Category Archives: Chary

Man at the match, Chary: Party poopers banished

The pre match 125 year centenary celebrations were among the usual talking points before a game that saw the Arsenal in line for a top four spot for the first time this season.

With the choice of Arsenal legends for the three commemorative statues around Ashburton Grove now already known (Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry) I made my way to my seat on a crisp but clear December afternoon after having looked at two of the three legends preserved in iron.

Having been a product of Essex in the early seventies also I have a particularly empathy with TA06 and coincidentally we were also born in the same year. A lot of us can also relate to the personal demons he battled during his time with us. He stood arms outstretched in the “Would you believe it” moment after he scored the fourth goal to seal the League title in our second double winning season in May 1998.

Would you believe it !

Would you believe it !

My seat being at the western corner flag at the Clock End(with the away fans at the opposite corner) of record goal scorers statue was at the opposite end of the stadium to Tony Adams, who was fittingly stationed outside the North Bank. It was clear that the majority of the fans around the TA06 statue were old school Arsenal while those around Thierry Henry were more international fans.

I love scoring against Tottenham

I love scoring against Tottenham

This being because the appeal of Arsenal as an international known team was cemented with the likes of talents such as Thierry, Dennis, Bobby and others. As we now all know Arsenal picked another iconic moment to immortalise with Thierry’s statue, namely the memorable goal against the Spuds with the equally memorable celebration.

I defy anyone to look at that statue and not have a lump in their throat while they remember the emotions of that match – I’m not surprised Thierry was moved the way he was on Friday at the unveiling.

Sadly I couldn’t locate Herbert Chapman’s statue in time as the pre match build up was in full swing, but I’ll aim to seek it out next time, Chapman being the manager who paved the way with the first of our 13 League titles.

A long list of Arsenal greats were being led out as I took my seat, the whole event being compered by celebrity, but certainly die hard, gooner Tom Watt.

Legends Guard of honour

Legends Guard of honour

It was gratifying to see that George Graham’s presence in the legends line up signified the Arsenal hierarchy had forgiven the circumstances of his departure similarly David O’Leary who, in his Leeds managerial days, would regularly lambast Arsenal; O’Leary’s greying sideburns visible even from my seat.

Others I heard being announced were Parlour, Pires (extra cheer), Morrow and another hero of the nineties Ian Wright, Wright Wright who is still loved by the supporters.

Unsurprisingly the biggest cheer was for Thierry when he was introduced.

Thierry on the big screen

Thierry on the big screen

And even more unsurprisingly the chants of “Sign him up, sign him, sign him up” were there to remind us of our anxiety at the prospect of Robin being unavailable for any period of time.

A nod towards our clubs heritage were the cannons pitch side, a reminder of lucky we are to have them as a symbol, rather than, say, a stringy chicken sitting on a netball.

Royal Artillery Canon

Royal Artillery Canon

With the festivities almost over the team were led on, with Red Action and North Bank sections being supplied with red and white cards to spell out “125”.

Red Action 125

Red Action 125

As the teams were being read out I noticed how our number 8 got a respectful cheer from the Everton fans, no rancour at his departure detected there and later on in the game when Arteta went over to take in front of the away fans he applauded them back.

The match started with Arsenal as usual attacking the Clock End and Everton, as befits a team schooled by Moyes, compact and solid with minimal forward intent with the only forward player who caught my eye being Coleman. Seamus Coleman did seem to have some attacking ability and the Evertonians are right to rate him so highly, however Phil Neville continued to prove why we hate him with his constant niggling of our midfielders, Ramsey in particular, and his constant niggling in the ear of the other villain of the peace, the referee Howard Webb.

Ramsey had another “almost there” type of performance in midfield, with one swivel-turn-chip in the Everton penalty area being all most Bergkamp-esque.

An innocuous nudge by Arteta on the quarter hour mark – which was on an Everton player just outside his own penalty area- earned him a yellow for his first challenge and just to prove Fergie’s rent boy (as the Clock end shouted at Webb) has no concept of consistency then failed to give a yellow for a trip on Theo by Baines as he was about to run through on goal.

