Category Archives: Chary

Man at the Match, Chary: Arsenal Out-stoke Stoke to go top of the table

After conceding an unlucky equaliser to an Aaron Ramsey opening goal Arsenal’s defenders stepped up to put the game beyond Stoke with two more goals from set pieces to ease Arsenal to the top of the table.

Having held Man City to a nil all bore draw at home last time out Stoke were fancied by some in the media to take a “plucky” point from the soft, southern boys from London.

An hour or so before kickoff a welcoming committee of fans were out in force with their number 11 shirts to welcome the umlauted ex Real Madrid playmaker, M Özil.

In front of the Armoury

In front of the Armoury

The weather for the game was as you’d expect for late autumn in southern England, overcast with a light wind and a temperature around the twenty degree mark. Not ideal for rugby but better for football, no prizes for guessing which team would choose to which sport to play.

A rather unwelcome surprise just before kick-off was the news that Theo was out, not even in the squad, due to an, unspecified at the time, injury and young Serge Gnabry was to step into the breach on the right wing.

The early pattern of crowd behaviour set the tone of the game: the Stoke fans would chant their worship of chief Orc Ryan Sha***ss, from the second minute onward as I noted, and the aforementioned Orc’s every touch would be greeted by boos/whistles from the home supporters(and me of course) all game long. This happened to such a degree that he didn’t seem to want to dwell on the ball.

All the pre match excitement had been about Özil’s home debut and the script could not have gone better for him as the first of many fouls committed by one of Stoke’s lumpen defenders resulted in a free kick that Mesut stepped up to take.

Having deliberately placed the ball yards in front of me at the corner flag of the Clock End and the west stand the ball was swung in by our £42.4m man.

Waiting for Özil's free kick to come in

Waiting for Özil’s free kick to come in

The ball dropped into the penalty area and Begovic, in goal for Stoke, seemed to have it covered yet amazingly it popped out and one of our players pounced to lash in the spilled ball. When I realised it was Rambo the arced run to the opposite corner flag, in front of the away support, made sense.

Never has “One Aaron Ramsey” been sung with such gusto and vehemence in the face of the away support who were still holding him responsible for psychological damage to their ‘ickle Captain.

How to silence the Stoke supporters

How to silence the Stoke supporters

For most of the first half the Arsenal midfield kept a strong hold of the game with Flamini’s bow legged running style combining well with Ramsey’s athletic all action brand of midfieldmanship. While all the attention was on our star signing Flamini added some strength to the team and impressed me to the extent it could have been like watching our midfield of 2008.

Later in the game he would pump his fists at the crowd to ask for their help in keeping the tempo up by urging the team on, to which the crowd responded – he seems to have been forgiven for the manner of his departure. If he carries performing as he has and I will cheer him on as much as I would Santi, Prince Poldi, Kozzer or anyone else who busts a gut for the team.

Then came the undeserved Stoke equaliser, from a long diagonal ball (how often do Arsenal get undone by those?) that luckily fell onto the boot of an onrushing Stoke forward who half volleyed his shot onto the post. Six inches to the left and Chesney had it covered, six inches to the right and it goes wide, but bang in the middle it ricochets off the post precisely into the path of another Stoke player who barely had to change his stride pattern to rifle his shot in.

This transformed the away section into a mob with incomprehensible chants (they sang the Spud’s song “When the Spurs go marching in” and the Rugby union song “Swing high, swing low” just to revel in their notoriety as a rugby team playing in a football league) where before they didn’t have much to say.

Now in seasons gone past the Ashburton Grove crowd would have transmitted their nervousness to the team with groans, but from the resumption “Come on arsenal” was the message.

Soon enough Gnabry’s growing confidence, after being slightly overawed at the start of the game, led him to run the channels enough to force a corner which was to be taken by you know who.

Taking a corner

Taking a corner

An Özil outswinger led to a back flicked sort of header from the BFG that looped into goal to rightly restore the Arsenal’s lead, cue the “Who are you?” shouts eyes right to the away section that was silenced again, 2-1 to the good guys.

The second half started a bit slower and yet the Arsenal’s midfield still exerted a control on the game although Chesney did have to make some important saves. Stoke did push forward a bit more but their lack of quality showed in the number of through passes that led nowhere and overhit crosses that went into touch, appropriate to a team of rugger players.

