Captain’s Log star-date something something 7 point 2. I don’t know.
We travelled to Klingon space & hailed one of their cruisers so I could insult their Captain. She challenged me to a Kruz-Na! I assumed it’s some kind of fight to the death, so I’m going over there with Spock, Bones and a couple of red shirted security guys. I don’t recall their names…
Arsenal v Stoke has become a thing. The game now has some real spice to it, which is probably what made smashing them 3-0 all the more satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Arsenal versus spurs, but it’s becoming a big fixture in our calendar. It’s also something of a clash of cultures. Artistry versus barbarism. Beauty versus the beast. Awesome guys versus a bunch of dicks. It’s a contrast.
What surprised me the most about Stokes’ approach last weekend was that they reverted to type when they had done such a good job on us playing some good football only a month ago. They tried to bully us, they tried to bypass our midfield with long balls to Crouch and it didn’t work very well. It never works at the Emirates. Why Mark Hughes felt that it was appropriate is beyond me.
I said last week before the game that we would pin their fullbacks and stop them coming down the flanks, which would make them have to go through the middle. I think that the crossing stats back up that assertion and it made them so much less dangerous.
They couldn’t get past our midfield, (when they had the ball) and Crouch only wins headers when he’s got a 7-foot height advantage over his opponent. Mertesacker isn’t the best defender in the world, but he’s tall, so the long, midfield-bypassing ball didn’t work either. In short Stoke had no way to hurt us. We had Alexis to hurt them, and hurt them he did.
I love Alexis. If Özil is the new Bergkamp then Alexis is the new Henry. I can’t wait until they’ve formed a true understanding. They can be the foundation of a great new era for the club, if Arsene ever decides to sort our defence out.
Speaking of defence, I retweeted the stats on when we have Koscielny in the side and when we don’t. Have a look, (@CaptainDeeg for you website readers). I knew he was important, but I didn’t realise just how vital he was. It sounds so very obvious, but if you don’t concede you can’t lose a game. Ultimately that’s why having a solid defence is so significant. Alexis can score a hat trick for us but if we concede 4 we’ll still lose. Wenger must bring in another top quality centre half in the summer.
The summer, I hear you say. Why not now? I think he may buy another defender as cover for the loss of Debuchy, (that push was a disgrace and should be retrospectively punished) but he won’t go for a top class target now.
Bellerin and Chambers will cover at right back and so Wenger will be looking for short-term cover centrally. That means a cheap option that will be a squad player next season. Arsene isn’t about to sign a Hummels or a Ramos or even a Reid at a massively inflated price now when he can get them cheaper or free in the summer. He knows we can’t win the league or the Champions League, (any top defender will be cup tied in the Champions League anyway) so it makes sense to wait. It may drive us Gooners mad, but that’s Arsene Wenger. Also any new centre half will be Mertesackers successor.
Lastly on the defence, Monreal for Gibbs and Ospina for Szczesny was a great choice. Gibbs is ok going forward but he’s not a great defender. Monreal does his job well and is in a position to defend when needed, whereas Gibbs is normally still on the halfway line when a cross that he should be blocking is coming into our box. Ospina was solid and his decision making is much better then Szczesny’s. I hope he gets a run in the side because he is simply a better goalkeeper. Bellerin also had a good game when he came on. He’s improving and he’s going to make life hard for Jenkinson when he comes back from West Ham. I’ve already mentioned Koscielny, so some credit must go to Mertesacker too. He did well against Crouch, but there are bigger challenges coming up.
Bigger challenges, like Manchester City away. Let me start by saying this. We will not win this game. I know that’s not a great start but we have to manage our expectations. We don’t win big games away. We don’t generally win big games full stop. I have high hopes for a draw though because I’m an optimist, but that really would be a great result for us.
City will target Mertesacker and Bellerin. Mert because of his lack of pace and Bellerin because of his inexperience. If Gibbs is selected ahead of Nacho then they’ll look to lure him upfield and then exploit the space he leaves behind. If Gibbs starts I think we’ll lose.
As with the Stoke game it will be very interesting to see who Arsene selects to sit in front of the back four. Coquelin will almost certainly get the nod, but I’ll be surprised if Rosicky starts too. I can imagine Rambo getting a recall purely because he’ll offer a little more going forward.
Coquelin is going to have to keep Silva quiet, which won’t be easy and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get booked during the game. I have a feeling that he could well get himself sent off, so I’m a little worried. Going forward we’re in good shape. Alexis and the Ox/Theo will help keep their fullbacks at bay whilst being a menace in themselves, and Santi/Giroud through the middle will cause problems too, (provided Arsene doesn’t opt to start Özil and shunt Santi wide left).
Like I said before, a draw will be a good result, and even if we lose I can’t see us getting smashed like last year. The afternoon kick off time will be a factor too. I’ve mentioned previously that we don’t do early starts, so 4pm will suit us.
We still haven’t actually signed anyone. We’re apparently close to signing Bielik, who will make absolutely no difference to our current campaign, but that’s what we thought last week. That central defender we need? Not even close. A replacement for Podolski or Sanogoal? Nope.
Speaking of Sanogo, I find it hilarious that Palace have signed him on loan. It just proves that a struggling club will take anyone from a bigger club regardless of how useless they are. They’d have been better off signing that huge guy from AFC Wimbeldon, Akinfenwa. If he can score against Liverpool…