It’s that time of the week again where it’s my job to try to entertain the Gooner faithful on Gunners Town, as well as attempting to build up an array of fascinating, intellectual debate about the Arsenal. I Tweeted on Sunday morning stating that I “felt like I was on my period” due to my fluctuating emotions prior to the Manchester United clash, but in truth it’s been a bit like that all week.
In the space of eight days we’ve had three tremendously tough fixtures in what is one of the most difficult run of games that any team anywhere will have to battle through this season. We’ve squared off against title contenders, Champions League runners-up and Premier League champions in just over a week and, if I’m honest, I think we can be relatively happy with what we have come out of that gauntlet with.
Yes the loss at Old Trafford hurt and being beaten there will always be painful, especially when they were there for the taking but we never seemed to turn up. It’s wasn’t a good performance but it certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen by any stretch of the imagination. And contrary to what some ludicrous “fans” believe, Arsene Wenger and the boys didn’t set up to lose in Manchester; the fact that some people actually think that is enough to leave you speechless and with a gun to your head.
Off the back of a thrilling win over Liverpool last weekend, we made the trip to Germany to face the second best team in Europe (according to last year’s competition) in the form of Borussia Dortmund. We’ve gone there with practically the same set of players due to our injury issues and what not, and we’ve put in a resilient smash and grab-type display to take back control of Group F with a vital win. It wasn’t as if we just sat back throughout the entire match and sneaked a late goal either, at 1-0 we then looked the team more likely to find another. Dortmund had a number of opportunities in the first half and should have been ahead, but they’re a brilliant team and we were never going to outplay them on their own turf; nobody would.
So to take those two results and travel to Old Trafford, again with practically the same players, and be edged out by just one goal to nil isn’t good news by any means but certainly doesn’t warrant a crisis. We’ve come up against Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez, Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in that time and conceded just a single goal against a compilation of the world’s finest strikers. That’s not exactly depressing is it?
So we now head into the international break and here are the issues on my mind. Oh and to those fans who are now slating the team, slagging off Wenger, and trying to pile doom and gloom on the rest of us; get a grip.
[heading size=”12″]Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the Week[/heading]
1. We may have lost the battle but the war is far from over
Before anyone says that we’re out of the title race, who remembers this?
But that was ages ago right? Correct. But remember this?
Both of those games came in May and decided the title on the final day of the season. We’re in November.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, or maybe this guy if we can’t find one.
2. Open wide
In case you forgot, and I’ll be honest I nearly did as well, there were other games aside from our match with United. On the same weekend, Chelsea dropped points, Spurs and Manchester City both lost and Southampton moved up to third in the table.
We’re not the only team who have endured a disappointing result over the past few days, and it won’t be the last time we do either. We lost at the home of the Premier League champions. Manchester City, many people’s tip for the title this year, lost to a relegation candidate. Whereas Chelsea, a lot of other people’s pick to win the league, were very very fortunate to get a point at home to West Brom. Shit happens. We should know, we lost to Aston Villa at home on day one.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We had a five-point lead and it was great, but did you actually ever think we were going to run away with the league in November? Because that is the impression that some Arsenal fans are giving. If we were in March or April and we had that advantage then you could be forgiven, but we’ve still got ages to go in all three competitions that we’re left in this season.
There’s a reason why everyone is predicting this to be the closest title race in years, and until it’s mathematically impossible to be crowned as the champions, then we’re still in the title race…along with United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool ,Spurs, Everton, Saints and even frickin Crystal Palace at this current moment in time.
Jokes aside, you get my point. We’re not out of the title race, nor have we won the league, but we’re two points clear at the top, so let’s look forward and crack on from here.
3. Sign them up, sign them up, sign them uuuuuppppp
I can remember sitting in the East Stand back on May 7, 2006 at around 6/7pm. Robert Pires was sat on the assembled stage in the middle of the Highbury turf in what was his last home appearance in an Arsenal shirt. The chants were raining down from the stands of “Robert Pires, two more years. Robert Pires, two more years”. Now I’m not putting this duo in the same category as the great Bobby P, but Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna are two players who I would love to see tied down for at least another year, preferably two.
Bac has been brilliant so far this season, having endured a torrid time over the past 18 months with injury and form, and has been one of the best right-backs in the Premier League since arriving from Auxerre all those years ago. Despite being in his final year, he still gives it his all no matter where he is asked to play and is a brilliant example to the younger players in the team of how they should go about their business and keep their attitude in check. He’ll be 31 come the end of the campaign when his deal expires, but I think it’s crucial that we agree an extension with him for at least another 12 months.
