Let The Sprint For The Title Begin

A decade has passed since the untimely death of David Rocastle. Everyone has their own memories of him as a player and a man, some excellent ones are online. A player from a different era who had enough talent to have thrived in this one. Like Anders Limpar, you feel that a great player would have gone onto a higher level.

Perhaps the best tribute to him is on She Wore A Yellow Ribbon where there are details of an online auction or simply a charitable donation. Please support it if you can.

The Premier League restarts this weekend, relegation and title issues will be swayed bv the outcomes. The race for top spot is between three teams. Chelsea are being dismissed in some quarters but their run-in is the ‘easiest’ of the top three, a fixture list which ought to see them win a high proportion. The way that this season has gone, it means that they cannot be ruled out.

Arsenal and United both have fixtures where I would expect them to drop points, this Saturday may not be as straightforward a trip to Upton Park as the Mancunians have had in the past. Equally, Arsenal will probably be happy with a point at White Hart Lane.

Other fixtures that have potential banana skins for both sides are trips to Newcastle / Blackburn for the leaders, their inability to win a bigger number of away games a key reason for the tightness of this season’s title race whilst Arsenal travel to Bolton and Stoke, nemesis from previous campaigns but stadia which have been happy hunting grounds in recent times.

The key period is going to be the visit of Manchester United to Arsenal followed by their home encounter with Chelsea. It is not hard to see them taking one point from the two games. If they take more, it will be a tight finish.

Much will depend on the outcome of the Champions League tie between United and Chelsea. To be honest, I would quite happily see United win, it means that they would play twice a week for most of the rest of the season, particularly around a time when key domestic fixtures are scheduled.

The spread of points in the Premier League is also crucial. As it stands, 8 points separate 7th and 18th places. Realistically, that is too big a gap for Bolton and 8th placed Everton to be relegated but enough  to ensure that their seasons are not yet comfortable.

10th place downwards – Stoke are five points off the relegation places – looks at this moment to be the place where very nervous glances are cast at results. It means that all of the sides need a result at the moment. Some will rest easier over the coming weeks than others.

Fatigue and injury will be key. United’s squad does not have the depth that has been seen in the past; Arsenal are getting key players back to fitness at the right time.

That may not be as much of an issue as defensive concentration although the flak that has been flying around since The Hawthorns debacle should ensure focus and concentration is paramount. Almunia does tend to learn quickly, rarely making mistakes in consecutive games. That does not preclude a repetition in the future though.

Much is made of mental toughness, how United and Chelsea are stronger for the experience of having won titles and why this will not be Arsenal’s season. Equally as important is the knowledge of what losing feels like, motivating the players not to repeat the emptiness or sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

A challenging two months remains of the season. Hard work and a little luck might be enough to see the title return to Arsenal. My own view is that this will happen with between 1 and 3 points the gap to second place.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on March 31, 2011, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Nice one, YW. I think it will happen too.

  2. Totally agree with you on the first part. David Rocastle and Anders Limpar would have been world class under someone like Arsene Wenger, who would have given them the freedom to express themselves.

    It is very sad that someone so young should lose their life like that.

    I loved Rocky as a player and he was Arsenal through and through.

    RIP Rocky

  3. Limestonegunner

    I think we can do it. Every point will matter and you are right not to discount Chelsea as the gap between us is only four points. I think our run-in is the hardest but we can meet the challenge.

  4. As a younger Gunner it’s been great reading all the tributes this morning. It’s so rare that players connect with fans like he appears to have done so. Somebody to be cherished.

    http://www.arsenalisation.com

  5. My thoughts go out to the Rocastle family on such a day. May my voice join the chorus of rememberance. They and we shall honour the Rocastle name, the man himself, and ensure his lineage continues proudly.

  6. Limestonegunner

    OoU, thanks for your response late yesterday, which I wasn’t able to read until this morning. I found it very convincing. I think you are right that it is a more a matter of letting players have as long as possible to prove his faith in them since that is a part of his approach and philosophy as you emphasized. But there might still be other tactical considerations involved as well. And he does make substitutions, after all, so I suppose I wouldn’t represent his match tactics as “informed” by long-term considerations, since he does try to win every game we play. But rather as you say, his approach to showing faith in players, which is his general philosophy, is reflected in his willingness to give the player more time than other managers might give to justify that faith. Perhaps that is a rather fine distinction, since we basically seem to agree there. Your other points were also very well put and convincing, thanks!

  7. Yogi – all we have to do is win every game – then no-one can catch us! I know it is a big “all” but we can do it!

  8. Limestonegunner

    It looks like Dennis Bergkamp might be given a substantial role at Ajax with the changes taking place there.

