All That Ends Well is Well?

What a rollercoaster season we had at Arsenal, so much talking points. From finishing the lowest we have done in 20 years to Winning the EmiratesFAcup in such a convincing manner and making certain that our worst campaign in 20 years was more productive than Tottenham’s best campaign in more than 50 years, Stan Kroenke rejecting a £1bn take over bid from Russian billionaire and Arsenal fan Alisher Usmanov, Wenger finally getting another 2 years contract amid fierce protest from a section of Arsenal supporters (Wenger Out Brigade) and the club looking to build from the strong finish of our late charge in the season. There is just so much to talk about.

I have been away on a self imposed holiday from writing on Arsenal affairs until the season ends, because I was so sick and tired of the happenings at the time. Do not get it the wrong way, I never missed a single match that we played..I only decided it was in my best health interest that I stop for a while and reflect. As I said, it’s been a rollercoaster season where many different Arsenal showed up in different matches. There were times they were drop dead brilliant, and there were times they were literary crap. All in all, I remained a gooner through and through.

During the course of this break, we shall be looking back on some of the problems that made our season go haywire and what can be done to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. We shall profile and discuss our potential targets and look at how they can add quality to the team. (Its rumoured we have already acquired the services of Kolasinac and have also agreed to buy Nigerian forward Henry Onyekuru, and are on the heels of Monaco’s young prodigy kylian Mbappe; for whom a bid of £87m was lodged a few days ago…as reported by L’equipe. It’s really refreshing to see that things are moving faster than other times, and the amount quoted are quite audacious.

Let’s sit back and enjoy the summer. It promises to be an exciting one! COYG!!

-fair play gooner

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Arsène Has A Big Task Of Changing The Team’s Mentality.

I can’t believe I am still talking of mentality in 2017. I can’t believe the team still start a game sluggishly, shoot themselves on the feet and fail to get even a single point from a match they are supposed to win with minimal ease inside the Emirates stadium. I can’t believe that in 2017, Aaron Ramsey would still be just a prospect within Arsenal fold, can’t be trusted to keep composure and concentration for 90 minutes without selling his team out, almost 10 years after the start of his Arsenal adventure.

Maybe it’s time to cut our losses and get him moved on. Maybe he needs a new surrounding. His development seems to have stalled, and he doesn’t have any motivation whatsoever. Looking at him last night lose the ball, from an otherwise low pressure circumstance; when his defenders were all coming out from the 18 area, and trudged back with nonchalance only reminicent of one Andrey Asharvin’s during the last months of his Arsenal career, I was lost for words to describe him; considering the enormous faith Arsenal and Arsène Wenger put in him. It’s just plain pity that he (Aaron Ramsey) thinks he’s doing enough to repay the club with such lackadaisical attitudes. Deflecting an otherwise harmless free-kick into his own net and strolling back after gifting the opponents the ball in a dangerous area directly resulting in a 2-0 deficit inside 15 minutes of the first half, then you go down with injury before 20th minute; leaving your team mates with a mountain to climb.👏👏

Even though the team had no power over the outcome of other title contenders’ results, they had absolute power to determine the outcome of their own match. Their fate was always in their own hands. What did they do? Throw it away to the wind. Chelsea dropped point, Tottenham dropped points to relegation strugglers Sunderland. What an opportunity to close the gap on the top and put a psychological hold on Chelsea ahead of our clash with them at Stamford bridge this weekend. At the end, we did what we know to do best; we bottled it.

“We didn’t start the way we wanted, in the second half it was all us, and we were unlucky to lose the game as well. We did not deserve to lose this game.”
 -Arsène Wenger

Any title chasing side must first be hard to score against, must have the technical skills, must be opportunists, must be psychologically and physically ready every week, must have the dugout tactical prowess to change things in little or no notice; must be able to improvise. Last night caught us wanting on several of these key areas. Arsène Wenger picked a wrong team. Inasmuch as the manager knows best, we football fans sometimes can determine the outcome of a game just by looking at the team sheet. We know them, we know their current form, so we can tell. As soon as I saw that line up yesterday, I was sure that something could go wrong. Whatever happened to the trio we saw at Southampton in midweek?  A team so dynamic that a very good Southampton side did not have any answer to the questions being thrown at them. Welbeck, Walcott, Perez.. You can argue that Welbeck need not to be rushed back, but the truth remains he is still fresh and would benefit from an extended run in the team. With the absence of Xhaka through suspension, why not Chamberlain-after his five star showing against the saints? Why start with Paulista against a saints side which does not boast of any outstanding wing backs, why keep Bellerin on the bench? Why start with Giroud who always have his best days coming in from the bench? Why sub Coquelin just when Arsenal were on the ascendency with Iwobi at the heart of everything good, moving the youngster down into the place vacated by the defensive midfielder? Since I didn’t want to risk Bellerin, why not sub Gabriel Paulista, who never found his touch going forward, bringing in whichever more offensive option you want while leaving Coquelin to man the middle and also snuff out any attempt of theirs down the right wing; thereby overloading Watford defence with goal scoring threats? These are calls which I think should be common knowledge to any good thinking football analyst or enthusiast, but our manager didn’t quite get them spot on; hence Arsenal paid the price. He took the blames head on though. 

