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

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Would They? 

We had what some pundits chose to call a “walk in the park win in which Arsenal did absolutely nothing to deserve” on Saturday last week at the liberty stadium against Swansea City football club. This match ended 4 goals to none for the Gunners. It made me think that punditry should not be for everyone, not even all players who had great careers; because punditry is about your impression of a football match with respect to available stats from the game. However what we have, most often than naught, are a bunch of people inside a studio with bias on their eyes the size of Wales. 

During this said match, an incident occurred just before half time that had the potential of altering the dynamics of the whole match; KI S.Y. was given a yellow card for incitation in what looked to be a penalty call against Arsenal at the onset. For up to 15 seconds, I thought “hell no not again”, cos we have been on the receiving end of dubious calls for a long time now that I gave my heart some allowance to accommodate one or two, however unwarranted they were, during any given Arsenal match. Thankfully, the call was against KI who trudged against Koscielny’s static foot in a bid to earn a penalty. Thankfully, Mike Jones who officiated the match was astute enough, albeit with some stroke of providence to us, to snife it out as incitation; and he was spot on. On another day, Mike Dean or some other bloke who shouldn’t have any business officiating an EPL match, would have awarded it a penalty to the host team. It’s little wonder he was demoted to the championship. Woe unto thee championship clubs…

       This man and his likes are killing EPL

Here is a nice read on some of the worst officiated games of our season so far.

At the end of last year, I came across news headline about FIFA introducing a video replay technology in football. I was very elated about it because the game was becoming increasingly annoying for passionate football fans  like me across the globe, especially in the English league, who commit a lot of emotions and most often are hurt by poor officiating by the likes of Mike Dean. Imagine millions of minds being troubled on account of a decision which would have been verified in 3 seconds with replay technology. The idea is for the match official to consult a video assistant before making certain decisions which will greatly and unfairly impact on the game if gotten wrong: Hand balls, penalty call, incitation, offside call, disallowed goals etc.

Just a few days ago, the FA were in the news, this time they were looking at introducing a retrospective ban for diving. Diving is just one of the vices plaguing the beautiful game. The match officials, consciously or unconsciously, are being increasingly in the wrong on decision calls for most of these vices. The frequency of which beggars disbelief. This can never be sustainable for the beautiful game. Don’t expect fans to take this nonsense forever. Italian league used to be the best league back in the day.. Introducing a retrospective ban will not bring back the lost points to a team who got cheated by a player’s diving antics. So how is that fair for competition? Oh it brings in a bit of revenue into the FA cofers? Let’s face it, the said player would end up paying a fine in addition to the “ban”. My questions are: why is the FA looking at introducing retrospective punishment as opposed to introducing video assistant which will detect a dive in real time? Is the FA secretly giving certain teams undue advantage over others using the PGMOL? Won’t the emergence of this diving punishment be the end of any talk of video assistant? Do you really think FA will implement this punishment and video assistant too? Your guess is as good as mine.

In other news, the team is doing well at the injury front because Bellerin is back in training. Per is rumoured to have signed a new one year contract extension worth around £70k/wk. Don’t know if its good news or bad news to Arsenal fans. Our opponent in the FA cup 4th round has been confirmed; Southampton, 28th Jan. 2017. Next up is our return to Emirate stadium to host Burnley in the PL. Let’s hope for a great weekend of football. COYG!

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

Shkodran Mustafi; The Defender Arsenal Lacked?

                   #MustafiSigns 30/08/16

I must confess, I was not a fan of the German ever. I actually heard his name for the first time when his transfer rumours broke during the summer break. A quick dash to Google revealed that he was an Everton reject, played for a club in Seria A before moving to Valencia. My heart sank. I expected a player that’s at least 6 feet tall, with a better pedigree and not so expensive. Instead we were linked to a Mustafi that have not played for a top club, I mean top top club; isn’t even remotely imposing-height wise- and Valencia were demanding an arm.

Why Arsène was forced to dip into his transfer war chest was because of Gabriel’s injury during the last matches of pre-season. Per Mertesacker, who until his injury last season was a regular in the Arsenal team, also had an injury during the pre-season. Hence the Central defence position was very short. I expected Arsène not to buy a new player if Gabriel didn’t get injured, especially after pulling off a coup with Rob Holding from Bolton wanderers for £2m. For me that represented a very intelligent deal.

For over 10 years, after the Invincible, Arsenal never replaced the CB position with a fast, strong, tall, ball playing CB who is not injury prone and isn’t afraid to get stuck. I dare say Sol Campbell was the last central defender of that mould that Arsenal had. William Gallas was a good centre back but could not put in a straight 10 matches without pulling a hamstring, and then was the very big problem of pace. He couldn’t run to stay alive. Squillaci was a disaster. Djourou couldn’t cut it out and Vermalaene was undone by injuries. Per was the closest we ever came to a complete defender, save for his snail pace which teams had capitalised in the past to punish Arsenal time and time again.

At £35m, Mustafi had a hefty price tag on himself moving to North London. He is the most expensive defender Arsenal ever bought. At 24 years of age and with the crazy amount of money being thrown around by clubs in Europe, I would say he was a bargain; considering John stone went for £50m. Since his arrival, he’s lived up to the hype and has justified the heavy price we paid for him by producing stellar performances every week since the opening day of this campaign to silence and win over his critics. He is yet to lose in 15 matches.

  • Played 15 
  • Won 10
  • Drew 5

It represents a very good return from a player who didn’t have a chance for a mid table club in England 4 years ago. He is good on the ball, aggressive and has pace to chase down strikers. He also doesn’t shy away from aeriel duel even though he’s not a six footer. Shkodran represents the complete defender Arsenal have missed for many years. He’s made the difference unlike conceding silly goals like we did at white Hart lane last season when Per Mertesacker was out ran by Harry Kane to score from a low pressure routine cross. With Mustafi at the back with his partner in crime Koscielny, we are really hard to beat these days. 

I hope that his unbeaten run and fine performance at the heart of our defence will continue for the remainder of this season. Safe to say that at this rate, we are genuine title contenders this season. Here is to great things to come from Shkodran Mustafi. #Comeonyougooners.

-Fair Play Gooner