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:

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? (

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.


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.


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.