Arsène will not always get the calls spot on all the time, but I expect him to instill in these hugely talented group of players a mentality that befits a title challenging team. I do not wish to compare Arsène with anyone, but in his days, Alex Ferguson would be smiling to the title with this set of players at Arsène’s disposal. It’s all a matter of mind set. Wars are first fought and won on the battlefield of the mind. These set of players are proving year after year that they are not up for it. Therefore, if Arsenal will be champions of England come May, nay, if the team has any dream of being in the top four come the end of the season, then Arsène has got a big task of changing his player’s mentality. Next up is a trip across London to Stamford bridge. Lets hope for the best. COYG!!

Here is the full match media conference by Arsène Wenger. Mind you, he’s always got his reasons.

Per Got Lucky?

It became official that Arsenal took up the option in the German’s contract for a further year contract extension until 2018. It was a welcomed news for some Gooners-me inclusive, and a total thumbs down for others. Per has had some up and down during his stay so far at North London, but none  can deny his attitude and passion for the game and for Arsenal. He has his short comings which is mostly lack of pace. The world cup winner would have been the perfect central defender if he could chase down a player much quicker than he most often does. 

Many of our fans would rather Arsène let him go and use the extra cash taking him (and other dead woods; in their opinion:Ramsey, Jenkinson, Sanogo etc) off the wage bill would generate to give Alexis and Özil whatever they are asking for. For a lay man, it makes sense, bearing in mind that we have more than adequate cover in central defence; Mustafi, Koscielny, Gabriel and Holding. However, looking at it from Arsène’s point of view, Mertesacker is a world class defender whose positional and tactical reading of the game is second to none, hence should be a role model to the younger defenders and also lend his voice in the dressing room. For player whose pace my granny can match, to survive in EPL, playing for a top club like Arsenal; he must be doing other things apart that people are reluctant to see. His ball services from deep are some midfielders dream.

“My love for this club is authentic. I care a lot about team-mates, about fans, and I want people to identify with us. It’s very important to me now and it always has been. I feel like there’s always been a link between myself and Arsenal.”
– Per

These younger defenders need a great player with experience to learn from. He’s a fine role model and keeps other players grounded in the dressing room. So it’s no brainer that Arsène decided to keep him for another year.

Today we play Burnley at the Emirates stadium. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on other top teams. Liverpool lost at home to guess who? Swansea. That same Swansea that some pundits didn’t think they deserved to be in EPL because we cracked them inside their backyard. Shame on biased punditry. Manchester United dropped points too, so did Manchester city and Tottenham. What a weekend it’s going to be if we manage to nick all 3 points. Here is to a perfect weekend! Go get the points Arsenal! COYG!!

Fair Play Gooner.

What Next For Arsenal?

It was a one week to forget for Arsenal as they failed to pick up a single point in two games. First was at Goodison park where a host of school boys error changed what would have been a routine win for Arsenal. Much has been written on that match. Next was the clash with Manchester City at the Etihad stadium on Sunday. Again, lack of urgency and seriousness cost Arsenal what would have been a routine win if they had maintained focus.

However, one denominator was consistent with both games; Arsène Wenger crying foul about the officiating of both matches. At Everton it was the manner in which the toffees made the game physical while the ref failed to control the game accordingly, gifting very crucial decisions in Everton’s favour and denying Arsenal of very clear calls. Koeman was not having that and accused Wenger of being a “sore loser”. The game at Etihad picked up from where the previous one stopped at, gifting city two goals which were clear offside. Truth be told, Arsenal were piss-poor on the day, but does not make Martin Atkinson right in leaving those two goals to stand. Arsène, rightly, was less than impressed by those unfortunate outcome, as he voiced his frustration:

“The two goals are two offside goals and in a game of that stature I feel enough is enough for us. We got some bad decisions for the whole season and today I looked at the goals and both are offside.

“The second one is five yards offside. The first one is still offside. But what can I do? We have to live with that. We have to look at ourselves and analyse why we lost the game.”

Sanè scored Man city’s first goal. It clearly was offside.

Here is a detailed piece on refereeing in England as written by Untold Arsenal.

