The ‘Vanishing Gap’ and how Spurs can win the North London Derby – Daniel De Luca

The North London Derby, the only game that matters to me this week.

I always fear the away leg less as a Spurs fan. It’s like a free shot to be a hero. Always expected to lose, Always happy to draw, and almost always failing to win. At White Hart Lane in recent years Spurs have more than caught up.

Since Redknapp took over in mid 2008 there have been 7 North London Derbies in the League, Spurs have won 4 and drawn 2 of those encounters.
In the same period at the Emirates in the League there have been 7 meetings, Arsenal have won 4 and drawn 2 of those encounters.

So what’s my point? Identical League records over 7 years that might surprise some people, but explains Arsenals clear dominance in the fixture is over. A thing of what is now the past. But the bigger point of note is one that should be expected, when there’s not an awful lot between 2 sides home advantage is a huge factor. That is something Tottenham will need to overcome tactically and not just a reliance on passion and endeavour.

Amongst Arsenals 4 home wins are 3 by 3 goal margins, all other winning margins in the fixture over this period are by a solitary goal. This is a stat that highlights the biggest difference between the two sides for me. Arsenal have a ruthless streak and an ability when on top to put teams to the sword, kill teams off. Last week at Swansea they killed their opponents off in a ten minute spell of an otherwise even game. This is what Tottenham will need to be wary of on Sunday during long spells of Arsenal possession. Indeed in each of Arsenal’s victories over Tottenham by 3 goal margins just mentioned, Spurs conceded two goals within 3 minutes of each other or less. Game on to game over just like that. If Spurs ever are to “bridge the gap” between themselves and their rivals over the course of a season, and the best chance to do so may have passed for the next few years, it is this area that needs to be addressed. Ruthlessness and mental toughness.

But for now, it’s all about Sunday, so how can Spurs win this?
No one can deny Arsenal have an exceptional team. On an individual basis they are all marginally overrated, with the obvious exception of Sanchez and I’d include Laurent Koscielny, but as a team on their day they all contribute to being very difficult to contain. This is far more important than being good individuals.
If Ozil ever puts in a 10 out of 10 display Arsenal will award him 12 if you catch my drift, but he is finally starting to play better this season and Spurs’s young central midfield will have to work hard to restrict his space. Walcott being absent is a massive benefit to Spurs this week, not because he is Diego Maradona, but because the pace he is blessed
with leaves defending teams a dilemma. The speed he possesses means it is doubtful we would have the courage to defend with a high line, dropping back concedes possession and territory which is something you don’t want to be doing at the Emirates unless you are solely intending to counter attack, I think Spurs need to do more than just sit back and try to hit on the break and hopefully will take advantage of Walcott missing and try to keep Arsenal 20 yards further from goal.

Whilst not the same as Ozil in terms of name and glamour on the pitch Eriksen has influenced far more big games than his counterpart and keeping him to the free role is key to Spurs competing in the final 3rd. If Spurs opt to play higher up the pitch expect him to see a lot more of the ball, also dragging the arsenal midfield wide similarly to how he did with Nemanja Matic on New Years Day, leaving Alli and Dembele in particular space to drive forward into to support the attack.
If Koscielny doesn’t make it then that will be a boost, teams always struggle without their best centre half and I’d expect Kane to have some extra joy against the Arsenal back line without him.

The big problem then is Sanchez, he is the one who can drive Tottenham back and stop the full back joining in Spurs attacks making it more difficult to retain possession in effective areas. Dier, Alli, and Dembele are going to have to put in big shifts to support Walker and Davies, (Rose likely to miss out is a big blow) when Sanchez and Cazorla lead the attacks if they are going to get a result on Sunday.

Sanchez is the difference between these two teams right now make no mistake about that, Spurs can just about match Arsenal player for player all over the park and even better them in one or two cases, except for the little Chilean. He is THAT player, the one that Tottenham just don’t have right now.

The Sanchez factor and home advantage combined mean I still have to predict an Arsenal win if my life depended on it, also consider Spurs’s only away wins this season have come at Sunderland and Bournemouth, hardly fortresses. But if Spurs get their tactics right all over the park and can find away to keep the Arsenal superstar quiet they CAN win this game. Arsenal would be naive to think otherwise and so would the Tottenham team, and as I write this I start to believe more and more. By kick off on Sunday I’ll 100% convinced we can win there. That’s what away derbies are about for Tottenham, realism overtaken by hope that builds and builds to a point where why shouldn’t a win be possible? This is exactly what the players need to feel when wearing the shirt on Sunday.

Spurs have to believe it, and they have to want to win, not draw and hope for a bonus. They can use the advantage of defending higher up the pitch to dictate the pace more than usual in this fixture and it could still be an unlikely Derby day to remember at the toughest of hunting grounds. Maybe less unlikely than before though, Spurs’s progress in this fixture is there for all to see.

This is not the Spurs of yesteryear, it certainly isn’t the Arsenal either.


Apostolos’ preview of Man Utd vs West Brom & Predicted XI

Man Utd vs West Brom

Predicted XI | MUFC vs. West Brom (7/11/2015)

GOAL | David de Gea

DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo
After picking up his fifth booking of the season against Crystal Palace Matteo Darmian will sit this one out due to suspension, while Valencia and Phil Jones look to be injured. As per the CSKA game on Tuesday evening I think van Gaal will opt for Young at right-back again with Blind in the centre, partnering “Mike” Smalling. Rojo is doing a fine job replacing the long-term injured Luke Shaw at left back.

