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Out for twelve months but life went on in grass roots football, are those days over?

December 31, 2010

If your one for statistics, or Arsenal memory reminders, then this post is probably not for you but if you have sport in your blood and anything football rings your bell, this could just be up your street. I’ll start off with how this idea came to me and try not to bore you to much.

After reading the daily posts and commenting on one or two points, an idea struck home and I started thinking back to the time I played in our local football side  and it made me wonder if what we played, was anything like the real thing.
 
Arsenal in those days was always one of the best teams in what was then termed as division one, they usually held their league position from midway up to the top.

I of course, was Arsenal through and through, so when I played local football, I always imagined myself as our latest center forward and having Tottenham’s training ground just round the corner from where I lived, gave me the benefit of seeing how professionals trained. I must admit our local team was miles away from it. (Yep, even from Spurs ;) )

On our match days we would meet in the pub, have a couple of pints, then make our way to the ground. Some of the guys used to arrive late because they couldn’t leave the pub but we normally managed to start with eleven. Sometimes the groundsman never turned up, and we would have to change on the touch-line, leaving our clothes there until the game ended, hoping it wouldn’t rain. More often than not though, it did and the facilities were so poor back then, we’d have to change back into our damp clothes….

As years went by we got a sink  but even then you had to wait your turn, I often wondered what the professional clubs facilities were like, bet they didn’t have one sink to share!! 

Poor old Steve.......

 

We had to take our turn in washing the kit, funny thing was, we played in Arsenal colours but by the end of the season, with all the boys taking turns to wash the kit, we ended up playing in pink, we got a lot of funny looks from other clubs though. We all paid about a pound a week subs, that helped to pay for a match ball and a new strip for the next season, the referee needed paying as did the rent on the ground we played, we even had to pay for our place in the league.

Some, like me, had two lots of fees as we played in the Sunday league as well. 
 
Then we had the cup games, once we’d been knocked out of these we’d all go off to Highbury and watch Arsenal. I used to watch the players come out and get that thrill, something I still get at the Emirates today as the fans start to cheer the lads on.  As we watched the team in what looked like a brand new pristine strip, swaggering around, we looked at all the boots they had on, hoping we would some day be able to afford them.

One of the games I watched, someone got injured and stretchered off, another had to be carried carried off. It made me think back to the week before, when one of the other side that we were playing, broke his leg, and the game was stopped, until the Ambulance came and they took him away, close on an hour we waited and then the game resumed, a win for us as they never had a reserve. 
 
Injury happened in our games as well, I don’t believe we were anywhere near the fitness of teams like the Arsenal, funny really I played local football for almost thirty years but I cant remember the term metatarsal ever! We had sprained ankles and broken legs ,concussions and the odd hamstring injury but the posh ones of today, never.

I suffered a hamstring injury once and the pain was unbelievable, so I know how Cesc must have felt, with mine though, despite it hurting like f**k,  never stopped me working! Maybe i was lucky…..

As I drew towards the end of my playing days, my cartilage went. Twelve months I waited to have treatment, I was in much pain during all that time but I had to carry on. When it was done, I was in plaster for a fortnight, then back playing about two months after, needless to say my playing days were really over after that. 
 
Players come and go in the Arsenal team, some turn out to be legends in the game – that’s usually a player that left a legacy of outstanding play in the minds of the fanatical supporters, players of skill and long service to the club or players who are idolised and sorely missed when they leave. But life goes on and a new player steps up to the plate and it starts all over again.

We, that is the guys I played with, often heard there was a scout out watching certain players in games played on our communal grounds, that’s when we all tried their hardest hoping to make an impression. In one of those so called games I scored five goals, got the headlines on the back page of the local rag but, like thousands more, I was never judged to be good enough.

So the difference between local and professional football was massive. 
 
I often think back to those days and believe that at least we had a chance to become big stars but just wasn’t good enough. Right now I worry that with all the foreign players that are being brought in, the grass roots of football is a thing of the past. I am not against foreign players as they posses amazing talent but are British players are being passed over in preference to foreign?

I must admit, I was shocked when Arsenal was the first English club to field a complete foreign side, I felt we had let our country down but I suppose in this multicultural country we live in today, we have to accept change. This is happening throughout, be it religion football or politics. Foreign players playing for foreign owners in what seems a foreign country, I suppose the British will just have to try harder.

The trouble is, you cant make a silk purse, out of a pigs ear, so I don’t expect change.
 
Does grass roots football help the professional game, or is it over?

Written by Steve Palmer

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Play with fire and you get burned, just how stupid was that Arsene?

December 30, 2010

Monday, we finally beat one of the big two during the past 24 months, and did it in convincing fashion – could we build on that result, take care of business, and keep the pressure squarely on the two Manchester sides?

