Monthly Archives: February 2017

Feb 20th – Sutton 0 Arsenal 2

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We are the champions. We are World Beaters. Bring them on. We showed the world today. We rose to the challenge. Against all the odds. We fought the media and the team won. I’m so proud of this team. And, it only gets tougher in the next round. If only.

In fact, it was a pretty tedious game. Not that I blame Sutton. I’m happy that they could make some money from this. If it weren’t for the fact that this is the last review I can write for 10 days I don’t know why I’d would bother. I found it hard to be too excited. You just knew the outcome. So I was not exactly on the edge of my seat; it was more like watching a training season.

Of course, you’re not actually allowed to watch a training session. On a couple of occasions I have tried to get into London Colney I’ve been turned away by security that could not have been tighter at Windsor Castle. That would be a great experience but one that we’re completely locked out from. If only they protected money in banks like they protect London Colney; or even if they protected their goal like they protect London Colney. Anyway, back to the game.

We did learn some things today. If you can ignore the fact that we’d already learned most of these already.

Ob1 should not be played on the wing; Adelaide should not be played anywhere. The Eastman’s and other Arsenal rejects in the Sutton team must have looked longingly at these two and wondered what they’d done wrong. If those two could be given so many chances why couldn’t they? I now that’s not quite fair. And, I’m pretty sure, the final destination for these two will be in a comparable team. It’s so frustrating to watch the way these two play. They seem to want to pass the ball in and refuse to shoot (or at least on target anyway). They have over-studied at the Alex Hleb school of shooting. And Adelaide was so casual on the ball in the first half when the ball broke for them after our corner. He was lucky to only get a yellow. But it demonstrated poor judgement and a casualness that’s surprising for a player trying to break into the team.

Mustafa and Ospina suffer form the same issue. And inability to concentrate for an entire game. As many great saves as he made against Bayern today he demonstrated the type of jitters that undermine a defenses’ confidence. That crazy pass out of defense at the end of the first half. Then the corner that he came out for and missed and the next time when he punch the ball out when their player had got in front of the ball. It’s just unnerving. Then he came flying out the goal after the Ox lost the ball; luckily our defender got their first. BTW, did Ox not learn from the same mistake he made against Bayern?

Mustafa really does enjoy passing to the other team. He refuses to learn his lessons. He insists of trying to force the ball through the middle of the pitch and so often just turns our possession into their attack. Against a real time this would have been dangerous. Why does he not realize that he needs to be more patient. And, that he should not be making those passes – he should be looking for our midfield players to pass to (over short distances). It’s as though Mustafa just losses concentration.

Chaka picked up the usual yellow card. I don’t quite get his game either. He passes quite well going forward – he set up the first goal with that pass to Perez. But, again, the yellow he picked up was so unnecessary. Elneny looked stable and solid. But, of course, picked up the usual Ramsey calf injury. If only he could transfer the strain to Ramsey himself we might be protected from his possible return.

Monreal looked his usual sluggish self. He’s understanding with Ob1 was demonstrated with a couple of misplaced passes in the first 20 minutes. Somewhere in the last 3 months he’s lost his game. I’m looking forward to seeing Cohen Bramall as our left back.

Come the big game come the big player. Theo racked up his 100th goal today. What a player. At this rate he’ll be 40 years old when he gets he’s 200th goal. Imagine if he could surpass Henry’s scoring record. Of course, Theo would be 50 years old by that stage.

Of course, I liked Perez again. So nothing learned there. He worked hard, scored one goal and was buzzing around the entire game. He really deserves more playing time. Certainly more than Ob1. Ox’s cameo was interesting. The pace of our game noticeably picked up when he came on. The Elneny/Chaka combination is too one dimensional. With Ox there our movement is (slightly) better but of course, we’re prone to the defensive give-aways.

Holding again looked solid. BigEars put in his usual limited, reliable performance. And did I mention that Perez played well.

Beyond that we were never going to learn too much against a team at this level. Of course, we barely needed to get out of first gear. And I’m glad we did not batter then (if we could). That would have served no purpose. We won and that’s the only thing that counts. And most of the players treated it like a training session.

