Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

The hectic schedule during the festive period means rotation is inevitable. Yesterday's starting line-up saw some changes from Arsenal's established XI. The notable omission from the squad was Theo Walcott. According to Arsene Wenger's post-match interview, Theo was sick with a stomach problem (but he is already better and should be available on Saturday). We could have done with his pace on the flank to get behind Wolves defence.

One of the major talking points regarding the team selection in this period was when to rest RVP. Given his injury record, it would be too much for him to play three games in a space of 6 days. However, this game came 6 days after the previous match and 4 days before the next one, so his inclusion in the starting XI was pretty much anticipated especially as he was only 2 goals away from matching the goal-scoring record set by Alan Shearer. In the ideal world, if he had scored a hat-trick in this game and broke the record, Arsenal could have rested him on the last day of 2011 ahead of Fulham away game in the New Year. But it wasn't to be. In fact, RVP had enough chances to score a hat-trick, but luck and his finishing deserted him yesterday.

The impact subs against Aston Villa earned their deserved places in the starting line-up thanks to their impressive performances 6 days ago. Rosicky came in for Ramsey, who has had a couple of disappointing games recently and looked as if he could have done with a breather, so the boss' decision was understandable. Benayoun filled in for Theo. We were disappointed to see Oxlade-Chamberlain only make
the bench, but the winning-goal scorer in the last game deserved a place in the starting XI and actually started very well.

Arsene Wenger seems to prefer Koscielny in the central defence and Vermaelen at left-back as he deployed Djourou at right-back as soon as he had got back from injury. We don't know why the boss is reluctant to field Koscielny at right-back, Vermaelen in central defence and Miquel at left-back.

We compared the two contrasting games against Manchester City and Aston Villa in the previous post. This game was halfway between those two games in terms of performances and results and the most unsatisfactory. We didn't play as well as against Man City, but we outplayed and outclassed Wolves and surely deserved all three points. Obviously we were all disappointed at the Abbey Tavern and some expressed their displeasure with the team, but it wasn't fair to our players to criticise their performance. They played some slick football especially in the first half and showed their desire to win. They did absolutely everything but score in order to win the game. Unfortunately, Wolves goalkeeper, Hennessey, had an outstanding performance, while the ball did not fall for us.

That said, this was the game for which the results mattered. We couldn't capitalise on Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool dropping points on the previous day. Three points should have sent us to the fourth in the table and this time around not temporarily. The results frustrated us most rather than performance.

Fortunately, games come thick and fast at this time of the year, leaving us with no time to dwell on the disappointing result. The next two games can be tricky, which will be played within only two days of each other. RVP is likely to be rested in one of the two games. Now it looks a slim chance that he will break Alan Shearer's record, he might start from the bench against QPR at home on the New Year's eve. We probably need him more for Fulham away game.

We would like to choose Gervinho for Man of the Match, not just because he scored our only goal (you may know by now that we tend to avoid obvious choices), but because his constant hard work is due for some recognition.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
Didn't have much to do as Wolves registered only one shot on target. Couldn't he have done more to stop Fletcher's header going in or prevent him meeting the deflection?

Djourou: 4
His defence was far from convincing and his passing was poor.

Mertesacker: 8
Looked solid. Made some important blocks and good passes. Unlucky not to score.

Koscielny: 8
Defensively reliable and made good runs forward, too.

Vermaelen: 7
Good tackles, more runs forward and crosses. Had a better game as the left-back, but there were moments when his desire to win nearly got better of him.

Rosicky: 8
He was in the heart of Arsenal's attacking moves. Shame he blasted wide when he could have done better, but he looked more confident in shooting than he had been in the last couple of seasons.

Arteta: 7
Never put a foot wrong. I have seen better free-kicks by him in an Everton shirt.

Song: 5
We thought we missed him while he was serving suspension in the last game, but his performance was disappointing in this game. His passing left a lot to be desired. Replaced in the 71st minute by Ramsey.

Benayoun: 8
Set up a goal for Gervinho via a defence-splitting pass. Replaced in 64 minutes by Arshavin.

Gervinho: 9
Finally he got his decision and finish spot-on (to be honest, we didn't have much faith in him. We all thought he was going to mess it up) and his hard work was rewarded in the shape of a goal, which was executed with great composure.

Van Persie: 7
He was as creative as always. He had several chances to score himself, but it wasn't his day. Some fans say that this is the kind of game which makes him want to leave Arsenal. Maybe so result-wise, but he cannot fault his team-mates' efforts and commitment. He admits that at Arsenal he gets so many chances to score that he can afford to take gambles to try out various techniques, hence his impressive goal-scoring form so far. This game was no exception. He has an equal share of blame for not winning the game.

Subs

Arshavin: 7
Came on at 64th minute for Benayoun. Lively. Made a very good effort, which unfortunately hit the woodwork.

Ramsey: 6
Replaced Song as Arsenal looked for an elusive second goal. His introduction seemed to have fuelled Arsenal's attacking moves, but failed to make his mark.

Chamakh: 4
Came off the bench at 85th minute to replace Djourou as Arsenal desperately sought a last-grasp winner. He nearly knocked out RVP.

Referee

Stuart Attwell: 4
So many of his decisions were inconsistent. He gave a foul against Vermaelen for a handball, which was less clear than Wolves player's handball in the box just a minute ago. A red card against Milijas may have been a bit harsh. Another Wolves player's tackle on Ramsey, a couple of seconds after the incident, was worse than the red-carded challenge on Arteta, but it went unpunished.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2

The game presented sheer contrast to the match played just three days ago. You would ask yourself which you like better, great football with no points out of it or three points with unsatisfactory performance. Arsenal bagged all three points in the end, but their performance was below-par and the win was far from convincing.

Maybe the game came too soon after the intense battle against Manchester City. The dire full-back situation didn't help, either. Aston Villa players constantly threatened the flanks, firing crosses into the box. Arsene Wenger has to address this issue and find a solution by signing a full-back on loan or on a permanent basis. Otherwise we cannot go on without any recognised full-back for very long. Makeshift back-four can only stand the pressure for a limited amount of time.

Arsenal's passing was poor in this game. Especially Frimpong was disappointing. We really missed Song, who was serving a one-match suspension after receiving the 5th yellow card of the season on Sunday. Surprisingly, Arsenal's passing success rate was only marginally lower than their average (around 84%) at 81.8%.

For Sunday's game, Arsenal were unlucky not to come away with at least a point, while Aston Villa may have deserved a point from this game. As football fans, we all enjoy a good game of football regardless of the result, but as Arsenal fans, we don't mind getting the result when our team haven't played at their best. This was the game we would have lost in recent seasons. Coming through the difficult start to the season has certainly strengthened the team mentally and gelled them together.

As for our Man of the Match, it is too close to call between Szczeny and Koscielny, so they are our joint Men of the Match.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 8
Made some great stops, including match-saving blocks.

Coquelin: 5
Struggled to keep Villa attacks on the right flank at bay.

Mertesacker: 6
Villa's equaliser was perhaps largely attributed to Vermaelen, but Per could have done better to stop Albrighten nipping in. He received a yellow card as a result of a totally worthless challenge. On the other hand, he showed great spirit in front of Villa goal and went close to score goals.

Koscielny: 8
The best Arsenal defender on the night.

Vermaelen: 6
One of his relatively poor games. His error led to Villa equaliser.

Ramsey: 5
He had a poor game by his own admission (he tweeted so). His passing wasn't best and his finishing and/or split-second decisions let him down again. He should have done better when he got into the great position than shooting horribly wide. On the other hand, his block saved Arsenal conceding an early goal.

Arteta: 7
His clever thinking from a throw-in allowed Walcott to earn a penalty.

Frimpong: 5
Song's suspension meant a much-anticipated chance for the 19 year-old to shine, but he failed to take it. His passing was poor and he wasn't very effective in breaking down Villa attacks in midfield. He was replaced by Rosicky at 66th minute, which was an excellent decision by the boss.

Walcott: 8
Constantly threatened Villa defence. His great move in the box earned him a penalty gracefully (he didn't go down as if he had been shot).

Gervinho: 7
He had a relatively quiet game offensively. On the defensive side, he worked hard as usual, which was extremely important when we only had a makeshift left-back.

Van Persie: 8
He posed a threat to Villa defenders with his mobility.

Subs

Rosicky: 8
Came on the pitch in 66 minute to replace Frimpong and made the massive difference immediately. He brought fluency in passing and movements, changing the rhythm. He always makes an impact when he has come off the bench. Good sub. That's what we want from a 30 year-old player. We shouldn't sell him.

Benayoun: 8
One of the double substitions brought on at 81st minute and scored 6 minutes later. He injected energy into the team and the game. Great header from the diminutive player. He is hungry for playing time, is keen to take a chance to show what he is capable of and you can see that in his game. He dedicated the goal to Vermaelen according to his tweet. I don't know what story is behind this, but it is nice to see some togetherness in the team. Speaking about the twitter, after Arsenal's defeat of Chelsea, he congratulated his current team-mates on the twitter, which apparently infuriated Chelsea-supporter followers. He is a Gooner at heart. We should see him play more often when Gervinho goes to Africa Cup of Nations as he is a better option than Arshavin at the moment.

