31 December 2015

Predictions Poll: How will Arsenal fare in the second half?

As the New Year dawns, we can look back over the first half of the Prem season with a bit of fondness. We are, after all, top of the league (saidwearetopoftheleague!) and have done quite well against other Champions League contenders. With another 19 matches in front of us, plus a Champions League run-in with Barcelona and a chance to win a third straight FA Cup, do we have a chance at winning the Prem? With Chelsea's collapse, Man U's malaise, and Liverpool's malingering, the field is wide-open. Step into the breach and predict how Arsenal will fare between and the end of the season. Below the fold is a predictions-poll; predict the outcome of our remaining Prem fixtures and assess whether or not we can win the Prem. Let's get to it!

28 December 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, the comedic stylings of Per Mertesacker...

It was just minutes after Gabriel had opened his Arsenal account, mere minutes after he had become the latest of three Arsenal defenders to score more Prem goals this season than Eden "better than Ronaldo" Hazard—joining Koscielny and Gibbs—that Per Mertesacker threatened to make it four. That's right—but for the bouncing of the ball, Arsenal could have conceivably fielded a back four consisting of defenders who have outscored last season's PFA Player of the Year. Sadly, it was not to be. Gabriel, perhaps hungry for his second, sent a glancing header towards the far post, leaving Bournemouth keeper Artur Boruc flailing rather helplessly. The ball bounced once and headed to that far post. Enter, stage right, one Per Mertesacker!

Arsenal 2-0 Bournemouth: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Gabriel headed home his first Arsenal goal in the first half from Özil's corner-kick, to which Özil coolly delivered a goal of his own in the second (assisted by Giroud), and Arsenal eased past AFC Bournemouth and to the top of the table, at least for a few days pending the result of Mancester City's visit to King Power Stadium to visit Leicester. That one could be a barn-burner—I'm still of a mind to hope Leicester win there—but we can only take care of the squad in front of us. Thankfully, we're back to winning ways. Petr Čech gets his record-setting 170th clean sheet in the Prem, Özil has his 16th Prem assist, and Gabriel opens his account. Good times were had by all. Get down to the poll to rate the lads' efforts!

27 December 2015

Freddie "the legend" Ljungberg predicts a battering of Bournemouth...

Shrug off, if you can, the loss to Southampton. While we've missed a chance to go top of the table, there are no trophies associated with being there on 26 December. The three points dropped may matter more in the long run, although we're still two points better off than we were at this point a year ago. Man City are three points off their pace of last season (something we may have played a small role in...), so there's some solace in that. However, there's no hiding the fact that we suffered a hiding on Saturday, and we do have to turn things around with a quickness. Thankfully, no less a legend that Freddie Ljungberg has some words of wisdom for us as we host Bournemouth on Monday evening...

26 December 2015

Beat Man City≠win the Prem; Lose to Soton≠lose the Prem...

It was an august ceremony, full of pomp and circumstance, as Arsène Wenger stepped up towards Queen Elizabeth II's throne to receive his appointment as a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire—an unique distinction, given that Arsène is not a citizen of the Commonwealth—but it was the only distinction suitable to the occasion, Arsenal having defeated Man City days before. Indeed, each member of the Arsenal squad that had defeated Man City, thereby winning an unprecedented quadruple in that exact-same instant, received his own appointment as a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Just as Arsène bowed down, however, reality rudely intruded...

Southampton 4-0 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Southampton shocked Arsenal, waltzing to a convincing victory at St. Mary's Stadium that raises fresh doubts about Arsenal's desire and ability to win the Prem. Setting aside the idea that a win would have elevated us to the top of the table, we turned in a woeful performance that reflected poorly on our credentials. Southampton, meanwhile, resurrected performances from a season ago when they flirted with a top-four finish. Goals from Martina and Fonte and a brace for Long may have each come through dubious calls or non-calls, but we can really only point the finger at ourselves. Well, the less said about this one, the better. Hold your nose and get down to the poll.

How do you solve a problem like Özil? Man-mark with Wanyama..and rue Ramsey's rampages

Against Mancester City, one of the keys to our success came from Flamini's man-marking of Silva, denying the Spaniard the space or time to receive or do much with the ball. This in effect eroded the entirety of Man City's vaunted attack, as few others in that squad had the quality or creativity to carve out chances as Silva might have. For our trip to St. Mary's, the tables turn a bit as Southampton seek to somehow slow us. After yet another summer of seeing key-players depart, Koeman may have no other option than taking a page from Arsène's tactics, sending one of his few seasons players—Victor Wanyama—to follow Özil in much the same way that our own Flamini shadowed Silva. Fabulous. Enter one Aaron Ramsey.

25 December 2015

Boxing Day? Ramsey will land all the punches to knock out the Saints...

Phew. Now that we've bested Manchester City, all that's left to be done is clean up the confetti and wait for the fat lady to sing. Nothing stands between us and the Prem title now, except maybe an overweening sense of confidence combined with an emotional letdown after Monday's kerfuffle. Going into St. Mary's on Saturday will feel a bit anticlimactic, all the more so because of the Saints' own struggles. It's a banana-peel of a match, no doubt about it.

24 December 2015

It's official: without football, Alexis has left the building...

I bring to you a sorry tale, one that lays bare the false dichotomy between genius and madness. I present to you one Alexis Sánchez, he of the gloriously incisive right foot and the maddeningly maniacal whole heart. Put in layman's terms, Alexis, denied of time on the pitch lo these many weeks, has lost his mind. Having not played since 29 November—a 1-1 draw to Norwich in which he delivered the assist—Alexis has left the building. He's gone off the reservation. He's..he's using Phil Collins lyrics without any hint of irony! Clearly, the man has lost touch with reality, and nothing short of a full-scale intervention, consisting largely of an appearance against Sunderland in the FA Cup, will restore the cheeky Chilean to sanity. Set your faces to "stunned" as you contemplate the cry for help that is Alexis's instagram post...
A video posted by Alexis Sanchez (@alexis_officia1) on
More seriously, though, we can heave a collective sigh of relief at the fact that we escaped one of our most-difficult fixtures of the season, winning over Man City despite the return of their own South American talisman. In Alexis's absence, we've seen Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott step up with Giroud dominating affairs, what with six goals in four appearances (including a hat-trick against Olympiacos to see us through to the Champions League's knockout stage).

It's as if Alexis worries that he'll be forgotten, much like the woman in that Phil Collins song. He's got blisters on the soles of his feet (okay, so it's a sore hamstring that he has). He can't walk but he's trying. Meanwhile, for you and me, it's another day in paradise for you and me and paradise.

In his short time at Arsenal, Alexis has transcended the talismanic, and yet, we're enjoying a fine run of form despite his absence. It's enough to drive a man mad. The sooner he returns to the pitch, the better—for his own sanity if not for the squad's success! Atom, Humber, keep a close eye on your man.

22 December 2015

Arsenal now 10/11 favorites to win the Prem after manhandling Man City...

Man City's fans may complain that, once again, they faced Arsenal without a key player. Last January at the Etihad, they were without Yaya Touré as the visiting Gunners shocked them 0-2 to end a twelve-match unbeaten run; this time through, they were without Vincent Kompany. Whoever was on the pitch each time, though, City showed an arrogance and tactical naïveté that played right into Arsenal's hands. As with last January's clash, City dominated possession only to come away (almost) empty-handed as Arsenal were content so lure their visitors forward and hit hard on counterattacks. It worked 11 months ago; it worked again on Monday. It wasn't always pretty, but, dammit, it worked.

21 December 2015

Arsenal 2-1 Man City: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

First-half goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, both assisted by—who else?—Mesut Özil gave Arsenal an early lead they never looked like relinquishing. While it's true that most of the first half saw Man City pushing their hosts further and further back, they could never quite a find way past the back four or Petr Čech. It wasn't until the 81st minute that Yaya Touré, nonchalant to the end, chipped it past Čech to put the outcome in doubt. The goal brought to life a squad that had otherwise looked a bit sluggish and indifferent after the first twenty minutes. and the last ten saw some sphincter-clenching moments. However, Man City left themselves to little time to fight their way back, and Arsenal escape with an emphatic, important victory. Get down to the poll and give our lads what they deserve!

This one's for all the marbles; win on Monday, win the Prem...

This one's for all the marbles, folks, at least those left behind by Leicester. Without disrespecting Ranieri's side, Man City's to the Emirates represents the most-vital clash of the current campaign. In a season in which no one can quiet the skeptics, Arsenal and Man City have emerged as the putative front-runners for winning the Prem. Both sides have been ravaged by injuries, but takes none of the shine off of this clash.

