12 April 2014

Who will win at Wembley? "Wigan," says alliteration.

Here we are. Hours from kick-off, and the anticipation is growing. Is it at a fever pitch yet? Little bit, yes. Will we need a performance of top, top quality? We will see. We are all a little bit nervous, I am sure, but I am sure the players will be up for it. There is a little bit speculation about where I will go if we lose, but footballistically, it is not a crystal ball that tells me. I don't know about that, then. You ask if this is our last chance to win a trophy this season? I thank you very much for that question. It's a long time that we didn't answer it. You accuse me of not taking seriously the FA Cup in the past. I have won four times the FA Cup. Who was won it more? Give me one name. Whoat is this? George Ramsey? Okay, I agree a little bit that six is more than four. I believe so is five more than four. My point is this: numbers are useful for enumeration and this is why we must have more goals than Wigan.

11 April 2014

Rare Diaby sighting reported at Colney

The photo is grainy, and there are those who would cast doubt on its veracity, claiming ito be a crudely Photoshopped hoax, but believers swear it to be irrefutable proof that a creature know as Sasquatch, Bigfoot, or perhaps more officially Homo sapiens aboudensis. Though the photo is grainy and out of focus, it purports to capture the languid movements of a player rarely seen in these parts but who is reported to make occasional appearances as the seasons turn. Witnesses to the sighting suggest that the beast stands close to 1.9m and may weigh as many as 80kg. He was said to be moving gingerly but with a grace and languidity that belie the gangly frame.

Scientists have been called in to study the photo as well as the grounds on which the sighting took place near the Arsenal Training Centre in Hertfordshire, England. If confirmed, it is suggested that this entity, this speciemn, might someday soon be seen running box to box on various pitches across England, laying waste to those who dare to oppose. In particular, the residents of Liverpool, Manchester, and various sections of London itself have been advised to take necessary precautions to protect themselves lest they feel the full brunt of his awesome, if rarely displayed, prowess.

It is unclear what has prompted the reappearance of the aboudensis, but scientists speculate that the changing of the season, the closing of the winter transfer-window, and the flagging hopes of the Arsenal faithful have inspired him from his hibernation. His sighting has been likened to a new signing, as true a sign of the arrival of spring as the first robin or tulip in bloom.

Furthermore, it is anyone's guess as to whether this sighting is more like the Groundhog's Day of legend, in which the groundhog emerges from his burrow. If it is cloudy and he cannot see his shadow, he returns, and spring is indeed here. If, however, it is sunny and he sees his own shadow, we are in for another six weeks of winter. With the Prem season itself set to close on 11 May, but with a potential 17 May FA Cup final also hanging in the balance, it was unclear whether or not he did or did not see his shadow. One thing is certain: anxious onlookers will study this and other portents to come.

#Wengerout: Some Gooners want us to lose on Saturday?

Sigh. Yes, it's true. There are some Gooners out there hoping we'll lose to Wigan on Saturday, all the more reason, they believe, to get rid of Arsène Wenger. As this logic apparently has it, failing to win the FA Cup will convince the board once and for all to rid us of a manager who has, in some eyes, become worse than dead weight or convince the dead-weight himself to walk away. As much as I feel the frustration many of them feel, and as much as I understand the tension between short-term and long-term dividends, I'm still not sure I'm smart enough to follow the thread to the same conclusion.

10 April 2014

Rodriguez, Drmić, Rémy: Are these the strikers we need?

With just weeks to go before end of the Prem season, the start of the silly season is just around the corner, and sure enough, the rumors begin. Among our needs are a defensive midfielder (preferably a more-rugged type to lend some grit to our effete aesthetes), a right-back to bridge between the aging (and soon to depart?) Sagna and the callow, one-footed Jenkinson, and, of course, the kind of striker who can challenge if not supplant Giroud. Keeping in mind that there is still a month to go before the season closes, and months beyond that before the transfer-window shuts, the names are starting to bubble up. Among others, Southampton's Jay Rodriguez, Nuremberg's Josip Drmić, and Newcastle's Loïc Rémy have come to the fore, but can any of them offer the quality we're going to need to bolster are chances?

Ian Wright: Wigan "can take the scalp"

Ahead of our FA Cup semifinal clash with Wigan, club legend Ian Wright had a few choice words of wisdom. Winner himself of FA Cups in 1993 and 1998, scorer of 185 goals for Arsenal (second only to Henry), MBE, Wright was voted #4 on the list of Arsenal's 50 Greatest Players. Long story, short, he knows of what he speaks, at least when it comes to Arsenal and the FA Cup. There are some who don't know of his exploits, so it's worth taking a minute to remind, if not remember, what he meant and continues to mean. To me, he's a Gunner and always will be. When he talks, I'm inclined to listen. 

