Match Report: Vitoria 1 – 1 Arsenal

Vitoria SC (0) 1 Arsenal (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Group F, Matchday 4 of 6
Estádio D. Afonso Henriques, Av. São Gonçalo 1028, Guimarães, Portugal
Wednesday, 6th November 2019. Kick-off time: 3.50pm

(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Joe Willock, Dani Ceballos; Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pépé, Gabriel Martinelli; Bukayo Saka.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson, Mattéo Guendouzi, Sead Kolašinac.
Scorers: Shkodran Mustafi (80 mins)
Yellow Cards: Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 65%
Referee: Halis Özkahya (Turkey)
Attendance: circa 28,000

Now there’s a strange set of rules which surround the aura of the Europa League; no kick-off times are ever constant, and situations can literally change at the drop of a hat. Today’s bizarre kick-off time is due to a timing issue with the two Champions League matches which start at 5.55pm (and 8.00pm as well), so therefore we have to alter the time of our game to accommodate the CL television coverage, as those matches have priority. Additionally, our tie against Vitoria SC is played a day earlier because their local rivals Braga are also playing in the Europa League and it was considered by the great and the good at UEFA that it would not be a good idea to have two sets of fans descending on the vicinity at the same time on the same day. Having said that, and despite all of the complications surrounding this tie, it is great to play a match in Europe again on a Wednesday evening.

But that’s all, quite frankly. The weather was terrible, and so was the match as well. Bearing that in mind, the home side started confidently, and as early as the eighth minute, our alarm bells started to ring when Pêpê of Vitoria SC whacked the ball against the post from 20 yards with Emiliano Martínez beaten, which made us all breathe a collective sigh of relief. But sadly our pain wasn’t over; in the first half, our defence looked completely helpless as both Edmond Tapsoba and Marcus Edwards came close to scoring the opening goal within the first half hour of the game. The rest of the first half was a dogged affair with free kicks being given away by both sides, mistimed tackles and botched goal attempts. It is to be noted that the Vitoria SC goalkeeper, Douglas, was not called into action at any time in the first half, as all of our goal attempts never hit the target. Worse was to follow.

At least when the second half arrived, we did attempt to try to get some cohesive play together, but unfortunately it all went to seed as Dani Ceballos pulled up with a hamstring injury in the fifty-fourth minute; Mattéo Guendouzi took his place and almost immediately we retreated into a type of containment game that restricted our play. In an attempt to spark some life into this moribund match, Bukayo Saka was substituted for Alexandre Lacazette, and twelve minutes later, young Joe Willock gave way for the more experienced Lucas Torreira; it worked. With ten minutes left on the clock, a superb Nicolas Pépé ball from a free kick saw Shkodran Mustafi score with a downward header. Surely this was the winner? The one we had been waiting for? Nope. As usual, we couldn’t hold onto a lead. In the injury time that followed, Bruno Duarte scored the equalising goal with a scissor-kick that our defence should by rights, have blocked. And yet, with seconds left before the end, the home side nearly scored again, when Shkodran Mustafi deflected a shot onto the post, and Rochinha narrowly missed our goal with literally seconds left.

It was a real shame that, although tonight’s match was ruined by torrential rain that we could merely manage a draw; but if Standard Liege lose to Eintracht Frankfurt, we will make the last thirty-two teams in this competition. Again, we failed to hang onto a lead, and despite clocking up sixty-five per cent possession in awful conditions, we could only manage one shot on our opponents’ goal, and that was when we scored the opening goal of the night. Although Unai Emery changed the formation of the team, along with eight changes we were still unable to defend our goal effectively. If we play as sloppily as this on Saturday against Leicester City, then their highly disciplined attackers will punish us greatly. And if that happens, then the sky may well fall in for both Unai Emery and this team of lost footballers. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Saturday, 9th November at 5.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.


No shape, no urgency, no width, no pace….but there is still some hope

I do like to have a moan, and the last 13 years that’s all I’ve done. Last season, it felt like a new dawn, this season, it feels like nothing has changed at all and someone has played an awful trick on me.

The people I follow The Arsenal with are my age, in their 40’s and 50’s. We’ve seen the greatest of times and possibly looking back were spoilt. We’ve also been through some crap times but always had that faith that better days were to come.

Transition is always difficult and it’s never quick. Change takes a long time. We see that with our fan base, who mostly are waiting for change to happen around them rather than being integral in it. We need to stop waiting for the players to lift us, it’s not going to happen, let’s step up and do our bit.

Whoever came in after Wenger was going to have a mammoth task, but right now, we don’t have the man in place to start to resolve that. We need a change and we need a future that we can see and focus on. Right now it feels as though we are trudging through a dense forest with no end in sight. The worse thing Emery said was we would play ‘pressing football’……that’s no where to be seen. The inconsistency is frustrating to say the least and the fact I cannot see how we are trying to play is infuriating. No shape, no urgency, no width, no pace…….it’s all so familiar.

But football changes all the time, no one stays in the lead for long. Look at the clubs who were real contenders back in the day, apart from the obvious few, most have sunk like the titanic. We haven’t. We’ve certainly gained a few holes, we’ve certainly forgotten how to sail for a bit, but we are still there.

<> at Emirates Stadium on May 23, 2018 in London, England.

We have a bright future with youngsters coming through on and off the pitch and what we need more than ever is to back them. Don’t moan about youngsters on their seats or standing all game or banging a drum, don’t groan when on the pitch they give the ball away.

My son is 16 and follows us home and away. It’s watching him and listening to how he talks about our great club that I realise there is still some hope.

For the first time in years, a new generation are evolving and taking ownership. The Ashburton Army are a group of young fans who love the club like we did, and mostly still do. They don’t pick and choose their games, they go to every game they can, blagging tickets however they can. They group up, sing, and for 90 minutes support us. They are the future and as they grow into moaning bastards like the rest of us, I take some comfort that we are in good hands.

If we want a club to hand over to the next generation, we still have a job to do in making sure they have half a chance with it.

It’s our job to weed out the fans who thinks it’s ok to send death threats to our players, or to challenge them on social media when they go all green street. We don’t need this to be associated with our club, let’s get back to people hating us for all the right reasons.

We will continue to change, continue to experience all the ups and downs and we will find the right fit for us. But in the mean time, moan in the pubs, swear and rant in the train home, but let’s do our job during those 90 minutes.

History, Class, Tradition.



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Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 1 Wolves

Arsenal (1) 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (0) 1
Premier League
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 2nd November 2019. Kick-off time: 3.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney; Lucas Torreira, Mattéo Guendouzi; Mesut Özil, Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (21 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 60,383

Forget all of the brouhaha of the match at Anfield on Wednesday evening; today is our bread and butter. Nothing less than a win will do, as we desperately need to keep up the pressure on the top four clubs and reduce the five-point gap between Chelsea and ourselves. Having said that, whatever pre-match instructions that must have resonated from the coaching staff into and through our players’ heads appears to have been quickly forgotten in the first quarter of an hour or so of this important match against the boys from the Black Country.

Our team were literally all over the place, seemingly just giving the ball away in senseless situations, thus creating all kinds of problems for ourselves when there appeared to be no need to do so. The visitors’ busy midfield and attack pressurised us constantly and consistently during this period, and one could feel that the mood in the stadium (from our supporters) was rapidly becoming one of impatience followed by absolute horror. Somehow, literally out of nowhere, after twenty-one minutes, we had found a chink of light at the end of this painful tunnel. In one of our rare early forays into the Wolves’ half, Alexandre Lacazette found an unmarked Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who unceremoniously whacked the ball past Rui Patrício and into the bottom right hand corner of the net to give us the lead.

There’s nothing like a goal in front of our home crowd to wake us up, is there? A few minutes later, Lucas Torreira was desperately unlucky not to score, and despite Wolves counter-attacking on the break on several occasions, both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came extremely close to adding to our lead. Mesut Özil and Dani Ceballos were working together well during this period to provide chances for our strikers, and although the visitors tried desperately to catch us on the break, (thus calling the safe hands of Bernd Leno to be brought into action), it was us that went into the half-time break in the lead, and to be fair, slightly fortunate at times to be doing so. Thank God for the safe hands of our goalkeeper.

Speaking of which, Bernd Leno was utterly immense in the opening minutes of the second half, with crucial saves undertaken from Ruben Neves and Raul Jimenez that could have had dangerous consequences for us. Just after Alexandre Lacazette blasted the ball over the visitors’ crossbar following one of our rapid counter-attacks, he was substituted for Gabriel Martinelli on the hour. Why? Surely we need both of our strikers on the pitch against this kind of opposition? And the decision shows. A little while later, Calum Chambers was unfortunate not to score (from a Mesut Özil corner) when his goalbound header was kicked away by Matt Doherty.

And then suddenly, with fourteen minutes’ left on the clock, guess what? Boom boom, out go the lights. Just after Lucas Torreira was substituted for Bukayo Saka, we lost concentration after a simple throw-in and just allowed Joao Moutinho to loop a cross deep into our penalty area, only for Raul Jimenez to head the ball into the net for the equalising goal. Go figure. Anyway, to our credit, we dusted ourselves down and pressed forward to try to find the winning goal. And in return, Wolves sensed their chance had arrived too, with some dangerous play that came close. With a couple of minutes left to play, Sead Kolašinac replaced Kieran Tierney, and ramped up the pressure on Wolves, but despite four minutes’ injury time, and some unfortunate shooting on our part, a draw became the order of the day. And at that point, the boos and catcalls from our supporters echoed around the stadium.

Another poor performance as part of another disappointing match, in which we were unable, yet again, to hold on to a lead. Bad choice of substitutions at critical points in the match that changed our formation also cost us the game as well. Why wasn’t Nicolas Pépé used against Wolves today? We needed his vision and skill in this match! The most damning statistic is that Wolves had 25 shots at us today, with eight on target; we had ten shots with four on target. What on earth is going on and what can be done? We are going backwards, instead of progressing, where all of our rivals are all advancing; our next Premiership match is against Leicester City next Saturday. If we lose that game, all hell will break loose, as at the moment, we look anything but a top four team. Where are we going? This could easily get worse before it gets better. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Vitoria SC at Estádio D. Afonso Henriques on Wednesday, 6th November at 3.50pm (Europa League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.