The Current State of Arsenal

I have not had the time to write any blogs for quite some time, real life situations had made me give up working on this blog as I just didn’t have the spare time to dedicate to it. But due to the recent results, and bad mood around the Arsenal camp, I felt compelled to write a small piece about my thoughts. I won’t be back to blogging every week but I’m hoping to write the odd bit every once in a while.

Enough with the preamble, it’s time to get to the point.

After the spectacular collapse at the San Siro, and our exit from the FA cup just days later, the mood surrounding Arsenal fans is a mixed bag. Some choose to play the blame game, and use certain players, or the manager as a scapegoat, but I feel the problem is bigger than any one thing.

Let’s start with the top and work our way down. The board in my opinion is where a lot of our problems stem from.  After Silent Stan acquired his majority share he kept in place the current board for what he called the transitional period, and many fans are hoping that the upcoming clear out in the summer begins with the boardroom. I really dislike making the comparison, but I have to say Kroenke should take a page out of Spurs owner Joseph Lewis’ book. Much like Kroenke, Lewis isn’t actively involved in the day-to-day business at Spurs, but he placed Daniel Levy into the mix to represent him. Levy has done well for them, making some shrewd signings, but was not afraid to shake things up in the club. Changes were made from coaching staff, to the manager, and as much as I hate to admit it, they’ve definitely improved as a team, while Arsenal has stagnated. Kroenke needs to put someone on the board to run the club who is highly motivated, and isn’t complacent to just be an ‘also ran’ team.  Someone who understands that results can increase revenue, not just player sales. Winning trophies are the basis of any top club, results are what drives lucrative sponsorship deals, they attract top players to the team, and increase global recognition. When it comes time to renegotiate our Emirates deal do you think they would offer the same amount whether we’re in 7th place or if we were winning things?

Managers and coaches are the next tier of responsibility. All you have to do is look at another one of our rivals who have been the most successful team in England since our trophies dried up. Sir Alex Ferguson has constantly changed his coaching staff, bringing in new faces over the years, with fresh ideas to help him improve his team. Arsenal has won nothing in the last 7 years and yet we make no attempt to bring in fresh ideas, or a proper defensive coach to address our obvious problems. In the words of Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Our formation and style of play was built around Fabregas, and I believe it was his brilliance that papered over a lot the cracks in Wengers tactics. After the departure of Cesc, Wenger did very little to change our tactics or formation to compensate, other than putting more emphasis on our wing play. I’m not anti Wenger, but his failure to address the same issues over the past few seasons and lack of tactical adaptability have been exposed this season with the absence of players like Fabregas and Wilshere. Dennis Bergkamp shared some thoughts on the current situation:

“I feel there are a lot of similar players there at the moment,” he reasons.

“It needs to be more diverse.

“You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches.

“You also need a few players who can make a difference in terms of scoring goals. I don’t feel there are enough of them.

“You look at the midfield and compare it with ours.

“We had Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour – when it wasn’t working for one of the big names, one of these could step up.

“You can’t only depend on one or two players. When they’re having an off day, you need someone else.”

“Sometimes I see their games and it’s always the same way of playing, a bit too predictable.

“They are all fantastic players, that must be said, but sometimes you need a bit more of the other side.”

“To be honest, I would still prefer to see Robin play a bit deeper behind the main striker so that he could pick his moments the way I used to.

“I think he could be even better in that role, but the way he’s playing now you can hardly blame the coach for putting him there.”

There is some very telling quotes in there, and I think Bergkamp is spot on. I would agree with him that Wenger has brought in too many similar players, and not enough of them have that warrior mentality. I don’t know if Wenger should retire or not, but I would like to see some signs of serious adaptation and change, or for him to call time on his career at Arsenal before he undoes everything he’s worked so hard for, by being stubborn and refusing to change.

If a new manager came in, I would like someone who runs an organized team, with quick counter attacks, more true to the winning style Arsenal used to play with when Wenger first came. Someone with tactical nous, and the ability to adapt tactics and formations from game to game. If you look at successful managers like SAF and Mourinho, they’re able to get good performances out of mediocre players by making sure their teams are well-drilled in tactics and formations, and keeping shape while doing the basics (something Arsenal players are terrible at). We haven’t won a single thing with our current formation since we built it around Cesc, and now that he’s gone it’s even less effective.

Finally we come to the players, from current club legends like RvP to the usual scapegoats of Djourou, Squillaci, etc, all the players need to shoulder some of the blame for their lack of silverware. Some of the current crop are just not good enough for Arsenal, while others like Theo have suffered from not having top quality experienced players to learn from. Walcott stated recently how he has learned so much from Henry while he was on loan here. If Henry had stayed at the club, I would imagine Theo would be a better player today. Ferguson understands the value of keeping the experienced pros, Giggs, Scholes, Neville etc all instilled their winning mentality into united’s young players. When it comes down to is, not enough of our players stand up to be counted when it comes time, and they could have all the technical ability in the world, but if they can’t cope mentally it’s of no use to Arsenal.

I don’t feel our squad is all that bad, but I feel some of our players don’t respond to Wenger’s coaching style as well as someone like RvP or Cesc have. Wenger likes to let his players think for themselves and come up with their own conclusions and improve through self-reflection a lot of the time. Although with bright players like Fabregas, RvP, and Wilshere this might be good, there are others in the team who would benefit from more of a structured atmosphere where the coach is telling him exactly the type of runs he wants, and positioning, etc. This is something I don’t feel Arsene offers enough of to players who would benefit from it, instead telling them to “go out and just play your game” like he was coaching a group of kids. My friend I was talking to during the Milan game made a good point, you could have taken almost any one of our players and put them into that Milan side and they would have played just fine.

The predicament at Arsenal is not a simple one, it is not something that can be fixed by a couple signings, and it’s not something that can change over night. The club needs an overhaul starting from the boardroom down, and I’m just hoping that it happens sooner rather than later.




RvP Wins It With The Chocolate Chip!

