Superstitions and Lucky Pants

Talismans, rituals, charms, lucky items that you simply cannot do without. Whatever you call them, there are many who incorporate some strange things into a matchday.

It has nothing to do with faith or a lack of, and yet we hold these things and processes as dearly as though it were an ethereal deity. 

How do we nominate these lucky things? How do they go from a simple, everyday trinket to a fully blown portal to Lady Luck herself?

Of course, it all resides in our head. However, in the hours before a match and during those fraught ninety minutes, does that stop us clutching that scarf tightly? Does it even enter our head to not walk down a certain road to the stadium as this was the way you walked when we won a certain important game?

We include these foibles and idiosyncrasies into our routine, and they give us a thin blanket against the harsh winds of realism. There are of course, many who scoff at those who treasure such treasures, and walk the long way simply because they believe it to be lucky, but it is far from harmful. It is not deluded to wear your lucky socks when your club plays, and it does not detach yourself from reality. All it does is simply illustrate that you are willing to go an extra mile to obtain a mystifying 1% extra for your team. 

Even though your actions have absolutely no bearing on what happens on the pitch.

It is preposterous and relateable all in the same measure. It is quite hilarious when someone states they have a lucky mascot that they have smuggled with them, and when your mate is half an hour late to meeting you as he or she simply must go to a certain chippy before the game, as they have done since we miraculously recovered to beat Hull 3-2 in the Cup Final. 

I consider myself to be in cahoots with actuality, and yet I have a lucky pair of Arsenal boxer shorts. Every time I attend a match, I must wear a pair of my Arsenal socks from an extensive collection. About ten of those pairs feature ex-players, and I deliberate for minutes regarding which player would be optimally suited to whichever opponent we are facing. Dennis Bergkamp against Stoke? No, his precious touch would be better suited in the hotbed of a bigger game? Against the brute force of the Potters, the guile and power of Patrick Vieira would be best, or the talismanic leadership of Tony Adams? 

Ridiculous really. I’ve probably wasted hours of my life sitting in my bedroom choosing socks that I propose to be lucky. Some of these socks now have holes in, but can I bear to part with them? No. Those were the socks I wore when we defeated Bayern Munich. Those socks I wore when we smashed Villa in the Cup Final. 

It doesn’t end there. Teddies, scarves, bracelets, pubs, roads, restaurants, even certain foodstuffs that must be consumed before kickoff are all held up on a pedestal, even though all of us – even those who revere these things so heavily – know it means nothing.

It means something to those who are involved though. Sentiment is a pwerful thing, so if your pal maintains that his stupid looking bobble hat is actually armed with the power to ensure Giroud scores a winner, then let them have it. If you are the person who must consume a Wispa Gold on the buildup to the game – even if you are bilious from the night before – then embrace that facet of you.

Even players themselves embrace these things. Who can forget Laurent Blanc kissing the bald head of compatriot Fabian Barthez in France’s World Cup winning campaign? 

If these professional players are of the same mindset, who are we to argue? Is it so bad that some of us think that luck can be bartered with? 

The uniqueness is what makes every person. If we all stood firmly on the ground, then it would make for very boring conversations. Objectively, it is also important we have those who shun such beliefs and comfort blankets, so us who have our head in the clouds do not float off entirely. 

It may be intrinsically linked with certain parts of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but those stoic people who do not chuck their coins into the wishing well offer are the rope which keeps us tied to the ground. It can quite easily become the most important part of your ritual, even foregoing the match itself. 

The majority of superstitious people can easily just have this little part compartmentalised and kept away from the rest, and this is the best way of dealing with such mannerisms. 

It makes things interesting, and that person who looks completely straight-laced may just have a certain lucky shirt they wear that they think imbues their team with that little extra luck. 

Who are we to argue with that? Let us be honest here, when looking at Santi Cazorla’s perfect free-kick in the Cup Final of 2014, it is clear to all that my socks were responsible for the flight of the ball. 

I  chose my Thierry Henry socks that day. 

Arsenal 2-1 Burnley: 5 Key Points 

The last ten minutes saw two penalties awarded and Arsenal snatch victory from the jaws of embarrassment with an Alexis penalty.

Arsenal looked to have scraped past a battling Burnley thanks to Shkodran Mustafi’s first goal in an Arsenal shirt, but a 93rd minute penalty from Andre Gray gave Burnley a share of the spoils.

