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Random ramblings about Arsenal. 

Filtering by Tag: Spuds

ümläüt

SJS

 #AHA

Let's not bury the lede: Arsenal Football Club signed Mesut MFing Özil on transfer deadline day.

Due respect to Emiliano Viviano; many of us see the addition of another goalkeeper, albeit on loan, as a wonderful addition to our squad. Likewise, on the evidence of his commanding North London Derby performance, bringing in Mathieu Flamini was another shrewd bit of business by the club.

The big news though, and rightfully so, is the purchase of Özil. In a well-timed swoop, we purchased one of the world's best playmakers, full stop. Gervinho from Arsenal to Roma, Lemela from Roma to Spuds, the Welsh Simian from Spuds to Real Madrid, and Özil from Real Madrid to Arsenal. It's the circle of life. Hakuna matata. A single player has taken us from top four contender to title contender.

My lengthy blast of the club and manager for their business acumen belied the fact that I grasped tightly a sliver of hope during this transfer window that something big would happen. Even the most pollyanna among us would not have anticipated such a huge and previously unheralded purchase. Mesut Özil (seriously, I will take every opportunity to type that name just for the umlaut) is the sort of transfer deadline signing that I hope can unify a polarized fanbase around the notion that Wenger still has his head in the game and the club are willing to spend top, top money for top, top quality.

A few words about that last blog post: I am not too proud to admit that I was far too negative, far too early in the season. Getting spun up in the Twitter echochamber and coming out the other side a bitter soul is discouragingly easy. Implicitly I called for the manager's head and he explicitly signed a world class player who specifically wanted to play for him. Özil clearly liked what Wenger had to say, and that made a big difference in luring him away from Real Madrid. I'm sorry, Arsène. I never meant to hurt you baby. It's telling that I and so many of us were willing to throw Wenger under the bus after so many years of frustration following so many more years of success. We really needed a signing like Özil to turn perceptions around, both internally and externally. Supporters, players, and rivals alike have witnessed a powerful demonstration of Arsenal's and Arsène's ambition. We can compete. Can we all just shut the hell up about transfers now?

Well, no. For all the goodwill banked by beating The Team That Bale Built Standing On A Basketball FC and bringing Özil, Flamini, and Viviano in, we are still riding a knife's edge when it comes to squad depth. I have to wonder why Rosický wasn't subbed off more quickly in the North London Derby, as particularly in the later stages of the match he seemed abnormally off the pace to me (tangentially, can we please stop passing it around in our 18-yard box?!). Our two late-game subs brought on fullbacks for attackers; masterful man-management or dearth of direct deputies? 

It's clear the boss believes we can get healthy soon and in the meantime cover with who we have available (even TGSTEL). Such is the impact of signing Özil that the big difference for me between the start of the season and now is that I'm way more open to letting it slide. My confidence is restored. I don't understand why we didn't take advantage of this summer to refresh and restock our supporting lineup instead of mainly just clearing the decks, but maybe it's not for me to understand. 7amkickoff recently lamented how we've all become lawyers and accountants and I'm sick of it too. I spent so much time worrying about how thin our squad is and how inactive in the transfer market we've been and how big our bank account is, when maybe I should've just been enjoying the ride?

All of that to say, there's plenty to enjoy right now. Things have definitely been looking up for the team since last we spoke. We avenged our opening day loss by running through Fenerbahçe home and away in our Champions League play-in round, traveling to Craven Cottage to convincingly crush Fulham in a torrential downpour, and finally, most endearingly, putting the sword to Spuds at the Emirates.

Speaking of, Charsenal's support during our viewing of the North London Derby was top, top quality. In addition to the locals, we welcomed special visitors from North Carolina and New York and all sang our hearts out. We should do that again sometime...say, in about two weeks?

PS: who else wants to wrap Özil in a big bubble wrap suit until the Interlull is over so he doesn't get crocked?

 

Cracked Rear View

SJS

You win some and you lose some. That’s how I’d describe the Tottenham result in the pragmatic light of the rearview mirror. We came up against an in-form team on their home ground and betrayed our lack of form by crapping the bed in defense. To be fair, Spuds were much less dominant than they appeared by scoring twice in rapid succession. They could easily have fallen victim to the same silly mistakes that we did - if you don’t believe me and haven’t already viewed Gary Neville’s excellent dissection of the North London Derby, give it a look:

For the first 20 minutes we appeared solid but ultimately we chose to play a high, disorganized defensive line and paid for it, full stop. Also, as has happened so frequently this season the usual suspects forgot their shooting boots; more on that in a minute. To say that this result has shifted the balance of power in London is perhaps a bit hasty, what with our 13 league titles, 10 FA Cups, and record 49 domestic games unbeaten streak. Have you ever seen Tottenham win the league?

You win some and you lose some, but then you win some but actually lose some, like in Munich. It’s a rare treat to come to Bayern Munich and not only win but hold the Bavarians goal-less. Much like against AC Milan last campaign, though, we created a situation where even a big win amounted to an aggregate loss by being so porous defensively in the first leg.

This fixture put Wenger into a Catch-22 of sorts. He could have rested most of the first team knowing that it was a dead rubber match in order to prepare for the top 4 fight (Wild, right? Throw a competition match to try and help qualify for said competition next season...). Alternatively, he could have fielded the strongest possible team in the hopes of overturning a 3-away-goal deficit. As intimated in the previous post, my preference would have been for the former. Give the younglings some experience, give the senior squad time to rest and get their handbrakes tuned up for the rest of the season, and let’s get on with the run-in. Either choice would have been frowned upon by one clique of supporters or the other.

Thanks to injured, cup-tied, and “rested” players, what we ended up with was a weird hybrid of these two possibilities, with a memorable but meaningless result as the prize. My hope is that this win will restore a bit of pride and put some fire in bellies to round this campaign out properly, starting with some Swan-hunting at the Liberty on Saturday. Come on you Gunners!

PS: I’m pleased that €hel£ki and Spuds are still in the Who-ropa League (that slight will bite me in the ass when we are in the competition next season), mainly because it offers them more opportunities for weakening and fatigue. I’m a bitter, opportunistic old man.

Interlude On Theo Walcott:

http://espnfc.com/player/_/id/67507/theo-walcott?cc=5901#ui-tabs-2

Young Master Walcott signed da ting on 18 January 2013. Notice anything about his production after the ink dried, particularly when February rolled around? I had to glance at the team sheet periodically during the NLD and remind myself that he was in the starting XI. Perhaps typical. Definitely frustrating.

EN EL DEE

SJS

NLD...the North London Derby. Twice a campaign, a fixture that is like a trophy (sorry). To whet your appetite a bit, here's a video of the so-called "best" of Arsenal vs. Tottenham:

A lot of names in there that we'd rather forget currently, eh? Let's have another look at one of my all-time favorite goals in the NLD, where Cesc Fabregas scores while the announcers are still singing the praises of the previous goal: 

For more recent nostalgia, we only have to look back to the last two matches, both of which supplied us with a Spud being sent off and both of which finished with the delightful scoreline of Arsenal 5 - 2 Spuds.  I'm not sure we can hope for the same accommodations come this Sunday. Let's not forget that we have not managed to win in our previous 4 trips to Shite Hart Lane, drawing and losing twice apiece. Spuds have also only lost twice at home this campaign.

The last few years have seen the Arsenal criticized for being a one player team, particularly when it comes to offensive production. This term, the same criticism could be leveled against our lilywhite neighbors. Gareth Bale has 19 goals in all competitions so far this season; next highest Spuds scorers are Defoe with 14 (who is returning from injury and will probably start on the bench) and Dempsey with 8 (who is currently injured), with goal production petering out from there. This is not to say that Tottenham will be without offensive weapons on Sunday; it is fairly obvious where the danger from them will originate, though.

A positive note for us is that we are no longer dependent on one player to score our goals. Walcott, Giroud, Podolski, and Santi are all into double figures for goalscoring in all competitions this season, with Gervinho and Arteta chipping in. Being that our next match is not until 13 March, there's no excuse to rest any of these players...well, maybe Gervinho. If we're being perfectly honest, there's probably every reason to rest players against Bayern Munich (though remember how close our comeback came against AC Milan?), but that's a whole other post. The point being, I expect all of our big guns out on the pitch in as close to their preferred positions as possible from the start, with no reason to get cute and put Ramsey in goal or some such lark. 

We are not without our own key injuries. Both of our starting fullbacks are out injured, with Diaby still perpetually in recovery. Young master Jenkinson will have his hands full mitigating Bale's current marauding form.  It's not brilliant punditry to say that containing Bale will go a long way in helping us to a victory.

The lessons from last post still apply. We must finish the chances we are given and not be too quick to offer chances in kind. Basic strategy, really, but both tactics seem to elude us in fits and starts. Every match remaining in our season is important and vital to securing a top four finish but naturally no three points would be as sweet.

Remember one simple fact, win, lose, or draw: we won the league at Shite Hart Lane.