Category Archives: Chary

Nice stadium at least

Man at the Match, Chary: Lack of quality on show as Swansea triumph

Coming off the back of two disappointing away games The Arsenal returned home to Ashburton Grove to face a Laudrup led Swansea side, brimming with confidence after their win over West Bromwich, the surprise package of the 2012/13 season.

A hard working Swansea full of energy and dynamic passing rode out some periods of pressure to score twice as Arsenal pushed for a winner late on to leave the stadium ringing to a chorus of boos at the final whistle.

Prior to the game the Black Scarf/Red Action “walk” (not “March”) had started from Blackstock Road and appeared to consist of around 500 people, with the mood being set by songs such as “Rocky, Rocky Rocky”; “You are my Arsenal”; “I’m Arsenal till I’m skint” and “We all follow the Arsenal”, with some less positive chants (“Sack the board”) mixed in also.

BSM walk as seen from the steps of Highbury East stand BSM walk as seen from the steps of Highbury East stand

As for if the march will have made any difference time will only tell.

Turning to the actual game it was played on a crisp, cold afternoon when it felt that soon autumn would segue into winter.

The Arsenal kicked off towards me in the Clock End, passing with certainty if not confidence led by Gervinho, the Pod and Theo as the attacking three of the midfield, with Arteta, Cazorla and Jack behind them. The defence picked itself due to injury, Jenkinson, BFG, Vermaelen and Gibbs.

The Swansea support was not the loudest I’d seen, certainly not for the first 85 minutes, and they looked non-descript and not much like a bunch of identifiable away fans as their team colours were largely absent from the blocks of away support.

Who were these people ? Swansea fans – non-descript

The first half was cagey with both sides appearing to have a few attacking opportunities but no definite chances; Swansea seemed highly motivated whereas Arsenal seemed to be labouring to make possession count. The only Swansea players to stand out were there number 6, with a Kolo Toure sized backside and the pocket sized Dyer, who made Cazorla look lanky.

As one would expect Arsenal did make the effort to press and were rewarded with some corners which largely amounted to little.

Sign da ting Theo taking a corner

Gervinho’s lack of confidence showed in a first half where he couldn’t make anything work for him, one of his attempts on target went so wide that it almost went for a throw in till it was retrieved by Theo, one of the few Arsenal forwards playing with urgency. The Ivorian seemed a player bereft of confidence in his ability to skin the full back.

As the shots did start to go in the Swans keeper began to look very assured in goal and you got the nagging feeling that when Arsenal did finds their shooting boots, he would go on to deny us.

When Theo ran onto a difficult looped ball and failed to control it I heard a shriek of “Oh for eff’s sake, what are you doing?!” when in reality it was a very tricky ball to control with your thigh while running at speed. This could be the sort of attitude that’ll make a player wavering on a decision whether to stay or not decide not to hang around.

The worst case scenario of going into the break one down was avoided and the crowd was satisfactory at half time, during which time I noticed a supporters banner from Maryland.

Baltimore supporters banner Baltimore supporters banner

Arsenal started the second half with more urgency, however a number of potential penalty claims were not given by Clattenburg (leading to the inevitable Chelsea inspired shouts of “You racist!”) while a firmly planted, goal bound Vermaelen header and a Cazorla volley were saved by the keeper, who was by now performing (predictably) like Superman between the sticks.

At this stage the crowd were still firmly behind the team and doing their best to push them on to score.
Swansea dealt with this phase of Arsenal attacking play and then began to press Arsenal back and get a few corners of their own.

As your humble scribe was near the corner flag, when Swansea were awarded a corner I made sure I engaged in some barracking of their corner taker (the Korean “KI”) and this had the desired effect as he duly muffed it, failing to clear the near post. That was a small victory on the day but is part of what home advantage should be all about – put off the opposition, don’t just groan when one of our passes is misplaced.

As Arsenal’s attacking intent petered out it dawned on me that not only were the players short of confidence, but it seemed they themselves were aware there was no one they could look to conjure up a moment of magic. There would be no Fabregas to curl in a delicious pass, no Van Judas to shoot on goal from out of nowhere. For some reason Arsenal seemed to be performing as a team less than the sum of its parts – we have good players yet as a unit they are underperforming.

The team looked like they didn’t believe they would win, a feeling Swansea latched onto when Arsenal’s desperation to push forward opened up gaps at the back.

Chesney had already made a fair number of decent stops to keep the scores level but a simple pass split the centre back pairing and the lumbering Michu finished with an assassin’s clinical efficiency. The home support were stunned and for the first time some noise finally came from the away end as the Swansea technical area was also awash with leaping celebrations.

