The debacle against Monaco is still fresh in all of our minds, I am sure. I am equally sure that it is still on the minds of the players and Arsene Wenger. Watching the matches against Everton on Sunday and the match against QPR on Wednesday, it was abundantly clear that whatever mental and physical wrinkles that reared their ugly heads in that Monaco game, have not been ironed out. The difference, however is that we managed to get wins instead of a terrible loss. Ugly wins are still wins and no manner of anti-Arsenal media can take that from us.
As the season begins to come to final stages, we need all the points we can get. Winning emphatically and winning ugly still produce the same 3 points. There aren't any bonus points for style. I know we all love a great attacking performance but in the midst of a rough patch sometimes we can lose sight of the real goal: getting maximum points from every match. Looking at the results you will see a 2-0 win and 1-2 win. Let's just keep it in perspective.
There were a few good points to discuss. Olivier Giroud notched two goals to continue his good scoring run. He caught a lot of flak after the Monaco match and with fairly good measure. He missed a few chances that he should have buried. He got a lot of the blame for that loss and I think that is unfair to him as he has been picking up the scoring where others have dropped. He had a poor game and he admitted that but he is not the only player capable of getting a goal. The team let themselves down that day.
Another good talking point is our young players: Coquelin, Bellerin and Ox. Ox has always shown promise and has been in and out of the first team for a few years but I thought he was stagnating slightly but he is showing why we acquired him. He always looks to drive to the net and he is tough to knock off the ball. Like Alexis, his energy levels are high and he never seems to tire.
I have mentioned before how much I like Bellerin. He continues to grow in confidence as the matches pass. While he is still prone to a rookie mistake every now and then, I am no longer nervous when I see him on the team sheet. Debuchy is still the first choice right back but we are seeing a capable back up emerging. His crossing is excellent when in attack and he can make up ground quickly in defense when tracking back. These are qualities you want in a right back. He isn't doing anything to warrant being replaced in the line up and our only other option is another young player, Calum Chambers.
There are some stats floating around that show that Coquelin is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. I am not doubting those numbers but I do not like touting a young player as the best player or comparing them to a legendary player so I won't. What I will do is say that he has taken a tough situation, and made the most of it. There is already enough pressure on these young players to perform like a veteran player without over-hyping them. Necessity is the mother of invention and young players need experience. The situation is not ideal for us as fans but these players are getting valuable first team experience in the best league in the world.
Moving ahead to the FA Cup match against Manchester United on Monday, I expect Wenger to take this very seriously as the defenders of the Cup. The problem is we are coming to this match on the backs of sub par performances and United come into it as the luckiest team in the Premier League. We will have to be at the top of our game at a point in the season where we have been struggling. Wenger has the difficult task of motivating this squad to perform to a higher level, a level that we can hit with the talented players we have, and a level that we have seen before this season.
We have a squad of incredibly skilled players that together are going through a slump. What better way to get back on track then by beating United at their own ground to advance to the next round in the FA Cup? United are not the invincible team of the 90s that they wish they were. We have struggled there because we give them too much respect and play timidly. This is exactly what they want us to do. We need to go for the throat immediately. We need to dictate the tempo from kickoff. Easier said then done I know. I am confident (probably stupidly) that we will win. Frankly we are due for a win against not just United but at Old Trafford. Plus how great would it be to beat both Manchester clubs away from home?
In order to beat them, Alexis, Ozil and Cazorla must be at their best. Hopefully since we have five days to rest after today, Alexis will be able to get to recharge his batteries. Despite how good he is, he still looks tired after every match and I think some of his decision making comes down how hard he plays every week and how many matches he plays in. He is so influential that it is hard to drop him for even half of a match. He and Ozil haven't clicked quite like we would have expected but I think some of that comes down to the extended injury absence that plagued Ozil for most of the season. Another problem is that due to Cazorla's form in the center attacking mid role, Ozil has played more on the flank instead of center so there is less of a direct route for the two play off of each other.
No matter the lineup, we have a tough task ahead of us on Monday. Weekday games are the worst especially for those of us who work in offices that block streaming sites or frown upon screaming at a monitor when we give up a goal. Plus if we lose, Monday's suck enough without that hanging over our heads. So let's hope Arsenal can advance get back to Wembley.
Come on you Gunners!
Side-note: I hope everyone got to watch the Invincibles documentary that aired after the match against Everton. It was well done even if it was a bit short. That was a legendary team that will go down in Premier League history as one of, if not the best team.