It has to repeated that I’m proud of the way that every touch the Stoke skipper took was greeted by boos – this is what home support should be all about, make it uncomfortable for opposition players. So when the Sh*****ss showed dissent to the lino in front of me for giving a goal kick rather than a Stoke corner, most of my section got up with me to wave arms and shout at the number 17 to stop arguing and get on with it.

This led to him getting a talking to from Mike Dean as he was alerted to the dissent by the home supporters reaction, kudos my gooners!

A word for the referee, for once he had little effect on the game by making any incorrect decisions so perhaps Mike Dean is turning over a new leaf and being the impartial enforcer of the rules he should always have been.

While Wishere was being prepared to be subbed, and yours truly was trying to ascertain who were the other three parts of our double substitution, another Özil free kick was being lined up; as it was at the North Bank end of the stadium, opposite to where I was, I saw little of the goal other than Sagna’s run to the corner flag and celebration.

Distant fuzzy shot of Sagna's goal celeb

Distant fuzzy shot of Sagna’s goal celeb

So three goals from three set pieces – against the team who are set piece specialists – who’d a thunk it ?

A welcome return to the ranks for the man with Lego perfect hair, Arteta, was the only further incident on the pitch, while off it the sight of flailing arms amongst the away section pointed to some ejections from the ground. So Stoke supporters start fighting amongst themselves and they get chucked out, who knew?

Three satisfying points

Three satisfying points

At the final whistle while Arsenal fans could bask in the view from the top of the table while the journey back to Mordor was about to start for “Sparky” Hughes’ team and their supporters.

Three points earned and returning first team players on the horizon, a satisfying way to finish September, UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Relegation is hard to stomach

Man at the Match, Chary: Arsenal rain on Wigan’s parade

Despite the award of a free kick for a non-foul that led to an undeserved Wigan equaliser to Podolski’s early strike, Arsenal bit back in the second half to score 3 goals in a 15 minute spell and trounce championship bound Wigan.

As the rain came down in relentless sheets on the red corner of North London the Arsenal faced up to a Wigan side fresh from a giant killing of Roberto Mancini’s former team, Manchester City.

The neon lighting around the Ashburton Grove stadium combined with the heavy bursts of rain to give the look of a Blade Runner inspired backdrop but with a cool autumnal feel despite it being mid-May.

With all but the ever injured Abou Diaby available for selection the major choices for Wenger would have been whether Gibbs and Flappy would return to the starting XI at the expense of Monreal and Chesney, with the latter having done nothing to deserve being dropped, in the event the return of Gibbs was the only change.

Wigan’s support were squeezed into one block, rather than the three away clubs normally get probably due to their supporters opting for the Wembley fixture of their 2 London dates in the space of four days.

Wigan squeezed  into 1 block

As the game kicked off the Wigan danger man McManaman was given license to run their right wing however it was clear early on that Gibbs had the measure of him – Kieran’s anticipation of his interplay with Maloney prevented anything of consequence developing offense wise for Wigan.

While there was a little tension in the air around the stadium Gooners would have done well to realise that Wigan’s defence has been leaky most of the season and so it was to prove. A cross into their box was headed in, with little challenge from the Wigan defenders, by Podolski to put the good guys one up fairly early. Due to Arteta losing the toss we attacked the North bank in the first half, and not the second as is usual, so my view on the goal was a distant one as I was in the Clock end lower tier.

The rain carried on saturating the players and the pitch and possibly Mike Dean’s brain as he gave the first of two Wigan free kicks for fouls of what seemed to be of minimal contact and close to the edge of our penalty area.

The first of the free kicks went into the wall and ricocheted off in my direction to the right of the goal but the second 30 seconds before half time beat Chesney’s left hand.

The sense of injustice of an equalising goal coming from the “Dean effect” galvanised the crowd and the aforementioned official and his team left the pitch to a justified chorus of boos and whistles.

The atmosphere at the stadium could have gone one of two ways in the second half – either nervous anxiety or defiance and support of a team that deserved to be winning. It went the second way and it has to be said the way the crowd got behind the team and didn’t let the officials get any respite from home crowd pressure or the timewasting by the Wigan players (the goalie, who was given the countdown, or the player who got booked for slowing down the taking of the corner) go unnoticed.