Arsenal then restarted and desperately tried to push for an equaliser but as the game stretched, the hitherto (largely) faultless Jenkinson was caught in possession then the ball was deflected into the path of Michu, who had all the time in the world to lift his shot over Chesney.

Two nil and the shouts of discontent started from the Arsenal supporters. Chesney then smashed the ball into the top tier behind the goal in frustration, and got a warning from Clattenburg for his troubles; the loss was not his fault today and his anger showed he cared.

Oh bugger ! Chesney after kicking the ball into touch after 2nd goal

Just like on the BSM walk/march the shouts of “Sack the board” and “Ivan, what the eff do you do?” could be heard, which were then drowned out by the booing at the final whistle, something unheard in the normally sedate family enclosure where I was located, but felt like was being echoed all over the stadium .

Significant sections of the home crowd stayed to shout their discontent at the final whistle and that has not happened before as far as I can remember.

The Swansea support formed a stark contrast with the supporters of the team I saw on my previous trip to Ashburton Grove: Schalke 04. In their 2 nil win they showed a quiet dignity.

The Swansea supporters however decided to goad disappointed Gooners into a reaction after the match, in the queues for the tube stations and around the environs of the stadium.

To our credit no Gooner responded to the provocation as our support has too much class to get involved in skirmishes like the ones the Swansea supporters were trying to provoke; additionally the 100’s of us who stayed to clap the Swansea team off the pitch, as they had clearly played better than us, is what being a true football fan means.

No triumphalist gloating in the faces of the opposition fans after a win and recognising good play when it comes from the opponents. Add that to the lack of much singing until the late goals and Swansea’s fans were a long way behind Schalke’s in my estimation.

One can only hope the powers that be take this worrying decline in our team into account and the necessary squad adjustments are made in January or else I fear worse is to come.

Nice stadium at least Nice stadium at least

We may have a top stadium but the team playing in it needs help.

UTA!

On twitter and Youtube @charybdis1966

Arsenal attacking-sort of

Man at the Match, Chary:The Hunter strikes to continue Arsenal slump

A pair of strikes, arising from defensive errors, converted by Schalke’s Dutch forwards condemned Arsenal to back to back defeats last night and set up an AGM that will be feistier than it should have been today.

There was an air of tension around Ashburton Grove suggesting the after effects of the disappointing defeat to the yokels of Norwich were yet to be forgotten by the Gooners hoping for salvation on the European stage last night.

And so it starts And so it starts

It was a surprisingly mild early autumn evening when Schalke 04, the 3rd placed Bundesliga team of the 2011-12 season, arrived to provide a strong test for an Arsenal team stripped of most of the confidence built up from a steady start to the season.

The question was would the Arsenal team roar back from the league setback in Norfolk or would it feel sorry for itself as has been the tendency to do so in the past and serve us up another listless, disinterested performance?

It was expected that the danger man in the opposition would be Huntelaar, a man linked to Arsenal (as has just about any player in the world seeking to have either his wages doubled or a higher transfer fee), as well as his compatriot on loan from the Catalan DNA chasers, Afellay.

The perceived problem with pursuing Huntelaar was that he didn’t get on with a certain ex-Feyenoord player, a question now academic given said Judas’s departure to the scumsters of Old Toilet, however I digress.

Suitably relaxed with several shots of vodka from the usual pre match boozer I made my way to my seat, only a few rows from the front, behind the Clock End goal.

On arrival at my seat the now as expected noisy away fans on European nights seemed to be in fine spirits and their near constant singing was a feature of the night. Their bass drummer drowning out any attempts by the home crowd to get any retaliatory songs started.

We all live in a yellow submarine We all live in a yellow submarine

I’m sure I heard “Yellow submarine” as well as “Roll out the barrel” being sung by them, however by the time I thought I heard them singing a Bananarama song it became clear they must have been Schalke’s own team songs. There were the noisiest away fans I’d seen in many a year and you have to respect them for that.

For Arsenal it was Gervinho who was the focal point of the front three (Podolski and Cazorla being the other two) with the midfield three of Arteta, Coquelin and Ramsey playing in front of a back four of Jenko, BFG, the skipper and Santos.

The game started evenly with there being attacking intent being shown by both sides and both sides suffering from “sideways-itis” in the final third. It was refreshing to see an away side not being defensive and coming at Arsenal which offered up space in the midfield – there was no hint of Schalke adopting a Chelsea like approach or “Parken der busse” in midfield.

