Category Archives: Chary

Unwelcome surprise home defeat to West Ham.

Two smartly taken opportunistic strikes either side of half time condemned a sluggish Arsenal to an opening premier league campaign fixture defeat on a sticky, hot August day in north London.

Having finished the previous season strongly and started pre season well very few Gooners would have predicted a loss to a mid table finishing team like Wham.

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

The mood was therefore suitably upbeat before the game as I took my seat in block 7 (one of the “unofficial” standing areas), however little did I realise that I may have been better off looking at the underside of the red Action banner for the next 90 minutes, rather than what I saw on field.

A different view

A different view

After a bright start, with the Ox impressing with his energetic runs, it really did feel like a goal was imminent. It was also apparent that the Bilic approach to play was to continue from their much curtailled/already finished “European campaign of 2015-15″, namely a fouling/tripping based strategy, as seen by a couple of early yellows.

It’s no wonder their glorious Europa Cup run saw three red cards for Wham in their 5 July games. Looking at the crude and vulgar gesticulations and antics of Bilic on the sidelines today they also have a manager who will be regularly sent to the stands this season.

Team wise the only surprise may have been Debuchy in place of Bellerin at right back and the presence of Alexis on the bench, for emergency use only presumably.

After early chances came and were missed frustration did begin to creep into the part of the North Bank lower I was in and although the usual suspects were being targetted, Özil and Olly, for me the key miss was Santi, who had one of those games where his influence was minor. When Santi’s twinkle toes are not playing a big part in our game, you know we are having a bad day.

And so it turned out, however before then two myths have to busted.

Firstly, excessive complaining about the failings of our team and NOT the sole preserve of the so called excessive entitlement younger generations as an octogenarian fan behind me was on the back of the team within 10 minutes of the start. Everyone was rubbish; they were too slow or too fast, they should have done “X” with the ball and not “Y” – at one point i was sure his false teeth were going to fly out, such was the venom of his barracking.

So when Wham scored after Cech made a ricket (aka total balls up) of collecting a cross the mood plunged and the home competitive debut of our sole summer signing (so far) was consigned to the “Day to forget” pile.

After a few minutes the home support gathered themselves and urged the team on again and the expectancy was that the second half would see an equaliser.

Little did we contemplate a defensive mix up leading to gifting possession to Wham soon after the restart would double the visitors lead.

And so onto the second myth to be busted: how good the Wham support is.

Aside from some applause at kick off the away support was barely heard till the second goal, when at last the latest batch of queue jumpers on Newham Coucil’s Housing list decided to rouse themselves from their afternoon slumbers.

While the home support is generally soporific, most of the away fans I have seen showed significantly better support and volume levels. The Eagles supporters, at the first fixture of last season, were far and away better supporters as they sang all the way through even though Crystal Palace lost the game – a far superior demonstration of away support

What followed was a final balf hour of amateur time wasting and frantic attacks by the Arsenal forwards which broke down, and led to much howling and clasping of heads by the dejected home support.

Olly takes one for the team

Olly takes one for the team

A long delay after a clash of heads involving Olly, plus 5 substitutions only 5 minutes of added time, when at least 7 seemed likely, seemed to sum up the Gunners luck.

Even the late introduction of Alexis couldn’t scare up a goal for the Arsenal, expecting him to be match sharp this early is beyond ridiculous

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and subdued applause for the team showing that two trophies in two seasons gets you some goodwill with the fans, but how long this lasts will be proved by the reaction to this result from the team.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

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)

Man at the match; Chary: Early season Gunners reappear as Alexis to the rescue

Two contrasting pieces of class finishing from Arsenal’s early season saviour Alexis allowed a slightly shaky performance from the Cup holders to overcome Reading and reach a record 19th FA Cup final.

A sunny, but bracing and windy, mid-April Saturday took me back to similar conditions at last years semi-final against Wigan, however pre game there was no thought of it being as problematic today as it was then.

