One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

One life, one game, one team, one Invincibles (So far)

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Clive P Thoughts - Arsenal needs more Personality

I'm delighted that Clive has agreed to add his thoughts to this blog, he's well overdue for a wider audience, what follows will I hope be the first of many such pieces.

Wrong I know we should be focussing on this season, on Norwich and WBA but can’t help it. I am trying to wish away this season. I want third badly, so as a club we can start next season like Arsenal should.
We can see the green shoots of a real side. A team that is efficient, mentally tougher, and loyal and more in tune with each other spirit wise than any of the previous versions since 2004.
What can we do in money time? By that I mean April and May. When it gets real, what do we need to step up?
Traumatic time for Arsenal fans this week watching Chelsea, Bayern, and Barcelona and Real bestride the TV and leaving us all mentally exhausted and jealous. What games what professionalism, what personality shown by big players at big moments. That’s the key. When it gets tough its then I look at players, it’s then when stripped bare by nerves does your instinct kick in. The instinct to judge what you see and realise the gaps that are there - for us to succeed we need to mind those gaps.
Bayern Munich – A Brief Comparison
Watching Bayern a team with our Arsenal formation (4-3-3) they have a swagger and belief that they are a real big club. Used to winning, expected to win. They embrace the pressure.
-          Ribery, Robben and Gomes.
They bring a huge game presence.  They work so hard to get on the ball. They are fed early. Robben lives to shoot, Ribery the same. Sometimes they both stay wide, sometimes they swap sometimes they pair up for one two’s – What they show is game presence.
-           RVP, Theo and Gervihno
One of their best performances was v Udinese away. We were so balanced and dangerous but too often we underwhelm - Theo is timid (especially away), yet not too timid to ask for a 100k a week – he sees his main game to assist. If he wants to be a striker he needs to be more assertive and grab those moments. He lacks personality to take charge of a game. Great pace but I look for him to threaten in more ways than just running in behind. What if like Chelsea they defend deep? 

Gervihno I like but he is a support player. Flexible all round offensive player but weak mentally. Those who watched the ANC and saw him shy away from a penalty until it was so late that when his moment came he was frozen with fear and missed. I’m not sure he has recovered. Another ANC next year so we need more.
I know there is a cost differential and wages too between Bayern’s front men and ours, but if we want to win we need a front 3 that the world fears.  RVP is one Podolski seems like another. We need one more.
Centre Midfield
Bayern in centre midfield were functional. Gustavo tackled everything that moved but it was Kroos that surprised me. A young punchy ‘just give to me and I will keep it’ type player who again showed the personality under the biggest pressure to impact the game. Similar to Cesc.
This is where Arsenal has real potential – Wilshire, Arteta, Song and the Ox have it to win. I would add one more significant poster signing in M’Villa as he has real presence. He has a long and short pass. He bites in the challenge. He is like a Roy Keane but with more technique. At times he can look a little one paced then he explodes – is he worth £17m – not sure but spinal players don’t come cheap.
Talking of spinal players compare Neur to Schez. We know the big Pole has it. A bit more time becoming a man and just adding a touch more muscle and he will be even better. We will lose Mannone, Fabianski and Almunia so I do expect one serious keeper to arrive. Buckland from Birmingham is perfect. English, 23 and on the way up but used to English grounds and game tempo/physicality.
 Defensively we are improving but we need another CB. We need 3 top class CB’s and not be too worried about 1 not playing. Look at CFC. They are glad they have Cahill now. Depth is so key for multiple assaults on trophies. But our top 2 of Koz and TV are as good as any.
This is not meant to be an assault on our players – I love them all but it’s about what we need in money time. Some of this can be developed but some needs to be acquired. A team’s balance is fragile. Losing that balance, being caught light at the wrong moment - It affects the best.
Look at the goals Barcelona conceded v Real and CFC. Almost all in the left back channel. Would those goals been conceded if Abidal was present. Nope I don’t think so. Big player, big personality - big miss.
Arsenal needs this ingredient – Wenger has added some this season in Arteta, Yossi, and the return of TV. Players come and go but that ingredient of personality is a constant that if not there you will miss out.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Arsenal Pep Talk

Well we all know Pep Guardiola to be a brilliant coach. So should he at any point be seeking a challenge away from Spain then Arsenal would certainly appear to be the type of club to allow Guardiola to build a team that expresses itself in a manner to which Gooners have become accustomed. But how good is he and what has he done? Clearly he is not 100% perfect because he purchased Hleb amongst some of his weaker buys. Whether or not he could operate as a manager outside of Catalonia might also be another matter to consider. I'm certainly not saying he couldn't, but his experience to date has not been the broadest that a footballer and coach might have encountered. He's not entirely a one-club man but he's not very far off it.