MIDFIELD | Jesse Lingard, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay
Jesse Lingard’s recent (and surprising) inclusion has been a breath of fresh air during what has been a strangely unadventurous, dull spell for United – with the manager favouring a defensive, pedestrian style over attacking football in recent games. Just look at the below table (via highlighting our low number of shots vs. Premier League opponents, while we average one of the highest possession per game in the league!


Mata, who has been a regular on the right, was subbed off for Memphis during Tuesday’s Champions League win vs. CSKA with the Dutchman playing a central role and Lingard moving out on the wing. 10 minutes later Jesse volleys in a peach of a ball to Wayne Rooney who headed in the only goal of the game. Yes, it was one moment of magic out of 404 minutes of lethargic, negative football, but it certainly lifted the team and atmosphere at Old Trafford – one that has been described as frustrating and surreal. Let’s hope he can continue to spark life into this tedious United side.

In my line-up I have also reinstated the services of Herrera, playing behind the forward, and Depay on the left wing, mainly because Young will be forced to play in defence again.

ATTACK | Anthony Martial
Readers of my blog will now exactly where I stand on this one. As much as van Gaal’s tactics need to change in order to enable us to compete seriously for the title and veer away from the “boring” tag that is currently haunting us, he needs to start by playing the best players at his disposal in their best positions. A simple statement perhaps…so why does he insist on playing the out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney up front every week while the sharper, better option in Martial is being wasted on the wing?

Prediction | 1-0
West Brom are currently 12th in the league however on current form I don’t think anyone expects us to give them a hammering. Tony Pulis usually sets his teams up to be difficult to break down, so given the lack of innovation we’re currently displaying I can’t see us scoring more than one – while for a team who have scored only three goals out of six away games will struggle against Big Mike and co.

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The SSN premier league predictor continues…

Last week’s predictor competition was so tight, there was no clear winner!

5 people remain who all got 5/10 games correct.  This week the game continues!

Lee, Harry, Cosmas, Kyri & the lovely Holly be sure to fill in your predictions here so we can crown the ‘SSN Predictor King/Queen’.

Here are this week’s fixtures! Best of luck to you all! image


They don’t get it… By Rob Palmer

Don’t say this too loudly…..I enjoyed Andy’s article. I respected what he had to say. It resonated with me as it’s familiar to my own experiences. Like me, Andy is from London. NORTH London to be exact. The support he has for his team was not a choice. The club is in his blood.

On Sunday, if Woolwich take the lead, the slightest bit of atmosphere will inevitably be conjured up between 55,000 home fans as they make just enough noise for Andy to hear them sing “1-0 in your cup final”. He will then realise how little reality there is in his comments stating that “for the Arsenal fans this is not just another game”. The truth is they don’t get it, the rivalry, it means nothing to them.

Andy does not represent most Woolwich fans. They are opposites. Their support has not been passed down from within the family. It’s been selected at random because they were first Premier League team on FIFA 2003 that had good stats. Picked by some tourist visiting London for the first time because his lucky colour is red. He/she still enjoys going every few years, but ensures an early exit to avoid the crammed trains. Chosen by a family because it’s a convenient commute and the seats in the new stadium have more leg room than other clubs. Adopted by some public school toff that moved to London from whatever generic English country village he grew up in, hoping to buy some credibility with the football lads.

It’s no wonder they attract this type of support. Look at their history. They are the original MK Dons, who after a failed bid to merge with Fulham, ditched their roots in Woolwich, South London due to lack of revenue. They came north of the river, trying to attract the wealthy newcomers to that part of the City.

Failure to secure a spot in the top flight via promotion was not an issue either. In 1919 after finishing 5th in the Second Division, they were elected into the top tier of English football, taking the spot that belonged to their new neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur. Their chairman Henry Norris was later prosecuted for his role in their rise up the football ranks. They play at the top level not due skill, ability or achievement, but through money and corruption.

When it comes to the North London Derby they don’t get it. They think Chelsea & Manchester United are the bigger games because that’s what their Sky box told them. They haven’t made that daunting walk to school the morning after a defeat like Andy and I used to. The sense of fear you had, knowing the taunts that would come from the kids in your class who supported the rival team. I have been hearing it all week from their fans, jokes on Facebook about how it is the biggest game of our season but not theirs. I pity them.

No matter how many times they win the derby, no matter how many times they finish above us in the league, they will never be us. Tottenham Hotspur will always be only true North London Football Club. The team that’s support is true, passed down from generation to generation. For many of us, one of the few links back to our working class roots. The team that’s played with style for centuries not decades. First non-league side to win the FA Cup. First English team to win the double, First English team to win a European trophy.

Woolwich are not a football club. They are a franchise. The symbol of modern football. Playing chants through the speakers to generate a bit of atmosphere in their shiny new stadium. Exactly what Thatcher & Murdoch dreamed the game would become when they stuck their oar in. They were always this way, so they happily tagged along to the gentrification of the game.

Football is what it is though, and football support is about rivalry. If you don’t hate the rival, you don’t really support your club. It’s men being territorial and proud, like Neanderthals shouting from their caves. It’s what you see at Rangers v Celtic, Lazio v Roma, River v Boca. It’s that atmosphere that simmers on the edge, teasing at the prospect of genuine conflict, like how Stringfellows teases before the full bedroom enjoyment.

At White Hart Lane in September the atmosphere was volatile. Tottenham were losing the game but the fans still sang proudly. They made it uncomfortable, singing about how they hated them, letting the away fans know they were in our territory.

