Author Archives: bradybergkampandbeyond

April 22nd – Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

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Hard to follow on from Friday for many reasons. Not the least is that the emotion of that announcement can’t actually change the ability – or lack of – on this team. The tributes have started – as they should. This is a momentous time in the history of Arsenal. And it helps amplify how influential AW has been. It’s easy to forget that given the onslaught he’s had to withstand lately. This game was a window in the dilemma that AFC have been facing for the past few years. The inconsistency that was shown in the first half versus the domination in the second. The ineptitude of Ob1 versus the ability of Cigarette.

As the era ends for AW so will the time we have to endure Ob1. He will be gone quicker than one of his many misplaced passes. Once he left the field today, to be replaced by Aubameyang the tempo and cohesion of the team picked up. I can’t honestly think of a more frustrating player that I’ve had to watch over the last ten years. Not that I would trade the loss of AW for Ob1 but it does highlight the weaknesses of AW. No other manager would play this guy. No other manager would persevere. And it’s that faith and inflexibility that AW invested in sub-standard players that has ultimately been his downfall.

We have seen this so often this season – that we, in each half, as two different teams. I can’t think of a game this season where we’ve played at our best for the entire game. Though I can think of ones where we’ve been awful through the entire game. Ramsey was strong today – it’s good to have him back. But I worry that when he walks round the pitch after the game it looks like he’s waving goodbye. They need to tie him down to a contract quickly.

In that first half Cigarette hardly touched the ball. It was all too sideways and aimless. But then we increased the tempo in the second half, we looked like a real time and destroyed a weak West Ham team. But come Thursday we’ll have to play a consistently good game. And, most importantly, we’ll have to have a defense and protection for the defense that can insulate us from our vulnerabilities at the back. Regardless of what AW has said, it’s hard to imagine that Mustafi is with us next year. Today we saw his split personality – some timely interceptions, his aggression in winning the talks and then those mistimed passes, the over-commitment that exposes the belly of our defense.

And we saw a classic Wellbeck performance. He works hard and gets into good positions and then will shank the ball or mis headers that should be on target. While he’s clearly superior to OB1 (though I think I am as well) he’s not quite at the level we require – but a reasonable squad player. He had a couple of good attempts on goal from outside the box but he has to take his chances – but, at this stage of his career, I don’t expect any further development in his game.

Bellerin seems to be developing though. Of course, he’s had to suffer Ob1 in front of him. And Xhaka was reasonably solid – as was Elneny. It’s a shame we’ll loose him for a couple of games. He was more creative than Xhaka. But it was clear how much we missed Ozil and MikeyTarrian today. Let’s hope at least one is back for Thursday.

While the second half was enjoyable, and the crowd were very supportive, all the focus was on AW. I really can’t stomach the media focus on what caused him to step down. You have to be retarded to not have figured it out. I suppose that’s the soulless job of the media though to ask painful questions to a man who’s been stripped of his life love as to why he’s resigned when anyone with half a brain cell would know he was pushed. As he should have been. But leave the guy alone. And the pundits seem to feel they have a right to know what happened? No, they don’t and nor do we (well, not yet anyway). But what’s to know? He was pushed out. Can we move beyond that into the celebration of his tenure and the growing focus on who should replace him? It feels like a Parliamentary investigation is going to transpire into who knew what when and who said what when. I suppose they feel the need to fill the airtime with something. But the journalists are also trying to develop some expose on what really happened. Spoiler alert – the man has just been essentially fired from a job he held for 22 years. You can see it on his face, in his body language and in his responses. And it’s also the right thing to have happened.

It’s been a perfect few days and thankfully the team did not ruin it today. Now we have to prepare for both Atlético and also figure out how we can complete the appropriate send off for the best Arsenal manager of all time. And one of the most honest, genuine, intelligent people to have ever held such a high stress, high profile role in any walk of life. He has always been a beacon of intelligence and vision for Arsenal Football Club. Once that statue is unveiled they should also consider naming one of the stands in his honour. And then once he’s had a few years at PSG or Madrid, they should bring him back in some advisory or ambassadorial role. His place is at Arsenal. And Arsenal owe it to him as well.

So, onto Thursday where the conversation will remain dominated by AW. It’s unrealistic to think anything else can occur. But at least today we saw some cohesion in the second half and some hope that we won’t be embarrassed on Thursday. I suspect that might happen when we play the reserve team up at Old Trafford on Sunday. But before then let’s hope Elneny recovers along with Ozil. And that Ob1 does not make the bench.

-LB7

 

 

January 28th – Mid Season Review

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Ok, it’s not technically mid-season. But then this is not technically a review either. But it’s been a while since the last post here. This team is a changing. So, before the transfer window slams it’s door shut there are a number of observations to make.

We are shit. We are a sixth place team. The table does not lie. We play like a sixth place team. We are inconsistent. Our squad is too thin of world-class talent. And it’s now even thinner. The club has the attitude of a sixth place team. It aims low and hits that objective. We carry too many average players. How many players would even make the bench for the teams above us in the league. Do you seriously think Ob1 would make the bench? How about Danny Welbeck? Exactly. Mentally we remain fragile. How else do you explain the away-day results at Stoke, Bournemouth and the draws at West Brom and West Ham?

