Category Archives: Chary

Man at the Match,Chary: Santi’s double flushes (Birmingham) Villa down to drop zone

A goal in each half from Cazorla gave the Arsenal the just sort of scrappy win that a team lacking in fluency needs to regain confidence. Without looking convincing the team, carried by Santi & Jack to an extent, snatched the 3 points needed to keep the top four finish in sight despite a Villa equaliser that led to a nervy final twenty five minutes.

After a two successive home defeats Arsenal returned to the League on a bitterly cold day to line up against Paul Lambert’s Villa to stop the rot and prevent 3 losses in a row, which last happened over a decade ago. Team selection wise the only surprises were Diaby preferred to Ramsey and Giroud starting over Podolski; Sagna’s injury meant Jenks came in at right back with the BFG/Vermaelen centre back pairing and Monreal completing the back line. The announcement of the subs brought a smattering of boos when Gervinho’s name was read out; slightly disappointing behaviour that.

The away section was more or less full and the stadium overall was probably 80-85% full to my eyes with the Villa fans soon settling into their “Kumbaya my lord….oh lord, shit support” chant as soon as the Gooners initial cheers for their team subsided

villa fans

Arsenal started brightly – if not as quickly as we’d like, still in a more positive fashion than lately with Jack and Santi the form players catching the eye.

Jack was driving forward with all his dribbles and surging runs and for once an early Arsenal goal was scored by him feeding Santi, who slotted home after his initial shot seemed to rebound back to him. A welcome early goal prevented the shivering Gooners from the anxiety of seeing the away side grow in confidence while the score remained nil nil.

santi 1

“One nil to the Arsenal” drowned out the Villa fans as well as their curious habit of applauding non-stop and for no apparent reason, a real puzzler.

Villa seemed to create little and a number of times passes up field went astray or long punts into touch, N’Zogbia contributed little and Agbonlahor, except for a theatrical dive, also seemed anonymous. Having said that a number of the Arsenal players were struggling with Diaby looking like he would lose possession every time he had the ball, his languid, casual (and slow) style not very convincing.

Diaby did thread through some useful passes but he and, unusually, Arteta shanked a few passes astray. After Diaby dwelt on the ball too long he seemed to be fouled, with the foul not being called and Diaby getting booked for tripping over his tackler in retribution.

Jenks was having a quiet game but in time I believe he has the potential to be a quality fullback, his attitude reminds me of Dixon when Ian Wright once spoke about a half time talk he was getting from George Graham: “Look at Dicko, he’s having a ‘mare but he still wants the ball”.

Jenks has the same attitude and I’d take that sort of guy over a more talented but lazier player every day of the week. Theo also had a relatively quiet game but he’d clearly been identified as a danger man and Villa were doubling up on him, the lad certainly tried though and did break his shackles enough times.

Aside from scoring the opener Santi was buzzing all over the pitch, chasing lost causes and generally snapping at the heels of the Villa defenders – on one occasion he was sure he’d won a goal kick but when a corner was awarded to Villa I saw him, a few yards in front of me, bawling at the lino – the man cares!

never a corner

Only Jack seemed to have the same snap all around the pitch and the same confidence that he would not lose possession.

Half time approached and Arsenal went into the break one nil up with not too many scares.

The touchline half time interview was with Paul Davis, an under rated (by those outside of Arsenal FC) player of the George Graham era, who had silky skills, and was delighted to be still working for the club he loved in some capacity.

As the second half kicked off the skies darkened and flecks of snow peppered the pitch as Arsenal continued to press forward for the second goal at the end opposite to me, the North Bank, with cross after cross from Theo failing to find an onrushing forward for a tap in and a two goal cushion.

Giroud was working hard and his aerial prowess in defence and attack is something I’m glad we have. In recent years we had no forward who could win flick ons from our goal kicks with any regularity and the fact Olivier works so well at defending corners and free kicks away is what has endeared him to the Gooner faithful. The tosh perpetuated by the English press about him having to win the fans round is just that – tosh.

Sadly a recurring feature of Arsenal’s play came back to allow Villa an equaliser – namely over committing ourselves at corners and being caught on the counter – a clearance from an Arsenal corner was met by a misdirected header from Jenks, which fell into the path of the wee man Weimann, who scurried between our centre backs to score. Looking at the replay on the big screen Chesney didn’t seem to have covered himself with glory as quite a few around me suggested he should have stopped the equaliser. The 2 or 3 good saves he made in the first half from rare Villas forward forays were forgotten and I sense much will be made of Chesney’s clanger.

Having heard about the fractious atmosphere at the Blackburn game I feared the home supporters would be getting jumpy, however while there was exasperation at the chances spurned, on the whole the crowd were there with a “Come on Arsenal!” to keep the sustained pressure up for the last 25 minutes of the game.

Ramsey replaced Diaby then Podolski for Jenks, a sign that Wenger wanted the 3 points so that Ramsey then slotted into right back as the surge for the winner started.

It has to be said that the referee today didn’t have a bad game and reasonable consistency was shown in what constituted a foul/push and what was a dive.

As time ticked on Lambert and his assistant were jumping up and down in, and sometimes outside, their technical area like cats on a hot tin roof. Mindful of the fact that an Arsenal winner seemed imminent. Monreal, who had a decent game (except for one occasion where his positioning allowed him to be bypassed and a Villa shot on goal resulted) latched onto a through ball, I think from Podolski (who had entered the fray with a shot almost on his first touch), with an overlapping run that ended in a cross which Santi, with a deft flick of his left foot, planted into the bottom right hand corner.

2nd goal

Joy unconfined!

The stadium let out a shout of relief and a sea of clenched fists raised to the heavens was to be seen. Reward for the attacking play in the last quarter of the game was there in the form of the winning goal. Even the clapping had stopped in the Villa section as their fans realised they were in the relegation zone now and no amount of Kumbayas would change that fact.

Injury seemed to last an age but there did not seem to be a sense of panic amongst the crowd about conceding a late goal, and the final whistle meant three scrappily fought for points were ours.

final whistle

Not the most convincing of performances but how many times have we seen the so called experts laud a ManUre performance where they won a game in a similarly scrappy manner? Three points are vital for the return of confidence for our team and while it was a less than convincing performance all points are needed at this stage of the season.
Onwards and upwards, UTA!

Charybdis1966 (on twitter and Youtube)

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)