06 February 2016

Open letter to Benik Afobe: do be gentle...

Dearest Benik (and I mean that sincerely, post-dated to before your move to Wolverhampton)—
I do apologise sincerely and earnestly for the rough treatment you received upon your departure. After all, you'd been with Arsenal since you were just six years old. Six. Six. There are some who are still wearing training pants that are altogether different from what we normally discuss at that age. You've done some growing up since you left, and you've announced your return to the Prem in fine fashion—your form stands in stark contrast against our own, what with you scoring three goals in four appearances while none of your erstwhile teammates has scored for three full matches and then some. In other words, to some extent, we hope that you remember your time at Arsenal fondly enough to tread lightly upon your return. We may very well depend on your good graces...

Arsenal arrive to pop a few Cherries—a tactical breakdown...

This would be comedic if it weren't so tragic. Maybe it's just ironic. Just as we've finally started to reassemble a full-strength squad, surviving—or so it seemed—an injury-crisis to dwarf all injury-crises, we've stumbled to four consecutive depressing results. A last-second equaliser at Anfield. a stubborn foe at the Brit. Another red-card assisted win for Chelsea. A blinder turned in by Southampton's keeper. Add them all together, and we've now dropped nine points from our last four outings. If we can't get back to winning ways, well, we can write off any chance of winning the Prem.

05 February 2016

Will Arsenal have to struggle for another fourth place finish?

Ugh, I could barely drag myself to the keyboard to type this out. I said a prayer or two, but each time, Fraser Forster popped up out of nowhere to paw it away. So it goes. Arsenal have now slipped to fourth. Worse, Tottenham have risen to second. Even worse, everyone in the race won their midweek fixtures...except Arsenal. An all-too-familiar sensation is sinking in, as Gooners suffering various degrees of PTSD from previous seasons relive the perennial struggle to stay in the top four— a sensation exacerbated all the more by a feeling of what could have or should have been. There's still time to convert those conditional perfects into a future-perfect...but time's running out. Let's get to the actual rundown, shall we?

02 February 2016

Slip slidin' away...or a set-up for a second-half surge?

Liverpool got lucky with a late equaliser at Anfield. It's impossible to win at the Brit. Chelsea were gifted another man-advantage win. We made nine changes to face Burnley. Forster played an absolute blinder. For each dispiriting result, there's an individual excuse, some isolated reason why Arsenal could not find more points. However, we're mired in the muck of a majestic morass at the moment, and no amount of finger-pointing at Lee Mason is going to change that. This misfiring squad has shot itself in the foot too many times in recent weeks. That, however, sets the stage for a stunning surge the likes of which we haven't seen in several seasons.

Arsenal 0-0 Southampton: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Arsenal dominated proceedings for most if not the entire match on Tuesday but could not break down a stubborn Saints defense or put anything past Fraser Forster, a fine keeper who always seem to save some of his best performances for Arsenal. Despite having Alexis back for his first Prem match since November and being about as close to full-strength as we've been a similar time, the best stat we could produce was 67% possession. A result like this one is particularly frustrating, marking as it does a fourth consecutive Prem match in which we dropped points. For those inclined to over-react, we'll drop below Tottenham after their win at Norwich. We do have to find a way to fight through the longer-term doldrums that we're in, though. More on that later. For now, get down to the poll and rate the lads' efforts...

Tactical Preview: Arsenal v. Southampton

After three disappointing Prem results, we finally got back to winning ways in an FA Cup win over Burnley. Offering a nifty study in parallel universes, Southampton have bounced back from an FA Cup loss with three impressive Prem results. Something's got to give. Here's hoping it's the Saints' little win streak (each of them a clean sheet, by the way). After dropping seven points from our last three matches, we have to get back to winning ways in the Prem. Leicester host Liverpool while Man City visit Sunderland. There may not be quite enough to see us climb top of the table, but we'll have to at least keep pace...

For those who ever doubted that Tomáš Rosický is an Arsenal legend...

Picture the scene: we're up 2-1, clinging tenuously to a lead against Burnley with twenty minutes to play. Arsène makes his customary substitutions, sending on Arteta, Rosický, and Walcott for Coquelin, Iwobi, and Alexis—some cagey veterans to see out a tetchy match. However, tragedy struck almost as soon as Rosický came on; according to Arsène, it was just minutes after Rosický came on that the Little Mozart, who had waited all season to play after signing a new contract last spring, suffered an injury that might see the sun set on his Arsenal career. It's how Rosický responded to what must have been a heartbreaking twinge.

31 January 2016

So we've drawn Hull for the FA Cup fifth round, eh? Long may we be their Bayern...

Well, well, well. So we meet again. "Hello darkness, my old friend" and all that. The FA Cup's fifth round draw pits us once again against Hull City, they of the 0-2 up to 3-2 down in the 2014 final and the somewhat meeker 2-0 loss in the 2014-15 fourth round. At this rate, they'll be talking about us the way we talk about Bayern—if they aren't already. It's now three consecutive seasons in which we've faced off in the FA Cup, and, without making too much of it, the previous two have ended in glorious fashion for us. To face Hull in the fifth round hardly anoints Arsenal in any serious fashion, but it does augur well, I'll say that.