Yesterday’s home game against Norwich, which was frustrating viewing, has been overshadowed by the ‘Time for Change’ protest. I’m going to jump straight in here and give my thoughts on the whole thing, whether some of you agree or disagree is totally your call.
The aim of the protest was to show the club’s owner and directors the discontent felt by the fans at how our club is now being run. It has now been 12 years since we have won the Premier League and every year we show promise, up until December/January, then capitulate with the same consistent failings.
When the owner comes out and states in a publication, “If you want to win championships then you would never get involved.” then clearly something is wrong. Try telling that to Roman Abramovich. It was clear from the outset that he only bought Arsenal FC for the investment, which yes it has paid off if he decides to sell, but at the fans expense. Prices have gone up, we pay the highest ticket fees in Europe for football that is no longer beautiful to watch or competing for titles. We have won two successive FA Cups in the last 9 years, which was a great achievement, but we should be competing on all fronts. Winning mentality stems from the top and it is clear we don’t have an owner with a winning mentality and settles for mediocrity. This trickles down into the board, who get richer every year, the manager, who has less pressure on him, and the players.
Stan ‘Silent’ Kroenke is also the first ever shareholder to take a dividend out of the club. He refused to speak to fellow shareholders at the AGM, which to me shows huge disrespect, and refused to explain what the annual £3 million “consultancy fees” were actually for. At least be honest and say it was a dividend rather than treat us like we are too stupid to understand.
The march before the match was one I did not fully agree with. You had grown men, and boys, targeting Wenger directly and wishing death upon him. This is just wrong, you do not wish death someone, especially one who brought us such great success during the first half of his employment. This is what the media will pick up on more rather than the real meaning of the protest as it makes for a more sensational headline and also makes us a laughing-stock.
The protest inside the stadium demonstrated how divided our fan base currently is and was met with a chorus of boos and chanting. Firstly, I think fans have a right to express their opinions and views openly, as long as it is not mindless abuse like the above example. It doesn’t matter if you pay £50 for a game, £1000-£3000 for a season ticket, own a £16000 share, we are all fans, we are all entitled to an equal opinion, we are the club, without fans the clubs are nothing.
When the A4 pieces of paper were held up I heard a lot of abuse being thrown at the people protesting e.g. “SUPPORT YOUR CLUB” and “SIT DOWN YOU C*NT”. The people who decided to take part in holding up the ‘Time for Change’ signs do support the club and they love the club, the reason they are protesting is because they care about how the club is being run and it hurts to see the decline from the high standard we used to have.
When the chanting started for “We love you Arsenal”, “Arsenal till I die” etc. the people holding up the signs were singing along as much as anyone as it’s the club they love. Now, when the “One Arsene Wenger” chant started, and the protesters of course did not join in, I felt a lot of people in the stadium didn’t quite understand the core reason behind it in the first place. As I’ve already stated it was to make the hierarchy at the club aware that the fans are fed up with how the club is run, a money leeching owner, lack of investment, poor performances and consistent failings. It was not designed to target Wenger or harass him out of the club but for the club as a whole to change their mentality.
One question I do have is why isn’t Ivan Gazidis getting questioned? Ultimately he is CEO of Arsenal and Wenger’s boss so why is he not being held accountable? He turns up to the fan group meetings and gives his spin and deflects questions left and right but isn’t being questioned on why he isn’t putting pressure on the manager or relaying back to the board the need to buck up ideas rather than increase social media marketing.
If people want to protest then they are entitled to, it is their right to express themselves. Before the game, after the game it’s all good but during the game I have a mixed opinion. There are two sides of the coin, you risk unsettling the players whilst we are still fighting for 2nd-4th but it is also when the protest will get the most attention as it is being televised. Either way the team always gets full support when they are on the pitch.
Was the protest a success? Yes and no. It has gained media coverage and awareness, which is a plus for those protesting. The negatives are that the media will twist it into a Wenger witch hunt and the fact only a handful of people took part. I’m sure there will be a lot more to come regarding protests in the future if nothing changes. I personally believe the board, especially Kroenke, won’t even bat an eyelid as long as people are still paying to sit in the stadium. Why would they care as long as the person holding up a piece of paper has paid them to do so.
