Gunners recover to reach next round of FA Cup

I’m not sure what to make of the Arsenal of 2017, another win salvaged after another rotten start. I’m not sure the ticker can take such a roller coaster of a ride, on paper it’s a victory but to witness performances like in the first half do not make for an enjoyable experience.

The FA Cup is a different experience to the league games and a fired up lower league team will always be looking for a big scalp. Preston North End were not going to lay out the carpet for Arsenal, it was a one off cup tie that could go anyone’s way on the day. It was no secret many of the Arsenal big guns would be rested and/or were injured and Preston smelt blood.

The Bournemouth game is still fresh in the mind and it was a question of which Arsenal would start the game on Saturday night. Unfortunately the start was slow and after conceding an early goal it was a worry as to how many goals Preston would score.

To say the team rode their luck is an understatement but rode their luck they did and having survived up to half time at just one goal down it worked in the Gunners favour. Arsene’s team talk at half time is probably one of the easiest he has had to make in his time at the club. The players will have known they were rotten but they had 45 minutes to prove they are far far better than the rubbish they displayed in the first half.

It needed a good start to get the belief back and it worked perfectly as Aaron Ramsey scored within a minute of the restart. 


The perfect way to deflate the momentum of belief the Preston Players had prior to the second half. It was a much better second half performance and once the equaliser went it you couldn’t help but think the winner would follow shortly. It didn’t exactly work out that way as it wasn’t until the last few minutes that Olivier Giroud finished off a quality back heeled pass from Lucas Perez to seal the tie and avoid an unwanted replay.


So into the fourth round draw the Gunners go, they made hard work of it but unlike against Bournemouth a winner was found. Olivier Giroud again the key man up front, he’s now in a run of form that makes him un-droppable. Arsene has a dilemma on his hands once he has a fully fit squad to pick from.

Danny Welbeck who it was great to see get a run out will add to the options up front. Hopefully a positive addition to the squad given the battle the club is in to gain silverware on three fronts this season.


The games will be coming thick and fast and the wheels have slightly come off the Arsenal train since the injuries started to build up so players returning (and hopefully a signing) will aid the Gunners as they march on. We are in the next round, the cup is out the way for now, focus now turns back to the Premiership where it is hoped the poor starts are a thing of the past and Swansea will be a team that wont get a chance to even test us as we stamp our authority from the first whistle. Enjoy your day  people!

 

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Big blow to Arsenal momentum despite 3 goal comeback

Yes it was a comeback; there are certainly some positives to list from salvaging a point from being three goals down but in the grand scheme of things the events of last night were a massive blow.

Losing ground yet again in the race for the championship only further strengthens the claims that maybe this Arsenal falls short on the required quality and strength to be genuine contenders. It should never be a case that Arsenal fans now sit down to watch a Spurs game in which a victory would be in their best interests. Yet here we are, not just falling behind in the race for first but now sucked back plump into a fight to stay in the top four. 

It can be argued that fixture scheduling has been unkind and Liverpool also suffered an away day set back due to the short window for recovery but on reflection you have to question why the effort to comeback couldn’t be applied prior to conceding three goals. Physical fatigue can handicap a performance but mental complacency cannot be excused. Watching the game in the first half you couldn’t help but notice a body language amongst the Arsenal players that screamed “rather be at home”. It’s never enjoyable to see the players not put in the effort and the final score at least showed signs of a change in attitude.



It’s fair to say some of the decisions went against us with the goals, the penalty was harsh and the third goal despite a pathetic show of strength from Bellerin was effectively a foul but no matter how much decisions go against you, you never give up. That’s what it looked like to me from the outside, a sort of acceptance that it wasn’t their day from a few players. To rub further salt in the wounds seeing Ramsey arguing with Sanchez on the pitch was plain embarrassing.

The team at the moment looks threadbare; admittedly Arsene Wenger’s team choice is forced given the loss of players to illness, injuries and international call ups. Maybe this game came at the perfect time given the transfer window has now opened. To be honest there is cover for most positions in the squad but how long can we continue without Santi Cazorla? The player is central to all our good play when Arsenal is firing on all cylinders. Without him there have been multiple combinations to plug the gap but none have quite filled the gap adequately.

 I am not sure how far Santi is from returning to the team but if the club has serious intentions to win the title this year than waiting for the injured star man to return rather than finding a sufficient replacement sums it up. I love Santi but the same thing happened last season and all our momentum derailed in his absence. There’s nothing to guarantee on his eventual return he may not break down again and that is why I feel business needs to be done to ensure a player is brought in to challenge Santi if not replace him. No one currently in the squad is of the level to fill the void and that there is the main problem.

