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


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

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

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

Gunners Lay Down Their Guns To Hammer West Ham At The Olympic Stadium.

                        Hat-trick hero!

They have been sort of a bogey team to Arsenal in recent years. After the opening day 0-2 defeat of Arsenal at the Emirates stadium in 2015/2016 season when they exposed our noncommittal attitude, reminding us that no match was easy, West ham followed up the assault with a memorable come back at Upton park on the reverse fixture-led by Andy Carroll. Arsenal were up 2-0 before being pegged back at 3-3.
This week 14 fixture was made even more suspense packed; Arsenal tettering on the brink of average/lack of form in recent weeks and their London rivals all picking up maximum points. Chelsea won Man city 1-3 at Etihad while Spurs thrashed Swansea 5-0 at the lane. So Arsenal had everything to play for against the Hammers.

The match started evenly and the Gunners were on the front foot just as Arsène Wenger said in his pre match press conference. The attack was mainly coming from the left flank where Chamberlain, who had been average in most of his recent starts in the side, was at the heart of everything good. Monreal also made good use of our width to stretch the West ham defence to breaking point.

The breakthrough came midway through the half when Alexis capitalised on Coquelins sublime close down on the hammer’s  Italian defender Ogbonna to slip Alexis in one on one with the last defender. The Chilean made no mistake of it, brushing off Winston Reid before squaring it unselfishly to Özil who had the easiest of goals to tap in.
This closing down and breathing down the neck of opposing defense has come to characterise Alexis front play this season. He did the same thing last weekend against Bournemouth and forced Cook into an error which directly resulted to a goal. Now everyone thinks the Chilean best position is CF as opposed to fan’s earlier preference that he played on the left flank. On this note, Arsène, as always was right in making him the main centre forward.

The two very good things Arsène did for this team which has transformed the gunners into a genuine title contenders are :

1. Buying Mustafi
2. Moving Alexis to C.F.

Otherwise we are almost the same team as last season.
As the game wore on, it became evident that the gunners came with a game plan: pacey and direct play. Did they execute it to perfection?
Xhaka/Coquelin axis had both the defensive and attacking discipline necessary for a team who wants to play a fast flowing attacking football. The timely interception of Coquelin complimented Xhaka’s quick incisive passes into the channels which overloaded the West ham defence and left them in wonderland for the entirety of the match.
Inasmuch as Cazorla/coquelin offers much more to Arsenal, this combination on show at the Olympic stadium is the best alternative central midfield pairing we have seen this season.
In defence, the central defenders were an understanding unit as they shut out almost all the West ham attacking threats save for that one moment of ingenuity from Dimitre Payet that allowed substitute Carrol to nod home after the ball hit the woodwork. Gabriel struggled with a knock for a while, but later shook it off to finish 90 minutes, even though he didn’t offer the same attacking threats as Bellerin. Monreal was his usual calm self on the left back and pushed the West ham’s defence to full stretch.
This was one of the most complete performance of the Arsenal side this season; Mesut Özil scored and assisted, Sanchez scored a hat-trick and assisted one, chamberlain also scored from 25 yards and assisted too. Up next in the Premier league is the visit of the Potters to the Emirates stadium, but not before we travel to Basel on Tuesday to play our final group game in the champions league. It’s been an almost perfect weekend for Arsenal. Let’s hope for more of this performance in the coming weeks. COYG !!

-Fair Play Gooner