As for the match, what is there to say? For some reason we started Giroud, who has no confidence and is out of form, and Ramsey. The game was crying out for pace and someone to run in behind the Norwich defence. Ramsey did his usual, slowed the game down, took too many touches and lost the ball. I’d much rather see Coquelin partner El Neny and allow the Egyptian to go box to box knowing he has cover behind.
Everyone was crying out for Welbeck to come on and inject some pace into the team, especially with how poor Giroud was again. When he did come on it was met with resounding boos as Iwobi made way for the England international. Wenger was then vindicated only 3 minutes later as Giroud and Welbeck combined to score the only goal of the match. Giroud then came alive after 60 minutes of falling over and losing headers. The whole team started to play football but we still let Norwich have chances and we have Petr Cech to thank for making some big saves.
There’s not much else to say about the match that hasn’t already been said over the last 4 months so I’ll leave it there.
Enjoy your bank holiday weekend if you don’t have t work!
Yesterday’s match has sparked all kinds of debates and what ifs, all because the actions (or non actions) of two men. The first is Diego Costa, a known bully, cry baby, wind up merchant and cheat. He loves to dish it out but as soon as he is touched in any way then he cries to the ref like a petulant child.
It started as soon as the third minute. The ‘hard man’ dived then waved an imaginary card to Mike Dean. I thought that behaviour had been clamped down on? I always thought if a player starts waving invisible cards to the ref then they should be booked themselves.
The main incident that sparked all the controversy yesterday involved three players. Koscielny was marking Costa, who put both his hands on his face then followed up with a wild swing. Koscielny, to his credit, did not rise to the bait of Costa’s antics but he was then chest bumped to the ground. Where was the referee to take control of the matter? Oh too busy imagining what headlines he could make for himself the next day.
Gabriel got involved, which we all loved to see, and confronted Diego Costa but then it went too far. Costa scratched Gabriel round the back of the neck, like a little girl would do, resulting in both players receiving a yellow card. I could understand both players getting booked for that incident but what about the entire build up and the fact Costa tried dismantle Koscielny’s face?
The next stage of the incident is where it demonstrated a lack of a leader in our team. Where was the captain or leaders on the pitch to take hold of Gabriel, move him away from the snide cheat and calm him down? Instead Gabriel let Costa’s games get inside his head which saw him receive a straight red for flicking out a boot. Silly behaviour. But in his reluctance to leave the pitch, Kurt Zouma grabbed Gabriel around the throat. Surely this is also a red card? Oh…and guess who was the first around the pathetic Mike Dean complaining and trying to get our players sent off? Cesc Fabregas, the player our fans gave a standing ovation to previously. He doesn’t give a monkey about your respect and every “fan” who stood and clapped him has no respect from me.
I feel our team are too nice and honest. If you know that Costa is on a yellow card and just evaded multiple sending off offences, with his head still hot, surely you’d get your players to rile him up for to retaliate back and get him sent off in turn? Nope our overly friendly team just got on with their game. It’s great to see one of our players finally stand up for another one but where was everyone else? Where was another player to back up Gabriel? Where was our leader to defuse the situation?
I don’t get how the linesman managed to see the flick of Gabriel’s boot but not the 4-5 incidents from a single player building up to it. Mike Dean is an incredibly incompetent referee and even Garth Crooks had some truthful words about him.
Mike Dean ruined what was a pretty even game up until that point. I thought we could come away from Stamford Bridge with a point until the melee unfolded and Mike Dean could not take charge of a situation and miss clear evidence of violent behaviour.
In the second half it got even worse. Santi Cazorla saw a second yellow for a late challenge on Fabgregas, who made the most of it (surprise surprise) but you couldn’t argue against it. Oh look, Diego Costa evaded yet another second yellow, or even a straight red, for flicking his boot out at Chamberlain. Not even a foul? Superb double standard Mike Dean….superb.
