Sunday 15 December 2013

Time to regroup and come back stronger

Before I can find the part where it says the score I read about Per Mertesacker 'blasting' Mesut Ozil in a 'bust up' in every newspaper this morning.

For someone who was on the moon yesterday and did not watch the game would have read about this ‘bust up’ before they knew the score – there for me is the problem.

Despite being very disappointed at losing a massive game, it had nine goals and a neutral would have loved every minute – but the focus is on a player ‘blasting’ another.

For me, it’s a bit of a non event. People that take it seriously clearly have never played sport, ever. I’m by no means any sort of a sportsman but just playing five a side every week has got me fired up and I’ve had words with someone on my team. That is sport. There is nothing wrong with showing passion on the pitch.

Jack Wilshere was caught sticking a finger up at the City fans after getting some abuse – he shouldn’t have reacted and I am sure the club will accept the ban and he will learn from it.

The game generally was frustrating because every time we looked liked we were in the game, we lost a goal. The third just after half time was a daft goal to give away and we gifted City it. The fourth goal started when a foul was given to City which was very soft. Sagna used his body to out muscle Nasri (same way Kompany did to Flamini moments earlier and the ref let the game play on) which was ridiculous. The ref / lino on our side had a shocker with the pen shout and the ‘offside’ goals.

Manchester City are an awesome team and their home record shows how strong they are. It wasn’t the best day in the office but Arsenal now have eight days to recover and regroup which I am sure they will do and come back to go again. Home form is absolutely vital and it is very important we continue to compete and win these. 

Mesut Ozil has been a talking point and he has been in and out of games recently but has produced some moments which have created goals. I have no doubt there is much more to come and anyone that saw him play regularly in Spain will know this is probably only his first gear. Like anyone else (can cost 4m or 40m) who comes from a foreign country to play in England takes time to settle and Ozil is no different. For me, he is our man and I’ll continue to back and support him – not clapping fans is a small issue for me and all I care about is him giving 100% in the next game and trying to influence the game and help get three points for our club.

I know it sounds a bit cliché and Wenger like but it really is time to stay together and stay behind the team. The last few seasons, all I’ve wanted is it be up there rather then ten points behind wishing we were involved – the rest will do us good and I have no doubt the team will be back and ready to go a week on Monday for another HUGE game.

Up the Arsenal.

Saturday 16 November 2013


Not bad for a 40 year old eh?

I know every blog piece I have ever written is on Arsenal but I just had to put a few thoughts on paper for the great Sachin Tendulkar.

I first got into cricket on a trip to India in 1996 (I was 8 years old) – the cricket world cup was on at the time and a match between India and Pakistan meant India was a ghost town with everyone indoors watching their country play. I kept hearing the name Sachin Tendulkar and I was curious to know who this man the Indian public were speaking so highly of actually was. I started watching the world cup and it ended with Sri Lanka beating Australia in the final.

I was hooked. I came back to England and took a keen interest in the game. Being a British born Indian, I was always keen to follow both, England and India but the name Sachin Tendulkar always made me think of the people in India and how much they adored him – Cricket was their religion and Sachin was like their God.

I followed Sachin’s career from there and watched videos of his innings from his younger days – his first class century for Yorkshire was pretty special but his first ever test century at the age of 17 was just wonderful. You could see it then how special he was and how good he could be.

Supporting Arsenal under Arsene Wenger always makes me analyse sportsman behaviour and Arsene would have loved Sachin; he conducted himself in what was seen as the correct way. He loved cricket and spent hours and hours practising to make his game perfect. Bad headlines and Sachin Tendulkar were never linked and he was loved and respected all over the world.

Several of Sachin’s innings will always remain with me – the first is the way he took on the great Australian bowling line up in the Middle East to win the Sharjah Cup for India.  He scored 134 from 131 deliveries and he was simply superb. Not many people have dominated Shane Warne like Sachin did that night.

Remind yourself here:

The second innings I remember very well was in 2008 against England. He scored a ton under pressure and won the game for his country. This was a special innings in particular not only because India were chasing 387 on a day five pitch but because of what happened in the days leading up to the test match.

The city of Mumbai had suffered the heartache of a terrorist attack just days before this test match and to the credit of both teams, in particular England, both teams put on a fantastic test match.

"By no means am I saying this will make everyone forget what happened in Mumbai but I'd like to thank England for coming back and playing Test cricket and we've witnessed a wonderful Test match - people are enjoying cricket the way it's meant to be. What happened in Mumbai was extremely unfortunate and I don't think by India winning or me scoring a hundred, people who have lost their loved ones will feel any better. It's a terrible loss for all of them and our hearts are with them, but whatever manner we can contribute to making them feel better we'll make that effort." Said Sachin.

This was a 35 year old man who was born in Mumbai and was very proud of his country – his dream was to make people happy and during times of suffering, he was determined to at least try and put a small smile on the faces of everyone in Mumbai by scoring runs to win a game for India….and Sachin, you certainly did that.

England captain Kevin Pietersen said: "Who can write Sachin Tendulkar's script any better? The man from Mumbai came in and scored a sensational hundred today. He batted like a superstar. We tried everything we could but unfortunately he just came good. The boy played well."

The final time Sachin played in England, he made 91 on a day five pitch and the applause he got when he walked back into the pavilion is something I will never forget. I was sitting straight down the ground and as Sachin walked back, the entire ground got up and everyone there knew this was the final time they would see him step onto the field as a player in England.

He is a special man who has had the pressure of a nation on him – a nation that always expects to win. I saw it for myself in 1996 and again when I visited in 2004. Sachin Tendulkar stayed at the top level for 24 years and did it with such grace and humanity. People ask the question whether Sachin or Lara was the better batsman but that’s like asking about Messi or Ronaldo or Pele or Maradona. Some questions just do not need answering - Lara and Tendulkar were both world class players and I am glad I got to see both play many times.

Sachin deserves all the credit he is getting and all the praise is justified because he was that good. One hundred hundreds, most runs in test cricket, most runs in one day international cricket and a world cup are just some awards that belong to Sachin. There will never be a player like him.

#ThankYouSachin #Legend.

Friday 29 March 2013

Ryan Rocastle talks to me on the eve of Rocky weekend

David Rocastle “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.”

On the eve of the Reading game and on ‘Rocky Weekend’ I thought I would take the opportunity to catch up with a top man a good mate of mine, Ryan Rocastle, the son of the great late David Rocastle.

He was only too happy to talk about all things Arsenal, his dad and Arsenal’s chancing of getting back in the top four this season.

I remember talking to you before the spurs home game this season and you said that your dad would have been ‘bang up for that’ and off course the team showed the fight, us fans all want to see -  what do you think of the teams chances of finishing in the top 4 this season?

This season I think we probably have just the slight advantage over Spurs for fourth considering the run in and the fact that Spurs have been here before (last season) and choked. I think that will be fresh in their memory and last year we finished the season strong so hopefully we can do it again.

I remember you coming out with the team as a mascot in the cup final in 2002 and I know you still come to games and had a flag up last season - how connected do you feel with the club your dad used to love?

Personally I feel very, very connected to Arsenal - it's in my blood and I am a massive fan. I've been going to most the home games since I was about 12 and don't plan on stopping, I love the club. 

Various fans and fans groups are attempting to get an applause going on the 7th minute followed by chants of Rocky Rocastle - this must make you feel really proud?

Yeah I heard about this through a friend actually. Obviously it makes you proud and happy that the fans still remember him. I see at Aston Villa that they applause for Petrov who was diagnosed with Cancer on the 19th minute I think as that was his number and I think it's a really nice tribute. 

How do you think your dad would feel knowing fans still sing his name home and away and in Europe?

Well I know he would be very happy that the fans still remember him as this was his club and had the best time of his career here. He loved it at Arsenal and honestly didn't want to leave. The fans were always special to him but also as a footballer I think he understood what it meant to them and so would always take time out to sign autographs and take photos. I think some players don't really recognise how much they are adored by fans so just taking a few moments out of their time to speak to them is greatly appreciated.

Thoughts on the current Arsenal team and the Manager?

I think the current Arsenal team is probably a level or two below what we've had in the past, probably the weakest under Wenger. However I think we still have some very good players and some excellent youngsters as you can see in the Next Gen series. However, if we want to be back amongst the big boys the team needs investment. I really hope we can get into the top 4 this year because I do feel that in the summer, for the first time in ages, there are no star players that will leave us. If we can invest properly in the squad then it would be very interesting. 

Regarding Arsene Wenger I think it's been tough for him, I think he always tries his hardest and is desperate to make things work. I’ll be honest and admit that I have not agreed with a few things he's done in the last couple years. However, I have the utmost respect for him not just as a manager but as a person. As a manager people forget where we were before he took over, the great things he's done for the club, the style of football and the players he's brought in. Personally I don't agree with the abuse he gets and I am surprised at some of it. Personally I'm not too sure who we would bring in if he left. I would have been tempted to say Pep but that's not an option now after agreeing a deal with Bayern. In general some may want a change and that's fully understandable as fans they are entitled to their opinion but I think there's a way to go about it.

As a person he's a great man, I've had a few conversations with him and what struck me most is how genuine he is. I think last year when we were sitting in a box and about 30 minutes before the game he came over to have a chat with us and was asking so many questions about what we are doing in life and where we want to go in the future and considering how busy he would have been, I find that amazing and a credit to him (we did win the game too!).

Big thanks to Ryan for being so open and talking to me on a very special weekend for him and his family.

Up the Arsenal.

Why the left back situation should be a marker for most positions

Kieran Gibbs has the flu, so Nacho Monreal plays – no drama.

Nacho Monreal is cup tied in Europe, so Kieran Gibbs plays in Munich – once again, no drama.

If only we had that sort of depth in more positions. Arsene Wenger recently talked about having two players for each position and he was spot on – but the second left back until the end of Jan was Andre Santos, who looked completely off the pace.

You can play Monreal or Gibbs and not weaken the team; you could argue that if Sagna was more settled, we would have good depth at right back, especially with Carl Jenkinson playing very well at the moment and he was unlucky not to get into the England squad this week.

We may have sorted the left back situation out and in the summer...there are a few more positions that we have to sort out.

Abou Diaby injury jinx strikes again.

Abou Diaby was confirmed to be out for eight or nine months and will be under the knife and on the sidelines yet again. I think most people that regularly see my tweets know that I rate Diaby highly and think his mighty talented. The Diaby we saw at Anfield, or at the Etihad, was a glimpse of the real Abou Diaby. Sadly, another big set back means it may be curtains for Diaby – another set back in recovery and he might seriously consider retirement, because mentally this will be a huge blow. The financial aspect may have a big say in any final decision though.

Szczesny and Vermaelen

In other news, the main talking points recently have been regarding our captain and keeper. I was in Munich and we first heard that Wojciech Szczęsny had not travelled but with our Vermaelen speaking to the media in the press conference, it was hard to see him not playing – but we were wrong. It was a big call but a brave one. Players need to fight to get in the team and fight even harder to stay in the team and despite how good they are (look at Joe Hart). They need competition and Vermaelen in particular has a real fight to get back into the team this season, captain or no captain.

Saturday 16 March 2013

So close…so close to the miracle of Munich but this is only the beginning

The miracle of Munich may be over but the spirit shown in Munich must stick around if Arsenal wants to go to the likes of Munich again next year.

Munich away was one of the strangest games I have ever been too. You go to Munich (one of the most in form teams in Europe) and win 0-2 and are still disappointed at the end. If someone had told me that Manuel Neuer would be holding on to the ball in a desperate attempt to time waste in the 85th minute or that Robben would be taking the ball to the corner desperate not to give the ball away then I would have been expecting pigs to start flying.

I would say that I am one of the more optimistic supporters but I’m not sure if I believed we could achieve the impossible pre match even though I made the trip to Munich. I think many like me were hopeful but did not expect.

Arsenal put in a performance to make every Arsenal supporter proud. The players had the spirit the manager has been talking about and you would think, if that spirit remains, the fight for the top four will get very interesting.

Arsenal got off to the best possible start and even though it was not Theo Walcott’s best ever game, he managed to get into a dangerous position and create a goal. Giroud got himself in the correct position and a position he must get himself in more – I feel for Giroud because I think he puts in a shift (perhaps he could have put himself about a bit more at the lane though). I hope we add a striker in the summer but keep Giroud in the squad because he offers us something a bit different and does have 15 goals and 10 assists this season after all.

Laurent Koscielny was back in the side and scored the second and always is a threat from set pieces. I called for him to start more a few weeks ago and get a run of games together because I genuinely believe he is our best centre back when playing regularly and has a massive part to play in the remaining games. It was a massive decision to ‘rest’ our captain and our goal keeper but it paid off as Koscielny and Fabianski both were outstanding and should keep their place at Swansea.

Swansea away is massive but the victory in Munich should give some much needed confidence. Arsenal lost to Bayern Munich on AWAY GOALS, Bayern Munich did not score more then Arsenal over the two legs but went through because of where they scored their goals. Arsenal can take a lot from the tie and must believe they can do it. Arsenal in my opinion have massively under achieved this year – they have good players; in Wilshere (when he is back), Walcott, Cazorla etc we have the talent and ability to get us into Europe but they must believe.

Win at Swansea and get on a winning run and it is more then possible – confidence brings wins BUT the only way to keep confidence is to keep winning.

Munich may have been seen as impossible but getting in the top four is not impossible. Trust me.

Up The Arsenal.
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