Arsenal win as Rocastle is remembered.

At last the proper football is back, the international break is finally behind us for the season and now the chase for top four can continue uninterrupted. Reading came to town yesterday, in normal circumstances a home banker but so was Blackburn. So nothing was to be taken for granted, we have fallen to way smaller teams this season and it was important to keep up the recent momentum in order to maintain the pressure on Spurs and Chelsea.

Equally important was the opportunity to honour the twelfth anniversary of David Rocastle’s passing. His family was invited as special guests as the club paid homage to the man who is so close to many gooners’ hearts.

This was my first game back at Emirates since the embarrassment which was the Blackburn game in the F.A. Cup so I was quite eager for the team to put things right on a personal level and remove any possibility that my attendance was evolving into a fully fledged  jinx.

Here are some of my thoughts on the game yesterday:

Rocky will never be forgotten.

His name gets sung from the stands, many a fan buy shirts with his name on the back. David Rocastle is one of those players that the fans remember fondly. He was taken from the world way too soon and despite being not being on the clubs books at the time of his passing he was an Arsenal man through and through. The club doesn’t have to dedicate days to the man, no one is holding a gun to their head however it is a nice touch that the club recognizes his contribution to its history. He came through the ranks at the club, he represented England when with the club, he was part of one of our greatest nights in our history playing in that game at Anfield 1989 and was genuinely a talented player.

rocky

The club paid tribute to Rocky yesterday prior to kick off, a picture was also displayed on the big screen and the fans sang his name. A rare occurrence happened yesterday when the game was going on; the fans started sing the Rocastle song to the point where the whole stadium was in sync. What was a nice touch by the club was the decision to remove the game stats from the jumbotrons and re-display the picture of Rocastle. The singing went on for at least 5 minutes all while the game was still playing. It was a lovely gesture and I am sure everyone connected with David Rocastle will have appreciated the experience.

The curious case of Gervinho.

Only Gervinho could score one goal, set up a further two, leave the pitch to a standing ovation and still not convince the fans of his worth. He had a good game by his standards, he provided end product and along with Santi Cazorla was in contention for man of the match. Gervinho is a confidence player and the fact that he grabbed the opener did him a world of good, the only problem in his case is the trademark misses were still there. In the first half plenty of chances and opportunities were wasted, although we were winning the longer the game stayed at 1-0 the more the opposition could grow in confidence.

gervinho santi

Gervinho was at the heart of most of the attacking moves in the half and it is a question of do you blame him for wasting opportunities or do you applaud him for being dangerous enough to be on the end of and create the chances? The fans in the stand were divided and I’m sure many a fan watching on TV were the same. Most importantly in our run for top four we need to get behind every player. Gervinho offers an alternative and on his day can be devastating; maybe with the crowd 100% behind him his devastating best can become more frequent.

Loss of clean sheet run

After the two previous games resulted in clean sheets the Arsenal defence didn’t manage a third as they conceded a goal against Reading. The defence in general played well and the trademark shakiness when on top was not there yesterday. The goal conceded may have been avoided but this was a much focused performance from the back five overall. Arsene made a change to the defence by drafting in Bacary Sagna at the expense of Carl Jenkinson. It could be deemed unfair to drop Jenkinson as soon as Sagna returns but I suppose a home game vs. Reading would be deemed a good opportunity to test Sagna’s legs on his return.  Sagna’s experience will be vital in the run in and I’m sure Jenkinson will still get opportunities on the pitch before the season is over. Should Arsene have changed a defence that achieved the last 2 clean sheets? Normally you would say no but I guess he had to change it already due to the cup tied situation of Nacho Monreal, so the left back position has been shared and Arsene took the opportunity to do the same with the right back position. The important core has to be the centre-back partnership, there’s no need to tinker there unless forced and I’m happy the manager is keeping the two together as yesterday may have been  classed as an easy enough game to swap things around.

Happy Easter people.

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Arsenal show good and bad in victory

After the debacle last week against Bradford an immediate response was required. The wait until Monday has seemed a long one, the memory of Bradford has lingered and Arsenal fans have been in direct need of something else to talk about.