Recently, Alexis and Özil contract situation have made headlines in the media. Apparently, their agents are looking to milk Arsenal as much as they can, given their clients form or lack of it. Personally, I think they went too far with their demands. A club from China offered Alexis £400k/wk which his camp is using as leverage to demand a king’s ransom from Arsenal. Özil, in spite of his bad form in recent weeks, is demanding in excess of £300k/wk from Arsenal. It must be recalled that the said player was a passenger on sunday at Etihad stadium. So much that this meme was made by Arsenal fans in that respect: 

Gary Neville couldn’t put his situation more nicely:

You talk about Sanchez and Ozil as though Arsenal Football Club is going to end if they leave. Arsenal have had far better players than them over the last 20 years. I wouldn’t worry too much about them holding the club to ransom. Make them an offer and if they don’t stay let them go. Arsenal Football Club will still be here in a 100 years’ time.

Souness had this to say on the matter:

They are asking for money that is only given to players who have won the big trophies. And they haven’t won any big trophies.

Henry speaking on the matter said:

At the moment they are holding the club hostage. They are amazing but if they are on that amount of money, I want a hat-trick every week – and also when there’s no game! You need to be in a situation where you’ve won something already for the club to ask for that amount of money.

Sanchez at the Etihad stadium. Is he being affected by the contract situation?

I agree with these legends. They won it all, played for so long on the big stage, but never held their clubs hostage as this two are trying to do with Arsenal. I am all for giving them a new contract, but not on those terms. Özil will have to earn it. Sanchez is working his ass off in every game, but £400k/wk? Way too much.

So what next for Arsenal? First, the gunners must rediscover the form that took them almost 20 games without defeat across all competition. They must hope that Mustafi returns, at the worst, on schedule. They must handle these contract negotiations in such a way that it does not interfere with the productivity on the pitch. Lastly, Arsène must strengthen the squad this January; increase competition in the squad by getting one or two players in. Payet and Draxler will not be bad.

Let’s hope that Arsenal’s form will start to improve starting with the next game at home against the Baggies on boxing day fixtures. COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner 

Wenger’s Blueprint For Man City Game.

The boys were hard at training yesterday at the London Colney training base before jetting out to Manchester. Looking at them, it was evident that the disappointment of our midweek game against Everton has been banished. The Arsenal players were all smiles and went about their business with zip and zest. We lost ground but we lost no one to injury in a game where, as usual, the referee had a poor game. 

Now Arsenal have a chance to remain within healthy distance from the top team if they can pull off a remarkable display and nick the whole three points at stake in Manchester. The team is well rested and must have been drilled about what’s at stake this evening. Win and the deficit is 6 points, lose and a chasm is opening up for real. The gunners face a Manchester team who are not at their best. They have their two best players (Aguero and Fernandinho)suspended and another member of their starting eleven (Gündolan) lost to injury. Hence there won’t be any better time to play Manchester City.

Arsène had this to say in his press conference;

The key to big games against City is to defend well together and not be timid every time you get the ball,” said Wenger.

“We have to have a go and try to attack, because that’s part of our philosophy. Overall that’s what you have to do but you have not to forget as well that City’s team is very strong going forward, maybe even more now with Pep Guardiola, so we certainly have to focus on defending well.

“I don’t know [why they’ve been inconsistent],” said Wenger. “Honestly, it’s not my main subject and preoccupation at the moment.

“I believe that in the Premier League every game is difficult and every game has its own difficulties and uncertainties and every game is a fight.

“The teams who are exposed in the Champions League, like they are, like we are, are a bit more exposed during this period because they played in midweek, we played in midweek as well at Basel.

“We’ve had three away games out of four. And I believe we paid a little bit the price at Everton like City must do sometimes when they go to a Premier League game, because everyone physically is at his top.

“[I expected] that Pep would bring his philosophy through and you have to accept that he tries to do that,” added the boss. “I respect the fact that he firstly has the philosophy and wants to play football that I respect. You expect him to put that print into his team.”

In reality, I agree with Wenger on that approach. Looking at how Manchester city like to play the high pressing game with a bunch of players not so suited to that style, and Pep’s insistence on his philosophy could all play into Arsène’s hands. First of all, it would be an insult for Pep to play a back 3 against Arsenal today. I expect him to do Just that. Secondly, it is very naive of Pep to try to play from the back with a goalie like Bravo and a defenders like John Stone. Letting go of Hart for a clown like Bravo was a colossal mistake. That will also play into Arsenal’s hands. Thirdly, in recent matches, they have struggled with creating clear cut chances which I expect to continue today, given that their main attacking threat is serving his suspension.

