April 29, 2012
After the great comeback this season, Arsenal are stumbling towards the finish line as the need to secure third place in the league has become greater. Chelsea's unexpected success in Barcelona means we have to take the possibility of them winning the Champions League seriously. The thought of Chelsea being the first London team to win the Champions League isn't a good one, but to have them also put us in the Europa League by taking the fourth spot in next year's tournament, would be close to unbearable.
There's two ways to look at the Stoke match. It's easy to say that we dropped two points against a team that haven't had a brilliant season. However, on the positive side, it was a point gained at a stadium where we've had little success in recent seasons. With Newcastle's defeat, it's a shame we couldn't extend our points lead in third, but we still have third place in our hands. Beat Norwich City and West Brom, and we come third. Simple.
However this is Arsenal, it's unlikely to be simple. We can still optimistic about the two games though, as there were plenty of positives to take from the Stoke draw. We've been quick to go into our shell at the Britannia before, but we saw an Arsenal team on Saturday that were willing to face up to the more direct Stoke tactics, and then play our own attacking game.
April 23, 2012
The season isn’t over, but watching the match between Arsenal and Chelsea on Saturday, it would have been easy to think that both sides had nothing to play for. For Arsenal, we are in danger of undoing the good work of the second half of the season by not finishing off the job of finishing third. Apart from Newcastle’s good run of form, we’re fortunate that the teams behind us can’t put a string of good results together.
The team looked fatigued against Chelsea, which is understandable at this stage of the season, however when the opposition were in a similar state and were mainly focussed on defending, it’s frustrating that we couldn’t win the game. It’s hard to be angry at the result though, because it was a poor game, and Arsenal didn’t force the issue or grab the initiative to press forward for a win.
We’re still in a good position to finish third, but we have to take the last three matches seriously and not just let the season drift and meander away, as it did at the end of last season. The negative vibes that built up during the last few weeks of last season then continued into the summer, and things hardly went smoothly in the last off-season. Fatigue does play a part, but it’s also the case for every team. The players should be able to deal with it and be prepared to give everything, otherwise we’ll find ourselves slip out of the top three, and possibly the top four.
April 17, 2012
I'll start this blog with some honesty. I don't like Wigan. I went there in 2010 and saw Arsenal lose 3-2 as another hopeful title bid spectacularly crumbled and for obvious reasons didn't enjoy my trip to the DW as much as I'd hoped. I don't really like that Wigan can't get more than 200 fans to come to an away game. I sometimes feel that there are clubs that would bring more to the circus of the Premier League than Wigan Athletic.
However I have nothing but the upmost respect for Roberto Martinez, and Dave Whelan as their chairman. Whereas other chairmen might have sacked a manager that was in charge of a team that seemed in free-fall, Whelan stuck by Martinez and it's paying off at this stage of the season as they are now looking like a good bet to avoid relegation. Loyalty can go a long way in football. Martinez hasn't just got Wigan playing boring, functional football either. They play with ambition and he has developed a different formation that is hard for anyone to play against. Martinez is getting the best out of a limited squad at the most important part of the season.
• Wigan blog: Great escape on for giant-killers
However the best thing about the way Wigan Athletic are playing at the moment, and thing Arsenal really should learn from, is to pressure the ball high up the pitch, to play with freedom and without fear. A classic Wenger-ism to say that we have the handbrake on; Wigan's was non-existent at the Emirates whilst ours was firmly on. With so few games left this season, that shouldn't have been the case.
April 12, 2012
I thought the match away at Wolves would be more nerve racking than Sunday’s Manchester City game. Despite our good recent run, I can never be sure which Arsenal team will turn up for each match, and with memories of the QPR defeat still fresh, there was a fear in the back of my mind that we’d end up being remembered as the team that Terry Connor’s Wolves actually managed to beat.
As it turned out, I haven’t been that relaxed when watching Arsenal for a while. To be 2-0 up inside 11 minutes adds a large degree of comfort to any match, but when the opposition are down to ten men, you immediately feel like victory should be assured. The team still had to do the job well though, and whilst we could have scored more goals, and could have absolutely demolished Wolves, Arsenal were professional in the approach and got an important three points.
Wolves played well considering they were a man down for the majority of the game. They certainly attacked us more than Manchester City did with 11 men, and they closed us down well. However there was always a sense that should Wolves threaten a way back into the game, we’d just step up our game and kill the match off. That’s effectively what Yossi Benayoun did; just moments after Wojciech Szczesny’s superb save.
April 9, 2012
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the media focus after Sunday's match has been on Manchester City's fading title challenge, and a certain Italian striker. However this being an Arsenal blog, it's time to redress the balance and give our team the credit they deserve for a fantastic win.
The victory wasn't without its difficulties, mainly of our own making with some interesting finishing in front of goal, however no-one could deny that we deserved to win and outplayed and outclassed our opponents. On paper, the match was between two teams with completely different philosophies on running a football club, with one attempting to buy the best players, and the other having a self-sustaining business model. There was also one team chasing the title, and the other 13 points behind them in a scrap for the top four. If you were an outside observer watching the game, you'd never have guessed correctly which club was which.
We looked like the team that were chasing the title because we actually were intent on attacking to try and win the game. It's been a while since we were involved in the title race right until the end of the season, but we know as Arsenal fans that in these sorts of games, you need to make a statement. City didn't do that. It was partly because we didn't allow them to. Arsenal put the QPR defeat behind them and played with the confidence that comes with winning seven games in a row. However, Manchester City again came to the Emirates and were mainly concerned with defending.
April 2, 2012
Arsenal's recent run of form has been fantastic, but our celebrations about claiming third place have been premature. The ‘Mind The Gap' jokes, Spurs' demise and our own winning streak have been worth celebrating and enjoying, however we can't assume that we'll finish above Tottenham and that third place is ours.
Momentum is a strong thing in football, and we've used it brilliantly to our advantage recently as we turned the momentum against Spurs through Bacary Sagna's thumping header in the North London Derby. We now have to work hard to make sure that the slip up at Loftus Road, and Tottenham's win against Swansea, isn't as big a momentum swinger as Sagna's header. Maybe it was complacency, but the team seemed to take their eyes off the ball against Queens Park Rangers and there wasn't quite the same level of work rate and incisive attacking that we displayed during our winning run.
We do need to put the defeat in some perspective though. The fact we're in a battle for third place at all is brilliant considering how dark some of days were this season, and we have to give credit to QPR. They've beaten Chelsea and Liverpool at Loftus Road, and are in a relegation scrap where others around them are picking up points. They had to raise their game, and they did.