Category Archives: Arsenal

Man at the match, Chary: Fabianski ushers Arsenal into the FA Cup final

A helter skelter match ended on penalties after full time and extra time couldn’t separate the Arsenal from the conquerors of Manchester City in the previous round, when Fabianski held his nerve to save the first two of five penalties so that four successful spot kicks from the good guys were enough to book a return trip to Wembley in May.

After a gap of over fourteen years between my last visit to Wembley to see Arsenal play and today I was hoping to see a victory for the Arsenal and although the build up to the game in the media and the Arsenal blogosphere ensured nerves kicked in a few pints at Mannion’s pub near the south entrance to Wembley helped settle those nerves.

Also plenty of Arsenal songs, not fit for a family blog, ensured a degree of alcohol induced bravado stayed with me till I took my seat in the upper tier behind the south goal, to the right of the managers dug outs.

As expected Wigan failed to sell their quota of tickets and many pockets/blocks of empty seats were visible in the Wigan end

In (some of) the blue corner - Wigan

In (some of) the blue corner – Wigan

Before kick off was the moments silence, although I heard applause also, to commemorate the tragic loss of life at an FA Cup semi final 25 years ago at Hillsboro, with 96 seats(to remember the 96 fatalities that day) kept empty.

Hillsborough 96 remembered

Hillsborough 96 remembered

The line up changes that were most significant were the addition of Rambo and Monreal (with the latter stepping in for Gibbs who was only fit enough for a bench place) and the replacement of Sanogo for Giroud, as seems to be the case for the FA Cup team selection with Fabianski the designated cup goalie.

From the start it was clear that Wigan’s form was on the up and Arsenal’s spluttering with no Arsenal player really catching the eye in the first half, except for flashes of Rambo’s tenacious drive with the ball when surging through the midfield. It was obvious the team have badly missed his forward motion in the midfield as without him it all looks very pedestrian, as several moans about our slow paced attacking attested to amongst the Arsenal supporters.

Something that did come across was that moaning about the team is not an age related thing or the preserve of the “I want it now” generation of youngsters. A pensioner next to me was totally negative all the way through the game and had decided we’d lose after seeing only ten minutes of the game; needless to say not one word of encouragement or singing for the team left his lips all the way through the game.

While Arsenal did create chances in the first half not too many clear cut chances were made, except for the cross that led to Sagna’s sliced shot over the bar, Wigan themselves looked hard working but not especially dangerous.

At the start of the second half as usual the boys in red and white upped the tempo and more free kicks corners accrued from the Ox who was growing in confidence or Santi who had seemed subdued in the first half.
It started to look like it could be one of “those days” when either the woodwork or a bit of good goal keeping was bound to keep the shots out when Arsenal appeared certain to score.

Inevitably a bit of controversy arrived to gift Wigan a goal, a foul on Monreal was not given and with the Arsenal players expecting a stop in play Wigan took advantage of the hesitancy to push into the penalty box and lead to the BFG making a penalty kick worthy challenge.

Indignation swept through the red end of Wembley due to frustration at the referee for not blowing for the foul or the injury and also slight annoyance at Wigan for not having kicked the ball out.
Monreal was taken off injured to be replaced by Gibbs and then eventually Gomez took a virtually unstoppable penalty, which Fabianski came close to keeping out, 1 nil to the Championship team.

As seems to be the case nowadays the Arsenal support is schizophrenic in that anger and dejection at the penalty was replaced by cheers at the restart trying to pick up the spirits of the players. However the jeers quickly returned when the Pod was subbed off when everyone thought the exasperating Sanogo would make way. The Pod had a quiet game while Sanogo seemed to show touches of skill which made you think “Where did that come from?” and then clumsy touches that would be maddening.

Olly came on and was greeted with, to the tune of the Van Judas “She said..” song:

“She said yes Giroud, she said yes”

While it’s hard to say he’s a top line striker it was immediately obvious Olly was better than Sanogo and his hold up play and flicks was leading to more and more dangerous attacks, including a header off the crossbar.

Finally a ball launched into the Wigan penalty area was diverted towards the BFG who bundled the ball into the net and atoned for his earlier penalty kick inducing mistake.

The relief was such that even the moaning pensioner stopped cursing he team although what he thought of my “F**k you Wigan” chant while the BFG celebrated in the goal in front of me, I’d rather not know.

Wigan heads dropped and they held on till full time despite Arsenal pushing for the winner in normal time, the Ox hitting the post and an acrobatic mid air goal line clearance from a Wigan defender when the red end were about to cheer the Gunner’s second goal.

