Monday 29th September 2014
There has been much discussion as to if that was a decent result on Saturday. Certainly at one nil down with time getting on it’s not a complete disaster but by analysing everyone’s pre-match thoughts it’s easy to accept who is the happier. When asked before a ball was kicked if you would be happy if your team came away with a point I think every single spurs fan would have said yes. On the other hand I don’t think you would find any Gooner giving the same reaction. That alone probably sums up how we all feel.
For many many years now our geographical rivals have been forced to not only watch us win trophies but accept that even in seasons they’ve considered to be hugely positive for their team, the club they dislike most has always come out on top. Despite this, the historical rivalry lives on and the atmosphere in London N5 on ‘Derby Day’ is still unique and filled with a whole different kind of tension and passion.
Saturday was no different of course but it was to be a day where a combination of everything working against us and one oh so costly mistake prevented us from taking a deserved three points.
The first half was very stop start I felt and demonstrated a side to our visitors we haven’t probably witnessed in the past. They came to defend deeply and ‘spoil’, it is as simple as that. Once again you need a strong referee to deal with this by punishing constant niggling cynicism and time wasting early on to prevent it from supposedly ‘illegally’ dictating the game’s progression. I am a strong believer that referees have an extremely difficult job but I feel there is a bigger picture here. There is a strong opinion that the reason referees don’t deal with these kind of situations is they have never actually played the game. In other words they don’t even notice it or understand it exists.
Having reached half time level I would normally be extremely confident we would go on and win the game, especially given how much possession we had enjoyed. To see two of our midfield limp off and another quite obviously struggling with an additional knock could not have been any more unlucky. When dominating the game and pushing to get the win this warrants, losing key players always feels a little unfair, despite it being part of the game.
We started the second period on fire I felt, quicker in both the tackle and in our passing we poured forward creating an intense spell of pressure. When in total control however, then came the mistake. Flammers got caught in possession close to our own box and our visitors grabbed the opportunity to sting us where it hurts. So so frustrating.
Having defended well in numbers so deeply and taking even more of an opportunity to waste precious minutes the chance to equalise looked extremely difficult. At nil nil our patience would have been perfect. We always look like scoring at some stage and if we did just that we would win the game. But now our costly error meant we needed to score just to get back on level terms.
The BFG seems to like scoring against spurs and he was inches from doing it yet again, his towering header seeing the goalkeeper make a stunning save. Still we poured forward and eventually we were to get the reward we richly deserved, the Ox slamming home at the far post producing the kind of noise and jostle you would expect.
There was time to get a winner and just as with the rest of the game there was only one team that both looked like and wanted that to happen. Banging on that door as much as we could however, it’s very difficult to keep that momentum going when your opponent uses every single opportunity to stop, break up and spoil the flow of the game. When you get a winner in that situation it feels even more satisfying but on this occasion our opponents will argue they got it tactically right as they escaped with a point.
Not the greatest result and with our injury list getting ever longer its hard to be massively positive. The fixtures dictate we can’t be negative however, as our next huge game is only a couple of days away. We need to stick together as the depth of our squad is severely tested.
It’s a long time since we faced Galatasaray in a competitive fixture, that penalty shoot-out defeat in Copenhagen still one of the more disappointing nights in our long illustrious history. Having lost our opening group game out in Dortmund a win on Wednesday night is hugely important. With a noisy away support guaranteed we can certainly play our part in helping the team achieve what we all want from the night.
So sing up!
Wednesday 24th September 2014
Some of our most enjoyable, entertaining and successful nights over the years have been in the League Cup. On this occasion we have fallen at the first hurdle. Being competitive we want to win every single game and competition we enter. But does it hurt all that much? Not really. For me, that tells a thousand words.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the League Cup nights. That ‘cup tie’ feel is accompanied by many aspects that are different to the norm and for me that includes not sitting in my usual season ticket seat. I absolutely love the vantage point from my seat and enjoy all the banter with the Gooners around me that only familiarity can produce. But on occasion it is nice to do something different and coupled with the discounted tickets in this competition the League Cup gives me a perfect opportunity.