So now we have 10 days of dissecting the future of AW before our fateful trip to Anfield. That’s way too much time without a game to watch and way too much time on the hands of other people to tell us why we need another manager. That’s not to say there is not a debate to be had. But for these nauseating fans, it’s not a debate it’s a personal crusade. I’m frustrated with this team. I’m not convinced we’ve got the right players (Ob1, Mustafa, Chaka) but we are a better squad than we were 3 years ago. We’ve spent money whereas in the past the complain was that AW was too mean to do so. Notice now how the argument has shifted from not being prepared to spend money to we bought the wrong players. Like no other team misfires in the transfer market. It’s all part of this moving target with AW. It used to be about our 9 year trophy drought. But once we won a couple the argument slide to be we don’t challenge for the Premier league. Each year we qualify for the UCL. But now the sense of entitlement that these fans have means that they demand that we’re not good enough because we always get knocked out in the round of 16. Yet they neglect to notice that ManU, Chelski and Liverpool are desperate to get into the UCL having missed out for many years.

This attitude to AW makes no sense and precludes a sensible analysis of the situation. It forces people into their polarizing positions and therefore we don’t get to assess what the right way forward is.

But being of sound mind and body I will take on the weight of maturity for which I’m so well known. And using this mantel, between now and the end of the season I’ll figure this all out. I will solve all our problems and provide coherent answers. By the time I’m finished, all will be well with the world.

And, of course, most of the outcome for AW will be driven by what happens between now and the end of the season on the field. Imagine that. It will be dictated by our results. What a shocking notion. Rather than complain about the Chelski result or the (appalling) Bayern one we will judge AW once we’ve played Liverpool, Spu*rs and the two Manchesters. I’m not actually confident of the outcome but until we see the carnage that is likely to happen all we can do is support our team and pray for positive results. Of course if your obsession to see AW leave is such that you’d happily take defeats to speed up his departure than, clearly, you fail the definition of a fan. And thus, to be clear, you should fuck off. You should chop off your head (hard to do, so feel free to ask someone else to help you).Cut off your legs (much easier). And shut the fuck up. Supporting the club and team must come first to any personal vendetta. It would be like claiming to be a monarchist (not that i understand why anyone would) and trying to change out the queen. Or being a religious Christian and not believing in God. You either support Arsenal or you don’t. If you do support them then you must look for them to win all their games.

Rant over and back to reality. I’m also shit scared of going up to Anfield.

– LB7

 

 

Feb 15th – Bayern 5 Arsenal 1

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What’s the fucking point. Why support a team that won’t support itself? Why even bother. Abject for sure. But, and I’m sure others won’t see it this way, so unnecessary. After the first half it really did not have to be that way. It started as a game of two penalties – one given and one not. And then devolved based on one enforced substitution. And then finished off by a bunch of German traitors. Normally you’d be in a strong position if you went to war with a couple of Germans on your side. But not today. Today those Germans essentially played for the other team.

Bayern were good. Even in the first half we could not put two passes together. The team selection was debatable but not so bad. Starting Ospina was not completely surprising. Seeing Gibbs at left back was plausible. Seeing Theo on the bench was encouraging. The team selection could not explain why we could not put two passes together the entire first half.

Alexis turned up for a big game. He worked tirelessly – even though most stuff did not come off. Ox, again, put in a decent shift. Aside that is, from his brain fart at the end. Really, what was he thinking. Or, maybe, he wasn’t. 0B1 worked really hard in defense but could not figure out how to pass the ball to a teammate.

Coq and Chaka were overrun in midfield. For their first goal Coq should never have shown Robbin the inside. Doesn’t he know that’s why Robbin plays on the right so he can cut in. And it must have been nice for Ozil to have just a pleasant view of that goal. In the second half there were a couple of times when, in similar positions, Ozil dropped back and closed up the space Robbin was occupying.

We started the second half reasonably. But once Koz went off we went to shit. Hell hath no fury than a pairing of Big Ears and Mustafa. This pairing was our entire undoing – with a little help from Ospina. Gibbs should have closed down the cross from Lamb but Mustafa was out muscled and Ospina lost his footing. But that was only 2-1. From thereon in it was self-destruction.

