Back on track. Another big game.

The weekend passes and we are back to the somewhat disconcerting feeling of comfort after an unspectacular win against the Saints. Entering the week absent of stress is a welcome change to previous campaigns when we would have somehow managed to lose a 2-goal lead to a side down at the bottom. It was a fairly poor game of football all round but coming away with the result highlights the maturing element to the side this year. They are making winning a habit and it is great to see. We were undoubtedly fortunate to be served a goal on a plate and the award of the penalty was a total lack of discipline on Fonte’s part. Regardless the history books will say 2-0 to the Arsenal and that’s all that concerns me.
Other results at the weekend also worked in our favour. I don’t want to speak to soon but a slight roll reversal seems to be in play with Utd. Them stepping up for the big game against us before failing to a team they should comfortable beat (sure Van Persie is enjoying that all too familiar feeling). Tottenham also got well and truly dispatched by Man City. I wonder when 5pur2 will stop pretending to be a big club and concede life outside the top 4 is set to continue. Calls for AVB’s head are madness from fans but I am of the belief that if they were to make such a rash call it really would spell the end of their era close to the top. So by all means let it happen.
Anyways enough smugness as it is bound to come back to haunt me. We host Marseille tonight and it is another huge game (as they all are these days), a win takes us to 12 points and should all but secure us qualification to the next round. This is the sort of game, given what’s on the line, which we would previously have potentially bottled but given my current confidence in this team I think we will get a solid win. Marseille are yet to get a point so far this year and from what I have seen of them there is little they possess that can pose a genuine threat.

Walcott Marsielle

Another prospect that is exciting me is the return of Theo Walcott. People who have read this blog before will know that I am not his greatest advocate, but his small introduction on Saturday reminded me of just how quick he is. So far this year our team has been essentially void of it, there were a couple of times on the weekend that highlighted the threat he can create. One moment in particular was when he made one of his signature runs in behind the defence, Ozil played a curling ball from the left flank and although successfully blocked by Fonte it gave us a taste of what we have in stall. Ozil’s ability to pick him out behind the defence adds a whole new dimension to our game and his shear presence means no team can risk the high lines we have seen at times this year. The long awaited presence of the likes of Walcott and Chamberlain (proper wingers) is going to allow further developments to our game and I am intrigued to see how Wenger balances the team following their return.

Will

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All or Nothing for Arsenal and Arsene: How the Papers Might Read Monday Morning

It feels as though each of the last 10 games has been ‘Arsenal’s biggest game of the season’, but now we can say it like we mean it. Sunday is indeed judgement day, 90 of the most painstaking, excruciating minutes of our lives. The result will define not only this season but probably next season too. Win and we will have snatched victory from a position in which it should never have been possible. Fail to win and it’s the lowest point of many of our Arsenal supporting lives. It’s do or die, sink or swim, in or out, take it or leave it, us or them, yes or no, or whatever particular dualism cliche takes your fancy..

The axe will undoubtedly fall most heavily on Arsene’s head should we fail to win, so here are two journalistic glimpses into Monday morning’s papers to highlight just how fine the margins are!

newspaper (2)

”As a disconsolate Arsenal left the pitch at White Hart Lane back in March, many thought the 5 point gap that had opened up was too significant a margin to overcome. Yesterday’s victory saw the Gunners once again prove they are indeed the ‘fourth place specialists’ as dubbed by Arsene Wenger only last week. An incredible run of form, winning 8 of their last 10 league games since the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Spurs, sets up a big summer in which we are led to believe Wenger has in the region of £70 million to bolster the squad.

With the best away record in the league, conceding just 14 goals away from home all season (whilst they conceded 8 in one game during the last campaign), it looks as though this newly assembled squad might finally have found their feet. The new contracts signed by the British core of Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Chamberlain as well as the probable departure of Gareth Bale surely signify a continuation of the balance of power in North London. The three new signings of Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski have also each reached 20 goals in a debut season riddled with unjust criticism.

