Who wants to join the Arsenal substitution lottery?

I was at the Emirates on Wednesday to watch Arsenal’s superb dismantling of Basel, so superior were we that the 70th minute substitutions were more funny than tragic. 

My mate and I joked that they would be within 30 seconds either side of the 70 minute mark. We chortled and joked about Arsenes predictability, sat closer and closer to the edge of our seats as the removal of the joint threats up front to be replaced by the woeful Ox and Ever game Kieran Gibbs, also depleted our threat level considerably and there were a few close things before what should have been a laughing, triumphant stroll to the pub became a quiet, relieved one.

As the Burnley match unfolded, slowly and painfully, our superstar threats slowly extinguished by the game jobsworths in claret, I told ‘er indoors that there would be 2 substitutions, at exactly 70 minutes, Elnenny and the Woeful Ox, and even got the players to come off correct. That was at 46 minutes ! 

And it came to pass. Not at all funny this time.

Aside from the bloody obvious fact that the Woeful Ox should actually be earning sod all in the second division, the worst thing it did was to remove a level of threat, the pace of an admittedly below-par Iwobi, and the (obviously now vetoed) possibility of Xhaka taking a pot-shot from 30 yards. 

It will of course now go into the record books as an inspired substitution with, in the very last thirty seconds, the Woeful Ox blasting a ball all over the shop, but still getting a corner, then being a spectator to the ball, coming via Feo’s head, then in off Koscielny’s right foot and hand for an epic point earner from a far from inspiring performance.then the Woeful Ox wheeled away and tried to claim it. 

OK Tad, so what would you have done that was so different ? Well, I tell you what I would have done and I know that most will not like it one bit. I would have pulled Mesut Ozil aside at half time and said ” OK Sunshine, start playing like the money you are asking for or I will have you back on the bench. You have 10 minutes tops – disappear like you did against Basel and you can have a nice long bath”. Then taken him off after 50 mins, replaced by Elneny, moved Cazorla forward behind Sanchez, and told Elneny and Xhaka to fire off a few long range efforts to instil some doubt into Burnleys defensive plan.

And that is being polite. I would have taken him off at half time against Basel so that I would not have had to witness him walking around, head down, hugging the touch line, keeping his stats up by running into spaces where he could not possibly be tackled.

Any Last Requests Arsene?

Such is my dread of this fixture now that it has taken over from the Daleks as the best reason to hide behind the sofa. I could understand the growth of this paranoia if I were a younger man, one who hadn’t witnessed past glories in the Theatre of Screams. I was there for Wiltord’s winner for example, so although the disasters are now really building up, it wasn’t always so.

The Blogoshpere is today full of accusations and blame, as it always is and it is becoming irksome wading through the many feeds and links – sometimes the spelling and grammar of the leader gives warning that the author is probably a 12 year old in a shed in Botswana who saw the highlights on his mates mobile and in fact supports Barcelona and insight, although sometimes startling, is much more often sadly missing.  As a result I just read a few trusted commentators after important matches.

Today is interesting in that there is a real split in the blames camp. Wenger, Elneny, Ramsey, Cazorla’s injury, Alexis, Walcott, Jenkinson, Monreal and (gasp) Ozil all find themselves in the crosshairs.

So it is time for my go.

FIRING SQUAD READY………..PRESENT ARMS………

Step forward the guilty parties. Any last wishes Mr Wenger? (For Yes, I have at last decided after months of deliberation, it is clearly he) You want to say a few last words? OK, in deference to your long and honourable service I will allow you a last defence. So what happened ?

“I Er  thought we played very well, wiv er a great collective spirit, this squad is always surprising me with their spirit and er strength and Giroud goal was something we always expect because of er our great collective spirit”.

Actually Arsene, the nearest I saw to a collective spirit was akin to that which manifested first at the Alamo when the troops were surrounded, overrun and fighting for existence?

“Yes er, that is collective spirit of one sort, our collective spirit is er a different one, even if it sometimes looks like that, ours is built from oneness and zen and it shows our strength”

OK Arsene, I cannot see that is not going to go anywhere sane, so, I will take advantage of having your ear and ask WTF was that team selection? Elneny? Ramsey? Sanchez up front? No Xhaka? When I saw the team I shouted at the TV, what were you thinking? Why does Ramsey have to play at all, is he         a member of your family?  (Original censored..ed.)

