Category Archives: Arsenal

Arshavin – Wasted Genius Who Made Memories

Players define eras.

Trophies make memories of course, but a player normally surmises that memory.

Sunderland in 79.

Champagne Charlie in 87.

Mickey in 89.

Smith in 94.

Bergkamp in 98, Freddie in 02, Thierry in 04. Santi when we lifted the cup in 2014. Alexis in 2015. Rambo in 2017.

It is a player who acts as anchor in your mind, ensuring that special memory doesn’t get cut adrift in amongst the plethora in your banks.

When you think of The Emirates, of course it doesn’t hold as many fond memories as Highbury, but we have had some goosebump-inducing goals and games in the 14 years we have called it home.

We may often bemoan the lack of atmosphere in the ground, but those who go often will also attest to the fact that we also create a cacophony when we want to. It often just needs a spark, something to get us off our seat – and then the wildfire of noise erupts and engulfs the stands.

Remember our 5-2 wins over the enemy? Two consecutive triumphs that served as timely reminders to our neghbours of their rightful place under the heel of our boot?

Then there was Danny Welbeck’s emotional return from injury – a late, late winner over Champions-elect Leicester City. The England striker’s 93rd minute header earned victory over the previously indomitable Foxes, and the dramatic nature of the goal coupled with the fondness for the now fit-again Welbeck created a noise that has rarely been matched since.

But when it comes to halcyon moments, can anything touch Andrei Arshavin Vs that Barcelona team?

The Russian, free from the laziness that would blight his Gunners career. His confidence to nonchalantly sidefoot home a first time finish that would vanquish a Barca team that would go on to win the competition. A Barca team that would only lose once in the entire competition – this very game?

We think of that game, we think of Andrei, we think of the commentator scream his name as he finishes the Catalan’s with aplomb.

He did a fair amount more in his time in our red and white of course. His goal vs Blackburn was pretty special – and then there was his four goal haul against Liverpool in an unhinged match at Anfield.

Arshavin

Tongue out, just enjoying the moment as he single-handedly tore Liverpool apart. Holding four fingers aloft when he smashed in his fourth goal.

Arshavin joined on the back of a virtuoso Euro’s for his country. We saw him twist defenders apart, lead from the front and give an industrial Russia divine inspiration. It led to us forking our a decent sum and he initially showed what he was capable of.

His was a career of peaks and troughs. He fizzled out nearly as quickly as he soared into our hearts, unable to wrestle his way back into the first team and gaining weight, he left Arsenal and seemingly never recaptured the magic that laced his boots when he was with us and in the first team.

Arshavin definitely didn’t make the most of what he could do. The Russian’s talent had no ceiling, yet we only saw it hit the heights in probably five or six games.

Yet it was so brilliant, so bright, that it seared its impression into our memories.

We remember Arshavin well, even if he didn’t meet the expectations that we had for him.

That shows what a player he was.

We can be thankful he played for us though, as he created some of our best moments in recent years.

Up For The Cup

If glory was easily achievable, it wouldn’t shine so brightly.

Silverware is in hot demand, and is more fiercely contested now than it ever has been.

Not so long ago, the League cup was treated as a runaround for the youth teams, to blood our club’s latest prodigies in a safe environment that carried zero risk or ramification for the season.

Even the institution of the FA Cup took a bit of a hammering at some point but now?

Every competition is an opportunity.

Our current FA Cup run is a rare bright spot in a season of beige’s and grey’s. Aside from the changes new boss Mikel Arteta is making, our season has been dragged into obscurity through poor results.

The FA Cup however, carries a promise of another special day.

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We are lucky enough to be able to recall some recent Cup wins. Even discounting before 2014, we still have three FA Cups to our name, each with their own memories and day that we can recall with crystal clear clarity.

It lights up a season, and in the future when we recall a certain campaign, it doesn’t matter of our league position was underwhelming.

All we will recall is lifting the cup.

The problem with our chances this season however, is that the remaining teams in front of us is an all Premier League affair. No lower league teams to face, no plucky resistance to shatter when our Premier League class eventually tells amidst sapping energy levels.

If we want to lift the cup again and rescue this season from ignominy, we will have to do it the hard way.

That is predominantly how we normally like to do things, but with both Manchester teams and Chelsea still in the draw, we will need to overcome some rather large hurdles.

Still, that is how memories are made. No one expected us to win in 2017, but in what will forever be known as the “BFG Final” we prevailed thanks to a masterclass of defending from the retiring Mertesacker – and yet another cup-winning goal from Aaron Ramsey.

