The international break is now upon us and we gooners enter an unfortunately familiar territory: entering the interlull after a tough loss. For those who follow me on Twitter will know how much I wanted to beat Chelsea at the weekend. The ghost of the previous loss at Stamford Bridge haunts my thoughts and dreams and causes me to wake in a cold sweat some nights. The monkey on the back of this Arsenal team continued this past weekend and it appears that it won’t leave for some time now.
I will have to admit that I did not get to see the final 30 or so minutes of the match as I was heading to Bank of America Stadium to watch the Panthers in a bizarre but ultimately thrilling game of American Football but I followed the match on Arseblog and Twitter. It seemed that I didn’t miss much. I was glad to get out of the house however as my roommate is a Chelsea supporter (seems like an episode of the Odd Couple, I know). I knew that a second goal was coming and I knew it would be Costa, so I wanted to be far away from that. Little did I know that wearing my Arsenal shirt to the Panthers game would also cause some hostility from a random stranger, berating me that “Arsenal sucks.” I promptly defended my Gunners and in the heat of the moment (my Cleveland Browns were losing to the Titans, in addition the Chelsea result, so I was in no mood), I resorted to using choice words that are inappropriate for my family friendly blog. I did look around for fellow Gooners, but they were nowhere to be found that day and I normally see several.
I will fight for the Arsenal as a supporter because it is in my blood. I can no longer imagine life without the equal parts joy and heartache that comes from being a supporter and fan of such a great club. I said in an earlier blog that we Gooners are a special group. We all came to the Arsenal family for different reasons I am sure, but in the end we found a club that represents the quality of football, class and history a great club requires. Watching the Arsenal this season has been more ache than joy, especially since all the hype and positive air after the FA Cup win. The match against Chelsea really personified this sentiment.
At the start of the match, the players seemed genuinely up for it and I was confident that we could get a result. We possessed the ball and got into dangerous areas but we never seemed to generate a clear shot on goal or even half a chance. Wilshere had a moment that could have leveled the score but a heavy, uncontrolled touch saw the keeper collect and ended our best chance of the day. In our end of the pitch, poor defending saw Hazard dribble into our box who was brought down by Koscielny and the penalty converted to make it 1-0. The nail in the coffin saw Fabregas, had to be him, pass over the top to Costa who finished well. My confidence was misplaced.
The difference on Sunday between Arsenal and Chelsea was Chelsea’s top players performed and ours did not. There were positives to be had, Wilshere was excellent and I thought Welbeck looked equally lively, but was isolated by a midfield that couldn’t get him the passes he needed for a chance. Özil became a major talking point, as he has been all season. While he wasn’t alone on the pitch, it is games like these that he needs to be at his best. This team can be unstoppable with him at the top of his game but we are not seeing the Özil who was the top assist man while at Real Madrid. We are seeing a player who is dancing the line between brilliant and frustrating. He made a few good passes but was weak on the ball and lost possession.
I am not going to go into a tirade on Özil in this post but he needs to find form and quickly or this season will not end well. He is our main man, the player we paid a fortune to get and the man Arsene is counting on to change the game. We didn’t pick up Fabregas because of him. I love Özil and I want him to lead this team in his quiet stoic way. He is not vocal or even flashy. At his best, he is calmly efficient, a terror for opponents to see on a team sheet, the player who will appear out of nowhere with a pass so good it was like he could do it with his eyes closed. We need that Özil.
All is not lost. We have a run of games coming up that are all winnable and should see us pick up points and jump start this dead jalopy of a season. These run of matches goes all the way to Christmas which sees us face Man United and Liverpool. We need to pick up as many points as possible. By that I mean win. I am done accepting draws against weaker competition. We have this tendency to not turn on until we sit a goal down at half time. We need to play the game at our speed and dictate possession. We have speedy players in Alexis, Welbeck, Ox, Wilshere and Walcott. It is time to unleash that speed on the competition and put opponents to the sword.
I firmly believe that we have a squad that could compete with the best in the Premier League. We may be light in defense due to injury and without a true DM but we have quality in all parts of the pitch. Wenger needs to find what the best set up is and run with it. We are approaching the sweet spot of balance and aggression but we aren’t there yet. We have seen glimpses of it at Villa and at home to Galatasaray, and even for parts of the match against Chelsea. Wenger has to keep dialing in this squad. We have quite a few new players that are still finding their feet in this team and hopefully soon will gel into a well oiled football playing machine.
I couldn’t end this without mentioning the incident between Wenger and Mourinho. I for one loved the passion that Wenger showed. Cahill flew into a dangerous, reckless, and inexcusable tackle on Alexis that could have really hurt the Chilean, and it was equally inexcusable for the ref to only show a yellow card for the incident. Wenger as a manager who is concerned for his player’s safety, went to check and was barricaded by that pompous, arrogant, Batman villain of a manager. He was pushed by Wenger in a very assertive, non-specialist in failure kind of way and the look on Mourinho’s face was hilarious. He looked surprised and a little nervous. Mourinho reminds me of the Sensei of the Cobra Kai Dojo in Karate Kid. He calmly pulled the entire Chelsea squad together in the tunnel, and said “you all should collectively sweep the leg”, Cahill in his mongoloid wisdom, took it to heart and nearly broke Alexis’ leg. Wenger being the more level headed of the two managers may have lost the “high ground” according to the media, but he showed he won’t be bullied by Mourinho anymore.
Say what you will about Wenger, but you can’t fault his love for this club and that is something that we should all never forget. Wenger is in a lost class of managers that truly adores Arsenal and wants to see it perform well, the right way, with the right group of players. We can question his judgment in not spending money on this player or that player, or how one player is not being played in one position or the other but we should be proud of a manager who doesn’t give up on the club or the players.
The interlull will last for two weeks let’s try to all be positive and remember to laugh at Mourinho’s surprise when Wenger stood up to him:
Gotta love that!
Until next week, pray to the football gods an injury free interlull.
Oh to be a Gooner!