Burnley turned up to The Emirates with an appalling away record – 1 point from 27 – and a gameplan to frustrate the home team. It worked a treat, as a combination of stifling tactics and some questionable refereeing saw Arsenal nearly drop valuable points that no one could foresee.

The first half was an exercise in frustration as there was a premium on clear cut chances, and Burnley looked to hit on the break. Both teams flattered to deceive, but 74% of Arsenal possession tells its own story.

The second half was a typical Arsenal half. Firstly, in the 59th minute, Mustafi scored his first Arsenal goal via a corner, and the script was going according to plan.

Less than ten minutes later, Granit Xhaka saw red for a typically full-on challenge on Steven Defour – and this was where the game changed. From there, Burnley looked to bombard the Gunners aerially, but it looked like they were going to hold on.

Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi were both nursing injuries but dragged them selves through the minutes, but in the 3rd minute of seven stoppage time minutes – Jon Moss blew up for  a Burnley penalty.

Andre Gray converted and it looked to all that Chelsea would see all of their rivals drop points. The Arsenal spirit finally flickered though, and they snatched an unlikely winner.

Ben Mee gave away a penalty only three minutes after Burnley had grabbed an equaliser, and Alexis was the hero, as he scored to take Arsenal to second.

Arsene Wenger was sent off late on as he remonstrated with assistant referee Anthony Taylor, and this will be under the spotlight in the media for days to come. 

There was a lot to take in, but here are 5 key points from the game:
Xhaka needs to alter technique

The Swiss star had a past littered with red cards before joining, and now he has two sendings off in his first season. It is great to see him gung-ho, but it is clearly not working in the Premiership. He needs to. Hänge how he retrieves the ball, as he almost cost us.
Jon Moss strikes again.

Xhaka’s  two red cards? Both given by Jon Moss. Who was the assistant ref? Anthony Taylor. Xhaka can have little excuse, but Moss gave a chequered display with his decisions. He was a huge factor in this game.
Ramsey on fire

The Welshman was a decisive role at both ends of the pitch, and he looks to be improving with every match. Long may it continue.
Alexis back to the centre please

We are better with the Chilean as striker. Such is his prowess that he is effective anywhere, but his strike rate tells its own story. We looked stilted and we nearly paid the price. 
Alexis in defence

His chasing and tackling in the pressure-packed last twenty minutes was one of the biggest reasons why we held on. He was brilliant in aiding our beleaguered defenders, and his appetite for the ball is a delightful asset.
Phew! What a relief. I’d love to hear what you all think. It’s quite clear we were not at our best, but we won and that is the ultimate goal. An improvement will be necessary! 

Arsenal Vs Burnley – The Warm-Up

A week after our 4-0 victory over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, Arsenal return home to The Emirates to welcome Burnley in the next round of Premier League fixtures.

The Gunners currently lie eight points behind top of the table Chelsea, and the deficit transforms every game into a tense, ‘must-win’ game. With tottenham, Liverpool, City and United either looking to sprint away from us or sneak above us, the top six is hotly contested indeed. 

Our opponents are perhaps the most contrasting of all sides in the Premier League. The Clarets home form is bettered only by Chelsea and tottenham. Their current position of tenth is maintained pretty much entirely by their home form. Their away form is relegation form – one draw from nine games, and just three goals scored – and it could well drag the Clarets into trouble if not rectified.

We can attest to Turf Moor becoming somewhat of a fortress – our 1-0 win there earlier in the season was acquired by a 95th minute Laurent Koscielny handball! – but thankfully for us all, we should have a more serene ninety minutes this time around.

Arsene Wenger has the bonus of Hector Bellerin, Keiran Gibbs and Francis Coquelin returning to duty, but Bellerin will most likely be the only one from that trio to go straight into the side. 

Olivier Giroud has also shaken off the ankle knock he received in our last game and is fit and raring to go. The Frenchman has scored in his last five games and his form could give Burnley a real headache. Giroud is showing his pedigree, and his goals are coming from all avenues; head, left foot, right foot, scorpion tail. Our bearded striker is on fire and it is imperative that this form must be utilised.

Theo Walcott is still suffering from a calf problem, and Mohamed Elneny is still on AFCON duty with Egypt. Per Mertesacker is nearing fitness but still not available, but Santi Cazorla may yet miss the entirety of the season after having a second operation. The Spaniard will be missed but with our wealth of options, it just means that a huge opportunity is there for whoever steps up to the plate.

