Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

Well, we’ve had a day or so to digest the game from Saturday night, the three points are on the board and the mood has slightly changed compared to last week. No repeat of Stoke Station-esque outbursts required leaving Gunners fans to enjoy their weekly dose of Match Of The Day.

It’s Monday so it gives me a chance to give my reflections of the game, not a match report as I’m sure many have been viewed since Saturday evening but a reflection of key points from the game.

giroud

Giroud’s valued return

How important is Giroud’s contribution to the team right now? He has returned from long term injury with a hunger to make up for lost time. Although scoring hasn’t been a major flaw in Arsenal’s team so far this season the fact that someone other than Sanchez has their scoring boots on is a big plus. Giroud brings attributes that none of the current strikers bring to the squad. What’s that? Sanogo you say? I actually think they are different types of players and until Sanogo adds goals to his CV then I can’t make a true comparison. During the Frenchman’s absence it was probably debated to death how his less pacy attributes would actually work with the quick fire zip provided by Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott (when he returns from limbo). Well its working fine enough for now and long may it continue.

Welbeck’s goals

With the welcome return of Giroud and his goals the gloss has been taken off Welbeck’s impact to the team. There’s no denying that Welbeck is a hard working forward and his contribution to the team so far has been satisfactory in his efforts however as a forward it’s always the goals record people value the most. We have come off the back of a run of games against lesser opposition where you would expect your main striker to really bag a few goals, like I said he has offered assists and played his part In some of those games but I still see he has the potential to be more of a regular finisher than a provider. The less prolific return has resulted in Welbeck surrendering the central striking position to Giroud and playing slightly wider, a position he admitted he was less fond of at Man United. In his favour Arsene does like to enforce interchangeable positioning by his forwards and so that door isn’t completely shut. It’s also worth mentioning that Welbeck was stripped of a perfectly legitimate goal on Saturday and so I do sympathise that he was unable to add to his tally however there were other chances in the game he could have taken also. I’ll get off his back as my frustration is only aimed at what he is capable of not coming to fruition just yet

Santi hex finally banished

It’s nice to see the Santi hex is finally over, a short while ago Santi and Ramsey couldn’t hit the back of the net despite all their efforts. Slowly but surely the signs were there that the luck was changing, Santi produced an amazing run and cross to set up Welbeck for a goal at West Brom the other week and that seemed to be the spark needed to ignite Santi’s form back to life. On Saturday both of Cazorla’s goals would not be in the back of the net a month ago but the hex is finally broken and now the mojo is back. I look forward to seeing a lot more contribution from the Spaniard from now on, it’s just a shame that Ramsey picked up an injury as he also seemed to break that hex at the same time.

Defence held firm

debuchy newc

It was nice to see the team came through the game fairly unscathed taking into account the patched up back line that started. Yes a goal was conceded but the back line dealt with what was thrown at them. Debuchy is a welcome return and his performance was probably aided that little but more given the fact he was facing his old club which sparked some extra motivation. A much tougher task is due next week when the team visits Anfield, the scene of one of our worst results last season. Chambers will return however with the news of Koscielny now being unavailable for a few weeks is a concern. Liverpool may have been swept away by United yesterday but if Raheem Sterling had his shooting boots on a draw would not have been an unbelievable outcome, the odds of Sterling forgetting his shooting boots again are pretty short. Arsene will need to make working on the defence this week his absolute priority to ensure a decent result at Anfield is achievable.

Champs league draw

The Champions League draw is today, Arsenal finished runners up so will most likely face Bayern or Barcelona. It’s an annual tradition so I will hardly be shocked if it’s either of those two are drawn as the next opponents. Whoever Arsenal do get I will be excited, you can’t beat the atmosphere in the Emirates when the big guns come to town. The only thing that is an absolute given when it comes to the champions league draw is that Chelsea will get the easiest tie of the round.

Enjoy your day people.
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FA Cup Final Day – Bring It Home Gunners

Cup final day is finally here, the wait is over as the opportunity to lay to rest the trophy-less tag has never been greater. People play down the credibility of the FA cup when compared to earlier years but when your team is in the final try telling the fans involved it has no value and you would be roundly laughed at.

