A Pleasing Few Days

Thursday 18th December 2014

Being busy is something I like. Even on the few occasions I get to relax a little bit I find myself looking for things to do to fill my time. So the fact it has taken me until Thursday to pen my post Newcastle at home thoughts is not only down to those essential daily aspects but also other things both expected and not so. Plans for Monaco away for example. Lots of searching, booking and reserving for a destination we have never visited for a match. Some would class this as non-essential. I disagree of course….but then again , I would!

I think I have mentioned it before but I quite enjoy the Saturday evening kick-offs. Not great if you have other early evening plans of course but if you plan your diary better ( ;-) ) they are always very entertaining, especially if you get the right result of course. Plenty of time for pre-match fun and frolics took me via an excellent pub in the Covent Garden/Charing Cross area of London where the array of ‘goodies’ on offer is quite something. The perfect start to match day in my book.

The Ale Lovers Sweet Shop

The Ale Lovers Sweet Shop

After supping such treats the tube journey (especially on a Xmas shopping Saturday) can be a little bit difficult. A strong bladder is certainly essential and our chosen pre-match destination in London N5 was reached with a huge degree of relief as anything else! Events continued along the same route and contributed to a thoroughly enjoyable day all round. The football of course can take this to new heights or completely ruin your day! We have all experienced plenty of both down the years.

Saturday evening, under the lights, after an extended day, just before Christmas on a perfect day for football. All the ingredients for an ideal game to unfold in front of us. On this occasion, by and large, that is exactly what we got.

Despite dominating for long periods, those thin dividing lines were emphasized as always. The Geordies had one excellent double chance to equalise in the first period, a situation that would have undone all our hard work to take a lead we thoroughly deserved, Olly’s fine towering header giving us the first jostle of four we enjoyed across the evening. Newcastle’s goal highlighted our worryingly all to frequent failings of not being able to reach a near post cross first and at 3-1 I felt the next goal would be crucial. I think there is no doubt had it gone 3-2 there is a chance we might have crumbled. Other matches this season suggest we have little reason to think otherwise.

Saying that however, my thoughts above all sound extremely negative on what was overall a thoroughly positive and satisfying performance. After all, if we were to look at every chance in every game we would score double figures in most!

Santi has been in fine form in recent weeks and his first goal and our second was quite superb. I’m not strongly in favour of ‘cheeky’ penalties to be honest, certainly not from anyone playing for us. Probably down to a certain cock up involving Thierry and Bobby Pires a few years back! If nothing else however, it definitely shows how much Santi is playing with confidence right now.

Sandwiched in between was Olly’s second, another cracking goal that contributed towards a thoroughly entertaining game overall….and of course three crucial points.

Monday’s weekend hangover was accompanied by the eagerly awaited Champions League draw. Fortunately I can work from home so Sky Sports was on for a process that is nowhere near as painfully drawn out as the Group Stage version. For me personally there was only one destination where I hadn’t visited in pursuit of the mighty AFC with Atletico Madrid the only other team left where I hadn’t visited the stadium. The latter came out in the early stages and although our chances increased slightly as the draw progressed, so did our chances of being paired with Bayern Munich or Real Madrid! Firstly Real Madrid disappeared and as I shouted ‘Munich, Munich, Munich’ accompanied by the expletive that means ‘go away’, I soon punched the air knowing I had a 50/50 chance of getting my first choice.

I like Porto as a city so had they come out of the hat it definitely could have been worse…..but…..’Arsenal’……was shortly followed by ‘AS Monaco’ and a private personal jostle ensued like we’d just scored a last minute winner! At last, a draw that has produced something ‘different’.

Within about an hour, once the dates had been revealed, a little 3 night jolly for our party was booked and wacked in the diary for mid-March. Luvvly jubbly.

Attention now turns to Anfield and Liverpool away on Sunday afternoon, a stadium that has seen us experience every possible emotion over the years in numerous competitions. Both our clubs have made inconsistent starts to this year’s campaign making the whole game one of the more unpredictable examples.

