There is a strange pressure about being FA Cup favourites…
It’s an unpleasantly familiar sensation, much like the one we found ourselves in at this stage 2011’s Carling Cup.
Surely, the lessons of that disastrous final have been learnt. We’re more experienced, more determined and more professional. We ought to do it. There are no excuses.
I was pleased with the Bayern result and performance…
In my opinion, the tie was effectively dead after the first leg result. If I’m honest, I’d pretty much resigned it as soon as the initial draw was made. However, 1-1 at the Allianz Arena was a creditable result that allowed us to continue our campaign with the semblance of gathering momentum. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was absolutely superb: in the continued absence of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, he must be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
The penalty save felt significant…
Not only did it ensure we left without suffering a dispiriting defeat, but it also felt like the moment that Lukasz Fabianski guaranteed his place in the FA Cup semi-final side. In this form, his departure on a Bosman in the summer feels like a significant loss.
Spurs are on the ropes…
Their fans are as unsettled as they’ve been for some time. Speaking to Spurs supporters, it seems there’s a sense that the club lack direction and purpose. They feel little to no affinity with the players, and are worried they’re trapped in a purgatorial prison. A “negative spiral”, you might say.
However, derby day is a real equaliser. We know only two well how quickly the trajectories of the two north London clubs can be reversed. Arsenal will need to ensure their focus is absolutely right if they’re to come away with three points.
We need those points pretty badly. Although the increased probability of FA Cup success has made that the focus, we still have a good chance of winning the Premier League. It would take an extraordinary run, but then title wins usually do.
Arsene gambled with his team at either end of the pitch…
When it came to selecting his team, Arsene Wenger made two big calls at the extremities of the pitch. First off, he allowed Lukasz Fabianski to continue in his role as Arsenal’s cup goalkeeper. At the opposite end, he selected Yaya Sanogo to start ahead of Olivier Giroud.
Given the result, Wenger will feel justified in his decisions. However, if Arsenal ultimately reach the FA Cup Final, I’ll be screaming for Szczesny to start. There is little room for sentiment when there is silverware at stake.
The goal was an important moment for Mesut Ozil…
The fist pump he gave when the ball hit the net was as expressive a show of emotion as we’ve seen from Ozil since he arrived on these shores. The fact that every single outfield Arsenal player joined him in celebration seemed significant, too: this was a clear show of support for a player who has been under fire.
This was Ozil’s first goal for three months, and his best performance in a while too. Afterwards, Wenger described him as “regenerated” after a recent rest.
He’s certainly found the season hard going. I’ve heard that Arsene believes this is a particularly difficult year for Ozil to have moved to the Premier League. Six teams are battling for Champions League qualification. Another 10 face the possibility of relegation. Every time you face one of those teams, you’re engaged in a high-intensity battle. At Madrid, Ozil simply didn’t encounter that ferocious level of competition on such a regular basis.
It’s been a steep learning curve. Hopefully this match represents something of a turning point.
Flamini’s booking made life hard…
Mathieu Flamini was booked after 23 minutes. It’s no coincidence that it was around that time that Everton began to pose a consistent threat on the counter-attack. His ability to break up the play was severely hampered. On Everton’s equaliser, there was a clear moment of indecision where Flamini was reluctant to put in a tackle and face a red card.
Giroud is the best striker we have…
I must confess I find Arsene Wenger’s faith in Yaya Sanogo somewhat baffling. He’s big, strong and willing, but miles away from Olivier Giroud. I’m not even convinced that he’s better than Nicklas Bendtner.
Giroud’s two goals showed he’s still the top man. He now has 18 in all competitions — one more than he managed in the entirety of last season. He’s far from perfect, but he’s also comfortably the best striker we have.
Two wins from glory…
I’m not a fan of hosting the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, but it ensures a good day out and a sense of occasion. If we can win there and book a place in the final it will ensure a dramatic end to what’s been, on the whole, a positive season.
It was great to see some familiar faces at the Emirates…
Before the game, Theo Walcott was out on the pitch. It was encouraging to see him walking unaided – I’m told he’s begun doing rehab on a zero-gravity treadmill. Disappointingly, this does not teach him how to fly, but instead allows him to run without putting significant weight on his joints.
Then, at half-time, Pat Rice came out to thank the fans for their support in his battle with cancer. Pat’s a real fighter and a true Arsenal man, and it was genuinely heartwarming to see him looking so well.
