Tag Archives: Sam Allardyce

wilshirtless

Arsenal 5-1 West Ham: a season in 90 minutes

Nearly everything we know or think we know about Arsenal played out in 112 minutes at the Emirates stadium last night as Arsenal cruised to a 5-1 win over a dreadful and dirty West Ham United. In fact, in many ways last night’s game was a microcosm of Arsenal’s season and perhaps even a microcosm of Arsenal over the last 5 years.

First there was the now customary limp first half performance followed by a much more determined second half. As I point out in my By the Numbers column, Arsenal have just a +3 goal difference in the first half of their League games this season. It’s not that Arsenal have a hard time scoring goals in the first half of games, they have 20 goals, it’s more that they allow teams to score on them having conceded 17. In the second half, those numbers change dramatically and Arsenal have 26 goals and have only conceded 10. That’s a +16 goal difference, the highest among the top clubs.

And so it was against West Ham. The Hammers struck first in the 18th minute off a Jack Collison wonder-goal. Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to an unmarked Collison who simply hit the ball hard. Both Mertesacker and Giroud charged the shot down but parted like the red sea leaving Szczesny unsighted and with no chance of saving.

How many times this season have we seen a player (Arsenal or otherwise) simply refuse to block a shot? Too many in my mind. And how many times in the last 5 years have we seen Arsenal fail to clear their lines on a corner kick? That’s right, eleventeen: which is so many times that I no longer get nervous. I’m resigned to the fact that Arsenal concede goals when they fail to clear corners and set pieces.

What defines whether Arsenal get points now isn’t whether we concede but rather how we hustle to get back into or stay in games. Against Chelsea, Arsenal’s balls seemed to shrivel up and suck back into their body. But against West Ham, they “grew a pair” and matched Allardyce’s men in the physical battle despite suffering several tackles which should have seen red.

Podoski’s shot to level the two teams was an unstoppable blast from outside the box set up by a delicious little ball from Wilshere. But it wasn’t that goal which truly impressed, it was the 15 minutes after the second half kicked off. Arsenal won every tackle in that period, won every header, and won every dribble, and for a few minutes it truly seemed like every pass went into the net, all planned as well.

The goal on the 47th minute was training ground stuff; Walcott took the corner and played it low and hard into the near post where Olivier Giroud had made a run. The big Frenchman clipped the ball into the net and my jaw hit the floor: I didn’t know the two of them had that goal in them.

From that point on, West Ham showed why they have dropped so precipitously from their lofty early season League table position. They disintegrated under a withering 10 minutes from Arsenal. 10 minutes which saw Arsenal score three more goals, each seemingly more unbelievable than the last. In the end, Podolski scored just the one goal, but he did gather 3 assists to his name, a feat not seen since Walcott managed in the League cup v. Reading.

After the 5th goal, the game was largely academic. Arsenal stuck the car in cruise control and Cazorla decided to start shooting from all over the pitch. There was a scary moment in the game when Danny Potts was stretchered off with a concussion. My thoughts go out to the youngster and hopes for a speedy recovery.

But if you have any doubt that Allardyce sends his men out to kick Arsenal around just watch that game again — it’s all long balls and over-the-top tackles. Vaz Te raked Mertesacker’s Achilles and elbowed Wilshere in the head. Jack Collison somehow, miraculously, failed to break Jack Wilshere’s leg with a disgusting tackle which should see retroactive punishment but won’t. To see the series of screen shots, head on over to the 7amkickoff Facebook page – how is Wilshere not in the hospital today? Even Momo Diame, supposedly auditioning for a gig at Arsenal, got into the action with a studs-up tackle on Mertesacker in the dying minutes of the game.

But as I said from the start, those tackles shouldn’t surprise anyone because we’ve seen them plenty this year already and the last five years far too often — in the very last game RamiressssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS got away with an absurd tackle which led to Chelsea’s first goal an then got away with a series of egregious fouls after that to rub salt in the wound. Arsenal were lucky to escape without any injury, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Wilshere is out for a few weeks after this:

Trod upon

And so it is that Arsenal go from one game to the next, from one half to the next, and even from just part of a half to the whole game putting in a wildly variable performance. Statistically Arsenal are better this year than last: same number of points after 23 games (37) but far superior goals scored (46 v. 39) and a better defense (27 v. 33) resulting in a much better goal difference (+19 v. +6). But it’s consistency that’s the hallmark of top clubs and if there is anything different about this season compared to the last, it’s that Arsenal “lack a little bit the consistency” they have shown over Arsene Wenger’s tenure.

If there’s one thing that Arsenal fans wish for it’s that the club put in performances like the one against West Ham and Swansea every match. If Arsenal did that, I don’t even think people would mind so much if the club finished in 6th place. Ironically, if they do work their socks off for the rest of the season, there’s no way they will finish 6th.

