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.

We Are Back Again!

Mesut, Pires and Mustafi in training yesterday.

Happy new year everyone! It’s my first post this year. It’s been an eventful but somewhat unfortunate December for Arsenal. We played 6 games across all competition which saw us produce all manner of performances: from perfect and clinical  (against West ham and at Basel) to poor and abysmal (Everton and Man city). Won 4 and lost 2. On paper it looked somewhat of a good return, but considering we lost 6 points in a very tight looking table, it was a big lose of momentum.

January met us with a hard fought 2 nil win at home to Palace (Not forgetting Giroud’s spectacular scorpion kick goal), then a near disastrous 3 all at Bournemouth, which would have been a demoralizing factor for the team, but the boys put the heat on the Cherries during the last 20 minutes to salvage a draw. A trip to Preston North End lived up to its hype with all the cup drama at play. Here we are today with a tricky trip to Wales to face Swansea. 3pm (GMT)

Cohen Bramall, 20, signs for Arsenal.

In other news, Arsène potentially unearthed a gem from non league division, Cohen Bramall. His story is that of hope and hard work. I wish him all the best and hope he will keep his head on his shoulders and work his way into that first team. Toral was recalled from his loan spell at Granada because they would not give him game time. He was subsequently sent out again on loan to Rangers in the Scottish premier league. I wish him all the best as I have high regards for him. Dan Crowley also left for Holland in the Dutch  Eredivisie for Go Ahead Eagles. Another bright prospect that needs game time. 

Giroud, Koscielny and Coquelin all signed long term contracts with the club a few days ago. Papers claimed Alexis Sanchez is the more likely person  to sign a contract extension between him and Özil. The later came out the other day to rebuff Thierry Henry’s remarks about him, saying that his influence for joining Arsenal was Arsène and would want assurance about the future of the manager. It makes real sense then if that is truly the situation. So what Arsenal need to do is give Arsène a longer contract and the two contract rebels (Özil and Sanchez) would sign on the dotted lines. He returns today to the squad to face Swansea after missing 2 weeks due to some “mystery illness”.

“The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have.”

                       -Mesut Özil

Suddenly things have almost fallen in place. The team is building up good momentum again, there are no much injuries, the contract situation of most of the senior players are resolved or being resolved; suddenly we are back in business! We need to win big today to keep the pressure on the top four and go on a winning run again..it’s about time! Let’s hope for better days. Let’s hope that 2017 becomes that year we break the jinx of not lifting the EPL title. I see the potentials this team has got. It’s our year! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

Déjà Vu? Bayern vs Arsenal.

We have lived through it more times in recent memory than I can count on my fingers, we all had that pre-draw-monition that we would get Bayern or Barça; we all saw it coming. When the draw was finally made, it was just to confirm our hope or fear, depending on what spectrum you are looking from. Fear for those fans who think that drawing a “strong” opponent in the last 16 means we are out of the contest. Hope for those who think that to be a champion, you must beat a champion. To be called the best, you must first humiliate the best.

Arsène summed it up with these interview on Arsenal.com;

“They said they made the world in seven days, this is the seventh day for us, so we have to get a special day!” the manager said.

“Many times [in the past] we were in a position where we played at home and we wanted to make the difference and after 10 minutes we conceded a goal and after you think already, ‘Oh no’. This time the advantage is that we play first away from home.

“If we can keep our strength away from home that can help us – let’s have a good first game then we can finish the job at home.

“We are all here to change history and to make history so we have to change what happened before. And make it better.

“I must tell you the best way to have momentum when we go in the Champions League is to have a good position in the league and [ensure] the belief is high. I am convinced that is absolutely vital because I have had experience of it.”


We did every thing right to get a favourable draw, and we did get a favourable draw. The day the Gunners got it was not yesterday, but last week Tuesday at Basel when Arsenal charges tore the Swiss champions apart (Basel 1:4 Arsenal) to top the group, albeit with a little help from Ludogorets who frustrated PSG in Paris(PSG 2:2 Ludogorets). Being top of the table in group stage does not guarantee an easy round of 16, however, it pits you at home for the very crucial second leg game of the last 16 tie which every team crave for.

I know we have faced Bayern 10 times since 2000/01 season. I know we have won just 3 times out of 10. I know we haven’t progressed from the group stage for the last 6 seasons, but this season is different. I say from the spectrum of hope that we can beat any foe we come across this time. The team is focused and they are starting to believe they are as good as any other top club in Europe. Ancelloti’s men on the other hand would not be opening a 20 point gap at the top of Bundesliga this term; which means they won’t be resting their best players for this tie. Again, the Bavarians look a shadow of their old selves, hence, this is the best time to play Bayern Munchen; it’s just a script written by the gods😉 This is our time to progress for good.

Here is the draw in full:

Man City v Monaco
R’Madrid v Napoli
Benfica v Dortmund
Bayern v Arsenal
Porto v Juventus
Leverkusen v Atletico
PSG v Barcelona
Sevilla v Leicester

Lastly, this is a match Day for us. We travel to Goodison Park to face the Toffees in the EPL. Time: 7:45 p.m. Let’s keep the momentum building,  cos like Arsène said, it will have a bearing on whether we progress in the champions league or not. 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

Arsenal Dispatched Basel To Top Group A.

