September 29, 2011
The gradual recovery of our season continued at the Emirates on Wednesday night, when, as against Shrewsbury and Bolton, we weren’t convincing against Olympiacos, but we won. The three teams we’ve played in the last week are hardly world beaters, but winning the three matches, in three different competitions, all adds up to the momentum that this group of players are slowly building up.
However, the small successes of the last week and a half will mean nothing if we lose on Sunday against Tottenham.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only Gooner who was slightly concerned after seeing the team sheet before the match. Even though we were playing arguably the weakest team in the group, given our start to the season, it seemed a massive risk to rest the likes to Ramsey and van Persie. We were also missing a number of players through injury, with Alex Song having to fill in at centre back, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting a European match for the first time.
September 26, 2011
With the team still not playing fluently and desperately trying to get points where possible, Arsenal were in need of some individuals to take the game against Bolton by the scruff of the neck and drag the club back up the table. Who better to step up than the captain?
Robin van Persie is now into his eighth season at Arsenal, and still divides opinion over whether he should wear the captain’s armband. In recent years, there have been some fans who thought the club should cut their losses on van Persie and sell him due to injury problems. Personally, I can’t speak highly enough of the Dutchman.
Criticising him for his injury record is tough, as, ultimately, there is only so much a player can do when they’re injury prone. Van Persie has been through a lot at the club, and now understands about being an Arsenal man. He has always given 100%, has matured immeasurably in his time at Arsenal, is becoming an excellent leader and is clearly a striker at the peak of his game.
September 21, 2011
Due to the inevitable changes to the team and the division of our opposition, the Carling Cup game with Shrewsbury Town was never realistically going to give us a better idea of where the squad is at following our dreadful start to the season. However those who turned out in red and white did do enough to raise a smile amongst supporters, even if we made hard work of winning the game.
Shrewsbury, like all of our recent opponents, played without any fear against us and weren’t afraid to attack our fragile defence. At the same time, they were organised and made themselves hard to break down. When they were 1-0 up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only Gooner beginning to contemplate that we were going to suffer another embarrassing defeat. Ultimately though, some of the more experienced players stepped up their game, and had some excellent youngsters around them to help dig Arsenal out of another hole.
I’ll start where I did after the Blackburn game; defending. Against Shrewsbury, Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel were the centre back pairing, and looked shaky. Miquel gave a much more assured performance than Djourou, but had Shrewsbury had more of the ball, they could easily have had more chances. My biggest concern is the form of Djourou, especially considering how good he was at times last season. His decline has matched that of the team, and within the space of less than a year, he’s gone from playing his best football for the club, to arguably playing his worst. Can someone please make Djourou watch back some of last season's matches, so he can see how good he was? With Vermaelen still out, Mertesacker and Koscielny still a work-in-progress-partnership, and Squillaci as the only other experienced centre back, we need Djourou to regain some decent form.
September 19, 2011
After some Arsenal defeats, it can be hard to know where to start when trying to blog about it. For example, look at the Manchester United defeat. There were so many things wrong in that game from an Arsenal point of view that it took a while to decide where to go. However after Saturday’s match with Blackburn, there is only one place to start, and probably finish with; our defending.
I thought my initial rage over our defending might have calmed by the end of the weekend. It hadn’t. How a side that considers themselves to be a top four side can go to a team at the bottom of the table, who are low on confidence and have fans protesting over their manager, and concede four goals should be beyond comprehension. Yet somehow Arsenal managed it.
Maybe I was being naïve by thinking that we were slowly regaining a bit of form after the win against Swansea and the draw in Dortmund. The harsh reality is that we are defensively shambolic. We’re not just shambolic compared to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, we’re shambolic compared to most sides who finished in the bottom half of the table last season.
September 14, 2011
Before our match in Dortmund, I'd have happily taken a draw. With the nature of our current squad, how the players are still trying to gain an understanding with new signings, with Arsene Wenger in the stands and the fact we were facing the German Champions, I would have almost bitten someone's hand off if they offered Arsenal a draw before the match.
However, having seen the team battle for 88 minutes and hold off a talented Borussia Dortmund side, it was really frustrating to see the ball hit the back of our net. It was the sort of volley that the player who scored it, Ivan Perisic, is unlikely to hit again in his career. As an Arsenal fan, inevitably I felt hard done by on behalf of the team. Although ultimately it was hard to dispute that Dortmund didn't deserve something from the match.
As with the Swansea match, Arsenal still looked like a team trying to find form. A few passes still aren't coming off, and we're struggling for fluency. Although it's not for the want of trying. The quality is slowly improving, the effort and commitment levels are up immeasurably from a few weeks ago.
September 12, 2011
Let's face it, Arsenal weren't brilliant against Swansea at the weekend. Despite the feeling around the club before the game of the match representing a fresh start and where our season could finally get going, the performance was still scratchy. Although given our abysmal start to the season in the league, I'm sure all Gooners prefer the fact that we won and played badly, rather than if we'd played well and lost.
It would have been wrong of us as fans to expect Arsenal to just go out and win by four or five goals as the new arrivals didn't have long to gel with the rest of the team before the Swansea game. Added to that, Swansea were always going to be well organised and the 8-2 defeat will still have been in the back of some the players' heads. To be honest, I'm happy to take any sort of victory after the horror showing two weeks ago.
Ultimately, we had to work harder for the 1-0 win than I expected we'd have to. Swansea like to play good football and not just opt for being defensive and playing direct football up to a striker. This should have played into our hands, but there were still signs of some players not showing the cutting edge or killer instinct that has been apparent in the teams above in the league this season.
September 1, 2011
After the Manchester United match, it was clear that we had to act in the transfer market. In the last two days before the window shut, it was a case of ‘better late than never’ as Arsenal managed to sign five players to bolster the squad after a poor start to the season.
Regular followers of the Arsenal will know that it takes a lot for Arsene Wenger to part with significant amounts of cash, so, regardless of player sales, to see Wenger part with over £50m in one transfer window is unheard of. Unfortunately, a lot of it was spent late, meaning our squad has looked seriously thin over the last couple of weeks, with the lack of strength and depth hideously exposed in the humiliation at Old Trafford.
As much as the 8-2 was horrific and painful to watch, the happenings at the club on Tuesday and Wednesday might not have been so extreme had we not been so badly thumped. At best, I was hoping for three players to arrive after the Manchester United debacle, however five arrivals represented good work from the club.