09 April 2014

Santi: I'd "be delighted to come back [to Spain].”

And so it begins. With the club in shambles and its future hanging by a thread, it was all too predictable that the proverbial rats deserting the sinking ship begin. In fact, it's remarkable how long we've had to wait for the other shoe to drop (I like to mix and match metaphors and so on. It's like a smörgåsbord. Maybe a cornucopia). At any rate, Santi Cazorla, speaking to sport360, has suggested that he'd like be delighted to return to Spain in two years' time. The 29-year old, who dazzled in his first season at Arsenal, has fizzled out a bit, looking to be a shadow of the might-mite who turned in 12 goals and 12 assists a season ago. As we look ahead to the FA Cup semifinal, then, his remarks suggest a player already looking to leave Arsenal singing an all-too familiar refrain: we lack ambition.

08 April 2014

Yes, Everton mauled us but also offer a dossier on Wigan...

Still suffering the lingering after-effects of the Everton loss? The news to follow is by turns good and bad, depending largely on your sense of the glass and how well it contains liquids. For those of the half-empty variety, Everton did to us what Wigan will do again. For those of the half-full variety, what Everton did offers a peek into what Wigan will try but can't quite pull off. Yes, Wigan slumped its way out of the Prem last season, getting relegated when we beat them 4-1 last May, but they also are the defending FA Cup Champs, having beaten Man City on a last-minute goal. Whether these results stoke their desire for revenge or boost their confidence is for them to assess. More crucially, they remind us not to saunter on in to the match on Saturday, knowing also that they still play a style similar to although less flashy than Everton. After all, Roberto Martinez was at the Latics helm last season...

07 April 2014

Enough with the Ferguson/Moyes analogy already.

First off, I'm not quite ready to see Arsène leave. I've wavered and staggered, it's true, but I'm still clinging to the notion that he's the best man to lead us forward—not out of loyalty based on what he achieved in the first half of his tenure but out of a notion that he's up to something grander than we've anticipated yet. I've suggested in the past that this squad is overperforming, and maybe that's a fig-leaf to hide behind as the squad, running on fumes, struggles to cross the finish line. It's a squad a year away from legitimate contention. I worry, though, that falling out of the Champions League might derail whatever grand plan Arsène may have in mind, and he'll be drummed out or, quite simply, walk away. As we're peering nervously behind us to see who could knock us out of Champions League play next season, the inevitable comparison to Manchester United, post-Ferguson, springs to mind.

Standing eight-count: Get back up and fight!

I wallowed, like the rest of us. I sank into a pit of despair. I was just about ready to give in and throw it all away, to throw in the towel. We've lost, again, in depressing fashion to a rival planning to overtake us. Instead of boldly going into the enemy's lair and confidently snatching points, we capitulated timorously, taking punch after punch after punch (at times, almost literally if Ross Barkley has anything to say. Blood was spilled. Eventually, a yellow card was shown, but the outcome was never really in doubt: an 0-3 loss that sends us spinning perilously into the ropes. However—however—it's too early to count us out. We've been battered, it's true, but—dammit—we've got to dust ourselves off and come out swinging in the next round. That's all there is to it. Set aside for now who's coming or going once the season ends. We have five Prem fixtures left and a FA Cup semifinal, not to mention the final itself, to fight for. Seven matches, seven rounds. If we're going down, we go down swinging.

06 April 2014

Everton port-mortem: Pascal's Wager

I'm speechless. I don't know if I've ever been as downcast and depressed as I am over a football match as I was over this one. We've had some epic collapses against teams before, but there's something about this one that just feels heavier, more calamitous, than previous ones. We could write off the debacles at Stamford Bridge, Anfield, and the Etihad as one-off freaks of football in which a myriad of other circumstances came together and caved in on us. This one, though, peels back the curtain and suggests that the man behind it really would rather we pay him no attention whatsoever. It's a grim denouement to a season. It may even suggest the end of a career.

Lukaku and Martinez discuss their futures...

     "Hm? Oh. Romelu. How are you?
     "Fine, boss. Thank you. It's just, I—nevermind." Lukaku shifted nervously.
     "Romelu, you can talk to me. Are you nervous about Sunday? I know it's a big match. A lot on the line, that's for sure."
     "I—well, yes, sir. But there's more."
     "Don't worry, Romelu. I'm sure you will do just fine." Martínez looked stern but confident as he looked to assuage his striker's fears.
     "I hope so, but..."
     "Romelu. You will do fine. You have scored against Arsenal before. You have made us proud. Without you, we struggle, but there is no pressure for you. The pressure is on them, for no one expects us to overtake them."
     "Mr. Martínez, sir, this is not my concern. I feel—I feel this match is almost...an audition."