Sunday 26th October 2014
Writing my thoughts in an airport is a good way of passing that extremely tedious period waiting for a departure. On this occasion I am dog tired after enjoying the usual magnificent hospitality we always receive from this part of the country. For it to be accompanied by the three points we came here for also eases the aches and pains.
Our Saturday morning flight from Southampton needed an early rise and I don’t know about anyone else but I really struggle to sleep the night before anything where missing a specific departure time ruins everything, even with 2 alarms set! As a result it was with sore eyes I boarded, not ideal preparation for the expected events ahead.
More importantly our small party of 3 experienced a pretty much on time departure meaning we arrived in Newcastle with plenty to play with.
Both Sunderland and the city on the Tyne have played host to our off the field exploits down the years and it was to be the latter that would look after us on this occasion. Checking in was to be an interesting experience! Fully appreciating everyone has their ‘passions’, some are of course a little more quirky than others. Faced by a large blue police box and a couple of daleks as we walked into reception was unexpected nonetheless. Our hotel was playing host to a weekend Doctor Who convention!
With no time to dwell on what was fast becoming a surreal situation we headed to the metro to make our way south for our main event. We had some exterminating to undertake ourselves. See what I did there!? 🙂
Like all away days we have a location we have always visited for our pre match refreshments so here we headed before making our way high up into the away end at the Stadium of Light. Sold out as always we made some serious noise.
As is often the case we kept possession well and our hosts were limited to one or two half chances throughout. A side doing their utmost to avoid a similar result to their last outing were always going to be tighter and potentially difficult to breakdown. It was crucial therefore to take any chances that came our way.
Alexis Sanchez was superb all afternoon, a situation emphasized by both his goals for different reasons. His first was a sublime finish when through one on one and put us on our way. His second came again from a mistake but to be chasing down a goalkeeper in the 92nd minute after working his socks off all afternoon was admirable and deserved his reward.
Not a stunning performance on the day but a highly satisfying result. Lovely.
A couple of post match beers followed before we headed back north to Newcastle and thoroughly enjoyed some of the many delights the city’s Quayside area offers. A thoroughly enjoyable way to end a long, tiring but ultimately successful day.
With only one flight a day we had pretty much all of today to waste so after bidding farewell to our friends of the ‘Doctor’ we endeavoured to enjoy some of the cultural attractions in our host city.
And that pretty much brings you up to date.
Our minds now turn to the visit of Burnley with a full week to recover.
And another Saturday 3 o’clock kick off to boot. Who would’ve thought it!
Thursday 23rd October 2014
Like all of us, I’m not really sure quite how that happened. But the reality is it did. And in complete contrast to the majority of the night, boy did we enjoy it!
Our choice of trip on this occasion was a 35 seat VIP coach often used as a team bus for clubs such as Colchester and Ipswich. Departing Maidstone about 6am on Wednesday morning was a little painful admittedly but the coach’s major comfort and social side meant the journey through the tunnel and across France into Belgium simply flew by.
I quite like Brussels. And we made the very most of its hospitality from the moment we arrived until we entered the stadium.
What can I say about the game? Well, we had plenty of the ball but it couldn’t be described as anything more than a poor performance. We were sluggish, not dangerous at any stage and after conceding we could have quite easily gone 2 or 3 behind. I couldn’t have felt more deflated and along with frustration and anger it matched my fellow travelling Gooners.
But football has a way of matching those emotions with joy. And last night, as unexpected and unlikely as it looked, we got just that.
I wouldn’t describe our celebrations of Gibbo’s equaliser as crazy. A point is better than none but it didn’t hide the fact we had been poor. When the ball fell to Poldi a couple of minutes later and he thumped it home however, it was total and utter carnage!
The most unlikely of victories to take home from our latest European jolly, along with some considerable delicate heads brought on by the expected celebrations.
Strangely, our next away trip is further away than this one. And our host’s previous result suggests they are highly likely to come out as a side with something to prove. And that is a dangerous prospect.
We know that however, so we can offer no excuses if we are not prepared.
Now, some shut eye I think, before getting back to Blighty.
See you at the Stadium of Light.
Monday 20th October 2014
Last May an extremely memorable Wembley final was added to our long list of historical trophy winning moments and our opponents on the day of course, were Hull City. Our memories of their visits to London N5 however, could not possibly be more opposite.