Last night Arsenal decided to remind the fans that they can play the beautiful stuff, in recent weeks the performances have been flat and uninspiring. They managed to put in a performance of quality passing and almost completely ruthless finishing. In the first half the chances came on a regular basis and if not for the keeper the score line at half time would have been greater than the three we managed.

I’m not going to get this twisted, this was a meeting of two teams in poor form and a win was far from guaranteed for us. It required the Arsenal players to show the gulf in quality available and they clearly showed that. This is only Reading though and there is still a long long way before Arsenal fans will be convinced that we have turned a corner. Inconsistency is rife for Arsenal this season and the important thing is that the same level of focus and performance are there against Wigan.

I still believe signings are required in the January window but for now players are playing for their places and taking the opportunity to give Arsene food for thought. Arsenal fans will not accept any more failings in this team and Arsene’s future is in the hands of his players. They need to play for him and put in more performances like last night.

It really has seemed a long time since we have played like that, even longer since we have played like that consistently in a run of games. I certainly hope this is the turning point, this Reading team at this current point in time were the best possible team to play to build confidence.

Even against a poor Reading team the defensive frailties were still evident, it would have been a good game to keep a clean sheet but that wasn’t to be. Mr individual error showed his ugly head again and it is still something we need to work on. Not trying to put a dampener on our performance but at 4-0 up complacency crept into our game and before you knew it two goals were conceded. It almost sparked memories of our Capital One Cup game against the royals. We wobbled for a while but thanks to a fifth goal from Theo who got his chance to play in his preferred central role; any chances of a complete meltdown were squashed.

santi celebrates

Special mention of course goes to Santi Cazorla who was behind everything good about Arsenal last night. It was great to see him put aside all the negative press he received recently and put on a masterclass. He walked away with the match ball last night after scoring a hat trick in the match and proved how vital he is in our quest to turning around our fortunes.

I’m much happier after yesterday’s game compared to last week and I hope we can carry this on now. It’s just Reading so no running to pop any Champagne but we can only play who is put in front of us. Next up in front of us is Wigan and hopefully we can continue the consistency; the remaining December games are winnable in theory and so ending the year on a high will put us in good stead for 2013. Plenty of focus still required from the players, more of the same please at the weekend.

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal test fans faith with 12 goal thriller against Reading

Words cannot describe the events at the Madjeski stadium last night. This game had everything, I mean everything. I really don’t know where to start, after 30 mins the overwhelming condemnation of the arsenal team was enough to send Arsene Wenger into hiding indefinitely.

Arsenal lined up with a young team, some experience was thrown in to even it up but embarrassingly we just did not get started. The pressure was on from early and I really worried at one point that we could have a repeat of the old Trafford score. We started the game so badly and it seemed that our senior players just weren’t doing enough to protect the fragile confidence of the youth.

Poor young goalkeeper Dami Martinez did his reputation no help whatsoever in the game and must hold his hand up to a couple of the goals that flew in against us last night. It’s never easy for any young player especially a keeper after making a big mistake, for all the good things he did in the game his errors will be remembered most. Arsene has a big job to do to try to rebuild his confidence and the public perception of him as after last night is wedged firmly into dodgy keeper category.

Serge Gnarby was the name on all fans lips before the game as we really wanted to see this exciting talent on show. To be honest he was quite disappointing, maybe he tried too much with the weight of expectation on his shoulders to make things happen. He will learn from this and I’m sure in a less raw team he would really shine; time is on his side.

Theo Walcott made the game his last night, whether or not he get credited with the hat-trick is not relevant. After a timid first half the young forward came to life in the dying stages of the first half to give us a glimmer of hope with an excellently dispatched goal. Running through the middle he latched onto an Arshavin through ball and made no mistake. 4-1 at half time and even then the most optimistic fans were not envisaging everything that happened after.

