The Armchair Gooner

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

Let’s all brand Mesut Ozil a flop. What a wonderful idea….

United fans were happy to queue for hours to get Rooney’s signature.

Morning, folks.

What a lovely Tuesday morning it is. It’s 5:05am as I’m writing, and I’m suffering a little bit of fatigue. At 6.00am I must leave the house for work with a full 2.5 hours sleep under my belt. The reason? Netflix, and Firefly.

Damn you, Joss Whedon.

One thing I’ve noticed in the wake of bitter defeat is that certain fans like to furiously eject all their play things from prams. Don’t get me wrong here , folks; most followers of football I encounter are pleasant souls and know what they’re talking about when it comes to football. As is the case with every group of supporters, a select few miscreants show their faces and give the majority a bad name. Continue reading

“The balance of power in North London has shifted. Spurs are far, far superior…”

An obvious sign Of Spurs’ superiority…

Afternoon folks!

You know the drill by now. The North London Derby is but a few days away, and their ex-players, ex-managers, and any no-mark with the ability to talk about our grubby neighbours are all using the moments to exclaim of a shift in power.

Tottenham have a far superior squad.

Tottenham are way, way ahead of Arsenal.

This season will see the balance of power shift in North London.

And so on, and so on. Every year with clockwork regularity someone affiliated with Spurs makes the mistake of declaring something before it’s happened, and every season that’s past has seen those words look very foolish indeed. You need only remember these idiots below:

“Don’t worry guys, we won’t look like complete twats in a few months…”

As things stand, the supposedly greatest squad they have assembled sits a few points higher in the table ahead of ours. What many have described as Wenger’s worst squad of players during his tenure at Arsenal, in a season stated as often as his worst, has already seen Arsenal put another 5 goals past Spurs.

You see folks, power shifts don’t happen in a season. For the tide to truly turn, a significant period of time has to pass. Even if Tottenham should finish above us and secure Champions League football, it will only be a blip. Until they’ve accomplished  that for a sustained period of time, then no power has shifted whatsoever.

Look at Manchester City as an example. They won the Premiership title last season but is there a shift of power in Manchester? No, not at all. Unless they can consistently out-perform their greatest rival, and do so for a lengthy period, the red half of Manchester will be rightly considered the most successful. The same argument even applies against us in regard to our achievements in Engalnd. We won titles, we had glory, but there was never a shift of power to us from United.

We go into the game at the weekend knowing that a victory will put the cat amongst the pigeons, but a defeat could prove extremely costly for us. Even if we do lose, the race for that much coveted fourth spot certainly won’t be beyond us. However, I for one can’t abide the notion of finishing lower than Spurs in the league.

The days that lead up to that fixture are sure to be filled with a cacophony of rants, raves and general poppycock. The media love any chance to stir up the hornet’s nest and blow things out of proporation. As it stands, Spurs have won nothing, proved nothing, and accomplished nothing. For all the trumpet blowing, all the wild-eyed comparisons made between Gareth Bale and Jesus; our feculent and rwody neighbours have no bragging rights.

The years have taught us they like to capitulate when the pressure hits. We tend to finish the season better than we start it. There’s no debating that finishing beneath them is a very real possibility. Our form and performances have been patchy at best, but even those facts haven’t enabled them any serious ground to be made ahead of us.

What is important now is that we come together as a club against our favourite adversary. The competition is welcome as it makes it all the more enjoyable when we beat them. Let’s put aside disputes, bickering, banners and complaints and focus on what really matters. The players will need our wonderful away support at their vociferous best when they take to the field.

That’s all for today, folks. The comments await below, and today I’d like to hear your favourite memories against Tottenham – best goal, best moment, greatest victory. Let me know a few.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow.

Arsenal’s starting XI for the visit of Aston Villa.

Saturday February 23rd; FA Premiership, Aston Villa (h)

Hello, fellow Gooners.

Ordinarily, the visit of mediocre opponents wouldn’t be considered a game of huge importance. Aston Villa are not flying high on the back of impressive results, nor do they posses a squad capable of competing with anyone on their day. However, they will turn up at the Emirates confident of being able to get a result. Arsenal’s persistent floundering and recent disappointments empowers the teams we face, and I view today as a tricky fixture indeed.

The team news sees Bacary Sagna unavailable with a knee injury, but Nacho Monreal is back after missing the Bayern thumping through ineligibility. Thomas Vermaelen’s recent poor form might see him miss out, with Arsene expected to bring in Monreal and Carl Jenkinson at full-back, and stick with Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre.

Up front, Theo’s piss poor showing through the middle on Tuesday probably didn’t go unnoticed, so I’d wager Giroud will return to lead the line, with Walcott dropping to the right side where he tends to be far more effective. Our regular midfield triumvirate will remain as it was.

My guess at the team would be:

As is so often the case, I view the game quite simply; if we play to our capabilities and concentrate in the defensive areas, we will win. Sounds simple, right? Well, with Arsenal it is invariably anything but. Lethargy and complacency creep into to our game with such alarming regularity that it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen.

Today’s game is vitally important with fixtures against those competing for 4th place with us coming very soon. 3 points are what’s needed today above a reactionary performance. The future may look pretty bleak, there may not be any silverware on the horizon, but getting 4th is still important – if not exactly a bloody trophy…

I’m confident we’ll emerge the victors today, and I’ll say we will do so 2-0.

If you fancy having a cheeky flutter on the outcome, head on over to my friends at Bet Victor. They’ll kindly offer a free £25 bet to those of you that sign up as new members. You can register here, and check out all the latest odds by clicking below.

Arsenal vs Aston villa odds.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. Use the comments to forward a few of your own team selections. Who would you start? Rosicky for a bit more urgency in the midfield? Would you drop Vermaelen after his recent performances? How do you think the match will go? Let me know.

I shall return tomorrow with a review of the game.

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.

Defensive blunders, and Arsenal announce mega, super, awesome, spectacular, amazing, astonishing deal to sign… nobody.

“Someone, anyone?”

Afternoon, my little delights.

That dreaded day is upon us. We’ve waited 30 days in drooling expectation, some of us will foolishly be glued to the interweb in the hope of a late shock materialising. Transfer deadline day is here.

Will Arsenal sign a player? No – well, not unless something truly miraculous happens, and I doubt that. Whilst others conduct their business and bring in players with what appears to be no difficulty, Arsenal flounder; we falter, offer false hope and invariably do the thing we all kind of knew would happen – sod all. Those “top, top, exceptional” quality footballers are just too damn elusive this time of year.

If Arsene believes in the strength of his squad, then that’s fine with me. I don’t agree, but I’m not a Premiership manager on a seven-figure income. What do I know? I’m just a humble supporter.

Well, I know that, along with the Gooner vox populi, I see glaring holes in the current squad that could do with being plugged. Whilst others like to scream obscenities and angry declarations such as, “Damn you, Wenger! Buy a f**king player!!” I prefer to let things be. I disagree with our current policy in the market about as much as anybody can, but I shan’t be screaming it at the top of my lungs, or plastering my Twitter account with ill-advised and puerile statements. Such acts change nothing, and a supporters job is to support – although, a good moan every now and then doesn’t go amiss.

My advice to you, the delicious reader, would be avoiding the late-night updates and constant news covering today’s window. Avoid it like you would an angry hobo with a used needle in his filthy grasp. Assume nothing will happen because that’s comfortably the most likely outcome. Should the unexpected occur, there will be a nice surprise waiting for you tomorrow morning. Getting wound up watching the minutes pass in front of Sky Sports News won’t make anyone feel better.

With all the hullabaloo and balderdash about, it’s easy to forget the players we do have took part in a competitive fixture last night. Havinfg conceded two goals straight from the ‘Hey, this is how not to defend’ handbook, the boys showed, as the often tend to when behind in games, that we do have some excellent players with spirit and desire. A 2-2 draw with Liverpool wasn’t ideal, but I’d gladly have taken it on 60 minutes. Both Spurs and Chelsea drew, so we’d didn’t lose any ground on them.

It certainly would be remiss of me to not mention the catastrophic defending. One thing I regularly notice is the consistency with which our defenders fall over at the least opportune moment. Think about it for a second; how many times can you remember a slip or a stumble leading to a goal conceded? I can think of plenty.

On paper, our starting back four and keeper looks solid. In practice, they look like a bewildered bunch of street performers, prancing here and there with little in the way of choreography. The problems baffle me, and you know they’re bad when a player as woefully average as Jordan Henderson can waltz through your penalty area and score.

Work needs to be done. work has needed to be done for sometime. Many folks I hear claim our deficiencies to be down to simple misfortune. I disagree. There is a fundamental lack of organistation and leadership at the back, and the work needs to be done there first and foremost. As an attacking force, our problems are minimal. If the team applied themselves to defence with the verve they dedicate to bounding upfield in search of glory, perhaps these problems might not occur so frequently.

But hey, that’s just me. On that note, I shall leave you for the day. I hope you fine people will take my advice and avert your respective glares from all sports channels for the evening. Let’s just accept what’s coming. There’s no sense bickering with each other over it.

Leave me a comment below, and thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.

Arsenal’s starting XI against Brighton (Match preview)

Saturday 26th January: FA Cup, Brighton (a)

Hello everyone!

You might – some of you – be wondering where the bloody hell I’ve been in recent weeks. Without resorting to diving into self-involved bleating, I’ll just say I’ve had a few problems, and I’ve not been very well. Such things have taken their toll on my blogging exploits.

But that’s enough of talking about me. Let’s talk Arsenal.

Since I last posted, Theo has ‘singed dat ting’ and Arsenal haven’t signed anyone – much to the chagrin of many Gooners out there. Me included. On Wednesday, spirits where lifted by a phenomenal performance against West Ham which saw us blow the Hammers away in the space of 10 second half minutes. That was awesome – a glimpse of the ‘real’ Arsenal so many of us have lamented the absence of.

Today gives us a good opportunity to further build on that performance, and, as the general consensus has it, progress in our best avenue for silverware left available.

The epic fail at Bradford proved that lower league opponents are underestimated at you peril. Lethargy and arrogance, as well as impressive play from our conquerers, was our downfall that evening. If we head into today’s game without focus and spirit, there is every possibility we’ll be writhing in embarrassment after another abject humiliation.

Vermaelen, Coquelin, Fabianksi, Arteta and Gervinho all mis out today, and given our grueling fixture list this month, Arsene may make a few changes here and there to offer some players a rest. Jack Wilshere is expected to wear the captain’s armband today.

My guess at the line-up is:

All things taken into consideration, I see no reason why we shouldn’t progress with minimal fuss. The lesson learnt at Valley Parade should be well imprinted into the players’ brains by the management, and lightning striking twice seems less likely to me.

However, this is Arsenal. Our only consistency is that with which we are unpredictable. Anything, within the contraints of reality, could happen today. I’ll be bold and opt for a delightfully comfortable 4-0 win, and hopefully a nice draw in the next round.

If you fancy a flutter, register as a new member with Bet Victor to recieve all kinds of wonderful deals. You can sign-up here.

Brighton vs Arsenal odds.

Thanks for reading today. I shall return with more tomorrow.

Arsenal’s starting XI for the game against Wigan (match preview and round-up).

Saturday Dec 22nd: FA Premiership, Wigan Athletic (a)

Morning campers!

Continuity has been notable by its absence with Arsenal throughout the season. No sooner does a brief glimmer of light appear on the horizon, is it quickly extinguished by an ability to do something breathtakingly inept. Good results and performances have shared equal exposure with those that we’d all sooner forget.

Today is an excellent opportunity to go into a game on the back of a solid, winning display and build on it. Wigan, with all due respect, are opponents we should beat, and be able to do so with minimal fuss.

The team news is practically non-existent. Triumph at Reading on Monday night saw us pick up no fresh injuries, and, at the time of going to print, there are no doubts or late fitness tests. Taking that into account, the personnel and formation from that win should remain the same.

As you were, Arsenal:

Deploying Walcott as a striker proved effective. What he lacks in Giroud’s presence and ariel ability, he makes up for with pace, and playing on the shoulder of defenders. His quickness scares his marker, who drops off deeper and leaves more space in which our midfield can operate – Santi Cazorla especially benefits from this.

Wigan are a side we’ve blundered against in the past, but today I wouldn’t expect anything other than an Arsenal victory. If we are to cement our claim for one of the qualifying spots for the Champions League, December’s succession of apparently winnable fixtures is an excellent place to start.

Of course, you never really know what you’re going to get with Arsenal. Expectation goes both way, and the pessimist inside me keeps tapping the side of my head and saying, “James, don’t forget how shit we can be in defence”. That’s always a worry, but the corner we all yearn Arsenal to turn has to be navigated eventually. Victory today could just be the start of that.

I’m predicting a decent 3-1 win, and a couple of goals from Theo.

In other news, several reports today have emerged linking us to a striker – Barcelona’s David Villa. It’s alleged across many press outlets and sources of gossip that Arsene is keen to take him on loan in January, with a view for a possible permanent move should the Spaniard take to Premiership football. As a stop-gap, it would be a brilliant signing – Villa certainly has pedigree and he undoubtedly knows where the goal is. However, at 31-years-old, he wouldn’t offer us much in terms of longevity. Of course, as if so often the case, any story like this should be taken with an enormous pinch of salt, but it’s one of the better speculations I’ve heard in a while.

That’s all for today, folks. Today is my last working day before a greatly appreciated break for 12 days. I’ll be stuck in a kitchen listening to 5Live before I can study any game footage later in the evening. I hope you enjoy the match from wherever you are spectating.

The comments await a few of your views. How would you line-up? Do you think Arsene shouldn’t tinker, and leave a winning team as it is? Or would you consider starting with the collective might of Gervinho and Ramsey (I’m joking…)? Let me know what you think.

Finally today, I’ll point those of you partial to a bet on the game toward Bet Victor. Those signing up as new members will receive £25 to stake on the outcome of their choice. You can register here. Thomas Vermaelen has scored in each of his 3 appearances against Wigan, so putting some cash on him to make it 4 could be a good flutter.

Wigan vs Arsenal odds.

I shall return tomorrow with a full review of the game.