How did we let go of Sanchez before we lined up a proper replacement? Why have we not sign Aubameyang? We all knew at the end of the last transfer window that we had to off load Alexis before he left for free. We tried to unload him at the last minute at the end of that window and failed miserably. Where was the plan? Look how Liverpool traded Coutihno away within a few days and brought in Van Dyke? We lost Alexis for a couple of games (Bournemouth and CP) before off-loading him – why could that not have been done right at the start of the window. Sure, I know there were other teams involved. But that does not explain the lack of movement with Aubameyang.

This one is not on AW. He has been the lightning rod for our lack of movement in prior windows. When we’ve failed to land people others have projected on AW their frustrations. Through their psychic powers people were able to look into the mid of AW and blame him for being miserly with the clubs money – refusing to either pay the fee or the wages. But, just maybe, we’re seeing the real AFC here. Just maybe, it was not AW that, in the past, screwed up transfer negotiations. Remember Suarez and the £40 + 1 penny bid and that fiasco?

This one is not on AW. This one is on Gazidis. He is the one that, visibly, got on the plan to fly to Nazi-land. He’s the one who has not been able to close the deal. If we fail to land him the blame lays there. It’s not on AW nor on Dortmund. Dortmund have been quite clear what they require to close the deal. Money. We are left with three days to the end of the window and little space in which to navigate. I naively assume that this deal will get completed. Boomerang is getting booed by his own fans and we have the money and they need it. But if we fail to bring him in and supporters see other moves – heavens above if Liverpool swoop in for Lemar or Mahrez – the mood till the end of the season will be nasty.

So where is our planning, our strategy and why does everything feel like Groundhog day. We have money from Gabriel, Theo and our Cock. But we won’t get the player we seem to want. I’m not sure he’s the solution to our problems. But if the club feel he is then they should sign him.

This, of course, is one of the primary reason why Alexis wanted to leave. He did not see the ambition of the club. He did not see the desire to surround him with world-class players. Now he’s gone to Manu to play alongside such talented players as Fellaini and Herrera. Good luck mate. But, how would you feel looking around the dressing room at Arsenal and seeing some of our muppets. I understand why he only passed to Ozil. Consider how Alexis stagnated and became more selfish in his play. He had no faith in the other players. I’m not saying this was right on his part but it’s understandable. He wants to play with the best and win titles. Why would Arsenal sign him and then fail to continue to build around him.

Ironically, because of the way Alexis play degenerated into less scoring and more ball hogging, since he’s not been playing for us, our play has improved. Aside from Xhaka and Ramsey, players spend less time on the ball. There is more one touch, quick movement and speed to our play now. We are more threatening on the break and more dynamic going forward. That’s not to say I won’t be pained to see Alexis succeed at ManU; he will make them a better team. He will run his socks off and he will score goals for them. It’s going to be tough to watch. But we brought this on ourselves. We should, in fact, consider ourselves lucky to have gotten anything out of Alexis. Ironically, if we had been just a little better this year he might have stuck around till the end of the season when we would have gotten zilch. However we end up MickeyTaReAnd. Not a bad player at all. Someone who can relegate Ob1 to the bench (and beyond). But we should have managed this such that he ended up at ManCity.

We have two other players coming to the end of their contracts. So, first off – how do we let this happen? How negligent can one club be? It’s hard to imagine an analogous situation. I get reminders from my phone company to pay bills otherwise I lose service. I get threats from the bank to pay the mortgage otherwise I lose our house. I know this because it happens with regularity. So how do Arsenal allow these situations to develop? God only knows.

At least though we have one remaining world class player. Ozil has been majestic this season. The shining light in a cave of doom and gloom. He has been the one player that has been able to elevate the team to a level of play worthy of the history of this club. Forget all the bleating from fans about how lightweight and inconsistent Ozil is. All that moaning about he does not turn up for the big games. Finally, this season, even the doubters realize that this is the remaining jewel from our crown that has been stolen.

So what are the odds that Ozil is an Arsenal player next season. How do we let his contract run out? How much will it cost to replace him? Unless the plan is to play Ob1 in that position. Or maybe MikeyTaReAnd. But when Ozil looks around the changing room what must he also think? At least there are a few fellow Nazi’s to keep him company. At least he can practice his Nazi salutes and goose-stepping routines with his fellow comrades. But aside from that he must despair. And If we don’t bring in Boomerang it will certainly play into his thinking.

Whereas with Alexis the case could be made that his style was antithetical to our pattern of player with Ozil he is pivotal to it. He is the central figure in our team. In many ways he’s more important to us than Fabregas was or even Dennis. Because they at least had other world-class players around them. If we can’t keep Ozil why would any other world-class players consider Arsenal? Who, by then, would be an 8th place team. We would morph into the Everton of the Premier League.

Aside from all this, when are we going to hear any noises about signing a proper, grown-up, adult defensive midfield player? We sold our own Coq and have not considered replacing him? How is that? How do you cut off your Coq and not consider a replacement part? We have been neutered.

We can’t seriously think Elneny is that player. Clearly Xhaka is not. And it’s unfair to even think of Matiland-Niles. So, what are our options here? Rather than just focus on another forward this is the area that requires immediate attention.

interestingly, even though I’m now of the view that AW’s time is drawing to a close – and he could be gone in the summer – little has been made of his tactics. In prior years the claim was that there was no plan B and that our tactics were too rigid. Yet, even in our despair of Bournemouth, we are demonstrating flexible formations and systems. Against Chelski, after suffering for the first 20 minutes, we made formational changes that altered the outcome of the game. While the players might be abject, the tactics and the manager  – in this respect – have not.

