Of Cup Semi-finals, Cocksureness And Confidence

Wrex
That was then, this is now

Football is the strangest of breeding grounds. In the most rampant commercial environment, superstition is clung to as if a life raft in the swirling tumult and woe betide any who cast scorn on such beliefs. This morning, I intend to admit and deride in equal measure.

Oh, I’m no different from you; I just say it in a different way. I’ve had routines which must be adhered to, clothing which might be considered lucky, favoured pubs and food outlets along with the opposites of them as well. People too. Lucky mascots were encouraged to attend, on certain trains, met in certain pubs. I’ve dived in and out of doorways to be or not to be the first through the door as was required by the whims of fate. I’ve made quick exits when the accursed have entered the bar. Come back equally as quickly when they’ve bought me a pint. Superstitions are so shallow. I’ve adapted routines to suit a certain set of conditions, a particular fixture or ground. Anything I could do in my own little way, would be done to help the cause.

And it was all rubbish of course.

In the decades I have travelled the globe watching matches, I have encountered no end of folk whose pre-match routines I have managed to unintentionally wreck. And do you know what? It didn’t make a blind bit of difference to the outcome of the respective matches. It really didn’t.

Which is why I am struggling with those who cry “Jinx!” at the prospect of the following statement: Arsenal should really be making arrangements for the FA Cup final on 17th May. Genuinely, I cannot fathom any reason why any Arsenal supporter wouldn’t think that Wigan doesn’t represent the perfect opportunity to progress from Wembley to…Wembley. Yes, I know they have just beaten Manchester City and I doff my hat in admiration of their dogged – yet controlled – defending. I tap my cane at their win and I genuinely hope their supporters enjoy the next few weeks until the semi-final when I hope they have a thoroughly miserable afternoon. I wish them well afterwards, just not in the 100 or so minutes of that particular fixture.

I know that City fans will have exuded the same confidence when the quarter-final draw was made. Wigan. At home. Turn up, put on a professional performance and the win will follow. Except City weren’t professional, perhaps they felt turning up was enough. They didn’t learn from the problems that they had with Blackburn in the Third Round. Arsenal were the same last year, I know I sat miserably having witnessed mediocrity overcome by endeavour. I know the misery that City fans feel right now, we all do, we’re football supporters, we’ve been there before, we’ll go there again.

But we are Arsenal and this season we have shown that the lessons of previous failures have been learned, haven’t we? I mean, OK, maybe not in the transfer market but in other ways. OK, yes, I know we lost the crucial first leg of the Champions League Round of Sixteen but there is no denying we didn’t repeat the mistakes of the San Siro or last season, did we? This time around we found an entirely new way of screwing it up with a missed penalty and the goalkeeper being sent off. I don’t recall us doing that in the past at this stage of the competition so we learned the lessons of the past and didn’t repeat them.

But this isn’t about that or then. This is different. This is about facing a side who are seventh in The Championship with more than a division’s worth of teams between us and them. It’s not like they are top of e table and we are in the bottom three. Or the bottom half-a-dozen for that matter. In those circumstances, I would observe that the gap between the two sides is marginal. In those circumstances…what does it matter, these aren’t those circumstances.

I’m aware of pride before the fall. I was at York. I travelled to Wrexham and I stood miserably as Luton put their lucky hats on. I am well aware of them and all points in-between. I am very well acquainted with Bolton and Millwall. I haven’t forgotten Bradford either. Nor have I forgotten Birmingham. And I don’t care about them save for their part in the rich tapestry of this club’s history. So I do actually care about them but you know what I mean. I don’t care in the sense that this very morn, I am not going to take them into consideration as I strut my cocksureness.

And there are several reasons for that, not least of which is that I am not a player, manager or member of the coaching staff. I am a supporter, I am allowed to be so self-indulgent. I mean how much more self-indulgent can you get than writing a blog every day They are paid to be professional, it is up to me to blasé, to go beyond the limits of sanity and to believe such matches are a formality. Like them, I know that if they fall into such a trap there is a real chance of Arsenal losing. It’s why the players leave the glibness to me and they concentrate on winning matches. It’s a relationship which works most of the time; they keep to their side of the bargain on a regular basis, so do I.

Because let’s be honest, even though you won’t admit it, even though you hide behind your hexes and jinxes, you are thinking the same thing as I: Arsenal won’t have a better opportunity to win a trophy than this. The last four this season is one of the weakest in living memory. When the draw was made, all eyes were on the second semi-final thinking that one of two Premier League teams would win the trophy and it was a case of deciding which one. Well, there’s just one of that seemingly formidable pairing left in the competition now.

Which leads me to another observation you are thinking as well. Again you won’t admit it but if Arsenal cannot win the FA Cup this season, when will they ever do so again? OK, so it is nearly the same as the one in the last paragraph but it cuts the cloth slightly differently. Oh, I know it’s a bit fatalistic and overly dramatic but it’s a lurking truth that frankly you don’t want to answer. And to be honest, you are wondering how it took me 1056 words for that utterance to spew out. Me too, for it was the first which sprang to mind at the sight of the semi-final draw.

So, Arsène, having taken this competition seriously this season, won through the tests that the draw has thrown at you and the players, could we possibly have a couple more instances where you take the competition a bit more seriously. I mean, I wrote “The Cup Final Saturday And We’re Not In It Post” last year. I’d quite like to be able to amend it to “The Cup Final Saturday And We’re In It Post“. Selfish, I know, but one has to take these opportunities when we find them. So go on, Arsène, make an old man happy. And give these miserable Arsenal’s who can’t salivate at the prospect of two Wembley appearances in one season, a reason to enjoy the cocksureness that being a football fan is all about.

’til Tomorrow.

