Monday, 7 December 2015

Can Theo Walcott Make The Difference?

I’m going to put myself on the line – Theo Walcott is the man to keep Arsenal in the title race (with the help of Mesut Ozil and a returning Alexis Sanchez in a few weeks)….as long as he stays bloody fit! 
Many argue that he does not have a trick or sometimes join the ‘not having a football brain’ bandwagon but he has two attributes that many dream about – pace and finishing.

Even the football brain nonsense can be argued – the runs he makes have become intelligent and perhaps working with Thierry Henry has helped him too but in my opinion, he can make a real difference.

Theo Walcott between 2010-2013 (before he was out for a year) scored 13, 11 and 21 goals in the three seasons when he played more games than he missed. I totally understand the argument about his fitness but when someone argues his ability to change a game or influence a game is questioned, I struggle to understand.

The Spurs game a few years ago when he got bashed in the first half but came out for the second and scored two HUGE goals seemed to be a turning point – a few long drawn out contract negotiations meant there were a few hairy moments but Theo Walcott felt his place was at Arsenal and stayed.

With Alexis out and Giroud playing the role of an inconsistent number nine and Ramsey still coming back into the goals, Theo’s goals could make or break a sustained title challenge. There may be games when he plays out wide and some he will play up top and it may even help motivate Giroud as it did earlier on this season.

Theo scares defenders who tend to push deeper but the way Mesut Ozil is playing, many defences / midfields will be in two minds. Theo and Ozil from minute one away to Sunderland on Ozil’s debut seem to click when Theo could have had a first half hatrick with three Ozil assists!
Let's hope for some more but this time it resulting in the ball in the back of the net.

Big week in Europe and in the league at Villa and Theo could be key.

Up The Arsenal

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A conversation with Sami Mokbel from the Daily Mail (Sport)

A podcast with Arsenal following (not supporting but writing about) Journo from the daily mail.

We talk injuries (we have a few if we didn't know!), last few results, look ahead to Sunderland and discuss specific players who may get a big chance over the next few weeks.


Can be found on iTunes under The Gooner Ramble

or on YouTube:



You can follow Sami on twitter -

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Injury we all feared - Alexis Sanchez

The injury we all feared, the injury the club must have feared and the injury even the player himself would have surely feared – Alexis Sanchez went off holding his hamstring.
Few things about this entire episode that sums up the fan base at the moment .

If you are fully behind Arsene Wenger, you have to defend every decision he makes and if you think it’s time for him to move on, then you criticise every decision he makes. Since when was football so black and white – you can still be behind Arsene Wenger but have a differing opinion or think he has made a mistake – it is allowed!

I wouldn’t consider myself an AKB (Arsene knows best) or a WOB (Wenger out Brigade) despite what most people probably think but I do admire what he has done at our football cub and want him and the club to be more successful and really push Arsenal to a title challenge and perhaps even winning it. Having said that, I will not defend every decision the man makes – how can any human being, in their professional life, get every decision right? I certainly do not in my line of work.

I think the decision not to take Alexis off last week against Zagreb when 3-0 up was the wrong one – there I said it, but I believe it really was!

The justification was that Giroud was carrying an knock, Santi Cazorla has been extremely jaded and Hector Bellerin had a slight injury so all three went off which meant Alexis could not. Alexis then moved central so he does not have to work and track back as much as you do on the flank.

My thinking in that would have been to take Alexis on and keep Santi Cazorla on – knowing that Aaron Ramsey was back and could start on Sunday. The centre of midfield suddenly had options again and seeing Joel Campbell have one of his best games for the club, I would have had no problem in playing Campbell right, Alexis (after only playing 70mins against Zagreb) left with Ramsey in the middle instead of Cazorla (if he was not fit enough to pay) knowing that Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was also on the bench. Yes, it would be a risk keeping Santi on but keeping Alexis on was a bigger one due to the impact he has on the team and the lack of (quality) options in his position.

The Alexis injury reminds me of the Nasri hamstring injury a few years ago when he had about 20 days until ‘that’ Barcelona game at the Emirates and was in a race to be fit and made it and was involved in the winning goal. For Alexis, if the injury is a simple hamstring pull, the city game will be the one he is looking at. Alexis seems (no basis or evidence but on first look) that he recovers from injuries quickly purely because of the way he is so here’s is hoping that he will be back as quickly as possible.

But for now, as disappointing as the last three league games have been, all is not lost and I’m hoping the squad recover and Arsene gets the team back on winning ways -  but that doesn’t mean he will get everything right and more importantly, doesn’t mean pro Wenger supporters have to justify every single decision he makes….only human guv.

Up The Arsenal

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A conversation with Neil Ashton

 This week's blog is more a podcast and it features a conversation with the Daily Mail / Sunday Supplement's Neil Ashton.

The man who's famously used the term 'nicking a living' when referring to Mesut Ozil in a game away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

I asked him about that article wanted to question him on it and we spoke about the article and Ozil's Arsenal career to date.

We also talk about Giroud who Neil has a strong opinion on along with Arsene Wenger and what he is like at press conferences (including the famous 'Why you look at me') and what he is like away from Arsenal.

Well worth a listening - even if you dislike Neil Ashton.

The whole podcast idea with him started after that Munich game when I saw him at the emirates as I sit near the press box - I found myself defending Mesut Ozil and Arsenal and the idea of recording a chat came from this. I was sure to make sure I choose when we record and I waited until there could be no debate on Ozil's performances and he is one of the hottest players in the league on current form.

Listen here:



Sound Cloud:

You can also search on itunes 'The Gooner Ramble' or subscribe here:

Up The Arsenal

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Please NO MORE injuries Arsenal

(Swansea away from the away end)
Arsene Wenger recently talked about breaking up the first half of the season in parts. Using the international breaks as dividers and setting targets for these periods.

Arsenal currently sit joint first (I prefer to say that then second – it’s currently joint first but turns into second on the final day of the season) and their Premier League form has been pretty good. Good wins against Manchester United at home, Swansea and Palace away being a personal highlight. Frustrating games against Liverpool and Chelsea where there is still a sense of disappointment and slight regret.

You can draw as many conclusions as you want this season but the one I have come to is that if Arsenal are to maintain a title challenge, then injuries (or hopefully the lack off) will play a huge part.

In fact, injuries will determine if Arsenal maintain their title challenge – despite not buying an outfield player (which 99.9% of supporters were at unease about) the squad, if fit, look in good shape. There is the worry about Francis Coquelin but if you look at the team that played at home against Spurs, you would say at the very least, three players would come into the team – Bellerin, Ramsey and Walcott (perhaps two if Giroud plays upfront) but the main difference would have been the bench. The strength on the bench was nowhere near where it should be and having a few players back would have resulted in Ramsey or Wilshere coming on for Santi with Bellerin for Dubuchy (although, Bellerin would have started if fit) and the Ox, Theo or Welbeck or even Rosicky (if he ever comes back) on to play the Gibbs role.

The Bayern Munich game at home was a great example of what you do with a half decent bench. Theo Walcott was running at Bayern the entire game but Arsenal had Giroud to come on to provide a different option; but one with quality (rather than throwing on a Bendtner or Sanago like we have in previous years). Similar when Aaron Ramsey pulled a hamstring, Arsene Wenger could call on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to come on rather than our second choice left back (who we love at the moment after his leveller against that lot’).

Our next game is away to West Brom and our squad of 18 should include Bellerin, Ramsey and Chamberlain and a fully rested Mesut Ozil who has not been called up for Germany. They probably recognise he needs a rest and it's a perfect situation for us. Alexis Sanchez does remain a worry and we pray he gets through the internationals but looking ahead, I wonder if the temptation to rest him against Zagreb (I know it’s the Champions League but….) will be there or perhaps the home game in the league to Sunderland in early December but he looked exhausted on Sunday in the last 20 minutes after a tough week.

The injury to Theo Walcott is the one I’m most interested in – I thought he was developing very well in the centre forward role and along with Giroud provided us with two very good options. We may not have a worldie but in Giroud and Walcott, they could just perhaps, score enough goals to give us a shout in the one we all want - the Premier League.

But for the love of god, please no more injuries.

Up The Arsenal


Friday, 25 September 2015

A discussion with Julien Laurens

This week's piece is more a discussion / recording of  a chat with French expert and BT Sport's Julien Laurens for  where we discuss the North London Derby, Flamini's role and what actually happened in the summer and if he was close to leaving, the future of Debuchy and what is Thierry Henry up too.

We also discuss Arsenal this season and end with a quick fire round of one word answers.

You can listen on YouTube here:




Search 'The Gooner Ramble'

Roll on Leicester away on Saturday - we didn't play well last season and came away with a draw so this year is our chance to put it right.

Up The Arsenal!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The 'Internal Solution'

Another game, another goalless performance at home – it’s starting to be a concern; the easy solution would be to buy a striker (as everyone keeps telling me) or another solution would be to tell the strikers / offensive players we do have to actually score a goal or two OR ANOTHER solution could be to change things round a little and as Arsene Wenger says, find an ‘internal solution’.  

Most shots but joint least number of goals isn’t a record we want to keep but as everyone always says, it’s reassuring we are creating chances – however, I would argue we are creating less then we normally do but I think that will come. Thankfully we have a world class goal keeper who showed just how good he is in Petr Cech. 

The buying a striker solution or telling the existing ones to score does not need much in-depth thinking (If a top striker suddenly becomes available, I think Arsenal will ponce) but the famous internal solution is the one that many have been discussing on radio phones ins and off course on social media. 
I’ve been a bit slow on this one and many have been whispering it for a while and perhaps it took me to get absolutely soaked (by the way, if you ever give your season ticket to someone near you so they can bring someone and get a ticket elsewhere, CHECK WHERE THAT TICKET IS – IF IT’S ROW 1-5 DO NOT TAKE IT!! YOU GET WET! VERY WET!....EVEN IN AUGUST!) to see that Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are struggling to fit into the same team at the moment. I think I was perhaps a bit naïve by thinking ‘if it worked at the end of last season, it will surely work again’. 

Santi played out wide at home against West ham with Ramsey central but went back to the shape of last season at Palace – it seemed to work at times but perhaps was not as convincing as say it was away to Hull last season. Arsene Wenger has a real decision to make here as to what he does because both want to play in the middle and our two Subs yesterday, Theo Walcott (who incidentally has actually scored at home in the last 6 games in the league) and Oxlade Chamberlain wanting to play on the right -  yes yes, I know Theo has said he wants to play up top but what he actually said, was that ‘in some games, he may be suited to the right and in others suited to play up top’ – at the moment, I would say he just wants to play!  

Having some natural width could be an internal solution on the right as we all know Alexis is best cutting in and coming inside from the left rather than playing as a ‘winger’. Arsene talked about how wide players need to work hard to protect their full back a few years ago and perhaps that is one of the big reasons why he is reluctant to play Walcott or the Ox in front of Hector Bellerin. It seems like the preference would be to play Hector and Ramsey or Debuchy and one of the two – similar on the left where Monreal has cemented his place but I wonder what would happen if the more offensive Gibbs came in for a run in the team. The opening game against West Ham did not cause this dilemma as Hector missed out with a knock so the OX could play in front of Dubuchy.  

In truth, I could be talking totally out of my backside and I’m not sure what the thinking is but sitting there last night in the rain showed me that something is not right and the balance is not right – I honestly believe we have the players (I wouldn’t say no to one or two world class players coming in, who would?) but we perhaps just have not set up correctly to get the best out of them.  

A must win on Saturday may just be followed by an international break of thought with a few tactical conversations occurring between the manager and the coaching teams – along with new player to fit into the side; time will tell. 

Up The Arsenal.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Will The Real Francis Coquelin Please Stand Up

The saviour, the policeman, the enforcer, exactly what we needed – just a FEW of the phases used to describe Francis Coquelin last season.  

Francis Coquelin quickly established himself to be a key member of our first team, let along squad and forced the club to change their thinking with regards to the transfer strategy this summer. 

Arsene Wenger has always been loyal to his players and if he thinks someone has done well to get a place in his team, more often than not, he will give them a real and genuine chance to cement their place.

It was quite a story too – he was recalled on loan and suddenly appeared to be coming on against Newcastle at home in December; many supporters didn’t even know he had been recalled and were asking who this was that was about to enter the field. Then he got a few minutes at Anfield and on boxing day at home against QPR and we thought he was purely there as some additional cover and will be back on loan again.

He then started a few days later at West Ham which the majority of the away end may have thought was a bit of a risk. As the game went on, he got stuck in, Arsenal were leading and we all thought ‘hang on, what’s going on here’. He then started on New Year’s day (less said about that result the better I think) and played a vital role right till the end of the season.

Some would say he was largely responsible for Arsenal finishing the season so strongly – he was hugely influential in the away win at Man City alongside Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of midfield. Suddenly, ‘it was like a new signing’.
Fast forward to this season and after the West Ham cock up, suddenly Francis Coquelin no good and not good enough to win the league.

Over-reaction? Maybe, but to be fair, the Francis Coquelin of last season wasn’t keen to ping the ball around like he was Pirlo and instead, just gave the ball to the technical players whenever he won it; more Gilberto then Pirlo was the order of last season and you would hope would be the order of this season too.

I personally was extremely impressed with Francis Coquelin last season and am glad he has got a chance to cement his place in this team – I think buying a £25m DM would have perhaps brought some unrest to the squad and I can see why the manager decided against it. You could argue some backup is needed as many believe Arteta may be losing his legs and not be in a position to fill in long term if Coquelin got injured and that is another debate all together. For what it’s worth, we probably do need some cover but rather then to take over from Coquelin, more to support him, play for him and cover for him.

Francis Coquelin hasn’t changed in 8 weeks however, he needs his manager, coaches and fellow players to keep him grounded – to remind him he is not Zinedine Zidane but more our Gilberto Silva and not to follow the ‘Alex Song’ way of life by forgetting what his role in the side is.

 If Francis Coquelin remains Francis Coquelin or our Gilberto Silva and not Pirlo or Zidane, then Arsenal have a real player in there – he can tackle, he can read the game, he can cover a lot of ground and can defend. He perhaps does need to retain some self-control or as someone in the away end at Palace put it ‘Chill out when he is on a yellow card’ but my opinion hasn’t changed on him – he can be massive this season but must remained focus and let the others play and concentrate on the dirty role which is essential to a title challenge.

Up The Arsenal.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Another Day, Another Trophy - Now For The Big One

I keep reading it was/is a friendly or a glamorous friendly at best – I think there are 18 other teams in the league that would have LOVED to play the community shield; why? Because that means they either won the FA Cup or were champions of England.

It gave Arsenal the opportunity to go into the game at the bridge on September 19th with a win already under our belt’s against Jose’s Chelsea. It gives Arsenal a feel good factor, it gives Arsenal the confidence to know they can compete and beat the big sides and best of all, it makes the squad photo look better!

I couldn’t help but look at our squad and think ‘wow’. The strength in depth in MOST positions is unreal.

We have two right backs and you would be happy with either playing in Bellerin and Dubuchy and again with Monreal and Gibbs at left back. Gabrial and Chambers are good cover for our two centre backs. We have plenty of midfielders, perhaps lacking quality cover in the holding role but aside from that, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky, Ozil along with Arteta and Flamini give us many options. Out wide we have Alexis, the Ox, Theo, Gnabry, Welbeck who can play there and up front, Giroud and Walcott will battle it out to be number one with Welbeck perhaps supporting.

You would think Cech, Koscielny and Coquelin will always start when fit purely because the competition in their position is slightly less and you would add Alexis to the list, not because of a lack of competition but because of his class and also his willingness to always want to play (He only returned to training today yet wants to play on Saturday and has been training in his own time in his holidays!). Aside from them four, you can really rotate the others to keep them fresh and with four competitions, that will be key.

I really believe Mesut Ozil is going to have a stormer this season and I must admit, I really enjoy watching him play. He has so much elegance and when on the ball, you feel something is going to happen. Arsene Wenger has challenged him to get more goals and I think he has taken up that challenge already in pre-season and beyond.

Bring on West ham on Saturday (predicting a bit of a rout, perhaps three or four goals and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ozil is on the scoresheet – In fact, my next stop is to the bookies to put some money on it).

Let’s hope we have a long and successful season – Up the Arsenal! 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Olivier Giroud Argument

One of the main arguments and questions I had of Olivier Giroud was his performances and goal record in the big games – before last season, he had scored at home to Liverpool and at home against Spurs and that was it.

A striker playing for Arsenal needs goals against the big teams and I was particularly keen to see how his performances would be the season just gone.

He ended the season with goals against Man United at home, Liverpool home & away and a very important goal away to Man City – he even threw in one against Monaco in Monaco which sadly didn’t result in the great escape but certainly gave us hope.

Thierry Henry caused a bit of a stir recently by saying Arsenal will not win the league with Olivier Giroud – he later went on to say when he, himself was playing, Arsenal had Wiltord, Kanu, Suker to come on and make the difference. The two comments slightly contradict each other but I believe Thierry Henry meant, with Olivier Giroud ALONE, Arsenal will not win the league and I think it’s tough to argue otherwise.

Theo Walcott showed he has goals in him in the final game of the league season and the cup final and Danny Welbeck will want to prove he too can be a central striker but both are relatively unproven playing up top for long periods of the season in a title chasing team.

I’m fully in the boat to give both a chance to be the Wiltord, Kanu and Suker and play a vital part this season rather than buy an average striker who won’t do a great deal better then what we already have. If that world class striker becomes available then I fully expect Arsenal to go for him, like they tried to do with Suarez and have been trying with Benzema for the last three years.

Buying a world class striker does not mean Olivier Giroud is surplus to requirements – it means he now has team mates who can help him and help the club go for the big competitions in England & Europe.

Olivier Giroud has a massive part to play in our future as he offers something quite different and is well suited to so many games in our league, however, he can’t do it alone.

I’ve been quite surprised with the stick he has got for staying loyal (so to speak) and sign an extension (many will argue that he won’t get this sort of arrangement elsewhere and they may well be right) – I think clubs need a collection of players and certainly need a few in every position in order to be successful.

I truly believe some of the frustration from supporters on Giroud comes from not having that world star who can turn a game in one moment, such as an Suarez or an Ageuro rather then it being anything personal on Giroud.

In my opinion, Olivier Giroud had a good season last year and regardless of if anyone comes in, I back him to have another good season and hopefully get to that 20 goal mark for our fantastic football club.

Up the Arsenal.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

How Did Anyone Not Enjoy The Month Of March?

A win on Saturday will result in Arsenal only being four points behind Chelsea for a few hours at least – considering the way Arsenal started and Chelsea started (new invincibles, walking the title, quadruple etc) that sounds quite amazing.

I’m not saying for one minute that the title is within reach but it’s an incredible where we are considering how we started – now to work out how to start well and end well!

Watching Arsenal in March was a joy – I hear people say that watching Arsenal is not fun anymore and I can see where they are coming from but the person I heard someone on a podcast moan about watching Arsenal’ recently had clearly not seen our performances in March.

 Arsenal started the month with a 2-0 victory over Everton at home which was essential after the Monaco showing the game previous. We then went to QPR and had a poor first half but got much better in the second to grab another vital three points. We then went to Old Trafford in the cup and broke our winless run which feels like it has been going on for years and years and we played extremely well. We went there with this new attitude of not always having to have the ball but use it better when we have it and win the game – it worked a treat. We then kept another clean sheet at home by defeating West Ham 3-0 and despite two of the goals coming quite late, we always looked in control and no real danger of losing the game. We then went to Monaco in our annual ‘mission impossible’ and came close to winning the tie but another sense of déjà vu occurred but it was another win regardless to maintain our run which was the minimum we could do. We ended the month going to Newcastle and once again kept the run going – we had a tough second half but came through it which in a funny way, was impressive to watch too.

I appreciate there are many opinions in football and opinions are what make the game so great but how a supporter of a club that have had the month we have had not enjoy it is beyond me!

The Monaco defeat at home was painful – it really was a major slip up. Arsenal had a fantastic opportunity to progress and perhaps be a surprise package in the competition. We lacked concentration and dare I say it a bit of motivation because we thought it would be an easy tie – this should be a good warning for the FA Cup semi final (along with going to the wire in last season’s semi final).

An FA Cup and second place finish would be progression but a title challenge is a MUST for next season but for now, let’s enjoy the final straight and hopefully ending with another great weekend at the end of May.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...