Monthly Archives: November 2017

Nov 26th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

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Lee Fucking Mason. Who would have believed it if that had not seen it with their own eyes. After giving Burnley every free-kick and dubious push and tackle. After having even penalized Ramsey at the end of the first half after he’d been clobbered by one of their lot, he gives us the most important decision of the game. I was looking for someone else to take that penalty rather than Alexis. But he scrapped it in and we came away with both the three points and a clean sheet. Amazing. Two wins in a row. Let the season end now.

The first half was dysfunctional. We could not seem to retain the ball. There were a couple of challenges just inside our half where I could have sworn Xhaka chickened out. He was barely involved in the game and Ramsey was taking his usual too many touches. But where was Ozil? We were down to a single Nazi in our team. Instead we had to watch Ob1 flitter around the pitch. It’s times like this that you realize (if you’d not been watching for the last 3 or 4 years) how much we miss Ozil.

In the second half though we came out with more purpose, pushed Burnley back and dominated. They were much less dangerous than they were in the first half. Gudmanssoon tested us in that first half. He looked quite good. Cech looked even better though. As, to be fair, did our entire defense.

What is up with Mustafa? I think someone has occupied his body and mind. And instead of the gormless, panicky player that gives away possession we actually have a real defender who fearlessly throws himself at the ball in dangerous areas. Only once today did he play a wayward pass. Does this mean he’s actually coachable? I hope so. Now if only someone could turn their attention to our right wing-back. Bellend is utterly gormless. It looks like he just does not know what to do the with ball when it’s at his feet. He’s become Walcott-like in his fear of taking on his man. Instead it’s always square and backwards. And he is just so flimsey on the ball that the other team has to blow on him and he gives away possession. Not that I would want Ox in that position – he was, as usual, ineffective against Chelski playing in that right-wing position that he hates so much; not that he’ll keep his place in the team when Llanlana, Mane and other return. Back to Bellend. Because we had both him and Ob1 on the right, it meant all our penetration and purpose came down the left hand side. Kolinsac combined well with both Alexis and Monreal. Between them the final ball and/or cross was lacking but they caused all the Burnley all sorts of problems.

Cigarette must be so frustrated. He worked so hard but rarely received the ball. This boy is a star but he can’t shine if they don’t pass to him. He makes the runs but without Ozil there’s no-one to feed him the ball. All his runs down the right channel were wasted because Bellend won’t go forward and can’t beat his man. Like Walcott (did I mention this before) he won’t use his pace. But Cigarette will score for us and does lead the line. When he comes short for the ball he’s got the balance and control. And then, unlike our French beauty, can sprint upfield.

In the first half, Ramsey had a wonderful chance after gorgeous work by Cigarette down the left channel. He should at least have hit the target. But then he was the only person making that run into the box. To go in level at half-time was better than I expected. I thought they bullied us and out worked us. But, at least in the second half, we controlled the game. It was also good to see Jack come on instead of Ob1. If we could put Ob1 and Bellend in a package deal and send them to Barcelona that would be ideal. I don’t think Bellend will ever fully adapt to the physical side of the English game – he’s better suited to Spain. It’s a shame we have no ready replacement though. As for Ob1 at least we have Ozil and Jack.

Today we won the three points because of our newly discovered rock-solid defense. Cech was outstanding again. And in addition to Mustafa, Monreal and Kosclieny were excellent. It’s a pity that don’t get the physical protection in front of them. Khaka was poor in the first half and only came into the game as Burnley got tired. But there’s no way we can win the league (next year not this – City have it won already) with this guy in the team. He’s a B+ player at best. But, for someone of his size, he loses way too many tackles and, unfortunately like Ramsey, is too slow on the ball.

I know I should be happier after these possibly undeserved three points but it was frustrating to see how slow we were in possession and lacking in inventiveness.  There was very little movement except for Alexis. We missed our creator in chief and it was not clear who was supposed to step up into that role. But at least we seem to have a defense now. And maybe that’s due to Mustafa. I’m hesitant to believe his new focus and concentration will persist. There was one time in the second half when, a la BFG, he went chasing a ball from our half way line into their half and left a gaping hole in our defense. It was only because their forward had no speed that they could not exploit that opportunity. But, it seems rare now that he’s that reckless. And long may he remain more Adams-like than Cygan or Stephanov-like.