Sean Dyche has Ashley Barnes back for selection, and with Sam Vokes, Andre Gray,  Jeff Kendrick and Steven Defour, they have threats that need to be quelled. In truth though, Burnley are a team that haven’t won a game in London in the Premier League. They have the worst record for goals scored away from home in the big five leagues in Europe, and they will turn up to our home looking to stifle and contain.

This is excusable, but how difficult will it be for the Clarets to silence not only the in form Giroud, but Alexis Sanchez? The Chilean hasn’t exactly been Mr Sunshine on the pitch of late, but he has scored or set up 21 goals this season, which is more than anyone. If Ozil can recapture some sparkle, and Alex Iwobi can continue to grow as he has done in the last few games, this game could hopefully be another comfortable win for Gooners.

Gravel-gullet Sean Dyche may be buoyed by the fact his team have won three of their last four, and seeing as we are The Arsenal we should always be on our guard against collapsing in extravagant fashion. We should win this game though, and with tottenham playing City today, there will be at least one side around us who will drop points.

We go to Chelsea in two weeks. We need to build confidence in that time, and our points total. 

Predicted Lineup; Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 Arsenal. #UTA

The Museum of the Beautiful Game

Originally posted on Goonersphere

The inauspicious entrance offers no clue as to the treasures that await inside. 

The unremarkable automatic double doors silently allow you passage, and then, as if the buidling itself is taking a deep breath, the atrium yawns open ahead of you. The huge open space gives all who enter a plethora of choices as to where they begin their path to footballing enlightenment, but in the centre is a statue of one player. 

Perhaps the beacon, the standard bearer from where all technical brilliance begins – Johan Cruyff.

As you marvel at the icon before you, a tour guide offers you and your party a tablet and a set of headphones, which give each person extra information on each spectacle they are about to enjoy.

Then, the member of staff tells you to make your choice for where to begin your journey.

From left to right, all hallways which branch off from this wide open space are clearly labelled:


Johan  Cruyff

French national teams of the ’80’s and ’90’s.

AC Milan

Real Madrid European Cup winning teams

Manchester United of 1999

George Best

Lionel Messi

Barcelona 2006-2016

’70’s and ’80’s Liverpool

Brazil 1970

Pele and Maradona

Zinedine Zidane


Dennis Bergkamp

There were more, and the pole which signposted all choices looked like a confused person attempting to point in the right direction.

You walk toward your choice, and the plain white doors open, and your eyes widen.

In each room, when you enter, all that greets you is the darkest black your eyes could comprehend. As the doors close behind you, a slight panic tingles its way up your spine, but the noise that breaks the silence sweeps any negativity away.

A cacophony of cheering fills the room, and then, you are instantly put into the stands as a football match unfolds around you. Thanks to hologram technology, the fans that have popped up to envelop you make you feel as if you were there, as some of the most iconic and memorable moments of football occur right in front of you.

This museum gives all fans the opportunity to witness first hand – or as close as possible – football that refreshes the child-like wonder that all supporters have. Moments in time that have lived on thanks to the passing of stories between fans of all generations.

Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten. Some things are meant to be held up on the highest pedestal, as propaganda of sorts – to ensure that the root of football lives on.

The sport has changed immeasurably since it began, and it is now dominated by currency, but every now and then, something happens on the pitch which transports all who witness it back to their happiest memories.

Whichever choice you make in this museum, all the moments you care to choose are the finest, unblemished slices of the sport. Michel Platini bringing glory back to France. Jairzinho, Tostao and Pele in 1970 destroying their opposition with ingenuity. Ruud Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard reinventing not only AC Milan, but Dutch football. Dennis Bergkamp scoring his hat-trick Vs Leicester, and his World Cup goal Vs Argentina. 

So many instances where your breath gets caught in transit, as you first look on in wonder, and then query how it happened.

The control of the ball as it falls from the heavens, only for it to be put on an invisible leash by men that took the sport to the higher echelons.

Whilst the museum is built as an opportunity for all fans to enjoy what are pure, undiluted examples of the sport we all adore – it is also a tribute to the men who keep football alive. Modern day footballers who aspire to entertain like their heroes who they idolise.

So, take your seat in the holographic stand, as the hairs stand to attention on your arms, like they too want to catch a glimpse of what is about to unfold.

Thierry Henry and Robert Pires are about to kick off…..

Ozil Waits On Wenger 

When Mesut Ozil signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2013, the German made it abundantly clear that his decision to leave the glitz of Real Madrid and sign for the Gunners was down to one man – Arsene Wenger.