Captain Vantastic scored a double to secure Arsenal’s win today, the second of which was a cheeky chip over the keeper with his chocolate leg. Robin van Persie has been in fantastic form this calendar year, and today he became the fifth player in Premier League history to score 30 goals in a calendar year. With 31 goals in 29 EPL games in 2011, 10 goals in his last 5 games and 36 in 39 overall in 2011, he is by far the best striker in the league at the moment. If Carroll cost 35 million and Torres cost 50 million to miss sitters for Chelsea, than our captain must be worth at least 85 million.

The match which started off brightly for the Gunners, turned out to be a rather nervy affair, in which Arsenal fans were biting their nails waiting for the whistle to seal the deal. I’m sure there was not a single Arsenal fan that was wasn’t holding their breath when Dowd put the whistle to his lips after Holt dived in the box in the final minutes.

Norwich threatened very little in the match, until Mertesacker was caught napping and was too easily shoved aside to allow Norwich to take the lead. Arsenal on the other hand were creating chance after chance, but were very wasteful. Finally in the 27th minute Arsenal leveled it up. Walcott collected the ball out on the wing, and with a nice touch put the ball around Tierney, took the ball into the box, and squared for the prolific Dutchman. Lady luck appeared to be siding with Norwich who made three goal lines clearances, on another day Arsenal could have found themselves up by three of four goals at halftime.

In the second half it was more of the same, Arsenal created many chances, but lacked the quality in finishing the put the game away for good. Around the 52nd minute Vermaelen played a fantastic diagonal long ball out to Walcott, who took the ball down the wing to the byline, and crossed to the near post where the onrushing Ramsey turned it into the side netting. Just minutes later RvP dropped deep and played a perfect through ball for Gervinho to go 1v1 with the keeper. The Ivorian took the ball around the keeper only to finish poorly, and deflect off the scrambling keeper, his pass that followed only found a Norwich player in the box. Shortly after the Arsenal Captain got the chance to  show his team mates how to finish 1v1. Ramsey was fouled in the midfield, and as the ref waved play on, Song was quick to hop over his team-mate and break forward with the ball. Gervinho looked like more likely to receive the pass from Song, but the Cameroonian was smart to wait and pass to RvP who just can’t stop scoring. The Dutchman took one touch with his left, and chipped the onrushing keeper with his chocolate leg. Thank god for RvP, where would we be this season without him? As the second half wound down, Walcott hit a cracker of a shot off the crossbar. The young Englishman deserved a goal today, he was absolutely fantastic, one of his best games in ages.  In the stoppage time, a stupid free kick was given away just outside the penalty box, thankfully Szczesny collected it calmly out of the air, and the half ended without any further mishaps.

I have to tip my hat to Phil Dowd today. When Holt threw himself at Mertesacker for the second time to try to win a penalty, and Dowd blew the whistle I was about to explode, until I realized that he was going to book Holt for the blatant and pathetic dive. Cheers for that Dowd, I was having flashbacks of Newcastle.


Szczesny – Had very little to do, and was calm and collected when called upon.

Koscielny – I like this guy more and more every game, wins everything that comes near him in the air, and didn’t look troubled at all playing as a right back.

Mertesacker – Not a good performance today, was guilty for the goal, and had a hard time staying on his feet today.

Vermaelen – So bloody happy to have him back fit, made some crucial tackles and our back line looks so much more solid with him there.

Santos – Great going forward, still could improve his fitness levels and 1v1 defending, improving every game. Much more effective than Gibbs when attacking.

Arteta – Fantastic work rate, put a few stray passes, but for the most part made Arsenal tick in midfield, always worked hard to get onto loose balls, and not afraid to graft for a result.

Ramsey – Work rate is extreme, Ramsey was pressing opponents all over the field, picked out some cesc-esque passes, but at other times gave the ball away too easy.

Song – Passing was not up to his usual standard, but did well to hold up the ball, and break up play, still one of the most underrated players in the league.

Gervinho – Brilliant and frustrating at the same time, got into some great positions and looked dangerous everytime he was on the ball, but needs to put the ball in the net, and stop losing it on the edge of the box.

RvP – What more needs to be said? Best striker by a mile in the league, and deserves all the plaudits hes getting. Second goal was pure class.

Walcott – Tied with RvP for MotM. Had one of his best games for Arsenal today, was dangerous all game and his first touch was fantastic today, the way he took down some of the long ball passes to him was great to see. Great Assist for Arsenals first goal.


As always feel free to leave a comment, share your opinion on today’s game! Cheers. 

Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke, Match Review and Ratings

Today’s game was nervy at times, but Arsenal managed to win quite comfortably at the end of the day. Our improving solidarity in the back, and the imposing figure of Mertesacker in the box proved that our rear guard is making more of a solid unit, and left goalkeeper Szczesny with little to do all afternoon.

The manager decided today was a good time to give Arsenal talisman, Robin van Persie a rest, and so the prolific captain started from the bench today, with Chamakh taking his place in the starting lineup.  Surprisingly Walcott started on the right again after a number of poor performances recently, I would have thought Arshavin would have taken his place in the starting eleven. Knowing the way Stoke set up to play with the deep defensive line, it leaves very little room for Walcott to use his one, and let’s be honest, only weapon, his pace.

Arsenal started well in the first half. A number of chances were created,
Chamakh had a free header in the box from a corner, Ramsey lashed one just wide from outside the box, and Arteta hit a poor left footed strike from the edge of the box. Gervinho scored a well taken goal from a fantastic assist from Ramsey in the 27th minute, but the lead did not last for long. Five minutes later the ref whistled for a foul that never was, from Koscielny who had got an early jump over Crouch, just inside the Arsenal half. Expecting a direct ball into the box, Shawcross was left unmarked down the left flank and a floated ball was headed back into the box. Koscielny was out jumped by Walters at the far post, who headed it back across the net for Crouch to score from a yard out. The move caught the Arsenal defenders by surprise, but luckily it was the only defensive blip from the back line. After the goal was conceded, I was happy to see that our usual routine of collapsing from lack of confidence didn’t seem to happen, and Mertesacker and Koscielny were very solid for the rest of the game. Even the ridiculous Rory Delap throw ins were dealt with comfortably with the presence of Mertesacker being a welcome sight in such situations.

