Sunday, 13 August 2017

‘Ring Side’ Observations From The Arsenal Leicester Season Opener

What a cracker said most neutral fans.

Save my heart said Arsene Wenger and millions of genuine Arsenal fans around the world.

I wasn’t going to attend Friday night’s match but changed my mind at the last minute. I was at the stadium 3 seasons ago when Referee Anthony Taylor gifted Aston Villa 3 points at the season opener at The Emirates.

I watched helplessly on TV 2 seasons ago when Dimitri Payet introduced himself to the Premier League by defeating Arsenal in the season opener. I was back for more at the start of last season when injury misfortune again cost us 3 points as we lost to Liverpool in a game we looked very comfortable at the start and played poorly for 20 minutes in the 2nd half.

So this time around, I was going to sit it out. Not watch on telly or in the stadium. However like most addicts, I couldn’t resist. Off to the stadium I went. Stomach in knots. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink. Very tensed.

The match got off to a brilliant start. What a goal by Lacazette! He didn’t snatch at it, he steered and planted it. The boy learnt football properly. It is not a hobby. He is technically gifted and will display his technical bag of tricks many times during the match – close control, retrieving the ball in tackles, dribbles, crosses, scrapes etc. He has got it. A shame he is competing with Antoine Griezmann for a starting berth in the French national side.

Sadly Mesut Ozil gave away the ball in the lead up to the Leicester equalizer. Cech should have stayed home for the cross and Xhaka should have been more physical with Okazaki.

Again for Leicester’s second goal, we gave the ball away cheaply, this time by Xhaka but I blame Elneny. He gave Xhaka the proverbial hospital pass but as Xhaka’s handicap is his reliance on one foot, he probably couldn’t turn the other way, to recycle the ball away from that particular quadrant. Holding compounded that error by staying off Albrighton and allowing him deliver something of a perfect cross for Vardy to score. One of Monreal or Kolasinac should have been more physical with Vardy as well.  

Holding had a poor game as he gave one more ball away that almost resulted in a goal when Okazaki headed wide. I was of the opinion that Vardy body checking Holding was the start of Holding’s challenges during the game but it appears his game was more impacted by having to cover gaps left by Bellerin.

Holding will get better as a friend assured me last night on twitter. As Arsene Wenger said at a Football Writers Association Talkshop recently, he plays him consciously knowing it might cost him points but the end result is the development of a fantastic talent. Holding will come good. “YOU KNOW”

Our overall play was fantastic. Our win against Leicester at the end of last season was a turgid affair. This one was free flowing. We had many spells when we played champagne football. Heart racing, pulse raising, stomach sweeting stuff. As I said in my season preview, I dare any team to play openly with Arsenal. You will have your ‘Asses Handed Out To You’. Our play was so sweet I noticed Mo Elneny ball watching once, admiring the passage of play. Must have been an out of body experience for him. J

Looking at the match highlights again, I noticed Lacazette was aiming for goal in that touch before Kolasinac laid it on a plate for Danny boy. Lacazette will score many.   

For me Leicester’s 2nd and 3rd goals could probably be excused. I know people crap about poor set piece defending etc. but it happens, I think if we hadn’t given the first goal away, we could have won Friday’s match by a four goal margin or something.

I thought Xhaka apologizing for causing 2 of Leicester’s goal was very brave of him. He is a man’s man. A strong voice in the dressing room I will imagine. I was very impressed with his interview with the Arsenal in - house Media after the game. Impeccable command of the English language all in less than 13 months of arrival in England. Massive big up to him.

Then Arsene changed it. Brought in the big guns – Aaron & Ollie and changed formation. Someone on twitter said it was the 0 – 6 – 3 formation. Maybe it was 1 – 6 – 3 with Cech not needing to stay in his post and playing the Libero role of old.

Before then and at 10 minutes to go, I was almost heart broken but I felt for the club and Arsene more. Thinking that the club didn’t need this sort of negativity around it this season. We did the job by starting the game well and we have almost wrecked it unnecessarily.