The problem is that as the face of Arsenal AW is the lightening rod for all our problems. He is responsible for many of them but not all of them. We need a structure in place for when he does depart. Signing the head of recruiting, a contract person and other football literate people is key – though if the negotiations with Dortmund are anything to go by it’s not clear this is an improvement. We need football leadership at this club and we don’t have it. We have Wenger and when he’s gone we will pine for the days when he controlled everything. Better him than Gazidis.

Finally, broadening out to the other teams you have to laugh at Liverpool and Sp*rs . both seem to be morphing into the Arsenal of 2007+. Watching Liverpool demolish ManCity and then being felled by mighty Swansea reminded me of our inconsistency. Being so dominant going forward and so vulnerable in defense reminded me our the last 10 years of Arsenal. Maybe it all started when we bequeathed them Kolo. Just maybe he introduced a virus into their defense from which they’ve yet to recover.

As for Sp*rs, they also seem to have master the art of throwing away points. With the talent they have on the pitch aligned with their manager, they really should be way more than 3 points above us. In fact, both of these teams have flattered to deceive. With all our mishaps and cock-ups it’s remarkable that we’re only a few points behind. Of course, it will only take a few injuries and/or usually inept performances to rectify that. Both these teams are way better than us. How damming is that statement.

Remember we are a sixth place team for a reason (actually many reasons) – the table does not lie.

OK, for the moment, therapy over.

-LB7

December 16th – Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0

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And on the eighth day the Lord created Newcastle United.  A gift to the world. Based on the arse end of the earth frequented by drole northerners and inhabited by the most ardent fans. But destined to be represented by the most average, bland and unforgettable eleven players you’ll ever see. Doubt me? Ok, let’s see if you, dear reader, can name even 4 players on their team? OK, too hard. Try two. Too hard? Thankfully they were our Christmas present today. And boy did we need one.

Today was a game where the points were paramount. We got them. But nothing else. Aside, that is, from the predictability of the performance. And the predictability of my observations. As and when AI is available I’ll be able to use that to write my reviews. Save me the trouble of finding new ways to say the same thing.

There was a different look to the formation today. Expecting a parked bus we were able to include a more offensive mid-field. And offensive it was. I was offended by Xhaka and, unfortunately, even by Jack. But mostly Xhaka. He continues to make careless passes in dangerous areas. Suffice it to say, after 1+ years of watching him,  I don’t get him. If I was going into battle I would hope he was the guy I was fighting.  For Jack, I’d been expecting more. He played higher up the pitch today and was hardly involved. And when he dropped back he demonstrated that he’d been carefully watching Xhaka by – late in the second half – giving the ball away on the edge of our box.

And as for Bellerin. WTF. He had little defensive duties but he’s so one dimensional it begs belief. And I see little if any progression in his game. He is our own Spanish Theo. All speed and no technical skills nor tactical acumen. Too often he’s faced with opportunities near the opposition goal and he does not know what to do. Sure, he was involved in our goal but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Like Xhaka he makes too many stray, careless passes. And he also prefers to play the ball sideways or backwards. He won’t use he’s speed to attack the opposition. On too many breakways he makes the wrong runs and the wrong decisions. And nothing seems to change. There is now growth, no development, no evolution. I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing in another 3 years. Though hopefully by then his Barca-DNA will force them to acquire him for £35m. Because it’s not like we have anyone else challenging him for that role.

However, on the left we had Maitland-Niles. He was a bright light in the dour coal-minds of this game. Technical, fast and football aware. A player with a football IQ. It’s a miracle. Maybe we can try him on the right hand-side. Against real opposition you might not want him on the pitch but he shows progress and development. Maybe he can be our savior.

Because last years savior is a shadow of his former self. I’m desperate for the January window to open so we can take him down to Waitrose or Sainsbury’s or even Tesco’s and exchange him for a Christmas tree and three glasses of muld-wine. The only positive thing was that he finally got substituted before the end. Alexis is now an impediment to this team. He will score goals at some point (and maybe not for us) but currently he over elaborates, takes too many touches and is way too predictable in his movements. He slows the game down and exposes our defense by going backwards when the teams’ momentum is forward. In another 10 days he could be gone. In the meantime, he should be on the bench. We should have Giroud and Cigarette up front. Not that Cigarette was on form today. But with Jack in the #10 spot he received little service again. But he also screwed up his chip on the goalie. I like this boy (not in that sort of way, of course) but we need to just let him play the full 90 minutes.

The defense was hardly tested today but we saw Monreal return to his usual solid performance whereas Kosclieny still looks like he’s a game away from being out with an Achilles problem.

We won 1-0, we got three points. But this was basically due to one man and one man only. Ozil ruled this game. He ran our team and dominated the game. He was the only player out there that was pure class. If Alexis wants to leave to be able to play with world class players, when Ozil looks around he can only wish he had that supporting cast – and that includes Alexis. Today Ozil was masterful. And he’s goal was sweet perfection. He read that entire move and drop back in anticipation of the ball being cleared to him and then, demonstrating perfect technique buried it in the next. If only Alexis would take note. Based on the last three months if we only have to sign one of these two, as I’ve said before, grab as much money as you can for Alexis and invest in Ozil. He is our creative spark. He is our creator-in-chief. Alexis is energetic, passionate and talented. But he’s also flawed. And we’re seeing those flaws. An ideal place for him would be Man City. They have tons of money and he could not do much damage to us there. It’s not like they haven’t already won the league. It’s not like they are not already going to beat us in our next encounter. It’s not like him going there will tip the scales in their favour. So, let’s take their money. And then invest in a Khaka replacement. And let’s play Giroud up front with Ciagrette.