Mustafa was more concerned with shouting at his defenders than marking a man. Too often he had been caught out making tackles too far up the pitch but here he was focused on the wrong issues. It was a lovely flick by the big Pole but Mustafa had failed to notice his man slide past him.

Then for their next goal rather than attack the ball in the area Mustafa let the ball bounce and then failed to properly clear the ball. He let the fucking ball bounce in the penalty area. Let me say that again. He let the ball bounce in the penalty area. What the fuck was he thinking. Or was he. And then we were slow to come and out close them down. Sure they had a deflection or two.

Essentially, we imploded as soon as Koz went off. When we looked for some additional leadership from Mustafa what we got instead was an abject abdication of responsibility.

OK, that’s one Nazi eviscerated. Now let’s move onto the other. What the fuck has happened to Ozil. Martians have invaded the earth and have decided to invade this partial German and turn him into a fully-fledged England international. Over-rated and underachieving. His body language throughout the entire game was that of a pouting teenager just after being jilted by his girlfriend (to be clear, this is not something I have any experience with). What a contrast to our other big star. Alexis worked his arse off. The other one sat on his arse. Aside from the first goal where he stood and watched, there was barely any involvement – oh, aside from that tepid shot towards the end of the first half. Funnily enough (though not so funny as sad) we had a couple of chances to go ahead towards the end of the first half.

In many ways this was worse than Chelski. Bayern, I’m sorry, are not as good. We gave this one to them. We imploded. We caved in. We lay down and let them walk over us. We bottled it. How can we have the only two Germans you would not want to go into battle with alongside you. Maybe they were spies sent into our team via some cunning plan by those nasty Huns. We nearly had more Germans on the team than they had.

But even at 3-1 down the game was not lost. This was just the first leg. So why the fuck would you take of the Coq and expose yet further the weak spine of your team to Bayern? Why not send on a defender take off Ozil and lock down the game until the second leg. That move made no sense. And it was this move that removed any chance of us recovering in the second leg. We’re not Barcelona. We can’t score 4 goals without conceding. So let’s add AW into the list of our deficient Germans (he was born so close to their border – which tends to move around every war or two). Could he not see how poor and vulnerable our defense was? Why would you not take of Ozil and bring on Elneny? Why shove Ox into that position.

And here’s who we can’t blame. BigEars. He did fine. He worked hard. But was let down by his partner. This was just a clear German conspiracy. This was pay back for WWII and 1966. There can be no other explanation. It can’t be, can it, that these two players (and our manager) just plain suck balls?

What a joke. Performances (or lack thereof) like this are just fuel to the fire of the anti-AW crowd. It both feeds their narrative and adds to the army of people screaming for change. At some point it becomes self-fulfilling. The atmosphere will be so toxic; the air will be so polluted with venom that AW will walk away come the end of the season. That’s not to say he should not leave. But I hate the fact that the anti-Aw crowd will see this as a victory for Arsenal. How is that even conceivable. Today was utterly depressing. But not predictable. I would never have predicted this after the first half. We’d absorbed their domination. I would have taken a 2-1 or 3-1 lose. But, to be so weak, to be so careless. To be so shorn of on the field leadership. To be bereft of a spine. That’s the killer. Where was Coq, where was Chaka? Where was our midfield? As has been said. Who the fuck knows. And AW surely does not either. He’s fucked you know that. Enjoy his last few months. In years to come people will recognize this (not today mind you) as our golden period. We are about to step off from the edge of the cliff. Enjoy the journey (down).

What a shitty time to support this team. This is what it must be like to support all those other teams that never win anything or ever qualify for the UCL.

Who do I blame for this mess? Donald Trump. It’s clear. Ever since he became President our season has imploded. It’s clear there’s some alt-right conspiracy to undermine AW and Arsenal. Have you not noticed how all our left footed players now underperform (along with those that are right-footed as well). I, personally, hold President Trump responsible. I hear he even used a crocked pen to impair Carzolas Achilles tendon. OK, phew, at least now we know why.

