Tag Archives: win

Invincibles Vs Almost Invincibles

Featured in The Gooner Fanzine

Comparing things is pretty big business. It harnesses our compelling need to put different versions alongside each other and gauge each and every characteristic – despite the flaws in the method.

We can’t help but do it, but comparing things has far too many variables to reach a conclusive answer.

Especially when it comes to football – and yet we are all guilty of it.

Ronaldo and Messi compared to Maradona and Pele or any other titan of the game is one that is often bandied around, but the nuances of time and the different permutations surrounding each generation render any result reached a moot one.

We do it with different teams too – even ones that wore the same jersey.

As Gooners, we are pretty spoiled when we visit the annals of our past, as we have a multitude of teams, players and seasons when success was reached and memories were encased in a gold-tinted amber. We can hark back to these slices of time and wonder how they would have fared in today’s game – and if they would have emulated some of our more recent successes.

George Graham helped us achieve a few of our brightest moments, but will always be remembered for probably the most dramatic title win in history. The Miracle of Anfield 89 has been converted into film twice and is never far away from any self-respecting Gooner’s recollection – and for very good reason – but was that his finest team?

Probably not.

Two years later, his Arsenal side reclaimed the title ahead of rivals Liverpool, conceded just 18 goals in the process over 38 games, and scored a hatful of goals to dispel any notions that his men were mere defence merchants.

They won the title with games to spare too – and perhaps the most compelling argument to sway anyone who thought the 89 team was better? The team of 90/91 did all this even with their skipper being sent to prison, being deducted points for the infamous brawl at Old Trafford – still the only case before or since where a team has been deducted points – and having a squad that was light in terms of numbers.

They played every three days for over a third of the season, and lost just one game. One. That sole ‘L’ in the league table came at Stamford Bridge where an offside goal and a tackle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an MMA Octagon took out our sole recognised centre-back combined to thieve points from GG’s team.

It is quite the story, and there was much more too. How did the squad keep the good ship Arsenal on a steady course despite missing such an inspirational figure in Tony Adams? How did the team cope despite being lambasted by the press for their part in the mass melee at Old Trafford? Above all, could they have gone ‘Invincible’ before Wenger’s fabulous side achieved it thirteen years after?

This amazing and inspirational side are one of the finest that Arsenal have ever had, but they get a paltry amount of limelight compared to the 03/04, 89 and even the 97/98 sides.

Never mind about were they as good as the hero’s of 89 – we should be asking whether they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Invincibles – arguably our greatest ever eleven.

You see? We can’t help but compare.

My book, Almost Invincible, does this extensively, and uses library newspaper records and the accounts of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Bob Wilson, David Hillier and Alan Smith to illustrate how they did what they did. It also features expert opinion from Guardian journalist Amy Lawrence.

Undecided? Let my book show you how good the side of 90/91 truly were, the side that was ‘Almost Invincible.’

Just go to the ‘My Books’ section above, or go to my Twitter bio, my handle is @JokAFC.

Arsene Wenger’s Highest High and Lowest Low

How do you judge the highest highs and the lowest lows? The peaks that made you giddy? the troughs that had you on the ropes?

Arsene Wenger’s 22 year spell as Arsenal manager has finally ended the rollercoaster ride that has in recent years, kept journalists in a job and fans heading for the exits.

His tenure can be split into sections, with the first decade being the reason why expectations are so very high now, dragging the club firstly into contention, and then ensuring its survival at the forefront of a sport that was transforming rapidly.

Then came what most know as the stadium years, when The Emirates required funding and the fallout from this was the transfer budget had to be created, rather than given. Perhaps his greatest feat was keeping Arsenal in the Champions League during those lean years, when other clubs were burning money to keep warm.

And then came the years of doubt, where Arsenal were supposed to herald in a bright new dawn, free from the albatross of uber-debt around our neck, we could now compete with the big boys, but instead, we slipped further down the ladder as Wenger’s shortcomings in tactics and his recalcitrant approach to these failings meant that not only was a first title since 2004 well out of reach – we also let in clubs that were previously playing perma-catch-up.

If we look at Wenger’s highs and lows on a game by game basis, naturally we’ll look to his first ten years for the best moments, and his last decade will be littered with references to instances when we feared the worst.

But there are matches in every season that could be nominated for either.

Our 8-2 and 6-1 stuffings at the hands of Man Utd are obvious picks when highlighting nightmares. What of our 6-0 hammering by Chelsea though? Or when Liverpool pasted us 5-1? We’ve also racked up a few derby defeats as well, after going so long without one. Let’s not forget our European nightmares too (we don’t talk about Paris).

In terms of high points, our 1-0 win at Old Trafford to win the league in 2002 was golden-hued, and I’ll never forget our recent FA Cup wins. We thumped Inter Milan at the San Siro, we were the first English club to beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, and winning the league at the pisshole down the road ranks pretty highly too.