The prisoner looks perplexed, brow furrowed:

“Look er…I pick players who have come back in the best shape from the international farce…er I mean..matches..and those who are in the best place to do the job, as I see it. Yesterday we must not lose. The collective spirit of this group of players is so strong that we can use any combination and er that was the right team on the day. We got a good point. Er  eee did not beat me . . I mean us”

Best team Arsene? Two of them were so far out of position that it was ludicrous !!

“Er, Um, Out of position ? Zer was nobody who was out of position?”

For Heavens Sake Arsene, Ramsey on the left wing? His real place is on the bench – At the Nou Camp ! He is a bloody liability at the moment, surely you can see that? Alexis as Centre Forward? He can terrorise lesser teams but he spent most of the match chatting to Coquelin he was so far withdrawn and his passing is too erratic to be trusted that far back.We didn’t manage a shot on target, the set up was farcical ! We had no attacking midfield, or forwards !

“Look Er, when you have a team with our amazing collective spirit who fight to the end we are always likely to score, we Er do not need to shoot all the time at the goal.  Do you understand the percentage of shots that miss the  er  goal,  whereas a pass back to Petr is so much more possessive? We need to keep the ball always because we have so much collective spirit and strength in this squad that the ball will find the goal on its own”

Give me strength. Arsene, we even made Shrek look good when he came on. But I digress. I have to know the following before we shoot you:

Why Ramsey at all ?    Why on the left wing?  We could have had both Sanchez and Groud instead?? And therefore, why Sanchez as centre forward, he can only do that role against shit teams and Giroud is actually rather good at it against most teams? Why do we consider Ozil as some sort of demi-god when he has never influenced a big match? Why use, then persevere, with a clearly fatigued and leaden-footed Elneny when the fearsome Xhaka, who would have been a thorn in the United midfield, is on the bench? Why, (despite the late cross) is the Ox still drawing an Arsenal pay check? Why can we not play at lunchtime? Why no substitutes before 70 mins for the millionth time, despite massive, visual shortcomings?

Arsene withers a scornful glare at his tormentor. Lesser men would be crushed, but not I.

Why Arsene? In Gods name WHY ??

“Listen, Er, you need to understand how modern football works, it is not all about the best payers… this squad never stops surprising me with their ability, professionalism and strength. Their collective spirt……

FIRE   !!

 

 

Theo Shines

Theo Shines.

Forgotten member of the Family, banished into exile after 10 years of frustrating performance to a forgotten backwater of the island of Ingerlund to live in shame with the wives and girlfriends whilst teaching the children to play hopscotch and organising shopping trips, between visits to the Tatoo parlour to preen his collection of replica prison ink and trips to the local Banco to check his continually growing balance, (the Family keep their promises in time-honoured fashion). It seemed only a matter of time before he would be disowned, cast-out into a West Side street gang to utilise as they pleased.

But then, just as the end for Shines appeared inevitable, the World turf war started. The old Don Woy  had been brutally removed. A package wrapped in brown paper, tied with brown string, arrived at his forward dugout during the Ingurlund and Iceland Saturday Staff  battle of 2015, containing a frozen fish and a sheet of paper. Head bowed, the resignation speech (for that is what was on the paper, not as he had hoped, Kerry Katonas phone number) which the Family had written for him clutched tightly in his hand, he eventually faced the baying pack of Paparazzi and in seconds, was no more.

The Family war council gathered and chose their new leader, a fearsome blunderbuss of a General, without finesse or sublety, but with a record of recovering lost causes and so Fat Sam’s Ingerlund reign began, keeping trusty veteran campaigner Pasta-Woofer Woonie as the campaign mascot and footstool. 

Woonie’s main claim to fame in recent years had been to use a Concrete, life-size (and weight) replica of himself standing in a withdrawn position in any battles whilst he tucked into platefuls of steaming lasagna and meatballs at Nonna’s Trattoria behind the lines.

