Arsenal ready to put things right…

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
By Kevin Hackert – Used (unedited) under Creative commons license

A 5-2 win and we couldn’t have asked for much more. Saturday’s victory over unbeaten Leicester saw the wish list perfectly met: three points, a Giroud goal, a rampant Alexis, tamed tempers and a solid balance.

A game of counter attacks was won out by a team displaying superb technical ability (and fitness) and it’s easy to see what the boss meant post-game when he said “we’re coming back our best”.

Conceding two goals clearly isn’t ideal. Yet, without being too school-of-Keegan, if you’re going to score five then the two isn’t usually problematic. We know defensive consistency is something Wenger will be just as keen to work towards as attacking prowess, and clean sheets do breed defensive defiance.

Anyway, more thoughts on various things to come before the weekend, but immediately we’ve tonight to think about.

So…

A home-tie against Olympiakos seems a good way to get back on track in Europe. It really should take some kind of disaster to be as poor as we were in Zagreb – and by know means do I want that. Seemingly even Munich’s Philipp Lahm (according to the Express) found our opening result shocking:

The defeat of Arsenal in Zagreb really surprised me. At first I thought it was a mistake.

Unfortunately not, and it means another must win game against another ‘unbeaten’ team. Olympiakos sit top of the Greek Super League with five wins from five, although the 3-0 UCL Matchday 1 loss to Bayern may sow some doubt in Greek minds. Bayern held 71% possession and had 22 shots at goal, so if we ramp up the pressure we might start to see some similar cracks.

We’ll need to capitalise on those, but just how we’re going to break through the Erythrolefkoi could be telling for the remainder of the season. In the Champions League most teams arrive to play. Undoubtedly Olympiakos will be looking for defensive discipline, and that could make at least Walcott’s night a little tricky.

Against Leicester, Theo found runs in behind a rather high line, making runs off the shoulder; a situation the Foxes seemed happy to accept until we showed second-half dominance. Okazaki came off for King to bolster Leicester’s midfield, and their defence dropped deeper to nullify Walcott’s pace. Giroud still offers a better outlet up top against a sat back four – and was duly sent on at the weekend – but with Frenchman is of course suspended tonight.

Walcott will start then, but his pace may have to be attuned to short sharp bursts of a few yards to gain maximise space away from defenders, with either single touches to set or immediate shots. It’s something the best strikers can call on, and if he wants to develop fully in the role he’ll need nights like tonight to hone his skills.

A lack of striking options means the obvious replacement for Walcott if needed is Sanchez. Few will have issue with that after he lit up the King Power, and needless to say the goalscoring burden isn’t Walcott’s or Sanchez’ alone. An dangerous front four seems much more likely this time out. Özil and Ramsey would love to find the net, and with the Ox still waiting to find true form off the bench, there’s plenty to be hopeful about.

In other areas the whispers are that Ospina will start. Arseblog ponders a Cech injury but, while that could be the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the competition between the Czech and Columbian is a little bit closer than many consider. Gabriel is available, but the only other obvious change to Saturday’s strarting XI can come in midfield. With Arteta and Flamini out, the Coquelin and Cazorla core seems certain.

Our central midfield options have been analysed to the Nth degree, but Cazorla especially benefits from Coquelin alongside him. Coquelin provides more athletic, lateral defensive cover than Flamini and Arteta, and allows the Spaniard greater vertical movement to drive our play up the pitch and away from the defensive third. This was epitomised by the 2-0 against Manchester City in January. Cazorla was the stand-out player, but Coquelin wasn’t far behind.

Focus again then will be heightened as to how we manage our own game, as well as that of our opposition. Honestly I think we can allow ourselves some confidence, just as long as the team has shaken off those zagreb zeds.

Strange Fans (We’ve got Some).

We know how it went on Saturday. We were winning, Theo went down injured near the Tottenham support, got some stick and then responded with a cheeky/rational riposte. Cue the coins and some rather unfortunate stretcher bearers who may well have woken up with some pound-shaped bruises on Sunday.

The thing is, while throwing anything at anyone anywhere in a violent and aggressive manner is generally stupid, I’d like to remind the Arsenal faithful that our own fans can get somewhat…err, animated in a rather impolite way as well. A comment from Captain Obvious maybe, but let the record show I spent the first 10 minutes of the FA Cup tie not enjoying the atmosphere of the on-field battle.

Instead I was actually considering never attending another North London Derby, because I really don’t want to hear people sing chants such as:

“It should have been you, it should have been you, shot in Angola it should have been you.” (Directed at Emmanuel Adebayor).

Neither am I a huge fan of songs about how Tottenham should have burned in the riots, or variations on that theme. It’s ridiculous; the societal problems – lit with elements of opportunism – which caused chaos in London in the Summer of 2011 weren’t anything to do with Tottenham Hotspur FC, and to wish the immolation of other football fans is hardly very classy in jest or not.

Me? I don’t really go in for the “it’s all banter” defence, and I don’t participate in any songs which may be considered offensive to any other football fan or person on the street (there’s a couple regularly sung at the Emirates).

Of course, of course, I’m not saying the same isn’t true of other fans at other grounds – although I do note the Boxing Day fixture at Dartford FC was missing self-important chants casting injury and death respectively upon opposition fans and players.

What I am saying is that throwing coins at a player who is injured is not good at all, but the Tottenham fans who did that deserve to think about their actions as those who sing chants some class as “banter” need to perhaps consider their lyrics.

I love attending the Emirates, I love watching The Arsenal live. I don’t like that one of our players was the target of physical projectiles, but nor do I enjoy the verbal ones some Arsenal fans throw.

It’s Probably Bieber’s Fault

The office job had just about nuked my energy after a week of moving and not sleeping (who knew there were trucks and sirens in London?), so I was considering not sauntering to the Emirates for some cheeky fast-food and the Stoke match last night.

But, knowing that my seat would be empty and that there was a nutritionally questionable burger with my name on, I did. And, although it wasn’t one for the occasional attendee, it proved a solid three point victory for an Arsenal that can (currently) defend against and score from set pieces. Refreshing.

The random guy next to me was wide-eyed and dosed up, and as the game entered a nervy and absorbing final ten minutes he decided to roll a joint. His drug habits are his own, but the only grass that really needed the attention he was giving his silvers was that forming Szczesny’s goal line. So when he attempted to join in on the chants like:

Na-na Na-na Na-na Nammy Sasmiri! SASMIRI NAMMY SASmuriry..!

…or even tell the ref he was “funcking ranker”, that the Arsenal managed to maintain said goal lines’s virginity after an early header from Seb Squillaci made it 1 – 0 was more aromatic than his herbs. However, what was plain as the day was marred by looking at Pulis rant and rave was our lack of creativity once Cesc departed.

We passed and probed, but lacked the cutting edge that sometimes only a ringer can bring to Sunday League, and that only Cesc can truly provide at the hub of the Arsenal midfield.

Nasri can, and did, play there but his game is currently more that of a natural man-beater than pass sprayer and pace-setter, while Denilson sometimes looks like he has a contract with his boot makers demanding 90% of his passes are one touch, regardless of where or who they go to.

Granted it’s superb to see that Aaron Ramsey scored for Cardiff against Leicester this week, and he may well be the long-term replacement for when Cesc eventually departs. But for now, and certainly for last night, we miss him even when leading at home to a tough but rarely threatening Stoke. Hopefully he’ll be fit for Sunday, and it would be heartbreaking for him not to play, but if he doesn’t make it Birmingham will think themselves less under threat and no doubt smell a bit of insecurity.

At this point I’d like to say that in fact I jinxed both Cesc and Theo’s ankle by eagerly wearing my newly bought Cup Final hat, and that I take no responsibility for their injuries as this is just a poorly constructed bit of fantastical whimsy. Whimsy a bit like this tweet, retweeted by Andrei Arshavin.

Hey, it’s Russian humour I’m sure. Like pretending he’s out of form when in reality he’s going to single handedly win the League Cup Final and declare everyone in the ground a bunch of silly billies for ever doubting him. You take my completely insincere word.

Seriously though – who am I to comment on another man’s hate of Justin Bieber. After all Bieber completely lost my love and respect when he changed his hair. I mean, really. How can I sleep at…give me a break.

ATS