Shades of Lee Mason in the same fixture last season sprang to mind in terms of anti-Arsenal incompetent or biased refereeing.

The linesman were also very quick to cooperate with the Everton offside trap as Theo and Gervinho were repeatedly called off side, however the officials were consistent in calling them either way.

Having been shown the yellow Arteta seemed to be a little subdued thereafter and he had a quieter than normal game – no matter, I think he is a vital player for us and one we were fortunate to acquire.

Arsenals superiority began to show with a succession of corners, some taken by Robin and others by Arteta.

Robin taking a corner

Robin taking a corner

The New Jersey born Howard had to be on top form for the various corners that rained in on him and as the half drew to a close one sensed the Everton goal had a charmed life as the Arsenals approach play was decent although Theo and Gervinho’s finishing wayward. Robin had few chances and he seemed to be predominantly carving out opportunities for others.

Waiting for Arsenal corner

Waiting for Arsenal corner

Half time approached and there was only a minor murmuring of concern amongst the by now frozen gooners –chances were being opened and the goal seemed inevitable.

During the interval a final historic presentation was made on the pitch of Nottingham Forest FC, the team that donated the Arsenal (then known as Dial Square FC) their first red and white kit.

Notts Forest half time presentation

Notts Forest half time presentation

The second half saw Everton begin to slow the play as for them a nil nil draw was a sizeable achievement against the arsenal, the Garden State native being the most guilty of time wasting, taking an eternity to take goal kicks.
Moyes stood on the edge – or slightly outside – the technical area pretty much the whole match, even having to step back to allow the lino to get past so often was he guilty of encroaching.

The Moe Szyslak look alike provided much of the touch line entertainment, for example when Cahill’s boot came off when a free kick was awarded to Arsenal(I think for off side) Cahill’s hissy fit involved him hurling the boot that had come off in Moyes direction; much hilarity ensued.

My suggestion of “Stamp on his foot!” while Cahill’s left boot was off and he continued playing was not taken up by the Arsenal defenders, can’t imagine why.

As the crowd were bracing themselves for a sustained spell of pressure at the Everton goal at the North bank end out of nowhere I saw Song loft a forward pass over Robin’s right shoulder – like the rest of the stadium Tim Howard assumed Robin would take a touch, then shoot.

The volley and net ripple that followed in an instant (with an almost audible gasp) took us all by surprise – a reminder of another two feet in the air volley by Robin, the one against Charlton Athletic from a cross by Eboue.

After that the Everton team seemed to have been given electric shock therapy as the transformation in the speed of goal kicks/throw ins/free kicks being taken was astonishing, again I can’t imagine why.

After the goal Vermaelen was taken off after an earlier collision to be replaced by Miquel who was, understandably, nowhere near as solid as the Belgian had been. I watched him for a five minute spell and I counted five interventions by him, two were solid clearances, one was a good through ball, one miskick into touch and one pass intercepted by an Everton forward.

Before Vermaelen’s injury Arshavin was being readied to come on, presumably to replace Robin, however Gervinho (who had a fairly good game) was replaced by Rosicky as Thomas came off instead.

Two late Everton subs included a Valbuena sized dwarf who was marked by Mertesacker – the worry there being that he would run through the big Germans legs.

There were two late alarms and two shots fizzed towards me behind the Arsenal goal and the crowd whistled for the full time whistle to be blown by Webb, who to be fair had temporarily forgotten his Arsenal hating-ManUre loving tendencies and had a marginally better second half.

At full time Mertesacker made a point of clapping the Clock End, he – like Arteta – seem to be loving the fact they are playing for a big club with a noble tradition. We’ll need him when we come up against the troglodytes of Stoke, Bolton and the like.

Final Whistle

Final Whistle

What seemed like me to be a scuffle between Chesney and Robin as the players went off was actually Chesney’s bowing down to Robin’s left foot – the producer of that moment of magic that gave us the three points to put us into fourth.