The cynical among us will also point toward his princely wages as another thing that would have swayed his decision-making process and they would have a point. What undermines this particular topic is that although the weekly amount he earns for his services is amongst the highest in the league, it is an amount he could have recieved if he had moved to any other large scale club.

Mesut Ozil has previously focused on the confidence Wenger has in him and the professional candour he shares with his playmaker. The relationship between each of them is of respect and the fact his Boss rates him and expects so much of him is bound to make Ozil feel far taller than he actually is. 

Imagine if you went into work and your boss pulled you aside for a ‘chat.’ After immediately questioning what rules you might have broken over the course of the last month, you would sit down and wonder why they have decided to focus on you. What have you done to deserve this? Then fast forward to ten minutes later after they have told you in no uncertain terms how brilliant you really are – you would float out of that office and your work would benefit as a result. 

Man management is a whole different type of role that a modern day gaffer must incorporate into their day-to-day job. It is not enough anymore to pick an optimum system for the team and scout the next few opponents effectively. Each precocious talent requires a different tact to lure the best out of them. 

Mesut Ozil needs to feel trusted. He requires that bond between he and his manager. Wenger believes in Ozil, and the majority of the fans do to. His relationship with Gooners helps massively, but it is that invisible tie between the boss and player that will hold firm when other clubs and contract negotiations come calling. 

Mesut Ozil’s deal runs until the summer of 2018. It is the general concensus that the German is fishing for more money. At 28, the contract he manages to obtain next will be his biggest and most important. It will see him past his prime age where he can choose his destination from any team in the world. When this next contract duration is up, he can of course go to the majority of clubs and nations,  but he will be well into his thirties and the demand will be far less than the clamour would be if Ozil’s name was dipped into the shark tank.

Make no mistake – if we fail to come to an agreement with Ozil, he will have no trouble whatsoever in finding a team that is willing to pay him his market worth. Ozil’s latest comments seem to highlight a different requirement that the German’s camp want settled before any ink is splashed on Arsenal headed paper.

Ozil said of his contract negotiations “The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. 
“He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want to be clear what the manager is going to [in the future].”  – courtesy of the Daily Express

That is pretty transparent in regards to what the stumbling block appears to be. As Arsene Wenger ticks down the last year of his contract, the club and apparently Mesut Ozil are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether Wenger will sign yet another extension or he will bid adieu to the club with which he is now intrinsically part of.

The next announcement is key. After a statement of this nature from Mesut, it means that the club will not announce an extension or otherwise until they are ready to also declare what Arsene’s future will be. As soon as we are all made aware of what our playmaker is going to do, we will automatically know what our manager’s future will be.

If Ozil decides to stay, then we can assume Wenger will too. If Ozil goes, then we will probably be in the market for a new manager. The two are now one and the same. The announcement has all fans – both pro and anti Wenger – waiting for any slice of news as to the immediate future of our club. A new manager will radically change the the scenery we are to see over the next few years, and it will have huge ramifications on the future of not only Ozil’s destination, but other players too.

Ozil made the life-changing decision to come to London, and he has openly declared his love for the city. You need only scroll through his Instagram feed to see that he loves the freedom this bustling city brings. His career hinges on more than his setting when not at work. He decided to switch Madrid for London because of the trust Wenger placed in him – something that was missing from the tail-end of his time at the Bernabeu.

You cannot fault the fact he places so much importance in what his boss will do. If Ozil signs a contract and then Wenger decides that he will call it a day, it leaves Ozil in a potentially sticky situation.Who knows what kind of manager will replace his current gaffer?

Ozil wants the setup he enjoys right now. That is testament to how happy he is at Arsenal. 

It all hinges on Wenger, whether we like that or not. Keep your ears pressed close to the ground – the next announcement will be positively earth-shattering. 

Swansea 0-4 Arsenal – 5 Keypoints From the Match

Four goals. A clean sheet. Three points. 

The very definition of the perfect day at the office.

This comfortable victory sees Arsenal climb to third in the table and match the result of the shadow dwellers who won at home to West Brom. Arsene Wenger can take some satisfaction from the manner of victory, especially as Swansea did provide some hairy moments when we toiled at 1-0. We showed the bottle that we needed in our recent comebacks against Preston and Bournemouth, but this time there was no comeback required.

This win also puts an end to our recent poor away record, with no win in three prior to this result, and this will hopefully be the start of a sequence of games where we can mount some decent form. The ninety minutes at the Liberty Stadium is reason enough for optimism to shine through the Gooner masses, as possession was bossed, chances were created and our defence stood strong.