I appreciate that Wenger mixed up the formation today and the selection. He knows it’s not working. For all our famed creativity, we are struggling to score goals. That’s two goals in the last four games. Somehow, somewhere we have to find that right balance. It just feels a long way away. We are now entirely dependent on Ozil for our spark. Jack is missing fitness and touch. Xhaka is too bland. And Alexis is too disruptive. You know Alexis is off his game when Ob1 looks like a bigger threat.

Next up – ignoring the mid-week encounter between our reserve team in the League/Milk/Corobo/WhatsItCalled Cup – on Friday has us playing against the mighty Ox. Will he come back to haunt us as he snuggly sits on the bench? Can we possibly play as bad as we did at Anfield? Wenger will be conscious that this is a big game and that we’ll need more defensive stability. Newcastle barely troubled us. But Liverpool are an entirely different proposition. If Mustafi is fit we can resume our normal Nazi contingent and revert to a back three. Wenger might go all DarthVader on us and try parking the bus. But there won’t be a place for Jack and I suspect Kolinsac will be back – BTW, where is he?

Your humble write will be traveling over this period so normal service might be disrupted. I know this might sour many peoples Christmas period. For this I can only apologize. I realize how pivotal this website can become to the lives of so many people. How we have brought food to the hungry. How we have brought joy to the downtrodden. But, fuck it. I need a holiday. I can’t deal with watching the dross we saw today. I might even write the Liverpool review tomorrow where I bemoan our early defensive lapses and then struggle to get back into the game only to be hit on the counter-attack as we overcommit with 5 center-forwards on the pitch.

-LB7

December 10th – Southampton 1 Arsenal 1

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This was a game of the two hulks. The BFG donated one goal and then our SuperSub snatched the equalizer.

It looked like March had come early and had 0-1 written all over it. The first 10 minutes were torrid. We were weak at the back. They should have put the game away before half-time. And did I mention we were shit?

I can see us reverting to a back four very soon. And after today you can see why.

But let’s not forget we dropped 2 more points against a very boring and average Saints team. Apart from a Monreal shot that went wide, aside from Girouds header, I can’t remember their oh-so-ugly goalie making a save in the second half. As an aside, I do wonder whether the inept and corrupt FA might introduce a rule that deducts 3 points when a team fields a truly ugly player. Why should hard working fans toil all week to then have to spend their money watching such ugly people play the beautiful game? It just seems wrong. And, of course, we’d earned 4 points. And somehow this Elephant Man even plays for England. Enough said. Let’s hope he gets picked to go to Russia and then gets lost in Siberia somewhere (though that’s a little unfair to Siberia).

Where was I? Oh, did I mention that we had more possession than a cannabis dealer but could not create any chances. We spurned chances to shot in order to thread the needle and create the perfect goal. Though I’m relieved we did not lose it’s still pretty pathetic to feel it’s an achievement to get just a point in this type of game. We are not good enough and we run out of ideas. Sure, the BFG should be put out to pasture. I love this guy and look forward to him being the Academy director. But today it took him 20 minutes to warm up and get from 1st gear to second. It’s just a shame that that is he’s only a two gear player. Alongside him Koscielny looked unconvincing . His distribution is uncertain and when it get’s played out on our right it looks like we’re always about to turn the ball over. And, why is that? It’s because our Spanish darling still does not know how to really play the game. Today I thought he was a liability. Too often he gets shoved off the ball. He’s a light-weight in the tackle and he’s forward passing is indecisive. He takes too long on the ball and is scared to take on his man. All our incisive play is down the left – as it was against Manure.   In a back four – to which we reverted – he gets caught up field and exposes the defense. At the end of the game it was Ozil that tracked back to snuff out one of their counter-attacks while Bellend was left upfield.

Today, everything good we did ran through Ozil. He worked so hard. But why is Alexis taking up his space? At this point I’d be happy to get some money for our Chile pepper. He even spurned chances to shot when in the box to create that special goal. He seems lost tactically and liability on the ball. He’s passing is off and he takes the momentum out of our play. I feel sorry for Cigarette. He got no service and was always forced to play intricate passing outside the box. Too often the team played side to side and not forward. This speaks to the imbalance in the team. We can’t evolve with Xhaka and Bellend. I would prefer to see Jack replace Xhaka. Except that now it will be Jack replacing Ramsey. Ramsey was not dominating today but we’ll still miss him as he suffers from his annual thigh/groin injury that will keep him out for 6 weeks.

And how stupid is Theo. After being the only forward to shine mid-week he gets a calf injury that causes Theo -1.0 to get playing time. Badbeck did zero once he came on. This guy is speedily going no-where.

There is no way we can let our hulk go out on loan this January. I get that he wants playing time. We should drop Alexis to the bench and play the French/German axis up front. But that won’t happen.

I also wonder what the deal is with the Serbian-tank. Maybe it’s an adjustment period to our league but he does get pulled out of position and seems less involved in these games.

But I’m worried. We looked vulnerable today. Austin could have had a couple of goals early on. Bellend is a liability. In either formation. And Xhaka is somewhere between a pooh and full on diarrhea. And worse, than that (if that’s possible) was our overall lack of creativity. It reminds me when Hleb was playing for us. All possession and sideways movement. There was only one breakout counter-attack move from their corner in the first half. Thereafter it was too slow and too ponderous. All sideways and back. This allowed an organized Saints team to pack their defense as we tried to thread that needle.