19 December 2015

Open Letter to Manchester City: why we don't hate you as much as we should...

Dear Citizens—
I'm supposed to hate you, what with the Clichy and Nasri affairs, the relegation of Sagna to your bench, the financial doping, and the Prem titles, and so on, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Aside from Nasri (who was more than a bit cuntish even during his time with us, what with the scarves and the mittens and so on), I can't quite name a player in your squad who brings the bile to back of my throat as, well, biliously, as those Chelsea's squad, to name just one. This ain't quite the same as feeling respect, mind you, just the absence of disrespect.

17 December 2015

Concede Fàbregas, nab Čech=Mourinho's sacked; it's all Arsène's plan...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you must know by now that Jose Mourinho was sack—er, left Chelsea by 'mutual consent', sad news indeed for those among us who wished to prolong his misery and see if his overweening ways would actually drive Chelsea into the relegation zone, if not outright relegation itself. I won't go so far as to suggest that Arsène is finally seeing the fruits of a master-plan, but it carries many of the familiar signs of just such a plan.

13 December 2015

We are top of the league, said wearetopoftheleague!

Okay, so it wasn't quite the swash-buckling rampage we've come to expect against Aston Villa, scoring only two goals after scoring 12 in our previous three outings. Pity poor Villa, on whom Kevin Friend might have lavished some pity by ruling Walcott offside just before halftime. Walcott lashed home a vicious shot anyway. Regardless of the particulars, we took care of business, seeing off a Villa side that is already all but relegated. Whatever. It's the other end of the table that matters—the one atop which Arsenal now sit...for now. If you haven't been chanting "we. are. top. oftheleague, saidwearetopoftheleague!" while reading, you're doing it wrong. Go back to the top of the page and reread whilst chanting and bobbing your head to the rhythm. We'll wait.

Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Olivier Giroud scored his 50th Arsenal goal (third-fastest in club history behind Henry and Wrighty), and Aaron Ramsey
made an 80-yard run after making a tackle to finish Özil's selfless pass to make it 0-2. In the second half, Villa showed a bit more spark but not nearly enough to pierce our defense. Petr Čech got his 169th clean sheet, equalling David James's record. Arsenal rise to the top of the Prem. however briefly. All in all, not a bad day to be a Gooner. Let's get down to the poll to rate our lads!

12 December 2015

Ramsey's resurrection equals Villa's vivisection...

Who would have thought that injuries to Coquelin and Cazorla would turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Strange though it may be, our most-common complaints—who will play DM if Coq gets injured, and why is Ramsey playing on the wing—have been answered in the form of Ramsey restored to his preferred and most-productive position. Since his return to the middle, we've exploded for six goals in two matches after struggling to manufacture the same number in twice as many. That's not all down to Ramsey's return; then again, he has found a goal in two assists in those two previous matches. Maybe there's another resurrection for the Welsh Jesus waiting in the wings...

11 December 2015

Are Campbell and Ramsey flashes in the pan, or can they ride the wave?

It would be hard but not impossible to find two clubs headed in more-opposite directions than Arsenal and Aston Villa. Arsenal are just two points off the unlikely pace set by Leicester and have advanced to the Champions League knockout stage, while Aston Villa seem to be doing their best impression of a League 1 squad. They've not had a whiff of a finish in the Prem's top half for going on five years and look quite happy to slump towards relegation with just six points from 15 matches.  In short, this is one that Arsenal simply has to win.

Euro 2016 Draw: How have Gunners boosted their country's performances?

Normally, we might look ahead to another round of international duty as just another chance for various Gunners to get fatigued or injured, but it's well-worth remember how vital so many of them are for country as well as for club. In many cases, in fact, there seems to be a correlation between coming to and featuring for Arsenal and earning a larger role for one's country. With that in mind, Jonathan Rodgers weighs in with a quick assessment of how five of our most important players have been or become just as vital to their respective countries. Get in, Jonathan!

09 December 2015

Campbell's work is mmm, mmm, good!

I told you. Didn't I tell you? I told Giroud to go out and have a big game, and did he ever. He delivered his first-ever hat-trick for Arsenal, nodding home at the near post, slotting home on a perfectly timed run, and smashing home a spot-kick for good measure. On a night when we had to win 0-2 or score three goals to win, Giroud decided to obey me for once and tick both boxes.

Okay, so I don't quite have those powers of prognostication. However, I can't help but pat myself on the back when, even if by dumb luck, my predictions pan out. I called on Giroud to lead us into the knockout stage, and he did that in spades. Less predictable, however, was the play of Joel Campbell, who scintillated and tantalized by turns in his best stint to date, one good enough to suggest he's ready.

Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Olivier Giroud's first-ever hat-trick for Arsenal powered the Gunners past our Greek hosts and into the Champions
League knockout stage in fine fashion. Giroud was assisted by Aaron Ramsey for the first (a near-post header) and Joel Campbell (who danced niftily over the ball before threading a pass into the six-yard box for Giroud's second. Giroud then picked up his third on a spot-kick awarded after defender Elabdellaoui committed a handball infraction in the penalty area. We'll advance to the knockout stage for a sixteenth consecutive season in glorious fashion. Without further ado, then, get down to the poll and rate our lads' efforts!

08 December 2015

How Olivier will overpower Olympiakos...

0-2. 1-3. 2-3. These (or better) are the scorelines we'll need to advance to the Champions League group-stage for a 16th consecutive season. There's nothing to gain for Olympiakos and quite a bit to lose, as they have no chance of winning the group—even if they win, they'd reach 12 points, a level Bayern is already at before visiting Dinamo Zagreb. Even if Bayern lose, they hold a 7-0 aggregate advantage over Olympiakos. In other words, we should all expect the Greeks to sit way, way back, defend in numbers, and all but refuse to get forward, the rare exception being if all of our players decide to play dead and flop to the ground. Even then, I suspect that our hosts will simply clear the ball and wait. What to do, then?

Sunderland, Olympiacos, and Aston Villa, oh my!

So it's Sunderland, then, is it? We've drawn them at home for the FA Cup's third round, which has to raise hopes that we'll advance to the fourth. After all, we did just beat them after playing like a midtable Sunday League squad (except the chap between the sticks...) and should be closer to full strength by January. However, between now and then, we have the more nettlesome issue of the Champions League visit to Greece, where we'll have to win by two in order to advance to the Champions League knockout stage. Anything less than that, and it's Europa League for us. After settling that, then, we'll host Aston Villa on Sunday. No rest for the wicked, indeed.

06 December 2015

Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland—x things we learned

There were far too many squeaky bums and clenched sphincters in the first half for anyone's likings, but there's no panning the results once we turn around and have a look at hot it turned out. On a weekend when all of our key rivals save Leicester dropped points, it was vital that we return to winning ways, all the more so when facing a Sunderland side struggling to stave off relegation. That we were far from our best is beside the point; that we found a way to fight through a dodgy first half to win is what really matters. Sometimes, after all, the mark of a contender is in its ability to slog through and still emerge victorious. It ain't pretty, but dammit, it's still three points. What are the x most-important takeaways?

05 December 2015

Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland: Vote for Player Ratings and MotM!


Arsenal struggled to break down a spirited Sunderland side who spurned several gilt-edgedscoring chances. Petr Čech came up with numerous vital saves, and it was Joel Campbell who first put Arsenal ahead. However, as we've seen happen too many times, we conceded a sloppy goal just before halftime, this time as Giroud tried to block a cross only to score an own-goal. In the second half, though, Arsenal showed greater confidence and drive, with Giroud put us ahead again with a headed goal. Just when you thought it was over, though, Ramsey found a third goal after a helter-skelter scramble through the Sunderland box. All in all, the result was desperately needed if not entirely earned, but it sends us to second, two points behind, of all clubs, Leicester. Who'd've thunk it? Anyway, get down to the poll to rate the lads!


04 December 2015

If we can't get it sorted against Sunderland, well...

In a season that has already become a caricature of a "typical" Arsenal season—a strong run of form dares us to hope that something special is in the offing, only for injuries to sabotage us yet again—what might ordinarily look like a cakewalk this coming weekend becomes a fixture fraught with fear. Injuries to Koscielny and Alexis last week stripped us of our best defender and attacker and exposed us to dropped points against a Norwich side we should have overcome. We'll welcome a Sunderland side fresh off of confidence-boosting wins over Stoke and Crystal Palace. Can we circle the wagons?

