Bright Futures Underpinned By Consistent Nows.

What a difference a day makes, Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers, Where there used to be rain

Maria Grever’s lyric might easily be applied to Arsenal given their current form. The world is brighter, dissent more rationale or non-existent entirely. You can tell that things are better; had the delays in announcing the signing of Lukas Podolski been under a different sequence of results, mayhem would have already ensued. As it is, these delays are accepted with a shrug of the shoulders and a resigned tone; “This is the Arsenal way, after all“.

Having established that it is not a divine light shining on him, the sunny interlude has caught Arsène in its wake and he is happy to flirt with the media once more,

We want to add some strikers. Many times people say we rely too much on Van Persie, which is true, but if we can find world-class players, we will.

He will not specify who, of course. To do so would mean that the story is already written. More importantly, he has not said anything new either. His mantra when it comes to transfers and strengthening the squad is always that incoming players have to improve on that which he already has, not merely be of a similar standard.

Measuring that is the easy part and overlooks one key aspect; the judge has the benefit of hindsight, the manager is bestowed foresight when he gets it right and when it does not work out, you can insert your own adjective.

There are times though when that is not possible, when the outgoing player is of sufficient quality for it to be nigh on impossible to replace. Arsenal faced that in the summer when Cesc left and if Robin van Persie goes, they face the problem once more. Those circumstances need re-appraisal of playing style, of the resources available to the manager and more often than not this is not appreciated from the stands. Or more conveniently, ignored since it does not fit with agendas.

But forwards are just one part of the jigsaw; the underappreciated core to the team is defence. With a history of strong defensive play, at Arsenal perhaps this is more acutely felt than at other clubs. Strong defensive partnerships have been the heartbeat of all of the cup and title-winning sides.

For the club this season, indifferent form has occurred when key defensive personnel have been missing. Such as full backs and whilst some wins were achieved, the level of consistency  that has been shown in the Premier League recently was beyond those charged with holding the fort in their absence. Particularly when the replacements were injured. The limitations of the twenty-five man squad system become immediately apparent.

The manager is acutely aware of the circumstances which underpinned the poor form of January,

When we were not winning games I did not feel we played as badly as people said.

We have gained a lot of confidence in our play out from the back and that makes a massive difference. The defenders who play out from the back give us a security now and that allows the team to be much more confident.

Being settled in line-up helps as much as players being confident. Gibbs and Santos have for differing reasons taken time to find consistency initially and were then sidelined through injury. The youngster has come back with his confidence intact and on Saturday displayed an attacking verve which was most welcome. On the right, Jenkinson showed enough in his form to highlight why the manager purchased him and in Bacary Sagna, he has the perfect model on which to judge consistency; there are no more consistent defenders in the English game at the moment than the Frenchman. None.

Not even the hugely improved Laurent Koscielny. His form has been a revelation and with either of Mertesacker or Vermaelen, he has been outstanding. Given the mistake at Wembley might have crucified him mentally, to be in the rich vein of form now so consistently is a testament to the player and his desire to prove that he merits a place in the line-up. The signing of a quality centre back has benefitted him in both experienced cover but also in competition, knowing that he has to be consistent to keep his place. He should be in the running for Player of the Year at the club but the captain already has that sewn up, such is his deserved popularity.

Crucially, all of these things are coming together at the right time for Arsenal. Third is by no means a certainty and tricky tests still exist but Arsenal are right to fear no-one at the moment since they are the division’s form team. Confidence is fine and I do not think that complacency would be welcomed in the dressing room. If there is one good thing to come from the previous inconsistency, an appreciation of the hard work achieved now is deserved.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on March 26, 2012, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 123 Comments.

  1. Finsbury’s survey of the delights of London N17:

    Well, whilst most of you had your attention focused upon sunny North London poor old Finsbury had to wade into the midge infested murky effluence that flows out of Middlesex and is known as Tottenham.

    Two things I noticed:
    – White Hart Lane Stadium is very ugly. Really ugly.
    – There are lots of banners spread out over the area, procaliming that one should ‘Love Tottenham’. It seems people have forgotton how to love Tottenham, and they need to be reminded everywhere they look.
    These banners are printed in red letters upon a white background. Just an observation.

  2. Limestonegunner

    The usual treat, YW. Things are bright but the biggest tests are always those ahead. I don’t see any complacency on the horizon given what the team has been through this season.

  3. Limestonegunner

    Haha, Finsbury-delightful report!

  4. Finsbury

    >- There are lots of banners spread out over the area, procaliming that one should
    >‘Love Tottenham’. It seems people have forgotton how to love Tottenham, and
    >they need to be reminded everywhere they look.

    Most likely as well, those banners were written by people who do not reside in Tottenham.

  5. Almost certainly Yogi. Were they all spelt correctly?

  6. “I just felt we had two weak periods in the season and you can only afford one,” Arsene said

    What if we hadn’t had that period in January where we took 1 point from possible 12 (curse of the full backs), we can only imagine where we would be now. Just if we had got 7 points from those 12 .

    Argghh so painful

  7. Something monumental is brewing @ the Emirates.Complacency aint there.let d board empower AW for three solid additions and we begin to click glasses from the brewery.

  8. So many bright things to forward to right now regarding our players and club. Even some some of the bias reporters and pundits are speaking of what’s brewing at Arsenal and how Wenger, has built a side capable of challenging for the title next season.

    We have several world class in the making youngsters at club and loan who would walk into any first team 11 and it’s making people take note and we also seemed to have a fear factor about us. I love it.

  9. 12th!