So many of either to mention, but if I had to pick just one of either…

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal – 14 March 1998

This match broke United’s previously unbowed spirit. We had the perfect gameplan, we had the back 5 as the perfect foundation, Vieira and Petit were patrolling midfield and in Marc Overmars, we had a weapon that was unanswerable. The flying Dutchman chased a flick on and headed the bouncing ball into his own path, before finishing low past Schmeichel. It was a signal, to both Fergie and our own fans, that we were a real force. It was unforgettable, and it was the beginning of the best years as a Gooner for quite some time – if ever.

Arsenal 2-3 Leeds Utd – 4 May 2003

We’d won the double the season before, and humiliated United in the process by winning it at Old Trafford. The next season had been given the perfect platform, and we made it count for the most part, but our slip against an underwhelming Leeds side managed by Peter Reid. Mark Viduka had one of his games where he was unplayable, and we shot ourselves in the foot. It handed the title back to United, meaning we failed to regain the Premiership yet again. This was a title we should have won, but defeats like this hampered us. Thinking about it even now gives off waves of ‘what should’ve been,’ and of massive missed opportunities.

These are just my own choices. Mentioned before, there’s plenty of both to choose from. Our 3-2 defeat to a weak Man United side and subsequent loss to Swansea City in 2015 ran the Leeds loss unbelievably close.

What are your personal high and low matches in Wenger’s reign? Drop me a comment, it should make for interesting conversation!

Arsenal Revive the FA Cup

Manchester United’s participation in the Club World Cup in the early part of this century was widely reported to be the reason for the FA Cup’s demise.

The club decided to prioritise the tournament instead of the oldest cup in the world, and the devaluation of our domestic cup was such that it was put on the back burner in terms of importance for clubs.

The influx of money has seen the tides shift yet again though, and now, with the dial of competition firmly ramped up to 11, the once-derided FA Cup has now risen, phoenix-like from the ashes.

It’s now seen as a saviour from ignominy. The Champions League is a pipe dream for most clubs, the Premier League is a trophy that requires a huge slice of luck with injuries, as well as top level consistency.

It means that clubs need to maximise every opportunity to lift silverware – and the FA Cup is a genuine chance to keep supporters on board and keep the club relevant when it comes to transfer targets.

Success breeds success, so having your name etched on the cup means that next season gets a firmer foundation to build from. It also makes the lustre of the club a little more alluring for any potential new players.

Our own relative woes have exacerbated the FA Cup’s rise to prominence once more. Winning the Cup in 2014 against Hull, and in such dramatic circumstances that really turned heads at other outfits.

Then, when we won it the next year by smashing Aston Villa, we not only regained it, we yet again saved our season with the lifting of the old cup.

Two seasons ago was perhaps the best example. We slipped out of the Champions League places for the first time since 1996/97, we also slipped below our hated neighbours for the first time in over two decades, but the fact we won the FA Cup, meant we had silverware in our trophy cabinet.

The ‘drought’ we suffered between 2005-14 may seem a long time, but as the top teams get better and the gap becomes more disparate, decades between cup wins will become commonplace for most.

It means any cup win should be embraced – just look at City and United in recent years when winning the League Cup. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are considered to be among the leading lights of world football management – and lifting this cup meant a fair amount to them.

The FA Cup is a grand old competition, and our previous wins are amongst our most glittering. The recent cup wins are among them. The 2014 final snatched from the jaws of defeat especially seems vivid upon recall. The Cup matters hugely.

Being knocked out by Nottingham Forest last season smarted a fair bit, and FA Cup fixture weekends without our club – the most successful side in FA Cup history – seemed a tad remiss.

We can glow with pride at the fact we’ve won this famous cup more than any other side – but we can also take a little satisfaction that we’ve reminded other clubs that the Cup is well worth winning indeed.

It grants you a European place, it gets you a slot in the Charity Shield – but it also gives us fans a memorable day – and those memories are what binds fans to a club.

The Ties That Bind Us

Published in Goonersphere.

The once vibrant setting had lost its colour, and now the stark greys dominated his eyeline. Listless noises filtered to his ears, but he paid no heed.

Hands stuffed in pockets to shield from the unforgiving wind that buffeted around his surroundings, his body language was not solely due to the harsh weather though.

He had been warned by his friends that this was a destructive relationship, that it had been doomed for years. Blindness goes hand in hand gleefully with love though, and he had blundered on, ignorant of the perilous path he was taking.

He had invested his life into this hazardous duopoly, and the scars had begun to show. The hurt that currently enveloped him had transformed recently from the all-encompassing misery of years gone by, into something akin to the numbness you receive at the dentist. 

Were they aware of the pain they had caused? Why did he continue to plough on when on the horizon was the very real threat of sorrow? 

He lifted his head and sighed. 

It hadn’t been all bad. The very nature of his bind was down to the memories which he clasped to him. The adoration he exuded toward his beloved had bloomed in the perfect storm. Technicolour snapshots of happier times was the matinee which played through his mind when his brain sought escapism, and it normally was the ideal medicine which he was always keen to sup from.