Arshavin: 5
The other of the double substitutions. Made a good effort, which was deflected over the bar.

Referee

Jonathan Moss: 4
More like Jonathan Ross. He booked RVP for diving instead of awarding him a penalty. Match of the Day replay showed there was a contact, which proved the decision for diving was wrong. This was the second penalty shout wrongfully turned down in two games in a row.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0

It was a good game of football. The result was disappointing, especially because we deserved at least a point out of the game and could have won the game on a lucky day. Nonetheless, we all enjoyed excellent football from the both sides and were happy with our players' performance.

Just compare how much money each of the two clubs has spent and are spending for their players. The game proved that there was not much in the quality and performance of the players between the two sides. Media used old clich├ęs, "Manchester City were a better side" or "City were too good for Arsenal", simply because of the result. Skysports stats show Arsenal had more possession throughout the game with 53%, and 61.1% in the second-half alone. Before the match, everybody expected Man City to dominate the game in possession. Arsenal played their style of football and went very close to win the game. Our players did us proud.

Arsene Wenger blamed the defensive reshuffle following the injury to Djourou for the goal conceded. It allowed Balotelli to make a run in the entire Arsenal half unmarked, but after the mishap, Arsenal's reorganised defence coped well with Man City attacks. I thought it was a tactical change because Koscielny played better than Djourou at right-back and Miquel did not do a bad job at left-back. Actually our defence looked solid throughout the game (maybe except for the first 10 minutes, when we thought this could have been long 90 minutes).

I quite like our current team. They don't have the same creative flair we had last season nor win games with emphatic scorelines, but they are unlikely to capitulate from 4-0 up at half-time (even with certain Phil Dowd on the mission to stage a greatest come-back in the Premier League history) or surrender a two-goal lead and go on to lose 3-2 to North London archrivals.

The two summer signings, Mertersacker and Arteta, have brought experience to the young team and provided calming and settling presence.The team now know how to control games. Their good work often go unnoticed because of the nature of their roles. However, at Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, we appreciate the influence of these two experienced players. In contrast to their calming influence, Captain Vantastic and vice-captain the Verminator drive the team with determination and desire to win.

I don't think the outcome of this game will have negative effects on our players. Arsenal have easier fixtures coming up for the next 12 days. It is a good time to get back to winning ways. Hopefully, we can get all 9 points and put pressure on Chelsea and Tottenham, at least one of which will drop points during the same period.

Our Man of the Match is Thomas Vermaelen. He nearly scored twice at later stage and showed great spirit.

Players ratings:

Szczeny: 9
Made great stops, some of which could have been match-deciders. He was as good as Joe Hart.

Djourou: 7
Reluctant to go forward and overlap with Walcott, which was largely anticipated, though. Replaced at 47th minute due to a groin strain, which could sideline him for three weeks.

Mertesacker: 8
Looked solid. Only complaint was that he should probably have covered Koscielny when Balotelli made the run.

Koscielny: 8
Good performance as the centre-back. Wasn't bad as the right-back, either, although some distributions were poor. As the right-back, he was more adventurous than Djourou (actually, he made great forward runs as the centre-back as well before he took the right-back position) and put some good crosses in. He may not feel comfortable playing the right-back, but he can get used to it and improve his game.

Vermaelen: 9
Started as the left-back and ended the game as the centre-back. Solid all through the game.

Ramsey: 8
He made some great runs to get into the area, but his finishing let him down. He always wants one touch too many before he shoots. I've read a lot of criticism from fans about him recently, especially about his fitness level. Apparently he covers the most distance of all players in the Premier League. Doesn't this stat show that he's back to full fitness now?

Arteta: 8
Reliable as usual.

Song: 8
Good both defensively and offensively. Made some incisive passes again. His passing has significantly improved this season.

Walcott: 7
This is where our views were divided (it always seems to be on him). Before the match, many thought he would hold the key to Arsenal's attacking as City didn't have any established left-back with Kolarov injured and Clichy suspended. Despite the expectations, Theo had a quiet game apart from one powerful shot, which forced a good save from Joe Hart. Some of us think his subdued performance was due to the lack of service. An eagle-eyed member spotted him waving to invite a pass only to be ignored by Arteta.

Gervinho: 9
His work rate was once again phenomenal. One second he was in the opponents' box and the next second he was at the other end defending. He was unlucky not to put his name on the score sheet as Joe Hart didn't know anything about his "brilliant save".

Van Persie: 8
Marked tightly by Man City defenders all through the game, but he still managed to prove that he only needed one chance to do something special, when he found space. Match of the Day replay showed he was played on-side by Kompany, who was on the far side to the assistant referee, and his goal should have stood.

Subs

Miquel: 8
47th-minute substitution for injured Djourou. He did well under the circumstances and out of position. (He has to get used to playing in this position if he wants the first-team action as Arsenal's full-back drought looks set to continue).

Arshavin: 5
Came off the bench at 69th minute for Walcott. He had a clear-cut chance to score and shine, but his effort was disappointing.

Chamakh: 5
Replaced Mertesacker in 82 minute, which meant Arsenal were attacking with four strikers, leaving only two in midfield. However, he failed to make a difference.

Referee

Phil Dowd: 4
We thought we hadn't suffered from bad decisions this season, then this game came. RVP was not off side and Micah Richards handled the ball in the box. These decisions could have meant two goals to Arsenal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Christmas Party

Our Christmas party took place on 12 December at Pablo's bar in Playa Flamenca, Spain. Following the last year's huge success and popularity, 46 guests turned up to share festive fun and enjoy Christmas dinner and entertainment.

We were welcomed with a glass of Cava on arrival. The party kicked off at 7:30 pm and as we seated ourselves, Ricky's carefully compiled Arsenal videos started. The video archives told Arsenal's 125 year history with famous victories and stunning goals (as well as a couple of heart-breaking defeats only noticed by watchful eyes). We thought RVP's goal against Everton was exceptional and today's players were blessed with more technical abilities, but some of those goals from the old days were just breath-taking. The show was a feast for the eyes.

Between the courses, Arsenal trivia quiz questions were read out by Mabel the Quizmistress and the guests were tested on their knowledge about our great football club. Later in the evening, Maurice 22 team (Mo, Maureen Q, Mick, Maureen J, and Pat) came top with the impressive 22 points and were awarded Arsenal quiz champion Cava.

Following Chairman Mo's speech, raffle was drawn, which proved to be a success, bringing €120 into the Supporters Club fund. A football scratch card was also sold. Tonight's winner was Tony, while PF Gooners also benefitted from the proceeds.

Collections were made for Maggie and her staff, who worked hard to make all the proceedings go smoothly, and presented as our gratitude for good food and excellent service.

The night grew with dance and a few songs from the guests, including Trevor and John. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

We have posted only a few photos here. This year we chose to post all the party photos on our Facebook Page so we can post more photos with captions alongside them and exchange comments on each photo. Please follow the link by clicking here to have a look at more photos.






Sunday, December 11, 2011

Arsenal 1 Everton 0

Most of media reports described this game "largely scrappy" and Arsenal's performance "uninspiring", but I enjoyed both the game and the team's performance (I must admit that if the result had gone wrong way, I might not have enjoyed the game so much). Arsenal didn't make the game easy by failing to be clinical enough in front of the goal, but they created plenty of chances in the first half, some of which were easy on the eyes. The defence was solid. Considering the fact that Arsenal currently has no recognised full-backs, following Santos' injury in the midweek game, their defensive performance was encouraging. Vermaelen looked good as the left-back.

The goal came in 70 minute after Everton had tightened up their defence by replacing striker Saha with a centre-back, Distin, looking like they were going for a goalless draw, while Arsenal were preparing to throw in more attacking force in Rosicky and Arshavin in order to break a deadlock. The subs had to wait.

RVP was the hero once again. He had a relatively poor game by his own standards and by his own admision. His touch deserted him. However, a moment of brilliance made up for it.

Three points were absolutely vital to keep up with the top four and saw Arsenal climb to the 4th spot for the first time this season as a result. It may only be until Monday night (I am hoping Chelsea will beat Man City or draw at least), but we are now very close to where we wanted to be.

Our Man of the Match is Alex Song because we rate overall performance more than a moment of brilliance.

Players ratings:

Szczeny: 7
Although Everton had only one shot on target, he was active with some good clearances. However, he could have made his defenders' lives easier by coming forward to claim the ball on some occasions.

Djourou: 7
A lot better than Tuesday night.

Mertesacker: 7
Looked solid.

Koscielny: 8
Won all the aerial battles.

Vermaelen: 8
Some great tackles, including fending off Cahill in a very dangerous area. He did a good job in an unfamiliar position (I have read somewhere that he occasionally plays the left-back for Belgium national team, though).

