Tag Archives: Theo Walcott

Öoops Özzy

Man at the Match, Chary: Jack gets the job done

A goal in each half, from a Jack Wilshere in smoking hot form, meant the Arsenal finished their work for the evening on top of their Champions League group although not quite guaranteed qualification into the next round.

Many of the Ashburton Grove faithful had barely settled into their seats (yours truly included) when the first home attack of the night caught the French team napping. I was seated in the lower tier behind the goal in the clock end and had a close up view of Jack opening his body and curling the quick fire first goal beyond the flailing keeper. Were Marseille Totn**b in disguise as they conceded so quick?

Are you Totn**mb in disguise?

“Are you Totn**mb in disguise?”

Any hopes of an upset in the away end seemed to die right there and while they carried on singing pretty much the whole way through, apparently aided by one Joseph Anthony Barton who was in their ranks, there was little sustained interest in how the game was going from the travelling support.

That said it appeared to me that Marseille were very much snapping into tackles, their midfielders seeming to have an elastic/bouncy running and tackling style, and harrying Arsenal in possession with the good guys fighting back to gain possession energetically.

While there was not much of note from the Marseille fans, an ill-advised decision to wear what looked like a team onesie from the Marseille coach caused me much mirth.

Team Onesie

Team Onesie

There was also much laughing at the referee’s wardrobe malfunction accompanied by wolf whistles when he his shirt was being seen to.

Selection wise Monreal for Gibbs while Arteta and Cazorla benched were the only changes with Jack and Flamini replacing them.

The presence of Flamini was the main reason that, in contrast to seasons gone by, a one goal lead was seen as very slender and we would concede a goal to a counter attack. I noticed that straight after an attack had failed or finished our returning ex-Marseille man would wave his arms to his team mates and shout for them to get back to their positions and not dwell on the missed chance.

THAT is the sort of protection he has been giving the back four; think how many times in the past after shot was saved by the opposition the goalie would bowl out the ball and the opposition forwards would run through the middle of the pitch unhindered. Not so much now thanks to Flamini and a more responsible defensive attitude from all midfielders.

This, to my eyes, accounts for the more relaxed attitude of the home crowd with just a goal lead to defend and hence the atmosphere being less fractious than in the past.

So when Özzy had his penalty saved, note not “missed his penalty”, their groans were minimal.

Öoops Özzy

Öoops Özzy

In fact, as the penalty incident was just in front of the block I was in, most of the crowd thought it was outside the area and we had the rare feeling of getting a penalty when none was deserved rather than the familiar rage when we are usually denied stonewall penalties.

Giroud had various chances to double the lead in the first half but the ball didn’t quite sit up for him yet the crowd would still sing his song after a failed shot. His tireless work in the offensive and defensive parts of the field accounts is probably why any of his fluffed shots aren’t followed by groans.

Half time arrived and the crowd happy although wistfully wishing perhaps a few more goals for the good guys would have been nice.

You don't get these at Shite Hart Lane

Half time

With their onesie clad managers words no doubt ringing in their ears the Marseille players seemed to play with more urgency straight after the restart however Arsenal’s slightly more combative tackling approach, I don’t recall ever seeing quite so many sliding tackles from us, gradually eroding away the Olympique de Marseille’s bright start to the second half.

I recall one instance where Tomáš Rosický sprinted across the pitch to dispossess a Marseille midfielder and it was just as well he got the ball as it could have been taken for a lunge otherwise.

With arsenal attacking the end far away from me there was not much action at the Clock end in the second half, except for a few smart saves from Chesney, who seems to be having consistently better games this season.

Another player who had a good game was Nacho man Monreal.

He can defend half the pitch in his own

Lone Nachoman

It’s easy pick out how well he provides width on our left flank for attacks but his goal line clearance to keep a clean sheet, after Chesney’s partial block from a Gignac shot spun up and over the Pole towards the goal, was excellent defensive work.

I could see his eyes follow the arc of the ball, rather like a cricketer in the outfield waiting to catch a lofted shot, as it fell towards the goal so he could volley it clear. All defensive units like a clean sheet and thanks he got from the BFG and Chesney was proof of that.

Özzy seemed to put aside his penalty mishap and pull the strings more in midfield leading to his part in Jack’s second goal. Yes, he is having a little dip in form but still his importance the team cannot be underestimated, every team shudders a but when they see him prowling the midfield, and opposition supporters fear him.