Come on you mighty yellows!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Fun on the Bosphorus

Wednesday 10th December 2014

Istanbul is right up there amongst the world’s greatest cities. And my 4th visit in the name of the mighty Arsenal has not changed my opinion. The vibrancy, passion, culture, food, sights and what can sometimes feel like ‎organised ‎chaos all contribute to the overall package. Great fellow travellers and a thumping good win means I fly home with a whole host of good memories yet again.

‎It feels a long time ago that we got off our plane at the city’s Araturk Airport but some great service and arguably a little too much red wine on board our Atlasjet flight from Luton meant the tedium that  this form of transport often brings passed by far quicker than the near on 4 hours suggests.

More wine with that sir?

More wine with that sir?

A nice hotel in the Sultanahmet area of the city soon played host and we headed out in search of a small example of the Sunday night offerings. A fine meal was enjoyed nearby and the usual liquid accompaniment had some of our party ‘calling it a day’ slightly earlier than others. Video evidence does exist of what was an extremely amusing incident but you know the rules folks, ‘what goes on tour…….’ ;-)

Monday was ‘ tourist day’ especially for those in our group that had never visited this wonderful city before so accompanied by the incredible haunting sound of the ‘calls to prayer’ echoing from every corner of the city we took in attractions such as the Blue Mosque‎, Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, all magnificent in their own individual way.

Passing the hundreds of people fishing we then crossed the bridge and headed up towards the vast Taksim Square and sank some cocktails (darling!) ‎in the stunning Pera Palace Hotel, originally built in the late 19th century to welcome passengers from the Orient Express having reached their final destination of Constantinople.

A few 'posh' cold ones

A few ‘posh’ cold ones

A thoroughly awesome way to rest our weary limbs after a typically lengthy Stubbsy walking tour it preceded another fine bar/restaurant ‎that played host until we took cabs and stumbled back to our hotel.

If there was anything slightly disappointing about the whole trip it was the fact our hotel room was located overlooking a school playground. I’ve nothing against educational establishments of course but when the kids turned it into their equivalent of Wembley ‎at 8am every morning, I genuinely wasn’t very complimentary especially given how much we had enjoyed the city’s hospitality well into the wee small hours! 

Matchday arrived and another restaurant for most of us, the offerings ranging from quite a ropey veal escalope to an incredible dish cooked in a sealed clay pot over an open fire before it was quite vigorously tapped until the lid popped off revealing the superb dish inside. Delicious it was and all part of the experience.

It was difficult to know how full Galatasaray’s ‎Turk Telecom Arena would be given the fact our hosts had nothing more to play for than pride. Located high up in the away end I think we all left hoping we might get to return one day for a game that dictated a sell out. The noise that the small crowd made last night was fantastic and definitely left us all feeling that way.

Our latest away end view

Our latest away end view

Given the difficult few days we have all experienced since Stoke, the first half was probably just what the doctor ordered. The media scrutiny brought on by the huge and over heated debate regarding the present and the future of our great football club has been immense‎ and quite divided. So Poldi slamming home after a few minutes was extremely pleasurable and set us on our way of giving us an outside chance of claiming top spot in our group. 

Rambo’s recent form has yet to reach anywhere near the incredible heights of last season, we all know that. But I do believe he is getting there and the three goals he has grabbed this week ‎have to help especially as there isn’t a bad one amongst them. His 3rd last night in fact was an absolute stunner.

So we end the group in second spot but comfortably through yet again and look forward to next week’s draw and the destination for our next overseas jolly in March. As I write these thoughts that could be anywhere from Madrid, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Porto and Monaco. Having not seen us play there the latter would be my first choice. It would be nice if we could actually get something ‘interesting’ ‎out of a draw for once unlike every one we seem to get in our domestic cup competitions!

Newcastle come to London N5 next and in the middle of a fine run of form. On Saturday afternoon they brought our West London neighbours down to earth and destroyed any chance of them matching our unbeaten season. One day we might just get the credit we deserve for that ‎incredible achievement you know. But I doubt it.

For now, I desperately need some sleep. Not just because it has been a heavy few days. But due to some noisy football playing kids!!!