Aaron & Ollie had other ideas though. It was a delightful cross from Lacazette that almost handed Aaron a goal from his first touch. Watch that move again and you see Matty James fore hand smashing Ramsey and that knock winded him a bit. It was what the Leicester players were doing all game, physically pulling players back, trying to maim Lacazette, tugging at Ollie’s shirt and that was exactly how they won the league. Foul Foul Foul! DIRTY! It is a big shame that referees allow this nonsense to continue.

Its not wrestling guys, it is a football match, only the goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands. At a point during the game, Ollie had to make it very clear to Harry Maguire that they are not mates.  One of those “ don’t touch me mate, keep your flipping hands to yourself”.

I noticed Alex Oxlade – Chamberlain’s frustration at some point after Theo came on. It appears Theo wasn’t given him a passing option and he was visibly irritated. The lack of option from Theo happened again not too long after this incident although there was no visible reaction from Oxlade the second time around. I wonder if there is a bit of history there. I dare say Theo has kept Ox – Chambo away from the flanks for a few years.   

The Lacazette dribble of 4 or was it 5 of the Leicester players just before the Giroud goal was sweet. Hopefully he is our key to unlocking those massed ranks / coaches / trailers / trucks parked in front of opponents goalposts.
  
Leicester fans appeared to be more vocal as away fans are usually. Those of us in the home end were no slouches either. Vardy’s 2nd goal appeared to suck the life out of us a bit but we actually found our voice before Ramsey’s equalizer. Singing when your team is not doing well is the stuff of legends and we Arsenal fans need to aspire to legendary status as we demand of our Team.

As for the Media highlighting negatives - Alexis sad face and not his happy face and Wenger’s body language when the boys were collectively trying to give all of  us heart attack. I say kudos to them. It obviously works for them. And guess why? Arsenal fans bite. Especially the 'WOE IS US' moaners. The media will satisfy the demand if it is out there. If it is not, they will soon stop. So it is in your hand genuine Arsenal fans.

Also the pundits wont stop bleating about the Ozil handball before one of our goal. You will expect sensible people to balance this out with the obvious  Ndidi handball / penalty incident. Sorry they only have eye for Ozil. If I was Ndidi I will be suing for discrimination.

I am somewhat invested in Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho & Alex Iwobi. I believe these 3 with a lot of the players in the age grade England squad are the future of my birth country, Nigeria’s football. People have commented how Ndidi was made to look ordinary, I think Arsenal made it so. They bypassed the middle and shifted it from flank to flank with several Hollywood style passes and Leicester too was pumping it straight to Albrighton and Mahrez. So I am not worried about Ndidi. Still a very good player in my assessment.

I did find it bizarre though that Shakespeare brought on Kelechi, an attacker at three all. It is well and good claiming some of the glory for the title winning season but the good and the great always know when a draw away at a Top 6 club is a very good point.

After all said and done, I think Arsene and the players know better than me, you, the pundits and even the legends of the game. I am only a passionate observer. Gary Neville retired from competitive football 6 and a half years ago, Jamie Carragher  retired a year or so after him. It will soon be 4 years since Thierry Henry retired. The game has changed, the nature of the players has changed.

Personally, moaning fans do my head in. As an individual, I am distraught that I have to breathe the same air and walk the same surface of the earth as murderers and child abusers. I feel the same away about sharing a passionate love of Arsenal with some who call themselves Arsenal fans. I wish I could do something drastic about both scenarios.

To the moaners, to all the ‘nothing is good for us’, HOW CAN YOU MOAN / COMPLAIN ABOUT GETTING 3 POINTS!!!!!!


I am perfectly happy with 37 more wins like Friday night. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

New Premier League Season Preview

After watching a few pre season games this time last year, I was bold enough to say Manchester City and Manchester United were not going to win the league last season.  You might want to read my write up before the start of last season here

I got a few things right and some very wrong. For example, I was wrong in thinking Arsenal had a sneaky chance to win the league as long as The Spuds came 2nd. The Spuds bit was right but sadly for all lovers of good football and decency within the game, Arsenal lost out again after looking good for some part of the season.

