Category Archives: Arsenal

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

Match Report: Arsenal v. Sunderland

By Les Crang, at Emirates Stadium behind a buttress of junk

With my birthday on the 23rd of May and more over time than I often get offered, I took the opportunity to catch Arsenal’s penultimate league game of the season, from what looked a relegation bound Sunderland. Funnily, this has been the most games I have seen in a season having seen 3 league games at home (Hull, QPR and Sunderland), a League Cup game against Southampton and the FA Cup game against Hull. I was pretty pleased with that.

But in all that time I had missed out on one major thing: Mesut Ozil. Now, I don’t care what anyone says, in world football, to me, Ozil rules supreme. Ever since I saw him play for Germany in the 2009 U21 final, and destroyed England, that is the player I always wanted to watch:-

When we signed Ozil, I didn’t sleep all night. I was that excited. So, to say I have been looking forward to finally watching Ozil in person is an understatement.

Prior to going to the ground I met Gary Lawrence for a few at The Cannon on Blackstock Road. I’d met Gary a couple times before (prior to the Hull F.A Cup game and at the I am Sam event) and I’m often ‘talking’ to Gary via twitter and he is always a huge help with my research. To my shame, on the previous two occasions I’d not bought a round and wanted to prove I did have a wallet without moths in it.

After a few beers and discussing the usual things (family, football and, uh football) we noticed that we made the classic mistake of the ‘last half’ and I ended up late to the game and missed the first 8 minutes. From the highlights it looked like the heavily booed Jermaine Defoe had a half chance. So, I guess I didn’t miss much.

I then proceeded to watch Arsenal up in the goods (I’m never going in block N again. It’s just not the best view.) As I settled into my seat I noticed that Arsenal then proceeded to pass to someone I had not seen on the team sheet. That person was called ‘the other foot’: whenever Arsenal got around the Sunderland box, the first person they’d pass to was ‘the other foot’. By then, a well marshaled 9 man Sunderland defence, led by an industrious Lee Cattermole had closed Arsenal down.

Again and again Arsenal would either pass to ‘the other foot’ or worst, to a player in space. Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs ably replaced Francis Coquelin and Nacho Monreal respectively, with both having tidy games. Gibbs especially impressed, with his overlapping play and ability to track back. Jack was also a willing runner in the middle, but even with his thrusting runs, space was at a bigger premium than a Spurs EPL challenge.

There were chances. Ozil, who I’d been dying to see, was often driving across the 18 yard box only to cut back the ball to an overmarked and lethargic Olivier Giroud. If Ozil did shoot, it was often from just inside the box and blazed over (he did this twice).

From the stands, Ozil looked disinterested all game and frustrated the hell out of me. He has class though and when the ball is in the air and he brings it down, his cushioning of the ball is very Bergkamp-esque — a bit like the way Dennis cushioned the ball against Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final in 1998):-

He’s not Bergkamp, and he was pretty poor, to be honest.

Aaron Ramsey had a few runs, but much like the rest of the team, when he was near the goal, especially in the first half, picking the wrong pass seemed to be the only option. As Aaron has a stunning shot, his willingness not too use it left me constantly to drop into Tourette’s mode.

Sanchez, as ever was a willing runner. Once in the first half he was dispossessed, got up and hustled to win the ball back. You can’t doubt his stamina and he did try but once we won the ball back, Arsenal were immediately crowded out in the middle and the ball was lost

The player who did impress, actually didn’t have the best game, but that’s how poor we were!

I’d already spoken to Tony Fisher and Cockney Green Gooner about my man love of Ozil, but they said Santi Cazorla is better.

@mzk90 @plasticspam @garythegooner56 @cockneygreen65 #controversial I’d take Santi over Ozil

— Tony Fisher (@vidfish1) May 20, 2015

Now, I think Santi’s been awesome. A brilliant signing, but last night I watched him and having last seen a game at the Emirates had not noted how much deeper he plays since Wenger changed his tactics away to Manchester City earlier this year:-

He was industrious, always looking for the ball. Those that have mentioned he might leave and might be losing it really should watch the Spanish maestro. He really makes Arsenal tick. His loss should not be even contemplated in my opinion.

Half-time came and it was really feeling like Swansea the week before (minus the shots mind). I could remember no real chances for us. Another was pretty obvious in tactics. The middle was congested so why not try a tricky winger at half-time. I mean, it was crying out for Theo Walcott and I’m not a huge fan, but width was needed as Gibbs and Bellerin (more on him later) had not really had much luck on either side.

Of course, Wenger waited for his beloved 68th minute before Theo came on for Jack. Theo was applauded on his 300th appearance for Arsenal. Prior to this Arsenal had a header by Gibbs go just wide (similar to a goal he scored against Shrewsbury. See below):-


Arsenal 3-1 Shrewsbury Town by fun4lyf

Also Arsenal had hit the back post with an audacious angle shot in the 55th minute.

Sunderland, though, stuck to their guns and stayed as deep as possible and kept Defoe as a wide man waiting for any punted clearances upfield, which occurred on a couple occasions. One was with Bellerin caught well out of position. With Per Mertesacker trying to cover the middle and turn (never easy for the big man), Defoe collected Sunderland’s clearance and simply hit a long, hopeful ball in the area of Scotland’s finest striker, Fletcher. Fletcher, who being chased down by Mertesacker, couldn’t clip it over an advancing Ospina. Being Scotland’s finest really does mean you’re not much good, thankfully for Arsenal. Warning signs were there for all to see though.

Sunderland and Fletcher would have a better chance when Arsenal were easily caught out attacking too far upfield. Again, Fletcher proved to be wasteful in front of goal. But then Arsenal then nearly scored when a Sunderland defender chested on the post.

With ten minutes to go, Ozil was finally substituted for Tomas Rosicky. Rosicky was soon pulling the strings with Theo, who really put in some good runs. Rosicky has been sadly under utilised this season and what a shame. He proved how invaluable his bursts are as a sub.

With these two on, Arsenal passed quicker and shot more. Theo had two excellent attempts well saved by the Sunderland keeper (1 & 2). Tomas Rosicky then missed a great chance by some metres to on the 83rd minute. Then the whistle went.

Overall, an annoying game. Sunderland deserved the point, but the game screamed for width and a few more shots at their extremely tall goalkeeper (how we all wished Vito Mannone was playing?)

The good points? Well, Per and Laurent Koscielny underlined it won’t be easy for Gabriel to dislodge them. Cazorla was always trying and working from deep, Plus Theo and Rosicky looked like they showed why they should play Sunday with their great cameos.

On the negative? Well, the no goals scored for a third home game after another team parked the bus (surely Aston Villa saw what they have to do in the Cup final?) Ozil ghosted out too often and Giroud looks jaded. But my main complaint? Héctor Bellerín. Now he’s great player but I can understand why people see him as a replacement for Dani Alves at Barcelona. Like Alves, he loves to get forward, he has speed and he likes to shoot. But just like Alves he gets caught out of position. He over relies on the excellent BFG and Kozza to get him out of trouble. Twice at least he got caught out of position. Once he caught up with the player (he’s fast) but couldn’t tackle without fouling. He’s a liability at times and perhaps Mathieu Debuchy‘s return cannot come soon enough?

Anyhow, I’d gone looking forward to our new signing against Sunderland, expecting a win and came away disappointed. I think you’ve been here before, Tim ? Lets hope we beat WBA Sunday in preparation for the Cup Final.