This was our biggest win of the season… …although the scoreline was arguably somewhat flattering. After romping in to a two-goal lead, Arsenal took their foot off the gas and instead applied the dreaded handbrake. On a side note, it’s vaguely amusing that a handbreak is something designed for security, but in Arsenal terminology has transmogrified in to something perilous.
Anyhow. Had Coventry’s Leon Clarke been in better form, the underdogs may even have grabbed a couple of goals. As it was, they failed to take their opportunities, and tired late on.
That’s what a midfield without Arteta & Flamini looks like… Arsene fielded a very attack-minded central midfield of Jack Wilshere alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Although both players impressed in possession, without the ball they struggled. In the second half, Coventry regularly isolated and outmanoeuvred our full-backs. The work that Arteta and particularly Flamini do in wide areas is often overlooked and utterly vital.
It’s hard to argue with Podolski’s numbers… He now has more goals than starts in 2013/14. He’s comfortably the best finisher in the Arsenal squad. In the light of his brace, it’ll be fascinating to see whether or not he gets the nod to start against Southampton on Tuesday. He couldn’t really have done much more to demonstrate his ability against Coventry. If he doesn’t start, it suggests that nothing Podolski can produce on the pitch will alleviate Wenger’s patent unwillingness to field him from the start.
We were more German than ever…. When Gedion Zelalem came on for his first-team debut, Arsenal had five Germans on the pitch. On the same night, Bayern Munich played in the Bundesliga. They ended their game with just four.
However, I don’t think Draxler is coming… Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t see this deal happening in the January window. A lot of amateur body language experts have come out of the woodwork to analyse Arsene’s various smirks and batting eyelashes, but I don’t think there’s anything in there to suggest we’re on the verge of a swoop for the prodigiously-talented Draxler.
I think the player would very much like to come. A lot of the noise this week seems to have emanated from his camp. However, the more certain Arsenal are of the player’s commitment the less likely they are to play his steep release clause. Arsenal will do the deal when they can get it cheapest.
There’s another reason for my doubts. Earlier in January, the club were actively considering a bid for a wide player. That search was accelerated when Theo Walcott was ruled out for the rest of the season. However, since then, agents who had previously being tasked with identifying potential recruits are now being fed the same “we have 17 wingers” line that Wenger trotted out in his post-Coventry press conference. That is the new company line – inspired, one might imagine, by the swift development of Serge Gnabry.
“Ah”, you say, “but what if he sees Draxler as a striker?” Wenger may well have a long-term plan to develop Draxler in to a striker, but is the middle of a title challenge really the best time to embark upon that sort of experiment? As much as I’d like us to sign the player, I suspect not.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the reason Wenger has privately called off the hunt for a wide attacker is that he’s already found the one he wants: Draxler. However, looking in to his eyes on Friday night, I didn’t sense the same anticipatory glee I saw prior to the Ozil signing.
I think Arsene would still like to sign a striker, ideally on loan. Whether or not that will be possible in what’s left of the window remains to be seen. It looks unlikely.
I’d like to be wrong. I’d love Wenger to go out and make a signing in this window. I have a horrible, nagging suspicion that if we don’t, we may be left wondering “what if” come May. We’re in a phenomenal position, and I can’t fathom why we’d choose to leave anything to chance.
The FA Cup Draw… I’ve come to accept that any home draw is essentially a good draw. We’ve been handed three in succession, so can’t really complain. Manchester City facing off against Chelsea is also fantastic for our chances. The FA Cup certainly represents our most direct route to silverware this season. It’s tantalising to imagine that we are just two wins from Wembley, and four wins from a trophy. Admittedly, the draw does leave us with a pretty daunting schedule over the next two months. However, as a United-supporting friend said to me in the light of the draw: “Better to be scared than bored”.
I’ll admit, I was worried about the XI Arsene picked…
Before the game, Arsene said he’d treat this just like an important league game. He was fibbing. Had this been a league game, Szczesny, Mertesacker and Ozil would all have started. Perhaps Olivier Giroud would even have been roused from his sickbed.
Instead, all four were absent from the starting XI, and two from the matchday squad entirely.