30 November 2015

Call it the Curse of the Third Kit

A draw with Norwich in the Prem. A hiding by Bayern in the Champions League group stage. A shocking loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup's fourth round. Two goals scored, nine conceded. Injuries to Koscielny, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Walcott, a list to which we can now add Cazorla, maybe even Gibbs. What ties this series of unfortunate events together? What execrable element unifies these otherwise-disparate setbacks into one depressing heap? We're through the looking-glass here, people. The only culprit fiendish enough to mastermind such a vast conspiracy is none other than...the third kit!

29 November 2015

Norwich 1-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

Things got off to an inauspicious start when Laurent Koscielny came up lame in the game's eighth minute, but it was all
one-way traffic for Arsenal, leading up to a delicious goal from Mesut Özil, assisted by Alexis, to open the scoring. However, the Canaries found a toehold and an equaliser just before halftime. Things went from bad to worse when Alexis succumbed to an injury at the 60' mark, meaning that we've now lost two of our best defenders and one of our best attackers in the span of one week. Thus depleted, we lacked the incisiveness or confidence against a Norwich side that seemed content to nick a point from looked on paper to be three points to Arsenal.  Well, enough said for now. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below...

28 November 2015

Norwich vs. Arsenal: can the Gunners unlock the Canaries' defense?

A dominant performance against Dinamo Zagreb should send Arsenal into Carrow Road full of confidence and purpose, determined to bury memories of our last match away from the Emirates. However, Norwich, despite their precarious perch just above relegation, have shown grit in recent weeks, losing narrowly to Chelsea and Man City, the latter needing a last-minute penalty to overcome Alex Neil's boys. Worse, it seems as if Neil has a plan for facing the league's big boys...

27 November 2015

The Campbell that ate the Canary...

There's tantalizing news ahead of our Sunday clash with Norwich, what with the availability of first-team regulars such as Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey dangled in front of us, each of them now available after long injury-spells. Naturally, the mind turns to those who have featured and fascinated, especially Ramsey, who has delivered some scintillating moments against the Canaries in recent seasons. However, given this and future fixtures, I'm looking to Joel Campbell to electrify us. Fresh off of a confident performance on Tuesday against Dinamo Zagreb, he's well-positioned to eviscerate Norwich.

26 November 2015

Dinamo offer Arsenal a template for blitzing opponents...

On the back of a 3-0 win we sorely needed, if only to resurrect some confidence, it's well worth noticing some take-aways that should prove useful going forward. We have on paper a softer string of fixtures coming—at Norwich, Sunderland, at Olympiacos, and at Aston Villa—and this should offer us a chance to rest a few key players here and there while practicing an approach that delivered such dynamic results against Dinamo Zagreb, namely counter-attacking football and high pressing. Over the years, we've grown accustomed to Arsenal dominating possession but to little effect, nibbling around the edges of an opponent's area. Against Dinamo on Tuesday, as against other, "superior" opponents, we saw a cagier, more-lethal Arsenal attack.

24 November 2015

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo: Vote for Player Ratings and MotM!

Arsenal roared back to life, firing past Dinamo Zagreb thanks to first-half goals from Alexis and Özil, to which Alexis
added a second in the second half. It was the kind of dominating performance we should have seen in the first leg (so to speak) but one that at least revives our hopes of finishing second. We now have a firm inside track on third place and Europa League contention. More on that later. For now, savor the result and the glimpse of how good we can be when we put our collective hearts and minds to the task. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below!

23 November 2015

Arsenal need a 2-1 win...or it could be Europa League for us!

The current attitude among many Gooners is about as angry as it's been in a while, and Tuesday could inflame those feelings even further. Anything short of a smashing win over Dinamo Zagreb—paired with a Bayern win over Olympiacos—ends our Champions League campaign before the Group Stage has even played out. We've been on tenter-hooks before, of course, but those were "Group of Death" level situations involving Borussia Dortmund and Napoli. Dinamo and Olympiacos are not cut from the same cloth, and yet they've caused us to rend garments all the same. Our back are up against it, no doubt about it.

22 November 2015

If that's what it takes to defeat Arsenal, we'll win the Prem...

So. Arsenal lost. All it took was an injury to a key player, two flukey goals, and a cowardly performance from the referee. We went into the Hawthorns with good reason to believe that we could and indeed should emerge victorious, and early returns confirmed as much. A 28th-minute goal from Giroud (assisted, as if it needs be mentioned, by Özil) looked to pave the way for the foregone conclusion. However, preceding that, we'd lost Coquelin, and it was from there that things unraveled. This then is the apparent recipe for defeating the Arsenal: look for an injury or two, count on the referee to offer a favorable call, and ride your luck 'til the end. To that I say, is that your best? Is this the best you can do? Foul deeds, indeed. We'll rise above, you can count on that.

21 November 2015

West Brom 2-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings and MotM!

Injuries and poor play marred Arsenal's trip to the Hawthorns, as Coquelin was injured
fourteen minutes in, and his replacement Arteta was ineffective at best, conceding an own goal to give West Brom a 2-1 lead. Arteta then came off shortly after halftime, and these injuries not only left our midfield in disarray but also denied Arsène other more-strategic options. We were far from our best, and he only real bright spot was Özil getting an assist in his 11th straight Prem match. Just when it seemed we'd find an equaliser, Cazorla slipped while taking a spot-kick and sent the ball sailing over the bar. Well, it's a tough one, no doubt. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below...

20 November 2015

Campbell's the one to cook West Brom's soup...

What a week. Normally, we fret and strut about, worrying whether this or that Gunner will come up lame during the international break during some pointless friendly. How gladly would I accept Alexis's injury if it would have forestalled what transpired last Friday. Rarely has the diversion of Premier League soccer come at a more-necessary time. Sport is meant to be a proxy to war; here's hoping that it offers a welcomed salve as well.

15 November 2015

Özil and Giroud discuss the terror attacks in Paris...

After an international "friendly" match that turned out to be much tenser, much more terrifying than anyone had planned, it came down to two players from two countries all too often pitted against each other to try to make some kind of sense of it all. Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman, turned to Mesut Özil, the Turkish German Muslim, to try to make sense of it all. What follows is an imagined conversation that attempts to explore a bit of history and psychology...

11 November 2015

Is Arsenal home to the best #10 in the world?

With an international break upon us, we can step back from preparing for and then dissecting matches and take a look at the bigger picture. Even as we've been ravaged by injuries, one of the brightest spots has been the play of Mesut Özil, who has now delivered assists in six consecutive Prem matches, an historic feat, and has twice as many assists as the next most-generous man. Does this make Özil the best #10 in England? Almost certainly. Does it make him the best #10 in Europe? Probably. What's scary, though, is that he's not even scratching the surface of his talents.

10 November 2015

Podcast: Let's talk Bayern, Spurs, and the international break

We return with another podcast appearance with Arsenal Review USA to discuss the post-Bayern hangover, our struggles with Tottenham's high-press, injury woes, and the welcomed arrival of the international break. If there's a silver lining to it all, it comes from Man City dropping points (somehow) to Aston Villa, Chelsea losing again, and the fact that most of our players will avoid international duty (well, except Alexis...). Not silver lining enough? Tune in to hear your correspondent's dulcet, velvety voice as he discusses the week that was...

What's the NLD draw mean for Arsenal's title-tilt (with a bit of gloating over Mourinho...)?

It was very nearly the best of times as Manchester City drew at Villa Park, Man U
struggled to get past West Brom, Chelsea lost away to Stoke, and Liverpool lost at home to Palace...but we had to go and draw with Tottenham. Sigh. We squandered a golden chance at rising to the top of the table, even if only for a few weeks. Did I mention that Chelsea lost? I did? Sorry. This old codger's mind does wander...

08 November 2015

A point earned or two dropped? Ask Manchester City.

Well, that was frustrating to watch. Coming into Sunday's derby, we knew that Manchester City had been held at Villa Park and that we had a golden chance at pulling ahead of them, if only for a few weeks. Instead, we sleep-walked through most of the first half while Tottenham pressed up the pitch, coming alive perhaps only as a result of Tottenham's tired legs in the second half. If those Spuds find the fitness they'd need to keep pressing, or if Pochettino figures out how to defend a lead, they're going to start inching up the table. For now, though, let's review how we ended up dropping two points at home to a hated rival...

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

A pulsing North London derby saw Harry Kane open the scoring in the 31st minute, and it stood for almost an hour until
 Kieran Gibbs, having come on to replace Joel Campbell, bundled it past Lloris to equalise. Tottenham come away with a point but will have to feel disappointed after being the better team for long stretches. Three minutes of stoppage-time were not enough to offer either club a way through, and the argument over what color London is ends in a stalemate. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below...

Alexis? Alexis Sanchez, where are you?

There's nothing quite like a North London Derby to rinse away the bitter dregs of a midweek Champions League loss, and while we've been licking our wounds, Tottenham come in fresh on the heels of a 2-1 win over Anderlecht on Thursday, meaning they've lost just three matches all season and just one in the Prem. They've quietly kept close on our heels and look more-organised than they ever have in recent memory. Will that be enough to enable Spurs to escape with a point? That might be Pochettino's plan.

07 November 2015

Open Letter to Tottenham Hotspur

Dearest Tottenham,
Let me begin by saying this post might be considered apostasy among Arsenal supporters, because they find it in the appropriate levels of scorn, derision, or "Scum" bashing. Don't get me wrong. I'm a Gooner through and through and have been since the age of seven. I just don't buy as much into it the hatred of our rivalry as much as I supposedly should. It's not like I'm missing for reasons why. I've turned my footballing hate on other, bigger targets more truly deserving of it. Chelsea, for example.

06 November 2015

Can Arsenal score on a surprisingly stout Spurs defense?

There's nothing quite like a North London Derby to angry up the blood, and we could do with a little fire in the veins after that trip to Munich. In past NLDs, we could count on some high-scoring affairs, if only because Tottenham seemed content to run around like headless chickens. However, they've tightened up a bit, dropping their goals conceded per game from 1.39 last season to just 0.82 to this point. However, we've been averaging four goals per game in our last four Prem matches, which gives someone among my UK readers a chance at winning some swag. In the comments-section below, simply claim one of the six cells below.  If Joe comments, "Joe wants A" and a Gunner scores to that area, you'll win £10. A second goal gets you a pre-order of Football Manager (to be shipped in November when it's actually out). A third goal scored there? Your choice of a 2016 Arsenal jersey (home, away, or third). See more of the rules below...


Rules:
  • Each reader is only allowed one square, no multiples.
  • Entries will not be accepted from blog owner, contributor or employees of Paddy Power.
  • Squares will be allocated to the first 6 people to comment on available squares.
  • The BBC’s definition of which square the ball went into is final, this can be found on BBC Football news http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/results.
  • Prizes are subject to availability.
  • Only one prize per square.
  • Only the first 5 goals are counted.      
  • UK entries only.
  • If the match score is 0-0 the first to comment on the original post will win the booby prize, a Danny Dyer Football Foul-Ups DVD.
Got it? Good. I know we want our lads to score goals for only the purest of purposes
—to deliver victory to the Arsenal—but it's nice once in a while to pick up a little swag for ourselves! Get to it!

04 November 2015

How do you dodge a problem like Europa?

So. That's about it, then. With one depressing, catastrophic loss, our hopes of advancing past the group stage lie in a dilapidated heap. Scoring one goal clearly wasn't enough, not as the visitors against a more-determined home side. I speak, of course, of Dinamo Zagreb's capitulation in Greece, where, despite taking an early lead, they lost and thereby all but obliterated Arsenal's hopes of advancing. Our own loss in Munich is water under a bridge. A point might have been nice, but, we knew by halftime that this was out of the question. In fact, the less said about our own performance, the better...

Bayern have never faced an Arsenal as in-form as this one. Bayern 0-4 Arsenal, confirmed

We've had our fair share of run-ins with Bayern, and, let's be honest: each time, we've come up holding the short end of the stick. However, Bayern have never faced an Arsenal squad boasting of this kind of form, at least not in the last few seasons. In the Bundesliga, Bayern are little more than flat-track bullies, battering their opponents into submission and snatching up those players who flash the temerity to show them up. The flip-side to this is that they rarely if ever come up against a squad with the talent or tooth to take them to task. Enter the Arsenal. Depsite these Bavarian bullies' bluster, we've held our own, almost upending them in stunning fashion—and they've not had to deal with us in the form we're in, not even a few weeks ago when we battered them to the tune of a 2-0 scoreline.

01 November 2015

Rivals' Rundown: can Arsenal overtake Man City?

Another brilliant week keeps us level on points with Man City while humiliations galore accrue to José Mou, and Arsenal alone, at least for this week, look ascendant. For the sake of simplicity going forward, I'm going to focus on the four clubs most likely to challenge for the Prem title. While that slate will undergo changes over time, it's safe to assume that we can for now overlook Leicester and West Ham, but it does also mean that we've have to keep a wary eye on Liverpool, who look a bit livelier under Klopp. Before we get too deep into details, let's savor the bigger picture...

That's why Campbell is mm-mm good!

Well. I guess we have our right-wing sorted for the next eight to ten years now, don't we? After much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, we're spared the rending of garments for at least a few days after Joel Campbell turned in a confident performance in a vital 0-3 win at Liberty Stadium, scoring his first goal for Arsenal a mere four years after signing for the club. More than that though, from the opening minutes it seemed clear that he was bound and determined to prove a point, and prove it he did. That his goal came as icing on the cake more than as main course is beside that point.

31 October 2015

Can you put one past Fabiański? £10, Football Manager, or an Arsenal jersey if you can!

We face an old friend in Łukasz Fabiański today, and this gives my UK readers a chance to earn a few quid, Football Manager 2016, or even an Arsenal jersey if our lads can bag a few goals. Here's where you come in. In the comments-section, simply indicate which of the six cells below we'll score our goals. If you comment, "Joe wants A" and a Gunner scores to that area, you'll win £10. A second goal gets you a pre-order of Football Manager (to be shipped in November when it's actually out). A third goal scored there? Your choice of a 2016 Arsenal jersey (home, away, or third). See more of the rules below...




Rules:

  • Each player is only allowed one square, no multiples
  • Entries will not be accepted from blog owner, contributor or employees of Paddy Power
  • Squares will be allocated to the first 6 people to comment on available squares
  • The BBC’s definition of which square the ball went into is final, this can be found on BBC Football news http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/results
  • Prizes are subject to availability
  • Only one prize per square
  • Only the first 5 goals are counted      
  • UK entries only
  • If the match score is 0-0 the first to comment on the original post will win the booby prize, a Danny Dyer Football Foul-Ups DVD
Got it? Good. I know we want our lads to score goals for only the purest of purposes—to deliver victory to the Arsenal—but it's nice once in a while to pick up a little swag for ourselves! Get tto it!

30 October 2015

Sorry, Swansea, but your timing couldn't be worse...

After bowing out of the League Cup in somewhat shocking fashion, it's reassuring if nothing else to get back to proper Prem play. That we've now lost Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain is a setback worse than having lost to Sheffield Wednesday. Heck, Swansea lost in the previous round, part of a recent run of poor form that has undone their respectable start, the one that saw earn a draw at Stamford Bridge and defeat Man U as well, rising to as high as fourth. Since then, however, they've taking on water and have sunked to twelfth.

With Campbell on, Swansea's goose is cooked...

Joel Campbell should start on Saturday. Why? Because of his performance against Sheffield Wednesday. Yes, I know we lost in spectacular fashion, conceding three goals in less than 30 minutes against a Championship side. However, Campbell was perhaps alone in playing with purpose and passion even if without final product. Amidst a squad full of seemingly overawed youngsters and jaded first-teamers, Campbell continued to impress with his work-rate, his willingness to track-back, and his will to make something happen. If he can replicate that performance on Saturday, Swansea's goose will indeed be well and truly cooked.

28 October 2015

Maybe it's time to ring up Pulis about ending Gnabry's loan...

Once we set aside the result itself and realize that losing to Sheffield Wednesday should do little to impede our momentum, we have to face a cold, hard reality that presented itself in two forms on Tuesday and looks likely to menace us going forward: our first-choice XI is quite good, but it's awfully slim pickin's after that. It looks like we'll be without Theo, Ramsey, and the Ox for a few weeks, one position in particular looks awfully thread-bare—that right wing. The only player currently in the squad who has anything remotely resembling Prem experience there is Joel Campbell. Why do I not feel a surge of confidence?

London club in SHAMBLES after SHOCK loss to underdogs from the North!

A shocking League Cup loss has a London club in dizzying disarray, sources report, with critics wondering just what the manager is up to with his squad selection and tactics after the big-city club were upended by the upstarts from up north. Even if it's true that many Prem clubs see these cup-ties as a chance to bed in some youngsters, this was one occasion when the gaffer saw fit to send on what amounted to a full-strength squad only to see his XI eclipsed by a more-ambitious lower side. I speak, of course, of Chelsea, who sent out a strong squad only to lose on penalties to Stoke. Yes, yes, it's true that Arsenal also lost, but only one of these two London clubs seemed to treat the event with any urgency. In what might be becoming a specialty, they failed anyway.

26 October 2015

Pick to Click: Alex Iwobi, bagger of a brace against Bayern...

The pundits and punters will tell you that Arsenal have not won in their last six visits to Hillsborough, as if this is meant to mean something. Maybe it does, until we realise that our last trip there was January 2000 and that looking to results that are any older than three or four years old means little, if anything at all. Still, the League Cup is full of pitfalls and pratfalls, and we at Arsenal need not look too far into our own past to dredge up some painful memories. On the other hand, it's been a few years since we got such a favorable draw, having faced Prem mainstays Southampton and West Brom in recent seasons (I dare not delve much deeper into the annals than that, thank you very much). Back to Sheffield Wednesday, whom we play on Tuesday, just what have they been up to recently?

25 October 2015

Rivals' Rundown: The Mourinho Melt-down and Arsenal's ascendancy...

We're back. Finally, it seems, my unbridled joy at seeing Chelsea suffer, Liverpool languish, and Tottenham put on its bravest face has trumped my sloth and indolence. We're coming up on a third of the season gone, and the trends are starting to emerge. Yes, there are upstarts—can West Ham, Leicester, or Crystal Palace sustain their early-season form? Perhaps more pertinently, can Tottenham, Liverpool, or Chelsea (yes, even Chelsea...) find the kind of form that would enable them to climb back into the top four? These and other questions remain to be answered. Arsenal were briefly alone atop the league and will share the position with the always-generous Man City for the time being. Let's get into the nitty-gritty, at least as it stands after ten matches...

24 October 2015

Arsenal 2-1 Everton: Vote for Player Ratings & MotM!

Arsenal struck twice off of glancing headers, one from Giroud and one from Koscielny, inside of two minutes to take a lead, but Everton pulled one back on a deflected shot just before halftime. Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Arsenal in the second half, Everton just couldn't find the equaliser. We had numerous chances of our own but just couldn't put our shots anywhere but off-target or straight at Tim Howard. Four minutes of stoppage time gave us a manic sequence in which Howard had to chase the ball around the box before it was cleared, leading to a manic counter that Gabriel snuffed with a sharp tackle on Lukaku. That's where it ended, and Arsenal rise to the top of the Prem table for the first time in twenty months. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below!

23 October 2015

Can Arsenal climb to first in the Prem? Everton stand in the way...

Few clubs have had a tougher start to their season than Everton. Recent weeks have seen them draw at White Hart Lane, demolish Chelsea 3-1, earn a 1-1 Merseyside derby draw...and get thrashed 0-3 by Manchester United. There may not be a more-schizophrenic squad than this one, and that's saying something, coming from a Gooner. At a broader level, though, it's difficult to discern which club we'll face: will it be the 2013-14 outfit, the one that pushed us to the brink before settling for fifth place, or will it the 2014-15 crew, the one that flirted with relegation before climbing to 11th?

Arsène undoes Forsythe's Anti-Injury Opus...

Arsène has taken the blame for exposing Aaron Ramsey to the hamstring injury that will keep him out of Saturday's clash with Everton. Despite his apparent ineffectivenes while playing on the right, Ramsey has been an instrumental cog in Arsenal's success to date, and his absence might matter more that it would seem to those who doubt him. Ramsey's hamstring injury will knock him out until December (we all know how estimates go around the Emirates).  In fact, this might stand as the first "preventable" injury we've seen in the current campaign, thanks in large part to the efforts of Shad Forsythe. First, let's get to Arsène's confession of culpability...

20 October 2015

Bellerín? Ballon D'or? Bellerín D'or. Done. Dusted.

¡Bellerííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííííínnnn!!!!!!!!! Holy ecstatic orgiastic surges of gloriousness, Batman. How many times has a player been abused so thoroughly by his opposite only to end up the conquering hero? Time and time again, it seemed, Douglas Costa would unleash some filthy abuse on our still wet-behind-the-ears right-back, and it was looking increasingly likely that, at some point, Costa would hit pay-dirt. It was only a matter of time. Even after Giroud had scuffed some kind of "header" past Neuer, it was still looking like Bayern would find an equaliser, most likely down our right flank. Then, in the extra time that Bayern's men had bayed for so lustily, Bellerín pounced. In doing so, he upended the Bavarian behemoths and staked his claim to being—pardon the hyperbole—the best right-back in the Prem.

Arsenal 2-0 Bayern: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM!

Arsenal held off Bayern Munich until the 77th minute when Olivier Giroud nodded home from a Cazorla set-piece. We hung from tenter-hooks as Petr Čech turned away several shots, including a tough one from Lewandowski, to deny Bayern despite their 73% possession and 21 shots. Then, in added time, Héctor Bellerín made an interception, sped down the right flank and found Mesut Özil lurking in the box, and Özil, perhaps remembering previous miscues against Neuer, made no mistake to make it 2-0. Who would have thought our first three points would come against Bayern? We still have our work cut out for us, as Olympiakos won 0-1 in Zagreb, but we've kicked the door open a bit more with this result. Let's reward the lads for their efforts in ratings poll below the fold!

Bayern are little more than flat-track bullies. What happens when Arsenal say "boo"?

What's there to say other than that our Champions League campaign crashed and burned before it even left the hangar? A disappointing trip to Zagreb was followed by an astonishing loss at home; meanwhile, Bayern thrashed those same two by a combined 8-0 scoreline. We now sit at the bottom of Group F, peering up meekly at Bayern, who, just two matches in, look to have booked a spot in the knockout stage already. Another three points or so should be enough to see them through. Will they claim these points on Tuesday at the Emirates? It wouldn't be the first time we suffer an indignity at the hands of the Bavarian barbarians. Our hopes of advancing hang by a thread (if only we could suffer the sword of Damocles...). Perhaps it's best then that we let Bayern have their way with us while we abandon all hope. Bollocks.

17 October 2015

Return of Welsh Jesus: Ramsey resurrected against Watford...

The story of this one is that we eventually wore down a well-drilled, defensively tenacious, and physical side, one that bullied and pressed us up and down the pitch for the better part of an hour...only to fade down the stretch, as evinced by our scoring twice in under five minutes just after that hour-mark, and a third time shortly thereafter to close out the match. That third one, unnecessary though it was to the result, and beyond what it might mean for goal-difference in the long run, might just open the floodgates for a player who has beaten his head bloody against those gates for months, if not longer. On this day, Aaron Ramsey's squibbled goal mattered not a whit. Going forward, though, it could be massive.

Can Walcott lay waste to Watford without Alexis?

We come back from an international break flush with excitement, whether it be the successes of Gunners playing for their countries, the fact that we trounced Manchester United, or that José Mourinho seems to have pressed the self-destruct button. With that backdrop, we should perhaps expect to simply show up at Vicarage Road on Saturday and say "boo" in order to leave with three points secured. Actual banana-peels are less slippery than this one could be.

16 October 2015

Arsène SHOCKS Arsenal by leaving the Emirates before 20:17...

HOLLOWAY, London, England—Long-serving manager Arsène Wenger has shocked footballing fans around the world by announcing that he plans to leave the Emirates well before 20:17 even though his contract runs well through June 2017. Rumours of his departure have bubbled up repeatedly over the years as Arsenal have struggled to live up to the high expectations established during the first eight years of Arsène's tenure, during which time the club enjoyed an unparalleled period of success. Since then, a period of epidemic mediocrity has beset the club, and it's little wonder that the man after whom the club was named will be leaving the Emirates sooner rather than later.

14 October 2015

Dear José Mourinho: Cram it with walnuts.

Dear José—
We went into the international break enjoying your club's best imitation of used toothpaste swirling the drain. I thought that an extra two weeks of seeing you and Chelsea flirting with relegation would be enjoyment enough. However, we then enjoyed an international break in which our lads escaped injury, and we saw Alexis, Cazorla, Giroud, Ramsey, Ox, Walcott, Akpom, Gnabry, and Campbell score (oh, and van Persie albeit against his own country), and Alexis and Özil tallied assists. Now, it seems, we now get to sit back and watch you implode to an even more-embarrassing degree. Just when Diego Costa is set to return from his three-match ban, you might soon serve one of your own. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

What new devilry is this? Gunners dominate the international break...

