Tag Archives: FA Cup

Unwelcome surprise home defeat to West Ham.

Two smartly taken opportunistic strikes either side of half time condemned a sluggish Arsenal to an opening premier league campaign fixture defeat on a sticky, hot August day in north London.

Having finished the previous season strongly and started pre season well very few Gooners would have predicted a loss to a mid table finishing team like Wham.

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

The mood was therefore suitably upbeat before the game as I took my seat in block 7 (one of the “unofficial” standing areas), however little did I realise that I may have been better off looking at the underside of the red Action banner for the next 90 minutes, rather than what I saw on field.

A different view

A different view

After a bright start, with the Ox impressing with his energetic runs, it really did feel like a goal was imminent. It was also apparent that the Bilic approach to play was to continue from their much curtailled/already finished “European campaign of 2015-15″, namely a fouling/tripping based strategy, as seen by a couple of early yellows.

It’s no wonder their glorious Europa Cup run saw three red cards for Wham in their 5 July games. Looking at the crude and vulgar gesticulations and antics of Bilic on the sidelines today they also have a manager who will be regularly sent to the stands this season.

Team wise the only surprise may have been Debuchy in place of Bellerin at right back and the presence of Alexis on the bench, for emergency use only presumably.

After early chances came and were missed frustration did begin to creep into the part of the North Bank lower I was in and although the usual suspects were being targetted, Özil and Olly, for me the key miss was Santi, who had one of those games where his influence was minor. When Santi’s twinkle toes are not playing a big part in our game, you know we are having a bad day.

And so it turned out, however before then two myths have to busted.

Firstly, excessive complaining about the failings of our team and NOT the sole preserve of the so called excessive entitlement younger generations as an octogenarian fan behind me was on the back of the team within 10 minutes of the start. Everyone was rubbish; they were too slow or too fast, they should have done “X” with the ball and not “Y” – at one point i was sure his false teeth were going to fly out, such was the venom of his barracking.

So when Wham scored after Cech made a ricket (aka total balls up) of collecting a cross the mood plunged and the home competitive debut of our sole summer signing (so far) was consigned to the “Day to forget” pile.

After a few minutes the home support gathered themselves and urged the team on again and the expectancy was that the second half would see an equaliser.

Little did we contemplate a defensive mix up leading to gifting possession to Wham soon after the restart would double the visitors lead.

And so onto the second myth to be busted: how good the Wham support is.

Aside from some applause at kick off the away support was barely heard till the second goal, when at last the latest batch of queue jumpers on Newham Coucil’s Housing list decided to rouse themselves from their afternoon slumbers.

While the home support is generally soporific, most of the away fans I have seen showed significantly better support and volume levels. The Eagles supporters, at the first fixture of last season, were far and away better supporters as they sang all the way through even though Crystal Palace lost the game – a far superior demonstration of away support

What followed was a final balf hour of amateur time wasting and frantic attacks by the Arsenal forwards which broke down, and led to much howling and clasping of heads by the dejected home support.

Olly takes one for the team

Olly takes one for the team

A long delay after a clash of heads involving Olly, plus 5 substitutions only 5 minutes of added time, when at least 7 seemed likely, seemed to sum up the Gunners luck.

Even the late introduction of Alexis couldn’t scare up a goal for the Arsenal, expecting him to be match sharp this early is beyond ridiculous

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and subdued applause for the team showing that two trophies in two seasons gets you some goodwill with the fans, but how long this lasts will be proved by the reaction to this result from the team.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

Arteta and Per Lifting the Cup

Matchday Photo of the Month: the Final

By Jonathan Blaustein

“Look at the clock. Keep the faith. You never know. But a third for Arsenal… and surely curtains. (pause.) And there it is! Mertesacker!” The other Fox announcer. (Not Stuart Robson)

It’s Monday afternoon, Mountain Standard Time. Outside, the blue skies have shaded gray, as a Monsoon storm approaches from the West. The field of extinct volcanoes, out my door, reaches up to grab the walking rain, always welcome here in the high desert.

