Monday, August 18, 2014

Three Points the Non-Pretty Way

The start of a new season post a World Cup is usually fraught with uneven performances that themselves are dotted with lack of energy, inconsistency, and misreads.  I don't know why I was so surprised that those characteristics were so evident at our match against Crystal Palace on Saturday.  Throw in four new faces to the squad, and the fact that we had our first opening day win since 2009 ( which was a 6-1 thrashing of Everton), the fact that we came from behind to win in injury time can be taken as a very positive sign.  

Crystal Palace was manager-less but one could see the Pulis doctrine ingrained in them.  They were organized, employed rotational fouling, crowded us which made our crisp passing game difficult to play.  That and the fact that our passing was woeful had a direct impact on the lack of fluidity in our game.  

Some quick High's and Low's

Calum Chambers - He's only 19?  He's only 19 and he's ours.  His calmness on the ball, his reading of the game really belies his age and inexperience.  I remember thinking the same when I watched Cesc for the first time (sorry I brought up the "C" word).  Only this time, I don't think we have to worry about him going back home to Barcelona.  Wenger can't seem to make up his mind about where he's going to play him.  He seems as surprised as us that Cal is this good...more to come I hope.  Definitely a High.  Possible Low?  Wenger may think he doesn't have to get a CB or DM.

Koz scoring.  His was a brilliant run to find space when Calum provided a distraction to the defense.  I also loved how he celebrated Rambo's goal.  He seemed more excited than when he scored his own.  The Low?  He fell asleep for the Hangeland goal.

Olivier made a difference when he came on.  He provided more of a focal point than Yaya and held up the ball as we need him to do.  His part in the winning goal was pretty much what Ollie does well.  Unlike the Low of our baby giraffe.  Yaya may have started because he's fitter than Giroud, but one couldn't tell from his lack of energy.  He's now sporting a strained hamstring, which means Giroud will start against Besiktas. And that's good as far as I'm concerned.

Our right side combined well.  Debuchy and Sanchez played some great back heels and one-twos.  It was really fun to watch.  Sanchez didn't have his best game, he'll need time to settle, but in a game of misreads, it was refreshing to see two of the new guys get along so well.  And the Low?  Ox and Santi who have played together going on three seasons, had three misreads in a row.  I'm not sure who that was down to, but if I were to guess, I'd have to put the burden on Santi who had one of his bad days.  Baaaaad days.

Aaron Ramsey can't seem to stop scoring goals.  And he also did not have a good game. He himself admitted that in his post game interview.  But it's important to note that in the final closing of the minutes when Palace were tiring and our own players were showing a lack of fitness, Ramsey made sure he was in the right place at the right time and finished well.  There is no Low for Rambo (and yes, I made that rhyme on purpose).

So now we are off to Turkey for our first Champions League qualifying leg.  Koz may be hurt, Per may have to play prematurely, Yaya is out, but I think coming from behind and winning on Saturday will give us the boost we need to get a least a point from Besiktas.  See you here post match.

Come on you Gunners!  And take care you Gooners.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It's Time to Get Gunning

Title Challengers

Tomorrow's the big day.  Arsenal officially begin their season with a home game against a Pulis-less Crystal Palace, and I couldn't be more excited.  Even having a summer lull filled with some decent World Cup play, the real highlight has been our new signings, our decent preseason form (topped off with a 3-0 win over City), and the retention of that oh-so awesome-winning- feeling given to us by our FA Cup victory.  It's finally time folks.  It's time for Arsenal to go atop once more.  Most would have us challenging for only third but, there is actually one pundit that seems to share the optimism:

There are still, of course, some worries.  We need a center back for sure.  Koz and the ever-supple Mertesacker cannot play 50+ games.  And Cutie Calum may be talented enough to cover at three positions, but we don't want a Phil Jones master-of-no positions on our hands.  My one overwhelming wish is that we get ourselves a central defender pronto.  And according to Phillipe Auclaire on today's Arsecast, the search and inquiries into that CD are serious, and expectations are that we are going to get our man/men.