Woolwich will never have that again. They never really had it. Their fans, largely bunch of sheep, who walk around Finsbury Park with their red & white scarves desperate to be a part of something.

Prediction: 1-0 Spurs

Bayern give the Gunners a Muller-ing at the Allianz Arena

Where do I start? There was so many bad things about that Arsenal performance that I don’t even know where to begin. Obviously you have to take into account that we were playing one of Europe’s elite & of course our injury problems didn’t help at all. Am I making excuses? No way, because regardless of the circumstances a club of our size and with our quality should not be conceding 5 goals against anybody.

The frustrating thing is that on the odd occasions we managed to string some passes together, the likes of Alexis & Ozil were able to carry the ball up the pitch & we did look as though we could create & make things happen. We were barely able to last ten minutes without conceding though as Lewandowski beat the offside trap and headed the ball into the far corner with great accuracy.

I was absolutely fuming! We had set out to defend and play on the break, our whole game plan was based around staying switched on at the back and within ten minutes it had all gone to pot. Bayern were now in front and had us exactly where they wanted us.

In fairness to the players the response straight after the first goal was fantastic. Ozil and Sanchez combined and Monreal overlapped well to deliver a dangerous ball across the 6 yard box. ‘OZIL! GOAL! ARSENAL ARE LEVEL.’ We all leapt out of our seats in celebration! It was short lived though, the camera panned over to Neuer who was protesting towards the extra officials next to the goal. Rightly so & in the end the goal was ruled out for a handball.

The next 17 mins of the game were pretty decent. I mean Bayern were still dominating possession & Petr Cech had to make a few saves as you would expect but I genuinely thought ‘we are definitely in this’. But then just before the half hour mark another piece of slack defending allowed Muller to fire a shot in off Mertesacker and put the ball beyond Cech’s reach. Then the onslaught began, constant pressure from the Germans and pure dominance. They controlled the game and went on to put 5 past us and make it a night to forget.

It was as if their players had a shield around them, we just weren’t getting close enough. We all know you can’t afford to leave players of that calibre in so much room and you certainly can’t give them that sort of time unchallenged. This was most evident in the build up to Bayern’s 5th goal where Douglas Costa was allowed to run right through the heart of our team before teeing up Muller for his second of the night.

The defending was attrocious last night, simply not good enough for a team aspiring to be champions of England. Particularly the performances of Mertesacker & Debuchy for me were among some of the worst on the pitch. To be fair to the French international though he was a bit, just a bit better in the second half where he made a few important challenges. Most notably the one where Cech was rounded by Arjen Robben and he got back just in the nick of time. De ja vu of the Gomis chance at Swansea?


The only positive from last night was Olivier Giroud’s sensational goal at 4-0 down. We conceded a mixture last night of sloppy goals and some classy ones (Alaba’s one springs to mind) but overall as a team the defensive display was poor and as Monsieur Wenger said himself ‘we were not at the races’. A ‘Muller-ing’ at the hands of the Germans and we now head into the NLD this weekend without a load of key players, with Kos & Bellerin likely to miss out as well the pressures really on.

Spurs are a side in form and haven’t been beaten since the opening day of the season. They come to the Emirates full of confidence and although I still expect us to take all 3 points it may not be as straight forward as we would like.

The injuries continue & the door to the last 16 of the champions league slowly closing on us…

But I have faith we will just sneak through and all will be forgiven.

Onto the small matter of the derby!


Harry Symeou (AFC)

Apostolos’ ‘How to deal with a problem like Wayne Rooney’

How to deal with a problem like Wayne Rooney | A three point plan
1. Drop him from the team. Immediately.

The fact that Wayne Rooney, one of United’s consistently poorest performing players, is still securing a spot in the side – week in, week out – is simply ludicrous. Rooney is a player judged on two very clear metrics – his goal scoring ability (as a striker) and his leadership qualities (as the captain) – and it’s fair to say on current form he is dramatically failing to deliver on both fronts.

If there is one thing Sir Alex was famous for during his successful tenure at the helm of United it was that he was a man who was not afraid to make controversial decisions if he felt it was for the greater good of the team. And that meant dropping big players: players he felt, regardless of reputation, were either a negative influence on the side, ill of discipline or simply in need of some time out of the spotlight due to a loss in form. At the moment, Rooney ticks at least two of these boxes – potentially all three if you attribute his “discipline” not to his temperament but to his inability to stick to his role on the pitch and follow instructions. Just look at this heat-map from last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park…not really the sort of movement you’d expect from a striker!

There is no doubt that Louis van Gaal was brought on as a more natural successor to Sir Alex Ferguson than the apparently weak, timid David Moyes. Here is a man, we thought, that would bring a level of order and discipline to the side, something so dramatically absent since Sir Alex left in 2013. Yet by continuously insisting on keeping faith with Wayne Rooney and mishandling him he is damaging both the player’s reputation and his own, while suffocating the team in the process.

Van Gaal is renowned across the footballing world as a stubborn, no nonsense manager, however in this instance he is going against the same values that have made him a great. He needs to stick to his principles and treat the whole squad in the same way. In the same way Ferguson didn’t overthink or worry about dropping Beckham or Keane, or selling Hughes, Ince and Kanchelskis when all three were key players, van Gaal needs to do the right thing and give Rooney a rest.

2. Restore Martial as no.9 and Herrera to the withdrawn striker role.

Ok, this one is not really a suggestion to directly improve Rooney, but more to help a team that is struggling to create chances.

