Archive | December 2018

Defenceless

Sunday 30th December 2018

We will score goals with this team. Even yesterday we created enough chances to have scored more than just the one we did. But we are very weak at the other end of the pitch right now and any side who is top of the league will find that easy to expose. All the more worrying perhaps is the fact our hosts won so comfortably without really needing to get out of second gear.

For the second away game on the bounce travel from London was difficult, this time due to TV’s chosen kick-off time making it impossible to get back by train after. So with that, holiday traffic and the miles and miles of roadworks, the M6 looked even less appealing than usual. An early start however, saw a far more comfortable journey than feared and we were quickly in our chosen pre match hostelry after checking into our hotel located in the Albert Dock area of the city.

Optimism wasn’t to the fore it has to be said and we can hardly be blamed for that. But football is totally unpredictable so we headed up to Anfield with hope if nothing else.

And when we started well and took the lead that positive vibe briefly increased.

Looking at the goals we conceded individually I think we were a tad unfortunate with the first but the 2nd and 3rd showed some totally inept defending. The 3rd in fact was like something from a local park. Disappointing, frustrating and annoying, time and time again right now we are showing examples of just how much work is needed to get it right.

The penalties were somewhere between soft and a joke and demonstrated again how easy it is to fool someone who has never played the game. Next time you are walking down a busy street, stop dead and see if the person behind bumps into you. It’s not rocket science.

My head this morning confirms we did what is commonly known as ‘drowning our sorrows’ in various parts of Liverpool city centre last night.

A bad day at the office but there’s no time to cry into our beer. Fulham arrive after hitting a little bit of form in their bid to survive. We’ve played 4 teams in a similar position in recent games and we have unconvincingly beaten two of them. Evidence enough that we will need to earn the right to pick up our first three points of 2019.

For now, it’s back to the roadworks. Triffic.

Frank
@stubbsy70

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Not Ideal

Wednesday 26th December 2018

Sometimes I don’t really fancy writing a blog. Especially anything detailed. Tonight is one of those nights. I enjoy Boxing Day football. And everything about the day has been spot on. Except the result. Not a defeat. But not a victory either.

Travel the day after Christmas is never easy. But we booked a bus. From Pompey to Brighton. And that bit, along with our chosen establishment in Brighton city centre for our pre-match refreshment, could not have gone any smoother.

But, having taken the lead, and looking extremely comfortable, to go in at half time level from an equaliser that came about from a hoof away from one of our corners was disappointing and extremely frustrating.

I knew we were capable of winning the game in the second period but we are certainly not setting the world on fire so I knew we had equally as good a chance of losing. And by letting in yet another stupid goal we put ourselves in a position where a clean sheet in the second half would not see us victorious.

A point to ‘enjoy’ with the cold meat and piccalilli then. I say piccalilli, but I use that in the traditional sense of the word rather than the fact I’ve got any in my house. But I do have cold meat. Loads of it. And I will enjoy it because tomorrow I’m having root canal treatment on a dodgy tooth. Happy days.

A trip to the league leaders next then and a team that couldn’t possibly be more cock-a-hoop right now. Our chances of winning the game are slim I would suggest.

But not impossible. And the challenge is there to end their unbeaten run.

Up the Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Jingle Bells

Saturday 22nd December 2018

Anything other than a victory today would have been extremely frustrating. Not just because we would see it as important points dropped but three matches without a win would look increasingly like the wheels have well and truly fallen off. And in a game where we always looked in control, there was a spell in the second half where we were in danger of throwing away a two goal lead. There was a 4th goal of course, and Alex Iwobi’s strike makes sure we go into Christmas Day on the back of a good victory.

In a week that has seen us paired with Blackpool and Bate Borisov (again) I decided to spend an afternoon at Ally Pally for the darts on Friday and a good few jars afterwards meant getting out of my pit for an early kick-off was a tad uncomfortable. But a full English and a couple of liveners had me back on the straight and narrow as I made my way along an unseasonably warm and sunny Gillespie Road.