Carl Jenkinson, as much as we love him for being a passionate Gooner, isn’t ready to take over the reins yet, and Hector Bellerin is still a good few years away. Rumour has it that Bac, having a model wife and all (and what a wife!), is off to AC Milan. The news has supposedly come from a reliable Italian source, but I pray to god that this isn’t the case and that we can persuade him to hang around for just a bit longer.
Rosicky is another man who has had to prove his doubters wrong in recent times. He’s one of club’s current longest-serving players, but it’s easy to forget that due to the fact that he turned out about seven times in his first three seasons at the Emirates.
However, Rosicky has since looked like he is desperate to make up for lost time and gives nothing less than 100% when on the pitch. His work rate is insane, and we missed his energetic hustle and bustle approach at Old Trafford on Sunday. For all the beautiful players we have on the ball such as Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, we need those that are equally as delightful to watch but also willing to stick a foot in, and that is what Tommy does. It’s hard to not like him, and he does seem a very popular guy in the dressing room to add to the morale.
Wenger had faith in him to reward the Czech with a new contract at a stranger time in the past amid injury, but Rosicky is now 33, and naturally questions have to be asked about that even if he is playing far more regularly nowadays. Yet we’ve seen it time and time again that players can perform until their late professional years, and he’s sure to get the most out of his career given the superb fitness that Arsenal condition the players on. So I’d say to Arsene, give him another year or two, in my eyes, he is certainly worth it for the squad.
4. The Verminator Returns
One positive to come out of the weekend I thought was the performance of Thomas Vermaelen. Our club captain has taken some stick from some quarters over the past year, and justifiably to a degree. However, the Belgian came in a really proved that he still has the talent to compete at the top level despite his injuries and dip in form in recent times. I thought he played very well against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup last month as well, and he’s certainly done his case for a start no harm with the display at United.
It goes to show the importance of having top-quality back-up in the squad and, while Per Mertesacker will always be a big miss physically and mentally, Vermaelen went some way to fill the void and showed no lack of commitment, passion or intensity despite being linked with a move away over the past couple of months.
We know that Vermaelen is a real high-quality player; it wasn’t too long along that people were lauding him as the answer to our problems at the back. The early goals after joining from Ajax obviously helped him win over the crowd quicker, but I would deem it a tad harsh to say that they disguised his defensive and positional deficiencies. Bear in mind that he had a long, long layoff with injury and that was always going to cause havoc with him trying to rediscover his form of old. You only have to look at Aaron Ramsey the struggles and fight it takes to claw your way back to the top.
So it’s nice that people are starting to get off his back a bit, and he has certainly been saying all the right things in the media as well.
“At the moment there is no story. I’m not talking about it. It’s now November but any moment things can happen. If they do, I’m ready and I’m not thinking about anything else,” Vermaelen told the London Evening Standard.
“I can keep talking about my situation. I’ve done that with the national team and I keep on reading stories that I want to leave. But that’s not the case. I’m still focused on the team at the moment and that’s what I want to do. I’m always positive.
“What I have said is that it is not about my situation but what the team do and I’m really happy that we’re top of the Premier League. Personally I’m still confident I can play for this club and every chance I get I will do a job for this club.”
Great stuff Tommy V, keep it up sunshine.
5. Rest is for the weary…and the successful
We now have yet another international break upon us and are forced to wait 11 days before we can see our Arsenal back in action when we host Saints at the Emirates, but for me the timing of it has come at a welcome point for us.
We’ve used the same set of players game after game, which is obviously taking its toll in parts, with us being unable to rotate our squad as much as the other big teams in the league do. God knows that we needed a rest given the amount of injuries we have, as well as the lack of personnel available for selection for Wenger.
But while it is never great to have to wait nearly two weeks to try to respond to a defeat, the time off will allow us to stay at the top of the Premier League table and provide an opportunity for our casualties to continue their road to recovery as we look to beef up our options.
Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo are all closing in on a return to the first-team picture, while the likes of the players who have been under the weather as of late such as Mertesacker, Rosicky, Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta and Serge Gnabry all have the chance to fully get over their bug.
When you put that into perspective, it’s amazing to think that we’ve done as well as we have so far this season given the smaller pool of players at our disposal. You could say that has been an advantage for us, due to the nature that other managers have tinkered frequently with their lineup which has led to some claiming that it denies them the chance to achieve consistency, but a fatigued team is never desirable.
It’s time to regroup, recover and return ready to mount another strong run heading into the Christmas period where we face the likes of Marseille and Napoli in Europe as well as a straight run of Everton, City and Chelsea in the Premier League.
That’s all from me this week, let me know what you think, I do love a Twitter debate.
Never forget that you’re a Gooner.