Prior to Rooney’s goal against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League United had failed to score in 404 minutes. Not entirely the striker’s fault, however if something is not quit working in United’s attack why would the manager not start doing the logical thing and make changes to the system and personnel? Martial is clearly United’s best option in attack, however in order to accommodate (yes, you guessed it) Wayne Rooney, the 19-year old has been forced to play out wide. And where does that leave the ambitious, dynamic Ander Herrera, United’s best attacking midfielder? Out of the side. As for the left wing, I would play Ashley Young as long Memphis continues to underperform, giving Martial improved service.

3. Emulate Paul Scholes.

Back to Rooney, then: following Paul Scholes’ development at United is, for me, an obvious one.

The career trajectory of Paul Scholes, one again determined by Sir Alex and his impeccable man-management skills, is quite fascinating. Starting life at United as a striker, competing for a place in the side with Cantona, Cole and Hughes, Scholes eventually found his home in midfield once Cole and Yorke became United’s regular attacking pair; and after the introduction of van Nistelrooy and Veron in 2001, Scholes found himself in the no.10 role in order to accommodate Veron in CM, where in 2003 he experienced his highest scoring season at United. Fast forward a few years later to 2006/07, van Nistelrooy leaves United, Ronaldo stars in a more attacking role, and Scholes (at the age of 33) plays arguably his best season in a United shirt. Recognising his strengths as an incredible passer and midfield general with outstanding vision, as well as his weaknesses as a player with diminishing pace heading towards the end of his career, Sir Alex began playing Scholes as a holding midfielder. It was during this period – not where he was banging in 20 goals a season – that he was recognised as the greatest midfielder of his generation.

I’m not saying it is something that will instantly work, but given that there are a number of obvious similarities between the two players – from their vision and excellent reading of the game, to their passing range – van Gaal needs to consider repositioning Rooney alongside Schneiderlin/Schweinsteiger/Carrick ASAP in order to help get the best out of the misfiring and once-great striker. This potential genius move will not only help prolong his career it will, more importantly, work to his strengths in order to get the best out of him and resurrect his reputation during the remaining few years he has left in professional football.

A preview of this weekends NLD by Andy Paps

North London Derby – Just Another Game?

There are many games the Arsenal fans lift themselves for. Title challenges against Man Utd down the years, the A$hley Cole/Mourinho Chelski rivalry, Man City’s money and the Arsenal second team, Stoke and the Orcs…

But for most Gooners the main rivalry has and always will be against the Spuds from down the road. In my opinion its a rivalry which differs from others. Traditionally games with the rivals are always tight affairs. However, there’s something in the NLD (North London Derby) which has always delivered high scoring, memorable and entertaining games. Both teams have always had the attitude of just coming out and going for it (most of the time to Sperz’ detriment, it definitely suits Arsenal more).


But is it just another league game? You get the same number of points from beating Sperz as you do beating Norwich at home. The answer should be yes. It should be only another game. It should be just another 3 points when you’re challenging for the title (or 4th place in recent times). It should be…but…the fact is…it isn’t. It isn’t just another 3 points. It’s 3 points gained from beating “THEM”.

I share a season ticket at the Emirates, it’s no coincidence that this game always gets first pick ahead of the rest (incidentally, I got first pick this year!). In my early years the games tended to always lean towards an Arsenal victory but in recent times the gap has closed between the teams. It used to be a no win situation for a lot of Arsenal fans. Win and it was “you’re supposed to beat them”, but lose and its double the pain. Recent years and the slow Arsenal decline coinciding with the Spuds improving means they’ve closed the gap slightly. There have been flashes of over eagerness by the fans from ‘the Lane’ the most hilarious being the year of “lasagne-gate” or as recent as a few years back “Mind the Gap” and all that. Brilliant.

The truth is, the gap has closed between the teams and for Arsenal this game is massive for so much more than bragging rights. The team is on a magnificent run but still some fans are unhappy. A win against the Spuds is the exact thing to possibly lift the mood of the Wenger Out brigade. For the other Gooners (the Wenger followers), it’s an important 3pts to keep up the pace with City at the top. The team needs to come out and lift the fans from the off, and the fans in turn will really get behind the team and support rather than the odd moan/groan (it sickens me that there are still Gooners that moan about us).

There are so many treasured moments from these games for me personally…winning the league at the lane is still the greatest game I’ve been to and nothing will ever come close. Henry from the half way lane, Adams at Wembley, 5-4 at the lane, 2-0 down to win 5-2 (all games I was at). If we see a hint of the fight we got from those days then we’ll definitely end up with the result we all want to see on Sunday.

Is the North London Derby just another game? This week, for most Arsenal fans it isn’t. It’s a chance to tell the media and or Wenger doubters that we are serious contenders. Come on Arsenal! Make us Proud. Lets end it with the famous quote from our greatest captain Tony Adams, a man who always fought in these games, never a truer word said…

Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”


Cast your votes for this weeks ‘BELLEND OF THE WEEK’ – nominations on the SSN podcast!

This weeks nominations are as follow…

Harry’s Nomination: Co-host of the Harry & Alavi show, Mr Alavi himself.

Reason: For saying in last weeks podcast that ‘Juventus are top of La Liga’ – incredible statement from a man running a football podcast!


Alavi’s Nomination:  Andy Caroll, West Ham Utd Striker.

Reason: Awful clearance/bit of skill, just awful piece of play in West Ham’s defeat at Watford


Get over to our Twitter page to register your vote! Link below.