Arsenal piling on the second half  pressure

Arsenal piling on the second half pressure

Annoyingly the referee blew for full time just when Olly was through and appeared to be held back by a Wigan defender which, if it had been an arsenal player doing the holding back, would have been a red for a professional foul.
Nonetheless the momentum was still with Arsenal and for both halves of injury time it was mainly Arsenal attacking, with Källström almost scoring with his first touch.

As with his appearance against Swansea Kim seems to have something about him that showed today also, a strength and precision in midfield that is probably what we need right now when, Flamini aside, our midfield is a tad lightweight and powder puff.

Wigan held on and the spectre of penalties came, the news that they would be taken in front of the Wigan end(the majority of photographers had been stationed at my end as it was the end Arsenal attacked and they scurried round the pitch to get to the other end) were greeted with moans of:

“We can’t even win the toss for the penalties!”

Beneath the raging tension in me I felt deep down there was a smidgen of hope in the calmness and authority Fabianski had shown in the game so far; an inkling that he could be the hero of the moment.

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

The Championship side took the first penalty and although I was not a great penalty it still had to be saved, the Wigan player sinking to the ground in defeat, something even I could see from the other end of the stadium.

First up for the good guys was Arteta, who was coolness personified with a regulation, text book penalty.
Wigan again tried to score in the shoot out and failed again, a slightly better Fabianski save this time and the Arsenal support dared to hope again.

Källström converted our second penalty with the minimum of fuss and pressure was back on Wigan who finally managed to notch a successful spot kick.

Even though Olly’s successful spot kick was preceded by a second successful Wigan kick all it needed was for Arsenal’s fourth penalty to go in and it would be all over

Up stepped Santi, he scored then scurried to the corner to celebrate with the team, out of relief more than anything and only then could Arsenal supporters in Wembley breathe again.

Santi celebrates deciding pk

Santi celebrates deciding pk

An incredibly hard fought game ended with the Gunners victorious and a date at Wembley in May meant we can now sing the following in earnest:

“What did she wear ?
She wore, she wore,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
In the merry month of May!
And when, I asked,
Oh why she wore that ribbon,
She said it’s for The Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!
We’re the famous Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!”

By 17th of May with more injured players returning, especially Özzy, and Rambo getting back to his best we can expect a better performance than today with confidence also returning bit by bit.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Arsenal v. Wigan: preview

I was sitting in the hotel bar the night before Arsenal’s League Cup final against Birmingham and two Blues supporters sitting next to me were talking about the game the next day. The one who looked remarkably like Mr. Rat was loudly talking up his team’s chances whilst the one who looked like Mr. Mole sat quietly looking rather nervously around the room to make sure no 6’4″ Arsenal supporter came over and smashed their faces in. Mr. Rat then proclaimed “these Arsenal supporters are all the same, they talk big about how they are going to do us but you offer one a bet and watch them melt. Because they know, we have a real chance. I think we will win.”

I sat there snorting into my drink at each proclamation and thought to myself that I should go over and take this guy up on his bet. Why not? I was full of confidence, we were the much better team, and we had beaten them just a few games prior. But instead of confronting the braggart and taking the bet, I finished my whiskey and went off to bed.

Seeing how Arsenal lost that match and I didn’t take his bet I guess he was right on both counts.

A similar, if amplified, mood pervades today’s FA Cup semi-final between Wigan and Arsenal and it’s quite understandable why: Arsenal are once again over-dogs, Arsenal are once again on the brink of winning their first trophy in years, Arsenal are missing a number of key players, the manager’s position is being questioned from all quarters (including Tim Stillman), Arsenal have a recent history of stumbling in big games against small opponents, and that 6-0 loss to Chelsea on the occasion of Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game seemed to cause many of us to join the other lemmings going over the cliff at full pace.

Arsene Wenger seems to have learned a lesson from the harsh losses of the last few weeks and is vowing to get the team to focus more on defending and attacking as a unit. Arsenals defense has been fantastic when they play within themselves and have proven that time and again against Liverpool, Tottenham, and the comeback win over Everton in this same competition when I was there last month. In each of those matches, Arsenal were able to sit back and invite the opposition to attack and yet repel each attack with solid, organized defending.

Wigan will probably come out looking to hit Arsenal with the 1-2 punch like they did against Man City at the Etihad stadium. Once they went ahead, they defended as well as I have seen from any team at Man City’s ground.

This puts a lot of onus on Arsenal’s early game because Arsenal play the same way, early high pressing, and we could have a wide open free for all in the first 15 minutes. What has many Arsenal fans worried is that this is exactly how Arsenal have been undone in each of their huge losses this season. Each time Arsenal have lost big it has been because the opposition have adopted Arsenal’s exact same tactic.