For all those of us fortunate enough to be in a position to attend every home game, these nights are also quite amusing. Without meaning to be in the slightest bit derogatory, outside the stadium is a little bit chaotic! Thousands of people a little unsure as to where they are going, what they need to do to get in, how much time they should have left to arrive for kick-off and all accompanied by what seems like millions of kids!! A whole different pre-match situation and fantastic to see. A great opportunity for many who cannot usually attend and great to see so many Gooners of future generations.
Ten changes from the starting line up at Villa was kind of expected and although we looked quite strong in some areas, we certainly looked young and perhaps experimental in others. In a game that could have gone either way it took a penalty, an incredible strike and some missed chances for an extremely big, strong and powerful Southampton first choice eleven to put us out.
Alexis’ early free-kick was sublime and probably worth the entrance money alone but proved to be the only highlight from our point of view. Other chances came and went and despite enjoying long spells of possession our visitors looked dangerous on the break. Not to be on this occasion and we move on to another incredibly tough week in two other competitions.
Saturday evening is the first game on the agenda and our latest encounter with our nearest and dearest from down the Seven Sisters Road. A fixture that comes along with hugely differing pre-match situations year on year but one where local passion and rivalry out shines anything else. Time and time again it has also proved that the clubs’ two positions off the field are largely irrelevant when it comes to the result.
Come on you mighty mighty reds!
Sunday 21st September 2014
Travelling home from the West Midlands yesterday evening my fellow away Gooners and I listened to ‘radio 5 live’ as do many thousands of football fans all over the country. I like to hear the results, the brief match reports and interviews with all those involved. Listening to those describing our fine victory however, you would think we had just won away at Chatham Town!
Please correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t this a Villa side that won at Anfield last week, a team unbeaten in their first four games sitting proudly in 2nd spot? Were we not going into the game off the back of a rightly criticised poor performance out in Germany just a few days ago? Was it not being reported in some quarters that we were going into the game under considerable pressure?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go completely over the top but I also refuse to accept that wasn’t an excellent, powerful, controlled and thoroughly professional performance in a potentially extremely difficult game.
Rarely will you get to enjoy a better Balti than in the West Midlands and being rather partial to this particular culinary option our pre-match time in the area was too good an opportunity to turn down. My choice of a chicken aloo balti with 3 roti was right up there with the best I’ve tasted and awesome value at a fiver.
Such cuisine creates a thirst of course so a couple of jars were enjoyed to ‘put the fire out’ before we made our way into Villa Park, definitely one of those stadia we have not only visited more than most but one with so many fantastic memories (and 1 or 2 bad ones too).
Looking resplendent in our awesome yellow away kit the number of attacking options we have right now was demonstrated by the fact we had Alexis, Jack, Poldi and Tommy Rosicky on the bench! Villa Park seems rarely full to the brim these days but the fact it wasn’t far off it yesterday demonstrates the locals’ optimism. The scene was set then for a tough afternoon.
Much has been said in the various match reports about how well Villa played in in the opening exchanges. I think I must have been at a different game! We controlled possession without really threatening but I do remember one shot from distance that Chezz comfortably saved and Villa’s only chance of the whole game when our big Pole made a fantastic stop from an unchallenged far post header……so I guess that is what they are referring to.
Our game is all about that combination of passing, patience and picking the right times to make that telling contribution in the final third and pulling all the strings yesterday was the quite magnificent Mesut Ozil. Nobody can argue that he won the World Cup playing wide left but surely on yesterday’s showing his best position is that much talked about number 10 role. He totally ran the show all afternoon.
The transmission from patient ball retention to quick, incisive and completely destructive passing was so evident in our opening goal. Mesut calmly slotted home and the travelling Gooner army went ballistic. Get in!
No sooner had we dusted ourselves down when he turned provider for DW and our big new striker opened his account with aplomb. Cue total and utter carnage!
I’d like to maybe talk about something else between our goals but with a little over 3 minutes between when Mesut slotted home our lead being trebled I can’t really offer you anything! Needless to say amongst the considerable jostling and enjoyment we also all looked at one another with a small amount of disbelief.
At half time I remember saying I’d be quite happy if the second half was the most boring I’d ever witnessed. And to be fair, in the way we were so professional, there really wasn’t much that happened. Perfect.
So an awesome day out in Birmingham and on getting back I celebrated well into the early hours before my thoughts turn to the first of this season’s two roads to Wembley and Tuesday night’s home game against high flying Southampton.
