Category Archives: Chary

Man at the match, Chary: The ecstasy and the agony – last gasp Flamini tragedy

A horrendous ricochet in the Arsenal goal mouth in the last minute of ordinary time allowed the Swans to grab a draw after the Arsenal took the lead with two quick second half strikes, following a first half goal for the visitors.

A re arranged fixture, from February, saw Arsenal try to regain some League composure after the annihilation suffered at the bus stop in Fulham at the weekend.

A bigger environmental difference there couldn’t have been compared to the previous home fixture, the Saturday lunchtime FA Cup draw which was played out in spring sunshine and warmth.

On this occasion a bitter wind blew around Ashburton Grove and was felt by me especially in the upper tier, Clock End where I took my seat and looked to gauge the mood of the crowd.

The general consensus was that only the FA cup and a fourth place spot would be enough to prevent serious disquiet amongst the fan base, an opinion voiced by various voices up and down the Holloway road, after the match, whether by the door man at The Bailey pub or the girlfriends of Arsenal supporting blokes trying to rationalise what the season had become.

The Welsh contingent of supporters we’re largely quiet until they scored, quite odd for supposedly hard core away support; and when they did sing it was in their native tongue which no one else understood or wanted to understand.

They came from the Valleys

They came from the Valleys

The home side started the first half with tentative moves attacking the goal at the Clock End however it was clear their confidence had been shaken by the effects of the previous game.

Santi corner

Santi corner

The corners that were gained came to naught, even Santi was affected by this hesitancy as many of his deliveries failed to pass the first man.

Another predictable side effect of the previous game was whenever Gibbs got on the ball the “Come on The Ox” calls were heard.

From virtually the first Swansea attack a lofted cross resulted in the opening Swansea goal, to my eyes it looked like the BFG was out jumped and that Chesney was rooted to his spot by the subsequent header; two poor pieces of play one might say.

Cue the Welsh corner waking up and time wasting from the Swansea goalie.

It was gratifying to see that the home crowd whistle at any suggestion of time wasting by the opposition goalie as was seen soon after the Swansea goal which has not always been the case. This seemed to have some effect as by about the half hour mark Vorm’s time wasting seemed to have been curtailed.

Going into half time, while Arsenal probed and pushed for an opening the frustration was kept in check even though there was a short burst of booing on 45 minutes that could not be dismissed.

With the start of the second half Arsenal seemed to be knocking at the door of an opening and the Swansea goal lived a charmed life due to good saves from Vorm or threaded through balls just failing to find Olly or whichever of the midfielders had dared to go forwards, usually this would be Rosický was the most attack minded.

Whilst the Ox was having a mixed game, occasionally looking dangerous and then trying some heart attack passes, he was surprisingly taken off not much later than 10 minutes into the second half and replaced by The Pod.

Lukas soon made an impact as just as the frustration at the over-elaboration of many attacks was starting to peak a quick advance by Gibbs, running towards the North Bank, was followed by a cross the pod latched onto and scored the equaliser.

The relief all around was topped when, seconds later Olly poked home to put the home side in front and stun the away support.

A nervy win looked on the cards so then on came Källström for Rosický and in the short time he played he seemed to keep it simple, intercept well and make some no nonsense clearances as well as some clever medium range passes. It would’ve have been great to see what his set piece delivery was like as the team are in dire need of someone who can hit a decent free kick.

As some of the early departees set off with the score at 2-1 it looked like the Arsenal were pushing for a third yet the vulnerability of a counterattack was there.

Swansea were happy to take long range strikes and one shot from Shelvey, his bald shining pate glistening in the floodlights, arced away from goal three quarters of the way through its flight, so the warning signs were there. There was no shortage of quick passing and energetic bursts forward from the Swansea attackers as they fought for a way back into the game.

A late break down our left flank, which appeared to follow a straight channel in the line of my sight, saw some neat passing result in some penalty are space for a Swansea forward; a misunderstanding between BFG, Chesney and Flamini saw a combination of unlucky deflections guide the ball into the Arsenal goal. On no, I thought, a Desmond (as in Tutu/2-2), horrendous.

In the moment Flamini’s head dropped, as he realised we’d dropped two points, the pathos of his reaction made me realise how much it hurt him, and I felt sorry for him.

I admire his street fighting, terrier-like tenacity and he’s the last player I’d want to suffer such a crushing piece of bad luck.

A body blow and the chap in the row in front of me, who had seemed to be developing a migraine with the frustration of watching our play deteriorate during the game, whacked his chair shut in frustration as the net rippled below us.

The nature of the crowd was a touch more schizoid than in previous games because, for example, at the restart after the equaliser and seeing 4 minutes of injury time being signalled there was a surge in crowd volume urging us on to score a third yet when forward play broke down groans and unhappy declarations of a players, or the whole team, incompetence rang out all through the game.

Despite the clear need to score the Arsenal pressure failed to be decisive in the final third; this highlighted the need for a top line striker to scare opposing defenders with his trickery. Olly is not that type of striker and despite his goal on the night replacing him with Sanogo did not change the attacking threat.

At the final whistle the away team were still looking dangerous on the counter attack but the score stayed at 2-2 and some kind of fracas kicked off amongst the Swansea players and match officials.

Final whistle melee

Final whistle melee

Plaintive chants of

“Wemb-ley, Wember-ley”

intermingled with murmurings of discontent as the Arsenal supporters filed out at full time and slowly, and fitfully, merged and dissolved into the chill night air.

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

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)