The Arsenal were now attacking the goal in front of me and it seemed the team were being energised by the crowd to get the win that was rightfully theirs with Cazorla being effective in decisive bursts.

Goalmouth melee

All of a sudden he was running towards me, down our right wing, and a cross was slung in towards Theo. At that point time appeared to slow:

Oh, it’s bobbling around in there, wouldn’t it be nice if Theo got onto that, but wait the goalie has ploughed into him, that’s a penalty surely, never mind it’s a goal now as he’s bundled it in!

It was nothing more than Arsenal deserved and the crowd felt the vindication of taking a lead that was lawfully theirs.

About 25 minutes or so to go, would we hold onto the lead? Moments later, all of a sudden Podolski latched onto a through ball from Santi, who I think took advantage of napping by the Wigan defence to send in a quick cross, and Lukas duly lobbed the floundering Joel in the Latics goal.

Pod's second

Relief! A two goal buffer, one that this more defensively resilient Arsenal would surely hold onto. However yet another telling through ball from Santi set off Rambo on a marauding left wing run, which just as I saw the whites of his eyes he flashed them to the side and curled in a delicious goal past the keeper who was expecting him to cross, and made it four goals for Arsenal. After another lung busting performance in a dynamic midfield the supporters to a man were elated for Aaron, who thoroughly deserved to score

Rambo goal golf

A few late subs saw Jack return; he suffered his first foul (one that Dean even called) after being on the field for five seconds and our skipper come on after Oxo.

4-1, a decisive score line and one that started the exits of the bedraggled Wigan supporters to begin their long journey up north to Lancashire, where they would contemplate life in the Championship come August. To the Arsenal supporters credit when the Wigan team went to clap their fans at the final whistle they also applauded the team and their remaining fans.

Relegation is hard to stomach

The chants of “We’re coming for you, we’re coming for yoooo—uuu, Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you” rang out at fulltime and while the job is not finished the home season ended on a high note and the lap of appreciation was warmly received and all thoughts would then be focused on final fixture against Newcastle.

Lap of appreciation

It’s been a rough old season and your humble scribe hopes you enjoyed this season’s reports and looks forward to a win on Sunday to salvage a season that started off inauspiciously.

UTA!

By Charybdis1966, on Youtube and Twitter.

Man at the Match, Chary: Relegation threatened Reading brushed aside

A confident Arsenal team, following two convincing away wins, returned to Ashburton Grove to ease past a Reading side suffering from the heat of a relegation battle and looking destined for the drop.

On another cold day of a seemingly interminable and harsh winter Reading faced Arsenal hoping to benefit from the new manager (Adkins) lift that the Berkshire club was expecting having sacked the previous manager, the ex-Arsenal forward Brian McDermott.

Wenger’s team selection held only a couple of surprises, bringing in Tomáš Rosický for Walcott and Sagna for Jenkinson, but resisting the temptation to bring back Chesney as Fabianski had done nothing to deserve being dropped.

There appeared to be an air of resignation about the away support, perhaps they felt changing managers was not really going to make any difference to their fate.

The Reading fans, although having turned up in numbers, were fairly subdued with the only chanting I could hear, from my unusually lofty position in the upper tier behind the Clock end goal, coming across as indeterminate wailing.

Say "weeeee-aaaahhh!"

Say “weeeee-aaaahhh!”

Light flurries of snow preceded the game as winter showed no signs of letting go although by the time the game kicked off only the icy wind remained.

The Arsenal started comfortably making slick, precise passing triangles with the Reading back line looking shaky from the off. The ex Arsenal goalkeeper Stuart Taylor also looked lacking in confidence behind the defence as his clearances were being sliced repeatedly and goal kicks going straight out of play.

As it was the 12th anniversary of the passing of the much respected former midfielder Rocky Rocastle (at the tender age of 33) fan groups were planning to clap for 7 minutes 7 minutes into the game. I was sitting opposite the Red Action corner of the stadium and they seemed to be the only section of the crowd to start the “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky” song and applause at that time, but soon after Rocky’s picture (1967-2001) was put up on the big screens and standing applause was seen all over the ground.

On the pitch it was Santi and Ramsey who were providing a creative/athletic axis across the middle/forward sections of the pitch, ably aided by Rosický who was finding space for his driving runs and his quick changes of direction.

