January 31, 2012
Except for Thierry Henry’s goal against Leeds, the start to 2012 has been thoroughly forgettable and could ultimately have a long lasting effect on the second half of our season. With 45 minutes to go in the last match of January, although it didn’t seem possible, things had got worse. Aston Villa had undone us from a short corner and then picked us off on the break. Given how we’ve gone out of the FA Cup in recent seasons with a whimper away to Manchester United and Stoke City, I wasn’t expecting any sort of comeback and was going to have to accept that we’d have given up a chance of a trophy to concentrate on the league.
Most of us won’t know who said what in the Arsenal dressing room at half time, although to turn the match on its head in 16 minutes was a superb effort from the team. A lot of them have come in for a lot of criticism of late, most of which has been deserved, however this match was a reminder that some of the guys in this side are made of sterner stuff that recent Arsenal teams. It was also an indication that the team can be ruthless if needed and are determined to end the trophy drought.
The first half performance wasn’t bad, but it lacked intensity. Everything seemed slightly subdued. The players seemed to be waiting for something to happen to turn our bad run around. It would have been easy for the team to feel sorry for themselves at half time. We were in a similar situation at the end of last season against Aston Villa and lost 2-1 as we didn’t show enough determination in the second half. We did show determination on Sunday. Often when chasing the game, we’ll end up playing a number of meaningless passes around the opposition box and not create anything, but against Villa, we went more direct, but still in an Arsenal style.
January 23, 2012
For the third Premier League game in a row, we've lost a match where we could, and should, have got some points. When looking at the match out of context and just comparing it to our last meeting with Manchester United, losing 2-1 is a lot better than losing 8-2. However humiliating and utterly depressing that result was, the defeat at the Emirates was almost more infuriating because of our desperate need for points, and how we failed to claim those points when they were there for the taking.
One of reasons for not taking those points that has been heavily focussed on by some fans in the immediate aftermath of the game, was the substitution of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the introduction of Andrey Arshavin. Before talking more about that, it's worth giving the Ox his due praise.
We need to be realistic about Oxlade-Chamberlain as he's still only 18 and won't produce performances like that every game, but he was superb against Manchester United. He played without fear, he ran with the ball, he ran hard for the team and picked up a great assist. There were moments when his inexperienced showed, but his enthusiasm, direct dribbling and skill on the ball more than made up for up. I was sceptical about Wenger spending a substantial chunk of money on the Ox in the summer as I wasn't sure if he was needed. I can now see why he was signed and it just makes you wonder why he wasn't unleashed earlier.
January 16, 2012
In recent years, this Arsenal team have been outplayed before; most notably by Barcelona at the Nou Camp a couple of times. However I can’t remember being completely outplayed by a newly promoted team. We weren’t just outplayed in terms of the score line, but we were outplayed at our own style of football.
Swansea deserved to win the game and must be given an immense amount of credit for the way they played, however from an Arsenal perspective, the defeat was seriously avoidable again. The team seemed incapable of keeping the ball for a sustained period of time to build pressure on the hosts, with some individuals frustrating a lot of fans.
Injuries have taken their toll, but Arsenal should still have had enough quality to get three points. We all know that when fit, our best starting XI is capable of beating anyone, but the hallmark of a great team is being able to pick up points when key players are missing. It seemed that some of the players on the pitch were about as useful as some of those who were absent from injury.
January 10, 2012
Who writes his scripts? The one played out on Monday was almost too good to be true. It was the sort of story that only appears in dreams or in comic books. A superhero returning to his home in a time of need and providing the winning moment, or a King returning to the arena in which he once reigned and reclaiming his place on the throne after being written off by many; whichever way you look at it, it’s barely believable and is the stuff of a legend.
However the word legend and Thierry Henry fit together. The stage had been set for him, and after entering from stage left, he nailed his lines to perfection. This wasn’t acting though. This was the real Thierry. There were no pre-planned movements, finishes or celebrations, it was all natural ability and raw emotion from the great man.
As soon as Thierry Henry received the ball from Alex Song’s slide rule pass in the inside left position, everyone in the stadium knew what he was going to do. Thierry probably knew, but he didn’t need to think about it. He’d done it numerous times before when wearing red and white, so what to do came to him instinctively. The first touch was superb before the trademark finish.
January 4, 2012
2011 might not have been great, but the start to 2012 has been dismal. Whilst most people see the New Year as a fresh start, Arsenal began the year looking fatigued and tired, and in serious need of refreshment.
Hopefully that refreshment will come in the form of a couple of new players, and some enthusiasm and encouraging performances from players in the FA Cup. Despite playing well in the first half against Fulham, the busy Christmas period took its’ toll on the team and they lost all control on the game.
Some of the fundamental mistakes that we hadn’t been making in recent weeks returned at Craven Cottage. The injuries and the red card didn’t help the situation at the back, but both goals that we conceded were avoidable, and came from individual errors. What also made the match immensely frustrating was that the last results of 2011 had all gone in our favour, and a win at Fulham would have put some pressure on those above us, and kept us in the top four. 2011 ended so well, and now at the start 2012, that feels wasted.
January 2, 2012
After the football year for Arsenal was generally quite forgettable, 2011 ended well with the win over QPR, meaning that we finished the year in the top four. Considering where we were earlier in the season, to be in the top four going into the New Year is a superb effort by everyone at the club.
We have been helped massively by the weekend’s results, with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City all dropping points. As I mentioned after the Aston Villa match, this period of the season is all about results, and of the top clubs, we got the best one at the weekend. It does add a bit more frustration to the Wolves game, as a win there would have put us in an even better position, but it’s hard to complain where we are, given where we’ve had to come from this season.
The QPR match should have been a lot more comfortable than just a 1-0 win, however we learnt our lesson from Wolves and were solid at the back for most of the game. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were both very good, whilst Francis Coquelin gave a good account of himself when asked to play in an unfamiliar left back position.