Sunday 20 November 2016

The Real Romford Pele & Arsenal @ OldTrafford

I have been reading Ray Parlour’s new book and the book makes me fall in love more with Arsenal football club, Arsene Wenger and Ray Parlour himself.

Ray comes across as your quintessential old school English / British / UK person. Honest and transparent to a fault while still maintaining his dignity and personal space. He openly acknowledges his fault, good fortune in life while making several salient points that true football fans need to read, understand and assimilate.

I’m not trying to canonise Ray or turn him into a saint of the church or to imply that everything he said he is the gospel but Ray has been there, he has done that and he has got the T-shirt. He understands how football works and he says some wonderfully profound things in his book.

Reading Ray’s book helped me adopt a much more Zen like approach to yesterday’s match. He was definite in his book on how football matches can go one way or the other based on small margins and that’s what many fans on all sides of the Arsene Wenger debate fail to grasp.

Small margins

6 points better than equivalent fixtures last season – ✔

6 points grabbed from ‘late minutes’ goals – 

Played not very well at OT and grabbed a point – 

Could have lost woefully at the Parc Des Prince but got a point – 

2 down away against a somewhat average team in Bulgaria & won  – ✔ check (hopefully you all remember drawing 3 - 3 with Anderlecht after leading 3 nil and losing to Zagreb and Olympiakos last season - pub sides from Belgium, Croatia and Greece respectively)

November is a terrible month for Arsenal in Wenger’s time but we are yet to lose –  

So please, people might want to miss me with some of their baseless outrage following yesterday’s match. The fact that 11 players in Arsenal jerseys are not trying their best to win a match is ludicrous to me. Yes their best might not be good enough to win the match or dominate but it was good enough to grab a precious point.

The media hail Jose Mourinho for going to potential Premier League title rivals and getting a point to ensure no advantage lost in the title race. Wenger does something potentially similar and the world is about to end. I can’t believe the lack of logic in that.

It was a very good point at Old Trafford for me. United always raise their game against Arsenal and they did yesterday. They have recently been at the end of a chastening loss to Arsenal and they and their manager are savvy enough not to play an open game with us.

Their game plan was designed to neutralize our game, on many occasions when we had the ball in their half, we faced two banks of four. Their plan was to win turnovers high up the pitch and to kick Arsenal players to prevent any counter attacks and they did it successfully. 

Going back to Ray’s book, I will suggest that the Arsenal fans who try to downgrade Wenger’s achievements as the Arsenal manager with the famous Back 4 / Back 5 of George Graham are downright mischievous. That team hadn’t won the Premier League for 7 years; Wenger changed it by winning the league in his 2nd season while prolonging the playing career of those legendary guys. It is remarkable going by what is in Ray’s books that Arsenal won anything in Arsene’s earlier days with all the changes he was implementing within the club, playing squad and with individual players.

Why anybody will want to then want to question such a manager’s player selection, in - game management and tactical preparations is beyond me. Just because you have watched footy for 20years or you have a vlog or a blog and you are a super fan or because you have plenty social media followers doesn’t make you know more about footy than the manager of a club side.

Arsene understands the psychological framework of his boys. For example, the club announced the Old Trafford Team Sheet yesterday with a caveat that they might have to withdraw Theo before kick off if a call came that his missus had gone into labour. For one minute and if you are a responsible person, just think if that was you and you genuinely love your missus.  You will have to be Buddha to be 100% concentrated on whatever you are doing. While torn between not letting your mates and manager down and been there with your wife.

Think about Alexis, you and I know he wasn’t 100% but still turned up in all sense of the phrase. He wasn’t vintage Alexis but he turned up. 

"Ozil was missing", "Jenkinson was that" and whoever it is that is the subject of your misdirected ire. Calm the F down. Yesterday and for me they all put in a 100% shift and a decent one for that matter.  Unbelievable. Same people that say it the result that matter all of a sudden quibbling about the result. 

The thought that Ozil wasn’t doing his best on the pitch in that game is moronic. He was playing against a manager who knows his game well and that sour faced manager deployed the personnel and tactics to stop Ozil playing his game. Ozil was also playing for a manager who went a bit ‘safety first’ yesterday. Have you tried driving your saloon car through a brick wall before. Please post the video of you doing your best while at it. 

