Category Archives: Chary

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)

Defending a rare Wigan corner

Man at the match, Chary: Arsenal pay the price for two calamitous minutes

A Wigan side, fresh from defeating the Premier League Champions elect, took advantage of a crazy ninety or so seconds of defensive chaos in the Arsenal backline to plunder two quick goals and then sat back for the last eighty minutes of the game to gain a win that eased their relegation fears.

Even before kick off an uncomfortably cold evening was made to feel more awkward by Arsenal kicking towards the North Bank in the first half, rather than in the second half which is the usual choice of ends, presumably because Robin lost the toss.

Wigan brought the smallest traveling contingent I’d ever seen, so small only one block was allocated for them, something I’d never seen at Ashburton Grove in the 50 or so matches I’ve been to there.

Did you come in a minibus ?

Did you come in a minibus ?

Forget the talk of Wigan playing expansive attacking football – because, bizarrely, Al Habsi in the Wigan goal was resorting to time wasting within a few minutes of the start, at nil nil even! An ominous portend of what was to follow (and be allowed by referee Mariner).

A few early chances came our way and, as you’d expect, it seemed like Al Habsi was going to have another game of his life against us as he clawed away two goal bound shots.

Sitting slightly to the right of the goal and behind the Clock end I could see all was not right with the right half of the back line – Sagna seemed to be running in cement whenever Moses ran at him and his powers of anticipation, usually so accurate, had deserted him and there seemed to be a lack of communication with Djourou.

For that reason when the first Wigan attack came down our left flank Sagna was easily outpaced and the resulting cross led to an easy tap in, on the second attempt, for Di Santo, the number 9 who then ran to the corner of the Clock end and East stand to give the home crowd the finger.

Classy stuff.

Unfortunately it was Sagna again who was turned inside out from the second Wigan attack of the game and another foray down our right flank by Wigan led to a partially blocked shot from Gomez which looped up and fell perfectly in front of him to prod into an open net.

Chesney was incensed with his defenders, Djourou and Sagna in particular, so much so that Song had to step in to cool the Pole’s temper with the crowd sensing a two goal lead may not be surmountable this time.

Straight after the second goal Arteta was subbed off so it may seem that our midfield shape had gone in the time Arteta was off the pitch which caused the two Wigan attacks to be so damaging.

Arteta’s replacement Ramsey came on then he, and the rest of his team, were confronted with the prospect of ten men behind the ball and elaborate time wasting for the remainder of the game.

There has been criticism of Ramsey for his slowing down/sideways passing but to my eyes playing against two banks of four he retained possession well and had no choice but to pass sideways when there were no forward options on as the Lancastrian bus was parked firmly in front of Al Habsi’s goal.

Where I was sitting there appeared to be no one getting on Ramsey’s back for the handful of misplaced passes with the crowd’s ire being reserved for the awful timewasting by Wigan, like every re-start taking an age and excessive deliberation about who would take each throw in/free kick.

It became apparent as the first half drew on Marriner was not going to take any action against time wasting and his inconsistent approach with what was a foul drew his competency into question.

Sadly he seemed very eager to blow for every tiny foul against us but let Wigan fouls go unpunished – Sagna was booked for his first foul, and one only in the centre circle, while things like Wigan players climbing and tumbling over Arsenal defenders (Djourou was used as a climbing frame by Wigan forwards on more than one occasion) was ignored.

Despite being hampered by an officious and one sided approach by the referee and timewasting by Wigan, the Verminator pulled a goal back for the good guys with a towering header that the Ashburton Grove faithful were hopeful would start a fight back, while the disjointed Arsenal midfield permitted a few more attacks and corners for Wigan.

Defending a rare Wigan corner

Defending a rare Wigan corner

Arsenal pressed on till half time but had few chances, a couple of Benayoun headers and a Rosicky shot skied over after a neat one two with Robin, and the first half finished with a sense of anxiety building in the crowd.

Half time brought a few boos for Gazidis as he came pitch side for a presentation ceremony, perhaps his perceived part in last summer’s transfer window fiasco has not been forgotten by all Gooners.

As expected Arsenal started the second half with a sense of urgency but as it became apparent the combination of Wigan timewasting and ten men behind the ball meant it was going to take something special to unlock the massed blue and white defence.

Additionally Marriner’s willingness to give virtually every decision he could to the away side was beginning to grate more and more.

For example a shove on Theo as he drove into the penalty area was not even called for a foul, even though it seemed a DOGSO and therefore a penalty/red card to me while an innocuous trip by Song was a yellow.

As if to confirm how much Marriner was rooting for Wigan, he even put his arm around their number 16 consolingly, proof of how friendly he was with Wigan. This was after he awarded another soft foul against Arsenal as if to say…”there, there, we won’t let those nasty boys from Arsenal stop you getting your moment of glory…”

Even the introduction of the Ox and Gervinho to provide more attacking options didn’t provide any more chances; Gervinho worryingly looked a shadow of the player who was skinning defenders for fun earlier in the season.

As time started to run out Marriner finally remembered he could book players for time wasting, but by then regular time was almost up and Wigan had got the result they wanted assisted by the time wasting by then anyway.

As the final whistle blew the handful of Wigan fans present began to sing that they were staying up and the Arsenal players beat a hasty retreat off the pitch.

Some may complain that they didn’t stay to applaud the crowd much, but if they felt as half as devastated as I did seeing three points slip away I could hardly blame them, although some may rightly feel they should always applaud the crowd.

A slightly more fussy stewarding regime seemed to be in operation as I saw an Arsenal fan ejected for bringing a bottle of Corona to his seat (yes, a fairly dumb thing to do anyway) and another steward spending all the first half picking out anyone using cameras – hence the lack of many pictures this time.

While third place is still in our hands we have made it more difficult for ourselves with this defeat, however our club needs the fans to get behind them now more than ever.

UTA! (twitter @charybdis1966)