29 March 2014

Arsenal 1-1 Man City: Video of a valuable point taken

A lucky bounce off the woodwork gave David Silva the go-ahead goal, but Arsenal pulled one back through a nifty sequence that ended with Flamini putting it home, atoning for his unfortunate own-goal midweek against Swansea. Chelsea's earlier loss to Crystal Palace offered a vital opening to Man City to pull ahead in the Prem race, but Arsenal, who looked to be the better of the two for long stretches, dominated the second half and even had chances to seize all three points (for best resolution, consider not going full-screen. I'm still playing around with settings and options).

It won't be enough to change our prospects in the Prem title-chase, and it leaves us still wary of Everton's tilt at fourth place, but the confidence and intensity that we showed are a positive sign that we are still hungry and looking to make up for lost time, especially important as we make a trip to Goodison Park next weekend in a match that could very well seal up that fourth-place spot and launch us closer to vying for third and an outright qualification for next year's Champions League. 

Fly on the Wall: Samir tries to get Man City pumped

THE EMIRATES, 28 March 2014—The atmosphere in the locker room was tense. Players paced nervously, chewing a nail or trying to drown their thoughts in oversized headphones. Samir, like a divining rod, sensed that his teammates needed something. But what? Water? No. Many of them, it appeared, already had water bottles at their feet. Massages? No, there was not time enough for this, and Pellegrini had mentioned that some of the players felt uncomfortable. There was something in the air, but what? Samir scrunched up his face and thought. Of course! He snapped his fingers, yanked a chair to the center of the room, and stepped up on it. "My players! My team!"

28 March 2014

With Silva suffering, the pressure grows on Na$ri

A report in The Guardian suggests that David Silva, Man City's midfield maestro, picked up an unspecified injury during their midweek match with Man U. With Sergio Agüero also out, Man City will be looking to others to create chances and drive the offense, and they can probably ill-afford to rest Silva. However, considering their position and future-fixtures, a rest may be necessary. With two games in hand over Chelsea, and with a tough trip to Anfield looming, I wouldn't be surprised to see Silva sit. If he does, this just might thrust an old Gooner favorite—Samir Nasri—front and center, if not on the pitch then in the spotlight. Whether he can bear up under the pressure of filling Silva's boots is one thing; to do so under the reception he'll likely get at the Emirates is another question entirely.

27 March 2014

A recipe for turning the Man City tide...

Look, I get it. The last thing we need right now is a visit from putative league-leaders Man City. Yes, Chelsea is top of the table, but Man City have two games in hand and could theoretically climb three points above them once they've played the same number of matches. So be it. We, of course, have problems of our own. The shocker at Stamford Bridge. The stumble against Swansea. Would that we could play someone truly woeful, like Fulham, in order to have a chance to run rough-shod over someone else for a chance. It's easy to feel sorry for oneself at times like this, so sorry, I'd wager, that a fair few of you mutter to yourselves, "and we'd probably find a way to fail against Fulham anyway." I understand. After all, I felt the same way, and I'm the guy doing the typing. Stick with me here and I promise I won't unveil a little reverse psychology ahead of Saturday's clash.

26 March 2014

I guess we're all Mugsmashers now...

Well, if anyone still clung to hope that we might still climb a bit higher in the Prem, Liverpool's win over Sunderland all but seals the deal. Having played the same number of matches as Chelsea and Liverpool, we're six and five points behind them, respectively, but they might each be playing for second place, as the inside track looks to belong to Man City, who are three points ahead of us, and they have two games in hand. This would give them enough to establish a three-point lead over Chelsea, a four-point lead over Liverpool, and a nine-point lead over us. In short, the writing's on the wall, and it's telling us that 4th place is our target. That, and the FA Cup. What's left, then? Well, if we're not going to win the Prem, someone has to. Might as well be Liverpool, if only by default. Did I ever mention that I'm a spiteful, bitter man? Well, I am. I can't stand the thought of Chelsea or Man City winning it, and I'll be rooting against them with all my heart. If this means I end up rooting for Liverpool, well, so be it.

Everton in the rearview

Call it the devil's arithmetic. We now have to keep more than one anxious eye on those behind us, as those ahead of us look to be pulling away. Our own fade, which has seen us fail to win consecutive matches since beating Fulham and then Coventry in January, means that a once-possible tilt at the top of the table is now improbably, if not outright impossible, and we now have to focus on winning, not to keep up with Liverpool but to stay ahead of Everton. If we fall out of the top four but win the FA Cup, we will on one hand end the infamous trophy-drought—but miss out on the prestige of competing in the Champions League. On the other hand, if we secure a top-four finish but fail to win the FA Cup, the trophyless monkey on our backs sprouts a second head and starts dry-humping. It's not an either/or proposition, of course, as we could very easily finish 4th or higher and win the FA Cup—but we could also stumble to 5th and lose the FA Cup. Shockingly, there are some calling for precisely that as it will, in their minds, rid us once and for all of the hopelessly inept manager they've been forced to endure.

25 March 2014

After the Swansea setback, wrestling with despair...