The second half started off very positive for the Gunners, who controlled the possession mostly inside the opposing half. For 15 minutes, a number of half chances were created, Koscielny controlled a ball into the box, and tried an over head kick which was wide of the mark, and Chamakh almost got a toe on the end of a cross from Arteta. Chamakh was working hard to link up with the midfield and had a few chances for a goal which he should have put away. His record of 2 goals in something like 30 games is pretty poor, and he could have really used the confidence of getting on the score sheet today.

Just past the 60 minute mark, Arshavin replaced Walcott, and coming on for Chamakh, Captain Robin van Persie entered into the fray to a chorus of supporters chanting his name. It was immediate to see the influence he has in the team, almost instantly the players around him were playing with more confidence. Gervinho started really buzzing, and it was only minutes after De Kapitein had come on, when Arteta played Gervinho down the right-wing with a nice lofted ball over the defence. The Ivorian controlled it well, and with a burst of pace took it past his marker, and cut it back from the byline for RvP who made an intelligent run to the near post, and managed to shift his weight and squeeze it in at the keepers near post. Just ten minutes later, the prolific Dutchman scored his second. This time the play started with Arshavin, the Russian collected the ball on the left flank just inside the opposing half, driving forward, he played a perfectly weighted through ball just outside Stokes right back. Gervinho had made a fantastic run between the right back, and centre back, took the ball to the by line, looked up and made a fantastic cutback. Once again van Persie showed his striking instincts and was in the right place at the right time to put another in the back of the net. Arsenal controlled the match for the last 10 minutes, and saw the game out rather comfortably.

Up front, the only player I was not happy with today was Walcott. It seems to me that the young Englishman still has a lot of growing up to do, and he showed yet again that he offers very little when he can’t run in behind the defense. I really don’t like to see players stop playing before the whistle is blown when they feel they have been fouled. Walcott seems to do this often, and it happened again today. He collided with a stoke defender, and wasn’t even knocked over, but just stopped playing and threw up his arms and looked at the ref, as the Stoke player just continued to play. I’m sure coaches tell players to continue playing until there is a whistle, even when THEY have fouled someone, because everyone knows how inconsistent referees are these days.

Gervinho put in a man of the match performance, and probably his best showing since he has signed. The Ivorian put the Gunners ahead in the 27th minute, Ramsey played a beautiful chip over the defense, which was chested down by Gervinho and hit on the half volley past the keeper. Gervinho continued threatening Stoke all game, and went on to create 2 goals for Robin van Persie in the second half.

In midfield, Ramsey returned to the starting line up after his late winner against Marseilles. After being relatively unimpressive as of late, it was good to see the young Welsh captain looking more adventurous, and playing more positive, than his recent Denilson-esque performances. The chip he played for Gervinho’s goal was perfectly weighted, and showed that he has good vision, hope to see him putting in more positive performances in games to come. Arteta and Song were solid, with the latter doing well to break up play really well, and in my opinion one of the most under rated players in the league.

Defensively it was nice to see a solid performance against a team that could be described as our antithesis. Stokes long ball, direct approach has often left our defense in chaos, but the calming presence of Mertesacker, and the ever improving Koscielny were extremely solid today. The only real problem came with leaving Shawcross unmarked on the left of the box for the first goal. Even Djourou had a fairly good performance at right back, and his height also helped on set pieces.

At the end of the day, it was a great result, and nobody was stretchered off the pitch, which is always a fear when playing a side like Stoke. Just need to keep up the form, and steadily climb back up the table.

Player Ratings

Szczesny – 7 – Had a relatively quiet game, had a mixup with Djourou and had to perform a dangerous dummy outside the box.

Djourou – 6.5 – Fairly solid, lost Walters on the set piece that led to the Stoke goal.

Mertesacker – 7.5 – his size was a welcome sight in defense of the long throw, and long ball tactics, also gave the big Stoke forwards more trouble as he wasn’t easily out muscled.

Koscielny – 8 – I have to agree with RvP’s recent comments, Koscielny has everything one needs to be a world-class defender, just a few small tweaks and he will be one of the best. Reads the game really well, and won almost everything in the air, even over players like Crouch.

Santos – 6.5 – Relatively quiet game, nothing spectacular going forward, but it seems he’s concentrating on the defensive side of his game as he is still getting used to the pace of the premier league, and I’m fine with that.

Song – 7.5 – Broke up play and was often dangerous going forward as well, so very crucial to Arsenals success.

Arteta – 7 – struggled a bit in the first half to pick out some forward passes, but that was down to good defending by Stoke, did well to play Gervinho in to start the play for the 2nd goal.

Ramsey – 8 – Almost scored a goal, played a delightful ball for Gervinho’s goal, and was much more positive with his passing than in recent games. Glad he wasnt phased by playing Stoke again.

Gervinho – 8.5 – MoTM – Was dangerous the entire game, his best game for Arsenal so far, a goal and 2 assists. His final ball has really improved, and was our best player today.

Chamakh – 6 – Dropped deep to link up with the midfield, and had a couple of opportunities that he should have put away, really needs a goal to boost his confidence. With his record of 2 goals in around 30 games, makes me wonder why exactly Park isn’t getting any game time.

Walcott – 5 – Disappointing. Offered very little in attack, when he did into attacking positions was very wasteful with his final ball, poor crossing that either were over hit, or couldn’t make it past the 1st defender. Chamberlain deserves to get some more chances at this stage.


van Persie – 8.5 – The captain saves the day, 2 goals within 20 minutes of coming on the pitch, just goes to show how invaluable he is to Arsenal. Wenger needs to do whatever it takes to keep him.

Arshavin – 6.5 – Played a fantastic ball for Gervinho to start the 3rd goal.

Frimpong – wasn’t involved enough to really give a rating.




Derby Day Disaster

Gutted, angry, and disappointed, just a few of the words to describe how I felt after watching the North London derby at Shite Hart Lane. According to the bookies, Arsenal were not favorites to win this match, which surely must be an indication of how the season has started so far. After three wins in a row, the players were hoping to come into this game and climb further up the table, and show Spurs that we’re still the top team in North London.