Two bad results doesn’t help the mood with the majority of football fans and the stadium wasn’t exactly rocking but after a number of chances went begging we were happy to be treated to something that is as rare as rocking horse shite this season, a half time lead!

Burnley play the percentage game. Lumping balls into the channels or into fifty fifty areas and backing themselves to win those battles. So, at times it was a bruising encounter. And after Auba had smashed home his and our second, the Clarets’ goal was a perfect example. The ball pinged about our box as the challenges went in and ended up in the back of our net.

Game management when you have a lead is hugely important and by and large I felt we did that pretty well this afternoon and I’m saying knowing we were not at our best.

And in the end I felt winning by a two goal margin was just about right. Three points, that will do nicely. With bells on in fact.

Merry Christmas everybody, see you down in Brighton on Boxing Day.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Bothered

Wednesday 19th December 2018

If I had left from our league encounter the other week having got beat, I would have been pretty gutted. Yet tonight, despite absolutely hating any defeat, I don’t. And I guess that sums it up. There are 3 domestic competitions in this country. And although every season we enter them hoping to be victorious, the League Cup, especially in the modern game, is the one we are least bothered about.

So tonight, although a defeat isn’t great, genuinely isn’t something to lose sleep over.

Analysing the game, there were few clear cut chances. And they took their’s, we didn’t. And that was pretty much the summary of the game.

We have about 100 season ticket holders who sit, in our group, week in week out. And about 20 were there tonight. And If that doesn’t demonstrate the importance the majority put on this competition nothing does.

I remember when Matty Flamini volleyed home a winner over at White Hart Lane a couple of years back. As enjoyable as it was, the victory was taken with the pinch of salt it deserved. I’m assuming our delightful neighbours will take that on board this time round. Probably not though. Because every victory over your superior neighbours is hugely important of course. A bit like Notts County over Nottingham Forest I guess. (Sorry Magpies fans but I guess you get my point).

Burnley at home on Saturday is hugely more important as we all know. And we need to take 3 points into Christmas from that fixture.

But that’s no gimme.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Miserable

Sunday 16th December 2018

Frustration in defeat comes in many forms. Luck not being on your side, missed chances, dodgy refereeing decisions or simply a poor performance. Southampton were in the relegation zone for a reason. And today, defensively in particular, we were not good enough.

Sure, we went into the game with only one recognisable centre half available and he was starting his first game for 9 months. But I genuinely don’t think we can use that as an excuse.

Overall, it was a stupid game to lose. You simply cannot concede 3 soft goals and expect to get something from the game.

After the final whistle I got drenched. That doesn’t seem to ever happen when you win. And it pretty much summed up the day.

Defensively our resources are stretched right now and that is unfortunate. But fixtures don’t get cancelled as a result. And we have 2 home games in 2 competitions in quick succession to try and start another unbeaten run.

See you Wednesday.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Group Completed

Thursday 13th December 2018

I could be accused of being a miserable so and so but I’m not a massive fan of this time of the year. Many of us enjoy the social side of life most weeks. Others come out at Christmas. You know the kind. Those that feel it is a good idea to either offer me the rotten end of the manky roll they’ve just bought from one of Waterloo’s establishment or if not ask me if I think my team are ‘a bit shit’ because we only beat Qarabag 1 nil.

Add in the fact I am standing on my 10.30pm train on a Thursday night and its not altogether pleasant. Happy Christmas everybody.

Tonight was always going to be a bit low key football wise. Any match where a 25 nil victory either way doesn’t matter is always going to be that way. A European league format negative I guess.

Sparse

But I had a fine night. Good food, drink and awesome banter in a Christmas spirit filled London meant we attended our sparsely attended fixture in fine spirits. And whilst our victory in a poor game won’t persuade anyone who didn’t attend that it was the wrong decision, we made sure we enjoyed every minute with a smile.

Southampton away next then, and a squad full of players looking to impress their new manager. A difficult and unpredictable mix for me.

Make some noise!

I’m going to bed. On a Thursday. And I’m not dressed as an elf.