Keep the faith boys and girls.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Too Much to Do or Too Little Too Late?

Sunday 7th December 2014

Many moons ago, when I first started to play football on a competitive basis, the coaching I received was fairly basic. Or to be more accurate, emphasis was placed on teaching the ‘basics’. At such a young age of course, this couldn’t possibly have been more valuable. 

My playing days were spent in midfield or up front and consequently defending definitely wasn’t my area if expertise. Back in that ‘basic’ training however, I do remember one particular aspect of the defensive art being drummed into my team mates. Cutting out any cross at the earliest opportunity could not have been emphasized enough.

Let’s be honest we don’t like going to Stoke. I can only think of Hillsborough as possibly a stadium that has proved to be more of a bogey ground down the years. And after yesterday, we all probably like it even less.

Thought we could have been a little bit more central

Thought we could have been a little bit more central

I would prefer to start with the bad rather than the good and it doesn’t need me to tell you the first half was a total disaster. Its the nature of the first two goals however, that is so disappointing. Two low, comfortably clearable crosses got to our near post and the attacking player comfortably got there first. When you do the ‘basics’ I was taught all those years ago, that simply does not happen.

Between the goals, Olly missed a headed chance he should have buried and it pretty much summed up our day.

I cannot criticise our second half performance. We were committed, showed considerable pride and were very close to gaining something from what looked impossible. Pleasing, yes…..but it doesn’t change the ‎fact we were poor enough to come away with nothing from a game against a beatable side.

At half time it was ‘heated’ in the away end with lots of travelling Gooners venting their frustration. I didn’t see what happened after but I have heard ‎various reports. For me, I find that all incredibly disappointing. I get the frustration of course but don’t we all support the same team and want the same things from our club? I’m all for passion people but show some class boys and girls!

Football of course is graced ‎with the beauty that when u lose a game there’s another one just round the corner.

So, i’m writing these notes on my flight from Luton to Istanbul accompanied by similar minded company, some in flight tucker and a bucket load of vino. 

And d’you know what? I think that’s kinda my point. 

I’m going to one of the ‎world’s greatest cities. 

And d’you know why?? 

Because of my club. Your club. Our club.

Victoria Concordia Crescit
Frank‎

Back to the Nineties!

Thursday 4th December 2014

After George Graham moulded two exciting and relatively attack minded title winning sides in 1989 and 1991 we went on to win further trophies over the next few years. These teams however, were very much based on a water tight defensive shape above all else. This of course not only resulted in us being labelled with a ‘boring’ tag at times but culminated in the run to the European Cup Winners Cup victory and the whole ‘1 nil to the Arsenal’ concept. Well…..inside 5 days we have picked up two victories that are identical in the scoreline at least. And they feel as equally satisfying as many of them did all those years ago.

We all knew Southampton would provide an extremely tough test and despite thoroughly deserving our victory on the night they definitely gave us just that.

The sheer size of the Saints team was hugely apparent and none more so than their keeper Forster. For us Gooners he was to prove a highly frustrating figure for the vast majority of the evening. Time and time again he produced fine saves that looked like they would prevent us from getting the result we deserved.

Defensively we have certainly looked far stronger over the last three games and it is no coincidence I feel that we have kept three clean sheets on the bounce. I only remember our visitors having one clear cut chance all night, a good move on the edge of our box leading to an opening where the striker should have done better. Give me a pound however, for every time we have not taken advantage of similar situations, especially in recent weeks and I’m sure I could buy a very large round of drinks!

Another example of crowd ‘ignorance’ unfortunately reared its ugly head last night I felt, with the sound of booing from some quarters when the Ox was substituted. As a player he has been in fine form but last night he came less and less effective as the game progressed, possibly due to the slight knock his late fitness test suggested he was carrying. The game was level and very tight at the time of the substitution. Changing our attacking shape and options is a decision only our manager can make. He is our manager for that reason and whether they are right or not, something that can only be confirmed with the benefit of hindsight, he has to stand by the decisions he decides to make.

