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

Per Got Lucky?

It became official that Arsenal took up the option in the German’s contract for a further year contract extension until 2018. It was a welcomed news for some Gooners-me inclusive, and a total thumbs down for others. Per has had some up and down during his stay so far at North London, but none  can deny his attitude and passion for the game and for Arsenal. He has his short comings which is mostly lack of pace. The world cup winner would have been the perfect central defender if he could chase down a player much quicker than he most often does. 

Many of our fans would rather Arsène let him go and use the extra cash taking him (and other dead woods; in their opinion:Ramsey, Jenkinson, Sanogo etc) off the wage bill would generate to give Alexis and Özil whatever they are asking for. For a lay man, it makes sense, bearing in mind that we have more than adequate cover in central defence; Mustafi, Koscielny, Gabriel and Holding. However, looking at it from Arsène’s point of view, Mertesacker is a world class defender whose positional and tactical reading of the game is second to none, hence should be a role model to the younger defenders and also lend his voice in the dressing room. For player whose pace my granny can match, to survive in EPL, playing for a top club like Arsenal; he must be doing other things apart that people are reluctant to see. His ball services from deep are some midfielders dream.

“My love for this club is authentic. I care a lot about team-mates, about fans, and I want people to identify with us. It’s very important to me now and it always has been. I feel like there’s always been a link between myself and Arsenal.”
– Per

These younger defenders need a great player with experience to learn from. He’s a fine role model and keeps other players grounded in the dressing room. So it’s no brainer that Arsène decided to keep him for another year.

Today we play Burnley at the Emirates stadium. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on other top teams. Liverpool lost at home to guess who? Swansea. That same Swansea that some pundits didn’t think they deserved to be in EPL because we cracked them inside their backyard. Shame on biased punditry. Manchester United dropped points too, so did Manchester city and Tottenham. What a weekend it’s going to be if we manage to nick all 3 points. Here is to a perfect weekend! Go get the points Arsenal! 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