There were two areas that particularly troubled me. The first was at centre-back: the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen has never looked particularly secure. The first half showed that fielding these two talented but impetuous defenders does make us a little vulnerable in-behind – Vermaelen was twice turned when trying to nick the ball early. However, any anxiety was relatively short-lived: a cut knee forced Vermaelen off at half-time, with Mertesacker coming on to replace the Belgian.
My other concern was the goalkeeper. Although Lukasz Fabianski’s recent performances have been relatively solid, I’d be lying if I said I’d entirely let go of my perception of him as something of a calamity waiting to happen – as my annotated team-sheet will show.
My fears were misplaced…
Arsenal were never really tested. Fabianski made one decent save to deny Christian Eriksen, but other than that Arsenal looked very secure. Emmanuel Adebayor, whose good form going in to the game was cause for dark premonitions, spent the match tucked firmly in Laurent Koscielny’s back-pocket. Roberto Soldado, meanwhile, is truly the heir apparent to Helder Postiga in Tottenham’s Hall of Infamy.
To be honest, Tottenham made it very easy for us.
I think Tim Sherwood’s positive impact at Tottenham has been hugely overblown. He’s only won three of his first six games. He drew at home with an out-of-sorts West Brom, and lost an important Capital One Cup tie at home to relegation-threatened West Ham.
I don’t know if it’s because he’s a young English manager, but the praise he’s received seems hugely disproportionate when compared to his actual tangible impact. The BBC have even chosen to conveniently overlook the West Ham game and call this the first defeat of his time at Tottenham:
I’m convinced that a Spurs side managed by AVB would have given us a better game today – in fact, they did just that, back in August.
Sherwood has been lauded for his revolutionary introduction of an old school 4-4-2 formation. However, today was the first occasion on which his system was tested against a quality five-man midfield. It might be good enough to beat mid-table sides like Manchester United, but it’s not going to be good enough to beat the Arsenal.
Another bizarre thing about Sherwood is that while he has overhauled the team, he’s chosen to retain arguably the most catastrophic element of AVB’s team: the kamikaze high line.
It was telling that Wenger opted to pick a three diminutive speedsters up top in Gnabry, Walcott and Cazorla. He had probably watched Liverpool’s tiny trio of Suarez, Coutinho and Sterling demolish Tottenham a matter of weeks before.
While I’m on it, Tim Sherwood is a spectacularly inarticulate man…
I know I’ll be accused of snobbery here, but I don’t care. After the match, Sherwood claimed, “We was not not outnumbered in midfield, we wasn’t”. Seems like he’s stuck in his own double-negative spiral.
Gnabry was outstanding…
Starting Fabianski felt like a gamble. Starting Gnabry felt like a declaration of faith. That faith was repaid with a storming display. For an 18 year-old, it’s his football intelligence that really takes your breath away.
Amid all the chatter about the Januzaj lad at United, you might forget that other club’s are even allowed to have exciting youngsters. Apparently if they don’t have even the slightest chance of playing for England, they’re not as interesting to our national press. Nevertheless, I can’t see many more promising prospects than Gnabry around – and he doesn’t dive. While I’m at it: if he played for a club with a midfield as weak as Moyes’, he’d probably be starting every week too. As it is, he is in competition with the likes of Cazorla and Ozil for a regular place.
…deserved that goal. He probably deserves a new deal, too. Arsenal will face competition from the MLS and elsewhere for his services in 2014/15, but I’d be delighted to see him stay with the club. You won’t find many 33-year olds who could race away from Danny Rose quite so effectively. He’s like Peter Pan. Or maybe Benjamin Button. Maybe eventually he will regress in to being a weird little baby old person. Who knows? But I want to see it happen. At Arsenal.
Theo Walcott looked impressive as a centre-forward…
His finishing was a little off, but he showed great movement and a willingness to take on the physical elements of the role. On the admittedly limited evidence of the past two games, he’s a far better bet for the position than Lukas Podolski.
As for the whole stretcher-based controversy, Spurs want to be careful throwing money at Theo – they’ve already chucked away £100m in the summer transfer market.
Arsenal saw out the game in relative comfort…
My overall thought watching this match was that gap between the two teams seems to have widened significantly in the first-half of this season. This was the most one-sided derby victory for some time.
The Fourth Round beckons, and I hope we give the FA Cup some real focus this year. It’d be a massive thing to reach the final or, God forbid, win it. The players seemed to flourish away from the weekly pressure of the Premier League, too – this was our best performance in weeks.