Sage bushes soak up water, voracious, like a drunk at the pub. The wet air soothes my lungs, still hoarse from shouting at the television screen two days ago. I’m sure you were out of your mind with excitement too. Right?

Yesterday, under what appeared to be a far more menacing weather pattern, Londoners and Gooners alike danced through the streets, following an open-topped, red bus like cultists, celebrating the genius of a tall, skinny dude from Alsace.

Long live the king!

And, just like that, another season is done and dusted. (Who says a Yank from the boonies can’t appropriate some English slang?)

We’ve reached the end, and I’m not entirely sure how I’ll go two months without any more football. At least there’s Chile to root for in the Copa America. (Don’t get hurt, Alexis, you magnificent bastard.)

It’s been a pleasure to step from the ranks of the silent masses, and contribute to this blog over the 2014-15 season. I appreciate the opportunity to pitch in and attempt to add value to this, my favorite Arsenal blog.

Have I done so?

I’m not sure, really. The submissions never came pouring in, but always managed to pop up at the last minute. Just when I thought there’d be no column, some Gooner from a far flung corner of Earth would email me a picture, and I’d try to write something witty and/or intelligible about it, while sharing my opinions on the state of the club.

Looking back, I was vindicated by adopting a stance of guarded optimism. I called myself the voice of reason, and reason prevailed. Trophy delivered, no horrendous performances, (save Monaco at home,) and a very likable team came together before our eyes.

We saw pictures of cute kids, yes, and I got the chance to whip out my wicked Jose Mourinho impression. But it’s hard to feel vital here, as Tim does such a good job with his analysis, the London guys actually report from the games, and Naveen just knows a ton of shit.

Where do I fit in? Good question. I haven’t exactly figured that out, so we’ll see if there’s motivation come August.

That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and am thrilled to have been the recipient of emails from people like Sean Thum, in Malaysia.

We ended up, unexpectedly, having a few guys submit multiple times, becoming almost a group of regulars. (Norm!) So May would have come and gone, but on the 30th, Sean sent in a picture of his buddies, screaming at a big screen, while the FA cup was lifted.

Arteta and Per Lifting the Cup

How could we not publish that? What better visual could there be for why this football club inspires the Global joy and loyalty it does?

It’s not escaped my notice that long-time fans think newbies are a breed apart. (The JV fans, if you will.) I don’t blame them. Relationships like these take years to build, to gain the subtlety of flavor. But for me, the rise from AVB’s negative spiral to this sort of savored, unlabored victory?

Totally. Fucking. Awesome.

So thank you, 7am kickoff readers. Thank you, Tim. And thanks to the photographers who took the time to share their world with the rest of us.

As we say out here in the Wild West, much obliged.


Arsenal 4-0 Villa: It’s Been A Long Road To Victory

By Tim Todd, Chief 

Arsenal thumped Aston Villa 4-0 to retain the FA Cup, catapulting Arsenal to an English record 12th FA Cup trophy, making Wenger the joint most successful manager in the competition with 6 of those titles, and becoming the first team to win consecutive FA Cups since Chelsea in 2009-2010. But more than just records, this was a cup which overflowed with the narratives of the season.

This win was the culmination of a season’s work. Much has been made of Coquelin nailing down the starting spot in the defensive midfield role and as well there has been a lot of speculation over weather dropping Szczesny for Ospina dramatically changed the team. There is no question that Coquelin and Ospina are conservative players and that their reserved nature forms a great base for Arsenal’s defense. But this season isn’t marked by Wenger drilling his team to play two banks of four. It should be remembered instead for Wenger changing the entire team’s approach to defense, adding a counter pressing style.

In their yellow and blue kits Arsenal looked like a pack of angry bees swarming any time there was a player invading their half. And like a bee kicking a foreign invader out of the hive they stripped the ball away and started a counter attack. It wasn’t uncommon at all to see three or even four yellow shirts around a lone Villa man with the ball.