The same team that heroically came back from capitulation against Bournemouth two weeks ago was named, and that meant Olivier Giroud again enjoyed a starting role. With four goals in his last four games, the Frenchman was on fire and he would be the man to break the deadlock. 

Some neat interplay saw Aaron Ramsey able to scorch a pass across the six yard box. Giroud was lurking but was inches away from the touch which the pass needed to divert the ball into the net. Alexis retrieved the situation wide on the left and his scooped pass was met by the head of Ozil. The header was blocked but Giroud cleaned up with a neat finish from six yards in an unmarked position.

It was deserved, as while Swansea were posing an intermittent threat, Arsenal were slowly cranking up the heat. This was to be the only goal of the half though, despite some pressure from both sides. 

Cech had dealt with whatever had come his way, and former Gunner Fabianski had also snuffed out some good opportunities in the opposite goal. At half time  the Gunners were ahead, and it was soon to be doubled in the second half.

Nacho Monreal stopped an attempted counter with an outstretched foot and the ball bobbled back into the Swansea box. Alex Iwobi was alive to the loose ball and he ran onto it and fired toward goal. The ball took a huge deflection from Jack Cork and the ball arced over Fabianski and into the net. It may have been a huge slice of luck, but it had been ten concentrated minutes of pressure from Arsenal after the break and the home side had been desperately doing everything to stop Arsenal from scoring.

Just over ten minutes later, Arsenal put the game to bed. Iwobi was involved again, as another quick conversion of possession and a great pass put Iwobi into the box. He was being tightly marshalled, but a few shimmies from Iwobi’s locker gained him half a yard of space. He chose to square the ball and that man Own Goal once again made the difference, spinning the ball in off of Kyle Naughton’s heel.

Alexis got in on the act six minutes later and Iwobi was again the difference maker. His slide rule pass set free second half substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his cutback found Ramsey. Ramsey was all set to fire but was clipped and the ball lurched forward. It was snaffled up by Alexis like lightning and the game was cooked.

There was much more incident and noteworthy stuff during the game, but here are the five keypoints from the match;

Giroud must start

Some are bemoaning the fact we have resorted to last seasons shape. They have a fair point. The fluidity and sharpness we have when Alexis plays as centre forward is not present when Giroud is up top. Five goals in five games though, tells the other side of the story. We always implore managers to pick a side based on form and not reputation, and this is the result. Whilst we all want Lucas to play and he cannot do anymore to implore Wenger to pick him – we must use Giroud whilst his purple patch is in place. Alexis is still our first choice, but a player must play when he is in form – otherwise what is the point of the rest of the squad trying so hard?

Iwobi over the hump

The shaky spell that every youngster will suffer from after making their debut? Iwobi had that at the start of the season. The last few games – and increased competition from The Ox – has seen ‘Big17’ pull out of his slump and rise above it. He has shown he really is the real deal and his touch and passing was there for all to see. He can still be polished, but what promising signs from this youngster. He is only going to get better.

A competitive start for once

The last few games has seen the return of an ugly trait. The sluggish start. Too often we have let teams gain the initiative mainly due to our inability to wake up from the start. This game we at least were at the game, and we put up a fight. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially as we all know how we can start games, but this was a step in the right direction.

Ramsey and Xhaka bonding

This partnership has always had promise, and some have always seen its potential (I cannot claim to have seen this partnership as the best we have to offer, and I still do not). With Santi, Elneny and Coquelin all missing, this combo simply had to work. The mandatory starting of both has helped forge a partnership and it is slowly starting to form. The test will be our next big game – early February against Chelsea – but the signs are good. Balance between defence and attack has been sensible and both look to be potent. Good signs and long may it continue.

Winning the next few games

Every game is a must win. With the smallest margin for error, it seems any dropped points have the largest ripples in the Premier League pond. With the next games against Burnley (at home crucially) and away to Watford, six points are the order of the day. A draw at Stamford Bridge in the subsequent fixture would not be the worst result, but maximum points against these teams we should take to school will instill confidence and hopefully see the teams around us drop points as we have done recently. 

There was a lot more incident in this game. Ki’s booking for simulation after we had taken the lead, Cech’s return to a semblance of form, the return of Koscielny, the dissatisfaction from Alexis when taken off in the second half – but the points above encapsulate the game as a whole – hopefully. I hope you enjoy reading, and above all, enjoy the win. 