The former things have now passed. A new season starts today. I am excited. I am looking forward to it. Not the heartaches or the rotten post match moods. Just the joy. The pleasure of booking match tickets, the excitement of waking up on match day and travelling to the stadium, the sheer delight of mixing with fellow like minded fans, the knot in your tummy before matches, the post - match contentment that your players have put in a decent shift or the fulfillment from getting a result even if it was nicked.

That feeling is now with us for the next 10 months. I am hoping for more highs than lows.

Who will win it this time? Don’t look at the pundits for answers. They have been spectacularly wrong on the last 2 occasions. This time, they have been unanimous in giving it to Manchester City or Drawchester United. No doubt both teams especially City have added well. The key factor in my opinion why Pundits are lapping up Pep & Jose is the reputation these two enjoyed in the not too distant past. Pundits are holding on to this doe eyed belief that Jose is not a busted flush and that Pep can hack it in a competitive league. We shall see.

While City look to have cured their defensive inadequacies, I don’t see what United have actually done. Surely Lukaku’s goals will replace Zlatan’s. What next? United scored 31 goals less than Chelsea the last term, 32 goals less than The Spuds. Where will United make up this deficit? I do not expect Henrikh Mkhitaryan & Perpetually Missing Pogba to start popping up with double-digit goals tally for the season. Kolewerk. United are not winning the title this season. The earlier they drop down to The Europa in December and smash it again the better. Jose has pedigree in this trophy. At least if he can’t win a hat trick of Champions League, he can win The Europa 3 times.  

It is amazing why the bookies have made Chelsea 3rd favorite for the Premier League. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks Roman Abramovich deliberately sabotages his coaches after winning the league because he realizes that winning back-to-back Premier Leagues is extremely challenging. Nothing else explains some of the chaos we have heard from the leaks & speculation coming out of Stamford Bridge & Cobham.  Apart from the handicap of successfully defending EPL title wins and their Champions League participation, I think Chelsea will be close again.

The Pundits have also derided Liverpool. Some have written them out of Top 4 for this new season. Considering they scrapped through last season, I totally understand why. However even if they lose Coutinho, I think Liverpool’s energy is too much for most teams and they will be very competitive for a top 4 place. I however think they can’t win the league simply because the energetic style of play can’t last for 90 minutes every game and for the 38 games season.

The biggest disadvantage I believe the Spuds will have is psychological (Wembley + Wages issue + Bottling DNA) plus the fact that whoever replaces Kyle Walker won’t compete with Kieran Trippier the same way the later was pushing Walker in training.  I think barring significant injuries, sadly the Spuds will become established Top 4 side going forward. I have seen nothing to suggest Drawchester United are as good as Totteringham.

Where do I think Arsenal will finish? I am not sure. Every year, I hope we are going to win the league again. It hasn’t happened so far but it might happen again soon. At the minimum, I will shake hands on a Top 4 finish right now. However it might just be this season when everybody is unanimous in writing Arsenal off, that we go in and snatch it. Stranger things have happened.

For Arsenal to win, just like Leicester and Chelsea recently did, we need the proverbial rub of the green, For the PGMO to assign referees who are inclined to referee matches the way it ought to be played, for referees to favor us the same way they favored Leicester’s wrestling defenders 2 seasons ago and Chelsea’s Mixed Martial Art wingbacks last season, for opponents to lose the plot and play proper football against Arsenal instead of building a miniature version of the Hadrian Wall in front of their goalposts and for other title contenders to implode for one reason or the other.  If these things happen, Arsenal will win the Premier League. You heard it here first.

I am positive Lacazette will plunder many goals. I like the steely look about Kolasinac, I will like more solidity in the middle of the pack from existing players or new joiners and with this, Arsenal can have a successful season.

I believe the above clubs will be the Top 6 with guess who retaining their 6th position. If they are not careful though, Everton might usurp their new birthright and they will have to jostle with West Brom, Bournemouth & Southampton for Top 10.