Its so so easy for us to criticise when things don’t work out and we all just take it for granted when it does. Last night, that change worked. There is no doubt about it. With limbs beginning to tire our visitors simply couldn’t cope with the new shape and the power of Olly Giroud.

At half time I said to my fellow Gooners I fancy us to win this 1 nil with a goal in the 89th minute. Genuinely. I didn’t put a bet on it of course. As it wouldn’t have happened then as we all know! But when Alexis slotted home the potential bet winnings were the last thing on my mind. We all love a late winner and it gave us what we deserved from a good performance all round. The jostle that ensued certainly helped to warm the toes on what was a chilly old night. Winter might finally be arriving.

Stoke away next and a fixture that has definitely proved to be one of our bogey games over the years. We go in with confidence however, and with the usual noisy away support hopefully we can come out with another positive result.

See you in the Potteries.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Boing Boing Bang!

Monday 1st December 2014

The word ‘Christmas’ and everything that goes with it should be banned until we reach the month of December in my opinion! Unfortunately however, as soon as the very last embers of Guy Fawkes night die out we simply cannot escape it. TV adverts galore, pre-xmas sales (not something I ever remember in the past), festive songs being belted out from every angle, fares, festivals, lights and of course ‘banners’. Something that has certainly been treated with an enormous amount of importance by the media and created a frenzy of passionate ‘debate’ amongst us Gooners since Saturday’s trip to West Brom.

Every single person has an opinion of course and each individual has a right to air this. Fortunately we live in a ‘free speech’ society and this allows healthy debate and discussion on all subjects. This of course does not mean we will all agree, even if we are united in our support of the same team. There are ways and means of doing things. Ways that show respect, that show a knowledge of the game and demonstrate that like the club we follow we are graced with a huge degree of integrity and class. The banner raised with such ill judged timing as our players acknowledged our support having claimed a hard fought away victory represents the views of some. And that I feel is the point. It certainly does not represent the view of all Gooners out there. By raising it among the 3 odd thousand gathered in the away end at The Hawthorns it looks to all onlookers that it represents the views of everyone present. Whatever the message, I have my own views on where we are as a club and to think another Gooner out there feels he has the right to try and represent me is hugely offensive. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t air your views. Like all of us, you are entitled to do just that. But take your message and get across your thoughts with those who agree with and follow your views. Don’t take your message and try and wrongly represent those who may well have a totally different opinion to you and are consequently included in yours by association only.

In my lifetime it took from 71 to 79 to win a trophy and that was the FA Cup. It took a further 10 years for me to see my team win their first league title. Having been to my first game in January 1977, by the time I was 28 I had only seen us play in the European Cup/Champions League in one season. I have now seen my team play overseas more than 200 times. Since Mr Wenger has arrived I have seen my team win many trophies, reach many finals and play the greatest football I have ever witnessed. Earlier this year we won the FA Cup. Just over 6 months ago in fact. And even with all the success I have enjoyed over the years it was one of the greatest days of my life. I can go on and on and on. Time and age dictates we are reaching the end of this incredible era. That is fact. But until that day arrives I for one will continue to show arguably the greatest man to ever represent our fantastic football club the respect he deserves. I respect everyone’s opinion but this is my choice……and I certainly won’t be printing a banner to suggest everyone has to agree.

Moving on to the more important subject of our latest game I thoroughly enjoyed the day. A fat head as a result of going to see The Ordinary Boys on Friday night (remember them!?) meant it wasn’t the most comfortable of early starts but with the journey successfully undertaken we enjoyed some pre-match refreshment in our usual West Bromwich haunt before making our way into the Away End for what felt a crucial match.

Always a tough place to go and win I felt we completely dominated pretty much all of the game until the very latter stages but looking back to the Man Utd game we couldn’t help but wonder if for all that we might slip up again. One bit of brilliance, bad luck or a mistake and the win we deserved might not have come to fruition.

Having gone into the break level, our pressure seemed to increase early in the second half culminating in Santi’s superb run and cross before Welbs towered above the defender to head home.

Bang! Get in....

Bang! Get in….