Qq

The perception is that Sam Allardyce is actually a walrus

West Ham v. Arsenal preview: walruses love foul weather

I’m going to write this post in the direct, in your face, style of West Ham.

West Ham like fouls. They lead the League in fouls with an average of 16 fouls per game.

West Ham get a lot of yellow cards. They lead the League in yellow cards with 15 of them.

They got 8 yellow cards in their last game against QPR. 4 of those cards were for fouls and 4 for time wasting and complaining.

All 8 of their cards in that game against QPR came after they took the lead.

7 of their 15 yellow cards are for time wasting and other general cuntery, such as kicking the ball out of play and moaning to the referee when they don’t get a call.

The Alardyce coat of arms is a stick of gum rampant with the motto GET A RESTART.

Phil Dowd is the referee tomorrow. Phil Dowd once refereed the worst refereed match in the history of the game: a 4-4 draw between Arsenal and Newcastle.

West Ham score a lot of goals off set plays. Four of them so far this season. That’s joint best with two other teams.

Arsenal have conceded three consecutive goals in the League off set plays. This causes much consternation among Arsenal fans who can’t figure out how that’s possible now that Pat Rice is no longer with the club.

Allardyce is an acolyte of Charlie Reep. He loves long balls, believes in “playing the percentages” and will instruct his team to pound their balls onto Andy Carroll’s face because Andy Carroll is tall.

Andy Carroll won a lot of aerial duels last season, 152/236. The most in the League.

Per Mertesacker is so tall that West Ham won’t be kicking the ball in his direction. No one ever does, that’s why Per Mertesacker only has 19 aerial duels this season and Vermaelen has 26.

Ok, so admittedly that’s not an astonishing insight.

Allardyce will opt for big diagonals and Carroll will be playing between Gibbs and Vermaelen. This has the added bonus of Carroll’s knockdowns going to an onrushing Kevin Nolan or Ricardo Vas Te. West Ham love scoring that way. Almost as much as they love scoring off set plays.

West Ham will be so eager to show off the set piece they have been working on all week that I expect them to dive to the ground immediately upon finding themselves in the Arsenal half. Is there nothing that big, hard, English midfielders like Kevin Nolan like better than going down when they have the ball?

Phil Dowd will award them the free kick because he’s fucking mental.

Per Mertesacker’s name is pronounced PEAR. So stop making  puns like “Mertesacker was Per-fect”. Instead, try this: Vermaelen and Mertesacker will probably Per up as the starting center backs.

I have no clue who will actually start for either team but I will guess at Arsenal’s lineup anyway: Mannone, Jenkinson, PEAR, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Coquelin, Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho, Ramsey.

Or maybe Wenger will start Ox. Whatever.

I picked Ramsey because I think Wenger will want to play his “crazy diamond” four central midfielder thing that he does whenever the opposition try to outnumber Arsenal in midfield. Which is exactly what West Ham will try to do. See, contrary to popular opinion the Hammers don’t really “park the bus”. They actually play a more aggressive pressing game when they don’t have the ball. It’s similar to Barcelona in that regard. Except, it’s nothing like Barcelona because West Ham don’t want the ball back. They just want to kick the ball back into the Arsenal half or out of play. What they actually want is for the game to get over.

Sorry, I got a little serious there.

Suck it, Ramsey haters!

Arsenal like to pass the ball. They will try to pass the ball despite Phil Dowd allowing West Ham to rotationally foul Santi Cazorla and time waste for 90  minutes.

Arsenal’s top four players in terms of passes per game are: Arteta, Cazorla, Jenkinson, and Gibbs. Technically Diaby is 4th but Diaby doesn’t count because he is injured, again again.

Arsenal’s third most prolific passer is Carl Jenkinson.  He’s pretty good. He might get called up for England one day. We will find out from Roy Hodgson when he holds his next presser on the Piccadilly line.

Jenkinson is good but Gibbs is actually better. Which is why Hodgson selected him to be injured playing for England next week.

Gibbs leads Arsenal in interceptions with 3.8 — that’s third best in the League. He’s also second at Arsenal in tackles. Has only committed three fouls in six games. Averages as many key passes as Arteta (1.2). And gets in the same number of crosses per game as Jenkinson (whom many believe is a better crosser). Gibbs is pretty good.

Mark Noble leads the League in tackles per game. He will probably try to tackle someone tomorrow. Inevitably he will foul someone hard. I’m guessing it will be Cazorla because Cazorla plays almost entirely in the opposition half.

Don’t bet against Arsenal getting a goal of their own from a set piece. Against Olympiakos, Steve Bould made a great tactical substitution and put on Giroud and Ramsey in the 80th minute. The two of them combined very well and actually helped to keep Olympiakos penned into their own half. It was so effective that Olympiakos never generated a shot in those last 15 minutes. But Arsenal created four chances between those two subs. A late set piece winner from Giroud would be the perfect way to go into nationalism week.

That said, Gervinho will start. Wenger doesn’t like to change. And why would he? It’s working.