In my previous game, the Capitol One Cup game versus Chelsea, the obnoxious Chelsea fans stopped their vile chanting when Özzy came on as a sub and seemed to be caught by surprise.

Arsenal bringing on a superstar? No, they can’t do that. (That game may have been lost but the Chelsea crowd reaction was something I’d not seen before and worth pointing out).

As the game wound down Theo and Santi came on for Jack and Rosický while after Marseille had already brought on Valbuena and Thauvin.

The new defensive responsibility was further exemplified by Santi tussling to get the ball off Valbuena; the sight of those two sprinting for the loose ball looked like Sports day at Oompah Loompah school.

The game petered out and the crowd were happy at full time with the result with confusion over whether the Dortmund- Napoli result, when it was read out, was good or bad news.

However all agreed Mourinho’s Chavs defeat at the hands of Basel was hilarious.

Onwards and upwards, UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

walcott-mask

Arsenal 2013-2014 season preview: Theo’s gilt chance

Welcome to Arsenal’s Premier League Season Preview. Tomorrow is the first game of the new season and Arsenal are live here in the States on NBCSP for the 7amkickoff. In case you’re not excited by the upcoming season, let me take the whip you’ve been using to beat the dead horses of Suarez and Gustavo and use it to instead whip you into a frenzy over the new season.

First, I will break down who the competitors are for the top four spots. Then I will give my analysis of Arsenal and hopes for players in the second section. And finally, we’ll save transfers for last and I will write that section in moon runes which can only be read by the waning crescent moon on September 1st.

Chelsea, City, United, Spurs
No matter what you think of the man personally, you have to admit that Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho is no fool. Inheriting a team which played a torrid schedule of world football last season (Petr Cech played 65 games for Chelsea and nearly 80 for club and country) and which struggled in the League and the cups owing to that schedule. Without all that distraction this year, Mourinho will make sure that Chelsea come out the gates strong.

He is often thought of as a defense-first style manager owing to his being the one who first said he would “park the bus” against Arsenal. But who wouldn’t want to park the bus when you have speedy counter attacking midfielders like Hazard, Mata, Oscar, de Bruyne, and new boy Andre Schurrle? Rumor has it that Jose is ready to hand Lukaku a starting berth in the center forward role, which means that he will basically have the exact same formula for the first Chelsea team he used to steamroll the League: conceding just 12 goals, losing just once, and gathering an incredible +79 GD on the way to a 95 point tally. For me, Chelsea are the favorites to win the League.

One of the things that I keep hearing people say has been overlooked but which actually hasn’t been overlooked is how Man City have quietly brought in several new faces at the start of the season and strengthened what was already a very strong squad. In case you were one of the poor souls who had overlooked that, you’re welcome. City spent £90m “quietly” to land Jovetic, Negredo, Fernandinho, and Jesus Navas. They also made a bit of a surprise move and landed Manuel Pellegrini, former Malaga manager, to head up their squad. Pellegrini is a highly regarded manager who spent one year at Real Madrid with the most expensive team ever assembled and… was sacked at the end of the season after failing to win any trophies owing as much to Barcelona’s dominance as to an embarrassing cup exit to 3rd division Alcorcon. In fact, Pellegrini has never won a major trophy. Still, City have, on paper, one of the strongest squads in the League: Kompany is my favorite center half, Zabaleta is underrated, Yaya Toure is one of the best midfielders in the world, and while Aguero is coming off a bad year you’d be somewhat foolish to think that will continue. They will be a strong team.

Manchester United’s appointment of David Moyes was a breath of stale air. In United, English football have a rock that they can tie off to and be secure in the knowledge that things never change. United will play some sort of 4-4-2, they will try to score goals from wide positions, they will whip in crosses, and they will score from corners. Praised for what he did with limited resources, Moyes managed to put together a competitive Everton side on a shoestring budget. But in all those years at Everton, Moyes only made one cup final appearance, and got Everton to Europe just once. I used to be a big Moyes supporter, clouded in my judgement because I really do like Everton, but Moyes has never proven himself and his record against top four clubs (he has won just 15 games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man U and lost an incredible 59 times) speaks volumes. The thing you will hear people say is that “they are champions” and that’s true, under Sir Alex Ferguson’s guidance, Manchester United won yet another title with a team with a core group of 5 players over the age of 30. Players that Moyes cannot seem to replace, in a system which demands a certain style of football, playing in front of a fan base that is used to winning every trophy. The stage is set for a huge tragedy as Moyes falls on his knife in cold December and pizza face takes back over to rescue them from 5th place.

