The Armchair Gooner

An Arsenal blog bringing you news, opinion and humour on a daily basis. Well, I'll try at the very least…

Daunting Bayern, Wenger, Wilshere, transfers, troubles, arguments and abuse.

“Jesus… The Germans are coming”.

Greetings, Earthlings.

Yesterday was all about anger and despair. Today is all about, well… anger and despair. These are not the best of times to be a Gooner. Our season lays in tatters – ripped to shreds by a combination of predictable blunders and achingly shit results. Whilst scribing this, I’ve got BBC’s 606 phone-in from Saturday playing in the background. The ‘Wenger out’ stance that once seemed an opinion held by the few, is quickly turning into the opinion of choice amongst Arsenal fans.

I’m getting there myself. It’s a difficult thought to have, because I’m nothing but an unabashed fan of Arsene. No Arsenal supporter could debate the power of good he’s done for our club, the sustained success at the beginning of his tenure. However, those that revere him for the initial half of his time at Arsenal, need to take a unbiased look at the latter half. Perhaps Arsene is unfairly judged on the back of the wonders he accomplished, but those days seem further and further away. Especially after such limp and heartless performances as the one we saw at the weekend.

Is it time for a change? The romantic in me still believes Arsene can turn things around, the realist thinks a fresh face and a new direction is long overdue. But that’s just my opinion. There is too much abuse around the Arsenal community at present. Bickering and name calling with opponents is one things, when it’s within our own group, it’s painful to see. It has to stop. A united front is needed, especially with such an enormous game on Tuesday.

Bayern come to the Emirates, and it’s a daunting fixture. The German league leaders are one of the genuine super powers in European football. I don’t hold many delusions of winning the Champions League, but I do want us to go at it with all guns blazing. Oddly enough, such a prestigious fixture doesn’t worry me like the ones against so-called ‘lesser’ opposition. There won’t be a flat atmosphere like Saturday, the Emirates will be jumping. Nights like that can bring the best out of the players, and we certainly need a performance.

Jack Wilshere has spoken ahead of the game:

“Chelsea are an inspiration for everyone. They weren’t having a good season and, okay, they got a bit lucky in some games,”

“But they showed great character and we need to do that. We need to come together as a team.

“We have good leaders here, a good team atmosphere. That will help us.

“We have a good bunch of lads in the dressing room. They’re winners as well, the likes of Lukas Podolski and Mikel Arteta.They want to win.

“We know what Bayern are capable of. They have a great team. We need everyone behind us and we go again.

“We have beaten big European teams here before so now we need to do it again.”

He’s right – Arsenal need to come together as a team. That’s as important as anything. I, perhaps foolishly, hold hope for us against Bayern. On the back of such a debacle, I can see the players coming out with something to prove, to get the supporters back on side. There may be much to malign at present, but for 90 minutes tomorrow night, that should all be put aside. No boos, no banners. Just get behind the team. There are better times to vent frustrations.

The last thing I noticed on my browsing of news was the hilarious re-emergence of stupendous transfer rumours. They’re everywhere at the moment. After defeat, it’s amazing to see just how quickly inside sources at the club are declaring an enormous budget and several impressive names being linked to moves here. Ignore them, folks, they are designed to lure you in with false hope and get hits for websites built to do nothing else.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. The comments are gagging to be used by you, so let’s be having a few – how do you see the Bayern game going, do you think it’s time for Arsene to leave? Let me know.

I shall return with a preview of the big one tomorrow.

Gervinho, Chamberlain, Szczsney, Blackburn, Bayern, Wenger and the worst day of the season by a mile.

Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn: Unbelievably shit-awful

Morning, smiley happy people…

Before I began writing this post, I sat down and tried to make myself think of something positive to say. I struggled for 2-3 minutes to come up with anything even remotely full of cheer to serve up to you today before I exclaimed to myself, “Oh, balls to this” and decided to get on with writing about how I actually feel.

Losing to Bradford and plummeting out of a cup competition we had a genuine chance of winning was humiliating enough. For that to be repeated in alarmingly similar fashion yesterday in nothing short of outrageous.