Without explanation, or indeed without feeling the need to stoop to giving one, Fat Sam recalled Shines from exile. The papperazzi gasped – surely not? The same Fat Sam who demands loyalty to the ultimate sacrifice, struggle to the death in the face of adversity, brawn over brains, tactics akin to sledgehammers to the knees of skilful opposition? Why would he do this? Surely Emile Heskey is still a better bet ?
Fat Sam’s first battle with his hastily recruited Ingerlund troops is against the Slovak gang – Tough and organised, held firm against Woy’s Ingurlands troops in the last confrontation. Their leader, Shin Stamp Skittles, a fearsome fighter, devoid of all finesse he leads by example, hacking and clawing at Ingerlunds frustratingly stationary soldiers with impunity. Such immobile, clueless targets the simplest of victims.

An excruciating hour of dour, fruitless toil passes and suddenly the tides turn in Fat Sam’s favour as Skittles has to leave the battle, incapacitated by damage to his boot when executing a trademark blow. The Slovaks are surely weakened, exposed to attack.

With his usual distrust of depleting defences to increase his offensive options, Fat Sam dithers over tactical changes but eventually removes three of his less skilled and offensively aggressive soldiers and replaces them with Dilly Dally (heir to the massive Ally Pally Lasagne and Mobile Event Catering empire), a talented tactician with deft moves and petulant demeanour, Sick Note Sour Sledge, supremely fast and lethal when something isn’t broken or swollen and……Theo Shines.

And, to everyones surprise, in those remaining minutes, Theo created offensive opportunities galore, twice defended dangerous Slovak incursions and in fact, with Dally and Sour Sledge, he lifted the tempo of the whole  of the skirmish, put doubt in the minds of the Slovak defences, created freedom of movement for the skills of Andiamo Lollano and without doubt helped to significantly change the course of the conflict. 

Late in the day, the opposition defences finally crumbled under this newly invigorated attacking onslaught and territory was gained. Victory belonged to Fat Sam and his Ingurlund troops.

Over a post-battle glass of Grappa, the Generals opined that it was finally a job well done, tactical switches paid off, strategy triumphed, Fat SAMs reputation last-gasp bolstered. The late injection of new blood had won the day. Fat Sam’s faith in Dally, Sick Note and Shines had really paid off. Woonies stand-in had stood firm.

The Paparazzi, preparing to write stories of the Family’s continued decline even under Fat Sam had to change at least their headlines. I had to change mine. It was to be either the lacklustre  ‘Slovaks Stand Firm’ the predictable ‘Turf War Bore Draw’ or ‘Fat Sam worse than Woy’. The latter never really likely as I don’t swim very well, especially with fishes.

 However, after due reflection, I realised that there could be no choice. One headline was a given. And it is, unbelievably: 

‘THEO SHINES’

Merde Petr, Look at all those Indians…..

Last week, a BT Sport pundit used a phrase I have been championing for the last three years. “Sometimes the Arsenal back four must think they are at the Alamo”

This was said in defence of the performance of the admirably composed Holding and magnificent Koscielny and it was great to see the centre backs finally get some validation. On Arseblog the other day I recall the comment ‘ Arsenal have good defenders but do not defend well’ or similar.  It seems to have been a lifetime I have been seeing the wide open spaces of the midfield, normally manifesting around the 60 minute mark or thereabouts, leaving the beleaguered central ndefence to cope with a tide of attacks, rolling relentlessly towards them.

Remember this? Dortmund’s second goal at the Emirates two years ago in the 1-2 defeat? This is how we were situated as the ball broke out to the Dortmund right side on the halfway line,  moved on to the touchline, crossed, and the left side player was comletely unmarked to run in and score from a deep, flat delivery,  with Sagna our third most advanced of the 7 – yes 7, in the opposing half when the ball crossed the halfway line.

Dortmund Mikatarian Goal

It is heavy with irony that it is only now being recognised, shortly after Arsene is trying to fix it. Granit, Francis, Santiago, Mohamed, Jack all want to play in deep midfield. Only a couple of those are serious contenders of course, Santi and Jack want to so that they can run around less for reasons of age and injury avoidance respectively, but hey – its an availability list much longer than a year ago.

The one I have left out is Ramsey, who is so undisciplined and careless that regardless of talent I would chip in with Piers Morgan to pay his fare to Barcelona. You cover the flight Piers and I will stump up for the taxi. We would get great money at the moment after his storming performances against a couple of dreadful teams in Europe this summer.

Surely though, suddenly we have a wealth of deep midfielders, everything is at last alright  isn’t it?

