February 28, 2012
Does it get much better than that? Apart from winning a trophy, I can't think of anything that could have been more enjoyable. Regardless of any pre-text or sub plot around the season, the North London Derby is always vital and the thought of losing is always unbearable. This match just had that extra edge on other derbies. It could even have been as drastic as Arsene Wenger being out of a job because of it had we lost.
Being critical and negative, it's easy and understandable to question why the team can't play like we did against Tottenham every week? However it's not a time to be critical. We just need to revel and enjoy the fact we pummelled our local rivals. If there was one game that the team were going to turn and give everything, we as fans would have chosen that game.
At 2-0 down, considering how abysmal the last two weeks had been, I expected the team to crumble and meekly surrender to a humiliating defeat. What followed was rousing, stunning and genuinely epic. Every player stood up to be counted and after going 2-0 down, no-one had a bad game. Everyone was fantastic and deserves a huge amount of credit. The challenge is to reproduce that level of performance regularly.
February 19, 2012
It’s been one of those weeks; one of those weeks that we’ve had too many times as Arsenal fans in recent seasons. In terms of winning a trophy, the season is over. As much as I like to dream that it might happen, it’s serious unlikely that we’ll win 5-0 at home to AC Milan. Even if we were 5-0 up at home to AC Milan, we’d probably find a way to concede a goal and go out on away goals.
Anyway, there can be no miracle in the FA Cup. With the other teams that had gone out, it looked to be a great chance to win some silverware. However once again we followed a bad defeat with another one. It has become a worrying trait of Arsenal in general, not just this in this season, that we lose two keys games in a row. Plus they haven’t just been tight games that we’ve narrowly lost, we haven’t really looked like winning either of them.
Now we’re out of the FA Cup and effectively out of the Champions League, all we have left is the league, and the fight for the top four. People laughed when Arsene Wenger said that finishing fourth is like a trophy. Obviously it isn’t the same, however given the way modern football is, financially it is as important, if not more so, to finish in the top four. I don’t particularly like that it is, but it’s the way the current game is, so we have to make sure we finish there. Even if we do make the Champions League, it will be hard for any Arsenal fan to justify this season as being a success. However it wouldn’t be a complete failure. Missing out on Champions League football would be.
February 16, 2012
Before the match with AC Milan in the San Siro, I couldn't decide what I expected from the game. My mind kept switching between thinking we could go there and win, similar to the way we did in 2008, and thinking we'd get walloped. Eventually, I settled on thinking we'd give it a good go but might lose 2-1, and at least give ourselves a chance of getting through in the second leg.
I should have chosen to expect us to get walloped. That way at least I'd have been less disappointed and wouldn't feel as let down by the team as I did after the match. I'd have been more accepting of the defeat had the Arsenal shown some fight, some application and some determination to get back into the tie. There's no scapegoat to place the blame with, and the result wasn't the sole responsibility of the manager. No-one was good enough and the team got what they deserved.
The big challenge has to be for this result to not affect the team for the rest of the season. Given how certain matches have led to our seasons falling apart in the last few years, I'm struggling to see how the players will pick themselves up from losing 4-0. If they don't, that defeat in Milan will be our last meaningful away trip in Europe for some time. The fans that travelled to Milan and sang throughout the game deserve better. Even at 4-0 down, the only singing that could be heard through the television were the away fans who were high up in the San Siro.
February 12, 2012
Should we really be surprised that Thierry Henry signed off from the Premier League with a winning goal? He's done it so many times before, yet his injury winner at Sunderland had that something extra special about it. It wasn't that it was a wonder goal, it was just a poacher's goal in the six yard box, but the goal was as important as it was symbolic.
Forgetting that it was Henry who scored, the goal itself was vital in our fight for fourth. Just two and a half weeks ago, we were lamenting the state of the team after the 0-0 draw at Bolton. Now we're in the position we hope to occupy at the end of the season. With other results going our way, a draw would have felt like another missed opportunity. We also had to build on the 7-1 win, and a draw wouldn't have been good enough. Now, the fact we were ruthless against Blackburn is looking extremely handy, as we're currently only ahead of Chelsea in the table on goals scored.
Sunderland have been in great form since Martin O'Neill took over, and made themselves extremely hard to break down. It was cold, the pitch was bad, the hosts were organised; the list could go on of reasons as to why the match that was a prime candidate for dropping points. The game also came at the start of a massive week for our season, with AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, and another trip to Sunderland in the FA Cup next Saturday. Suddenly the team are going into those matches off the back of two very different wins, but equally as important ones. The 2-1 win at Sunderland said more about how much we want to finish in the top four than the 7-1 did.
February 7, 2012
1 - Robin van Persie, 2 - Robin van Persie, 3 - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4 - Mikel Arteta, 5 - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 - Robin van Persie and 7 - Thierry Henry.
The last few weeks have been extremely trying for Arsenal fans. We were in serious need of a lift, and three points against Blackburn, however they came, were going to be the only way for some of the unrest amongst supporters to quieten, even if momentarily. The aforementioned seven reasons should give the team some deserved leeway with fans, as they finally showed, for the first time in the league in 2012, that they aren't going to give up easily in the battle for fourth.
With the other results from the weekend, we're now three points behind Chelsea in the race for the Champions League, plus they still have to come to the Emirates. There is a lot to happen between now and then, but we're hardly in a disastrous position. I mentioned in my last blog that failure to beat Blackburn might lead to a change needing to be made, not necessarily of manager, but a change. The 7-1 thumping was proof that the Arsenal style can still rip teams apart.
February 2, 2012
Before being all doom and gloom, let’s start with the positives from last night. We ended the losing streak in the league. Obviously we’d like to have won, but given our recent form we have to be slightly relieved not to have lost. We also created a lot of chances. Particularly against Fulham and Swansea, that wasn’t happening. However, again we’d like to have converted at least one of those.
There were other positives, with Wojciech Szczesny looking solid again. By his own admission, he’s not been at his best recently, but he did well to spread himself when N’Gog was through in the first half, and his save at the feet of Mark Davies late on was vital. We’ve conceded stupid goals at Bolton numerous times before so a clean sheet was very welcome. That was aided by the return of Bacary Sagna who gives our back line a much more balanced look.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain impressed again with some more direct running. He has been a real breath of fresh air in a terrible run of form, and gives us real hope not just in the long term, but for the rest of the season. On current form, when Gervinho returns from the African Cup of Nations I’d like to see the Ox on the right and Gervinho on the left. I think Theo Walcott needs a reality check to knuckle down and improve. Oxlade-Chamberlain can easily replace him for Arsenal and England.