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16.4.14
Arsenal V West Ham - Gunners spike Hammers


First things first, it's always a great pleasure to beat a team managed by Thugster in Chief, Sam Allardyce. No matter how poorly regarded Arsene Wenger might be by sections of Arsenal supporters, he is still streets ahead in the popularity stakes in relation to the low esteem in which Allardyce is held by the majority of West Ham supporters. Brought up on teams that, from the mid-1950’s looked to continental Europe for inspiration, training generations of young footballers that passing the ball on the floor was the only way to play the game, West Ham fans must be spitting blood having to pay to watch the football this troglodyte turns out. He’s lucky that the porn baron and knicker seller that he reports to are equally dismissive of West Ham’s traditions. Surely if the Cearns family were still in charge, he’d be facing the exit door? More likely, he’d never have been hired in the first place. Sam if your own supporters boo you when you lose it’s not good, but when they boo you after you’ve won?
 
 
The game itself was predictable. When Arsenal score first in a game it’s a case of okay! When Arsenal concede first, it’s a case of oh no! Characteristically, we were far too open in the first 20 minutes and hadn’t set up to counter West Ham’s (very obvious) tactic of using their wide men with an inevitable diagonal cross to Andy Carroll, who fortunately for Arsenal, looked every inch the cart-horse he has become. Surely this isn’t the same player who scored against us in a Newcastle shirt three and a half years ago and who led the line brilliantly that day? Kim Kallstrom looks like a player, he reads the game and it was interesting that it was he who used his positioning to alter the shape of the midfield, as opposed to the established players, Arteta and Rosicky. I’m a big Tomas Rosicky supporter but he let himself down last night, specifically when he gave the ball away very carelessly and then reacted by kicking out and getting booked – stupid.
 
I’m starting to get the impression that we have become a “mood team”. Consider the performance of Santi Cazorla. I’m with Charlie Nicholas on this; he has gone missing from whole matches and rarely delivers the quality he threatens to. Last night, in the 24th minute, he collects the ball, with a delightful change of feet, loses two markers and slips the ball into the area for the non-existent Giroud (more of him later) to run onto. Santi, now in a stare of high gudgeon, decides that he will actually turn in a shift which eventually results in a great through ball to Podolski for the equaliser. Fortunately for us, the “mood” improved in the second half when Arsenal scored early enough to remember that they are a far better team than West Ham and decided to give them a football lesson. What would have happened if the score at half time had been 1-0 to West Ham?
 
 

 
What Cazorla’s performance also underlines is that it’s not just the manager who is desperate to play in the Champions League.
 
We have four league games left and an FA Cup Final, surely the manager has to swallow the inevitable and play Podolski. He is unlikely to track back and is one dimensional, but when that one dimension comprises making good runs into the box with a hammer of a left foot able to smash the ball past the best goal keepers – play him. Giroud on the other hand is increasingly looking like a stodgy version of Mark Viduka – just not good enough, play him too and then sell him in the summer. Good to see Aaron Ramsey having such a positive impact on the game however, his header for Podolski's second was superb.
 
On the topic of signings, I thought that the best player on the night was Matt Jarvis. He’s exactly the type of player that our polymath manager would never consider signing – far too conventionally English premiership. He looked very sharp, ran the line very well, worked hard and crossed the ball brilliantly.
 
Finally, I’d like to comment on the Hillsborough Commemoration Service yesterday. It was nicely done, very Liverpool and I can’t be the only football supporter who is wondering how many more layers of depth and quality does Roberto Martinez have?




By Ian Byrne
Follow me @RightAtTheEnd, I’ll follow you back.

 
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10.4.14
Arsenal V Wigan Athletic - The most important game of the season, but to who?

On Saturday at seven minutes past five, we will kick off against Wigan Athletic, the current FA Cup holders but a team playing in the second division of English football. I think it’s very important to remember that it’s also been chosen as the day to mark the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough. The FA’s idea of a minute’s silence at six minutes past the hour, followed immediately by the start of the match is both apt and sensitive; let’s hope it’s observed impeccably.



For a club like Arsenal, going 9 years without a trophy is ridiculous. If we beat Wigan, we’ll play either Hull City or Sheffield United in the final, it’s almost too easy. However, straight away, I’m concerned that we have a home game against West ham three days later. The Champions League is Wenger’s Holy Grail; I have two conflicting thoughts on the Wenger era since 2005. Firstly, that no other manager in the world could have kept Arsenal in the Champions League year after year, but secondly, through his desire to win this trophy, he has sacrificed Arsenal’s ability to win other trophies at the altar of this elusive competition.

 
The manager has already stated that Fabianski will start in goal, but news that Aaron Ramsey will also start the game, isn’t necessarily a sign that we will be fielding the strongest team available – he might feel that Ramsey needs another game in his legs before the real challenge, finishing forth (again….) I am also suspicious when I read reports that Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs and Rosicky might be out injured, this starts to look like a continuation of the Wenger strategy of relegating the FA Cup and prioritising (pre) qualification for the Champions League.