They say that for teams to be successful they need to gain points when they don’t play well. It seems like we should be very successful then. We did not play that well this week. And, against poor opposition, I don’t think we did last week. But the next couple of games will tell us a lot. For these games we can’t really rotate the way we do in the NoHopa League. Having to play midweek and then face up to Darth Vader at the weekend will test the team. I hope the devil comes with his usual defensive posture of not losing. I just wish we could change Xhaka and Bellend. Then we could have a real team. We need the right hand side of the team to be functional and we need a strong physical presence. Who do you think would win in a tackle between beefy Xhaka and midget-man Kanti? No contest, right.

Anyway, here we sit in the top four after losing to Liverpool, Stoke, Watford et al. Funny old game. As much as City are running away with it, there are still many points to be dropped before we go through our usual late winter collapse. Though, we seem to have come through November relatively unscathed. Maybe that’s progress.

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 18th – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0

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We beat Mike Dean. Who would have thought that possible?. For once I don’t now care about any other results this weekend. Beating that lot relieves so much grief and tension. And don’t tell me anyone saw that coming. Post Man City I assumed we were in for a drubbing. I’d spent then previous two weeks praying and hoping that their big three would return with injuries. Then once I saw their lineup and ours with Mustafa being restored to play alongside Xhaka and Mike Dean, my highest expectations were that our best result would be 0-0.

How the hell did this scoreline happen? Best I can figure, Sp*rs were shit. They barely created anything. It looked like Ericksen was still smoking a cigar and drinking a dram of rum in a bar in somewhere in Dublin. May he always perform well for Denmark. My strong sense is that today Ericksen missed the dynamism and linkup-play of TGSTEL – Lord Bendtner. Bereft of those talents Ericksen was anonymous. Ali was barely noticeable and Kane ineffectual. We should all be sure to write our Christmas cards to Potachino thanking him for both purchasing and then playing Sissoko the entire game. This guy is so poor I don’t even think he could get into our team. Thankfully they had the poor judgement to leave little boy Winks on the bench. Their selection seemed as poor as ours.

Overall both teams demonstrated they can’t win the league. But the difference is that we got three precious points against a top six team. And, on most days, a better team than us.

After the robbery of the Man City game it was a pleasure to be on the receiving end of some marginal referee decisions. And marginal is an understatement. It’s not clear Alexis was fouled by his namesake for the free-kick. And then Mustafa was offside before his perfect header in off the post. Then, for the second, there’s a case that Cigarette was off-side when he made his run. So, we knew Dean was a wanker which he demonstrated today but, for once, we were the beneficiaries.

As good as Ozil looked today our best players were Koscielny and, drum roll please, Mustafa. Anyone who has read the wise words regularly written here or had the chance to follow me during my extensive radio and TV appearances can attest to the fact that I have always been his biggest supporter. Let it be noted how consistent I have been in support of his many talents. And let no-one say that, on seeing his name on the team-sheet today, I cursed both our manager and the football gods. Today he actually looked like a defender. Of course, that lot played to his strengths. But nonetheless, he won every header, scored our opening goal and made some critical blocks in our area. Even his distribution was not utterly appalling. This was the best game he’s played for us. Even his after-match interview was coherent. That opening header changed the balance of the game. You could see the game shift after that. It was a wonderfully placed header. Very Giroud-like. Without the French good looks.

Our forward line looked mobile and when Ramsey pushed up we looked dangerous. It’s just a shame that we have players that seem to make the same runs as each other. Both Ozil and Ramsey seemed to occupy the same space too often. Cigarette had a few chances today where he should have done better. But at least he started the game. I was not entirely happy when he was replaced. And pissed that our Coq then proceeded to charge up field rather than sit back and defend our backline. Sometimes (i.e. every game) I wonder about the football IQ of some of our players. The worst offenders are Ramsey and Bellend. Ramsey too often would loose the ball just outside our penalty area. Doing the usual Ramsey thing – taking too many touches and trying his Cruyff-move. Poor Johan must be turning in his grave as he watches the slowness and predictability of these moves. There seems a lack of awareness as to which part of the pitch a midfielder should take risks and where they should just get off the ball. But the poster-child for lack of football intelligence has to go to Bellend. The number of times today when he gave the ball away of played passes that immediately put our receiving player under pressure could only mean he been studying under the tutelage of Mustafa. Couple that with his refusal to even consider closing down Davies before he crossed the ball meant that everyone else had to intercept those crosses. And going forward he’s always the player you don’t want to receive the ball in their penalty area. At some point Bellends’ awareness of the game needs to develop but all too often he looks Walcott-like when he receives the ball – clueless.