Maybe I’m favouring a fellow electric guitar playing metal fan unduly but I thought his link up play helped the Arsenal midfield to exert a hold on the game that a nervous Reading side couldn’t find a fingerhold onto.

Rock on Tommy

Rock on Tommy

The Reading back four looked edgy and sure enough a gap opened for Santi to exploit and set up Gervinho for a tap in and therefore the opening goal.

Celebrating a welcome early goal

Celebrating a welcome early goal

Having already scored in the previous league game, as witnessed by the man at the match on that occasion, Tim, Gervinho’s confidence appears to be returning and the Ashburton Grove crowd’s reaction to his goal should bode well for the run in and the goals we’re going to need from the Ivorian.

Support from the crowd means not groaning when one of Gervinho’s mazy runs ends in nothing or one pass too many rather than a shot, if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do with the ball then how do the defenders counter him ? He may be a frustrating player but I believe he adds that random element, that unpredictability that can unlock defenses when he is full of self-belief.

More attacking from the home team and Giroud lobs the Reading keeper and then get’s clattered by Taylor in goal straight after.

Ouch Olivier !

Ouch Olivier !

While some were calling for a penalty it appeared to me that Giroud had lost control of the ball by the time he was hacked down.

As the half time whistle went there were subdued but contented cheers of thanks from the crowd for the first half goal and a satisfactory performance.

The second half started as the first ended with Reading trying to hold back a red and white tide, and with Gervinho’s dribbles suggesting a dead end would be reached, however a smart pass to Santi from the rejuvenated Gerv and our lead is doubled soon after the restart by a shot curled in with some skill by Santi.

The second goal appeared to kill off any signs of life in the Reading team and their supporters. What response that did arrive was in the form of an easy to save header directed straight at Fabianski (he only had one other save to make in the first half) and by Reading players following through on any stray tackles and clanging the Arsenal player clearing the ball, Sagna being on the receiving end of one of these meaty challenges as well as Ramsey, who got a late tackle from Leigertwood.

A rare spell of Reading pressure lead up to a corner which resulted in a counter attack led by, who else, Gervinho and just as it seemed he’d dwelt on the ball too long he teed up Giroud, who was the first Arsenal player to catch up with the play, who then thumped the ball left footed into the net in a satisfyingly emphatic manner. A well deserved goal not just for the precision of the strike but for Olivier’s hard work off the ground – virtually every aerial challenge he made he seemed to win and also cushion the resulting header over to a team mate.

At three nil up it should have been time for the home support to relax, but instead the Arsenal defence had a dozy moment and Sagna contrived to let a cross in that was an easy opportunity for Robson-Kanu and he duly scored and make it 3-1. Unfortunately in trying to track Robson-Kanu and prevent his shot Monreal slid past the Reading striker and clunked his head against the post – the crowd wincing as they saw replays of the Reading goal finishing with the sight of Nacho’s head colliding with the goal post.

Thankfully Nacho was able to hobble away from the pitch to be replaced by Gibbs; to be frank our Spanish left back hadn’t had one of his better games but the man is all honest effort and endeavour and will be a crowd favourite soon enough. The only dissension I saw in the defensive ranks was a little bit of finger wagging between BFG and Sagna when a cross allowed to get into the box – Kozzer quickly shouted to both of them not to turn their backs on the resulting throw in and no harm was done.

Five or so minutes later Giroud and Gervinho were subbed off with Podolski and The Ox coming on. The plus of that pair of changes was that The Ox went on a surging run into the Reading penalty area and even from where I sat at the opposite end of the ground, the hack on him was a blatant penalty.

This was coolly despatched by Arteta and 4-1 it was with a fuzzy picture the best I could manage from my distant vantage point.

Arteta scores - no, really.

Arteta scores – no, really, that is him.

The departure of Giroud did flag up how much we miss his aerial presence, virtually every goal kick of ours was headed back to us once he’d gone off, while when Olivier was there battling it out we retained possession from over 80% of our goal kicks. As mentioned before a feature of our play today was the cushioning of the headed ball and being guided forward to a forward moving midfielder. It does raise the question of who is going to win the headers in Giroud’s absence.

That is a debate for another day as at the moment both the Spuds and Chavski remain in our sights in the top four battle thanks to another three points won convincingly.

Three points in the bag.

Three points in the bag.

UTA !

Written by Charybdis1966 (on Twitter and youtube)