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lager-land

4 days in Munich: a photoblog

Day 1

I arrive at the airport in Munich and Dee has arranged transportation:

I paid €1,000 for this paint job!

The pipes on the car were very loud, very illegal, and the car very fast. We sped past the Allianz Arena and I snapped this picture in a blur:

Allianz

The boys were kind enough to drop me off at my hotel in Munich Ost, which is situated right next to a farm — oh yes, that is snow.

Ode to a tree

From there it’s a €17 cab ride back to where Dee and the boys are drinking. A little bar called Schiller Sport Haus. We get some drinks in.

CALM

We are the first Arsenal fans to arrive. All hell would break loose soon, but until then, they loved us at that bar so much that they gave Dee some of the bar’s glassware.

cheers

Day 2

Took a stroll through Munich. Saw a dirndl:

Dirndl

And some big cathedral

snake

And naturally, there were sausages everywhere.

WURST

I mean everywhere, like, even on this plate.

sausage

No sausages here

fountain

There was a running war of tags between the Bayern Munich fans and the Munich 1860 fans. This was a tag for the “Hooligans 1860″ gang. I’ve included it because people would be disappointed if I didn’t see any “hooligans”

hooligans

Or Nazis

nazis

Day 3: Game day, Bayern Munich v. Arsenal

Met up with the Tollington Gooners at Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards, aka “The Hoffbrauhaus”

hoffbrau

We went to another bar for a change of venue and Ricky took this picture with me.

mit hosen in handen

We are all very calm before the game, very reserved.

last-supper

But I’m hungry, so I get a pork knuckle. And things start getting rowdy.

Knuckle

But first… a trip to McDonalds. For some McCurry Wurst. Not for me mind, I’m happy with actual pork.

wurst

Bellies full, we head back to the hotel. Here’s us after a few “Jager Bombs”

tollington

And a few more — yes, he’s getting his twitter handle written on his forehead. He also shaved his head… and other things.

superswede

It’s a war of attrition

tolly2

and we are losing!

tolly3

But we make it to the stadium (via a cab!).

Allianz

And the Gooners are from all over!

cologne

They even brought flares

flare

The Allianz is full (almost) but not quite “rocking”

inside

At half-time, Arsenal lead 1-0, and the home fans in the corporate section all clear their seats. Do they serve McCurry Wurst back there or… lager?

executive

Arsenal win the game 2-0 but it’s a case of too little, too late and Bayern go through on the away goals rule.

giroud

Day 4

With most of the Brits back home I spend some time at the German Museum. Looking at… windmills

air

And helicopters

belly (2)

And some kind of seriously insane helicopter. I mean, really? Someone flew in this thing?

helicopter

And some metal airplanes too.

metalplane

But the airplanes made out of skins are really nuts. I mean, seriously, if you’re afraid of flying you need to look at what our forefathers flew in to get a sense of what kind of crazy lunatics these people were.

canvas

Like the Wright brothers. Basically, this plane is made of balsa wood and paper.

wright

The Red Baron is a family favorite.

red-baron

As is the cutaway of a jumbo jet (next to a V-2 rocket. The Germans are proud of their rocket heritage).

tube

There are also some famous missiles.

missle

The museum is so much more than planes. There were ceramics exhibits, glass, physics… basically all of the inventions of the 20th century. There was also a very large section dedicated to the press. Without the invention of which I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m not going to bore you with musings on how far the press has come since its invention, just look at this picture.  Now think about how the press has gone from individually carved plates and how that meant anything published needed to be meaningful and how now any American with a computer can spout anything they like about Arsenal and get thousands of views… think about that and you can bore yourself.

press2

On the way out, I snapped a picture of the famous clock.

It was quarter to Scorpio.

scorpio

Tomorrow… Swansea.

Qq

BABY

Sagna and Wilshere overcome Sunderland and Taylor

I had a professor once tell me that his secret to grad school was to read the first and last paragraph of every chapter and if it was a chapter he thought was particularly important, he would read the first and last sentence of each paragraph in the chapter. It was the only way that he could handle the rigors of all the required readings while also maintaining a high alcohol to blood ratio. So if you’re in grad school, go ahead and skip to the last paragraph.

Now that those bores are gone off to let their hair down in their ivory towers, the rest of us can talk about a few things. First, let’s talk for a second about Bacary Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny.

There was a moment in the 85th minute where I thought, “by moving Sagna to center half, the good news is that Arsenal have the Sagna of old back, the bad news is that now Arsenal have a right back crisis.”

We’ve known it now for several years, Arsenal’s fullbacks have incredible demands put on them. They have to be one of the best passers on Arsenal, a team which already demands a high level and rate of passing, because they provide the only width on a team in which three center mids make vertical runs all day. And precisely because of that attacking system which turns players like Sagna and Gibbs into a fifth midfielder the Arsenal fullbacks are often pushed well up the field and subsequently exposed to runs behind and all other manner of problems.

A lot of folks were wringing their hands about “Sagna’s form” this season and tweeting about how they “wouldn’t shed a tear” if Sagna were to leave this Summer. That level of unwarranted vitriol kicked into overdrive when he gave an interview to the French press this week talking about Arsenal’s lack of positional discipline with his detractors calling it ironic that he would talk about positioning when he was the one caught out so often. Some folks went so far as to say that it looked like he didn’t care.

The reality is that the performance you saw from Sagna yesterday is the same type of warrior-like, full-blooded, steely game that he has been giving pretty much his entire Arsenal career. Moreover, he is hands down Arsenal’s best defender and has been for a number of years. He’s better in the air (at a mere 5’8″) than the 6’4″ Per Mertesacker and is one of the few players at Arsenal who actually knows how (and when!) to make a tackle.