We always knew this would be a long season. This type of game reminds us that the false dawns of Sp*rs/Burnly will be quickly followed by these type of disjointed performances.

There is little to be excited about. And if we loose Ozil we’re screwed. There will be more false dawns of course. But we’re lacking a steel and I’m getting more concerned about our key players – Kosclieny and Alexis. We can’t win without them finding their game again. There are plenty of upcoming games for this to happen. But the inevitable injuries will just apply more pressure.

Rather than being happy that we gained a point I can’t figure out where this team is going and why I should have any faith in them. We seem to be one game away from a complete disaster. It sounds contradictory to see a team grab an equalizer in the last 3 minutes and then claim the team is fragile. But the benchmark should not be striving to get into the NoHoppa league next year nor even the top four but being genuinely competitive. And we’re just not that team. In a funny way this result and this performance was more soul destroying than the Manure game. And all of these players had a full weeks rest.

So I’m going to go away and steel myself for a painful Christmas period. There are too many games and too many opportunities for us to fuck up for me to have any real sense of optimism. Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa – or maybe, just send him an email – and put in a late request for a return to health of our Santi. Then given that he’s Santa not God, I’ll ask for something that more achievable. A new defense midfield player and new right wing back. Along with my acquisition of all shares of AFC. Then I can replace AW with myself as manager and sit on the bench alongside the legend that is Steve Bould. Now that would be fun.

– LB7

 

December 2nd – Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3

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Happy Christmas Manchester United. Take that. Oh, and one more.

Fuck it. You gotta laugh. We could have played for 180 minutes and we’d still not have scored more than one. We hit the bar the post, missed so many chances and watch miraculous saves from De Gea.

Our defense imploded. We saw a dress rehearsal against Huddersfield towards the end of the first half. The difference was they were good enough to take advantage whereas MU were.

What was Kosclieny doing with that cross field ball? Five minutes later Xhaka dwelled on the ball and then Mustafa doubled down but holding onto it for too long. I thought he was substituted from a case of extreme embarrassment. The strongest part of our team for the last 3 games decided to give MU an unnecessary helping hand.

It’s funny really MU used our tactics against Sp*rs against us – pressing the back three and cutting off the distribution and thus forcing us into bad decisions.

Thereafter we overcommitted and asked them to hit us on the counter attack. On how many occasions were disorganized such that it required Ozil or Ramsey to be the player chasing them back.

But oh the chances we missed. You got laugh. The first half was a one way possession. It’s not possible to go through the list because it’s so long. After 45 minutes I was sure we weren’t going to score. Then the only pass of the game that Alexis made that actually went to our own team allowed Ramsey to make that perfect pass to Cigarette. Back in it at 1-2 we looked in complete control. But then yet again Koscielny made his second mistake with Pogba to allow the killer third goal. And Pogba though it would be fun to make the game more interesting by assaulting Bellend. But even with 10 men as long as one of the was De Gea we were not going to score another one.

Generally speaking Mariner is one of the better refs – not that that says too much – and I thought he controlled the game pretty well and most of his decision were reasonable. Sending Pogba off was a choice other refs might have dodged. But I don’t see how he could fail to give a penalty when Welbeck was tripped in the box. And what about the linesman – he was 20 feet from the incident. How can he not flag that foul? What’s the point of him being there if he can’t see that clear foul. Obviously he did but then just lacked the balls to raise his flag.

Today as abject as Alexis was, Ozil was dynamic. He controlled our creativity and helped propel our inventiveness. Cigarette is a natural forward to will be disappointed that he was only able to convert one chance today. His link up play is exceptional and he’s physically strong. But it’s the third leg of our famed forward line that was missing today. Nearly every decision was the wrong one and he wandered into all the wrong positions on the field. He crowded out the space for others. This was the big game were Ozil is supposed to disappear but instead Alexis beat him to it.

Ramsey was effective today making those late dangerous runs into the box. Even Ob1 came on and was impressive. Bellend was not so bad but Kolasinac should have known better for that first goal where he waited for the ball to reach him. Monreal was OK and relative to the other two was a star. As was Cech. Can’t blame him for any of this. Even the Wenger decisions were good moves. When Mustafa slinked off you though we’d see the BFG. But Ob1 was a good call. And then to see the back of Xhaka early on. It’s just a shame that Giroud decided to play like a pussy. You can so clearly see the difference between our French hulk and a Frenchman that is aggressive in penalty box that wants to shoot rather than flick the ball off to someone else.

Aside from losing, dropping three points and making Darth Vader happy, it’s a shame we imploded in ten minutes because it denied us the chance to witness a tight, close fought, tactical  game. Instead we had one of the most open games witnessed in a long time as we threw caution to the wind as we battered De Gea.

None of this is why we lost. We lost because of us. Because we self destructed in the first 10 minutes. And that’s down to us. That’s down to  mental preparation and attitude. And, today, you have to point the finger at Kosclieny. Our captain.

Remember, we always have Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0

-LB7

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 25th – Arsenal 2 WBA 0

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I hate Monday games. Having to wait and (not) watch the other teams play mean that there’s nothing to focus on for the entire weekend. And then there’s always the dread that Monday will be utterly anti-climatic. Waiting all that time for a dull draw or another Watford-like performance does not bear thinking about.

Thankfully today we were spared that. But only just. In the end it was fairly easy. A comfortable 2-0. But in the first half they should have had a penalty. And if it was not for Cechs brilliant save onto the post we’d have been 1-0 down. And then he’s second save before half-time stopped them equalizing. And imbetween our best player – Monreal – cleared a certain goal of the line.

