Tag Archives: Arsenal

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

Man at the match; Chary: Green shoots of Arsenal recovery ?

A pair of braces from a rejuvenated Giroud and a resurgent Cazorla eased the pressure on a team seeking to erase the memory of the Stoke defeat with a comfortable win against a Newcastle side that traditionally don’t travel well.

Long distance Toon army

Long distance Toon army

On the first wintry day of the season a Christmas shopping delayed departure from home to the match meant there was no time for a pre match alcoholic relaxant and given our previous League result it seemed some beer would have been necessary.

It would be fair to say most Arsenal supporters looked at this fixture in the light of Newcastle’s form with a fair degree of trepidation given they last week banished the pathetically premature talk of Maureen-Yo’s Invincibles (his 14′ers compared to “THE” 49′ers) with a win over the diving specialists of the Premier League.

Under The Invincibles banner

Under The Invincibles banner

That trepidation may have increased with the news that the recently returned from injury Debuchy would be forced to play (right) back due to Kozzers injury and Chambers’ suspension.

In the North Bank lower there was talk of protests that had not materialised and word of “Wenger out” placards being confiscated however there was no definite sense of unease as the game kicked off.

From the off Newcastle tried to match Arsenal’s high energy start to the game and this was to be applauded. Too many times at Ashburton Grove we see away teams with 10 men behind the ball and looking to frustrate, however what was apparent that their midfield pressing was being let down by the below par performance from Newcastle’s front line.

The first chance of the match came to us with a header (I couldn’t see who it was from) off the cross bar and this was to set the tone for the game.

Sadly the next incident was a brutal one as I saw a scuffle for the ball in the midfield end up with high kicking legs and our super Chilean collapsing holding his stomach. It was hard for me to see how much contact there was, but the word around me was it should have been a red card for whoever the miscreant was.

The Newcastle number 28, all gangly legs and comedic/uncoordinated running style, failed to connect with many through balls and one of his fresh air swipes at the ball caused much mirth around me in the block behind the North Bank goal.

While the Arsenal were attacking the Clock end in the first half, at the other end of the ground from me, even my Mr Magoo standard eyesight enabled me to see that Santi Cazorla was engineering plenty of forward passes and creating time and space for Alexis and Welbeck to run onto.

Another aspect of the midfield play was the The Ox’s rambunctious ability to fend off the opposition midfielders attempts to push him off the ball, to this end Colback stood out(not just for his bright ginger hair) as having the most energy in the midfield battle ground.

Newcastle’s open/attacking strategy was bound to play into the Arsenal’s hands when another driving Alexis run to the bye line let him loft in a cross which Olly met with a thumping “towering” header.

At last, a goal from a cross, something we’ve needed to give our attack variety.

With that goal the tension seemed to fall away and even a goal mouth scramble, when Chesney had to make a double save following a Newcastle free kick, couldn’t reduce the positive feeling.

Olly song then rang out and soon after it seemed Welbeck had scored but the celebration was cut short.

Half time saw a pitchside interview with our first super swede, Anders Limpar, with replays of some of his best goals on the big screens. By this time the toes of Arsenla supporters must have started to numb with the plunging tempartures.

The second half saw no change in the away teams open, attacking approach and wave after wave of Arsenal attacks orchestrated by Santi and the attacking charges usually being led by Alexis (and occasionally Welbeck).

Free kick

Free kick

The performance of Bellerin was appreciated, not just for his help in setting up, and joining in, attacks but his tenacious defensive tackling and composure when pressurised, whenever I have seen him play live he has not looked out of place.

Another attack saw Santi weave his way into the penalty area then, stumbling, lift the ball over the diving rookie Newcastle keeper to make it 2 nil.

Santi scores

Santi scores

No sooner had the crowd started relaxing completely then a cross from our right saw Olly flick in the third goal and again his song was sang – how we missed the big Frenchman’s presence up top.

A feature of the match, many fouls on us being unpunished and first infractions by us leading to booklings, manifest itself with a soft free kick being awarded against us.

A groan from the home support told me Newcastle had pulled a goal back yet a 3-1 lead looked safe given the lack of quality in the away forwards.

This didn’t change the tempo or direction of the game and Arsenal carried on attacking with Welbeck in particular not letting the Newcastle keeper nor defence settle with the ball that long.

Santi orchestrating

Santi orchestrating

It was Welbeck’s pressing that let him run onto a pass that set him up for a driving surge, in my direction, to the goal where I could see the clumsy barge that led to the most stone wall of stone wall penalties you will ever see.

Being just five rows from the front I was hoping to have a good view of the penalty and as I saw Santi, like in the FA Cup semi final, wait to take the penalty, but as soon as he started his run all I could see was a sea of raised arms. Luckily the cheer told me we had four and we were mirroring Tuesday’s score line.

Make that two

Make that two

At this point the same voices around me who were critical of the manager pre match were singing:

“One Arsene Wenger”

In the context of what went before I was unable to process this turn of events or make sense of it.

In any case a happy home crowd cheered at the final whistle and Flamini joined the BFG as one of the few players who thanked the crowd before disappearing off down the players tunnel.

The BFG

The BFG

Two wins after the soul destroying defeat in middle Earth at the previous weekend was all that the team could do and one hopes this means the teams form is on the up, or at the very least the fragile recovery is starting.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)