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?