Arsenal have spent all season working on this press. From the start there were signs that the King Bee wanted his men to pressure the opposition but that some players didn’t quite know what to do. Early in the season, against Hull, Wilshere was so distraught that he turned around and yelled at Cazorla to get up and help fill the gaps (illustrated below).


The Spaniard, however, took time to catch on, as did all of his teammates. And that finally paid off here in the final as time and again the Gunners simply surrounded the Villa player and walked away with the ball.


Villa’s response was to resort to cynical fouling. Each time Arsenal took the ball from them, they would chase down the Arsenal man and foul, trip, or pull the player from behind. Villa were outclassed, their manager completely out of ideas, and they were simply grabbing at anything to try to keep a hold in this game.


It was pure joy for Gooners to watch as Arsenal dismantled Villa for 90 minutes. Turning defense into offense, the Gunners ripped open the Villa lines: Bellerin played dangerous crosses; what Ozil saw must have looked like a fly’s vision as he chipped, back-heeled, and crossed into the path of the attacking players over and over; Cazorla played like Pirlo, going 12/12 picking out forwards with his perfectly floated long chips; Walcott terrified Villa’s defenders and showed that he can play through the middle; Alexis scored what could be the goal of the season — a moment of brilliance from Arsenal’s brightest star; and despite being far from a finished product, even Coquelin put in a shift (not just his defensive work!) with 3 dribbles to escape pressure and 7/7 long balls, spraying passes all over the pitch and looking to jump start Arsenal’s counter.

It’s been a long road for Arsenal to get this far.

The nadir of the season has to be when Arsenal fans stood on the platform in Stoke and abused Arsene Wenger. Raphael Honigstein even said that he “saw the logic” in such abuse and that “personal abuse might be the way forward.” As in the way forward to force Arsene Wenger out of the club. He was wrong and those fans were wrong: there was another way forward.

The other way forward included trusting the new fitness team to get the key players back and healthy. That way forward included trusting Wenger to change up his team’s preparation for the games. That way forward included waiting for the Arsenal players to figure out what Wenger was asking them to do. And this FA Cup win was the destination of that other way forward.

As an example of the change in preparation, Wenger knew his team are susceptible to crossed aerial attacks. He also knew that Benteke is a beast in the air. Benteke did win 9 aerial duels today but, crucially, only 2 in the danger area. Mertesacker and Koscielny both pressured Benteke on all crossed aerials into the box and kept him quiet.

Szczesny was also clearly trained and ready for this aerial bombardment. From nearly the first minute Szczesny came out to claim whenever Villa tried a cross. He even had a powerful punch at 0-0 to beat Benteke to an open header. His aggression on crosses forced Villa to play them deeper and further away from the danger area. In the end, Szczesny didn’t have much else to do, Villa only registered 2 shots, both from distance and both blocked, but what he did have to do, he did perfectly.

And of course, player fitness has been a problem for a long time. Before this season, Arsenal would typically say that a player would be out for two weeks and have that turn into four weeks and then six weeks before the announcement that the injury was actually season ending. But for the first season ever Arsenal got players back before they were supposed to. And the players look more robust. Alexis in particular looks like he’s made out of some indestructible material, Alexmantium?

Arsenal’s fitness was so perfect today that Wenger was able to start Theo Walcott (throwing a spanner in Tim Sherwood’s plans) and bring on Ox, Giroud, and Wilshere. All of whom have missed large portions of the season through injury.

In beating Villa 4-0 we saw exactly what a fully fit, prepared, and tactically adept Arsenal team can do. It was the complete performance, an example of what a little faith and a lot of hard work can achieve, and a fitting end to the season. But it’s not the end of the road for these players.

The future looks bright for this team. The last time a Wenger team won back to back FA Cups was the season before the Invincibles. I’m not foolish enough to predict that this team can go an entire season unbeaten but given the way they finished this season and the way they have taken to Wenger’s new style of play, I think they could be title challengers.

But as much as they could be title challengers, we know that they are cup winners. Congratulations to the club, the manager, the players, and the fans. For all you went through this season, the injuries, the uncertainty, adapting a new playing style, and fitting in new players, you deserved this.