Category Archives: Chary

Man at the match; Chary: Birmingham Villa swatted aside by Mesut and Santi

A solitary first half goal, well taken by Olly Giroud from a sublime Özil flick, was no portent for the avalanche of goals in the second half as a very ordinary Villa side capitulated with four more conceded in the second half, the fifth the cherry on the scoring cake.

With Saturday’s results all going for the teams around the Arsenal the was no margin for error and an out of sorts Villa looked like the ideal opposition.

The Arsenal pre match warm up

The Arsenal pre match warm up

My seat in the North Bank lower was in front of the warm up area for the playing members of the squad where Chesney, while firing in corner kicks for Ospina to collect, seemed to have a chastened look on his face.

The away support were no doubt hoping for a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season where the resulting home defeat led to much angst amongst the Gooner faithful.

The Birmingham Villa contingent

The Birmingham Villa contingent

Selection wise the expected unavailability of Alexis seemed to cause less consternation than it would have done earlier in the season, a reflection of the current better squad depth with Theo and Özil starting and Monreal replacing Gibbs at the back – a very strong looking side and a healthy bench, with possibly only the substitute striker department being inexperienced, Welbeck instead of Chubby Akpom would have been preferrable.

Soon after kick off a chance fell to Theo and as is the case nowadays the modern day supporter displays schitzoid tendencies by screeching with derision when a player doesn’t bury every chance, as a voice from behind me indicated. To be fair Walcott did show signs of rustiness as later in the game he would race to the touch line to keep a ball in but he approached the ball from the wrong side to scoop it back in, a basic error.

Another voice would say:

“This lot are rubbish, we should be getting at least four against them”

In comparison to Theo’s awkwardness Özil was gliding around the pitch with his trademark panache and pretty soon a lofted ball from the centre landed in his ambit, then a sublime flick from Mesut and Olly collected then slammed home to open the scoring.

Long distance view of Olly's goal

Long distance view of Olly’s goal

With the number of crucial goals the big Frenchman has been scoring lately the English media will have to tone down their accusation of him being a flat track bully; yes it was against lowly Villa but the first goal in any game is crucial.

After conceding fairly early Vila had to step up the pace of their game and then Coquelin’s worth came into view – he provided a robust presence in the middle of the pitch which Arsenal have lacked for a while. His tackling was generally clean and on the spot even if he may concede a few fouls but in the hurly burly of any midfield this almost inevitable.

While Coquelin’s bustling presence was a new pleasure to behold, a not so new one was Santi’s dazzling close control, where he seems to pluck lofted passes to him out of the air and caress the ball with ease.

The only Villa players that caught my eye were for naughty infringements – Benteke (as slow and as lumbering a striker as you will ever see) barging Kozzer as he was about to head a Villa cross clear, and another barge from the rotund Villa number 5 on Ramsey as he was jumping into a header.

Özil continued to ghost across all areas and, with Santi, pick and tease apart Villa’s defence to the extent that as half time approached the Ashburton Grove crowd felt the Arsenal should have been two or three up, with only some good saves by the bald Villa keeper and the woodwork preventing the half time lead from being greater.

The Villa manager must have had the hair dryer out as for about ten minutes after the start of the second half the away team actually pressed forward with purpose and Ospina’s calm, composed keeping continued to shine through.

Every Villa cross, and forward foray, caused little concern amongst the home support as the feeling was that Ospina would deal with it – no panic, just unflappability.

This being the first time I’d seen our Colombian keeper I hadn’t heard the call from the Gooner support when he would take a goal kick:

Osss-peeeeeeeeee-na !

A tad childish, but good fun and also something that may make Chesney grimace at the thought of how popular his counterpart has become so quickly.

As Villa saw no way past the twin shields of Coquelin and Ospina a breakaway attack led to Olly threading a ball through to Özil who calmly slotted home for the second. One goal and one assist already and our record signing looking well on the way to a return to form.

With his mid field partner in wizardry, Santi Cazorla, Özil weaved a spell on the Villa players that left them chasing shadows to the extent that somehow the BFG on one occasion found himself driving into the Villa penalty box and slotting over a cross that just eluded the Arsenal strikers – Beckenbauer-esque !

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Again Santi found another perfect through ball and Theo ran onto it and finished instinctively, the best way for our number 14 and the match was safe at three nil to the good guys.

As expected the same voice who admonished Theo for fluffing the early chance was singing “Theo, Theee-oo!” the loudest of all just then.