And then Tottenham. The upstarts who want to gain entrance to the top of the table and who have lavishly for years trying to get there but who will live or die by the left boot of just one man: Gareth Bale. Bale accounted for 47% of Tottenham’s points last season. He won them 11 games. And while they have been excellent at collecting parts (unlike Arsenal) they are not good on the whole: defensively, they are very weak despite so many oohing and ahhing over Vertonghen and Lloris. It really all just comes down to one player at Spurs, Bale. And I say that regardless of the fact that they landed one of the tubs I’ve been thumping for Arsenal to get for a year and a half in Ettienne Capoue. Without Bale, they will not finish in the top 6 much less the top four. With him, they are contenders for 4th.

The Arsenal

Arsenal finished in fourth place last season by just one point on the back of a run of 10 matches unbeaten which started immediately after losing to main rivals for 4th place, Tottenham 2-1. Moreover, that run started after Arsene Wenger dropped the captain and starting center half Thomas Vermaelen and benched keeper Wojciech Szczesny.

But that narrative about Arsenal’s season propped up by a 10 match run is actually a bit thin. The changes had started in January, right after back to back losses to Man City and Chelsea. From that point on Arsenal played 16 matches, won 12, drew 3 and lost just one. Those 16 matches account for 42% of the season but 39 of Arsenal’s 73 points, 53% of the total haul. Moreover, Arsenal conceded just 11 goals in that run, regaining an early season defensive nous which saw Arsenal tout the second best defensive numbers in the League finishing with just 37 goals allowed. That run of 16 matches represented an incredible 29% of Arsenal’s total goals conceded.

Everyone hailed Arsenal’s pressing defense at the time but worryingly, by my count, in that run of 16 games Arsenal still allowed a normal number of gilt chances for the opposition. Instead of denying the opponents good shots what happened was that the opposition failed to convert. All season, I counted 53 gilt chances wasted by the opposition and 14 scored. 11 of those gilt chances were scored before the run of 16. That means, prior to the run of 16, Arsenal’s opposition scored 11/40 gilt chances and after the run they scored 3/27. To put this another way Arsenal allowed about 1.8 gilt chances per game before the run and 1.7 and the opposition scored one every two games before but just one every 5 after. In fact, in that final run of 10 matches, the opposition created 12 gilt chances and scored zero.

This probably matches well with your recollection of the final 10 games as most Arsenal supporters were on pins and needles as the defense let players like Lukaku have cracks at Arsenal’s goal from very good scoring positions. Most of that is down to the quality of the opponent but not all: Berbatov missed, van Persie put a wide open header softly into Szczesny’s arms, and Michu missed in the Swansea away match I attended.

Looking at this positively I have to hope that form follows from results. In other words, the good results of the final run emboldens the players. Giving them confidence in their abilities as defenders. In fact, that’s all we can ever ask of our players is that they get better every season, learn from their mistakes, and grow. Szczesny, in particular, made some great saves to deny some of those players and save Arsenal points. So, I will be looking for his growth over the coming season and whether or not Arsene can find the right mix in midfield which will help to shield the back four and limit the number of these gilt chances the opposition are sometimes gifted.

We know that finishing begets finishing is often the case with forwards and the Arsenal forwards were actually quite rapacious in the final four games, finishing 6 of 8 gilt attempts and hitting the woodwork twice (both Walcott). I have tipped Walcott to have a real break out season this year and I stand by that. He is one of only a very few “double-double” players, guys who can get you double figures in both assists and goals over the course of a season. I also think Giroud has room to grow in terms of both his ability to hold up the ball and in turning to attack the opposition when he does have the ball. He is often decried as a player who doesn’t score away goals because he got just one in League play (10 home) but in the other cup competitions he scored 5/6 goals away and against teams like Bayern as well. Giroud’s overall problem last season wasn’t home or away it was putting away gilt chances. By my count, in League play Giroud scored just 2 of 23 gilt chances and hit the woodwork 6 times. If gilt chances are the bread and butter of forwards, he’s getting plenty of butter, he just needs to get some more bread.