So tomorrow launches the beginning of what I suspect will be a pivotal year for the club and some of the players.  Arsenal have come out from under the shadow of stadium debt, are now fully flush and able to spend (still responsibly, mind you) in the  market place for that oh,just so right player.  Aaron Ramsey has carried on where he left off after scoring the winner in the FA Cup.  Jack Wilshere looks healthy and ready to take that leap forward in his development, and Sanchez is scaring the ever-loving crapolla out of defenders with a cheekiness that belies his good looks.  I don't know when Ozil will be fit to play (I doubt it will be against Crystal), but I can't wait for him to feed Alexis the perfect pass off a perfect run.  Plus, we have the unpredictability of our favorite baby giraffe..aka throw off the most seasoned of defenders. Throw in some Santi creativity, maybe some Ox-like directness, and add a dash of Theo in September, and there you have it.   

Yea.  I think it's going to be a fun season.

So grab your cannons and hang on tight.  The new season begins in 14 hours against the Eagles on our beautiful home turf.  Let's go you rip roaring Reds.  Let's go.

Have a good one Gooners.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hull City Preview, and I'm Laughing at Mourinho so Hard...

Oh Jose, you kill me!

Ah whew - excuse me the indulgence.  I don't normally like to give any opponent much attention, but when our least favorite referee sticks it to the most ego-centric instigator in the league, I gotta take a moment...or two hundred and enjoy it.  Anyway, onto the matter at hand...
Tomorrow brings a chance to turn up the heat on Man City and keep ahead of Everton as we travel to KC Stadium in search of three points from Steve Bruce and Hull.  While their strike force of Jelavic and Long are cup-tied when we meet up with them again in the FA Cup Final, they are eligible tomorrow and will be sure to trouble us as will Huddlestone, who will be looking to create plays for them and anyone running down their right flank.  Unfortunately, our main left backs are out injured which means TV5 will again have to deputize in that position.  He had a good game against West Ham at left back though.  Let's hope that run of form continues.
Other news is that Mesut Ozil is in contention for the returning to the squad.  He's been in training, posting Instagrams of himself on Twitter, and faces a late fitness test to see if he makes the bench.  I say bench in hopes that Wenger doesn't start him just returning from a long lay off.  I don't have much faith in Wenger's ability to control himself when it comes to not overplaying key players.  He's confessed to overplaying Jack, Ramsey, and now, Giroud:
"For a while he played maybe too many games… but he’s a strong guy, he can cope with it. Up front it’s difficult because every challenge he goes into is physical. He’s not a guy who moves away from people to get the ball. He’s a guy who fights with people to get the ball. When he comes out of the game he has 50 fights behind him. That is more demanding than the guy who just runs away."
So not only is he admitting to not rotating Giroud properly (insert often trod frustration at lack of transfer business in January), he admits to doing it knowing the physical battles he endures every game.  Every year I think Wenger has the ability to self-reflect on the mistakes he's made.  He talks about them in the press, on the web site, in interviews.  What he seems incapable of doing is remembering the nasty consequences of those past choices, and makes the same ones.  Over.  And over. And over.  I have no idea why the club has spent tons of money on this GPS red zone tracking thingy if our manager ignores the results.  It's almost like he just can't help himself.
I helped my brother coach a softball little league time a few years ago.  I know the game.  I played the ir for years, coached many teams.  Being the third base coach means, among other things, I got to decide whether to send a runner home either on a hit, or a ball that got past the catcher.  I remember this one game where we were coming from behind in the last inning, our last at bat.  I was so hungry for the win, that I sent two runners home when really they were not fast enough to make it. We had one out left and we were one run from taking the opposition into extra innings.  I end up with one of the slowest girls on the team on third base.  My head told me "Lisa, do NOT send this girl home on a ball past the catcher, wait for a good hit."  Repeat - we were one run away.  The pitch came in, the catcher missed it, it went behind her and...I. Sent. The. Slow. Girl. Home.  And guess what?  She was out and we lost the game by one run.  I knew the right thing to do.  And I just couldn't help myself.  My brother is going to read this.  And he will know exactly what game I am talking about.  Ugh.
Unfortunately, Wenger doesn't manage a mere little league team.  If he can't learn to discipline himself, he needs to give someone the authority to pull the plug on playing exhausted players who are in the fabled Red Zone.  That should be mandated in is contract extension, if he gets one and takes it.
Anyway, I think that's all I have for now.  I figure we'll line up similarly as we did to West Ham.  Flamini may replace Arteta and maybe Ox will get a start.  Who knows?  I think we have enough weapons to beat Hull now that our confidence is on the upswing.  So, here's to three points and cheers to Mike Dean (that is sincere, by the way.  No sarcasm anywhere,  Heh.).
Have a good one Gooners.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Oldies But Goodies

Goal Solemnity

Arsenal leapt over Everton to reclaim fourth place on Tuesday with a decisive 3-1 victory over the Hammers.  After a rather slow start that resulted in us falling behind 1-0 in the 40th minute, Lukas Podolski equalized, allowing us to enter halftime 1-1.  The second half saw Giroud get on the scoresheet with a sublime touch and right footed finish and then yet another goal from Poldi sealed the deal for us in the 77th minute.  Some quick thoughts/observations.