With so many notable injuries piling up at Arsenal, the physio room will soon need an extension. Walcott, and Gervinho passed late fitness tests, and returned to the starting line up, but Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Diaby, and Djourou are all still on the injured list. With the recent news of Vermaelen having another setback, and Wilshere’s recent surgery keeping him out until February at the earliest, we’re looking quite short with so many of our first choice players out injured.

The match started almost immediately on the back foot for Arsenal. Within two minutes Ramsey was caught in possession out wide, and while running toward his own net, played a daft pass infield, straight to a Tottenham player. This was a sign of things to come from our Welshman in this match. With Arsenal having the extra midfielder in their 4-5-1 formation against the Tottenham 4-4-2 setup, they had the advantage in controlling possession in the middle of the park. Tottenham were first to score, a lofted ball into the box was knocked down by van der Vaart, and hit across the keeper into the far side of the net. There were calls for a handball by the Dutchman, but the ref was having none of it. When the replay is shown, it sure looks like it came off his arm, which should have been a 2nd yellow for van der Vaart. Arsenal managed to pull one back after some sustained pressure in the Spurs half. A weak clearance was picked up by song, and slack marking by van der Vaart allowed him to make an intelligent run toward the by line and cut the ball back with a fantastic low cross for Ramsey to tap home, 1-1. The goal was the only bright spot in a poor performance from the young Welsh Captain. The third goal of the match came after a good block on the edge of the box by Alex Song, who had done admirably in the CB position. The blocked shot rolled out into the midfield, and Gervinho was slow to react. Spurs right back Kyle Walker got to the ball first, took a couple of touches, and drilled a low swerving shot past Szczesny who was slow to react. Some would call it a lucky goal, I’m not surprised really, as we have a habit of allowing relatively unknown players to score stupidly good goals against us. Danny Rose, Ivan Perisic(Dortmund), and now Walker.

In midfield, unfortunately Ramsey was having a terrible game, and constantly gave the ball away with wayward passing, directly to a spurs players. Looking at his stats from the match, Ramsey only completed 58/70 passes, with more than half of those going sideways or backwards. I don’t know if its a lack of confidence, or a fear of getting tackled, but Ramsey really needs to step up his game to justify the starting place he has in the team. He constantly has his head down when he’s on the ball, so he fails to spot the many runs of RvP, Gervinho and Walcott. It seems anytime someone from the opposition start pressing him, he just turns and passes backwards or sideways. Rarely will he attempt to go around his man, or pass it forward around him, it’s just too easy to mark Ramsey and make his game ineffectual. I was a big fan of Ramsey before his injury, but I don’t feel he is quite the same, and his performances don’t justify his starting role in this team. If Wilshere wasn’t injured I don’t see Ramsey having a spot in the starting 11.  Arteta was trying to take responsibility, sitting deep and trying to bring the ball out, he completed a respectable 91% pass completion rate, with almost 60% of those going forward. Arteta has been trying to bring some creativity to our midfield, but the gap left by Fabregas is just too hard to fill.

Too often our forwards make intelligent runs, only for players behind them to choose the easier pass and ignore the runs made. Another problem I have with our current midfield is their movement off the ball (or lack there of), many times I see van Persie drop deep and hold up the ball, but instead of making an intelligent run from deep, past him and into the box, they just stand there and watch.  I feel this is the result of building an entire system around one player, and his creative vision to pick those pin point passes. Now that we are without that player, we have failed to adapt our tactics, and formation accordingly, and the one player who I felt could have stepped up to shoulder some of the burden, is out until February, and most likely most of the season after his ankle surgery.

The most promising performance in a disappointing midfield, was from Coquelin. Many Arsenal fans were expecting the emergence of Frimpong this season, but right now it seems Coquelin is progressing even quicker. The young french midfielder has been fantastic is his recent performances. He reads the game really well, and has excellent positioning, often being in the right place, at the right time to make vital interceptions, and he makes excellent tracking runs back, to help the defense. When I watch Coquelin, he looks to me like a very natural footballer, in the sense that he knows what he’s going to do with the ball as soon as he gets it. I also like the way that he makes a tackle, and immediately transitions into attack, he doesn’t dwell on the ball. Between Coquelin and Frimpong, there is some great competition for Alex Song for the defensive midfield slot.

At the back I thought Mertesacker and Song had pretty decent games, considering the makeshift back line. Sagna was a bit disappointing when he failed to cover the run of van der Vaart for the first goal, and even more disappointing when he was taken off on a stretcher. Sagna appeared to have twisted his ankle after falling awkwardly after a clash of bodies in the air. The frenchmans’ name will be added to the growing list of injuries at Arsenal. The hapless Jenkinson came on as a replacement, and was soon being repeatedly skinned by Gareth Bale down the wing. At this point, Arsenal were not looking like getting a goal back, even in the dying minutes of the match there was no sense of urgency in the players, when trying to press for an equalizer. The big frame of Per Mertesacker had moved up the pitch, and was playing as a centre forward. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to put balls up the pitch to pick him out, instead just choosing little short passes in the back, struggling to bring the ball forward. Even with a corner we didn’t put the ball in the box, instead choosing once again to play it short. What is the point of having the German giant playing up front if we’re not going to put balls in the box for him to try to get his head on? Truly some confusing tactics by Arsene Wenger.

Up front I felt we were a bit lackluster. Captain Robin van Persie made some great runs through out the game, but rarely were they spotted by the midfielders, who let him down with the service provided to him. Walcott was drifting in and out of the game, and produced a couple of good shots, but rarely tested the keeper. On the other wing, Gervinho was having a fairly poor game, and was not really able to influence the match. Once again it’s looking like Wenger is training Gervinho to pass and pass and pass instead of doing what we originally bought him for, to be direct and run at defenders. I was disappointed as I felt he could have offered more. Why do we buy direct players, and then drill them to pass it every time instead of doing what they’re good at and going past players? There was a couple of opportunities where I expected Gervinho to try to attack Walker, but instead just stopped and passed back to Gibbs.

