Category Archives: Chary

Man at the match, Chary: The Ox and Giroud set up Wembley date

A twice taken Arteta penalty proved to be the turning point, after Everton’s on loan Chelsea player Lukaku equalised an early Özzy strike, after which Giroud’s brace set the Arsenal on the way to a Wembley FA Cup semi-final.

Spring appeared to have finally sprung in London as the locals greeted the blue skies and lack of rain with surprise and relief. Southern England had become a saturated sponge over the course of the mild yet wet winter, but today the green shoots of recovery in the weather were mirrored by encouraging signs from the team who had disappointingly lost last weekend to the Orcs of Middle Earth.

A detour around the environs of London N5 preceding meeting up with this blogs gaffer, Tim, pre match was a pleasure and we while we both feared Everton’s undoubted quality we hoped his “good luck charm” effect continued to work this year, as it had on his previous annual pilgrimages to watch The Arsenal.

Wenger kept to his policy of using Flappy as his Cup keeper but surprisingly started Sanogo and less surprisingly had to use Vermaelen to stand in for the unfit Kozzer.

As expected Özzy returned to the starting line-up and it was his cool finish, after being set up by Santi’s surging run and pass through the middle of the park after around ten minutes that gave the home side the early lead.

Replays on the big screen showed what the goal meant to Özzy as unusually I was in the North Bank lower this time (and not the clock End) and as the goal was scored at the Clock End and I had a rather distant view of it.

Distant shot after Ozzy goal

Normally the away side would go into their shell after conceding early yet the Toffees seemed to have an extra energy and bite about their mid field that only increased and made it look like they had an extra man in midfield. It also seemed that whenever the ball bounced in midfield it went to a player in blue. In the first half the energy and running they showed hadn’t been matched by any other team that I’d seen at Ashburton Grove this season.

Everton appeared to target our left flank as they viewed Gibbs/Santi/Özzy’s side of the pitch as being more vulnerable. One of these runs led to Özil having to track back the player and make a clearance virtually level with our goal line.

Surely this can’t be what we bought him for?

It was a run, around the half hour mark, into this flank from Barkley that led to a possibly offside Mirallas turning a ball across the face of the Arsenal goal that Lukaku chipped/tapped into the net.

His subsequent diversion of his goal celebration run from in front of the goal to behind it to goad the Arsenal fans with his ear cupping gesture tells you all you need to know about a player schooled in the Chelsea way by the grand master of lizards, the specious eye gouger himself, José Mário Mourinho.

A blue smoke bomb went off soon after the equaliser, courtesy of the loveable Scouse scallies.
Understandably the home crowd quietened to absorb the disappointment but, and as I’ve noticed this season, the resilience of the on pitch performance enhances that of the crowds support. Quite soon the home support got behind the team and some more Santi and Ox drives and numerous corners meant the half time whistle was followed by encouraging applause.

At half time pat Rice made a pitch side appearance with the warmth of his reception showing how the club and its supporters honour the valued servants of the club. A certain Van Judas, complete with the whinging little boy inside, take note.

Credit where it’s due as some of the Everton supporters joined in the applause as Pat walked off the pitch.
By the time the second half started those of us in the North Bank lower had been directly in the sun for over an hour and were feeling a little lethargic however a bright start by Arsenal shook us out of our half time slothfulness.

While it looked like individually none of our midfield were having a bad game, and The Ox was irrepressible, it appeared the whole was less than the sum of the parts; based on who we had out there the home side should have had a better grip on the match and the midfield in particular.

Santi corner

Santi corner

Santi’s scampering running style is noticeable anywhere on the pitch, which is saying something for someone with as poor eyesight as me, and his hard work all over the pitch doesn’t go unnoticed, it’s no wonder he’s a fan favourite.

To my (not very good)eyes The Ox running directly at the lumbering Everton centre back pairing was always going to cause alarm for the away team especially when they were being shielded by the lumpen Gareth Barry.

Sure enough an Ox run at Barry saw him swipe out the Arsenal forward yards in front of me and as he slid onto his knees after being upended the ref, Clattenburg, pointed to the spot.