Another concern is that Wigan employ a 3-5-2 combined with a high pressing game so that they play a lot like Liverpool. Arsenal did beat that system twice this season and both times were able to do so by not allowing the opposition to overload the Arsenal fullback areas. Everton and Chelsea played a similar tactic in that they invited the Arsenal fullbacks forward and reserved an attacking player in behind the Arsenal midfielders. Shurrle and Lukaku both played on the right (Arsenal’s left) cutting back in in those games (and Liverpool played Suarez there to do the same in their 5-1 win over Arsenal) and I’d put almost any amount of money on Wigan trying the same. Basically, if we see both Arsenal fullbacks in the Wigan final third, it’s time to panic.

Wenger himself acknowledged that Wigan is a team full of Premiership players who happen to be playing in the Championship. So, as much as we’d all like to say that this is a lower division team playing against an upper division side it is nice to hear the manager aware of the threat that these guys possess. Fortune (the Wigan forward and not every gambler’s harsh mistress) in particular is a real threat off the bench. But I’m hoping we get to the point where Wigan are looking to the bench for a little good Fortune.

Wigan are not a crap team, again a fact Wenger points out by mentioning their record getting to the FA Cup semi final. They are second in the Championship in shots taken per game (15.1) and 5th in shots conceded (12.5). Defensively they are 4th in tackles made per game and 5th in interceptions (14.1). They are also a real threat from set plays having scored a 3rd best 16 goals from that position and they love to cross the ball with a 3rd best 24 of those per game. Like Wenger has said, this may be a Championship side but they are full of Premiership players and they play like it. Wigan are a hard nosed defensive side who get in the faces of their opponents and get goals off set plays. They have had a bit of bad luck in the last few matches but their losing margins have been slim.

Still, despite missing a number of players, Arsenal have four crucial players available for tomorrow’s match: Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud.

Even though he missed much of the season with injury, Ramsey is still Arsenal’s best player statistically. He is fearless in midfield. He works tirelessly to get open for passes and never hides when the team needs an outlet. He is also an underrated tackler (leads Arsenal in per game tackles) and constantly presses to get the ball back high up the pitch. And is if that weren’t enough he is third overall in scoring and assists. Truly a stats stuffer and while people poo poo stats, they show that Ramsey is a player with tremendous heart and work rate.

Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud are all this competition’s best scorers remaining. Podolski and Giroud have 6 goals between them and Podolski’s goals have all been winners. Cazorla only has 8 goals and 5 assists but having been shunted off to the side and playing second trumpet to Özil has really limited his ability to contribute. Meanwhile Giroud is Arsenal’s leading scorer with 20 goals this season. He’s only scored once in his last six matches but he scored a double against Everton in the FA Cup match before this one.

I expect Arsene will start with Giroud up front, Podolski as second striker, Ramsey in midfield, Cazorla on the left, Ox on the right, Arteta as defensive mid and the back four picking itself (Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, and Gibbs/Monreal). Fabianski will be in goal.

I’m expecting a very tough game from Wigan but hopefully the Arsenal quality will shine through and Ramsey will get us an early goal which will allow Arsenal the chance to sit back and defend for a while.

Something they are very good at.



Mighty Arsenal Pizza Recipe

Arsene Wenger spoke today about getting Arsenal back to basics and having the team play solid defense against Wigan tomorrow. This is a great idea. I actually wish I had recommended that idea on my blog before the Chelsea match, or recommended that idea before the Everton match, or on my most recent Arsenal America Podcast appearance prior to this match against Wigan which if truth be told I am very worried about Arsenal losing.

But what is more basic than defense? Bread. And more basic than even bread? Pizza. If you want to learn how to bake bread, you should really start with pizza. Because you basically cannot donk up pizza. No matter how badly you shape the dough, no matter if you accidentally leave the dough on the counter overnight, as long as you even vaguely get the ingredients and technique right, you can (probably) still make pizza.

Special Equipment You (might) Need

Dough bucket
Baking stone (or a sheet pan!)
Pizza peel (or a silicon baking mat!)


(Makes 6 individual pizzas)

325g – Water
25g - Olive oil
450g - Flour (I use a mixture of all purpose (350g) and whole wheat 100g. You can vary this as much as you want knowing that the more whole what you use, the more water you need to use)
10g – salt
8g – yeast
7g – sugar


150g – cheese
100g – olives
100g – salami (we use Genoa salami, you could use pepperoni I guess)
Sauce - I use store bought marinara. Yes I do!