  10. vp has little reason to leave – he is happy and idolized where he is. he also has a tan built around his particular style of play.

    he might be able to get paid more at city, or maybe chelsea, but truth is he is not guaranteed to play at city or barcelona or real – plenty of top players at those teams are not automatic selections.

    ditto theo actually, even more so – he probably would not start at real, barcelona, city, manure, or maybe even chelsea!

    people compare this situation to the one last year but really the situation of both players is quite different. both are more settled, and have less incentive to leave, than the two last year.

  11. Thanks YW for d daily piece of inspirational write ups that lightens the Arsenal world.
    As much as we have every reason to be happy and revel in the present position we find ourself in, it’s important that we remind ourself dt focus by all is imperative. The playing staff shd b focussed and so should the management and fans. Long may we continue to celebrate and hope we have a more glorious next season!

  12. Great post, YW

  13. ….that being team, not tan, though I’m sure robin has a lovely tan after this lovely weather…..

  14. 17th..just staved off relegation 😀 …phew

  15. Esther Phillips – How sweet a Sound… I compliment you YW -we surely do not want any body to Rock the Boat..

    OnWards – Forwrads.. no rime for resting upon our laurels….3rd thus season bring in 2-3 Quality players, trim what needs to be trimmed from the squad n bring it on..

  16. Thanks for always writing thoughtfully and intelligently…..a pleasure to read

  17. From F365’s Winners & Losers page

    Winners

    Arsenal
    With seven Premier League wins in a row, the Gunners are on their best run of form for two years. And not only that, they’re playing some wonderful football at the moment. Even their Emirates bogey-team couldn’t halt the charge as Aston Villa failed to muster a single shot on target in reply to Arsenal’s two well-crafted goals and Mikel Arteta’s stunning free kick.

    Although still rather gung-ho – Mark Albrighton’s early chance for Villa demonstrated the defensive vulnerability – the confidence of Arsenal’s current collective is at an all-time high and it’s hard not to think that Harry Redknapp was clutching at straws on Saturday as he held out hope of finishing third. The Tottenham manager said: “We’ve got to make sure now that we win six out of the last eight anyway, if we can. It’s in our favour at the moment. They’ve got some tough games. They’ve got Man City at home, Chelsea at home.”

    Tottenham’s remaining fixtures are easier than their north London rivals’- and the performance against Chelsea was encouraging – but they have won only two of their last ten Premier League matches. A return to form against the mid-table swell shouldn’t be considered a given.

    And nor should it be expected that Arsenal will struggle against Chelsea and Manchester City. Along with the comeback against Spurs at the end of February, Arsenal have also come close to embarrassing a very good AC Milan side. In the mood they’re currently in, they can beat anyone.

    Alex Song
    As pointed out by Sarah Winterburn, Song is a repressed playmaker, moonlighting as a rough-house defensive midfielder. Another fine assist took his Premier League total to eight this season – more than Samir Nasri and Ashley Young (and Charlie Adam). Song has a particularly nice style of creating chances as well, with his personal favourite being the bending, lofted pass, slack-jawing defenders as they watch the ball sail over their heads.

    Tomas Rosicky
    Doesn’t he realise he’s signed the new contract already?

  18. To love Tottenham?

    If you can’t polish a turd, what chance do you have of loving it?

  19. Screaming pile of it!

  20. Many of our players seem to be hitting form at just the right time. Arteta, Song and Rosicky are dominating he midfield every game.

  21. Anyone been to Greenwich recently? Similar thing. It’s now a “Royal Borough”, and there are banners saying so hanging from lampposts all over the place. Many of the main road names have a royal crest on the left side now as well – no idea how long that’s going to take. Looks a treat outside McDonalds on Eltham High Street.

    Basically, shining up shit and calling it gold.

  22. The Real Stew Black

    birdcamp – “Basically, shining up shit and calling it gold.” sounds like the media and their reporting of Sp*rs this season.

  23. jonnyneale @ 11:44
    thanks for the posting; everyone ‘loves’ a winner

    Here is an article by Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, who for countless seasons has bashed Arsenal and its players – AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

    this piece is quite a joy to read….

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/arsenal/9166019/Arsenal-can-expect-bright-future-following-defeat-of-Aston-Villa.html

  24. I see I’ve gone and changed my name again. Really, it’s just the wordpress account I set up a few years ago. I’m oneofus, but maybe I should stick with Birdkamp. And anything’s better than big al.

    And I only know that you’re Steww because I saw Stew Black on your twitter. I can honestly say I don’t know how good Spuds were earlier in the season, because I didn’t watch them once. When we played them they looked like a long ball team.

    Not taking third for granted yet, but I do know that in van der Vaart and Adebayor, two of their four important players, they’ve got a couple of guys who are pretty good when things are going well, but toxic when it starts to turn.

  25. Arsenal hold the top flight record for consecutive wins – 14 I think..We have 7 now with 8 games to go..wouldnt that be a smashing end to the campaign…

    We are Arsenaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllll!!!!

  26. Yogi – good piece and I truly agree about the importance of a strong defense. Arsenal now seem to be seeding a group of players with an improved pedigree.

    That said, I believe in our current run of form, its been the strength and contribution of our mid-field play that has seen Arsenal keep their opponents on their back heels.

    – Fewer misplaced passes
    – Better protection of possession
    – Patience in play when necessary
    – More effective pressure on the opponent when we lose possession

    Continuity takes time.

    A couple of final points about the Villa match:

    I have not seen an Arsenal mid-fielder work as hard to win back the ball as Tomas has since his run of starts. I believe his industrious play (attack and defense) has been infectious with teammates, as in this match I remember RvP coming back and (successfully) dispossess a Villa player from the ball with A SLIDE TACKLE FROM BEHIND. A first for me.