In midfield Arsenal have the return of Jack Wilshere. Arteta had a fantastic season, Ramsey was great, though needs to work on finishing, and Cazorla is the standout player of the club: our modern equivalent of Dennis Bergkamp, running the show from the number 10 spot. But it’s Jack who is a threat from so many different ways. His dribbling ability (58%) is outstanding considering where he operates in the Arsenal lineup and he’s another one of the Arsenal players who tackles in the high 80% range (85% and Ramsey is 90%). What I think we’d all like to see from Jack this season is how well he and Ramsey get along in midfield.

Ramsey is a pure runner and will make himself available for his teammates to make a pass to all day every day. He works very well with Arteta then who is always looking for a teammate to pass to. But Jack is more attack minded and somehow the two of them struggled on the pitch both in terms of shielding the defense and in terms of generating offense. This partnership needs to grow in order for Arsenal to have a successful League campaign.

Injuries too could play a major part, they have for every season since moving to the Emirates. Arsenal really need everyone fit and 100% ready to play this season. Though, to that end, we are off on the wrong foot with Arteta and others either out or “struggling to pass fit”.

Transfers

Nope, Arsenal haven’t added anyone except for Sanogo. In fact we have been rejected by Higuain, rebuffed by Liverpool, and Luiz Gustavo slapped us in the face today choosing Wolfsburg over Arsenal. This is a problem with an Arsenal team who haven’t won anything for a while shopping on the top shelf and looking for bargains. Players simply do not want to join us unless they are of the Luis Suarez variety (read: desperately in need of a makeover). Moreover, we seem to be stuck on this idea of “valuation” and players meeting our “valuation”. The reality is that you as fans and Arsene Wenger as manager of this club need to throw away this old notion of “valuation”. Teams and players know that they have us over the barrel. Top players like Lewandowsi will not make the switch from a Borussia Dortmund side who were runners up in the Champions League to an Arsenal side that looks happy to win 4th place every year. At least they won’t do that without a significant incentive. I still feel confident Arsene Wenger is going to add two players. However, I grow less and less confident that they will be the top top quality that we always say we buy and more of the Gervinho quality. But hey, there’s uhhh, 16 days left in the transfer window who knows what gemtacular bargains Arsene might find?

Conclusions

I do believe that Arsenal have a strong core of young players who, with a few additions of actual quality, could push on and really give the Chelseas and Citys a run for the title. However, without some additions this thin squad will not only look threadbare but given the injury history of some of the main players might start to look like the decks of the Marie Celeste. But first match is tomorrow, so we go to war with the players we have, not the players we wish we had. And no matter what happens or how I feel about the transfer season, I really do love the Arsenal and will cheer on anyone in red and white tomorrow.

See you, then, at 7am. For the kickoff.

Qq

Man at the Match,Chary: Santi’s double flushes (Birmingham) Villa down to drop zone

A goal in each half from Cazorla gave the Arsenal the just sort of scrappy win that a team lacking in fluency needs to regain confidence. Without looking convincing the team, carried by Santi & Jack to an extent, snatched the 3 points needed to keep the top four finish in sight despite a Villa equaliser that led to a nervy final twenty five minutes.

After a two successive home defeats Arsenal returned to the League on a bitterly cold day to line up against Paul Lambert’s Villa to stop the rot and prevent 3 losses in a row, which last happened over a decade ago. Team selection wise the only surprises were Diaby preferred to Ramsey and Giroud starting over Podolski; Sagna’s injury meant Jenks came in at right back with the BFG/Vermaelen centre back pairing and Monreal completing the back line. The announcement of the subs brought a smattering of boos when Gervinho’s name was read out; slightly disappointing behaviour that.

The away section was more or less full and the stadium overall was probably 80-85% full to my eyes with the Villa fans soon settling into their “Kumbaya my lord….oh lord, shit support” chant as soon as the Gooners initial cheers for their team subsided

villa fans

Arsenal started brightly – if not as quickly as we’d like, still in a more positive fashion than lately with Jack and Santi the form players catching the eye.

Jack was driving forward with all his dribbles and surging runs and for once an early Arsenal goal was scored by him feeding Santi, who slotted home after his initial shot seemed to rebound back to him. A welcome early goal prevented the shivering Gooners from the anxiety of seeing the away side grow in confidence while the score remained nil nil.

santi 1

“One nil to the Arsenal” drowned out the Villa fans as well as their curious habit of applauding non-stop and for no apparent reason, a real puzzler.

Villa seemed to create little and a number of times passes up field went astray or long punts into touch, N’Zogbia contributed little and Agbonlahor, except for a theatrical dive, also seemed anonymous. Having said that a number of the Arsenal players were struggling with Diaby looking like he would lose possession every time he had the ball, his languid, casual (and slow) style not very convincing.