It’s not often we have nothing to moan about. Enjoy it. 

Swansea Vs Arsenal – The Warm-Up

Arsenal have been the comeback kids of late. What with the Bournemouth game with shades of Banterlecht in reverse, and then Preston showing us that the first half of games are not a myth, we have seen the Gunners show they do exist, but only in forty five minute bursts.

We will need far more against Swansea City who have beaten us three times in the last five games. 

The Swans can also call upon that mystifying and unquantifiable boost that teams receive when bedding in a new manager – the honeymoon period. People may scoff, but it has scorned many unwitting teams who do not believe it exists.

The Swans manager Paul Clement can implement the wisdom he has shared with Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and more recently Bayern Munich, but he must do it quickly. The south Wales side are second from bottom and are shipping goals at an alarming rate. Clement has also called in a surprising Assistant Manager in Claude Makalele, but the two worked together at PSG under Ancelotti and he comes highly recommended, though it is early days for the team. This transfer window may well yield much business at the Liberty City stadium, but none have come in quick enough so Clement’s squad will be boosted for the visit of Arsenal. New striker Luciano Narsingh has a calf injury so is out, and Neil Taylor missses out with a broken cheekbone. It is unclear whether Fernando Llorente will feature amid much interest from Chelsea. 

They may have a great record against Wenger’s team, but it certainly wasnt garnered in Wales. Arsenal have won three of their last four trips to Swansea and they must go there and hope for the same thing again if they are to make any headway in the league table.

Arsenal will be without Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny – Coquelin is injured and Elneny on AFCON duty – so Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will make up the centre of the Gunners midfield. Long term prospects Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker are still a way from being incorporated into plans, but Danny Welbeck made his long awaited return in the Cup win against Preston and his pace and guile will be very useful in games to come. Will he play? Perhaps a spot on the bench. Koscielny will also return to the team after missing out last week. 

Another who returns is playmaker supreme Mesut Ozil. After a bout of flu, the German is back and should slot straight back into the team. Olivier Giroud will most likely retain his place up front as his form is too good to bench. Alexis will stay on the left, but the right spot is up for grabs. With Theo Walcott still out, it means Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas Perez will duke it out for the chance. Lucas Perez has really made the most of his sporadic chances thus far, so it would be great to see the Spaniard start the game.

Arsenal have not won any of their last three away games, and this game must herald the end of that awful run. Swansea will fight tooth and nail for the points, but what is imperative is we MUST turn up in the first half. If we do, it could turn the tide. Swansea have only avoided defeat twice in fourteen games when conceding first.

Three points would be great, and the icing on the cake would be to be able to watch the game without the tension of a terrible first half and a gargantuan effort to come back into the game. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. Giroud to score…..again!

Cohen Bramall Signs for Arsenal and Lives the Dream

The transfer window has opened and Arsenal have acted early and signed a player! Will wonders never cease?

Before you start frothing and frantically searching for this hotshot who will revitalise our season, the new recruit is not exactly bound to make strides in the first team – at least not yet.

The new signing is aimed at strengthening a position that may be under scrutiny in a couple of years, but this left-back has much to prove before we see him rampage down the flank.

Cohen Bramall was announced officially by Arsenal and the peculiar amount of fanfare for this kid from non-league Hednesford Town was strange to say the least.

Starved as we are as Gooners of transfer activity, the club must have thought the photoshoot and interview of Bramall would fill the gap and sate the hunger for any news on the signings – or even contract extension – front. 

Also, with the reach that the club has and how every piece of news, important or not, is quickly digested by millions, the club cannot be wholly blamed for using this underwhelming signing as a means to show that Arsenal are active and preparing for the future. Or at least showing fans that we have eyes on talent everywhere.

Regardless of what the club thought when parading Bramall, the bottom line for every new signing is whether they are actually any good? Can they benefit the side now or in the near future?

Young Cohen isn’t going to blaze a scorching trail across our immediate fixtures, nor will he make any impact on the first team this season – injuries permitting. Bramall is set firmly in the future category. Any player that isn’t ready yet always carries a risk when purchased, as thir skillset isn’t honed nor are unfisnished articles capable of offering a guarantee to what they will be able to give when they do come out of the figurative oven. Potential is a beautiful, yet dangerous trait. Potential does not win you matches.