Being 3 rows from the front my views of the penalties were obscured, I could tell the first had been converted but then I saw Clattenburg make square shaped hand gestures and the scoreboard take the score back from 2-1 to 1-1 and then bizarrely Giroud (who had come on for the hard working but “unpolished” Sanogo) was shown a yellow card; as ever Clattenburg wanted to be the centre of the show.

The tension in the North Bank lower grew as Arteta settled down to retake the penalty; relief as Mikel held his nerve a second time to put Arsenal deservedly into the lead.

Yes, we ARE 2-1 up now!

Yes, we ARE 2-1 up now!

The introduction of Rosický for the tiring Ox seemed to add extra urgency to Arsenal’s forward play and added to Everton becoming more open as they chased the game, more chances for Arsenal wrre created.

My experience of the North bank lower was the support was generally more raucous, having said that I had two middle aged, white haired bearded gents to my right who spent most of the match gently sipping tea and murmuring the odd comment to each other. Strangely they also left early so they missed the Giroud brace that put paid to all the nonsense being written about his off field problems affecting his on field performance.

He scores/s**gs when he wants

He scores/s**gs when he wants

It annoys me that the British press see it fit to take a voyeuristic interest in Giroud’s private life, you wonder if the hacks are some kind of peeping Tom voyeurs.

His connections with crosses from Sagna and Özzy gave the score line a satiating and confidence boosting look and led to my crowd highlight of the match.
Quotes:

Que se-raa, se-ra, whatever will be, will be.

We’re going to Wember-ley, que ser-aa sera.

The gusto and volume with which the North Bank lower sang that gave me a spine tingling moment and was a satisfying response to the “We shall not, we shall not be moved” chants we heard from the blue corner after their first half equaliser.

Loyal Everton fans ALL staying to the end

Loyal Everton fans ALL staying to the end

At the final whistle you could see how much it meant to the players to be just two wins away from a trophy, this was a symptom of the urgency with which the players urged each other on and kept each other at the top of their game during the match.

We've got a BFG

We’ve got a BFG

As Per walked in front of us, showing a right handed fist pump as HIS song was sung, the crowd sensed perhaps this could be our year.

In any case what better way to prepare for a trip to, arguably, the best club side in the world on Tuesday?

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Man at the match, Chary: The Ox swats Palace aside

A well taken second half brace by the deserved man of the match Alex Oxlade Chamberlain took three points off a hard-working, but fairly uninventive Palace side in the first game of a packed February fixture list for the Good guys of Ashburton Grove.

Buoyed by the sight of the ‘dippers dropping two points at the Baggies, courtesy of a Toure clanger (“Kolo is a Gooner” was sung in the pre match drinking bar with gusto”), the arrival of Tony Pullis’s (yes, HIM again) Palace was an opportunity for the Arsenal to extend the lead over fourth place Liverpool and put pressure on the Oil Slick teams ahead of their Monday match, the battle of the sugar daddies.

The mood of the crowd was a little subdued, partly as Crystal Palace are a team who are hard to get excited about and the lack of a transfer signing of note to get the crowd buzzing. As usual Red Action were passing a banner around the North Bank end, a nice spectacle and a worthy attempt to generate some pre match atmosphere in my opinion.

The 49ers

The 49ers

The only selection latitude Wenger had today was in the choice of left back so Nacho Monreal was given the starting berth over Gibbs.

Taking my usual spot behind the goal at the clock end I was close to the away supporters and quickly it became apparent they were one of those sets of fans who need a drum to keep their singing going.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea-gles !

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea-gles !

Which prompted the Clock End to ask:

“Who’s the w****r, who’s the w****r, who’s the w****r with the drum?”

Not only was the incessant thwacking of the bass drum annoying, but it made me think perhaps the Club had missed a trick by allowing them permission to bring a drum in. Why help the away support to create a better atmosphere for their players to the detriment of the home team?

