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