Tag Archives: Arsenal

Man at the match; Chary: Birmingham Villa swatted aside by Mesut and Santi

A solitary first half goal, well taken by Olly Giroud from a sublime Özil flick, was no portent for the avalanche of goals in the second half as a very ordinary Villa side capitulated with four more conceded in the second half, the fifth the cherry on the scoring cake.

With Saturday’s results all going for the teams around the Arsenal the was no margin for error and an out of sorts Villa looked like the ideal opposition.

The Arsenal pre match warm up

The Arsenal pre match warm up

My seat in the North Bank lower was in front of the warm up area for the playing members of the squad where Chesney, while firing in corner kicks for Ospina to collect, seemed to have a chastened look on his face.

The away support were no doubt hoping for a repeat of the corresponding fixture last season where the resulting home defeat led to much angst amongst the Gooner faithful.

The Birmingham Villa contingent

The Birmingham Villa contingent

Selection wise the expected unavailability of Alexis seemed to cause less consternation than it would have done earlier in the season, a reflection of the current better squad depth with Theo and Özil starting and Monreal replacing Gibbs at the back – a very strong looking side and a healthy bench, with possibly only the substitute striker department being inexperienced, Welbeck instead of Chubby Akpom would have been preferrable.

Soon after kick off a chance fell to Theo and as is the case nowadays the modern day supporter displays schitzoid tendencies by screeching with derision when a player doesn’t bury every chance, as a voice from behind me indicated. To be fair Walcott did show signs of rustiness as later in the game he would race to the touch line to keep a ball in but he approached the ball from the wrong side to scoop it back in, a basic error.

Another voice would say:

“This lot are rubbish, we should be getting at least four against them”

In comparison to Theo’s awkwardness Özil was gliding around the pitch with his trademark panache and pretty soon a lofted ball from the centre landed in his ambit, then a sublime flick from Mesut and Olly collected then slammed home to open the scoring.

Long distance view of Olly's goal

Long distance view of Olly’s goal

With the number of crucial goals the big Frenchman has been scoring lately the English media will have to tone down their accusation of him being a flat track bully; yes it was against lowly Villa but the first goal in any game is crucial.

After conceding fairly early Vila had to step up the pace of their game and then Coquelin’s worth came into view – he provided a robust presence in the middle of the pitch which Arsenal have lacked for a while. His tackling was generally clean and on the spot even if he may concede a few fouls but in the hurly burly of any midfield this almost inevitable.

While Coquelin’s bustling presence was a new pleasure to behold, a not so new one was Santi’s dazzling close control, where he seems to pluck lofted passes to him out of the air and caress the ball with ease.

The only Villa players that caught my eye were for naughty infringements – Benteke (as slow and as lumbering a striker as you will ever see) barging Kozzer as he was about to head a Villa cross clear, and another barge from the rotund Villa number 5 on Ramsey as he was jumping into a header.

Özil continued to ghost across all areas and, with Santi, pick and tease apart Villa’s defence to the extent that as half time approached the Ashburton Grove crowd felt the Arsenal should have been two or three up, with only some good saves by the bald Villa keeper and the woodwork preventing the half time lead from being greater.

The Villa manager must have had the hair dryer out as for about ten minutes after the start of the second half the away team actually pressed forward with purpose and Ospina’s calm, composed keeping continued to shine through.

Every Villa cross, and forward foray, caused little concern amongst the home support as the feeling was that Ospina would deal with it – no panic, just unflappability.

This being the first time I’d seen our Colombian keeper I hadn’t heard the call from the Gooner support when he would take a goal kick:

Osss-peeeeeeeeee-na !

A tad childish, but good fun and also something that may make Chesney grimace at the thought of how popular his counterpart has become so quickly.

As Villa saw no way past the twin shields of Coquelin and Ospina a breakaway attack led to Olly threading a ball through to Özil who calmly slotted home for the second. One goal and one assist already and our record signing looking well on the way to a return to form.

With his mid field partner in wizardry, Santi Cazorla, Özil weaved a spell on the Villa players that left them chasing shadows to the extent that somehow the BFG on one occasion found himself driving into the Villa penalty box and slotting over a cross that just eluded the Arsenal strikers – Beckenbauer-esque !

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Santi and Özil bamboozle

Again Santi found another perfect through ball and Theo ran onto it and finished instinctively, the best way for our number 14 and the match was safe at three nil to the good guys.

As expected the same voice who admonished Theo for fluffing the early chance was singing “Theo, Theee-oo!” the loudest of all just then.

With the game won a flurry of substitutions saw Tomas “Rockin” Rosicky and Chubby Akpom come on, the latter to replace Giroud who was by then visibly wincing from a first half collision with the Villa back line.

Having seen little of Chubby it was interesting to see what he brought to our attack. On the basis of today’s cameo a more controlled version of Sanogo’s energy maybe.