The opening minutes of the game confirmed what I suspected that for all the talk of Pullis making Palace a better side it was 10 behind the ball for nearly all the time and packing the midfield.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a team with so little attacking intent or creativity and one quite happy just to play a deep line and have no forward ambition. Yes, Palace worked extremely hard but after that there was nothing, nearly all forward forays ended in misplaced or overshot passes betraying a paucity of attacking talent.

Sagna drives forward

Sagna drives forward

For The Arsenal Santi was a live wire and buzzing with energy and forward drive and as I had been reading about Podolski’s laziness after the Saints game I kept an eye out for his off the ball work rate. To my eyes there was nothing wrong with the work rate Lucas offered and his direct runs were an effective contrast to the intricate passes Özzy, Santi, Olly and the Ox were offering up in the final third.

An early Monreal cross shot was followed up by free kick chances served up by Özzy and Santi as the Arsenal’s strength, the creative midfield, exerted it’s superiority over a palpably inferior Palace midfield.

Nil nil at half time and muted cheers for the effort expended by the boys in red and white, no panic yet.

Arsenal started the second half at a visibly higher passing speed and even though they attacked the North Bank end at the far end of the stadium from me, I could see the increased sense of urgency.

A couple of minutes in and a Santi Cazorla through ball to our number 15 the Ox and a lob from him seemed to be going over, but it dips at the last minute and ruffles the net.

The Ox strikes

Phew, 1 nil up!

A relief, and even the wretched away supporters drummer missed a few beats.

For a moment the old Arsenal returned straight after the first goal as a rare Palace up field sortie needed Chesney to save with his knees to stop a very undeserved equaliser.

But this Arsenal has a bit more steel in defence nowadays and after that cardiac arrest moment the solid pairing of the BFG and Kozzer calmed the nerves allowing the Ox to grow in confidence and began to have more influence on the game.

As usual Podolski was taken off and replaced by an unmasked Tomáš Rosický (the protective facial shielding deemed not necessary now) who immediately injected a bit more life in the midfield.

A neat bit of hold up play by Olly fed the ball to the Ox who, even though he was a long way from me, his acceleration was obvious and he surged into the penalty area to rifle in his second of the game. This young man seems to be our main pacey alternative in the absence of Theo until Gnabry gains a bit more experience.

Chamakh was subbed off and he got a respectful applause from the home support as he trotted off – the class you’d expect from our support. Big time Bendtner came on for the knackered Olly came on and very nearly got the ire of the home support, who had cheered him onto the pitch, by losing posession in our penalty area but he then won it back and set up an attack. Boo boys averted !

The game wound down and as home support began to leave early we had the Palace fans say:

“We are Crystal Palace, we stay to the end, we stay to the eee-end, we are Crystal Palace, we stay to the end”

- Not strictly true as I saw a steady trickle of them leave from 80 minutes onwards – so there!

The BFG thanks the Gooners

The BFG thanks the Gooners

So three points, top of the table and it’s over to CSKA Fulham tomorrow to take points off Abu Dhabi FC, if we can get over the feeling of sordidness we’ll all need to be Chavski fans for an evening.
UTA!

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Öoops Özzy

Man at the Match, Chary: Jack gets the job done

A goal in each half, from a Jack Wilshere in smoking hot form, meant the Arsenal finished their work for the evening on top of their Champions League group although not quite guaranteed qualification into the next round.

Many of the Ashburton Grove faithful had barely settled into their seats (yours truly included) when the first home attack of the night caught the French team napping. I was seated in the lower tier behind the goal in the clock end and had a close up view of Jack opening his body and curling the quick fire first goal beyond the flailing keeper. Were Marseille Totn**b in disguise as they conceded so quick?

Are you Totn**mb in disguise?

“Are you Totn**mb in disguise?”

Any hopes of an upset in the away end seemed to die right there and while they carried on singing pretty much the whole way through, apparently aided by one Joseph Anthony Barton who was in their ranks, there was little sustained interest in how the game was going from the travelling support.

That said it appeared to me that Marseille were very much snapping into tackles, their midfielders seeming to have an elastic/bouncy running and tackling style, and harrying Arsenal in possession with the good guys fighting back to gain possession energetically.

While there was not much of note from the Marseille fans, an ill-advised decision to wear what looked like a team onesie from the Marseille coach caused me much mirth.