Well, er yes, but, er, what happened in the second half against Liverpool and Watford?

Ah well, on those occasions they were fitter than us (by nearly half a match) !!  What !!!  Do me a favour Arsene for pity’s sake, we cannot be the only team in the Premiership who get fatigue that lasts as many weeks as it is useful as an excuse. Have you seen Theo’s stats against Liverpool in the second half?  Just 5 completed passes, zero crosses that had an effect, zero interceptions. What is his excuse, bad reaction to a new tattoo?? He didn’t have anything else to do all summer.

Wide open spaces appeared again against Liverpool and Watford that were horrible repetitions of previous weakness. Can any of us forget the Anderlecht match? I was behind our goal in the second half for that debacle and the Alamo wasn’t in it. I actually felt sorry for our back four as the attacks swept in unchallenged until the edge of our box. It has made  Per look slower, Laurent more rash, Sagna and now Bellerin tactically inept.

Are we not led to the conclusion that it is more about discipline, both personal and collective and mental fortitude – perhaps the training ground regime is too easy, perhaps Arsene is not harsh enough at any stage of the process, perhaps the money is too easy to earn at the Emirates, perhaps Arsenal profile the players badly when they decide whom to buy/keep/sell.

To look at the latest cause celebre, whilst I don’t consider that Joel Campbell is a great player, he puts in a full shift for his team, can shoot, pass, tackle, run and doesn’t disappear for the last 30 minutes, so why on earth is he gone and the likes of Walcott still with us?  Even the Ox is now nothing but a reputation? I accept I may be alone in not seeing what the fuss is with Iwobi, but he certainly fades badly.

Arsene has identified the problems: Xhaka and Elneny would not have been his usual style of targets in the past and the former should stiffen the spine. Lets see how Perez turns out – Vardyesque they say – so that should put some spike into the attack and dressing room if true.

If however, the postb half-time malaise continues even with them in situ, sorry Arsene, this will be your last throw of the Emirates dice, will it not?

 

Spurs more, Arsenal less?

I started this 10 minutes in. So the title may or may not come to pass.

The early exchanges bode badly for the Arse, but things slowly got a bit better and by twenty minutes we were creating small pockets of pressure. Hard to work out the problem areas – no real threat of course, that thankless task falling to a very eager Danny Welbeck, but, hard to fault his running.

The problem so far has been the obsession of creating triangles tight to either touch line,mwhich,mI have finally identified, is the reason why we have neither full backs nor midfield players where we actually need them most of the time. The result is usually a tighter and tighter triangle, closer and closer to the line, and eventually giving the ball away, sooner rather than later if Sanchez or Ramsey are involved.

By thirty minutes we have had a few scares, but worse, three bookings as we have the card happy ref himself. In truth though, anything starting positively goes either sideways or backwards, sometimes without alarm, often, one of the midfield trio is facing Ospina and gets mugged. Coquelin picks up a booking in exactly those circumstances.

And then the unbelievable happens. Welbeck breaks well, passes superbly across the box to Bellerin who passes poorly into the six yard box and a back heel by Ramsey not only works but goes in the goal. There is a God of miracles. 

We carve three more quick chances, Spurs are rocking, 5 minutes of being made to look like second division wannabes. As the BT man says, for a period, Arsenal have found their mojo. Half time and only one set of supporters are singing.
My half time cuppa hasn’t tasted that good since the Manure home demolition. Let’s hope Arsene has some tweaks to hold off the inevitable early surge in the next half.As it turns out, we start the half looking more relaxed than in recent weeks, and despite a flashing effort from Rose which Ospina has to make best of a swerving ball by parrying, the opening ten minutes shows a new dynamic – the Arse confident on the ball, probing and creating danger and, dare I say it, threat?

See, I shouldn’t say it, within seconds of typing the word, Coquelin makes a stupid tackle and because of an earlier stupid tackle, is sent off. Michael Oliver never needs more than a whiff of a fouls to book somebody, neither could was harmful, whatever happened to simple free kicks awarded for fouls, and bookings for dangerous fouls?

59 minutes and the equaliser comes in from a corner, no need to be under extra pressure at a corner but we were and it all went wrong. No surprise I suppose, but we are in deep water thanks to Coquelin, once again we turn attack into defeat.