What. the. hell. You know I'm down when I resort to that crappy one. word. sentence. approach. Of all the half-hearted, slapdash efforts, this was one we could ill-afford. So much for a response after the embarrassment at Stamford Bridge. We may have come away with a point; we may have scored two goals; we may have been victims of bad luck—but it's hard to say we deserve the point we salvaged, not when we looked toothless and inept and even disinterested for long stretches save the 60 seconds that saw us score two goals to take the lead. I don't even care how the dropped points slam shut the door, once and for all, on our hopes of a Prem title. That ship sailed (before slamming the door, presumably. Maybe it was the same gust of wind.) on Satruday. The dropped points are window-dressing. I'm worried that the season itself is unraveling. Worse, we're the ones pulling the thread.

Look away if you get queasy: Arsenal 2-2 Swansea highlights

Sixty seconds of glorious footballing saw goals from Podolski (assist from Gibbs) and Giroud (assist from Podolski), but this just wasn't enough to see off the Swans, who claimed a point when a Flamini own-goal in the last minute of regulation evened the score. Four minutes of stoppage-time didn't leave enough for the Gunners to find a last-gasp goal, and the dropped points all but end any last hopes of clawing back to the top of the Prem. So it goes. It's the third time we've followed a drubbing with a draw; here's hoping that the pattern holds for the second match after, which has been a win each time.
Whether it was the lingering effects of the Chelsea match, or perhaps a jaded look past Swansea to Man City on Saturday or further ahead to the FA Cup semifinal, we just didn't have it today. Pity.

Sorry, Swansea, but your timing couldn't be worse.

Well, the dust has settled from thecarnage of Saturday’s Stampede at Stamford Bridge. Thank god that there’s another match waiting, if only to get us Gooners off of each other's case as we bicker and squabble over whose fault it was, who's a real fan, and just how much longer we'll endure/enjoy Arsène as our manager. The loss to Chelsea may have split certain fissures wider apart than ever, but it also laid to rest one dream: barring major collapses from Chelsea and Man City, we won't be winning the Prem this year. We can and must, however, solidify our position in the top four with a win on Tuesday. For some, that won't be enough despite it being an improvement on last year's skin-of-our-teeth fourth-place finish. Still, all is not yet lost. 

24 March 2014

Gibbs and Ox both available to face Swansea after successful appeal

Good news from the FA as it ruled that Gibbs was dismissed through mistaken identity, and Ox will not serve any suspension at all. To wit, from the FA's website and official announcement:
The Commission ruled that the dismissal of Kieran Gibbs was a case of mistaken identity and transferred this to his team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Subsequent to deciding this matter, the Commission then considered Arsenal’s claim for wrongful dismissal in relation to Oxlade-Chamberlain. This claim was upheld meaning Oxlade-Chamberlain will not serve any suspension with the standard punishment withdrawn with immediate effect.
Good news all around, obviously. Via twitter:
The wrongful dismissal came after Oxlade-Chamberlain deflected a shot with his hand, but because the shot was not clearly going in, apparently, Ox will not serve the one-match ban that might have otherwise followed.

Arteta: we 'take it on the chin'

Today, Monday, vice-captain Mikel Arteta broke the players' post-match silence by speaking at length at the official team website to reveal how he and others felt in the aftermath of what is arguably the team's worst loss under manager Arsène Wenger's tenure. It came, after all, in Arsène's 1,000th match against a hated rival in a heated title-race but was all but over 15 minutes in when a red card left us down a man and facing a 3-0 margin. The rest, as they say, is history, and the sooner we set it aside, the happier I'll be. Arteta, presumably speaking with permission or encouragement and on behalf of the rest of the players, shared his thoughts.

23 March 2014

A wrinkle in time takes us back to August 2013...

It was a grim time. To date, we hadn't signed anyone of note, save Flamini and Sanogo. Through our fingers had slipped Higuain, Jovetic, Gustavo, Suarez, and countless other names linked to a summer-move. We clung at least to the fact that no one of note had left; in fact, for the first time in recent memory, the club had succeeded in jettisoning players who had contributed little, if anything, save for glimmers here and there. Squillaci. Arshavin. Chamakh. Santos. Gervinho. Mannone. Djourou. Some of them left as fond memories; others, as regrettable blips on the radar screen. In any case, they were gone, and this felt like addition by subtraction. With their wages and roster-spots freed up, we were that much closer to making signings. However, the transfer window was set to close, and it didn't seem as if we were any closer to conducting any major business. Then, of course, came the opening day embarrassment, a 1-3 loss. At home. To Aston Villa. Did any of us then predict we'd be were we are now?

Arsène took the blame, but I can't let him take the fall...

...not when I know the true culprit all too well. It's not Marriner, much as we might want to blame him for sending off the wrong player. After all, we were down to ten men whether it was Ox or Gibbs who was sent off. It wasn't Giroud for mis-hitting that shot four minutes in, Per for playing Eto'o on side
for the first goal, Kos for failing to close on Schurrle, Ox for handling the ball... it was none of them. Not even Mourinho. So, for as humbling—humiliating, even—as it was and is for Arsène to take the blame, this is too much a burden for any man to bear, deserving though he may be. No, I cannot let this fall on his slender shoulders, not when it is I, I and my accursed jersey, that should take the blame.

It was once a good luck charm but has now become my own personal hairshirt, and I shall never again wear it on a match-day 'til it be purged through the winning of silverware.

Do you really want to watch? Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal [Video].

Watch at your peril, for the video contains shocking, disturbing images of Chelsea scoring again and again, almost at will and frequently with the unwitting assistance or deference of any number of Gunners. It might best for you to just move along. Those of will the stomach can click below to watch.