I'll admit that my first reaction to learning of Giroud's injury, the one that will Diabytize him until late December or early January, was one of despair. After all, for all of his notable flaws, he's proven instrumental to our attack. While he may never achieve the goal-scoring heights of van Persie (a standard he himself only met two or three times at best in eight seasons), Giroud has been asked to play a different role, that of hold-up man, grappler, battering ram. Amidst a squad of flitty, hobbitesque wingers and midfielders, we've arguably needed such a titan. Then again, his scything-down may just prove to be the opening we need to see a return to a more-fluid, dynamic attack with Alexis offering the pace and touch we've lacked at the vanguard of our attack since, well, since Henry. There. I said it.
29 August 2014
Sneer all you want at a fourth place finish. There's something to be said for being perennial qualifiers for the Champions League; it boosts our coefficient so that we can start in Pot 1 for the draw, pipping Liverpool and Man City even though they finished above us in the Prem last season (and, in Man City's case, for quite a few seasons beyond that as well). They dropped to pots 2 and 3, respectively, and drew much tougher groups than did we. As to our draw, I was prepared for yet another surprising and dispiriting after getting last season's Group of Death (Napoli, Dortmund, Olympiakos), facing Chelsea in the third round of the league cup, drawing Bayern again in the round of 16, and getting Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton in the FA Cup. It felt at times like forces were conspiring against us. By comparison, and on its own, our group-stage draw looks manageable, even favorable.
28 August 2014
Here's a famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view and outlook on life) throwback to a match between Arsenal and Leicester City from 1997. Bergkamp scintillated with a hat-trick, but the fight-back that Leicester showed is something to behold. Six minutes of stoppage time saw three goals scored, two from Leicester, to turn an apparent 1-2 win for Arsenal to a 3-3 draw that Leicester City supporters are sure to look to for inspiration ahead of Sunday's clash.
27 August 2014
Phew. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a match less than I "enjoyed" this one. For most of the first half, I gritted my teeth against the possibility that Beşiktaş might find an early goal, seizing not just a lead but the away-goals advantage: had they scored, we would need two to win, as a 1-1 draw would see them through. Then, for the third match in a row (and fourth goal out of our last five), a stoppage-time score saved the day. I don't know if my heart can take this kind of abuse. Yes, it was Alexis opening his Arsenal account in a timely fashion, reminiscent in many ways of Wengerball at its best, but the result, gilt-edged as it is, still begs key questions.
26 August 2014
Brace yourself as we go into a season-defining clash against Beşiktaş, one that could make or break our entire season. Lose or draw, and we're out of the Champions League for the first time under Arsène—it could truly spell the end of an era, and with that, a career. I'm not one for wild exaggerations, but this is the single-biggest match in the history of Arsenal, if not of football itself. Crashing out of the Champions League might slam shut the door on our pursuit of footballers like Khedira or Cavani, for whom Wednesday-night matches are as much a part of their lives as are any weekend match. However, defeat or draw need not spell disaster as herewith I offer a few players who could still strengthen the squad.
25 August 2014
A dour, indifferent draw with Beşiktaş last Wednesday. A scrappy but undeserved draw at Goodison Park Saturday. News that Giroud will be out for three months (or more). A cup-final second-leg with Beşiktaş. The transfer-window closes on 1 September, the day after a visit to newly promoted and feisty Leicester. Our needs seem to have multiplied, not diminished, since the season began, what with Giroud joining Arteta, Gibbs, and Walcott on the injury-list and our pre-existing conditions at striker, CB, and DM still unaddressed. With failing to qualify for the Champions League group-stage now a very real concern, this is a week that could go from bad to worse in a hurry.
24 August 2014
Oh, my stars and garters. Jeeves, get the fainting-couch and the smelling salts, for it seems we have suffered the insufferable, and we've dropped points. Well, this goes beyond the pale, and so we might as well throw the whole thing out, making sure that the baby goes out with bathwater. A pox on those who claim that we can at least still mount another Invincibles campaign. While it's technically true that we are unbeaten, already the asterisks are attending the achievement. A draw with Everton sullies our otherwise pristine reputation and threatens further damage. Jeeves! Away with the salts! My affliction calls for something stronger. I demand a snifter of brandy.