With the game won a flurry of substitutions saw Tomas “Rockin” Rosicky and Chubby Akpom come on, the latter to replace Giroud who was by then visibly wincing from a first half collision with the Villa back line.

Having seen little of Chubby it was interesting to see what he brought to our attack. On the basis of today’s cameo a more controlled version of Sanogo’s energy maybe.

That drive saw him latch onto a pass into the penalty area and to my eyes he appeared to take a heavy first touch but somehow the Villa keeper was deemed to have fouled him after he lost control of the ball. Having had more than our fair share of penalties denied we were all happy to take one that probably wasn’t deserved.

Up stepped our man of the moment Santi (who had received the PFA player of the month award before kickoff) and to rub salt into the wound the Villa keeper got a hand to the penalty but only succeeded in parrying the ball onto the post and seeing it ricochet into the net, four nil.

A cheeky chap in the big screen video control room then showed a close up of the Villa keeper kicking the post in frustration after Santi wheeled off in celebration to much mirth in the home support.

A final flourish was the fifth goal, where after the usual Arsenal succession of probing passes around the penalty area a pass allowed Bellerin to run onto the ball in a line towards the goal and it seemed he’d decided, “enough of this fannying around, I’ll slam this one”.

Hector makes it 5

Hector makes it 5

A well deserved debut goal and the BFG’s usual applause for the crowd was in the upbeat mood befitting a thumping five nil victory.

The BFG thanks the gooners

The BFG thanks the gooners

While the opposition was not especially testing it was a resounding win that sets us up nicely for a trip to the swamplands of the Middlesex reprobates next weekend.

Last word to a couple of Villa fans overheard in their high-pitched whingeing Brummy accents in the queue for the station:

“I thought they’d be shit without Sanchez”

One man team? Emphatically not.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match; Chary: Green shoots of Arsenal recovery ?

A pair of braces from a rejuvenated Giroud and a resurgent Cazorla eased the pressure on a team seeking to erase the memory of the Stoke defeat with a comfortable win against a Newcastle side that traditionally don’t travel well.

Long distance Toon army

Long distance Toon army

On the first wintry day of the season a Christmas shopping delayed departure from home to the match meant there was no time for a pre match alcoholic relaxant and given our previous League result it seemed some beer would have been necessary.

It would be fair to say most Arsenal supporters looked at this fixture in the light of Newcastle’s form with a fair degree of trepidation given they last week banished the pathetically premature talk of Maureen-Yo’s Invincibles (his 14′ers compared to “THE” 49′ers) with a win over the diving specialists of the Premier League.

Under The Invincibles banner

Under The Invincibles banner

That trepidation may have increased with the news that the recently returned from injury Debuchy would be forced to play (right) back due to Kozzers injury and Chambers’ suspension.

In the North Bank lower there was talk of protests that had not materialised and word of “Wenger out” placards being confiscated however there was no definite sense of unease as the game kicked off.

From the off Newcastle tried to match Arsenal’s high energy start to the game and this was to be applauded. Too many times at Ashburton Grove we see away teams with 10 men behind the ball and looking to frustrate, however what was apparent that their midfield pressing was being let down by the below par performance from Newcastle’s front line.

The first chance of the match came to us with a header (I couldn’t see who it was from) off the cross bar and this was to set the tone for the game.

Sadly the next incident was a brutal one as I saw a scuffle for the ball in the midfield end up with high kicking legs and our super Chilean collapsing holding his stomach. It was hard for me to see how much contact there was, but the word around me was it should have been a red card for whoever the miscreant was.

The Newcastle number 28, all gangly legs and comedic/uncoordinated running style, failed to connect with many through balls and one of his fresh air swipes at the ball caused much mirth around me in the block behind the North Bank goal.

While the Arsenal were attacking the Clock end in the first half, at the other end of the ground from me, even my Mr Magoo standard eyesight enabled me to see that Santi Cazorla was engineering plenty of forward passes and creating time and space for Alexis and Welbeck to run onto.

Another aspect of the midfield play was the The Ox’s rambunctious ability to fend off the opposition midfielders attempts to push him off the ball, to this end Colback stood out(not just for his bright ginger hair) as having the most energy in the midfield battle ground.

Newcastle’s open/attacking strategy was bound to play into the Arsenal’s hands when another driving Alexis run to the bye line let him loft in a cross which Olly met with a thumping “towering” header.

At last, a goal from a cross, something we’ve needed to give our attack variety.

With that goal the tension seemed to fall away and even a goal mouth scramble, when Chesney had to make a double save following a Newcastle free kick, couldn’t reduce the positive feeling.