Time then to look towards a bright future in the red half of North London? I think so. Mancini and Ferguson has departed, meaning that all 91 English League Clubs have changed their manager since the last time Arsene Wenger last won a trophy! An incredible stat but one which should be seen as an appreciation of the level of consistency Wenger has adhered to rather than a slight on his misfortunes. In a season in which Spurs gained more points than any other 5th placed team, Wenger once again pipped the old enemy at the post, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing so”.

newspaper (3)

”It looked as though Arsenal had once again scraped a fourth place finish but Arsene Wenger’s luck seems to have finally run out, and so may his time as a Premier League manager. Ever since Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty in Cardiff against Utd with his last kick for the Club, Arsenal have been in demise. Europa League football presents an all time low as far as the Wenger era is concerned and this may prove a step too far for an Arsenal board who have been his most ardent supporters in years gone by.

Only last week Arsenal fans were criticising Chelsea for taking such pride in winning the Europa League but in a years time Arsenal themselves will be vying to match Chelsea’s feat. Although they went into the final day as favourites to claim fourth place, failure from the jaws of success should come as no great surprise. Wenger’s stubbornness and refusal to listen to the demands of seemingly everyone around him lead to similar ‘oh so close’ scenarios including the Champions League final in 2006, the defeat to Birmingham in the League Cup final in 2011, this season’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and now the failure to beat Newcastle Utd on the final day of the 2012/13 season.

The sad truth is that Tottenham have been the better team all season and are deserving of their fourth place finish. The writing has been on the wall for Wenger for a number of years and you can only think, at least in the short term, his legacy will be a regretful one rather than a memorable one. This particular failure will have huge financial implications and many of the apparent transfer targets are likely to head elsewhere seeking European football of the highest order. Wenger may be on his way to PSG, but it may not be a decision of his choosing as we always thought it would be”.

Wow writing that second one was painful.. Hope you all enjoy Sunday as much as it’s emotionally possible. I suggest you have a heavy supply of alcohol at the ready and avoid sharp objects. See you on the other side.

Nick


Arsenal 1 – Chelsea 2: Worrying Times…..

The score is all that matters to me at this moment. Yes I do concede that we were unlucky in the build up to both goals but who cares. Modern football is a game now where almost every decision is contentious and bluntly I am bored of talking about them. I also believe (to use an Areseneism) that despite Chelsea’s misconduct, both goals were very defendable and once again we saw Arsenal switch off.

In the wake of the defeat Arsene said in his press conference:

‘The start was similar to the Manchester City game last week. We didn’t really go for it, didn’t defend well and gave too much room to Chelsea’

So this begs the question as to why, in the biggest game of the season for us so far, we didn’t ‘go for it’. For me the principle blame has to be with the Manager and his coaching staff on this one. Not solely in the build up to the game but also with the personnel he has employed. Jack Wilshere aside, there was no one on that pitch to take the game by the scruff of the neck. It is not all the fault of the players, some personalities just aren’t suited to that role and currently we do not have enough of them in the squad. Arsene denied a lack of on-pitch leadership last night, but I am afraid that is exactly what we are missing.

I hate to bring him up but in his pre match interview with Sky yesterday Van Per$ie spoke about Manchester United and it being a club of Champions, of winners. It was sickening to watch as he smirked with delight at his love for his new teammates. But the sad fact is that he is right, Manchester Utd are winners and the ethos in that squad breeds it.

Man U have 4 strikers all of which I would have starting at Arsenal (Van Per$ie, Welbeck, Rooney and Hernandez). The reason they can have these players is because Man U win and people don’t mind sitting on the bench when they are winning things.

So when Arsene says he doesn’t want to sign Demba Ba as he is ‘too similar to Giroud’, his logic is frankly floored, he would make the world of difference at Arsenal and could easily be the difference between us and Chelsea come the end of the season.

Yesterday Wenger addressed the subject of signings by claiming we are:

‘Not close to signing anyone tonight or tomorrow morning’

From that you have to conclude that he had not planned to purchase in this window and that any buying that goes on now will be in reaction to the poor results. If we had 9 points out of 9 in the league this month then I believe Wenger would not be thinking of adding to the squad. For a sane individual that is hard to rationalise, the lack of depth in our squad is blindingly obvious. The fact that Diaby, who has been out for 3 months, has to come back and play 3 games in a row tells you all you need to know about our squad depth.

diaby

We now have 1 point out of 9 this month and 1 point from 12 against our supposed big 4 rivals. That is not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s stature and without a couple of additions in the next 2 weeks we will not make the top 4. That will signal the end of an era for Arsenal Football Club and leave us in a position we will likely find ourselves in for years to come.

The renewed optimism we have before every game is becoming harder and harder to conjure. No one likes losing but currently the way we are losing is the hardest pill to swallow. Gone are the times when we would lose but have 20 shots on goal, these days we don’t even create that many chances.

@WillOBrien4 tweeted us yesterday evening:

‘Remember the days when we wanted spurs to beat united…. I’m sad’

Will, I couldn’t put it better myself.

Apologies for the downbeat article, but facts are facts and currently Arsenal Football Club is in serious danger of losing its top club status for a long time to come.

Will


It’s All About the Midfield..

So as usual the first game of the season didn’t live up to our extremely high expectations. It was 500 degrees and the Arsenal were lethargic and off the pace throughout. After my last post you would have thought, in all the excitement, I would have at the very least arrived on time. Alas I stumbled in 5 minutes late, sweat pouring from my brow, only to receive the familiar treatment for any poor soul who dares to arrive late in block 44, ‘sidown you slut’. As always followed by a short chuckle from the majority and a bellowing laugh from the funnyman himself. It’s good to be back..

The big question that everyone seems to be asking is ‘can Arsenal possibly improve without their best player?’. On the evidence of the Sunderland game you’d have thought the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. In the days since, the pre-season optimism seems to have deflated but I see no reason for such swift judgement. It does however remain a concern that when we come up against teams who ‘park the bus’ we could still play ‘with the handbrake on’, to use language which I’m sure will be driving us all mental within a few short months.

It’s correct to say that last season our main issues were the reliance on Robin and a dreadful defensive record, particularly at the tail end of games, however both these stemmed from a hideously imbalanced middle 3. Playing a 4-3-3 system, something that is basically essential to compete at the top end of the league and especially in Europe, necessitates a central three who know what their roles, have an understanding of each other, and have enough talent, pace and technique to boss games. Having Jack and Abou missing basically meant we had a middle three made up of Song, Arteta, Rosicky or Ramsey for much of the season. Even now, as I type their names I have a slight feeling of terror about those four attempting to stamp their authority on any football match anywhere.

Yet even without any real central creative force we still provided RVP with a record goals tally. His departure brings new fears about sharing the burden of scoring goals. Song leaving draws fresh concerns about missing a solely defensive minded midfielder to shield the defence. Could you ever consider Song your traditional DM though? I’m not sure there’s any need for a solely defensively minded central player and I think Arsene is thinking the same thing. I might be wrong and Yann M’Villa might arrive tomorrow but Sahin’s arrival means we have a surplus (a word that i wouldn’t have used in relation to any area for at least 6 years) of central and especially creative central midfielders.

Wenger has already said during pre-season that Oxlade-Chamberlain is now a ‘central player’, and we can add Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby, as well as new boys Sahin and Cazorla to the mix. Then there’s always the Coq and Mani Frimpong who are raring to go. it seems as though Arsene has realised that in order to break down teams who come and defend deep, this area needs to be moving the ball much quicker than last year. We need to start really dominating possession again. We need to bring some pace and technical ability to central areas. Only in this way will we get in behind and really wear other teams down like the good old days.

Once the midfield is ticking over, other areas will fall into place. The wide men will receive the ball in better areas and with more space to exploit. Clearly more possession means the defence is less busy, but if the balance is right and everyone knows their role, we can spread the defensive responsibility throughout the team. Similarly attacking duties should be less stagnant and reliant on one man. Hopefully Podolski (who I’m assuming will play left), Walcott and even Gervinho can all pick up 10 goals.

Clearly I’m being idealistic but I have to say I’m not going to allow myself to cry over RVP and Song leaving, at least until we’re 6th at Christmas. Let’s see how we can cope away at Stoke on Sunday. I’m sure Pulis will have his henchman set up to stamp out any evidence of midfield dynamism from the word go.

Let’s show them what we’re capable of. Nick