No one likes us

His smug smile tells the story...

His smug smile tells the story…

Like I said prior to the match on Wednesday evening, I expected Arsenal to lose against the reigning European Champions so wasn’t surprised at the 0-2 score-line (just wish I had put a bet on). However, it was the promising way we begun coupled with the fact Bayern Münich did not deserve the win that made the result particularly difficult for me to take and left a bitter taste in my mouth. For a change, I haven’t been miserable over the past couple of days but that has been replaced by intense anger. The unjust decision to send Wojciech Szczesny off, the constant theatrics from the German side and the heavy criticism of Mesut Özil following the game are just a few of my annoyances.

I’ll start from the beginning so that this post has a bit structure and is not just a rant. The Arsenal, cheered on by a lively crowd who participated in a card display as the team’s entered, came out of the blocks quickly and had Pep Guardiorla’s men on the ropes. Wave after wave of attack culminated in a penalty and Mesut Özil being presented the opportunity to put the home side 1 up. He missed with a dreadful spot-kick (similar to his one against Napoli back in October) but I think the tag of ‘£42.5 Million flop’ is ridiculous and out of order.

What fans and media pundits’ alike need to remember is this season is Mesut Özil’s first in England and some stars need time to adjust. I will point out an Arsenal legend as an example. Dennis Bergkamp didn’t hit the ground running but look what happened next. Patience is the key but in all honesty, the German International has shown his class intermittently so I’m not concerned in the slightest. The 25 year old showed with his sublime Cruyff turn to win the penalty on Wednesday just why he cost so much and is one of the best attacking midfielder’s in the world.

After our miss, Bayern Münich ‘earned’ a penalty when a brilliant ball over the top found Arjen Robben who went down oh so easily after the slightest bit of contact.  The Dutchman did make a meal of the foul but it probably was a spot-kick but my complaint is the Szcesny red card, which completely turned the game on it’s head and made victory for The Arsenal an almost impossible mountain to climb. Robben took a poor touch to go around the keeper and Sagna was back to clear it so how it was a clear goal scoring chance I will never know. Özil was hauled down just as he was going to shoot (and have a clear opportunity on goal) so surely that was a sending of too?

Alaba’s penalty miss was far worse than the Mesut Özil one 29 minutes earlier because he failed to hit the target (unforgivable in my eyes) but it didn’t matter in the end. We kept it 0-0 for the seven minutes before the break. However, the ten men were boxed in and soon after the interval, the extra man paid off. The German’s took the lead with a delightful curler from Toni Kroos. Again, we done well to keep Europe’s best out for another 34 minutes but the match and tie was ultimately ended by Müller on the counter-attack in the 88th minute.

When I say ‘no one likes us’ in the title, I do not simply mean everyone’s out to get Arsenal (although it does seem like that in the media). I’m talking about the way that UEFA seem to have a vendetta against English clubs. You’ve only got to watch Manchester City-Barcelona to realise I am speaking sense. That was a similar affair to the match at the Emirates with the exact same outcome. The home sides started well but a shocking decision by the referee saw the balance of play swing and the away teams win 2-0 in both games. The foul at the Etihad was the exact opposite to what happened a day later. The sending off was correct as Demichelis was clearly the last man but the tackle was outside the box and the penalty shouldn’t have stood.

These two recent examples of English teams being the victim of game-changing decisions by UEFA officials are not isolated. Further evidence for this conspiracy include Robin van Persie being dismissed in 2011 for not hearing the whistle in a noisy Camp Nou, when Chelsea had four clear penalty shouts in the 2009 semi-final but none were given and Nani’s red card in Manchester United’s defeat to Real Madrid last year, to name but a few. Coincidence? I think not. I’m on to you Platini!

By Glen Shorey

Long Long Gone

Long

The biggest news of last month’s transfer window for West Brom was the departure of Shane Long to Premier League rivals Hull City. Long potentially had eighteen months left on his contract, six months with the option of an extra season. The undisclosed fee, thought to be between six and a half to seven million pounds, is considered as excellent business by Peace for some Albion fans, but for others extremely frustrating.

The opinions of the fans have been extremely variable, from the extreme of some relieved to see the back of the Irish international to others absolutely devastated and worrying about the team’s future in the Premier League. The reasoning of those happy to see Shane Long head for the exit door was that he was paid to score goals, which did not happen regularly, the statistic twenty two goals in eighty seven appearances in all competitions for West Bromwich Albion (nineteen in eighty one in league), therefore a brilliant bit of business by Jeremy Peace, gaining around seven million pounds for a striker who struggled to find the back of the net.  However, many supporters have been distraught at the news, Long, having been one of the main players in the squad and in his time at the Hawthorns, was a brilliant player who scored some vital goals. The striker was the best thing since sliced bread in the Midlands derby against Aston Villa, putting the home side 2-0 up and scoring his best and last goals for the Albion, before the team conceding two and the match ending in a draw.

During his time in the Black Country, Shane Long was known for his pace, quality in the air and terrific work rate. The move to Hull may be a good one for his career, with many journalists having said that Long would not fit in with new manager Pepe Mel’s style of play, and him alongside former Everton frontman Nikica Jelavic could produce a deadly duo. The Republic of Ireland international was given advice on joining Hull, by his international teammates Robbie Brady, Paul McShane, David Meyler and Stephen Quinn, who are currently playing for the Tigers. Many fans will remember his debut goal against Manchester United, in front of the Smethwick End and the away fans. Shane Long has scored many memorable goals for the Baggies, one of the most significant is his strike against Manchester City in the 2012/13 season, not remembered for the nature of the finish but the message he had on a printed shirt underneath, showing ‘We Know What We Are,’ which has since been picked up as a chant for Albion fans.

From the perspective of the player, this switch is a move in the right direction, away from under-performing West Brom and playing every week at Hull, pushing for a top half finish. Long has been scoring regularly and formed a terrific strike-force partnership with ex-Everton man, Nikica Jelavic. However, from the perspective of his former club, he has left behind their inconsistent club who are fighting to keep their Premier League status and made a very effective move to Hull where he is scoring goals an Albion fan could only wish for. A very talented player who is missed by many.

By Anjali Patel

Payback

You're not dancing anymore!

You’re not dancing anymore!

Sunday was a chance for Arsenal to wipe the painful memory of Anfield eight days earlier and prove that losing 5-1 was a mere blip. The team certainly grasped this opportunity with both hands by knocking out one Merseyside club and setting up a Quarter Final tie with another, Everton. In essence, the match suggested that February 8th 2014 was a freak accident. Liverpool are not the world-beaters that the media would have you believe after one game and Arsene Wenger’s side are not horrendously awful. To use managerial speak, the big test in football is how you react to disappointment and I believe we have answered any questions well.

Oxlade-Chamberlain again put in a fine performance, (he was the only decent Arsenal player at Anfield) and arguably won us the match. He finished well in the first half, when the ball dropped to him in the box, and set up our second goal latching on to a perfectly timed ball from Özil, before passing it across to Podolski. I think the Ox adds that much needed injection of pace that the team have been missing since Walcott’s injury back in January. The 0-0 against Man United on Wednesday illustrated that we pose no attacking threat if a player like Chambo or Gnabry is not playing and making the defenders work.

However, my man of the match was another 19-year-old called Yaya Sanogo. The debutant may not have scored but showed all Arsenal fans why Wenger has faith in him. Dare I say it, but the young Frenchman reminded me of Adebayor when he was at the Emirates, winning flick ons and chasing balls effortlessly. There was one particular moment when a cross-field ball looked to have too much power on it and was going out. He sprinted out of nowhere and managed to get there. For such a big, powerful man, the acceleration is very surprising and is a nice combination that gives the team something different to Giroud which provides an interesting dilemma for the manager.

The big talking point at the end involved the referee. Not long after Arsenal conceded a stonewall penalty and the match was delicately poised at 2-1, Oxlade-Chamberlain looked very fortunate to not give away a penalty when he clearly brought down Luis Suarez in the box. The only reason I can think that the decision went in our favour was because of Suarez’s theatrics in the past. Also, I’d like to point out to any Liverpool fans, who feel rather hard done by, that Howard Webb had an atrocious game. Gerrard should have got a second yellow, Cazorla had a fifty-fifty penalty shout, and Sanogo was persistently fouled by the centre-backs. Therefore, the decisions evened themselves out this time.

The horrific defeat 11 days ago had me fearing that our season was collapsing around us, but a draw against the reigning Premier League Champions followed by an impressive victory in the FA Cup has been a very good way to bounce back. Now, these fixtures are coming thick and fast so I’m back off to the Emirates tonight for the small matter of Bayern Munich. I’m not expecting a win to be honest but it would be nice so that the positive momentum continues.

By Glen Shorey

Not all doom and gloom

Not clinical enough but reasons to smile

Not clinical enough but reasons to smile

After Saturday’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, Arsenal fans cannot be blamed for feeling that the defeat spelled disaster and meant that the team could almost definitely not win the title. I was particularly pessimistic about our near future and concluded that anything but a win on Wednesday night would be the proverbial nail in this season’s coffin. As it was, we only managed a goalless draw against a Manchester United side who are 7th in the table and trail us by 14 points. I was frustrated of course but after the dust settled and I gathered my thoughts, the positives were clear for me to see.

0-0 implies that the game was boring with little goalmouth action, but that wasn’t what happened. Arsenal had numerous chances with a few falling to Giroud but as has been the case more often than not lately, we couldn’t dispatch any of them. The combination of Rooney, van Persia and Mata threatened on the counter attack but nothing materialised, apart from when the former Gunner had a powerful header impressively kept out by Szczesny. Statistics wise, Arsene Wenger’s men dominated with 57% possession and 17 shots to United’s 6. However, the home side only managed 5 of those on target, which says a lot.

The main positive was that we kept a clean sheet. The last time we got torn apart away from home (6-3 by Manchester City in December), we followed it up with a stalemate and then went on a winning streak so there’s definitely light at the end of this tunnel. The back four of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Sagna were re-united in the week. They all play brilliant together and definitely look stronger. I’m not using this as an excuse for the Liverpool debacle but our defence, including Szczesny, definitely are tougher to score against if all of the aforementioned players start. Monreal, Vermaelen and Jenkinson are OK but not a patch on the first team defenders in my opinion.

Another reason not to despair is that the league is so tight and eventhough we’ve had a bad run of form, Arsenal are still 2nd; only a point off Chelsea at the top. Other teams ineptitude plus the British weather has left us in a good position so I’m optimistic, at least for the time being. Anyway, there’s a bit of respite from the title race in the form of two cup matches, both at the Emirates. Sunday is an opportunity to get revenge on Liverpool in the FA Cup before European Champions Bayern Munich come to town on Wednesday for the first leg of our Champions League round of 16 clash. Let’s just hope we get our mojo back in both matches and I’m still upbeat next week.

By Glen Shorey

A bad day at the office

Ca you spot my brother and I in the bottom left corner?

Can you spot my brother and I in the bottom left corner?

Saturday was painful. I went all the way up to Liverpool and was completely humiliated. Away fans who require a wheelchair are positioned to the left of the travelling supporters in the Anfield Road end so my brother and I were therefore sat in front of what became a jubilant home crowd. As you can imagine, it was awful. I sunk lower and lower in my seat as the 5 goals went in. I closed my eyes tightly at half-time when we were 4-0 down, hoping it was a nightmare but the shambolic display was unfortunately real. I was on the verge of tears. Not even our consolation goal cheered me up.

For the second time in my Arsenal supporting life (I was at the infamous 8-2 defeat to Manchester United in 2011), I left the ground questioning why I bother following the gunners over land and sea. In fact, the match was far worse than the crushing loss at Old Trafford three years ago because 5-1 was so unexpected and there were no excuses. I had a feeling that we would lose. So much so that I had butterflies in my stomach and skipped my usual pre-match burger. However, the absolute mauling came as a bit of shock to everyone.

52 seconds. That was how long it took for Liverpool to break the deadlock. Skrtel was the surprise goal scorer as he rose above the Arsenal defence to make it 1-0. Fair enough. Sometimes a team can be caught off guard with the first attack. Just need to stay composed and start again. Not capitulate so that the score reads 4-0 after 20 minutes. Then. after the break, when we needed a goal straight away to offer a tiny glimmer of hope (Newcastle came back from the same deficit against us not long ago), our defence fell asleep and again was exposed by the pace of Sterling.

Going into the clash, Arsenal were two points clear at the top so losing heavily was uncharacteristic, particularly from Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker who, before Saturday, had been unbeaten for two years when playing the full 90 minutes together. They have been so strong this season and are one of the reasons we are fighting for the Championship. The whole team was poor so it’s not as if I can make a scapegoat. That’s what compounded the misery. Normally, if Özil has an off game, Cazorla will step up but all our players failed to turn up to Anfield.

I, like all Arsenal fans, can only hope that Saturday was a bad day at the office and we can put the match to bed with a much needed win over a struggling Manchester United side. Failure to do so would mean the collapse, which pundits have been craving and I’ve been anxious about, would be well under way. Realistically, we could go from being certain to win a trophy to being odds on to finish with nothing for the 9th year in a row. A positive reaction is needed to prevent disaster.

By Glen Shorey

Should West Brom’s Chris Brunt still be playing?

Chris Brunt

Chris Brunt- West Brom captain deservedly so, or not? Brunt is well known in the football industry, most famously for his sensational left foot. He came to the Albion in August 2007 from Sheffield Wednesday, ahead of the upcoming Championship season and was soon well settled in and popular with the fans. Many Albion fans have watched Brunt develop and got to know him as a player over his years at the Hawthorns, but with him now nearing the age of 30, is he past his best?

In games earlier on in the season, the captain has been very inconsistent and at home he was very poor in matches against Norwich and Aston Villa and as a result heavily criticised by Baggies fans, frustrated by the fact that he is constantly slowing the game down, therefore when West Brom have players like Saido Berahino and Matej Vydra on, they cannot afford to slow down and make time for the opposition. After a few more average/poor home performances, the captain has clearly regained form, especially since the arrival of Pepe Mel. However, in away matches Brunt has upped his game and come home with some brilliant performances. At St James’ Park earlier on in the season, Brunt was very unpredictable, going from some of his passing being extremely inaccurate and shots wild, to scoring a superb equaliser in front of the high up away fans. In the 3-3 draw at West Ham in December, Brunt put out a fine show, being the centre of everything and playing as a captain should, leading his players and creating two goals, only for the minimal away support. The most notable performance of Brunt recently was in the away derby against Aston Villa. With the fans having just about had enough of Brunt and his careless errors, in the fourth minute he put his team ahead with an outstanding long range effort, but again on an away day. It is a possibility that he feels under pressure at home games because of the criticism he gets, but he  looks a different player at away games.

He has been in situations where he is the centre of the break on the counter-attack, with options to his left and right but going for glory, shooting and blasting it high. He may be constantly doing this because of the fans unknowingly being intimidating, afraid of their frustration and wanting to be a hero, back in the good books.

In some home games this season Brunt has started, and in all honesty, his overall play has not been Premier League standard at all. Most recently his passing and corners have not been reaching the right places, his free kicks have been wasteful and his shots do not compare to other midfielders in the league. However, a bright spark has been seen in him in recent away games, so many Baggies fans hope to see that creativity every match.

By Anjali Patel

Get Involved!

Get Involved!

Welcome to my new blog on the beautiful game. Football is ATeamEffort so I would like some other writers to post (or it will just be me which might become boring). If you’re interested, either drop me a line at goonerglen1@gmail.com or tweet me @goonerglen1. Hope to hear from you all soon.