So going into half-time we could not have complained if we were drawing if not losing.

The second half was better (it helps to have the lead I’ve heard). And then we did control the game and should have added a third. But, to be fair, if their claim for a penalty was not given I would not have expected our appeal to be granted. I’m impressed that Madley gave us this one. I’d feel pretty hard don’t by if I was a WBA fan – but then why, for the love of god would I – or anyone – be a WBA fan.

What did we learn today then? Primarily that Monreal is god-like and he and Kolasanic have nailed down our left hand side.

That Mustafa is still a truly shit defender. What the fuck was he doing going to ground in the penalty area in the first half. Another referee would have awarded a penalty against us and changed the course of the entire game. In this instance the attacker was not even going to goal but was running out of space. This is exactly the time to shepherd the play out of bound and only a retard would go to ground. But then Mustafa is a retard. He is a liability. His distribution is shit and he’s judgement is reckless. There was a time in the second half when he went charging for the ball in their half, missed it and left the entire defense exposed. I just wish Holding or Chambers or the BFG could claim that spot.

In midfield Xhaka had one of his worst games. He was sloppy all over the pitch (a nasty image I know). He gave the ball away in his own half a couple of times and, more generally, was very slow on the ball. I’ll put this down to one bad game but it’s still a little worrying that he can be so casual on the ball.

Elneny was a little better but not great. He was also a little slow in distribution. The difference is that he works a lot harder and, by the second half, was linking up play much quicker.

But this combination will be ripped apart by better teams than WBA.

Ramsey was a fault for their two first half breakaways (as was Xhaka for one of the tem and Elneny the other). But his forward movement is excellent. He gave their defense problems the entire game. He’s clearly better suited to the Ozil position than the holding midfield one. I’m just not sure he’s as creative as Ozil – though he’ll score more goals than the German. The creativity though came from Alexis. He’s still a little off his best – he needs more game time – but he was the only true creative force out there. Roaming over the pitch and finding Ramsey arriving in the box late. After a few more games, those passes will come off.

And don’t you love Cigarette? A real goalscorer. A fox in the box. But he can play outside of it as well. He’s control and speed fit so neatly into our set up. I’m sure he will develop a strong relationship with both Alexis and Ozil. And this guy will hit 20 goals this year (assuming he stays injury free).

And finally, to go back to our defense. Cech and Monreal. Outstanding. Both kept us in this game. I don’t think Monreal lost a ball the entire game. Every challenge – every pass – every move – was perfect today. Gibbs, who played well, was right to move on. No-one can replace Monreal when he’s in this form.

OK, now it’s time to play switch as we get ready for a journey into the middle of nowhere for the NoHoppa Cup. Let’s rest most of todays players and send them Theo and Ospina. Let the others get ready for Sunday.

-LB7

Sept 17th – Chelski 0 Arsenal 0

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Oh, so we do know how to defend. Imagine that. What a novel concept. Who would have thought we could keep a clean sheet at the Politburo? Maybe we should play Bournemouth and Chelski each week. They obviously have reverse kryptonite. They manage to turn us into a functioning team.

When I saw Ob1 on the team sheet I feared the worst. I checked that we had Cigarette and the Tank. Fearing we’d have gone instead for Theo and The Ox – given that he’s not played at Anfield and that AW might have forgotten about the £35m burning a hole in his pocket. But thankfully they were both in the lineup. For the first 15 minutes the Russians played a high tempo, one touch and fast interplaying game that threatened to tear us apart. I figured the mad Italian must have read the riot act pre-game. Jumping up and down while simultaneously combing his hair in order to maintain that suave, debonair image.

But in time we worked our way into the game. A fine move down the right hand side set up Mr. Goalscoring machine DW23. But, rather than commeth the man cometh the goal instead we had the predictable. When we need that goal he is the right man to spurn the opportunity. Deciding to use his head not shoulders he still found a way to miss the target. Yet more memories of Anfield came flooding back. But rather than capitulate we started to dominate the game. Cigarette had a (tough) chance care of our Ob1 and Bellend interplay. And then Ramsey went on a mazyrun to only hit the post and see Cigarette stumble the ball over the bar. I still have a lot of time for our new Frenchmen. This was a hard chance that he should have taken but I’ll, at this point, be grateful, he was, at least, in the (nearly) right position.

The second half started like the first but this time we never really got back into the game. The Crimea team had more possession but hardly drew a save from Cech. There were periods where we had some nice possession but our right side dominance disappeared as they made adjustments. Daylight was created as David Louis tried to murder The Tank and rightfully got a straight red. But that left too little time for us to snatch a winner.

So we learned that Arsenal do actually know how to play the game, remain organized and take a disciplined approach to an away game. Which, of course, begs the question what the fuck happened at Anfield. The fear is that because of that spanking we adopted this more pragmatic approach. But, now we’ve had this display my money is on reverting back to type in the next big away game.

Today Monreal was immense. Rarely beaten down his side and dominant in the air. On the right Koz was solid and stabilizing. And in the middle we had our mad Kraut. Morata was pretty impressive today. A number of times he turned the Kraut and made some great runs. Most other teams won’t keep him from scoring. Someone needs to injure him quickly. Mustafa tried but was too slow. And again, some of his long fields distribution was awful.

