That Was Some Fire From Arsène!

No, no, no, I just went in and watched the game here after. I thought I could stay in the corridor.

There was nothing malicious I just shouldn’t have said some words and kept my control even if it was a hectic time.”

-Arsène Wenger

What a game of football that was at the Emirates last evening! Shkodran Mustafi with his first Arsenal goal, Alexis with a classic 97th minute panenka penalty to ensure the Gunners took home the maximum points on a day ladden with drama and controversies.

For the first time in recent weeks, the line-up was the same as the last match against Swansea. Bellerin could only return to the bench as Gabriel continued at RB. Arsenal started the match with zip and speed. They should have been ahead before 15 minutes if not for Burnley’s deep sitting formation in two banks of five players and Arsenal’s lack of cutting edge in the final third. It must be noted that most teams who play Arsenal in recent years sit deep more than half the time. Burnley were no different.

We got our breakthrough after the break when Mustafi evaded Burnley’s defence to scored a headed goal from a Mesut Özil’s corner, which is his first for the club. We continued to threaten until Xhaka did the unthinkable, and for the second time this season, put the team under untold labour and tension. He lunged with both feet on Defour.

“Our penalty, I saw it on television. I think it was a penalty and red card. Xhaka’s red card? Honestly I have to look at it again. The noises I get is that it was a red card and he has to control his game and not punish the team with lack of control in his tackling. We don’t encourage our midfielders to go down on tackles, we want them to stand up and not to make these kind of fouls. If it’s a bad tackle, it’s a red card.”

-Arsène Wenger 

It was typical Granit Xhaka and needless too. I must be honest, he was bossing the central area until that incident. However, I must congratulate Aaron Ramsey, Mesut and Sanchez who put in 110% after the team lost a man. Their energy and desire to burst their lungs thrusting forward was one of the high points of that nerve racking game.

Must be noted that this game could have gone without much drama if the match officials or whoever it is that assigns extra time didn’t give 7 additional minutes to a team which played almost half an hour with one man down, in a match without much time wastage. I guess they really wanted Burnley to get something from that game. If the normal 2 or 3 minutes injury time was given yesterday, the match would certainly have ended 1-0 and Arsène would not have protested. He wouldn’t have been asked to go to the stands. Most certainly, he wouldn’t have had a physical altercation with the match official Anthony Taylor. At the end of the day, the added 7 minutes was our saving grace.. Koscielny was again at the centre of controversy (having been the focal point in the reversed fixture when he scored a stoppage time winner, after appearing to handle the ball) when Mee rose more than 5 feet to poke the French defender’s face with his stud inside the penalty area. The argument now is: was the Arsenal player offside before being smashed in the face? Well I will leave the FA and PGMOL to answer that and other horrendous decisions metted out to my team in recent seasons. We could have been the recipients. No one talked about Mustafi being clipped inside Burnley 18 yards box.

Arsène speaking after the game said: 

on Xhaka being sent off by Jon Moss twice this season…

We’ve had two red cards and four penalties [given against us] this season at home now. You cannot say that we make it easy for ourselves, or that we get it easy.

 I didn’t know if I was sent to the stands but I was sent out. I thought I could watch it from the corridor, you know. I went inside and watched it on television. 

on if he regrets it…

I regret it . I should have shut up, gone in and gone home, basically. I apologise for that.


on if he’s spoken to the fourth official
Not yet, because I have a press conference to make. It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football, but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that. But if I am, I am – and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual, but just [not] in the last two or three minutes.

on if he’s spoken to the fourth official…
Not yet, because I have a press conference to make. It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football, but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that. But if I am, I am – and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual, but just [not] in the last two or three minutes.

(Source: arsenal.com)

I am not sure if the French tactician will be reprimanded by the FA, but all I know is we got the 3 points which propelled us to within 8 points off the leaders and in second place above Tottenham. I must say that it was quite some fire from the impeccable Arsène. This was a wonderful weekend in which we defied the odds to grab maximum points. I see a new Arsenal!! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

Road To Wembley.

We return tonight at the EFL in a quarter final home match with the Saints. It’s been an eventful 4 days for the gunners as they broke a run of 3 successive draws with a 3-1 home win over Bournemouth to stay within 3 points off the top of the PL table. Puel’s men are also coming from a 1-0 home win over Everton which lifted them into 10th position on the table with 17 points.

Arsenal: Debuchy (hamstring), Giroud (groin), Bellerin (ankle), Cazorla (Achilles), Akpom (back), Mertesacker, Welbeck (both knee)

Southampton: Boufal, Davis (both illness), Tadic (nose), McCarthy, Target (both hamstring), Pied (knee)

It’s a shame we lost Debuchy and Giroud to injuries at the weekend but I expect Arsène to name a team with the right mixture of youth and experience. I will expect Carl Jenkinson to start at RB though Arsène might give youth player Maitland Niles a nod in place of Jenko. Gibbs is set to wear the captain armband against the Saints and feature at LB. In the central Defence, I expect a Gabriel/Holding partnership. A recall for Coquelin to partner Xhaka at the middle of the park is highly likely. I expect the attackers to be Chamberlain, Adelaide, Iwobi and Lucas Perez as the Centre forward. Emiliano to start in goal. This line-up should be good enough for this tie. 
I won’t speculate on the players to start for Southampton because they are a massive farmhouse for premier league clubs as Arsène Wenger noted. They are the most successful at producing young talents in England since the last 15 years. Such names as Theo Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain, Chambers, Adam lallana, Luke Shaw and Gareth bale should come to mind. Not to forget their excellent scouting network that scouted Fonte, Cedric, Mane just to name a few. So they are a massive club with massive potentials.