85 thoughts on “Of Cup Semi-finals, Cocksureness And Confidence

  1. Bonjour Karim et tout le monde et Yogi

    I don’t see Wigan being a push-over. They got their tactics right against City and they will do their homework on us before the semi-final. It will be a tough game but one we can win. But before that there is just a teeny weeny matter of a game in Germany and then WHL, Stamford bridge, Goodison Park and City at the Emirates. If we get through those fairly undamaged then confidence in the team will be high, but we won’t underestimate Wigan, they set their stall out on Sunday for everyone to see. We will hopefully arrange our tactics accordingly. This is truly the best opportunity for AW to win silverware in a long time….. but I thought that against Birmingham in the League Cup.

  2. NB1969

    They got their tactics right but more tellingly, Pellegrini rightly highlighted the poverty of City’s performance. That’s why Wigan won and it’s a point I made in the post. Get the players heads right and they will win.

    This is as good an opportunity as they will ever have.

  3. Yogi, you are totally right, City went on to the pitch with the assumption that they would win. Furthermore, their defence is poor, unlike ours which is one of the best this season. Both Wigan goals came from poor defending, lets hope we can capitalise on that in our game against City. Exciting times ahead…. Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid!

  4. From what i saw, City were extremely wasteful more than played badly, i saw Augero’s chance and Dzeko’s etc they if it had been against us they probably would have scored them.

    Good to see Clichy doing us a service with some shambolic defending! Missed the entire second half of Arsenal vs Everton. Got a stream for it on 87mins when it was 4-1 and couldn’t believe it…Why can’t this Arsenal turn up every game? Ozil looks rested, Giroud looks energetic again, we didn’t really miss Jack, Rosicky was excellent when he came on and i really hope they go and offer Sagna a new deal he agrees with because he was fanastic once again!

    I think we can be cautiously optimistic about reaching Finals..Wigan will throw everything they’ve got at us, but we’ll have Aaron and even maybe a Diaby back by then! I mean..We’re only 4 points away from the top of the league! If we can strive for results vs City, Chelsea and Tottenham this month no reason we can’t finish strongly and run Chelsea the distance! Tottenham don’t look at there..I think if we play as we did in FA cup against them and come out guns blazing we can take them to the cleaners!

  5. A post full of obvious, and yet to some, not so obvious truths.

    We are fans. This is our purpose, our life blood, to hope and dream and expect and dread.

    We are not highly paid professionals given the best support and facilities in which to pursue their excellence. It is they who must work and plan to avoid the traps along the way. For us to anticipate and yell and shout.

    ‘From barren lands and rocky sands, kind fate deliver me…’.

  6. This really is our Cup to lose now.
    No excuses, no blaming refs etc.
    As you pointed out YW, there is quite a gap between the teams in terms of quality.

  7. 4 points off the top Provided of course….We win our game in hand! And Cheslea still have to play Liverpool, i thinka draw there would be good! I just can’t see Liverpool keeping the pace, they’ve got a decent starting 11 but after that it’s terrible! Sturridge out and next season, with champs league we’ll see them disappear again!

  8. Excellent post, YW.

    I wonder if the draw had any impact on City’s performance and they were looking ahead to Arsenal. Insane to have the draw after only three games were played but if it was even just a small factor in Wigan’s win then no complaints here.

  9. Never a truer word has be written or spoken YW. Get the players heads right and we should break this “9” year hoodoo.

    Why Bob your in elegant form this morning.I’m impressed no end. Well its a wonderful sunny morning in the South. Cest le vacance, il n y pas d’ecole cest semaine. On a aller au parc. Amuse vous bien. We are on our way to Wembley…………

  10. How refreshing to be able to look forward to April over more than a nail-biting top 4 slog. With any luck, we’ll have a CL spot all but wrapped up by the time we play Wigan. We have a tough run of games but it’s about that time Spurs start imploding.

  11. Lagooner

    I agree, Spurs dont’ have the tactical nouse under Sherwood. Ok vs smaller teams but top 4 they’ll struggle. What we need is Liverpool and Chelsea to hit bad form over next month…Imagine that bayern will progress to next champs league round, meaning we’ve got another else to play for but League and FA cup! Can concentrate on League until April and with Ramsey back it’ll be an added boost! Kalsgtrom is apparently ready for Tottenham as well, never bad to have a bit of depth in midfield!

    Goes to show it’s the ridiculous Liverpool, terriible Man U loss and draw and Stoke results that could cost us the title now. Chelsea have surely got a slip up in them?

  12. A very interesting subject for a Post, Yogi.

    Shining a light on some of the longstanding footballing shibboleths of all fans, even the most cerebral ones could be fun, and, as you point out, there is a least a smidgeon of superstitious belief in even the most levelheaded of us.

    Well, getting straight to the point, I do not have any superstitions.

    If you could see me, (and you cannot — can you?) you might fancy that my nose has grown a shade longer after that disavowal, but there it is.

    You see the rational part of my brain simply cannot believe there is a causality between doing, or not doing, something that has no known connection with something else can influence that unrelated event.

    But — and these damned buts, as opposed to butts, keep on cropping up and force me to put up an argument against myself – and how frustrating is that?

    I had a friend – oh, yes, I have had one of them – and before every school examination he would go out of his way not to tread on any crack in the walkway or – believe it or not – even the parquet flooring on the way to sit the exam. And it worked!

    He was pretty bright anyway, so passing the exams was not exactly out of left field, but to see him looking like some crazy beetle tip toeing over the parquet floor did bring his sanity into question, but, in self defines, our friendship was conditional on my lusting after his sister.

    So what am I saying? Do I believe in superstition after all? Well, no, not really. The rational part of my brain was on the case and arguing that the aversion to crack treading was actually a relief from the stress of sitting the exam, and was just a basic distraction technique.

    How then to explain the custom/superstition/belief among the cognoscenti at Highbury who let out a palpable sigh of relief, and visibly relaxed into risqué joke telling and marvellously funny crowd witticisms, when we won the toss and chose to play the first half playing towards the Clock End, because they genuinely held to the superstition that if we attacked towards the Northbank in the second half – we would win!

    And despite my scepticism, it often held true. Oh, rubbish, said the bloody rational guy in my head, the win was more likely when playing towards the Northbank because the players had come to believe in the superstition too, and the fans sucked the ball into the net, and because I was there willing the effing pill into the onion bag.

    So there you go – ration, rational – that’s all it is.

    Except — except — when I am on the blogs, I have been known to cringe when the more extrovert and gung ho members of the community forecast an ‘easy’ win over the opposition, or who mentally ‘bank’ the three points and look forward to the following ‘more difficult’ game, which makes me fear we will lose. Superstition?

    Well, Maybe the irrational part of my brain is getting in its licks and not letting the rational part have it all its own way!! 🙂

    Could be something in this superstition malarkey after all.

  13. Like i said, i think cautious optimism is what we should have. I think Arsenal will be very much revved up for this fixture at Wembley and if we turn it on from minute 1 it could be a rout. But it all depends what Arsenal turn up!

    I’m not that bothered about the bayern result if i’m being honest…I think if we pulled a majestic victory and got through it could damage league chances. Game in hand, it’s only 4 points difference! COYG!

  14. I always thought that we were pleased because we would be playing towards our most vocal support in the second half.

    I could be wrong.

  15. CBob,

    Think we are saying the same thing! 🙂

    — “the (Northbank fans) fans sucked the ball into the net, and because I was there willing the effing pill into the onion bag.”

  16. Winning the FA cup could really galvanise the team, if this breaks the trophy drought and gives Ramsey, Gibbs, Ox, Jack etc the experience needed to grid out a win for Trophies that it could really lift that dark cloud hovering over the Emirates.

    I’ve said for 2 years we’ve got the best group of young players coming through with Ramsey, Gibbs, Theo, Ox, Jack, Scez and perhaps Jenks as well. They are all Arsenal daft and winning a trophy could start their trophy bloodlust. The experience of Per, Flamini, Arteta is paying off! For all my criticism of Arteta, i do think he’s a good player! I just think in games where teams press high is doesn’t suit him and we suffer for it but as a squad member he’s vital. Throw in Santi, Ozil and Rosicky and we’ve got the trickery and guile needed… I think if we bring in an established CF, an athletic CMD and perhaps promote Campbell to first team we could seriously challenge Jose next season with some proper depth.

    If we tie up Sagna, Kos and Per to new contracts with an FA Cup win it’ll have been a fantastic year.

  17. Our names on the cup,having watched us win a few over the years you just get that feeling sometimes and it’s no more than this fantastic set of players deserve,I know we’re not there yet but I’d love to see Bac & TR7 win something with us-fully deserved for hanging around while others have flown the nest.

  18. There is a bar in Avignon which I no longer go to watch us play, everytime I watched a match there we lost, 1st time was 2009, Chelsea FA Cup semi…then another couple of matches …..we lost… the last time was Birmingham League cup final. I’ve never been in there since, not even for a drink. But I’m not a superstitious person.

  19. Northbank,

    You are clearly a concerned citoyen and conscious not to increase the hurt of your fellow gooners by buying a drink and condemning us to a loss.

    That’s a bloody good excuse for not buying a round — and I will use it extensively in the future! 🙂

  20. Anyone else excited for Ox and Ramsey being back at the same time…..

  21. Yogi

    What a gem of a post. Your are the man!!

    Jinxes? meh!! I plan to go out this morning and buy a bottle of Silver Oak that I will open to celebrate the end of the trophy drought. I also plan to renew my search for that elusive first pint of Robinson’s Old Tom, although I have to admit I will probably not wait until the final if I do find it. I have called everywhere around the Dallas Fort Worth area that I thought might carry it with no luck. I tried to find someplace that might ship it but had no success with that either.

    We will be heavy favorites to win the cup this year and if we don’t there really is something wrong. I am convinced that this group has the mental strength to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot.

  22. HenryB

    I have several choices for watching football in Avignon bars. I have settled on a favorite, we tend to win more games when I watch a match there, but more importantly, if we have a match on a Sunday afternoon…. about 16h….. the guv’nor likes to go off for a siesta (these French know how to live) and normally closes the bar. However, if I’m there to watch a match, he closes the bar and leaves me inside and tells me to help myself to drinks and tell him how many I’ve had when he returns …… you could call it a win-win situation hic!

  23. Hello everyone it is exciting times, look like it is achievable this year to get a trophy.
    Can anyone let me how to get hold of semi-final and final tickets?
    I would appreciate some help thanks In advance.

  24. Northbank,

    Vous êtes très chanceux. J’ai demandé à regarder un match d’Arsenal à Paris et seulement eu un haussement d’épaules gallique. Je pense – Merde!! 🙂

  25. Yogi, great post!

    I do think that this team is different, I think the players on this team understand and want so desperately to bring silverware to the club and the fans. I think unlike Shitty and Arsenal teams of the past that expected to just show up and win with the thought process that we will create a million chances and just out score people, they understand that we have to be more well rounded and fight.

    Personally I don’t see why we won’t win the FA Cup. We have leaders in this squad that won’t allow us to fail to be honest not to mention players that have and understand how and what it takes to lift silverware.

  26. HenryB

    Tes francaise c’est tres bien….. bravo. I’ve just got myself a new/nearly new Chromebook, bought from an english friend….. it has a qwerty keyboard and I’ve not yet been able to find out how to get the ‘accents’ for french……. the french gallic shrug is something you have to master when you live here permanently…. I don’t do a bad impression…….. but if that fails, il suffit pour dit MERDE!

  27. Wigan, Hull, Arsenal, Sheffield.

    I think that players like Mert, Ozil, Santi, Flamini and Sagna won’t allow us this time to squander such a great opportunity.

  28. Whomever we play is not going to be a accommodating as Roberto Martinez and I strongly suspect the return of the bus parked in front of goal in the semi final and final. You have to admire Martinez for sticking to his principles. Reminds you of Arsene’s approach for all those years. It would be great if we got an early goal to open up the game. If not then we have to defend the way we are capable of and surely we can find a goal or 2 in each game. The difference between this arsenal and the one that rolled over against Birmingham is our defense and I am confident we can avoid conceding for the rest of the tournament.

  29. Bill

    I’ve always liked Martinez’s philosophy on football, emphasis on attacking very much like Wenger but they got caught out by the better attacking team.

    Do Wigan, Hull/Sheffield have the defenisve qualities to stop Arsenal if we’re as fired up as we should be? I dont’ think so! A return to form for Ozil and Santi, Ramsey back and Ox on good form…I don’t think they’d stand a chance if we attacked at full throttle….Especially if Ramsey get’s back into form pre injury!

    Any news on Diaby coming back? I’m sure they said March was expected return!

  30. Prior to the game I had alluded that AW having his hand forced through the absence Jack might well turn into a blessing. With Ramsey nearing full fitness I think we have no great concern over the centre of the park – and Jack’s contribution had been inconsistent to say the least.

    I’d also pointed the finger, as had many, at players who needed to step up. Cazorla in particular was stunning and Giroud didn’t fluff his lines.

    I have never had time for superstition – it ranks up there with ghosts, astrology and religion as far as I am concerned. This FA Cup is now ours to lose – if we play to our potential or anything remotely within it’s umbra we should still be able to overwhelm any of the remaining teams.

    We have already done the hard yards – to falter now would be hard to explain away. I for one, don’t think we will.

  31. Jonny

    Ghosts, astrology and religion….. you left out aliens 🙂 so in that case it will be safe for me to go to the bar where every game I’ve watched us play we’ve lost……

  32. @MLF

    Don’t forget that before Ramsey’s injury he had cooled off and scoring and was more the player we thought he was and is going to be. A extremely effective box-to-box midfielder that scores from time to time.

  33. @Jonny

    You know the most refreshing thing about Giroud’s performance was the fact that he faced goal and made runs in behind the back 4 and was dangerous. That Giroud is the Giroud we need to get the best out of Ozil not the back to goal Giroud.

  34. Absolutely YW, absolutely….it is what is all about.

    In any game there are forces at work that are not just a measure of the teams earthly position in the league, but can be loosely referred to as the psychology of winning or just plain luck. The former, I would argue is the same force that has helped take a lowly team like Wigan, to within two games of retaining a major title and something that we have not yet got the hang of – a seeming ‘placebo’ effect on the physical world for those who know how to do it.

    Or just as strangely, Arsenal might be going through a period of being the unlucky bridesmaid – as another unwarranted red card, bad refereeing decision or inexplicable lapse of judgement at the wrong time leaves us broken hearted once again and, as Vladimir and Estragon find waiting for Godot, probability can only be relied on to be the heroine over a seemingly improbable, logic defying period of time, and definitely not for any particular desired outcome.

    We sit here too as fans, hoping that our combined massed prayers will be able to somehow affect what happens on the pitch despite that hotline to the divine having already been statistically debunked – I remember reading, with some glee, that Monarch’s lived no longer than anyone else in society (before the advent of modern medicine) even though we were all praying for them to live a long and healthy life every week in church services throughout the land. Nothing changes statistically it seems with massed hopes and prayers.

    Effects and consequences in these cases are all in the mind and unrelated to reality in any way other than our own artificial associations. Like the famous German world cup octopus whose eating habits came to reflect reality so well that mere coincidence was ruled out by fascinated onlookers. In the end, after we had idolised the creature, we find it never actually cared about football or the imperious German football team and their World Cup ambitions.

    As a fan my job is to echo those that have gone before me and declare in an hysterical manner that we will win the FA Cup this year..and stomp the foe to Kingdom come. Hexes, jinxes and superstitions are aids that help us feel like we are contributing to what we are powerless to ensure: that Arsenal do their preparation and give a 110% on the day.

    But if by chance I am lucky enough to find myself at the match, I will do my best to make the players feel lifted …..inspiring that 10% more than 100 that must be the purely physical.

    The FA Cup 2014 is not a given right handed to the club on a plate. It is a great opportunity for them to start to learn winning ways again, and for me to get that enviable smug look back on my face down the pub.

  35. Wembley will offer a large pitch in which to attack the opposition as well, which should not forgotten. It may have suited us more with a fit Theo, but in Ox we have a player confident in his duties and he does attack at speed. With a target like him to attack in between the banks of defenders and Cazorla or Ozil threading balls it’ll offer a difficult challenge for Wigan to deal with. Giroud’s movement for the weekend was spot on, move over the movement of the ball in front of the carrier was significantly better, especially from the 61st minute.

  36. @C

    “You know the most refreshing thing about Giroud’s performance was the fact that he faced goal and made runs in behind the back 4 and was dangerous.”

    The real question, is why did we see it? The answer is the movement generated from players like Ozil and Ox. Both were making runs, this freed Giroud but from just having to hold the ball up for someone to eventually try and link up. Again, it is the movement of the midfield against Everton that most the most impressive and wanted sighted.

  37. Agreed C – though there have also been a few too many occasions when he has got into a forward goal facing position, as someone has got to the byline, but failed to reach or convert the ball as it flashes across the box. He could gamble a little better – ‘or attack the space’ as Lineker used to call it.

    Sagna’s delayed ball to him was sublime – two decent finishes. Let’s hope it builds his confidence – in the next game he will have to take every chance that comes his way – it is unlikely he will get many!

    Sanogo certainly doesn’t look out of place at this level does he? Bodes well for the lad.

  38. C

    He was also exhuasted by then! Ox was just nearing return, Jack wasn’t on form and Ramsey was plaing as many games as Ozil!

    We can afford to roate when he comes back! I’ve no doubt he’ll score a few more before the season is over!

    Ramsey, ozil, Santi, Rosicky, Arteta, Ox and Podolski, Flamini and Kalstrom for the next month and a half until Jack is back.

  39. I see Ajayi and Hayden have once again been asked to train with the first prior to the Munich trip. The former may be added to the match day squad if they are not sure on Kos whilst the latter I would expect will miss out, unless an injury happens to either Arteta or Flamini.

  40. @MA

    I would have to agree that the movement from Ox and Ozil played a part but also Giroud was making those runs as well. This was the first match in a while that I saw him control the ball, lay it off to Ozil and then spin off the CB looking for the ball. Also his willingness to turn and run at defenders. This is the Giroud that I like and remember seeing at Montpellier prior to us signing him. His movement coupled with that of Ozil and Ox was very refreshing. Giroud’s movement also was part of the reason that Ozil played so well because it wasn’t just 1 player making runs but several players. If Giroud can play like this then we will see him at his best, which is more skillful than I think many realize that he is.

  41. MLF

    I think everyone admires Martinez for his attacking ethos and sticking with his principles. However the last 8 years has certainly proved beyond any doubt that trying to attack is not the correct way to beat arsenal when you have a squad that cost about 1/10 of ours to assemble. Even all those Chelsea and United teams that in theory should have been able to play football with us have not tried to do that because they know it’s not the best way to play against us. It made for a much more entertaining game but just like with Arsene for all those years you have scratch your head and wonder what Roberto is thinking.

  42. @Jonny

    Agreed completely with all of that. That has been my biggest criticism of Giroud is the fact that the balls that flash across the 6 yard box he doesn’t get to or when he does he doesn’t put them on goal or that he gets out-muscled in that position. It was great to see him attacking that part of the box and going after those balls with more gusto.

    I agree, Sagna’s assist was such a brilliant and difficult pass and he made it look simple. Giroud also did the right thing but not trying to add anything to it just put it on goal. I think more of that will see him score more goals, those “poacher” goals that at Montpellier he was very good at getting but at times seems reluctant to go get here at Arsenal.

    Yaya doesn’t look out of place at all. The biggest thing is him just shaking off the rust after such a long layoff and getting his 1st goal to give him the confidence and get the monkey off his back. More Yaya would be refreshing but also him playing well seems to have motivated Giroud because of how well he has played and IMHO Giroud understanding that the lad will only continue to get better as he continues to shake off the rust.

  43. @MLF

    That’s true but I think and this is not a knock on Ramsey, but he is a player that is some where between the sublime start that he had and the player he was once he stopped scoring for fun. With that though he will be a top top class player in that mold getting 10-18 goals and double digit assists while also still having the exception work rate.

    Even when Jack comes back he should be more squad player than regular starter given the form and consistency of the other players while also not needing to rush Jack back.

  44. @C & Jonny

    Perhaps you can enlighten me because as much as I am trying to think back I cannot recall the last time an Arsenal got to the byline to play a cross. I’m actually quite serious, I’m sure there is but the last one I can recall was Ox’s cross to Giroud against Aston Villa in our opening 3-1 loss. I mean there has to be something else.

  45. C.

    I think Giroud and Ozil and Cazorla have been trying to make those runs and build counter attacks for most of this year. That does not mean we shouldn’t try but an organized defense will take away most the opportunities to do that. 8 years has taught us that we can’t just impose our will on most teams and cut them apart whenever we decide to flip a switch. Arsene tried to do that for the last 7 seasons and only seemed to realize that it does not work about 13 months ago.

    As long as we play good defense we will lift the cup because I am confident we have the ability to get a couple of goals and perhaps even dominate if we can get an early goal and force the opponent to open up the game.

  46. I assume that any of these crosses must have been completed by either Sagna or Gibbs/Monreal? I’m sure I have just been blinded by the fact that 99% seemingly of any of our attacks are though the middle and no wider rather the width of the 18 yard box. I actually thought this is why we have been complaining about the lack of width and pace in wider areas. In any event, I enjoyed Giroud’s finishes but Ozil, Cazorla and Ox stole the show.

  47. @MA

    There have been quite a few balls that Sagna, Gibbs, Nacho, Podolski, Ox have played across the 6 yard box that not just Giroud but nobody got to.

    Podolski’s goal against Liverpool where Ox got to the byline and then cut it back to Podolski who finished it off. If I’m not mistaken, one of Santi’s goals against Fulham was Nacho getting to the byline and then cutting it back for Santi to finish.

  48. @Bill

    Even the best defense can be undone by a good run and players capable of making the pass. Giroud, Ozil and Santi haven’t tried mate, have you not been reading the blog 😉 that is what we have all been banging on about the whole year, that nobody is making those runs.

  49. @MA

    You would be right, most of those balls have come from Sagna, Gibbs, or Nacho but there have been some when Podolski and Ox have played out wide that they have put in as well.

    Either way, if we play like we did against Everton then the FA Cup is ours and even though its not looking like it, the title challenge will still be on.

  50. @C

    No question in my mind that Sagna has been attempting more crosses than years past. But, I thought we were talking about the byline. Hey, I’m not leaping to the defense of Giroud or anyone here just saying Arsenal really don’t get to the byline and when they do for the most part it has Ox (at least from what I can recall). Indeed the foul on Ox was near the byline when he was brought down resulting in the penalty. Monreal and Sagna give us the best width options for the most part when the team is forward, it isn’t from our midfield and even Gibbs tends to drift inside more than holding width. In any event, it is apparent attacking the byline and resulted in two goals over Everton 🙂

  51. @MA

    I do agree with you that most of our width due to Arsene playing 5 midfielders comes from Sagna, Gibbs and Nacho. Podolski at times does get to the byline as does Ox. It is something that would make us more dangerous if Theo, Ox and Podolski were all playing and keeping their width. I agree with you though, we attack the byline more and more and give us a different avenue we will look and be more dangerous. The more we play with width the more dangerous we will be.

  52. C

    I agree, i think Ramsey will be a lot like Cesc in his goal scoring, maybe 10-12 a season! Jack has been very hit or miss this season, not helped with niggling injuries every 3/4 games, i think he shoudl sit out the world cup! I know he won’t because he’ll be desperate to play, but it’s just going to overload a player who’s struggling with injuries and RH doens’t know how to treat players like that, throw them in the mix irregardless of fitness at times.

    On Giroud…He always plays better when he stops bloody looking for 1-2’s around the box every single time he get’s the ball! It works against the lower teams like Norwhich and Sunderland but against a team that can half defend they see it coming a mile. I’ve been saying for ages we’re not attacking quickly enough and are too complacent passing wiseways at times and Sunday we scored from quick forward passing!! Even ozil’s ball to Ox leading to pen was the result of quick through balls! They need to do this more often agsint the top teams, Stoke City was a dismal use of tactics, they’re midfield was pressing high and we were going for a slow build up towards their goal so it was never, ever going to work in our favour.

    I think from Sunday’s game we can definately say Ox has to be starting big games…His energy and talent is fantastic! Hence i can’t wait for Ramsey to come back as well, the two of them combined should give us the energy and pace to break away quickly whilst also aid in defending! For me, with an in form Ramsey midfield picks itself: Ozil, Ramsey, Santi, Ox, Flamini wit Giroud up top! Ozil/Ox/Santi swapping wings as they see fit

  53. Miami,

    There have been some crosses put in from the bye line, but really very few, statistically not a significant number.

    However, there have been a much more substantial number of attempted crosses put in by both Sagna and Gibbs but from further back.

    I say ‘attempted’, and I am not trying to pick on either of our fullbacks here, but Gibbs seems to overhit a high proportion of his efforts so that they sail anaemically over everyone’s heads, defenders and attackers both, and go out for goal kicks, whereas Sagna’s efforts are admittedly unlikely to be overhit, but unerringly find the nearest defender.

    Looking at it from Giro’s perspective, in the case of Gibbs’s crosses, unless he brings an extending ladder onto the pitch with him he is forced to make a lot of effort getting into the box for a small chance of success.

    On the other hand, those Sagna crosses that beat the nearest defender, are well directed into the box, but unfortunately Giro usually finds himself competing with similar sized defenders in the ratio of 3 :1 and he has little chance to reach them.

    Where we have had some success from crosses, although limited, is from corner kicks with the BFG and Kozzer coming up to equalise the numbers of defenders and attackers going for the ball.

    Our success ratio from crosses is not one of out strengths, and if I was Giro I would want a judicial enquiry! 🙂

  54. @MLF

    I think Ramsey does have a eye for goal as a midfielder don’t get me wrong but he won’t be scoring nearly at the pace he was at the beginning of the season. Ramsey will be more Lampard in his scoring than Cesc. I wouldn’t mind Jack sitting out the World Cup just to rest up but that is about as likely as Arsene signing me to a contract to play for Arsenal. The thing with Jack though is that he will play regardless because of his passion and hopefully he won’t get injured or if he does that he’s not out for long.

    I completely agree on Giroud, when he faces goal and is more than just a wall the ball pings off of, he is a very good striker because he has good feet to go along with his physicality but to often he prefers to be the wall and play 1-2’s. I hope he builds on this performance and understands how much more effective not only he is but our team as a whole is when he makes those runs.

    Agree about our pace of play!

  55. I think Giroud made a very good finish on his first goal and he is very good at those type of finishes. The back heel he scored against Southhampton was an excellent goal. He has always been very good at moving into space and making those one touch finishes around the 6 yard box. The reason he had that much space is because Sagna had gotten free on the by line and if you watch the replay the Everton defense was ball watching and there were 3 defenders within a couple yards of Giroud but no one marked him because they were concentrating on Sagna. That often happens when someone gets free on the byline which is why the percentage that you score when that happens is high. I am 100% confident that Sagna tries to get to the byline or get free on the right wing so he can fizz in low crosses every game but most of the time the defense does not let you get there so that type of chance is not going be available very often. Even if Sagna is able to get free, if the defense marks our other players they not going to be able to get on the end of the cross. If it not simply a matter of working harder to get to the byline and or Giroud making the more runs.

  56. I’d start the same team as vs Everton but with Giroud up top! Kos in preferably, but if it means risking him for Spurs at weekend then i’m happy to have Verm step in!

    Why would Pep come out and say “we’re going to dominate possession” and reveal his tactics…Surely this means that they’ll come out guns blazing rather than their Emirates performance of “100 ways to pass sideways and backwards”. Arsene should be looking to attack with pace and tell them to shoot from everywhere if possible.

    That game still annoys me. The big games this season have all come when we were at our worst form/bad luck. Man U at OT = Rosicky (Best midfielder for two weeks previous) and Per out sick and the remaining looked like they were none to healthy either. Liverpool = We had been pretty stagnant for weeks and Southampton run us ragged, looked devoid of energy and effort. City = Ramsey out injured and kos off early with injury and Bayern = Had been poor since Liverpool demolished us but still started well, should have gone 1 up with pen and it took a screamer and 1 lucky counter when Kos committed himself up top to score. I think we can get them, but like I said earlier, I’d rather we concentrated on FA and League

  57. @MA

    Did you see the quotes that Gonalons is now ready to leave Lyon? That was always his thing, he didn’t want to leave Lyon before he was ready he now says that he is ready.

    Go Arsene, go bring Gonalons to Arsenal. It should only take about 15-18M.

  58. Anything can happen in cup games, of course. But our team’s job will be to make sure that they play to their ability and with confident determination. We will rightly be favourites in our semi-final tie and, should we progress, in the final. Rightly so–we are a top team and we’ve already defeated serious opposition in this competition.

    I think WS and Kos are better players and play better together. We have real solid, experienced professionals who provide leadership that we lacked in past domestic cups. So really there are no excuses. I don’t know when we’ll have a better chance at silverware. I would be delighted if the confident hope of winning the FA cup will push the boys to greater heights in our big upcoming league games and allow us to get back into the league title hunt. But even if we don’t end up making a run for the league, we could have a wonderful season ending in a trophy. That would really be grand!

  59. @LSG

    You make a great point, the pure adrenaline from lifting the FA Cup especially for the likes of Ramsey and Sagna who have been here the longest could help propel us not only this year but into next year similar to the way that Shitty have done after they lifted the cup a few years back when Tevez was their captain.

    It will also be that proverbial monkey off their back that could see us play better in the bigger matches knowing that we have what it takes to lift silverware.

  60. I don’t think we should expect Ramsey to score loads of goals in the remaining several games he’ll play. If he is back to being a dynamic box to box midfielder with the pass accuracy, tackles, interceptions that he had when he was playing well, we’ll benefit greatly from his energy and ability. Goals need to come from Giroud, Santi, Ozil, Ox, and hopefully Podolski (if he gets any chances).

    We miss Theo. No question about that. And next year, I am pretty sure we will all notice a very big difference to our game if Sagna departs. The more I watch, the more I see contribution after contribution along our right side–crossing, keeping possession, serving as an aerial outlet for the GK (especially WS, who seems to depend utterly on Sagna’s great heading), supporting the attack and providing the only genuine width on that side, and using his great pace and anticipation to get back and defend so strongly. He is our best fullback and very crucial. Please sign him up!

  61. @LSG

    Now we just have to make sure that Arsene hears us and go and gets him! Perfect player to replace Arteta and Flamini and still young enough to grow with Ramsey, Ozil, Jack and Theo.

  62. C

    “Even the best defense can be undone by a good run and players capable of making the pass. Giroud, Ozil and Santi haven’t tried mate, have you not been reading the blog that is what we have all been banging on about the whole year, that nobody is making those runs.”

    I have read the blog too, but not surprisingly, I don’t agree with you on this one. Do you really think the problem is a lack of effort? If that’s the case why hasn’t Arsene done anything about it? For seven years that I have followed the blog it’s inevitable that whenever we play a good game or 2 we start banging on that if we played that way all the time we would be unstoppable. Unfortunately it’s never worked that way. You know as well as I that good defense will nearly always stop a good attack. That’s why our record against top of the table teams and teams like Stoke away from home has been so miserable all of these years.

    We only have a couple of players who are a real threat to score and the ways we that we do score goals is relatively limited so the defense knows what to expect and can compensate. I think that’s why we struggled more the last couple of seasons. It makes no sense that Ozil and Cazorla and the rest of the players would just forget how to move and how to pass. Giroud can make all the runs he wants but its not going to work if he is marked. If a defender knows that giroud IS not a threat facing goal unless he makes a deep run then it’s pretty easy to anticipate what he will do and mark him.

    The one thing a good a defense can’t stop as easily is a player who can create a goal from nothing. Despite having only 10 men we defended very well against Munich for most of the game and probably would have held them scoreless if Kroos had not hit that shot. Having someone who can score a goal like that is a huge difference maker. Which player on our team could have scored a goal like that? That does not mean you don’t want to have great team play and score great team goals but the last 7 years of Arsenal football have shown that it’s hard to walk the ball into the goal or create easy opportunities against an organized defense with any sort of consistency. What makes a team unstoppable is having both a great team attacking ethos and players who can create a goal from nothing or score on a 1/2 chance when your teams attack is bogged down, which often happens against a strong defense. I hope that makes sense.

  63. The last 8 games are really tough for Arsenal in the PL. Arsenal seem to have by far the hardest run in whichever way you look at it.

    Scoring each opponent by their place in the league (lower score meaning the harder team and 10.5 being average)

    Arsenal’s average opponent on that table is 8.75 in the league and they will meet 3 out of the top 5 teams.
    City’s is 10.77 meeting 2 out of the top 5 plus ManUre
    Tottenham’s is 11.4 and will meet 2 out of the top 5
    Chelsea’s is 11.5 and will meet 2 out of the top 5
    Liverpool’s is 12.12 Although they will meet 3 out of the top 5 plus ManUre

    Liverpool being up in the mix again means that our comparison to them is probably the most important as it is for 3rd spot. They also have an even harder set of teams to beat with some in relegation battles too.

    Likewise, even if we don’t really stumble, the head to head with Tottenham is squeaky bum time and one that we cannot afford to lose.

  64. Gibbs is out against Bayern with a ankle problem and could possibly play on Sunday. While it looks as though Verm is going to get the nod at LB.

  65. @Bill

    We have all been talking about the whole season that our attack and for that matter our midfield and strikers outside of Theo(who is injured), Ramsey(who is injured), Ox(who plays sometimes but has been injured) had no runners infront of Ozil and Santi. No runners infront of them coupled with the fact that both Ozil and Santi aren’t runners and chances takers but chance creators has been the subject of debate on here. We have pondered why Podolski isn’t playing given the fact that he will make those runs both infront of and behind Giroud and how much we missed Theo and Ramsey because they do that. So yes it is for lack of trying in most matches and yes I am saying that. Arsene hasn’t changed it because he likes to walk the ball into the goal and play tiki taki futbol with Giroud posted up, Ozil pass to him Giroud immediately passes it back, Santi passes to him, Giroud passes it immediately back; rinse and repeat until finally the little 1-2’s work and a wonderful team goal gets scored.

    Its not about Ozil and Santi forgetting how to pass or anything like that, at no point have I ever said or made any statement like that but I do say that Ozil and Santi aren’t natural finishers or runners, they pick passes and unlock defenses with close control and those passes. Yes Giroud can make all the runs that he wants and yes he can be marked but the thing about making those runs and being marked, they create space for another player to make a run into or dribble into and that is why you make runs. Runs and player movement create space for either you or your mates. Look at how much space is created when Theo is fit and he makes those darting runs centrally from the wide positions for Sagna down the flank? The runs will unlock any defense because you force the defense to react to you and your movement and they have a choice to either mark you and leave the space or not mark you and hope that the ball isn’t played to you in a position where said player can score. We struggle against the bigger sides and against the Stoke’s away because we lack that movement and think that we can pass our way through. When we do have that movement we are dangerous, look at how we played against Shitty, Theo and Giroud were constantly on the move and we created chance after chance because of that we just happened to forget how to defend that match.

    I do agree that a player capable of creating himself is very hard to defend but so is a well timed pass and run. Do we have players that are capable of scoring a goal like the one Kroos scored, yes Giroud,Santi and Podolski can and have scored goals like that for us. Its not that we don’t have the players that can score goals like that its our current style of play is more about runners feeding off the flicks from Giroud.

  66. C.

    We both agree that having players make great runs and making great passes to unlock a defense is the ideal situation and its a great thing to watch and incredible when it works. All of us would love to see that sort of football every game. However doing that on a consistent basis has never been reality and it usually does not work against a good defense. You and I have been watching the same team for the last 7 years and we have been talking for all that time about Arsenal struggling to play consistently against defensive football teams . Even during the time we had our best attacking teams, ManU and Chelsea and even Stoke and Bolton under fat Sam have always been able to shut down our attack.

    I think we have been trying to play the way we did in the last half against everton or the first 20 minutes against Munich for the entire season. I don’t think we ever stopped trying. However, history has shown that no team can play that way on a consistent basis against organized defenses. We have never been able to impose our will on the rest of the league on a consistent basis. The reason we have looked so toothless the last couple of years is that we have fewer players who are a threat to score and no players who can create something themselves once our passing attack gets bogged down. How many games this year have you and I looked at the starting line up and wondered who could possibly score a goal? The hardest goal to score is always the first and games tend to open up once you score the first goal. When you struggle to get the first goal the whole game tends to slow down.

  67. Yaya injured. Now that’s a shocker.

    I really hope he does well. He leveled off against Everton after a couple of good games. He has a some way to go before he is a real goal threat in the PL and he has to stay healthy.

  68. @Bill

    Fair enough, but on our current team and tactics for much of the year has been based on playing the ball into Giroud and then having runners off of that. In previous years we have always had more mobile strikers more in the Podolski mold then the Giroud mold outside of Chamakh, Ade, Bendtner. We were always more fluid, constantly passing and moving most times at pace leaving our back exposed due to our attack and creating 100’s of chances and this year we have seen Arsene change tactics and become reliant on having 5 midfielders on the field and having them play at a slow pace hoping we score goals like the one Jack scored or the one Mozart scored. In truth with this side we should see more goals like Giroud’s 2nd against Everton, great movement with pace 1-2 touch futbol and we have the players to do that if Arsene so chooses. Giroud facing goal though for me is the key to it all.

    Ozil and Santi as we have discussed are players that can pick a pass whether its short, medium or long but without the movement infront of them we struggle and our attack breaks down and we have seen that since Theo and Ramsey(our 2 biggest runners attack wise) have been out.

    I agree many team sheets we all look and wonder who will score goals but that’s tactics and Arsene’s love for midfielders. Through the years even with the Invincibles, Arsene has always played with atleast 3 players that you know could get goals and we simply aren’t any more. Instead we are playing with 5 midfielder that could score but more than likely won’t because they aren’t wired to score they are wired to create.

  69. The thing is that Gibbs while playing his most games this year, is starting to worry me with his constant injuries similar to that of Jack.

  70. C

    We both agree that this season we have struggled more then at any time in the past to create goal scoring chances and like you I really dislike the back to goal set up. However, I don’t think Arsene had many other options when he has OG as a CF. I don’t think Arsene created this type of attack because he liked it or because he enjoys methodical slow football. If you don’t have the goal scorers who can score before the defense sets up then it becomes much harder to break them down no matter what you do. Having the sort of space and chance to counter attack the way we did in second half of the Everton game has been the exception rather then the rule.

  71. i dont get fans that want us to get to the fa cup final and loose just so AW can get sacked. Because then we could get a manager that could “win us a trophy”.

    Last time I checked the FA cup qualified as a “trophy”. So basically if AW won the FA cup would he not match the exact criteria of these unhappy fans?
    ” a manager that could win us A trophy”?

    Ah the logic of some..

  72. @C Gibbs being injured is not as big a problem when Monreal is fresh. Moneal is different yes but he’s still a decent player. WIslhere injure is also not a problem along as we got Ramsey and Diaby and the rest fresh. WIslhere and Gibbs injured are only starting to become problems when we struggle with other injuries in addition. Imo our squad is big enough to cater for two genius young british injury prone players.
    Though I do think AW has to rethink building the squad around Wilshere. You simply cannot build a squad around a player that never plays. That are “to brave” all the time and that runs his body to the ground time and time again.
    Maybe that is the real reason we bought Ozil? now that is a player to build a squad around if there ever were any.

  73. C.

    A couple other interesting thoughts regarding the game against Everton. The second half of the game was probably our most dynamic attacking performance since the Napoli game early in the season. We did it with the Flamini/Arteta axis on the pitch and the players that was on the pitch when we did our best work had as little pace and width as any team we could put together right now. (after Ox went off). Its great to have pace but it is certainly possible to play fast paced football even if you don’t have pacey players. IMO The single biggest difference was we were playing a team that tried to attack with us and they were chasing the game. We have always played well against the few teams that have tried to play with us. Ozil, cazorla and Rosicky can cut apart an opponent when they have space and the opportunity to move the ball forward quickly.

  74. Bill

    For me, Flamini/Ramsey with Ozil, Santi and Rosicky is our best line up in midfield! Rosicky get’s back and if Ramsey moves out wide Ozil or Santi move in, it just seemed to work! I actually think the poorest we’ve played is when we’re trying to accomodate Wilshere at times. I think the problem is that we don’t know where he’s best yet….Defensive or attacking midfielder and his type of play is only going to lead to more ankle kicks and hacking down! Other teams now he’s injury prone so 1 “mistimed” kick to the ankle and he’s down and he tends to lose his temper as well! I think in his breakthrough season he was at his best under the tutorage of Cesc!

    Jack has an eye for passing and a raw talent, but if we’re not careful he’s going to lose it. I honestly think the best thing for him….Sit out the WC, spend those months working on his strength, flexiblity and conditioning and come back next season 100% fit and ready. But he’s so passionate about playing for England, he’s probably going to play half fit and pick up another injury. I’d place a bet right now on him missing the start of next season season.

    I’m quite happy that Ramsey is getting a few months break along with Rosicky. Diaby might benifit from a few months of no pressure fitness and conditioning as well!

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