After a few lagers at the Green Man pub to settle the matchday nerves it was a meandering walk to my seat.

Drinks at The Green Man

After ascending many flights of stairs I took my seat and registered that Reading had taken up their full allocation, quite a feat when their average crowds are 14,000 on average, less than half their allotted seats.

Where did the extra 17,500 come from ?

Team line up wise there was no surprise in the Arsenal end when Chesney was in goal however a little surprise at both Gibbs and Debuchy usurping the incumbent full backs.

Red Actions match day banner

A bright start from the Arsenal saw Welbeck almost run onto a through ball successfully and bear down on goal.

The gulf in class between the number 2 premier league side and one from the lower reaches of the Championship began to show as Arsenal applied steady pressure and the Royals back line began to creak.

Gunners turn the screw

While Santi appeared to be having one of his less effective games the Arsenal midfield was palpably of higher quality than their Berkshire opponents with Özzy pulling the strings nicely for Alexis to rampage upfield with the only worry in team play were a few clangers from Gibbs, who was understandably ring rusty.

That aside the first half hour saw Arsenal retain and dominate possession to the extent that the Reading goal’s charmed life finally ran out of luck when a blur of speed from Alexis in the penalty box, after an exquisite floated pass from Özzy resulted in Arsenal taking the lead.

Alexis scores

Thus Arsenal score first and therefore the Gooners at Wembley could relax over half time.

The second half started with as little lethargy from Arsenal and the worrying aspect of both fullbacks deciding to maraud forward at inopportune moments – one such lapse forced Chesney into a poor clearance from a scuffed back pass which led to a throw in. From this throw in down our right came a lofted cross to the other side of the goalkeepers box where Gibbs failed to track Reading’s McCleary who slid in to volley an equaliser.

This woke the blue and white hordes – who to the casual observer would think purchased their home shirts from the English equivalent of a slightly up market Walmart, namely Waitrose – from their first half slumbers.

It was at this point the notion of changing 3 components of your back 5 from the start (which became 4 when the BFG was subbed off for Gabriel) would affect your defensive stability hit home.

Arsenal regrouped and carried on pushing forward and once Olly Giroud was brought on the Reading goal was under more and more threat. Olly’s first intervention was to win a clearance and get a free kick, although Welbeck worked hard he is still not at the polished level of our number 12 just yet.

Frustratingly a combination of the post/crossbar and some great saves by Federeci consigned the semi final to extra time which seemed to suit Arsenal more as our more potent attack would surely penetrate the opposition goal.

As the first half of extra time drew to a close wave after wave of shots and attacks were fruitless when, quite unexpectedly, yet another surging run from Alexis caught the Wembley crowd out.

From where I sat it seemed Alexis had run into a dead end with his back to me as he charged forward yet he turned around and wheeled in celebration. I looked to my fellow Gooners on either side of me, all of us unsure as to whether he had scored or not.

A pause and seconds later, it seemed Alexis had scored so we could celebrate going ahead, at a morale sapping (for the opposition) point – the last moments of the first half of extra time.

Now the Alexis’ chant, a choice which won’t please all I suspect, went up:

Alexis, Alexis babbbyyy

Alexis, Alexis , wooo-ow-oh-oh !

(to the tune of the chorus of “Don’t you want me” by Human League)

The second half of extra time had the supporters cursing our cavalier defending and Reading had quite a few big chances to score, which only a combination of their lack of quality forwards and luck prevented a second equaliser.

The openness of the game meant Arsenal should really have scored a third, with Theo Walcott providing late attacking impetus, however the long suffering Gooner nation were spared another FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot out as the whistle blew and we could look forward to returning to Wembley for the final.

Relieved Arsenal at full time

Final thoughts – we need to play better than we did today at the final if we want to retain the trophy but we every chance to regain our defensive shape until the final but I suspect the choice of goalkeeper may not be an easy one to make as Chesney didn’t inspire confidence today.

Still we are in the final and more silverware beckons while the season is still rising to a decent climax.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)