Both AR8 and Xhaka dropped deeper to pick up the ball from the defense which removed some pressure from the backline. I suspect this was mainly due to our more conservative approach. That is, we were just sitting deeper more generally.  Xhaka was, as ever, a little careless with his passing but Ramsey was quite impressive today. Without the skillful German ahead of him we was able to break into the space ahead of him on a number of occasions. He’s passing was intelligent and his forward play propelled the team. And he should have scored. But he occupied Konti and put him under pressure quickly. The problem is that too often he and Xhaka play the same position. Literally. There was a time in the first half when they were stumbling into each other. Defensively they don’t exude confidence. But with Ob1 and DW23 working hard on defense we were more solid on the wings but just vulnerable through the middle. If only we had a Konti…..

With this new found stability we also sacrificed our creativity. I’m still not sure why we had Ob1 rather than Alexis in the starting 11. Sure Ob1 worked hard – a la DW23 – but you can’t rationally argue that there is anyone on planet earth you’d select Ob1 over Alexis. With DW23 incurring his usual injury it looks like he’ll be out for a while and therefore this “choice” won’t come up again for a while. Of course, it also means that it’s Ramseys turn next for his regular hamstring injury. The question becomes, would we have had this defensive work rate and cover if little Mesut had been able to play? We’d have been more threatening but at what cost? Without him we should have been 2-0 before half-time. But with him would we have kept a clean sheet?

Cech is the one player who has been consistently reliable this year. His save from Pedro was pivotal. If we had let one in then who knows how our mental psyche would have handled that.

It’s hard to enjoy watching this team as you think you’re one errant Xhaka pass away from implosion. But today we turned up. But to be a team challenging for the league (or even the top 4) the bar should not be so low that we are grateful that we come away from Red Square without being embarrassed. The Commies will have better days – you could see the impetus that Hazard provided. And today we had our chance to actually win there. But our collective confidence is so low we all end up being relieved to come away with a point. At some point we have to demonstrate the organization and discipline over a 10 match period to restore both our credibility and nerves. The agony of waiting for and then recovering from the next fiasco requires too much therapy. And it’s not even March yet.

So onto the tough encounter with Doncaster Rovers in the who-the-fuck-knows-what-cup-its-called. More opportunity for the BFG and Nelson to impress. And the onto the return of Gibbs. Then back to the NoHopa Cup. Many chances then for the other squad players to shine. And for us to relax and not worry so much about the outcome

-LB7

Sept 9th – Arsenal 3 Bournemouth 0

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Let’s play Bournemouth every week please. That was easy. So easy. I’m confident that if we played a 38 game season only playing them we’d win the league. On the basis they were all home games.

How poor were Bournemouth? So bad that WorseBeck looked like Nearly-a-PlayerBeck. For goodness sake, he scored two goals. The first one classic Wellbeck – in off his shoulder. The second one was more like that Cigarette. To be fair he worked hard and chased them down. Can’t fault the guy from being hard working; just for not being a football player. He’s an improved version of Theo. Though Theo is superior in the after match interview.

Ozil cruised through the game, control play and making a series of exquisite passes. One of these lead to the beautiful second goal form Cigarette. Very TH14 that one. Lady and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a real striker! This boy can play. It would be interesting to see him and Alexis on the pitch at the same time. The triangle with Cigarette, Alexis and Ozil could be a thing of beauty. Some of our one touch passing today was outstanding. As it would be in any training session when the opposition decides not to close you down. Nonetheless, it was pleasure to watch at times. We purred along quite nicely indeed.

Of course, there are still a number of issues we have to contend with. Namely, we’re not a team that can compete for the top 4 spots. On our day we can pull apart even the most dire team (thank you Bournemouth). But the balance still looks off. I’m not convinced that Xhaka and Ramsey can function as the backbone of this team. Both, individually, played pretty well. Ramseys’ late runs into the box will generate goals. But neither of them provide the defensive cover for our defense. The move to swap out Ramsey for our Coq was correct. But then our Coq blew out his hamstring. So that’s him gone for 6+ weeks. He’ll be joining Santi in the recovery room – our best midfield pairing from 2 seasons ago both sidelined. Today we saw both Xhaka and AR8 move upfield at the same time and often get caught the wrong side of the ball. We’ll miss Coq – and that’s before AR8 picks up his own obligatory yearly hamstring injury. I think we all knew we were short in this area of the team. It could have been a perfect time to play Ox there J

It was interesting to see how they tried to high press our back line. Neither of AR8 or Xhaka drop to receive the ball (well, sometimes Xhaka does – and that’s where he’s vulnerable to turnovers) and that makes playing out from the back much harder. Against Chelski it will be much more illuminating.

Kolasinac returned back to earth today. Still way better than either Gibbs or Ox. But his distribution was a little wayward. And like Bellend, he allows too many crosses into the box. But going forward he’s smart and make pretty good decisions – unlike Bellend. We got this guy for free and received £40+ for these other two. That’s a good trade. I’m sorry that Ox left to the degree it reinforces the messages that he’s moved off to a “winning” team. But there’s no way he’s worth that sum nor will he find a central midfield role there. But I liked the boy (no, not in that way kind sir).

We nearly lost Mustafi and I’d still prefer the £35m we could have received. He did not play too poorly today. But, yet again, he displayed his tendency to too aggressively jump in and also go to ground too quickly. That is a recipe for disaster and/or his next sending off. And, without a Santi-like midfielder to take the ball from him he’ll continue to launch his Kolo-eque aimless, long ball passes.