    Also towards the end of the half, we all witnessed the amazing deflection save by Warnock on RvP’s shot. (where vP lost his balance and went to ground, Given failed to gain possession of the loose ball and RvP pulled it away and took a snap shot with his right foot)

    Well what caught my attention to this was the build up. We had won possession in our defensive third and it looked like we were going to play the ball around the back, when TV5 found Rosicky up the middle with his second touch, Tomas took the pass and turned in one touch and then found RvP with his pass……RvP (one touch) laid the ball back to an open Song, who took one touch to take his defender in the wrong direction and then played a through ball back to RvP; sadly no goal resulted……..

    this was a glimpse of speed of play reminiscent of the 07/08 team.

  27. We seem to be much more direct at the moment. We play good football, but it still is incisive. Last season we really were not doing that. We played great possesion football, but it often lacked that cutting edge.

  28. Definitely more direct now, GA. I called Spuds a long ball team – Sagna’s like a part time target man for us down the right.

  29. Limestonegunner

    Excellent points Arsesession. I remember that passage of play because the ball came forward and moved around so swiftly–and suddenly there was RvP shooting the ball over the bar narrowly missing a goal.

    I think the key in midfield has been Rosicky’s excellent play to balance Song and Arteta.

    AW talked about the confidence to play out from the back, and I do think that earlier in the season during the December January period, we had trouble doing this and put balls into the air deeper from the back 4 because it was a safety first mentality with all the CB’s playing as left and right backs. That made it harder for us to keep possession or develop our attacking play.

    What is so helpful now is that the fullbacks’ return and Rosicky’s form in the Fabregas role (but to be honest he does more effective defensive work that Cesc did) is allowing better chances for Theo and Gervinho who can come inside effectively. Goals from elsewhere and from set pieces are really good for us.

  30. Birdkamp/OOU – Yeah, I noticed that as well. An effective tactic by all accounts as it can leave Theo one on one with the full back very quickly. When I say direct though, I generally mean “back to front” much quicker. And I think Rosickys recent form and style of play has been pivotal to that.

    We have struggled in the past with teams “parking the bus”, but part of that issue was that we let them get “nice and parked” before we attempted to break them down. Now we are getting at the defence much quicker which is causing all typoes of problems for teams.

  31. read the telegraph piece. the world must be ending.

    people are suddenly saying nice words about us.

    anyway, just to correct jeremy wilson: rosicky isnt doing an impersonation of fabregas..both players are quite different. rosicky runs with the ball more, and plays at a higher tempo. he runs and passes at high speed and that is quite difficult to read for the opposition defence because they don’t know what he is going to do. i think rosicky’s speed of thought is quite amazing, and rvp has pointed that out as well.

    rvp also has amazing speed of thought, but it pertains more to himself, creating the chance to score. whereas rosicky’s speed of thought has more to do with threading passes. quite breathtaking to see him in full flight and then releasing the ball through 2 defenders.

    fabregas just isnt as fast nor natural as rosicky (in terms of dribbling and running)

  32. YW:

    Great write up again. Thanks as always.

    Did not have much chance to comment on the game Sat. Another dominant performance at home and a clean sheet to boot. 3 goals from someone not named RVP. The best of all worlds.

    Its really nice to be able to say good things about our defense instead of complaining. The solidarity at the back has been the biggest change from years past.

  33. Andy @ 1:15:

    “We have struggled in the past with teams “parking the bus”, but part of that issue was that we let them get “nice and parked” before we attempted to break them down. Now we are getting at the defence much quicker which is causing all typoes of problems for teams.”

    I agree with your comment 100%. Get the ball into dangerous positions before the opposition has time to set and organize their defense makes it so much easier to break them down. IMO that was the single biggest problem with the previous teams.

  34. Kori:

    I am sure all the same pundits who were praising Spuds have jumped off the bandwagon now and now are on our bandwagon and see a brilliant future for us. Thats what the media has always done and always will do. Does this really surprise you?

  35. Great write up. Warrior.. and thanks for giving. Bacary the credit due for being one of our best players. Up the. Guns!!!!!;

  36. Thanks for a Great post Yogi.
    Been on a self imposed exile for all things online, actually been a refreshing break.
    Saturdays performance was another gem, we seem to be hitting form just at the right time. In no small part to having our injured players all coming back into the fray. Its actually going to be a bit of a headache for the Manager once Wilshire and Diaby are fit again.
    Some great performances by a number of players Saturday but the one that made me happiest was seeing Djouro have a good game , can only do his confidence good.

  37. So delighted for TR7 – I know a few Arsenal fans who had given up hope of him ever playing again. To get back to the level at which he is now operating is a remarkable achievement – he must have had some long dark days fearing the worst himself. Great character, determination and patience.
    The competition for the central spot is going to be saucy but in some ways the fact that both he and Diaby benefit from playing infrequently and should not be overplayed could work in our favour.

  38. I must admit, I assumed that Rosicky would end up with a bit part for the squad once Diaby and Wilshere returned. On this form however he deserves his spot in the first 11 and should not be dropped.

  39. I agree with all of the thoughts on Rosicky. It is so great to see one of my favorite players back terrorising the opposition. During the 07/08 campaign he, along with Hleb, were a joy to watch. The fact that he will only play one game a week will actually work really well for us when our other mids are back. Good times to be an Arsenal supporter!

  40. I have to say I find those suggestions, coming from the usual suspects in the fanbase and pundits, that Rosicky has only been playing so well because it was contract renewal time highly disrespectful. If it had been only about the money, he’d be playing in China now. Anyway, I am so delighted to see him back to his best. I must admit that while having faith I was afraid that maybe he’d never manage to get back to where he was before his injury, but he has proven me wrong. Long may his rise from the ashes continue!