61 minutes Kane scores brilliantly, helped by a lack of challenge and it is over. No point in writing any more. See y’all.

Manure. Oh Dear Lord

Well, here I am again. Half an hour in at Old Trafford, two goals down, Arsene shaking his head, Ramsey absent from his post, Walcott leaving Bellerin exposed time and again, Sanchez giving it away and, above all,  NO THREAT !

As the first goal went in I had just observed that the midfield for Arsenal was drifting into obscurity, led by Theo, encouraged by Ramsey, and huge holes were appearing in front of the back five. Hardly had the words left my lips when United strolled through the empty park and scored. And again.

If you have digested my earlier posts you will know what I think of Ramsey and his indiscipline. When he is having a purple patch it is bearable. When, as now, he cannot hit a barn door and forgets which shirt colour we are wearing, it is inexcusable. He is a prime example of being picked because of running statistics, because he is so awful in actual footballing performance that nobody sane could pick him. Arsene is apparently so sane that he earns £7.5 million + per year!

Almost unnoticed, even by the commentators,  Welbeck slips between two Manure defenders to guide a header past De Gea. Ozil has teased another low, flat kick into the mix and Manure declined en-masse to deal with it, the so-sharp looking Wellbeck again obliges.

How we can win this now, given the lifeline, Depends on how Wenger reacts at half time. Another ‘just keep going as we are Mes Braves’ and we will not win or draw. Changes please Arsene.
The second half, United drop deeper, protecting a lead and happy to copy Barca and counter-attack. The game slows, Arsenal stutter with the tempo, misplacing passes. Theo moves to the left, Mata follows him and continues the torment. Most clubs have the measure of Theo’s woosing out.

Giroud comes on for Theo.

As per script, Manure score on the counter. We attack, Manure run down to the other end, pass to the unmarked Herrera following in on the edge of the box, Koscielny guides the shot past Cech with his chest. A classic. Arsene shouts. I have no idea where Ramsey was, Coquelin was at his post and tried hard.

Almost beyond believability, we score again when Ozil completely Mishima a shot which bounces over De Gea !

Elneny replaces Coquelin. Not sure why him.

Ramsey hits somebody, Ref jumps in, melee of players. Thankfully, replays show Ramsey missed.

The game settles again, we misplace a plethora of passes, people getting played into hopeless situations and so on, at 78 minutes it is really hard to call who will score next. Giroud rises and is not close, but dominant. Manure take the 18 year old double scorer off, but keep the attacking balance with Januciek. Arsenal attack again and get a corner, the weight of attack is with us, but Ozil, as ever these days, fails to clear the first man, and again with the rebound and Manure counter-attack. The game stops and Welbeck, Ho has been sharp and aggressive, is replaced by Iwobi.

5 minutes of regular left and we attack an Ozil free kick, But Koscielny can’t get power into a well directed header. Sanchez attacks, but his touch is just not with him at the moment, and him getting the ball al out guarantees possession for Manure. Unfortunately Sanchez then gets involved in some comedy Manure time wasting and farce ensues. Sanchez then breaks down the left and can’t clear the first man. This is going to the wire, but only in terms of possession pressure. Our attacks fizzle out.

Ozil fouls somebody. That wastes some time – normally I would stand and applaud – oh hang on, it’s our time ! Wanker.

And there is the final whistle – 3-2 to Manure. I cannot recall a single Arsenal shot with the boot that reached the Manure goal except Ozil’s bouncing bomb. In fact, I cannot think of a shot really, never mind the goal. 

Here is a thought Arsene – tell them to FUCKING KICK THE THING !

Arsenal 0 Barcelona 2 : Threat? What threat?

The Great Producer in the Sky should sit back with a satisfied smile draw on a Havana and sip his interval champagne.

The whole production ran exactly to script, a tragedy interlaced with bitter comedy, the serial victims haplessly hunting down their next mugger.

No other team has ever boasted a forward line like Saurez, Neymar and Messi. So it is surely no disgrace to be beaten by them?  Of course it is not, they pose an individual and collective threat unparalleled in modern football. In contrast, the same positions were filled for Arsenal by Giroud and er, um, perm any two from Ozil, Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain,  Ramsey. Who individually and collectively can pose a lack of threat unparalleled in modern football.