Now for 10 days of nothingy-ness. To be followed by a manager-changing visit to Anfield. You can hear the hounds circling that game.

-LB7

Feb 11th – Arsenal 2 Hull 0

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Three points.  A minor miracle but not much of an achievement. That was very much like the continuation of my visits to the dentist. Valuable though the victory was there was little in the way of enjoyment or satisfaction.

Today we started pretty much how we finished. Disjointed, slow with a lack of cohesion.  It was surprising and disappointing to see the way we started the game. As in, it looked remarkably similar to how we played against Watford and other such games. There was little pace or swift movement in our game. Hull weren’t so bad. And we were barely better. What’s so striking though is how pedestrian we look. Too many players have lost their mojo.

Team selection was not what I was hoping for. Theo did not deserve to start and proved again that since he’s injury he’s not back at the races. And Hector is still part Bellend. Since his ankle injury he’s yet to rediscover his game. He’s an improvement on BigEars when we play the weaker teams. But the right hand side of our team is missing. It’s as though AW will play the exact same formation and players until we finally click – assuming we ever do. If I was Perez I’d be steaming quite a bit.

So we had plenty of chances in the first half – most care of careless passing by Hull – and yet we found ways to miss the target without even testing their goalkeeper. Poor old Alexis. Sure he scored two goals. But he could and should have had three goals before he got his first one. And as for Ozil. Unfortunately, he was somewhat shit today. He missed chances in the first half and then mimic Theo by disappearing for long stretches of the game. In fact, both he and Alexis contrived to give the ball away today with errant passes. And Alexis has this nasty habit of doing to when he’s in passion running back in the direction of our goal. And Bellend landed one deep into the terraces when it would have been easier to hit the target.

Ox was one of our better players today. It’s funny to think that he’s the one player that has performed above expectations in this savage week or two. Of course, your great author identified Ox as the primary weak spot. That, naturally, was a typo  I had meant to say it was every other player that was the week spot. When he was shifted back out to right wing he subsequently disappeared form the game. That right-hand side is turning into our Bermuda Triangle – where are vanish into. It’s amazing that Ozil has found a way to disappear without getting pulled into that region.

OB1 was pretty good today. He had some energy and imagination. But our Coq seems to have shriveled up lately. He seems positionally lost alongside Ox. On many occasions he was the playing further up field. And that meant that our central defenders yet again had too few options ahead of them when they were bringing the ball up.

It will be interesting to see what AW does now that Chakas’ suspension is over. My hope and strong preference is that he starts on the bench. I would not bring him right back into the team. I know we need to rest Coq and Ox but it would send him the wrong message. For BM play the same midfield and then let Elneny play against Mighty Sutton.

Overall, we were lucky today. It’s funny how we’re starting to get penalties. And don’t we need them. That and a jammy handball.

Not that Hull created many chances. But we looked pretty uncertain. One penalty away from a single point. There’s a fragility to this team. There’s a lack of identify. And, after the last two games, most noticeably, there’s a lack of confidence.

As has been previously noted, these aren’t the games that will dictate our season. It’s the game against the top 6 that will. And I saw nothing today to give me confidence that the outcomes against those teams will be any different to last week.

We now have three weeks until we head up north to Anfield. Let’s hope we can find some form before then. But I’m not so hopeful.

For extra reading, I wanted to comment on the knee-jerk reaction of our own fans to our predicament. We lost two games in a row. And we’ve looked shit for a few weeks. Please see how this happens to other teams – i.e. Liverpool. But it’s amazing to see how certain fans pile onto any disappointment with such abandon and glee. They bring their agenda of AW hatred to the table at the expense of the club, team and (possible0 success. They are, quite frankly, morons and ignoramuses. They have no idea what they are talking about. And when change does come – and it’s inevitable that it’s coming – they will be the first ones to complain most loudly (because, for sure they have to complain loudly) that we’ve chosen the wrong replacement manager. How they would have pick Manager X. And, maybe, then they will, just maybe, lament their responsibility for ushering our most successful, longest serving manager too hastily to the exit. And, as readers of this blog will now, their leader in chief seems to be that biggest of pricks. The largest of prats. The most annoying of wankers. That’s right –  Pre Menstrual (Piers Morgan for those new readers). It occurs to me there are parallels between Piers Morgan and a certain other loud mouth, obnoxious, egotistical, bullying, uninformed and unqualified well known individual. And that leads me to the realization that Piers Mogan is the Donald Trump of Arsenal supporters. God help us all.