Right now though, in the aftermath of another blowup, another stumble in the relationship, the montage of bliss did nothing to avert his mind from the darkest of clouds which would soon overrule all in his mind. 

The rocky terrain which his faith in their liaison now sat on was down to the series of moments his partner had disappointed him. They say it is the hope that kills you, and he had hoped it would change, but the destructive behavioural pattern had shown no sign of changing, until recently.

He had puffed his chest out and goaded the very friends who had denounced his affections. A few weeks ago, the relationship had been in the rudest of health. It appeared to the majority, even his doubting pals, that the habitual mistakes that had blighted their friends partner had been erased. 

That seemed so long ago as he stood in the same spot he had done for the past half an hour. He had ruminated on every second of the latest calamity, and as painful as it was, it had also served as an awakening. 

The fact that he would go into work and be the butt of the jokes, and be castigated for never learning, and how every weekend carried the ominous threat of ruination. It was the epitome of being a supporter.

The very word means ‘to support.’ Through the good times he had enjoyed, it was easy to declare your love for your chosen team. It was in recent years though, that had defined exactly what it meant to be a fan, a Gooner. If he even entertained the idea of cutting the ties which linked him and the club every time they struggled, then the ties weren’t strong enough to begin with.

He had angry thoughts and things he would like to change about the dynamic of the team, but he would never, ever stop supporting the club. 

They may be the root cause of many a lost weekend, arguments and pain, but when you choose a club, it is for life. There are some who wish ill on the very club they claim they support, but isn’t that an oxymoron, he pondered?

He could never even begin to think of hoping for a bad result, it just didn’t fit. He would go on and continue in the same vein of the last twenty or so years. He would look forward to next week and a victory.

A lady in a hi-viz jacket approached him, and said that the stadium was closing. He nodded and made his way down the concrete stairs. 

Next week may conceal another bout of anguish, but it also held the very tangible possibility of redemption, and the moment the ball hits the net from an Arsenal player – those seconds that your stomach lurches into your throat and you lose all sensibilities as you bounce around like a loon – were what makes these instances of gloom worth it.

He left the stadium with a little bit of hope again. 

Arsene Wenger – Life In The Old Dog Yet

Your family dog is more than a mere pet. 

Through the experiences and time you share, this furry bundle burrows its way into your heart. They become family.

Which makes the inevitable ending all the more difficult to endure.

That last trip to the veterinary surgeon in your car is steeped in pain and tears. The severing of the bond between you and your dog is painful and will leave scars.

Anything that has been in your life for a prolonged amount of time and has given you joy – the conclusion to such a heartwarming tale is always going to be scripted by what seems like a nefarious sort.

The above shares many similarities with Arsene Wenger and the season we have just played.

Facing many doubters before a ball had even been kicked, Wenger stuck to his tried and tested formula. For some, this tired approach had been unravelled by his rivals on countless occasions and it was a blatant sign that the Frenchman’s obstinacy would again be a hindrance to our ambitions.

Come December, and we were top of the Premiership. 

The naysayers may have been silent at that point, but the aspersions they were casting were not without merit. 

Wenger had indeed let the team down with some questionable decisions in the past, and his beligerence in the transfer market in years gone by had allowed our competitors to steal a march on us. This fine pedigree was showing signs of strain, and from January through until April, Wenger – aided ably by his players might I add – conspired to see the Gunners slide into mediocrity, and we were dipping more than a toe into the dark pools of awful and unexcusable. His hangdog expression and the team he created being sent packing with their metaphorical tails between their legs, only added to the analogy – this dog needed a show of mercy.

The team failed to function even on the most basic of plains. Five yard passes went astray.  Players appeared to be unable to lift themselves out of this funk – or maybe even were unwilling to. Teams began to systematically target us, and the losses to Bayern Munich, West Brom, Watford, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, glared an obtrusive light into the inadequacies of the team.

Wenger then changed tack. For the first time since 1997, Arsene opted for three at the back, which gave our wing-backs free rein to bomb forward. A subtle shift in position for Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the flowering of a player we always knew we had but had rarely seen. Ozil relished the space out wide and the space to float. The system worked – but why had it not been used before now?

Again, it was used as a stick to beat Wenger with. This once fine canine was now consigned to the cupboard under the stairs, as we perceived it to be past its best. 

Even the most staunch of Wenger fans could not deny that he was beginning to look like he was in the car boot, on the way to that ill-fated meeting with the vet. The long goodbye.

It wasn’t the formation change that really emboldened the critics though. It was Wenger’s reluctance to outline his future. 

Ex-Arsenal pro’s who had always backed the manager, questioned this approach. Uncertainty has never been the best bedfellow for consistency and a clear mental approach. If players who had signed for our club thanks to Wenger could not predict if he would be there next season, then surely a departure en masse would be the future for our summer?