The pre-match buzz was almost as interesting as the match itself. It was generally understood that Arsene would make changes from the lineup that started on Monday – three games in a seven-day period dictated that he would have to, and this fixture was the logical choice. As expected as changes were, I am not sure that many of us expected a full eight changes from Monday – when I saw the lineup, I was immediately worried. I had spent much of the afternoon defending Arsene on this site, insisting that he needed to rotate players with the stretch of matches we faced. But I doubted the wisdom of making so many changes at one time. A strong bench reassured me, even if I did harbor doubts as to whether Arsene would be proactive to use any of these players if we ran into early trouble.

We started poorly. The energy, intensity, pressure and work rate – aspects so impressive on Monday – were completely absent and we came out flat. Rodallega nearly punished us just a couple of minutes in, zipping right by Squillaci, only for Koscielny to make a covering tackle. N’Zogbia then fired a shot in that Fabianski had to save. Wigan pressed us, moved the ball well, and our much-changed side did not look up for this one. Our central midfield duo of Diaby and Denilson couldn’t get into the game, Eboue had a nightmare in Clichy’s spot, Koscielny and Squillaci were shaky at best, and Arshavin, Bendtner and Chamakh looked like they had never met, let alone played together.

Wigan were in control when Koscielny brought N’Zogbia down either inside of just outside the box, depending upon your view (or team colours). Referee Probert pointed to the spot, and Watson tucked the penalty away to give the home side a 1-0 lead. We had a chance to equalize when Al Habsi could not hold Rosicky’s shot, but Koscielny could not get to the loose ball quick enough. Shortly afterwards, Diaby was substituted, ostensibly for another injury. Jack came on for him, and we started to improve.

Wigan still looked more likely to score, but six minutes before the break, Al Habsi could only parry Bendtner’s shot into the path of Arshavin, who netted with a smart scissor kick. The goal immediately sparked us into life, and drained some of the same from Wigan. Five minutes later, Arshavin sprung Bendtner with a nice pass, and he slotted past Al Habsi to give us the lead. We should have been comfortable going into the break, but we once again lost concentration, and Fabianski had to save from Rodallega right before the halftime whistle.

I had hoped to see at least one change during the interval, but was not surprised to see none. We started the second half much better than the first and about 12 minutes in, Chamakh should have scored our third, but fluffed his header from point-blank range. A couple of minutes later Cleverly sent a long-range shot just over the bar. We had another chance to effectively wrap this up on 70 minutes, Al Habsi stood up well to block from Arshavin, after Wilshere’s chip would set the latter up. We had those two chances, but did not look particularly comfortable, and Wigan were creating chances of their own – from the moment Chamakh missed his header, I was hoping to see Theo come on, feeling we needed more to close this one out. To highlight this, N’Zogbia was put through one-on-one, but Fabianski bravely saved.

On 78 minutes, the former was stupidly dismissed after an absurd head-butt into Jack’s face. Surely we would kill this off – Wigan’s best player sent off, facing ten men, right? Wrong…Two minutes later, Wigan won a corner, which Rodallega headed to the far post, only for Squillaci to beat Caldwell to it – and head it into OUR net!!

Arsene, who sat on his hands and did nothing as Wigan gradually built second half momentum, predictably double-substituted, Arshavin and Jack making way for Theo and Samir. Unlike last year, there was little danger of losing this match – the moment Wigan equalized, they stopped trying to score and just tried to hang on for the final ten minutes. We had all of the ball, and spent plenty of time in their area, but our composure had long since left, and there was a rushed, panicked sense about our work.

There was another moment of controversy on 86 minutes, when a Samir free kick was clearly handled in the area by MacArthur. Probert gave nothing – tough luck. Sometimes we get those, sometimes we don’t. We should never have allowed ourselves to get into a situation where we needed that for the three points. Despite four minutes of stoppage time, there would be no more real chances, and no more goals.

So a lot of frustration and not much else after we squandered the good feelings and confidence from Monday. As much as I defended him during the afternoon, I think Arsene got this badly wrong with the excessive squad rotations. I completely agree that we need to try and get players rest for the upcoming matches and this was probably the best match to do this. But by voluntarily replacing seven players (and Cesc’s suspension) from Monday’s lineup, there was little chance we would replicate the form and effort from that match.

Some may say that we didn’t necessarily need that – that under-rates a Wigan side that are clearly better than their league position and fully deserved their point tonight. As sluggish as we were during the opening half hour, they were bright, aggressive, and targeted our weaknesses (Eboue, our vulnerable centre half pairing, and our listless central midfield pairing of Diaby and Denilson). We probably should have been down by more than one goal when Arshavin equalized. The saddest part of that, however, is that a better balanced side would certainly have started better, worked harder off the ball, and defended much smarter and better. And that would most likely have seen us home comfortably.

If Arsene made a big mistake by making so many changes to the starting eleven, then he compounded it greatly by bringing a strong bench and doing virtually nothing with it. The Jack for Diaby swap was injury enforced, and as Wigan built more and more momentum in the second half, he still did not bring anyone else on. Samir or Theo – who were both introduced in a too little-too late situation – after about 50 or so minutes would have helped pin Wigan back and give them more to worry about. By the time of N’Zogbia’s dismissal and their subsequent equalizer, the momentum had left us, we were doing nothing with the ball, and Wigan were clearly on top.