– LB7

Feb 4th – Chelsea 3 Arsenal 1

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This was a game of two headers. From one they got a goal and we lost our right–back. And from the second header our new right-back could not score. Two defensive players in similar positions. They scored and we did not.

So evidentially we’re not human and we don’t have a backbone. Ouch. This was just too depressing to watch. And, trust, me it’s even more to have to blog about. If it were not for my legion of avid world-wide followers demanding my assessment I would not take on this painful and arduous task. But, I console myself in thinking of the greater good here. And, for my reader, I’m happy to make this required sacrifice. BTW, if you want any more feeble attempts at humour you should stop reading now. That was its peak. From here on in, it’s all drab and serious and, oh I know, depressing. Trust me when I say this is not a happy posting. If you’ve come here looking to be entertained, trust me, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Let’s not be fooled. Chelski were the far superior team. They played as a unit; they played like they knew where each other would be. They defended en mass and attacked en mass. Even in the first half it was clear we could be overrun. We could not maintain possession. We actually started the game reasonably well with a high press and that lead to an Ob1 shot and deflection. But then it all fell apart pretty quickly. And though that first goal was not quite fair based on the balance of play it was clear that we were in for a long afternoon. They just dominated. We were disjointed. They are a superior team.

However, that does not fully explain the result. It’s not always the case that the better team wins. But it requires the other team to work extra hard. And today, like Tuesday, we lacked intensity. We lost our shape and were too exposed. We always looked at risk of letting goals in. And there was no attacking threat from us. Sure, we had a couple of chance at the end of the first half; Ozil in particular should have done better, but there was no cohesion in our movement. We seemed to, quite literally, hit a blue brick wall. There was very little creativity. It’s not often you could say that about Arsenal. But today they perfectly played Alexis. He continued to dribble too much and loose the ball. He did not have a single shot or header at goal (let alone on target).

What does this all mean? Fuck knows. How we finish for this season was not (or should not) have been driven by this result. But it was the way in which we lost that was so disheartening. The lack of fight. The underperformance of our star players. Too many of our key players were absent. This was the worst I’ve seen Alexis play. Ozil was absent. On performances like this the argument to pay them their increased wage demands looks like misplaced.

Compare the contribution of Hazard and Costa to Alexis and Ozil. Not that anyone in the league could be compared to Hazard. Sure, our midfield was absent and weak but Hazard was flat out outstanding.

This meant that the other players were under way more pressure. Whenever the Ox or Coq received the ball they were under immediate pressure. They had few options ahead of them and would often get out muscled and then Chelski would break on the counter-attack. Funnily enough, I thought Ox was pretty good in midfield today. Sure, he lost the ball every now and then – in fact, one instance was eerily similar to when we lost here 6 nil – but he worked hard and was not so much of a liability. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Coq. Today, when we needed him most, and when he’s up against Konti, he underperformed. Aside from getting brushed off the ball by Hazard leading into that second goal, he too often left the backline exposed. He was too slow into the tackle and did not seem to read the game quickly enough. Maybe times they just passed around him (literally).

Part of this was because we did not seem to play as a team. We seemed disjointed. Each player seemed too far away from the other player. It’s painful to watch us be so clearly out-manned. Today did not so much exposure our weaknesses but rather our limitations. Maybe that’s the same thing. I’m too pissed off to quibble. Either way this was all just a little predictable. This was our chance to reclaim our season. But this was different from Tuesday’s spineless defeat to a poor team. Today we were second best. We are not a championship winning team. We have too many weak links. Aside from the underperforming players we lack the cohesion of a team. That’s pretty damming. We looked disorganized. Our marking was poor. We gave the ball away too easily. Against other teams we might be able to get away with this but not Chelski (or, I fear, Sp*rs).