    I didn’t get a very clear sense about what is happening there from the article I read except that the board disagrees with the recommendations Cruyff has made for changes. What these are and why they would resign rather than just not implement his recommendations or remove Cruyff is a mystery to me. Anyone have a good sense of this? Will this mean that we can’t bring Bergkamp to Arsenal–if he is interested in coaching, I’d rather we give him some role with us!

  9. Hello Yogi, I’ve boycotted the football media but, the last time I heard from them and the so called top pundits Arsenal wasn’t even mentioned regarding winning the EPL this season not since Chelsea won their last match. Since then it’s been “a two horse race due to the fact the Arsenal have a defence that isn’t up to it”. So they say and it’s very disrespectful to hear that but, I’m really hoping as always that we can prove them all wrong and win this.

    But, at the same time I don’t want to fall into that “We will prove them wrong” philosophy which I think has held Arsenal back by at least 2 seasons.

    What I’m saying is that I think a couple of additions that wouldn’t of broke the bank could of been added and at this point in time Arsenal would have been a minimum 6 points ahead of the pack with a Milk Cup in the cupboard.

    What do you think of the Per Mertesacker rumours? Personally I think it would be just what we need and a fantastic partner for Vermers when he gets back next season. Sorry but, unless they put in commanding performances and bring it home I will be chanting for new CBs. Squillachi, did as I asked the last time round and really put in a shift but, as he has time and time again Almunia undid it all.

    Will Wenger wait it out till the end of next season to hopefully say “I told you so”? Or will he get a Top Keeper and a CB and a 15/20 goal striker in?

  10. Loved Rocky and always will love Rocky.
    Does anybody know what happened to his younger brother who also used to play ? He was a decent player too.

    R.I.P. David. Never forgotten and Crofton Park still has your pictures up!
    Legend.

  11. 5 points behind with a game in hand, 9 games left – I would take that in any season.

    With Fab, Theo and Song hopefully fit to return and fingers crossed (toes too) for RvP we have a great chance.

    I just hope the players truly believe they can do it, because that is what will determine whether we end up Champions or not.

    No excuses, just stand tall, attack from the 1st minute and be clinical

  12. Limestone, I’d say it’s financial strategy they are arguing over at Ajax. If the club is in good financial position then it could be that Cruyff wants to sacrifice that for the pursuit of Champions League football and domestic glory. If they are in a bad financial position maybe he wants to cut back and the board don’t like it. Personally I’d assume it’s the first option, in which case I’d be wary too if I was the board.

  13. Unfortunately there are too many managers out there willing to sacrifice stability of a club in pursuit of their own legacy.

  14. If it turns out it’s the other way around my apologies to Cruyff.

    In fact Ajax aren’t all that well off currently so maybe he is pushing for a return to their youth system roots.

    “13 professional Dutch football clubs are listed as being in the financial danger zone and in need of supervision by the Dutch football authorities. They include Feyenoord while Ajax and PSV are clubs whose finances are said to be need of attention.”

  15. Goonerton, I’m not so sure. Basic requirements for a first-choice Arsenal CB seems to be speed and agility. We let Gallas and Toure go when they lost that extra yard of pace, both still excellent CBs. That’s why I’d be sceptical of the Mertesacker/Cahill/etc rumours.

  16. John if you come back the chavs/city/mancs games i was referring to are not this season’s games.the chav game is the one at stamford bridge where rvp dragged us back from 1 goal down to win 2-1.in that month we had lost 3/4 PL games.the mancs game was in 06/07 when he broke his foot to equalise against you in the 80th minute.the city game was last season in which he pulled us back with a goal out of nowhere to bring us level.also the barca goal was huge;you blame the goalie but refuse to give rvp credit whatsoever for scoring in such a tight angle when we were down.remember at Euro08 when he had just come back from injury?he was fantastic and made a huge impact for the dutch.say whatever you want about him but one thing am 100% certain is that rvp is a big game player.

  17. With regards the Ajax situation, they are all Dutch is all you need to know.

  18. Great blog, YW. Can’t wait to hear who’s available later. It would be such a lift if we get just one or two of those long-termers back.

    Thanks for the reply, LG. Yeah, “informed” might be a bit strong. Paying for those comments in workload today. Not ashamed to say that I’m gratified by the nice responses though!

  19. Thanks Yogi.

    RIP Rocky. Great to see so many heart warming tributes to the true Arsenal legend.

