Hello and welcome back to my Gunners Town blog. Don’t adjust the date on your phones, it is a Thursday, and it is the work of me (Matt Cotton) appearing before your very eyes. You see, I’m kind of the Mathieu Flamini of the Gunners Town team; not particularly attractive, but willing to fill in wherever when one of our elite talents goes down injured.
Anyway, while it may seem like I’ve been away for a while, the truth is I haven’t. Every blog that hits the site goes through me beforehand, so really, I’m here every day, just not necessarily exhibiting my own work.
Anyway, enough waffle, and back to the important stuff; The Arsenal.
It’s not been the greatest last month or so it has to be said. It’s been a period that has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good: Through to the FA Cup quarter-finals, statues for Dennis Bergkamp and Ken Friar, the contract extensions of Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky
The Bad: The 5-1 drubbing at Anfield, the situation we find ourselves in against Bayern Munich
The Ugly: Charlie Adam, and the rest of the Stoke City outfit that beat us last weekend
One thing with Arsenal is that, whether it’s good or bad, it’s certainly never dull at the club.
I can’t cram everything in as there is simply too much to talk about and a lot has already been discussed and killed this week. So on that thought, here are my talking points of the past 10 days or so.
Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the week
1. No ifs, no buts: Arsenal not good enough
If you’re an Arsenal fan (which let’s face it, you most likely are if you’re reading this), then there haven’t been many more depressing places to visit than Stoke over the course of the past few years. Since they won promotion to the Premier League 2008, Stoke have become the ‘new Bolton’ for Arsenal, in terms of representing a bogey team.
In fact, Arsene Wenger has seen his side come away from the Britannia with a win on just one occasion, and that day saw us lose Aaron Ramsey (yes that villain…) to a horrific broken leg. It’s not been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners, and Saturday proved no difference.
I didn’t travel, but did cover it for my employer, and it’s just as well I got paid for it, because that was 90+ minutes of my life that I won’t get back. Quite simply, Arsenal were shocking.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Stoke were the better side by a clear distance. Supporters of either could have no complaints or feel hard done by should that game have ended all square. But quite frankly, Arsenal dangled a victory in front of the home team, and they snatched it.
The game had that sort of feel that you could only envisage a goal occurring in the form of a penalty, and when Arsenal have Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the defence, that’s always a possibility. I love Koz as much as the next Gooner and I’m not bashing him, but that’s now the sixth penalty he has given away since moving to North London – more than any other in the league during that time period.
We still had chances, most notably through Yaya Sanogo, but you just felt that it was not going to be our day, and my word was it depressing. On the positive side of things, we haven’t had too many of those this season, but we simply have to put this defeat behind us.
Yes the penalty was harsh, yes the referee didn’t do us any favours, but we simply can’t have any excuses, we were awful.
Now it’s time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get ready for the rest of a truly testing March.
2. Stoke and Adam a disgrace as FA finally pipe up
It’s been a long time coming, but thank god that the FA have finally done something about Charlie Adam. I’m not one of these Gooners that overreacts when our club get a little bit ‘roughed up’ by a physical team. It’s part and parcel of the game.
However, what I am against is a potentially career-ending ‘challenge’, and quite frankly, Adam has been guilty of a number of those in the past. Yes he has a wicked left foot and can at times be a very effective footballer, but I simply have no respect for the man for the way he handles himself in a tackle.
The notion of ‘letting them know you’re there’ is one thing, and something that we have all either watched or experienced from both sides of the argument, but Adam is just bang out of order.
Tottenham fans know all too well what many Arsenal supporters witnessed at the weekend, with Gareth Bale previously proving to be a “target” for the Stoke man. On Saturday, it was Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman, amazingly, was penalised for several incidents in which he took a mullering, but it’s a relief to see that Adam’s disgusting stamp has forced the FA into action.
Unbelievably, Stoke had the audacity to not only appeal the charge of violent conduct, but downright kick and scream about it (the phrase of ‘kick and scream’ seems highly appropriate for the club at this time – they kick, others scream).
Stoke wrote on their website: “Charlie and the club are surprised and disappointed to learn of this and will appeal vigorously against the decision.”
Had the FA gone back on their decision, then English football’s governing body would have proven to be in an even bigger mess than I first anticipated.
Thankfully, sanity prevailed, and the FA stuck to their guns over the charge.
Should Stoke feel harshly treated? For a club that has acted in the way it has since the Aaron Ramsey shocker, I’m not surprised by their response.
Violent conduct? You be the judge.
3. Campbell; Yay or nay?
Ah back to that old debate: will he make it at Arsenal?
The past few weeks have made everyone realise that Arsenal have a nipper out on loan at Olympiacos who appears to be quite good. In the space of eight days, Joel Campbell did this against Manchester United:
And then this for his country:
So is the hype justified? Can he really make it at Arsenal? Personally, I don’t know.
Sorry to disappoint, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen too much of him, especially not full 90 minutes’ worth. YouTube videos and TV highlights can make anyone look like a world beater and, having only watched a full Olympiacos match about five or six times this season, it would be unfair for me to give a verdict on him.
But here are the things we do know about Joel Campbell:
– He’s 21 years old
– He’s an attacker
– We worked damn hard to sign this player amid countless attempts of obtaining a work permit for him
– He already has 30 caps for Costa Rica, despite his young age
– He had loans at Lorient and Real Betis before his current tenure in Greece
– Olympiacos have agreed a future fee with Arsenal for Campbell, but the player is thought to be keen on breaking through at the Emirates
I think the deciding factor in whether Campbell will make it or not, is down to what position Wenger opts to give him. You could quite easily see Campbell being shifted out to the wing in this current side; competing against the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi among others.
However, he can play as a centre-forward, and I think he should be given a chance there.
With Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo our only strikers at the club, as Lord Nicklas Bendtner is set to depart in the summer, that leaves us quite clearly short in that position.
Wenger will obviously go after a top-class forward in the summer, with Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli just two of the names being talked about, to battle it out (and likely prevail) for the starting spot against Giroud and Sanogo. However, my argument is that Campbell offers something different.
He’s the kind of striker (forgive me, but the Jermain Defoe kind) that a lot of fans have wanted to see at the Emirates. So it is possible that this could become Campbell’s position and therefore provide Wenger with another option.
He’s quick, skillful, has an eye for goal and can go past defenders with the greatest of ease.
However, Walcott could also be the man to fill this void in our strikeforce, therefore freeing up a spot on the flank for Campbell to fight for.
I’m only thinking aloud, but that is my two cents for what it’s worth. What are your views?
4. Sacrifice Bayern; Prioritise Everton
Hear me out on this one.
Firstly, I wouldn’t want us to sacrifice any game, especially when we need to build a run of momentum (which I’ll get to later). But my point here is that if Wenger is thinking of resting a load of players, he should do it out in Munich and NOT in the FA Cup semi-final this weekend.
I know we won at the Allianz Arena last year and only went out on away goals, but we find ourselves in the situation now that even if we go out to Germany, give it a go and put in a wonderful performance, in all likeliness, it’ll probably still lead to nothing.
The FA Cup should be our priority.
I know we got away with changing a few things around against Liverpool in the last round, but I believe that we really have to focus on the cup as well as consolidating a place in the top four.
What I don’t want to happen is for us to put out a ‘weakened team’ against Everton on Saturday, get knocked out of that competition and then send our strongest XI out to Munich, only to be dumped out of Europe too. Call me negative (I’m not by the way), but I just think that’s a ludicrous idea.
I think Wenger will have realised the situation (he is Arsene Wenger after all) and really try to bring the FA Cup back to North London, but you just never know given the Frenchman’s stubbornness at times.
I’ve had enough of the FA Cup being belittled. No disrespect to them, but Wigan won it last year! Yes Wigan! The team that we relegated just a few days after they lifted silverware at Wembley.
Wenger built his early success at Highbury around the FA Cup. As well as various successes in the league, Arsenal won the FA Cup four times in Wenger’s first eight seasons at the club. During that period, the club also finished runners-up once and were knocked out in the semi-finals twice. Impressive stuff. We rave about the good times we had during the double-winning and Invincibles era; well the FA Cup is responsible for a large part of that.
Just picture one of our three captains (that’s an interesting thought in itself) leading the boys up the steps on a sunny afternoon in May, and lifting the cup high above his head with a scream to a roaring red and white faithful. To add to the occasion, the FA Cup final takes place after the conclusion of the Premier League season too, so it will have (funnily enough) a proper cup final feel to it. Magical stuff.
So come on Arsene, let’s go for it!
5. Momentum. Momentum. Momentum.
And in light of the talk about going for the FA Cup, that brings me on to an earlier talking point; momentum.
Winning, quite simply, breeds confidence. Who’s to say that the buzz of potentially beating Everton and booking a spot in the last four of the FA Cup at Wembley won’t buoy us on to go and take it to Bayern during the week? Look at what that win against Bayern did for us last season. That was the turning point for our scintillating run of results that snatched us fourth place and the Champions League in the process.
That’s why we should go for everything and try to win it all, starting with Everton on Saturday. Two big performances against Everton and Bayern Munich will put us in a great position when we head into a run of facing Tottenham, Chelsea, Swansea and Manchester City.
A decent return from those fixtures, and we could, not only secure a top-four finish (which is looking under threat at the moment), but also kick-start a title push. We were top of the table for most of this season, and deservedly. So tell me why we cannot get back at the top?
After losing at Spurs this time last year, many wrote off our chances of finishing in the Champions League spots. But then we got a little bit of momentum going, and look what happened. You could also make a case for that fine form being responsible for our improved campaign this year.
It’s cliché, but every game we play for the rest of the season is like a cup final. It’s not a small club mentality – we’re not a small club – we just have it all to play for.
So let’s go out there with some positivity, give it our best, get behind the boys (the Bayern atmosphere for the first half was simply stunning) and prove to the world why Arsenal Football Club deserves to be taken seriously once again!
Cue Braveheart speech…
That’s all from me this week. Stay classy Gunners Town.
And never forget that you’re a Gooner!