Tactically I have not been impressed with Wenger lately. I feel our 4-5-1 formation is not effective, and we struggle to break teams down, as our only striker is often isolated up front. This is often because the wide men are supposed to provide support, but when we transition from defense to attack they often have to make 60+ yard sprints to get up and support, then if we lose the ball they have to track back again. Some people say we’re playing a 4-3-3, but we’re most definitely not. The reason we have to have a 5 man midfield is because of two reasons; an extra man for possession advantage, and to have the players closer to each other as not enough of our players have the work rate to defend properly. If we were playing a 4-3-3 our wide players would have more freedom up front, and our entire team would have to work A LOT harder when we don’t have the ball. Our current squad does not have the discipline to press as a TEAM for 90 minutes, which is why our wide players have to sit so much deeper to help protect the fullback. I hate to compare, but if you watch the way Barca works as a team when they don’t have the ball, and then watch the way our team plays, it’s night and day difference. You can’t have players just ball watching, or slowly jogging back as the other team counter attacks. Arshavin would not be able to just stroll around the pitch waiting for the ball to come to him. These behaviors and habits comes from only one person, and that’s the coach. I don’t think Sir Alex Ferguson or Mourinho would ever put up some of the laziness we see from our players on the pitch, it’s a bit of a disgrace sometimes.

After the match Arsene Wenger gave the typical response we’re all so sick of hearing.

When asked about the frustrating afternoon he said:

Yes, because in the first half I felt we played a little bit with the handbrake on. Even playing like that we had four chances. At half time we came out and had a go at them and got it back to 1-1. I felt again that we didn’t push on enough and let them get back into the game.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard the “handbrake” line hundreds of times now, and at this point Wenger may as well just send a dictaphone with pre-recorded responses, because we all know the same old crap he will say after every match. If it’s not about the handbrake, it’s about team spirit. Mr. Wenger, how about you stop scoffing at the suggestion that we need a defensive coach, and bring back Keown, regardless of what it does to your ego.


Szczesny – made some fantastic saves, although I think he should have done better for the 2nd goal.

Sagna – did fairly well against Bale, went forward too much for my liking, and didn’t track van der Vaart for the first goal.

Mertesacker – made some good interceptions and clearances. read the game well

Song – another fantastic performance at CB, although we missed him in midfield, arguably our most important player this season. Fantastic play for the assist.

Gibbs – better than usual this game, I only remember him being caught out of position once or twice this game.

Coquelin – great match, tackles well, and always seems to be in the right place, distributed the ball.

Ramsey – very poor performance, gave the ball away countless times, not adventurous enough in the creative department, scored a goal, but doesn’t detract from the rest of his poor performance

Arteta – sat deep and tried to bring the ball out from the back, tried to influence the game, but often his forward passing was negated by Ramseys backwards passing.

Gervinho – ineffective today, had one golden opportunity wasted from a cutback by RvP. Needs to play his game, and hope Wenger doesn’t pass all his directness out of him.

van Persie – made lot’s of good runs, only struggled due to lack of service. dropped deep to link up play, deserves to have better players around him in the team. Would benefit the most from a different formation and a strike partner.

Walcott – in and out of the game, had a couple of shots on target, but nothing really to test the keeper.


Feel free to leave your own thoughts and ratings in the comments section. 


Arsenal vs Bolton Review & Ratings

Today’s match against Bolton was a tale of two halves. After a poor start to the season Arsenal has finally put in a respectable performance. Hopefully for the players, this will give them a big confidence boost that they can take into the next match against Olympiacos on Wednesday. Captain Robin van Persie scored his 100th Arsenal goal, and I’m sure every fan is hoping to see many more from the prolific Dutch striker, who has now scored 21 goals in 23 Premier League matches.

Arsenal started with the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, after some speculation of a possible 4-4-2 like we saw against Shrewsbury. Wenger’s team selection had a couple of surprises for me. I was expecting Arshavin to start, with Gervinho on the right to attack Robinson. I also thought maybe Santos would play, as Gibbs started in the Carling Cup match. Our tricky Brazilian is most likely still lacking full fitness, and might need a bit more time to gel with his new team mates. Hopefully we will get to see more of him soon, as what I have seen of him he looks like a very entertaining player. Ramsey returns from injury, and with the recent news that Jack Wilshere will have surgery on his ankle on monday, it is important Aaron Ramsey gets back to his best.

Owen Coyle had a few surprises in his line up as well, both Gary Cahill and Kevin Davies were not in the starting 11. The Arsenal defensive target was apparently ill, while Davies was benched in favor of David Ngog. I was quite surprised to see Davies on the bench, as he almost always causes problems for Arsenal. With the questionable state of our defense, I figured Coyle would have started him.

In the first half Arsenal enjoyed most of the possession, but after 45 minutes the whistle blew without a single shot on target. This was mostly down to the slow tempo at which the Arsenal players passed the ball around, and the waste of the few chances they did create. The defense was tested as early as 3 minutes into the game. A ball crossed to the far post was nodded down, after Sagna was beaten in the air by Wheater. Gibbs was caught ball watching as Pratley got in front of him in the box to tip it towards goal. Only Szczesny saved the Gunners an embarrassing start.  Minutes later, Arteta split the Bolton defense with a perfectly weighted through ball for Gervinho to run onto. Robin van Persie was open to his right, but the Ivorian took a heavy touch as he made his run into the box, and he wasn’t able to beat Jaaskelainen.  Robin van Persie, and Gervinho had a couple of chances to get their name of the score sheet in the first half. The captain stepped up to a free kick from about 25 yards out, and put it just outside the far post. Gervinho was able to cut in off the left and take a strike from just outside the box, but fortunately for Jussi Jaaskelainen, it was just over the crossbar.

