St Totteringham’s Day? Not this year

Not this year and rightfully so
Not this year and rightfully so

For the first time since 1995 Arsenal will not finish above Arsenal and I am really not upset about it. I made my peace with that last season but they somehow managed to screw it up but kudos they have not only managed it this year but are challenging for the title.
Since Pochettino took over, this Spurs team have grown from strength to strength and taken on his identity and philosophy, a philosophy where no one is carried everyone puts in a shift! Contrast that to what is going on at Arsenal where there are coasters in the team everywhere you look from back to front. Take for example Arsenal’s most expensive player, in the 4 years since he joined Arsenal I am yet to see him take a difficult game by the scruff of the neck and be the difference! I can’t imagine him being allowed that much time in a Pochettino side with his application on the football field when things are tough. Then you have Giroud, would he get in a Pochettino side? He spends half the time moaning and falling down instead of digging deep and contributing to the cause. I didn’t see the point in him starting today and if it’s true he is wanted in France I will certainly drive him there myself at no cost. I could go on but there is no need it’s glaring what the team needs; an environment where mediocrity is alien and not the norm. Let’s start with if you don’t play well you don’t start and if you do you stay in the team, didn’t see the point of dropping Holding for Gibbs.

Arsenal kinda messed with my desire to blog and post this season, yes I am joining the bandwagon and blaming Arsene for everything. I have processed all that and I think I am back, kudos to the guys like arseblog that blog only Arsenal news and do it like 24/7 takes some mental fortitude!

Finally I do not subscribe to the notion that there is a power shift in North London not that it matters to me, we all know one swallow doesn’t make a summer neither does a tree make a forest. Finishing above Arsenal in a season where they might still come second and Arsenal win an FA cup (for hypothesis reason not that I believe this) but there is potential for a power shift if the situation at Arsenal isn’t arrested and arrested soon! My only consolation was that Chelsea won, yes it has come to this as the boys that were sent to do a man’s job at WHL failed with flying colours.

Then they were 4

FA CUP

The draw for the semi final of the FA cup is complete and Arsenal will face off against City at Wembley while Chelsea and Tottenham  lock horns in the other semi final.
Chelsea beat 10 man United at the Bridge tonight, it’s now 2 0 to Conte  against Mourinho this season and I am definitely looking forward to Chelsea visiting Old Trafford where United have mastered the art of drawing. On the red card I still don’t understand why some pundits and fans are complaining about the validity of the foul and the subsequent second yellow for Herrera. It was clear from the onset that Hazard was the target and the instruction from Jose to his men was to persistently foul him , he was being kicked all over the place, Herrera has himself to blame and not Michael Oliver. Just after the Referee had warned two of his mates to stop the persistent fouling he goes and foul Hazard immediately right in front of the referee. The better team up until the sending off was Chelsea and you could say the best player for United at the time was De Gea pulling off those ridiculous saves. For all of the 90 mins United had just one shot on target and that was the Rashford attempt in the second half with 28% possession you are never going to win a game with those stats unless you are West Brom with Tony Pulis in charge. I got to read the comments from Mourinho’s post-match conference and my conclusion as it has always been; Mourinho the manager has a lot to be admired but Mourinho the man is lacking in character and has very little class, it always has to be about him. He is not lucid enough (borrowing one of Arsene’s favourite words of late) to detach himself from situations and not make it about him, anyways he is United’s problem now. I also hope the Rojo stamp is retrospectively punished just like Mings of Bournemouth was.
So the semi final is set and I am hoping Arsenal find a way to get through a City side finding form because the present Arsenal is an ideal opponent for this City team.

Another Year another exit in the Knockout Stages

Mustafi and Xhaka
Mustafi and Xhaka disappointing signings so far this season

Watched Arsenal lose 5 1 again to Bayern tonight and I must commend myself on achieving such a feat more of a masochist aka Arsenal fan. My mate an Arsenal fan who chose to nap instead of watching the game woke up checked his phone and thought he hadn’t refreshed the scores of two weeks ago couldn’t believe it was 5 1 again!

