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.

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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

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