The FA Cup represents a chance to get our hands on some serious silverware again – something our neighbours can only dream of and have frantically attempted for a number of decades now. Go all the way, and we make history once again.

Our Europa League adventure ended woefully and prematurely. We only have this and our remaining Premier League fixtures left of the campaign. We cannot forget about our slim opportunity to qualify for Europe through the league, but in terms of rotation, if we have a chance to preserve the legs of our top players for the cup, then we have the squad to do so – and do so we must.

Finishing in the top four will be prioritised by the club hierarchy as the monetary gains that come from the Champions League far outweigh the purse that comes with walking up those famous Wembley steps and lifting the cup.

But from a fan perspective?

Nothing beats a cup final day.

 

Coronavirus To Wreak Long-Term Havoc?

The Covid-19 virus is sweeping across the globe. Being easily transferable, mass gatherings are being winked out as easily as a lamplight.

And the Premier League is no different.

As I write, our Head Coach has declared that he has the virus. Thus, anyone in direct contact with Arteta – the majority of the squad, the staff and those at Hale End – will also undergo self-isolation.

We are not the only club with affected players and coaching staff. Both Leicester and Chelsea have stated that the virus has reached their respective camps. As things stand, the bout of impending weekend fixtures look destined to be cancelled.

This is only the start though.

The NBA season, Pro14 Rugby season, F1 season-opening Grand Prix, golf, tennis and many more have all decided to either postpone the season or play behind closed doors.

It does give us some form of perspective for the Premier League, however. It shows us how precarious the scheduling is, how tightly packed our matches are and the slim margin for error.

If we cancel two or three match weekends, we also have to factor in the remaining FA Cup matches, the Champions League, the Europa League too. This will all have to be squeezed into a frame of time normally reserved for recuperation for players and international squads preparation for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament – another event that looks decidedly dicey.

Playing games behind closed doors is an option no one wants to consider.

Emirates Stand

The possible domino effect could ripple outwards for quite some distance, affecting next season and beyond. At present, coaches and clubs already bemoan the sandwiching of games into miniscule timeframes. In order to clear this match clutter miasma up, this will get worse before it gets better.

From Euro2020 most likely being delayed for a month or until 2021, you then get the Premier League delaying next season. This in turn will affect all domestic and European trophies too, not to mention our European league brethren who are currently shut down until further notice.

There seems to be no alternative but to postpone these matches for a period of around 3-4 weeks. According to medical reports, the virus on these shores has still not reached its peak so a huge pool of 50-60,000 in one place is not exactly common sense.

This will get worse before it gets better and it is now time for the bureaucrats of the Premier League and the FA to start earning their corn. They should already have had crisis plans in place but they now need to ensure that damage is limited and our players are not forced to play beyond their means. That means a close watch on fixture burnout and fitness being compromised in aid of fulfilling TV schedules.

We can only watch on as we wait for the dust to settle, but right now we are watching the tornado whip its way toward us and we have no way of swerving it.

The Ozil Environment

A victory over Manchester United is always something noteworthy.

We can disregard both sides’ relatively low positions in contrast to where we resided in loftier times.

For us fans, a win over one of our biggest rivals always matters.

One win in fifteen, our worst run at home since the 50s, our new head coach Mikel Arteta had his work cut out to not only get us back into some form of contention – but just to get us back up from our haunches.

And the manner in which he did that in this win was perhaps overshadowed the result.

We harried, we hustled, we gave no inch. Players like Rashford, Martial, they would have caused no end of torment to our ragged defence if they were allowed to.

But those two and their cohorts were superbly marshalled.

We had David Luiz rejuvenated, stopping everything in his path.

We had the much-maligned Granit Xhaka intercepting and distributing constantly, always in the right spot when needed.

We had Lucas Torreira in his natural position and he was a whirling dervish of action, putting himself where others fear to tread and winning the ball like it was going out of fashion.

Hell, we even had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tracking back, covering his full-back and covering plenty of ground.

Then there was Ozil.

The stereotype of Mesut Ozil should have evaporated by now. Stat upon stat of the German’s penchant for activity is all too often overlooked, but he yet again covered plenty of ground, bettered only by Torreira and Xhaka.

He also won the ball back more than any other team mate. Ten times all in all.

Those are numbers that any self-respecting box-to-box midfielder would be proud of, but this was our number ten.

Where was this Ozil when Emery needed him?

Arteta-Ozil

 

Was this simply a switch of tactics and instructions set out by a new boss?

No, it is down to man-management.

Unai Emery often left out Ozil entirely, not even in the matchday squad. It was a case of the Spanish coach drawing a line, letting Ozil know that it was his way or the highway. Play the way I want you to or you won’t play at all.

