10 February 2014

Week in Review: Let's Just Brush Past This One

Mertesacker has had a bad week
CC Licence / Wikimedia
Well. That was ... unfortunate. Arsenal suffered another defeat in the North West of England on Saturday. While it's not a complete surprise to lose at Anfield - Liverpool were taking a record of 10-1-1 into Saturday's fixture - the manner of the defeat is the biggest disappointment for Arsenal fans. The Gunners seemed to forget they were actually playing a match, and found themselves 4-0 down within 20 minutes. By that point, the game was as good as over; at half time, Arsenal were 90-1 to turn it round and get the win. The Gunners came out stronger in the second half, and managed to draw those 45 minutes 1-1. Looking for positives, Wojciech Szczesny had a decent game and will think himself unlucky to have conceded so many goals, Jack Wilshere showed some grit and anger - in this case a positive, as at least it told us he was pissed off with proceedings - and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked sharp when he drove at the Liverpool defense, winning the penalty for Arsenal's only goal.

I'm going to try to draw some more positives from this result. Goals in soccer matches are, statistically, pretty random events. We've seen matches where one team will score with almost every shot they take, while in other games one team can have 20+ shots on target without scoring, yet lose to the opposition who score with their only attempt on goal. A ball hitting the woodwork can cannon away from goal, or end up nestled in the back of the net. What are the chances that something like this will ever happen again - let alone once? Or the chances of this goal happening? Liverpool's first goal could (should?) have been called offside while Raheem Sterling was extremely fortunate that Szczesny's block bounced right back to his feet for his second goal. Granted, that's only 2 of the Reds' goals, and I may be clutching at straws, but the number of goals conceded shouldn't really be the issue - the performance should.

Of course, a performance like this one has 'given' the pundits all the ammo they needed to prove that Arsenal aren't legitimate challengers this season. They will argue that the players aren't good enough, the squad not big enough, that transfers should have been made in January, that the Gunners can't beat the top clubs ... blah, blah, blah. The Gunners remain 2nd in the table, 1 point behind leaders Chelsea, and 5 points clear of the Scousers in 4th place. Many journalists will write that a loss like this will demolish the players' confidence. However, professional soccer players should have enough determination to bounce back from defeats of this nature; the Manchester United match on Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to silence Arsenal's critics, while next Sunday's FA Cup match against Liverpool at the Emirates is chance at revenge. After losing 6-3 at Manchester City, the Gunners went on to collect 16 points from the next 18 available - so a bounce back isn't impossible. And of course, 90 minutes should not take away from all the excellent work Arsène Wenger and has squad have put in so far this season.

In other club news, Per Mertesacker has had a tough week. For the first time, the Big Friendly German (PG version) and Laurent Koscielny were on the losing side when completing 90 minutes together.. The defender also had a training ground clash with young striker Yaya Sanogo, which ended with a black eye for Mertesacker. In more positive news, the Club announced that Dennis Bergkamp's statue will be revealed on February 22nd, before the Sunderland match. The Non-Flying Dutchman will join Thierry Henry, Herbert Chapman and Tony Adams in being immortalized at the Emirates Stadium.

Aston Villa: Owner Randy Lerner has been attending Villa matches incognito, manager Paul Lambert has revealed. The American business man is believed to be looking to sell the club.

Cardiff City: Former striker Andreas Cornelius has claimed that Bluebirds owner Vincent Tan knows nothing about soccer. To make matters worse for the South Wales club, Cornelius scored a hat-trick on his return to FC Copenhagen.

Chelsea: Jose Mourinho's "little horse" went top of the table this weekend thanks to an Eden Hazard hat-trick against Newcastle. The Portuguese manager then compared Man City to a Jaguar car.

Crystal Palace: The Eagles got big contributions from two of their new boys, with Thomas Ince and Joe Ledley both scoring on their debuts in a 3-1 win over West Brom.

Everton: Sylvain Distin has declared that he wants to play until he's 65. Good luck with that, Sylvain.

Fulham: The Cottagers bounced back from a disappointing home defeat to Sheffield United in the FA Cup by snatching a draw at Old Trafford, thanks to a late Darren Bent goal.

Hull City: Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic scored to help the Tigers win in the league for the first time in 2014.

Liverpool: The Reds are considering a move for Ashley Cole, whose contract at Chelsea expires this season. Because Suarez and Cole in the same squad can never go wrong.

Manchester City: A City fan changed his allegiances to Chelsea after the Citizens failed to score for the second game in a week, drawing 0-0 at Norwich. A quick check in the dictionary showed this guy's photo under the entry "glory hunter".

Manchester United: Club captain Nemanja Vidic has obviously seen the future at Old Trafford, announcing he will leave the club at the end of the season. In the immortal words of Alan Davies on The Tuesday Club podcast...
Newcastle United: The Magpies show they have no human understanding after revoking the season ticket of a disabled fan. Also, Joe Kinnear resigned as director of football after 8 months in charge.

Norwich City: The Canaries went some way to exorcising the demons of their 7-0 defeat at The Etihad by holding Man City to a goalless draw.

Southampton: Real Madrid have reportedly put Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino on their managerial shortlist, should they decide to fire Carlo Ancelotti. Even the rumor is well-deserved reward for Pochettino, who has done a great job at St Mary's.

Stoke City: Mark Hughes' side earned a 2-2 draw away to Southampton. There really isn't anything else to report. An entry as boring as Stoke's football.

Sunderland: USA and Black Cats striker Jozy Altidore is "over-thinking things" in front of goal. Altidore has scored just one Premier League goal all season.

Swansea City: After sacking Michael Laudrup, caretaker manager and club captain Garry Monk led his squad to a 3-0 win in the South Wales derby.

Tottenham Hotspur: Emmanuel AdePayMeMore revealed he criticized former boss Andre Villas-Boas in front of teammates. Shocker.

West Brom: Manager Pepe Mel believes that his goalkeeper Ben Foster should be England's No. 1 in the Brazilian World Cup this summer. Unlikely to happen if you concede 3 goals to a Tony Pulis team.

West Ham: Kevin Nolan scored twice for the second game in a row as the Hammers beat Aston Villa away from home. West Ham were also unsuccessful in their appeal against Andy Carroll's three-match ban. The London side had threatened legal action against the FA.

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