In the second half the team came out, no doubt with some words from the Manager in their ears. I would imagine the word ‘tempo’ was thrown around once or twice during halftime. Thirty seconds into the half, Robin van Persie smashed one past the keeper at his near post. The move started with Gervinho using some quick footwork to try to turn his marker and drawing a foul. Ramsey was quick to react and made a driving run forward, and picked out his Captain on the edge of the box. The Dutchman kept his composure and made a run into the box, taking an extra touch around a tackle from Muamba, before driving it low and hard past the Bolton keeper at a tight angle. The goal was a big lift for the team, and you could immediately see a bit more confidence flowing through the team as they continues to play.

Ten minutes later, Arsenal broke on the counter through a delightful through ball from Ramsey who picked out Walcott’s well timed run. David Wheater, who was filling in for the missing Cahill, was having none of it and made a cynical foul by pulling Walcott back on the edge of the box, and rightfully received a red card. Walcott has been quite vocal lately about his desire to play as a striker, but later, when presented with a golden 1v1 opportunity the young Englishman rushed his shot and was not able to beat the Bolton keeper.

In the 71st minute Ramsey played another brilliant ball behind Robinson and Theo left him in the dust with his pace, he got his head up and delivered an accurate, low cross, which was met with a fantastic finish by the Dutchman to take it past Jaaskeleinen. Robin van Persie is now the 17th Arsenal player, who has scored 100 goals. In the words of Andy Gray: Take a bow son.

As the game was dying down, Arsenal was firmly in control of the match, which was made easier by the man advantage. In the 88th minute Sagna finds some space down the right and take the ball to the byline, a cut back finds Alex Song in the center of the box. Song beat a Bolton defender with a feint and quickly shifted the ball from his left to his right foot and places one in the top corner, game sealed.


Szczesny – 7.5 – made a great save in the 3rd minute of the match, if that had gone in, it could have been a much different story today. Solid throughout the rest of the match, although was not tested too often in the 2nd half.

Sagna – 7 – Industrious up and down the flank, played in a couple of great crosses in the box, Bolton didn’t get much of anything down his flank.

Mertesacker – 6.5 – was caught out of position a couple of times, relatively quiet game. Made a couple good clearances in the box, expect him to dominate the aerial balls more.

Koscielny – 7 – Made a lot of interceptions, had an early clash of heads with David Ngog, but soldiered on, had another nasty clash of legs with a Bolton player, which saw him limping after, hopefully nothing that will keep him out of the match on Wednesday.

Gibbs – 6.5 – needs to work on his positioning, was caught out too far forward a few times, Bolton exploiting the space he left with ball over the top down his flank quite a few times. Made a good run back to break up a counter attack.

Song – 8 – Shielded the defense well, I feel he’s a very under rated player, uses his body well to hold up the ball, and break up play. Also has some great vision for passing that he doesn’t get credit for. Songoldinho made a cameo appearance for the goal in the 88th minute.

Arteta – 7 – Picked out some great passes through out the game, brought the ball out from the back often, looks like he is really fitting in comfortably at Arsenal.

Ramsey – 6.5 – I thought in the first half Ramsey was pretty poor, I’ve said it before and I say it again, he needs to step up and stop just picking the Denilson pass. In the second half he was much more adventurous, and was picking out runs of the forwards. Assist for Arsenals first goal.

Gervinho – 6.5 – Not afraid to run at the defenders, but often makes poor decisions in the final third, could have squared it to RvP in the first 10 minutes for an early goal, played some other sloppy passes into the box, and wasted a couple of goal scoring opportunities. Still one of our more dangerous players.

RvP – 8.5 – MotM – the Dutchman put in a captains performance and inspired the team with his 2nd half performance, netting 2 great goals, and marking his 100th Arsenal Goal. Dropped deep through out the match to bring the ball out and make room for the wide men. I hope Wenger will convince him to sign a new contract soon.

Walcott – 7 – Some great timed runs in behind the defense, got Wheater red carded, made a nice assist for RvP. Wasted a couple of chances up front to convince wenger to give him a game as a striker.


Rosicky – no real influence

Chamakh – works hard, I think the goal he scored has given him a bit of a lift in spirits.

Arshavin – no real influence


Let me know what you thought of today’s game and feel free to leave your own ratings. 


Stat Attack! Arteta vs Ramsey

After the game against Swansea, I decided to look up some stats from the match to compare how some of our new players fared on their debut, in comparison to those already established in the team. Now stats don’t paint the entire picture of what goes on in the match, but they can give some good insight. What I find with a lot of stats is they are not biased, and often tell a different story to what is perceived by a fan when we watch a match. Sometimes a dislike for a player can cloud your judgement and, also the opposite can happen. Sometimes you might have a favorite player who is playing poorly, but you just can’t see it through your rose-tinted glasses. Today I compare the performance of new boy Mikel Arteta, against Wales captain Aaron Ramsey.


Now if you read my post match analysis, you would know I felt Ramsey too often chooses the sideways or backwards pass, instead of trying to pick the runs of the forwards. With 45 of his 77 attempted passes going square(20) and backwards(25), that’s about 58% of his passing, meaning only 42% is going forward(32). Of all these passes, Ramsey managed to create only 1 chance. Now I don’t know if it’s a tactical situation where he is being told by Arsene to just play the possession passing more often than not. What I do know is that it’s not wise for someone who is tipped to be a replacement for Cesc in the coming years, to shrug off responsibility in the creation department. The problem when Fabregas was here, was that too often the play would go through him, and players would just try to get him the ball in the middle of the park. This meant when he was not there, we lacked creativity because the other players didn’t have him to rely on for that creative spark. I really hope this trend does not continue with our new Spaniard, Arteta. I really hope to see players like Ramsey step up and help shoulder some of the creative burden, so that if someone like Arteta is injured, we’re not wondering where the goals are going to come from. This also will pose more of a problem to our opposition. If we constantly go through one player in midfield to create chances for us, we will start seeing him marked closely by 1 or 2 players in every match. If we have more than 1 player who can regularly create chances, opposing players will have to be careful of situations where they might double up on one player, which in turn, creates pockets of space for the other. This will in turn make us a less predictable team.