The referee no doubt was rubbish, crap, inept, I mean any word youcan think of that explains inefficiency but it’s still wasn’t a reason to capitulate and concede 5 in 45 minutes because you are a man down especially when you had rehearsed two weeks ago for this situation at the Allianz arena.
It’s an ideal night to scapegoat some players and I am deciding to do just that this time. The clubs most expensive acquisitions this season Mustafi and Xhaka showed again they have not added to this team or taken it up a notch in anyway , both directly responsible for two goals tonight. Players ghost past Xhaka so easily in the middle of the field and he is so one footed it’s unbelievable! Mustafi on the other hand can’t anticipate or read games he just loves a slide. He was directly responsible for two goals in this Bayern tie, for all the money he costs he is not better than Gabriel in my opinion.
I would love to see an Ox Ramsey midfield and Holding paired with Koscielny or Mertesacker reinstated because Mustafi for what he cost he isn’t doing it at all! Using Arsene’s lingo I am not very lucid tonight so I will be more emotive than analytical and to the fans chanting Arsene you are killing our club or something along those lines they should visit Blackburn or Leyton Orient for the definition of killing a club.
It’s a short one tonight still recovering from having 2 wisdom teeth taken out yesterday then add today’s performance to that feeling. I feel it’s Arsene’s last time managing Arsenal in the Champions League tonight but hey what do I know I put 10 pounds on Arsenal qualifying tonight so there you go.

Arsenal the Ideal pick me up opponents

Another groundhog day for Arsene and Arsenal

The final score at Anfield in the last few minutes are in no way surprising, Arsenal are the ideal pick me up opponents for clubs having a difficult season. Look at Bayern they were having a sort of Average season till Arsene and his boys visited the Allianz a few weeks ago you all know how that story ended.

Arsene talked about the need for a fast start at Anfield at his pre match conference on  that message clearly didn’t get across to his team nor did the line up indicate that was the plan.
Today’s  line up was very surprising with no Alexis in the team but I have always reasoned that no one player is bigger than the team. I look at what Pep is doing at City and can clearly see how he has improved Aguero’s game by leaving him on the bench at times in a bid to make him see what extras he wants from his game.
I was hesitant about moaning about the line up before kick off just to see what Arsene was trying to do, but by the end of the first half I still couldn’t see what the game plan was. Look if you are going to leave your best player on the bench you must have a game plan that can be excellently executed by the rest of the team, that Arsenal team looked rudderless with no game plan or heart from back to front in the first 45 minutes. The first goal conceded was poor and had nothing to do with Sanchez being on the bench.  A ball played out from Mignolet resulted in a goal, that is poor on every level and typical of this team I can’t believe Mustafi continues to start or that he has made that defence any better than when Per was there at least he could read games and intercept even if people complained about his lack of pace. The second half was better but as usual the damage had been done in the first half. I am not a professional footballer but I wouldn’t want to play in this fickle Arsenal team unless I was a masochist borrowing my pal LVG’s lingo. It makes me wonder what the likes of Sanchez and Ozil are thinking considering who they have rubbed shoulders with in dressing rooms at their previous clubs.
I have questions; Oxlade’s best performances have been in the middle why continue to deploy him on the wings? Coquelin needs another rebirth at Charlton it seems he hasn’t been good for many games,  he shouldn’t have been in that line up and to add he shouldn’t be near that team at this point in time. Why Substitute Welbeck for Walcott considering the influence he was having at Anfield today? Why play Iwobi for so long in a game of this magnitude particularly when he has struggled recently in games when you have a more experienced Lucas on the bench? I have many more questions like many of you.
Arsene talked about reinventing himself at the prematch conference on Friday and I actually think he needs some time away from managing especially at Arsenal. It’s been groundhog day at Arsenal for years and today’s performance only strengthen’s the case for a new direction at Arsenal going forward and the earlier that’s done the better. For the rest of the season I will be focusing on my fantasy league team for consolation, not that it’s doing any better than Arsenal but at least I am top of one league!

Time for a new direction at Arsenal

Two losses in a week that essentially ends Arsenal’s title bid for another season and the manner in which they lost was all too familiar. I didn’t bother posting about the Watford loss midweek as it was like writing a post I had written several times but the second half display at Chelsea to a man was shameful and pitiful to say the least. The first goal in my opinion was a foul on Bellerin, Alonso jumping like that leading with his elbow is dangerous play and  anywhere else on the pitch it’s a foul but that doesn’t excuse Walcott’s neglecting his duty to cover Alonso’s run, a run he saw clearly. He did the same at Old Trafford which led to a goal, was supposed to learn from that, clearly hasn’t. In fact the characteristic of the entire team is one that never ever learns, they do the same thing over and over again expecting different results and there’s a popular saying that addresses this behaviour. Arsenal making the average look exceptional since 1886 is how I describe the manner in which Hazard was allowed to waltz through the midfield to score the second, I am sure Kante or Matic wouldn’t have allowed Ozil or Sanchez that much freedom to do that without putting in a tackle to at least get a yellow on behalf of the team and stop the counter, it was nothing but naive from everyone concerned. From all the posturing for new and improved contracts from our star players they went Awol yesterday and Ozil not for the first time.  Mediocrity, lack of application, lack of fight creeps through the entire team. I wish the mental fortitude they have for social media could be applied to their main job. Yesterday Oxlade Chamberlain was caught up in a gaffe mistakenly liking a “Wenger out” post shortly after the game. You ask yourself what was he doing on social media minutes after such a loss, talk of priorities right. Not giving himself time to introspect and digest what had just happened, your team is now 12 points behind Chelsea, the title was no longer in your grasp. It’s like they don’t have a clue what putting on the Arsenal colours represent.
Those guys have it all too easy and there is no one else to point the finger at but Arsene. Players put in average performances and still get in the team. Yesterday in his post match interview he said the team gave all they had, I don’t want to believe he believes that that’s all they have and after the Watford game he said they weren’t ready mentally errm Arsene what’s your job? I am an Arsene guy and will forever be but there has to come a point where we have to be real; I think he has brought the club as far as he can and there needs to be a change. I will make it clear I do not support idiots that travel to grounds with banners or spew insults at him there is no place for that at all. I find it hard to comprehend that this same Arsene managed “The Invincibles” with what he lets this group of players get away with. I also sort of feel sorry for him as there is no one in that team absolutely no one that actually steps up on difficult game days to settle and focus his team mates, then again he does the recruiting.  There’s a part of me that feels he has lost what it takes to inspire that team, it has gotten stale, he can’t be that stimulus that brings about the required response on the pitch game after game. The team needs a different direction and the time has come for that change, it’s the same thing every year even if the league positions are different. Like a friend of mine said yesterday we have circled this mountain for too long.
I will end with this, Cesc scored the third goal yesterday, in the time he has left Arsenal and has come back to the PL Arsenal haven’t won the PL but Cesc has one PL title to his name and he is on the cusp of winning another, the only constant thing in that time has been Arsene.

Oh and Happy Birthday to me unlike the Ox I am doing some introspection…

THE IMAGINED DISRESPECT OF THE FA CUP

 

FA CUP

I am struggling to understand the indignation from many in the media today particularly those that work for BBC, Skysports and BTsports regarding teams resting players for the FA cup; accusing teams of disrespecting the cup. They sound like they all just woke up from a time capsule when the FA cup was a prestigious cup to win and have found themselves in the middle of an FA cup apocalypse, very pretentious forgetting the roles they the big TV corporations have played in relegating the FA cup  to where it is. It’s no news the FA cup is not what it used to be in an era where money is the order of the day in football, an era where TV scheduling and their ratings takes prominence over fans and their welfare.

To the TV pundits complaining about the lack of respect for the romance and history of the FA cup, I have a question, why did BT choose to air the Arsenal and Southampton game when a non league team like Lincoln City who barely get air time were playing Brighton? If indeed it’s a genuine concern to promote the magic of the FA cup, teams like Lincoln city and their fans should be getting air time regardless of who they are playing. Guess what it’s not a genuine concern from these lot, money and ratings is their concern, they are looking after their bottom line then turn round and have a go at club managers doing the same thing; looking after their players and other set priorities. Lets look at Southampton today it was their 8th or 9th(not sure) game in January and have 9 players out injured, their 36th game of the season and a PL game midweek, what exactly was the manager to do? I mean the FA cup winner gets a miserly £1.800,000 and the prestige isn’t the same. Arsenal won 2 FA cups back to back in recent times and in some sections of the media and fans alike it’s seen as some sort of consolation as it’s not the PL title or the Champions league.