FT Basel 1-4 Arsenal. Talk about getting the job done! Arsenal piped PSG to top the group! Lucas rounded off a good day’s work with a deserved hat-trick. Iwobi scored the 4th goal but was not so convincing. He really has had a mountain to climb if he must reclaim his starting place in the Arsenal team as Oxlade Chamberlain raised the bar quite high with his performance at West ham. Talk about competition; me trying to hold down my place and you trying to beat me to it, me using every opportunity I get for a run in to raise the bar, you trying harder to knock me off my perch. It’s really healthy people. 

I am all for topping the group, but the job doesn’t stop there. Ludogoret did us a huge favour by holding PSG to a draw in Paris last night. That actually says a lot about them. People thought they were a walk over after Arsenal breezed past them twice in this group stage. They are not. Ludogoret play a very positive brand of football: quick, attacking and inventive. Now holding PSG to a 2-2 draw in Paris has raised their profile in Europe while guaranteeing them a place in Europa league knock out round.

“I thought Ludugorets were a good side – they made a great result that helps us top the group, which was what we wanted…”

-Wenger

As I said earlier, the work is hardly done because our potential opponents in the knock out round make for a curious reading;

  • Bayern Munich, Arsenal’s conquerors in 2013 and 2014
  • One of Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid
  • Benfica
  • Bayer Leverkusen
  • One of Porto or FC Copenhagen
  • One of Juventus, Seville or Lyon

Looking at that potential draw, it won’t be a walk in the park for us-even though we finished top, hence the battle has just began. It might be of consolation to mention that the last time we went unbeaten in the group stage of the champions leaguleague, we went all the way to the final. 

“It is difficult to know but you feel a bit less guilty if you have a bad draw [after finishing] first rather than second – we have done our job and let’s see what happens…”   -Wenger

Now we can focus on the EPL until February when the knockout stage of the champions league will return. One thing is certain, we shall play the decisive second leg of the knockout stage at home. Took a long time coming but we are there now people! 

To a glorious European adventure this year! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

What Now After Cazorla’s Injury Relapse?

Another person who have been on the treatment table and whose comeback was on the lips of all Arsenal faithful was Santiago Cazorla. The Spaniard maestro was injured during our home game against ludogoret with the very last kick of his in that match. Arsenal won 6-0 at Emirates stadium. His return would have been a breath of fresh air into our midfield which has been lacklustre in his absence. So much has been written about his immense input in the team that saying he makes us tick would be an understatement. He’s always at the heart of every thing good about Arsenal style of play in recent seasons, hence news about his being back to fitness would have lifted the spirit of the team and fans alike. However, the BOMBSHELL of a news that hit the goonersphere yesterday was that he is expected to undergo a surgery to repair his Achilles, which should set his recovery date back by at least 3 months.

‘Santi himself wants to get out of that vicious circle of going out and coming in again. He just wants to cure it’ -Arsène Wenger 

Well, what now after this devastating news? How will Arsenal team fare in his much prolonged absence, seeing that no other player currently in the team is capable of lacing his boots? In my opinion, Arsène has 3 options;

  • Buy a replacement in the January transfer window. But seeing that most players available in the January transfer window are hardly of the quality that will improve any top team, it’s understandable why Arsène is no fan of that period. Teams do not sell their top players in January. 
  • Make do with the players at his disposal until summer or Cazorla returns. No other player in the team brings out the best of Arsenal like Santi does. If Arsène will make do with these players, he might want to tweak the system of Arsenal’s play a bit. Otherwise I don’t see anyone at the moment who can offer half of what Cazorla brings to the team.
  • Recall our players on loan. This for me is the most realistic option. Jack Wilshere would have done a good job in Santi’s absence if he was fit and rearing to go. But he’s not and at Bournemouth he’s getting the needed playing time to return to the level we expect of him, hence he’s not the best choice. Another player who I think can fill that void left by Cazorla is his fellow Spanish prodigy Jon Toral who is on loan at Granada in the Spanish La Liga. Not much have been said or heard of him, but this lad-in my opinion-is Cazorla’s natural heir. He knows when to move forward or drop deep, pops up at any part of the pitch to diffuse pressure with ease. His guile and movement off the ball is second to none. He is an excellent passer of the ball, and will always provide the attacking outlet. He also has a good eye for goal. His work rate is also very impressive. These are just some of the important qualities Santi brings to this Arsenal side. Toral was the best player for Birmingham last 2 seasons when he played on loan for them in the championship. He repeated the same feat at Brentford last season where he made a total of 34 appearances. It’s little wonder Arsenal snapped him up from Barcelona academy setup along with Hector Bellerin a few years ago.

These are some of the options available to Arsenal as we wait for our little Spaniard, who is such a joy to watch, to undergo his surgery and rehab.  Here is to Santi’s successful operation and a quick recovery. COYG!

-Fair Play Gooner.