Mikel Arteta had a pretty good debut, nothing to make the front page news, but provided us with a glimpse of what is to come over the rest of the season from our new midfielder. Of his 78 attempted passes, 43 of them were going forward, that’s 55%. Only 20 were backward, and 15 square, 5 less in these two departments than his Welsh counterpart. These numbers are more in proportion to what I expect to see from a creative midfielder, Arteta managed to create 3 goal scoring chances.

Both players were also not shy to get back and help in defense, and that is a positive sign. In recent years our defense has often lacked support from the midfielders, and get exposed,  and unfortunately for the defenders, they often receive the brunt of the fans ire.

When looking at the passing chalkboard it’s clear to see that Ramsey played slightly deeper than Arteta did, which would account for some of his Denilson-esque passing. But it’s also very clear that Ramsey needs to improve on his passing, not necessarily his completion rate, but more about getting his head up quicker, and picking forward passes when someone makes a run. A lot of teams that will sit deep and defend against Arsenal will have no problem allowing Arsenal to pass sideways and backwards in and around our half as much as we like. It’s as good as a Rory Delap towel job, or any other time-wasting technique. I think it’s pretty obvious we can play the possession game, but I don’t see the point in just passing around aimlessly with no real purpose, when we are in a situation where we are looking to score to kill off a game, equalize, or even grab a late winner. If we were winning 3-0 with 10 minutes left, then that is the type of situation where you just want to keep it moving, and play a possession game.

In summary, both players worked hard for 90 minutes, and I’m happy with efforts. I think Arteta will be a fantastic player for us this season, and I expect to see even further improvement from both Arteta as he settles in with his new teammates, and Ramsey as he gains his confidence back, after being shawcrossed. With very similar stats from the Swansea game, it’s nice to know that we will have some good depth to our midfield, once players like Wilshere, and Diaby return to the fold.

Please let me know what you think of the stats comparison, and feel free to leave your own analysis in the comments. Cheers.


Swansea Post Match Analysis and Player Ratings

Arsenal new boys Per Mertesacker, and Mikel Arteta made their debut today as Arsenal got their season back on track. According to Arsene Wenger, ‘our season starts today’ but unfortunately it was not quite at convincing as Arsenal fans would have liked.

The Gunners held onto a 1-0 win over Premier League newcomers Swansea. The only goal coming from a mistake from Swansea keeper Michel Vorm. After collecting a wide shot from Walcott, Vorm quickly tried to roll the ball out, only for it to deflect off the heel of the Swansea fullback. The little Russian was quick to pounce and put a left footed shot into the open net from a tight angle.

At the back Sagna and Gibbs were a welcome sight after returning to the starting line up, after recovering from illness and a hamstring strain respectively. Some fans were calling for Santos to get his debut today as well, but the Brazilian is short of match fitness. I also would have been surprised to see Wenger try to introduce so many new players at once, with only a few days of training together. One defender who did make his debut today was Per Mertesacker. The Germans imposing presence at the back was a nice change from the bumbling Djourou, and the disastrous Squillaci. With Koscielny beside him, Per seemed to play a bit deeper, with Laurent doing the pressing higher up the pitch and Mertesacker sweeping up behind him. Criticism in the news about his ‘severe lack of pace’ seem to have proved unfounded, although he’s not the fastest player, he didn’t seem to  have too much problem dealing with the pace of the game today. Mertesacker read the game very well for someone who has so little playing time with his team mates, and I think he will improve a lot as he gels with the team.

In midfield our team somewhat picked itself, with injuries and suspensions, it was a no brainer for any Arsenal fan to predict the Frimpong, Ramsey, Arteta combo. The biggest buzz around the match today was surrounding Arteta’s debut appearance in the red and white. Mikel took no time to settle into the match, and his quality shone through in the first half as he marshaled the midfield. Whether it was picking out some quality passes and keeping the rhythm, or tracking back to help out in defense, the Spaniard displayed the kind of hard-working ethic we need from more of our players. Although he was less influential in the second half, it was an encouraging start to his Arsenal career.

Our Welsh wizard was also quite lively today as well, buzzing around the pitch with energy, chasing down and harassing the opponents by pressing them all over the pitch. By the end of the match his hard work had taken its toll and his legs had started to tire on him. Arsenal could have made it 2-0 in the dying minutes when they broke on a counter attack with Ramsey coming down the left flank. The exposed Swansea defense was left with a 4 on 1 situation. Unfortunately the ball over the top Ramsey tried to play for the onrushing forwards, was not accurate and only managed to pick out Swanseas’  Leon Britton.

Emmanuel Frimpong also returned to the fold, after seeing red against Liverpool. Frimpong is quickly becoming a fan favorite, and adds much-needed competition for Alex Song. The Ghanaian born midfielder has recently indicated his desire to play internationally for Ghana, although he had made previous appearances for the English youth teams. This will be a bit of a predicament, for when the African Cup of Nations comes around, both Alex Song, and now Frimpong will be gone for the month of January (if their countries qualify).  Either way, I enjoy watching Frimpong play, and I think a midfield  of Frimpong, Wilshere and Ramsey will be very potent in coming years.

Up front the starting trio were also quite predictable, once again our choices were limited by suspensions, and lack of match fitness (Park). Arshavin was quite lively today, showing at times, glimpses of what he can bring to the team. I just really wish he would improve his attitude, as once again he left his flank fairly exposed at times, leaving the relatively inexperienced Gibbs without much support. Although I will give him credit for the times he did track back and help, it just shows that he has the ability to get back and defend, when he wants to. He was lucky today to score a goal, as it was his lack of enthusiasm to get back into position that allowed him to be in a position to capitalize on the mistake made by Michel Vorm.

Captain Robin van Persie had a few chances to rattle the net today,  but he lived true to his nick name of ‘van Postie’, when he received the ball on the edge of the box, and with some quick footwork found space to hit a rasping shot with his ‘chocolate leg’, only for it hit the post. RvP showed some good link up play with Arteta, and I feel that these two players will develop a good understanding of each other throughout the season.