Don’t forget Gooners, the media have told us these away games at the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham and Leicester are easy, a stroll in the park. Just ask Liverpool and Man Utd this weekend.
Victoria Concordia Crescit
Friday 19th September 2014
If I was a betting man I wouldn’t mind placing a little wager that most of you who travelled to Germany this week have been faced with the following question,
“Apart from the football, how was your trip?!”
Following your team week in week out it is a question we have to accept will crop up from time to time and although the smug/cheeky grin that accompanies can be more than annoying depending on how important the game was, I do believe the way we feel after a victory happens far more regularly.
Dortmund is a city we have visited a number of times, especially recently and each time I have travelled by road. Just the four of us decided to make the trip on this occasion, Sheppey Gooner Mark joining myself and two of my longest and very best mates as we drove across Kent early on Monday morning. A simple Eurotunnel ‘crossing’ and just under three hundred miles of clear French, Belgian, Dutch and German motorways we arrived and checked into hotel with our host city’s entertainment firmly on our minds.
I would like to detail a tale of culture and history but if that is what you are expecting I am afraid you will be a little bit disappointed on this occasion. A small amount of liquid and solid refreshment was followed by a visit to a bar that had played host on previous visits. A ‘Happy Hour’ (or more accurately, 2 hours) saw beers at just 1 euro a pop……very disappointing as you can imagine!
Overall it all helped make up a very enjoyable opening day.
Matchday arrived with a certain degree of nausea but nothing that a bit of brunch in a city centre bathed in glorious sunshine wouldn’t sort out. That achieved it was time to enjoy the pre-match build up.
Previous visits had seen us locate a superb bar, not only within the shadow of what is one of the world’s greatest stadia but literally a few metres from the entrance to the away end. Consequently it was here we headed and accompanied by some of the many other Gooner friends present we did the usual thing of talking about how we would improve the world, our team and of course plenty of other total rubbish that us blokes tend to find amusing! The perfect pre-match combination I would say.
Entering the ground in fine spirits it was to see a totally different story unfold than our last visit. On the day we played poorly, it is as simple as that. Although like most games I felt the game turned on moments that could have seen an alternative outcome had they been different, we all have to accept we were beaten by the better team on the night. Disappointing but being the first game in the group it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
One last night enjoying our German friends’ hospitality and we headed back to the UK on Wednesday after another thoroughly enjoyable European adventure…….apart from the football of course!!
Aston Villa have made a great start this season and it is they we face next. Villa Park when full and noisy is a difficult place to go. There is only one way to keep that to a minimum.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Sunday 14th September 2014
Packing my passport, currency, Eurotunnel booking and maps this morning it is a little bit disappointing that I cannot put three points in the bag too. On the other hand we could be sitting here with nothing, no matter how cruel that would have been.
Of all the TV dictated kick-off times I quite enjoy those moved on a Saturday. The evening ones very much extend the pre-match activities whilst giving the game that added night time ingredient that is often so special and although it usually means an early start the lunchtime versions, like yesterday, mean there is still plenty of your Saturday to enjoy even after the match has finished.
We all knew Man City would prove a tough test but on the day I felt we thoroughly deserved our point at the very least.
In the first half an hour we were excellent and totally dominated the game, Danny Welbeck’s chip no more than half an inch from giving us a thoroughly deserved lead. A combination of bad luck when a fine challenge on the half way line saw the ball stay in play when it looked to all of us like it was heading out for a throw in and our visitors being clinical from the position the situation had presented them saw us go behind completely against the run of play.
Gutwrenching to say the least, especially having played so well. In a game packed full of them, an incident shortly after going behind was crucial for me, Chezz making a fine save to prevent City doubling their lead and probably giving us too big a mountain to climb.
As it was we went in at half time hugely disappointed to be behind yet upbeat about our performance.
I don’t like to complain too much about referees and officials. I do believe they have an extremely tough job out there and we all tend to forget they are human beings and not robots. I do wonder sometimes however, how decisions are not made as a team when they don’t have one pair of eyes but four!
Mark Clattenberg is one of our top referees in my opinion. Fernandinho, although a fine player, is known throughout the country by us fans as someone who makes sure promising situations are ‘stopped’. Every team needs one and although it is an extremely cynical side there are many of us who accept it is part of the game. In the opening exchanges he made a scything foul in the middle of the pitch and received a stiff warning. From that moment he committed foul after cynical foul for the remainder of the time he stayed on the pitch and nothing was done about it.