  41. Notoverthehill

    Yogi, this was written by someone with little knowledge of football on the 16th February 2012:
    “the manager totally got it wrong from the start with two of the worst mid fielders in the starting line up i.e Ramsey and Rosiscky we had no chance and also leaving a 2nd winger on the bench caused us.”

    Wilshere’s assists last season were far behind Ramsay’s! As for Rosicky, he has finally emerged from his “sicknote status”.

    Once again an article to enlighten the few, such as Wood, Mellor, Payton and others who have their own private agendas to pursue!

    A caparison is a rug, cloth etc., laid over a horse or other animal, especially a pack animal, to avoid saddle or burden sores.

    As a matter of interest, I have the Financial Accounts for that team on the wrong side of town, for a number of years. Information, of course. IF a crude example of average wage for the year 2010/2011 is taken, then we have The Arsenal with 454 employees with an average wage of £241,261 p.a. BUT Spxxs had 315 employees with an average wage of £250,978 p.a. Man U BTW was £216,000 p.a.

    Man U now have a London Office, so London Weighting Allowance will be applicable for their Capital employees. The London football clubs will all have to pay far higher salaries, because of the cost of housing in particular. Comparing a London club with Manchester clubs or any provincial club is rather pointless, salary wise.

  42. TR7 has been superb. I think his revival has been the biggest reasons for our great form. Our “uncrowded” fixture list should let him start most of the games the rest of this season. Next season he will allow a slow return for JW. I always thought he is a extremely valuable squad player but I never thought he could show this sort of form over an extended period. In 07/08 he mainly played out wide but right now he is even more influential then he was back then. Amazing stuff.

  43. Can we now focus on catching Man City in 2nd place. If we beat them and they lose to the Manure, its only 3 draws that separates us from their snake oil money.

    We need to just keep on keeping on.

  44. One thing is for sure, soon our bench is going to be full of players who can come on a make a big impact in a match. One thng that struck me early in the season is our lack of options to change a gmae should anything be going wrong. It’s is starting to feel different in that respect now.

    Early in the seaon we had the likes of AA/Rosicky/Benayoun as the preffered options as subs to come on. All good players, but I hoped rather than expected them them to alter the game. Rosicky is back on his game and we will have the likes of AOC/Diaby/Wilshere all to come on and I would expect them to make an impact rather than simply crossing my fingers.

  45. I agree Andy – he’s pretty hard to drop right now – he’s so tigerish.

    Be good to see Abou back in contention this weekend too – it’s great to have such healthy competition in the squad.

    Interview with our Titi –
    http://www.independent.co.uk/hei-fi/heifi-sport-archive/fans-love-it-if-you-fight-for-every-ball-7582977.html

  46. When’s the next game again? I gather we’re on an expedition to west London. I’m really suffering from this lack of Arsenal matches. A week is too long to wait, and I get cranky and restless.

    My wife thinks I need professional help.

  47. Darius – If we are looking at 2nd, whisper it quietly, but 1st is not much further. Given our season so far, I will be more content with the 3rd if I am being honest. Keep our top players in the summer and we will be set for a challenge at the title next year.

  48. The fact that its hard or it seems hard to decide which player to drop with others coming back from injury is a good sign. It will make the players hungry and it will make our standards go up and our performances will continue at the top level.

    The message that Rosicky is telling the rest of the midfielders reminds me of the classic question marines ask: “What’s the only way to get a marines gun?” Answer, pry the fucker from his cold dead hands.

    Rosicky has pretty much told the rest of the players “I’ll be damned if you punks think I’m giving this up for you”.

    This team is brilliant.

  49. Just Another Luke

    I have read quite a few reports quoting Wenger with words added within square brackets.

    “Yes [we want Podolski], because we want to add some offensive strikers, because many times people say we rely too much on Van Persie, which is true, but if we can find world-class players, we will [challenge for the title].”

    Wenger could have meant that we will [do a deal to buy the player] rather than we will [challenge for the title].

    I thought that it to be rather mischievous reporting, contrary to YW’s more accurate Wenger’s quote:

    “We want to add some strikers. Many times people say we rely too much on Van Persie, which is true, but if we can find world-class players, we will.”

  50. Paulie Walnuts

    TR7`s renaissance has been a joy to behold. He looked like he`d lost that crucial half yard but somehow he`s found it again & it`s been like having a new player in the side.

    Having him, Arteta & even Santos around has to rub off on the less experienced players.

    We need to keep this run going & increase the pressure on the teams behind us. The Spuds don`t do pressure at all & The Chavs will be distracted by cups so it really is up to us.

  51. Rosicky has been playing well because hes a good player who is playiing in his prefered position. And i do not doubt that he feels that he owes the Arsenal some big big games due to his injuries and missing out on so so much of his Arsenal career. A 2 year contract extention means he now has those 2 years back to be an influence and an impact on this squad of players. Jack, Ramsey and Ox will no doubt benefit from having him around as the teams chances of winning something will benefit from him playing like he has been these last few weeks.

  52. Darius @ 4:01:

    Second place. Wow. That would be remarkable. I don’t expect the blue Mancs to drop that many points but anything is possible. Only way to find out is to win the rest of our games and see what happens.

  53. Darius and Andy……

    After the sh*t that Arsene (and Arsenal) has had to endure for the past 4 seasons from the media, the continuous poor officiating decisions that went against Arsenal, endless bad luck with player injuries, and the loss of good players to transfers, I’ve decided to be self-centered, selfish, and greedy.