It's become a bit of a tradition if not a curse for Gooners to see an international break as a mixed blessing; on one hand, the mix of friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, and Euro qualifiers can confirm the arrival of another Gunner cultivated from relative obscurity. Players who had long lingered on the fringes of their country's squads seem to get call-ups. On the other, our players suffer even more wear and tear in service to their countries. It's rare then that we can celebrate without reservation an international break marked by as much success and so few asterisks as the one that just came to a close. There's even a delicious dollop of schadenfreude waiting for those willing to plow through the folderol that follows...

12 October 2015

Özil proves once again that he's a complete waste of time, space, and money...

With another international break almost done and dusted, Gooners can assess with a discerning eye that performances of the Gunners playing for country rather than club, and, with that discerning eye screwed squarely to the sticking place, face the truth without passion or prejudice. That truth, sad though it may be to say, resounds loudly and clearly: Özil is, as the saying goes, nicking a living. His failures only come into sharper contrast when held up against the successes of other Gunners on international duty. Ramsey? He helped Wales qualify for its first major tournament final in 57 years. Alexis? He became Chile's third-highest scorer in history. Özil? Yawn. One assist in two matches. Against Ireland and Georgia, one might expect a higher rate of return on one's £42m investment.

05 October 2015

Walcott lays waste to Man U; is he the striker we've pined for?

No, he didn't score any goals in the 3-0 blitzing of Man U, but it's getting harder and harder to resist the notion that Theo Walcott can in fact lead the line. He delivered two assists, one to Özil and the other to Alexis, marking the fifth time in six starts that he's had in hand in Arsenal goals. Playing as our centre-forward, he's now claimed four goals and three assists against Stoke, Dinamo Zagreb, Olympiacos, Leicester, and Man U. I'll be first in line to admit that I've had my doubts about Theo through the middle, but he's laying waste to those doubts almost as quickly as he's laid waste to opposing defenses. The scary part of this is that he's still figuring out how best to play the role.

04 October 2015

Arsenal 3-0 Man U: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM!

Arsenal roared back to life in resounding fashion on Sunday, tearing Man U open twice inside of a
minute before the match was ten minutes hold. lexis Sánchez opened the scoring with a cheeky heel-flick, and the celebration was still going as Özil added the second moments later. Things slowed down a bit, and we had to wait all of about twelve minutes before Alexis scored his second to make it 3-0. Man U threatened but were outclassed in just about every area and, if anything, were lucky to go into halftime down just three.The result is a stirring reminder of what we're capable of and a suggestion that the preceding days ofr gloom and pessimism may have been a bit of an overreaction. It's not that all of our flaws and weaknesses have been magically vanquished, just that we're capable of being better than we've been. Enough pontificating. Get down to the poll and give our lads what they deserve!

Open Letter to Manchester United

What happened to us? By "us", I mean both clubs. While it's true that you've had a bit more success than we've had in the Prem, I think we'd both agree that neither one of us has lived up to our historic reputations. Even if we at our end admit that you won the Prem in 2013, there's got to be a bit of soul-searching around our current status. If anyone among us could locate Liverpool, we could put our heads together and wrap minds around what's become of the Prem.

03 October 2015

Arsenal-Man U Preview: Look to the Alexis-Theo duo to devastate the Devils...

I'm going to go out on a limb here to suggest that the pervasive mood of gloom and doom is just a bit excessive. Yes, I know full-well what's going on. No, I haven't taken leave of my senses. In recent weeks, we've suffered injustice at Stamford Bridge but bounced Tottenham from the League Cup and trounced Leicester—but this is all bookended and overshadowed by back-to-back losses in the Champions League group-stage. Add in a clash against Manchester United, refereed by Anthony Taylor, and the only ingredient from a disastrous recipe is Old Trafford.

01 October 2015

Could Flamini upend Man U just as he did Tottenham?

Jonathan Roberts returns with a provocative look at whether we can and should turn to Flamini against Man U, needing as we do fresh legs and fighting spirit after Tuesday's demoralising loss. Welcome back, Jonathan; what's on your mind?

The battle for a place in Arsenal’s central midfield is fierce. Coquelin, Cazorla, Arteta and Ramsey are stellar names most managers would yearn for. And, if you put aside the consistent injuries, there’s Jack Wilshere also vying for a start in the centre of the park. The last post I wrote was all about how Arsenal needed to sign a new sign a new defensive midfielder. To everyone’s dismay it didn’t happen. After two dismal Champions league performances, the obvious has become somewhat more obvious to everyone—everyone except Arsène, that is.

30 September 2015

Arsenal's campaign to win the Europa League receives fresh boost...

Well, we've done it again. Despite knowing that a win was vital after losing in Croatia two weeks ago, we gifted a win to Olympiacos even after fielding an XI that was, essentially, full-strength. Only Gibbs and Ospina might count as back-benchers, and even they have enjoyed their own halcyon days. We're now winless after two matches, the first time that's happened in club-history, and we face the very-real prospect of failing to advance to the knockout phase for the first time in 15 years. The path to that knockout phase is now a perilous one and depends on factors not entirely under our own control. Maybe it's time we start preparing to win the Europa League—assuming, of course, we can finish third in the group...

29 September 2015

Arsenal 2-3 Olympiacos: Vote for Player Ratings/ MotM

Arsenal's quest to advance to the Champions League knockout stage suffered an embarrassing
setback when we couldn't overcome our own miscues and sloppy play, practically gifting a victory to Olympiacos. Ospina may very well serve as a convenient scapegoat, guilty as he was of conceding a soft own goal, but the entire squad struggled, and the result shows. Barely one minute after equalizing for a second time, Arsenal conceded a third goal and then couldn't fight through Olympiacos's stubborn thicket. The result leaves us at the bottom of Group F and in dire need of something just short of a miracle in our remaining four matches. Let our lads have it with both barrels; this one was a stinker...

Ramsey set to rampage against Olympiacos...

First, learned that we had lost Coquelin to an injury (and yes, he's back in training). Then it was Flamini, fresh off his heroics against Spurs, coming up lame against Leicester. His replacement, Arteta, finished the match only to come up lame. Just like that, we have no proper defensive midfielders any more, and even Cazorla is looking a bit leggy, not to mention longer in the tooth. To whom do we turn to plug the gap? We face a must-win situation already in the group-stage, and with a testy clash against Man U five days later, can we risk sending on Coquelin? Nah. Not when we have Rambo, chomping at the bit to play through the middle after weeks in exile on the wing.

28 September 2015

Arsenal have found their striker in this £7.4m signing...

It would be a bit churlish of me to complain after a a week in which we scored seven goals in two matchs, ousting Tottenham in the process, but it does seem like we should preface all that follows with a few caveats. One: Tottenham did field an XI that was less than full strength. Even if we did the same, our XI was still full of first-teamers with no Academy players to be seen unless you scanned the bench. Two: Leicester live and die by the sword. Their matches are turning into free-for-alls. They lead the league on goals scored (15) and are second in goals conceded (14). Still, there's some relief if not insight to be found going forward as we prepare for Olympiacos on Tuesday and Man U on Saturday.

26 September 2015

Foxes 2-5 Gooners: Video Highlights

Although James Vardy opened the scoring, Arsenal steamrolled the foxes after Walcott equalised minutes later. Alexis finally found his scoring boots, getting a hat trick as Arsenal sliced Leicester wide open. The Foxes wouldn't give up, though, bringing relentless pressure late in the second half as Petr Čech turned them away and again until Vardy finally did score a second. However, it was all over but the screaming and shouting...until Giroud, having subbed on for Walcott, added the fifth goal in stoppage-time. Check out the highlight-reel below:

Leicester 2-5 Arsenal: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM

An early goal from the impressive James Vardy gave Arsenal an unwelcome shock just 13 minutes in, but from there, it was all Arsenal as we strained Leicester's defense to the breaking point. Were it not for some poor choices, poor finishing, and getting in each other's way in the box, we might have found a few more goals. As it goes, though, we seized the match by the scruff. Walcott equalised five minutes after Vardy's goal, Alexis found the go-ahead and bagged a brace shortly after halftime. He would get his hat-trick in the 83rd with a brilliant shot. Credit Leicester for fighting back, creating numerous chances before Vardy scored his second in the waning minutes. Giroud finally found his goal in extra-time to account for the final score (and equalling the number of Prem goals we've scored all season). For as much as conceding twice was irritating, it was a relief to see us carve a team open a bit more than we have to date and to see Alexis finally break the seal. Let's give the lads what they deserve in the poll below.

25 September 2015

Leicester-Arsenal Preview: Can the Gunners overcome unbeaten Foxes?

They're undefeated. They've scored more goals than most anyone else in the Prem to date. They beat West Ham, who beat us. The maths, in fact, look bleak. Arsenal 0-2 West Ham; West Ham 1-2 Leicester. Add in another 2-1 victory over West Ham in the League Cup, and the inescapable conclusion is that our visit to King Power on Saturday will end at 4-1 to the Foxes, if not worse. Now that that's settled, let's get down to the nitty-gritty details...

24 September 2015

Arsenal owes its very identity to Islam—or Arabic, at least...

As Eid al-Adha comes to a close, Gooners everywhere should pause for a moment to contemplate the connection that the club has to the occasion. At first glance, it might be easy, even comforting, to dismiss or deride any such connection. What, after all, does a football club from London have to do with a Muslim holiday? As one with an eye to history, I can't resist Arsenal's connection to Islam vis-à-vis Arabic is undeniable, and it's on the occasion of Eid al-Adha that I'd like to explore that connection.

23 September 2015

Apparently, Flamini didn't get the memo...

Well, that didn't go according to plan. We were supposed to let Tottenham have this one, the better to let them squabble with lower-tier clubs Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, or Liverpool. Instead, we're through to the round of 16, no thanks to Flamini's antics. Leave it to him to go rogue on an evening when, despite the intensity of a North London Derby at White Hart Lane, letting the baby have its bottle could have been the order of the day. I should have known something was up when I started the XI Arsène named. Nary an Academy player to be seen, with only Iwobi and Macey on the bench. Was Arsène trying to win this one? That's when I noticed who'd be in the defensive midfield. That's when it started to make sense. Briefly.

Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

Mathieu Flamini bagged a brace, one a fox-in-the-box rebound from an Oxlade-Chamberlain shot that Vorm couldn't handle and the other a cracking volley when Ox's pass was deflected, and Arsenal booked a place in the League Cup's fourth round while reminding North London what color it is. Along the way, Flamini may have resolved our goal-scoring dilemma, having now scored two goals in just 90' of play. Giroud, by contrast has needed some 430 minutes to score his two goals. Okay, so I jest, but for a side such as ours that has struggled to score, Flamini's contributions are welcomed. Any win over Tottnham is a welcome-one, even if we didn't name any Academy players to the XI. It's perhaps a sign of our uneven play that Arsène went with so many first-teamers, but I'll take it. Get to the poll below and give our lads what they deserve!

22 September 2015

Avenging Angel Gabriel's ban rescinded by FA

To the satisfaction of Gooners, Gabriel's three-match suspension for violent conduct has been withdrawn in the FA's own words "with immediate effect." He is still "subject to a separate FA charge of improper conduct in relation to Saturday's game and has until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply.
Amazingly, this confirms what many of us suspected knew, namely, that Mike Dean doesn't know his head from his arse (although the latter may be more require a bit more waxing, sugaring, or plucking).  What a week. Arsène gets away with criticising a referee, calling Mike Dean "weak", the FA overrules a ref while simultaneously getting something right, and we get a red-card rescinded. About the only element missing here is retrospective action on Diego Costa's thuggery and Mike Dean's imcompetenc-cum-bias.

The FA has charged Costa with "an alleged act of violent conduct," and he has until 6pm Tuesday (today) to reply. A panel of three former elite referees ould then decide whether to book Costa, which would lead to a retroactive three-match ban. While none of this would change the outcome of Saturday's match, we at Arsenal can at least start to feel like there's some degree of justice, however delayed, in these proceedings.

21 September 2015

Ahh, let the babies have their bottles and toddle off...

After Saturday's travesty in which various crimes against humanity went unpunished, having a chance to smash our rivals right in the mouth could be just what the doctor ordered. However, even if we've drawn Tottenham in the third round of the League Cup, it's hard to feel like we'll actually get much satisfaction from it, or that the satisfaction is worth the effort. The Spuds just don't seem to inspire the same quixotic competition as in previous seasons. Watching them wriggle and squirm offers some amusement, but it wears pretty quickly. Far better to treat it like we'd treat any early round fixture: send out a mix of first-teamers and Academy players and let the chips fall where they may. Should we win, we shrug our shoulders and move on. Should we lose, we let the scum celebrate, shrug our shoudlers, and move on anyway.

20 September 2015

Plucky 12-man Chelsea squeeze past nine-man Arsenal

STAMFORD BRIDGE—In a stirring display of tenacity, grit, and acumen, an undermatched and historically underfunded rag-tag collective of misfits bravely overcame all odds, drawing on every single ounce of moxie at its disposal in order to narrowly eke out a win that will be talked of through the ages. Despite never catching a single break in this match or in any other prior, and despite having to watch each and every halfpenny for decades. Chelsea's dozen screwed their courage to the sticking spot and road Lady Luck's coat-tails to victory over Arsenal's nine. Never before and perhaps never again will we see one side overcome such short odds to achieve victory.

18 September 2015

Good God, I almost became a Chav...

I want to tell you a harrowing story, one in which the young hero very nearly follows a very dark path, a path laden with treasure, it must be admitted, but a treacherous, soul-sucking path all the same. As I plumb the depths of my memory, I reckon that I became a Gooner somewhere 'round about 1980. Aged seven, I could remember the cannon on the kit but not the JVC logo. At any rate, as I've written of it before, I was instantly hooked. The red and the white. The name. Stapleton and Brady. However, my status as a Gooner was very nearly derailed before it even left the station. In 1983, one of my friend's fathers was transferred to London to work, and so we paid them a visit. Little did I know at the time how close I came to becoming a filthy Chav...

Chelsea-Arsenal Preview: No one puts baby in a corner.

So. We've come full circle, it seems. Chelsea, who were a week ago in complete disarray, are once again ascendant. Arsenal, who were a week ago ascendant, are in complete disarray. What a difference a few days makes. Chelsea, hosting Maccabi Tel-Aviv, romped to a 4-0 win while Arsenal, traveling to Dinamo Zagreb, unravelled to a 2-1 loss. The only conclusion to draw from these results is that Arsenal's Saturday trip to Stamford Bridge will end in epic defeat, earning its place in the annals along side Hastings, Agincourt, or Waterloo. Something in my gut tells me there's far more to this one than any of those.

16 September 2015

Well, that's it, then. The fat lady has sung. Season's over.

I don't exaggerate in the slightest when I say that Arsenal's entire 2015-16 campaign is officially over. After just six matches, we might as well put up the tent-stakes, quit while we're ahead, cut our losses, and abandon ship. These are the only logical, rational conclusions to be drawn from losing 2-1 to Dinamo Zagreb in the first of six group-stage fixtures. With absolutely no trace of hyperbole, I can safely say that this is the worst squad to have ever donned an Arsenal kit. To a man, they were so humiliatingly horrific that they should each retire post-haste. We are, apparently, the only English club to lose 2-1. Oh. We're not? The sky isn't falling? Pass the smelling salts.

Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

Arsenal started its Champions League quest off in horrific fashion, letting Dinamo Zagreb seize the initiative and then failing to recover. A 24th minute own-goal, conceded by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, was truly unfortunate; he slid in to poke the ball away from the attacker only for Ospina to dive himself. Ox's poke bounced off of Ospina, off of Ox, and into the net. Making matters worse, Giroud was sent off just before halftime for having bad manners; a Zagreb player ran onto his outstreched leg, and this was apparently worthy of a second yellow from referee Ovidiu Hațegan. We had to play the entire second half down a man. Silver lining? Theo Walcott came on in the 64th minute and reminded us of his quality —and the value of counter-attacking football —as he timed the offside trap perfectly and slotted home to make it 2-1. That's where it would end despite six minutes of added time. Feh. Give the lads what they deserve in the poll below the fold...

15 September 2015

Open Letter to Dinamo Zagreb—a strange solidarity...

Dearest Dinamo—
Congratulations on once again appearing in the Champions League group-stage. I hear tell of your club going some 41 matches unbeaten, including all 36 last season, to claim an "Invincibles" season of your own, something we more or less pioneered with our Invincibles campaign of 2003-2004. That's never easy, even when you demonstrate a degree of dominance over your league that is almost Bayern Munichian. However, whereas Bayern seem to hoard up players from rivals, you seem more likely to loan yours out—undercutting somewhat your derby win over Lokomotiva, most of whose squad seems to consist of your loanees. Still, we know that we can't afford to underestimate you. That's where the bad news begins.

José, Arsène set aside feudin' and a-fussin', get down to some lovin'

The rivalry between Mourinho and Wenger is well-known; each seems to embody qualities directly opposite the others. However, for as much antipathy and outright animosity as there is on the surface, it's well-worth remembering that opposites do attract. In other words, maybe there's more to this than meets the eye. Here, in their own words, the two men reveal the shocking, lurid truth. Set your faces to stunned...

All in good fun, of course. Thanks to DreamTeam for putting it together!

From Dinamo and beyond, the dominos shall fall...

For once, we've escaped a Group of Death, having drawn Bayern (who else?), Olympiacos, and Dinamo Zagreb. The former two are old friends, of course, but we haven't squared off against Zagreb since 2006-07, when we thrashed them by a 5-1 aggregate in the Champions League playoff (and first-ever win at the new Emirates Stadium!). That would be the season in which a certain Eduardo da Silva would entice us enough to sign him the following summer—among other exploits, he did score the Blues' one goal against at the Emirates in the second leg. Ah, Eduardo. We hardly knew ye. Somewhere in there is some symbolism: last weekend, we saw off Stoke, breakers of Ramsey's leg, and will face the Blues this coming weekend. 'Twixt the two, we'll face a Blues club that sold us a player whose leg would be broken. A defter wielder of words than I could forge something from that. Enough. On to the preview...

14 September 2015

Let's all laugh at Mourinho as we stroll into Stamford Bridge...

The weekend could not have gotten off to a finer start. Before Arsenal could even take to the pitch, Chelsea had been annihilated by Everton, losing 1-3, marking their third loss of the young season—the same number of losses they suffered through all of 2014-15. Yes, we'll have to keep one eye on Everton, but that can wait. Could there be a better time to arrive at Stamford Bridge after having finally slain the Mou's hoodoo over us by defeating him in the Community Shield and seeing Mourinho's minions looking positively apathetic? Heck, if Newcastle win at Upton Park on Monday, Chelsea fall into relegation. Imagine that.

12 September 2015

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke: Vote for Player-Ratings and MotM!

The weekend got off to a grand start when Everton thrashed Chelsea on the back of Naismith's hat-trick, and we took matters into our own hands from there, scoring either side of halftime to defeat Stoke 2-0, goals cmoing from Walcott (31') and Giroud (85'). Theo's goal came on a brilliant counter after one of Stoke's few forays forward, Coquelin making a sharp tackle to knock the ball to Özil, who lofted a long pass in behind, which Theo chested down and flicked under Rutland. Despite constant pressure and 29 shots taken (12 on-target), we had to wait until the 85th minute for Giroud—just moments after coming on—to score from a set-piece on a sharply angled header at the near post. The result might be good enough to see us rise to second place, pending Leicester's result on Sunday. For now, though, focus on our lads' performances in the poll below the fold!

11 September 2015

Match Preview: Arsenal vs. Stoke

After a long, long, international break, we return at long last to Prem action. Count your blessings that no one got hurt—unless you count the revelation that Welbeck will be out until December as “news.” Aside from that, there’s much to grumble over as we saw the transfer-window slam shut without any dramatic deadline-day deals to delight us. As if on cue, a hated rival invades the Emirates to dent our ambitions—literally if not figuratively.

Open Letter to those oatcake eatin' Potters

Dear Stoke:
Well, we're at it again, aren't we? Another chapter in the seemingly endless psychodrama that is the Stoke-Arsenal hate-fest. In this corner, we apparently have the knuckle-dragging Orcs of Stoke, making up in stitches and scars what they lack in teeth or manners; in the other, we have the ostensibly effete Gunners, sipping chardonnay and escargot while eschewing the hoi polloi and nitty gritty. Each of us comes from central casting, falling into a script so predictable that even Jerry Bruckheimer slaps his head in stupefaction. For each of us, it's a role we seemingly have no choice to but to play, each hating the other when, perhaps, we should be hating the script itself.

09 September 2015

With the interlull over, can we please find room for Ox?

What a week, for good and bad. We saw the transfer window slam shut without any dramatic deadline-day signings, obscuring the fact that the arrival Petr Čech signifies intent on its own. While our lads largely escaped any interlullian injuries, we were served with the bad news that Welbeck, the closest we have to a backup to Giroud, may be out until December. While obfuscating the length of his layoff might have been strategic during the transfer-window (full disclosure might have inflated asking-prices), we still are left to wonder how well we'll contend going forward. Then again, we do have a full-strength defense, with Gibbs, Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Chambers, Debuchy, and Bellerín, offering all sorts of options as we invite the Orcs in on Saturday.

31 August 2015

Losing my religion as the window slams shut...

By this point, we've learned that Christian Benteke is worth £32.5m, Roberto Firmino is worth £28.7m, Raheem Sterling is worth £43.75m, Kevin de Bruyne is worth £52.5m, and Anthony Martial is worth £36m. Each of these players is by turns full of potential and capable of a purple patch or two over the course of a season, but what does it tell us that "potential" is priced so high? These transfer fees used to be reserved for the likes of players who had already established themselves as world class. What am I or any of us to believe as we count down the waning hours of the summer transfer window? What price would we have to pay to actually upgrade our squad?

30 August 2015

Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man U will seek massive transfers after shock-losses...

What a brilliant weekend it was. We kicked things off with a somnambulent win over Newcastle—but a win's a win, after all. From there, Chelsea lost at home to Crystal Palace for the first time since 1981. Liverpool lost at home to West Ham for the first time since 1963. Then, to top it all off, Manchester United choked on a lead and lost to Swansea for the first time since the last time they played six months ago. The only black mark on the weekend was Man City's win over newly promoted Watford, but what are you gonna do? The real question, though, is what our are rivals going to do before deadline day

29 August 2015

Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

The first half was all Arsenal as Newcastle defended dogged and at times desperately. Referee Andre Marriner missed a soft but clear penalty call as Bellerín went down in the box but saw sit to send off new man Mitrovic in the fifteenth minute for a studs-up challenge on Coquelin. Ten-man Toon seemed to draw inspiration, though, launching ambitious counters even if they did fizzle out. Despite the man-advantage, Arsenal couldn't get past Krul, and it was scoreless at halftime. Oxlade-Chamberlain finally opened the scoring shortly after halftime, his shot sluicing through Coloccini's legs to beat Krul. Between our quest for a perfect goal and Krul's tenacity, that turned out to be all the scoring for the day. Head down to the poll to rate our lads' performance...

Can Giroud continue to manhandle the Magpies?

The last time we faced Pardew's crew, we eked out a 1-2 victory at Selhurst Park and—oh. Sorry. Wrong dossier. Still, we've lorded it over Newcastle over the last few years, winning seven in a row across all competitions. Then again, we're off to a sluggish start, failing to impress by varying degrees in each of our last three. While Newcastle have failed to win, they've also started with one of the toughest sets of fixtures—drawing at home with Southampton before losing away to Swansea and then drawing at Old Trafford. In other words, they may be winless, but they're hardly gormless.

28 August 2015

Open letter to Newcastle Upon Tyne (or Toon, is it?)...

Dear Magpies.
We've been embroiled in a fair few imbroglios over the years, haven't we, even if you lot haven't been relevant for a while, since—well, since 2010 when you went out and won the whole kit 'n' kaboodle, winnin' the—oh. That was the Championship. Well, good on youse for that. Since then and long before, it's been a bit of a dry spell since you were anything more than a magpie in the ointment. There was of course that epic comeback in 2011 from 0-4 that still haunts us to this day—bit of a sore spot, that one—but you've also played a more-welcome role of late, such as the final match of the 2012-13 season when Koscielny netted to secure fourth while we trolled Tottenham. Thanks for that, by the way. Back to the present, though.

27 August 2015

With UEFA draw done, Arsène turns to confirm SHOCK transfer...

As you've no doubt read by now, Arsenal avoided a Group of Death draw for the Champions League group-stage, joining Bayern Munich, Olympiacos, and Dinamo Zagreb in Group F. In other words, yes, we're again locked in against the Bavarian Behemoth, but we've dodged (for now) the threats posed by AS Roma, Wolfsburg, and Borussia Mönchengladbach. While we've earned ourselves a bit of a reprieve from the perennial palpitations over how we'll qualify for the Champions League before deciding whom to sign, we've merely postponed the angst until the actual draw. Now that we know who we'll be facing, it's only a matter of time before we learn of our latest signing.