Trying not to be negative I couldn’t stop my thoughts from turning to Swansea away a few weeks back. Our goal there came at the end of a period where we were dominating the game but we still came away with nothing. On this occasion we dug in and done enough to see it out. A massive three points.

A smooth journey home and a few celebratory beers on a lengthy Saturday evening brought on as a result of our early kick-off and come Sunday morning thoughts turned to our next game as we entertain high flying Southampton on Wednesday evening.

It has been a good start to the week, we now have an opportunity to continue that against tough opposition.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Annual Progression

Thursday 27th November 2014

We all hoped that come game six of our group we would be making our latest visit to Istanbul when the game is largely irrelevant. With half an hour to go against Anderlecht a few weeks ago that situation looked highly likely. Given what happened that night and our recent run of results however, we couldn’t help but go into last night’s encounter with Borussia Dortmund wondering if we could still slip up. Without a better performance I don’t think there is any doubt we could have!

A misty and murky London N5 greeted our arrival pre-match, considerably clearer than many parts for any of us who had travelled from outside of London believe me! The fog was that thick in some areas we could be forgiven for thinking the game might be off! With it being relatively mild, very little breeze and some moisture in the air, the mist did not take away the fact it was an atmospheric and perfect night for football. All we needed was our team to prove just that.

With our friends from Germany being as noisy and colourful as ever we could not have asked for a better start. A fine one-two between Santi and Yaya before the latter buried the chance to get us on our way. The joy around the stadium was definitely graced with a degree of relief, any nerves being eased a little to the bargain.

Easy to say this when you are winning of course but lessons learned from Saturday were hugely apparent for the rest of the night. Our visitors were typically and expectedly good with the ball but we kept our defensive shape extremely well and always looked threatening going forward. Perhaps demonstrating how fragile any lead can be, no matter how well you play, Dortmund did have a couple of chances but only 2 throughout, one of those being in injury time when the game was virtually over as a contest. Both times, in addition to his handling being safe and secure all night, our young goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made fine stops.

The Ox put in another fine performance I felt, matching his current form and only the crossbar prevented him from wacking the icing on the cake from a quite superb long range effort. Naturally coming so close can have us all wondering if yet again it might not be our night!

Alexis soon eased those fears of course with another quite superb strike from outside the box. Happy faces all round at last. It certainly feels like a while since we’ve seen those.

Onwards & Upwards

Onwards & Upwards

I was also very pleased for Nacho Monreal last night. Playing totally out of position yet again he has found himself a little bit of a scapegoat in recent weeks when there are plenty of others out there than have contributed to some poor results. I thought he was excellent in an all round much more pleasing team performance. If only the ‘injury Gods’ could be just a little bit kinder to us we might see what this current squad is capable of.

So, yet again, we progress from our Champions League Group. It hasn’t been totally plain sailing of course but we are through. Although looking unlikely now, we still have an outside chance of winning the group. With a victory for us in Turkey and Anderlecht in Dortmund the only way this can happen, the odds are heavily stacked against this being the situation. But we are through and that is the main thing. We can forget about the competition until February.

Premier League points are now the number one priority with a hugely important run of games as we head towards that busy Christmas period. That starts with Saturday lunchtime’s visit to The Hawthorns.

Lets make some noise!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Immensely Frustrating

Tuesday 25th November 2014

Did we get our tactics totally wrong on Saturday evening? I’m genuinely not sure we did. Even after gathering my thoughts I am finding it very difficult to be angry or disappointed by the way we played, especially in the first hour. The fact still remains however, whatever way we look at the game, we conceded two goals yet again and came away with absolutely nothing for our efforts.

I’m not a huge fan of international breaks, certainly on the football front. But for aspects away from the beautiful game they come in quite handy a times. Especially I feel after a defeat so on this occasion it was very welcome. The majority of our players enjoyed a successful time away with their respective national squads and it was pleasing to see them all return without any serious injuries.