Pep joined Barca in 1983 and was with the youths until he graduated and established a regular place in the first team aged just 20 winning La Ligue and European Cup under Cruyff. After 263 appearances in a Barca career which was not without injury problems he left Barca aged 30 and moved on to Italy in 2001 playing 71 games for Brescia and Roma where he also served a four month ban for testing positive to Nandrolone. His playing time in Italy seemingly included just 28 league matches and wasn't the happiest of times.

In 2003 he moved on to Qatar with the mighty Al-Alhia (Who?) and stayed till the 2005-6 season. Is it a coincidence that Qatar now sponsor Barca - I somehow doubt it. There was then a brief 6 months football in Mexico before retiring. By 2007 he was back in his beloved Catalonia coaching Barcelona B and it was not that long before he stepped up to the first team to replace Frank Rijkaard for the start of the 2008-9 season. The rest is history, but just how much of that history is down to the fact that most club teams tend to do quite well when they have the best player in the world playing for them? I put it to you that the worlds best teams are often been built around the worlds best players. Now I'm not saying he couldn't cut the mustard elsewhere but would he? Could he build a side without a Messi and could he handle the rigours of a league such as the Premiership in England where every game feels like a war zone. Sometimes twice a week.

Looking at his stats he has thus far spent 28 years in football. 23 of which have been with Barca. The rest have been in the over thirties semi retirement homes of Italy, Qatar and Mexico. The only thing those countries have in common is plenty of heat so its rather difficult to imagine him and his lovely tan at London Colney on a frosty February morning. Buts stranger things have happened. Like a French economics graduate arriving via Japan.

Brian @Gooner48

Friday, 27 April 2012

Three minutes that changed our entire season

Arsenal v Tottenham on 26th February 2012, kick off was at 1.30 p.m. So what happened between about 2.10 and 2.24 was pivotal to both North London Clubs' entire season.

Let's face it, if we're entirely honest, most of us would have settled for a 1-0 win, or even any sort of win before the game, some would have even settled for a draw pre-match. But as it turned out we slaughtered them after they'd gone 0-2 up. As local home derbies go this was one of the most enjoyable ever, if not the best ever. And I think I should know because I've seen nearly every Arsenal-Tottenham game since about 1962.

The Tiny Totts were at this time riding as high as they had done in the league for decades and you would have to suppose they were feeling pretty pleased with themselves - and why wouldn't they. Certainly their fans were, given that quite a few of them had probably never ever seen a League table with Spurs above the mighty Arsenal. And they were loving it, they were confident, brash and giving it large before the game, in fact they were 'Minding the Gap' for all it was worth. So we can imagine how they felt when they went two up in 34 minutes. Never mind that Saha got a lucky deflected goal and no matter that Monkey Boy had to dive for their penalty to make it two nil. They were two up and we all know that the scoreline is everything in a local derby.

As it happens they had been the better team for the first half-hour but we'd not played that badly. It only took another 6 minutes to make that point when a belligerent header by Sagna pulled us back into the game. But it was a tad more than that, the way he headed that ball spoke volumes. You could almost hear him as he headed home and what it said to me was 'We're not having this! We're The Arsenal and we don't lose to that mob from the wrong end of Seven Sisters'.

You know what happened next but what amazed me was just how Tottenham wilted, and retrospectively the pretty much one way traffic from that point onward was almost inevitable. They could have rallied but didn't, instead they absolutely wilted. Their fans wilted and 'Arry looked totally clueless. They were 1-2 up away from home and beating their deadliest rivals but despite that it was almost as if 60,000 plus fans knew the game was up.

It took all of three minutes for Robin to let them know that it was. Two minutes before half time a rampant Arsenal equalised with a sweet curler from van Persie and we the fans went apeshit. The tide had turned - big time. Were we all looking forward to the second half, you bet your Arse-nal we were. Were the Spuds fans in the South West corner full of trepidation? Well I'd imagine so and if they were aware of recent Arsenal-Tottenham outcomes they certainly ought to have seen the writing on the wall, the writing which said you really ought to change into brown shorts for the second half.

Just five minutes into the second half we had the lead thanks to that sweet deft touch from a seriously in form Rosicky. Game over. But a rampant Arsenal just larded on the agony with two more goals from Theo to put the icing on the cake and empty the away end. The atmosphere was stupendous because this game had been perfectly scripted. Winning 5-0 would have been just another 'so what' scenario, but trouncing the bar stewards after being 2 down was ultimately just so much more fun.

But now to the whole point of this particular blog. Did we or they at this point realise how devastating this result was to the Spurs season? Prior to visiting Ashburton the Tiny Totts had won 10, drawn 4 and lost just one of their previous 15 matches. An impressive run and more so when you consider that their only defeat in that time was by the odd goal in five away to Manchester City. Surely not even the most optimistic Gooner, and I'm usually one of them, realised what mental pain we'd inflicted. Just how totally devastated was the Tottenham psyche. There had on 34 minutes been set to trounce their most hated rivals. Instead we said bollocks to that, turned them over, chewed them up and spat them out. Being hit for 5 when you're having your best season for ages and your opponents are seemingly having their worst for quite some time seemed to totally knock them off the rails. I'd have thought they'd recover after a game or so but it just didn't happen. Won 3, drawn 4, lost 6 is how its gone for the Totts since then. They beat the mighty Stevenage and Bolton in the Cup and also beat Swansea, all at home. They've sunk from 3rd to 5th. The Totts are blaming it on Harry's possible England call but I'd much prefer to think it was us he wrecked their season.

Greavsy would tell you its a funny old game. Certainly was that day and I'm still laughing.

Brian @Gooner48

You may recognise the background photo on this website - this is not a coincidence it was chosen on the basis that Rosicky's goal has been the best part of the whole season for me, thus far. It was a fine goal as it happens and even though we've scored many better ones in 2011-12 that for me was by far the most enjoyable. Don't know about you but I went fecking mental when Tomas slotted home, as did all around me.

Ray Parlour

Ray Parlour was the type of player who always had a twinkle in his eye rather than his feet. An honest player in a workaholic sort of way who was as happy in central midfield as he was wide right. A player prepared to add a touch of steel and graft to the cause in a manner that exuded both reliability and tenacity. That said Ray could also turn on some driving runs, provide some powerful, if somewhat erratic shooting and more than the occasional killer ball. Above all however those fans who appreciated his value to our team loved him for his honest commitment on the pitch and his never-say-die spirit.

Described by Marc Overmars as 'Romford Pele', following one particular prolific dribble during training, the name stuck. As did 'Pizza Parlour' following an entertaining night out with Tony Adams that culminated in an incident involving a fire extinguisher and some upset customers in a Pizza Hut. Ray's disciplinary problems also included a run in with a Hong Kong taxi driver whilst on tour. And he possibly missed out on the '98 World Cup because Hoddle wasn't amused when he famously asked Eileen Drewery for a short back ’n’ sides.

Overshadowed as he was by the enormous talents of Vieira and Bergkamp playing along side him his style of play could never be described as cultured or expansive. Never a darling of the press Ray's shock of curly blond hair was however a regular feature in Arsenal sides for some 12 seasons of top grade football. Born in Romford in 1973 he came through our youth system to make his first team debut against Liverpool in 1992 where he conceded a penalty in a 2-0 defeat. Despite twelve Under 21 appearances for England he only acquired ten full international caps but gained an incredible medal collection with the Arsenal, including winners medals under both Graham and Wenger and of course not one but two prestigious doubles. You have to assume, from the evidence of his disciplinary record, that Ray didn't perhaps take football as seriously as he might until the arrival of Wenger who altered not only training methods and diets but also the attitude and drinking culture amongst the home grown lads in our squad.

Man-of-the-match in our 1998 Cup Final win over Newcastle it was Ray's superb through ball that put Anelka away for our second goal. This however was far from being the only major game in which Ray excelled. Who can forget his 'It's only Ray Parlour' moment at the Millennium Stadium where he silenced Chelsea with a memorable and absolutely stunning goal. Or his captaining our team in their 5-1 slaughter of Internazionale in the San Siro, or indeed his superb, if rare, hat trick at Werder Bremen.

Always an Arsenal favourite amongst those fans who understand football thanks to his honest graft on the field and also, one suspects, because of his early Jack-the-lad attitude off it. Ray's winning medals collection takes some beating: a League Cup in 1993, European Cup Winners Cup 1994, three FA Cups in 1998, 2002 & 2003 plus three League championships in 1998, 2002 & 2004. Ray Parlour will be remembered as the last player at Highbury happier with a pint than a prune juice, never a superstar but perhaps one of the most underrated and highly decorated players in Arsenal's history. 

Brian @Gooner48

This piece is one of a series about on the thirty-two Arsenal legends who can be seen on our Stadium's cores linked arm in arm. Ray was number 3 of 32 in the series which is still ongoing. This piece originally appeared in issue 204 of 'The Gooner' fanzine but has not previously appeared online - for further details of 'The Gooner' or its website, the very excellent Online Gooner go HERE. Back copies of The Gooner are available HERE.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


A new blog from a yet another new blogger, but not new to writing about The Arsenal. So if you recognise the handle you'll maybe have come across me in The Gooner Fanzine, on the Online Gooner or Arsenal World, maybe on the Arsenal Internet Mailing List. Or maybe on Twitter @Gooner48

Also appearing here you'll find the very worthy thoughts of Clive Palmer. On Twitter @Clivepafc

So far as I'm aware the photos sent me and the ones I've used on this blog are not copyright, but it's not always that easy to tell or check. So if you believe otherwise please do get in touch.