Jesus, what a difference a week makes eh?! This time last week it was all doom and gloom after losing at Stoke and seemingly watching our Premier League title hopes hang by a thread. Needless to say there was a wave of negativity flowing around the Goonersphere.
Fast forward a week and we’re off to Wembley! A very good performance against a very strong Everton side in the FA Cup quarter-final at the Emirates on Saturday means that we can now look forward to a semi-final against Wigan, after they knocked out the outright favourites to win the competition: Manchester City. After those two results, that gives us a bit of momentum as we head into a new week and towards Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.
Of course, there are still many questions that need to be answered by this Arsenal side, both on and off the pitch, before the season comes to a close. But for now, let’s just enjoy the moment knowing that there are just two games stopping us claiming our first piece of silverware in nine years. Two more wins, and we could be wallowing in silver in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley. Just imagine how good that will feel in the May sunshine? Good isn’t it!
Of course though, we have by no means already won the cup. We’ve learned that the hard way in the past, and you just have to look at Manchester City last year as well to know that we still have two very difficult games to come through if we are to get our hands on the trophy. We should win, but it is not guaranteed by longshot. Let’s not get cocky.
We still have a lot of big games to come this season, and will probably experience a variety of results and performances. But as I said, let’s just enjoy the ride, go into the next game in a positive mood, and try to keep the smiles on our faces.
So without further ado, here are my five top talking points of the week
Gunners Town Top 5: Talking points of the week
1. Veterans get their just deserts
Amid the struggles of last week when we were still coming to terms with losing at Stoke once again, and Jack Wilshere picking up a potentially season-ending injury, again, Arsenal fans were dealt some good news during that period. The brilliant, but always expected, news that Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky had signed new contracts with the club.
In my opinion, and certainly the view of many other fans, they have been two of our best performers this season and certainly know what the club is all about. They play for the team, not themselves, and you only have to read their quotes upon the announcements to realise just how much it means to them to be an Arsenal player.
If Mertesacker isn’t the Arsenal captain next season, I will never know what it’s going to take for him to be; he is just utterly superb. On and off the pitch he is always saying the right things, he is always leading by example, and he knows just how much everything means to the fans.
He’s a role model, he’s never in any off-field shenanigans, he’s never losing his shit on the field and make himself look an idiot (As we have seen with a few of our captains in the past…) and he just seems to be a genuine all-round top bloke who loves his football, loves the fans, loves the club and is just happy to be playing out his dream. Add to that, he is actually a fantastic player, and it becomes very easy to fall in love with the BFG, as many already had.
Rosicky’s performances over the past year or two have seen him practically crying out for an extension.
The boy (well he’s 33, but certainly has the energy of a puppy, a springer spaniel, enthusiastically bundling down the road in pursuit of a fellow dog – trust me, that’s a lot) has been continually been growing into a Gooner hero with his displays.
He’s magical on and off the ball. He can pick a pass, pull off a flick and execute a wonderful finish just as well as he can charge down field, throw himself into a tackle before racing up the other end again. He just wants it, he cares so much, and he is exactly the sort of player that is a fine example to the younger players.
His goal against Norwich beautifully personified what his job is in the team. Starting a move, continuing the move, and then finishing off the move in breathtaking fashion: it was simply a wonderful goal that I felt very lucky to witness first hand.
If you are to believe the common reports, Mertesacker’s contract has been extended for another three years, which will take him to 2017, where as Rosicky has penned a two-year deal (given that he would’ve been a free agent this summer) and that will keep him at the Emirates until 2016 – marking a 10-year tenure at the club that could result in a testimonial for the man.
The deals are well-deserved, and let’s hope that they can win some trophies with Arsenal as a reward for their hard work.
2. Sagna, Sagna, Sagna, Sagna, Sign Da Ting, Sign Da Ting
So that’s two down on the contract front, and just one to go (if you are to share the belief that Arsene Wenger has already penned his new deal with the club). Bacary Sagna.
In my opinion, we should do whatever it takes to keep him at our club. He’s been a fantastic servant, a very loyal one, and one of the most consistent players, not only at Arsenal, but in the Premier League since he joined from Auxerre back in 2007.
He is an absolute tank wherever he is asked to play; superb at right back, brilliant at left back, and a rock at centre back. He can play anywhere and, despite his ageing years, I think he’ll be vital from club.
It’s no secret that Carl Jenkinson is not ready to become a first-team regular. I do believe that Wenger would go after another right back in the summer should we lose Sagna. However, I would much rather keep Sagna than go in for anyone else.
He deserves trophies with the club, and you have to believe that given our recent financial upturn on top of the core of quality players we have at the moment, our chances of winning trophies are only going to improve over the next couple of years.
Word on the street is that Sagna is holding out for a three-year deal and £100,000 a week. That’s a lot of money, especially for a full back. However, I truly think he’s worth it and we should just give him what he wants to keep on here.
His family seem happy here, he seems happy here, and he is a brilliant role model for those young defenders coming through at the club such as Jenkinson and Hector Bellerin. I also think that Bac could make like his countrymen Lillian Thuram and Eric Abidal and convert into a full-time centre back. He’d be awesome here certainly has all the tools to be a top man in the middle.
And who’s to say that is performances will decrease as he gets older? When it comes to age, you have to look at the likes of Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon to know that there could be plenty of tread left on the tires of Sagna.
As shown by Dave Seager on a recent blog for 1 Nil Down 2 One Up, statistics prove that Sagna, who will be aged 31 and four months in the summer, could come in handy for a number of years yet.
– After turning 31 months, played 227 further competitive games for Arsenal
– Won the Premier League and FA Cup at 35
– Played in the Cup Winners Cup final at 37
– Retired aged 39 after playing 94 times for West Ham
– After turning 31 and four months, played 281 competitive Arsenal matches
– Won two Premier League and FA Cup doubles
– FA Cup runner-up
– Cup Winners Cup final
– Retired aged 38
Sagna’s still got a lot left to offer before he calls it a day, so let’s make sure that he does this with the Arsenal!
If I’m honest my gut feeling is that he will leave the club. It seems to have gone too far down the line and come too close to the wire for anything to happen now. You never know, but I think it’s going to take a major turn of events for Sagna to end up extending his stay with us. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope he does sign, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Bac. Sign Da Ting!
For god’s sake, somebody make a song!
3. Lukasz has been Fab
Another man who is likely to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer is Lukasz Fabianski. The Polish goalkeeper’s time in North London has been plagued by injuries and has seen him spend most of his time watching the action from the bench.
He’s had his moments of course, and I think he’s a wonderful keeper, but there’s no way he’s dethroning Wojciech Szczesny for that number one spot.
Arsene Wenger is quoted as saying a few years ago, and certainly then I agreed with him, that Fabianski is the better of the two goalkeepers, but where Szczesny comes up trumps is in the confidence department, and that is so important for a stopper to have.
Fabianski has been wonderful when called upon this season, and showed his class again against Everton on Saturday.
However, you can’t blame him for intending to leave this summer, he needs first-team action, and fair play to him. You only have to look at Vito Mannone this term excelling for Sunderland to understand why Fab wants out.
I do wonder whether we could chuck enough money at him and offer, say, a two-year deal that he would stay. He’s a quality back-up and is still only 28. I’d love him to extend his tenure with us, and his body language shows that he cares, but you can’t begrudge his reasons for intending to depart.
I’m not quite sure who else there is out there in terms of goalkeepers to bring in. Whoever it is would be playing second fiddle to Szczesny, who has been one of our best players this campaign.
I hope the clubs puts a heap of cash and a new contract in front of Fabianski, but I think he could be Fabioffski as well come June.
Somebody better get the number for Sebastien Frey…
4. Ozil to the Arsenal
That’s how you answer critics. He no doubt has more in his locker, but I was delighted by the performance of Mesut Ozil on Saturday.
It wasn’t even just his well-taken goal, pass for the penalty or assist for the fourth, but, as Wenger touched on, his hard work off the ball too.
It was one of Ozil’s best displays in an Arsenal shirt, and a timely one too. The bashing of Ozil has been ridiculous this season; it’s not his fault that he doesn’t have runners in front of him on a frequent basis. But when he does, he’s devastating, as he showed when linking up with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the weekend.
He’s been unfortunate with the Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey injuries, as I’m certain that he would be tearing it up left, right and centre with those two bombing on.
Had we managed to sign a striker in the mould of Luis Suarez in the summer, I think he’d have already won us the league. He was so good at Real Madrid because he had the likes Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria in front of him all knowing that Ozil would pick them out if they ran in behind. The testaments to Ozil following his departure by people such as Ronaldo made you all too aware of what a special talent we had managed to capture.
He’ll be even better next term, but I think he’s had a very strong start to his English Premier League career; and the stats back it up (Mind you, stats can make a case for Denilson winning the Ballon d’Or!).
But well done Ozzy, let’s see some more of that at Wembley please!
5. Choo Choo, here comes the momentum train
Last week, I wrote the following:
“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?”
I feel that it’s highly appropriate to echo those thoughts again today. How good do we feel right now, and after winning one match?
We’re off to Wembley, and have the best chance of ending our trophy drought that we’ll ever get. It’s crucial now to keep this feel-good factor among the camp, especially as we travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Before I leave you, here’s our updated fixture list for the rest of March.
MAR 11 – Bayern (A) – UCL
MAR 16 – Tottenham (A) – EPL
MAR 22 – Chelsea (A) – EPL
MAR 25 – Swansea (H) – EPL
MAR 29 – Manchester City (H) – EPL
Oh, and if anyone could get us a ticket for Wembley, it’d be highly appreciated!
That’s all from me this week. Stay classy Gunners Town.
And never forget that you’re a Gooner!