Of all the TV dictated kick-off times (as long as it doesn’t put you in the doghouse over any previously planned Saturday night activities) I quite like the 5.30pm option. For me the fact you have far more time to enjoy the various pre-match activities available seems to make the day a little bit more relaxing. Kick-off arrives in darkness this time of year too and I do agree with those who suggest there always seems to be a better atmosphere ‘under the lights’.

In relatively recent times just before hugely rich individuals from around the world started chucking their money at clubs in an attempt to buy success, both Man Utd and us were the two most successful clubs in the country. A fixture that has always been attractive, that rivalry had reached massive heights over that time. Still there but arguably not quite as intense these days, it all added to the eager anticipation as kick-off approached.

Given we like many clubs have endured a ‘sticky’ first part to the season, many looked at the game as one where we very much had something to prove.

As mentioned above, for the first hour or so I thought we were excellent. Our passing was good, our workrate was incredible, the desire and confidence looked there, we looked defensively solid and we absolutely dominated the game. Only that oh so crucial aspect was missing on this occasion, Jack missing the best of the many chances we created. Against the better teams of course, not taking the lead when you dominate can prove immensely costly. And Saturday could not possibly have emphasized that any more strongly.

Like against Hull, Anderlecht and Swansea in recent games, the opening goal certainly didn’t see that ‘rub of the green’ come our way. A speculative cross shot in a rare Utd attack strikes Gibbo on the deck and we found ourselves behind. More than frustrating.

If we must be ‘critical’ it has to be when we look at the second goal. As annoying as it was, at 1 nil down we were still in the game. We continued to attack and could have equalised at any stage. To go ‘gung ho’ when only one behind is at best risky, at worst suicidally naive. Against any team you could get badly stung. Against the better sides offensively it is highly highly likely. We have enough experience in the team to prevent this from happening. So no excuse is acceptable.

To come out of the game having played poorly would have been worrying and annoying. Overall however, I felt we played pretty well on the day making only the latter emotion stand out for me. On another day, with a similar performance, we would have won that game comfortably. The fact is we didn’t and we need to move forward quickly.

That comes in the shape of Borussia Dortmund’s latest visit on Wednesday night. We only have ourselves to blame that we are not already through from our Champions League group. Looking at the two games against Anderlecht however, despite the fact it should have been 6, we also have to be honest with ourselves that the 4 points we took could quite easily have been only 1 or 2.

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Frank
@stubbsy70

Welsh Woe

Tuesday 11th November 2014

Before we travelled down to South Wales on Sunday every single Gooner I spoke to or read on social media expressed how much of a tough game they felt we had on our hands, especially given our current form hasn’t been exactly encouraging. That would suggest to me that we all knew there was a chance we might get beat. As the dust settles a little on all the anger, frustration and disappointment we all felt, I also think we were a tad unlucky to come away with nothing from the game.

If October went down as one of the warmest on record, the beginning of November suggests it could be a wet one! It didn’t appear that Sunday would be a good example when we set off, in fact it wasn’t until we got just a few miles from Swansea that the heavens opened. And conditions proved pretty wild for the rest of the day, the storm accompanying some of our journey home matching most of us Gooners’ emotions with its intensity.

Our memories of trips to this part of the world are pretty good overall, plenty of unbelievable times in Cardiff down the years and only one defeat from our four most recent visits to the home of the Jacks. For much of Sunday afternoon’s encounter it looked like we might be adding to those satisfactory memories.

Our latest Away End view

Our latest Away End view

Analysis, opinion and debate are very much part of our wonderful sport and along with the fact we all make great managers, we are never going to agree on all fronts! For me we need to separate our thoughts about what happened on Sunday afternoon with the overall bigger picture.

What do I mean by that?

Well, at the moment it is plainly obvious we are leaking goals left right and centre. Once again, if our opponents hadn’t scored we would have come away with the three points. Our current plight totally highlights the fact our business in the Summer transfer window may well have been hugely positive offensively but did not address the worries we all had regarding our defensive strength in depth. We needed additions, not replacements. Bac went off for his crazy paid benchwarming pension at Man City, we replaced him with Mat Debuchy. Tommy V headed off to Barcelona after not really getting a look in last season, we replaced him with a young and extremely promising Calum Chambers. Replacements, not additions. In addition, that defensive midfield position needed adding to. We could all see that unless another member of our squad could step up to the plate and make that position his own, we would struggle, especially if missing players through injury or suspension.