The defence did have an off day but each of the back four have proven themselves this season,  the attack has brought the goals more often than not but the key department of the team which is the midfield engine room has been hit and miss. That extra bit of quality that separates Arsenal from being a good team to a serious title contender is missing and it needs to be addressed before the leading pack are too far out of sight by time the Arsenal get it together.

Please Arsene, make a signing to make us not miss Santi, I know it seems harsh but I honestly believe one of our biggest Achilles heel is the unbreakable bond of respect shown to players in the treatment room. Returning players become like a new signing way too often when in reality returning injured players become more like signing a new injury prone player.

OK, enough of the negativity. I will sign off by congratulating the team on coming back from three goals down, congratulate Olivier Giroud on his continuing to justify his inclusion with vital goals and assists, congratulate Sanchez on his vital goal and continuing to give his all despite being shunted from his central striker position and I would like to congratulate Lucas Perez on getting his first premiership goal and playing his part in the comeback.



Teams don’t often come from three goals down and to think that despite pulling back level Arsenal fans still felt disappointed that all three points weren’t gained shows the belief the fans have in their team. Rival fans will have to delay their visit to the Arsenal Fan TV YouTube page for another time.

For now, let’s hope things get put right with a win at Preston and away to a rejuvenated Swansea team. Until then enjoy your day people. 

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Giroud magic ensures Gunners keep on going

A game that will be remembered for that goal more than anything else. The terminology of ‘Scorpion kick’ was something I only associated with Rene Higuita’s audacious piece of skill during a friendly against England many years ago now in the space of a week it’s the term of choice to describe the jaw dropping new way to score a special goal.

To be fair the one from Mik.. Miki..Miktarian the Armenian midfielder and Giroud’s one yesterday were both pieces of individual spontaneous excellence that they should be appreciated for what they are rather than debating which was onside better.

giroud-2

Fantastic goal aside the most important thing was getting the three points against Crystal Palace, regardless of their erratic form this was a potential banana skin for the Gunners. Under new management it can always be a dangerous time to play a team as all the players have a point to prove to earn their place in Big Sam’s plans. Additionally there was added pressure on the Arsenal players to get the win to keep up the pace with Chelsea and Liverpool and fend off the chasing pack knowing all the rival teams’ bar Man City gained maximum points.

The points were gained however goal difference could play an important part come the final stages of the season and if there is one criticism I have to throw at the team it was the lack of killer instinct to really put Crystal Palace to bed. Yes the performance was comfortable and yes there is another game in a matter of days but it would be far easier to take your foot off the gas in the game once the club are three to four goals up. It seemed the magic of Giroud’s goal set a feel good mood amongst the players and the fans but any sign of urgency was muted.

The team played it safe and you could sense that a search for a second goal wasn’t high priority. Crystal Palace has been wretched of late but they are still capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. I wouldn’t say it’s a vote of no confidence to say keeping a clean sheet is far from impossible for the Arsenal but the team has got the capacity to fall asleep at the back when they are at their most comfortable. The first half petered out very comfortably and I have to admit it was worrying that the mindset of the players might get complacent in the second half.

On the plus side the team did come out in the second half more determined to get a second and kill off the game unfortunately the other Achilles heel reared its ugly head: profligacy. Many chances came and went, Alex Iwobi did eventually put the ball in the net to calm a few nerves but when the final whistle did eventually blow you couldn’t help but feel Palace were let off in a game which could easily has ended with four or five goals for the Gunners. At times it seemed like Crystal Palace players were trying their best to gift the team goals but they were politely declined each time through wasteful finishing.

ox

Like I mentioned the win was the most important thing and the finishing aspect is just a slight frustration because at times this season we have seen our rivals up against similar and they have been ruthless. It would be nice to see this Arsenal team show no mercy a bit more often, all will be forgotten if we beat Bournemouth in the next game.

You may have noticed I have risen from the ashes to provide a blog post, 2016 has not been the most fruitful year for this site but I hope to put that right in 2017. Start the year as I mean to go on… commenting on Arsenal victories.

I’ll see you on the other side after the Bournemouth game, in the meantime here’s some food for thought after yesterday’s game:

With Giroud now starting and scoring in games is it hindering the influence of Alexis Sanchez?

Flamini returned yesterday but do you recall seeing any contribution he made in the game?

Mustafi is now back, does he replace Gabriel now that the Brazilian has finally settled in the team?

Feel free to discuss in the comments section. Other than that enjoy your day people!

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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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