I like referees who do their utmost to keep cards in their pocket but the above was bordering on ridiculous.
Jack had a great game for me and his goal was a move and finish of beauty. London N5 erupted and it was thoroughly deserved. Back on level terms, now to go on and win it.
If the move wasn’t anything of note, Alexis’ stunning volleyed finish to put us into the lead certainly was. Bang! 2-1. Get in!
The next few moments were frantic to say the least but just as we had settled down and looked in total control that dreaded injury curse struck yet again, this time Matt Debuchy laid on the turf in considerable pain.
It was a break we could have done without and arguably changed the direction of the game. It gave our opponents time to think, gather their composure and assess their situation when before the minutes were running short and we looked in total control of our winning position.
If our visitors’ first goal had a degree of bad luck their equalizer was totally avoidable. The header was far far too easy and between Chezz and Flammers it probably should have been kept out. Disappointing and hugely frustrating.
In the few minutes of normal and added time that remained it was the one and only time in the whole match where City had the upper hand and we could have ended up with nothing. To be winning so late on however, the satisfaction of a point and our performance was tinged with a little disappointment as we headed back to the pub to discuss.
It’s certainly no disaster however, and we head to Germany still unbeaten if a little battle scarred.
Being my 4th visit there is no other stadium outside of the UK I have been to more (other than Bad Waltersdorf!), a defeat, a draw and a victory the results from the previous 3. Another from either of the latter two would be a hugely positive start.
See you in Deutschland.
Come on you mighty Gunners!
Wednesday 10th September 2014
Writing a blog during the season when we haven’t actually played since my last one, is not something I tend to do. But without our team playing, I tend to get a bit bored! Not that there hasn’t been plenty going on to talk about of course.
I like a music festival. In fact I quite like any kind of festival. The word alone suggests it will be an event with plenty going on! Over the last three years, including this, the September International break has coincided with the quite immense event that is ‘Bestival’, an incredible 4 day party with live music, djs, comedy, ‘streetfood’ etc etc where 60 thousand people turn up to enjoy the fun and frolics. The stunning weather over the last few days meant it could not have been any better. I didn’t see many football shirts over the weekend, the ‘Desert Island Disco’ theme not really lending itself to that kind of attire. The vast majority I did see however, were Gooners. Proud as ever.
Returning to reality on Monday I sat down to watch England’s trip to Switzerland whilst trying to ignore all the enormous hype that goes with every England International. With four of our own in the squad it certainly gives more of a reason to watch the game, coupled with the fact any ‘competition’ game is always more attractive to watch than a friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I am English and as a result my competitive side means I would rather my country wins against any opponent but I have never made it any secret that I put my club allegiances first.
For that reason alone wanting all our players back, fit and available for Saturday is way more important than anything else in my opinion, something that is always extremely difficult when most of your squad is involved all over the world.
Watching Danny Welbeck play on Monday night, became much more interesting of course when he became a Gooner last week and some of my thoughts demonstrate just how little attention I had given him as a player previously. Firstly I didn’t realise how big he is. Couple that with his unquestionable speed, something else I hadn’t really noticed in the past, and that is quite a package for a centre forward to possess. Twice on Monday night we were to also see his finishing ability in front of goal. As Arsenal fans that could not possibly be any more pleasing to see and leaves us all quite excited in anticipation of his future career as a Gooner.
Seeing Rambo limp off from the absolutely disgusting playing surface in Andorra just 24 hours later however, shows that other side we all fear when our players go off to play in Internationals. It kind of mirrors our trip to Everton. The sheer joy of a late equaliser followed by the news Olly would be out for a few months. As I write these thoughts I have everything crossed that the news regarding Rambo is more encouraging.
We certainly need as many of our squad available with the tough week we have ahead. Can we win all three games? Of course we can but the quality of our opponents means they are all fixtures that could go the other way too. Hosting the league champions is the first hurdle of course and a fixture to thoroughly look forward to.
Come on you mighty reds!