Injuries to players in all defensive areas have happened this season. As frustrating as that is, it is fact. And the above not being addressed in the Summer is being highlighted massively as a result. To be fair to our manager, although we have a right to criticise, he has publically admitted he came out of the transfer window ‘short’ and as he can do nothing about it until January I’m not sure what else he can say. He cannot go back and change that situation.

Moving to Sunday, why do I think we were a little unlucky? Our hosts were the better side in all but the last 5 or 10 minutes in the first period. Overall however, I felt we were defensively quite solid, were strong at set pieces and the best chances of the whole half fell to us just before the break. To have been second best for most of the first 45, to go in at half time level was pleasing and encouraging, as long as of course, we came more into the game in the second.

From the moment Ox had a great chance in the first minute after the break, we enjoyed our best half an hour of the game. We looked in control, our passing was better, Swansea rarely threatened and we created numerous dangerous situations. Alexis’ goal after another fine run from the Ox and and some excellent work from Welbs was reward for this period of domination.

And now, for me, the unlucky bit. At this time our hosts didn’t look like scoring. They broke and Gibbo did something that we would all probably praise if we watched a game live on the tv between two teams that mean nothing to us. He took one for the team to thwart a promising counter attack. Nine times out of ten 30 yard free kicks end up coming to nothing. Did that happen on Sunday? Of course not! The geezer produced a ‘worldy’. Not just frustrating but game changing. Given both our current form and the fact Calum had endured his most ‘difficult’ afternoon since becoming a Gooner, we needed just a few minutes to regroup. The second goal coming so soon after was as annoying as it seemed inevitable.

After going behind we continued to probe with promising situations and corners all proving fruitless. The fact we could and probably should have scored with our very last kick of the game pretty much summed it all up.

I’m not sure if I feel the international break has come at a good time or not on this occasion. We certainly need to lick our wounds, knuckle down and come back stronger in the tough games that follow. And we can only do that until January at least with the squad we have got, the players we have available and with us sticking together and getting behind every single one wearing the cannon on their chest.

Or of course, we can all just keep moaning like so so many of us seem to enjoy so much. Something for me personally, certainly once debate and opinion immediately after a game has finished, I just can’t get my head around.

Victoria Concordia Crescit

Frank
@stubbsy70

Defensively Frail

Thursday 6th November 2014

To Anderlecht’s travelling fans Tuesday night must have felt like ‘getting their own back’. Ok, so we only overturned a one goal deficit over in Brussels but coming away with all three points was graced with bemusement as much as anything else, given how the rest of the game had panned out. Similar feelings accompanied our journey home the other night but even if losing a three goal lead is somewhere between disappointing and totally not acceptable, as the dust settles a draw is not the end of the world. You only have to look at Man City’s result last night to realise that.

The biggest disappointment of course is the fact we were a few minutes from progressing out of the group stage with two games to spare. One point from our remaining two games however, would see us progress. The biggest worry on the other hand, is how vulnerable and frail we looked defensively, not just in the final half an hour, but for much of the match.

We are all getting a bit bored of regularly needing to talk about the officials but along with our latest in a long line of injuries when Mikel was forced off, the direction and more importantly momentum changed in the game when the officials failed to spot our visitors’ opening goal was at least a yard offside. Don’t worry, I am not offering this as an excuse for not holding on to a three goal lead but it is something that can happen in football. Reading and Newcastle away immediately spring to mind in recent times. Anderlecht could sniff a chance of getting back into the match, something that arguably would not have been there had the goal been correctly ruled out. An excuse? No. Hugely influential however? Yes.

For me personally, if I ignore the frustration we all felt as we left the ground, it was an enjoyable evening. Accompanying customers, colleagues and friends to the game we thoroughly made the most of plenty of pre-match fare, all the banter that goes with it and I viewed the game from a different vantage point to usual. Those who go regularly are aware how much a game can look ‘different’ depending on where you are sat, and Tuesday night was certainly one such occasion.