I thought the purpose of bringing such a strong bench would be to stem the bleeding in situations like this. Disappointingly – but not surprisingly – all substitutions were once again reactive in nature, and the final two were clearly too late. Sometimes I wonder why we bother to even bring substitutes with us…

Nobody played particularly well. Chamakh was, frankly, useless up front. Arshavin and Bendtner were the usual mixed bags of sublime and absurd. Eboue was a grease-fire at left back and our centre backs were little better. Denilson had a good second half alongside Jack – when paired with Diaby, our central midfield was pedestrian at best.

Actually, I retract my first sentence of this paragraph – Fabianski had a solid game. He was beaten only by a penalty and his own centre back. He made several good saves and kept us in it during that first half hour, right at the end of the first half, and when Wigan built a head of steam midway through the second half. He had a personal nightmare in last season’s fixture at the DW, so I was pleased to see him play much, much better today.

Every time I see the hapless Sebastian Squillaci, my opinion of him continues to go down. Today’s own goal is the latest in a catalogue of errors – situations where he has been beaten in the air, left for dead by an opposing forward, or panicked and cost us a goal. I am trying not to be too hard on the guy, as he was an emergency buy, as a fourth choice CB; but in the half season I have seen him, I think this is money that has been very poorly spent. He was advertised as experienced cover, but he has not shown that much of the former, and has, in my opinion, gotten steadily worse. I suppose Arsene rested Djourou with an eye on a big, powerful Birmingham side this weekend, but I think he should have probably risked him tonight.

Some would call all this hindsight – I disagree. I disagree because the moment the squad was announced with the eight changes, the alarm bells started ringing. I know on the board, just about all of us were worried – too many changes at once, too few of the players who performed so heroically on Monday. Many of us had a sense this would backfire and so it proved.

One point at Wigan may be an improvement on last season’s return, and we did not drop too far behind the Manchester sides. Fair enough – but we also dropped two points against a side not as strong as the sides those two played yesterday. Plus Chelsea and the Spuddies gained two point on us. Most damaging, however, is that we failed to build on Monday’s result. The vastly changed side showed a vastly changed attitude and work-ethic – and not for the better either. This was clearly two steps backwards, not forwards. A more balanced side, and we are probably level at the top and looking ahead to the trip to St Andrews and another chance to reach the summit.

Once again, when we really needed to win, we couldn’t. Will we ever get there?

The players will hear the stories about bottling it all over again; they will have to listen to them until they take to the pitch at St. Andrews. Arsene set them up for failure by naming the squad that he did and then doing nothing as the game started to slip away. In short, he played with fire, and we got burned.

So on to St Andrews…Nobody wins there these days – as Man United showed Tuesday night and Chelsea showed a few weeks back – so we will get anything but a free ride. We are still in touch with the top two, and a win in Birmingham will give us some forward momentum again. At some point, however, we need to build on the big wins and string a series of wins together. Yesterday was the perfect opportunity to do that, which makes the excessive squad rotation all the more frustrating. All is not lost, but I would argue that we still have too many questions unanswered – about consistency, about mental strength, about Arsene – and we should not have that many after such a huge win as we had on Monday. That was supposed to put some demons to rest – further results such as the one last night will relegate its significance to a simple three points, no more.

Make no mistake, we blew more than just two points last night…

Written by Oliver


We aren’t Wolves and Wigan aren’t Chelsea so best we’re up for tonight!!

December 29, 2010

Hugo Rodallega and Tom Cleverley were the stand outs for Wigan at the weekend when they travelled to Wolverhampton and went home with all three points. Rodallega scored an acrobatic goal from six yards out and Cleverley doubled the lead not long after. Wolves battled and got one back but despite having all the play they couldn’t nab an equaliser.

They have only won twice at home this season but are undefeated in their last five games at the DW Stadium having won two and drawn three. In their eighteen matches they have scored only fifteen – we however have totted up thirty-seven!! Shame we have conceded twenty!!

Our away form is pretty good this season apart from the losses at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge – We have gained seventeen points on the road and have won four of our last five games away from The Emirates, tonight that tally should become six but let’s not take that for granted.

Monday nights result has to be forgotten, the heart and commitment shown in that game MUST be remembered if we are to win again tonight. After this same fixture last season, any slim chance we had to win the league had gone, we were cruising 2-0 then the lights went off in the players heads, no-one was home, other than the Wigan players. They scored three goals in the last ten minutes, took all three points and we were all mortified.

Ok, we knocked them out of the Carling Cup last month but that’s done with, tonight is about keeping in touch with Manchester United at the top of the table, getting another win under our belt and gathering confidence and momentum along the way.

One game at a time, one game at a time.

