A belated Happy St Patrick’s Day! While the majority of the country were making their way to work yesterday morning in a miniature state of depression, with the knowledge that the sunny weekend has come to an end and the reality of returning to plugging away for another five days beckons, the mood among Arsenal fans (especially the Irish ones) was slightly different.
There’s nothing quite like beating your arch-nemesis, no matter in what fashion. The fact that Gooners have boasted this feel-good factor and bragging rights combination three times this season doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
It had been five years or so since Arsenal had emerged victorious in a Premier League North London derby at White Hart Lane, but yesterday we finally stopped that rut and, in all probability, ended Tottenham’s chances of finishing in the Champions League spots. Throw in Manchester United being squashed at Old Trafford by Liverpool prior to the NLD too, and it looks as if this season’s top four is 95% certain.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. In what order these four teams finish, I have no idea.
But going back to the current feel among Arsenal fans, it’s a good one. The past nine days have seen us advance to Wembley in the FA Cup where we will have to beat Wigan and then Hull/Sheffield United to end our silverware drought, put in a spirited performance (again) at the home of the world’s best club – Bayern Munich -, and we’ve also got back on the right track in the Premier League and beaten our neighbours Spurs.
There’s so much to talk about, and so much I don’t have time to discuss. So let’s get to it.
Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the week
Draxler Defeat ?
Firstly, let’s get the non-positive news out of the way. We all know that Arsenal underwent an abortion of a January transfer window. It was shocking. No disrespect to Kim Kallstrom, who for all we know could prove very important for the remainder of the campaign, but our lack of incomings at the start of the year have made proceedings a hell of a lot harder than they could have been.
I know we were in for certain players, and did make a £40m bid on deadline day for a Serie A player that was rejected, but we brought in an injured guy on loan on the final day, and that’s it.
However, the Julian Draxler saga was a pretty public one that seems to have taken a turn in developments over the past couple of weeks.
Come January, it seemed as if that Draxler, without question, would be an Arsenal player by the summer and could maybe even arrive at the Emirates during that winter window. However, for one reason or another, that wasn’t to be, so it appeared as if Gooners would have to wait to see the German in red and white until later in the year.
However, those pesky rascals known as Bayern Munich have apparently been sniffing around the Schalke man, just like they do with any star man in the Bundesliga that doesn’t play for the European champions.
Former pro, recently turned pundit, Jan Aage Fjortoft has been pretty reliable when it comes to Germans and transfer sagas, and has been pretty close to anything to do with Draxler. He Tweeted the following over the past couple of days.
Re: Draxler I understand Bayern will try to make a deal with Schalke where they pay part of fee now, but Draxler will come to Bayern 2015
— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) March 17, 2014
Re: Draxler I have been told that Arsenal felt they “lost” player when Bayern entered the stage. But I understand player hasn’t decided yet — Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) March 17, 2014
So it looks as if any move will ultimately come down to Draxler himself. Let’s hope that Arsenal have already made a big enough impression on him to lure him to the Emirates. One thing’s for sure, this could rumble on for a while.
Luck of the Irish
As you all know, it was St. Patrick’s weekend over the past few days, and the Irish (and glory-hunting Irish) were out in full force all over the place. While I was being swarmed by green, booze and 1,000s of people in Trafalgar Square on my way to watch the Arsenal, over at White Hart Lane, the luck of the Irish appeared to be rubbing off on Arsene Wenger’s side.
I’m not saying at all that Arsenal “stole” or “snatched” the win, but we didn’t half get away with one or two things.
Of course, the game could have over before the break had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain taken that glorious chance and not made a rights pig’s ear of it but, certainly in the early stages of the second half, Arsenal rode their luck a bit. Wojciech Szczesny in particular gave Gooners one or two nervy moments that were too close for comfort.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny combined to thwart a lot of the Tottenham attack, but you’ve got to feel that, no disrespect meant, a better forward line than Spurs’ would have punished us.
Instead of Nacer Chadli, Eden Hazard could well have rifled one home past our solid defence, which is why we have to up the performance when we travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday for Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the club.