One more game before the third international break of the season as we head off to South Wales to take on Swansea City.

Every game we play in I am confident we can score goals. Midweek however, more than suggests a defensive improvement of epic proportions is required if we are to achieve a positive result.

Come on you Mighty Reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Comfortable……in the end!

Monday 3rd November 2014

Just as we were approaching that time in a game where thoughts turn to the fact we might not actually win a match we have totally dominated, Alexis rose magnificently to head home and any nerves were calmed. Don’t get me wrong Burnley are bottom of the Premier League for a reason but how on earth we didn’t win by an absolute hatful is beyond me! Three-nil will do however, a comfortable scoreline that doesn’t tell the full story as to how late we took the lead but overall definitely doesn’t flatter us either.

Saturday was the first day of November. A Winter month in my book. Yet for much of the day, a t-shirt sufficed. Very pleasant, especially as it is highly likely to be the last time for a few months that we can enjoy such warmth at the football (although Galatasaray away must give us half a chance!). It was also to be a bit of a mad and entertaining day all round.

Beginning with a bit of a ‘head’, the kind a few after work Friday beers tends to give you, we left early to enjoy the wonderful lunchtime wares of a cracking traditional pub near to a sundrenched Covent Garden, a location that demonstrated the variety of travelling football fans you so often get in London on matchday. With us heading up to London N5 there were also Coventry fans on there way to Leyton Orient and Carlisle supporters travelling down to Pompey. Now there’s a long old journey! Its no wonder they were thirsty!

Suitably refreshed we continued the pre-match entertainment amongst the mass of red and white shirts near our home and it proved as hugely enjoyable as all 3 o’clock Saturday kick-offs tend to. A fine way to make the most of match day.

Like all of us, despite knowing full well no game is easy, I was extremely confident we would beat Hull at home the other week. Whatever analysis we make of that afternoon however, the records show we came away with just a point…..and an extremely late one at that. For that reason alone we knew even bottom of the table Burnley would be no ‘gimme’. Again however, we would be completely insane not to be confident.

Match of the Day doesn’t always give the best impression of an overall game I feel. If one team has 20 chances and the other has 2, they programme editors always tend to show those 2 it seems. Watching the Sunday morning repeat however, the fact that there was not 1 single piece of attacking action from our visitors is probably as good an example as any of our total dominance all afternoon. We don’t know for sure of course but I am convinced if we had scored early on it could have been a cricket score.

Our visitors defended admirably and the keeper had a fine afternoon too. Add that to the clear and blatant handball the officials missed mid way through the half and we really should have been out of sight by half time.

As frustrating as that always is it was crucial we not only continued to be patient and play our game, but learning from the Hull game we had to make sure we were totally switched on from minute one of the second half so as not to make it more hard for ourselves. This we did of course and with about half hour to go I really think we stepped up another gear and went for the jugular.

As is always the case, once we broke the deadlock the goals flowed and if it wasn’t for some incredible defending, goalkeeping and the woodwork it could have been 6 or 7 by the end. One particular save from Poldi’s volley was absolutely incredible and how the post didn’t snap in half from another typical effort is beyond me!

Three good points in the bag then and for us we headed down to Southampton to celebrate in the company of The Struts, a mighty fine band where entertainment is totally the order of the day. They delivered as always and completed a thoroughly jam packed and enjoyable day all round.

With 5 minutes to go out in Belgium our Champions League qualification hopes looked to be taking a bit of a turn for the worse. We all know what happened next with Gibbo’s fine volley and Poldi’s crazy jostle inducing winner and it means we go into the return fixture where if Galatasaray do not win in Dortmund, a victory could see us through with two games to spare. Although possible, these are no more than ‘ifs’ at the moment of course, our opponents on Tuesday night coming so close to beating us last time out being comfortably enough to make sure we go into the game knowing it won’t be easy. We need to ignore what is happening in Dortmund and concentrate on our own result above all else.

As always, make some noise folks.

Frank
@stubbsy70

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