We do know that Arsene Wenger values pace above many assets. In this regard, it is quite clear why Bramall is now resplendent in Arsenal colours. According to his former coach at Hednesford Town in an interview with the Birmingham Mail, it is claimed he can run the 100m in 10 seconds. The national qualifiying standard for 100m is 10.18seconds. There are other reports that claim different times over the same distance, but what the universal theme is on Cohen Bramall is that he is fast. Lightning fast.

If speed was the only skill we required, then Usain Bolt would be our Number9. We also need many other things to have a decent prospect on our hands. With our extensive coaching system at London Colney, if Bramall has the basic building blocks, then we can be confident that the club will coax out a decent player in Bramall.

Let us all take a minute to bask in what is a sepia-toned Disney family movie moment though. Separate yourself from gritty reality just for a moment and remember the hazy dreams you used to have as a kid. Bramall lived his.

Sacked from an industrial type job, he then gets snapped up by a huge football club to live his fantasy. It truly is movie-script worthy. Can’t we all get on board with this rose-tinted transfer and keep a close eye on this kid who above all odds, might just make it? Do we have to bemoan this £40k transfer simply because we want that superstar instead?

This transfer is at the heart of football. That money will boost a non-league team. The kid represents the dreams of many. He also could go on and aid our team at the highest level. We just don’t know at this point in time.

I’m just happy to see how happy Bramall is, and trying to envision how he felt the first time he walked into training. Talk about an eye opener when he sees Alexis Sanchez lacing up his boots for a kickabout with him.

Good luck Cohen. Welcome to the Gunners and keep that dream alive. Not only for you but for every kid who loves football. 

The Arsenal Midfield – The Power of ‘And’

Originally posted on Goonersphere

The world is riddled with powerful combinations. Strength comes in numbers and things are normally improved when they are in pairs. In fact, some of the best things come in duo’s.
Fish and chips. Reeves and Mortimer. Pie and gravy. Beer and kebab. Sex and cigarettes. All these examples are stronger through their holy union – but separate them and as singular units, they lose something. Vic Reeves is a hilarious talent, but without his cohort Bob Mortimer, the entertainment drops. Sex is brilliant, but the full stop the cigarette provides afterwards is the cancer-ridden cherry on the sweaty cake. 

You see, some things are meant to be allied with another. A matrimony which only enhances the strengths of the other. This pattern transfers over to Arsenal’s midfield at present. 

The centre of our team has always had a pairing which dismantled the opposition and simultaneously added bite to our defence. Thomas and Davis, Vieira and Petit and later Paddy joined up with Gilberto, and both of these pairs had not only the all-important tools of the trade, but they had the most decisive factor which all midfield duo’s require if they are to conquer all that is put in front of them.

They knew when to attack, and when to hang back. They read the game and decided when to aid the forward line, and when to soak up the pressure. The telepathy was honed between the two, which in turn allowed a certain freedom for other players. They could rest easy as there was no player flagrantly floating instead of sitting in their command post. 

Cut to the present day team, and there is a problem in the centre of the park. No longer do we possess a Vieira, or a Davis. We still have cumulative talent, but the bond is not there, and this factor is starting to tell in our results.

The closest we have to a welded pairing is Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. Hewn from the heat of duress when the midfield numbers were down to the bare bones, Santi dropped back and Coquelin was drafted back into the fold. The rest is history, but what is the real reason these two work so well?

The stats don’t lie. Since Francis made his dramatic comeback, his ball-winning, tackling and distances run has been better than the majority of defensive midfielders. His desire and passion is a joy to see and while he may be limited, what he does he does well. 

Santi Cazorla could not be any more of a polar opposite. Blessed with two feet who can wreak equal destruction, his low centre of gravity allows him to escape the tightest of spots. He wants to be involved in the play. Dropping deeper allows him to fulfill this desire. He collects the ball from Francis, and his bursts forward are a huge asset.

Take one of these away though, and the other is rudderless. Well, one of them is. Santi is so supremely talented that he can perform with whoever is placed alongside him, as long as they have defensive tendencies. Francis Coquelin however, is not as blessed.

A conversation with a friend recently on Twitter (thank you @thundermundt) highlighted the rest of the teams reluctance to offload the ball to Coquelin. Despite him being free, there were a number of occasions in recent games when he has called for the ball, but the ball has instead headed for a teammate who is much more marked.

This is due to Coquelin’s ability on the ball. Compared to the rest of the Arsenal players, he pales in comparison. So what do you do when your chief ball-winner cannot then do anything with the possession he has won?