Roberto Martinez believes we are a team on the up, maybe he is right. It’s been a long time coming but anything other than three points tonight will suggest otherwise!

Wigan may have won at the weekend but like I said, we aren’t Wolves! Wigan aren’t Chelsea either, Martinez doesn’t have a side full of over paid, over ego’s who are getting on a bit. Wigan are full of players who work for each other and their manager. Wigan are in a relegation scrap already, I know its only December but they’ll be fighting hard to get clear of the bottom of the league as soon as they can, they won’t want to leave it until late in the season.

They will be a tough nut to crack but crack them we must and I fully expect that we will, after all, we have beaten them eight times out of our last ten meetings….

The Mancs dropped points last night but the Northern Chavs and Tiny Totts both secured maximum so that makes tonight’s game even more important.

No Cesc for tonight’s game, he’s suspended. As for the team to face Wigan, we’ll find out later  :)

Couple of titbits, as we all expected Nordtveit has gone. I guess he won’t be missed as we haven’t really seen what he could truly offer Arsenal – good luck to the lad. Espanyol have felt the need to talk about Carlos Vela having seen all the rumours. They categorically deny that they are to make an offer for our young Mexican next month.

We’ll see if they are truthing in a few days…..

That’s it for today, have a good one.


AFC 3 Chelsea 1 – We owed you, a lot more than just this…..

December 28, 2010

Wigan on Wednesday night; now that our fortnight break has ended, the games come fast and furious and we need to make sure we do not squander what we have achieved tonight.

After Cesc’s frank admission of our mental weakness following the capitulation at Old Trafford, I began to wonder if we would ever shake the mental shackles off and beat either of the top two. All credit to our Captain for putting it out for everyone – including our manager and players – to face head on.

We started quickly, with Chelsea keeper Cech just beating Robin to a Song ball. It quickly became apparent that this was not the Chelsea side we saw several weeks earlier. Even with Lampard back in the side, they looked nervous, tentative, and surprisingly negative. Drogba, who usually has us for lunch, fired wide from one move, then disappeared for the remainder of the first half. We dominated the half, we were more direct, shot on goal when the opportunities presented themselves, kept our shape and worked hard off the ball.

Many of us have been waiting to see this aspect for most of the season, and it worked very, very well this evening. We got little change from Clattenburg, who overlooked a series of Chelsea fouls, gave Robin nothing when Malouda tripped him inside the box and booked Cesc for nothing worse than he had already received a couple of times over. This time we ignored the ref, and made our own luck, steadily increasing pressure as the half wore on. I thought perhaps a goal will come this time, and finally, just a minute or so before the interval, with Song firing home from inside the area. It was our first goal against Chelsea since Bedntner’s “too little, too late” effort in the 2008 season 1-4 reverse here at the Ems. We went into the interval a goal up, and I went into it hoping – without truly believing – that we could hold on to the lead.

Not only did we hold on to it, we went for the throat at the start of the second half, and scored twice in rapid succession. First, six minutes in, Theo – who absolutely roasted Cole this evening – went clean through, drew Cech out, and squared for Cesc, who smashed it into an empty net. Two minutes later, Theo stole the ball from a dithering Malouda, exchanged passes with Cesc, and drilled a low shot into the far corner. 3-0 up and Chelsea had yet to register a shot on goal. They did get a lifeline six minutes later, as Drogba lofted a free kick into the box, where Ivanovic rose highest to head past Fabianski. I thought Fabianski was poorly positioned – coming too far out – for the goal – but he did not seem to let it affect his subsequent performance.

From this point, Chelsea finally woke up as an attacking force and starting winning the ball and pushing forward. They had the momentum for a ten-or-so-minute spell, but we held firm. I though the key to this was all our players seemed to understand where they needed to be positioned in certain situations, and our intensity and work rate. When Chelsea had the ball, we did not always try to win it back in their half, we often drew them into ours, and worked tremendously hard to win the ball, deny them time and space, and shut down all approach lanes and alleys.

As Chelsea’s mini-revival lost steam, we dominated possession again, and spent much more time in their half. With 15 minutes to go, Arsene started making the substitutions: Diaby (his first appearance for a few months) for Theo, followed a few minutes later by Chamakh for Robin (who got a very useful 75 minutes under his belt, and caused Chelsea plenty of problems, even if he didn’t score), and Rosicky taking both place and armband from Cesc just prior to 90 minutes. Shortly after Diaby came on, he wasted a very good chance – I think it was Malouda that gave the ball away near Chelsea’s box, it broke to Diaby, who got free, but dwelt on it too long, with Lampard blocking his eventual shot with an outstretched leg. As it was the big fella’s first action in quite a while, it is no thing to stress over.

At this point, we made virtually all the chances – Nasri got free inside the area, but hesitated and then took the wrong option, Cech getting a hand to his chip, when power would have gotten our fourth goal. All the while, we continue to work responsibly and effectively in defense. After his free kick, Drogba got nothing out of us. He was flagged offside a couple of times, went down on his can looking for a whistle a couple of others, basically did squat, and looked indifferent at best.