Hang on a minute there – wasn’t Ramsey selected as one of the ‘holding midfield players’, what is he doing in with that lot? Well, yes, he was, but nobody ever seems to think to tell him what that actually means and he is normally to be found galloping  frantically back towards his own goal from the opposing penalty box, overtaking centre forward Giroud, hence his much-heralded, prodigious yet in reality under-productive ‘mileage’ every match. More of that to follow.

The first 45 minutes were quite a surprise. Arsenal compact in defence, terrier-like in challenge, hunting in packs across the midfield, breaking well, Arsene surely content at the execution of the battle plan as he cradled his half-time cuppa, despite two ominous chances to Barca on 46 minutes following woeful misplacement of a Hollywood pass by Ramsey (which was intended for a clearly lame and limping Ox !)

Regrettably, the two bigger chances to grab a lead had fallen to the same woefully out of form and confidence Oxlade-Chamberlain, (a dubious selection over the woefully out of form Walcott and the woefully out of his depth Campbell), the first on twenty minutes when he found himself centre of goal, ball at his feet and managed only a pathetic scuffed fluff of a shot into the arms of keeper with the whole goal at his mercy. The second, late on in the half, where his poor third touch, when clear on the right flank resulted in a loss of control, a collision, an injury and arms raised in despair from Ozil and Giroud, both centre stage and clear to his left.

Threat ? Well, not one shot flew fiercely towards the Barca goal, there had not been a hint of venom or aggression in the execution of the ‘finishing’. No save had been made, other than a grateful gathering of Ox’s scuffed effort.Petr Cech had been more active.
The Second Act, as with all good comic-tragedies, started with a comic thread. Oxlade-Chamberlain, felled when mis-controlling towards the end of the first half and having limped gratefully and painfully to the dressing room, then, to the amazement of most, limped back out again, walked painfully around for several minutes, dropped to one knee and waved, and Theo eventually organised himself and replaced him. The Ox walked slowly off looking a confused, defeated young man. There is much to do before he  can be considered a contender again, if ever. Time to cash in, Arsene. 

What ? Is our Physio so inept he cannot diagnose a crippled player in 15 minutes in the dressing room? Let’s bring in match pundit Jack Wilshere for a comment on that one. Is Arsene so unhappy with Walcott and Campbell that he only sees them as a last resort ?

Something about the game has changed, perhaps a slight Barca tweak, I cannot spot what, but we are not containing them quite so well, the game is a bit less controlled, their attacks a tad more direct.

Theo receives a nice pass, but the excitement is swiftly quashed as it transpires to be an instance of his now trademark offside positioning and timing. It is the last threat that he poses in a dire performance.

In the 59 th minute a period of pressure resulted in a fine effort from Giroud thwarted by a good save by   at the foot of his right post. On 64 mins the ball flies around the Barca box, the defence holds firm in response, the game is opening and still Arsenal are a more than equal participant.
70 minutes, still we press well but without any real direct threat and from a cross from right winger Bellerin, three passes and left winger Neymar, runs at the right full-back Mertesacker, slips Saurez clear to slip the ball past centre-half Monreal and Messi, completely unmarked on the right, scores. Simples.

The previous statement contains several incorrect statements – identify and discuss.

Mugged again. Borrusia, Monaco, Olympiakos, so many occasions. The BT pundit slows it down and pronounces ‘look at Ramsey and Coquelin – both in front of the ball – they should not leave Mertesacker exposed like that ‘. Of course they bloody shouldn’t  !  Our effing great big German has every right to be seething, as he clearly was post-match, because once again, the boss had given the holding midfield role to a player too undisciplined to execute it and another not experienced enough at this level to read the the danger.

The discipline starts to slip, Saurez hits a post, Sanchez displays his trademark goal-facing dispossessions, Ozil disappears, Ramsey fails to convert a half-chance – the ball falling to him these days just about guarantees that the goalie pulling a muscle taking the goal kick will be our only chance of any gain from it.

The final lunacy comes from our Arsene, when for reasons quite inexplicable, he brings Flamini on for Coquelin. A totally pointless substitution. Within 45 seconds Flamini trips Messi, the penalty flies straight and true.
Game Over. No hiding Arsene, the players make the errors of judgement, sure. But they have made them before over, and over, and over again.

Over to you Arsene.