Arsenal have nine days rest now before an awkward-looking trip to Aston Villa, and the resumption of Premier League duties.
Cazorla makes more sense than Sahin | August 1st 2012
The need for Cazorla is clear. Despite selling both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer, Arsene’s didn’t buy a direct replacement in the form of an attacking midfielder, choosing instead to rely on Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky across the course of the season, with mixed results. Cazorla would fill that gap and add an extra dimension to the side – and, at a reported £16m, be an absolute bargain.
At first glance, the signing of Sahin would be a little odd. He plays a deeper role than Cazorla, without being a destroyer. It’s an area in which Arsenal are seemingly well-stocked.
For your consideration: Thoughts on Cazorla, RVP & Song | August 11th 2012
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dutchman intends to leave Arsenal this summer. The recent comments of Alex Ferguson convince me that he has probably arrived at some sort of provisional agreement with Manchester United too – they wouldn’t risk the embarrassment of going public with the bid if they thought there was a chance RVP would reject them.
I made my peace with Van Persie’s probable exit a while ago, but I am a little worried about the reports of Barcelona’s interest in Alex Song. Whilst I admit he has flaws, I’m a big fan of the Cameroon midfielder, and unlike with Van Persie I cannot see an obvious replacement within the squad.
RVP to United is painful but unsurprising | August 17th 2012
What makes this divorce particularly painful is the third party: Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Over the years, Fergie has tried to snare several Arsenal players – most infamously, Patrick Vieira. In the past, such moves seemed improbable. United and Arsenal were simply too close in their rivalry and their status.
Now, for the first time, one of our assets has been prised away to Old Trafford, and it stings. Arsenal fans will claim Van Persie left for the money. They’ll chuckle at the fact he’s ended up at a team that probably wasn’t his first choice. But the uncomfortable truth remains that he’s joined a club where he stands a better chance of winning the trophies that have eluded him for so long.
Cazorla could be the signing of the season. I’m not particularly prone to hyperbole, but this guy has everything. Apart from height. And the ability to fly. I mentioned in a previous blog, but his two-footedness is quite extraordinary. Whether passing or shooting, it is genuinely difficult to tell which foot is stronger (for those who want to know, it’s his right).
We only had one Song | August 20th 2012
Song’s departure also puts a slightly different spin on our summer. A few weeks ago we had brought in Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, and still had Van Persie. Now we’ve lost the Dutchman and, to most people’s surprise, Song. Earlier in the summer, that trio of signings looked like a considered statement of intent: we were finally loosening the purse strings to improve the squad. By selling Song and Van Persie, we’ve actually covered those costs entirely. Once again, Arsenal head towards the end of the summer in profit. It’s almost as if we planned it like this.
Transfer round-up: Three steps forward, two steps back | September 1st 2012
It’s a case of three steps forward, two steps back. This summer initially looked like one of bold investment. Now we find ourselves back in profit, and with a squad that’s arguably no better than last season’s. I still think we have more than enough quality to finish in the top four, but what’s frustrating is that with one or two additions we had the potential to do so much more than that.
Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal: The signs are good | September 3rd 2012
Alongside Diaby, Mikel Arteta was immaculate in the holding role. In fact, our central midfield display was so good that the discourse about our failure to replace Alex Song almost evaporated over the course of the ninety minutes. Had we lost this match, with one-time transfer target Nuri Sahin impressing for Liverpool, the fanbase would be up in arms. As it is, Arteta and Diaby bossed it, Sahin was anonymous, Arsenal victorious, and Song forgotten.
Southampton Preview: Today is about more than Olivier Giroud | September 15th 2012
Olivier Giroud has started just two games for Arsenal. He has had just two noteworthy chances. And yet already there is talk of him being ‘under pressure’. Football has truly never been quite so hysterical and reactionary.
City Preview, Wilshere’s return, & Theo thoughts | 22nd September 2012
If a new deal hasn’t been finalised by then, surely Walcott will be encouraged to leave early for a knock-down fee of £5m or so. In the meantime, his situation has seen him fall behind the developing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a rejuvenated Gervinho in the pecking order. Until some resolution is found regarding his long-term future, I do not expect that to change.