We did have a chance to equalise, before Hazard made it 2-0 in injury time, through Alexis Sanchez but he put it wide. I don’t know what has happened to the Chilean, he seems a shadow of the player he was last season. Ramsey also had a terrible game constantly giving the ball away.
The inevitable also happened during the first half. Coquelin went down clutching his knee and the physio had to come on to give him treatment. Hearts were in mouths as we knew this was going to happen eventually but just not this soon. Whispers are that he will be out for around 1-2 months so we now have to put up with old man Arteta in the holding role. I think the Spaniard is a great professional and a great man but on the pitch he is done as a top-level player.
I was also disappointed to see the players pat the Chelsea players on the back and shake their hands after the game. You would never have seen that during the Adams or Vieira era. As I said previously we are too nice and honest. How can they stomach congratulating them after what they did?
The blame for the state of our squad, now we have encountered the inevitable injuries to key players, can only lie with the board and Wenger for not reinforcing out squad. We all knew Coquelin needed cover but we didn’t buy anyone. I bet Schneiderlin for £25m is looking good now isn’t it. We all saw how we played with Arteta in that role against Zagreb.
Wenger had the following to say about the match:
“He can do what he wants, and he stays on. He will do same next week, and week after, and get away with it. In every game there’s aggravation, he gets away with it because referees are weak. We are also guilty because we reacted to it, but every time somebody touches him he goes down like he has been killed.
I wouldn’t like to be Mike Dean tonight, I can’t understand how he dealt with the situations. I am very disappointed by Mike Dean’s performance”
Can’t argue with Wenger’s comments but you can definitely argue the summer transfer policy and lack of cover in the squad. No striker, no one to rotate with out of form players, no one to cover Coquelin.
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After yet another predictable and uninspiring performance in the Champions League, against Zagreb, we jump back into Premier League today against Chelsea. As we know, Chelsea have just come lost back to back games and we were looking the more threatening team, but after the mid-week games it feels like they may have some confidence back.
I feel this game will go one of two ways. It will either be a game that neither team wishes to lose and will be content to sit, be patient and possibly play for a draw if they can’t nick a win. Or it will be an explosive game and goals will fly in from both sides.
We all have grown accustomed to Wenger’s traditional excuses when we lose and the ‘mental strength’ cliché but in yesterday’s press conference he said he will not use the tired from travelling excuse:
“Chelsea play as well and it is part of our job. I don’t think it will be a massive problem for us, but we will see. I think we have gone down the way where we have to accept that television decides when you are going to play. We have to accept that.”
After the baffling team selection against Zagreb we should be back to full force today. Petr Cech returns for his second match against his former club, replacing Ospina. Bellerin, Monreal and Ramsey will come back into the team. I know people complain about Ramsey on the right, I am one of them, but Wednesday’s performance by Chamberlain demonstrated why he has been played ahead of him. When he has an off day then Chamberlain gives the ball away far too much, but on his good day he is superb.
Wenger has also commented on Cech starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time:
I just want him to focus on this game and not be influenced by that. You can’t go there and wonder if you’re standing in the right goal or not. He is so experienced that I don’t need to talk to him about that. Our individual performances will be more important than what he knows. There is no massive secret in that.
I think Wenger will start Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s head is down and his confidence is shot. He has the French fans, Arsenal fans and the media on his back and it clearly showed on Wednesday that it is affecting him. But then if it was constantly being drilled into you that you are not good enough to lead the line for Arsenal from all angles, especially from Thierry Henry, then it will have a detrimental affect on your mindset.
The lineup I would love to see us play eventually would be:
But Theo Walcott only seems to want to play as striker currently which, in my opinion, is not his best position. He scores far more goals from coming inside from a wide position as there is more space to exploit and, most importantly, his back is not towards the goal. Of course you could swap Walcott out for Chamberlain but Walcott is the more established player at this moment in time.
I just hope we don’t kick-start Chelsea’s season with an embarrassing performance. Previous to the midweek game I would have thought we could win the game, and we still could, but currently I would take a draw before kick off. Let’s hope it is the former though.