That drive saw him latch onto a pass into the penalty area and to my eyes he appeared to take a heavy first touch but somehow the Villa keeper was deemed to have fouled him after he lost control of the ball. Having had more than our fair share of penalties denied we were all happy to take one that probably wasn’t deserved.

Up stepped our man of the moment Santi (who had received the PFA player of the month award before kickoff) and to rub salt into the wound the Villa keeper got a hand to the penalty but only succeeded in parrying the ball onto the post and seeing it ricochet into the net, four nil.

A cheeky chap in the big screen video control room then showed a close up of the Villa keeper kicking the post in frustration after Santi wheeled off in celebration to much mirth in the home support.

A final flourish was the fifth goal, where after the usual Arsenal succession of probing passes around the penalty area a pass allowed Bellerin to run onto the ball in a line towards the goal and it seemed he’d decided, “enough of this fannying around, I’ll slam this one”.

Hector makes it 5

Hector makes it 5

A well deserved debut goal and the BFG’s usual applause for the crowd was in the upbeat mood befitting a thumping five nil victory.

The BFG thanks the gooners

The BFG thanks the gooners

While the opposition was not especially testing it was a resounding win that sets us up nicely for a trip to the swamplands of the Middlesex reprobates next weekend.

Last word to a couple of Villa fans overheard in their high-pitched whingeing Brummy accents in the queue for the station:

“I thought they’d be shit without Sanchez”

One man team? Emphatically not.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Cazorla-Hull-Final

Cazorla lifts Arsenal to beat City but what next when Özil returns?

The last time Arsenal beat Man City in Manchester was October 24th, 2010. Samir Nasri scored the first goal and set up the third in a blow out 3-0 win. Before the final whistle had blown Nasri’s agent was shopping him around and his performances even had Rio Ferdinand publicly tapping him up saying that Nasri was candidate for player of the year. The next summer, Nasri left for Man City and Arsène was forced to shop for his replacement. And if Nasri was the architect of the last win at City his departure made room for the architect of this year’s win at City, Santi Cazorla.

When Fabregas and Nasri left Wenger’s first choice creative midfielder was Santi Cazorla but Arsenal fans would have to wait a year to see Cazorla at Arsenal because Arsenal were outbid by Malaga in 2011. Wenger bought Arteta instead and Arsenal made do for another year.

The wait was worth it as Cazorla’s first season at Arsenal was magical. His job was to set up teammates and despite his impish size he often bossed the opposition final third. He finished that season with 12 goals and 11 assists and was by far the Gunners best player.

But then Arsenal bought Özil, or really Özil fell in our lap. Real Madrid needed to recoup some money from their Gareth Bale splurge and offered up the planet’s most prolific goal creator. Özil arrived amid much fanfare and immediately took Cazorla’s central spot, pushing the Spaniard to the wings or even, at times, to the bench.

Cazorla was still good enough to get plenty of games, though his minutes took a dip as Arsène juggled time between Cazorla and Özil. And with Ramsey making a breakthrough in central midfield it looked like Cazorla was going to be relegated to play backup or out of position.

Cazorla gave an interview in April of 2014 and it was painted by some in the press as Cazorla wanting out of Arsenal. If you read the whole interview, Cazorla never complains about playing time, about the position he was being forced to play, or about the extra defensive duties he had to take on. His only complaint was that he felt Arsenal were a bit soft mentally and he wanted to win trophies. He wanted to win trophies or he would leave, at the end of his contract. There was nothing wrong with a single word he said in that interview.

And Cazorla put his foot where his mouth was. When the trophy was on the line, Cazorla stepped up and kicked the ball into the back of the net, literally. Down 2-0 in the FA Cup final it was Cazorla’s goal from a direct free kick which relit Arsenal’s guns. Cazorla had shown the mental strength he needed from his teammates. It wasn’t just talk, Cazorla was stepping up.

Then, this summer, Arsenal bought Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez further complicated Cazorla’s position at Arsenal. So much so that there were rumors of Arsenal selling Cazorla.

But amid all this one thing has remained: Cazorla’s class. He has simply done what has been asked of him to help the team. He has put in the hard work off the pitch so that when he got his chance on the pitch he could show that he still has what it takes to lead this team’s offense.

The result of al his professionalism is that Cazorla was the mastermind of yesterday’s victory, Arsenal’s first such away victory since 2010. Beyond the assist and the goal, Cazorla ran Arsenal’s counter attack to perfection and still had energy left over to play defense. His numbers were off the hook: 54/59 passes, 10/14 dribbles, 2/6 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 blocked crosses, and 2 clearances. Cazorla is an attacking midfielder and he was making tackles and clearances. Form is temporary, class is permanent. And with yesterday’s performance against the reigning Premier League champs Cazorla has proven once again that he is head of the class.