For me, Arsene was right in his approach. He knew what resources he had and deployed them the way he did to get a respectable result. He is managing for a 38 game league season not for one weekend.

Arsenal fans looking for an education on football especially those with open minds should please read Ray Parlour’s book and understand the history of the club you support, understand one person's perspective of Arsene’s make up as a manager and Ray's take on the type of club you support.

Not every time, mindless Twitter meltdowns.

Sunday 6 November 2016

The 184th North London Derby

Tons of paper and ink & online space have been devoted to the North London Derby and I dare say will continue to be devoted to it. I can only apologize for adding mine to it.

The North London rivalry is real amongst fans. Pre match, Arsenal players have been especially keen to let everybody know that they get the importance of the derby game and the emotions fans invest into it.

The 184th North London Derby has come and gone with both sides settling for a point courtesy of 2 goals from the Spuds lads. I get that the Arsenal faithful are disappointed especially as Arsenal had the advantage on paper preceding this match. But chin up; you could be Tottenham fans whose team scores all the goals in a match and end up drawing. 

In my opinion, The Spuds came for a draw and got what they desired. I don’t buy the Pochettino is a great manager, brilliant manager, tactical manager narrative. He has won nowt and he has done nothing special in his 2 seasons at Tottenham and today. In with a chance of keeping the pressure on Leicester last season, they melted. Gifted the chance to finish above Arsenal for the first time in eternity, they lost by 5 goals to a relegated team.

Lesser teams than Tottenham play Arsenal with massed ranks and earn at least a point. Arsene has played 1 cup game against Pochettino’s Spuds and won. In fact, I make it that Pochettino is the inferior manager, he has ended up losing or drawing in the last 3 matches where he has taken the lead against Arsenal.  

As it stands, we are 2 points off top spot with inferior goal difference. The fact that we are in 4th place might hurt a bit because of the ribbing & trolling of opposing fans and some half brained football pundits. But you know what, it is 11 games in 38. Just under a 3rd of the season gone. There is still a lot of football to play.  

What is important, as I have always argued with friends, is to remain competitive as we approach the home strait. To be 2 or 3 points off the top spot in March or April will be fantastic coupled with solid performances leading up to that period. And also ensuring we don’t lose to anybody who will remotely be competing with us for the title.

Back to the 184th North London Derby, recent matches have tended to follow a pattern with Spuds appearing to and actually dominating on the day, taking the lead and Arsenal finding a way back into the match to share the spoils.    

On 27 September 2014 they took the lead via Chadli only to be pegged back by an Oxlade - Chamberlain goal

On 8 November 2015, they again took the lead via Harry Kane, only to drop points with that wonderful goal by Gibbs in the last few minutes of the match

On 5th March 2016, they were ahead and playing Arsenal’s 10 men, only to concede to a Sanchez leveler.

The one time we took the lead via Ozil in February 2015, we ended up losing perhaps deservedly so.

Today was different in my opinion. Our manager was the only one who wanted to win. The brilliant Pochettino was mightily satisfied with a point. As usual, their boys were mostly all brawn and vicious tackles and they would have been fortunate to finish with 9 men let alone 11.

Our boys wanted to win it too. None of the Arsenal players were in hiding today. They all fronted up. Yes we can pick up areas where players like Oxlade - Chamberlain & Iwobi could have done better. We can have a little moan about Koscielny not needing to tackle Dembele for that penalty, as Dembele was going nowhere. Overall, I am delighted with the boys especially on effort. In my opinion, all sorts of things influence football results. Referees are a big one, an unkind bounce of the ball and poor old lady luck are others. What matters is for the manager to put his best 11 forward, let them give their best and us fans cheer them to the rafters. Results usually follow.

So on to The Theater of Screams. Barring a freak incident, Ozil will be fresh for that match. I hope all our boys on international duty return in one piece. I hope Santi Cazorla has recovered in time too both for that match and the rest of the season. Bring on Salford United.