You pair him with a dynamic, quick of thought player who can take the ball and make the transition from defence to attack. That is Santi Cazorla. When he is not available though, that is when Coquelin in the team means that, when we attack, we are effectively a man down.

Alternatives must be found. Mohamed Elneny is highly thought of, but on recent displays, he seems to be a player who requires a run of games to hit his level. He has disappointed this season. Then there is Granit Xhaka.

He lacks the burst of speed that Cazorla has, but he has the steel of Coquelin, his passing is at times exquisite, and he knows exactly when to go forward and when to sit back. Xhaka, if he can find his feet soon, looks to be the better alternative to Coquelin. 

When the time comes to replacing Santi Cazorla, Arsenal have a major problem. Then again, so does Coquelin. 

Preston 1-2 Arsenal – FA Cup Keypoints

It would appear that the Good Ship Arsenal has hit a form-storm again.

November always brings the blues for the Gunners, but after two consecutive away defeats, losing ground in the league, grabbing a quite frankly ridiculous draw against Bournemouth – and now escaping from Preston with cup progression – it would seem the respite in December was a false dawn.

Make no mistake, just as Bournemouth should have seen out a win in our last league game, Championship side Preston North End should have put this 3rd round cup tie to bed before half time.

Callum Robinson put the home side ahead in just the seventh minute, after yet another sluggish start from the Gunners. Slack defending saw the vibrant Robinson slot home, and from there, it was pretty much one way traffic as the Deepdale crowd roared their side on.

Callum Robinson could have had a hat-trick and Ben Pearson, Hugill and McGeady all had opportunities to cause a huge cupset. A combination of poor finishing, David Ospina and the offside flag saved Arsenals blushes, and aside from a solitary chance, Arsene Wenger’s side were limping like a lame dog to the half time break.

The second half was remarkable in its contrast. It was as if Arsenal finally realised their superior quality and began to play like they should. Within seconds, they had drawn level, as Aaron Ramsey fired home from the edge of the area. From nowhere they were level.

Arsenal were well on top for the second forty five, and Preston – from ripping Arsenal open at will – did not register a single shot on target for the entire half. the away side did not want a replay, and they fought to grab the winner.

Was anyone surprised that it was Olivier Giroud that grabbed it? In the dying embers of the game, Lucas Perez had the composure and presence of mind to backheel to Giroud, who fired in via a deflection and put Arsenal into the 4th round. 

There was much more that occurred in the game, but here are the key points from this tense fixture:

Giroud loves the big occasions

Step forward Olivier. He certainly has a habit for it. Sunderland, United, Palace, Bournemouth, West Brom and now Preston are just recent examples of times Olivier Giroud has rescued us with his goals. He was pretty ineffective along with the majority of the team in the first half, but his record speaks for itself. If there are any doubters about his effectiveness, then they are ignoring cold hard fact. The stand-in captain for this game was our saviour yet again.

Lucas Perez working his way into view

If there was a bright spot in the first half, it was Lucas. His every touch was sensible, and correct. He uses the ball well, and is always on the front foot. His assist for Giroud’s winner was beautiful, and he now has six goals and five assists this season, despite featuring in fleeting glimpses. Lucas is the real deal, just imagine what he can do with a run in the side?

Welbeck is back, and he will be huge for Arsenal

His fitness has been severely hampered since joining, but when he has enjoyed a run in the side, he has offered so much. Either from the flank or centrally, Welbeck’s workrate, intelligent running and awareness will be welcome now he has returned, after he came from the bench in the 83rd minute after missing out since April. 

Sloppy starts continue to hamper

In the last match review, and I think many others, I have mentioned that our continual tendency to come out of the blocks with all the urgency of a constipated snail is a huge hindrance, and this match proved it yet again. Why oh why is it occurring? We know how we can destroy opponents in a whirlwind of passing and movement, but why do we only do it on about three or four occasions a season? It is perhaps the most frustrating element about our play. a remedy, or an answer would be great.

Maitland-Niles has a future at Arsenal

There is a reason that Ainslie Maitland-Niles has been used more than any youth team player this season. His versatility helps, but he has shown he can deal with the pressure of stepping up. He was severely tested by Preston in the first half, and he could have done better on a few occasions, but he kept his cool and was always willing to take possession. Promising signs from the youngster.

There was a lot more to write about, but the most important thing is that we have kept up our record in the FA Cup of not losing in the 3rd Round since 1996. It was close, but we scraped through. 

With our league position, the cup may just be our best bet for success this season. It’s a good thing we got through then!

We have to do better!!!!!