Wenger should have came out and let everyone know his intentions, and as weeks went by, even the upturn of our fortunes in the League was not enough to stave off the journalists. Every Press conference became a witch-hunt, with barbs aimed at the manager, of which he swatted away but not without becoming a little rattled.

This was all of his making though. If the experts, writers and Gooners were exasperated by this refusal to confirm or deny his future – just imagine what the players would be thinking?

Then, our iron grip on the Champions League places each year was pried away from us, by our own hands. Our poor showing was chief conspirator as Liverpool sneaked in ahead of us. Now, all of a sudden, the Top4 apparently meant everything to top clubs, as papers, radio shows et al feasted upon this latest Wenger failing. 

It was akin to coming home and finding your old, faithful companion, solid to the end, had left a mess on your rug in the living room. His age had left him no choice, but it was fast becoming untenable. Soon would come the time when you would be forced to drive to the vets.

This FA Cup win however, has shown that there is life in the old dog yet. 

Before I get lynched, may I add, that I still think that Wenger would be best suited for a glorious farewell. He has served the club in the right way and kept our traditions intact. He has also given us expectations of glory and a stepping stone into the next generation of football. Without him, Arsenal would not be where we are now, which is a top club who have the ability to compete for the biggest trophies.

His switch to 3-5-2 though, and his adapting of certain players into other roles, has reminded us that he still possesses traits and assets that mean he can still steer the Good Ship Arsenal to sunnier climes. 

His masterminding of our 2-1 FA Cup win over Champions Chelsea was a big slap on the shoulder to all of us. Wenger had to make do without the majority of his defence, a 32yr old who had not started a game in 13 months, and his opponent which had blew everyone away in the Premiership.

Yet we absolutely blew them away, from the first to the last minute. He is still capable of producing a team that can duke it out at the top, but the question of whether he can maintain such excellence still resides over his head.

If, as we all expect, Wenger is given another contract – then there will be the inevitable sighs of derision. Another season of underwhelming repetition, and Wenger taking us further and further away from the big prizes. 

Can he throw away his stance, his blinding faith in those who have let him down, and get the players we need to complete the Arsenal jigsaw? 

Can he show the adaptability he has shown in the last third of our season? 

Can he begin to break free from the shackles of beligerence as he sees the opportunity for a glorious farewell? 

These quandaries still haunt him and they are there because of his own mistakes. 

We can doubt him, and our season just passed warrants this. What we cannot do though, is question how much he adores the club and what he is still capable of. 

A short term contract is probably on the cards, and we need to support the man whilst he is still at the helm. With backing and maybe a change in approach which he has begun to show, then we could surprise everyone.

This dog has shown that dreaded trip to the vet is not quite on the cards yet.  There is life in the old dog yet.

Arsenal 2-0 Hull City: 5 Key Points From the Win.

Regardless of the performance, Arsenal have returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Marco Silva’s resurgent Hull City.

The game was scrappy and the Gunners toiled for the three points, but the win was the only thing that mattered, especially with Bayern Munich looming closely next week.

After back to back losses to Watford and Chelsea, the league table made depressing viewing. With Chelsea off in the distance, the hunting pack were either getting their noses in front of us, or breathing down our necks. Points were needed and Arsenal duly obliged.

The team did not alter much from last week’s defeat against Chelsea, with only one change. Kieran Gibbs came in for Nacho Monreal on the left of defence, but the rest of the team were given the chance for redemption, or part absolvement.

The first half was a messy affair, but there was no shortage of effort. Arsenal were at least haring around the pitch, when chasing for possession or trying to conjure an opening. Hull City are a much more formidable outfit than a month or so ago, and they were not content to sit back and soak up pressure. Oumar Niasse was testing the relaible Koscielny, and his header which Petr Cech saved well from was the first opening of note.

Arsenal tested Eldin Jakupovic in the Tigers goal immediately, but it wasn’t until the 34th minute that the Gunners’ slowly upped pressure would tell.

Kieran Gibbs had popped up in the opposition box, and his shot was blocked. The ricochet went unclaimed in the six yard box, where the quickest ro react was of course Alexis. He stabbed toward goal, but Jakupovic managed to parry the effort. Alexis had chosen to follow up his effort and the combination of Jakupovic’s save and Alexis’s forward momentum saw the ball hit the Chilean’s hand. There was little he could do, but the ball went over the line and he wheeled away to celebrate.

Referee Mark Clattenburg consulted with his linesman as he was unsure what had happened amidst Hull protests, but the goal was given. According to Football Association law, a deliberate handball is when;

‘There must be movement of the hand towards the ball.’ Also, ‘the distance between the ball and hand must be considered.’

So, according to the letter of the law – it was not a deliberate handball. That is that cleared up then.

Arsenal pressed for a second, but the half time whistle blew and we had a lead to protect.

The second half saw some handbags between Theo Walcott and Harry Maguire, where Theo was mystifyingly booked, and the pressure was rising quickly from the home team. It would be Hull that would go closest next though.