I was astounded to learn (via Twitter) that the youngest person on the pitch was Giroud at 27 years old.  Arsene confirmed that it was his oldest team he had ever sent out to play.  The age factor could have played into what seemed to be a sluggish first half performance, or it could have just been down to fatigue from the 120 minutes of play on Sunday.  In the end, I think the experience of the oldies helped keep us calm and in the game.  Bringing on some younger, fresh legs as subs was no bad idea however.  Speaking of...

Having Aaron back is bliss.  After playing a 112 minutes in the FA Cup match on Sunday, no one I'm sure, expected Ramsey to get many minutes two days later.  But around the 50th minute I found my self chanting (in my head because I was at work, mind you) "Release the Rambo!"  One can easily forget a player's contribution to a side when that player has been sidelined for three months.  Aaron's energy, stamina, tackling, and eye for a good pass (watch him head down the cross into Poldi's path for his goal) is not just a breath of fresh air.  It's a gust, a squall, the first gulp of air you take after being underwater for too's quite a strong and lovely feeling.  I guess I'm glad he's back.

Kallstrom will be useful.  He still had some waylaid passes, and one could see him getting fatigued around the 60 minute mark, but he had nice tackles, won some very nice headers in midfield, took two shots on goal, and does not panic on the ball when the defense is closing him down.  There was a nice moment between him and Rambo when he was trying to get the ball out of our half, but didn't just boot it long.  He plays it down the sideline to Aaron, fighting off two defenders while he does it.  He has a nice touch and is strong enough to not get knocked off the ball too easily.  He could definitely be important in these last four games.  Plus, how can you not like a guy who said he had "fun" on his first start for Arsenal?

Conceding the opening goal sapped our confidence.  Making goals boosted it right back up.  We played so much freer after Podolski equalized.  It was like the whole team received a adrenaline booster.  It's a cautionary tale - we are still very vulnerable and our confidence may not regain its prior strength we witnessed earlier in the season.  That's why it's so viatl we score early.  We feed on that energy.

Goal celebration was very muted.  I'm not sure if Podolski and Giroud's usually tame celebrations were due to recent performances, criticisms, or just general unhappiness.  I found Poldi's reactions particularly unnerving.  The first goal there was almost no acknowledgment of the fans, the second he fist pumped to them, but the cheesy, grinning, hopping into the air celebration we have come to expect from him were absent.  Even the outlying players on the pitch had reserved responses.  It was weird.  Either the team is so beat up mentally that they cannot celebrate, or the general unhappiness from the fans has penetrated the mood in the locker room.  I could be making something out of nothing.  Did anyone else notice this?

All in all, a satisfactory win that gave us a +2 in the GD column as well as lifting us up to fourth.  We have a game on Easter Sunday at Hull that hopefully will see the return of Ozil as well as Flamini.  But, more on that in a pre-match write up.  Enjoy being back in fourth, having some goals scored, and this sunny (at least in northern Indiana) day.  Have a good one Gooners.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back On The Horse

Time to Get back On...

The downward spiral of Arsenal's performances have made it difficult to write.  The negatives of the team have been talked about so many times, as have the deficits caused by injuries and, in my opinion, poor managerial decisions.  But now having secured an FA Cup final spot in nail biting  fashion, it's time to get back to writing and back to the Premier League battle for fourth.