It’s not clear there’s much point in dissecting our players but as part of the therapy of writing this blog I need to divest myself of my anger so bear with me. If I had to start with our poorest players aside from our two stars – though it should be note that Ozil was better than Alexis – we need to consider Mustafa. We’ve frequently seen that his distribution is poor. But today he found new ways to consistently give the ball away. He continued to put us under pressure. He was plain awful. I know he’s new to the team and he’s only 24 years old. But he was a big, brown pile of shit today. Alongside him Koz had one of his poorer games. He also lost out (twice) to Hazard during that second goal. But was also at fault for the cross coming in for the first goal. When we needed a big performance from him instead we got that of a mouse.

Close behind Mustafa, but because he was not actually watching, not that far behind, was Theo. How irrelevant was he? No contribution nor presence. He was absent without reason. His passing was shit and his touch was shit. He reverted back to last years invisible performances (or, as he was against Watford). When DW23 came on, within the first minute he’d beaten his man and earned a booking for them. Wellbeck did more in 30 seconds that Theo had done in the last two games. How can that be? Theo will now be consigned to the bench (I hope). If it were not for his 3 goals against Southampton we could argue that he’s not back to full fitness. Our supersub Giroud came on he lost every challenge and, until the typical consolation goal, was utterly useless.

Ob1 was not involved when he played out left but, again, when he moved into midfield, got more involved and was behind any improvement we saw once we went 2-0 done. Of course, that was largely driven by Chelski taking their foot off the gas. Against a more demanding team they would have reengaged if needed.  But Ob1 and Ox can’t protect the backline. And today nor could Coq. So we have to add him to the catalogue of players that sucked today. It’s not often our Coq sucks but there you go.

The irony is that those players that were either out of position or the likely weaknesses were not our problem today. I have no problem with Ox, Ob1 or even Gabriel. Today it was a failure to perform as a cohesive team and the failure of the senior, star players – Alexis, Ozil, Theo and Mustafa. And we could add Cech. What the hell was that 3rd (but irrelevant) goal about? I’m not sure he made more than 1 save today.

We were never going to win the league. Today was just final confirmation of that. But, as in previous years, the focus now moves onto our manager. And Alexis. I fear performances like this might bring about the end for both of them. Both bear responsibility. Alexis will look around this team and realize it’s far away from winning anything. How long will he want to be part of this? And Wenger? Now the usual wankey fans will be up in arms. But this time they have evidence to support their case.

We can still – care of Liverpool – end up in the top 4. But it’s the belief and spirit that’s missing. Today demonstrated – and I can’t believe I’m about to write this – that we need to swap out our Coq. We need to go fully trans-gender and remove our Coq. Konti showed what we need. It also demonstrated that Ozil is not worth as much as he thinks he is. And nor is Alexis.

Where does this leave us? Fuck knows. The even more worrying aspect is unlike Tuesday when the issue was attitude and preparation, today it was team organization and actual ability. It’s not the end of the world. That’s schedule for later in the season. If we reproduce this at Liverpool and, most importantly, Shit Hart Lane, then it will be. So, we have plenty of time to prepare for these events. Pace yourself. Don’t burn yourself out in anger. At least Chelski are unquestionably a superior team. We are no match for them. Full stop. And it’s not clear others are. Though Hull will be interesting now given their revival. What is it with Italian managers. Italy produce the most boring football and most boring teams. But they seem to have managers that know how to get the best out of teams. And, unfortunately that leads us right back to AW…….

-LB7

 

 

 

 

Feb 2nd – Are we human?

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Are we mammals? Are we human? Do we have a vertebrate?

Saturday will confirm our suspicions. Injuries or not, how we withstand the predictable onslaught from Chelsea post our abject abdication on Tuesday will tell us all we need to know about Arsenal.

We could lose this game and still, come the end of the season, end up with a top 4 position. That’s not the point. (or no point). What is the point is our infamous mentality. Are we willing to fight for a point (or more)? Or will we be run over. If the later then I fear we will lose a lot of our fans and that will not bode well for AW. And I’m not interested in a “courageous” performance where we lose 1-0. Or we give up an unlucky goal in the last minute to lose. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point.

