Well, That Was Just Bad...
So I waited an extra day to write this blog so I could get the result of the match against AS Monaco in the Champions League. We lost the match 1-3. We were at home too. If I had paid money to see that match I would have demanded a refund. Monaco put 3 goals past us which means we have to score at least 3 goals and get a clean sheet in order to advance. Given our record in the Champions league lately means that we are essentially done. Is it still possible? Of course, but anything is possible. It is very unlikely that we will be able to advance now but my fingers are still crossed. It was a pathetic performance from front to back and if we play that way again, we will lose. We play Everton on Sunday so lets just hope we actually turn up for the league matches. As a bonus the Invincibles documentary will air on NBCSN after the match.
That's all I can manage this week. I can write all day about how bad the performance was but I will not. Lets just chalk this up to a bad day at the office and look forward to the weekend. We will see what happens. Stay warm and safe Queen City Gooners as this winter storm moves through.
Let's all find a distraction until the next match: music, video games, reading, alcohol etc. Maybe they can take the pain and sadness away.
If you like folk metal, then the band Korpiklaani has the best suggestion:
Arsenal treated us to nice and relatively easy win over the weekend in FA Cup. We love a good win and after our past few games being a mixed bag of results it was great for us to come out of the gate looking to win instead of just coast past a lower level opponent. A win leaves us with a quiet week as we move forward to face Crystal Palace this weekend.
Wenger changed the lineup as we expected he would. He gave a several players a rest, including, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Monreal and Ospina. This meant that Gabriel received his first start in an Arsenal shirt. I was eager to see what he could do and how he performed with Koscielny. In a match were we were dominant it can be difficult to judge a defensive player but I think he did his job well and should ease the pressure off our other defenders and our minds. He made several tackles include a much needed last ditch one in the box to clear a goal scoring chance. He also picked up a defenders yellow when Middlesbrough broke through our midfield and he took out the player. Sure, we tend to get mad at opposition players when it happens against us but you do want your defenders to do that every once in a while to establish a strong presence.
Continuing with the defense, our fullbacks played well, particularly Gibbs who was starting over the rested Monreal. For starters, his pass to Giroud was perfect for the Frenchman to slot home for the opening goal. He was a threat all match with his crossing and he even managed to get into the box for a couple shots on goal. He was clearly making his case to win the starting spot back from Monreal. Chambers was also solid and excusing a few young player/rusty mistakes should be applauded for his performance. When, or more appropriately, if or players get fully fit we have a great selection players from front to back for Wenger to decide on when selecting our starting XI.
Ozil and Giroud have both come back from injury looking better than ever. Giroud, while not the fastest player to ever put on boots is showing why Wenger continues to show faith in him with his positioning and passing ability. Giroud has caught a lot of flak from fans in the past for his lack of pace and for good reason. We tend to play through balls to players like Walcott, Ox and Rosicky who are known for going to the direct route and beating players with more speed. Giroud, frankly, couldn't outrun a parked car on some days and playing a quick through ball just ends up being collected by the keeper or cleared by a defender. His strength is his size and positioning. Watch both goals from the weekend again. Giroud moved into open space when the defenders were focused on other areas. Alexis, Cazorla and Ozil draw attention because they are the threats on the ball if you isolate them then they can't play the passes to our attackers. This plays into our hands because it allows for Giroud to get into spaces between defenders. He set up both his runs by using the focus of the defenders to his advantage. He slipped into the space and finished from tight angles for both goals. Also on display was his strength to hold the ball up, which has always been Wenger's favored method for playing him centrally. He can receive the ball at the edge of the penalty area and set up passes for onrushing midfielders like Cazorla or Ramsey.
We started on the front foot and established dominance early. I was pleased with how we weren't content to let Middlesbrough have the ball and set the tempo. We took the game to them and played on our terms. With Wenger's latest defensive tactics, we have shown the opposition plenty of the ball and this has led to some nervy games but also one of our best with the win over City. I am not advocating the abandonment of our new defensive set up. I am giving Wenger credit for setting up his team to the opposition rather than sit with a standard set of tactics and forcing them in every match no matter who we are playing against. What works against one team may not work against another. The same applies with players as well, some players don't always work well together when in various positions. It may be too early to tell but it looks like the stubborn Wenger may finally be adapting to the progressive style and flow of the game.
Wenger will always be loved in the hearts of fans but his unwillingness to change his setup has been a point of contention to a lot of fans. The lack of a “plan B” in games where our ticky-tacky passing plays are not coming off has been incredibly frustrating. I feel like after the City game, we were all commending Wenger for playing City in a new, smarter way. Then we go full throttle against Villa and it works. After that is the match against our scummy neighbors and it doesn't work even though we played our defensive minded game. The more attacking style worked to a mixed degree against Leicester and finally the attack first tactic works against Middlesbrough. What we are seeing is Wenger toying more with the setup against various opponents. The defensive experiment failed against Spuds because the sat off too much and gave them too much respect. This allowed them to grow into the game and establish their tempo. When we play the defensive game, we need to be the dictators of the tempo because without controlling the game we end up just chasing it even when we lead. Games against lesser opposition we are playing with a more cavalier style letting Cazorla be the playmaker. Hopefully we are seeing a new Wenger and a new Arsenal as we set up for the final leg of the season.
Coming up this weekend is the match away at Crystal Palace, where I hope to see Wenger set up again with the confident, aggressive mindset. A win is a must. Before I end this though I have to mention our next opponent in the FA Cup: Manchester United at Old Trafford. They beat Preston with some questionable goals and dive called for a penalty. I know it is not the most ideal match up but I think our confidence is high right now and let's face it, we are due a good win over them and what time better than defeating them on the way to Wembley?
Stay safe and warm Queen City Gooners. I know this winter weather isn't loved by all of you but I quite enjoy it.
Finding Our Form Again
It has been a while since my last entry but I have a valid excuse. I was trapped in Ohio. Not really. I went there of my own free will. Visiting family and all that. While enjoying an actual winter for once in northeastern Ohio, I got to watch a great match between Brighton and Arsenal in the FA Cup. I was hoping to get to Cleveland to watch the match with the Cleveland Gooners but family plans took precedent so I had to watch the match on my phone. Getting back mid-week threw me in a jam as the next match was close so I decided to hold off and wait until after the match against Villa. That was a treat by itself. All this and a couple signings in the January window means I am one happy Gooner.
Going into the FA Cup Match, the outlook on our chances of a Cup repeat looked exceptionally good on paper. Several key losses to the top clubs remaining in the competition. Chelsea lost, Manchester City lost and Tottenham lost. Liverpool and United still remain but I think we can handle them as our form is improving by the match. Lazy defending made the scoreline seem closer than it really was. 3-2 with goals from Walcott, Ozil and Rosicky (his goal was superb) made the day a good one as we advanced to the next round where we will face Middlesbrough at home. A great chance for us to continue our quest for another trophy to add to the display case in the Emirates.
The starting XI against Villa say a start for Walcott and Ozil, a first for them in a while as Alexis was rested while nursing a mild injury. Bellerin also kept his spot at right back. Arsenal dominated the possession almost from start to finish and it was from this strong possession that saw us get the opening goal. Giroud's clip over Guzan was excellent but the true beauty of the goal was from the assist. If you have not seen it (what are you waiting for?!), then you missed an exquisite pass from our record signing. The ball was played to him in the air and he expertly flicked the ball with a no look pass on the side boot right into the path of the onrushing Giroud, who had broken past the defenders. Giroud's first touch was good, the second not so much and you almost feared that he was going to lose the chance. He didn't as he chipped the ball over Guzan to make it 1-0. More Arsenal possession ensued and very little attacking threat from Villa as well which resulted in the halftime score being 1-0 although we should have had a few more goals had it not been for the good work of Guzan in the Villa goal.
The second half saw a bit more Villa possession but not much came out of it. The defending was solid on our part and we dug in to mount another attack. Giroud returned Ozil's favor with an assist as he played Ozil beyond the defense. Ozil took a touch and sent the ball a long way into the far post. You could say Guzan should have gotten more on it but it would harsh to the keeper who did his best to keep them in the match. 2-0. Arsenal got the third with a wonderful goal from Walcott who normally I criticize his first touch, but this one was great as he split the defenders and curled the ball around the keeper in the box to make it 3-0. 4-0 was not far off as Chuba Akpom (on for Giroud) drew a penalty from the Villa keeper. Cazorla sent his shot slightly to the keepers left but had too much power to stop as it nestled in the side back netting. The final goal came from Bellerin, his first, as he was played the ball by Cazorla. He side footed the worm burner of a shot from a decent distance and the ball hit the post and went in. 5-0 A good goal and one that was well deserved by the young right back.
It was a great confidence builder for us as we head into the match this weekend against Sp*rs at Shite Hart Lane. Five different goalscorers and no Alexis hopefully shut up the pundits and doubters who said we are a one main team. The credit goes to the whole team. Coquelin continued his good form with his tackling and distribution of the ball from the defenders. Bellerin also continues to improve every match and looks to developing his own style with his pace and crossing in attack and his ability to close down attackers. He still makes the usual young player error but I am feeling confident with him in the squad, deputized for the injured Debuchy. With Chambers set to be a center back, it is good to see our other young defender showing what he can do with the experience presented to him. He and Coquelin are really making cases for themselves for the future. Maybe not at Arsenal, but they are turning out to be fine players. I truly hope that they have a place in the future of this team because at the moment they deserve their places in the squad and until they show they can't handle it anymore, they should stay in the starting XI.
It should be noted that we spent money in this January transfer window. We purchased a young midfielder by the name of Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw in Poland. I do not know anything about the player except that Wenger seems to rate him highly and that he may push for the first team. Not the defensive midfielder we may be needing at the moment but with Coquelin performing well, I don't think we are in too much danger. Of course with our injury record that may not be smart.
The biggest transfer news was the signing of Gabriel Paulista from Villareal in Spain. I am not an avid watcher of Spanish football so I do not know much aside from the few highlights that popped up after we made the deal. He appears to be a solid player who will instill a bit of fear into our opponents attack. The Brazilian seems suited to playing at either center back position so it frees us up to rotate Mertesacker more and give Koscielny a rest to avoid any more injury flare ups. This signing I was most pleased about because we all know how much not having defenders has cost us this season. With Debuchy out for the long term again and Koscielny's reoccurring injury we truly needed some depth in out back four and we got it. I expect we will see Gabriel start soon to give a reprieve to either Mertesacker or Koscielny.
Arsenal got shafted with the early start time this weekend at White Hart Lane as we take on the shadow dwellers themselves. We passed them in the table as we sit in fifth. A win and a United loss could see us sitting third by the end of the weekend. Of course we need to outscore Southampton or see them drop points as well. I think we can do it. We need to displace United or Southampton and hold onto the top four places. Chelsea are probably too far out of reach and it would take a miraculous drop in their form to see us be able to catch them. I expect Alexis to start if healthy but Walcott loves a goal against the chicken shite scum as does Rosicky so I expect an appearance, starting or otherwise from each of them.
Time once again to show those rabble-rousers down the road that we are the ONLY team in north London. I ask you all one question:
What do we think of Tottenham?