Arsecast Extra 38: Hull & Hula Hoops

Hula_Hoops_Snack_Pi_273277c

The latest edition of the Arsecast Extra is here. There’s a dissection of the draw with Hull, some attempted analysis of our defensive woes, and a heated debate about crisps.

If for some inexplicable reason you’re yet to do so, you can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Alternatively, you can dodge the delays and subscribe directly to the feed URL. Enjoy.

 

Arsenal 2-2 Hull City: Fragile Arsenal Falter Again

welbeckhull

This was one of those draws that seemed like a defeat…
There were only a few minutes between Arsenal’s equaliser and the final whistle, but it was enough time for the air of relief to sublimate in to regret. This match fell somewhere between a ‘should-win’ and a ‘must-win’. By the time the fans trudged out of the Emirates Stadium, Danny Welbeck’s goal felt like a mere consolation.

We lacked a little bit mental strength…
In fact, we lacked a lot mental strength. Arsenal started the match well, but seemed completely thrown by Hull’s controversial equaliser. The referee should have blown, but that doesn’t excuse the way in which we allowed it to affect us. That kind of adversity used to galvanise Wenger’s teams. Against Hull, it saw the handbrake yanked and the performance ground to a horrible halt.

After the game, Arsene Wenger was fulsome in his praise of his players’ effort. However, in the same breath he admitted that Hull’s second goal was down to a lack of focus. If they can’t concentrate, praising their commitment seems perverse. I’m loathe to celebrate a fight-back necessitated by sloppiness.

Being a superhero is hard…
The comic books and films tell us as much. Spiderman is always stressing, Batman is invariably grumpy — the less said about the Hulk the better. With all that power comes a good deal of responsibility. It’s surely not long before Arsenal’s own superhero, Alexis Sanchez, starts feeling the strain.

Without Alexis, Arsenal probably don’t get anything out of this game. He created both goals out of nothing, and his effort levels were nothing short of supernatural. At times, he seems confused that his team-mates can’t match his relentless running. He’s like a young Superman on school sports day, wondering why everyone else is so far behind in the sack race.

Things could get nasty…
Remember winning the FA Cup? Gauging the atmosphere out there in the wild web, it seems that not many do. It’s amazing how quickly that fuzzy, fluffy feeling comfort of a trophy win can evaporate.

I understand the frustration. We’re visibly regressing at a time when we should be kicking on. For the manager, excuses are running thin. We’re spending big money again. Expectation is higher than ever. Last season has not sated the fans’ appetite for success.

Rather than buying Arsene time, winning a trophy has simply removed another potential defence: the hurdle should be cleared, the dam should be bursting. Instead, we’re backsliding. The same old barriers and blocks appear to be in place.

The next few weeks are vital. Arsenal need to pick up points to stop this season’s uphill struggle from becoming too steep.

Red, Yellow & Silver: Gunnerblog’s FA Cup Final Preview

We’ve waited nine years for this.

This week, I looked back at the blog I wrote after 2005’s FA Cup win over Manchester United. That was the last time Arsenal touched silverware. Think about that: nine years. In the 125-year lifespan of the club, it’s not a massive stretch. However, us fans are only here for threescore and ten. In the course of our own individual lives, it’s a significant period.

Think of what you’ve done in the last nine years. Ponder what’s changed since. 2005 was the year Youtube was launched. Lance Armstrong retired a champion, not a cheat. Twitter didn’t even exist.

Today, Arsenal have a chance to end the wait. It’s a good chance, too. Hull City are a decent team and will play unshackled by expectation, but we are the overwhelming favourites for a reason. Play as we can, and we ought to win.

The same, of course, was true in 2011. I was at Wembley to see Arsenal lose to Birmingham City in that fateful final. It set our on-pitch progress back by several years. Having clawed our way back to this point, we cannot afford to let a trophy slip through our fingers once again.

I haven’t blogged much in the last few weeks of the season. That’s partly because of the demands of other work. It’s also because I’ve felt a bit underwhelmed by it. As Everton fell away, our games ceased to carry much weight. There was a certain ‘end of term’ vibe about the whole thing. Abou Diaby’s cameo at Norwich felt like the football equivalent of when my history teacher used to let us watch Blackadder in the final lesson of the year.

Today, the stakes are cranked right up again. That’s what sports about. Drama and tension; failure and glory. Arsenal need this. The club have spun a story about enduring a difficult period in order to facilitate future glory. We’re supposedly at the turning point, where prudence begins to pay dividends. A trophy would be proof of concept.

I won’t be there today. Other commitments will keep me from Wembley. But wherever you’re watching the final, I hope the team give you a match and a day to savour.

I leave you with this film. I dare you to watch it without feeling sick with nerves and excitement. The players have a remarkable opportunity to write themselves in to folklore today. Who wants to be the next Charlie George, Alan Sunderland or Ray Parlour?

Don’t make us wait another year.

Extra reading:

My interview with Wojciech Szczesny for Bleacher Report