Today is West Ham at the Emirates.  Normally, Andy Carroll and company would not worry me too much and could even be seen as predictable.  But the end of this season is anything but normal.  Yes, we have fallen away in the past (though not so nearly catastrophically), and we have had to battle for fourth spot.  But we are sprinting to the finish after playing 120 minutes two days ago, with 11 injuries and one suspension to boot.  Podolski, Ox, Monreal, Koz, and TR7 all face late fitness tests and Flamini is  still paying the price of too many yellow cards.  That leaves us a real conundrum in the midfield.  I suspect Kallstrom will start for us and hope that at least two of the four pass their tests to help round everything out.  Monreal can play at left wing if Santi is needed behind the striker (Ollie or Yaya?), but I really hope Tommy is back in the squad.  His habit of pushing us upfield at opportune times, and his enforced rest, could be vital for us today.  Also, did anybody else notice that Bendy was back in the training pictures?  He has played right wing before.  Wenger could shift to a 4-4-2 like he did against Wigan if he wants a more offensive threat.  Still, that leaves the midfield a bit open, which might go against his overall game plan:

“The best way to [cope with Carroll] is to stop the source because you know once the ball is in the air you have a real problem to win it against him,” said the manager. “It is for us to have the ball first and, when we do not have the ball, to stop the source to him.”

Good in theory, but the personnel need to be available to achieve it.  West Ham will be looking to play wide and cross the ball in.  Our full backs and center backs will have to be on their toe4s and have help covering those gaps that Everton so successfully exploited a couple of weeks ago.  Having Koz in the side would just make me feel more at ease against the likes of Carroll and Nolan, who likes to be on the end of the striker's flick-ons.

Three points is a must here, of course.  Everton play Crystal Palace next.  And while Tony Puk-is has them looking good, Martinez' side will be confident that they too can get the win.  Playing well in front of a home crowd is so important as well.  Hearing on Twitter and Arsecast about fellow Gooners breaking into fights at Wembley is embarrassing, and is a sign of the level of frustration at fan level.  Playing well could help alleviate the emotional frenzy that seem to blind some to levels of appropriate behavior.  We all know it's okay to agree to disagree, right?

That's it for now.  I'll be back with a post-match reaction which hopefully will have us looking forward to our randomly rescheduled game against Hull on Sunday.  Take care you Gooners.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

No Idea Really

I just don't know what to expect

It's been awhile since I have not looked forward to a game.  Getting skinned by Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea all least all occurred away from the Emirates.  The beatings took place in front of our stalwart away fans who usually make the best out of the worst situations.  Fans at Emirates, as we discovered at halftime during the Swansea game can be less forgiving and more impatient.
Some fans on Twitter have talked about protesting before and during the match Saturday.  I always have wondered how that kind of thing affects players.  Knowing fans are that unhappy with possibly your performances, the club, and their manager can't be inspiring.  I'd think it'd be depressing and hard upon which to build any momentum.  People are upset though, and rarely in those times does good sense prevail.
Tuesday's draw wasn't one due to a bad performance, per se.  The squad performed similar to the way we have after our Liverpool and Manchester City losses.  We played cautious with a little left over feeling from being shell-shocked.  We actually showed some determination against the Swans with coming from behind to be winning 2-1.  It was a gaff in front of goal that provided our opponents a draw.  Some say the ghost of Birmingham made an appearance. I don't entirely agree.  The cup final loss was due to a miscommunication between a green Koz and a green Szcz.  Flamini's own goal really was a fluke, with its fault lying at the fact that our fullbacks were all the way  upfield and isolated due to the substitutions (what happened to "bring on the fullbacks"?). Poor tactics and positional discipline were at fault because they allowed the counterattack to occur in the first place.
So, what can we expect today?  If the pattern continues its run, we should have a win.  However, there are some other factors present today that were not when we won against West Ham and then Liverpool in the FA Cup.  Eight injuries to important players is incredibly impactful.  Our bench will consist of promoted reservists and recalled players who were out on loan.  Our striker is running with lead legs and feet.  I saw desire from Ollie on Tuesday.  His body is just no longer complying with his will.  And lastly, I think our boss and club are seriously considering their futures together.  If the squad has any grit left in their weary bodies, that alone should inspire them to play their hearts out.  For many, Wenger has made them into the players they are.  For others, he has given second chances to play at the top flight of European football.
All in all, it makes it difficult to not want to watch the game without my scarf in front of my eyes.
But, I will watch.  Like all of you.  A good performance today is imperative to build confidence for a FA Cup semi-final win.  That trophy is exponentially growing in its importance, isn't it?
That's it for now.  Let's Go You Gunners.  I'll see you all on the other side, and have a good one Gooners.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Apologies - Just Performance Please

The sun still rises in the morning even after the demolition that Arsenal went through on Saturday.  Goonerdom and Twitter imploded, the club went into lockdown, and the media speculated over the future of Arsene.  None of the after effects shocked me.  There are those Gooners who get abusive, the media needs to sell papers, the club needed some quiet, and time needed to pass.
Two days later, many are still critical, but less over-the-top.  The media have posted stories of Arsene retiring in two years, rather than at the end of the season, and the club are talking again.  Although, apologies from Arteta and quotes like this from Arsene make me wish they had chosen to maintain radio silence:

"An accident has happened, that doesn't mean that you're not a good driver," he told Arsenal Player.
"It just means that we have played about 40 games this season and it's not what happened on Saturday that reflects the quality of this team. We have 62 points that we earned hard with quality games and that's what we want to focus on, to get back to that quality. We go back to basics."

If by accident, Arsene is referring to a 40 car pile-up on the interstate, than I agree.  Otherwise, I'm just going to assume he is protecting the players and the privacy of what was said behind closed doors.  That assumption is for my own sanity because I refuse to believe he's that out of touch.

Really all we want as fans is to see our team look like they want to challenge each and every opponent - squashing those who get in our path.  And we want the manager to make decisions that reflect his tactical nous - not his tactical no.

What it comes down to for now is the next game - Swansea on Tuesday.  Because we're The Arsenal and luck usually shows us her backside, Koz is out with a calf injury.  Hector Bellerin has been promoted to fill in for him (on the bench) while Vermie has a chance to shine in the next few games as the on-field replacement. 

Gibbs will start at left-back as both he and Ox are available.  Ox's red-card has been rescinded.  Whether the FA has just decided to give Ox a break as an apology for the embarrassing mistake or they truly believe he did not deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity, who knows.  And who care.  We have both back, and I think Ox should start.  Get him back on the horse - but on it's wing (apparently the horse is Pegasus).  We need some sort of speedy outlet for our midfield, and if he starts to give the ball away, at least it will be in less dangerous areas.  Santi, if he's not too fatigued from running his dogs off on Saturday, can pull those strings in the middle.  Let's not forget Serge or Kallstrom, neither have seen much/any playing time recently.  Swansea might be the game for them coming off the bench.

The most important thing is winning those three points, not to battle for first, but to make sure we lock down a Champions League spot, and get some of our confidence back as well as the goodwill of the fans.  Wenger has a lot of buying to do in the summer, and having the opportunity to play in Europe is, as we know, a draw for world class footballers.  And we need this squad really to face Man City on the weekend.  That's it for now.  See you in the funny papers.

Have a good one you Gooners.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not So Ready for Prime Time Players Crash and Burn at Stamford Bridge

I really hate having to write a report after we lose in such devastating fashion.  It's the same feeling I had writing after Manchester City and Liverpool defeats.  This is worse though in that Mourinho has no class, we needed to win to stay within fighting range of the title, and Wenger's 1,000 match was suppose to be a positive milestone.  Instead, Wenger was treated to a thrashing that highlighted the deficits in our team and manager.  Without Theo out wide and Ozil or Ramsey in the middle, our offensive threat is greatly diminished.  Starting without Flamini against a team with outstanding midfielders was a mistake, and Oxlade-Chamberlain had one of his worse performances in an Arsenal shirt, giving away passes (there were warning signs in previous games), and ultimately taking us down to ten men with an outrageous and thick-headed handball. 

We played slow and could not handle the  pressure that Chelsea, nor the immensity of the game itself ,brought on.  I think the latter is a mindset that isn't going to be fixed on the training ground.  This team for many years is unfortunately, used to losing and only winning something is going to flip that around. 

Team selection was wrong.  There's just no way around that.  Arteta was completely overrun in midfield with the likes of Oscar, Hazard, and Schurrle on the pitch at the same time.  If Wenger wanted to include both Ox and Tommy, he should have sacrificed Podolski, and put Ox on the wing.  There is no speed or outlet when Ox is in the middle, and his defensive awareness is still developing.  The Flamini/Arteta axis should have been deployed from the start.

Can a win in the FA Cup help turn that tide, or does that have to happen with a new manager?After this most recent performance, a win in our semi-final against Wigan seems a bit shaky now.  Our confidence is low, and in addition, we now have the added pressure of being the favorites, and responding positively to pressure is the issue for us, isn't it. If we don't win the Cup, I wouldn't be surprised if Wenger does not extend his contract.  He is intelligent, loyal, and really loves Arsenal.  If he thinks he is no longer the man for the job, I think that he will help the club find a suitable replacement, and try to make a graceful exit.  Actually, after today, even if we win the Cup, I can see him doing the same thing.

I've been saying for the past few games that I thought Fabianski's form earned him a run in goal ahead of Szczesny.  Today made me wonder again.  Half of the goals were not his fault, but he fumbled two chances that could have resulted in more goals, and I wonder if Fabianski could have kept out the penalty.  He's a better shot stopper than Szcz, and maybe would have had a better time against Oscar's goals.  Of course, those came after we were already down three so I could be nitpicking here.

What hope is there for the rest of the season?  We have Swansea on Tuesday.  If patterns continue, we should see a more cautious Arsenal grind out a win, focusing on reestablishing the defensive side of our game in time for Manchester City.  As for that game, I don't hold much certainty that we won't get turned over - at least the match is at home.  After that, all our games are incredibly winnable, but I don't see us finishing third unless someone above us stumbles worse than us.  Manchester United have looked to be getting back on form with two decisive wins in a row.  Even though the skunk is out the rest of the season with injury, could they (or Everton) mount a run for fourth place?  The thought frightens me a little bit to be honest.

That's it for now.  I'll be back with a preview on Swansea.  The weekend is ruined for me, but I will try to make due like the rest of you.  Take care you Gooners.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's North London Derby Day!

Adebayor, Lennon, and Dawson
I love Derby Day.  I don't consider playing Chelsea, West Ham, or Fulham as real derbies.  To me, this one is the one that counts.  I don't know if all overseas fans absorb the rivalry as I have.  I have a special I Hate Tottenham scarf at my disposal.  I take a vacation day off of work to celebrate St. Tottenham day,  and losing to them is like losing a trophy.  The one thing that is different over here is that there is a lack of a Spurs contingent, so I don't have co-workers or even family with whom I could exchange banter.  I thought that might change when NBC picked that "rabble down the road" as the team to highlight in their PR video with Jason Sudeikis - but fortunately we Americans are rather band-wagon-ish when it comes to picking teams.  Spurs' performances this season have tanked whatever overseas following they were hoping to get.  Thank God.  I can't imagine seeing Spurs jerseys over here, although that would allow for some enjoyable jeering and pointing.

Anyway, the trip to the Lane is earmarked by injuries to some of our best midfield players.  Ozil, Ramsey, and Jack are all out of contention with Rambo still feeling reoccurring pain in his thigh which is worrisome - so much so that the manager is looking to investigate what is causing this late season pile-up of injuries.  In the meantime, we have our Magic Spaniard and our Little Mozart both of whom can fill in for Mesut.  Podolski can go on the left to pick up his scoring record against the Spuds again and the Ox certainly needs to start whether on the right or in the middle, depending on whether Flamini starts with Arteta or not.

Wenger tactics are difficult for me to figure out.  Anyone who reads my prematch reports will note that my starting lineups are usually off by a few players.  If Wenger expects Sherwood to revert back to his open/attacking style of play that he invoked after first taking over managing the club, then I could see Arteta/Flamini axis being called in to stop their attacking threat and then maybe look to exploit their high line on a counter.  But if Sherwood sits deeper as he has been the past few matches, then I think one or the other will get a rest.  And let's not forget our miracle from January who may turn out to be a shrewd signing with all the injuries.  Kallstrom is fit, and according to Wenger, looking good:

“I think he can play an important part in the end of our season," said Wenger. "We are all absolutely delighted to have him with us because on a daily basis he is a joy to watch.
“He is a fantastic guy. His motivation and attitude has been spot-on. His readiness to put the effort in has been spot-on."

The fact that his heart seems to be in it is good to hear.  I'm sure he is somewhat aware of all the guff that was caused by him joining Arsenal while injured.  If he has any competitive bones left in his body, he will work hard to rectify the situation.  The whole transfer was so bizarre, having a meaningful contribution from him would go a little way in healing some of the disbelief disappointment incurred during January's window.  A little bit.  I hear there are 20/1 odds offered for tomorrow's match that Kim scores the winner in injury time.  I'm saving my best Kim prediction for April 14th. 

Anyway, even though Spuds have been playing somewhat boring, mediocre football, they are a mere six points below us in the table (we have a game in hand), and we know derbies are unpredictable - like a cup game.  Adebayor is encouraging his teammates to get physical and pressure us - knowing we don't like that kind of play.  He's somewhat right about that.  We have panicked at times when pressured, but I'm not sure Spurs are solid enough defensively in the back to hold us off if we get past pressing that's higher up the pitch.  Nor do I think they have the camaraderie needed to defend as a team.  Just a feeling. 

That's it for now.  Three points is a must tomorrow to pull away from those commoners and to gain traction in the title race yet again.  Chelsea dropped three points today to Aston Villa - anything is possible people.  Remember that.  If we play at our best from the get-go, I know we'll get the win.  Here's to making mash out of those 'taters.

Have a good one Gooners.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Arsenal 1 - 1 Bayern Munich - A Solid Performance Can't Undo Squad Issues

Ala Robben

Good morning all.  So much for sunshine.  I'm home and off of work thanks to Winter Storm Vulcan.  Vulcan?  That's not a Name.  It's a planet and a species - and fictitious at that.  Won't it be refreshing when I am no longer opening blog posts with weather comments?     Anyway...

So, we are out of the Champions League tournament.  We didn't play as open as I thought we would, but overall, it was a not- quite- spectacular- but -solid performance, and one where we can hold our heads high as we go into Sunday's match against our bitterest of rivals.  And while I have no real issue with individual players' performances against such a convincing team like Bayern, I don't think this year's CL was lost last night.  There are contributing factors to our going out that have occurred for years, and they have not being fully addressed... yet.

We can't take on Champions League Teams with a bench including the likes of Ryo Miyaichi.  Forgetting the fact that we probably looked like amateurs when it was announced Ryo was ineligible because he wasn't registered to play in Champions League, he's a guy that should not make it on the plane in the first place.  Yaya and Nikolas may have both gotten late injuries, but there's not better back up than Ryo?  It comes down to the most consistent issue:

Squad depth up front is lacking.  Even with Yaya healthy, he's still not a proper backup for a Champions League match against the best team in the world.  And look, I fully admit that I am not the expert when it comes to January transfers.  There very well may or may not have been clubs willing to sell and/or players willing to leave those clubs.  But, the drought days instigated by the building of the Emirates are over.  We now have the cash and a summer window approaching that will require us not only to buy a proper striker (or two), but defensive cover as well.  What we need is the back room and Arsene to get on the same page and do what needs to be done.  Otherwise, we'll be that little train that could, but never did, make it to another Champions League Final.  We may, in fact, keep setting ourselves up for failure by continuing to finish second in our group, thus forcing us to play these mega-giants year after year.

Some positives from last night.  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlein continues to be fearless no matter who the opponent is.  He was our one direct threat, got kicked to ground three times pretty fiercely from which only one yellow was given if I'm remembering correctly, and is always gutted to lose.  Check out his post-match interview.  It's professional, but you can see the sadness.  He's one of the reasons I want us to spend on strengthening the squad.  He deserves a reward for all his hard work.  And that reward needs to be a trophy.

I've talked about Fabianski's improvement and blossomed maturity in goal already.  I think he was very unlucky to  get injured last season while deputizing for the out-of-form Szczesny.  Chezzers is still capable of making errors of judgment (I still think he made one against the Diver in the first leg) which will in all likelihood diminish as he also matures.  This penalty save last night was phenomenal and so brave that it highlights again a case for his starting in league matches, in my opinion.  Lukasz is most likely gone in the summer, and the club who signs him is lucky indeed.  I just hope we don't have to face him in the BPL.

Ozil's injury is lamentable, was probably preventable, and made him a target for knee-jerk journalism.  I am not going to give links to the paper articles written by John Cross of the Mirror or Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail because I don't want to give them more page hits, but both were that of character assassination.  If they had waited to write or publish those articles until after the post-match press conference, they would have learned that Ozil was injured in the opening 20 minutes of the match which, duh, affected his performance.  Now he has a hamstring injury that "looks quite serious".  This means surgery and probably 5-6 weeks out.  So now our most creative and expensive player is on the sidelines for our run-in.  Wenger's lack of man management skills drives me bonkers.  Mesut did not get a break playing through the winter like his body is used to.  Resting him a couple of games the last few weeks apparently did not help.  He should have been rested through the holidays - his form went down as soon as he got fatigued.  It's not rocket science.  If a middle-aged woman from Indiana can figure it out, why can't Wenger?

Overall, our players' spirits should be in good shape for the derby on Sunday.  Having Ramsey back training should also provide a lift for them.  I'd be surprised if he makes an appearance, but I fully admit, Wenger appalls surprises me with those kinds of decisions, so who knows?  I'll be back for a fuller match preview on Friday.  Until then, have a good one Gooners.