We kick-start out Champions League campaign tonight away to Dinamo Zagreb. Let’s just hope we fare better than the two Manchester clubs last night. City has been shocking in Europe, I believe they have won 2 out of their last 11 Champions League matches. As for Manchester United, they bought PSV’s best player and still lost to them. You have to feel for Luke Shaw though, the guy just got over his weight issues and started making good strides in his game only to suffer a double fracture.
Speaking of injuries, there was news that Jack Wilshere will now be out for 3 months due to a hairline fracture of his fibula. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing as he is a player I enjoy watching, we all love him as he’s Arsenal through and through, but will he ever make it? Every time he starts making progress he suffers a lengthy lay off through injury.
Here are the comments from Wenger and, our captain, Arteta respectively:
“This kind of injury is not career-threatening. I am not a specialist, but this was just an accident. It is a bone injury. It is not linked with the injuries he had before.”
“He has an enormous talent and support from every department of the club, and from the players because we feel sorry for him. He has an amazing career ahead of him. We are responsible for putting that into his head every day and to not allow him to fall down because, at some stage, that is the danger; that he does not believe in himself or his body and he needs to trust himself.”
In regards to team news for tonight’s match, Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin did no travel and will be replaced by Mathieu Debuchy and probably Oxlade-Chamberlain. I suspect the players may have a slight niggle and the manager doesn’t want to risk them for the big game against Chelsea at the weekend. Will we see any other changes with this in mind? Will Gibbs get a rare start?
Let’s try to not make this difficult for ourselves again and finish second.
After the boring international break, which has never made sense to 3 games into the new season, we are back with the nitty gritty stuff. Today we play Stoke in a game that I would normally feel confident about but currently I am not too sure.
So far this season we have been creating chances for fun but we are just not finishing them. In my last post I spoke about this very issue, we seem to take our chances as if we know we will get another one. We need to take our chances as if we won’t get another one.
Stoke have made some very good signings lately and are starting to play better football rather than their long ball rough house antics, although they are still fairly physical but that’s part of the game. The fans need a pick me up as do the players and the only way for this to happen is with a good performance and a positive result.
Fans love players that try hard and put in a shift, it gives encouragement and starts chants which in turn lifts the players’ spirits and this leads to better performances, in theory.
Even though Giroud is in poor form, and his head is all over the place, I still expect him to start. He is a good focal point for our team and we lose a lot of impetus when he isn’t on the pitch as a target man. Wenger has been speaking about wanting goals from other players in the squad but we still need to be clinical in those moments.
“We will have to spread the goals through the squad. I think Giroud, Walcott and Alexis can get around 20 goals without any problem. Sometimes you have to trust your players and play them. I would rather have Ramsey 15, Ozil 15, Cazorla 10. Otherwise, if you have only one player who scores, when he is injured you don’t know who will score.”
The rest of the team picks itself.
Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Chamberlain, Alexis, Cazorla and Giroud.
Let’s have a confidence boosting performance and 3 points please.
There were many that were shocked when they saw Theo Walcott starting ahead of Oliver Giroud against Newcastle, but many were applauding the inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I know the game was extremely tough and we didn’t create too much but I believe it was the right squad 11 vs 11.
We had Laurent Koscielny back in central defence alongside Gabriel, two rather similar players but absolute warriors. Not long into the first half we should have had a penalty when Bellerin was brought down in the box by Newcastle newboy Thauvin. The only reasoning I can conceive as to why it wasn’t given is due to the referees line of vision being impaired.
Newcastle then opted to play rugby for the remainder of the first half with some ludicrous fouls in quick succession. Sissoko picked up a yellow for going studs first into Monreal’s shin, then not long after Mitrovic decided to do the same to Coquelin. He was shown an instant red card. The referee showing he was card happy in order to reduce the amount of dangerous challenges. This was not to be the last of it though, especially on Coquelin.