Eventually, with results withering, he had no alternative but to play Ozil, but with confidence low and the bond between coach and player at an all time low, Ozil had little to no impact on proceedings.

David Luiz was interviewed after our win against United, and his comments gave us all a peek behind the veil of times under Emery. Luiz spoke of the happiness returning to the squad since Arteta took over, which by means of common sense, speaks of a malaise under Emery.

The manner in which Arteta hugged his playmaker after the victory on the pitch speaks volumes, and Ozil is now trusted, he feels that he is valued. That means the world to the player it seems, and his efforts on the pitch may not have reaped an assist, but his efforts meant so much more.

All he needed was a coach who valued him.

Is Your Trophy Gold?

Watford threw up a surprise with their 3-0 hammering of champions-elect Liverpool.

In the Reds’ list of remaining games of the season, the trip to Vicarage Road looked to be one of the most innocuous, but a Sarr-inspired performance earned a deserved win – one that meant two of our biggest achievements remain unsullied.

It was close but our record for most matches without loss – 49, 49 undefeated – and our Invincibles season remain intact and without equal.

Jurgen Klopp’s side came mightily close. We were left sweating, looking at every match, result, goal and feeling increasingly resigned to seeing Liverpool grab their own version of an undefeated season.

This is something we will have to get used to.

Just one look at the top five unbeaten sequences shows that both Liverpool and City have both gone on runs that have come close to reaching that magical mark of 49. Klopp’s side were just five games away from matching that number – and it shows that the Premier League is changing – and not for the better.

The disparity between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ is growing. TV money may have inflated every single team’s budget, but the gap between Liverpool, City and the rest in the last three seasons is akin to seeing an iceberg break off and sail off into the sunset.

The quality and consistency is something that the next group of teams can only dream of – and that includes us.

It means that the gold trophy and that famous chant we reverberate around our stadium regarding playing the Arsenal way? It will be something we cling to ever more feverishly as the Scousers and City continue to push the standards higher.

Gold trophy

The time will come when a side does take the season by storm and avoids defeat for the entirety. If Liverpool keep this form up they will earn far more points that our Invincibles did and so the claims will be made that Klopp’s team were far better.

Every conversation in the media about the greatest ever team to grace the Premier League involves talk of our greatest ever side. If Liverpool did do the unthinkable and match our achievement, it wouldn’t lessen what Arsene Wenger masterminded in 2004.

But, there will come a time when it happens again, and it won’t be the big gap between the first occurrence of an unbeaten season and ours – Preston in the 1800’s. It will be in the next ten to twenty years, perhaps sooner.

We need to get to grips with that. The panic involved when watching Liverpool systematically dismantle each challenger was real. The game before their loss to Liverpool saw West Ham take the lead but ultimately fall short as Liverpool kicked into gear. It was like they had woken up and then seemed to score at will. It was frightening, they have been that way for the majority of the season.

That is why we all worried. All records were in sight for the Reds, they had dropped points just ONCE.

They have got lucky of course. VAR and some comical defending/goalkeeping has gifted them points they shouldn’t have registered but there can be no argument about them not deserving the title.

Still, their defeat to Watford at least allows us to keep those records in our armoury for a little longer at least.

With City possibly being without European competition next season and Liverpool with a squad in rude health, next season could be tougher than ever for the rest of the league, never mind our intent to keep our records untarnished.

At the moment though, is their trophy gold?

 

AFTV – The Verdict

The recent furore over Arsenal Fan TV and their exploits reached a crescendo at Goodison Park. In the post-match glow of our hard-earned clean sheet away from home, large pockets of away fans made their feelings more than clear regarding the channel’s work and produce.

It is a growing feeling amongst Gooners that the organisation is set up to profit from the ills of the club. When Arsenal suffers, AFTV pockets swell, as vociferous and often poisonous soundbites do the rounds on social media.

AFTV out

This is now lapped up by millions, and probably the majority of those masses are not Arsenal fans. Noel Gallagher even watches the channel, so the content certainly has its merits if the reach is so wide.

It has been a marketing dream really for Robbie and his boys. The word spreads over some Arsenal fan going apoplectic with rage, veins popping in his neck as he seethes over another perceived inept display. This then gets carried around the internet on a wave of hilarity as Arsenal fandom once again looks like the flaky, fractured, negative group it has been in the last decade.

It is true that in order for AFTV to succeed, they need negativity to thrive. If it was all victories and positivity, then the viewer base would shrink as the non-Arsenal footie fans would switch off. Ask yourself, why would they watch the videos if it was just sound debate and reasoning regarding Arsenal tactics?

