Thoughts on Arsenal’s festive sandwich

festivesandwich

‘Tis the season to be jolly. And then less so.
Arsenal have just completed a festive sandwich of fixtures. On the one side, a wholesome and thoroughly rewarding victory away to Aston Villa. On the other, a rather stale draw at home to Wolves. In the middle, of course, was a big fat Christmas. Hope you had a great one, wherever you are and whatever you might be celebrating.

Alex McCleish is the enemy of football.
Anyone who watched our game against them on Wednesday last will surely concur. This man must be stopped: he seems to suck the joy out of any club he takes over. His Villa are a horrendous side – seemingly as dull on the eye as the Birmingham City team he led to relegation last season. On Boxing Day, Sky sought to outdo Scrooge himself by screening just one game: Stoke vs. Aston Villa. It was apocalyptically bad.

Yossi Benayoun deserves more opportunities.
His headed winner at Villa Park was a rare example of an Arsenal player coming off the bench and making a genuine different to the game. Supporters are tired of seeing the uninspiring sight of Marouane Chamakh or Andrey Arshavin preparing to take to the field. Benayoun guarantees hard work and, of late, real quality. His display at home to Wolves was another example of what he can offer the side.

Arsenal were denied by Hennessey’s brilliance rather than their own incompetence.
A point at home to Wolves is a frustrating result, particularly when the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool have both dropped points in similar circumstances, but on this occasion I think arseblog has it right: we have to offer congratulations to an outstanding performance by the goalkeeper rather than blame ourselves. These freakish results will occasionally occur – it’s only when they become regular that there is genuine cause for concern.

Four points from Villa and Wolves is not a bad return.
If we go on to beat QPR and Fulham, which is not an unrealistic target, 10 points from 12 available will look even healthier.

Whisper it quietly, but Spurs don’t look likely to collapse anytime soon.
Whilst of course we ought to try and pursue and overhaul them, I’m increasingly of the belief that the real battle for Champions League qualification is between us and Chelsea, and for fourth rather than third place. Spurs look very strong indeed, and I don’t perceive Liverpool to have the strength in depth to mount a sustained challenge – particularly in light of Luis Suarez’s ban.

Thierry Henry could be the best available option to strengthen the squad.
Of course there are better strikers out there than a 34-year old who plies his trade in the MLS, but how many of them are available in January? Very few. It’s not worth investing millions of pounds in a substandard player who will make a limited impact – you could argue we’ve already done that with Chu-Young Park. Bringing in Henry would give us a viable option from the bench as well as providing a lift to everyone at the club. If it happens, however, it’d have to be soon. No point waiting to look at other options until the end of January then letting Henry go back to the states after a fortnight.

Right. The next game is QPR at home on New Year’s Eve, after which we’ll be able to put a very rocky 2011 to bed.