Diaby did thread through some useful passes but he and, unusually, Arteta shanked a few passes astray. After Diaby dwelt on the ball too long he seemed to be fouled, with the foul not being called and Diaby getting booked for tripping over his tackler in retribution.

Jenks was having a quiet game but in time I believe he has the potential to be a quality fullback, his attitude reminds me of Dixon when Ian Wright once spoke about a half time talk he was getting from George Graham: “Look at Dicko, he’s having a ‘mare but he still wants the ball”.

Jenks has the same attitude and I’d take that sort of guy over a more talented but lazier player every day of the week. Theo also had a relatively quiet game but he’d clearly been identified as a danger man and Villa were doubling up on him, the lad certainly tried though and did break his shackles enough times.

Aside from scoring the opener Santi was buzzing all over the pitch, chasing lost causes and generally snapping at the heels of the Villa defenders – on one occasion he was sure he’d won a goal kick but when a corner was awarded to Villa I saw him, a few yards in front of me, bawling at the lino – the man cares!

never a corner

Only Jack seemed to have the same snap all around the pitch and the same confidence that he would not lose possession.

Half time approached and Arsenal went into the break one nil up with not too many scares.

The touchline half time interview was with Paul Davis, an under rated (by those outside of Arsenal FC) player of the George Graham era, who had silky skills, and was delighted to be still working for the club he loved in some capacity.

As the second half kicked off the skies darkened and flecks of snow peppered the pitch as Arsenal continued to press forward for the second goal at the end opposite to me, the North Bank, with cross after cross from Theo failing to find an onrushing forward for a tap in and a two goal cushion.

Giroud was working hard and his aerial prowess in defence and attack is something I’m glad we have. In recent years we had no forward who could win flick ons from our goal kicks with any regularity and the fact Olivier works so well at defending corners and free kicks away is what has endeared him to the Gooner faithful. The tosh perpetuated by the English press about him having to win the fans round is just that – tosh.

Sadly a recurring feature of Arsenal’s play came back to allow Villa an equaliser – namely over committing ourselves at corners and being caught on the counter – a clearance from an Arsenal corner was met by a misdirected header from Jenks, which fell into the path of the wee man Weimann, who scurried between our centre backs to score. Looking at the replay on the big screen Chesney didn’t seem to have covered himself with glory as quite a few around me suggested he should have stopped the equaliser. The 2 or 3 good saves he made in the first half from rare Villas forward forays were forgotten and I sense much will be made of Chesney’s clanger.

Having heard about the fractious atmosphere at the Blackburn game I feared the home supporters would be getting jumpy, however while there was exasperation at the chances spurned, on the whole the crowd were there with a “Come on Arsenal!” to keep the sustained pressure up for the last 25 minutes of the game.

Ramsey replaced Diaby then Podolski for Jenks, a sign that Wenger wanted the 3 points so that Ramsey then slotted into right back as the surge for the winner started.

It has to be said that the referee today didn’t have a bad game and reasonable consistency was shown in what constituted a foul/push and what was a dive.

As time ticked on Lambert and his assistant were jumping up and down in, and sometimes outside, their technical area like cats on a hot tin roof. Mindful of the fact that an Arsenal winner seemed imminent. Monreal, who had a decent game (except for one occasion where his positioning allowed him to be bypassed and a Villa shot on goal resulted) latched onto a through ball, I think from Podolski (who had entered the fray with a shot almost on his first touch), with an overlapping run that ended in a cross which Santi, with a deft flick of his left foot, planted into the bottom right hand corner.

2nd goal

Joy unconfined!

The stadium let out a shout of relief and a sea of clenched fists raised to the heavens was to be seen. Reward for the attacking play in the last quarter of the game was there in the form of the winning goal. Even the clapping had stopped in the Villa section as their fans realised they were in the relegation zone now and no amount of Kumbayas would change that fact.

Injury seemed to last an age but there did not seem to be a sense of panic amongst the crowd about conceding a late goal, and the final whistle meant three scrappily fought for points were ours.

final whistle

Not the most convincing of performances but how many times have we seen the so called experts laud a ManUre performance where they won a game in a similarly scrappy manner? Three points are vital for the return of confidence for our team and while it was a less than convincing performance all points are needed at this stage of the season.
Onwards and upwards, UTA!

Charybdis1966 (on twitter and Youtube)