    QPR is the next focus but in the back of my mind……I want Arsenal to steal the league title.

  54. Arsesession, Bill and Andy.

    Believe it or not, it still is mathematically possible for us to win the league. Possible but improbable. However, 2nd place is not out of the question considering that United will be determined to beat City and so will we. 3 draws out of the remaining 6 games is not beyond the realm of possibility. Tottenham also need to play City and might be fighting for Champions league and could take more points off City.

    The only thing we can do is to win our own games. I’m confident the team doesn’t fear anyone any more and they will approach the games with the right determination and humility. Even if we don’t make it, there’s so much to gain from the team spirit, the positivity, the momentum, the consistency – and that is belief. Belief that this squad is better than what most people think.

    The problem for most hacks and plundits is that you can’t ignore a run of 7 straight wins with a team that looks like it’s tasted the next win already and will go for the jugular at Loftus road.

  55. Paulie Walnuts

    Darius, the Tots have already played City twice but there`s nothing wrong with a bit of optimism.

    After the season we`ve had I would settle for a Champions League spot. Anything else would be a huge bonus.

    Then again, anything can happen in football – I mean Glen Poodle wants to manage England gain, two metre Peter scores the goal of the season & Luca Modric is valued at £40M.

  56. Did I mean Tottenscum or was it Newcastle…LOL

  57. From mediawatch…

    March 17: Harry Redknapp gives Wojciech Szczesny a pat on the head and a dressing down after the Pole said he hoped Tottenham finished in the Europa League. Redknapp said: “Szczesny says he is coming to get Tottenham? Oh yeah, yeah, he does have a lot to say Szczesny, doesn’t he? I don’t think there is any need for it. Just get on with playing…Young guys like that should just concentrate on their football. He is a fantastic goalie, but he should just keep doing what he does.”

    March 26: Harry Redknapp says: “I still think we’ll finish above Arsenal – bring it on, Arsene!”

  58. Jonny – can’t wait for what Delboy Arry will say at the end of April.

  59. pedantic george

    People scoffed when I suggested TR7 and Diaby could replace Cesc if the playing style was revamped.
    Who is laughing now?

    If Andrei had still been here,he would have benefited more than anyone from Thomas’s run of games.Those two and RVP think on a different level to the rest.

  60. At this point finishing below the Spurs would be a real letdown and would mean we ran into some struggles in these last 8 games. I don’t see them winning all their games. I think we should finish the season without losing again. Hard to avoid the occasional draw but we have already used up our loss quota so I think Spurs had better keep their thoughts focused on who might nick 4th from them rather then hoping to slip past us.

  61. Arsenal winning the league? Lets not get ahead of ourselves.

    I think 3rd place would be a fine achievement considering the poor start we had to the season. 2nd place would be a monumental achievement.

    I don’t think 1st place is a realistic possibility.

  62. Arsenal are the hottest team in Europe at the moment, and jumped into the world’s the top 10 this week.

    http://www.footballclubrankings.com/

  63. ACLF is the Sagna of blogdom

  64. Limestonegunner

    George, what are you planning for the Fans’ Forum tonight? I look forward to watching it live for once, since it has been moved to Mondays.

    And who dared scoff at you? Although I don’t think Diaby plays as well that far forward myself. I like it when he bursts forward from deeper. If he has to direct play in tight spaces in and around the box he won’t have a chance to use his speed and power as much.

  65. Limestonegunner

    I’d also agree that TR is different from Cesc. All players are different. The point is that he can play the forward attacking midfield role because he makes good decisions, is a precision passer, and can keep possession well. I agree that he is faster and also can defend more effectively. But, few can pick a pass like Cesc or score as he can from midfield. With a bit of adjustment, however, if TR plays like he has been, we don’t miss our departees as we did earlier. I am also positive AR will make vital contributions in the last several games after having had a bit of rest.

  66. People had been scoffing for the last 3 years when there were suggestions that we should have revamped our playing style and played more like we are now even when Cesc was here. We have always had enough pace in the squad to play at a faster tempo. Credit to Arsene for getting the side to play with that style and energy, its certainly changed the whole aura around the team. Arsene took a lot of grief for our defensive issues so he deserves credit now that things have clearly gone in the right direction for most of this season.

  67. I think this is the best Arsenal squad we’ve had for a long time. A lot of passionate and technically gifted players. Add Podolski, Wilshere and Diaby into the mix and you have a squad strong enough to beat any team in Europe. A very strong defence, probably the best we’ve had since 2006. The best striker we’ve had since that time as well, to be honest. Someone as good Henry if not better. Midfield you could argue is more complete, with the departure of Cesc. Unlike before we are less reliant on one man to dictate our play. Although it is apparent now, that Arsene prefers Rosicky over Ramsey over that position for now. You have players coming in and going out, which are all quite good. Diaby? Who knows what he is capable of. We know what RVP did when he got rid of the injuries. I think Diaby is one of our most gifted midfielder, along with Wilshere. But both of them would have to play at a very high level to replace Rosicky. Which says a lot about our squad. Song I don’t is disposable. I think he’s part of the backbone of the team and judging from his performance this year he will have a big say in the progression of our teams.

    However a lot depends on ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ at the same time. Especially with regards to injuries. We don’t know what consequences we will have next year of playing RVP this year so much. Or some other unforeseeable injuries to key players. Apart from the striker’s position, I think we have good squad depth to challenge for every trophy. We do need a striker. And strangely, it seems, that that is the only player we need to add or we could add, given the present composition of the squad. A lot of really good quality players. We could improve though on Park and Chamakh. But frankly, we haven’t seen what they are capable of, to pass any judgments. They seem like good players who are sitting on the bench for a season. I think competition for them would be good as well. On the other hand, the OX is going to be a very special player for us in the not too distant future.

