18 September 2014

No Özil, no problem: how to pick apart the Villans.

How short and selective our memories are. We get picked apart by a German side, and the chicken-littles run about mewling and moaning about how the sky is falling. Summon up another bogeyman, Aston Villa, and Gooners go skittering away, so afraid of shadows cast by the past they they can barely face up to the present. Yes, it seems like dark days, what with our patchy form, punctuated by a listless midweek loss. Have we set a record of some kind by being the first club to have ever lost at the Westfalenstadion? In a way, yes, in that it marked the first time in six trips to Germany that we've lost. However, at the risk of committing heresy, perhaps the problem at the moment is too much of Germany. Perhaps, it is time to rest Özil—for his sake as well as that of the squad.

Take heart, Gooners. It's always darkest before the dawn.

On Tuesday, we encountered a perfect storm, some of whose qualities we created. We fought hard against a league-rival on Saturday, unable or unwilling to rotate ahead of Tuesday's clash. Our reward? A trip to Germany to face a side that rarely, if ever, loses at home and that plays a style that would give us fits on the best of days. By Klopp's own admission, in his own words, "it was a really great performance from my team. Our pressing was perfection....the counter-pressing situations in the midfield were perfect....it was near perfection....[it was] the best job in the world." If a 2-0 win earns that many superlatives, well, we should be flattered, all the more so if, by most accounts, we played so poorly as to make comparisons as to make us seem like Tottenham in disguise.

17 September 2014

Determined Dortmund annihilate Arsenal, turning cracks into chasms

We deserved that. We've been flirting with such a result since the season started, playing up or down to the level of our competition. To this point, more or less, we've eked out positive results. Only the draw to Leicester stood out as a black mark to this point. We've limped, staggered, and lurched from fixture to fixture, each time doing just enough to assuage most of the fears and doubts we've harboured about this squad since the end of last season. The new signings have been welcome, to be sure, but through little fault of their own have not had the impact we would need to keep up with our rivals. And now, more than two weeks too late, we've received the comeuppance that last season seemed to force Arsène to act. On one hand, losing away to Dortmund is not a crisis akin to losing at home to Villa. On the other, the cracks and fissures that are starting to show threaten to yawn out into gaping chasms.

15 September 2014

Open Letter to Borussia Dortmund: um, Özil's playing central. Just so you know.

So. Here we are, once again. It's starting to feel like obligatory, isn't it, as if it's meant to be. And why not? We have so much in common—an iconoclastic manager. An aesthetic, exciting style. A behemoth of a rival, willing and able to outspend in order to outcompete. Injury after injury. Young players nurtured along towards stardom, only to have them betray: Nasri,Götze. Van Persie, Lewandowski. Kagawa, Fàbregas (if only...). Where might each of us be had we held onto our best and brightest? Instead, we look into a mirror and peer deeply into a gaze that holds our own but that wears a different kit and speaks a different langauge and yet, breathes the same air and feels the same pain [cue solitary tear rolling down cheek, a tear that pauses at the cheekbone before speeding towards the jaw...]. So this is what it feels like...when doves cry.