My last word on this match is that I expect Arsenal to win. It will be difficult, but if the boys can defend as a unit and break out on counters with intent to score, then Manchester City would not stand a chance this evening. 

Here is to a win for Arsenal at the Etihad stadium. Let’s hope that the boys will turn up in style and turn the heat on Pep’s charges. COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner


Arsenal Staked Their Claim Against Stoke City.

Good morning folks! So our match yesterday ended Arsenal 3-1 Stoke. Walcott, Özil and Iwobi on the score sheet. Charlie Adams scored one from the spot for Stoke before Arsenal’s three goal party started. The pundits were like Xhaka should have been sent off. Smh. Why send him off after a penalty is given for an innocuous accident in which Allen ran straight into him (Xhaka) without the ball? I must say that English referees are becoming more crappy by the day, but that will be a topic for another time. Let’s enjoy our win.

Err, you can read a detailed analysis of the performance of this ref (Lee Mason) who officiated our match yesterday HERE  

Theo walcott took advantage of the width which Bellerin’s introduction provided to float inside the central area of the box more. Alexis picked out the young Spaniard with a spectacular through ball, which he in turn controlled with aplomb, and picked out the hoovering Theo Walcott who scored from a tight angle with the outside of his right foot to ensure we finished the half on a strong foot. This goal took his tally to 10 for the season and his wife will have to get him that coffee machine.😉

Özil have scored nine goal in this campaign, more than he scored in the whole of last season. Whoever said Arsène is not a top manager? It was the Ox who lofted a pass, from about 10 yards inside the Stoke city half, onto the German midfielder who took advantage of the stranded Grant to guide the ball With his head into an empty net. It was a classy finish which oozed of confidence.

Our loss of Mustafi was made a bit less serious with the return of HECTOR BELLERIN. The German defender was replaced after 25 minutes when he picked up a muscular injury which might keep him out of the squad for 21 days. The Right back’s run gave Stoke defenders all manner of troubles. We have so missed you Bellerin.

Here is what the boss said about the German: 

It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench. I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.

on the timeframe for Mustafi’s return

Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas!    

  So let’s say a big welcome back to Hector and wish the German a speedy comeback. Finally we are having injuries at a controllable rate…unlike Before, and suddenly we look like a side that can last the distance. In beating Stoke city yesterday at the Emirates, we staked our claim that we can play our brand of football against any opposition and still come out on top. Arsenal are top of the table, even if its for only 24 hours! Next up is a trip to Everton in midweek. To another memorable week!! COYG!!

– Fair Play Gooner 

Let’s Make It A Clean Sweep.

Arsène Wenger’s 200th UCL Match at Basel.

It’s been a very memorable six days for Arsène and his boys both domestic and in Europe. Even a little blip in EFL a few days before couldn’t overshadow the brilliance of these past days. Firstly, they DISMANTLED West Ham United on their backyard, thrashing them 5-1 to consolidate position at second place on the EPL table. On Tuesday night they did the remarkable again by reducing Basel to dust inside their beautiful stadium in Switzerland, so much more that Basel’s fans applauded the Arsenal team for a very entertaining game of football.

This week went from good to better when PSG who were the overwhelming favourite to finish as group leaders, relinquished the top spot to Arsenal after managing a draw with Ludogoret in Parc de France. That result ensured that Arsenal will not meet a first placed team at the knock out round. Here is the catch; it also ensures that we play the defining second leg of the tie at the Emirates Stadium. This is something Arsenal have not done for the past seven years in Europe. Talking of Europe, Arsène was in charge of his 200th Champions league game as a manager on the night. That is a massive achievement for me. WIN: 99, DRAW: 44, LOSE: 57. There is only one Arsène Wenger!

What more can we say about our good fortune this past few days? We recorded 2 sets of hat-tricks from 2 different players in the space of few days. First Alexis’ at the Olympic stadium against the hammers and Lucas Perez’s hattrick at Basel. We also played with a pace and zip I will say was reminiscent of our 2nd half form of the 2014/2015 season. We were direct and never allowed the opposition time to relax on the ball, with lots of goals. This form will hand us the PL crown if we can continue with the same energy level and concentration. 

Next up is a home game against the Potters who are fairly on form at the moment in the premier league. 15.00 GMT. It’s a game we can win comfortably with the kind of momentum we have built up in these past days. The news that Bellerin, Per and Giroud are back in training should serve as a motivation for the rest of the squad. Can we have a clean sweep of 3/3 in seven days? We won’t have much time till we find out. All I can say now is that it looks so. This is to a great game for the boys against Stoke city tomorrow. Let’s keep the pressure on the league leaders. I know they will crack. This is our season!! COYG!

-Fair Play Gooner