Huntelaar was barely noticeable in the first half and Afellay showed his Barca credentials with an appalling dive that earned him a yellow card for simulation, although the there was a sharp intake of breath in Ashburton Grove as the referees decided on the initial penalty claim.

For arsenal while Gervinho seemed to be trying when he did receive the ball he was often isolated and therefore had few options – overall the lack of off the ball movement from Arsenal was disconcerting. When Gervinho did get to fire a cross into the danger zone there was no one there to tuck in what would have been a tap in.

Arsenal attacking-sort of Arsenal attacking-sort of

There were few real chances in the first half for either side and the home crowd seemed reasonably happy to go in at nil nil.

The second half showed little change from the first and the weaknesses in the Arsenal game were becoming more noticeable as the team seemed to show their lack of confidence by a reluctance to venture forward and support attacks, except for one player who shouldn’t have been doing that – Santos.

Where I was sitting the Schalke right winger was running towards me, terrorising Santos and exploiting his positional indiscipline. It was an obvious tactic given to the Schalke forwards to pick away at Arsenals biggest weakness, namely their left flank.

The routine substitution on 70-75 minutes happened with Gervinho being taken off to spare him further embarrassment after an appalling dive of his own in the second half, to join Afellay in receiving a yellow card for simulation. Giroud came on to huge cheers – or perhaps there were cheers for seeing Gervinho being taken off.

The home crowd did seem to transmit their anxiety to the players who performed with little freedom and seemed bereft of any self-assurance.

The attacking endeavour of Schalke was rewarded when a ball chipped back into the Arsenal penalty area after the danger seemed to have gone, lead to clinical strike from Huntelaar to send the sea of blue to my right into an even higher state of frenzy.

I looked left to the lino who offered no get out clause for us with an offside flag as it I later learnt that Santos had played Huntelaar on side.

There was a brief response from Arsenal in more pressure being exerted on the Schalke goal after Podolski (who was roundly booed, as expected, by the away section) and Jenko were taken off to bring on Arshavin and Gnabry; the latter being, to my eyes, an act of desperation. To bring on Andrei and a 17 year old with less than 10 minutes to go smacks of there being no time for them to make a difference. That we barely had a handful of shots on goal demonstrates the ineffectualness of our offensive play on the night.

Sadly Santos then completed a miserable night for himself a few minutes before full time by allowing the Schalke right winger plenty of space to fire in a cross that resulted in a simple tap in for the Barca loanee, Afellay.
This was the cue for a mass exodus from the clock end as Gooners around me had seen enough.

As injury time finished and the final whistle went boos did ring out as the Gooners demonstrated their disapproval and I shuffled off with the bass drummer’s beats pounding in my head, sounding out an unwelcome farewell.

The denouement The denouement

Charybdis1966 (on twitter and Youtube)

Pod, Ches, BFG, & Jenks at full time

Man at the match, Chary: Saints in Hell – Adkins boys get six of the best

Tactical naiveté from the South coasters meant an irresistible first half performance from Arsenal’s attacking resulted in that rare and welcome occurrence – an Arsenal home victory free from any alarms or scares.

For my first visit to Ashburton Grove a day that may be the last rose of summer before autumn descends bathed my corner of the stadium (area 10, north bank lower tier) in hot sunshine.

Due to various transport mishaps your humble scribe was unable to have any pre match alcoholic relaxers so I was introduced to a new experience – watching a match completely sober. It goes without saying I wished for a comfortable game for our new look team and that was what I got.

A slight surprise was the use of Gervinho on the right of the front three, with Podolski on the left and Cazorla predominantly through the middle; the midfield three being The Ox, Arteta and, also surprisingly, Coquelin.
An early shot from our new number nine saw the jittery Southampton keeper spill the ball, but luckily not into harm’s way.

Having not seen our new signings from the stands having heard about Cazorla’s trickery and magic the reality was every bit as good as the expectation. Even from where I sat (or stood as for most of the match area 10 had clumps of constantly standing supporters) you could almost see the panic in the Southampton defenders faces whenever our Spanish maestro ran at them. Of course The Saints double teamed him most of the time and naturally stuck in a few “honest” tackles to try and kick him out of his stride. I see most opposition teams identifying Santi as the danger man and he will be singled out for close attention.

Podolski was all strength, determination and industry as he would chase after lost causes and win back possession with tenacity and it was just such an occasion where he miscontrolled a pass, tackled back and got the ball, then fed it in to the overlapping Gibbs who shot and, we thought scored, as he claimed the goal and in real time it looked like his goal. As the stadium screen didn’t award him the goal it confirmed what the replay suggested – that prolific ManUre striker – Mr Own Goal had scored for us.