Ramsey: 8
Personally, I think he had a good game. He made some great moves into the box to get in good positions, as well as providing incisive passes (which is what we expect from him most) and linking up with other attacking players. His turn and shot in the box were a sequence of beautiful and technically superb moves. Had it hit the target, it would have been a strong contender for the Goal of the Month against RVP's sublime volley.

Arteta: 8
Did well amid the media focus as this game was a first meeting with his old club. Even an early yellow card did not stop him from working hard. He had good link-up play as well.

Song: 8
His passing is improving. His clipped pass to RVP was exquisite and deserves every credit.

Walcott: 8
He had one of his better games. He can beat defenders not only with pace, but strength and trickery as well. His crosses are getting better. He even had a powerful shot from the right-hand side, which forced a good save out of Tim Howard. He is developing into a great winger.

Gervinho: 7
Lively, but his finishing and split-second decisions in front of the goal let him down.

Van Persie: 8
Superb goal which will be rememberd for a long time on Arsenal's 125th anniversary. However, otherwise, his performance on the day was below his standards.

Subs

Rosicky: 7
83rd-minute substitution. He was supposed to come on earlier, but RVP's goal changed the plan. He was bright. Although he has made only short appreances recently, his performance has been consistent and has made an impact. Good sub.

Miquel: 7
Substituted Vermaelen at the 83rd minute. Didn't put a foot wrong.

Frimpong: N/A
Came on for Walcott to shore up the defence in 89 minute. Did his job to see off Everton.

Referee

Howard Webb: 6
Decisions were OK, but was he Everton's 12th player? He got Arsenal players' way on several occasions on the edge of Arsenal box.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Olympiacos 3 Arsenal 1

Is this Arsenal's worst performance we have seen for a long time? The team did not have any shape, with no cohesion nor desire to win. What I don't understand was why they performed so badly, because they are almost the same group of players who impressed us last week.

Arsenal played in exactly the same situation before: they were already through to the knockout stages with a game to spare and Arsene Wenger fielded the youngest ever team to play in the Champions League against the same Greek side. They were narrowly defeated, but the next morning, all the papers praised their brave and committed performance with a headline "Hold your head high". In comparison to this young 2009 team, Tuesday's team consisted of more experienced first-teamers. Out of the starting XI, only three players were under 21 and they are already a part of the first-team.

So what went wrong? Arsenal gave away the ball too cheaply and too often. Their passing success rate was 79.9% according Sky Sports site, which is far too low compared to Arsenal's starndards (usually around 84%). For the weekend game against Wigan, Arsenal's collective passing success rate was 89% (source: the Sunday Mirror), while Ramsey achieved over 90% mark. Olympiacos pressed them very hard and were always looking to intercept passes, but some passing by Arsenal players was just sloppy and too casual.

Arsene Wenger admitted "I don't think we had the right tactical approach." Could anybody explain this? Did he mean his selection of players? It looked like Arsenal played 4-4-2, which was similar to the last week's Carling Cup game, but each player did not seem to understand their role very well, hence no shape to offensive nor defensive moves. The system worked well against Man City, thanks to the two young defensive midfielders' outstanding performance, but in this game, Arsenal looked short of creativity. When Rosicky came off the bench, he highlighted what Arsenal had been missing.

For Olympiacos, their qualification was at stake and they had everything to play for in this game. On the other hand, the result meant very little to Arsenal, who had already secured their place in the last 16 and won Group F. However, this group of players had a lot to prove and should have been desperate to impress. While Olympiacos showed their determination and commitment, there was no urgency nor desire to win seen from most of Arsenal players (especially those who needed playing time).

It is difficult to find positives we can take from this game. Experience? Maybe for the young players like Chambo, Coquelin, Frimpong, Miquel, and Mannone. If fact, these players, except for Mannone, were better players than most of the more experienced players on the pitch.

Hopefully, Saturday will be a totally different story with many changes to this evening's line-up. The injury to Santos, the only proper left-back we had since Gibbs was sidelined, was a huge blow coming from this game, but fortunately he does not seem to be out for very long. In the meantime, Vermaelen is likely to slot into the left-back position, with Koscielny paired with Mertesacker in central defence and Djourou at right-back. Hopefully, Djourou will improve his performance significantly from this game!

As for the usual (Arsenal) Man of the Match, it is difficult to choose one player for wrong reasons, but we choose Benayoun, who was one of a few players who showed their desire and scored a goal on the miserable night for Arsenal.

Player ratings: (Before we start, we don't do 2s or 3s as some of our members suggested)

Fabianski: 5
The first goal was a bit unlucky, but his performance was never convincing to the moment he was stretched off at 25th minute due to a deep cut in the knee.

Djourou: 4
He was sloppy and not alert or sharp. You cannot dwell on the ball in your own box with the opponent attacker on you.

Squillaci: 4
Old Squillaci was back just when we thought he was a new player after the last week's game.

Vermaelen: 6
Not his best game. But at least he tried to win the game.

Santos: 6
We don't know why Arsene Wenger played him. He should have been rested as well as other key players because he was the only proper left-back we had. Miquel should have started instead.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
He was quiet for the first 15 minutes or so, but he displayed his talent. His crosses were good and he beat tough Olympiacos defenders on several occasions. The game was a good test for him to test his strength.

Coquelin: 7
Survived a brutal challenge from an Olympiacos player. Replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the 67 minute.

Frimpong: 7
He was one of a few players who showed their desire to win. As combative as usual, but he received a yellow card for a reckless challenge, just after he claimed in his pre-match interview that he was no longer reckless and he thought twice before going into challenges.

Benayoun: 7
Technically superb strike to net Arsenal's only goal. He showed some creativity and commitement. His performance on the night made many Arsenal fans wish to see him play more often for the Club.

Arshavin: 5
Some good moves, but he gave away too many balls. Failed to prove his worth.

Chamakh: 4
Had a few good moments, including a great run in the first 15 minutes but not enough to impress. He missed a great chance to score because he didn't bother to make a little extra effort. He didn't even jump to meet crosses. I fondly remember how he saved the first half of Arsenal's season last year when RVP was injured, but he didn't do himself any favour in this game to save his career at Arsenal.

Subs

Mannone: 4
He has to take a sole responsibility for the second goal. He came out of his area to clear the ball with a header, which went straight to Fuster, and then the young Italian keeper failed to realise the situation where he could have simply gathered the ball, but instead he went for it with his feet. Reportedly Mannone told the Club to play him or sell him earlier this season. He got his chance. Hope Szczesny will stay fit for the rest of the season so that we don't have to rely on the back-up keepers.

Miquel: 5
51st-minute substitution for injured Santos. He looked tired, slow to get back to defend.

Rosicky: 7
Made an immediate impact when he came off the bench.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wigan 0 Arsenal 4

Although Arsenal were 2-0 up at half time and had the last 25 minutes of the first half in control, when Wigan started the second half brightly, they reminded us how tricky this place has been for Arsenal for the last two seasons. However, Arsenal have been the comeback kings of late, with the highest number (7) of games they came from behind to win or draw, so I was confident about their resilience and mental strength in case Wigan had come back and pulled back a goal. In fact, Arsenal kept their concentration to the last minute and did not take their foot off the gas. They displayed a thoroughly professional performance. It was a comfortable win in the end.

The first two goals were untypical of Arsenal; Arteta's shot from outside the box and Vermaelen's header from a corner. The most efficient way to score. As we are often frustrated by Arsenal's usual attacking display of passing around just outside the box till they get dispossessed, we didn't mind the way they scored these goals.

Arsene Wenger expressed his delight for Gervniho's goal in his post-match interview and we feel the same. He has been working hard and doing everything right but the final ball. This time, his split-second decision was spot-on and finishing was good. He was in the right place at the right time, but his reaction to Al Habsi's save was more than just a tap-in. It took some skill to put the ball at the back of the net as the rebound still had a nasty spin on it.

The fact that we had four different goal scorers in this game should shut up all the criticism about Arsenal's dependence on RVP for goal sources, while RVP extended his impressive run of a goal-scoring form as well. On top of these, a clean sheet was another positive outcome from this game.

As a result of the fine performance from the entire team, Arsenal has risen to the 5th in the league table at the expense of Newcastle and on the strength of the much-improved goal difference.

As for the Man of the Match, Sky Sports and the Sunday Mirror chose RVP and Aaron Ramsey, respectively, while Arteta topped fans' voting with 34% of total votes on the Arsenal.com site. It is difficult to pick one player as our Man of the Match because the emphatic win was the result of collective efforts and a great team performance. However, we would like to take this opportunity to choose Arteta as his work often goes unrecognised.

Player ratings:

Szczeny: 8
His decisions were spot-on in this game.

Koscielny: 8
He had another good game, following the midweek action against Man City in his much familiar central defensive position. He often overlapped Walcott, showing signs of confidence as the right-back.

