31 January 2014

The WAT: Arsenal 2-2 Southampton, London Colney runs out of toilet paper

Jenkinson bearing lighter news at
last year's BAFTA Children's Awards
In a thrilling draw at St. Mary's Stadium early this week, Arsenal greats Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla each netted themselves a goal, but it didn't prove enough to take the win from Southampton's Saints, who scored a goal in each half to keep it level at full time.

Arsenal fans everywhere echoed similar sentiments across social media: While being in first is great, they all said, it's a pretty heavy thing to be in first place, lots of pressure, even on the fans, so maybe this is just what we need to recharge the batteries and get in first again later, like in May, once things settle down. The club's supporters are known for this kind of positive, "nothing can bring us down" attitude, as evidenced by that nice card RVP found in his locker when he arrived at United. Remember signing that card? "Good luck Robben [sic] have fun at manchester and we hope you win the league in 2012-13." Very classy, and very gracious. Not to mention eerily premonitory.

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Crystal Palace, Emirates Stadium, February 2, 11am (EST)

Ex-Gunner Marouane Chamack returns
to the Emirates for the first time
(Wikimedia / CC Licence)
We don't often think of Arsenal fixtures as "must win", but perhaps this fixture against Crystal Palace could be considered such a game. After a disappointing, yet hard-fought and (possibly un-?) deserved point away at Southampton earlier in the week, Arsenal welcome a resurgent Palace to the Emirates. The Gunners will be looking to gain all three points before a hellish run of fixtures in February and March. The task has been made more difficult with the news that Aaron Ramsey has suffered an injury setback and will be out for a "matter of some weeks". Jack Wilshere is about a week from returning, so could be fit to face Liverpool, while Mathieu Flamini's red card at St Mary's means he is suspended for three games, starting with the visit of the Eagles. There are no other injury issues resulting from the Southampton game, and Tomas Rosicky is likely to return to the squad after surgery on his nose. With Wilshere, Ramsey and Flamini out, there is speculation that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play alongside Mikel Arteta in the deeper midfield role; depending on his match fitness, this is also a role that Rosicky could fill. There aren't likely to be too many more changes from Tuesday's starting XI;

30 January 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Has Everything Changed Already?

This week's Thursday Throwdown is decidedly less Throwdown-y as there isn't a second person here to argue. However, I am keeping the spirit alive by adding to past discussions based on new information. In the last couple of weeks Sam and I debated both Arsenal's needs in the January transfer window and the state of the midfield as players came back from injury. Now, unfortunately, those discussions are somewhat outdated due to our latest injury news: Aaron Ramsey will be out an additional 4-6 weeks due to a newly developed thigh injury. Add in Mathieu Flamini's three match suspension for his straight red card against Southampton and the midfield rotation is even tighter than it was one week ago.

Arsenal will be without Aaron Ramsey's direction in midfield for the foreseeable future.

27 January 2014

Weekend in Review: FA Cup Glory for Arsenal

Firstly (and most importantly), the Arsenal came away with a much-needed 4-0 victory against Coventry City in the 4th round of the FA Cup on Friday night. Based on the starting eleven that we put out on the pitch– including the likes of the Wizard of Oz, BFG, Kosc, and Jack– it was clear that the boss felt that this was an important match for us and the boys really produced (despite a rough patch in the first part of the second half). I sat in the comfort of my dorm room (alias Arsenal lair) to watch the match via some random live stream and was immediately baffled when I heard the announcer say something along the lines of, "They see what Chelsea has been doing, they see what City has been doing, Arsenal need to start performing." Really though? Can we just stop and take a moment to think about that statement? 

Anyways... We may have missed watching our beloved boys in EPL action this weekend, but this game really had it all: not only did we see four excellent goals (Poldi at the 15' and 27', Oli at the 84', and my Spanish maestro love Santi Cazorla at the 89'), some of the floodlights at the Emirates went out (at which point "Sh*t club, no lights" chants from Coventry supporters proceeded to ring around the stadium), Ozil had a superb assist to Poldi (anyone really surprised by that though?), a "buffoon" Coventry fan ran onto the pitch and delayed the match, and 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem made his debut for the senior team after being subbed on at the 71'. What blows my mind the most about that last bit is that this 16-year-old kid was on the same pitch as his country's best footballer of 2013, Mesut Ozil. Can you even begin to imagine? That's like if I was four years younger (and at some absurd skill level that I'm clearly not at) about to be subbed onto the pitch to play alongside Abby Wambach or Clint Dempsey or something. Unreal.

Podolski's first goal vs. Coventry

I could go on for a while about this game, but one of the most important thing that I took away from it is the fact that my boy Santi Cazorla is definitely back in form. After being subbed on at the 71', Santi's energy was just phenomenal and he was a real game changer for us. With Bendtner as painfully slow as ever we were in dire need of a little pace in our attack, and Santi pulled through. I'd like to even go as far as saying that his passes in the buildup to the third goal were even better than the goal itself (not to mention the fact that he ended up scoring afterwards as well). 

23 January 2014

Thursday Throwdown: The Midfield Injury Issues

Sam Burgess: It's all been looking pretty good at the Emirates Stadium recently; Arsenal continue to win and retain their position atop the Premier League table. Despite this, the bad news comes in the form of injuries. Theo Walcott had returned from one injury to score 5 goals in 6 games, then was ruled out for the season after rupturing his ACL. The Gunners' star of the first half of the season, Aaron Ramsey, has missed several games of late. Without two of Arsenal's key midfield players, who do you think should be regularly playing in the midfield? 
Wilshere: a key cog in Arsenal's midfield
(Wikimedia / CC Licence)

Andrew Klema: Assuming that the midfield structure remains the same, I would think we'd agree that either Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini has to play the deepest spot. Right now Arteta joins Walcott and Ramsey on the bench with an injury but he should be back within a game or so and when that happens I would prefer him over Flamini. The Frenchman is more likely to get stuck in and provide that imposing physical presence, but I think Arteta actually controls matches more with his distribution. He dictates the pace and the flow of play and that brings more stability to the team than the occasional authoritative tackle.

If Arteta mans the CDM position then it's a choice between Flamini or Jack Wilshere to fill the spot that Ramsey previously occupied. While I acknowledge that there are times when a double pivot of Arteta and Flamini makes sense in order to frustrate the opponent and put a stranglehold on the midfield, Arsenal tends to play tentatively with that lineup. It seems like the idea of clogging the midfield gets into the players' heads and there isn't enough dynamism. That's why I think Wilshere should get the starts in that box-to-box role even though it's not his natural position and even though he can be a defensive liability. He does such a good job of spurring the team forward that it's difficult for me to leave his talent on the bench. Do you agree with that analysis? What do you think about the various combination for the three more forward midfielders?

21 January 2014

Daily Links: The "What Do You Think of Tottenham?" Edition

Cazorla became the most recent Gunner to mock Spurs
Wikimedia / CC Licence
At first I had nothing witty to call this post, then yesterday evening I stumbled across a gem of a link. I already posted it to the BG Facebook page last night, but in case you missed it: Bobby and Santi have a good laugh at Tottenham fans. Of course, the Spuds took it about as well as they took Theo's "2-0" gesture in the FA Cup, forcing Cazorla to later tweet an apology. (Telegraph)

According to a new study, Arsenal are now the best team at developing home-grown talent. The Gunners have 10 home-grown players still at the club, while another 17 are at teams in Europe's top-5 divisions. (Metro)

16 January 2014

Thursday Throwdown: The January Transfer Window

Sam Burgess: So, a successful start to 2014 then. And of course, the start of every new year means the January transfer window. Let's come at this from an Arsenal-POV: Arsène Wenger is famously against the winter window - what do you think of it, Andy? Should it be scrapped in favor of a return to the old system? Can a club actually do decent business in January?

Andrew Klema: In theory, the January transfer window is a reasonable idea. Midway through the season clubs get a chance to reassess their personnel and decide if they want to dip into the market, either to cover for injuries or to take a step up in quantity. However in practice it becomes an adventure in the absurd because of all the media rumors, fan demands, and the general disconnect from reality. A shrewd negotiator with an eye for talent can of course find players that can fit well into the team, but they (and we) must wade through a mountain of bull in order to do so.

11 January 2014

The Token Englishman: The View From Home and January Transfer Gossip

Ah, Christmas; the most happiest season of all. Having just arrived back in Boston after 3 weeks in Good Ol' Blighty with no laptop, your Token Englishman is back to bring you "news" and "views" from across the pond.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal's cheeky chappy
(Photo courtesy of Action Images)

After a 'poor' start to December, which had all of our favorite pundits proclaiming doom and gloom at the Emirates, Arsenal enter 2014 atop the Premier League and having beaten fierce rivals and perennial over-reachers, Tottenham Hostpur, in the FA Cup 3rd Round. Having gone 4 matches in all competitions without a win - gasp! - Arsenal's weakness was finally showing; we can't beat our title contenders. Manchester City are incredibly strong, and remain title favorites for a reason, while Jose Mourinho did his Mourinho-thing and ensured that Chelsea didn't lose away to a title contender1. The boys bounced back from disappointment at the Etihad and against Chelski with 4 straight wins that leaves us in the position mentioned above.