    Really looking forward to getting my fix of Arsenal this weekend. It’s been far too long… Not many teams can boast players of Song, Theo, Cesc and Robin’s quality coming back into the team at such a crucial stage. This will make a huge difference to our title aspriations. Not playing with the first 3 for the last few weeks was always going to have a big impact. They are top top quality starting players for us, and to still be where we are is a great achievement (oh, and without our first 2 GKs and CBs). For me, Song and Theo have actually been bigger losses than Cesc this time, and we will see a very different structure to our team when they’re back.

    Really can’t wait!

  20. I am proud to say that RIP Rocky was trending worldwide yesterday. So many tributes were coming in.

  21. Limestonegunner

    Markus, I read another article that says Cruyff wants six employees on high salary contracts fired, the manager given more responsibility, and some new roles for former players like Bergkamp. Perhaps there is more he is suggesting, but I do think you are on to something about the ambition to return to a higher level, because I remember that he was brought in with a remit to turn around their competitiveness in Europe and so on. But what I don’t understand is why directors would resign over the recommendations of a consultant they had brought in. It sounds like they don’t feel they can cross Cruyff, the Ajax legend.

    Anyway, this is an Arsenal blog, so I’ll leave it there.

  22. This is often an interesting Oranje blog…

    http://netherlands.worldcupblog.org/world-cup-2010/old-testament-goddictator-jc-wins.html

    …but beware many of the commenters detest RvP. The rivalry between Ajax and Feyenoord is so intense that any player with a ‘history’ in that feud is hated by the opposition fans.

  23. I remember Rocky Rocastle too. Exceptional player. 33 is no age to die. I like that we sing his name in celebration. No time to be maudlin.

  24. Limestonegunner

    Cheers OoU. Good luck with work.

  25. May 1990, last home game of the season against Southampton. 0 – 1 at half time. Richardson makes way for Rocky (George Graham swayed by the demands of the crowd) … an inspired performance sees him earning a penalty and scoring the winner. Boy’s own stuff. It was also the last time I went to see Arsenal with my Dad … so thanks to Rocky, when I think of my Dad at Highbury, he’s always smiling. You are a legend Rocky : RIP.

  26. Still so sad we lost him so early. So sad Graham sold him. We won’t ever forget you Rocky! RIP

  27. Yogi:

    Another nice post. Glad the interlull is almost over. Hope the prediction in the last sentence is right. I wish I had your confidence. I suspect our attack will return to better form with Cesc coming back. Fingers crossed that Squill/Kos/Manu and the whole back 6 can find good form. I see that as the key since we will have lots of deep lying defenders to deal with on the attacking 1/2 of the pitch. I am always happy with any win but on paper Blackburn should be the easiest game of our run in, so a comfortable win would be nice.

  28. OOU:

    Just had a chance to read your posts yesterday. Very well thought out. Thanks. When I was in the military the management style you describe for Arsene was called “touchy feely” as opposed to the structured taskmaster style. In my experience usually the players always love the former but sometimes perform better for the latter. Some may disagree but I think conventional wisdom would say that younger teams respond better to task master since they need that structure while more experienced teams can flourish under either style. Certainly the more experienced teams we had responded very well early in the Wenger years. Hopefully this group of players can get over the last mental humps and be as successful on the pitch as the teams from the first 1/2 of the Wenger years.

    With regards to our transfer activity, the points you make are certainly accurate and well said. Obviously none of us knows the true state of the clubs finances and we never will. Just my opinion but it feels like we could have done more to get over that last “mental hump”. Once we do that it becomes easier to have more and more success and integrating all the young players becomes easier. Lets see what happens the rest of this year and then we can debate this summer.

  29. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1371693/Gianluigi-Buffon-targeted-Arsenal.html

    Something to please Ole Gunner if true. Yes, I know it’s the Daily Mail, no quotes blah blah. But still, it’s interesting that he’d be available on a free (according to this).

  30. Yup.

    Anelka has been a revaltion since he left Arsenal.
    Henry. Who is he?
    Trezeguet? He didn’t even play for Arsenal.
    Uh, Fabregas? Huh?
    And to close the loop, how about little Jacky? He’s very immature.

  31. revalation even.

  32. Bob

    Any article that claims Lehmann was turned to as a solution to long-term goalkeeping problems is not worth the paper it is written on. Which is not much as it is the Daily Heil making the claims.

    YW

  33. Certainly given me the mental hump thats for sure

  34. Will always remember that goal at old trafford…. That funny adidas yellow and black away shirt…. Will always be my favourite. We will always remember u mate. Rocky all the way!