Lazar Markovic was chasing a flick on, and the ball was in the air. He slowed to chest it down, and Kieran Gibbs was his sole marker. He shouldered Markovic to the ground, and he was booked for the challenge. The Tigers players wanted a red card, but Clattenburg produced a yellow. Perhaps a little fortunate for Gibbs, but there was a fair distance between Markovic and the goal.

Diomande for Hull had a header which he sent over, but Arsenal were looking to extend their advantage and they wrapped up the points when Alexis was sent racing clear. Eldin Jakupovic came out of his box to close him down and he was rounded. Alexis crossed into the box for Lucas and the Spaniards header was blocked on the line by Sam CLucas’s arm.

Red card for Clucas, and Alexis finished low under the Hull keeper from the spot to allow Arsenal to relax a little after Hull had huffed and puffed to gain an equaliser.

These are some keypoints from the game:

Coquelin on song

He has his detractors, but his display against a far larger opponent in N’Diaye. He tussled and never allowed the physical superiority to become a factor. He was a complete engine. In a tough game where the second balls are the decisive factor, a terrier like Coquelin will thrive. 

The Ox taking his chance

A run in the centre of the side, and The Ox is coming good. He still tries the elaborate when there is no need, but he helped at both ends of the pitch and if he continues to show this sort of form, he may just earn this spot for longer. He must start against Bayern. Great to see.

Ozil off-par

The German looked knackered, and he ran his socks off. He just has no discernible form to speak of. His touch is unusually errant, his passing is not laser-guided as he is capable of – and he is not making the difference. Maybe a bigger stage is what he needs, and with Bayern Munich our next opponents, it would be a great time to find his feet again. Dropping deep and getting more of the ball is great, but we want you in the danger zone Mesut.

Koscielny imperious

He was battered, but Koscielny does not falter. He is the French Terminator. He was excellent in the many aerial duels, and on a few occasions, his fantastic positioning was key to cutting out some dangerous low crosses. He will be far busier on Wednesday, but it is good to see at least one of our players at their peak.

Cech earned his clean sheet.

Petr Cech cleared the ball about ten times in this game, and there was no sign of last weeks calamitous effort that gifted Cesc Fabregas Chelsea’s third goal. He made two saves of note, and they were at key times of the game. They were good saves too, particularly the second, which was a smart low save from Niasse. He can still move, regardless of the doommongers who say he is finished. 

There was a lot more going on, such as Iwobi looking busy and Bellerin showing no ill-effects from his injury last week. The five points above hopefully paint the picture of the game a little clearer. 

The game transpired to be a tale of two handballs, and even though there was a slice of luck involved, be under no illusion that we deserved the win.

So, onward to the Allianz Arena. We are back to winning ways, but this Euro tie is a distinct step up, so we must rise to the occasion.

Today was simply a job done that top clubs do every week. 

Swansea 0-4 Arsenal – 5 Keypoints From the Match

Four goals. A clean sheet. Three points. 

The very definition of the perfect day at the office.

This comfortable victory sees Arsenal climb to third in the table and match the result of the shadow dwellers who won at home to West Brom. Arsene Wenger can take some satisfaction from the manner of victory, especially as Swansea did provide some hairy moments when we toiled at 1-0. We showed the bottle that we needed in our recent comebacks against Preston and Bournemouth, but this time there was no comeback required.

This win also puts an end to our recent poor away record, with no win in three prior to this result, and this will hopefully be the start of a sequence of games where we can mount some decent form. The ninety minutes at the Liberty Stadium is reason enough for optimism to shine through the Gooner masses, as possession was bossed, chances were created and our defence stood strong.

The same team that heroically came back from capitulation against Bournemouth two weeks ago was named, and that meant Olivier Giroud again enjoyed a starting role. With four goals in his last four games, the Frenchman was on fire and he would be the man to break the deadlock. 

Some neat interplay saw Aaron Ramsey able to scorch a pass across the six yard box. Giroud was lurking but was inches away from the touch which the pass needed to divert the ball into the net. Alexis retrieved the situation wide on the left and his scooped pass was met by the head of Ozil. The header was blocked but Giroud cleaned up with a neat finish from six yards in an unmarked position.

It was deserved, as while Swansea were posing an intermittent threat, Arsenal were slowly cranking up the heat. This was to be the only goal of the half though, despite some pressure from both sides. 

Cech had dealt with whatever had come his way, and former Gunner Fabianski had also snuffed out some good opportunities in the opposite goal. At half time  the Gunners were ahead, and it was soon to be doubled in the second half.

Nacho Monreal stopped an attempted counter with an outstretched foot and the ball bobbled back into the Swansea box. Alex Iwobi was alive to the loose ball and he ran onto it and fired toward goal. The ball took a huge deflection from Jack Cork and the ball arced over Fabianski and into the net. It may have been a huge slice of luck, but it had been ten concentrated minutes of pressure from Arsenal after the break and the home side had been desperately doing everything to stop Arsenal from scoring.

Just over ten minutes later, Arsenal put the game to bed. Iwobi was involved again, as another quick conversion of possession and a great pass put Iwobi into the box. He was being tightly marshalled, but a few shimmies from Iwobi’s locker gained him half a yard of space. He chose to square the ball and that man Own Goal once again made the difference, spinning the ball in off of Kyle Naughton’s heel.

Alexis got in on the act six minutes later and Iwobi was again the difference maker. His slide rule pass set free second half substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his cutback found Ramsey. Ramsey was all set to fire but was clipped and the ball lurched forward. It was snaffled up by Alexis like lightning and the game was cooked.

There was much more incident and noteworthy stuff during the game, but here are the five keypoints from the match;

Giroud must start

Some are bemoaning the fact we have resorted to last seasons shape. They have a fair point. The fluidity and sharpness we have when Alexis plays as centre forward is not present when Giroud is up top. Five goals in five games though, tells the other side of the story. We always implore managers to pick a side based on form and not reputation, and this is the result. Whilst we all want Lucas to play and he cannot do anymore to implore Wenger to pick him – we must use Giroud whilst his purple patch is in place. Alexis is still our first choice, but a player must play when he is in form – otherwise what is the point of the rest of the squad trying so hard?

Iwobi over the hump






















The shaky spell that every youngster will suffer from after making their debut? Iwobi had that at the start of the season. The last few games – and increased competition from The Ox – has seen ‘Big17’ pull out of his slump and rise above it. He has shown he really is the real deal and his touch and passing was there for all to see. He can still be polished, but what promising signs from this youngster. He is only going to get better.

A competitive start for once

The last few games has seen the return of an ugly trait. The sluggish start. Too often we have let teams gain the initiative mainly due to our inability to wake up from the start. This game we at least were at the game, and we put up a fight. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially as we all know how we can start games, but this was a step in the right direction.

Ramsey and Xhaka bonding

This partnership has always had promise, and some have always seen its potential (I cannot claim to have seen this partnership as the best we have to offer, and I still do not). With Santi, Elneny and Coquelin all missing, this combo simply had to work. The mandatory starting of both has helped forge a partnership and it is slowly starting to form. The test will be our next big game – early February against Chelsea – but the signs are good. Balance between defence and attack has been sensible and both look to be potent. Good signs and long may it continue.

Winning the next few games

Every game is a must win. With the smallest margin for error, it seems any dropped points have the largest ripples in the Premier League pond. With the next games against Burnley (at home crucially) and away to Watford, six points are the order of the day. A draw at Stamford Bridge in the subsequent fixture would not be the worst result, but maximum points against these teams we should take to school will instill confidence and hopefully see the teams around us drop points as we have done recently. 

There was a lot more incident in this game. Ki’s booking for simulation after we had taken the lead, Cech’s return to a semblance of form, the return of Koscielny, the dissatisfaction from Alexis when taken off in the second half – but the points above encapsulate the game as a whole – hopefully. I hope you enjoy reading, and above all, enjoy the win. 

It’s not often we have nothing to moan about. Enjoy it. 

Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace – 5 Key Points

​Boxing Day brought us the win we craved after two successive defeats, and this 2-0 win gave us the gift of returning form – as well as another vital win.

For Sam Allardyce, it was only the second opportunity for him to gauge what reinforcements he would need in the January transfer window. While Zaha, Cabaye, Benteke and their teammates were trying to adjust to new team orders, Arsene Wenger also had to shuffle his pack and change things up a little.

With Olivier Giroud scoring the late winner last week against West Brom, and with Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both suffering with varying grades of injury – The Ox made it to the bench – it meant Giroud had another start to assert himself.

And boy, didn’t he do just that.

The other news before the game was that Mesut Ozil wasn’t just missing from the side – he wasn’t even in the squad! Lots of buzz revolved around the German and a departure, or a fallout – but such is the nature of the beast, neither were correct. Ozil simply had what millions of us regular people have suffered from recently – the cold. 

Alexis played in his spot, with Lucas excitingly drafted in and Alex Iwobi completed the three behind Olivier. Francis Coquelin was left out for Mohamed Elneny, which would be his last match before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations, and Gabriel stayed in the team even with the return of Shkodran Mustafi to fitness.

Crystal Palace included former Gunner hatchet man Mathieu Flamini in their side, but a reunion with his best bud Mesut Ozil was taken from the French midfielder. 

Instead, he was given the runaround by Xhaka and Elneny.

There was so much to take from this game, but here are five key points from the ninety minutes, that I felt were the most pertinent;




That goal must be revelled in…































Olivier Giroud is much more than a simple target man. We have been privy to his fine front-post finishes for some time now and we have seen that he has finesse as well as tenacity. This goal though, deserves its place amongst the pantheon of simply amazing Arsenal goals. Just enjoy it. He may not be everyone’s Alan Smith or Ian Wright, but he is damn effective. 



Mentality is just as important

Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka have been virtually untested as a duo, and that would have spelled trouble in previous months/years. They played though, with unrestricted passion and movement, whilst not forgetting their defensive duties. It was a great performance from the pair, and proof that if they click into the positivity that the attack brings, they can overcome a lack of chemistry.


Elneny is away

Before this game, I was beginning to forget how effective our Egyptian can be. He hadn’t shown it this season, but how frustrating it is he picks this game to have his best of the season. Elneny always kept it moving, shackled any runs from Cabaye and weighed in to attacks when he could. Xhaka was a great counterweight, and it was so pleasant to see things simply work out for a change!



Alex Iwobi has responded













The young Nigerian inevitably slumped a little after blazing onto the scene last season. His touch evaded him, and the tricks and flicks that had worked so well were now like wet fireworks. His last two games have seen him back to his best, making the difference in tight areas and buzzing around the box, hungry for possession. He was fearless and must be applauded. He will make errors, but players who try the audacious always will.



Lucas starts!

It has been a while! We have pleaded for more game time for the talented Spaniard, and this was the result. He looked pumped, and his direct runs were a menace to James Tomkins, Scott Dann and co. He may not have grabbed a goal, but he showed enough to assuage any doubts for now. He hugged the wing when he needed space, and made intelligent runs when he could. A satisfying display.

There was far more from the game. Alex Iwobi’s goal showed great composure, Gabriel played extremely well and has improved with the extra game time – no surprise there – and Bellerin was tireless in both halves of the pitch. It is reassuring he has recently signed a contract extension! Cech also had a second consecutive clean sheet, and he earned his corn with a string of saves just after we scored our second goal

A comfortable win, a good performance and three points to put us ahead of City. I’ll take that!!

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom – 5 Key Points 

After two successive defeats and losing precious ground with the top of the league, a win – any type of win – was always going to be the order of the day from this match.

This home victory provided the opportunity to put our season back on track, and despite the close scoreline, this performance was just what the doctor ordered. 

West Brom turned up to The Emirates with the aim of stifling the Gunners, and who can blame Tony Pulis? Despite being labelled as one of the managers who is capable of being a thorn in the side of Arsenal, Pulis’s record isn’t exactly impressive against Arsenal. The only thing that has worked in the past is the stoic approach, playing with two banks of four behind the ball. 

This is exactly what the Baggies lined up to execute, but it was to no avail in the end. Arsenal huffed and puffed at times, and there is a danger of overlooking the good points of our play, but West Brom really came close to claiming an undeserved point.

If not for Olivier Giroud’s 86th minute header, it was looking increasingly likely that more dropped points was on the Gunners menu. There was only ever one team that was going to score, but a combination of an errant final ball, hordes of West Brom players behind the ball and the woodwork meant that it took until the dying embers of the game for the points to be won.

Arsene Wenger had to shuffle his team before kickoff, as Theo Walcott was declared unfit, so Alexis was named on the left flank, and Olivier Giroud was named as the sole striker. Kieran Gibbs was also given the nod after a few shaky games from Nacho Monreal, so Arsenal could pose an aerial threat against a predominantly strong team with the ball in the air.

The Gunners though, seemed intent on playing on the deck, even though Giroud gave the side an asset in the box. The first half was a myriad of passes in and around the West Brom box, and Ozil and Sanchez looking to provide either the killer blow or pass. Conversely though, Baggies keeper Ben Foster wasn’t truly tested even in the face of such endeavours – there was only one shot on target in the entire 45 minutes.

The second half was a different story, although thankfully not as contrasting as our last two games. We played with more zip on the deck, intent to utilising West Brom’s lack of mobility compared to ours. 

Ben Foster, when not time wasting, was the man who was responsible for keeping his side in the game, but even he couldn’t touch Olivier Giroud’s header, which came from an Ozil cross. 

It was enough to win the game, but there was far more to write about during the ninety minutes. Here are the key points from the match:

Alex Iwobi getting back some form

The young Nigerian had been experiencing the inevitable dip that any starlet suffers from when bursting onto the scene. This game showed that amongst Iwobi’s strengths, he also has a steel spine to boast of. In the face of such criticism, he had not let it affect his game. He still was trying all sorts of flicks and backheels in order to pierce the Baggies backline, and it was he and Alexis that looked more likely to provide the inspiration. He looked the part, and this is also vitally important with our widemen missing this game. More of the same please!

Timewasting in the first half?

Just like Stoke City a few weeks back, West Brom knew they would have to employ more than a stubborn defence to take any points away from The Emirates, and it was their gamesmanship that was more frustrating than anything else. Ben Foster and on occasion some other players on the books at West Brom, were taking more than their sweet time for set plays. It was blindingly obvious to anyone other than the referee, but it spelled out exactly what Tony Pulis had instructed – Frsutrate Arsenal, and we can nick a point.
Bellerin and Gibbs so vital

Hector and Keiran both had license to run amok as their opponent seemed unwilling to venture any further than the halfway line. They really did give our attack another arrow, which we really did need to stretch a compact West Brom. They were solid when they needed to be, and they positioned themselves exactly where they were always needed. Great stuff.

Ozil always working

He will no doubt cop some heat again, as he didn’t perform sliding tackles, beat players with a rabona and score a screamer, but his work is there for all that want to see it. Against a Pulis side who were intent on shutting out all and sundry, he flitted around every nook and cranny that he could, trying to spark anything into life. We too, were static at times, so there were not many runners to pick out, but he had ridiculous amounts of the ball and whenever he could, he attempted to manipulate the opponent in order to create gaps. It was his 100th Premier League game, and he also recorded his 36th assist, which apparently is second only to Eric Cantona for assists recorded in 100 games. 

Giroud offers much, but there are limits

This was the Frenchman’s fourth goal of the season, and the majority of his season has been spent on the bench. We all know what Ollie brings to the table, and if a decent ball is whizzed into the box, then invariably Giroud will finish it – as shown with his goal. He doesn’t offer though, the movement of Alexis, and that is why the Chilean has prospered in the same position. Giroud is definitely useful and we must keep him, but he must adapt to his shifting role – which he has done thus far, offering much value from the bench when called upon. He is perfect for some games, not all. This game, he latched onto the only real chance that was presented to him. He did exactly what we needed. Job done.

There was much more to write about. Gabriel had perhaps his best game in an Arsenal shirt, offering a calm outlet when harrying Baggies players came rushing, and he was great aerially against Salomon Rondon. Xhaka and Coquelin were safe, but relatively untroubled so could spend the majority of their time in the opposition half, and Petr Cech finally ended a run of eight games without a clean sheet.

The most important thing amongst the words above though, is that we picked up the points. We were tough, and we kept at it. With City, Chelsea and United all winning, anything else wsould have been calamitous. 

Onwards we march. Well done boys. 

Arsenal Vs West Brom – The Warm Up

It’s Christmas Eve, but despite the festivities elsewhere, there are precious few who are full of good cheer as Gooners.

Two consecutive defeats have happened before in our past, but few of our losses have been so surrendered so voluntarily as when we lost to Everton and Manchester City.

It has left many who follow our club wondering if the positive start we had made in the season was another false dawn, and that the same frailties that have blighted our seasons gone by still course throughout our team.

One of the few things to raise optimism is that with the defeats coming in the thick of the fixture congestion, we have an opportunity to remedy the losing run in quick fashion. 

Next up is West Bromwich Albion.

Our two losses have coincided with the loss to injury of Shkodran Mustafi, who will again be out of the team. Gabriel is again expected to deputise. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out with a hamstring injury, but Aaron Ramsey has recovered from a similiar ailment and is in full training. It may come too soon for the Welshman, but a spot on the bench is not beyond his hopes. 

Danny Welbeck is another who has returned to training, and what the England striker brings to the team cannot be underestimated. This game will not be within his sights, but a first team recall is nearing after not playing since April. With The Ox out and Welbeck still nearing a return, it should mean that Alex Iwobi has another chance to return to a semblance of form, and the same goes for Mesut Ozil.

The German has been firing this season, but a player of his talent was strangely anonymous in our last two games – both of them we lost. A player such as he has been through critical moments before and will return to his best, but it is not unfair to expect a little more from a man who is capable of destroying a whole team with one pass or movement. He has had a great season so far, but all eyes will be in him to see if he rises above the critics as he has done before.

The opponent could have been easier, as any team managed by Tony Pulis will test the fibres of their opponents, and the Baggies are a threat at both ends of the pitch.

West Brom have a reputation of a rock solid defence, but have only one clean sheet in their last fourteen. They will be helped by the return of Jonny Evans however, although James Morrison looks to be out. Salomon Rondon will carry the weight of goal expectation for the away side, and aerially, he will run the rule over Gabriel to see if he has the mettle to survive in the Premiership. If he dominates, then Rondon could very well see the long term prospects of the Brazilian at Arsenal hampered.

Arsenal also have a problem keeping clean sheets, and Petr Cech hasn’t managed one in his last eight – his worst run in his career. If the Gunners manage to keep out the Baggies, it will be a well deserved end to that run of leakiness. 

Let us not forget last season when Cazorla missed a last minute penalty to earn a paltry point – West Brom will ensure we put in everything to win. 

West Brom in their defeat to United last week really tested Mourinho’s team, and were ridiculously well drilled. It was only down to an Ibrahimovic moment of brilliance, and a deflected shot that Pulis’s men were undone. They will rock up to The Emirates with a gameplan, and the perfect way to undo this would be an early goal.

An early goal would also dispel any negativity in the stands, so Arsene Wenger must instruct his team to go full throttle from the off. That is when we see the best of our side, so hopefully a win and an entertaining show are in store. 

Chelsea are nine points clear, and Liverpool and City have overtaken us. Not only this, tottenham are but one point behind. Three points or bust.

I will be at the game, and an in-depth review will follow the game. It would be much easier to write about a win….

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal

Predicted Team – Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis