Category Archives: Arsenal

Man at the match; Chary: Theo buttresses scoring junks

A swiftly taken, and started, first half hatrick from Theo Walcott ensured the most relaxed atmosphere to an end of season game for an age as the Arsenal set themselves up nicely for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 4-1 win against Pullis’ West Brom.

The expected rotation was there, Gabriel for Kozzer and Walcott for Giroud, in addition to the replacement of Gibbs for Monreal and Jack for Ramsey from the previous game.

However neither Santi nor Alexis got the breather I felt they needed, but then that may have been too much change for a game in which victory was desirable as it would set the mood for the FA Cup preparations.

Only the most doom laden Gooner would have feared losing third spot today as a seven goal swing was required for that to happen and fearing a repeat of the previous weekends performance from the today’s opposition against Chelsea some would argue pre match concerns like this were not entirely invalid.

Surely any Pullis side would be defensively tight, unadventurous and looking to frustrate ?

Panoramic from North Bank

Panoramic from North Bank

Having taken my seat in the north bank lower within a few minutes of the start I could see this was not the case, even though Arsenal were attacking the Clock End, as usual, in the first half and my sub par vision would make details hard to pick out.

West Brom looked to push forward early on and hence left gaps behind them, which after a short time was the wrong tactic.

A threaded ball from Santi found Theo wide right, who then unleashed an unstoppable rising drive that gave the Baggies keeper no chance.

Instant relief and the crowd could relax as the mini goal drought ended less than five minutes into the game.

Distant view after Theo scores

Distant view after Theo scores

And so started the Wembley songs which then continued for the rest of the afternoon.

In addition to the relatively open nature of the game another feature was Jack’s surging runs through the middle of the park, which drew much appreciation from the crowd, one of these led to some interchange with Özil that fired a cross into the West Brom box which Theo efficiently dispatched for his second.

Barely had we stopped cheering Theo’s brace then another attack led to some ping pong n the away penalty area which the Baggie’s defenders failed to clear and a lose ball was rifled in by Jack for the third.

The English core had now scored three goals and the ludicrous bad luck that dogged Arsenal’s goal attempts in the last three games was well and truly banished.

A Pullis side surrendering so tamely didn’t seem right and looking at the man himself he watched impassively, arms folded, without even attempting to look at all concerned.

The only semblance of order was a touch of the Stoke City’s that whenever there was a West Brom goal kick, as the ball looped down, the West Brom player was always giving out a sneaky shove to the Arsenal player attempting the clearing header.

The Baggies still came forward, even at three down, however Berahino’s early threat seemed to subside and all their approach play seemed to fizzle out impotently.

At three nil up a surge of exiting Gooners making for front of the queue for half time food missed Theo’s hat trick goal as Santi completed a move involving Özil, Alexis and Jack by firing across the goal for Theo to tap in a poachers goal.

Sign him up Arsène!
Sign da ting !

Half time came and as the score in the Stoke-Scousers game was flashed up much delirium ensued, clearly Stevie Me’s swansong would not end well as Liverpool were being battered 5-nil by Pullis’ former charges.

After such a breathless, enthralling first half, the second would struggle not to be an anti climax, and a weird starting second half it was.

First off Hector went lunging into the West Brom number 11 and received an unnecessary yellow card and then indecision in the the Arsenal defence led to a corner.

Then, after having looked so secure for nearly all his time in goal, Ospina seemed to flap at the corner and let a header in.

The excessive/ironic celebration of the Baggies fans at this point was the highlight of their day and only a mild irritant to the home support.

With the FA Cup in mind some of Arsène’s prospective starting 11 were taken off, Coquelin and then Theo to take the applause for his masterful hatrick; only the most churlish of us would take his little wave to the west stand as he walked off as a “wave goodbye”.

To my eyes if Villa allow us space to play then Theo should start; if not his replacement today, Olly, should start. Luckily that difficult decision is not mine to make.

Finally Jack was replaced by the Ox and the reception he got proved that his mid season indiscretions had been forgiven and his on field efforts very much appreciated.

The introduction of Ramsay and the Ox didn’t stop the fluidity of the mid field and chances were still being created.

Özil corner

Özil corner

Alexis, as ever, never stopped running and when one of his jinks into the opposition penalty area came to nothing, the crowd showed their appreciation and encouragement with his “Alexis baby” song – I don’t think he knows it his song yet as he just kept his head down while walking back to his position after play restarted.

Cheer up Alexis, every Gooner loves you !

A fifth goal would have been great and a Ramsay shot cannoned off the post as the game drew to a close.

Close from Rambo

Close from Rambo

The end of season feeling was confirmed when the fourth official didn’t bother signalling how much added time there would but when the final whistle blew it was with satisfaction the crowd showed their thanks for the result of the game.

Five points clear of fourth placed ManUre with no annoying Champions League pre qualifier to mess up pre season for the lads, I’d a taken that after our slow League start.

The lap of appreciation started with the handful of West Brom fans remaining holding up a plea on behalf of Sweden for Olsson, which seemed odd as he looked rather clumsy and unathletic on today’s showing, the Swedes must be desperate.

Olsson request

Olsson request

So we wait for the season climax next Saturday for our shot at another trophy; sadly for me I won’t be going as tickets are extremely hard to come by so I’ll thank you the readers for staying with me this season and I’ll see you in the 15/16 season.

Players Lap

Players Lap

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Sanchez

What’s your Arsenal goal of the season?

By Tim Todd, Long Shot

It is Memorial Day weekend here in the States and that means us Yanks have a three day weekend. Typically we will go camping or have a barbecue but I’m not doing that this year because my daughter is with her mom.

I actually got a four day weekend and yesterday I baked bread, made cheese, planted the garden, and trimmed the feathers on our chickens. I know, it sounds like I’m some goat-roper but I swear we don’t have goats. Yet. I mean come on though, goats are awesome: they eat all the weeds in your yard and they make the best milk. Who wouldn’t want a goat? And if you get a goat you have to have two or they will get lonely.

Two goats!

Speaking of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Arsenal.com has free videos of nearly every match this season* and my plan this weekend is to watch them all. In a 50+ game season there are a lot of great moments and some of them get lost to the ravages of memory. I don’t want to lose any of those moments.

It’s also almost time to start talking about things like “goal of the season”, “assist of the season”, and “save of the season” and having a good, fresh memory, of all of those moments is key to me writing an article about it.

I asked my twitter followers for their opinion on the Arsenal goals of the season, asking them to give me one for the League and one for all other competitions. The results were mixed but in the League, people seem to prefer Alexis’ long range strike against Liverpool and in the Champions League, it’s got to be Aaron Ramsey’s long range strike against Galatasaray.

It’s always weird to me how much people love a long range goal. For example, Charlie Adams won NBC’s goal of the season with his 65 yard shot against Chelsea. But that wasn’t even my favorite moment in that match! My favorite moment came when Charlie Adam elbowed Cesc Fabregas in the face and broke his nose. Then, 30 seconds later hit that goal!

I understand the reason why people love long-range goals, they are highly improbable. Charlie Adams has taken a shot like that probably 100 times in his career. He literally loves trying that shot whenever he sees the keeper off his line. Also, Charlie Adams hates running. So, a nice, long range shot means he gets to take a little break as he shoots out of bounds or when the keeper collects.

In all seriousness, the Charlie Adams goal is pretty amazing. Few people in the world can even kick a ball that hard. And to kick it that hard and that accurately over Courtoise, who is one of the best keepers in the League, means that Adams needed to strike that ball absolutely perfectly. Which he did. In that case I suppose it’s difficult not to give him goal of the season. Sigh.

But for me, rather than just a lucky long range strike I like a goal that tells a story, that carries some emotional power, and which reveals something about the character of the player. The Adams goal does all that and it may even go down in history as one of the best goals of all time. That’s why it’s a worthy goal of the season candidate.

As for Arsenal, I haven’t decided what my goal of the season is going to be yet but my early front-runner is Alexis’ strike against Besiktas:

Arsenal were struggling to score against Beskitas and the first leg ended 0-0. In the second leg, the whole team just looked off a step. It was as if they were trying to find their feet and integrate this powerful new talent, Alexis Sanchez, into the Arsenal playing style. And so it is fitting that the only goal of the tie came from a broken play.

Debuchy (who would get sent off later) played a cross into the middle and Besiktas barely headed it away. So, Arsenal collected the ball back, Wilshere passed to Ozil, and made a cut toward the goal looking for the return ball. Ozil played a one touch return off the outside of his left foot. It’s unclear whether Ozil was playing the ball to Wilshere or Alexis but my guess is that he was just playing to space — and it’s kind of irrelevant anyway! Alexis just bustled in there, took the ball away from Wilshere, and scored. That was his first Arsenal goal.

Arsenal went on to win 1-0 on aggregate. So, it’s an important goal because it ensured Arsenal’s 17th consecutive Champions League group stage appearance and all of the prize money that entails. In essence, that goal was worth £30m meaning that Sanchez’ first Arsenal goal basically paid for his transfer fee! It also showed the character of Alexis. He’s a very driven, bullish player and he’s not going to let a loose ball go without trying to pounce on it.

So, when I think of goal of the season, that strike which introduced us to Alexis Sanchez is the first that comes to mind. We will have to see if I can be convinced of any others as I watch the season unfold again through the free videos on Arsenal.com.

Which is your favorite goal, assist, or save of the season? And hey, fair enough if you guess “next week’s goal: an Aaron Ramsey 93rd minute strike against Aston Villa to win consecutive FA Cups”. I can’t argue against that!

Qq

*FA Cup matches are only available on YouTube.

henry

If Theirry Henry wants to court controversy he should say something positive about Arsenal

By Tim Todd, Sr. Saboteur

I blame Star Trek for my understanding of the etymology of the word “sabotage”. If you’ve seen the film, “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country” then you’re familiar with the scene: Kim Cattrall’s character, Valeris, encourages Lt. Uhura to sabotage the Enterprise’s return to space dock by recalling an etymology of the word in which French workers supposedly flung their wooden shoes, called sabot, into the cogs of the machines to protest industrialization.

The true etymology is a bit less glamorous. Sabot does refer to wooden shoes and is related to the French labor protests at the turn of the 20th century. But to sabotage something meant to intentionally do shoddy work, like someone who was poor, unskilled, and thus had to wear the sabot, wooden shoes.

Imagine if Star Trek had used the more accurate etymology. Valeris’ scene would have been a long description of poor people and their wooden shoes and how some 19th century French Anarchist wanted to enact work slowdowns like they had in Britain. So he encouraged people to sabotage their workplaces and not work so hard. The writers of The Undiscovered Country, in the interest of keeping their audience awake, took a little creative license. They sabotaged the etymology of sabotage in the interest of entertainment.

And back in April, Arsenal legend, Arsenal’s record goalscorer, and living Arsenal statue, Thierry Henry, picked up his sabot and chucked them into the cogs of the Arsenal machine by saying that Arsenal need to buy four superstar players, that Arsenal’s main striker (Olivier Giroud) isn’t good enough, and that Arsenal’s record signing (Mesut Özil) needs to do more in big games.

Giroud apparently took the words to heart but there is more to indicate that fatigue is the cause of his dip in scoring than Henry’s words. Because since that criticism, Arsenal have looked lethargic, which has nothing to do with pundits words and everything to do with tired legs, and have had two consecutive home games end 0-0 and were completely outplayed by Man U.

Oh the controversy!

Except, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Thierry Henry criticized Arsenal. Thierry Henry is a paid Sky Sports pundit and as a paid Sky Sports pundit it is Henry’s job to make “controversial” statements.

And not only that, Henry didn’t even say anything that we haven’t all heard a million times this season: Arsenal should have bought Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal should have bought Luis Suarez, Arsenal should have bought Petr Cech, Arsenal should have bought Morgan Schneiderlin. If they had done all that, they would have won the League. Read the comments section on any article about Arsenal or read twitter for five minutes after any Arsenal match; Henry was only saying the same thing that 1,000,000 Arsenal fans and Gary Neville already said previously.