At the moment it seems quite easy to work out what needs to quickly change for our results to improve. If we had kept clean sheets in our last three home games (or only conceded 1 in 2 of them), we would have 6 more points and sitting in 2nd place.
That is not the only reason of course but it is difficult to find another when analysing why we didn’t win on Saturday.
With so many decisions across the course of the game I wouldn’t blame a referee for a result. I will however, criticise if a decision is so obviously wrong and it leads to a result changing incident.
Although our first half performance wasn’t outstanding we played ok and certainly deserved our one goal lead, arguably our best player on the day putting us in front with a fine individual moment. We weren’t absolutely battering our visitors but we were extremely dominant and comfortable.
When Hull equalized i’m sure it was the first time they had been in our box. And if the referee had made the right decision we would’ve remained in the lead. A foul in everybody’s book, it’s as simple as that.
Saying all that, Hull had done nothing to impress me so come half time I was still confident we could and would go on to take the three points.
I didn’t however, allow for the fact we would be caught so cold straight after the break. Yes, it was great movement from the striker and a good header but our lack of concentration and application was simply not acceptable.
One point is better than none, even when a draw at home to Hull is so disappointing so our equalizer was pleasing. A winner in the 6 minutes of injury time would have been fantastic but we cannot deny it would have papered over the cracks in our current defensive frailties.
A trip to Brussels means we have absolutely no time to dwell on the two points dropped. The last time we took on Anderlecht was a two legged affair that ended a 17 year period without a trophy in the cabinet. A huge couple of nights in our history, although I am slightly too young to remember it, those Gooners who do always look back with extremely fond memories.
My journey to Belgium starts tomorrow afternoon. The full details will be revealed over the coming week.
Come on you mighty Gooners!
Monday 6th October 2014
Other than the inevitable feeling of disappointment any fan gets after a defeat I found it difficult to put my finger on exactly how I felt walking back to Fulham Broadway tube station on Sunday afternoon. We had arguably played quite well on the day however, it also felt like our hosts had taken the points relatively comfortably. And that I suppose is the aspect that should worry us most.
A few beers on Saturday night meant the Sunday brunch we enjoyed in Southfields pre-match was very welcome and made for a relaxing few hours before the main event. I am always optimistic going into every game we play but to say I was confident would be probably pushing it a little. I knew we were capable of getting a result but our hosts powerful start to this season and the fact they had a fully fit squad to choose from didn’t have me entering the stadium with the utmost belief.
Talking of which, in a week where ‘flares’ have very much been in the news, who are these so called Arsenal ‘fans’ who insist on taking such items to away games right now? It is not the first time we have seen it and I don’t really get the mentality behind them. On Sunday, someone setting one off in the small, tight concourse of the away end upper tier was not only idiotic and dangerous but caused major knock on problems to those of us outside trying to enter the stadium. Yes, your fellow Gooners and therefore, not that this should be relevant, people who support the same team as you.
In my last piece I was critical of the Galatasaray fans for doing exactly the same on Wednesday night and the fact the authorities have apportioned part of the blame on our great club I still think is disgusting. These items are not very big. What are the stewards supposed to do, strip search?!? But I would be hugely hypocritical if I didn’t express similar feelings about those responsible for Sunday. At one stage, the crush outside got a little bit dangerous. That’s down to whoever you are. So why would they be happy? You might want to think about that next time, if your brain has the ability to do that.
For me there were very few chances in a tightly fault game. When these big moments come along however, it is crucial you take them. Chelsea did that on Sunday and we didn’t. If Jack’s first touch had been better when clean through in the first half the whole game might have been different. If Cahill had been rightly sent off for his two footed, over the top lunge on Alexis, the game might have been different. If any referee at any stage finally recognises the cynical side to the beautiful game too, things might be different. All Mourinho sides down the years have been absolute experts in that (and believe me I am not being critical). All the time referees don’t punish it or don’t understand it, why wouldn’t a manager instruct his players to undertake such measures. Blocking at corners is probably the one most highlighted by the TV pundits but yesterday we saw numerous perfect examples of how to stop a counter attack before it has even started. Cynical fouls and unpunished until it was far too late in the game. We even saw the referee clearly point to the one, two, three, four times one Chelsea player had done this…….but did a card come out? Of course not.
