24 January 2015

FA Cup 4th Round: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Arsenal had better mind its P's and Q's.

If you thought Man U's draw with Cambridge on Friday was nuts, you hadn't seen anything yet. Saturday brought us some stunning, stunning results. Chelsea, out. Bradford smashed them for four goals to win 2-4 at Stamford Bridge. Not to be outdone, Middlesbrough went into the Etihad and handed Man City their second consecutive loss at home, keeping a clean sheet in an 0-2 win. From there, the results may lose a bit of the drama but only by comparison. Tottenham lost 1-2 Leicester and Southampton lost 2-3 to Crystal Palace. At least Spurs and the Saints can point to their opponents being in the Prem. Cambridge, Bradford, and Middlesbrough haven't had a whiff of first division football in ages. It all augurs well for Arsenal. Then again, could we be the next ones to be out on our arses?

23 January 2015

How to scatter a flock of Seagulls, or how to go one better than Man U...

There's something about us facing clubs whose name starts with B that almost takes our breath away: Birmingham. Blackburn. Bradford. Bayern. Two years ago, we almost added another name to the list when we barely escaped our last visit to face Brighton in circumstances similar to Sunday's clash. FA Cup fourth round. Hovering on the edge of Champions League qualification. Against that backdrop, we were very nearly dumped from the FA Cup by Brighton & Hove. For as much schadenfreude as we might feel in seeing Man U held in its own visit to a lower side on Friday, we have to know that we can't squander a gilded chance to progress in a competition that offers us our best chance at silverware.

Is Koscielny the best defender in the Prem? Vote him in!

Kos. Kozza. Boscielny. We all know him, many of us love him. He wants his own song (I've suggested borrowing from Gogol Bordello's "Start Wearing Purple", in homage to Kos's contributions to saving an accordion factory. He's been vital to our fortunes, whether it's been through bossing people of a certain persuasion or scoring crucial goals late in matches. In the current squad, he is without doubt or best defender. Where, however, does he rank in the Prem? Is he in the top five? ESPN seems to think so, and I don't mind encouraging Gooners to engage in a little ballot-stuffing. First, though, let me make my case for why this is more than shameless hucksterism on behalf of a beloved Gunner...

21 January 2015

Getting Gabriel: £10m and he's ours, work-permit or not...

As we draw nearer and nearer to the potential signing of Villareal's Gabriel Paulista, nagging questions undermine the optimism we're supposed to feel. After all, we've been burned before: Vela. Campbell. Gilberto. Heck, toss in Källström, and it's easy to see how Gooners might look this potential gift-horse in the mouth. After all, Gabriel has fallen far-short of the FA work-permit requirement that stipulates that a player has to have played 75% or more of his country's matches in the last two years—a quick check of the maths reveals that Gabriel has played in 0% of Brazil's matches, just a hair less than required. This raises the prospect of an unsavory appeal. Then again, money talks, and we do have a bit to spend if we're willing to put our money where our mouths are.

20 January 2015

"Welcome" to Arsenal, Gabriel Paulista?

Apparently, a deal is done that would bring Brazlian centre-back Gabriel Paulista from Villareal to Arsenal with an initial free of around £6m and rising to above £10m, while Villareal holod out for an offer that would meet a release-clause of some £15.25m. Spains's Cadena Ser reported the news earlier on Tuesday, but, of course, nothing more official has emerged. For what it's worth, Cadena Ser is Spain's oldest and largest (by audience-share) radio network, and its reputation for reliability seems to fall somewhere between The Sun and The Independent. The story does pass various versions of the smell-test. Relatively unknown player to whom we've not been linked? Check. Technical skills and versatility? Check. Dithering and dickering over transfer-fees? Check. And mate.

19 January 2015

Man of the Match? Arsène. None other than Arsène.

Amidst all of the Coq-stroking and Cazorla canoodling, it seems we've overlooked someone who deserves just a touch of credit for the result on Sunday. Let's revisit that result for a minute, shall we? After all, it was a clean-sheet win at the Etihad, something that Man City haven't experienced since, well, since October 2010 when they lost 0-3...to Arsenal. For as much as we've lauded the performance of Cazorla and Coquelin, among many others, it's well-worth reminding ourselves of the man who conjured this in the first place: Arsène Wenger. Never known for his tactical nous, he showed his critics that he does in fact know how to select a squad and set up tactics that can deliver results, even in difficult situations.

18 January 2015

Coq's out, lads! Francis Coquelin took this one by the scruff!

We haven't seen such a complete, confident, determined, disciplined performance from Arsenal in some time, and to think that at its center—both literally and figuratively—was a man dubbed one of the Bundesliga's "flops of the season" a year ago during his loan-spell with SC Freiburg beggars belief. None of this is to say
that we can now put away the chequebook and blithely entrust our defensive midfield needs to the man, but it was indeed refreshing to see someone on the pitch who could deliver the bite, the tenacity, the snarl, that we've so often lacked. He may not be Vieira's heir, but he laid to rest a number of questions that lingered after similarly confident performances against lesser sides. I hereby suggest that we continue to doubt him rather than laud him.

Man City 0-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings

A 23rd minute penalty for Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal an early lead at the Etihad, and Man City mounted a maniacal second-half assault, which pinned us back for long stretches from which we were lucky to emerge unscathed. Some nervy defending, including a few last-ditch clearances and wasteful shots, kept us clean until Olivier Giroud's glancing header from a Cazorla set-piece made it 0-2 in the 66th minute. Despite some intense pressure throughout that second half, we never caved or crumbled and delivered a stunning performance, winning at the Etihad for the first time since 2010, avenging last season's 6-3 loss and slaying at least one more monkey on the back. Take a minute to savor that and then weigh in in the player-ratings poll below, and name your Man of the Match in the comments-section below. Thanks!

No Touré, No Cry: how Arsenal could escape the Etihad with all three points...

It’s hard to find a more-fitting symbol for our season than City’s recent acquisition of Wilfried Bony, reportedly for a £28m transfer-fee. Already bursting at the seams with scoring options, it hardly seems as if they’d need another scorer. Meanwhile, we continue to inch our way closer and closer to a £2.4m signing of a 17-year old defensive midfielder who may or may not be ready to step into the first team. If there’s any silver lining to this, it’s in the fact that Bony is away at the Africa Cup of Nations and won’t be available on Sunday…