Mertesacker: 8
The return of the Verminator clearly benefitted him. He had an inclination to make wrong decisions and wrong passes under the pressure of opposition challenges, but these days he only needs to look at Vermaelen, who gives him instructions as to whether to pass back to the keeper. Having a reliable defender with more experience in the EPL and natural leader alongside him must have taken a burden off his shoulders. He looks more comfortable these days.

Vermaelen: 9
As reliable as usual. Scored a great goal with precision. This is just like his debut season when we were all excited with our acquisition of a new centre-back who can score freely. How much we missed him during the last season and the first three months of this season!

Santos: 7
His bizarre defensive move nearly cost us a goal. Didn't he know there was no Wigan player behind him? On the other hand, he apparently "blocked" Jordi Gomez's close-range shot, which would have gone in otherwise.

Ramsey: 8
He made all the right moves and obviously posed a threat to the Wigan side as he was fouled all afternoon. The understanding and attack-defence balance among the midfield trio was perfect. They may not be as dynamic as their counterparts last season (Fabregas-Wilshere-Song) at their best (which we didn't see as often as we liked because of Fabregas' hamstring problems and his inconsistency in performance), but this season's midfield is getting better and stronger gradually.

Arteta: 9
Excellent.

Song: 8
Did his job well.

Walcott: 8
He did well to stay on his feet when he could have gone down and looked for a penalty. He continued his run and pulled back a great pass to RVP. Captain showed his gratitude to Theo's good work after he scored. Great strike partnership.

Gervinho: 8
Finally, his hard work bore fruit. Hopefully the goal has boosted his confidence and more goals will come from him.

Van Persie: 9
Cool finish. He tirelessly created space and chances for his team-mates and himself.

Subs

Arshavin: 6
He lost the ball in a simple backward pass to Santos. I like Arshavin as a person and appreciate that he has made his mark in Arsenal's history by scoring four goals against Liverpool, but I haven't been impressed with his performance lately. However, his departure in the January transfer window is unlikely (unlesss we buy Eden Hazard or Mario Gotze) as he will be the first choice to fill the void Gervinho will leave when the Ivorian goes to African Nations' Cup.

Benayoun: 7
Nearly scored.

Coquelin: 6
Got a yellow card for a totally unnecessary foul.

Referee (We don't usually do this, but we were compelled to do it because his performance was appalling)

Mark Clattenburg: 5
Ramsey was clearly held by the Wigan defender in the box, but the ref waved play on. It did not affect the result, but if he had awarded Arsenal a penalty, it would have added to RVP's goal tally most certainly (That said, the Dutchman missed a pen against Wigan at the Emirates last season). Booking Song was another poor decision.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Arsenal 1 Fulham 1

We have mixed views on this game among the members. Some of our players may not have been as sharp as we hoped, but they showed great spirit to come back from 1-0 down. After the equaliser, Arsenal pressed on with great urgency, but unfortunately the end product never arrived. Of course, two points dropped are a big blow to Arsenal's top four finish bid, but the draw is unlikely to undermine their confidence or affect the momentum of their resurgence.

All Arsenal players knew they had to be patient and not to make silly mistakes, so I was not too disappointed with their performance in the first half, when it ended at 0-0. However, conceding a first goal was not included in their game plan. It was very difficult to score two goals against Fulham's well-organised defence especially with a man of the match performance from their goal keeper, Mark Schwarzer.

Incidentally, Arsenal's starting XI did not include any Frenchman for the first time in 6 years. An interesting stat? Arsenal are no longer a second Frence national team. This is not really surprising if you look at this summer's signings, which included no French nationals.

Player ratings:

Szczeny: 7
Made some good saves.

Djourou: 8
Good denfensive work, covering central defence as well. Also, he made good forward runs, overlapping Theo, and nearly scored with a powerful header.

Mertesacker: 7
He was replaced in 68th minute by Diaby to add offensive force. He did OK.

Vermaelen: 8
Unfortunately he was the culprit for the first goal, but he did not hide and instead, he scored a brilliant goal. It was nice to see our vice-captain and one of our most influential players kissing the badge when celebrating his goal.

Santos: 7
Won some crucial tackles. He looked better defensively than before and good at going forward as always.

Ramsey: 6
His passing lacked accuracy. He continued his efforts to make runs and get into good positions, but failed to grab his chances to shine (one of his efforts was not entirely his fault though, as it was denied by Schwarzer). Some criticise Arsene Wenger for his decision to keep playing Ramsey, but the young Welshman had a few excellent games before this one and he looked like he was going to start scoring anytime soon. Wenger could not drop him as long as he was fit, but probably Rosicky will start in Ramsey's place Tuesday night.

Arteta: 7
When he thought he was fouled, he stopped playing, which led to Fulham's goal (or Vermaelen's first goal) as the whole team were distracted from the incident.

Song: 8
Worked hard as usual. Took on more defensive work after Mertesacker had been replaced.

Walcott: 8
This is where our views are divided. I personally think he had a good game and many Arsenal fans seem to agree with me as he collected 28% of votes for the Man of the Match on the Arsenal.com site (Vermaelen was top with 35% of votes). He was always dangerous on the right-wing, creating chances for others and seeking to score himself. He supplied a superb cross for Vermaelen. Although his late effort was as tame as a back pass, his work down the right-wing throughout the game overweighs it. He had a tendency to go anonymous after a couple of good games, but he has had a run of decent games by now. Is this a sign of consistency?

Arshavin: 6
He started brightly, but failed to threat Fulham defence. Sometimes gave the ball away too cheaply.

Van Persie: 7
Had a relatively quiet game. He got involved in a few attacking moves, but could not produce a goal.

Subs

Gervinho: 8
Came on as a 68th-minute substitution to replace Ramsey and made an immediate impact. Shame he didn't start, but he looked a bit jaded in the midweek game against Dortmund. That may be the reason behind his starting from the bench.

Diaby: 7
Replaced Mertesacker at 68th minuite.

Chamakh: 6
Came on at 76th minute for Arsehavin. Did not make an impact.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arsenal 2 Dortmund 1

It was a great team performance against a good side, the reigning champions of Bundesliga. Arsenal withstood early offensive storms from Dortmund and gradually got the game under control.

Just when we were talking about how scarcely RVP scores with his head, he headed home Song's brilliant cross. Never underestimate his "chocolate leg" or "chocolate head", or any of his abilities. His goal-scoring form is just phenomenal at the moment.

Above all, the most important point of this game was the result. We bagged all three points which was required to secure the place in the Knock-out Stages and even better, we have won Group F with a game to spare. This means that we are less likely to face one of the strongest opponents in Europe, such as Bacelona, immediately in the Knock-out Stages and that we can afford to send our young players and second-string first-teamers to Greece in two weeks' time and rest our key players.

With all other English clubs failing to grab three points this week, Arsenal are the only English club that has already booked their place in the last 16. Manchester City, the current Premier League leaders and big spender, are bracing themselves for a possible early exit from the European elite competition. Who would've expected all these? When the draw took place, most of Man U and Chelsea supporters thought they were already through before the competition started. Arsenal had to qualify by beating Udinese, who were at that time top of Serie A, and then battled against two domestic league champions and a prestigious French club. Our team and their achievement last night make us proud.

Our Man of the Match is Alex Song for his superb job both offensive and defensive.

Player ratings:
Szczeny: 7
Solid performance.

Koscielny: 8
Great defensive work in an unfamiliar position. On the offensive side of the game, he was more involved in forward runs than in the last game. He was replaced by Djourou at 83rd minute, walking down the tunnel accompanied by the Physio. Hope he didn't get injured.

Mertesacker: 7
He was under tremendous pressure and severe scrutiny after the blunder last Saturday. Even against the known German side, he did not look too comfortable, but he did well to hold the defensive line together with the other defenders. We still think that it is too early to conclude him as a flop.

Vermaelen: 8
Ever reassuring presence at the back. His flick from Arteta's corner set up a rare set-piece goal for Arsenal.

Santos: 7
Better defensive performance than in the last game. Great movement going forward.

Ramsey: 8
Some great passes to release Gervinho and Walcott behind Dortmund defensive line. RVP praised the Welshman's movements without the ball after Norwich game and tweeted to him that he would get a well-deserved goal on Wednesday. Unfortunately RVP's prediction did not materialise, but if Rambo keeps up his good work, he will most certainly achieve his target of 10 goals this season (two scored so far).

Arteta: 7
Not so eye-catching, but solid performance. His corners and free-kicks seem to have improved.

Song: 9
Great run, skills to beat two Dortmund defenders and inch-perfect cross to RVP. He had a good game both offensively and defensively.

Walcott: 8
He was a constant threat to the opponents' defence again. He could have scored if it had not been for those dubious off-side decisions.

Gervinho: 7
He may not have been as sharp as usual, but his work rate was tremendous. He was all over the pitch, tracking back and making forward runs. His fininshing let him down.

Van Persie: 9
He worked very hard, creating chances in midfield and finishing them off in goalmouth. It looks so easy when he is in the right position at the right time, but it's all attributed to his quality.


Subs

Benayoun: 6
He came off the bench at 74th minute. He did what he was expected to do.