The real turning point in my eyes is the substitution in the second half when Giroud and Eisfeld replaced the disappointing Frimpong and Gnarbry. It really changed the game on its head as our French forward was up for it. Soon after coming on he arrowed  a pinpoint header into the back of the net to make the score 4-2. A lifeline indeed and now fans were really starting to believe. Eisfeld was cool and classy in the middle of the park and it really does make you wonder why the German has not been afforded more opportunities with the first team so far.

With our new-found impetus we really took the game to reading though the threat of a goal was always there. Our defensive partnership of skipper for the night Djourou and Koscielny did not cover their selves in glory as we looked very weak at the back. Especially to balls played in the box. It’s worrying as these two are our back up centre backs and should have instilled more security for the defence. They were not helped by the baffling lack of protecting from a midfield that had 2 defensive midfielders. We actually looked more secure when Frimpong went off though I will cut the guy some slack since he has been out for a while with that injury.

Just when it was looking like reading weathered the storm up popped Koscielny to nod in a corner with 3 minutes left. Our Frenchman had an eventful night after scoring an own goal and counting himself lucky not to receive a 2nd yellow card. I believe the ref felt sympathy for him considering we looked out of the competition.

All the better for us as we reaped the benefits of his presence on the field. Once it hit injury time it was not looking good. The referee’s assistant held up the board saying 4 minutes of injury time. Reading took it upon themselves to work the ball into the corner, I really hate that and there was still plenty of time for a break. Reading did not heed the warning as we broke forward and nearly scored from a rapid counter attack. Reading again tried to work the ball in the corner to the delight of their fans however we had different things on our mind as we again broke, the ball was lofted forward in the 4th minute of injury time however the ball broke to Theo who shot at goal, the ball was half stopped on the line but continued to roll over the line. The defender kicked it out but it was clear the whole ball went over the line. Luckily Carl Jenkinson blasted the loose ball into the back of the net to make sure.

The reading backroom staff were livid especially the recently substituted Jason Roberts but they only have themselves to blame. We pulled off a remarkable comeback to take the game into extra time. Funnily enough someone forgot to mention that to Giroud and Coquelin as they threw their shirts into the crowd at the final whistle. They were ordered to go and get their shirts back, luckily the fans gave them back.

Onto extra time and now it only looked like there would be only one winner now, the psychological blow reading must have felt left them as lambs to the slaughter. Now we were able to get into our stride and play our game at our pace, there was no need to panic and rush things and eventually we went ahead.

Our very own Chamakh decided to remind fans he was on the pitch with a quite well taken goal from outside the box. Now we were ahead it was a standard formality we would go on and close the game. Reading had other ideas and mustered up an equalising goal from a ball lofted in the box. We really looked like conceding every time the ball was lofted in. luckily for us we pulled it together and with the clock running down penalties looked on the cards. With about 2 minutes to go Andrei Arshavin who had a hot and cold game drove at the reading defence when the space opened for him he drilled in a shot which was blocked on the line, the ricochet flew straight to Theo Walcott’s boot who couldn’t miss. He dispatched the ball into the back of the net and the game it seemed was won. What a magnificent comeback, the awesome away fans who sang from start to end really deserved the comeback.

Reading rallied for the last minute of extra time throwing the ball into the box at every opportunity, this time we stood firm and from a break Chamakh was free against the keeper who was well off his line. With a sublime dink over Federici’s head the ball was over the line and we had pulled of a 7-5 win.

What a win, what a comeback, I don’t think I have ever experienced such a crazy game before. The 4-4 against Newcastle was unique but this game took it to a whole new level with 12 goals in total.

Arsene in his post match press conference stated:

“We went from disaster to, I must say at least at some stage, pride”

That was a pretty much fair evaluation. It was a complete disaster and I was close to turning the tv off and going to bed, Walcott’s goal gave us hope and we really battled hard to come back. In the end I was proud of the efforts considering, there will be a lot of evaluation back at London Colney to discuss what had happened last night. We turned it around but we cannot rely on us scoring 7 goals to get us out of a hole again. This was a freak game and unlikely to happen again for a long time, im just glad for once we were the comeback kings.

Enjoy your day people.

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