A little bit of Granit

Granit Xhaka Arsenal KitSo not only did we scrape into second place, we’ve signed a new player before the end of May! Defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka joins Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Arsenal’s number one need from summer transfers is surely a source of more goals, but we need more depth virtually everywhere so this is a great start to the transfer window. A bit of defensive bite in front of the back four will be very useful, especially given the number of goals we conceded from outside the box this season.

Looking at his stats and the various YouTube videos, he looks a very useful player. Some journalists are making something of his high card count, both yellow and red, but unless he’s going to go completely bonkers I don’t think this is such a bad thing. Arsenal have had plenty of stick for not being strong and committed enough when defending, so a bit of Granit in the midfield will be no bad thing. Patrick Viera got planty of cards and we loved him.

Pictures of Xhaka in his kit got leaked ahead of the official announcement, reportedly by his girlfriend tweeting them. They also seem to confirm that the earlier leaked pics of he new kit were genuine too.

Hopefully this is going to be the first of several signings. We desperately need more goals, and that was true even before Danny Welbeck got crocked. I like Olivier Giroud, despite his current dodgy hipster look. He’s better than many give him credit for, but not as good as we need. He seems to have a prolonged goal drought at some point each season and that costs us. A lot of media sources are linking us to Alvaro Morata for very big money. Does he get enough goals though?

Arsene Wenger says that there is money to spend if the right player is available. Some see this as code for don’t expect anything, but to be fair he has chased Suarez and Higuaín in recent summers and was reportedly pissed off that Manchester United got Martial after being told the player wasn’t available.

As well as needing more goals, we need replacements for Arteta, Rosicky and maybe Flamini, so hopefully Xhaka won’t be the only midfielder coming in.

So, great start to the summer Arsene, but a striker, more midfielders and maybe an extra central defender please.

Comedy Gold as Arsenal finish second

Final day league table 2016 Arsenal

It hasn’t been a great Arsenal season, let’s not lose sight of that, but I can’t think of a final day that’s provided the sheer comedy value delivered by Spurs today. You had one job Spurs, avoid losing to relegated Newcastle United!

A point for Arsenal against Villa would guarantee third place. Three points would set up the possibility of so many jokes to keep us going for days. But it needed Newcastle to deliver the punchline. Couldn’t happen obviously.

Hahahahahahahahahaha, uncontrolled implosion carried out, hahahahahahahaha, hahahaha, not a viable device after all hahahahahahaha, hahahahahahahahahaha, turned out to be a hoax all along, hahahahahahahahahaha.

Great start with a goal in five minutes – Olivier Giroud – 1:0 Arsenal. Another ten minutes and Newcastle have actually scored. Couldn’t happen could it? But then we didn’t score again for ever and ever. Newcastle score again but then concede and go down to ten men. And we still haven’t scored again. Against Villa. Here we go again. Huff, puff, dominate possession, then fail to score enough goals.

We’re heading for second place, which we never imagined really happening, but we don’t believe. We know how easily this is going to go wrong. We’re failing to kill off the club in bottom place. Spurs, who’ve scored plenty away from home this season, need just one more to finish ahead of us.  One of these was bound to happen and piss us all off. It was just a matter of time.

But then Newcastle scored again from the penalty spot. A dive as it turned out but we didn’t know and wouldn’t have cared anyway. We just thought Spurs were going all Spursy. Then Giroud scored again.  Two nil. Then he did it again. Three nil. Then Spurs really did get all Spursy and conceded twice. Happy St Totteringham’s Day.

Our fourth goal came from Arteta, on as a sub in his last appearance for the club. He won’t get the credit, as his shot hit the bar and went in off the keeper, but it was fantastic to see him involved at the very end of his time at Arsenal. I wish we’d bought him to Arsenal earlier. He has many critics but I don’t know why. We could have done with his experience and calm in midfield a lot sooner. So good luck to Mikel and thanks, even if you do end up coaching City.

Last day too for another great player held back by injury, but Tomas Rosicky didn’t make it onto the pitch. Had he suffered fewer injuries I think he would have been a certain starter for his whole career at Arsenal. Some guys on the fringe you think are nicking a living. But not Tomas Rosicky. He was a fantastic player who had his living nicked off him by repeated injury.

After the game the rest of the players lined up in number seven shirts in tribute. Well deserved. I’m sure he’ll find somewhere to stick that silver cannon as well!

So, second place, a Giroud hat trick and St Totteringham’s Day. Some days it turns out that you don’t actually know enough Spurs fans. Amazing. All after you had a nagging doubt that we would conspire to lose, come fourth and be condemned to a supermarket sweep on the transfer market after scraping through the qualifying round of the Champions League.

This doesn’t make everything ok. We need someone who will score goals and good players to add more depth and more steely determination. But it made the last day a million miles more bearable and I’m still smiling over Spurs. Mind the gap. Still.

Man City 2:2 Arsenal

Away to Man City was the toughest game our run-in and the opening minutes showed how much the players knew it. We were lucky it took a whole eight minutes for City to score. Confusion in the Arsenal box and then Sergio Aguero bangs it in at the near post.

Fortunately Manchester City know a thing or two about confusion in the box and straight away they nearly scored an own goal from a Giroud cross. From the resulting corner they let Giroud have a go all by himself and he scored. Yes, I know, that Giroud. Well it’s been a while. All this after Spurs were kind enough to choke away three points losing at home to Southampton.

The rest of the game was about Man City pressure. They bossed the midfield but Arsenal hung in there, just. Kevin De Bruyne was very impressive and fed Aguero well. They should have scored more but somehow we survived. At this point it is worth asking – what is Jesus Navas for? He was as pointless today as he has been all season, blasting the ball all over the place with no purpose. Pellegrini’s answer was to bring on Bony.  Something that makes you ask – what is Jesus Navas for?

To be fair to Bony he did hit the crossbar, but you wonder what he and Navas are doing in a club that can afford the likes of Aguero and De Bruyne.

The second half started like the first half – lots of Man City pressure that got them a goal. A good goal too by Kevin De Bruyne from outside the box.  Everyone’s questioning Petr Cech for not saving it, but it was well placed and came through someone’s legs.  It took longer to get  the second equaliser. Walcott came on and tormented Otamendi and Mangala. But in the end it was a great one-two by Sanchez and Giroud that got the Chilean a good goal.  But it was made by Giroud, fantastic return ball with his heal that split open a big gap for Sanchez who finished well.

Not the prettiest game from Arsenal, but they got the job done and Olivier Giroud had a good game, a goal and a brilliant assist.  The only real downer was Danny Welbeck going off with an injury that could keep him out of the Euro’s. It meant that Jack Wilshere got a decent amount of time on the pitch and wasn’t bad. Usual Wilshere, positive forward running, passing players getting brought down. But some decent end product too until he tired.

I find Walcott and Wilshere very frustrating. Both a couple of good guys and they show you enough to let you believe. But somehow neither has delivered. I desperately want both to succeed, but how longer do they get?

Anyway, here we with one game to go, two points behind Spurs. We play Villa at home, they play Newcastle away. One point for Arsenal and we secure third place. Three points and, well who knows, we might just get the biggest laugh of the season. A mid-week win for Sunderland could mean Newcastle are already down and don’t care, but…

 

Leicester win, Spurs lose it

Congratulations Leicester City

An amazing result that rival fans would need a heart of stone to be unmoved by. Who knows what will happen next. Will they soar to European heights like Nottingham Forrest or buckle under the burden? Right now no one in Leicester will care, they’re 5000-1 league champions. Few teams really worked them out and no one matched their consistency. No one saw them coming.

The Chelsea – Spurs game last night was prime time entertainment for reasons good and bad. A great goal from Eden Hazard and amazing resilience from Chelsea to come back from 2:0 down in a game where the result has little impact on their season.

Too many yellows, too few reds

There was a pretty vicious undercurrent to the game though, that referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t pick up on early enough. He was obviously keen to let the football be the story and early fouls were dealt with by warnings rather than cards. But it didn’t work and he ended up giving nine yellow cards to Spurs players and could easily have used two reds.

Danny Rose could have picked up two yellows but escaped with a warning for an early scything. When a scuffle broke out between Rose and Willian later, Mousa Dembele clearly stuck his finger in Diego Costa’s eye. Yes, Diego Costa – victim. Who’d a thought it. The eye gouge wasn’t spotted last night but he will surely get a ban for the remaining two games. Near the end Eric Dier should have picked up a second yellow. He was prabably saved by Clattenburg, rightly, playing advantage until another Spurs foul and not going back to the first incident.

Cesc Fabregas claimed that Erik Lamela stamped on his hand but it was hard to tell from the TV clips I saw. If there is film that confirms it then he will surely get a ban too. After the final whistle the scrapping continued down the tunnel. Entertaining if not very edifying.

But the night and the story belongs to Leicester City. This morning the Radio 4 News is live from Leicester and on Radio 2 Chris Evans is trying to talk football. Congratulations Leicester City, everyone sees you now.

Arsenal 1:0 Norwich City

For a long time I didn’t think we were going to win. We seemed even worse than before, listlessly trying the same thing again and again even though it wasn’t working. As Arsene Wenger acknowledged after the game, this kind of situation has bogged us down all season (longer really) – we just don’t know how to deal with teams that sit deep.

Things briefly got a little more interesting at around twelve minutes in with the ‘demonstration’. This turned out to be no more impressive than the football. It wasn’t huge and was dwarfed after by those singing ‘one Arsene Wenger’. Back on the pitch we huffed and puffed, repeatedly trying to drive through the middle of Norwich. Just occasionally we would get it out wide, but the crosses were aimed at an isolated Giroud and easily defended by Bassong and Martin. At the other end Norwich did the best they could with regular breaks and Petr Cech needed to keep us in it with some sharp saves. We were better at defending crosses than of late though. Not completely secure, but nothing breathtakingly dumb either.

About an hour in, Arsene Wenger sent on Danny Welbeck, taking off Iwobi. Much booing all round, the Iwobi bit rather than the arrival on Welbeck, but to be honest the young Nigerian wasn’t having his best game. He’d been going in field and banging his head against the yellow wall like everyone else. Straight away after the change we seemed to have more purpose, more variety and more than just Giroud in the box. Five minutes later we scored. The unsubstituted Giroud won a header and Iwobi replacement Welbeck banged it in. One nil to the Arsenal. ‘Arsene knows!’ tweeted someone, but if this was the definitive answer to the ‘eight defenders’ problem then the revelation has come rather late.

We carried on being better after that, playing with more purpose and speed. Though to be honest that was probably as much to do with point-desperate Norwich coming further out and leaving more space to play in.

We should have got a second, most likely after a fantastic pass from Ozil, but Sanchez ran into the defenders, all Wilshere-like, rather than passing to the uncrowded Bellerin and we missed out. Per Mertesacker went off with what looked like a hamstring injury so his season may be done.

So for a little while at least we are back up to third place. City go to Southampton this afternoon which isn’t as easy fixture so who knows, it might just stick. In fact, those around us have quite tough games this weekend, so it’s as well that we did manage to squeeze past Norwich.

Do we know anything new after this game? Nothing startling other than the fact Arsene Wenger can make tactical substitutions before 70 minutes afterall. Two games to go. Best possible finish – second, worst possible finish – seventh, mostly likely finish – fourth. Most clubs would envy these options but this feels so very dull.

About Nine Jimmy Rimmers

jimmy rimmer football cardsWhen I was young we collected football cards from bubble gum packs. I didn’t really like the bubble gum and wasn’t much good at blowing the bubbles but never mind, it was the cards that were important. You had to have them to be part of playground conversation and you had to collect your team.

My team was Arsenal. I’d picked them a few years earlier when they won the double. Had I known, as a seven-year-old, that they wouldn’t win the cup again for another eight years and the league for another eighteen, I suspect I might have waited on my choice. On some recent occasions, when I’ve been staring at the screen in disbelief at another late season, late conceded goal to a team in the relegation zone, my daughter has asked ‘wouldn’t it be easier to just support ……’. But once you’ve picked your team that’s it, you never change, you just don’t. Them’s the rules! Still, it could have been worse. When I was five my Dad bought me a Wolves kit.

Anyway, back to the cards. Much pocket money was spent on unblown bubble gum and the usual playground swapsies took place to amass the Arsenal team. The biggest frustration though was that a few cards seemed to turn up again and again. One of these was Jimmy. He seemed to be in just about every packet and there were only so many times someone would accept him as a swap.

Then, as now, a common football chant was ‘there’s only one …….’. But I had nine Jimmy Rimmers and that’s what I sang. No-one in the playground understood, but it made me smile.

This is second time around for this blog. It got hacked and messed up and then I changed jobs and didn’t have the time and stuff got deleted off the server. It was easier to start again. So I have done.