And then there’s Xhaka. He should have been the one replaced by our Coq. I was sure that he was going to get sent off for a second yellow. Today though he did not give the ball away just outside our own penalty area – I think he delegated that to Ramsey and Bellend.  But he seemed off the pace and uninvolved. Too many times Dembele just drifted pass him. We were lucky that Sp*rs were so miserable today. I’ve always thought they had one of the best starting elevens in the league and today demonstrated when their main anyone of their main two or three are not functioning they lack the players on the bench to change it up. And then their manager left it too late. They should have made changes at half-time. But, fuck it, that’s their problem.

Today our defense won us the game – and that includes Cech. All of them were aggressive and consistent. The Tank remains a little subdued. Alexis scored a opportunistic goal but otherwise continues to make the wrong decisions with his distribution and should have had a hat trick today. But, before he leaves us, he will continue to score and provide the spark we desperately need. As for his partner in crime, Ozil – he took a while to get into the game. But when he started to roam the pitch he became an important factor. As, to be fair, did Ramsey. Ozil worked hard and has the vision and calmness to link the entire team together. Today was one of his better games – not his best – but sufficiently good. It was painful to see him replaced by Ob1. I get that we needed someone who would work hard but Ob1’s first contribution was to give the ball away. And, as ever, in front of goal when he had chances he snapped at them – lacking any self-believe that he’d score. Seems like Ericksen he can do it for his country but not his own team.

Now I can enjoy the rest of the week. But I also realize this might be the highlight of our season – our entire season. So I’m going to wallow in it for a while. I still think we’re a long way from being able to challenge for anything. No team with Xhaka and Ramsey as the midfield can. I want to see Jack in there for Xhaka. And soon, that time will come.

All my assessments were wrong today. I got the score line wrong, the outcome wrong, I was convinced Dean would fuck us. And I was sure Xhaka and Musfafa would find a way to get sent off because of reckless challenges. And I was positive that Mustafa would be a liability. Luckliy I merely demonstrated I know fuck all about this game.

So, today, let’s celebrate beating both Dean and Sp*rs. It’s quite rare these days.

-LB7

Nov 5th – Man City 3 Arsenal 1

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We were robbed of our potential self inflicted misery today. Rather than a Liverpool away like performance this one was more Chelski like. But this time the referee and the linesman decided to don sky-blue shirts. How else to explain the season over season suffering at their ground. Two years running now they’ve been given offside goals. And the penalty was absolutely soft. As others have pointed out – at Stoke we “lost” a goal because of a poor offside decision and yet today, when Silva was clearly offside this was not given. And that penalty! What is up with the standard of the refs and linesman.

Man City were outstanding. Their movement, control, short-passing and speed of attack are reminiscent of Arsenal from 10 years ago. They had many chances to beat us so they needed no help from the ref or linesman. They will win the league this year. And they will deserve it (given the amount of money they have spent over the last few years).

I had to check my eyesight when I saw our team. I bet there were few people who expected to see both Ob1 and our Cock in the starting eleven. I assume the BFG was too busy stomping all over Poland to play in this game. Though with hindsight he would have been ripped apart given their speed of their attack. Coq was not too bad. He was clearly unfamiliar with the positioning and got himself all tangled up when Cech would pass him the ball. He tended to drift too far up field and attack the ball too much but he was not the cause of our downfall. Ob1 was more surprising. Leaving our Cigarette for big games is becoming a bad Wenger habit. And in retrospect it looks a particularly poor decision.

The mix and balance in our team – actually, any team, is so important. When Ob1 plays on the left wing he looks lost and quite shit. But when he wanders infield and links up and turns quickly he is quite creative – see he’s movement for our goal. I get that Wenger wanted to play a tight, compact game and Ob1 can work hard on the wing. But you can’t leave out your main goal-scorer.

