09 January 2016

Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Arsenal booked passaged in the FA Cup's fourth round proper by seeing off a surprisingly spirited Sunderland 3-1, but it was nervy in the early going. The Black Cats looked more lively and opened the scoring after a gaffe from Gibbs left Koscielny with nothing to do, and Lens pounced on it. It didn't take long for us to respond, with Ox picking out Walcott on the wing, who dribbled to the endline before cutting a cross back against the grain. Joel Campbell sliced in and perfectly half-volleyed it in. There it stood, and it looked more and more like we'd end in a draw, forcing a replay. However, Ramsey and Arteta came on for the impressive Iwobi and less-convincing Chambers, and Ramsey had an immediate impact, doing his level best to imitate Campbell's finish. This seemed to let the air out of Allardyce's boys, and Giroud flattened them with another goal to make it 3-1. Lovely result. Let's get down to the poll!

08 January 2016

When a Black Cat crosses your path, take the Ox by the horns...

The FA Cup's third round proper brings us a Goldilocks story, in a way: Sunderland are not too big, not too small. They're juuussst right. Yes, they're in the Prem—but barely. We know them in a way that we wouldn't know, say Exeter or Scunthorpe. We won't underestimate them as we've done other squads from lower divisions. At the other end of things, they're not quite Tottenham or Liverpool, a squad that can (in theory, at least) match us blow for blow. This draw falls somewhere between 2014's against newly promoted Hull City and 2015's against perennial rival Tottenham. In any case, we have a third straight FA Cup to win, and Sunderland is the first club that stands in our way.

06 January 2016

How do you solve a problem like Oxlade-Chamberlain?

 On one hand, he's perfectly capable in one moment of a jaw-dropping goal such as the one against AS Monaco in last February's first-leg debacle, On othe other, he's just as capable of a head-slapping cock-up such as the one against AS Monaco in last February's first-leg debacle. For the first, he revived hope that we could still salvage a point or at least a manageable goal difference going into the second leg. For the second, he dashed those hopes. In so doing, has he dashed his own? Gone, by and large, is the swash-buckling swerver who could outrun or overpower most anyone. In his place is a forlorn, feckless footballer. In this his fifth year at Arsenal, there are already calls growing in volume if not veracity that he's done and we'd best part ways with him. Hold the phone.

03 January 2016

Is this Theo's last chance to prove his worth?

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty, not this...this monstrosity. Okay, so “monstrosity” puts it a bit strong, but the idea still lurks. The signing of Mesut Özil was supposed to unleash Theo Walcott’s inner beast, releasing his inner Henry, as Theo and Özil linked up, Özil’s beautifully-weighted passes finding the space in behind a defense where only Walcott would get to it—it might have ever risen to the level of Bergkamp to Henry, but it should have come closer to that than it has. Three seasons after his arrival, however, Özil seems to link up far-better with Alexis or Giroud, and the Özil-Walcott partnership seems almost nonexistent. With the aforementioned trio firmly ensconced as a foundation to our attack, the second half of this season might represent Walcott’s last chance to prove his worth.

These are the results that champions deliver. Period.

For long stretches, it looked as if Arsenal would stumble. At home against an embattled and overmatched squad, our Gunners should have cakewalked their way to an easy victory. Instead, we witnessed a gritty, grubby performance as Newcastle hunkered down in a stubborn 4-5-1 and dared us to unlock them. Their occasional counters proved to be more dangerous than most of what we could muster, and the excellence of Petr Čech should surely earn him a MotM award. However, for as much as we might have craved a swash-buckling display, it's closer to the truth to expect days like these, when a desperate opponent reminds us that anything can happen. To have found a positive result on this day proves more than any lopsided result that we're serious about winning the Prem.