15 March 2013

There's Something About Michu

In the lead-up to Saturday's match at Swansea, a lot of the talk will turn naturally to Michu and his two-goal performance against us  in early December. At the time, we were perhaps at our schizoprenic best (or worst, depending on how one defines the term). Two weeks before, we had just routed Spurs 5-2. We then labored through two draws, away to lowly Aston Villa and to up-and-coming Everton. Shortly after the loss to Swansea, we would go on to score 13 goals in three matches, beating Reading, Wigan, and Newcastle but also losing ignominiously to Bradford. In short, it was hard to know which Arsenal would show up. Swansea was able to exploit this instability in a performance that all but sealed Michu's arrival as he scored two goals in the last few minutes of the game.

However, for all the hay that's made of his season, a closer look suggests that, while he's had a fine season, there's been a bit of excessive fawning over the forward. He has been fine for Swansea, and 15 Prem goals is nothing to turn up one's nose at, but, as always, the timing of the goals is just as important as the number. Upon closer scrutiny, we find a streaky and opportunistic scorer prone to long scoreless spells interrupted by brief bursts of productivity. To wit:
  • four goals in three games (two against QPR,  one each against West Ham and Sunderland).
  • three scoreless games.
  • two goals in two games (one against Reading and against Wigan).
  • three scoreless games.
  • six goals across five games (one against Newcastle, none against Liverpool, one against West Brom, two against Arsenal (ahem), and two against Norwich).
  • two scoreless games.
  • one goal against Man U.
  • six scoreless games.
  • three goals in two games (two against QPR, one against Bradford).
  • two scoreless games.
Again, not to detract from the upstart, but I do feel like a fair number of his goals have come against lesser competition. Aside from one tally against Man U and the two against us, we're looking at a player who has pounced on some pretty toothless teams. He's a fine player and I do wish him well, but I do also feel as if his reputation outstrips his production.

Of course, should he replicate his earlier performances against us (three goals, including one in the FA Cup), I'll end up looking fairly stupid and many will blame me for jinxing the whole affair. I'm willing to take that risk. He's a good-enough player and a great signing for Swansea. That's as far as it goes. If we play as a unit,  we have little to fear. 

Three goals in four matches against us is, I'll admit, significant. However, it's built up a mystique around the man that strikes me as just a touch unwarranted. I wonder if this mystique may in fact work against him and Swansea as Michu looks for ways to re-conjure this magic on Saturday and, in the process, makes hasty and therefore wasteful decisions.

At the other end of the pitch, I see Walcott having a strong outing, building on his assist to Giroud and his "everyone but the side-judge knew he was on-side" moment against Bayern. Swansea, you'd better be ready.