For all this however, despite working extremely hard and enjoying much possession, we came away with what felt like an inevitable defeat. And it’s that inevitability that needs to change in games like this for us to progress.
For now, its the next International break. On this occasion we have players missing from their national sides and hopefully it will give them time to recover before we take on Hull in a couple of weeks time. For all our squad that are travelling the globe however, we wish them good luck and please return fit and well!
Yesterday wasn’t good, as Gooners we all know that. But the season is still young and we need to go forward positively together.
Thursday 2nd October 2014
Come this time of the year Autumn is well and truly upon us apparently. As the sun pours through my window for the umpteenth day on the trot however, Summer appears to be hanging in there. The evenings certainly should be much cooler but the many still wearing short sleeves at last night’s latest Champions League outing certainly suggested otherwise. Not that this is a complaint of course. Those dark, wet, dreary Winter nights can stay far away all year round as far as I’m concerned!
Despite remaining unbeaten in the league I think it is fair to say our season hasn’t really got going as yet. Getting through our tricky Champions League Qualifier was huge of course but exiting early in the league Cup and arguably dropping points in league games we should have won on the day have not necessarily put us in the most buoyant of moods. Our bad luck with injuries has continued too but although this all sounds a bit ‘doom and gloom’ I think in addition we all recognise new players take a little bit of time to integrate and the start has been far from disasterous.
Overall however, I think we all needed last night. A good, powerful, thumping win is just what the doctor ordered.
The streets around where we usually enjoy our pre-match build up were very quiet last night, maybe testament to my words above but midweek home games often see fans arrive much later than they would for those at the weekend, work commitments putting time at a premium. Reports in the news, social media and from fellow Gooners suggest it wasn’t as quiet elsewhere, the passion of a small number of the Galatasaray fans present going beyond what is considered acceptable and more importantly safe when it comes to attending football matches.
We saw examples of this a bit later inside the stadium too but by this time our first half blitz had virtually seen us home and hosed.
From minute one we totally dominated possession and until one incident later on in the match, Chezz will not have a quieter night. The first goal is crucial of course and was a perfect example of superb centre-forward running and finishing on what was to be a memorable night for DW. With the pressure off we looked extremely dangerous and goals 2 and 3 soon followed, again great examples of sheer pace and power. Half time and it was pretty much job done. Happy days.
Like a Villa a couple of weeks back it was all about keeping control in the second period and for the first 15 minutes we done this extremely well. With our visitors looking to try and get themselves back in the game in fact, we looked incredibly dangerous on the break and Welbs completed his hat-trick with a fine run and finish to pretty much put the game to bed. We were so much in control I feel with eleven v eleven we may well have gone on to get a hatful but Chezz receiving a red our visitors saw a potential opportunity to get back in the game when reducing the deficite the 4-1 from the resulting spot kick.
I strongly believe that rule should be changed. The punishment is too severe in my book and the reasons are threefold. The pace of the game means genuine attempts to get the ball can be illegal by a millisecond. Does that deserve a sending off? Players always ‘look for’ penalties and some are better at it than others. This makes it extremely difficult for referees but when players are very ‘clever’ does that warrant the defensive player being sent from the field? Thirdly officials get it wrong sometimes. They are human and as frustrating as it is, we have to accept that. But having given the penalty, sending the player off is simply wrong. In my opinion, if the referee deems the foul in the box a goalscoring opportunity or whatever it is called these days, a goal should be awarded. And the offending player should receive a yellow card but remain on the pitch. Quite radical I know but a better all round result for the remainder of the game and most importantly us fans, the paying public. Even if David Ospina had saved the penalty last night I would rather our visitors were given a goal and we remained with eleven on the pitch. Just my opinion.
For the remainder of last night’s game it was a case of keeping our defensive shape and seeing it out. Our visitors had a few attempts, mainly from distance but our new goalkeeper made some decent saves and we took the 4-1 victory we deserved away from the game. Indeed Santi was inches from making it 5 in the dying seconds.
So, a thoroughly good night with goals and that all important victory takes us into the tough tough fixture away at the current Premier League frontrunners.
Make some noise at the Bridge.
Come on you mighty reds!