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My best tweet of the day above and I share his sentiments with youth being given a chance to shine

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The most annoying tweet of the day for me, couldn’t be anymore patronising to the FA cup and pretentious. Talk to your TV bosses first who schedule thinking of ££££ then maybe there’s a leg to stand on with such tweets. Arsenal made that many changes too just saying.

I end with this, the FA cup is just the FA cup it’s not what it used to be and let’s stop pretending.

Is John Stones a good defender?

John Stones with Pep Guardiola

I was listening to the “world class” Alan Shearer and Phil Neville discuss this point yesterday and decided to do my own little piece.
On the face of it I can see why Stones get’s so much stick and typing this I can vividly recall careless back passes from Stones that have led to goals or almost led to goals but I will say I still rate him. The potential is there but the problem is with those that are currently being asked to mentor him in the centre of that defence; Otamendi, and Kolarov. I ask myself how Pellegrin ended up with Mangala and Otamendi in the first place and they didn’t come cheap!

Let’s be honest Otamendi will not get game time in the centre of the defence for any of the top 6 teams. His anticipation is pants and he spends so much time diving in tackles and not reading the game, also let’s not forget his penchant to play act instead of getting on with things. City have never looked a solid outfit in the centre of defence without Kompany and it was the same in the Mancini and Pellegrini eras. City have got to make a decision on Kompany’s fitness issues and his replacement, only when that is sorted will Stones begin to find his feet and comfort in the centre of City’s defence. I think it’s asking a lot to expect a young centre back to be the calming influence in that deer in headlights City defence who are very easily spooked at the moment. That back four consisting of Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy and Sagna is spent and with a keeper that is battling confidence adapting to the PL Stones was always going to have problems playing the way he plays under Pep.

Stones is not your typical English defender known for their no nonsense displays usually summed up as ; kicking the ball to row Z, dangerous tackles interpreted as crunching or full blooded, leaving your foot in to let your opponent know you are there, jumping in front of shots, head bandage wearing with a bit of blood, chest banging aka showing passion, the list goes. He doesn’t come across as one of this type so he isn’t going to be the cup of tea of many English fans and pundits. Giving the right partner in the centre of defence in the mould and calibre of Kompany Stones will come good.

Return of the Old Arsenal

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his team's second and winning goal against Arsenal Photo credit OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his team’s second and winning goal against Arsenal
Photo credit OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

I have just finished watching the City Arsenal game at the Etihad and can’t say I have seen a poorer Arsenal second half performance than what I have just watched in a long time, it’s like they all stayed in the dressing room after half time. I was chatting to a friend over in the middle east during the game and he was saying the losses have coincided with Mustafi’s absence, which I agreed with to a point but his absence can’t be responsible for the lack of bravery from Arsenal and how they fell apart like a two dollar suitcase. There were so many bad displays in that half if I listed them this would end up being a very very long blog.

I spotted a similarity in the loss at Everton and today’s loss at the Etihad; once the pressure and aggression was ramped up by Everton and City today the Arsenal boys went hiding, they weren’t brave and didn’t fight, Coquelin looked like he was alone in the midfield as Granit Xhaka couldn’t manage with the pace. I am here listening to Thiery and Graham discussing both goals being offiside or not on Skysports and honestly that’s not the issue if you ask me. Arsenal taking anything away from this game would have certainly masked the mental deficiencies in this team and I don’t know how Arsene fixes that. They were second to everything all over the park in that second half, and there can be no excuse for physically dropping off because of the Champions league participation as Arsene is trying to imply in his post match conference referring to playing Basel in CL before these away games because City too have been involved in the Champions league.
I can’t say I am surprised because over the years and being an Arsenal fan who has been scarred so many times you know Arsenal have these kind of performances in their locker but a part of me was hoping it was a thing of the past. You can’t always win but you have to leave everything on the pitch and I can’t say I saw that today, they left it all in the dressing room at half time it seems.