Arteta free kick

Man at the match, Chary: Bridge hangover as chances squandered

A vaguely disappointing nil nil failed to quell the feel good factor derived from the Arsenal’s heroic high octane defeat of the Siberian oligarchs team last Saturday.

As the match drew to a close I recalled the target of four points from the two games against the French champions set by Wenger and was able to assess the performance and result in that context. Arriving at Arsenal tube station I was, as usual, “treated” to some singing from the Bouches-du-Rhône region, initially unintelligible but as the away supporters followed me up to the ticket barriers I could eventually pick up:

Mar-seille allez, Mar-seille allez, allez, allez, chante!

To the tune of “Oh my darling clementine” as sung by Huckleberry Hound a lot clearer than last night’s version.

The atmosphere for a mid-week evening kick off at Ashburton Grove is altered by that claustrophobic feel that the darkness that descends in London in November gives to the journey to your turnstile from the stadium environs.
The team line ups as announced before kick-off revealed our Captain was being benched to give the Park a start and that there was a welcome return to the starting line-up for the Verminator.

My seat was behind the Clock End goal, lower tier, so I had the away support a few blocks to my right. Inside the stadium they were fairly vocal as most away crowds tended to be on European nights — louder than Porto’s, quieter than Dinamo Zagreb’s, from memory. To their credit the complete 4 block allocation was full and animated.

Kick off

Kick off

The early exchanges showed that Marseilles had pace all over the pitch if not skill, with the full backs making light work of Gervinho and Theo’s attempts to pull apart their back line.

Chesney showed himself to be a goalie of supreme confidence when he took on a Marseilles forward; even from the other end of the pitch I could see him dummying and dribbling around him and while there was much mirth in the crowd in reaction to his skill and confidence I would have preferred him not to be put (or put himself) in those situations and that he just takes the safety first option – a hefty hoof up field for example.

Defence wise the Verminator slotted straight back into the team as if he’d never been away and Mertesacker showed the calm authority we’ve come to expect but without the missed headers that he needs to eliminate from the game.

“Jenks” has quickly become a fans favourite with his work rate and never ending drive to push on whether defending or getting forward, conversely Santos was seen differently, a capable and experienced defender who is probably not 100% match fit.

Marseilles pushed forward for the first half hour and for an away side that was quite brave however their finishing was as bad as ours turned out to be.

There were few alarms and no one especially felt we would concede at any moment – a feeling we definitely had in matches during the closing stages of last season. Encouraged by their support striking up the Huckleberry Hound song, Marseilles continued to press and a few shots on Chesney’s goal resulted which were on target, and many more off target.

As time went on however the Arsenal then gained more possession which resulted in whistling from the away support.

It’s clearly a continental thing to whistle when the opposition has the ball, in the UK it tends to be done to register displeasure at a bad refereeing decision or the opposition not kicking the ball out if one of your players is injured. If that happens in a continental game what would they do then as an alternative to whistling? If they just whistle more, how could you tell what the crowd was irate about if it’s just more of the same?

Anyway gripe/observation over.

Despite the extra possession Arsenal had as the first half drew to a close it seemed that Park was lacking that “something” as things just failed to happen for him; maybe he needed a bit of confidence that would result from a few more of his one twos working or having some decent shots on goal?

We clearly need a stand in for Robin but at the moment Park is not the answer, I sincerely hope he will be part of the answer at least and the sooner the better.
Gervinho seemed to be having one of those days also where things didn’t quite come off and when they did the resulting shot was wide or well saved with Aaron seeming a touch jaded also.

The extra possession Arsenal gained as the game went on was as a result of the Song-Arteta axis establishing a metronomic understanding in the centre of the midfield.

One gets the sense that Mikel is loving being on the European Cup stage, a chance a player of his quality and experience should really have had earlier in his career. One of our more palpable chances was an Arteta free kick, which on another day would have drifted in rather than swerved away from the top left corner of the goal.