  35. Finsbury
    Anelka has won the champions league, spanish league, English league, FA cup , and probably more since he left Arsenal, Hardly a failure at all.

  36. Frank:

    Mental hump does sound like something from the movie classic Debbie Does Dallas.

  37. Bob
    If we can get Buffon on the free then lets have at it. However, Yogi is usually right.

  38. I remember Rocky’s debut. If memory serves me right (which it probably doesn’t), it was a 0-0 home draw with Newcastle.

    I just remember a mazy run of his that took him past three or four defenders but he then froze when one on one with the keeper.

    A great talent that would have thrived today

  39. TimmyT,

    I did not describe Anelka as a failure.
    Or Trezeguet.
    In Anelka’s particular case, I’m not sure if he’s been better since he left Arsenal. Where he was a success. As a teenager. In Keowns opinion, according to an interview, one of the most impressive teenagers he’s ever seen.
    HTH.

  40. I once had a girlfriend from Blackburn Lancashire. She was a real looker, but she gave me a black eye for patting her arse. When I asked her why the fuck she had asked me to pat her arse in the first place if all she was going to do was get arsy about it, she said ‘nor not arse, stooopid, ah meant arse…pat my arse’. I replied that if she was inviting me to pat her fucking horse she should learn to speak properly. So she knee dropped me.

  41. What are you trying to imply about the BlackBurners Frank?

  42. They have the potential to be quite prepossessing and they like horses. However they have poor diction and tend to get violent if you remind them of it, G4E.

  43. Speaking of liking horses, consolslel ansd I have just spent a couple of nights in Cornwall and were very surprised to find their sheep very skittish, in marked contrast to Devon sheep.

    One can only suppose that the Cornish like sheep a lot more than we Devonians.

    Are they especially tall in Lancashire?

  44. Well depends which way you look at them. They have long legs on one side and short legs on the other. Helps them walk round hills. They have clockwise sheep and anticlockwise sheep and they never interbreed. For obvious reasons.

  45. I’m surprised that they can keep track.

    Anyway, I’m off to the pub.

  46. this Lancashire place sounds interesting. the people there have evolved into the ultimate hill-walkers.

  47. That’s enough for me to make them: Weirdos

  48. They are that, lad. Sairm as..sorry same as there feuding cousins. Yorkshire. They had a fight over a bunch of roses. One bloke wanted white and the other red and then it all kicked off. 20,000 dead. Very, very violent I’m telling you.

  49. That will be ‘their’ btw. I can barely see in the evenings. Imagine writing with a quill by candlelight. Fucking awful.

  50. The Scottish FA are upset that events at the Arsenal Stadium this week have left them with a smeared reputation. Shame isn’t ? Couldn’t have happened to a bunch of nicer people. On a completely unrelated topic, did you know that Eduardo used to entertain other members of Arsenal’s squad with his faux German accent?

  51. Rocky RIP
    I met him once, if anyone recalls there used to be a door under the clock end that lead to the car park behind that was used by the players.
    I went in quite early for one game and he came through the door, I got his autograph and mumbled something about “he had a good game in midweek”

    My other abiding memory is not his skill or great goals (Middlesbrough at home or Man Utd away) is in his debut season when we played Leicester away and he was substitute, the PA announced him as Mr Rocastle when they announced the teams!

    Why I should recall that over everything else i dont know….

    When he died we played Spurs at home and Pires (7) scored a great goal, a real mazy run, Rocky would have loved that!!!

  52. I am a little concerned about our title run-in, not because i don’t think we are capable of pulling it off, but because of the incompetence of the referees. The pgmol i believe will try their very best to derail our title challenge. It’s started with the appointment of Phil Dowd for Saturday’s game.

    We probably need to outscore our opponents by a lot from here on out. No mercy for any team, we need to score in bunches!

  53. Borges Spinelli

    The likes of David Rocastle and Paul Davis are the reason I support Arsenal. When my family and I, briefly lived to Europe, in the late 80’s – early 90’s. My dad said to my brother & I: “Boys, any club that plays good football and allows people of color to thrive, based upon their God-given abilities, rather than limiting their participation for no morally justifiable reason, deserves our support.” 24 yrs later, not once have we ever regretted the honor of supporting a great club, that is The Arsenal.

    Rocastle, not only was he a gifted player, he was also a gentleman on and off the pitch. Gone much too soon.

    (On a separate note, O.O.U. hit a Ruthian last night, through persuasiveness of argument, wit and sound logic delivered in a deft manner. Limestonegunner’s contributions aren’t to be underestimated either.)

  54. Oh dear oh dear oh dear

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