Olly song then rang out and soon after it seemed Welbeck had scored but the celebration was cut short.

Half time saw a pitchside interview with our first super swede, Anders Limpar, with replays of some of his best goals on the big screens. By this time the toes of Arsenla supporters must have started to numb with the plunging tempartures.

The second half saw no change in the away teams open, attacking approach and wave after wave of Arsenal attacks orchestrated by Santi and the attacking charges usually being led by Alexis (and occasionally Welbeck).

Free kick

Free kick

The performance of Bellerin was appreciated, not just for his help in setting up, and joining in, attacks but his tenacious defensive tackling and composure when pressurised, whenever I have seen him play live he has not looked out of place.

Another attack saw Santi weave his way into the penalty area then, stumbling, lift the ball over the diving rookie Newcastle keeper to make it 2 nil.

Santi scores

Santi scores

No sooner had the crowd started relaxing completely then a cross from our right saw Olly flick in the third goal and again his song was sang – how we missed the big Frenchman’s presence up top.

A feature of the match, many fouls on us being unpunished and first infractions by us leading to booklings, manifest itself with a soft free kick being awarded against us.

A groan from the home support told me Newcastle had pulled a goal back yet a 3-1 lead looked safe given the lack of quality in the away forwards.

This didn’t change the tempo or direction of the game and Arsenal carried on attacking with Welbeck in particular not letting the Newcastle keeper nor defence settle with the ball that long.

Santi orchestrating

Santi orchestrating

It was Welbeck’s pressing that let him run onto a pass that set him up for a driving surge, in my direction, to the goal where I could see the clumsy barge that led to the most stone wall of stone wall penalties you will ever see.

Being just five rows from the front I was hoping to have a good view of the penalty and as I saw Santi, like in the FA Cup semi final, wait to take the penalty, but as soon as he started his run all I could see was a sea of raised arms. Luckily the cheer told me we had four and we were mirroring Tuesday’s score line.

Make that two

Make that two

At this point the same voices around me who were critical of the manager pre match were singing:

“One Arsene Wenger”

In the context of what went before I was unable to process this turn of events or make sense of it.

In any case a happy home crowd cheered at the final whistle and Flamini joined the BFG as one of the few players who thanked the crowd before disappearing off down the players tunnel.

The BFG

The BFG

Two wins after the soul destroying defeat in middle Earth at the previous weekend was all that the team could do and one hopes this means the teams form is on the up, or at the very least the fragile recovery is starting.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match; Chary: beware, Tigers poop on pitch

A stoppage time equaliser from Danny Welbeck changed an embarrassing result into a disappointing one as Assem Allam’s Tigers looked on course to snatch three undeserved points from Ashburton Grove.

Before I proceed further I will stress that what I say about the game is from a very tribal, Arsenal-centric point of view so if anyone has stumbled upon this report expecting an objective, balanced view, I politely suggest they “do one” (i.e. go elsewhere).

The overriding impression of Allam’s Tigers is of a team who waste time from five minutes into the game and then feign injury to halt opposition attacks. These tactics, combined with a pliant accomplice in the referee and a weakness in Arsenal’s defensive mind set led to two points being dropped when all three were needed.

We faced our FA Cup final victims for the first time since that epoch ending day in May on a mild October afternoon which whilst grey was far from as autumnal as you would expect and there seemed a closeness and humidity that seemed to stifle the air.

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

The Arsenal lined up as expected at the back with Bellerin replacing Chambers (suspended) who would have replaced Debuchy (injured) at right back and Monreal reprising his Emirates Cup role as centre back.

The midfield also picked itself as the fully fit players started( Wilshere, Flamini and Santi) with the three up top also being the only match fit/in form players, Welbeck, Alexis and The Ox. Arteta and Rosicky were on the bench as expected after their injury doubts but Rambo’s presence on the bench was a fillip as we’ve missed his dynamism when he is on form.

Early chants of

“Who are you ?”

from the HC Tigers fans were answered by:

“2 nil and you effed it up”

in a happy reference to our previous meeting.

An early shot from Santi, attacking the North Bank unusually in the first half, seemed sure to swerve into the top right hand corner but the first goalkeeper used by Ex Man United player coach Steven Bruce managed to palm the shot away.

The next significant action was early reward for a typically energetic and scintillating start to the game by Alexis, who controlled a high ball delivered and larruped a low drive to open the scoring.