Walcott was a bit of a doubt, after being left out of the England squad for their second game of the international break with a hamstring strain. Arsenal fans were happy to see he had recovered in time and was able to play out the match unscathed. Theo had a bit of rough time against Swansea, persistent fouls throughout the match seemed to have got to his head a bit, and his final ball today was poor. The Englishman needs to improve his delivery from wide areas, and although he’s not a natural winger, if Wenger keeps playing him out wide, this is an area of his game he will need to improve on. What I did see Theo try a bit more today is some flair, and some skills to try to go past players on a 1 vs 1 situation. The quick footwork he pulled off on the edge of the box to find himself some space while being tightly marked was a sign of things to come, and more of that is needed for him to improve his game. Theo cannot rely solely on through balls played in behind the defense for him to use his pace on, as a lot of teams do not give him that space. When teams defend deep, and Walcott is up against a quality defender, he often can be ineffectual, this was the case in Liverpool when Enrique did a quality job keeping him quiet for most of the match.

Tactically today I felt the players were a bit too cautious, many times our forwards made good runs, only for a wide player or midfielder to choose the easier sideways or backwards pass. Now I understand the need for sideways and backwards passing, its good to stretch play, and draw the opposition out of their half to expose some space. I do however feel that this Arsenal team do not always use it effectively. Often we waste counter attacking opportunities, with our players catching the opposition on the break, only to make it to the edge of the box, and then start passing sideways, or backwards, and all around the outside of the penalty box. This allows the opponents to get back and organize the defense, with many bodies. I would like to see more meaningful passes in these situations to exploit gaps in the defense while they exist.

Another tactic I don’t feel we take advantage of enough is stretching the play from flank to flank. Watching my national team during the international break, I admired the way van Marwijk had the team taking advantage of all the space on the pitch. Often the Dutch would have the ball out wide, and would make a few short passes, as the team would squeeze toward that flank. This left big space on the opposing wing to exploit with Sneijder supplying many great diagonal long balls to switch the flank in these situations and take advantage of the gaps left by the opposing defense, who were now trying to switch their attention to the other side. This would also create space in the midfield as the sudden change in flank would cause disorganization to the opposition players. The Netherlands brilliant build up play led to an 11-0 win against San Marino. Granted this was the #1 world ranked national side versus the lowest ranked national side, but the tactics caused havoc for San Marino. If you haven’t seen the highlights of this match its worth a watch. The Netherlands played a 4-2-3-1 formation, RvP played in a free role off the right hand side. The BIG difference In the way the Holland and Arsenal use this formation, would be the support the front man has is much better in the Dutch side. Runs from deep, with good timing came into great effect in this match, and when attacking, there was often 2 or 3 players making runs into the box, and another arriving late. Arsenal are often left isolated up front, and when crosses do come in, it’s usually 1 forward against all the defenders. Robin van Persie needs more support, as well as more than 1 player making runs into the box at a time.

Watch this lesson in football from the Netherlands, RvP notches 4 goals. Notice how close the 3 midfielders are to the front man when attacking. Also take note of the way multiple players make synchronized, timed runs into the box.




Szczesny – 8.5 MoTM – The Polish stopper returned from international duty after an impressive display against Germany. Made some fantastic saves today, keeping out Graham after only 7 mins with a great reaction save. Confidently took many balls out of the air from crosses and corner, was lucky a late goal was not conceded in the dying minutes.

Sagna – 7 – Did well defensively, and managed to get forward quite often as well, put in a couple of quality crosses. Glad to have him back from his illness, did well to co-ordinate with his new defensive team-mate in Mertesacker.

Mertesacker – 7 – Physically imposing, and read the game well, considering only having a couple of days to train with his new team mates, he fit in pretty well. Made a couple great tackles including a beastly sliding tackle on the edge of the box. I’m really looking forward to see him and Vermaelen together on the pitch.

Koscielny – 7 – Complimented Mertesacker well, closed opposition down quickly, and made some brilliant forward runs as well. His pressing left him out of position a couple of times, but Mertesacker was sitting slightly deeper to pick up anything that got past.

Gibbs – 6 – Did not have the cover needed with Arshavin playing in front of him. Bombed forward often, but without much end product. I do not like watching him wander forward overlap the winger, and then point and tell players like Arshavin to cover a run from the opposition, when he should be the one back defending. Put in a nice cross for Chamakh, almost resulted in a goal.

Frimpong – 6.5 – The young gunner was cautious after being sent off at Liverpool, but was great at breaking up the play, made a great run back to block a cross after Arshavin was left on the ground and Gibbs nowhere in sight, he was not impressed with his team mates. Gave away a silly foul on the edge of the box in the first half. Frimpong will really shine when Wilshere is back.

Ramsey – 6.5 – Energetic, pressed well and never gave up. Needs to release the ball quicker at times, and maybe due to a lack of confidence, needs to pick out some of the runs his forwards make instead of taking the easy route with the sideways or backwards passing. Possession is great, but have to create goals at some point.

Arteta – 7.5 – Great debut, didn’t look out-of-place in the team. Linked up well with RvP and Ramsey, picked out some great passes. Will improve as he gets to know his team mates better.

Arshavin – 7 – Glimpses of brilliance, glimpses of laziness. Arshavin has the ability to be a fantastic player as he showed at times today, needs to work on his fitness, and he constantly drifts in and out of the match. Left Gibbs exposed at times. Finished well after quickly pouncing on a mistake from Vorm.

RvP – 6.5 – Did well to drop deep and link up with the midfield, was unlucky not to score with his shot off the post, bit wasteful with some of his other chances. Made many good runs that were not spotted by Ramsey and Arteta.

Walcott – 6 – seems to be working on his ability to get past players and make space for himself to exploit his pace. Poor service from wide areas. should not stop playing because of a perceived foul. Don’t stop expecting a whistle to blow


Coquelin (Frimpong) – lively around the pitch, made a couple good tackles, didn’t see enough of him to make any real conclusion.

Benayoun (Arshavin) – Made a couple good runs inside, helped out in defense when needed. Will need time to develop an understanding with his new team mates.

Chamakh (RvP) – Did not look too bad today, linked up well and won a lot of headers, was really unlucky not to score with his head from a great cross from Gibbs.

Feel free to leave comments, and share your opinion on the game, and how you thought our new players performed.