A Striking Surprise for Arsenal

Theo Walcott is close to committing to Arsenal, according to his manager, after showcasing his attac

Since the move to the Emirates Stadium in 2006, Arsenal fans have been waiting for their beloved Gunners to mount a serious title challenge – they’ve come close a couple of times but fell short usually around April.

Every Gooner has an opinion as to why this is the case but a common theme is a lack of recruitment in key areas. Arsenal has bought some fantastic players recently but many feel they lack depth in midfield and are missing a world-class striker.

Great strikers are a rarity anyway so perhaps it was unsurprising that Arsene Wenger failed to bring one in, however the Gunners manager maintains that internal solutions are sometimes just as good as external ones.

Under pressure to mount a serious challenge the Arsenal manager took the risk of allowing Theo Walcott to develop into a lone striker, preferring him in the majority of Arsenal games this season over stalwart Olivier Giroud.

Little was expected of the young Englishman, at least first, but he has flourished in that role and been a main provider of goals for the Gunners this season, both in scoring and assisting. Luck has nothing to do with it either as the former Southampton trainee has worked hard to improve his off the ball work and his hold-up play – an area many felt he would struggle.

Internationally, Theo is preferred on the right but he has expressed his desire to replicate his club progress with country and possibly replace Wayne Rooney as a choice striker. Sooner rather than later Rooney will need replacing and Walcott believes he can be the one to do so with the England Captain dropping into midfield.

Alan Shearer recently wrote in his Coral blog that every player has his day and when it’s over, it’s over and you need to replace them – it’s the case for Wayne Rooney as much as it is for John Terry or any other player in their 30s. Persisting with a player when they are past their best isn’t the killer, he implied, but not replacing them is and Arsenal fans know this better than anyone.

Undefeated in 49 games, the Invincibles were a team had reached their peak and when you are at the Zenith of your strength there is only one way to go. Not replacing Henry, Vieira, Pires, Gilberto, Bergkamp (until Özil came but even then he still has a lot to prove), Campbell and Lehmann held Arsenal back for quite a few years. Keeping the faith with average talent like Denilson, Bendtner, Gervinho, Djourou and Almunia held them back even longer.

I think I missed again!

Alan Hansen once famously said “You can’t win anything with kids” and whilst he was wrong about the exceptional Class of ’92 at Manchester United he’s been right for every other club that has tried project youth, including Arsenal.

Something changed at Arsenal in recent years thought and Wenger supplemented his best young British players with top quality imports and world-class bargains like Cazorla, Özil and Sanchez and even Petr Cech who is a much belated but nonetheless welcome replacement for Jens Lehmann

Sanchez has been a revelation for Arsenal and his partnership so far this season with Walcott has been immense – they’ve built a real understanding and seem to complement each other well. But it is nothing compared to the Walcott/Özil partnership which in 1495 minutes of football has created 51 goals at an average rate of 1 per 29.3 minutes. It’s an incredible statistic.

Created 51 Goals
Created 51 Goals

Theo Walcott isn’t Thierry Henry, neither was Van Persie, but it’s not always the talent that needs replacing. Cech is not Lehmann, Alexis is not Pires, Mesut is not Dennis but they don’t have to be direct replacements but they do that to replace their effect on the team, although that can be spread amongst many players, so in some senses this Arsenal team is making progress in replacing the legends that went before.

Holding midfield is still the unanswered question for Arsenal but who is to say there isn’t an internal solution for that one too? That might be pushing it a bit far and much will rest on the January transfer window and following Shearer’s advice of replacing those who need replacing, which for Arsenal is ultimately Arteta and Flamini. For now we can enjoy the growing stature of Theo Walcott and the improving results of the team and hope we do the right thing in the next window.

Oh Arsene and Arsenal what to do? – An Arsenal Poem of sorts!!

Arsenal's coach Wenger reacts during their Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers in Bolton

 I have been finding it difficult to find the time or the inspiration to write of late. I guess this is down to having to write an original piece for Shoot every other week which I want to do well if I can and increasingly finding something very positive or new to say.

It is easy to write in an ultra positive mode but it would not reflect my current  mood and equally easy, if not easier to slam Wenger and be excessively negative after one of the most depressing evenings I have spent at the Emirates in many a year. So to be contrary and to not take either easy way out I shall do neither and both!

Oh Arsene and Arsenal what to do?

Soul searching after Tuesday disaster

Soul searching after Tuesday disaster

Here goes…………………………………….


Confused we are as Arsenal fans

Title challengers or also rans?