But what next for Cazorla? Özil will be back sooner than many expect. Ramsey is returning to full fitness, though he looked knackered at the end of the game against City. The work rate of Sanchez plus his goal scoring and playmaking makes him undroppable. And so where do we put the man who has helped carry this Arsenal team through an injury crisis amid a serious challenge for our spot in the Champions League places?

If you keep him in midfield where he played box-to-box with Ramsey, that means Özil goes left and Sanchez goes right with either Welbeck or Giroud up top. If you put him out left, then Sanchez goes right and we lose a bit of box-to-box energy with Özil in the middle of the park.

Complicating all this is the fact that the partnership he has developed with Sanchez is as important to Arsenal as the partnership between Mertesacker and Koscielny at the back. The proof is that Sanchez and Cazorla have either scored or assisted on 10 of Arsenal’s last 11 goals. They are a dynamic 1-2 punch in Arsenal’s attack.

So what do we do when Özil is fit? I don’t know, except I think Arsène has to play him.

Qq

¹Key Passes are a funny stat but Cazorla was third best in that category and was the best in creating chances from through balls with 17.

Debuchy

Arnautovic should be banned and Moss dropped

By Tim 

Arsenal suffered another long term injury on Sunday as Mathieu Debuchy was shoved into the advertising hoardings by Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic, dislocating Debuchy’s shoulder. The match official, Jonathan Moss, didn’t call a foul at the time of the incident and later confirmed he saw what happened and that he felt it was part of “the run of play”.

After the match, the FA refused to punish Arnautovic. Instead of taking action they choose to hide behind the rule that “if the match official saw the incident, we can’t punish”.

There is no such rule because as we saw with the Ben Thatcher and Pedro Mendes incident, the FA will take action, overriding the match official, when they feel like the incident rises to some arbitrary level of foulness.

I’m not saying that Arnautovic’s shove on Debuchy is the same as Thatcher’s hatchet job on Mendes. I’m arguing that the FA uses this rule to hide behind and that the fact that they hide behind these rules is rather troubling.

English football has a rather odd interpretation of foul play whenever a player is in the air. There seems to be a green light for what we would call “undercutting” in basketball. It’s where one player jumps for the ball and the other player backs under him without jumping. It’s extremely dangerous and one of the few things that causes fist fights in pickup basketball games.

But in the English Premier League undercutting your opponent is often overlooked. This is a league where a player can nick another player’s shin pads with his toe and give away a penalty but backing into a player who is helpless in the air isn’t considered a foul.

Which is similar to what happened with Arnautovic on Debuchy. The ball was clearly going out of play and Debuchy was simply ensuring that the ball went out. He was in the air, helpless, when Arnautovic stops, and shoves him in the back, sending Debuchy crashing into the advertising hoardings and dislocating his shoulder.

Arnautovic simply shoves Debuchy in the back. If that is not serious foul play, with a complete disregard for the opponent’s safety, then perhaps the laws of the game should just be burned. It’s such an egregious foul that I would feel comfortable with labeling it violent conduct. Arnautovic is not making a play for the ball, he is literally just roughing Debuchy up. He has no intention of playing the ball. This is a League where you can touch a man’s face and get a red card, or shove a man in the back and get off Scott-Free.

Arnautovic comes with a reputation as well, earning a red card playing against Hamburg when he threatened to kick a ball into the referee. The referee had just given Arnautovic a yellow card for… wait for it… wait for it… backing into an opponent in an aerial challenge when Arnautovic made a motion as if he was going to kick the ball into the referee. The referee literally stared at Marko in disbelief before producing the red.

Almost more troubling than the incident itself is the fact that Jonathan Moss saw what happened and determined that there was no foul. Moss is out of shape and wasn’t as close to the play as he probably should have been. So, perhaps he didn’t see the incident clearly. In that case, then the FA and PGMOL need to look at the match tape and determine whether Moss got this call completely wrong. And since he did get the call completely wrong and a player was injured on his watch, Moss should be dropped from officiating.

Either Moss saw the play clearly and decided it wasn’t a foul, which is completely wrong. Or he is so out of shape that he couldn’t see the play clearly because he was too far away. In either case, he has no business officiating Premier League matches.

The bottom line is that Debuchy was injured by a thuggish elbow from Arnautovic. The Stoke man is going to get off on a technicality because an inept or overweight referee did see the incident. That is all the proof I need that something is rotten in the state of officiating in England.

And I’m not the only one who has noticed. Former PGMOL head Keith Hackett recently called for current head of officiating, Mike Riley, to step down over what he considers a major decline in the state of officiating. I don’t know how much longer the FA can hide behind technicalities. People, prominent people, well respected people, are starting to complain about the officials.

Again, more proof that something is seriously wrong with officiating in the English Premier League.

Qq