Tag Archives: Norwich

10 academy graduates see Arsenal through

Well that was an interesting match wasn’t it…

Somehow, despite every senior player on the pitch being atrocious, we got through, we won, we are in the hat for the next round of the Copacabana Cup after beating Norwich 2-1 in Extra Time.

Hero of the night was Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah who came off the bench to save the day for Arsenal.

Over the years I have debated with GC on numerous platforms about having local lads in the team. I have always been of the opinion that if they are good enough, they will get in the side, and they we are a global football team in a global game chasing top honours. We are not care in the community, we should not deliberately have a weaker side just to accommodate local lads.

Yes, in theory, I would love us to be like an Athletic Bilbao, where we have 11 lads all from Islington in the starting XI, but then we would be a mid table side with no hope of success, like Bilbao.

But it was pleasing to see yesterday Arsenal give game time to 10 academy graduates.

In the days of modern academy’s, not all 10 were local born lads who have been with the club since they were 8.

Goal keeper Matt Macey, making his first team debut, was signed from Bristol Rovers at the age of 18. At just 23, he put in a solid performance with a couple of exceptional saves. A critic would say he should have been out quicker for their goal, but overall he can be please with his Arsenal debut.

Macey became the first English goal keeper to play for Arsenal in a senior game at home since moving to the emirates Stadium.

Reiss Nelson – from Elephant and Castle – impressed once more in the wing back position. With Arsenal pretty much through in Europe, I would not mind him starting a few games behind the striker, as he is clearly a talented attacker. And still just 17.

On the other side of the pitch, Essex boy Ainsley Maitland-Niles (from Ilford) did well. He is clearly not a left wing back, and a few of our attacks broke down when he had to cut in on the right side. If we do give Nelson a chance higher up the pitch, I would like to see Maitland-Niles move across to the right where he will be more comfortable. He could prove to be good long-term cover for Hector Bellerin.

Chuba Akpom, now 22, will probably be frustrated by his nights work. The Canning Town lad did not play poorly, infact him coming on injected much needed pace at the top of the field. His frustrations will be that whilst he made his debut 3 years ago, he is still awaiting his first goal, whilst Nketiah got two on his debut. Akpom’s future is shakey as other younger strikers begin to impress.

Eddie Nketiah has only been with the club for 2 years, having been released by Chelsea in 2015. The Lewisham lad took both his goals very well, and I am sure there will be plenty of loan offers from Championship sides on the table in January.

Josh da Silva (another Ilford born Essex boy) and Joe Willock (Waltham Forest) also got another appearance under their belt, both coming on in the second half of Extra Time.

Arsenal also had 3 senior players on the pitch who came through the youth system.

Stevenage’s finest, Jack Wilshere continued his rehabilitation playing 114 minutes. This after a 15 minute run out on Sunday.

The extra time probably means he will now not play against Swansea on Saturday as Arsenal take it slowly with him. Everyone’s hears would have been in their mouths at one point when it seemed he was holding his groin, but he battled through.

Francis Coquelin, who came through the academy system alongside Wilshere – via France – had a poor game. His technique was shown up once more, and he has to realise that he is not a playmaker. He should be told not to cross the halfway line.

The final academy graduate, and most successful in recent years, was Lagos born Alex Iwobi, who has been with the club since he was 9. He had a mixed game, but it must be remembered he is still just 21. Not much older than many of the other youngsters, yet considered a senior player.

Writing this blog, it is interesting how far and wide young players now come from. The dream of XI Islington Boys will never happen. The 10 academy lads did have a lot of Londoners in it, but the closest you get to a proper local lad is Joe Willock, who was born not too far from the Hale End Academy.

It is actually interesting walking through Walthamstow Central Station at about 7pm. You see a load of youngsters in their Arsenal tracksuits getting on the train home, to whatever part of London the reside in – the journey to Lewisham or Elephant & Castle that Nelson or Nketiah would have made as teenagers is an hour long one.

None of the Arsenal youngsters performed poorly, but they were nearly let down by their senior pros.

Olivier Giroud did nothing. He struggles when teams defend high.

The current formation does not suit Theo Walcott. He is not an Alexis Sanchez. He does not have the technique to play in tight spaces behind the striker. If we are going to continue mirroring the formations no matter who plays, Walcott surely has to drop to the bench.

Coquelin, as previously said, was poor. He thinks he is an attacking player, but too often play breaks down with him in advanced positions.

Wilshere and Iwobi also had poor games. Neither seemed to know who was playing central midfield and who was supposed to be attacking.

All 5 had poor games, and none of them will be screaming to start in the Premier League team.

One senior player who did look good was Mathieu Debuchy.

Debuchy has had an unlucky time of it at Arsenal, with injury and the development of Hector Bellerin meaning that he became surplus to requirements.

He has thrown his toys out of the pram more than once and his time at the club looked to be over this summer. But he played well yesterday.

As long as his attitude remains positive and he stays fit, he provides good cover for Bellerin at right wing back, and on the right hand side of the defensive 3. I do not think he lost a header yesterday.

Debuchy should look at Nacho Monreal and the way the Spaniard has re-invented himself and, despite being 32, take the same positive approach.

On the two points that Norwich fans are moaning about, it was never a red card for Mohamad Elneny. The Norwich player was a long way from goal, Holding was up with play, and the Norwich player cut infront of Elneny.

What could Elneny do? Anyone who drives knows that if, on a motorway, a car swerves infront of you and slams on the breaks, no matter how quick you reactions are, you will go into the back of them.

As for the penalty, there was almost no contact. He did not pull him back. He did little wrong. An example of the fact that contact does not mean it is a foul.

I was impressed by 20 year old James Maddison. I first saw him a couple of years ago as a teenager playing for Coventry, and he looked very comfortable on the ball. He would not have been out of place in an Arsenal shirt last night. The lad has a big future.

So we are in the quarter final of the only domestic trophy Arsene Wenger has never won. Manchester United and Man City are also already in the hat, with Chelsea and Spurs to play tonight.

The big clubs are often criticised for not taking the tournament seriously, but there is going to be a big presence from those sides in the QF.

Too early to be dreaming about another trip to Wembley?



Arsenal Protest – Some Honest Thoughts

End of April. A lovely sunny day. The sort of day that makes going to football a pleasure for a supporter. No heavy coats, travel light and watch your team, enjoy the day.

There was an undercurrent to this match though. Many fans who are not happy at the clubs ambition and feel that the club are just treading water and happy to just float along with mediocrity were looking to start a protest for change. This group of supporters decided that a way of doing this peacefully was to print out some banners saying “It’s time for change” which covers a few angles from Board, to manager, to ambition, to spending money, to atmosphere inside stadium, to treating supporters like customers, to the squad, to having no leaders, to our style of play, to the boring football served up, I no doubt could go on.

The protest was arranged to be made inside the stadium to get maximum exposure. Of course protest could affect the team, but three games to go and a season where a rocket up the arse of the manger and players would still not have made a difference to our let’s try to reach 700 passes in the game and try to walk the ball into the net.13094134_10153759225883003_6923289599038057988_n

The idea was for fans to hold them aloft on twelve and seventy-eight minutes, highlighting the twelve year of no league title. I was unaware that any songs would be attributed to go with this protest, more it would be a silent, but visible protest. I did not hear any  anti Arsene/Arsenal songs or chants from where I sat.

During the week the media had been highlighting the protest, however, on the day, the one on twelve minutes was a bit of a damp squib. However, strangely it had a different effect. The crowd that had been largely silent from kick off (and all season if we’re to be fair) started singing “One Arsene Wenger” and again to be fair it was at least half the stadium chanting it.

How hypocritical seeing as at no stage this season had that song been sung out loud and proud by those supporters.

Yet the effect the banners had was to get the home crowd going, this was followed by a pretty decent atmosphere for fifteen minutes or so as the crowd responded and got behind the team. Just what Arsene wanted and called for. Yet even with the crowd no vocally backing the team it had absolutely no effect as the team continued to pass, pass, pass, pass and lose possession, ending the half against a team in the bottom three with zero shots on target.13094407_10153759228193003_1656619385808908333_n

As the first half wore on, the very same people around me that were belting out “One Arsene Wenger” were then groaning at the football being served up in front of them. The half time whistle went and you could clearly hear boos and this was also from some around me that were singing his name during when the banners went up. I lost it a bit, turned round and shouted at them, you sing his name then boo you his team, have you no fucking idea, the hypocrisy!

The game itself was a steaming pile of crap. Norwich were shocking as you would expect from a team in the bottom three, yet even they can sit back, defend and say to Arsenal you can play in that middle third of the pitch all day for all we care, make 700 passes, because we know you’ll end up not shooting and giving us the ball back eventually.13139102_10153759227863003_1360654799750726710_n

Arsene made early substitutes yesterday for a change, maybe the Sat Nav GPS system wasn’t working and he had to think for himself. Arsene more often than normal got out of his seat and walked to the touch line. When Danny Welbeck came on for Iwobi once again like Campbell v Swansea you could hear the boos ring out, more for not bringing off Giroud I would imagine, but there were boos regardless. Once again I got up, turned round and shouted,  “so now you’re booing the decisions of the man that you sung his name out with pride.

Yet on this occasion Arsene did have the last laugh as Danny scored the winner, from a Giroud knock-down. Mind you Giroud was a disgrace for the rest of the match.

Then on seventy-eight minutes the banners (albeit fewer) than on twelve minutes were raised again and the “One Arsene Wenger” song was again sung out loudly and for some with so much pride (as if they were singing the national anthem), but this also was a lot less louder the one in first half. During the second half of poor football you could hear the groans, which were also coming from the same fans that belted out his name again.13139210_10153759228218003_1727717860023279785_n

Fifteen minutes before the end crowds of people started leaving, this added to the 10/15 thousand already empty seats made for grim viewing and yet they supporters still kept leaving, again some being the very same people singing his name with pride. At the final whistle, I stayed, I always do, the stadium was a third full.

I will be interested to see how the crowd react in the final home game against Aston Villa when the team do a lap of appreciation. How will that go down? I am all for laps of appreciation when I know your team have given their all over the season, yet this season? For me it’s been a poorest under Arsene by a mile. There was no FOCUS, no SOLIDARITY and  no MENTAL STRENGTH.

In my opinion I would say Hector, Nacho, Lauren, Alexis, Cech, Cazorla when he played have been  our best performers.  I’d give a shout out to Iwobi and Campbell who did all they could, the former for coming in and giving his all and playing some neat football and the latter when picked did well for a young lad coming in under the circumstances.  It’s been an awful season and I for one will be glad to see it end and look forward to the Euro’s.13138815_10153759228113003_2040249950285305347_n

I’ll end on the “time for a change” note. I could be happy with a situation where the change could be Arsene changes. A summer where he goes and gets  the players we so obviously need, the leaders we need. Let me see him change his tactics and formation to suit our personal available in any given match due to injuries, suspensions and also play to our opponents strengths. Sometimes you have to play a certain was to get what you want.

Stop the endless passing game that goes nowhere. It only works when you have Tomas, Jack and Santi, players who can drive you forward and pick that amazing pass out like Ozil. It doesn’t work when they are all out with long-term injuries. It also works when you have strikers that can finish.

It does not work when you have Elney, Coquelin and Ramsey who can  pass all day long, across the pitch, backwards and sideward’s, but once they reach the twenty-yard line they do not posses the creative passing game.

Do this, start competing to win the title, not top four, Start competing to win the Champions League, not reach the last sixteen and you might find that the supporters looking for change might get behind Arsene again. Remember we’re football supporters, who can change with whatever way the wind blows.

Harlow Gooner