Djourou: 6
He was a 83rd-minute substitution to replace Koscielny.

Diaby: 6
Good to see him back.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Norwich 1 Arsenal 2

Arsenal made the game more difficult and made themselves more vulnerable by being unable to find their third goal. They should have been at least two goals up at the half time and when RVP had scored what turned out to be the winner with more than half an hour remaining, his side looked likely to finish the game with an emphatic win, but it wasn't to be.

It is hardly new that Arsenal wasted numerous chances to score and it was frustrating. However, while they continued attacking, they kept the possession very well to hold on to their narrow lead in the last 10 minutes. That's the difference this season. We hail the new resilient Arsenal.

Our Man of the Match is RVP for not just scoring two goals, but creating chances for his team-mates as well.

Player ratings:

Szczeny: 8
Made some good saves. He came out to claim the ball from Norwich's free-kick from the dangerous position in the final minutes, which potentially saved two points.

Koscielny: 7
He did OK, considering the fact that this was his first game at right-back in an Arsenal shirt (According to Wenger, he was trained as the right-back). I had never thought I would say this, but I prefer Jenkinson for this position after his impressive performance against West Brom. But I suppose this was a totally different game from the one against West Brom, who did not really turn up. Koscielny did an impeccable job defensively. Hopefully, as he gains confidence in his new role, he will make more forward runs and his link-up with Walcott will grow.

Mertesacker: 5
Terrible mistake to let Morison score from that situation. It may have been a foul on the German international, but Per should have dealt with the ball before letting Morison get anywhere near him. Arsene Wenger said in his post-match interview "I told Per that when you are in England facing goal, maybe in many countries you are safe but not here. That's what he has learned today".

Apart from this occasion, he was outmuscled a few times. He shouldn't allow himself to be bullied if he wants to survive in English football. Hopefully he has learned lessons from this game.

Vermaelen: 8
Solid at the back.

Santos: 6
He was caught out of position several times, mainly as a result of his unsuccessful tackles, exposing Arsenal's left-flank too often in the first half. His defensive performance was poor, but he was good offensively by creating goal-scoring chances, including the great through-ball to RVP.

Ramsey: 8
Linked up well with other attacking players and took every opportunity to get involved in attacking. He now seems to be back to his best before the horrific injury.

Arteta: 7
He seemed to have been quiet throughout the game. His name was mentioned only three times when he made a defensive mistake and when he had shots.

Song: 7
He battled for the ball in the middle of the park and set up RVP's second goal through his precise pass (which does not happen very often unfortunately).

Walcott: 8
He posed a genuine threat to Norwich defence. His shot hit the woodwork, which could have provided Arsenal with a much-needed third goal otherwise and he provided an assist for RVP's first goal. He is arguably the most improved Arsenal player this season. His recent performances, including those for England national team, have shown improvements in his defensive work and his movements without the ball. All he needs is consistency now.

Gervinho: 7
He was handful and did everything right except for final balls. He had at least two clear-cut chances among other goal-scoring opportunities, but could not convert them. He was sometimes slow to make decisions when he got the ball. In the post-match interview, Wenger commented on RVP: "He always makes the right decisions in a fraction of a second when there is little time available. That makes him exceptional." That's what Gervinho has to learn to become a world-class player like RVP.

Van Persie: 9
He created chances, as well as scoring goals. The second goal was superb, displaying his class. Also, while celebrating his goals with his team-mate, he urged them to keep focused and get on with the job. He is a great leader and has learned a lot from last season.


Subs

Benayoun: 6
He came off the bench at 77th minute. It was a short appearance, but he got involved in some attacking moves.

Djourou: N/A
He was an injury-time substitution to prop up the defence.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Extraordinary Club Meeting

An extraordinary club meeting took place from 15:00 on Saturday 12th November at Las Mimosas bar, Playa Flamenca. Due to the Chairman being ill the meeting was facilitated by the Secretary. Happily the Chairman is now back in circulation.

The following subjects were discussed and decided:

Christmas Dinner
Chirstmas Dinner will be held from 19:30 on Monday 12th December at Pablo's Bar, Parque del Duque, Playa Flamenca. The menu was distributed and tickets went on sale for €10 per person. 10 tickets were sold on the spot with further interest from the meeting participants.

Closing of Las Mimosas Bar for Christmas
As Las Mimosas Bar, our usual venue for watching Arsenal games, is shut for Christmas between 24th December and 6th January, we need to find an alternative bar for the 3 Arsenal matches to be played during this period: namely EPL games against Wolves on Monday 26th December, QPR on Saturday 31st December, and Fulham on Monday 2nd January.
Mick will enquire the Wicklow Abbey Tavern if they will be able to show these games.

Invitation to apply for tickets for Blackburn 4th February & Tottenham 25th Februrary
Club Sectretary explained how applications can be made.

Benidorm Trip
On the back of the popularity of the club trip to Benidorm earlier this year, the similar trip will be organised again for Februrary next year. 16th February is suggested as a candidate date. Events Manager will look into the details.

Football Cards
In order to raise funds for the Supporters Club, football scratch cards will be sold. It is the intention to sell cards on Match days. The entry price was set for €1 per square. Of the total proceeds of €40 per card, €25 goes to the prize, with €15 into the kitty. This scheme was immediately put into action on the day, prior to England vs Spain game, and €15 was put into the Supporters Club fund through the sale of a scratch card.

Election of Committee
The current committee members were nominated and re-elected.
Mo Jeffryes      Chairman
Mick Hill          Treasurer
Dave Johns      Secretary

Supporters Club Goods
T-shirts and polo shirts will be produced with a Supporters Club badge on. Part of the fund raised through the football cards will be used for the production of these shirts, which will be sold with profits. The proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go back into the fund. Cheryl will look into quality T-shirts/polo shirts on the Internet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Extraordinary Club Meeting

We are holding an extraordinary club meeting on 12th November. If you cannot carry on for two weeks without Arsenal in action, please come and join us at Las Mimosas bar, Playa Flamenca at 3:00pm to discuss Arsenal FC, the Supporters Club affairs, and anything you want to talk about. See you on Saturday!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Arsenal 3 West Brom 0

The pre-match focus was on who was going to be paired with Vermaelen, and the answer was Koscielny. After the match, Arsene Wenger revealed that he chose two quick centre backs in the anticipation of Peter Odemwengie to play up front.

Odemwengie, who sustained an injury during the training in the week, did not feature in Saturday's game, but it proved to be a good decision to play two aggressive centre-backs because they tried to defend West Brom attack high on the pitch and contained it very compactly.

Three goals came from three different scorers. Although RVP was involved in all the goals, either as a scorer or a provider, it was a good evidence that Arsenal are not a one-man team. In fact, all the three goals were produced as the result of very good team performance.

It was a typical Arsenal game in which they dominated in possession, with one-touch passing and little clever one-twos. Good old Arsenal football is back. After scoring two goals in the first half and with West Brom not looking too threatening, Arsenal slipped into the old habit of taking the foot off the gas in the second half. Watching this game at Las Mimosas bar, we began to fear the all too familiar scenario, in which just one sloppy pass would award patient West Brom a chance to score and at 2-1, Arsenal defence would start to panic. Call us pessimists, but we have watched far too many Arsenal matches (especially last season) to sit back and relax even when we are cruising with a two-goal lead. Then, Arsene Wenger made three substitutions to inject some urgency into the game through Rosicky, Benayoun, and Arshavin, who all wanted playing time and needed to prove their worth. The double substitutions turned out to be a timely decision as Rosicky and Benayoun livened up the game and forced a much-needed third goal to put the game into bed.

Overall, it was a comfortable and convincing win, with a welcome clean sheet and another three points in the bag. Furthermore, Arsenal's goal deference has turned positive for the first time this season.

It is again difficult not to choose RVP for the Man of the Match with scoring a goal and assisting two, but we would like to choose Vermaelen instead because his return has made such a big difference to the team and he epitomised Arsenal's solid performance both defensively and offensively.

Player Ratings:

Szczeny: 7
He didn't have much to do as West Brom registered only two shots on target. His goal-kick to Jenkinson ended up with a West Brom throw-in from a dangerous area. As a goalkeeper, he has to be focused for full 90 minutes.

Jenkinson: 8
He coped with pacey Jerome Thomas very well. He looked less nervous than in the mid-week game against Marseille and got more involved in going forward, which drew out his strength, i.e., good crossing.

Koscielny: 8
Together with Vermaelen, he formed a solid defence.

Vermaelen: 9
He provided reassuring presence for Arsenal defence. He closed down West Brom attack high on the pitch, although he gave away several fouls, but not serious enough to get yellow cards. He scored a good goal, dashing into the box like a centre forward.

Santos: 7
Arsene Wenger said that he is a better defender than people think. He tries to get the ball in the opponents' half. When it is successful, it gives Arsenal a huge attacking edge, but when it fails, it exposes Arsenal defence. In this game, his risk-taking style worked well and he was always a threat to West Brom defence down the left-hand side.