Team Onesie

Team Onesie

There was also much laughing at the referee’s wardrobe malfunction accompanied by wolf whistles when he his shirt was being seen to.

Selection wise Monreal for Gibbs while Arteta and Cazorla benched were the only changes with Jack and Flamini replacing them.

The presence of Flamini was the main reason that, in contrast to seasons gone by, a one goal lead was seen as very slender and we would concede a goal to a counter attack. I noticed that straight after an attack had failed or finished our returning ex-Marseille man would wave his arms to his team mates and shout for them to get back to their positions and not dwell on the missed chance.

THAT is the sort of protection he has been giving the back four; think how many times in the past after shot was saved by the opposition the goalie would bowl out the ball and the opposition forwards would run through the middle of the pitch unhindered. Not so much now thanks to Flamini and a more responsible defensive attitude from all midfielders.

This, to my eyes, accounts for the more relaxed attitude of the home crowd with just a goal lead to defend and hence the atmosphere being less fractious than in the past.

So when Özzy had his penalty saved, note not “missed his penalty”, their groans were minimal.

Öoops Özzy

Öoops Özzy

In fact, as the penalty incident was just in front of the block I was in, most of the crowd thought it was outside the area and we had the rare feeling of getting a penalty when none was deserved rather than the familiar rage when we are usually denied stonewall penalties.

Giroud had various chances to double the lead in the first half but the ball didn’t quite sit up for him yet the crowd would still sing his song after a failed shot. His tireless work in the offensive and defensive parts of the field accounts is probably why any of his fluffed shots aren’t followed by groans.

Half time arrived and the crowd happy although wistfully wishing perhaps a few more goals for the good guys would have been nice.

You don't get these at Shite Hart Lane

Half time

With their onesie clad managers words no doubt ringing in their ears the Marseille players seemed to play with more urgency straight after the restart however Arsenal’s slightly more combative tackling approach, I don’t recall ever seeing quite so many sliding tackles from us, gradually eroding away the Olympique de Marseille’s bright start to the second half.

I recall one instance where Tomáš Rosický sprinted across the pitch to dispossess a Marseille midfielder and it was just as well he got the ball as it could have been taken for a lunge otherwise.

With arsenal attacking the end far away from me there was not much action at the Clock end in the second half, except for a few smart saves from Chesney, who seems to be having consistently better games this season.

Another player who had a good game was Nacho man Monreal.

He can defend half the pitch in his own

Lone Nachoman

It’s easy pick out how well he provides width on our left flank for attacks but his goal line clearance to keep a clean sheet, after Chesney’s partial block from a Gignac shot spun up and over the Pole towards the goal, was excellent defensive work.

I could see his eyes follow the arc of the ball, rather like a cricketer in the outfield waiting to catch a lofted shot, as it fell towards the goal so he could volley it clear. All defensive units like a clean sheet and thanks he got from the BFG and Chesney was proof of that.

Özzy seemed to put aside his penalty mishap and pull the strings more in midfield leading to his part in Jack’s second goal. Yes, he is having a little dip in form but still his importance the team cannot be underestimated, every team shudders a but when they see him prowling the midfield, and opposition supporters fear him.

In my previous game, the Capitol One Cup game versus Chelsea, the obnoxious Chelsea fans stopped their vile chanting when Özzy came on as a sub and seemed to be caught by surprise.

Arsenal bringing on a superstar? No, they can’t do that. (That game may have been lost but the Chelsea crowd reaction was something I’d not seen before and worth pointing out).

As the game wound down Theo and Santi came on for Jack and Rosický while after Marseille had already brought on Valbuena and Thauvin.

The new defensive responsibility was further exemplified by Santi tussling to get the ball off Valbuena; the sight of those two sprinting for the loose ball looked like Sports day at Oompah Loompah school.

The game petered out and the crowd were happy at full time with the result with confusion over whether the Dortmund- Napoli result, when it was read out, was good or bad news.

However all agreed Mourinho’s Chavs defeat at the hands of Basel was hilarious.

Onwards and upwards, UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)