10 January 2015

Tale of the Tactical Tape: Bojan vs. Alexis

Sunday brings us one the of the Prem's sharpest contrasts in style, with Arsenal offering flittery, ballerina-esque, elvish dancers who can dance with the ball as if their shoelaces are interlaced with the ball's stitches and seams, and with Stoke lumbering about with Cro-Magnon men hoofing it forward to Golem-like, moai-esque attackers, hoping that the ball will somehow find its way to the back of the net. It worked well enough in early December when Stoke pummeled Arsenal into oblivion, scoring three times in the first 45 minutes, and a shell-shocked Arsenal very nearly crumbled to dust. As both sides prepare for Sunday's clash, then, it's only natural to assume that we'll see a similar clash between Elves and Orcs. It's the script each side has been handed, isn't it? And yet...

08 January 2015

Bender? Bender? £20m for Lars Bender?

     "Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Bender pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

     "Thank you, Simone."

More seriously, now that the fixtures have settled down just a bit, we can peer through the dust and the wreckage and figure out just what's next. Yes, we have a few more fixtures to plow through, including the addition of an FA Cup fifth round tie against Brighton and Hove, but we've at least got breathing space enough to consider just where Arsène might splash a bit of cash. One name that hasn't quite been on everyone's tongues for a whiles is that of Lars Bender. At a risk of invoking Wenger's Law, he might be worth a quick kick of the tires.

05 January 2015

Live: Smokin' Szczęsny and the Seagulls!

In case you hadn't heard, Wojciech was do distraught after his howlers against Southampton that he was later caught smoking the shower and was fined £20 with rumours of him never playing for Arsenal again. Throw in clean sheet from Ospina in the FA Cup match against Hull, and we have ourselves a juicy l'il tidbit dressed up as news. Adding further fuel to the fire, we draw Brighton and Hove Albion because apparently defending champions have to play against two squads at a time1, and now we're remembering how Szczęsny nearly cost us that one, which reminds us of how he did cost us against Birmingham and against Blackburn, and we're starting to feel a bit more credulous and even relieved. By all means, drop him. He's made his last bone-headed mistake, after all.

So we can have our cake and eat it too...

In a sadistic scheduling that seemed to draw out the drama and the dread of our third-round clash with Hull, we had to wait until most of our chief rivals had already completed their own fixtures. Should any of them crash out, we might be left feeling as if our defense of the title was a bit empty; should Chelsea or Man City or others bow out, it might further diminish the status of the Cup and leave us wondering just why we're trying to so hard. However, Chelsea, Man City, Man U, and Southampton found their way through to the fourth round proper, leaving us to wonder and worry whether we'd join them. It was a rematch drawn up by a Hollywood hack: the cup-holders against their ousted opponents, barely seven months ago. Could Hull go one better than their early 0-2 lead in last season's final and avenge their capitulation?

04 January 2015

Arsenal 2-0 Hull: No repeat of last season's histrionics [VIDEO]

Per Mertesacker nodded home from an Alexis corner to seize a lead in the 20th minute, and Alexis himself added a second to put the game to bed but not until the 80th minute. It was a comfortable win absent any of the drama of last season's final when Hull raced out to an early 2-0 lead of their own only to succumb. This time through, Steve Bruce's men fought hard but rarely if ever threatened, and we've secured passage to the fourth round. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a decent clean-sheeted win that should soothe some unsettled nerves if not lay to rest any pertinent questions...

The FA Cup: Destiny or Distraction?

The third round of the FA Cup kicks off on Sunday, and we've got a reunion on our hands, but the that larger question that looms is just how to make of this match. The symbolism is strong; after all, it was a 3-2 win over Hull back in May that brought a welcome end to our long trophy drought. There was a time when winning the FA Cup meant almost as much as winning the Prem, but those days, like Fergie, are long-gone. Without casting further aspersions on the FA Cup, we at Arsenal do have to ask ourselves just what we're going on about. Will we be content to win this bit of silverware but settle for the annual fight for fourth place? The way things are going so far, this year's answer might have to be none other than a qualified 'yes'.