Archive February 2019

Arsenal 2-0 Southampton | Review | Premier League

Host Harry Symeou is joined on this weeks show by Mike Stavrou, former Gunners midfielder David Hillier and the Chief Sports Writer of the Independent Jonathan Liew. We reflect on the weekends game, react to the Europa League draw, talk Sokratis, Mkhitaryan and more!

Apologies for the sound issues at the beginning of the show, the gremlins well and truly got us this week!

Join us for a weekly discussion on all things Arsenal. We review the latest fixtures, look ahead to those coming up and cover the hot topics surrounding the club. This show is brought to you by the @sofasportspod, the @FNXNetwork and hosted by @HarrySymeou.

Image Source: Twitter – @UnaiEmery_

Stade Rennais : Beware the other team in Red & Black

Chronicles AFC Podcast

After the Europa League Last 16 draw on Friday Arsenal have been drawn against Stade Rennais of France. A draw that most Gooners are happy with and although I admit it could have been worse we must not underestimate them.

With players such a Hatem Ben Arfa , Clement Grenier , Souleyman Doumbia and Ismaila Sarr they will provide a stern test over two legs. We must not forget that this Stade Rennais team put six goals past a very impressive Real Betis side over two legs. The same Real Betis side who have beaten Atletico Madrid at home and won away in the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona this season. This will not be an easy European tie by any stretch of the imagination.

In the Europa League group stage Stade Rennais finished second two points behind group K winners Dynamo Kiev and I believe that the Europa League could become a welcome distraction to their patchy Ligue 1 form where they currently sit 11th in the table having only won two of their last 6 matches.

I recently interviewed current MSV Duisburg Dutch striker John Verhoek who played for Stade Rennais and he had this to say when reflecting on his arrival in Brittany in France in 2011 ‘ When I arrived at Rennes I came straight from the Dutch First division and the difference between the leagues was really big.

‘ Back then I did not really know what senior football was. If I was to look at that now with all the experience that I have now I realize what I have ‘

‘ I was too impatient at that age and therefore could not perform to the best of my ability. It was a real learning curve. The speed of the league was the thing that I noticed the most. I remember the physicality of my first training session at the club, and in comparison to the Netherlands it was extreme ‘

‘ It was great to play alongside the likes of Yann M’Vila and Yacine Brahimi. I also enjoyed playing in great matches against Paris St Germain, and Lyon away where I played well and we managed to get a draw ‘

In the above quote he mentions Yann M’Vila and Yacine Brahimi now of AS Saint – Etienne and FC Porto respectively and you only have to look back at the caliber of players that Stade Rennais have had in the past including former Arsenal striker Sylvain Wiltord as well as the likes of Ousmane Dembélé , Luís Fabiano and in a somewhat poetic twist in his last season as a professional footballer Petr Čech returns to his old club

All in all this team in dangerous and their cauldron of a stadium Roazhon Park will serve to create an intimidating atmosphere. We must remain professional from minute one on the 7th March in Brittany. We are in with a chance of winning our first European trophy in 25 years. Let’s show some intent and fight in the northwestern most region of France and prove we have learned from our experience in Belarus and take another step towards Baku and the Europa League Final on May 29th in Azerbaijan. C’mon You Gunners !

Episode 51: Unai Emery, his tenure so far…

Chronicles AFC Podcast

With no game this weekend host Harry Symeou reflects on Unai Emery’s tenure so far, the good, the bad and the Mesut Ozil. This weeks guests are Claude from AFTV and the author of Unai Emery – El Maestro, the authorised biography Romain Molina. Theres plenty to get your teeth into this week in this BUMPER episode and we want to hear your thoughts on the topics discussed.

Ozil stance could spell the end for Emery

Chronicles AFC Podcast

When Unai Emery was appointed back in May 2018 the hope amongst the Gunners faithful was that he’d be able to get more out of the current crop. His fresh (in comparison to Arsene’s) methods would take things up a level, increase the teams productivity and see us challenge for a place in the top four. I’ve made no secret of the fact my faith in the Spaniard has somewhat evaporated of late but in fairness we are just a solitary point away from United in 4th and despite the defeat in Borisov we stand a realistic chance of marching on to Europa League glory. “So what are you complaining about?” Well, I’m coming to that!

The on-going feud between Emery and Ozil continues to cast a shadow over our season and with no viable resolution in sight, you can’t help but feel its having a negative impact on the group, its an unwanted distraction and one I believe the manager to be largely responsible for. When Mesut Ozil penned his bumper contract back in January of last year the entire fanbase celebrated, we’d managed to tie down one of our biggest talents/assets for the foreseeable future despite having just watched Alexis Sanchez (in the same position) trade London for Manchester. Add to that, the fact we’d signed Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan during that same window and it felt as though despite the Chileans disappointing departure we were coming out of the window in better shape than when it opened on January 1st.

Along came Unai Emery in the summer of 2018, the ‘standout candidate’ with a dossier of how he planned to get the very best out of each and every squad member. The clubs hierarchy spoke of how he ‘wowed’ them into offering him the position but here’s my question…when he flicked to the page on which Mesut Ozil’s name was printed what did it say? “I will isolate Mesut, showing a total disregard for the £350k the club will be paying him each week” – of course it didn’t. Because if it did, theres no way this money obsessed institution would have hired him. Therefore, whatever has gone on between the two took place during the course of the season.

There have always been questions over Mesut’s body language and attitude but his quality has never been in doubt. On his day, he’s as good as any creative player in the world but it’s fair to say since arriving in North London back in 2013 his form has been ‘patchy’ for wanting of a better term.

So far this season we’ve heard of back injuries, illnesses, tactical emissions from the match day squad and whilst as supporters we can never be absolutely sure of whats gone on it feels as though the manager is trying to make an example of Mesut. If he’s sick, he cant play and the same goes for any injuries the German may be struggling with but if you’re going to leave Mesut out because you’d rather play Iwobi or Mkhitaryan (two players who also struggle with consistency) questions will be asked and rightly so.

Of late, Arsenal have struggled to play with any fluency, the creative spark has dimmed and the results have dipped in comparison to our early season form but I struggle to have sympathy for a manager who chooses to overlook his most talented individual week in, week out. The longer this goes on, the more toxic the entire situation becomes. Emery has a history of falling out with his star players, just ask Thiago Silva and Neymar but whether you agree with the managers stance or not…history tells us the modern day football club will most likely back the player and thats usually because of the level of investment required to make the deals happen (see Mourinho vs Pogba as a recent example).

I’d have expected Unai to come in, put his arm around Ozil, settle on a system that compliments him and give him a fair opportunity to prove himself behind Lacazette and Aubameyang. For years and years we had the creator but lacked top quality strikers, now we have both and we’re choosing to ignore Mesut’s talents. I’d challenge any of you to put forward a sensible case as to why Iwobi or Mkhitaryan are any better…I’ll wait.

If we are indeed restricted by FFP and have to make do with what we’ve already got the manager has to find a way of getting the maximum out of Ozil. When the end of the season comes, Unai will be entering the last year of his contract, if CL qualification isn’t achieved and the performances continue to stutter I fear for the Spaniards future. He’s almost heaping extra pressure on himself by taking this stance and I’m pretty sure that when push comes to shove and all the financials are taken into account its he who will be given his marching orders first.

Arsenal vs BATE Borisov – Europa League | Match Day Blog

Chronicles AFC Podcast

This season marks 25 years since our last European triumph, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994.  A quarter of a century has passed during which we’ve reached a Champions League Final in 2006, a semi final in 2009 against Manchester United and the Europa League semi final in May 2018.

Our upcoming match away to BATE Borisov of Belarus will be another step in our last chance of obtaining silverware this season. We must take this opportunity with both hands in my opinion.

Since we have been playing UEFA Europa League football we have lost to the likes of FC Koln, Ostersunds FK , and been held to draws at home by Red Star Belgrade and Atletico Madrid.  A mixed bag at times, you seem to never know how it will go in Europe when it comes to supporting the Arsenal.

Fortunately this season we have a manager in Unai Emery who has won this tournament three times in a row.  It’s tough enough to win it once in my opinion. I get the feeling in some quarters that some Arsenal fans are not bothered about the Europa League because it is not the Champions League. The fact remains that a European trophy is at stake and we must give our all and play our best team until the end if we harbor ambitions of winning it.

Should we triumph in Baku in Azerbaijan on May 29th 2019 that could be this generations ‘ Copenhagen 1994 night ‘.  As a Gooner of 30 years our Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1994 v Parma remains one of the fondest memories I have, even the previous rounds we were excellent against Odense , Winning against Standard Liege 7-0 away in Belgium making Europe sit up and take notice we went on from there to beat Torino and a very talented Paris Saint-Germain side to book our place in the final.

We even reached the final again in Paris in 1995 against Real Zaragoza a year later. In 2019 we have a chance to make real progress in Europe and I believe that it would give the club a tremendous boost.

Looking at the teams left in the tournament Sevilla, Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg and even the dark horses of Eintracht Frankfurt and Real Betis would provide a stern test in my opinion. We must treat every team with respect and not underestimate anybody. You only have to look at the results in the qualifying rounds of this tournament to see that there have been many surprising results from the beginning and we must take nothing for granted.

I would like to let my fellow Gooners know that the biggest sea change in football apart from money and commercial power changing the landscape in the last 20 years is that the gap between the bigger and more seasoned European teams and the smaller teams has been decreasing year upon year. There are no easy games in Europe.

BATE Borisov have more Champions League experience than Arsenal lately getting knocked out by PSV Eindhoven in the qualifying rounds back in August 2018 losing 3-2 at home in the first leg and they were unlucky to lose in my opinion. They have also held their own against the likes of AS Roma , Bayer Leverkusen and knocking out Partizan Belgrade in the qualifying rounds so we must be professional.

We have 180 minutes to ensure our passage into the last 16 of the Europa League 2019 and a step closer to our goal. Let’s take it game by game and embrace it. Our current squad and Unai Emery have the chance to write a piece of European history for Arsenal. Don’t let this chance pass by. C’mon You Gunners !

James