No longer can he claim to be unbeaten against us – easy come, easy go, eh Didier?

There was one instance where he lined up a free kick, and the ESPN commentary team (Steve McManaman was one of them) drooled over it, talking about how he puts extra work into these kicks and this one was made for him – Drogba, predictably, hit a poor kick that comfortably cleared our crossbar. As the minutes ticked down, it was evident that Chelsea were getting nothing from this trip – we had opportunities to score a few more, and give the scoreline a realistic look – but we had to be content with three. Right at the end, Rosicky got clear down the side and smashed a shot off the post. Apparently he had already been (wrongly) flagged offside – but it would have been a nice goal.

The final whistle went a few seconds after Cech took the goal kick and that was that.

I admit to a measure of frustration. As the title says, “We owe you (Chelsea) a lot more than just this (3-1)…” and I wanted us to pile it on. Chelsea were unbelievably poor tonight, are clearly a wounded team, and I wanted us to rack the score up, not just beat them, but embarrass them. We were certainly far superior than a two goal margin suggests, but I shall worry about that another day. I risk losing sight of the fact that this is a watershed victory for us – not only did we beat Chelsea, we beat them thoroughly.

There no longer need to be any questions if this Arsenal side can beat one of the big two – we now have done that, and done it convincingly. Yet, the question still remains as to whether we can do this consistently. Only time will answer that…

Special mention to a couple of our players: Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong stood tall in every sense of the word this evening. Not only did he often get forward to good effect, he picked his moments very sensibly and was always there to break up an attack, defend a free kick, or do whatever was necessary. He personified the work tirelessly and win at all costs mentality we collectively showed today.

Theo got a rare start and tormented Chelsea. I thought he was very direct, and kept it simple. Instead of bombing forward and looking to cross, he ran right at Chelsea’s number 3, held the ball up when necessary, and played it on the ground more than normal.

Cesc looked fit and sharp, and created enough chances for us to have won by a larger margin. The whole team did very, very well.

Now that this proverbial duck has been broken, we need to sort that consistency issue out.

Finally, a hearty well done to Arsene and our players. I have recently been critical of Arsene for a number of things – today he and the players got everything right. Any criticism I may have had after viewing the match – namely our reluctance to pull the trigger and score more goals tonight – is nitpicking of the highest order. Credit where credit is due – if what we saw tonight is his vision of what this team should evolve in to, then when we do put it all together, we will truly be something to behold.

Tonight, Arsene’s plan and execution worked extremely well. If he were to tell critics like myself, “It always looks easy from where you sit!” My only response would be to stare at my shoes and mumble, “Yes, yes it does…”

Lest I overlook the entire team in my plaudits for Arsene, they stood up to be counted as a group, never lost focus, and for once, looked like they believed they could beat Chelsea far earlier than I actually believed it. In short, they looked like a team playing free of the shackles of self-doubt…

However…Should we drop points at JJB on Wednesday, we will immediately undo the momentum we have gained. We are back to second in the table – ahead of Man City on goal difference – and we are once again being hyped as legitimate title contenders. Ignore that – we, of all sides, know that a team is only as good as its last game.

Consistency is the next challenge. Confidence should not be an issue from here, so let’s continue to play as we did tonight – particularly with the same effort, application, and defensive responsibility and then we can win anything we compete for. Not two or three years down the road. Right here. Right now…

Written by Oliver


Is Arsene Wenger just ‘Holding back The Flood’??

December 27, 2010

Ok, I am a self-confessed Take That fan and for me the best thing that happened in the music world this year was Robbie swallowing his pride and going back to sing with others and reform the original group.

You listening Arsene??

But yes, this is a football blog, no, not just a football blog, it’s an Arsenal blog and for anyone out there who can share just a tiny percent of ‘like’ for Take That, you will know where this post is going.

In Take That’s latest record, The Flood they sing this chorus:

Although no-one understood
we were holding back the flood
learning how to dance the rain.
There was more of them than us
now they’ll never dance again.
Although no-one understood
there was more of them than us
learning how to dance the rain.
We were holding back the flood
they said we’d never dance again.

 

Doesn’t that just about sum us up?

We have recently seen many an article from ex Arsenal ‘staff’ who feel that things aren’t quite right with our team.

George Graham suggests we lack an end product, Martin Keown believes that we concede goals because the midfield players aren’t helping out the defence. Then there is the cutting but true report that says we are on a steady decline under Wenger.

Tonight we play what is possibly one of toughest fixtures, not team v’s team but Arsenal v’s themselves mentally. If they can overcome the mental fear and earn three points tonight we are back to second. Lose tonight and the Chavs overtake us, the Tiny Totts won’t be far behind us and Citeh will remain ahead of us too. 

January will prove to be a crucial month in the life of Arsenal, one, maybe two players bought in could really give us a chance of being at or around the top of the league in May, none and a few more injuries could see the floodgates open and us fade away rapidly in the challenge. The latter is unbearable to contemplate but maybe it’s at the back of every Arsenal fans mind right now?