It is hard to keep track or know what to expect

Sublime on any given day and awful the next

Money to spend, bankrolled by the Yank

Money not spent, it’s still in the bank

In May the right noises, Wembley winners once more

In July arrives Cech but most think we need four!

‘We are working a little bit hard the squad to improve’

More empty words as we don’t make a move

We trust him at first, our best squad in years

But then come the injuries it will all end in tears

I could handle his theory to a certain degree

But lose Tom, Jack and Danny, it called for a spree

He says he has top strikers so doesn’t need more

Yes but you don’t play them we all know the score

Last year it was Lukas and this year it’s Joel

‘No signings, I trust them’ and then give them no role

It’s not all bad though I have to be fair

A few things keep me from total despair

I love the boy Hector a future so bright

Gabriel is the man; we need more with his fight

Le Coq may have saved us which would be quite funny

If it had not mean Arsene keeping hold of his money

Santi more central I like what I see

But Ramsey should be there I’d favour all three

We don’t play with true width so three central might work

All three are grafters and none of them shirk

Three behind Mesut to give him the space

To find the speedsters who won’t lose their race

Alexis and Theo working behind

Curving their runs, easy to find

With their pace on the shoulder if you are as good as they say

The ‘World’s Best Number 10 should find them all day

We have to different and 4312 is for us

Particularly against those who are parking their bus

Continually passing against two banks of four

Is boring to watch and the outcomes are poor

It’s not Wenger Ball anymore, they all know how to defend

So use incisive passers and the speed as our friend

Surprise them again as you managed last season

By changing formations for a very good reason

Because they know how to play us it’s always the same

Make them second guess be smart for each game

No more of the square pegs in the round holes

Get both our best finishers back in the goals

Will this save our season that I don’t know?

But being occasionally different is worth a go

You changed to 4141 in the big away matches your ploy

You won twice in Manchester to give us rare joy

Time to be innovative and avoid the fans profanity

Because to keep doing the same, as they say is insanity


That’s enough – it feels like the End

Oh no one more thing in January, maybe SPEND!


Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66


Maureen cannot park the bus today so counter attacking Arsenal expected


So big games are coming thick and fast early in the season and tomorrow’s is about as big as they come folks.

The erratic early season form of both sides only serves to provide additional pressure on both coaches and the players selected on the day. Certainly Mourinho’s Chelsea are in greater need of the points than Arsenal languishing 11 points behind the early pace setters but The Gunners woeful display in midweek has only caused doubt and anxiety to return to those of us who are of a Red persuasion.

It is against this strange back drop that I find myself fascinated by the dynamics, thoughts and resulting tactics and selections of both managers. Maureen’s well documented dull and cautious nature may well have to take a back seat on his regular bus this weekend as he finds his team probably having to win the match. Even a draw, with Man City at home to West Ham (who surely cannot pull off a 3rd unlikely away win in the spin) could see the pre-season favourites 13 points behind their fellow Oil tycoons. However early we may be in the season this would mean City would have to lose effectively 5 games. No, the Portuguese Bus Driver will need to be out of park and with foot firmly on pedal. Continue reading

Exclusive – A Night to meet your Arsenal Heroes and help an Arsenal Legend

 Eddie Kelly today

Eddie Kelly today

As an Arsenal fan I have been extremely lucky and blessed in the last 2 years to meet so many of my heroes. In the course of writing the book about one of them I will sadly never get to meet, Geordie Armstrong, I interviewed countless Arsenal players and staff past and present.

There is a saying of course, never meet you heroes but I would have to say that in the main I was not disappointed too often.  From modern era ‘Invincibles’ such as Keown and Parlour right back to Geordie’s team mates from the great 1971 Double Winning side all were willing to give or their time in memory of a true friend.

Me and Eddie in Dublin
Me and Eddie in Dublin

I am not about to select favourites or single out the guys who those I enjoyed interviewing the most but I am going to single out one who had become a mate. One who I have spent the most time with, got drunk with, chatted football with and even been out for dinner with the wife’s with. A man who scored a goal in securing Arsenal’s first trophy for 17 years in 1970 and a year later coming on as a substitute scored the equalizer to take the FA Cup Final in 71 to extra time and help Arsenal secure the historic League and Cup Double, wiping the smirk off Tottenham’s face in the progress. His AFC Profile is here.

Not Graham's Goal but Kelly's
Not Graham’s Goal but Kelly’s

Yes Eddie Kelly had won 3 major Trophies for Arsenal with 50 first team appearances in 1969/70 and 1970/71 and was still 9 months short of his 21st birthday. He went on to become the club’s youngest ever Captain in 1974/75 aged only 23 and to this day only Tony Adams has held that special honour at a younger age. Eddie left in September 1976 after making 222 appearances for the club after 10 years at the club he had joined as a 15 year old lad straight from school in Scotland.

Skipper at 23

His career never truly reached the same heights after Highbury but Eddie’s travels took him to QPR where he followed his mentor and skipper Frank McLintock and to Leicester this time with Frank as his manager in the top flight. He played for Notts Country, Bournemouth, and Leicester again and finally Torquay where he hung up his boots in 1986 and lives to this day.

Eddie is wonderful company and a superb raconteur, holding court with tales of football when tackles were tackles and a night out was a night out. Football was different in the 1970’s in so many ways to the football we enjoy today as we all know but one of the most notable differences are the financial rewards for being a top player. Eddie was a top player for Arsenal and helped bring us back to glory at time when Everton, Liverpool and Leeds were dominant but as with so many players of that era life post football was not plain sailing.

He is now retired having does various jobs in his post football life and next year his meagre Old Age Pension will kick in for what it is worth. Kelly has worked at Arsenal doing the tours but living on the South Coast getting up to North London is not easy particular when the years of playing football in an era of hard knocks is catching you up. After keyhole surgery on one knee cap 3 weeks ago Eddie is waiting to see how successful that is before having the other one done.

If you ever want an after dinner speaker at a Supporters Club event or similar, trust me Eddie Kelly is your man and his rates are reasonable but this article is to promote a more instant and substantial way of financially helping one of our own. Frank McLintock still ‘the Captain’ to so many of his players has organised with the support of another ex Gunner, Terry Mancini and his events company an evening at the Emirates to raise money for Eddie.

McLintock, Kelly and Radford at Geordie Book signing

Helping Legends – A Night for Eddie Kelly 8th October

The text that follows is the description of the evening planned sent to me by Terry Mancini…

The dinner will be at The Emirates Stadium on Thursday 8th October, the heading is “Helping Legends” there are pre-dinner drinks from 7pm with sit-down meal at 8pm.

A 3 x course meal followed by introductions to the many ex and current Arsenal players we can muster, a request has gone out to Mr Wenger, to ask if he will allow some current injured players to attend.

Gunner Bobby Davro for entertainment

There will be some story telling from players, a Q & A with a number of former players, a lot of selfies and an auction conducted by Adger Brown, followed eventually by the comedian Bobby Davro.

The price is £1250 for a table of 10, including VAT, or £125pp.

Any help from your contacts and data base for any extra tables, or individuals who could attend, would be brilliant.

We already have in excess of 20 tables, so it looks like being a good start to raising some money for Eddie.

Here is how you can book yourself in for this superb evening:

Join us for this special evening in honour of Eddie Kelly. The evening will be held at the Emirates Stadium with drinks from 7pm, a three course meal with wine and coffee served at 8pm.

Auction with Adger Brown, comedy from Bobby Davro and the chance to mingle with some of Arsenals footballing legends. Tables of 10 are £1250:00 or an individual price of £125:00 inc VAT.

Please contact Donna 07918 644900 donna@mancinievents.co.uk to reserve your tickets.

Eddie Kelly as all of those who have had the pleasure will know is Arsenal through and through. Like so many of those who left across the era’s there are always regrets as those I met like Eddie, and Charlie George have me there is no other club like The Arsenal.

I hope you can spare the time and the money and want to meet countless Arsenal legends, hopefully spanning both the 70s and the modern eras whilst at the same time financially assisting one of the Arsenal family who gave so much for the club over 10 years.



Gabriel is the ‘New Keown’ and his partnership with Koscielny is the future


Anyone who has watched Arsenal over the last 30 years will read the title of the blog and think one of two things I suspect. They may think and correctly, that is a huge compliment for Arsenal’s newest central defender and they may also consider the compliment a tad premature.

A True Arsenal Legend

However having deputised superbly for Arsenal pitch captain Per Mertesacker the Brazilian stopper looks set to make his international debut in the coming week. Far be it from me to second guess the judgement of Brazil’s coach Dunga but he should know enough about positioning and defending. Defending was an evident downfall under Scolari and lead to a huge disappointment for the Samba boys in their home World Cup and it would appear the new boss is looking for different qualities. The traditional defensive qualities that Gabriel Paulista would seemingly have in abundance will serve his country but ironically from my perspective they are not necessarily the typical traits of a Brazilian centre back but they are certainly those of an archetypal English one.

Keown on Gabriel and Per

Martin Keown himself is on record as being an admirer or Gabriel and even last season was suggesting that it was he that would be the long term partner for Koscielny rather than the tall German veteran. Keown himself a swift defender has often commented on Mertesacker’s lack of pace and also his leadership most notably after the 3-1 home defeat to Monaco when Gabriel was preferred to the German for the next match v Everton:

‘I don’t think you can point the finger at one player after the Monaco game. It’s a big chance for Gabriel now, though. I think it could be a defining moment in changing Arsenal’s back four now, for sure.

‘Mertesacker, with the experience he has in the game, should have been calling these young players back the other night, the two full-backs were just drifting up the pitch and not coming back.

‘When he’s been left isolated one-on-one he struggles due to his lack of pace too. Gabriel is keen to defend so he’ll be relishing this opportunity to stamp a claim for a first-team spot.’


Seaman who marshaled our best defences has a view

Now once again I defer to those who know more than I about top class defending and Keown is one of the best I have EVER seen but the praise who Gabriel has not just come from that quarter but also from a colleague of Keown’s, the one and only David Seaman. Seaman in April also indicated in an interview with the Independent that he saw in Gabriel the solution to Arsenal’s defensive frailties as he assessed them:

“Yes, I think he can solve that problem [in defence]. With Paulista, he reminds me of a cross between Des Walker and Martin Keown, that’s who he reminds me of. I don’t know why. The way that he plays and looks just reminds me of that, but he’s had a few injuries and it will take him some time to adjust to the Premier League, because it does.”



The highest of praise from Seaman describing him as a blend of 2 of England’s greatest. The Arsenal Legend went on to suggest that it might take Gabriel a while to get used to the physicality and the pace of life in the Premiership but given that he had barely played for months his display alongside a decidedly shaky Calum Chambers against Liverpool was nothing short of spectacular.

His performance, in particular, in the first have when the team was inviting problems with poor clearances and woeful passing was certainly Keownesque! Superb reading of dangerous situations, brave blocks and headers, quick recoveries and perfectly times challenges, all the hallmarks of MK.

Fabulous v Liverpool along with Cech

On leaving the ground ultimately feeling pretty down the two things that prevented me being completely downcast were the performances of Cech and Gabriel. On the tube as I sat lost in thought I heard one bloke moaning to his mate about Arsenal’s display to which his mate responded – “Well one positive was Gabriel, he’s the new Keown!” I smiled to myself and though you‘re bloody right there. Sort of reminded me of the AwayBoyz lyric:

“I was down the pub the other night and my mate said to me I’ve see the new Ian Wright! I said to him, how can that be, he said to me Thierry Henry.”

Now I have seen so many people, including those whose opinions I respect. suggest that it is Per and Kos or Chambers and Gabriel because Gabriel and Koscielny are too similar. Whilst I understand that central defences are made of partnerships and blends, perhaps more than any other team partnership I just don’t buy it. Yes both are quick and have many similar strengths but that is hardly a problem for me and crucially the Brazilian has a great leap and will attack the ball.


They both seem like intelligent footballers and I do not see this as a Vermaelen and Koscielny repeat because unlike the Belgian Gabriel seems to have discipline and to just love to defend. Whilst our ex-skipper could defend he never seemed to ‘love’ it and treat it as an art form, as I know Keown did and Gabriel appears to do. Tommy would often rampage up the pitch without thinking, in search of goals and glory perhaps, leaving Kos isolated. In those days of course we did not have Coquelin or for that matter full backs who understood when to push up and when to sit. I have seen nothing nor have a read anything that remotely suggests that our new Brazilian wants to do anything but defend.

Tackles timed like this would have made Keown punch the air!

Per is not getting younger and he will never get swifter but as with Arteta what a fabulous player to have around the place and on the bench. However I personally hope that the Gabriel/Koscielny partnership is the future for this Arsenal team. I could be proved wrong as we have not seen the Brazilian over a long period but is it likely that Keown, Seaman and Dunga are all off the mark?

I look forward to seeing how he does in the next 2 Brazil games on the 6th and the 9th versus Costa Rica and the USA respectively. I hope he gets his chance, makes his presence felt for his country and comes back unscathed to face Stoke.

I will finish the blog with this Wenger description of Gabriel:

“He has got a good technique and he’s also highly committed and very motivated. If I was to sum up his qualities I would say that he is a very sharp player, and has a very good, positive aggression. He’s got quick feet, is strong in the battle, very good in a one-on-one situation and just fantastic in the air.”

I lied actually that was Arsene Wenger on Martin Keown in his testimonial programme but I bet you all believed me!

Wenger however did actually days this about his January signing:

“Gabriel will be a great central defender, believe me”

 I do Arsene, I do.

The New Keown 2015/16

To the tune of One Song - “Keown he is the new Keown!!”