I believe that Arsenal playing at home in this round should provide an added incentive to the Gunners. The home support and the splendid Emirates stadium turf. However, Southampton should not be underestimated as we did in 2014 and were undone at home in this very competition at the third round. Arsène Wenger’s men must play with heart and passion, accuracy and commitment to ensure that Arsenal get to the semi-final stage and play at Wembley stadium. 

Hull city beat Newcastle and luverpool beat Leeds United to book a place in the semis. Manchester United will play West Ham later tonight to decide who gets the nod. Let’s hope that the boys turn out tonight at 7:45 p.m. GMT and give a performance that will ensure the road to Wembley is cleared.  COYG!! To a win!!

-Fair Play Gooner

Arsène Failed To Sign Adequate Cover For Santi’s Position? 

Cazorla’s MOtM performance at Etihad stadium 2014/2015.

During the Arsenal vs Bournemouth press conference yesterday, Arsène discussed Cazorla. What he brings to the team, what we have missed since he got sidelined and if we have an adequate cover for him. Arsène was modest in his assessment and praise of the little maestro and assured the men of press that he has enough cover for Cazorla. In fairness, the Arsenal manager had cover for that deep lying role, but none as half effective as the Spaniard. Modesty demands that he is frugal with praises, and that one player is not singled out over the others but reality is that Cazorla has no replacement at the moment in this Arsenal team.

The Spaniard is a modern day metronome. He makes his side tick. From a deep lying position, providing the platform  for Özil and co to flourish. Those nutmegs,  brisk turn, change of play from right to left of the pitch, making himself available at the end of the pitch, deft  touches with both his feet, ability to pop up at any point of the pitch and dispel pressure with unimaginable ease, moving the ball faster into the final third of the pitch, genuine long range shooting threats; these were qualities we have missed since the ambidextrous Spaniard got sidelined with injury, effectively altering ARSENAL’S once fluid and high pressing style of play that had yielded so much success this season.

“He’s important to our technical stability in the team, to the quality of our decision-making and to our build-up from deep midfield to the high midfield,” said the boss. “That’s an important stage because it gets the ball out from the defenders” -Arsène Wenger  

We have played 7 matches in Santi’s absence and drew 4 of them. Chances created during this spell has drastically reduced. At old Trafford we had only one chance on target. Let that sink in.

There are several players who can be called upon to fill the void left by Cazorla;

  • El neny is a player who is comfortable in possession. He can knock the ball around when there is not much pressure, but do not provide much to the team going forward.The Egyptian international  is not exactly a deep lying playmaker in cazorla’s mould, as can be remonstrated by his side way passes when the team needed inspirations to break down an organised Spurs in the NLD and at old Trafford. He’s always not at the right place at the right time or available and effective in tight areas which had come to be cazorla’s trademark.
  • Granit Xhaka is a defensive minded player who is not even remotely a playmaker. He is still in his budding stage in English football and would not be burdened with the most sensitive spot in the team.
  • Aaron Ramsey is more of a box to box player than a deep lying playmaker. He can get on the end of things when in form and can chip in with the odd goals, but do not offer the same options Cazorla did offer to the team.
  • Jack Wilshere would have been the closest we can get to Santi if he was on for; but he is inconsistent now, hence his loan move to our weekend’s opponent for him to build up his fitness and get regular playing time. 

Who then is cazorla’s cover? Your guess is as good as mine. This is the one area where the club should invest on come January or during the summer transfer. At 31 he is no more a young player, so a suitable replacement should have been in place and budding by now. We need a player with guile and class that can distract defenders while our more advanced front men make dangerous runs behind opponents in the final third. We need a player who is comfortable using both his two feet with quick thinking. We need a player who can initiate a quick transition of the team from defence to attack. We need a deep lying playmaker in Cazorla’s mould to add dynamism to a side so blessed with pace and creativity. 

One thing is certain; Arsène and Arsenal failed to provide a like for like cover for the midfield dynamo. For the time being, we shall rely on the players we have, hope that Cazorla return in set date and stay injury free for the rest of the season.

-Fair Play Gooner

The Team Sheet Is Out: Manchester United vs Arsenal.

The team news is out. 3 changes from the team that played out a draw in the NLD; Jenkinson comes in for the injured young right back Bellerin, Ramsey starts in place of Alex Iwobi who has a slight dip in form and El neny starts along side coqueline at the heart of the midfield.I hope Ramsey give Jenkinson the needed protection from pacy wingers on the right flank. It’s more or less the best team for now. Let’s get behind them. To a win at old Trafford!