Tonight’s match against the chavs is a must win, we are at home, the chavs are not at the top of their game, we need to stay in touch at the top and must get over this mental block when it comes to facing Drogba. The chav players are all having a say on how fragile we are, well tonight that needs to change and it’s about time we started to make The Emirates our home again, make it a place that other sides fear to visit. After all, we have Liverpool and both teams in Manchester to play there yet and they could turn out to have a big say in where the league is won and lost.

Would a win tonight really convince Arsenal fans that all is ok?

Or,  if dancing was football, is Arsene Wenger just ‘Holding back The Flood’?

If he is, will we ever will dance again……

Have a good day all…….

 

 

There is a Spare ticket going for todays game – North Bank Upper for sale at Face Value.

Text Stew – 07896806529 for more details

 


What to make of George Graham – having a laugh, or one too many Malts??

December 26, 2010

George Graham played for us from 1966 – 1972 before moving to Manchester United, he came back to manage us in the late eighties, his reign 1986 – 1995, some believe he’s still one of our best. During that time he made sure we became a side that didn’t concede many goals; his defensive style earned us the ‘Boring boring Arsenal’ label.

Not only did Graham build solid defensive unit in his years with us, he also had a few players full of flair and style and a few that would lay their body on the line for the club they loved. Rix, Brady, Rocastle, Smudger, Davies, Merson, Thomas, the list goes on!

I think football was shocked when Graham was exposed to have been on the fiddle, he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent. He was sacked by Arsenal and banned from football for a year, maybe it should have been for life? As good a manager he was, there’s no room in sport for things like that, well, not in my humble opinion.

A year later, having served his ban he walked back into football management at Leeds, after a couple of seasons with them, he committed the biggest sin he could in my book.

He managed Tottingham Hotspur!

How could a man who played for Arsenal, managed Arsenal do such I thing? Anyway, he did and for three years until he had a bust up with his boss and then he was sacked. He hasn’t managed a club since in fact the only time I have seen him talking about football has been as a commentator for Sky Sports or Setanta.

Today though, he’s committed that cardinal sin again, this time he has spoken about us and had the audacity to suggest that the Tiny Totts are better on the eye than Arsenal. I get the feeling he is still bitter and twisted about our club sacking him many years ago.

We all go on about Arsenal, their possession and all that but Spurs are really exciting to watch. That’s because they have an end product to all that possession and beautiful play. They have shots on goal and they have wonderful ¬crosses coming from both flanks. That’s makes them really exciting and it’s something Arsenal still have to work on.

They’ve got to have more end product to all that passing and possession.

In the same interview, Graham talks about the Champions League and he believes we will get knocked out but those down the road will go through.

I think Spurs will win against AC Milan, I really do. On their day, they can beat anyone at home. Facing Barcelona is going to be really difficult for Arsenal because Arsene Wenger (below) will just go for it. There will be no tactics, there will be no Jose Mourinho there, keeping it tight and winning 1-0.

Arsenal doesn’t have time to implement a defensive strategy before then. That doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a whole season, if you work day in, day out on the training ground. Arsene only believes in going forward. But Barcelona are the best team in La Liga and the best in Europe.

I’d love to sit down with Arsene, one-on-one, and ask him what he thinks of his great side that went the season undefeated. You look at the difference in technique, physical power and mental power.
They had a wonderful combination, which made them such a successful team. Arsene had height in there, in Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell and Steve Bould and there was power throughout the team.

I cannot understand why he doesn’t try to replicate that now. It just seems they have gone overboard with technical players and have forgotten about the other side of the game.

Tactically, he is of course right  and talk about Arsenal all he like but to suggest we are second best to that team down the road, he must be having a laugh, or had too many JD’s. ;)

On our day we are one of the best clubs to watch play football in England and we are not far off being the best in Europe either. 

That’s it for today, tomorrow it’s the chavs – have a good Boxing Day…..


Christmas Past rather than Christmas Present!

December 25, 2010

The big day of the year has finally arrived, Santa Claus is dropping off his final gifts around the world but meanwhile, Old Ebenezer Scrooge, aka Arsene Wenger, is no doubt sticking to his principles of Christmas Past rather than Christmas Present and he’ll be counting his savings rather than thinking of spending next month. Bah Humbug!!

Well, we expect nothing so if he does buy us a CH or DM it will be a bonus. I suppose you have to try and understand a little why he is reluctant to spend big money on many players when you hear him say things like this after watching the youth side:

I know all these players well and individually in every position Arsenal has a very good player, Afobe has power and he has the typical game of a powerful centre forward. To tell you today who will be in the first team is a bit too early but as many as five or six have real potential.

I believe the difference between Arsenal and Darlington was too big to have a frank assessment of all the players.

