The summer is drawing to a close and with it means the Premier League season is underway. Technically it started last week with the match against West Ham United but I am going to pretend that match never happened. The real season began with the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace which saw us play so much better than opening day, you would have thought it was two different squads that took the pitch. Excellent performances from Ozil, Coquelin, Bellerin, Alexis (who still isn't fully ready) and Giroud say us take three points in our first trip away from home this season.
While the match had plenty of talking points I would like to start with our current number one striker: Olivier Giroud, the HFB. His opening goal was part side volley, part bicycle kick that was so expertly taken, you can see why Wenger sees him as our number one striker. After that goal hit the back of the net I thought to myself “he really can score a phenomenal goal”. It made me think of some of the wondrous goals he has scored for us in the few seasons with the Gunners. Reading forums and message boards, you would think that Giroud is not worth the money we paid for him and he is a mediocre player. All I can say is that while he isn't the best striker in the league, he is improving each year. It took him so long to find the back of the net in his first season that there were fans calling for his head in only a few short months. 19, 23, 19 goals in all competitions in each year he has been with us. Lets not forget he missed a large portion of last season to injury and still managed to knock in 19 goals. A fully fit Giroud is instrumental in keeping pace with the league leaders unless we sign another striker to give him a rest every now and then. It has been discussed before but our style of play gives Giroud more importance because we look to use his power and hold up play to draw defenders while players like Walcott, Alexis, Welbeck, Ox and Ramsey can get in behind. Our weakness, which has been discussed to death, is the reliance on that single system. Nonetheless Giroud is our guy to lead the line unless we pick up a new striker signing.
A lot was made about the performance of our new number one keeper from Chelsea last week. Petr Cech did little to bathe himself in glory after a couple of relatively soft goals in the opening match but I am willing to let him slide slightly as the defending was utter garbage and left him him and dry. Same for the goal we gave up against Palace it seemed like a soft goal and it was but from a defending standpoint as no one closed down the attacker and he was free to shoot to the far post. Cech may have been slow to get down but you have to expect your defenders to make an effort to get in front of the shot. In any sport that uses a goalkeeper, whether it is football or hockey, the goaltender has to have the confidence that his defenders will at least make it difficult for the shooter to get the shot off. More shots in hockey are blocked by defenders because they are trained to stop a shot before it gets to the goaltender. A shot that is blocked doesn't have a chance to go in. Basic defending would serve us well in the coming weeks especially since we have a match against Liverpool coming up.
I would consider the match against West Ham a fluke performance, one that was built out of a squad that was not prepared to deal with the threat that West Ham provided. We went into the match against Palace knowing that another lazy performance would be punished and their was a sense of nervousness in the fans but as the minutes ticked on it was clear that we were not treating this Palace side with the same lack of respect. There were moments of danger from them but in the end we dealt with it well and I think we can build off of that as we head into the match next Monday against Liverpool.
Liverpool are a team that have won two games with a brilliant goal from one player and a poor linesman decision. Liverpool have not been convincing in their games but collected three points from each match. We have not played our best football but I can see that the summer cobwebs are being shaken off and we are man for man better than Liverpool. Those players need to step up and deliver because this is the first test we have to face in our title challenge. Liverpool do have a blessing and a curse against us: Brendan Rodgers. I think he is absolute madman when it comes to managing sometimes as he puts outs a bizarre team selection. I do not know if he simply does this to confuse the opposition of if he truly believes that Jordan Henderson is the best player in the Premier League. Whoever he decides to play against us will be facing an Arsenal team that knows that all eyes are on them to perform and they must now cast off the doubts to prove we belong in the title hunt. I know we have a lot of matches to go but we have to move onto the title after our back to back FA Cup wins.
In local news we are now calling Ri Ra's Irish Pub the new home of the Queen City Gooners. I would like to thank Big Ben Pub for their hospitality over the last several years and it was not an easy decision to move on from that relationship. The people involved in this decision want nothing more than the best fan experience we can get here in Charlotte and Ri Ra's has been very generous in their bid to have us call their pub home. There were many factors that lead to this decision and we are calling all the loyal Queen City Gooners to come out for our first official match on August 29th against Newcastle. We are looking to grow our brand here in the city as we are the biggest group for the sport in Charlotte and the largest Arsenal branch in NC. Congrats to all of you Gooners for keeping the Arsenal alive here in our great city. We have competition with other groups but let's face it, We are the Arsenal and we are the best, so f*** all the rest.
Any questions about the new move can be made to the Queen City Gooners Facebook page, twitter, email or even to me and we will be glad to address your concerns.
Looking forward to great season with the incredible QCG. I apologize for the short first blog of the year but it has been a busy few weeks. I will look to expand on the blog in the coming season. I hope to see all of you at Ri Ra's!
As always: Come on you Gunners!!!