So aside from the ref giving them the game we also saw some other predictable flaws in the game. And both revolve around our two star players. Alexis today was shit. More a Skoda than a Lexus. Nearly every decision he made was the wrong one. He dwelled on the ball too long in all the wrong places. If I was Man City I would not see how he’d fit into their team. None of their players are as ball hogging as Alexis. Though maybe he is an upgrade on Sterling.

At this stage though I would start to consider leaving Alexis on the bench. If he’s going to sign for another club I don’t see how we can keep him in January. Get him off our team. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. Get the money and put it in the bank for the summer signings. This team will never showcase Alexis. It won’t even get into the top 4. But we knew that at the start of the season. So let’s at least plan and build for the future.

This also applies to Ozil. Whereas at Everton he was stellar today he was absent. Again, we did not lose because of him. But, again, if he’s not going to sign a contract let’s sell him and get the money. As brilliant as he is (on his day) we can’t afford to keep players that don’t believe in us and won’t commit to us. There was very link up play between these two today – that’s unusual. But that was also dictated by the pressure that ManCity put us under. They really are an impressive side. But we had our chances. Ramsey in the first half and then in the short period before the ref decided to give them a penalty and then right after our goal. When we reverted to a 4-4-2 we looked more dangerous.

But, today, we saw the main flaw in our team. It’s not Alexis nor Ozil. It’s Xhaka. I am tired of watching him drift around the game picking up the wrong defensive positions and not providing the defensive cover for the defense. If you watch that first goal which started with Ob1 giving away the ball just outside our area. Once the initial shot is saved by Cech you can see Xhaka start to amble out of the penalty box. He’s so passive though that by the time that Debryune starts the one two, instead of having closing of the space he’s standing around doing nothing. Reminiscent of Watford’s’ winner. It’s not that he’s a bad player. He’s be fine on West Ham or Everton. But not for Arsenal. And, then later in the game we saw Jack come in and play that position. There is no comparison. I know it’s too early for Jack – he needs to build his fitness and he, obviously, will pick up an injury soon. But he’s way better in that position than Xhaka. It’s so infuriating seeing Xhaka make the same positional mistakes over the length of a season. There is real ability there I know but he’s too weak on the defensive side. And therefore he is a liability.

Cech was good today; he’s save in the second half was brilliant. He and Koscelny kept us in the game in the first half. But we got ripped apart too easily on the counter attack – which is why we needed the speed of the Cock in defense. And we started the game well. We attacked them, controlled some of the possession and looked reasonably well matched. Until first Ob1 and then Xhaka made their mistakes. At this level you can’t afford to make mistakes like this let along repeat those mistakes game after game.

Common wisdom states that these type of poor refereeing decisions even out over a full season. I used to subscribe to this view. But now I’m not so sure. These games – against the top six – hang on such fine margins. And today the balance was entirely tilted against us. It’s not like we went their expecting to win. It’s not like we think we’re the better team. And it’s not like they need any help. But I don’t see how post Stoke and not after this it will even up.

The best we can do now is build for the future. There were some good performances today by individual players. There were periods where we dominated. This was nothing like the capitulation at Anfield. This was more like the Chelski game but with a shittyer ref. We need to give incrementally more time to Jack. We need to get Cigarette to start every game. And we need to bench Xhaka. Ramsey worked hard but did not do too much. Bellerin and Kolasinac were pretty reasonable. Monreal was skinned too much but was left exposed by the lack of cover in midfield.

For our next game we had better get our team selection right. We have two weeks now to dwell on this game and figure out the right line up. Today AW got it wrong but will get sympathy because of the shit ref. but that won’t be the case for our next game. If he makes the same decisions and we lose then all hell will break loose. And rightly so. It’s not like our expectations are so high these days. We see both of our neighbors making progress. One of them scarily so. We seemed to have wasted all the revenue and momentum of our new stadium to have fallen back to being an outsider in the run for the title – more Southampton than Manchester United. That is so sad. But with no signs that anything will change any time soon we should at least get the right players on the pitch. And that means playing those that are able to perform in their assigned positions and those that want to play for us. If a player fails either of these two (low) requirements then they should sit on the bench and we should give the opportunity to others.

-LB7