Ramsey: 7
Great pass to Walcott, which led to the first goal. He had a chance to score himself, but the shot went wide.

Arteta: 8
Arsenal defenders contained West Brom attack very compactly, which allowed Arteta to exploit his attacking prowess. It is not fair to compare him with Fabregas as he has been playing Jack Wilshere role. However, in this game, he was given scope to show what he was capable of as an attacking midfielder. This is good for Arsenal because it shows the midfield can adjust their attack-defence balance game by game, a further evidence for the newly rebuilt team gelling together. At the end of a very good build-up involving Rosicky and RVP, Arteta scored his second goal of the season with clinical finish.

Song: 7
He broke down West Brom attack very well and nearly scored.

Walcott: 8
He used his pace well and tested Ben Foster with sharp shooting a couple times, one of which led to the first goal.

Gervinho: 8
In the first half, he was not given much space to manoeuvre as two West Brom players tightly marked him, but he gradually found space by swapping sides with Walcott occasionally and got involved in every attacking move in the second half.

Van Persie: 9
He scored a poacher's goal and provided assists for the other two goals.

Subs

Rosicky: 8
Brought the tempo back in to the game and his neat one-two with RVP was a part of beautiful build-up to the third goal.

Benayoun: 7
Did not make an eye-catching move, but together with Rosicky, he brought urgency into Arsenal attack.
Arshavin: 6
Made little impact.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Arsenal 0 Marseille 0

A home draw and missing out on the chance to qualify for the knock-out stages were disappointing. On the back of the weekend's sensational win and superb performance, Arsenal were expected to win and seal their place in the last 16 on the night. Although Marseille was a strong side, with organised defence closing down Arsenal very effectively, we had chances to win the game in the first half.

Prior to the first Marseille match two weeks ago, Arsene Wenger said he was targeting four points from the two matches and we have achieved it, so the draw against the arguably strongest contestant in Group F is not such a bad result. It is certainly not a disaster as we are still top of the Group.

So many players were below-par. Ramsey missed a few good chances. Especially he dwelled so long on the ball in the box only to allow Marseille defenders to come back and block his effort. Gervinho's ball control let him down last night. Park was a passenger throughout the game. He could have impressed the fans and the boss if he had had a better touch on the pass from Walcott.

Most of the players looked tired and short of sharpness after the weekend's intense game. Maybe Arsene Wenger should have rotated more players rather than just resting RVP? That said, Rosicky and Arshavin, who didn't play a large part in the game three days ago, were also lacklustre. Ramsey had covered more than 9 km in distance by the time he came off the pitch. So you could not blame him for not woring hard. Probably the effect of the Chelsea game was more psychological than physical.

On the positive side, Vermaelen completed his first full 90 minutes flawlessly. The Mertesacker-Vermaelen pairing looked good, as if they had been playing together for a long time. The pair even had a chance to score a rare set-piece goal between them. What a dream start to the new partnership it would have been! The partnership looked very solid defensively. That's what matters, and the partnership only grows from now on. This means that Koscielny, who was excellent against Chelsea, can be deployed on the right back, although I suppose that Wenger prefers to play Jenkinson as the right-back, when he is available.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Christmas Dinner

Following the very successful Christmas dinner last year we are arranging one for this year. It will be on December 12th and provisionally at Pablos International Bar, Playa Flamenca. Further details to follow.

If you are interested please email us: pfgooners@gmail.com

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5

What an amazing game of football it was. With the tempo, intensity and openness of the match, and quality and commitment of the players on  both sides, the game was highly entertaining and compelling to watch. It was a good day for football fans all around the world. On top of that, we had all three points to take home.

Who would have predicted the scoreline? My hopeful prediction was 2-1 to Arsenal, but if you asked me, I would have taken a draw. Scoring five goals, including RVP's hat-trick, against currently third-positioned Chelsea and winning by two goal margin to improve our goal difference was the icing on the cake. OK, we are still 12 points behind Man City, but we are definitely in the mix for the top four finish now.

The frailty of the defence was not a problem particular to this season, but it has been a cause for concern this season that Arsenal have often lacked fluency in their attack, which forms the key part of the Arsenal brand. Arsene Wenger said that the free-flowing football would come back once confidence was back and he was right once again. Arsenal were their old selves again.

Arsenal midfield, Arteta-Ramsey-Song, seemed to have finally found the right attack/defence balance and understanding. In our previous post, we wrote that the current system of playing Arteta alongside another attack-minded midfielder did not get the best out of Arteta, but it certainly gets the best out of the other attacking midfielers as Rosicky and Ramsey have shone in their respective last two matches.

Another thing we have been talking about in this blog is "man at post". Since we brought up this issue, three players were seen to rush to take their position on the line on one occasion when a free-kick was going to be taken, so we thought Arsenal have finally decided to place players at post. However, Chelsea's second goal could have been easily avoided if there had been a player at the near post, even though Mertesacker failed to get in front of Terry. It seems that only Arteta has been aware of this issue, but Arsene Wenger and his team should address it because it could improve their set-piece defence significantly. Even Arteta was behind the line and if he had stopped the ball it would still have been a goal.

When you compare the two sides in each department, Arsenal's superiority was obvious up front and in the midfield: especially RVP vs Torres and their strike partners. However, the victory over the strong Chelsea side was brought by an excellent team performance rather than individual brilliance. Arsenal came from behind twice and even after conceding the late equaliser, they put themselves together and kept going. Has Arsenal's newly rebuilt team finally gelled together? We like to think so.

It is difficult not choose RVP as the Man of the Match for the obvious reasons, but we would like to choose Gervinho instead because his work rate was phenomenal. This is another evidence that Arsenal are now defending as a unit.

The following are our player ratings:

Szczeny: 7
Some good saves and stops, including the brilliant save of Lampard's free-kick. However, rushing out of the box to foul on Ashley Cole was a huge mistake, which could have cost us three points. Incidentally, he tweeted after the match that he didn't know why he had stayed on the pitch. He shouldn't have done that, when all the fans were defending him by saying that the referee's decision for the yellow card rather than red was a correct one.

Djourou: 7
He made a few mistakes in holding the defensive line, but other than that, he played OK, with some good passing and going forward.

Mertersacker: 6
Some good match-saving tackles and clearances, but he was guilty of Chelsea's second goal.

Koscielny: 8
He didn't put a foot wrong all through the game, while he gave a solid support for Santos, which enabled the Brazilian left-back to go forward more freely in the second half.

Santos: 7
He struggled to contain runs from Bosingwa and Mata on that side and looked vulnerable in the first half, but he not only coped with them very well in the second half, but also scored a good goal with composure and accuracy. Since he joined Arsenal two months ago, he has scored two goals to date, which equals Clichy's total goal tally in his entire Arsenal career. With Gibbs and Santos in the squad, we hardly miss Clichy.

Ramsey: 8
The signs of his confidence coming back were already in display in the game against Stoke. In the last couple of games, he has made fewer sideways passes than before and more creative, defence-spliting passes. His pass to Gervinho, which eventually led to Arsenal's first equaliser, was inch perfect. He also had a few chances to score himself.

Arteta: 7
He played the role he was given very well.

Song: 8
As usual, he made some crucial tackles and provided vital supports to the back-four. The turn he made prior to his pass that set up RVP's third goal was an example of his skills.

Walcott: 8
He tormented Ashley Cole all afternoon with his pace. His goal was superb from getting up quickly and beating four Chelsea players with quick feet to the powerful and precise finish. Who said Walcott hasn't got trickery required for a winger nor clinical finish for a central striker? (...us.)

Gervinho: 9
He was perfectly aware where RVP was when he received the ball from Ramsey and passed to RVP selflessly. As seen in the Stoke game, his strike partnership with RVP seemed to have began establishing. He also worked hard defensively. Going forward and tracking back, on the left wing and right flank, he was all over the pitch. Gervinho has been learning in every game and improvements are now apparent.

Van Persie: 9
Having an in-form striker was a big difference between the two sides. RVP continued his great run of the form, with three exquisite goals. The captain led his team to get over the disappointment of conceding goals and come back strongly.

Subs

Jenkinson: 6
Came on at 76th minute for Djourou, who seemed to have been injured as he was seen with an ice pack in his hand after the match.

Rosicky: 7
Came on at 79th minute for Walcott. He was lively going forward.

Vermaelen: N/A
He was brought on as an 88th-minute substitution for Gervinho in order to prop up the defence and probably have a little runout (and show he was not actually injured).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Arsenal 2 Sunderland 1

A surprise inclusion in the starting line-up was Tomas Rosicky instead of the usual starter, Aaron Ramsey, who has minor hamstring fatigue, according to Wenger's post-match interview, but it turned out to be a right decision as Rosicky had a very good game.

Jenkinson took the much-speculated right-back position in the absence of Bacary Sagna. The rest of the starting line-up was as anticipated. Koscielny returned from the injury to form the central defensive partnership once again with Mertesacker.