For all the talk of Wenger’s selction policy for that match, I actually agreed with him leading up to the game. It made sense to keep certain players fresh for Tuesday’s fixture with Bayern Munich, and those sent onto to the field should have had more than enough quality to overturn a Championship side.

To place blame on that, and that alone, is naive. The troubles within our club go far deeper. Countless occasions this season have seen our players take to the field with an unmotivated attitude and lethargy. Fans have every right to expect more, and every right to vent their apoplexy when mistakes and poor performances appear with such regularity.

And in these moments of despair, we look for someone to blame. The board, the manager, the players; it’s difficult to pinpoint the main contributing factor to the malaise at Arsenal, and the only sensible conclusion I can muster is a combination of all of the above. Arsenal has become a business focused on profit and sustainability, not a football team with aspirations of glory. That’s not something I’ve ever cared to believe, but it’s something I believe to be true.

Our manager, an undeniably great man, is a shadow of the man he once was; challenged, focused and with a desire to win. 8 years ago he had assembled one of the greatest teams in English football. Times change, however, and football is a different beast these days. The great change with the times, you need only look at the continued success of Alex Ferguson to see a man who adapts to that which changes around him. Wenger’s legacy and past glories will forever be the greatest period of success for Arsenal, but his inability to change, his insistence on vanity projects are seriously tarnishing that legacy.

I’m no Wenger apologist, nor am I the type to blindly back someone against such compelling evidence. However, to single him out for blame is as pointless as it is to do so for any of the other factors. Arsene’s responsibility lies with the team and the results they obtain, for that he takes the credit and the current cacophony of derision. The ambition, the desire to compete with others is something he cannot do without the backing of the board.

That’s where the real trouble lies for me – the club as a whole. Arsenal would happily obtain 4th every year and nothing else as it brings in the revenue and ends the season with a profit. If we can sell on a few star players, and bring in cheaper alternatives during the summer, our board will jump at the chance. Each summer that passes sees our squad weakened, and the danger of losing touch with others increases until one day it will eventually disappear altogether. That day may be a lot closer than we care to think.

In the wake of such an appalling defeat, it’s natural to focus on the negative. Some of you may even dismiss this post as doing exactly that – that I’m just a bitter soul ranting becuase I’m pissed off. I assure you that is not the case. I write today genuinely concerned and because I care.

We are Arsenal. We have a bulging bank balance, a world class arena, state of the art training facilities and a large and diverse fanbase. We are one of the richest clubs in football. We should be competing with the best, not making do with average players and low expectations.

Whatever your allegiance, we all want the same thing. I’m almost afraid to say it, “We want our Arsenal back”.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Don’t hold back – say what’s truly on your mind.

Arsenal’s starting XI for the cup tie with Blackburn (match preview and team news)

Saturday February 16th: FA Cup, Blackburn (h): A match preview coming to you from sunny Bristol.

Morning. folks.

You can safely say it’s the first day of spring. Here in Bristol, the clouds have taken a day off and taken the miserable air and chills with them. It’s a beautiful day. No better day for FA Cup football.

Blackburn are shit. They were shit when we walloped them last season, shit when they got relegated and have since been shit in the Championship. That fact worries me no end. When faced with formidable opponents, our players are forced into a state of concentration – as I expect they will be when Bayern come calling. Complacency is our worst enemy at times, and that’s what I fear most today. Blackburn may be shit, but they have enough players with Premiership experience to cause us problems if they play to the occasion.

The team news mostly surrounds our defence. Jenkinson will miss the game through suspension, Vermaelen is definitely out, and Koscielny faces a late fitness test. Wilshere, Cazorla and other notable faces are widely tipped to not feature today in order to keep them fresh for Tuesday.

It’s particularly tricky to guess Wenger’s selection. Assuming Koscielny fails his test, we could very well be witness to the unbridled horror of Squillaci taking to the field, or Sagna could slot-in alongside Mertesacker with Aaron Ramsey or young Hector Bellerin filling in at right-back. I expect there to be a few surprises today, and a few names rested.

