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.