Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Theo Walcott. How the world's got him wrong.

I'm sure that you have read many a post on how Theo Walcott has not progressed in the past four years. I'm sure you thought that too, I did think that. I thought Theo wasn't all that good, he could just run fast couldn't he?
It seemed like he played the game on sunday to shut the world up. Theo did everything people say he couldn't do. And he did it well.

Proving people wrong

Theo started the game badly, so did Arsenal, he seemed to be all over the place initially. As the game picked up, he did too. Theo was booed in the first half, Arsenal fans wanted him replaced at the break. Here is what I think, Theo did not do badly in the first half. Yes, statistics do not support what I'm saying. But Theo's movement was so brilliant that it was creating all the time in the world for Bacary Sagna to whip in crosses. And Bac was crossing like a legend. If you thought Bacary Sagna had a good half, Theo deserves some of the credit. But most people did not see this. It must have been a major hit for his confidence when he went in during half time. Do you know one person who did recognize his silent contribution? Arsene Wenger. Had Wenger subbed him during the break it would have shattered his confidence. But Wenger stuck with him.

Now before we go on to what he did in the second half, let's recall an incident during the match. Theo received the ball, with space in front of him, nobody between him and the goal. But rather than running at the goal, he passed the ball to Robin, who was being marked by three Spurs players. Why did he do that? The answer is, he sometimes makes the wrong decisions. Why? Because the fans have criticized him so much, he has lost confidence, this was a result of lack of confidence because of impatient fans, me included. This did not show he does not have a 'footballing brain', it showed that what the fans say gets to him sometimes. He is a quality player. But he's young, and he needs the fans behind his back to support him.

Moving on to the second half. Theo played like a legend.

He sprinted more than three quarters of the pitch to score Arsenal's fourth goal on Sunday. Check the pitch, I'm pretty sure he left a scorch mark on it. He showed startling pace, the desire to get there and a finish Thierry Henry would stand up and applaud. Does this sound like a player with no 'footballing brain'? No. For his second goal, he showed brilliant control and a calm mind in front of goal to put the ball in the net. Sounds like a perfectly good player to me. Maybe the fans need to give him a little space. He proved the world wrong in the second half, attracting praise from Redknapp himself.

Theo Walcott is a good player, I made a mistake in judging him badly. It took him just 45 minutes to show me I'm wrong, give him time and space and he will show us why Arsene Wenger and Robin Van Persie rate him so highly. That ought to be enough for the fans. When he gets the ball, let's roar in support, and when he loses the ball, let's believe he's going to get it back and prove his skill.

After Sunday's game, I'm going to think twice before I criticize Theo again, and I hope you will too.

Keep the faith. There's always more to things than what we see initially.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two nil and you fu*ked it up.

He Scores When He Wants

Arsenal were coming of the back of two horrible defeats. Out of the FA cup against Sunderland, and a disastrous night in Milan. So, we were looking at one of the most important games of the season. Tottenham at home, unfamiliarly above us, and many have concluded that they have been the superior team this season. Well, all that was about to change.
Every pundit and journalist said that Arsenal has not been strong enough, that they won't be able to beat Tottenham. Well, all that was about to change.
Everyone predicted another collapse that would see us lose out on champions league spot. All that was about to change.
I think Wenger shocked everyone when we saw Chamberlain and Gervinho on the bench, with Benayoun and Rosicky getting the starts. And the criticism started, people already concluded Wenger had gotten it wrong. Anyways, that was how it was, and we kicked off possibly the most important game of the season.
Arsenal had the worst possible start, and conceded a silly goal in the fourth minute. I must admit I thought it was going to be 'one of those days.' But the players didn't think so, they picked it up, raised the tempo and played their game. Not much later Arsenal were playing like they had the good start. Clever movement, quick passing, threatening corners and crosses. And, unbeatable, unquestionable energy. Rosicky seemed to have the time of his life, making everything happen. Arsenal came close to scoring, they were banging on the doors and Spurs tried to hit us on the break. And then Bale's dive won them a penalty. Adebayor out of all people converted the penalty. I thought this would take the steam out of Arsenal, they needed to regroup I thought. Again, I was wrong. Arsenal played with the same tempo and energy. Nothing was going Spur's way apart from the two goals. Arsenal were losing by two goals at home, but the player's body language did not show that. Rosicky and Benayoun did more that just justify Wenger's faith in them,  Van Persie was too hot to handle and Theo's movement was making ample space for Sagna to exploit. The energy just did not seem to fade! And in the 40th minute, Sagna scored a beautiful header. All the passion and energy seemed to have paid off, this showed how much Sagna wanted this. There was only one place where this ball could have gone, and that was the back of the net. This gave the players even more belief, and three minutes later Van Persie curled the ball into the net perfectly, forcing Gary Neville to call Van Persie's left foot a wand. It really is a wonder, it was a magnificent strike and it bought us back in the game. It was only half time, Arsenal went in the superior side.
Now, this is where I thought Arsenal won the game. After the break Spurs made two substitutions. This showed that Arsenal's passion, want, energy and class had clearly gotten into the heads on the Spurs players. Sandro and Van der vaart were not sent in to achieve something, they were sent on a rescue mission. It showed that mentally they had lost the game. Arsenal started the way they had left off, and soon the best player on the pitch, Rosicky got the goal from close range. This goal again showed how much these players wanted this, it reeked passion and commitment. The way Arsenal players charged at the goal was simply brilliant. Even after that, the attacks kept coming. Van Persie put the ball in for Walcott and he scored with the touch of an angel, chipping the ball into the net (Walcott haters, watch the finish again). 4-2. Arsenal still wanted more. The players were on fire. Nothing could stop them. Walcott again had the space and finished beautifully again. The determination, passion and grit that this player showed was unbelievable after being booed in the first half. 5-2. After this, the Spurs players looked lost, the didn't know why they were on the pitch. The game wasn't over, but they had been taught a footballing lesson. Arsenal players showed them what class is.
I've always maintained that these players have talent and technique. However,  they did not beat Spurs because of clever tactics or superior technique, they beat them through sheer passion and energy. The 'supposedly' weaker team came from behind to score 5 goals. The Arsenal players had walked out of the tunnel with their heads held high and there was no way in hell they were going back with their heads down. Yesterday, these players played with the belief that they deserved to win, with the belief that they are good enough, with the belief that they can beat any team. The game was won before it started, in the minds of the players this was the only way it could end, and they made it happen. Yesterday, you could put any team on the planet against Arsenal and they would have been brushed aside. Not because of superior skill, but because of unmatchable passion and belief. This is a brilliant team, they just need to play every game with such passion. Yesterday Arsenal beat Spurs in every area of the pitch. Modric, Adebayor and Bale were nowhere to be found. The Arsenal players played like they owned the pitch, and all the other players on it. 
This game will always be remembered. Let me underline what yesterday taught us, ARSENE KNOWS, his faith paid off yesterday, he knows what he's doing, let him do it. And, Theo Walcott is an amazing player, but the fans have ruined his confidence, let's get behind him, and he'll rip apart opponents. Even in the first half, his movement was brilliant, he let Sagna create an impact. Give him the due credit.
I've said this before and I'll say it again, this team is closer to success than it seems, the only thing lacking is belief, we saw yesterday what this team can do when they believe they can do it. Let's get behind this team and make them believe that they can. If they play the same way at Anfield, Arsenal will push aside Liverpool, if they play this way against Milan, they'll brush aside Milan, maybe by a 5 goal margin? Who knows.

The players gave us a match to remember yesterday, let's make sure that we give them the support they deserve and will remember. The players seem to believe now, it's the fans turn now. The played are going to be charged up for Anfield, thats the way it should be.
As always, keep the faith. Arsene knows.
To Anfield then.     

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Andrei Arshavin. And what he said.

Andrei Arshavin, leaves behind memories.
Arsenal have always had amazing, exciting players. But when Arshavin arrived in 2009, be brought with himself something extra. He ran at defenders with the ball at his feet, rather than threading the ball through like we're used to seeing. He brought a good change. As seasons passed by, the number of games he played per season started falling. However his impact was very very visible. In the 2010-11 season he scored 10 goals and had 17 assists to his name. Unbelievable. He scored 4 goals at Anfield. Again unbelievable. 
However, from the beginning of this season he didn't seem the same. Arshavin seemed disinterested, lethargic and lost the ball often. Right from the television pundits to football 'fans' who didn't know squat about football seemed to criticize him. Wenger gave him numerous chances on the left wing, but time and again he did not make the required impact. Attracting further ridicule.
All this was fine, a player does go through bad times. You don't think so? Look around for a certain spaniard who seems to have forgotten where the net is. But, what was not fine was what he said a few days ago when apparently in the midst of the entire team he proclaimed he wasn't interested anymore and wanted to leave. I personally hate the fact that he was loaned out at a time when the team needs experience and quality the most. Arshavin is both. Having him on the bench was a safe bet, maybe he would find form again. But if he really did say all that, I have no doubt that his time was up at Arsenal. No matter who the player, once he isn't interested anymore, all hell on earth can not make him do well. I still believe he's quality, maybe going back to Zenit will help him find form and he can come fact to Arsenal and give his best again. Even though he's a good player, he was turning into a negative influence in the dressing room, such a player has to go. 
It's sad that Arsenal have lost a quality player, but he sealed his own fate when he said he wasn't interested. Maybe he was turning into a negative influence in the dressing room that put other players off. 
If he does not return, this will be a sad end. An end that such a player does not deserve. Hopefully he will return, and run at defenders again. After all we will be going to Anfield next season also.
On another note, there are very things that p*ss me off, but right on top of that list is Adebayor telling Arsenal what to do. Hopefully we will answer on the pitch. For the past 15 years Spurs have been behind us, and this year isn't over yet. 
Keep the faith.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arsenal have turned a corner. Now.

The week's gone, and finally I seem to have forgotten about the Sunderland game. However, much has been happening since then, which has said a lot about Arsenal. Over the past few years I have read a lot of posts talking about how Arsenal have turned a corner since the epic Invincible's team. And since then we've turned quite a few corners!
After the Milan game, Wenger was unusually critical about the players, not that he had a choice, but I haven't seen our manager react that way often. It just got me thinking if Arsene Wenger had finally come to the conclusion that the players had let him and his faith in them down. After the Sunderland game, much was said about how Arsenal runs and everyone right from Wenger to the board was criticized for it. 
I said it earlier this week and I'm saying it again, I want Wenger to stay. But the board should start suggesting changes and ensure that they happen. The board should not be stagnant, they need to push for change. Be more ambitious.
The people who lead Arsenal have achieved great things with the club and are hence justified in having confidence in how they think. However, it does not seem to be working. Now, the average age of the Arsenal board members is 73, with all due respect, at that age bringing about a change of ways and being ambitious can be difficult. Maybe the change is not needed in the players and the manager, but more at the top, forcing change all the way down?
Maybe Stan Kroenke needs to have a look at the team at the top.
AST has been all over the place talking about the financial situation at the club. They estimate that we should have £55 million at the end, however this will reduce substantially if we do not qualify for the champions league. This makes it even more important for us to qualify for the Champions League. 
A day later, there has been news that Stan Kroenke is in London and that Arsenal and we might have £100 million to rebuild. Now that is why I say Arsenal have turned a corner. Never before have I heard an amount like that being associated with Arsenal. The Sunderland defeat seems to have woken up a few people at the club, things seem to be moving, albeit it's too early to say in which direction. But things seem to be changing. In the summer Wenger made a few 'Un-Wenger' like signings and now there is talk of him losing patience with Theo Walcott. Theo is a good player, but what seems to go against him is that he hasn't grown in past few years. For me, he's still an impact substitute. Reading in various blogs and articles it looks like Wenger has finally learnt that a few players have consistently let him down. And I agree with him. If it's true that we have money to rebuild and we're after players like Podolski and GotzĂ©, then Arsenl have turned a corner. Maybe Wenger finally is going to bend his rules. Maybe the night is darkest before the dawn.
Talking go money, apparently we didn't spend in January to save the money for a 'rainy day' - No Champions League. Again, what bothers me here is the thought process, we seem to be preparing for no champions league next year and I just do not like the thought of that. Well, hopefully we won't have to watch Arsenal play on thursday nights! Oh, and if we do, Ivan Gazidis has agreed that the ticket prices should be discounted and has frozen the ticket prices for the time being. That is definitely positive news for Gooners. 
That seems to be it. At the end of the day, I'm glad that there seems to be some changes taking place than defend the way we are, and keep going down. All we can do now is fight whatever goes against us, and we seem to be doing that. Just a little late.
Let's believe things are moving in the right direction. Things change quickly in football.
North London Derby coming up next then, never wanted Arsenal to win one so badly. But that's what I say before every derby. 
Till then, watch this. Love the way the players start the game.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Arsenal Forever.

We're out of the FA Cup and staring at our seventh consecutive year without a trophy. It's difficult to overturn the damage that was done in Milan. Things seem pretty gloomy. 
Honestly, I expected Arsenal to come out all guns blazing against Sunderland, eager to prove the critics wrong. Eager to show people that the Milan game was a one-off. Eager to prove their class. 
I'm sure that the players gave it their best, but it just did not seem to happen. Sunderland wanted it more, they played a closed, congested game. We kept plenty of possession, but it looked like the midfield just ran out of ideas eventually and gave the ball away. Yesterday, there was a lack of sharpness, the lack of that final killer pass, that unlocks the defense and let's us walk the ball into the net. The kind of pass that Arsenal are known for. Balls over the top and quick counter attacks hurt us when we were pushing ahead.  The team in blue yesterday did not look like the Arsenal most fans know or are used to seeing. 
So, basically we had a poor game, and theres hardly anything to play for in this season except Champions League qualification. The fans are already talking about changes during the summer, but that is some way off. Most fans seem to take every defeat as an opportunity to lash out at Arsene Wenger, Djourou, Arshavin, Squillaci and many more. Arsene was not at fault yesterday, the players need to repay the faith that he has in them. They need to realize that they need to step up, and get results. Fans seemed to have forgotten what Arsene Wenger has done for this club. Celebrity fans and otherwise.
The title of this post seems to be the title that should have been after a huge victory, well, like I said before, this Arsenal team needs support now. Yes, things don't seem to be going our way, but crying out for Wenger to resign does not help. Instead let's get behind this team. We should let the players know that they will always have our support, and that they need to show commitment on the field in return. But not through abuse, but through continuous support.
This is not how any of us would want the season to be, but fans are not only there to celebrate the good times, but to stick with the team during the bad times. A large number of fans yesterday claimed that they've 'had enough' of Arsenal. Well, don't come back to the team after Arsenal is at the top again. And believe me, we will be at the top again. Every team goes through difficult times, but when the difficult times are through, two things remain - A champion team and the most loyal fans. 
Barcelona had a number of trophy less years before they started their domination of Europe. The good time fans can leave, but be sure of this, Arsenal will bounce back.
The last two games have exposed all of Arsenal's weaknesses, it's difficult to explain why we always seem to suffer the same sort of defeat. But, let's leave all the explaining to the team and the manager, and let's do our bit of supporting the team. The away fans yesterday were brilliant, thats what this team needs, we win together and we lose together. 
I don't know how long will it take for Arsenal to win the title again, but I do know, that I will support this team till then and beyond. As should everyone who call themselves Arsenal fans.
I supported them when they won the title at White Hart Lane, when they went 49 games unbeaten and I support them now, when they haven't won a trophy for the last seven years.
At the end of the day, I'm proud to call myself an Arsenal fan, and I always will be.
And that's why, I have said and I will say. Arsenal Forever. Arsene Knows. Keep the Faith. 
Arsenal Forever. Forward.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Looking at the horizon. Milan - Part I

So, that was bad. 
Not like our previous visits to the San Siro. Arsenal really were outclassed. 
Was this our worst ever Champions League performance? Well, measuring how bad it was does not help anyone.
A lot has been said about the condition of the pitch, it was disgusting! The flanks were 'relaid', whereas the center was perfect. If that was deliberate, it was cheap, not worthy of a team like AC Milan, which is so respected in Europe. But we cannot complain, even they played on the same pitch. 
What does bother me was that Arsenal started the game with four central midfielders- Arteta, Song, Ramsey and Rosicky, apparently we did this to avoid playing on the wings. Now, Milan are a team that play narrow, so this suited them! We fell for their tactics, and gave them exactly what they wanted - No wingers, demolition of our biggest threat in the process.
Had we started with two wingers like we always do, Arsenal would have forced their players to come out to the wings, and play on the 'dirty' areas of the pitch themselves, and at the same time give Ramsey, Arteta and Song space in the middle!
What is disturbing is that Arsenal got pushed into changing their tactics and played directly into their hands, we need to be more confident about our own tactics! The minute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on, he started attracting defenders to the wings, giving Arsenal more space in the center. Had that been the case since the start, we maybe would be looking at a different result.

Quite a few players have been blamed for a poor performance yesterday, some of them being our top players. The Verminator had a bad game. But what was more worrying was the mental fragility we showed when we changed our tactics, a lack of belief in the way we play. Arsenal need to stick to their strengths and not change themselves because of external conditions. Because when this team plays it's best to it's strengths we can beat any team on the planet. 
By changing our tactics, we showed other teams that we fear playing our own game when things around us change, we need to play to our strengths. 
Arsenal need to realize that we have to beat teams by playing to our strengths, and not by trying to change  our tactics every time another team throws a cheap trick at us. 
I'm not going to talk about the score line, maybe it's beyond us already. Maybe we won't beat Milan at The Emirates by a 5 goal margin. But, what this team needs to realize is that they have the technical ability, but not the mental strength or the winning mentality. The players need to believe in themselves and the way they play more.
I have no doubt that if we play to our strengths next week, we will get a favorable result. Am I deluded for saying that? No. Maybe there is more to this tie than we think. Let's not blame Arsene or the players yet. They might shock most of us. Believe and keep the faith. Players and the fans.

Last but not the least, we say goodbye to Thierry Henry. Words cannot describe how much this player has done for Arsenal. And maybe he's not done yet!
Keep the faith. That's what Thierry Henry would tell us.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Midway. Almost.

This has been an exciting season. And it's just February. Right from the offset! The much talked about departure of Cesc, and the slightly less spoken, more abused, departure of Nasri. A sleepy summer and an explosive last day at the transfer window. Oh, in between came the Old Trafford game. A disaster some said, others said Arsenal is going to be in a relegation battle. Then we started climbing, and got closer to where we belong on the table. Come January, we got a legend back- Thierry Henry, stationary and otherwise. The Leeds game goes down in history books. All in all, Arsenal sit at fourth now, uncomfortable but there.

This was all with the team and the players, we've had a few shocking performances. But even more shocking has been the reactions of fans. I'm sure nobody wanted the departures of Cesc and Nasri and I'm sure most gunners hoped for better summer signings (Hazard is all over the place). But, what we do not seem to see is that every player at Arsenal is a world class talent! Yes, they do lack the 'winning mentality', but that just comes with time.
Most of us would have loved to see more high profile signings in January, maybe Podolski. We were all disappointed a little, but the transfer window's shut now, and nothing can be done. Rather than complain about the lack of transfer activity after every defeat, all the fans should concentrate their energy on spurring the team on. Every single player. Irrespective of his performance (hey, bin bag boys, wake up). It's easy to support when the team's on the brink of silverwear. But that's probably when they need it least! Arsenal needs it now. They need 60,000 yelling fans at every home game. Let's make sure we give it to them. This team is closer to success than we think. We'er in the Champions League, FA Cup and the League yet, maybe silverwear is on the way! Even if it isn't, it's not far. Sooner rather than later, this team will make the final push it has to to win trophies, with or without a particular player. Till then let's make sure we support every player, even on a bad day, let's compel the players to give their best, come the offseason again we'll talk about required additions and subtractions. Until then, it's about the players we have now.
Keep it positive.

Until Milan then, big night!