  68. The tempo, directness and dogged determination of this team reminds me of the qualities of the Invincibles. There’s just a sense of purpose with everything the team does.

    Also, my sense is that Vermaelen and Koscielny will now go on to become the most solid and dependable central defensive partnership. However, a lot of their solidity and quality as a defensive pair is down to the rest of the team and how we defend as a team. Defending is not just about the way Van Persie and Rosicky have shown us how to win back the ball from the front, it’s also about how the midfield retain or use the ball to keep it away from the enemy, its also about how Theo and Gervinho track back and apply pressure.

    It was so funny on Saturday when Steven Ireland (I think it was) received the ball and in less than 3 seconds, he was swamped by Rosicky, Van Persie and Arteta. I just loved the way we were hunting for the ball in packs like hungry wolves with bloodshot eyes.

  69. Paulie Walnuts

    Darius,

    He`s not called `Arry REDKNAPP for nothing is he? I thought his head was going to explode at The Bridge on Saturday. He`s obviously as good at tanning as he is at spelling.

    Our playing style – so much went through Cesc that it was going to take some time to move on. The past couple of months has seen a proper development of a post Cesc brand which is less reliant on one individual.

  70. It will be very interesting to see the extent to which Citeh heads drop over the coming games – and very telling. It’s one thing to strut around when everything is going in your favour but quite another to hold it all together after a few setbacks. That AW and the team achieved this not once but twice this season speaks volumes about AFC’s character and closeness, as a squad. So many of the Mancs are there just to earn top dollar rather than to play the kind of joyous football that might have made legends of them.

    In December I thought (and wrote) that we had a really good chance of challenging for first spot but then injuries took another turn for the worst and we lost vital ground in January. That we currently have an outside chance for 2nd place even now is quite extraordinary – it’s this that has made our critics warm to the side once again.

    I would be very, very interested to see how Arshavin might fit back into the squad now our defensive line has become re-established. My gut feeling is he could make a contribution as surprising as Rosicky’s has become (although that assumes in recent months he hasn’t been fully match fit as opposed to his legs having ‘gone’). But if he were to come back into a side capable of fully exploiting his talents then I think we’d see a few fireworks. Even when not at his best, his assists were often of critical importance and I suspect we have more to come from that quarter …

    It’s frightening to see what can be achieved when a side have their heads up – and how much can be lost when they drop. The resurgence of Rosicky (and potentially the same in Arshavin next season) is symbolic of renewed confidence. The re-introduction of wantaways like Tevez to the Citeh side is symptomatic of a club desperate to get a lift from somewhere, anywhere …

  71. Limestonegunner

    Indeed, Bill, much credit to the boss and the team for defending well recently. Even though we have given up early goals, we haven’t been giving up too many since that Swansea match.

    The pressing has been working and with speedy fullbacks there is help for the central midfielders and defenders even though they go forward to aid the attack.

    This is how we were meant to play, I think. We’ve just had so much disruption at the start of the season and injuries since November to our fullbacks.

    Now is the time to put the hammer down.

  72. Limestonegunner

    AA, I would be curious as well and fairly confident that his form would improve. Also, I feel like George that he could combine well with Rosicky. Maybe we will still get to see this for next season. I’d be delighted to have him back and in form.

  73. So are we practising defence now in training?

  74. Limestonegunner

    I think Theo also deserves a lot of credit. Since the Spud match, he has been on fire. As everyone points out, Sagna’s presence aids his game a great deal. But apart from that, I think Theo’s control of the ball has been much better recently. I’m not sure why but he looks very comfortable and decisive taking it down and making a move past a player. His first touch is just so much better.

    His goal was top class; very accomplished, taking the ball down easily and pivoting for a slash into the corner at the near post. More than this goal, I noticed several very adept touches or moves with the ball by Theo. It is great to see and I hope he continues in this vein because he is showing his intelligence, skill, and passing/finishing ability in the final ball. Not just his pace. All the things people have doubted about his game are being answered. He shows real potential in the centre as a striker when he can take the ball down or maneuver around players in and around the box.

  75. Agree LimestoneG – in fact, at the game on Saturday I thought it was positively miraculous that one with apparently no footballing brain (according to Alan ‘Bitter’ Hansen) should be performing at the stellar levels he reached throughout that game. I thought it was clever of AW to take him off – the ovation was one of the loudest I’d heard at the Emirates for a player being substituted and he deserved every moment of it.

    Btw – the “only one Arsene Wenger” chant was great to hear on Saturday and I remember thinking I’d not heard it for a while; that it took a ‘visiting’ fan to start it up shows how important it is for the waverers and the doomers to relinquish their seats in favour of those with genuine enthusiasm and loyalty to and for the club.

  76. Limestonegunner

    It was a loud ovation–very nice appreciation of Theo. I can’t take full credit, AA, because someone had started it once earlier a few minutes before I did, but alas it died out quickly.

    But it certainly is a good point about getting enthusiasm in the stadium; our away fans always seem to have it, but many around me really didn’t chant or sing very much but I didn’t mind doing my part even if I was a bit lonely at times and my voice is hoarse still today to prove it.

    I’d love to get a ticket to QPR and test the vocal chords again, but that is a tough one and the away fans need no encouragement from the likes of me. 7amkickoff very kindly had a contact willing to sell me one but 170 pounds was just a bit too steep, though I thought about it for a minute!