Cesc, Jack and Nik have taken part in the Youth Cup and Ebenezer Wenger believes that many of his current young crop have the ability to follow in their footsteps but can we afford to wait for them to be ready, we’ve been waiting five years already.

Many of us fans echo Wengers views  but not only about those who played against Darlington but look at those on loan, Ramsey, Bartley, Lansbury, JET, Barazite and Coquelin to name just a few….

I’m sure one or two will be back next month, knocking on the door to play some may never come back from their loan.

One competition we really have a great chance of winning is the Carling Cup and just like many of us, Jack Wilshere believes that if we win this one, it could be the catalyst for many years of success for Arsenal.

I really think it’d be massive for the confidence, if you win that [the Carling Cup] in February then spirits are so high for the rest of the season, you can probably go on and do anything. I believe it’d start opening up – more and more would come.

Everything looks open this season – we know anyone can beat anyone so we just need to win our games, see where we are later in the winter and then push on.

Like I say, I think he’s right, as soon as our players get the feel of a trophy in their hands, they will want more. So Wenger may not be busy in the transfer market next month but he needs to make sure we win the Carling Cup.

That’s it from me for today, all that’s left is for me is to say thank you to all here on Highbury House for your support, whether it be writing articles or posting in the comments. Without you all, Highbury House wouldn’t be up and running. 

To one and all, Merry Christmas, have a wonderful day whatever you are doing and wherever you are…

rico


Few tips for Santa this Christmas, add yours….

December 24, 2010

Christmas Presents for the lads, hope it makes you smile :)

The festive season is upon us again and in all honesty we have not done to bad up to now. We are still in all the Cup competitions and  second in the league, remarkable when you consider the ups and downs of the season so far. We have watched our closest and most bitter rivals climb their way up the table having given them an early three-point Christmas present. We have also donated the same gift to the team at Old Trafford which puts them at the top of the tree.

However, whilst being very benevolent we have still showed we  have managed to stay up with the big boys and now we have to go and  fight our corner.

We have tough games coming up and some may doubt that the New Year wish we all have for our fine club, (which i wont tell, because if you tell, it wont come true) will bear the fruits that we have worked for.

As for presents, this is the time of year where Santa has had a year to do his secret rounds and now he leaves what he believes to be the right gift for the right person.

If I were Santa, these would be my gifts to our players:-

A. Wenger – A Tactical Assistant
P,Rice – A Personality
L. Fabianski – Patience
Almunia – New Club
Szczesny Wrist supports
Sagna – Crossing ability
Squillaci – springy boots
Koscielny- Foresight
Clichy – Faster release and a cross
Vermaelen – Speedy recovery
Song  – New hair dye
Fabregas – New belief
Nasri  – Roll neck football shirt
Walcott –  A central role
Wilshere  – Cleaner character
Arshavin – Diet & fitness book
Van Persie –  Sharpness
Chamakh – Determination
Bendtner  – Humility
Djourou –  Health cover
Eboue  – A chance

There are I know, many more, so why not add your suggestion in the comments, it’s just a bit of fun at a very slow time.

Have a good one….

Written by Steve Palmer


A Goon with a bit of Spike…..

December 23, 2010

Good Morning/Afternoon and Evening to all the night crawling gooners.

I had been invited to write a piece for this blog a while ago. So far I have declined the offer, either too uninspired, our dreadful performances (heh) or too shy, but suddenly something has touched a nerve.

The ‘Goldenboy awards’ were presented the other night, to honour the best of young, European footballing talent (irritable Bale syndrome not included).

As a 30-year-old Essex lad brought up by two generations of top flight Goons, I feel obliged to ‘have a say’.

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli won the aforementioned award, just a place ahead of Frodo Wilshere. ……..

Now, Mr Balotelli has now stated, and I quote….

“What is his name? Wil…? No, I don’t know him but the next time I play Arsenal, I will watch out for him. Maybe I will show him the Golden Boy and remind him I have won it!”

Charming!?

Bringing me on to my piece, and the subject of my reply, I once read a book by the late great Spike Milligan (his tombstone inscription reads – ‘I told you I was ill’). I believe the book was titled ‘Hitler, my part of his downfall’.

The book is Spike’s reminisces of the 2nd world war, and in one chapter, whilst serving in North Africa he recalls a friendly football match between his battalion and a local team, who in fairness and barefoot made the British contingent look quite ordinary.

The Short stocky Yorkshireman at left back with short ‘crew cut’ hair was being given a torrid time by the seven-foot nippy African right-winger, who on every time he took the ball past him, quipped ‘ Stanley Matthews, eh, Stanley Matthews!!!.

After being ‘skinned’ by the winger several times, the left back took both man and ball with a sickening thud! And whilst leaning over the prostrate winger, calmly said ‘WILF ‘F*****G COPPING’

As far as I remember from the book I don’t think the winger got another minute on the pitch let alone a touch.

I would like to add at his point that the book was read a long time ago and memory is quite hazy, but I do thoroughly recommend reading it.