My (wild) guess at the line-up would be:

That’s just one possibilty. Others include Gervinho or Giroud starting as the attack’s focal point.

I expect a win today. Bradford was a harsh and humiliating lesson learnt, and that lower-league banana skin has, hopefully, been traversed for the foreseeable future. A solid, focused performnace should see nothing other than comfortable progression to the quarter-finals, but this is the FA Cup – what’s should happen could very well not. Form and superiority go out the window on days like this, and we’ll have to expect Blackburn to play above their means.

I’ll stick what little reputation I have and go for a jittery 2-1 win for the Arsenal, with a winner from Diaby – not sure why, I have an inkling he’ll score today if selected.

If you’re looking to wager some cash of your own on a prediction, head on over to Bet Victor and register as a new member. All new customers will a recieve a new bet to the value of £25. You can register here.

Arsenal vs Blackburn odds.

That’s all for today, folks. Leave a comment or two with your views on the team, and your predictions for the outcome. I shall return tomorrow with a review and other bits.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.

“It’s only Blackburn. They’re useless and had a man sent off. It doesn’t hide the issues”

Good morning to you, the deliriously joyous.

For quite a while now I’ve been a little morose and pessimistic about The Arsenal. Bad results, bad injuries and bad performances have steadily chipped away my ability to look at the future with hope. Like many of you, frustration and chagrin has crept to the surface and affected my perspective.

Then a tonic like yesterday comes along and suddenly the future is a little brighter on the horizon and there’s something to enthuse about. Many doom-mongers have already crawled out of their feculent bogs to offer exclamations like “It’s only Blackburn” or “One result doesn’t change the problems”. Tweets from folks at the game yesterday informed that quite a few went to the ground with binbags in the event of another debacle. Hopefully, such a performance might persuade these cretins to focus their efforts on supporting the team.

Make no mistake, and regardless of the quality of our opponents, yesterday was of vital importance. Anything less than a victory could have seen nasty repercussions and our rivals motoring further ahead. We can only beat what’s in front of us; we did so comprehensively and with no small measure of aplomb. Even Pederson’s superb free-kick didn’t matter long enough to set any alarm bells ringing. For a full and detailed report of the match, I’d happily recommend Tim Liew’s write-up from The Armchair Sports Fan as he does that kind of thing with greater depth and insight than I (plus, I don’t think he minds me using his stuff).

As is customary, the kudos in the main will head Robin van Persie’s way. Undoubtedly well-deserved as they are, I feel that a couple of players have earned themselves equal praise. Francis Coquelin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were superb. The emergence of both and the form and endeavour they’ve shown is remarkable. Continuing this way, we have the potential for two wonderful players in the future. Of course, it was an excellent performance all round; Walcott had end product, Koscielny looked sharp, assured and worthy of his recent POTM award, and Mikel Arteta’s very impressive stats show just how important an influence he has on the midfield. Afterwards, and understandably restrained Arsene Wenger attempted to keep things in perspective;

I do not give much importance to the seven goals, it is just we won and played well,?

??I felt that recently we had quite good performances but did not get the results.

??Today we got the performance and the result, which is ideally what you want.?

??We remained serious and were guided by the way we want to play football and not by any extravagant individualism.

I concur with those words, but it was great to see the joy return to our play and the team beginning to carry some of that swagger the Arsenal of old used to exhibit so regularly. The slickness of passing was there, the occasional bout of showmanship or lightning fast counter. There are greater tests to come in the remaining months of the season, but any resurgence needs a starting point. Winning 7-1 and doing so with style and promise is an exceptional place to start. With replenished levels of confidence, let’s all hope we can continue onwards and upwards.

I’m not going to let myself get too carried away and explode gushy ebullience over everyone reading, but having hope renewed – even if it’s only temporarily – is a lovely feeling. Today really is a good day to be a Gooner. Long may in continue.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Please leave a comment and follow my Twitter account – @Puddleduck1978.