  77. Limestone – speaking of Theo and his critics, you’ll be bemused to find out that Chris Woddle, he of the “Theo has no footballing brain and I can’t spell palanty” legend – was actually working in a sausage factory when he was Theo’s age.

    And they dare say what they say.

  78. Yes, £170 is outrageous and I’m sorry someone was trying to rip you off in that way, tempting though it must have been, briefly …

    Well I’m in Canterbury tonight (a city near France) so off out to catch a bit of the Manure match; here’s hoping for a few more burst balloons from our beloved rivals …

    Have a good evening all!

  79. I can’t believe I was in the presence of a Arsenal great. Sagna and I chopped it up in the sun today!

  80. Limestonegunner

    Have a wonderful evening, AA–how great would it be to give those teams a bit of a scare towards the last few games!

  81. Limestonegunner

    Darius, you never want to see sausage made, much less make it. As AW said, rather pointedly at the time, “Theo has a brain”!

  82. Limestonegunner

    Adrian Clarke is in a very fine mood on the Fans’ Forum, and why not? As he said, “we’ve won 7 in a row and the sun is shining, aren’t we all really happy?!”

  83. the missus has done me a nice madras tonight and i’m now scoffing my face.

  84. So……….supposedly the Spanish government are set to write off about 3/4 of a billion euros in tax debts owed by football clubs…..with something like 350 million owed by 14 of the top division clubs …. Barca owes almost 50 mil ….financial doping ….naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  85. Limestonegunner

    When duke is blogging about eating, we know he’s happy!

  86. Yogi, Great stuff man!

  87. PG@5.50 I remember that well – for the most part it was Jabba & Suga. Jabba also attacked me at great length for suggesting TR7 had been ‘excellent’ this season scoffing that was a ludicrous overstatement – that was just prior to Tomas taking his game up to the even loftier heights we have seen of late.
    Sometimes I wish we could let those ingrates back for an afternoon so we can collectively point and laugh at them.

  88. hi Maria, what do you mean by your last post??

  89. Limestonegunner

    James in Spain (turns out to be Staines), must be 10 yrs old, what a brilliant and hilarious call on the Forum! His mum and he have been worrying that RvP hasn’t signed and might go and then there would be no Arsenal!

    Tom Watt and Adrian Clarke assure him that there will still be Arsenal but that it looks good that he’ll stay, especially if we keep up this run and finish strong.

    Lovely stuff–great to hear from young fans. You know this boy is staying up nights, snuggling his Gunnersaurus doll in his RvP shirt on his red Arsenal badge bed covers, thinking and dreaming and worrying about the Arsenal. Hopefully he’ll sleep better tonight and keep seeing the Everton volleyed goal in his dream!

  90. Limestonegunner

    I am glad someone asked Maria about that–I’m curious myself. Chop it up in the sun?!

  91. @Deisegooner ~ that really pisses me off! Where i’m based these days, unemployment is around 25% (Las Palmas) and still the bars are full of – usually – Real Madrid fans with their Ronaldo shirts. I guess the worse the economy gets, the more “the proles” will need their football fix.
    On a lighter note – bugger all comments today/tonight. As in not very many, not fuck them all… yep, nice and light.

  92. paulies walnuts

    great goal by crouch, full credit. but never goal of the season. goal of the season for me is either of rvp’s volleys against merseyside.

    perfect pass, perfect finish. 2 touches. the coordination between the two players. van persie running to meet the ball. the ball dropping down perfectly for him. i think they are perfect goals, you know. very very pure.

    i think there has been a lot of hype over crouch’s goal because it is crouch, because it is an englishman. kind of unexpected. if it were rvp doing that, would they have said straight away goal of the season? nah.

    didnt henry score a goal like that against united? was that goal of the season that year?

  93. Limestone @ 6:50:

    I did not even realize until I just looked but we are actually 10th in the league in goals against and thats never going to be good enough to challenge the Manc clubs over a full season. We have built this run on the back of our improved attack but we have to cut down on the goals conceded. We can put together short runs of good form but over the course of a full season we are not going to challenge for 1st being below the top 3 in goals conceded. Despite all of that I still think we have improved this season and there is a lot of hope for the future. We are not giving up the late goals anymore that used to kill us. We have defended much better when we needed to this season and now we need to figure out how to be more consistent over 38 games.

  94. pedantic george

    Bill how would it look if yo knocked 12 off the total(United and Blackburn)?

  95. @Bill
    In all honesty, our goals conceded numbers are hugely inflated by the OT disaster. That we still stand a decent chance of actually conceding less than last season if we keep it tight at the back is a huge sign of the progress we’ve made by having a settled defence for once after several seasons with constantly changing partnerships.

  96. Cracking stats on Arteta – I was absolutely delighted with his signing as I always loved his work but I have to admit I’ve been surprised at just how much he has contributed. He really is the glue for this team and, though the collective wisdom of the ACLFers have been trumpeting his contributions throughout the season, he is an unsung hero. Has he been considered for MOTKM once? I certainly don’t recall him winning it but then it’s not something I pay too much attention to.
    I think the problem is (if it is a problem!) that he is the type of player who makes everyone else look better – happy to do the hard yards, letting others play to their natural strengths and doing all the simple things with startling consistency and precision. Certainly no player has benefited more than Song from his company in the middle.
    On reviewing what I just wrote I don’t know why I would still be surprised at Wenger’s ability to take a player to a new level!

  97. George:

    Thats why I think we are a lot better this season. Overall this season we have felt much more in control and solid in the back. Credit to the boss for that.