Tuesday 2nd September 2014
Today I have been nursing a bit of a hangover. Not the first (or last) time of course but generally I don’t tend to go too mad on a ‘school night’. On this occasion however, a night of live music at Camden’s excellent Koko had been booked a few weeks back and thoroughly entertaining it was too. I open my thoughts with this information as it confirms I didn’t have the misfortune of having to consider watching ‘Transfer Deadline Day’. I’m sure there are many out there who don’t agree with me but its a day that gets totally on my nerves. The best bit is when it is all over for four months or so. Or is it? Today sees the opening of the latest ‘rumour mill’ of course. Another hundred or so players we have signed, are linked with, have been seen looking at property in London N5, are currently undergoing a medical etc. etc. etc.
Of all the current social media options I quite like Twitter. Simply because it is less intrusive than some of the other platforms available and also because I can choose who I want to follow. But all those of you who like to keep an eye on what people have to say through this medium will also be very aware that it is hugely opinionated and more often than not a huge chunk of it is absolute and utter rubbish!
For me there is one question that all us Gooners need to ask themselves. If we go on a ten match losing streak, if you travel all the way to Burnley on a wet January evening and lose to a last minute winner, if you sit in a 20 mile traffic jam trying to get to see your team, if your other half is giving your earhole a right old bashing because you want to follow your team, if you can’t really afford it……..do you wake every morning proud to wear that cannon on your chest? If the answer is yes then you and I are from the same stock. If you fell asleep after winning the cup back in May and awoke as the new season started would you change your allegiances based on what players were running out in the famous red and white? And that is why the transfer ‘window’ or whatever they call it these days is totally and utterly irrelevant.
I simply couldn’t give a flying pheasant who is out there on that pitch. If they give their all and its not good enough so be it. There are two teams out there both trying to win the same game. And like every team’s supporters all over the globe I want mine to win as much as anyone else.
I live on the Isle of Wight these days so following our team over land a sea (and Leicester) has to be a regular occurrence if I am to attend every game. Away games in particular can involve quite a lot of planning. Choosing the right ferry bookings is one thing and on Sunday morning we were treated to a quite glorious crossing over the sunny Solent before heading for Leicester for the first time in many years. Only once before have we visited the Foxes’ ‘new’ stadium, a late sending off and equaliser not making it an overly enjoyable day if my memory serves me right.
Like all travelling fans, regular visits to cities and stadia usually set up a routine we can follow each time but Sunday was not one of them. Parked up however, we enjoyed the pre-match refreshment and atmosphere before making our way along the terraced streets echoing with memories of a Dennis Bergkamp hat-trick and Wrighty’s first goal as a Gooner among countless others.
As always the travelling Gooners made plenty of noise in a sundrenched King Power Stadium and even more so when Alexis slotted home to deservedly put us in front. Things however, didn’t go so well from there. Laurent split his head open and was visibly groggy and it was disappointing as to how easy our hosts were able to put in the cross that led to the equaliser. We are told time and time again how players train hard at ways to prevent crosses coming in. It certainly didn’t look that way on this occasion.
I remember Leicester having one great chance in the second period but other than that we enjoyed huge long periods of possession. Faced by a blanket defence however, we seemed to lack that sharpness and cutting edge, Yaya seeing his shot saved after a superb sweeping move probably our best opportunity. On a hot day we definitely looked a little bit tired in the latter stages, not helped by the fact at least 3 of our players seemed to be suffering with knocks. We could put the tiredness down to having played two more games than everyone else in the opening 2 weeks of the season but no excuses, it was a game we should have won. We didn’t, we’ll take a point after not playing particularly well and we’ll move on to Man City at home in a couple of weeks, another side who found breaking down a blanket defence too tougher obstacle to overcome this weekend.
Moving in to the first International break we haven’t made what can be described as a blistering to start to the season. Five points, unbeaten, two away games out of the way and through to the Champions League yet again however, suggests to me it hasn’t been too bad either. We will get better, I’m convinced of it.
Dortmund, Anderlecht, Galatasaray and Southampton have come out of the various hats/balls since I last aired my thoughts. Nothing ‘different’ yet again, when asked what I thought about the draws the only word I could come up with was ‘boring’! With plans and trips organised and in place however, I’m sure they will prove as entertaining as always (although I will be altering my chosen diet in Istanbul!)
My late night train journey home last night saw my phone confirm Danny Welbeck is a Gooner. Welcome to the Arsenal Danny. Be as proud as we are and you’ll be just fine.
Victoria Concordia Crescit