The FA cup holds a special place in the hearts of fans involved, not so much for the losing side at the final whistle but all the same the build up and experience is second to none.

WEMBLEY WAY

Those fans lucky enough to experience the game at Wembley will have tales to tell their grandchildren in years to come. The limited allocation to the centrepiece makes the experience all the more exclusive and the memories cherished.

The players will be up for it, you always hear foreign players recalling their memories of FA cup games watched on TV in their countries when growing up. No other domestic cup competition around the world holds equal prestige and I’m sure any Arsenal player not involved today will be greatly disappointed.

The keeper situation is a dilemma Arsene Wenger will have to consider carefully. Lukasz Fabianski has not let anyone down in the run up to the final whilst first choice Sczcesny will argue his right as first choice keeper.

Personally I would stick with Fabianski, he is hardly a rookie that would weaken the clubs chances if he was selected. He may be leaving at the end of the season but he accepted the role of cup keeper at the start of the season and has earned his place in the starting line up.

I believe the same situation can be argued in the Giroud/Sanogo debate. The young Frenchman had been preferred in the previous few rounds due to certain indiscretions and a period of poor form from Olivier Giroud but with the return of key midfield players from injury Giroud has certainly found his mojo again.

Sanogo put in shifts when called upon but the lack of that first goal for the club sways for the choice of Giroud up front.

It is could be Sagna’s last game for the club, he has been a great servant to the Arsenal and it would be fitting that he signs off with a silverware, something which has eluded him ever since joining.

The rumours of joining Manchester City will taint his legacy but it’s something we can address at a later time, it’s only a rumour for now.

For now it’s all about getting behind the team and cheering them on to victory, for those of you lucky enough to go to Wembley do us proud. I will have to settle for the screening at the Emirates but being surrounded by fellow Gunners fans will make the experience all the more rewarding.

EMIRATES

Get down there if you can, 25000 fans are already expected, it could possibly be one hell of a party.

Enjoy the final people.
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Gunners Sign Off Final Home Game With Win

The home schedule is over for another season at the Emirates, with fourth place secured the only motivation for the Gunners were to get three points on the board to send the Arsenal fans home happy one last time. Of course the FA Cup will be the final thank you (if won) to the fans but as we know the majority won’t have the opportunity to support the team at Wembley.

The football wasn’t the greatest yesterday, the pressure was off after Everton conceded fourth place to Arsenal and even though West Brom tried in the back of their mind they see themselves safe from relegation. Norwich did manage to come away from Stamford bridge with a point as Chelsea’s pathetic end to the season spluttered on however the chances of being overtaken by the canaries still are a very long shot.

Both sets of fans were in a good mood, the weather was sunny and kept the mood jolly. West Brom fans came armed with a variety of beach balls which we’re bouncing around the away end until the stewards got their hands on them.

Giroud saluting his winner

Giroud saluting his winner

 

With fourth placed secured many wondered if most the 1st team would be rested for the game, news filtered through before the match that Abou Diaby was on the bench and Aaron Ramsey would not be involved. I suppose the possibility of wholesale changes would be slim since all week the team would have been set out in training to get the win, the bonus of Everton losing came too late in the day to change all preparation for yesterday’s game. Ramsey was afforded the break which was good however a much weakened team would be expected for the Norwich game.

It would have been nice to see Abou Diaby make an appearance in front of the fans but an injury to Nacho Monreal equated to the final substitution of the day being a forced one. Arsenal’s very own ‘Mr Glass’ is likely to still be around next season, hopefully for a lot longer than he managed this season. The same can’t be said for Kim Kallstrom, he will be returning to his parent club once his contract runs out. After all the kerfuffle over his transfer to the Gunners his impact was quite minimal. No fault of the player himself but by the time he was finally ready; our premiership campaign was effective dead and buried.

One person whose future is still uncertain is that of Bacary Sagna, he hasn’t signed a new contract and the chances of him staying are pretty slim now. In the stands we sung his name during the game, letting him know we want him to stay however we have been in this position many a time over the years . To lose the Frenchman would be a big loss however no player is irreplaceable (ahem. Thierry Henry?) in most cases. Those right-back shoes would be big ones to fill but if it happens we just have to get on with it. My only hope is if Bacary does move on it isn’t to a premiership rival, it just doesn’t sit right with me. The Robin van Persie transfer to man united never should have happened and although the club had a say in that transfer it is more or less powerless with Sagna. We can only ask him to think about the fans that have supported him all these years before signing on the dotted line for another premiership club.

 

sagna

farewell?

 

Looking back now on what could have been this season, a top four finish and (hopefully) FA Cup trophy is far from disaster. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes this season and put them right next.

IMG_1916

The Norwich game is meaningless to me now; all I would like from it is some youngsters to play and stake a claim for next season. Victory on May 17th is vital to finish the season right.

Enjoy your day people.
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Will Arsene make key signings part of his New Year resolution?

So Arsenal start the New Year in 1st place, a hard fought victory over a stubborn Cardiff team ensured they stayed there. The proud record of being the best performing team of 2013 can be seen as the perfect springboard to continue the improvement into 2014 and hopefully reap the benefits come the end of the football season.

The fans are happy (well most of them) and will no doubt be settling back into their normal routines following all the festive fun. As the majority of us tend to do in the New Year goals are set, a chance to put right the wrongs of the previous year with new gym routines or money saving tactics. We all enter into these with the best of intentions unfortunately the motivation dies before March is with us.

It would be nice to think that Arsene has incorporated some resolutions to help Arsenal for the second half of the season. The ideal resolution would be to make some key January signings.
As we all know Arsene isn’t a big fan of January buys, the Frenchman has a lot of faith in his squads and doesn’t tend to put his hand in his pocket at this time of year unless his hand is forced or a super bargain is available. One of the main requirements this season is a top quality striker to share the burden with Olivier Giroud. Will Arsene buy or will he see the recent change in Bendtner worth waiting for him to recover from his recent injury rather than purchase a player? Although whilst still an Arsenal player I’d back Bendtner 100% every time he goes out on the pitch I don’t see Bendtner part of any long term plans and for that reason it may suit both parties that he finds new employers during the transfer window.

bendtner

Arsene is also a big fan of adaptability in his players and he has said it in the past that Walcott and Podolski are very much able deputies to the central striking role. The recent return of Podolski has already prefilled the possible quotation of “like a new signing” though the German hasn’t quite grasped the opportunity in that role with both hands. His goal in the West Ham game reminded us of his valuable contribution to the team though his starting role in the Cardiff game in the central striking position was slightly underwhelming.

Podolski is one of the best finishers at the club and certainly offers a goal threat but at the times he has played in the central striking role it hasn’t quite clicked. This is taking into account times he played there before his injury also. One game does not condemn a player and you never know he could well grow into the role; he also didn’t have the luxury of the creative talents of Ozil and Ramsey at his disposal. Flamini has been a great acquisition to the Arsenal team this season but his performance in an advanced role on New Year’s Day was rather limited in the attacking third whilst Arteta covered.

Walcott also offers a goal threat though question marks will always remain over his effectiveness with his back to goal as opposed to the outlet of pace he offers on the wing. What we gain in Walcott playing central we lose from him not playing wide.

Taking all this into account a striking addition to the squad would be the best option, a loan or permanent transfer? If a top quality player can be brought in on loan I don’t see why not. A permanent arrangement can be readdressed in the summer. If it’s the difference between playing over the odds fees for a player and assessing a potential signing up close in the short term for peanuts then we all know which option our manager would rather take.

In addition to that a central defensive signing would be reassuring, beyond the excellence of the Koscielny/Mertesacker and the cover from Vermaelen there aren’t much options at all. Given Arsenal’s injury history it would be foolish to rely on the current partnership not receiving another injury for the rest of the season. Vermaelen is an able deputy but in recent times the Belgian has hardly been injury free himself.

per and kos

Arsene has never been one to recall players from on loan during injury crisis’s and so if the worst was to happen the next step would be to rejig the whole defence by slotting Sagna into the middle or calling upon the services of Isaac Hayden. Not ideal given the massive chance the club has of winning the title this year, the last thing Arsenal fans would want to do is feel regret at the missed opportunity of strengthening to enhance the clubs chances for silverware.

Well, Arsenal has a month to hopefully make the right signings and give the rest of the season a good go. Signings for the future are not required at present, focus really needs to be on the now, it’s the clubs best chance in years to bring in a trophy.

Enjoy your day people.

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3 points are all that matters for Arsenal

Sitting in the premier league table above Tottenham Hotspur is a good feeling, one that has been taken for granted over the years by Arsenal fans but the general importance of the feat has never been underestimated. They have slowly chipped away at their north London rivals and with the win over Norwich have now climbed above their rivals.

poldi celebrates

Getting back above Spurs was the easy part; it’s now ensuring they stay there that becomes hard. It’s in their hands so there can be no complaints if at the end of the season fortunes change.

The game yesterday was one of high interest to me; based on my experience last year in the 3-3 draw with the Canaries I was quite desperate to get some sort of redemption with a victory.

Seated close to the Norwich fans it was a chance to go back and forth with the banter; despite a first half of wasted chances and no shots on goal for the visitors they still made a vocal presence in the stadium. The game last season was similar to yesterdays in the sense that top four and champion’s league qualification was very much undecided and Norwich had a chance to throw a spanner in the works.

The Norwich fans were not shy in ribbing the Arsenal faithful with chants of Thursday Night Channel five. Quite outdated considering the Europa football is screened on the ITV channels however it was nice to get the opportunity to throw those chants right back down their throats.

Based on yesterday’s game here are some points of note:

Wilshere was rusty.

The loss of Jack Wilshere was a big blow to the Arsenal team; he returned from his long term injury and eventually found his rhythm to become a key cog of the Arsenal midfield. Despite the team’s good record during his recent absence his return to first team duty can definitely be seen as a psychological boost to the team. Eyebrows may have been raised that he returned straight back into the starting eleven but considering last week’s two goal hero Tomas Rosicky was unavailable Arsene Wenger’s hand had been forced. Wilshere displayed rustiness in his game, although not awful he was way off his influential best, the Arsenal game was becoming stale as Norwich were relishing their backs to the wall defending and so Jack was sacrificed to inject new impetus into the Arsenal play.

Gervinho had one of those days.

It is inevitable that Gervinho will never convince all Arsenal fans of his worth. You never know which performance you will get from the forward and until consistency is added to his game he will split fans opinion. One thing he is even when at his most frustrating worst is he is a threat, his pace stretches teams and especially with the loss of Theo Walcott to injury he has played a part in the recent run of form for the team. We may have a laugh and a joke or moan at the times he messes up but he has pace and a box of tricks (that all be it has a success rate of 1 in 10) that when it comes off is a great tool. Yesterday wasn’t his day but his starting place was earned by his contribution in the previous two games, he may still play a big part in Arsenals quest for fourth place.

Defence was well despite conceding.

Yes a goal was conceded against the run of play but the partnership of Koscielny and the returning Tomas Vermaelen played well. That Norwich’s first shot on goal wasn’t until they actually scored was testament to how the Canaries attack was kept under control. As is the Arsenal default game plan they prefer to concede when under complete control however the goal was from a set play. I’m not sure who exactly was picking up Turner but that set play required a team effort to ensure all men were picked up and unlike the goal conceded against Blackburn in the FA Cup which was a complete cock-up there was fault but not entirely attributed to the centre back pairing.

I believe Vermaelen had a good game, he was determined in the tackle and dealt with the threat of Grant Holt. Although Per Mertesacker is likely to return to the starting line up after serving his suspension it was encouraging that the Arsenal captain had an event free performance. He has set a platform he needs to build on to win back the confidence of the fans and the manager.

It was a penalty.

"it's not fair, they are time-wasting..."

“it’s not fair, they are time-wasting…”

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this non topic, the Norwich fans are bitter as you would expect from any opposition team who concedes a penalty but it was a clear pull on the shirt of Giroud from the Norwich player. Doesn’t matter who saw it a foul is a foul end of.

Enjoy your day people.

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