Well what a week it has been for the Arsenal. Both on and off the field we’ve experienced ups and downs over the past 10 days or so, but it’s ended with a rather satisfying climax, culminating in a sunny Saturday at the Emirates involving Dennis Bergkamp, superb goals and a nice easy win over a game Sunderland team.
But it’s not been all smiles, grins and cheers this week, as I’m sure you know all too well. We finally shrugged off the lingering self-doubt and panic that we suffered during that embarrassing defeat at Anfield by beating Liverpool on their trip down to the capital and knocking them out of the FA Cup just a few days after a lacklustre draw with Manchester United.
A few days later we were left puffing out our cheeks at the end of a turbulent 90 minutes against Bayern Munich. Progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League now looks massively unlikely, which hurts even more given the brilliant start we made to the game. We came very close to achieving the impossible last season, and we find ourselves in almost the exact same position. We have to head to Germany and put the onus on attack.
People were left blaming everything from Mesut Ozil to Olivier Giroud to Global Warming (I may have made that one up, but you get the point) following the defeat. What if Ozil had scored that penalty? What if Wojciech Szczesny had not been sent off? What if we had held on and not conceded that late, and arguably decisive, goal just minutes from time?
What’s done is done, and while it might hurt thinking about how it unravelled, nothing will change and we have to focus on looking ahead to the Allianz Arena when appropriate.
With the press happy to stick the knives in to Arsene Wenger and the crew following the Bayern affair, we seemingly rained on their parade and ended the week on a high with a wonderful day at the weekend.
Were we ever going to lose on the same day as having Bergkamp’s statue unveiled? It was always possible against a Sunderland team that have been in flying form as of late, but we did the business in the first half and we all left happy.
There’s so much to talk about, and I’ve just got started. So here, in brief, are my top five points of the week.
Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the week
1. Take a bow Yaya Sanogo
I start with a man who probably didn’t expect to be talked about as much as he was over this past week. Having been out for pretty much the entire season with injury, Yaya Sanogo started not once but twice, in games of a huge magnitude.
You could have seen him starting against Sunderland, and possibly Liverpool, but I don’t think anyone saw his outing at Bayern Munich coming. But to his credit, he did very well, all things considered. He impressed me and many other Gooners across the universe.
Sanogo put in a shift on both occasions in difficult circumstances. He held up play well, gave defenders (most notably Daniel Agger) a real headache and showed glimpses on why Arsene Wenger has put so much faith in him.
It’s great to have another striking option, and I get the feeling that once he gets his first goal, he could go on a really strong run for us and take some of the load off the shoulders of Olivier Giroud and Lord Nicklas Bendtner.
2. Dennis Bergkamp: Legend
From an up-and-coming prospect to a bonafide Arsenal Hall of Famer. Dennis Bergkamp was simply outstanding on his big day on Saturday, and it’s hard to think of someone more deserving of a statue outside the Emirates than the Dutch master.
Alongside Thierry Henry, my favourite player ever (picking one from the two is like trying to choose your favourite parent) and a man whose class, style and ethos personify what Arsenal Football Club is all about.
For a man whose nickname was based upon him showing little emotion, the Iceman was expressive and wonderful to watch. His statue unveiling drew huge crowds prior to the Sunderland match, and he didn’t disappoint with his display.
At half time, he delivered a captivating speech that kept the entire capacity of the upper and lower tiers from heading to the loo at the break. If the hairs on the back of your neck were not fully erect (among other parts of the anatomy) during his presence then there is something wrong with you. Epitomising class was Dennis Bergkamp.
3. The two sides of Olivier Giroud
Say what you like about his actions off the field, but as Arsenal fans, it’s our job to support Olivier Giroud the footballer when he takes to the pitch to represent our wonderful club.
There is so much about his affair that we do and do not know, and my advice would be to just ignore it. Yes it’s gutting to think that someone from Arsenal would behave like this, but ‘Premier League star cheats on girlfriend/wife’? It’s hardly a story is it?
It’s none of our business, but what is our business is how he conducts himself on the hallowed turf, and that’s the best way for him to show where his head is at.
Having been below par in recent weeks, I think Arsene Wenger got it right starting Sanogo against both Liverpool and Bayern. Giroud has practically played up front by himself for club and country for the past seven months, and that simply has to be taken into consideration given how we’ve competed in multiple competitions against some of the world’s best this year.
He came back against Sunderland and looked fresh. Giroud wasted little time in getting back to scoring ways, and showed his alertness to punish the Black Cats when bagging his second goal.
His general play was very good, and he now has another week to rest, while staying match fit, before we travel to Stoke to face the orcs.
4. One down on to go on the contract front
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, then you’ll know how much of a fan I am of Tomas Rosicky.
There has been some debate about his statistics among fans, but you could use stats to launch a case for Denilson winning the Ballon d’Or. In a weird way, stats can prove anything and nothing all in one go.
In my eyes, Rosicky has been excellent this season. He’s clearly trying to make up for lost time; after all it’s not his fault that he was injured for so long.
His exploits this season were summed up by his goal on Saturday. He got the ball rolling, upped the tempo, showed great energy in proving why he is called the Little Mozart. He started the move, kept the momentum going, and finished it in exquisite fashion. The Arsenal way.
Rosicky is out of contract at the end of this season, but Wenger delivered the brilliant news over the weekend that we may not be seeing the final months of the midfielder’s time in a red and white shirt after all.
“Tomas Rosicky will stay,” Wenger said. “We have an agreement with him and it will come out soon. I am absolutely adamant he has to stay at the club.”
Brilliant news that is richly deserved. Now just for that cheeky, little Bacary Sagna!
We have it back, and that’s the most important thing.
After a blip, we have finally got a win under our belts and the feel-good factor has seemingly returned, thanks to a timely assist from Dennis Bergkamp.
We now have a sequence of “easy fixtures” having faced some of the planet’s elite in recent weeks. I use quote marks because they’re not easy. No games that Arsenal play are ever easy, especially given the nature of the Premier League this season. Beating Manchester City only gets you the same amount of points as beating Stoke, so every game is monumental.
Our run until the end of March looks like this.
MAR 1 – Stoke (A) – EPL
MAR 8 – Everton (H) – FA Cup
MAR 11 – Bayern (A) – UCL
MAR 16 – Tottenham (A) – EPL
MAR 22 – Chelsea (A) – EPL
MAR 29 – Manchester City (H) – EPL
The start of this schedule has been made more difficult given the fact that we now play Everton in the cup on the day we were supposed to host Swansea, so you can add another game to diary at some point in March.
However, the next game at Stoke represents a fixture in which we can continue to build momentum ahead of the do-or-die run of Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City at the end of March.
It’s crunch time for the Arsenal.
That’s it from me this week. Give us a follow on Twitter and let us know your views.
Never forget you’re a Gooner.