18 October 2014

Arsenal are living on borrowed time after that execrable excuse

I'm too tired to be as angry as I supposed I should be. The match against Hull was supposed to provide us an opportunity to start building momentum, to start salting away points and climb the table. Instead, we barely escaped by the skin of our collective teeth thanks to a magical, magnificent effort from one player. We nicked a point. At home. Against Hull. In stoppage-time. The concerns and attendant excuses are growing too numerous too, er, enumarate, and it makes little sense to miss the forest for the trees. Aside from a ten-minute stretch against Aston Villa and a longer stretch against Galatasaray, we're looking feeble and toothless.

Gunners 2-2 Tigers: I'd call this a highlight-video, but...ugh

Well, at least we didn't lose. That's hardly a rallying-cry, but maybe it'll be the standard we set for ourselves. Less disappointment or frustration that way. Were it not for stoppage time, well, we would have lost this one. As it stands, a bit of wizardry from Alexis saved our hash when he dribbled through about half of Hull's defense before laying off for Welbeck to slot it home in the 1st minute of extra time, our fifth stoppage-time goal of the season. Last gasps, indeed—or are these death-throes? 

Has Arsène scuttled Wilshere's deep-lying development?

After two weeks pondering Jack Wilshere make mincemeat of San Marino and Estonia, it was starting to look, sound, and feel like we might start to see more of Wilshere in a similar role with Arsenal. With the continued absence of Ramsey, the nagging injuries (and inexorable ageing of Arteta), and the relative softness of the next half-dozen fixtures, I was starting to think that Arsène might play Wilshere in a deeper-lying role, maybe even—theatrical gasp—returning to a 4-2-3-1 with Cazorla as the central midfielder. However, speaking at the official Arsenal site, Arsène seems to have scuppered the notion before it can even take hold, at least with the club. However, there's reason to hope that this opens the door for other options to unfold...

17 October 2014

Theo and Gnabry, back in action, terrorizing Blackburn

It's not quite the triumpant return some may have hoped for, but Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry each featured in the u21 squad's match against Blackburn. Theo played the first half before being subbed for Alex Iwobi while Gnabry stayed on until about the 60th minute when Zelalem came on. It seems that each did well and showed few signs of rust or lasting damage. While you may be disappointed to learn that neither man scored, keep in mind that this is somewhat beside the point. They were not playing with the u21s to help that squad win, first and foremost; they were getting some time on the pitch. If they had chipped in a goal or an assist, splended. Again, that's not the point. Getting them ready for first-team action is the point. By that standard, it seemed like a successful outing.

Matchday Preview: Cazorla will hit Hull hard

With the AGM behind us and few revelations on offer, we can at last turn our attention to actual footballing. We emerged from the interlull largely unscathed, with Özil having picked up his injury against Chelsea, Koscielny irritating his pre-existent tendinitis, and only Rosický as a fresh injury worry. We're tantalizing close to having Walcott and Gnabry back, and after them Ramsey, but it's still too early to get to see any of them against Hull. As we look ahead to the match on Saturday, I'm looking to Santi Cazorla to turn a corner on a strong start that has flirted with but not yet consummated the brilliance that endeared him to us in the first place.

16 October 2014

One question that won't get asked at the Annual General Meeting

Here we go, right as the we're about to return to some proper footballing action: the Annual General Meeting. It's sure to provide a fair amount of sturm und drang with pointed questions put to Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis, Arsène and others who hold the purse-strings of a club so many of us love so dearly. Given the power that these and other men hold over the present and future of Arsenal, we have a right to know what's been going on and what plans they have for what should happen in the future. However, given what's gone on in the last decade, what with our own trophy-drought, slaked if only temporary by the FA Cup win, and with goings-on elsewhere, I have one question that I wish would get asked. It won't result in any shocking revelations about transfer-fees, cash reserves, or ticket-prices. Worse, it's a hypothetical question.

15 October 2014

Özil AWOL as awful Germans owned by Ireland!!

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany—Once again, the mighty German national team struggled to see off an inferior opponent as Ireland found a stunning stoppage-time equaliser to deny the World Cup champions a vital three points in the Euro 2016 qualifier, leaving Die Mannschaft adrift in Group D. More importantly, the result leaves manager Joachim Löw with pressing, urgent questions around a squad that has scored only three goals in three matches. Chief among these questions: just why has Özil disappeared? Where it was a part of his repertoire, "ghosting" so as to lull opposing defenders into forgetting where he is, the enigmatic Özil has apparently literally disappeared.

14 October 2014

Where's the silver lining in Özil's injury? Take your pick...

At first blush, Özil's injury sounded like it would be just the kind of thing a high-profile player run ragged by club commitments would need—two weeks of solid rest, perhaps extended another week or two in order to rejuvenutate tired legs and weary spirit. When the DFB announced that Özil would be ruled out of action for 10-12 weeks, we at Arsenal naturally cursed our lot in life and vented various levels of fury at Wenger for not bringing Cescy back or otherwise deepening, if not strengthening, the squad. However, whether Wenger had planned to persist in playing Özil wide or returning him to a more-central position (on paper, at least), we do have a plethora of options at our disposal and a softer string of fixtures coming up in which to deploy them.

Thierry Henry, Mesut Özil, and the "La Liga" effect

The interlull is very nearly gone, and with it, any fears of fresh injuries to our precious, precious players. Germany face Ireland on Tuesday, but Özil came into the lull pre-injured as it were, and Per has retired from international duty. Oh, and Podolski. Well, maybe he'll get some time on the pitch. Poland face Scotland, but there's a bigger risk of Szcz seeing red than being felled, to be honest. From that, it seems like smooth sailing—almost too smooth if rumours around Welbeck not being injured, Giroud returning to fitness earlier than expected, and Walcott and Gnabry training with the first team are to be believed. Still, despite the bounty of good news, lingering in the back of my mind is Özil's apparent diffidence and ineffectual performance up until the interlull arrived. Set aside the 4-1-4-1, 'why's he playing wide?' whingeing. Don't blame Wenger or Özil; blame La Liga.

12 October 2014

Wilshere and Rooney debate the Three Lions' performance

TALINN, Estonia—It was a tense but relieved dressing room after England had finally found a way to break down and defeat a determined Estonia side to make it three wins in as many tries to stay atop Group E. Despite England's clear superiority on paper, it took a 73rd minute free-kick from captain Wayne Rooney to secure the three points. As the lads prepared for the flight home, the grizzled veteran basked in a victory he had done so much to earn. Sure, some might ask, with England still nearly two years away from competing in Euro 2016 and the 2016 Olympics and four years away from the next World Cup, why is a 28-year old still captaining a squad so full of younger, hungrier talents? There would be time to ponder such questions later. At the moment, it is time to bask in the win. Just as that thought eased Rooney's mind, one of the younger upstarts made his way over: Wilshere.