Arsenal have made a number of defensive errors this season and Sagna has been one of the players who contributed to that ignominious record. I was one of the people who tipped Carl Jenkinson to take over for Sagna I have to admit that I was wrong on that account. I like Jenkinson, but almost as soon as Sagna returned you could see that Jenkinson still had much to learn. And on yesterday’s performances, with Sagna winning many plaudits and Carl seeing red, the gulf between them is stretched to a chasm. Sagna going to PSG would be a huge loss for Arsenal this summer.

Meanwhile, Szczesny is getting a lot of credit for making a couple of decent saves in the game but apart from a few good moments I felt like he was, overall, very shaky. One of the things that everyone praised Szcz for over the last two years was his “command of the area” but over the last few matches, Szczesny has looked anything but commanding.

Stoke’s “Hail Mary” offense is scary for the best of keepers and for one as young as Szczesny, who is exposed by a center back pairing that can’t win headers, Stoke is a daunting opponent indeed. Still, his attempted claims against Stoke made him look weak and ineffectual.

Against Sunderland he continued this recent form of flapping at high claims and I felt put undue pressure on his defense. Pressure that the defense didn’t need because Sunderland aren’t that much of a threat from the air. I don’t hate the kid or want to see him fired but it makes me wonder if there isn’t something physically wrong with Szczesny.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that Szczesny is playing with a knock, I think Wenger is taking more and more chances with his players as the squad looks increasingly thinner. What, exactly, is happening with Arsenal’s squad is the mystery of the season. Djourou is loaned out at just the worst time of the season and now Santos has been send to Gremio for a year leaving Arsenal with a rather threadbare defensive unit.

I called for Wilshere to be rested before kickoff and judging by the fact that he was removed for an “injury” I don’t think that was a bad shout. Wenger admitted before the game that he is worried about Wilshere playing too much. He said something similar before Wilshere was injured two years ago.

Despite the injury scare, Wilshere was pivotal to Arsenal beating Sunderland yesterday. Not only did he record the “pre-assist” but he was a focal point for the Sunderland defense who were forced to close down on Jack all day. That opened space for his teammates. Cazorla, in fact, needs Jack next to him, the two make an excellent midfield pairing. I wonder if Cazorla wouldn’t have had his man-of-the-match performance if he had been the target of the Sunderland studs rather than Jack.

whew

The difference between Jack’s pulsing forward play and the ball dawdling of Diaby is night and day. The second that Wilshere was off the pitch Arsenal stopped controlling possession and struggled going forward. So, I “get it’ that Wenger needs to use him so much. But yesterday’s match against Sunderland should be seen as a huge warning to the club; Jack can’t do it alone. He needs Arsenal to spend some of the money sitting in the bank to put players around Jack that can take some of the load off. I’m not worried as much about burnout this season, I’m worried about a Cesc-like burnout from the club and the club’s parsimonious policies.

Which brings me to my last point for the day: the League has a real problem with the referees. I have never seen a player as tough as Jack Wilshere. He is the kind of guy who likes to keep the ball, like all creative players he loves the ball. Those kinds of players are normally targeted by the players who hate creativity, the Lee Cattermoles of the world. The destroyers. But the kicking that Wilshere takes rises to a level I’m not sure I’ve seen before.

Wilshere is not just constantly targeted, he’s constantly targeted with obscene tackles like the one that Titus Bramble put in which caused Jack to jump 10′ in the air. Lee Cattermole kicked Wilshere and Ramsey multiple times and got away with it and the rest of the Sunderland midfield took turns getting away with kicks left and right.

Leaving aside the fouls that don’t make contact, it would be a start if referees in the Premier League could punish the fouls that do make contact. Fouls like this one:

Lee Cattermole is EXACTLY that kind of player

This foul by Cattermole on Ramsey earned Cattermole a yellow and it was part of a starting 10 minutes by Sunderland in which they fouled the Arsenal players all over the pitch and got away with it time and again. Cattermole should have seen red probably twice in this game but again there were scenes of the referee and him shucking and jiving rather than the referee just sending him to an early bath. Meanwhile, if the Arsenal players got anywhere near the Sunderland boys the whistle went immediately and the cards were quick.

But in the end Arsenal did just enough to ensure the three points. Giroud and Cazorla both squandered golden chances on the counter attack as Sunderland decided to play football in the final 15 minutes and extended themselves to get an equalizer. Defensively, Ramsey was outstanding filling in for Carl Jenkinson at right back and as many of us have said here time and again, you have to love Ramsey’s willingness to do anything the boss asks. People often complain about players who don’t respect the badge, if you’re looking for one, look no further than Aaron Ramsey. And of course, Szczesny and Sagna combined to keep the clean sheet: Sagna heading away every Sunderland threat and Szczesny finally claiming some high balls, ending the game with a perfect claim with three Sunderland players surrounding him. It was a good result for Arsenal and fingers crossed that everyone comes through with no knocks and gets healthy for the FA Cup and Champions League games upcoming.

There was a lot of stuff you just missed in there my grad school friend. We proved definitively that Bacary Sagna should start at center back, that Wenger was foolish to play Wilshere, that Lee Cattermole is exactly that kind of player, and that Anthony Taylor made the kinds of decisions that cast a pall on the fundamental fairness of the Premier League. Or maybe we just talked about the game. Maybe you should read the whole article and find out?

Qq

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)