Arsenal Fan Protest – Norwich Thoughts

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!

Manchester United v Arsenal preview: Can’t Afford to Lose

We go into this match after a very disappointing defeat to Swansea at home. As I said in the review of that match, let’s hope we have got the bad game out of the way and we will bounce back stronger looking to make amends.

I expect we’ll name an unchanged starting XI with the following:

Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil and Giroud.

I would be nice to have another appearance from Danny Welbeck from the bench but I am not sure if he has fully recovered from the knock he received. Jack Wilshere is available though, who I felt played well against Swansea.

Manchester United are without Wayne Rooney, supposedly, today who has always been a thorn in our side when he has played. We must take advantage of any weaknesses in their game we can as a loss is not acceptable today. A draw wouldn’t be too bad but obviously a win would put breathing space between us and Man Utd for third.

If we go into this game knowing how they played against us in the FA Cup and exploit the frailties shown in match, as well as taking note of several players’ antics, then we should be able to frustrate them and come away with the win.

Wenger had this to say about the match:

“To win at Old Trafford again would convince us that we have the strength and help us be stronger next season. We feel we have made progress. Only one thing shows you have made progress and that’s the continuity in your performances.

We want to bounce back from our defeat against Swansea and put in a good performance. Any positive result, a win or a draw would be great. Mathematically we can put distance between United and us in the top four and secure a top-three place.”

 

In other news, Wenger has also spoken about how Manchester United are chasing every player that he has been offered and will cause some issues in the transfer market with their massive expenditure.

“I expect Manchester United to be active in the transfer market,” Wenger told reporters. “Every player I am offered, Man Utd are already on his case! He[Louis van Gaal] has shown that he has the personality to be at a club of that size. We expect them to buy some strong players.”

 

Let’s get the win today boys and show our FA Cup victory over them was not a fluke. We can also ease the pressure of finishing top 3 with a victory today. COME ON YOU RIP ROARING GUNNERS!

Hull preview: Opinion on Giroud comments

It’s been an awfully long time since I last posted a blog but I am hoping to get some consistency going again. Tonight we take on Hull and if we take 3 points then we guarantee a top 4 position. It’s hard to see us not getting top 3 this year and I truly believe we will finish second.

I expect we’ll go into this match with pretty much the same squad as previous games. Debuchy is a doubt with a slight hamstring strain, Arteta and Chamberlain are still not ready. There is no real need for the manager to make changes to a winning formula. We are unbeaten in the league since February 7th.

Jack Wilshere has been included on the bench for the last couple of games and he may yet have a role to play in the final few games but it is hard to see how he will fit into the starting lineup. Our midfield has found their groove with the combative Coquelin, energetic Ramsey, precision of Ozil and the tricky Cazorla. If we buy the extra defensive midfielder in the summer, hopefully Schniederlin or Gungodan, then his chances of breaking back in are further shortened.

Arsene Wenger had this to say about Wilshere:

Every week he is stronger, he is getting back to the level now. This week was the first week he is sharp again. His strength is in the final third, offensively. That is where he really expresses his talent. It is difficult to get in this team, I don’t deny that. If you consider any individual case you can say you are sorry that he doesn’t play.

 

For everyone expecting us to go to Hull and turn them over, I personally think it may be a bit tighter as they are barely above the relegation zone, of course I could be wrong. I don’t mind what the score is as long as it is in our favour and we get the 3 points.

There has been a lot of commotion over Thierry Henry’s comments about Olivier Giroud lately and even Wenger has got involved. The legendary talisman said:

“I think they need to buy four players – they need that spine. They need a goalkeeper, they still need a center back, they still need a holding midfielder and, I’m afraid, they need a top, top quality striker to win this league again.”

 

Okay, I can accept we may need another goalkeeper, preferably Cech. Center back is questionable with Koscielny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel but would make sense if Mertesacker is nearing the end of his Arsenal career. Holding midfielder is a given. But to say Giroud is not a top quality striker and won’t win the league with him is a bit silly.

Giroud has scored 18 goals in 29 games this year and that is after missing 3 months at the start of the season. We were having to play Yaya Sanogo up front, before purchasing Danny Welbeck. He may not be ‘World Class’ but he is defintely more than capable and performs extremely well, not only as a goal scorer but as a focal point and holding the ball up to create chances.

Wenger had this to say about the matter:

“I think he’s wrong. I can accept that’s an opinion but the comment on Giroud was a bit more wrong. Especially because I heard the same thing being said about Nicolas Anelka, about Thierry Henry himself and about Robin Van Persie. And they all became world-class players themselves. It doesn’t cost to say that.