Our free scoring Chilean

Our free scoring Chilean

Before the goal, and as noted earlier, Harper in goal for the Tigers was beginning the ritual of time wasting by approaching his goal kicks as if they were ticking bombs to be defused. Sadly the referee for the day marked his card by failing to stamp down on this gamesmanship by his inaction and as the game wore on more and more ludicrous lengths were went to in order to slow Arsenal’s attacks.

After the Alexis strike, surprise surprise, somehow the goal kicks were then taken quickly. Well, well !

It was a result of this that my main worry before the game, of our defence lacking the cohesion of a well-drilled back four that had played together regularly, came to fruition.

A foray down our left flank went virtually unchallenged and the Tigers first attack was rewarded by a goal – first shot, one goal, an infuriating characteristic of Arsenal sides for longer than I care to remember.

Top tier view

Top tier view

Even in the less rowdy upper tier I was in for the game there was fury about the validity of the goal as, after later enquiry, there seemed to be a foul on Flamini in the build up but what compounded this was the Arsenal defenders pausing to protest rather than playing to the whistle.

First test and the defence implode and a cheap equaliser conceded, albeit potentially wrongly allowed due to the foul. We just know that had it been us who’d fouled in the build up to the goal the lino would have gleefully flagged it as such and had it chalked off. Maybe it’s my Arsenal-centric view but it does feel we suffer disproportionately more than average from poor decisions.

Thankfully, the crowd still got behind the team from the restart and the half time jeering was directed at the referee.

The restart was calamitous as the defence and midfield showed a somnambulistic approach to dealing with Allam’s Tigers attack from the whistle. A dreamy, casual attitude in the midfield carried over to the defence as a cross came over from Arsenals left, again, and unfortunately the BFG’s leap was mistimed and allowed Hernandez to nod in to put Arsenal 2-1 down.

It seemed odd to me that I would be more worried about attacks down our right due to Bellerin’s inexperience and yet both goals conceded were from our left. It must be said that young Hector’s performance, his tenacity in the tackle and his good understanding of building an attack, got him many approving cheers all afternoon.

Now the Tiger’s were in front we got the “pooping on the pitch” my report is described as the time wasting went up another level and the tactic of “dying swans in the penalty area” was in full view.

As the Arsenal pushed forward, any chance possible one of the opposition defenders would hurl themselves to the ground and lay on the pitch, and then not move off the playing area as the referee should have ordered them too.

Dawson in particular, as you would expect from an ex-spudd, was guilty of this and when he was eventually made to walk off the pitch for treatment instead of taking the shortest route to the touchline he would take a long lazy arc across the pitch to maximise his meander to the more distant point on the touch line. All this was allowed to happen by the referee (even though Welbeck and Jack were pointing at the nearest touchline for Dawson to go to) who was beginning to lose control of the game.

And the Allam Tigers fans had the shamelessness to shout:

“Same old Arsenal, always cheating”

Their team were taking cheating and gamesmanship to a level only possible by the truly snide.

They were also keeping up their Cup Final habit of advancing six-ten yards further up the pitch on their throw ins and free kicks, but the Arsenal players seemed drilled on this part of the opposition play as they were quick to point out the encroachment and even the incompetent referee of the day had to act on that.

Second half pressure

Second half pressure

For the last twenty minutes the pattern of Arsenal attack-Tigers play acting-Arsenal chance continued into stoppage time of six minutes. The two bright spots in the Arsenal forward play, Alexis and Santi (who was his usual busy, creative/scuttling self, although a bit unlucky when it came to developing attacks) continued to put the opposition under pressure.

The introduction of Joel Campbell seemed to offer something different in our attacks and in the limited time available to him, gave a good account of himself. He seemed to be a bit of a provider/link-up player and not just the target man I thought he was.

Finally the Arsenal equalised when a clever bit of interplay between Alexis and Welbeck resulted in an equaliser that prevented the Arsenal faithful from suffering the hammer blow of a home defeat.

The reaction at the end of the match was muted relief with a tinge of exasperation as to why we allowed ourselves to get into a position where we have to claw back a late equaliser and also at a very late chance not quite going in for Gibbs when it looked like a repeat of the FA Cup Final result was about to happen.

If any satisfaction could be had from the game it was that Allam’s Tigers fans were minutes away from a famous win and that it was taken away from them. For the ethos of their play, and let’s be fair about it, they deserved nothing at all.

There did seem to be murmurs of discontent brewing in the feeling around the grounds after the game, not just with the performance but the squad deficiencies, and it will take a string of good displays to dispel these.

It is now down to the players, manager and club to do that in the coming games.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)