Lucky Arsenal? Or Unlucky QPR?

It was a turmoil-filled week to say the least for Arsenal, the players on the field, and the manager, owner, and board off it. After slumping to defeat at Norwich in the Premier League, followed by a home defeat to Schalke in the Champions League – our first to a foreign team at home in the CL since 2003 – without scoring even one goal, it was horrific to say the least. Steve Bould attempted to blame it on the Internationals intervention, but we can’t be having excuses like that I’m afraid. Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis, Peter Hillwood, and Mr. Kroenke himself took the flack at the AGM; a meeting which couldn’t have come at a worse time for them. The usual Bu*****t excuses and promises were given by Wenger and co, much to the shareholders annoyance. Excuse my French. With Kroenke unable to give a real and proper answer when questioned about him taking money out of the club.

Nonetheless we returned to winning ways on the field, with a very sceptical and uncertain performance. It seemed for much of the game that we would endure another 90 minutes of pain, where we wouldn’t score and perhaps even lose again, handing another Premier League team their first victory of the season for the second time in a week. Jack Wilshere was the only bright spark and promising performer in a sea full of average performances really. He took on players, made runs, a great cross, a couple of shots, rode challenges and dished some out himself. There were promising signs with his and Cazorla’s quick exchanges and 1-2’s, hopefully more of those to come. And he pulled a lot of the strings in midfield while he was on, if not all of them. Jack is most definitely back.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Sagna was also back in action and his performance and overall presence cannot be overlooked. Jenkinson has undeniably made massive strides in Bacary’s absence but when the maestro of Right Back himself returns it’s blatant to see why he’s held that position for the last 5 years. Inch perfect crosses into the box. You can’t underestimate how hard they are, and how many players are incapable of delivering so well, so consistently as our Bac does. Not just that. He gets forward – just as well as Santos – but he knows how and when to get back. He uses his time and energy effectively. Always making the right decisions. At one point he was back in LCB, with a great challenge to stop a one-on-one chance. It’s easy to take these kinds of things for granted; but you simply can’t. These are the things that separate a promising youngster at RB with little experience from a World Class, internationally renowned one.

So these were good for performance and morale, and the fact that Gervinho didn’t start was certainly a positive (in my books). We took control of the game, for literally its entirety, but we didn’t have the level of penetrance that we have had in years gone past, and have equally needed this year. Giroud missed a few half-chances. As did Podolski. Other than this we were limited to outside the box shots, or set-pieces.

The goal did come, but only after an outrageous act of violence from Mbia, who had actually won a freekick but was sent off after kicking out at Vermaelen completely unnecessarily to the rage of the inconsolable Mark Hughes. This rage was then smacked around, multiplied by ten, and thrown in his face after we scored a goal he perceived to be offside. But I have no comment on that because “I didn’t see it”. As far as I’m concerned, after an awful week of supporting the team I love, my saviour Mikel Arteta put his defensive duties in the bin and netted home on the second time of asking from close range to give us a 1-0 win. On the whole I think we probably deserved it. Even though they had a great chance or two to come back and get an equaliser, and perhaps if Mbia stayed on we wouldn’t have got the break we did. But the thing is, we did, and now we have to take this momentum forward in the Cup against Reading, and much more importantly to Old Trafford, and even if I am way too optimistic, return the routing they gave us. They looked good v Chelsea today. But they also looked beatable and fragile at the back – I don’t rate Ferdinand or Evans in the slightest. And the way this league works we have what it takes to win, although we’ll need our best players at their best game. I shall keep my optimism and unexplainable hope until Saturday.


Schalke Shambles

Although Arsenal dominated much of the game, and took it to Schalke, we have little to show for the possession we obtained; not for the first time. Very few chances, with just one shot on target coming in stoppage time from Gnabry – a 17 year old. Gervinho annoyed the s*** out of everyone once again, and doesn’t deserve to be starting these games that he unfortunately is. Mannone made a bulls up of things again on occasion. And Santos. Jesus Christ. Why is he even wearing an Arsenal shirt. Cannot defend to save his life, and was torn apart ALL night. Exposed down our left for both of their goals. Vermaelen is playing below par – probably because he’s always covering Santos. It really is like 3 at the back at times. Most the time even.

We have great players. Great great players. But not a whole first teams worth at the moment. In the first team we have some shocking players who just are not good enough. Santos, Gervinho, Mannone, Ramsey shows glimpses of his talent at times but the generally consensuses he is a bench/FA Cup/Capital One Cup player at best. Undeniably when the likes of Gibbs, Wilshere, Sagna, Szczensy return, we will have a very good team on paper. But as usual there are always injuries to key players, and this can’t be forever an excuse. We need a stronger indepth squad if we know that we’re going to have injuries? And upfront there is clearly an issue. Not enough goals. We have no top scorer this year. Is it not better to have one man scoring lots of goals, than a team who are collectively struggling to score? Walcott deserves his chance but it’s obvious there are many issues on that front… With a couple of decent additions to the squad, back ups better than Santos, Mannone, Gervinho, and an addition of a goalscorer, an out and out finisher, the likes of your RVP’s, Henry’s, whoever.. Llorente? It has to be done. And Walcott needs to be kept. We always score more when he’s on the pitch. Either through him, his runs/crosses, or his off the ball movement!

Wilshere Wait Over

Jack Wilshere, is set for an imminent return to the first team. Any week now expect to see him back in the first team squad, if not playing. It’s almost a certainty that he will get a start in the Capital One Cup, against Reading on the 30th October, perhaps he’ll even play prior to that game at home to QPR in the league. Nobody knows. And when someone knows, ie Wenger. Nobody else will know anyway. Not ’til the time comes at least.

A strong performance against Reading U21’s for Arsenal U21’s has certainly done him no harm in a potential bid to return to first team action by the end of the month. Banfield reported post-match that he had made a ‘big improvement’ from even the week before, and that he was continually getting better everyday in training. Positive. During the match he played a pivotal role in both goals, with crucial balls to players who were then easily able to set up another team-mate. Gnarby and Akpom the goalscorers.

Vermaelen like all of us fans, is delighted at the prospect of Jack’s return. Claiming that in his “first full season… he was amazing” and that he has the potential to “be one of the best midfielders in the world.”

Verm added that “He’s working on his match fitness and that’s the most important thing.” as well as what all of us Gunners are hoping for, “I think in the future [he] will lift the team.” and what a lift it and he could prove to be. A good start to the season considering who we’ve played, and the boost in confidence, not to forget footballing ability that Jack will provide us with is undeniable. A probable 3 pronged midfield with Arteta, Wilshere and best-summer-buy-2012 Cazorla. Likelihood of this to be the case has increased with Diaby’s most recent injury putting him on the sidelines for a period longer than when Jack will hopefully return. Albeit a close call.

In other injury news, Bacary Sagna, a man reported today to be a target of Inter Milan, also played in the U21’s game after 5 months out, after another broken leg. I expect he’ll make a return sooner than Jack, although you can never be certain. Especially what with Jenko playing really well, but we do have a lot of games after the international period, with a return to a game every 3/4 days routine starting at Norwich, then hosting Schalke midweek, QPR at the weekend, the following week at Reading, then a crucial Premier League game that weekend against Manchester United at Old Trafford. And we’ll be in need of getting something there, or we’ll be falling behind further, and although we’d have had the hardest run-in, it will undoubtedly create a pressure or stress for us to do well in all the other games. A situation in which you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ll crumble. Based on past experiences. It seems we play best in a nothing to lose scenario; unfortunately.


West Ham 1-3 Arsenal

A well-deserved victory and suddenly Arsenal appear to be back on track. A ground and a team that we’ve had previous history with of being one of our ‘bogey-teams’ and undoubtedly a ‘bogey’ manager in Big Sam – only because his teams consistently play the opposite of good football. We went a goal down, after Aaron Ramsey positioned himself poorly and then got twisted inside-out by Diame, who to be fair did finish quite well. He should never have been allowed in that position however. Arsenal had the best of the chances, and most of the possession. We actually played some good football which had been missing from the last couple of games. A rise in confidence perhaps? I also believe that Giroud gives us a little bit extra. He works off the ball and makes darting runs. Not only does this give an attacking option, but he draws out other defenders opening up gaps for likes of Cazorla, who were in turn allowed to play their best. Needless to say, Santi had a blinder.

Just before the halftime whistle came, Giroud sprang the ball out wide to Poldi, who crossed it in low to the near post where Giroud had bust a gut to get to and then he produced a neat finish. That is the kind of run that has been missing at times when Gervinho or Podloski have played upfront. It’s that strikers instinct to get into those positions. Furthermore, it gave him a confidence boost, with his first Premier League goal, and he went on to have a very good game and perhaps should have scored at least one if not two more.

The introduction of Walcott gave us another dimension, and Wenger has recently said he will give Walcott his chance considering his finishing has greatly improved; as we were to witness once again when he got the winning goal 14 minutes from time. An assist from Giroud who played Walcott clean through. He remained onside and as we all know, no one’s catching him then. In the past he’s wasted many chances. But not today. He buried it to the right of the keeper, and celebrated like a real Gooner. Well done Theo. Now sign the contract.

The best however was saved ’til last. A simply stunning shot from outside the box, swerved into the top corner from the one and only, Santi Cazorla. On fire he was, Saturday afternoon. Again, he proved why he was our best signing as shown so far, and arguably the best value for money purchase of the entire window. I say arguably because even though us Gooners know it’s true, other fans will inevitably disagree and talk of players such as Hazard, Oscar, Van Mercenary etc. But I don’t even think they can touch him when he’s on it. He also brings a happiness and upbeat mood to the time. A lover of football, and the right way to play, he enjoys every second and it’s truly a pleasure to watch him. Even Mr.Wenger said it was a delight to see him play on the pitch. Wenger also said that ‘When Cazorla plays, everyone plays’ which seems to be invariably true.

Time to move on and start climbing back up that table.