Moreover, it’s a simplistic argument and plays right into Sky Sports’ coverage plan for the summer: transfers, transfers, transfers, what did Mourinho say today, and… transfers. When football is out, the only news is football transfers. There will be transfer scoreboards, there will be transfer rumors, there will be a transfer league, and every time Arsenal “swoop” or “just miss out” on a transfer, Thierry Henry’s words will be trotted out:

Arsenal’s title ambitions have taken a dent as the Gunners have reportedly missed out on Morgan Schneiderlin. Last Spring, Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, identified Schneiderlin as a player Arsenal needed to buy in order to compete for the League title. I guess it’s another season of fourth place for the unambitious Arsenal! Back to you Tina!

It was possibly the least controversial thing Thierry Henry could have said.

If Theirry Henry wanted to say something controversial, he could have said something positive about Arsenal. He could tell people that winning the League title for a club like Arsenal isn’t as easy as “just buying a player” much less “just buying four players.” He could tell people that teams need hard working players as well as superstars. He could tell people that while the world is focused on Oli Giroud, and wondering if he is the forward that Arsenal need to win the title, or while the world is criticizing Mesut Özil for being too passive in big games, they are missing the fact that Arsenal have a genuine superstar on the team already in Alexis Sanchez. And if Theirry Henry wanted to throw his noisy wooden shoes into the cog of a giant machine, he could have said “transfers don’t matter as much as people think.”

I’m not saying that transfers don’t matter. Rather, there is rarely a discussion of a problem that isn’t resolved with the answer “transfers”. Arsenal’s number one keeper keeps getting dropped? Transfers. Arsenal injuries? Transfers. Arsenal have difficulty breaking down defense first teams? Transfers. Arsenal getting caught on counter attacks? Transfers. Arsenal allowing too many headed goals? Transfers.

Instead of simple answers, Henry could have given a list of some things that Arsenal could work on this summer:

  • Arsenal need to sort out their ‘keeper situation. Maybe that means buying a veteran like Cech to challenge Ospina and Szczesny or maybe that means getting Szczesny’s head on straight. Regardless of how its done, Arsenal need a reliable number one next season.
  • Arsenal need to continue improving on player fitness. More than anything, missing Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, and Olivier Giroud for a large part of the season hurt Arsenal’s title chances. Keeping them healthy and rotating the squad through the season is crucial if Arsenal are going to challenge for the title.
  • Arsenal need to figure out a way to keep Alexis from burn out. He played in the World Cup last summer, he played 50+ games for Arsenal this season, and he’s playing for the host country in the Copa America this summer. The dude is like one of those Terminator robots in that he just keeps going but eventually Sarah Connor will crush him with all the matches he’s playing — yes, that is the metaphor I want!
  • Tactically, Wenger needs to find a way to break down these teams who park the bus and continue to improve against the other teams in the top 6. I’m not convinced that this is something that can be solved by simply “buying a right winger” or simply playing Alexis on the right. Of course I would love it if Arsenal bought a player like Reus but I think there is still work to be done even if we did buy him.
  • Arsenal need to sort out their defensive midfielder position. Coquelin has been a great addition to the squad but it was telling that Wenger dropped him when Arsenal played against Sunderland: Wenger knew the Black Cats were playing for a draw and he needed a midfielder who could add more to the Arsenal attack. This is the one position that I can be convinced Arsenal need to buy. Well, either buy or Arsene needs to convert someone like Wilshere or Ramsey into a more defensive-minded midfielder AND somehow bring Coquelin up to speed in terms of attack.

But saying something nuanced can’t be covered in a soundbite on some interview program. It’s so much easier for fans and pundits to just say “Arsenal need to buy four players” rather than to give a balanced opinion on what Arsenal need to do to challenge for the title.

If Henry wanted to say something truly controversial, he should have said “now is not the time to comment on what Arsenal need. I’m sure Wenger knows best what Arsenal need and will sort that out after the FA Cup final next month. But you know what I think about Jose Mourinho? He’s a truly awful human being and should be fined by the FA pretty much any time he opens his mouth.”

Qq