Frank
@stubbsy70

A Lumpy Three Points

Saturday 8th December 2018

For all the talk of ‘how many’ rather than if we would win today, that victory felt massive. And not only that it probably brought everyone down to earth a little bit after thoroughly deserving to beat Middlesex last week and coming away a bit disappointed with just a point from Old Trafford. There are no easy games in the Premier League folks. And if today doesn’t demonstrate that nothing will.

I’m writing these notes on my train home whilst enjoying a coffee. Yep, a coffee. The last couple of weeks have felt particularly heavy and I just fancied one. And I say ‘enjoy’ but 2 and a half quids worth of a lumpy brown cupful is stretching the truth a little there.

But if that is all I’ve got to complain about I’ll take that. Our little Uruguayan’s late winner has made sure we have all had another good day.

The build up was good enough, the air full of anticipation and confidence in the pub, a little too much of the latter in my book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought we would win today. But unless we scored early and took the game by the scruff of the neck I didn’t expect the cricket score some were predicting.

Huddersfield came with a game plan. Keep it tight, waste time, spoil etc etc. And to be fair they did that well. Acknowledgement rather than praise believe me. But in a first half of few chances we still should have gone into the break with a lead.

Laca’s disallowed goal means I no longer understand the offside rule. He didn’t touch the ball until he intercepted the defender’s back pass in what has widely been described as the ‘second phase’. Yet he was deemed as being offside. Nope. You’ve lost me I’m afraid.

We weren’t very good today. But we kept going. Kept probing. Looking for that winner. And with time running out it came. The jostle was laced with equal amounts of relief and joy and three massive points are in the bag. Lovely. That will do.

The last game of this season’s European group stage comes next as we take on Baku’s Qarabag. Another opportunity for our younger talent to show what they’ve got it would be fantastic to make it 22 unbeaten if nothing else.

I’m going to finish chewing on my coffee and enjoy Saturday nights offerings with a celebratory and victorious feel. Coz that’s what I do when we win. Whatever the scoreline, whoever the opponent.

See you Thursday.

Up the Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

On We Go

Thursday 6th December 2018

Any point away at Old Trafford is a good one in my book. As I sit on my early morning train back to Manchester Airport however, I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed we are not going home with all three.

Listening to some of the M6 motorway tales of woe from Gooners arriving before kick-off last night it suggested our 35 minute flight from the south coast was even more of a no brainer and having checked into our accommodation for the night, our pre-match refreshment was enjoyed with a degree of relaxation as a result. But, from Portsmouth to Gatwick to Kharkiv to Kiev to Luton to London (twice) to Portsmouth to Manchester, guess in which location it was raining!

But the typically drizzly conditions and night time fixture, our first in the league since that momentous occasion back in May 2002 from what I understand, created that unique atmosphere only midweek games give you. And after Sunday’s victory there was definitely an air of confidence in the away end.

Wet

I mentioned my slight disappointment above and that is born out of the fact we led twice and created 2 or 3 fantastic chances as we dominated much of the second period. But there was always a feeling for me that it wasn’t going to be our night. Within 60 seconds of taking the lead for example, not only did our hosts equalise but Rob Holding was carried away on a stretcher with what looked an extremely worrying injury. And when Rambo limped his way through the latter minutes of the half it felt like the dynamic of the whole match had changed.

To concede the 2nd to such a sloppy mistake, especially as we had just taken the game by the scruff of the neck was also a kick in the stomach. But we could argue both of our goals were as a result of poor mistakes by United too.

I feared the worst admittedly when substitutions made our hosts look more and more like the New York skyline but to be fair I felt we handled that aerial threat extremely well, looking the more likely team to grab all three points as we peppered their goal in the latter stages.

Just a few days ago I think pretty much every Gooner would have taken 4 points from our last 2 outings. So maybe we are being a little greedy to now be a tad disappointed having not taken 6.

And that positivity needs to accompany us all as we take on Huddersfield next on Saturday afternoon.