 

I would go further; this has been the centre of Wenger’s seasonal planning and execution for so long, that we have acclimatised to this approach and accept it far too readily. Have a look at the teams in the Europa League quarter finals this evening and ask yourself, how many would we beat? I think three out of the eight. This necessarily shines a highly critical light on our manager and beggars the question as to what conversations actually take place between him and the board about targets set at the start of the season? Does anyone on the board have the backbone to insist that the club’s long suffering supporters are being asked (yet again) to fork out increasing amounts of cash for yet another repetition of the last season, and the one before that and so on….The reality is that not only do we need a new manager, we need to seriously ask questions of the board and most of all, our absent owner.

 
This is how a Wigan season ticket holder sees Saturday, Dean Goodfellow has been a regular at the DW Stadium for almost ten years:
 
"Tomorrow literally depends on which team he plays, typically he has been making between 4-5 changes a game! The general defence/midfield spine has remained the same though: Ramis/Boyce at the back, McArthur/Gomez in midfield with McManaman or Mclean wide and generally alternating games/halves.  
Up front I think he will play Fortune (not great) or he could plump for Powell (on loan) from United as Maynard is cup tied. Powell is a bit of a glory boy but is an undoubted talent at Championship level (Rosler plays him as a bit part player, not sure why). He also plays in midfield, supporting the front man so that could be an option (I would personally put him up front).
Ones to look out for:
 ·         McArthur (my man of the season) 150% commitment to the cause, Wigan just don’t look the same side without him. Didn’t play the 1st half against Millwall on Tuesday night and it was a shocking performance, he came on at the start of the 2nd and there was a noticeable difference.
·         McManaman or Mclean both wide men with pace in attack, not scared to run at defenders.
·         Boyce the fans favourite (150% every week)
·         Ramis solid and never panics! Even though he was about to jump ship twice in January but failed both medicals – he’s doing great for a crock.
 One who could make a difference is Gomez, it depends on which Jordi turns up though – he will either flourish or flounder. Maloney off the bench could make a difference but has only had one comeback game."

Nevertheless, any Arsenal team should beat Wigan Athletic. They played brilliantly to win the FA Cup last year, but they were relegated and sold three of their best footballers. I’d be keen to see Ramsey play alongside Kim Kallstrom. Wembley is a big pitch, similar to the dimensions of the pitch at The Emirates. Flamini is suspended; Arteta looks cooked, rest him for Tuesday night and try the Welshman and the Swede as a holding two, with Ramsey being encouraged to get forward when he can. He looked fresh when he came on against Everton, the only bright spot of the afternoon. My feeling is that since Giroud played out that comedy with that “model” before the away game at Anfield, his form has been in the khasi, but I would assume that he will feature up front and I would definitely start young Gnabry, his pace and directness will terrify Wigan. I also think that this game is nicely set for the recently disappointing Santi Cazorla. He owes his manager, and us, a game.

So let’s enjoy the afternoon, respect the occasion and demonstrate to the manager and the board how important the FA Cup is to us, the supporters, by raising the roof.

By Ian Byrne

 

Follow me @RightAtTheEnd, and I’ll follow you back.

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7.4.14
Arsène Wenger Has Gone Stale - Enough is Enough

Yesterday's pale imitation of an Arsenal team may represent the final straw for many supporters. I always believe that the performance in a game is what really counts and in most cases you get the result that you deserve.

Football is judged by the quality of its constituent parts, the away End at Goodison was packed yesterday afternoon, sold out weeks ago. The supporters are doing their bit, they turn up, not cheap getting to Liverpool and by the time you get back to London.....



I'm not sure what the average weekly wage is at Arsenal, I guess it's probably at least double the average yearly UK salary and footballers do a job they love, our manager is the most highly paid in the country, reputedly he earns £135,000 a week - preposterous. It's become very common that workers in the United Kingdom have a degree of performance related pay in their salary, the government is even introducing it for teachers, and in the old days (pre Premiership) that was how footballers managed to buy large five bedroom houses in leafy parts of Hertfordshire.

What would you award the Arsenal team for their dissolute, dis-organised display on Merseyside? I'd be demanding money off them. The fact that Wenger has lost his ability to put in place a tangible plan to beat the best sides in the premiership and seems unable to select the right combination of players and is totally inadequate when making changes during the game is a proven fact. If we beat Wigan on Saturday and then manage to beat either Hull City or Sheffield United in the final it isn't papering over the cracks. It's the very least we can expect - the fans deserve something. Did you see the grins on our player’s faces when Everton scored the second? Did you see Giroud totally back out of a 50/50 challenge against Gareth Barry?
 
 

Arsenal Football Club stands for something, since Herbert Chapman’s arrival at Highbury in the 1920’s, Arsenal has had the highest standards, we were very hard to beat, our players had nicknames like the Iron Man (Wilf Copping), I bet he’s spinning in his grave right now. When footballers like Frank McClintock are interviewed about the current Arsenal team, they seem almost flabbergasted as to how open the shape of the current team is. In a preview of yesterday’s match, I argued for three midfield players playing in a screen in front of the back four to provide a solid base, and then Wenger goes and picks Podolski? What has Alex Chamberlain done to offend the manager? He’s one of the most promising prospects in the English game and he knows how to tackle and defend, as well as having very potent attacking qualities, in short, perfect for an away game at Everton.

I have a huge degree of admiration for Arsene Wenger, all Arsenal supporters should, but a real quality in life is knowing when it’s time to say enough is enough. I’m not enjoying seeing him in post match interviews, you can see the pain in his eyes, and he’s struggling. But we shouldn’t take it out on him, he deserves better than that. However, he must see what’s so clear to the rest of us; he should step down after (hopefully) the FA Cup final.



There are some excellent coaches in the market, sadly, Martinez looks like he has a depth of credibility and class and won’t want to walk out on Everton, especially as he’s obviously building something very special there. Lots of supporters talk about Klopp, but I think he’s too much of a maverick for our board, I like the look of Pocchetino at Southampton and for a suggestion from left field, Glenn Hoddle is an excellent coach with a real point to prove.

Whoever takes over, it’s needs to be someone in their 30s or 40’s, management is a young man’s game these days and Arsenal need someone with the same innovative mind-set that Wenger brought to the club 18 years ago.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me @RightAtTheEnd and I’ll follow you back.
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5.4.14
Arsenal V Everton - Massive Game

Yet again Arsenal ind themselves in a fight for fourth spot. During the course of March, out of a possible 15 points, Arsenal have picked up 5. As a result, Arsenal are out of the title race and Everton's recent form, (five wins out of five) have put them bang in contention for a champion league qualification position. All in all, this makes tomorrow's game at Goodison Park crucial for both sides.

I must admit to a fondness for Everton FC, they are a real football club, they value their traditions and their fans and more than most have a claim to be a genuine people's club. Under Roberto Martinez, they have enjoyed a renaissance and play attractive football, a good passing team with craft and guile. They also have a powerful attacking line up (Lukaku in particular) and Naismith is vastly underestimated. Add to the mix that they have two of the best full backs in the English game (Seamus Coleman cost £60,000), Everton are a real threat. This game is made all the more interesting, as it also poses the question, whether or not Arsenal's opposition is being managed by Arsenal's next manager?



Currently, Arsenal have played 32 games and have 64 points, Everton have played a game less and have 60 points. If Arsenal avoid a loss, I believe they will go on to qualify for Europe's elite club competition relatively comfortably, the run in is soft, home games against West Ham, Newcastle United and West Brom with away visits to Norwich and Hull, whichever you look at it, the club should be able to accumulate 10 points from those fixtures, and 74 points would be sufficient to guarantee Champions League qualification.

However, should Arsenal lose to Everton, then my concern would be that our confidence, fragile at the best of times, might begin to falter and were we to drop points against West Ham, then things would look very different. Everton's run is definitely trickier; away games at Southampton, Hull and Sunderland and home games against an improving Manchester United side (if Mata plays), title chasing Manchester City and a Palace team fighting for their lives. Nevertheless, I can see them picking up 9 points from these matches which is why so much depends on tomorrow's game.



For Arsenal to get something from the game, and a draw would be a good result for us, it's vital that the team doesn't repeat the fundamental error of being too open at the outset of the game, as we did at Anfield and disastrously at the Bridge. Wenger should play Arteta, Flamini and Oxlade Chamberlain and for the first 20 minutes they should play as a holding three, I'd go for Cazorla and Rosicky (to my mind the best player at the club at the moment) supporting Giroud. I would assume that Gibbs won't be risked so Monreal will play at left back and against a physical, pacy outfit like Everton, Thomas Vermaelen should be an asset.

It will be great to have Aaron Ramsey back in the fold, this season, he is Arsenal's leading tackler, a worrying statistic bearing in mind that he hasn't played for three months! The manager compared him to Lampard at Friday's press conference, personally, I think that if he stays fit, he can be Arsenal's Bryan Robson, I think he's that good.



This game should have a draw written over it, we all know that Arsenal dislike lunchtime kick offs, but if they approach the game in the right manner and show the same defensive shape and discipline as they did at White Hart Lane, I think we can do it.

On a quick personal note, my ten year old wrote to Arsene Wenger earlier this week and within two days she received a reply from the man himself and a separate letter from his PA answering some of the questions she asked, as well as some club freebies. Despite the trials and tribulations the team puts us through, it's important to remember what a classy, quality club we all support.

By Ian Byrne

Follow me at @RightAtTheEnd and I'll follow you back.


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