I try not to join the angry brigade and doom sayers after a loss or two especially when it comes to Arsenal, proclaiming the season is over but honestly where does the team go from here after losing both games in very similar circumstances? The manner in which they lost both games is familiar like every season since the invincibles and it seems to me the old fragile Arsenal tag will continue lurk around Arsene’s present team regardless of winning streaks and continuously ending up with nothing, until he himself sees it as an issue that needs to be addressed and fast.

 

 

Mourinho’s Cowardly Defence of United Fans

Fellaini and Jose Mourinho Getty Images
Fellaini and Jose Mourinho Getty Images

Yesterday Jose secured his first League win at Old Trafford in a while and this time 1 goal managed to do it against Spurs. Just like last week Marouane Fellaini came on as a late substitute with United leading 1 0 and some United fans felt it was justified to boo him, which was cowardly in every way.
Fellaini doesn’t select himself to be on the bench neither does he sub himself into the game, the manager does that, their anger should have been directed at the manager and not Marouane. Then you had Jose at the end of the match justifying the boos from those sets of fans which in my opinion is also cowardly as it comes across he wants to be on the good side of these fans, I can’t see Sir Alex justifying his substitute being booed in any way. At no time should a manager justify the booing of his players especially when one is singled out for being called upon by the manager and I am amazed that he took that stance. In essence he is defending people who are second guessing his judgement instead of his player who he expects to run through brick walls for him. I hope the Fellaini dude is alright because no one deserves that from their fans or manager.

Klopp and Pep are finding our that no matter how fast and furious your play is, if you don’t have a good goalkeeper and defence it will bite you in the bum now and again . Pep set up in a suicide manner against Leicester without his best striker or centre half pairing and he deserved that result, that was totally self inflicted in every way.  De Gea and Cech together in goal would have struggled with that set up in front of them. As for Klopp and Karius I like to think he is still settling in, I mean De Gea had problems adjusting in the beginning so I will still give him some time. After the weekend results Liverpool, City and Spurs are doing their very best to drag United back in.

Finally Arsene and his  boys came back from a goal to beat Stoke and Bellerin is so good for Walcott they work a treat down that right side. It was also great to see three different goal scorers without Sanchez’s name on the score sheet, means goals goals from everywhere in the team. It’s that time of the year when football comes quick as it’s mid-week games week, Everton away is next. That reminds me sort out the fantasy league, catch you guys later in the week.

Sanchez proving Arsene right

Alexis doing damage at West Ham
Alexis doing damage at West Ham

Arsene was ridiculed in some quarters earlier in the season for making Sanchez a striker, most interpreted it as him not wanting to splash the cash especially by that Morgan dude who never ceases to let us know at the slightest opportunity that he has Arsenal shares. This weekend Sanchez more than Justified Arsene’s decision to play him upfront as he has been doing most of the season scoring goals. His all-round performance against West Ham together with the hattrick was a thing to behold, and when you see tweets like this from one of Arsene’s most annoying antagonist, yes that Morgan dude again;

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One is  grateful he has absolutely nothing to do with footballing decisions at any club let alone Arsenal. To think he ever thought Fellaini was world class???
Whatever it takes to keep Sanchez Arsene do it! The Ox had a good game, if he can get his decision making better he will be one heck of a player. Coquelin continues to impress me in the middle and with Cazorla needing surgery I still believe Wilshere was hasty going to Bournemouth where he has been ordinary. All in all a good weekend for the boys in red, they still remain unbeaten in the Premier League and now lie second behind Chelsea.
 Chelsea continue to surmount every obstacle before them, City being the latest one scaled. It’s now 8 straight wins, bagging 24 points in the process which has rocketed them to the top of the table.  Conte has got it right and with no European distractions I think they will take some stopping.
Meanwhile the former “special one” has now become the drawing one, the 1-1 one or the fighty one as I call him is still making excuses all over the place with another draw at the weekend, it’s his default position as long as they continue to draw. When they begin to win he will start taking responsibility. It’s Spurs next week at Old Trafford and I am thinking those consecutive draws could be interrupted by a loss with Pochettino  coming into town.
My fantasy league has been infused with a bit of Jose magic it seems and I have stalled the last two weeks, the West Bromwich trio in my team worked a treat the other week though.
Congrats to Gareth Southgate on his England appointment and I hope the British media, fans, the FA and everyone concerned gives him time and let him do his job.