Norwich City – Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Line-Up. Canaries in a Goal Mind?


Or will they set up to stop Arsenal’s attack?

On the back of disappointment at West Bromwich Albion and the loss of our midfield anchor-man, Francis Coquelin–and his back-up, Mikel Arteta–how does Arsenal regroup and respond?

Will a 3-nil romp in mid-week vs Dinamo Zagreb serve to re-grease the Arsenal machine or does it only add unneeded mileage to a vehicle in need of some time on the rack?

So many questions… And answers that can only be revealed on match day…

Doesn’t mean we can’t do a bit of guessing, now does it?  :D

Norwich City are back in the Premier League by way of winning the end-of-season playoffs between the 3rd and 6th place finishers in the Championship.  To me, promoted teams, used to winning their matches in the previous season, always represent potential stumbling blocks for top teams hoping for easy points.  If they’ve also shown the nerve and desire to come up by way of the playoffs, I become extra wary.  The Canaries may sit only two points above the relegation places but we should make no mistake.  If Arsenal visit Carrow Road and bring anything less than full effort and commitment, Norwich can punish us.

The names in their squad may not strike fear but they have sufficient quality to stop our attack if we’re lazy and take chances if they come their way.  Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani are the men up front while guys like Nathan Redmond, Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady will be working hard to provide assists or score themselves.

We should also be aware of pacy fullbacks Andre Wisdom and Martin Olsson.  Central defenders Sebastien Bassong, Ryan Bennett and Captain Russell Martin aren’t the biggest, but the first two (Martin missed the match but will be available for ours) and goalkeeper John Ruddy limited Chelsea to only a single goal a week ago.  The Canaries managed a clean sheet in a 1-nil win vs Swansea in the league match before that one.  Manchester City, we should remember, required a very late goal to take full points from Norwich three matches ago.

How then does Arsenal go about breaking the Canaries resistance?  Unfortunately, in attack, our resources remain limited by injuries and fitness concerns.  Things are looking up, however, with the return of Aaron Ramsey.  Although he looked a bit rusty, he was able to come on and play almost a half an hour as a substitute.  Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain should be the next body returning to fitness and will be available for this one.  Will one of those two be used in Coquelin’s position at the rear of midfield?

Personally, I doubt it, and, instead, I believe Mathieu Flamini will continue in that spot.  Ramsey, however, might take over on the right side of attack even though Joel Campbell had a solid outing vs Dinamo and made a lovely slide rule pass for one of Alexis Sanchez’ two goals.  Alexis, supposedly, is carrying a slight hamstring strain and many were desperate to give him some time off during a lengthy barren spell for both club and country.  Will he finally get some bench-time?

Manager Arsene Wenger recently compared Alexis to a lion on the hunt but will now have to decide if his predator deserves some time to digest his prey or if he’s hungry for more.  I would be very surprised if he gets a rest considering we have nearly a full week before we play again vs Sunderland.

Then again, I was surprised we didn’t rotate a bit with the rear-guard for the mid-week match.  Perhaps Wenger believed that we needed our absolute best group to help Flamini and, maybe, to try to mollify the home support who witnessed a more makeshift group lose an earlier Champions League match vs Olympiakos.  Could he be thinking the Premier League is a chance to rotate?

My guess is no.  In fact, the only change I predict from midweek would be Ramsey in for Campbell.

Bench: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell

It’s quite hard to discern exactly what Wenger is thinking.  League matches against teams near the bottom are always must-win affairs but a slightly deeper group eager and ready to contribute seems essential with the busy Festive Season schedule only a few weeks off.  What do my fellow Berkampesquers believe?

Regardless of the group Wenger sets out, we need the points.  The table is very compressed and anything less than a win would be an opportunity missed.  With Manchester United and Leicester City sharing points today we can go level with the latter club (and Manchester City) with a win.

Let’s do it, eh…

by 17highburyterrace

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What to do with Kieran Gibbs: LB backup, LM, DM, CB or Transfer?


Time to shine for Gibbs

As Arsenal are not playing till Sunday and the match preview will not go out until at least tomorrow afternoon, let’s blog about something else. It would be good to know what fellow Gooners would like to do with Kieran Gibbs.

Gibbser is 26 and has lost his preferred left back position to the currently immaculate Nacho Monreal. He needs to play regular football now as his best years have only just started, and he is too good to simply be a backup player.

Wenger has been playing him in front of Monreal as a sub on a few occasions: is the left midfield position an option for Kieran? Great defensively, but can he produce the assists and goals…?

Or should he aim for the DM position, currently vacated by Coquelin? He reads the game well, is very good defensively and a decent passer of the ball. He also has the stamina and athleticism needed for the DM role…

Alternatively, he could be developed into a CB, but it would take time and the competition is currently fierce…

He could also wait and compete hard with Monreal to claim his place, but how likely is it he will regain the LB position anytime soon?

Maybe his best option is to ask for a transfer by the end of the season?

What do you think, FFGs?

By TotalArsenal.

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Alexis, Mesut, Jack and Aaron the new Thierry, Dennis, Freddie and Robert?

Alexis CF, Mesut nr.10… with Jack and Aaron ‘Mid-wings’: Discuss! :)


Regular readers know that I am a great believer in Giroud and that I do not see a need to buy a CF anytime soon. Giroud allows others to shine and he carries a strong goal threat himself. Ollie is the complete package in the modern game, even though he is not the best classical centre forward Arsenal ever have had by any stretch. For me it is clear that Arsene wants our attack to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and Giroud offers a great base to operate from, especially if and when we play park the bus teams. His stats are great, his work rate good, and his total contribution to the team is simply fantastic.

I also like Theo, who offers speed and keeps defences close to their goalkeepers, often allowing our midfielders to boss the midfield. This works especially well against teams that like to attack us/ do not park the bus. With Theo we are at our most dynamic, especially once we have regained the ball and can break forward.

I love it that we have these two options for attacking different opponents, and I reckon Giroud and Theo will get plenty of chances to shine. But there is a third option for us, and that is playing Alexis as our CF. He can do hold/link up play, he is fast, he has energy and a great threat from outside and inside the box. He can dribble and take defenders on, and he also has a decent through-ball in his repertoire. He also is a great finisher and a predator with relentless energy and hunger. The total ‘pure’ CF package, if you ask me…

I would love Arsene to try Alexis as our CF, but I guess he will not do it until he has a good alternative on the left wing. With Ozil in the hole and Alexis up top, we would not be that far from what Bergkamp and Henry had to offer a  decade or so ago.

What we also need is good midfielders on the wings that can work in tandem with their flying full-backs: Bellerin and Nacho. Rambo and Bellerin have formed a very strong partnership in which the FB is the real winger and the midfielder is both an attacker and co-defender, and I reckon we need to buy a good left winger/midfielder to make the Ozil-Sanchez partnership really work.

But then I thought about Jack coming back in the new year. I see Jack in either Cazorla or Ozil’s current role, but both have been playing very well and it would be wrong to force either out. But what about playing Jack on the left wing for a while? Nacho and Jack would be able to work a fine partnership ala Aaron and Bellerin, and Jack can do on the left what Ramsey does on the right. Both would also be allowed to move about and interchange with Ozil, as to keep it all fluid and unpredictable.

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

Of course we would need Coquelin back, which will take a while now, and Jack would need to be fully fit. But once everybody is available, this could be a very strong team in my opinion. Jack and Rambo could develop into our new Ljunberg and Pires… And with Theo, Giroud and Danny we would have options to vary this approach.

What do you think FFGs? :)

By TotalArsenal.

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Mesut/Alexis MOTM | Nacho Perfect | FlamCar in Control: Player Ratings | 8 Positives

Well that was just what the doctor ordered: high tempo, crisp passing, fine combination football and the stars of the show shining at their brightest! Not much time, but here are my eight positives of the game.

  1. Ozil and Sanchez’s energy and creativity were too much for Zagreb: three goals and one assist between them is a very good return for all the hard work. Seeing Ozil score almost twice with his head tells us a lot as well. He is making more runs into the box now to be at the end of a chance rather than only creating them, and that is just what we need currently, as we have been lacking goals from central midfield.
  2. Nacho was awesome, both in defence and in attack. A great assist for Sanchez’s first goal, but he could have had more. What a great wing-back we have in Monreal.
  3. Giroud worked hard to create space and chances for others. He did not score this time round, but he carries so much goal-threat that defenders have to stay with him, and this opened them up for sharp-shooter, Alexis and smooth operator, Ozil.
  4. The Flam-Car DM pivot worked well tonight: they bossed the midfield defensively and made good contributions offensively. Santi offered a lot creativity and pushed the team on from the back: he had a really good game.
  5. Campbell had a great assist and had some good spells, especially at the start of the game. Like the Ox, he tends to drift in and out of the game – the very opposite of the continuously driven Alexis – but he produced the goods when it mattered.
  6. Bellerin had great drive once again and as a result we could use the whole width of the pitch. We were really strong from the wings today and this is due to the creativity, drive and speed of the full backs and our ‘midwingers’ Alexis and Campbell.
  7. A clean sheet was very welcome, even though our defending was not always top notch. Something to build on now, and I hope Arsene will play the same back four and Cech against Norwich.
  8. The return of Ramsey was very welcome. He clearly looked rusty but coming on with no pressure and just being able to ease himself back into the first team will have done him good. In hindsight, I am glad Wenger did not start him.

Man of the match was SanOzil: both Sanchez and Ozil were magnificent and it would be wrong to choose between them on tonight’s performances.

Ratings (1-10):

Cech: 8 | Solid close save at the end of the game/ calm and in control.

Bellerin: 7.5 | Very driven going forward, one or two defensive mishaps

BFG: 7 | Calm and controlled, kept it simple and effective

Koz: 7.5 | Full of drive and healthy aggression – best game in a while

Nacho: 8.5 | Great runs and balls into the box – solid at the back too

Flam: 7.5 | Solid and confident – allowed others to play and good interceptions when we lost the ball

Cazorla: 8 | Good partnership with Flamini and a creative force all over the pitch

Ozil: 9 | Great on the pitch leadership and he made the team dance with his fine runs, fabulous control of the ball and passes – scored the all-important first goal

Alexis: 9 | Two goals and a fine assist – never gave up fighting and his link up play with Ozil was a joy to watch

Giroud: 7.5 | No goals or assist but did a lot of dirty work today to create space and opportunities for others

Campbell: 7.5 | Periods of great drive and creativity in which he takes the game to the opponent – need to become more consistent, but fine, fine through-ball for Sanchez’s second goal

By TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal – Dinamo Zagreb; Match Preview, Predicted Line-Up. Big Coq = Big Shoe to Fill. Luckily Rambo Has a New Pair

Of shoes, that is…

He also has a new baby.  Congrats to our guy on that account.  Check out the cobblers on that boy!

If Papa’s are proportional (like the feet…)  We might see some audacious attempts and maybe some of this…

C’mon Rambo… Please…

We have to hope he’s fit and ready, but, if he is, I believe this is a massive opportunity for our Welshman to step in for Francis Coquelin–or at least step in somewhere in our first 11–very likely back into his ‘free’ role on the right side of our attack–and buoy our heavily depleted squad.

Of course, hope is not really a plan…:(

Maybe Rambo should post a picture of his baby grasping his finger… as this line of thinking is maybe grasping (at straws…) just a bit, too…

Desperate times, I guess…

So, is he ready?  Will he be fit?  Will fatherhood be just the sort of responsibility which will carry over and onto the pitch or will the cries of his baby become confused with those of Arsenal fans demanding that their team Just. Do. Better.

What we do know is that Coquelin is out for at least two months with ligament damage to his knee.  His is just the latest name added to the injury list.  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky round out that group.  It’s a lot of talent to have unavailable and it means our main group will have to play on and on and on.

One at a time, perhaps, is the only way to take them, and this one should be manageable.  Of course, we thought the same thing on opening night in Zagreb in the reverse fixture.  In that one, Wenger rested several first team players, giving starts to the likes of David Ospina in goal and Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy and Gabriel in our back line.  Further forward Olivier Giroud came in for Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the right.  Arteta started instead of Coquelin at the rear of mid-field.

Was it too many changes or did things just not go our way?  Early on Giroud picked up an early yellow (for dissent) after complaining about very rough treatment from Dinamo defenders.  Nonetheless, we looked the team most likely to score until Dinamo’s first real chance.  Ospina was quick off his line to block Josip Pivarac’s shot but it rebounded in off Oxlade-Chamberlain who was also racing back to the scene of the crime.  Things went from bad to worse when Giroud was given a 2nd yellow for hanging a leg out where a Dinamo player, Ivo Pinto, could throw himself at it and theatrically go down.  Drama rewarded, Arsenal had to play a man down for the final 50 minutes.

Things got even worse after the interval when the home team scored from a corner.  Down a man and two goals, the mountain was too high.  Walcott, nicely put in by an Alexis through-ball, scored one after coming on as a sub, but a 2nd could not be found.

That loss was compounded when Wenger again opted for heavy rotation in the 2nd group match at home vs Olympiakos.  Again the understudies came up short, gifting goals against the run of play.  Ospina carrying a ball over the goal line (from a curling corner kick) was the most glaring error.  The group fought bravely (again) and came back to tie the match twice but failed to do so a third time.

It’s been uphill ever since and, despite splitting points over two matches with perhaps the hottest club in Europe, Bayern Munich, Arsenal now go into round 5 needing all three points tonight AND hoping that Bayern beat Olympiakos in the other group match.

That’s not a recipe for a happy evening at the Emirates.  Fans will have to brave the predicted wet and single digit weather and will be keeping one eye on the Bayern match.  If things seemed bad after losing another key player and another three points at West Brom, imagine circumstances dropping us into the Europa League (with a match yet to play in the group).  If we can at least do our part in the home stadium it should mollify at least some of the support.   I shudder to think about the reaction if we cannot.

As such, this one becomes a real test to the focus and resolve of the already knackered group.  Wenger could choose to rotate and I think he might.  He’ll be needing every healthy body he can find at some point or other as the crazy part of the season around the festive period is only a month away.  As much as this is a must win it’s also a situation where players need to feel they can contribute and, if they do, they will get their chances.  Call me insane, but I think we’ll see Wenger double down on his original ideas about the entire squad needing their chances.  If I’m right, you have my permission to also call the manager insane).  Here then is my best guess at the starting 11:


Bench: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Campbell, Reine-Adelaide

It probably won’t be such an extreme rotation of players (especially at the back) and Wenger may bow to the pressure to play the one big-name purchase he made in the last transfer window: Petr Cech.  It sure would be a treat, however, if we could look secure at the back, get a couple of goals and maybe even rotate nicely into the subs bench.  What about a first team debut for Jeff Reine-Adelaide?  The 17 year old wowed the home support in the Emirates Cup and a glimpse of some brightness for the longer term future might go down a real tonic.  Again, hope is not a plan.  Let’s get those other planets to all line up beforehand…

As always, this is just my take on the match and the situation more generally.  What’s yours?  How would you approach this one if you were the one making the choices?   Would you save your resources for the league or be sure to use the very best at your disposal so we have the best shot to be primed and ready for a big final match-night in Athens?

C’mon Gooners, tell us what you think.  C’mon Gunners, back on your horses…

Go on, then…

By 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Angry with Santi, Monreal for Coq, Rambo is back! Afterthoughts.

West Brom v Arsenal afterthoughts

Good afternoon Fine Fellow Gooners

Just back from a fine, long weekend in the serene Highlands of Scotland. Snow-peaked, ancient mountains, mirrored in enormous, still-as-a-mouse lakes, topped off by blue skies and decorated by autumn colours: and all that almost all to ourselves! :)

 Until now, I was only able to watch the highlights but I did listen to intermittent radio commentary on Saturday afternoon. The radio commentator said that we went behind against the run of play, and looking at the highlights, we seemed a tat unlucky to not take anything from the game. Well hey, that is football! And we have been lucky enough until now to avoid this sort of outcome of a game in most cases.

I have said before that away games after an international break are hard to win. The combination of the horrific Paris terrorist attacks only eight days before the kick-off, which will have left especially our French players shaken, and the lack of time for Wenger to bring his team together and prepare them mentally for the Baggies’s challenge, may have been too much. Furthermore, the lack of quality options on the bench also did not help. But ultimately, we lacked composure, and luck was not on our side. Games and results like these we need to take on the chin and not overanalyse, even though it is so attractive to point to finger to one or more individuals and make yourself feel a little bit better.

The only person I am angry with, is, of course, Santi Cazorla; and I reckon Wenger will not quickly forget his lack of responsibility at a crucial moment in the game. I remember having a discussion with Retsub (where are you these days my friend?) re Santi taking a cheeky, chipped penalty against Norwich (if I remember rightly) a few seasons ago. We were winning the game comfortably by something like 3-0 and we were rewarded a spot-kick; Santi stepped up and tricked the keeper with a cheeky chip towards the middle of the goal. The keeper had already committed to a corner and could do nothing about this audacious penalty attempt. Both Retsub and I were a bit unhappy with the lack of respect this penalty attempt showed towards the goalkeeper and how it easily could have gone wrong… but it went in, so we could not complain too much.

When the team has been fighting soooo hard to get back into the game and we finally get a penalty awarded that could get us level, it really has to go in if we are serious about winning the league this time round. We have an experienced squad now with a large number of internationals who have handled far bigger pressures: whoever takes the penalty for Arsenal needs to be pretty sure he will convert it. Santi slipped so it was just a case of bad luck, some will say. But I reckon Cazorla was about to try one of his cheeky, nonchalant penalties again and it was his own stilted movement that made him slip; and this time he made an utter fool of himself. He even touched the ball twice, so the opposition were awarded a free-kick! Next time, Santi, take a normal penalty kick, or even better, ask Sanchez or Giroud to take it. Anybody can miss a penalty, but you have to at least make the goalkeeper work ffs!

The injury to Coquelin is very unfortunate, even though he could have been a little bit more careful perhaps. But in the end, Francis is a DM and it is about winning the physical and mental battles to get the upper hand, so I have no qualms with him getting injured like he did on Saturday… it is an occupational risk he has to be willing to take.

It is funny, we worry about the international players coming back with fatigue and therefore have increased risk of getting injured, but it is the fully rested players – Coquelin and Arteta – who get injured… We will have to see what Wenger will do to fill the void, as Coquelin has been our DM rock over the last few months. Surely, this is an opportunity for the Flame or even Chambers to (re)claim this crucial position….

Or maybe, this is an opportunity to move Nacho next to Cazorla in the double DM pivot? We need to play Gibbsy more, and I just feel that Monreal would make the DM role his: he is clever, quick, reads the game well, is hard but fair and his intelligence (and knowledge of the defenders behind him) could make him the best replacement for le Coq…

But luckily, Rambo is back and he could make a big difference for us again. Campbell did not do too badly but the Rambo-Vector-Hector combination on the right should give us a new wing to fly with. Bring on Zagreb and let’s move on from the West Brom game. The show must go on and Rambo is ready to lift the team! :)

Come on You Rip-Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

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West Brom 2 – Arsenal 1: Le Coq hurt, Old Spaniards Tilting at Windmills; Positives

Will be VERY tough to find. 


Note: Total Arsenal was unable to see the match so this is 17HT with a match report–and an attempt with the positives…

At the risk of mixing a metaphor or three, the squad was already down to bare bones but now the cupboard appears completely bare.  Have we bottled our best shot–in years–for a legitimate title chase and now find it bone dry–or worse.  Feeling around for some ‘easy’ points today at West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal found nothing but dust.

Metaphors all mixed up, lets move onto the blame game.

It’s all comes home to roost; we saw it coming and fingers must be pointed.  Everybody knows that Arteta was done (Santi too…) and that we needed more in attack.  (Joel Campbell in pink boots?  Please…)  Wenger stood firm and this is the result.  Out, out, out…

If such narratives give you comfort, who am I to stop you?

Me?  I prefer to analyze the match and move forward.  In many ways, at least in my opinion, what else is there to do?…

Personally, I liked the line-up, the same group, except Bellerin in for Debuchy, which scored the equalizer vs Spurs, Campbell on the bench if we need a goal.

The game started with both teams pushing the ball at pace and pinging it around the fast pitch nicely.  It turned, however, on a naive mistake.  Francis Coquelin, perhaps trying to show that he could pass quick, sharp and over distance with his left foot, gave it away, flew in and got it back from one WBA player but then came in hard to try and recover the resulting 50-50 from another.  Bad decision (x2, at least) and he’s done.  Early reports sound like it’s ligament damage.

Still, Arsenal, on yet another perfect Ozil set-piece, took the lead via Giroud’s head.  In truth, neither team was completely dominant to that point but there was some technical superiority to be enjoyed watching our 4 Spaniards (Bellerin, Arteta, Cazorla and Monreal) stroking it around near the center circle.

West Brom, to their credit, responded well and looked to get the goal back.  A very poor call by referee Clattenburg (on Arteta) gifted them a free kick.  Instead of taking it quickly they sent men forward and scored through Morrison’s perfect volley from a difficult angle over Cech and into the far corner.  Bellerin was wrong side of the scorer and Arteta was unable to make up enough ground as the free kick came in.  1-1.

Buoyed by the goal, the Baggies were unafraid to score another.  This time it was Rondon feeding McClean who pushed through the inside channel on our right and then, pulling the ball back (with no target available), Arteta reached out a shoulder (or arm) to put in the own goal.

By the letter of the law–had the handball been seen–it might have been a sending off.  Instead, after Arsenal started the 2nd brightly, Arteta limped off, having likely re-injured the calf muscle which has plagued the Captain for over a year.  Mathieu Flamini was called in as our 2nd sub.

Before that, on another Ozil free kick (won by Alexis), Jonas Olsson absolutely flattened Giroud in the box.  Such physicality, I guess, is what makes the English game so enjoyable.  It appeared a stonewall penalty to me.

After the sub, Arsenal pushed hard and looked by far the more dangerous team.  Alexis on the right had moments of individual brilliance and forced several half chances and scrambles in the West Brom penalty area.

Getting to the hour mark, Arsene Wenger went ‘all-in’ and made his last sub, bringing in Joel Campbell for Kieran Gibbs.  Moments later, after more fine work from Alexis, now on the left, Santi Cazorla played an inch perfect pass over the top for Campbell past a stranded defender.  Surely this was the equalizer.  Instead, when it was easier to score than to miss, Campbell’s bright pink boot did just that.

Arsenal were dominating play but the best chance probably belonged to the Baggies.  From a corner, Jonas Olsson rose over Flamini and headed onto the bar with the ball bouncing straight down and onto, rather than over, the goal line.  The spin on the ball kept it out and Cech was able to gather the resulting put-back from Saido Berahino who had actually come from an offside position.

It was a huge let off encouraging Arsenal to fight on.  In the 83rd minute, Alexis won a penalty when Chris Brunt held him back slightly.  Relative to the earlier penalty shout the infraction appeared mild.  It looked a pen to me, and perhaps it was a cumulative decision from Clattenburg.  Regardless, Santi Cazorla stepped up to take it but slipped on his standing leg and put the penalty over the bar, the left leg actually deflecting the penalty kick taken with his right.  Santi prides himself on his two-footedness, but this, surely, isn’t what he had in mind.

There were chances in the final moments of the match, but it was not to be.  Three points dropped, and, perhaps worse, two defensive mid-fielders lost to injury.  An afternoon in the Black Country indeed.

It will be even darker times in North London.  Without looking I’m sure that already the internet has exploded and the sky has fallen.  We play again on Tuesday in a must-win match vs Dinamo Zagreb; our slim hopes for advancing in the Champions League resting not only on getting that result but on Bayern Munich beating Olympiakos in the other group match.  At least after that one we have until Sunday before traveling to Norwich City for our next league match.

While the nay-sayers–especially those who have not enjoyed the past decade under Wenger–will be having a field day with the I-told-you-so narratives.  I actually can see some positives.

Despite extreme misfortune and some missed calls from the referee, our players really kept at it.  Even when the away end went dead quiet the fight, particularly from Alexis, never stopped.  His energy simply amazes and football, for him, is clearly a game to be played at full tilt.  Sure, I’d like him to look up for his teammates just a bit more, but maybe that head down attitude means he’ll give the same incredible effort regardless of scoreline or (now) our spot in the table.

If his example can lead our small and very wounded group into a siege mentality they may just be able to keep together (even as a portion of the support would like to blow it all apart), take the matches one at a time, and, slowly but surely, get us back onto a stronger footing.

Things do not look good but what is the alternative?  Griping about the moves we should have made in the summer, the inevitability of injuries and the personality flaws of the manager-notably having too much faith in his players and not spending sufficiently for new ones–are not for me.

The turning point of the match–and perhaps our season–was Coquelin’s ill considered challenge.  Perhaps Wenger should have known that Le Coq’s style of play (or lack of experience) would make him an unreliable fitness risk.  Still, trying to buy a player to compete with him would have been very difficult if playing time could not be guaranteed.  Questions, of course, will also be raised about older guys like Arteta and Flamini (both who have already lost time this season to muscle problems) as his back-up.

Similar questions could be asked about our squad further forward.  If Wenger knew Danny Welbeck would require surgery surely he should have bought.  Theo Walcott, after looking very strong leading our line and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose goal won us the Community Shield in pre-season, were options.  Both, of course, succumbed to injury in the Capital One Cup loss at Sheffield Wednesday.  Should Wenger have anticipated those injuries or just avoided playing them in the league cup?  The answer probably depends on how you feel about the manager to begin with.

For those looking to lower their expectations that match might have been the first strike against our hopes for the season.  Today’s match, surely is a 2nd.  I’ll give our lads a 3rd before calling them completely out.  Probably too generous, but so it goes.

A better approach might be to check in with those teams who were supposed to run away with the title.  Chelsea sit on 14 points (they were able to sneak past Norwich 1-0 today) while Manchester City lost, at  home, to Liverpool by a 4-1 scoreline.  We are actually now level with City on Goal Difference.  Maybe the key to happiness is worrying less about Arsenal and taking some delight in the failings of others.  Surely Gooners aren’t going to concede the league to Leicester or ManU–teams we’ve beaten by 3 goals apiece, quite yet… No, let’s give it to ‘Pool now that they’ve got a proper manager…

Imagine if the team had the support fully behind them–even in these darker moments.  Close your eyes and try it.  Or vent those frustrations (writing helps me…) and then try it.  Who knows, you might still fancy our chances.

I do.

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments