Sunday 13 August 2017

‘Ring Side’ Observations From The Arsenal Leicester Season Opener

What a cracker said most neutral fans.

Save my heart said Arsene Wenger and millions of genuine Arsenal fans around the world.

I wasn’t going to attend Friday night’s match but changed my mind at the last minute. I was at the stadium 3 seasons ago when Referee Anthony Taylor gifted Aston Villa 3 points at the season opener at The Emirates.

I watched helplessly on TV 2 seasons ago when Dimitri Payet introduced himself to the Premier League by defeating Arsenal in the season opener. I was back for more at the start of last season when injury misfortune again cost us 3 points as we lost to Liverpool in a game we looked very comfortable at the start and played poorly for 20 minutes in the 2nd half.

So this time around, I was going to sit it out. Not watch on telly or in the stadium. However like most addicts, I couldn’t resist. Off to the stadium I went. Stomach in knots. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink. Very tensed.

The match got off to a brilliant start. What a goal by Lacazette! He didn’t snatch at it, he steered and planted it. The boy learnt football properly. It is not a hobby. He is technically gifted and will display his technical bag of tricks many times during the match – close control, retrieving the ball in tackles, dribbles, crosses, scrapes etc. He has got it. A shame he is competing with Antoine Griezmann for a starting berth in the French national side.

Sadly Mesut Ozil gave away the ball in the lead up to the Leicester equalizer. Cech should have stayed home for the cross and Xhaka should have been more physical with Okazaki.

Again for Leicester’s second goal, we gave the ball away cheaply, this time by Xhaka but I blame Elneny. He gave Xhaka the proverbial hospital pass but as Xhaka’s handicap is his reliance on one foot, he probably couldn’t turn the other way, to recycle the ball away from that particular quadrant. Holding compounded that error by staying off Albrighton and allowing him deliver something of a perfect cross for Vardy to score. One of Monreal or Kolasinac should have been more physical with Vardy as well.  

Holding had a poor game as he gave one more ball away that almost resulted in a goal when Okazaki headed wide. I was of the opinion that Vardy body checking Holding was the start of Holding’s challenges during the game but it appears his game was more impacted by having to cover gaps left by Bellerin.

Holding will get better as a friend assured me last night on twitter. As Arsene Wenger said at a Football Writers Association Talkshop recently, he plays him consciously knowing it might cost him points but the end result is the development of a fantastic talent. Holding will come good. “YOU KNOW”

Our overall play was fantastic. Our win against Leicester at the end of last season was a turgid affair. This one was free flowing. We had many spells when we played champagne football. Heart racing, pulse raising, stomach sweeting stuff. As I said in my season preview, I dare any team to play openly with Arsenal. You will have your ‘Asses Handed Out To You’. Our play was so sweet I noticed Mo Elneny ball watching once, admiring the passage of play. Must have been an out of body experience for him. J

Looking at the match highlights again, I noticed Lacazette was aiming for goal in that touch before Kolasinac laid it on a plate for Danny boy. Lacazette will score many.   

For me Leicester’s 2nd and 3rd goals could probably be excused. I know people crap about poor set piece defending etc. but it happens, I think if we hadn’t given the first goal away, we could have won Friday’s match by a four goal margin or something.

I thought Xhaka apologizing for causing 2 of Leicester’s goal was very brave of him. He is a man’s man. A strong voice in the dressing room I will imagine. I was very impressed with his interview with the Arsenal in - house Media after the game. Impeccable command of the English language all in less than 13 months of arrival in England. Massive big up to him.

Then Arsene changed it. Brought in the big guns – Aaron & Ollie and changed formation. Someone on twitter said it was the 0 – 6 – 3 formation. Maybe it was 1 – 6 – 3 with Cech not needing to stay in his post and playing the Libero role of old.

Before then and at 10 minutes to go, I was almost heart broken but I felt for the club and Arsene more. Thinking that the club didn’t need this sort of negativity around it this season. We did the job by starting the game well and we have almost wrecked it unnecessarily.

Aaron & Ollie had other ideas though. It was a delightful cross from Lacazette that almost handed Aaron a goal from his first touch. Watch that move again and you see Matty James fore hand smashing Ramsey and that knock winded him a bit. It was what the Leicester players were doing all game, physically pulling players back, trying to maim Lacazette, tugging at Ollie’s shirt and that was exactly how they won the league. Foul Foul Foul! DIRTY! It is a big shame that referees allow this nonsense to continue.

Its not wrestling guys, it is a football match, only the goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands. At a point during the game, Ollie had to make it very clear to Harry Maguire that they are not mates.  One of those “ don’t touch me mate, keep your flipping hands to yourself”.

I noticed Alex Oxlade – Chamberlain’s frustration at some point after Theo came on. It appears Theo wasn’t given him a passing option and he was visibly irritated. The lack of option from Theo happened again not too long after this incident although there was no visible reaction from Oxlade the second time around. I wonder if there is a bit of history there. I dare say Theo has kept Ox – Chambo away from the flanks for a few years.   

The Lacazette dribble of 4 or was it 5 of the Leicester players just before the Giroud goal was sweet. Hopefully he is our key to unlocking those massed ranks / coaches / trailers / trucks parked in front of opponents goalposts.
Leicester fans appeared to be more vocal as away fans are usually. Those of us in the home end were no slouches either. Vardy’s 2nd goal appeared to suck the life out of us a bit but we actually found our voice before Ramsey’s equalizer. Singing when your team is not doing well is the stuff of legends and we Arsenal fans need to aspire to legendary status as we demand of our Team.

As for the Media highlighting negatives - Alexis sad face and not his happy face and Wenger’s body language when the boys were collectively trying to give all of  us heart attack. I say kudos to them. It obviously works for them. And guess why? Arsenal fans bite. Especially the 'WOE IS US' moaners. The media will satisfy the demand if it is out there. If it is not, they will soon stop. So it is in your hand genuine Arsenal fans.

Also the pundits wont stop bleating about the Ozil handball before one of our goal. You will expect sensible people to balance this out with the obvious  Ndidi handball / penalty incident. Sorry they only have eye for Ozil. If I was Ndidi I will be suing for discrimination.

I am somewhat invested in Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho & Alex Iwobi. I believe these 3 with a lot of the players in the age grade England squad are the future of my birth country, Nigeria’s football. People have commented how Ndidi was made to look ordinary, I think Arsenal made it so. They bypassed the middle and shifted it from flank to flank with several Hollywood style passes and Leicester too was pumping it straight to Albrighton and Mahrez. So I am not worried about Ndidi. Still a very good player in my assessment.

I did find it bizarre though that Shakespeare brought on Kelechi, an attacker at three all. It is well and good claiming some of the glory for the title winning season but the good and the great always know when a draw away at a Top 6 club is a very good point.

After all said and done, I think Arsene and the players know better than me, you, the pundits and even the legends of the game. I am only a passionate observer. Gary Neville retired from competitive football 6 and a half years ago, Jamie Carragher  retired a year or so after him. It will soon be 4 years since Thierry Henry retired. The game has changed, the nature of the players has changed.

Personally, moaning fans do my head in. As an individual, I am distraught that I have to breathe the same air and walk the same surface of the earth as murderers and child abusers. I feel the same away about sharing a passionate love of Arsenal with some who call themselves Arsenal fans. I wish I could do something drastic about both scenarios.

To the moaners, to all the ‘nothing is good for us’, HOW CAN YOU MOAN / COMPLAIN ABOUT GETTING 3 POINTS!!!!!!

I am perfectly happy with 37 more wins like Friday night. 

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