Our game plan was obvious, lure the Newcastle players out of position and play Theo in behind the defence, and utilise the pace of Alexis and Chamberlain outside him. This game plan went out the window when the red card was shown as it changed the entire dynamic of the game. Newcastle were going to sit deep with the objective to not lose and try to hit us on the counter if possible. This does not change the fact that we need a new striker, as in my opinion Theo Walcott is not a central striker. Walcott, in my mind, is an attacking wide man.
Frustration grew throughout the entire first half due to the fact we got the edge of the penalty area then either passed it sideways, backwards or just gave the ball away trying to thread it through 5-6 Newcastle players. Everyone knows that against a defensive 10 man team you need to be patient but we were trying the same thing over and over again with no positive outcome. There was a lack of drive, urgency and effort. We were trying to pull players out of position but we were playing far too slow to do so.
We eventually managed to go 1 nil up thanks to a deflected Chamberlain effort shortly into the second half. Then the game resorted back to more of the same of the first half. There was a great chance at the end for Giroud, when he came on, which saw him try to be too clever and lob Krul but it was an easy save. A top striker should be finishing that chance.
People were moaning that we lack creativity without Mesut Ozil but we managed to create 22 attempts at goal and 9 shots on target with the team that played. The problem is our finishing and ruthlessness in front of goal and converting those chances/efforts. We attack as if we know we will get another chance and it doesn’t really matter if we miss, which is totally the wrong attitude. If we want to be true title contenders then we need to be converting our chances. What if we don’t get another goal scoring opportunity in the game? What if we get a red card? Make the most of the chances and be ruthless, we lack that killer up front.
Here are Wenger’s comments after the match:
You play away from home, 11 against 10, and you know that they will play 15 yards deeper, you play 10 against nine in the final third, the crowd is behind their team which puts pressure on the referee, and then it’s very difficult. We didn’t find the space. They defended well and they’ve shown why they didn’t concede at Manchester United as well. We are happy to have the three points and to win 1-0.
On whether we will be active in the transfer window:
“We are open and we are in the transfer market. If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it. At the moment I don’t know if something will happen or not. We’re working on it, I’m not any more or less optimistic than I was last week. You always want more goalscorers, but it’s unpredictable.”
I really hope we do sign a player in a position that is lacking, such as a defensive midfielder or a striker. But be prepared for disappointment as you know how transfer windows are for us Gooners. It wouldn’t just be great for the squad but it would lift the fans and lift the squad morale.
After a below standard start to the season we head up to Newcastle, who have also not had the best of starts to the league. After this we head into the dreaded international period, where we seem to always pickup more injuries. Speaking of injuries, there is a rumour that Mesut Ozil, who has been one of our best players so far this season, is out for 6 weeks with an injury picked up in training. Whether this is true or not I do not know.
Team news ahead of today’s early kick off is that Per Mertesacker is still missing from the squad through illness but there is a chance Koscielny may make it. Do we risk playing Koscielny and Gabriel or do we continue with Chambers and Gabriel? I thought despite a shaky start in the first half against Liverpool the former Southampton player improved in the second half. Gabriel is just a warrior though and I have no worries about seeing his name on the team sheet.
Other than that I can’t see Wenger making many other changes. The one change everyone wants to see is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a start out wide instead of Ramsey. The dilemma this causes thought is that one of Ramsey or Cazorla has to be sacrificed, unless Ozil really is injured. Arsene Wenger loves to the trio of Cazorla, Coquelin and Ramsey behind the front 3.
A lot of hate is also coming Giroud’s way after a few ‘head in hands’ moments against Liverpool. I know we all want a shiny new world class striker but it is easier said than done. If we don’t do anything in the final days of the transfer window then we have to back the squad we have rather than turn against it, because frankly there is nothing else we or the club can do. We still have Welbeck to return to the squad who could bring a new dimension up front, he did well centrally last season whilst Giroud was out.
We need to start this game with intent, aggression and take control. If we can score early on and settle our nerves we can then force Newcastle to attack us and we create space in behind for Alexis to run into. Let’s get those 3 points today lads, hopefully sign 1 or 2 players we need then get through the international break unscathed.