It would be horrific to lose to Jose Mourinho’s negative and slimy Chelsea side on what should be a celebrated occasion as Wenger achieves an amazing accolade.
I couldn’t think of a better way to mark the accomplishment than ending Wenger’s barren run against Mourinho, bringing an end to Mourinho’s record at Stamford Bridge, and make it back-to-back defeats for Chelsea on Saturday.
They may be without Ramires and (unless it’s successfully appealed) Willian off the back of that loss at Aston Villa, but that doesn’t mean that they will be any easier to beat.
What’s that saying about a wounded animal?
I know results matter over performances at this stage of the season, but we will need to raise our display at White Hart Lane if we’re going to get anything at Chelsea.
So, thanks to The Times for the graphic, this is what the Premier League table looked like on Sunday evening.
As I said, the top four looks as if it’s pretty much sorted. It would take a major turn of events in my eyes for Tottenham, Everton or Manchester United to break in and get a Champions League spot. I’m a great believer of not getting ahead of yourself and not accepting an outcome until it’s mathematically certain, but I just can’t see any of the other three breaking in after the weekend’s action.
So, as far as the title race is concerned, here are the fixtures for the remainder of the season.
As you can see, Chelsea have the least amount of games to earn points from, but are arguably in the strongest position given the difficulty of their run-in and squad size.
Manchester City, effectively, have their fate in their own hands. It’s simple (theoretically) for Manuel Pellegrini and the boys; win all their game, and they win the crown. However, it’s never that simple.
Arsenal and Liverpool are in between the two. Most would consider the pair as the title outsiders, but they are both still in with a major chance.
I’ve put potential slip-ups in red for each side, when it comes to facing one of the other top seven. However, who’s to say that someone like Stoke, Newcastle or Aston Villa won’t take anything from the ‘Big Four’? We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
I’d really like to know who you all think has the most favourable set of fixtures, and what can be expected from Arsenal’s nine remaining matches.
Where’s the passion lads?
Arguably the most satisfying part of beating Spurs was seeing how much it meant to the fans, players and staff alike. Who says that the passion of an English derby is dead?
And talk about being over with the fans, Lukas Podolski is Arsenal’s version of WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan. YES!
I don’t care if this part of my blog is becoming repetitive and boring; it’s entirely necessary. Since our hazy period in February, most Gooners have seemingly had a bit of a reality check, a bit of a bump, and adopted the mindset of taking each game as it comes.
We did it with Everton in the cup – win, and get the feel-good factor back after booking a spot at Wembley. We did just that.
We travelled to Bayern with the idea of not getting battered, and doing ourselves proud at the home of the world’s best club, given that most had accepted that we were heading out of the competition. We put in a good performance, had plenty of positives to take away from Germany, and retained momentum by not losing.
We approached the North London derby knowing that we could effectively kill off Tottenham’s chances of a top-four spot with a win, or even a draw. We won for the first time in a few years at White Hart Lane and, once again, retain that momentum.
We’re into that tough period now. One down, two to go; or so many though when looking at the fixture list a while back. The arranging of the Swansea match now means that we welcome the Welsh club to the Emirates in between popping down to Chelsea and bracing ourselves for Manchester City’s journey down south.
Fuck setting points targets for this run and saying ‘well if we can get X amount of points from Y amount of games, that will do us’. Let’s just take it one at a time. Beating Chelsea and then losing to Swansea would feel like a bit of kick in the nuts and a missed chance, so why accept a win and a defeat from the next two? We’ll evaluate the Swansea game from Sunday.
But for now, we know what we have to do at Chelsea, and shouldn’t be thinking any further ahead in terms of the fixtures. Otherwise, it just gets way too complex and harbours too many scenarios of ‘ifs and buts’ that will just cause havoc in our minds, patience and mentality.
So, as far as I’m concerned, the only match I have eyes for right now is Chelsea away, and you, for the benefit of your own health, should do the same. Our season is far from over, so let’s get every step of our journey in check and enjoy it.
That’s it from me this week. Please give us a follow on Twitter and let me know your thoughts. I always reply, and love to hear what you have to say on certain aspects of the blog.
Never forget you’re a Gooner.