    Evil:

    The reason for the changing partnerships falls squarely on our management. 2 seasons ago we 3 of our top 4 central defenders out of contract at the end of the season and we had an completely unsettled GK situation. Thats no way to run a team whose goal is to be challenging for 1st place. However, after 3 – 4 seasons we look to finally have a stable back 6 and I agree we have improved significantly this season and the goals against stat is a bit of a red herring. I only see us improving in the next couple of years.

  98. pedantic george

    Jack could well find himself 6th choice when he comes back.

  99. will the thrill

    PG- I looked at the numbers last night. If you take away 8 goals from OT, we are in 5th place. Knocking off 12, I think we would be in 3rd place behind City and Manure.

  100. pedantic george

    there is you answer then Bill

  101. Don’t be fooled by the Goals Against column. We did not have a settled team and we lost most of our defence for 2-3 months.

    With what we have going into next season I feel we have the players to compete with anyone defensively.

    The mad, brilliant Pole is going to be a year wiser and even more accomplished, Santos even more settled. We have competition for places in every position, experience aplenty and the communication looks good.

    We restricted Everton to just one shot on target.

    In fact this defence is precisely why for the first time in a long time I actually feel genuinely confident of our chances of taking the title next season.

    I have already started placing best to this effect with a few friends – I’ve been scoffed at and lauded as a fool this weekend but that’s fine they are giving me odds and I’m confident that even if we don’t win it will be closer than any of them are capable of imagining.

    OTBAG!

  102. very disappointing fulham
    no pressing, no pace. No ambition. 85% posse to united. Pathetic.

  103. Someone. Please break scholes. The red scum.red manc piece o crap.

  104. Scholes should have been sent of for that sneaky stamp. Sky complicit in ignoring it and showing no replay. Right in front of the ref too who, as I type has just waved away a clear Fulham penalty and sending off for Carrick.

  105. Agree on Arteta, Jonny. And agree on our title-challenge next season, too. What else can I agree on? George’s angle on JW not being an automatic choice as a midfield starter? Alright, yeah. I agree with that too. But next season is next season and AW will try diff combinations in pre-season. As I’ve said on here recently, I would love to see a Wilshere, Song Diaby midfield. But how can you leave out Arteta? I don’t think you can. So hypothetically, how about Arteta, Song and Wilshere? Maybe. I guess if Rosicky is in the form he’s in, he’s ahead of Jack. But there’ll be times throughout next season when WIlshere is in better form than TR7. I guess it’s all about a variety of combinations….ones built on the solid foundations of Arteta and Song. The floaters would be JW, TR7, Diaby, Ramsay and (Arshavin?) But not yet (centrally) for the O-C. All this is obvious. But I wouldn’t be the first person on here to state the obvious.

  106. So Michael Oliver is the new Howard Webb

  107. Jonny:

    “In fact this defence is precisely why for the first time in a long time I actually feel genuinely confident of our chances of taking the title next season.”

    Despite the stats I agree with you. It was great to win 4 come from behind games in a row but thats not going to work over a full season. We still have to improve, but for the first time in years we really have improved this season and the signs point to us being much better next year. Its all going to be about consistency. Overall though I am very happy with whats happened this season.

  108. pedantic george

    Hey Dups,Am I stealing from you?

    george rodger ‏ @Blackburngeorge
    Is Michael Oliver the new Howard Webb? Another astute Alec Ferguson signing.He keeps finding them #geniusmanager

  109. Great minds George. Either that or we have little faith in our esteemed refs.

  110. 7 games unbeaten is all you have to know about our defense; and we beat some good teams to do it. A clean sheet against AC Milan is nothing to scoff at.

    As far as Sagna, I don’t know a better defender in the world, I mean that. He locks players down, you don’t see many players do that. His offense has also improved tremendously. We have asked for better crosses in the box from our team and Sagna has been getting the job done. A brilliant player!

  111. Essex Pasties at the Olympics?

  112. I meant that I meet Sagna and his family outside my workplace today! Can’t you believe it? I couldn’t.

  113. Gosh, with all this excitement I’m makInf zero sense.

  114. There I go again.

    The Sagna effect.😊

  115. A rare sighting of Ateeb and Ponyboy last evening. There are a pair of treecreepers outside my study a the moment as well.

    Rare sightings indeed.

    Plus Maria’s gone doolally tap.

  116. I find it extremely interesting how Arteta, generally viewed as a solid, fluent and dependable midfielder on signing, has, after 40 odd games emerged now as a “rated” high-quality player. As good as he was at Everton, he was only rarely bracketed amongst the best midfielders in EPL with Fabregas, Modric, Silva, Toure, Nasri, Lampard, Essien, Barry, Gerrard, Parker, emerging Wilshere, and various ManU players, including Scholes and probably even Fletcher all rated higher. So, he was a “fringe” quality player, good, neat, robust but after all none of the top-top clubs had shown interest, therefore not that good.

    So, how good is he actually? I am starting to think that this guy late in his career could be not just excellent, but a “great” and the quality around him has exposed his skill. Two or three things really thrill me about Arteta. Consistent performances comes tops. He’s a few iffy games, but those are the exception. Second comes economy and simplicity, something our dear Cesc in his youth never mastered. He would rather make a fluid pass than the mother of all through-balls, although he sometimes does those too. So, he’s a team player. It’s a very good sign. Third, he’s robust. It is possible that we could be watching the emergence, late in a career, of one of the top midfielders in europe beneath under our very eyes. The irony would be supreme.

  117. ZimPaul – great points about Arteta.

    The irony indeed for him to blossom at Arsenal having built an ‘arsenal’ (I like the pun) of qualities that together make him one of the most dependable, efficient and robust midfielders in the game.

    Don’t be surprised if he gets a call up to the Spanish national team for the Euros.

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