Wilfred Copping, pictured above, was signed by Arsenal in the summer of 1934 for £8,000, as a replacement for Bob John and immediately took a first-team place at left half. He made his debut against Portsmouth on August 25, 1934, and was an ever-present in his first season for the club, until suffering a serious knee injury in the third-last match of the season against Everton. Copping soldiered on and remained on the pitch to ensure Arsenal won the game 2-0; this ensured the club won the 1934-35 First Division title.

Copping recovered from his injury to continue playing for Arsenal, making over 35 appearances in each of his first four seasons with the club. During his time at Highbury, Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1935-36, another League title in 1937-38, and two Charity Shields. His England career also continued, and he was one of seven Arsenal players to start England’s match against Italy in November 1934 (the “Battle of Highbury”) – a game for which he named man of the match. In total he won 20 caps for England between 1933 and 1939.

Now, I know for a fact, Jack Wilshere reads Arseblog.com, and I hope blogs from the Arse read the excellent ramblings from this site. So Jack, Frodo, Bilbo, if you do come across this post, on the 5th of January, let ‘Super Mario’ know exactly who ‘super, super Jack’ is…

Can I just take this moment to thank all Highbury House readers and posters big time, especially the lovely Rico for all the time, effort and pride.

Happy Christmas, 3 points off the chavs and a Happy New Year!!

Written by Rocastle


The Importance of Theo Walcott….

December 22, 2010

I’m not his biggest fan as followers here may know. A lot has been written about him, some good, some bad but there is one aspect of his game that he does better than most and that’s his off the ball movement. Theo is very intelligent as Jacques Crevoisier our sports psychologist told the Daily mail:

Arsene Wenger always tells me that you have to be clever to play for Arsenal and that is where he starts. Without that, you cannot fit into his system. At Arsenal I’ve done tests for all the young players. They were all outstanding psychologically. I think Wilshere’s showed him to be a bit more confident than Walcott but they all had some of the best profiles you will see.

Good off the ball movement was the hallmark of the Legendary Hungary side that famously beat England 6-3 in 1953 was their players’ tendency to drift out of their natural position and switch with teammates thereby confusing the opposition about who they were supposed to be marking. (Jonathan Wilson: Inverting the Pyramid).

Cast your minds back to the dreadful 08/09 season when we beat the Mancs at home. Nasri got all the plaudits for the second goal but if you watch the replay it was Theo’s intelligent right-left movement that distracted Vidic which led to Nasri having an acre of space to smash the ball in. When the season began he was our best player but it wasn’t only for his goals. His movement was devastating as he kept popping up in central areas similar to how Ljungberg did for the invincibles.

At full speed, Walcott he is devastating and defenders hate that. Messi even said he was the player they feared the most as you know once his brain and feet are on the same wavelength he is devastating.

Top European clubs have such players in their squads. We had Ljungberg and Pires at their prime doing this. Bergkamp and Ljungberg at the back-end of 01/02 combined effectively sealing the title for us. Bergkamp dropped deeper to receive and attract defenders and Ljungberg running infield to finish. It was so simple but opponents couldn’t deal with it. Our opponents in the knock-out stages of the Champions League have Messi and Pedro who are excellent at this. Guardiola has made Barca more formidable by making his players just as dangerous with or without the ball. As Barca destroyed Madrid you could clearly see why Madrid struggled to contain them. When Madrid had the ball, Barca players would swarm all over them. When they regained it Barca players would move into a variety of positions creating various angles for the ball carrier. Madrid didn’t know how to deal with this and you saw the result.

Nasri has recently improved this aspect of his game and you can see he is twice the player as Arsene Wenger noted:

He was a bit too much attracted by the ball and we wanted him to do more once off the ball, go in behind without the ball, because we have many players who can keep the ball.
Now he has more variation in his game: turns, runs in behind without the ball, and as well coming to the ball and taking it to his feet. So his game is improving and he is, of course, more efficient.

Robin van Persie is also excellent at it as evidenced by us scoring 55 goals in 19 games last season before he got injured. Lately our play has seemed slow and lethargic because it seems very few of our players move effectively to create space for the ball carrier. With the chavs game coming up I’d love to see a forward line of Nasri/Robin/Theo just because of their ability to create space for others to run into. Fabregas scored lots of goals last season because Robin would drag centre backs all over leading to space for him.

Diaby also scored a lot due to this and that’s why we demolished smaller teams last season as they couldn’t handle all that movement.

Off the ball movement is devastating when it’s used effectively. Paolo Maldini insisted that Arrigo Sacchi considered this aspect as key to winning matches:

Before Sacchi came to Milan, the clash between two opposing players was always the key, but with him it was all about movement off the ball, and that’s where we won our matches.

When we have so much movement off the ball is when we really play ‘Wengerball’. I hope over this break our players put in some effort to re-establish this aspect and maybe we’ll see some renaissance from our team starting with a victory over the Chavs, we are certainly due one.

Have a good day everyone!

Written by K-TR7


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