With the challenges at Newcastle, I doubt Rafa Bentiez can gate crash the Top 10. Survival will be a bonus.

Mr. Wagner of Huddersfield has promised to be true to his philosophy of playing good football. I think this is a mistake. If he sticks to this, they are going down with a disastrous point tally.

I suspect Brighton will cope better than Huddersfield as I think Chris Hughton will play a more cautious game in the Premier League

I worry for Stoke. It might just be bye bye to the Premier League. I wont miss them though.

Watford, Burnley, Swansea, Palace, Leicester and West Ham are very vulnerable.

My relegation tip is Huddersfield, Watford & Burnley.

My tip for the league is Arsenal. Like you expected me to write all of this and tip someone else?

BRING ON THE NEW SEASON     


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Lucas Perez – Why There Is Something NOT RIGHT With Some Arsenal Fans

The way some who claim to be Arsenal fans jump on negative information, deliberate misinformation and untruths designed to paint the club bad is short of amusing. It sometimes reminds me of how a minority of Nigerians who lost their livelihood in May 2015 will never let go and will revel in every piece of negative news about their country. 

As we go to Wembley this afternoon, nothing but a win will matter to this lot despite the fact that a competitive football match can only have 3 outcomes. Even with a win, many will tell you it was a nothing victory anyway. Their club should only be winning the big trophies. I would really like to know if these fans are winning the big prizes in their own life. Shouldn’t they be trying to match the same standards they set for the club they support?

Lucas Perez joined Arsenal late in August last year a few days before that transfer window shut. Many including some Arsenal fans touted him as a panic buy and a second choice after Jamie Vardy reportedly spurned Arsenal’s overtures. It will be interesting to know if any of those who considered him a panic buy and a squad player are moaning about what they consider Lucas’ poor treatment by Arsenal.

Hands up who expected Lucas to be a guaranteed starter at Arsenal! NO WAN.

If indeed you thought he was going to start in any of the front 3 position ahead of Alexis, Giroud, Danny, Theo, The Ox, I dare say football is not your thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Perez, I like and support any player who puts on the Arsenal jersey. They are good enough for me and deserving of my support and affection. I think Perez is a damn good player but in nobody’s world is he ahead of any of the 5 players I listed. 

He reportedly moved to Arsenal for c£17m and is now apparently available to move for c£14m. Any of the 5 players I listed will command multiples of that transfer fee even with their current contract situation and football reputation. So no, none of those players are Lucas Perez’ mate. They are better players.

What do the stats show? According to Squawka (link - https://twitter.com/Squawka/status/892057521451663363), Perez has damn impressive stats. 9 starts, 948 minutes, 7 goals, 5 assists and directly involved every 79 minutes. Good. His total appearance for Arsenal last season is 21 with 7 goals, 11 in the Premier League, 7 in domestic cups and 3 in Europe.

His one goal in 3 appearances last season is surpassed by Alexis Sanchez’ 3 goals in 5 same term, Giroud’s 2 in 5 and Theo’s 1 goal in 2. Yes Perez’s goal stats are better than Danny Welbeck’s and Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain. It might however interest you to know that the Lucas Perez that was not treated well had more appearances than Danny Welbeck.

You can review all of Lucas Perez’s appearances at the end of this article. His appearances will reveal that he has been involved either as a starter or a substitute when he has been available to play. The only exceptions are when he is injured or has played a 90 minutes match 2 or 3 days before the next one. The dynamics of what player to bring on from the subs bench depends on what happens during the match. The manager naming the player in the side tells you that he wants to play him.

This link: http://news.arseblog.com/2017/03/lucas-perez-declares-himself-satisfied-with-arsenal-move/ shows the player  acknowledging the pecking order at the Club and talking about his good relationship with the manager. 


So much for poorly treated. What sort of arrogance or stupidity makes us fans / passionate onlookers no less, believe we know more than managers and professional outfits in how they pick / choose / select players?