Arteta free kick

Half time came and with it the news that the Russian’s from the bus stop in Fulham were one nil up against the mighty Genk.

No substitutions from either side at half time but as time went on and the Marseilles defence held firm it seemed it was only a matter of time before changes would have to be made.

Robin and Arshavin had been warming up as soon as the second half had kicked off, Robin being the benefactor of a standing ovation from the Clock end.

Captain fantastic & the meerkat

Robin Arshavin subs

The pattern of the second half followed the latter half of the first in that Arsenal pressure was repelled or the final ball was poor or the finishing was not quite there.

The referee had a fairly good game and wasn’t buying the feigning injury Marseilles started to indulge in, with Mathieu Valbuena seeming like a refugee from a dwarf throwing/diving competition; the sort I imagine being held in deepest Tennessee by some good old boys. Perhaps the midget Mathieu was giving the crowd a preview of his bid to be part of the French 2012 Olympic diving squad? However the referee did seem a bit too keen to book that well known midfield destroyer Rosicky for his first challenge, having come on as the second sub with Robin on shortly before.

Then an exchange of dwarfs – Valbuena off, Arshavin on to try and provide a creative spark and feed Robin for the goal that would seal a Round of 16 qualifying victory.

The game seemed to peter out with a few more attacks by Arsenal at the North bank end and try as Arshavin did to make something happen by the last third of the game Marseilles had decided to settle for the draw and their initial attacking intent evaporated.

Final Whistle 0-0

Final Whistle 0-0

Overall, not a disastrous result, just as long as a victory against West Brom on Saturday can be won before another wretched interlull/nationalism break before hostilities resume a fortnight later.

Just to cheer up the Gooners emptying Ashburton Grove news filtered through that the European footballing powerhouse of Genk finished their game level with Chelsea to extend the team “led” by John Terry’s winless run to 3 games.

Nice.

Cha(ry)azza

Man at the match, Chary: Robin’s twin strikes send Bolton to the bottom

An unusually mild late September afternoon saw Arsenal’s third home game of the season take place in what the media would like to say was an air of apprehension amongst the support.

First off – that tabloid generated assertion was way off the mark as the feeling in the bars and streets around the N5 area of London was certainly not apprehension. The mood was that of expectancy and quiet confidence that the real Arsenal would show up today.

Your humble scribe found himself in the Upper tier of the Clock End where conventional wisdom would assert there would be a soporific feeling generated amongst the support, only slightly less lack lustre than Club level.

Second off – not true either; the support was surprisingly vocal and while my less than complimentary remarks about Cyril Davies (when he replaced the anonymous Ngog) were still met by inquiring looks from pre-pubescent Gooners, irregardless (c. Tim) from where I sat Block 124 backed the team as well as the rest of the home support did.

From this view point the Red action section of the North bank could be seen passing around the giant club flag.

Red Action flag

Red Action flag

Once all the crowd had arrived it seemed the stadium was around 90% full with Bolton’s support taking up around 80% of their allocation

Prior to kick off we saw a rather cheesy “huddle” from the Bolton players – that’s so 1990’s; who does on pitch team huddles anymore?

Cheesy Bolton huddle

Cheesy Bolton huddle

After a slightly nervy start, where Chesney pulled off a great one handed save from an early Bolton attack Arsenal settled into their passing game gradually although nowadays it is more customary to highlight our defence. Chesney is without a doubt the leader of the defence – for such a young man he commands his back four like a seasoned pro, not someone who was keeping goal for Brentford the season before last.

Apart from the early shot on our goal Bolton offered very little going forward in the first half and in that respect the defence seemed to settle. There was the odd hic cup, where a hoofed Jaaskelainen goal kick would bounce a few too many times before our centre backs cleared their lines however no groans were to be heard.

What we still heard were the odd groan when our forward would not shoot early enough, although that was harsh on us as the Bolton 4-5-1 line up was basically two banks of 4 close together with little room for manoeuvre, hence the probing for an opening prior to shooting.