We are still more than capable of having a successful season – top 4, F.A.Cup run and progress in the CL. But the issue here is more about the attitude and appetite of this team. Is it capable of fighting through adversity. And I don’t mean against a Burnley or Bournemouth. We should and will be judged in our performances against the other top 6 teams. Playing Chelski, Sp*rs and Liverpool away might not determine whether we make the top 4 but will tell us fans whether this team has a backbone.

The last time we started the Ox in midfield at Chelski we got hammered. It was AW’s 1,000 game. I’m not convinced the OX is ready for Kanti and Automatic but we have little choice. At least though, without AR8 it will be less predictable. I’m sure we’ll get positional challenged in the midfield. The Ox will have to concentrate for the entire game and I’m not sure he’s capable of that. Unlike Tuesday (and Saturday) he’ll have to restrict those long balls – there were too many against Watford. This game will tell us a ton about his future. This is what he’s been pinning for. Now we’ll see if he’s ready. To be fair – see, I’m such a nice person – it’s a little tough on the Ox; he’s had very few opportunities to play this position and now he’s thrown in against the best team in the EPL against the strongest midfield in the EPL. But then, this was the only way he was ever going to get this type of opportunity. If he (a la Ar8) comes off injured after 20 minutes that will tell us a lot. Can he fight through and stay out there for 90 minutes?

How will Koz and Mustafa cope with Costa. It will be very physical and bruising. Will these two be up for the inevitable fight? Given the presence of Hazard you’d imagine that Bellend will be back in the team. Let’s hope we get the original Hector and not his more recent imposter.

We know Alexis will be fully committed. Alongside him our delicate Giroud is unlikely to play. At least that means we’ll have more speed and movement (assuming we have the ball at our feet). So that should mean Theo will start with DW to come on later. He was (and by no means the only one) very indifferent against that powerhouse Watford team. Let’s hope he’s rediscovered his mo-jo. I’d actually like to see Perez out there but, again, I think he’ll come off the bench at some point. This is Ozil’s chance to assert himself in a big game (aside from the odd world cup final).  With our weakened midfield I’m sure we’ll see him drop back further to pick up the ball. I don’t mind that. But I do worry about both him and Alexis dribbling around the half-way line and losing possession. That would be a super soft way to give up a goal. Look how one single thrown-in resulted in the 2nd goal against the world- beating Watford team.

The good news is that there will be no Mike Dean. This time it will be Martin Atkinson.

I don’t go into the game (not that I’ll be playing) optimistically but I at least expect us to show some fight. Some backbone.

-LB7

Jan 31st – Arsenal 1 Ramsey 2

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I fucking knew it. I go to all the trouble to re-design the website for my millions of followers. I spared no expense. Brought in the best minds to work on this. Go through an official launch. And what happens? Fucking Ramsey decides to resurrect the ghost of Arteta. It was like watching Arteta versus West Brom. There’s something about the #8 shirt. It’s cursed. Or rather, the players given that shirt are cursed (though I think that might be the same thing – I just confused myself). Anyway, the only question for today is the following? Would you be prepared to sacrifice 3 (winnable) points in exchange for another Ramsey injuring that could sideline him for a month (or longer, if we’re lucky)? I wouldn’t. Only because there’s a chance it might just turn out to be a minor injury.

Whereas we’ve played a game of two halves too often this season and frequently gotten away with it. Today our hens came home to roost (whatever that means). We finally got caught out. You can’t give a team a two-goal lead and expect to always be able to recover. The second half was an entirely different affair. But, my oh my that first half blew. In fact, it was that first 20 minutes or so. We looked like the walking dead. What is it with this team? There was no passion, no interest, no commitment. The entire team looked dazed and confused. Even disinterested. They could not string any passes together. Nothing. Horribly reminiscent of Bournemouth and other such outings. How can this be? As has been said many times it’s clearly a mental thing. But that can’t explain why it repeats.

So, what more can be said on that first half? In the first few minutes on the half way line Giroud went for a ball and hardly stretched out before the Watford player got there first. He then proceeded to watch and meander around the pitch. He’s had plenty of time off but, again, he reproduced his performance from the first 70 v Bournemouth. I start on him only because that was the first thing I noticed. Thereafter, it became apparent that AR8 was back to his fine best. Always taking too many touches and being too slow on the ball. He was not the only one that sucked but, hey, I must focus on someone. AR8 turns Coq into a mini-Coq. They have no chemistry or interplay. Overall we were too slow, too passive, insipid and a complete embarrassment.

In that first half Watford had more urgency and more shots on goal. In fact, I don’t know that Gomes (that world renowned goalkeeper) had a shot to save. They could easily have gone in more than 2 goals up. They had a couple of other chances that they should have taken. We were truly beyond abysmal.

The only silver lining was that once AR8 departed things started to look up. But his two contributions were two goals but both generously for them. The first was an unfortunate deflection after a needless Mustafa foul but the second was just pure AR8. Missing the throw-in and then ambling back as they counter-attacked. You just can’t lose the ball there (well, evidentially, you can).

There were sequences in the first half when lost everything single challenge we went into. It started outside of their penalty box. First Alexis, then as they got to the half-way line Ox lost a tackle and finally Mustafa got beaten in a tackle. This was endemic of the first half. Unfortunately, though, as hard as he worked, Alexis first touch was non-existent for the entire game. And he continued to over-dribble. Ozil was not present in the first half. And OB1 was still in the changing room. No wonder we were pulled apart.

Why does it take a half-time talk to shake things up? Why is there no-one on the field who can shake things up? And how can it be that a team consistently comes out unprepared to commit to a game. As I’ve said many times, as much as I love the guy this stops at AW’s feet. This is exactly his responsibility. It’s groundhog day.

The second half, predictably was more like a regular performance. I hoped for that but did not expect half time changes. AW never does that. But this one was warranted if not demanded. Pulling of Giroud and adding in Theo. Overall, Theo had too many chances to score that he squandered. And there were periods where I forgot he was on the pitch. But we were much better with this configuration. We found some of our speed and movement. Ob1 rediscovered his game on the left hand side. We started to click. I assumed we’d score but I also assumed we’d at least recover for a tie if not pull out a win. But that’s what the past has indicated and we know that is no indication of the future. (does that even make sense?). But it seemed like we lost our rhythm after out first goal. We had the momentum until then. We continued to make changes. The Ox continued his good form from Saturday. Let’s just hope he’s not also picked up he’s regular injury. It became clear that Coq was unnecessary so we pulled off our Coq. And, again, Perez, was a great addition and nearly scored a Poldolski like goal but instead nearly broke the bar. If we could have added Bellend that might have helped but we did not need 4 at the back. And BigEars is not our best outright attacking full-back. But we had more chances and should have gained a point. It was there for us. But, it’s our own fault for that first 20 minutes – and having AR8 on the field.

I don’t care that other teams around us dropped points. That’s an unfair comparison – some of these teams are getting their harder games out of the way whereas we’ve still got tough away games to play (please see this upcoming Saturday) and that’s why we needed to win today.

I can’t quite figure out why I’m not more angry. I fear it’s because I’ve been conditioned to this type of performance and it’s so typical to come after our F.A.Cup performance. It could also be because I was in utter shock as to the abysmal way we started the game. And that vacant look on the players face after the first goal went in. That first 20 minutes was unforgivable.

Lets just hope Ox is fit and Ramsey isn’t. Chelski will out play and out muscle us this Saturday given half a chance. We have the ability to compete. But as a professional football team they have to be prepared for each and every game. This team has demonstrated that they have mental strength – even today, in the second half – they reacted well (which is the least we can expect). It’s not that that’s in question. It’s their attitude and expectations. Did they come into this game thinking it would be a cake walk? Were they basking in their own reflected glory from 5-0 on Saturday? Either way there needs to be a campaign to retire the #8 shirt. And preferably with the current occupant still in it.

– LB7

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