We know all the system now of the modern media, especially on TV. I know how it works. They push you to be controversial because they give you a lot of money. He’s paid for that.”

 

Let me know your opinions on Giroud in the comment section below and COME ON YOU RIP ROARING GUNNERS!

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Birthday double for Santi

How much did we need that emphatic win to lift the team and fans spirits? It will do wonders going into the Liverpool match next week. Especially lining up with an untested back four which turned out to be solid, bar the goal. Debuchy is very competent and centre back and will now hopefully allow us to have better defensive performances. I feel we have missed the Frenchman greatly.

So we lined up with the back four of Bellerin, who was outstanding, Mertesacker, Debuchy and Gibbs. I don’t think they really did much wrong all game apart from the goal we conceded. Mertesacker almost opened the scoring with his flick on from a corner. The midfield consisted of Chamberlain, Cazorla and Flamini. Whilst up front we had Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck.

Bellerin started the move for our first goal by making an interception, Giroud got the ball and fed it out wide to Alexis. It looked like he had over hit the pass and it was either going out or the opportunity had gone, but Alexis got an early cross in which was met by the head of Giroud, after he busted a gut to get in the box.

Only a few moments later we should have been 2-0 up. Welbeck ran into the box from the left and the Newcastle player tripped over his own feet, as Welbeck finished a cheeky little chip past the keeper. The referee deemed he had fouled the defender and disallowed it. At this point the fans in the stadium felt that this could come back to haunt us.

We got our second goal nine minutes into the second half courtesy of, the birthday boy, Santi Cazorla. The diminutive playmaker ran into the box and had every right to go over, and claim a penalty, but he stayed on his feet and chipped the ball past the keeper, who came running out, into the net. Cazorla has long been criticised with his lack of goalscoring but, as mentioned in a few blog posts ago, we play a different system without Wilshere and it suits him well.

We only had to wait four minutes for 3-0 as Bellerin charged down the right side and sent in a low cross towards the near post. Giroud was waiting and had a little stab at the ball, allowed it to roll over his foot, and hit the roof of the net. It was the sort of goal we grew accustomed to seeing RVP score over the years. You could feel the tension in the ground subside after that goal, as surely we couldn’t lose now.

Newcastle struck back, from a free kick, only five minutes after. Colback fired in a mid height cross and it was met by the head of Perez and it nestled into the far corner of Szczesny’s goal. I think Bellerin was the player who was supposed to be marking Perez and maybe a little bit of his inexperience was shown there. But other than that he provided great energy down the right hand side, especially when he ran pretty much the entire length of the pitch beating everyone.

Podolski and, the recently recalled, Coquelin came on to shore the game up and introduce some fresh legs. Whenever Podolski got the ball, no matter what location on the pitch he was, the crowd were hilariously shouting “shoot”. Going into the final minutes, Welbeck got brought down in the box and Santi Cazorla claimed the spot kick responsibility. He done a deft little chip straight down the middle to make it 4-1. Wenger then gave Maitland-Niles a few minutes to run about on the pitch before full time.

There was a lot of support for the manager during the match as “One Arsene Wenger” was belted out. It’s good to see the fans backing their manager and the team, showing it was just a minority of morons who were abusing the manager at Stoke. This doesn’t change my opinion, or plenty of others around me though, that he should heavily consider leaving at the end of the season if a top quality replacement is available.

Quick word on the referee, Lee Mason. He was awful. How Tiote got away with kicking Alexis in the stomach was bewildering. Colback got to take a free kick twice! He tried to play it short but the Newcastle player had wandered off and it was a free ball, so an Arsenal player decided to charge up the pitch but the ref pulled it back and give Colback a second chance. Welbeck’s disallowed goal should have been a goal. Luckily we won comfortably and we didn’t have the ‘referee cost us the game’ excuses come to the forefront.

There were some comments from Robbie Earle about how Cazorla scored his penalty. He claims it was disrespectful of him to score a panenka (that’s the name of the technique Cazorla used) against a young inexperienced keeper. So there is now a respectful and disrespectful way to score a penalty? Cazorla is paid good money to score and create goals, the keeper is on good money to prevent goals. How they score or save them doesn’t really matter as long as they do their job.

This is what Arsene Wenger had to say after the match:

Overall it was a dynamic game where defensively – despite the fact that we were depleted at the back – we were quite solid. Going forward we always looked dangerous. In the end we won in a convincing way. We scored four goals and that was needed. The response was strong after the Stoke City game and let’s go well over Christmas.

 

We now have a week to recover and face a poor Liverpool team.