Early impressions on the new players were that Arteta looks very much like a player used to the hurly burly of a rumbustious quality of a premier league midfield and at home there. There were a number of efficient forward passes he made that although not Hollywood, eye catching long range passes, kept our attacks ticking over nicely.

Mertesacker looked a gentle giant rather than an orc-like animal of a defender in his style of play, but I saw a clever cut back to nutmeg the Bolton left winger and keep the ball in play and pass forward as well as several passes in the opposition area which progressed attacks nicely. This suggested some finesse and skill – I wager he’ll fit in nicely. I suspect as his game time grows he will become that big lump in the centre of our defence that we have needed ever since “Big Tone” (TA06) retired.

It soon became apparent after the substitution of Ngog that K Cyril Davies is indeed an odious individual – he took less than two minutes to commit a foul after coming on and his whole repertoire of football skills consist of backing into the defender and falling over to win free kicks.

As half time approached I realised that I didn’t feel nervous after a goalless first 45 minutes; partly because although we were feeling our way back in our attacking play Bolton offered very little goal threat and their “strategy/tactics” consisted of nullifying our attack by making sure Robinson hacked Theo at every opportunity and Wheater grappled with Robin, the way in which Vidic is allowed to WWF-style-lee, whenever we had a free kick in the Bolton half.

Half time was spent by of me kicking myself for not getting any pictures of “The Carlsberg girls” who were around the stadium concourse posing for pictures with supporters before kick off; as a middle aged chap I naturally felt uncomfortable asking for a picture with the trios of twenty somethings, however there’s always next time to rectify this omission.

At the restart the stadium big screen showed a close up of Arteta and Gervinho on the centre spot pointing and discussing how to get the second half underway – whatever they said, they could quote Hannibal Jones in saying “I love it when a plan comes together” as Ramsey fed Robin onto his hammer left foot seconds later who then buried the shot bottom right past Jaaskelainen who had, typically, been repelling Arsenal’s attacks almost single handedly.

A minor miracle was Clattenburg playing the advantage when another Bolton ankle crusher took out Gervinho in the build-up to the goal – and another miracle, after the goal was scored he booked the offending Bolton player (Steinsson)

The Bolton fans who had, up till then, contented them themselves with chanting “Champions League you’re having a laugh” fell silent so we returned the favour by shouting back “Premier League, you’re having a laugh!”

Arsenal gained confidence and the attacks became more fluid and Theo more influential, with another one of his central runs leading to Wheater, taking time off practising his half-Nelson on Robin, deciding – by way to hack him down.

DOGSO – red card and flash forward to Coyle bemoaning how even the game had been up till then (excuse me, you were one nil down and camped in your own half) in the post-match press conference and how the red card was the turning point.

Despite being hacked relentlessly Theo kept ploughing forward and another run from centre to right set up Robin for his 100th goal for Arsenal with a deft flick from the Dutchman who now has 26 goals in 31 games for 2011. His thanks to Theo visible even from my distant viewpoint.

The blow Gervinho took earlier probably accounted for his replacement by Arshavin ten or so minutes from time and Robin was taken off close to the end so he could get applause for his brace and 100 goal achievement. There was still time for Theo to set up our Russian enigma with a shot he rifled against the side netting, Andrey’s guile and craft will be needed on Wednesday night as we look to gain points in the Champions League.

Sadly Theo, after having missed an easy opportunity when put through by Ramsey, then pulled up with hamstring trouble as a Bolton corner led to a through ball to him that should have made him one on one with the Bolton keeper. A sting in the tail of this match that we could do without and we await medical bulletins on the extent of the injury.

As the full time whistle approached the early departees were punished by a late Song strike, a rising drive into the top of the net as Arsenal attackers pulled apart the tiring Bolton defence.

All in all a satisfactory win and, at the very least, a platform to build on.

A satisfying final scoreboard

A satisfying final scoreboard

Is this result the start of a change in our wretched form to date – who knows? Gooners world wide will be hoping it is.