Ashburton in sunshine Ashburton in sunshine

Ahh – an early(ish) goal and Gooners could relax as Southampton continued to play an open game – no lines of four players strung across the pitch defending as usually happens when the lesser teams come to play us. This meant more chances were created and another change from last season was a willingness to shoot more often, especially in the first half; defensively the back four looked more composed with Jenkinson especially impressive with his forward runs and defensive work rate and the Mertesacker (aka The BFG) making plenty of interceptions.

The squeeze applied by the Arsenal midfield led to a free kick in what would last season have been Robin Van Judas territory. Up stepped The Pod and thumped in a howitzer of a free kick which the keeper had no chance with and the stadium couldn’t quite believe an Arsenal forward could score from a free kick after years of the ManUre number 20 scuffing and skying all the free kicks we’d earn. Cue mass renditions of “He scores when he wants”

He scores when he wants The Pod’s freekick

Most teams would see two nil in around half an hour as a signal to tighten up defensively and stop attacking – not Southampton who carried on piling forward, with their number 42(Puncheon) catching the eye with a few tricks and pace on our left flank leading to a handful of corners.

What, you're still attacking ? Southampton corner

A neat flick over a Southampton fullback, who misjudged his positioning, from the ever impressive Arteta landed directly into Gervinho’s path who blasted in first time to make it three nil and just reward for a dazzling performance from the Ivorian who played with a sense of urgency and an attacking tempo that did justice to his talents –more of that please.

Even at three down, the willingness to carry on attacking meant Southampton left space in the midfield for Cazorla and Podolski to combine to set up Gibbs for another shot after another overlapping pass which produced another goal for that ManUre striker, Mr O.G. Four nil just before half time and the Saints supporters were completely dejected.

Perhaps it was the heat but the denizens of the North Bank turned out to be not only to be vociferous in their support but sometimes overly critical of a misplaced pass. The reactions to the Saints first half injury time goal seemed a tad over the top and disproportionate to a 4-1 half time score even though the goal was conceded due to Chesney’s fumbling of the ball after a cross that came in because Gibbs lost track of the attacker he should have been marking. Shrieks of “We don’t know what we’re doing” and “We’re a f**king shambles!” could be heard.

This caused the hitherto comatose away support to give us the “You’re going to win f**k all” chant, quite rich for a team heading for a fourth defeat in a row and rooted to the bottom of the table. Naturally the North Bank replied with “You’ll never play here again”

The so called contract rebel Theo had appeared for a kick around at half time with Arsenal’s speed driver Santos and Ramsey and the current second choice keeper Manone- however Wenger has made it known he expects Vito to fight for the keepers spot and after a few errors today perhaps Chesney is under a little pressure.

Half time kickabout Theo, Santos & Ramsey at half time

The second half started at a slower tempo but with Arsenal enjoying greater possession however as the tempo dropped Southampton started to pass the ball around and have a spell whereby Arsenal couldn’t get hold of the ball.

This, and the substitution of the fading Coquelin with Ramsey, seemed to wake Arsenal up and a few more corners at the Southampton end resulted plus some more free kicks.

Ramsey made a mug of another Southampton defender; much like Arteta did in the first half, with a flick that allowed him to run on and canon a shot of the post which rebounded into Gervinho’s path who stumbled the ball over the line from a foot or two out.

The forehead makes it 5 After Gervinho’s second goal

Gervinho’s confidence will grow from game to game now and the ovation he received after he was subbed shortly after scoring his second can only benefit his future performances.

Giroud and Theo came on for Gervinho and Podolski with Theo’s introduction causing a chap in front of me to make clear where he stood on Theo “Sign up or f**k off Theo” was his verdict, however he was on his own as a couple of his friends were goading him with the “The—oo” chant, so when Theo added a sixth goal, as a result of a Vermaelen drive ricocheting around the box, all those around him(myself included) took up the “The-oo” chant while pointing at him.

Initially Theo’s subdued reaction to scoring made me wonder if he was sulking, but as an ex-Southampton player it made sense he wouldn’t overtly celebrate.

Final whistle and a hefty boost to our goal difference and three points saw us climb to third in the fledgling table with the lasting memory being of the two Germans, Chesney and Jenkinson staying on to salute the North Bank. As they turned to leave we started up the”He scores when he wants” song and Lukas turned back to applaud us.

This guy could be special for us as indeed the team could be.

UTA.

Charybdis1966

(on YouTube and twitter as @charybdis1966)