No, they need their ‘characters’ to pipe up, stand on the soapbox and vent heavily in front of the camera, and AFTV will know this. Hence the video after Arsenal lost the Europa League final, with some of their characters laughing at the fact that AFTV will profit from the dejecting Cup Final loss.

The thing is though, that they have found a business model, a niche, that works. The characters that show up on AFTV are now names that millions recognise. They are chosen to offer their opinion on major channels, they are the face of Arsenal to many external fans.

Which is why many resent them. They do profit from our suffering and they are now the unofficial mouthpiece of Gooner-ism across media.

The long and the short of it though, is that the beauty of their channel is that you can just choose to not watch. Why boil your guts over something you know you won’t enjoy? Why choose to watch when you know that the content isn’t what you like?

The organisation has been going for a few years now, and I’ve managed to avoid the content until now. Sometimes, some quotes and material slip its way to my Twitter feed but I can just extend my thumb and happily scroll on in my ignorance. Before any research for this, I had blissfully existed without sampling any of the AFTV wares.

So, yes we can comment on some of the ludicrous comments and things they say. As they are now a big business and proclaim to be one of us, as a media channel they are open to scrutiny – just as we critique TalkSport, The Daily Mail etc.

But actively chucking hate at them? Doesn’t that make us as bad as them?

It’s quite simple really.

Just don’t watch their stuff.

The Ceballos Experiment

It makes economical sense.

Not that being frugal has ever really applied to football transfers, but the increasing frequency of top clubs looking at a loan move instead of a full transfer is probably buoyed by this fact as well as one other.

It enables a club to see if a target is indeed the correct fit for the team. The many variables that can mean the difference between a seamless transition for a player and a failed experiment that could lead to a broken dressing room.

It comes down to much more than if a new signing can deliver the goods on the pitch. If they are a jarring influence in the dressing room, on the training pitch, then it can be almost as disastrous as a lack of performances on the turf.

They may struggle with authority figures, they could even end up simply hating the area of the UK that they live in.

All of these factors can be given the litmus test with a loan, and Dani Ceballos was beginning to look like a real boon for Arsenal.

The Spaniard arrived with quite the fanfare. Ceballos was hot property and not many foresaw the talented playmaker coming to struggling Arsenal. The fans loved it, despite Ceballos’ insistence that he didn’t want to extend his stay at the club beyond the season’s arrangement. He wanted Real Madrid and this trial would enable Ceballos to not only remind Head Coach Zinedine Zidane of his potential – but it could also allow him to force his way into Spain’s Euro reckoning.

What did he need to do the above? He needed games, regular and with a degree of success. If Ceballos could benefit his loan club, then he could look forward to a fruitful future at the club he adores – as well as a busy summer with his national side.

It all started so well too.

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Ceballos was a rare bright spot for Arsenal as we began the season in patchy form. His touch and instant ease with which he interacted with his teammates with the ball was a ray of optimism. So much so that when he was injured against Europa League opponents Vitoria, our fans lamented his absence.

And rightfully so to a degree. After Ceballos’ bright start, we were able to see how his presence could possibly benefit us – but he faded rapidly. Before his injury he had been consigned to the bench, a series of cameo’s was how Ceballos didn’t want to be operating.

We had all expected Ceballos to continue his form, but he tailed off, his adaptation to the Premiership not quite complete.

Upon his return to fitness, he has found his way to the first team blocked once again, as new boss Mikel Arteta has preferred other options other than his compatriot in his selections. We have seen nothing from Ceballos on the pitch, and it is with no surprise that his loan deal was discussed to be terminated early.

The very reason why Ceballos wanted to join Arsenal on loan was also the catalyst why he wanted to leave early. He needed gametime, and he was not getting anything at Arsenal.

It may have left our squad a man lighter than before, but why keep a player that presents no future with us?

We should instead use those minutes that would otherwise have gone to Ceballos, to develop a youngster who can push us forward in seasons to come. It makes us stronger, and Arsenal should come first. It means that if Ceballos continues to ride the bench, it’s positive for another player who represents the future of the club.

This of course isn’t transpiring – Arsenal and arteta want Ceballos to stay and fight for his place, but does he have the hunger to do so?

A loan move that terminates early may fall short of the ultimate aim – to acquire a road-tested player who can hit the ground running.

It does though, enable us to avoid another costly error that leaves us lumbered with a wantaway player who doesn’t deliver the goods. Such are our struggles, we need every player on the books to be facing the right way and playing well.