The game was never comfortable for Arsenal, apart from the first half an hour before Sunderland equalised, and the performance may not have been convincing. However, what mattered was the whole three points. Especially after the disappointing result for the encouraging performance at the While Hart Lane, the result was very important.

After a series of wasted chances with poor final ball, when it looked that we were heading for a disappointing draw, it was RVP's class and skills that made the difference in the end. Before he took on the free-kick, we were talking about when Arsenal scored from a free-kick last time because we had already had three free-kicks by this time, all of which were a total waste.

To recap each player's performance, the following are our player ratings:

Szczeny: 8
Seb Larsson's free-kick was unstoppable. Apart from rushing out of the area, he did not put his foot wrong. His save of Cattermole's close range shot was a game decider.

Jenkinson: 6
Looked good going forward as usual. He looks as he might make it.

Mertersacker: 6
Gave away some clumsy fouls.

Koscielny: 7
Some terrific passes and good moves going forward.

Gibbs: 5
His passing was negative, tending to go backwards, but probably his injury (inflammation of the abdominal muscles) may have affected his performance.

Arteta: 5
I had to take back my words about him being one of a few consistent players in the previous post. This was his poorest game. His free-kicks and corners were poor. Although we are not quite sure if the ball actually hit his arm, he needlessly put his arm up which led to the free-kick and subsequently cost us a goal.

We don't miss Fabregas greatly, although some of his quality, such as his vision, was a huge loss, but what Arsenal miss most is Fabregas-Wilshere-Song as a unit. They had the right balance of defence and attack among them and good understanding and communications when the balance needed to be adjusted. We know Wenger does not like to play two defensive midfielders together, but if Arsenal play Frimpong or Coquelin alongside Song and Arteta, it may get the best out of Arteta. Of course, Frimpong and Coquelin have to step up their attacking side of the game to fill the gap Wilshere left. Playing alongside another attack-minded central midfielder, such as Rosicky or Ramsey, does not seem to be getting the best out of Arteta at the moment.

Rosicky: 8
He was involved in every attacking move, with several good runs.

Song: 7
Provided covers for the back four and crucial tackles, but the yellow card was needless.

Walcott: 5
He was anonymous, not involved in the game at all.

Gervinho: 6
He made a great run to set up the quick first goal for RVP. He looked dangerous in the box with his skills, but his final ball needs to improve.

Van Persie: 9
He showed captain's commitment when it most mattered.

Subs

Santos: 7
Looked good going forward, but he should have had a shot instead of looking for somebody to pass to.

Arshavin: 8
As soon as he came on the pitch, he made the impact. Arsenal looked more purposeful with him. He was energetic and nearly scored a brilliant goal, showing great skills to get past three Sunderland players.

Benayoun: 7
Carried on Rosicky's good work, which could have faded as the game went on. Good substitution as well as Arshavin.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Signings Ratings

It has been just over a month since Arsenal signed five new recruitments on the closing day of the transfer market, while three summer signings and a January signing have spent eight weeks of their first season with the North London club. We would like to rate these new signings on their performances so far.

Mikel Arteta: 8
Story so far: Arteta has completed 4 Premier League games and 2 Champions League matches, with one goal to his name against Blackburn. In fact, he missed out on only one occasion (i.e., the Carling Cup tie against Shrewsbury Town) since he joined Arsenal.

He fitted in Arsenal's playing style seamlessly as if he had been playing in the red and white for years. In Arsenal's so far struggling season, he seems to be one of a few consistent performers (the most consistent player is Sagna, who is unfortunately sidelined for at least three months). He is thought to have been brought in to replace Fabregas, but due to Jack Wilshere's long-term injury, he is playing a deeper role, while Ramsey is taking more attacking responsibilities.

I personally did not see Arteta as Fabregas' replacement. Ramsey has always been an intended successor of Fabregas and in my view, Ramsey-Wilshere-Song(/Frimpong/Coquelin) should be Arsenal's future midfield. Arteta is there to help the young players' progress. So I am quite happy with his performances so far. He brought much-needed stability to Arsenal midfield. He may not have Fabregas' creative flair but he is a lot better defender than Fabregas and more accomplished all-round midfielder.

Per Mertesacker: 6
Story so far: Like Arteta, Mertesacker also played all games except for the Carling Cup tie since he joined Arsenal.

It is not fair to assess his performances in the current chaotic situation surrounding Arsenal's back-four nor to expect him to solve Arsenal's defensive problems instantly. He was signed during Vermaelen's absence, had to form a central defensive partnership with Koscielny immediately, and when it seemed starting to establish, Koscielny got injured. Then he had to pair with the makeshift centre-back, Song, as no recognised centre-backs were available due to the injuries.

Some have already concluded that the purchase of Mertesacker was a "miss" based on the fact that Arsenal have conceded 8 goals (exclusive of the one in the Carling Cup match) since Mertesacker joined them. Gary Cahill's Bolton and Chris Samba's Blackburn have conceded 16 and 13 goals, respectively, in the EPL this season (I haven't checked how many of these goals are actually from the games these defenders played in, though), while Bolton have kept just one clean sheet and Blackburn none, as opposed to Arsenal's three (two with Per). My points are that you cannot judge defenders' performances from their teams' defensive records and that even if Arsenal had signed defenders with a wealth of Premier League experience, such as Cahill or Samba, they might still have been unable to eradicate Arsenal's defensive frailty.

Per's performance has been gradually becoming solid. Once Vermaelen is back from the injury and start establishing a steady partnership with him, he will show his real class as an experienced German international.

Andre Santos: 7
Story so far: Santos made his debut against Blackburn on 17 September. He also played 90 minutes against Olympiacos, helping Arsenal to register their first win in the CL group stage through his first goal for his new club.

Although he only played two games, which may not be enough to evaluate his performance, he looks a decent player, certainly good enough to share the starting place with Gibbs, who cannot be risked in too many games (Gibbs is still the first-choice left-back). My only worry is his defensive reputation, which is not up to scratch. That said, I must say I haven't seen particularly bad defending from him yet. Overall, he is a valuable addition to the squad especially because Traore was not up to Arsenal's standard (no disrespect to QPR).

Yossi Benayoun: 6
Story so far: Benayoun made his first appearance for Arsenal from the bench against Swansea, followed by full 90-minute appearances against Dortmund and Shrewsbury Town. He missed two games through a thigh strain, but was fit enough to come off the bench at the 72nd minute for Theo Walcott against Tottenham.

He was instrumental to the win over Shrewsbury Town, even scoring his first goal in an Arsenal shirt. He did not make an impact when he came on the pitch against Tottenham. Without doubt he is a good addition to the squad. Hopefully he will make a difference to Arsenal's games in the future.

Gervinho: 6
Story so far: Gervinho made his debut in the opening game against Newcastle, which was cut short due to the red card. As a consequence, he missed the following three Premier League matches, while he took part in Arsenal's CL play-off victories over Udinese and draw with Dortmund during the domestic suspension. In his first game back from suspension against Blackburn, he scored his first goal of the season. He started in the following Premier League match against Bolton and played till the 76th minute when he was substituted by Andrey Arshavin. Although he missed the Olympiacos game through an injury, he passed fitness tests and played 77 minutes against Tottenham till he was replaced by Arshavin.

He seems to have already secured the starting place on the left wing ahead of Arshavin, Benayoun, and Ryo, but I don't think he has fulfilled his abilities yet. He made a very impressive debut in his cameo appearance in the pre-season match against Cologne. He is a skillful player good enough to fill Nasri's boots as a winger. On top of it, his direct style of play is something Arsenal have been missing for years. Yes, he should have passed the ball to RVP in the Blackburn game, which would have resulted in a third goal that should have killed off the game, but didn't we all want a "selfish striker"? He is a breath of fresh air among those typical Arsenal players who are reluctant to shoot.

At the moment, I am a little bit disappointed with him probably because my expectations were too high after his breath-taking debut in the pre-season, but I am sure there will be still more to come from him. It seems to me that he is still in search for the right balance of expressing himself and fitting into Arsenal's style of play. It naturally takes some time to adapt as his style is different from that of his new club.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Story so far: Chamberlain made his debut from the bench in the defeat to Manchester United. Although his starting debut had to wait until the Carling Cup tie against Shrewsbury, it was worth waiting as he scored his first goal for Arsenal and displayed the man of the match performance. He left the pitch in a standing ovation to make way for Chuks Aneke at the 90th minute. Following the success, he had another chance to show his quality in the hard-fought win over Olympiacos. He played 68 minutes, during which he scored his second goal of the season and engraved his name in the history as the youngest English player to score in the Champions League. His sparking form has been continuing during the international break with his hat-trick against U-21 Iceland.

By now we have all seen why he came with the rather hefty price tag for an 18 year-old. His performances against Shrewsbury Town and Olympiacos were sensational. With his pace, trickery, strength, flair, and composure, he will be a strong contender for a regular starting place on the right wing soon and his rise could open out various possibilities, including Walcott's dream move to the central striker role. AOC presents exciting prospects and massive potential for Arsenal. But first, we want to see more of him in the near future.

Carl Jenkinson: 5
Story so far: Jenkinson made his first appearance this season in the CL play-off against Udinese at the Emirates as a 55th-minute substitution in the unfamiliar left-back position . In the following game against Liverpool, he made his full debut at right back as Sagna filled in the left-back due to the injuries to Gibbs and Traore. He played 90 minutes in Arsenal's second-leg win over Udinese. He started at right back against Manchester United due to Sagna's illness, but he was omitted from the squad for the following three games. His next appearance was in the 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town with other second-string players of the first team squad. After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Olympiacos, he came on the pitch against Tottenham at the 68th minute to replace Sagna, who had a fractured fibula on his right leg.

His performance has been mixed so far, including his torrid time at Old Trafford. He has enthusiasm and good crossing, but his reading of the game and positioning leave much to be desired. Whether you like him or hate him, it is a fact that he has to play every game from now on for at least three months during Bacary Sagna's absence, unless Arsene Wenger has other options. I wish Eboue had stayed with us. Although he was error-prone, at least he was tested and proven. Let's hope the ex-Charlton player will improve immensely as he plays more games.

Ju Young Park: N/A
Story so far: Park was an unused substitute in the matches against Swansea, Dortmund, but he finally made his debut against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup third-round tie. He was once again on the bench against Olympiacos and Tottenham, but did not make appearances. His form for South Korean national team has been impressive, including a hat-trick during the September international break and two goals in the draw against Poland last Friday.

He did OK against Shrewsbury Town, with some nice moves, but not enough to make a difference. He is likely to continue sharing a place on the bench with Chamakh and may have chances to feature in the domestic Cup competitions. Apparently he played the lone striker role at Monaco. Many Asian fans are eagerly awaiting his first-team action, but at the moment, it is difficult to see Wenger choose him in front of RVP.

Ryo: N/A
Story so far: His first-team action has been limited due to his calf injury and stiff competition for the left-wing position. After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Liverpool, he finally made his first-team dubut of the season at the 72nd minute against Shrewsbury to replace Ju Young Park. In between these games and thereafter, he started in three reserve games.

Again, we haven't seen him play enough games to rate his performance. Following the successful start to his professional career at Feyenoord, many fans are desperate to see him play more games for Arsenal, but I'd rather he would be given time to develop. At the moment, reserve games seem to be the best option for him. He has not made a big impression in reserve games yet. Hopefully, we will see him again in the next Carling Cup game.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1

A defeat to Tottenham always hurts. We were unlucky to lose the game and deserved a draw.

The first goal was a handball and Van der Vaart should have been sent off for running into the crowd to celebrate his goal, if not for the deliberate handball. His sending-off would have changed the game completely. But we are used to bad decisions by now, not only this season, but from the latter half of the last season.

The second Tottenham goal was a lucky strike, which reminded me of the winning goal at the same fixture a couple of seasons ago by a young Tottenham player called Rose. Arsenal might have had an answer to that in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, only if he had been in the squad. I don't know why he wasn't even given a place on the bench. With his current form, he should no doubt have brought a lift to the team, not to mention the crowd.

It is easy to blame the defenders for the frailty of Arsenal's defence, but the team have to defend collectively and that is what is missing in Arsenal's games. Attacking players also need to learn how to defend. Good teams defend together as a pack. The second goal should have been prevented if Gervinho had closed down on Walker.

The two centre-backs at least kept Adebayor quiet (he said before the game that he would not celebrate his goal, but it turned out to be a unnecessary concern because he did not score anyway). Song defended very well, blocking and tackling in the box with discipline. Only his passing let him down.

I am more disappointed with the attacking side of the game. If Walcott wishes to become a central striker, he has to improve his finishing. RVP did not look like an in-form striker yesterday. Gervinho did not take the clear-cut chance, which punished Arsenal in the end. Also, Arsenal couldn't keep the pressure on after they had just scored.

However, it was commendable they did not collapse when Sagna had a bad injury, which has been the case often when the key players had been injured and had to be substituted.

One of the bright spots in this match was Francis Coquelin's performance. He spent a season with Lorient and you can see improvements. He covered the back-four very well, breaking down Tottenham attack in the midfield and his distribution was probably better than Song. For the defensive midfielder position, we now have competition among Song, Coquelin and Frimpong, who was on the bench yesterday. Some say we should have bought Scott Parker in summer, but it would have hampered the progress of these young players.

Overall, Arsenal did well, considering the current situation. The big game came too soon for them.

Hopefully the international break will serve as a welcome distraction to Arsenal's struggling domestic form and the players will move on from the disappointment and come back afresh. By the time the EPL season resumes in two weeks' time, we should have Koscielny (certainly Squillaci as well, if you count him) back with Vermaelen not so far from his return. Arsenal will hopefully embark on winning ways before they visit Stamford Bridge at the end of the month.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Facebook Page

Our Facebook Page has been up and running for more than two months and we are now delighted to announce that we have finally obtained our own Facebook URL, which is www.facebook.com/ArsenalSpain.

Many thanks to those people who Liked our Page. Without their supports, we couldn't have achieved this target. If you haven't joined us on Facebook, click on the Like button in the column on the right-hand side of this post.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Arsenal 2 Olympiacos 1

It was another tough game, but we got what matters most, which was all three points. A home win against Olympiacos was a must if Arsenal are to progress to the knockout stage.

The starting line-up came as a surprise. The makeshift defence and changes on the flanks were much expected due to the injuries to Koscielny, Walcott and Gervinho, but leaving the in-form striker on the bench was something nobody predicted. Arsene Wenger has recently admitted that the hard-fought wins over Udinese and the tough draw against Dortmund cost his side dearly on the domestic front, so his intention was probably to field a team just good enough to see Olympiacos off without stretching their key players' fitness too far ahead of the weekend's north London Derby.

Our defence looked once again vulnerable, but once Vermaelen is back from the injury, hopefully he should form a steady defensive partnership with Mertesacker to play most of the Premer League games, stabilising the back four.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's dream debut in the Champions League has already been talked about by many, so I would like to mention Chamakh's effort here. He has been under heavy criticism since January, but there have been signs of his returning to the form, including his first goal in 6 months and man of the match performance against Blackburn. In last night's game, how Chamakh held three Olympiacos defenders to himself and pave the way for the opening goal should be applauded as much as Chamberlain's goal. His intelligent pass to Chamberlain in the second half nearly set up a third goal for Arsenal. All he needs is luck and once his confidence is back, we will see him start scoring goals again just as he did in the first half of the last season.

The "man at the post" issue caught my attention again last night on two occasions; first of which was when Arteta cleared off the line, saving Arsenal from conceding a quick equaliser. It looked like it was totally his initiative to take the action. It showed how important placing a man at the post was.

The second occasion was when Olympiacos scored their only goal from a short corner. Szczesny signalled his team-mates to move the defensive line forward, so I presume that he did not want his defenders as well as the opposition's attackers to sit too deep in the box. Then unmarked David Fuster planted a header into the corner, to which our goalkeeper did not even move. Should Arsenal have a man at the post? Yes, we should.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Man at the Post

You cannot win a game by conceding two own goals and an offside goal, especially away from home, but if it hadn't been for Robinson's superb saves, Arsenal might have just done it. Although defense was shocking, there were plenty of positives to take from the game against Blackburn on the attacking side. Many fans predicted after the Swansea match that we would see a few more "1-0 to Arsenal" kind of games, but this game proved that Arsenal are still capable of dominating a game in possession and creating chances and they showed their quality and skills in some eye-catching attacking moves. There were three great goals: Gervinho and Arteta's first EPS goals in Arsenal shirts and Chamakh's first goal since March.
 
On an Facebook Page called "Ultimate Arsenal Gooners", somebody asked an intriguing question: why Arsenal don't have a man at the post anymore. I haven't paid attention to this point up till now this season, but there was definitely nobody at the post, when Song put the ball at the back of his own net from a free-kick, because otherwise the own goal could have been avoided. If I remember rightly, there were players on this duty last season and Nasri and Clichy at the post cleared the ball on the line, rescuing their team on different occasions. The Page administrator wrote he had no idea about why, either, but he suggested it may be to prevent the attackers from sitting too deep and playing on-side. As Yakubu's offside goal proved, so close to the goal-line anyway, this tactic doesn't always work and the risk it poses is far greater than its benefit. Should Arsenal bring back a man at the post?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mikel Arteta Interview

Arteta - I cannot wait to start playing
Arsenal invited us to submit questions from our club for Mikel Arteta for this interview (now available on Arsenal player for subscribers or read the article from the link above), but unfortunately it was too short a notice for us to organise ourselves for the questions. It would have been a great opportunity to get involved with the Arsenal Football Club and the player.  We have communicated to Arsenal that  if similar occasions arise in the future, we would be very  keen to participate.

If you are a member and have not registered your email address with us, please contact us at pfgooners@gmail.com. We will get in touch with you next time when we get a chance to participate in such a project.