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.

What other club would weather the storm that Arsenal has had to endure? We've been shorn of Ramsey, Walcott, and Wilshere for long, long stretches; add to that the absences of Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Rosický, among others, and you add to that the fresh injury to Coquelin, just 13 minutes into the match? What other result would you expect? Sure, various Mancunians can point to injuries to Kompany and Silva, or Rooney and Martial, as evidence that the injury-bug bites us all in equal measure, and they might have a point. However, whereas those two clubs have had to strut and fret and worry about two or three players, Arsenal have been denied the services of a half-dozen or more. And yet, here we are, still in the thick of things.

Two of our three Prem losses have come through the unholy combination of injuries and bookings--the previous one coming, of course, at Stamford Bridge when we saw not one but two players sent off. As with this more-recent loss, there was some generous (read: cowardly) refereeing at stake. At Stamford Bridge, as at the Hawthorns, we conceded first through a penalty that should have, by precedents, been waved on. In each case, Chelsea and West Brom scored goals from set-pieces that were awarded under very favorable calls to the home side. We all know Mike Dean and what he's good for. I expected a bit more from Mark Clattenburg (should Clattenburg have called for a retake for encroachment on Cazorla's penalty slip? Even if technically correct, that would have been brave of him indeed...).

Still, I feel pretty damned good about where things stand for us. Our only setbacks in the Prem have come from bad luck (including injury, bad refereeing, or a matter of inches). In previous seasons, we might have come undone. In fact, that's the script that's already being written. Without Ramsey, Walcott, or Coquelin, we're done. We have no cover in the defensive midfield, and we'll have to rely on a rotation in which Cazorla of all people counts as the young-ish one. If Özil can't find ways to bounce the ball off of unwitting teammates into the back of the net, who will? If Alexis can't generate his own shots, what is he good for? It seems we're done for, once again, undone by Arsène's dithering in the summer transfer-window. If only we had bought Schneiderlin. If only we had bought Benzema.

I don't buy it for a blinkin' second. It seems at times as if the universe is aligned against us. If that's the case, and the best that the universe can manage is a 2-1 victory in these circumstances, I'm feeling pretty damned good. Better than that. I'm feeling like we can batter this universe into submission. If not the universe, at least the Prem.