What is this the thing that a player who is well paid and considered to be a well integrated member of a team has not been treated fairly because he hasn’t been played more times than players who are better than him individually or better suited to the side’s style of play. Oh! If only my employer will treat me poorly to do less.

I get the player’s desire to feature more, his passion to aim for a spot in the Spanish national side and his genuine upset feeling that a new signing has been given his shirt number. His upset feelings about his shirt number are very valid and forms part of the stick some want to beat the club with.  It also helps that he has a very active agent who has briefed the press repeatedly since Perez started with Arsenal. The club has since apologized and it appears the communication process was less than ideal.

Taking the shirt number away is no big deal in my opinion, it’s a big dog eat small dog world when you compete with other Alpha professionals and earn telephone number type salaries. But not handling the communication well was very  un - Arsenal. This is not the first time numbers have been taken from one player and handed over to others in Arsenal but this is the first time it has created such a kerfuffle. So you have to wonder if the club has dropped its communication standards or the attitude of the player involved has had an impact. I know what I believe. I will leave you to make up your mind.

If as reported, Lucas moves on in the next few days, I will wish him well. I have enjoyed watching him play live many times. I have enjoyed his goals and I have seen good chemistry with teammates on the field of play and training. I believe the club has treated him well everything considered.  But he is making a stand and walking away from something that doesn’t work for him.

What about you? When are you going to walk away from this toxic relationship where you believe every bad thing about Arsenal?






ALL LUCAS PEREZ APPEARANCE FOR ARSENAL


·     Lucas started the very first game for the club after his arrival. (v Southampton at The Emirates)

·    He was on the bench for the next 2 matches and made a cameo appearance in one of those matches (PSG & Hull away)

·     Started the next match thereafter (Forest away)

·    Was on the bench for the next 2 (Basel & Chelsea at The Emirates)

·    Left out of the squad for the next one (Burnley away)

·    Was on the bench again for the next match against Swansea at The Emirates

·    Came off the bench for 30 minutes against Ludogrets at the next match at The Emirates

·   Played 23 minutes in the next match at the same venue against Middleborough

·   Played 72 minutes against Reading in the Cup at The Emirates until he was almost murdered by one of the opponents. It was reported after the match that Lucas will be out with injury for 6 weeks plus

·  He featured for 90 minutes in the League Cup home loss to Southampton following his return from injury

·   He was back on the bench in then next match. The thrashing of West Ham at The London Stadium

·     Played the full match in the 4 – 1 victory away at Basel

·     Was on the beach in the next match v Stoke at The Emirates

·     Made a cameo appearance in the loss to Everton away  

·   Was back on the bench in the defeat to Man City at The EMPTYhad

·      Played 20 minutes off the bench in the next match v West Brom at The Emirates

·      Played 70 minutes from the start in the New Year day home win over Crystal Palace

·   Came off the bench for 27 minutes in the next match v Bournemouth away

·      Played for 90 minutes in the next match at Preston for the FA Cup

·      Played 11 minutes in the next match against Swansea away

·      Returned to the bench as an unused sub in the next match against Burnley at The Emirates

·      Played the whole of the next match in the FA Cup away win v Southampton

·      Played 33 minutes in the next match v Watford in that disastrous home loss

·      Missed the next match v Chelsea at Stamford Bridge due injury

·   Played 10 minutes in the next match v Hull at The Emirates returning from injury

·     Missed out on the next match against Bayern in Munich due to injury

·      Played the 90 minutes in the next match. The FA Cup win away at Sutton United

·      Came off the bench for 16 minutes in the next match in the away loss to Liverpool

·    Again came off the bench for 18 minutes in the home loss to Bayern

·      Similarly, played 25 minutes as a sub in the FA cup v Lincoln at The Emirates

·      He picked up an injury and was ruled out for the next 3 weeks but didn’t return to training until the 25th of April. 

·      And he wasn’t back in the squad until the last game of the season when we wacked Chelsea. Could have been a 5 niller to us.  J