Unbeaten in 10, Spurs march on! – De Luca’s report on the win over Aston Villa.

10 games unbeaten in the league for Spurs now as they eventually saw off a poor but gritty Aston Villa at the Lane last night.

Moussa Dembele who has looked a player rejuvenated in recent weeks powered through off the left to finish smartly and give Spurs the lead inside 3 minutes.

You might have thought that would be the first of many, but as the clock ticked towards half time Spurs had not added to their tally despite the dominant nature of their display. Kane and Rose going close with efforts as Spurs looked to add to the opener. Only a Scott Sinclair effort after a jinking run was worthy of the highlight reel from a Villa perspective.

Just before stoppage time though the crucial second goal came, Dele Alli held his run before chesting down a lose ball and guiding a finish into the bottom corner. It was just what Tottenham and Alli, who was to take home the man of the match champagne, deserved.

If someone said at half time Spurs would need an injury time winner to be sure of victory you would have laughed. Or cried maybe. But Spurs do have previous in the department of throwing away victories.

This game had been far to easy you sense Spurs were enjoying their stroll towards full time far too much to bother killing the game off.

Villa out of nothing sparked into life for the last 20 minutes, which co-incided with the removal of Dembele.
Every season there is one player who unexpectedly emerges as the man who becomes the difference in your side. I think that will be Dembele for Spurs this season. The power and composure he demonstrates on a good day is something not in the armoury of the other midfielders on the Spurs roster. At times he can be unplayable.

Bacuna hit a curling effort which bounced off the foot of the post and whilst Lloris might think he had it covered it was too close for comfort and this buoyed Villa on, within minutes they had a goal back after a big deflection from Ayew’s long range strike. Suddenly Villa were in the game. Lloris came charging out for a cross that he could never possibly claim and Gestede somehow nodded wide when anything on target was 2-2.

The remainder of this match had the feel of the Stoke game in August when Spurs last threw away a two goal lead to draw a seemingly already won match. Drawing this would have been more criminal.
Ayew smashed one narrowly over as Villa got closer to an unlikely equaliser.

Fairplay to them, they were pushing forward and had Spurs penned in, but as time was looking like it was beating them the killer blow was delivered by Kane, brilliantly finishing a flowing team move in the break.
This had been Harry’s worst performance this season in my opinion, his all round display not as impressive as they had been today,
Plays well doesn’t score, plays badly knocks in his best finish of the season so far. There’s only one thing that people count when you’re a striker.

Another 3 points for Spurs, and a 10th league game unbeaten. Next stop the Emirates. Never confident but always hopeful, and why not? This is shaping up to be a very good season.


Daniel De Luca (SPURS FAN)

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal Preview – from Kyri Christodoulou

Arsenal travel to the Bavaria on Wednesday night in very good form, Arsenal have won 5 out off the last 6 in all competitions including a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at the Emirates last month.

Both teams had very good spells in the game at the Emirates and the game could have gone either way really.

Just like at the Emirates last month Arsenal have to accept that Bayern will dominate possession for most of the game and Arsenal will have to be well organised and have a good shape off the ball just like they did against the Germans in London.

Petr Cech had to make 2 top saves from Bayern’s Thiago and Robert Lewandowski in each half, Arsenal dug in and took their chance with Giroud’s goal coming from an unusual Manuel Neuer blunder.

Football - Arsenal v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group F - Emirates Stadium, London, England - 20/10/15 Mesut Ozil celebrates with manager Arsene Wenger after scoring the second goal for Arsenal Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien

Arsenal went on to win 2-0 in the end with Mesut Ozil’s effort crossing the line in injury time despite Neuer’s efforts to stop it crossing the line.

Maybe what helped Arsenal is the fact they had to beat Bayern or it was curtains as far as the Champions League is concerned…similar situation in Munich this week.

I still feel if Arsenal loose in Munich they could still scrape through but what a difference a point or even 3 would make for the Gunners.

Even though Bayern are arguably the best team in the world at the moment Arsenal shouldn’t go to Germany with any fear, or what would be the point?

Why bother being in the Champions League if your going to fear Europe’s elite (your in the Champions League to play these teams). Bayern Munich will want to make a statement in the Allianz Arena after getting beat in London.

Arsenal’s record in Munich stretching back as far as 2001 is P4 W1 D1 L2 but the 2 defeats coming at the old Olympic stadium, Arsenal have played twice at the Allianz Arena and have won and drawn but you could argue both them games were in the 2nd legs of knockout ties and both were probably over after the 1st game.

Arsenal’s record in Germany since 2006 has seen them play there 6 times and lose just the once to Dortmund last season. So if you believe in records, Arsenal stand a chance on Wednesday. The German teams have done better against Arsenal in North London though.

I’ve seen Arsenal play against some top teams domestically and in Europe, home and away but the 2nd best team I’ve seen at Arsenal (After Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team) was Jupp Heynckes Bayern Munich who came to the Emirates in February 2013. In that first half they absolutely played Arsenal off the park and it was fantastic football to watch I have to admit. They ended up beating us 3-1 on the night and that side went on to win the treble so they were pretty good.

Bayern Munich’s start to their season has been ridiculously good they set a new Bundesliga record by winning their first 9 league games in a row including two 5-1 home wins against a high flying Dortmund and a very good Wolfsburg side who’ve shown what they can do to good teams in their own back yard. Also beating Wolfsburg 3-1 away at the Volkswagen Arena, a place they don’t loose very often in the DFB-Pokal Cup (Wolfsburg a team that finished 2nd in the Bundesliga behind Bayern last season.)

They did however drop their first domestic points of the season on Friday being held to a surprise 0-0 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern had a starting eleven off Neuer, Rafinha, Boateng, Benatia, Alaba, Lahm, Thiago, Robben, Muller, Costa, Lewandowski.

Robben is back from injury and it will be interesting to see if Guardiola starts the Dutchman after coming back from injury only a week ago.

Bayern still have Ribery and Goetze on the sidelines but have Badstuber back in the squad with Arsenal still missing Arteta, Ox, Walcott, Ramsey, Ospina, Rosicky, Wilshere, Welbeck so the squad is a little thin currently and may have to play the same team that started at Swansea on Saturday.

This is the third time in 4 years the two sides have met in this competition and as a Gooner I’m sick off playing Bayern Munich, mainly because they have beaten us over two legs in the last two meetings. Having said that they have always been great games for the neutrals to watch including the game at the Emirates two weeks ago.

After Arsenal’s first two group games this season in the Champions League it looked like we were heading into the Europa League after two shocking defeats and we still might do but beating Bayern at the Emirates has given the Gunners a chance and a victory in Munich on Wednesday and Arsenal somehow have a chance of winning the group stranger things have happened in football.

If Arsenal have a chance off getting a result in Munich then Wenger has to get his team and tactics spot on like he did at the Emirates.
It’s going to be tough considering what he will have on his bench on Wednesday night so we can’t afford any more injuries or tired legs.

Arsenal need to put in a proper European performance and you can’t play a pressing game away to a team like Bayern Munich because they have the ability and quality to drag you out off position open up gaps and pass rings round you, Arsenal will have to sit back in a shape and be organised without the ball and play on the break.

The players that worry me are Robert Lewandowski he’s gone two games without a goal (that’s his longest goal drought this season). Douglas Costa who has settled into that Bayern team from day one this season and gave Hector Bellerin a hard time in the first half at the Emirates, obviously Thomas Muller and Thiago who’s a very good technical player with quick feet, them three are probably the key three to try and keep quite but with Xavi Alonso and Arturo Vidal in midfield it shows the Bayern team is just full of fantastic players.

I think it’s going to be another fantastic game to watch for the neutrals and even though Arsenal are capable off pulling off great European nights every now and then Arsenal will be facing an angry Bayern Munich side who will want to make a statement . My gut says to me Bayern Munich will edge a close game 2-1 but I do predict Arsenal to get through the group by the skin off their teeth.

Thanks for reading @kyrigooner #UTA

Kyri sent us in this piece on his way home from Swansea…Read his thoughts on Arsenal’s win at the Liberty Stadium.

When the gunners go on a good run and then loose a game like they did at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night it usually disrupts the momentum and rhythm that’s why I was worried heading to Swansea on Saturday.

A hard enough game anyway away from home at any time off the season let alone after being dumped out the cup in the week and having to travel away to a team that done a league double over us last season with 8 players missing.

I didn’t have the best off feelings going into the game.


Arsenal’s win at the Liberty stadium on Saturday was impressive, a very big 3 points. Arsenal travelled to South Wales with 8 players missing from the squad and gave a Premier League debut to Joel Campbell who had a poor game on Tuesday night against Sheffield Wednesday.

It was a poor first half from the gunners who couldn’t keep the ball, the play with it was very slow with very little movement off the ball, to be fair what didn’t help was Swansea committing several fouls in the 1st half and surprisingly didn’t manage to pick up a booking until the 57th minute.

Swansea played a high tempo pressing game in the first half and didn’t let Arsenal settle and it worked.

That’s one off the things that worry me with Arsenal is when teams press against us we really struggle.

Petr Cech and Koscienly were Arsenal’s two best players in the 1st half and goalkeeper Cech who’s kept 7 clean sheets in Arsenal’s first 11 games has made a massive difference at Arsenal so far this campaign.

Cech showed an example off his quality when Jonjo Shelvey put a great ball through to Gomis who was 1 on 1 with Cech and the keeper kept his cool and made his goal look very small, Gomis tried to round the keeper but eventually Bellerin who had to sprint back from the Swansea half to put it out for a corner.

At that moment I accepted that Swansea would go 1-0 up.

In the past had Arsenal had a goalkeeper like szsceny been in between the sticks Swansea would off had a penalty and Arsenal would have been down to 10 men.

Also in the 1st half Arsenal escaped with a Per Mertasacker hand ball from Sigurdsson’s free kick which was a stone wall penalty and the referee missed it, you sometimes need that bit off luck to go your way.

The 2nd half was a lot different, with Arsenal scoring early in the 2nd half the game changed and what was surprising is Giroud’s header came from Ozil’s corner because The Gunners scoring from a set piece is very rare.

After the deadlock was broken Swansea committed men forward looking for the equaliser as Arsenal sat with numbers behind the ball in a good organised shape and picked Swansea off on the break with quick passing and movement and ended up scoring a 2nd goal through Laurent Koscienly which could also have been chalked off when Koscienly and Giroud jumped with goalkeeper Fabianski for the ball but to be fair it was never a foul on the goalkeeper.

After the 2nd goal the confidence and momentum was with Arsenal and it was like a training session and the football was fantastic to watch.

Mesut Ozil has got a bit off stick in his career at Arsenal but he’s a joy to watch with his control, passing, dribbling with the ball at his feet and creating space for himself off the ball it wasn’t any different against Swansea the German ran the show in the 2nd half at the Liberty by creating 2 off Arsenal’s 3 goals. Anybody who doesn’t appreciate or see what Mesut Ozil brings to Arsenal or any team he’s played in just look at his stats.

I felt sorry for Alexis Sanchez at times yesterday far from his best performance in an Arsenal shirt but he worked really hard and was desperate to score you could tell by his temper and his reactions every time he wanted the ball returned to him after a pass or an opportunity missed he wasn’t happy.

Back to the game and Joel Campbell added a 3rd with a cool finish from Mesut Ozil’s pass across the box and the points were heading back down the M4 to North London.

Not many Gooners seem convinced with Campbell but yesterday put in a very good performance, working very hard on the right hand side tracking back helping Bellerin at right back and showing quick feet at the other end and a cool finish to score Arsenal’s 3rd in the 3-0 win.

That 2nd half performance from Arsenal was fantastic and a very impressive result away at a very tough place to go and win. Lucky not to go in at half time a goal down but if your going to have a chance of winning this league you definitely need the rub off the green on your side and you need to win a tough places like Swansea.

On to Bayern Munich now, that should be easy.


Kyri Christodoulou (AFC Fan)

Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool – Alavi’s Analysis

First of all you’re probably wondering why the picture below is my sky box paused at the point of the opening Chelsea goal. There is some method behind the madness- take a close look and I’ll reveal at the end of the review. For me, the key in this game were the tactics employed by Klopp. But let’s start with the game itself.



Philippe Coutinho scored twice as Liverpool recovered from an early deficit to beat struggling Premier League champions Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and pile more pressure on Blues manager Jose Mourinho. Ramires headed Chelsea in front after four minutes but Mourinho’s side looked woefully short of confidence as Liverpool hit back to claim an emphatic win first league win for new boss Juergen Klopp. Just four minutes had elapsed when the hosts opened the scoring as Ramires planted a downward header into the back of the net from Cesar Azpilicueata’s centre. However, Philippe Coutinho drew the Reds level on the stroke of half-time, cutting inside the Chelsea goalscorer and curling a magnificent left-footed effort into the corner from outside the area. The equaliser marked an impressive recovery by curling in an equaliser in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. Liverpool had dominated for long spells after falling behind and their pressure told on 74 minutes as the Brazilian worked his magic once again. Collecting substitute Christian Benteke’s knockdown, Coutinho worked himself a yard of space inside the area before driving home via the aid of a deflection.It was to get even better for the Reds, too, as Benteke made certain of the outcome when he benefited from Lallana’s step-over by firing across goal and into the corner to put the seal on a fantastic afternoon’s work for Klopp and his team With Mourinho standing glumly on the touchline, Liverpool fans chanted: “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. Chelsea had already made the worst start to a season for Premier League champions and now have only 11 points from 11 games played, leaving them in 15th place


Firstly, I want to caveat the following with the fact that I am by no means hailing Klopp as a tactical genius that can never be beaten. On the other hand, I don’t think there are too many managers who would get the tactics as spot on as he did on Saturday. Klopp showed ability to work out his opponent’s weaknesses, and to change the flow of the game with his substitutions.

Roberto Firmino, fresh from an encouraging midweek performance, would be the man asked to play furthest forward, supported by Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.

It is tempting to view that as a negative move by Klopp – though Benteke’s ongoing knee issue is clearly one which will require careful management – but the presence of Firmino, Lallana and Coutinho enabled Liverpool both to press from the front effectively, and to work the ball between Chelsea’s lines with regularity. To play without a recognised number 9 is, of course, a risk. But it can help confuse a defence. If Benteke has played- Cahill and Terry would have quickly decided between them “You stick on him, I’ll sweep up anything that comes through”. When you have a your “number 9” instead playing in an additional free role then you can drift the opposition everywhere- too deep for the Chelsea Central defenders yet too advanced for the defending holding Midfielders. And that’s what Firmino did. Yes, you sacrifice rarely being in a position to get shots away, but he kept Terry and co occupied, and was a willing recipient for passes in and around the box, in a way that, say, Divock Origi may not have been. The first goal is an example of being able to bringing Coutinho into the game. In essence, Firmino became an unmarked number 10.


The substitution was another tactical mastermind. Off went Milner, who had been sloppy, and on came Benteke, with Firmino dropping back on the right-hand side. The last thing a tired defence really needs is a power-house like Benteke coming at you. This was what Liverpool had planned for, a second-half burst from their No.9, at a time when the game was there for the taking. Benteke’s first act was to flatten Kurt Zouma in an aerial challenge, and within 10 minutes he had set up the game’s decisive goal. It was a strike which showcased both sides of what Klopp is after at Liverpool. A spell of controlled possession, followed by a quick switch of play (a nice way of saying long ball) from Sakho, Benteke, pulling away onto the smaller Cesar Azpilicueta, wins the ball and Liverpool have two men, Lallana and Coutinho, gambling on the knock down. Lallana didn’t make it, but Coutinho did – 2-1, and Klopp’s substitution pays off handsomely. 2 very different goals. Great teams often have both options. Am I suggesting Benteke doesn’t start ? Absolutely not. A different way of playing when he doesn’t? For sure.

So to the picture……………for Chelsea’s opening goal you have all 11 liverpool players defending. Yes, they conceded, but the dedication to Klopp’s counter pressing was already evident.

Klopp, clearly, is desperate for them to move the ball quicker, and to stretch the game at every opportunity. The all-action, high tempo, high pressure tactic was once justified by Klopp as “the best moment to win the ball back is immediately after the team has lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.”

You catch the opponent in transition and their defensive shape will not be as it should. They don’t have enough time to set up properly. If every single player presses then the swarm effect forces opposition to make errors. Now here is the difference between Klopp and the Barcelona way. The Barca high press is designed to retain possession. Once the ball is obtained it is passed around to tire the opposition. Klopp’s version is basically all-out attach- the ball always goes forward. When defending from say a goal kick, the players are tight to the opposition players they believe will receive the all and zonally mark the area which a player can pass into. This forces the player on the ball to make a pass they don’t really want to. The attacking players win the ball and burst into life, which is why they close down closely together. One to win the ball and the other to take advantage of the loose ball, link up play and counter attack. There are flaws in the system. It won’t always work. Unfortunately, for Chelsea, Saturday was not one of those days.



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Swansea City 0-3 Arsenal – Joel gets his Goal as Gunners secure vital away win.

Much of the talk in the build up to Arsenal’s game at Swansea was around the Costa Rican Joel Campbell. With injuries to Walcott, the Ox and Aaron Ramsey the options on the right hand side for Mr Wenger were limited. I did mention in my previous article that I was disappointed in Joel’s midweek display at Hillsborough & having looked at various pieces on social media many people were suggesting reshuffling the pack to fill that spot.


Credit to the boss for believing in Campbell and giving him that opportunity because he stepped up and grabbed it with both hands. Many will look at the result and say ‘Wenger picked him & he scored” but it was much more than just the goal. From the very start of the game Joel was constantly involved in the play and had a fairly early attempt at goal curling a shot high and wide of the target. Also worth mentioning the Costa Rican’s incredible work rate and thankfully he got his reward by netting the third to seal the victory for the Gunners.

We always carried a threat on the break & were always going to make chances in this game & Giroud had a great chance in the first half to fire us in front. Unfortunately the Frenchmen couldn’t keep his effort down and sent it flying over the bar. That however, wasn’t before Swansea striker Gomis missed arguably the best chance of the game. He somehow beat the offside trap and seemed to have an age in front of the Arsenal goal with just Petr Cech to beat. The striker hesitated and Hector Bellerin’s rapid pace allowed him to chase back and make the crucial tackle.

So how did Gomis not score? I put it down to the fantastic goal keeping of Petr Cech. Gomis was clean through with lots of time and space and as he approached the goal the big keeper stepped out to confront the striker. Since his arrival at Arsenal he’s received a lot of praise for his presence, calm head and the fact that he gives his defence that sense of belief.

As well as all of those things I’ve personally been really impressed with how he deals with one on ones & yesterday confirmed what I already knew. This was the perfect example. As the striker rushed through Cech was out to confront the forward very calmly and making himself as big as possible. The key factor for me is that he stayed on his feet, it was like a stand off between the big keeper and the striker. By not going down to Gomis’ feet early he caused the striker to hesitate and that moment of uncertainty he caused the striker to have meant that Bellerin was able to get back in and win the ball.

So when people say a good goalkeeper can earn you points, that’s exactly what they mean. At a crucial moment in the game we were still level thanks to the big man. Some people may look at it on match of the day and just say ‘Gomis should have scored’ but I cannot stress enough what a massive role the keeper played in that staying out.


The second half began and our attacking threat began to grow. Don’t be fooled though Swansea were also causing us plenty of problems and Laurent Koscielny in particular was outstanding at the back. One constant problem that the Swans were causing us was coming in our right back area and guess who it was, again! Jefferson Montero, the tricky winger who terrorised Callum Chambers last season was giving Hector Bellerin a hard time from the first minute right up until the last.

Bellerin in my view is a very good prospect and is developing into a fine player. In recent weeks I have been full of praise for the young defender and I do believe he will be in that ‘world class’ bracket we all love to talk about. He’s also blessed with incredible pace and a lot of the time this gets him out of some sticky situations. However, when you come up against a very tricky winger who’s also got a rocket up his ass, only then are we able to judge Bellerin’s positional play and decision making properly. It wasn’t all bad and I’m sure the young full back learnt a lot from this game – all part of the developing process. At times though, there is no doubt his positional sense and decision making were found wanting.

In terms of the goals, Olivier Giroud popped up with another header to fire us into the lead. He got away from his marker and smartly headed the ball into the ground towards the bottom right corner and gave Fabianski no chance. Some will argue the second goal was against the run of play & maybe at that moment in the game it was. But up stepped Laurent Koscielny to grab the second after a mishap from the ex Arsenal goal keeper. At first there were claims of a foul on the keeper but having seen it again and again the defender just stood his ground and was able to roll the ball into the net when the keeper couldn’t keep hold of it. That’s 2 goals in 2 league games for the centre half, maybe he’s been asked to cover for Theo in the coming weeks! Haha.

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX at Liberty Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.

Although the game was pretty much wrapped up at this point, the final goal was the one that put the biggest grin on my face. After working very hard all game the ball kindly fell to Joel Campbell to finish with his favoured left foot into the far corner and top off a brilliant Arsenal win. I literally couldn’t be happier for him! A huge confidence boost and hopefully he can push on and make that spot his own for the coming weeks. Other good individual performances I wanted to mention were those of Mesut Ozil, he continued his brilliant form and once again was the assist king at the Liberty stadium & Alexis Sanchez was again fantastic despite not getting on the scoresheet. Overall great team performance and the good run continues. Bring on Bayern!!!

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Harry Symeou (AFC FAN)