Stop comparing Gervinho to Henry. Yes, I know Henry was a winger transformed into a striker but Gervinho lacks… gah, just don’t ever do that.  Here’s the three things that Gervinho could do to be like Henry:

1. CUT THAT COMBOVER. Henry would not rock that, bro.
2. Stop with the chip on your shoulder/Nazi salute goal celebration thing. No one will ever erect a statue of you doing a “roman salute” outside of the Grove. I don’t care if you score 1000 goals. It will never happen.
3. Do nothing because you will never be Thierry Henry. I mean, have you ever seen Henry play football?

I will now be abused as a Gervinho-hater.

The game starts at 9:30am tomorrow, local time. It’s on Fox Soccer Channel here in the States. I have to take my daughter to football practice. I won’t be watching it live. Don’t tell me how it ends.

Qq

Allardyce sees red over Murphy’s comments

Sam Allardyce was raging mad yesterday as he dove in two-footed, shin high on Danny Murphy’s comments that teams like Blackburn intentionally foul their opponents.

Responding with a mixture of “facts,” and challenges to Murphy’s manhood, Big Sam claimed that his team are near the top of the Fair Play league and that they have fewer yellow cards and no red cards as compared to those dirty French from Arsenal.

Fair play to Sam mentioning the indisputable fact that his team have only garnered 11 yellow cards in their first 7 games putting them in 4th place on the disciplinary table while Arsenal find themselves in 17th place with 1 more yellow than Blackburn and a damning 2 more red cards.

Clearly it is Arsenal who are the dirty team and Blackburn who are saints then.. or maybe not. Maybe there’s a perception at work here and that perception is actually harming Arsenal and helping Blackburn. We know how much Sam Allardyce hates perception and wants to kick perception out of football so maybe we have some common ground here.

When Allardyce mentioned Blackburn’s relatively clean disciplinary record so far this season, I thought at first he was fudging the numbers, but the record is clear, as I have stated, that they have only 11 yellow cards so far. The statistics also tell a very different story though when you look at total number of fouls committed and the share of red cards that some teams are getting.

Here’s a few teams’ total fouls, yellow cards and red cards, and fouls per card breakdown:

Blackburn: 100 fouls
11 yellow cards 0 red cards
1 card every 9 fouls

Everton: 94 fouls
6 yellow cards 0 red cards
1 card every 15 fouls

Arsenal: 86 fouls
12 yellow cards and 2 red cards
1 card every 6 fouls

Stoke: 88 fouls
14 yellow card 0 red cards
1 card every 6 fouls

Wolves: 114 fouls
21 yellow cards 2 red cards
1 card every 5 fouls

Most teams in the league are getting a yellow card every 6 fouls, but some teams like Blackburn and Everton are getting away with much more foul play before they receive a caution.  Case in point: incredibly, both Wolves and Blackburn had matches where they committed 19 fouls and didn’t receive a single card.

We also know for a fact that dangerous foul play is going unpunished in the league. Witness de Jong’s leg breaking tackle on Ben Arfa or Henry’s disgusting tackle from behind which broke Zamora’s leg, neither of which received a yellow, much less the red card that they deserved.

Meanwhile Arsenal matches have seen 5 red cards (2 for Arsenal players) and there have only been a total of 12 red cards in the league this season. That means that Arsenal games have generated 42% of the League’s red cards.

Both of Arsenal’s red cards have come from ticky-tack little fouls which somehow resulted in a second yellow being given by the referee. On the other side of the coin it takes an outrageous tackle for someone like Karl Henry to get a red card. He could have gotten 3 red cards by my count in the game against Newcastle where he showed a blatant disregard for the welfare of his fellow professionals, instead he got just one yellow. How is it that Alex Song can receive a second yellow for obstruction while Karl Henry gets away with brutal play against Newcastle and only picks up one yellow? How can Laurent Koscielny get a second yellow, again for obstruction, while El Hadji Diouf doesn’t even have a foul called for this intentional foul on Mark Schwarzer:

I think that there is a perception in football and that perception is that clubs like Blackburn should be given a little more leeway to foul than other clubs. How else can you explain El Hadji Diouf’s ridiculous record of only getting one yellow card this season whereas Koscielny already has 2 yellows and a red? Or Blackburn’s 100 fouls and paucity of yellow cards? Or de Jong’s tackle going unpunished? Or the fact that a straight up thug like Karl Henry is still playing football? How else can you explain Arsenal having played only 7 games and yet generating 42% of the League’s red cards?

Something very strange is going on in the League this season and I think that it is perception. Like Sam Allardyce, I hate perception and want to see it banished from the game. I am tired of people saying “he’s not that kind of lad” or “there was no intent in that leg breaking tackle” and I want matches refereed on the merit of the tackle rather than the perception that the player didn’t mean it.

Unfortunately, I think that Sam and I might disagree about this particular perception of the game.