Twenty and counting.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Checking Out

Tuesday 4th December 2018

Nobody likes losing but more than anything it’s disappointing our thoroughly entertaining Checkatrade Trophy adventure has come to a close. On league position alone being away to the strongest side left in the competition was always going to be a tough proposition. And in a hugely competitive and entertaining game it wasn’t to be.

Personally it has been a crazy old period, starting in sunny Bournemouth, followed by the unexpected and change ridden trip to the Ukraine, Sunday’s quite immense victory over that lot from Middlesex and tonight’s game at Fratton Park, my most local ground living where I do these days. Throw in seeing Muse in the spectacular Royal Albert Hall on Monday night and it could be described as non stop.

And it’s not over yet of course, with the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford tomorrow.

Monday of course, also included the FA Cup 3rd Round draw and a trip to Solihull Moors or Blackpool in early January is as good an example as any as to what the greatest cup competition in the world is all about. Something to look forward to as we move into the new year, we await the replay to decide our travel plans.

Following the route of our previous 3 visits, I decided to take the hospitality route again tonight, a warm and comfortable suite with beer and a curry preceding taking a seat in the second row of the main stand close to the half way line for the match.

Fratton Park tonight

And overall it was pretty entertaining fare. At only one behind we were always still in it, looking dangerous going forward, if looking slightly shaky at the back. Our captain got a run out tonight too as he continues his recovery and we all hope when he left the field a little gingerly late on, it was nothing serious.

Our cracking equaliser made it game on as time was getting on but our hosts looked stronger in the latter stages culminating in their winner.

From Coventry to Portsmouth then, via Cheltenham and Forest Green, it has been thoroughly enjoyable. Hopefully the benefits to our young squad prove entering the competition a good decision.

Manchester next then and I hope 24 hours from writing these words our thoughts are full of positivity and joy once again.

Come on you mighty Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Red Skies at Night

Sunday 2nd December 2018

Anyone who is reading these words in North London, take a short break and go and look out of the window. If you look closely you will notice a significant red glow to the night sky. Anyone who paid a visit to London N5 this afternoon knows exactly why.

Outgunned, outfought, outplayed, outclassed.

Our record in the first half of matches this season doesn’t make pleasant reading. And come half time this afternoon that hadn’t improved. But not because of our performance. For all but a five minute spell we were by far the better side. A spell where we paid the ultimate cost for highly debatable decisions going against us. Our reaction to the disappointment was magnificent. And boy did we enjoy it. North London is redder than ever.

There are definitely unique sensations in the week we play that lot. Big games have you full of butterflies and adrenalin accompanying the hope of victory. The difference for me in this fixture is that additional fear of losing. A heady combination that can lead to anything from lost sleep to physical shakes! But love or hate those feelings, it is incredible to experience.

I wouldn’t say the pub and streets in N5 were crammed full of confidence. But there was considerable optimism.

But our team needed to prove that right.

The second period today, when we could have crumbled having gone into the break undeservedly behind, was a joy to witness. Awesome football at times and an unquenchable desire for victory all over the park, matched by our players fighting for each other (on and off the pitch!). Regularly geeing the crowd up and a situation where every Gooner present could see how much the players wanted it created an atmosphere right up there. It’s rare we get to say it but the Emirates was absolutely rocking.

Lucas’ reaction to his goal demonstrated everything I mention above. A cocktail of joy and sheer passion. And when Sokratis underwent another crunching tackle before punching the air it was equally as inspiring.

A day of incredible emotion then and a massively deserved three points too. Get in!

Tomorrow is a big date on the football calendar as we find out who we will take on in early January in the FA Cup 3rd Round. Again, something unusual would be nice.

And then Tuesday it’s off to Fratton Park to see if our impressive group of youngsters can progress in the Checkatrade Trophy.

For now though, I think I might go home and watch Match of the Day.

Or I could always compile my best Arsenal/Spurs eleven. If I am a twat that is.

I’ll say it again, outgunned, outfought, outplayed, outclassed.

Red.

Frank
@stubbsy70