One game does not make a season – unless, of course, it’s a game an Anfield. It’s not clear whether we learned too much today. Maybe that Eddie Howe is not going to be our new manager. It took him 70+ minutes to change a clearly failing team formation. Of course, I’m sure we’ll make him look Guardiola-like when we play at their place.

OK, short and sweet today. I’ve enjoyed the two week break post-Anfield. To be away from the train wreck that is AW and AFC. Today extended that period by an extra few days. At least until we visit the Russians on Sunday. That will be our judgement day. Can we compete? I have my doubts. The same fears persist. We added two great players but failed to strengthen the backbone of our team. And Chelski will surely expose this. But it’s still a little too early to get suicidal about this team. There’s plenty of time for that. That’s what March is for.

-LB7

 

 

 

August 31st – End of the Transfer Window and the End of Arsene

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The title says it all really. The fiasco that we witnessed will just about seal the end of Arsene’s reign as King of Arsenal.

Though it might not rest entirely at his feet he will surely carry the burden of this complete fiasco; the worst possible outcome on some many dimensions. It will leave fans dispirited and vexious. Going forward, the first sign of difficulty (which will be within a game or two) and the entire fan base will turn on him. He’s position will be unsustainable.

How could this possible have come about?

By advertising the interest in Lamar so early on in the transfer window we clearly signaled our intent. To then be rebuffed because we were not in the CL is plain ridiculous. How could the club have not known about this issue? We have known for a while now – since the season ended I think – that we weren’t in the CL. So how, in our discussions over the last 3 months did we not know this. That’s incompetent. Also, it’s not entirely believable. Beneath this rejection lies another reason.

Unfortunately, when Man U were out of the CL they could still attack key players. That’s how they were able to rebuild. They bought Poga. They brought in Ibra. And others. It did not seem to impair their re-build. How can this be? This is not to same say we’re the same as Manu. The difference, I fear, is that those players knew there was a manager in place that was committed for many years to a rebuilding process. Whereas at Arsenal the one thing you know is that the manager won’t be there in a couple of years (if not sooner). This is the first time that lack of clarity on our manager has been a deterrent to signing players. Worse, this is from the French league – in fact, his old club. It would seem that AW has finally lost his allure to attract the players we need. How embarrassing is it when three of his French compatriots can’t convince Lamar to join us. What a disaster. This tells us where we stand in the pecking order of clubs more than anything. And, to be clear, let me restate the only viable conclusion. it can’t merely be CL related. It’s AW related.

And, to compound this issue we spent the entire summer stating in black and white, with 100% conviction that we would never sell Alexis. I understand that negotiations have to take place behind closed doors and that you can’t reveal your hand. But, in the last 12 hours to change position and then scramble and fail to bring in a replacement is pathetic. Now we are left with a deflated Alexis. Someone who fully expected to be able to get out of the hell that is AFC. So, rather than release him from his sentence he’ll sign a pre-nup with ManCIty and he’ll leave for nothing. Not £60m but zero. How is that possible? How is that “good” business? Where is the accountability for this? And what does it do to our credibility? When we say someone is not for sale who’s going to believer us? I know I won’t. And what a way to blow £60m.

So today was a shambles and embarrassment of historic proportions. We had three months to prepare for this and failed on so many levels. How did we let Ox leave for Liverpool for £35m and not bring in a replacement? What about Mahrez? I’m not too sad to see Ox leave. I respect that he wants to play in central midfield. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong but I would not want to see him in that position at Arsenal. I respect he did not take our money or the increase grubby money on offer at Chelski to be the backup to Moses. Now he’ll wander up north and wait for Henderson or Emre to get injured. Good luck to him. We got a tidy sum for him. But were was the replacement plan? How dispiriting is it for the rest of the squad.

Then we thought we’d got rid of Mustafi only for him to come right back home. Nor could we offload Dubuchy. And yet we sold BigEars. And we know we have one BFG who will retire in a year and one SFG who we don’t’ want but would have received £35 for him. Sure we finally sold Gibbs and Woz and we loaned out Perez along with Campbell.

What happened with Dick Van Dyck? Why could we not have acquired him with Theo as a (not)make  weight?

How can fans believe this squad is any better than the bunch of wankers that were shamed on Sunday? If anything, we’re worse off though the club have more money.

This, I fear, is the end for AW then. No-one has faith that this squad can get us back to the top 4. And he’s lost his magic in attracting the highest quality players. Remember, he was talking to Mbappe last year (when we were still in the CL) and AW could not sell him on AFC back then.

Where does this leave us? In the wilderness for, at least, a couple of years. And the changes don’t merely relate to AW. This happened on Gazidis’ watch. He’s the CEO. He is ultimately responsible. As is Silent Stan.

We not only wasted £60m by not selling Alexis, not invest the £35 from Ox but we officially became a joke in the eyes of all other clubs. We have no strategy and no plan. And we have a manager that can’t attract the worlds’ best players – he has lost his credibility. Ouch.

I desperately felt the need to post the thoughts because I just know every other websites will be saying the exact same thing. In this 3 month transfer window we have managed to squander all the good will created with our F A Cup win. Yet we’ve now suffered through the worst 5 days i can remember at Arsenal since the days when Stuart Robson graced our midfield at Highbury in the ’80s.

We have consigned all Arsenal fans to a long dark winter. And as GoT comes to it’s glorious end so does the reign of AW. And just as we don’t know who will gain control of the Iron Throne nor do we know who will inherit the poisoned chalice. The fear is that the White Walkers have already gained control at Arsenal.

– LB7