City 1 – 1 Arsenal: A moral victory, and a victory for morale | 24th September 2012 Mertesacker’s performance was inch-Perfect The big German has been unfairly judged throughout his time in England. He looks ungainly, but his intelligence, cool head, and reading of the game are invaluable. Yesterday was probably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, but it has been coming – his recent form has been superb. Steve Bould and Arsene Wenger were both centre-backs who didn’t rely on pace in their time, and I wonder if that’s part of why they’ve embraced the BFG so wholeheartedly.
I’m surprised anyone was surprised by Gervinho’s performance Granted he had scored three goals in two games, but that didn’t suddenly make him Thierry Henry. Two of those goals were tap-ins, whilst the other was his first against Southampton – when, frankly, he just decided to put his foot through it. On that day, it flashed in to the net. Yesterday, similarly thoughtless efforts were skewed high and wide. I’m afraid he will always be erratic in front of goal.
Theo should learn from Mikel Arteta | 25th September 2012
When you add it all up, this “big factor” of wanting to play through the middle doesn’t really seem to make any sense, does it? And that’s when it becomes exposed for what it is: a cover story. Another PR spin from ‘camp Walcott’ so that when he refuses to sign a new deal they can protest that it wasn’t about the money. Perhaps I’m wrong and he will stay, but this looks to me a lot like he’s getting his excuses in early.
Arsenal 6 – 1 Coventry: Player-by-player review | 27th September 2012
I’m a fan of Andre Santos. He’s clearly a great personality to have around the club, and going forward he is capable of great things. Tonight, however, he looked plain lazy. He wandered around the pitch, sauntering back and generally looking disinterested. On this evidence Kieran Gibbs is not going to come under serious pressure for the left-back spot anytime soon.
Chelsea Thoughts: Familiar failings & Feeble Fire-power | 30th September 2012
Giroud had to score. The defence “it was a tight angle” is not valid when the angle is only tight because of the strikers touch around the goalie. He had a perfectly good opportunity to strike before that, dallied, and paid the price. I make that three clear one-on-ones and a penalty he’s missed since joining the club. I’m not writing him off, but I am a little concerned. On which note, I won’t pretend to understand why Arsene saw fit to bring off our best finisher, Lukas Podolski, with twenty minutes to play.
Norwich 1 – 0 Arsenal: No fluency, No Excuses, No Points | 21st October 2012
The performance was anomalous in its awfulness. Even in the dreary 0-0 with Sunderland, we created a couple of chances that one could describe as decent. Arsene’s relatively relaxed demeanour throughout suggested a man who had decided relatively early on that this was just ‘one of those days’. I hope, for all our sakes, that he’s right.
Arsenal 0 – 2 Schalke: More of the same | 25th October 2012
Arsenal desperately need to sign a striker. I’m not sure this requires much expansion. In a world in which Demba Ba is available for just £7m, there is no excuse for Arsene not bringing in a reliable front man in January.
AGM: Angst, Grumbles & Moaning | 25th October 2012
If the AGM had been a month or so ago, it might have been a very self-satisfied affair. The new signings looked inspired, we were defensively solid, and being talked about as genuine contenders. That AGM would have been misleading: it would have overlooked some of the crucial issues that it was essential to raise yesterday. But by the same token, a couple of bad results shouldn’t cast an ugly light across the entire club. Arsenal don’t need saving: they just need to get a bit better. Starting tomorrow.
Arsenal 1 – 0 QPR: Accentuating the positives | 29th October 2012
Jack Wilshere was every bit as good as I expected him to be. I’d love to sit here and say, “I’d forgotten how good he was”, or “I did’t expect him to be quite so good quite so quickly”. I’d be lying. I did.
Man Utd 2 – 1 Arsenal: Why Fergie is like Captain Hook | November 5th 2012
I’m not worried about shirt-swapping or referee decisions or anything else: I’m worried about this team. The decline in recent weeks has been alarming. Leaving aside that anomalous League Cup game, the first team have lost three of the last four. On Tuesday night we face an intimidating trip to Schalke, and we’re only a couple of weeks away from a massive North London Derby.
We need to stop the rot. At the moment we have slim trophy hopes and bleating fans. We’re dangerously close to turning in to Liverpool.
Arsenal 3 – 3 Fulham: Giroud’s excellence clouded by defensive incompetence | November 10th 2012
The “Steve Bould has fixed everything” narrative was a myth created by people who wanted to use it as stick to beat Arsene Wenger with. And as for the ‘zonal marking’ on the corner from which Berbatov scored, I have to confess I simply can’t see the logic in leaving opposition players to make untracked, unmarked runs and attack the ball.
Also, I am conscious this may be heresy, but I’m not sure about the validity of keeping Santi Cazorla in the central three. He drops in to wide areas to look for space, which means that the two left behind occasionally look a little isolated.
So there we have it: 5-2 again. Same result; different sensation. Because of the sending off, I feel like this game won’t have the same seismic impact on either of these teams’ seasons as the previous 5-2. Last time, Spurs’ collapse came from a greater position of dominance, and was more complete in its cataclysmic hilarity. This time, they have mitigating circumstances. They can blame Adebayor’s stupidity rather than their own inadequacy. I expect their wheels to wobble, rather than come off entirely.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: Quiet, then Quality, then Qualified | November 22nd 2012
Whatever you think of Arsene, you can’t knock his record in the early stages of European competition. Arsenal have now qualified for the knockout phase for the 13th time in his reign – I believe it’s now twelve years on the trot. With Chelsea and City both set to go out, it shows you just what a feat that is.
Arsenal 0 – 2 Swansea: Arsene’s Swan-song | December 1st 2012
Arsenal fans are often berated by the media for their supposed impatience. The truth is that at any club other than Arsenal, the pressure on Arsene Wenger would be approaching unbearable.
From 15 league games – almost half a season – we have won only five. We’ve lost four; as many as 17th place Sunderland. We’re 15 points behind the league leaders Manchester United. Distressingly, we’re now as close to United as we are to rock-bottom QPR. We’re just one league place ahead of Liverpool; a club whose mid-table mediocrity we are in serious danger of emulating.
Q&A with Philippe Auclair: “I hope Thierry doesn’t return this year” | December 6th 2012
Philippe: “The final chapter was written, and beautifully, last year. There’s no way that a Thierry in his 36th year can do better than what he did eleven months ago, especially when the club has more attacking options than was the case in 2011-12. He would in no case represent a ‘solution’; whereas last year, given the van Persie-dependance, he could make a difference at times.”
Arsenal 2 – 0 WBA: Divers are already retrospectively punished | December 9th 2012 Arsenal are now just two points off fourth spot…
…whilst Chelsea’s mini blip means we’re only five points off third. We’re in the fortunate position of being in direct competition with teams which are as flawed as our own. If we can get it together, Champions League qualification is still very much within our grasp.
I’d love to be proved wrong about that, just as I’d love to be proved wrong about my growing suspicion that the decline of Arsene’s Arsenal is terminal. I’ve waited for so long to see him lift a trophy again, and now I don’t believe I ever will. I want so badly for this club to top up my drink, and make it seem half-full again rather than half-empty. I want something to change, and I’m scared it won’t. Stagnation, it’s worth remembering, leads to rot.
Why I’m not convinced Olivier Giroud is the right striker for Arsenal | December 18th 2012
I’m not saying he’s a bad player. I think he’s a very good one. I’m just not sure he’s the right one. For years, people talked about Arsenal needing a target man as a Plan B. Finally, they have one. Giroud looks twice the player of Chamakh at the moment, and will doubtless become an important part of the squad. There are times when we will need him. But his style is opposed to that of the team. He doesn’t fit Plan A.
Arsenal 7 – 3 Newcastle: Why I’m struggling to enjoy Theo’s excellence | December 30th
Whilst I should have been lost in ecstasy over Walcott’s outstanding display, I was instead consumed with the thought that Theo Walcott might finally be about to explode in to the player he’s long threatened to be, just six months before he walks out of the club on a Bosman free.
As for Demba Ba, if we don’t try to sign him for £7m then it is tantamount to mismanagement. I made a point of watching him carefully from behind the goal, and his power, movement and finishing is outstanding. Walcott and Giroud’s goals were heartening, but we’re still in need of more attacking options, and with Premier League experience and an affordable price tag, Ba fits the bill.
Southampton 1 – 1 Arsenal: Call for the Cavalry | January 1st 2013
The fact that we have Arteta shouldn’t prevent us chasing a defensive midfielder. The fact that we have Cazorla shouldn’t rule out the pursuit of a schemer. And the fact that Theo Walcott has had a handful of decent games through the middle certainly shouldn’t prohibit the signing of a striker. Quality and competition provides flexibility. This was an inflexible Arsenal performance. Signings are the antidote.
Transfer update: Don’t hurry back, Chamakh | January 5th 2013
Chamakh’s departure, as well as Gervinho’s time at the African Cup of Nations, leaves us very light upfront. I considered a striker a priority before the window – now it’s nothing less than a necessity. Worryingly, our options seem to be decreasing all the time: Demba Ba has joined Chelsea, Huntelaar has re-signed at Schalke, and Fernando Llorente is in talks about a Bosman move to Juve. I’ve read the stories about David Villa, but I can’t see that one happening. The obvious signings have all disappeared from the table. That said, Arsene has never really been one for the obvious. Let’s hope he’s got a trick up his sleeve.
Transfer update: Arsene’s inertia could cost Arsenal dear | January 11th 2013
I am merely struggling to understand how an unconvincing draw with Swansea has done so much to erase Arsene’s belief that this team needs reinforcement. Our rivals will doubtless continue to improve around us, so we ought to push on and do the same. If we don’t, there is a very real risk that we will fail to achieve our basic goal for the season: Champions League qualification.If our squad is “complete”, then why are Arsenal sixth?
Arsenal 0 – 2 Man City: Do your job, Arsene | January 13th 2013
All the talk before this game was of the exorbitant prices fans were asked to pay to watch the match. It felt particularly expensive for Arsenal fans when Laurent Koscielny’s red card effectively ended the contest after 10 minutes.
If Arsenal and Arsene continue to neglect their responsibility to improve the squad, Jack will go the way of Cesc. And Van Persie, Nasri, Clichy and Song. Jack’s enthusiasm and love for the club was entirely evident against City, but no player is immune from disillusionment. Years of stagnation and decline will wear that affinity thin. We’ve seen it before. Let’s not let history repeat itself.
This isn’t the Wilshere we remember. This one’s better.
This Jack Wilshere is armoured with months of gym work and a fierce desire to make up for lost time. He is physically and mentally stronger for the ordeal he has suffered, and it shows.
Chelsea Preview: Dawn of the Theo-cracy | January 19th 2013
The truth is that Walcott is the lucky beneficiary of a perfect storm of circumstance. Arsenal could not afford the PR disaster of losing another one of their perceived stars. The club is also under more pressure than ever to show ambition in their expenditure. Every time Walcott produced on the pitch, the likelihood of Arsenal caving to his demands increased significantly.
Chelsea 2 – 1 Arsenal: Another early implosion scuppers Gunners | January 20th 2013
I don’t subscribe to the belief that failing to make the top four could ever be a ‘good thing’. We need to be there, and I still believe we can. However, a couple of additions could make all the difference. The one upside to our poor run is that it comes at a time when it’s possible to do something about it.
I know it’s cold outside, Arsene, but it’s time to open the window.
Brighton 2 – 3 Arsenal: That’s more like it, Olivier | January 26th 2013
Let’s not kid ourselves: however well Giroud played, he’s no Van Persie. However, in the last few days he’s made a convincing case for a prolonged run of games at centre-forward. I still feel we would benefit from a signing in this area, but if someone does arrive they’ll have to oust a Frenchman in form.
Deadline Day Thoughts: He’s Nacho left-back anymore, Malaga | February 1st 2013
Arsene’s relationship with the market seems to have been irrevocably soured by the sages over the likes of Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie. Meantime many of his own signings have floundered. In the last few years, transfers have been more hurtful than helpful.
He’s wrong to be dismissive of transfers. People rightly laugh at cheque-book managers, but good recruitment is a skill. There are deficiencies in Arsenal’s squad and a club with our resources ought to be able to correct them. Monreal is a great start.
Sunderland 0 – 1 Arsenal: He’s Bac | February 11th 2013
The idea that Jenkinson is ready to displace Sagna is nonsense. I for one hope that we keep the Frenchman by giving him the long-term deal he craves. If he leaves this summer, as appears increasingly likely, we’ll need to bring in someone with the requisite experience to fill that spot.
On Andre Santos: I can’t help but feel that the infamous shirt swap incident with Robin van Persie was a huge catalyst towards his departure. On that day, he lost the fans, and it’s almost impossible to come back from that – just ask Emmanuel Eboue or Nicklas Bendtner. Every mistake is highlighted; every indiscretion scrutinised. I’m not sure that Santos has been more error-prone than many of our other defenders, but the tide turned against him on that November day.
Arsenal 0 – 1 Blackburn: The middle of the end | February 17th 2013
It’s moot, anyway. Arsene Wenger is no closer to leaving Arsenal today than he was on Friday. Negative results do not edge him closer to the door; only time and the running down of his contract do that. His current deal runs till 2014, and I find it impossible to foresee him leaving before that date. He may even be handed a renewal.
The extrication of Arsene Wenger from Arsenal will be a long and painful process, for both sides. I’d argue it’s a process that is already underway. It began when Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri abandoned Arsene’s project, and will end the day whatever contract he is bound to is allowed to expire.
Ivan Gazidis will not push him. Arsene will not jump. In the meantime, here we are: stuck in the middle of the end.
Arsenal 1 – 3 Bayern: Mullered | February 20th 2013
I didn’t join the chorus of boos at full-time: Arsenal lost fair and square to a better side. I hoped for more, but it would have been madness to expect it. However, the result has compounded the pain of the FA Cup defeat. Within the space of a few days, the focus of our season has narrowed dramatically: it’s suddenly looking like fourth or bust.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal: The defending is indefensible | March 3rd 2013
Arsenal’s defensive line looked like it’d been drawn on a spirograph. Playing a high line against the likes of Bale and Lennon is always a risk, but doing so when your defence is bereft of any kind of organisation borders on masochism.
It’s not quite over. Their fixture list gets a lot trickier over the next six weeks, and we also have the possible boon of a Chelsea implosion to look forward to. Arsenal can still make the top four, but if we do it’ll be in spite of our own self-destructive tendencies.
Bayern 0 – 2 Arsenal: A template for the rest of the season | March 14th 2013
Contained within this performance was the DNA of an Arsenal team capable of hauling its way back in to the Champions League. Arsene Wenger must play John Hammond, extract it and bring it back to life before our very eyes, starting this weekend at Swansea.
Arsenal 0 – 0 Everton: Giroud misfires in stalemate | April 16th 2013
Giroud is popular among the fans, but that oughtn’t disguise our need for someone superior. His defenders will point to the 17 goals he has scored, and with some justification, but I’m reminded of Emmanuel Adebayor in 2007/08. The Togolese totem-pole racked up 30 goals, but was rebuffed in most quarters with cries of, “Well how many should he have scored given the chances he’s missed?”.
Arsenal 1 – 1 Man United: Disappointed Love | April 29th 2013
After the game, Arsene Wenger described Arsenal fans’ hostility towards Robin van Persie as “disappointed love”. It strikes me that this explains much of the animosity and in-fighting among our own supporters. We all desperately want the same things, and the strength of that desire spills over in to frustration and anger.
QPR 0 – 1 Arsenal: No point playing the blame game | May 6th 2013
I enjoy the race for fourth, because it provides the illusion of genuine competition. As a supporter, you crave contesting something until the last second of the season. The thrills and spills of that kind of topsy-turvy battle are what make being a fan such an enthralling experience. However, it’s not a real trophy. It’s a surrogate.
Arsenal 4 – 1 Wigan: Our Great Escape is still on | May 15th 2013
There was no ‘Great Escape’ for Wigan, but there may yet be one for Arsenal.Arsenal now know that a win at Newcastle on Sunday will confirm our top four spot. Considering where we were languishing after losing to Spurs a couple of months back, it’s a hell of a turnaround.
I think we’re all agreed that qualifying for the Champions League will never replace the ecstasy of winning a trophy. However, it would enable us to put a conciliatory gloss on what’s otherwise been a painful season.
What’s more, it would allow us to laugh at Tottenham. Again.
Newcastle 0 – 1 Arsenal: Time to shoot for the moon | May 20th 2013
The feat of making the top four for 16 consecutive years is impressive, but hearing Arsene trot that record out with increasing frequency makes me uncomfortable. On the weekend of Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it was telling that among the 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues, his 22 consecutive top four finishes passed without mention.
If fourth place is any kind of prize, it’s a runners-up medal. For a club of our size, it’s oughtn’t be an aspiration but a conciliatory accessory to failure.
It’s simple, really. Don’t aim for fourth; aim for first, hit fourth if you fail.
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the Champions League’s assembled stars.
So that was that. Looking back over it, the joy of the final day really pales in comparison to some of the earlier angst.
Still, it’s far better that way round – makes the summer far more bearable.