger of the brunt of fans frustrations could well be Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone.

Many fans are divided on the influence of Gervinho in a central role; the problem for the forward is that even when he was scoring in that position many still didn’t think he looked the part. It was inevitable that as soon as he doesn’t score he will receive a backlash. The biggest problem I suppose was the fact that as soon as he looked to start scoring regularly in that position he was moved back to the wide position he usually occupies. Many players need a run of games to find their form and Gervinho’s run of form halted when he was shifted back wide at the expense of Olivier Giroud; he hasn’t quite hit top form back out wide. The fact that Arsene is swapping around the central striking position isn’t benefiting the Ivorian or the Frenchman at the moment.

Giroud still has the patience of the fans since he is new to the team and still acclimatizing to the premiership, Gervinho doesn’t have that luxury after a season already under the belt at the arsenal. He really needs a good performance to reassure fans and possibly recreate that level of appreciation he felt when receiving a standing ovation when coming off in the game against Southampton last month. The timing of his latest article on the arsenal website is probably a couple of weeks too late.

Andre Santos has returned to first team duties due to the injury to Keiran Gibbs and so far his performances have not gone down well with the fans and pundits so far. On Wednesday the Brazilian was caught out of position on too many occasions to be overlooked. He struggled at times facing Farfan and really did his chances of forcing Wenger’s hand when Gibbs returns no help at all. He will really need to up his game today to appease the fans. The problem is his best attributes are his attacking instincts but right now the defending needs a lot of attention, a more reserved performance focusing on protecting the left flank will go a long way to changing the views on him.

Vito Mannone’s goalkeeping has been under the spotlight of late, many believe his mistake led to the goal last week against Norwich. In midweek he couldn’t have done much to prevent the Shalke goals but he did have a questionable penalty appeal which luckily went in his favour. Right now the fans see him as nothing more than the third choice keeper, when we were winning his limitations were overlooked in the knowledge that he is merely keeping the position warm for our polish number one. Now that things aren’t going to well his faults are highlighted much more. I mean I do recall his tendency to parry the ball back into danger area and last week was no one-off; it’s just that we have been lucky enough to have an arsenal boot first to the rebound in earlier games. Hopefully this will be worked on at the training ground because he has good enough reflexes to reach the shots in the first place he just needs to get it away from the danger zone. Right now he is our only option and requires our full support. I believe the fans understand this and will most probably hold back on the criticism however any major gaffs today will not save him for too long.

It seems quite a while since our last premiership home game and summer seems to have fully handed over to autumn since my last game. We will need a good win to warm the fans today, the cold weather is likely to make us grumpy and I’m praying for an early goal. I definitely don’t want to see any players singled out today, I was there the day Eboue got booed and was not proud of what I witnessed. It is the last thing we want to see even if it would send a reminder to Silent Stan and the board. Arsenal fans are better than that so anyone else going to the game please give the guys 100% support no matter what happens.

In other news it looks like the teams association with Nike will come to an end when the current deal runs out. Our kit deal with Nike which comes to an end in 2014 will not be renewed and it seems that there will be an imminent announcement that Adidas will be returning as our kit makers. The positive thing about the deal is that we can now command the kind of money that our rivals are pulling in from their deals. It has been mooted that we will be earning £25m a year compared to the £13m we currently receive; whether that goes towards team investment is another story.

As we know the adidas/arsenal partnership is one that old school fans remember fondly, we’ve had some good and some bad kits. Hopefully the partnership can lead to some of the more fondly remembered retro kits being manufactured just like the old kits. Seeing fans with the old ’89 kits minus an adidas badge seem incomplete to me. I still own a few old shirts with the JVC and badges half fallen off but they still feel more complete for having the adidas badge. I welcome the deal for financial and nostalgic reasons; I just wish we didn’t have to share the brand with all that is wrong about a team like Chelsea.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page.

%d bloggers like this: