|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.
For the first time this season, I managed to watch Match of the Day. I have to say, I wasn't looking forward to it. All I'd read and heard from BBC pundits was a refusal to acknowledge Arsenal's title credentials. It was always "They can't beat their rivals", "The squad isn't deep enough", "Who will replace Giroud if he gets injured?" (the Great Dane, that's who!), etc. It wasn't until we beat Newcastle away that they began to change their minds. Even Alan Shearer had to grudgingly admit that we'd won when not playing particularly well, a team characteristic that pundits loved to bestow on Alex Ferguson's title-winning Manchester United sides. Now, I'm not saying they should say we will win the league, more that they at least acknowledge that we can win it. Arsenal are due credit for their first half of the season. It doesn't matter that we haven't got results in some of the bigger games; you have to beat the other teams in the league as well - something that our challengers have struggled with this season. Fortunately, the BBC occasionally have guests like Robbie Savage and Roberto Martinez on MotD; guys that haven't had their senses and individual thoughts bludgeoned out of their heads by Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen types. Savage always brings a fresh air, usually disagreeing with what the other talking head says while bringing actual insight to the show.
Most of the press' attention has now turned to the January transfer window. It's always a very important time of year for the British sport press; Sky Sports News have some someone stand in front of a giant "SkyPad", and newspaper journalist use their "sources" to bring you shocking transfer rumors. All of this builds up to that great British soccer holiday: Transfer Deadline Day. Twice a year, we all go mental, desperately following any news source that might tell us our team has finalized a deal before midnight. SSN send their reporters to Premier League grounds, where they are surrounded by young fans who cheer any mention of their club or a potential transfer, while we stay up 'til after midnight, hoping that our club has done a last minute deal. The January window is, however, notoriously difficult, as clubs want to keep a hold on the players that might help them win a title or get in to Europe, while any player that is good enough to strengthen a club of Arsenal's stature is likely to be cup-tied in Europe.
Other Arsenal news and gossip...
Wenger will offer a contract extension to Tomas Rosicky. The Czech's deal expires in the summer, and Le Boss has described Rosicky as "a typical Arsenal player." (Goal)
Arsenal may turn their attention to Roma striker Mattia Destro, if other targets aren't available. The 22 year-old could be available on loan. (Metro)
The Gunners are considering a move for Lyon's French midfielder Yoann Gourcuff, who could be available for between £4m and £8m. They could also make a move for Juventus attacker Sebastian Giovinco, who is thought to be available on loan. (Express)
Long-term goalkeeping target Marc-Andre ter Stegen may be available on the cheap in January. The Borussia Monchengladbach keeper has turned down a new contract, alerting Arsenal and Barcelona to the player's desire to move abroad. (Metro)
Galatasary are preparing a mega-deal for Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna, whose contract expires at the end of the season. However, Wenger would like to keep him at the Emirates. (Daily Mail)
Wenger may consider a move for Schalke wunderkind Julian Draxler. It is thought that Le Prof believes the German international could be developed in to a center-forward. (Goal)
Arsenal have had a £12million bid for Real Sociedad's Antione Griezmann rejected. Sociedad have said they want twice that amount for the French forward, who has scored 12 goals this season. (Metro)
Bayern Munich will subsidize their fans' tickets in the Champions League fixture at the Emirates. The German and European champions wanted to thank fans for their support during 2013. Just one more club recognizing that prices at the Emirates are ... slightly inflated, shall we say? (Guardian)
1 It was a particularly ugly game (one that I didn't mind missing to watch my nieces in a play once I saw the result and highlights!). Mourinho is a very astute manager; it's better for his side to play ugly and get a point away at grounds like the Emirates and Old Trafford than to go for a win and risk getting nothing. The season is a marathon, not a sprint and one point may be all that separates first from second come May. It is, however, very unappealing to watch.