Sorry, but the Mighty Arsenal Pizza recipe does not convert measurements to cups and tablespoons. Why? Because

Dough Method

Put everything except the marinara (ed.), cheese, olives, and salami in your dough bucket.
Mix together until it starts to form a sort of… dough.
Put the lid on it and let it sit on the counter for a few hours.
Throw it in the fridge over night. Or for a week if you want.

Pizza Method

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, pop the lid off, and smell the dough. Just like the FA Cup, that’s the magic of the fermentation tub.

Get your bucket of flour near by.

Take a little flour and dust the top of the fermented dough. Then reach your clean hands in to the bucket and grab a hunk of dough. Feel how wet and stringy that is! It’s just how I imagine that Alan Sunderland’s hair felt after a shower. Pull out about 1/6th of the dough. This is for individual pizzas. Use more dough for bigger pizzas, though you can be sure that Arsene Wenger will have a look at you if you’re going to sit down and each a huge pizza all to yourself. Why not have a piece of fruit or a salad and a small pizza instead of some big calorie feast?

Turn and fold the dough under several times to form a ball. Use a little flour to keep it from sticking and put a little flour down on your resting surface. Technique is everything here. This is where your magic happens. Aveline and I will post some photos later to show you the technique. For beginners I recommend to rest the dough on a silicon baking mat. They are the Robert Pires of cooking, nothing sticks to one of those.

Now you have to let the dough do its thing for a while. How long? 70 minutes. Do not do anything for 70 minutes. I don’t care what the situation demands. Crying babies in the terrace. Armchair pizza chefs at home. Do not touch that dough for 70 minutes.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You do let the dough sit for 70 minutes and do nothing to it, but if you’re using a pizza stone, you need to get that pre-heated to 500F, 260C, Gas Mark 10 for at least 20 minutes. So a simple recipe here would be 1) shape the dough into a ball and let it rest for 50 minutes 2) put the pizza stone in the oven and turn it on for 20 minutes 3) shape your pizza into a pizza shape and pup it in the oven.


Anyway, you have time. Now is a good time to read a chapter in Rebels for the Cause. I recommend chapter nine, “Big Willie” about former Arsenal defender Willie Young.

After the 70th minute, your dough will be soft, pliable, and full of holes.

If you’re using a pizza stone you should have already put it in the oven. If you don’t have a pizza stone and can’t afford to buy one in the January transfer window, you can use an inverted sheet pan, this is the equivalent of playing Mertesacker as a center forward. It will work, just watch that you don’t burn your pizza. Really, I recommend buying a striker in January instead. I mean a pizza stone.

Now you shape the dough ball into a pizza. Start from the center and use your thumbs to stretch the dough. It’s like driving a car: the dough is the steering wheel and you’re Nicklas Bendtner, all thumbs. Drive the pizza dough car into a ditch, flip the pizza dough car, then get caught on video drunkenly begging for pizza.

All you have to do now is put a little sauce, some cheese, and some toppings on it and put it in the oven. Don’t overdo the toppings. Seriously. Americans tend to be obsessed with building these god awful gigantic pizzas, cover every inch with pepperoni, and put a pound of cheese on every slice. This is the reason we are so fat. All that pepperoni and cheese reacts with the GLUTEN and you get fat. If you use less meat and cheese on your pizza the gluten has nothing to react to and you get less fat. These are stone cold facts that I have pure anecdotal evidence to back up.

One last thing, there can be a bit of a problem with the transfer. What? You thought making a pizza was as easy as buying a defensive midfielder? This is where a pizza peel comes in handy. The pizza peel is the David Dein of pizza cooking. You throw a little corn meal on that sucker, put your pizza shaped dough down, then your toppings on the dough and you can shake the finished pie right on to your baking stone, or your inverted sheet pan. Or you could just form the whole pizza right on an inverted sheet pan and toss the whole thing in the oven and bake until it’s sort of done.

Here’s a pizza that Wenger would be proud that you ate.



Note the hole structure, indicating good technique and the fact that I am basically eating a salad and bread with a little cheese and meat.


P.S. I will upload photos demonstrating the technique for forming the dough into a ball and for stretching the dough into a pizza round tonight. With the help of my assistant.



Looks like Mt. Rainier!


A shaggy mess.bucket

After a day in the fridge






Silpat for the winglutenRoll that beautiful gluten footage


See how I’m turning the dough inside out? That develops the gluten cloak.


Rest your balls.


Finger licking good!



Too many toppings ruin the final product.


Mountains of the moon.

We cut our pie into five slices with four cuts.

holesThe money shot. Look at those holes. And that’s with a whole wheat crust.