Ram, Flam, thank you ma’am. Job done in Wales as the Arsenal go marching on in the Premier League and Europe. Saturday was just the latest in a recent series of enjoyable days to be a Gooner, thanks to a big win against a Cardiff City side that triumphed over Manchester City as well as holding Everton and Manchester United on their own turf.
Add to that a comfortable win over Marseille in the Champions League on Tuesday night, and things are looking rather rosey for Arsene Wenger and the boys at the moment. We’re four points clear at the top of the Premier League at the start of December, as well as being at the head of the Group of Death.
Of course though we won’t win the league because we haven’t played any of the big boys yet. I’m not sure how the pundits rate Spurs, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille, along with the “surprise package” of Southampton, but I’d feel a bit disrespected if I were a supporter of any of those clubs.
Mind you they do make a good point, we haven’t beaten Manchester City or Chelsea. We have also failed to end The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak, find a cure for cancer or wipe out world hunger, so there is still a long way to go yet before we can emerge as genuine title contenders in there eyes.
Seriously though, I wouldn’t bother getting worked up by what Alan Hansen, Michael Owen, Danny Murphy or anyone else is saying about Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League because it’s just not worth it. The only viewpoint I care about is that of Arsene Wenger.
Let’s enjoy it while we are here shall we. It’s nice to see them back-peddling over some of their comments that they made at the start of the season. Being the weak link in the Group of Death worked out well too didn’t it? Yes we’ve not achieved anything yet, so don’t go bragging too much, but we’re the bee’s knees right now, so be happy and proud.[heading]Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the Week[/heading]
1. Best defence ever?
I recently saw an interesting comment on Twitter posing the question as to whether our current defence is the best in Arsenal’s history. Quite simply, I think it’s only ever going to be a yes if we go on to win the title at least this season, keep Bacary Sagna at the club on a new deal, and follow that up with even more success next term.
We’ve got a bloody brilliant back five. Wojciech Szczesny has been, in my eyes, the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, which is some accolade given the talent there is about between the sticks. Bacary Sagna is over his one-season blip and is a monster again on the right flank. Kieran Gibbs, who is apparently using yoga to stay injury free, gets better and better as the games go on and is surely playing his way into England’s World Cup squad for Brazil. I don’t really need to explain why Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are so great now do I? Thought not. That’s saved me a few pages and we all know why anyway.
However, until this bunch achieves something that results in us getting a shiny object, then it would be way too early for any eager beaver to proclaim them as the best ever.
It did get me wondering though about which season boasts our best-ever defence, and I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates; certainly from over the time that I’ve been alive.
The first is of course the George Graham back five. Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, with David Seaman donning the gloves. The solid England contingent were the main reason for us being labelled as “Boring, boring Arsenal” for years, but that is perhaps the greatest compliment you could pay them. They took no shit, and gave attackers no hope.
The other quintuplet that springs to mind worthy of the tag is that of the Invincibles, of course. Jens Lehmann in goal with Lauren, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Ashley Cole in front of him. All fantastic players in the modern era with a dynamic mixture of pace, power, skill and brutality. While this back five was smaller and more suited to the tika taka style football of today that we’ve become accustomed to, you still wouldn’t pick a fight with Big Sol or Mad Jens unless you had a number of chromosomes missing.
It’s hard for me to choose, but I want to hear your views on the matter. Who is the best? And how far can our current backline go? Let me know.
2. Jack is back
Coke head, injury prone, little man syndrome. All descriptions that have been affiliated with the Prince of Arsenal; Jack Wilshere. Admittedly, he doesn’t help himself at times with some of things he says or does on and off the field, but he is without a doubt the man in our team who rival fans refer to as a “cunt”, and given the previous Arsenal players to have held that tag, that shouldn’t be seen as an insult. We need those cunts, every successful team does.
Regardless of what you think of him, there’s no denying his talent and the fact that he looks as if he is close to hitting form once more is more than welcome news. I was at both games at the Emirates over the past 10 days, and said after the win over Saints last week that he had a great game and looked to be turning the screw.
He then followed this up with a brace in the comfortable win over Marseille and put in a fine performance all round that was capped by his two brilliant goals. He then nearly got Arsenal off to another flying start on Saturday, but his fabulous effort cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar, yet he still made his presence felt in attack and defence throughout the 90 minutes.
Wilshere seems to have taken to being pushed out to the right like a duck to water, and why wouldn’t he? He’s not got the pace so many fans crave that the likes of Theo Walcott, Jesus Navas and Aaron Lennon possess, but he is an insanely clever footballer. Having the ability to cut inside on his stronger left foot is only going to help his ability in front of goal as well. So many times over the past month I’ve seen Wilshere drift inside and either find a key pass or have a pop at goal. With his inability to beat his man wide for pace on a regular basis, he is forced into a more decisive, attacking phase of play.
There’s still more to come from Jack, but it’s wonderful to see him getting back into the swing of things.
Wenger told you that he could cut it on the right wing. Arsene knows.
3. Mesut Ozil; a poor man’s Tom Cleverley
Let me get this straight. I don’t think Tom Cleverley, of Manchester United and England, is the worst player to have lived, but I would rather have a one-legged, permanently-blindfolded Mesut Ozil that was made out of paper mache in my team any day of the week.
That outburst isn’t in response to anyone claiming that Cleverley is better than Ozil, but some of the shite that the German has been subjected to over the past week or two is staggering. He’s come to a new country, with a new style of living, new teammates, new fans and a new boss for a huge amount of money. He’s under enough pressure as it is without the supporters getting on his back.
He was always going to take time to adjust and has suffered from illnesses, yet he’s still racked up more assists than anyone else in the Premier League. Given that I don’t think he is anywhere near his peak or maximum capacity of confidence, I think that is quite exceptional.
You could just tell that he was going to miss the penalty against Marseille. Not only did he seem like a rabbit in the headlights when walking up to the spot, but he made it far too obvious about what he was going to try from 12 yards out, and it didn’t work. Despite that, he kept plugging away, assisted Wilshere’s second goal of the game and then carried enough confidence into the clash with Cardiff to come away with making two of the goals; both of them world class providers as well. He still had the balls to pull off some of the little flicks and passes that he did in Wales, in the wake of his penalty miss, and his stats were again brilliant.
All of this despite the aforementioned reasons for him still being yet to reach his peak. Now go and tell me that he’s overrated. Even if Ozil is having a shitter, he’s still better than the vast majority of those in the Premier League on their best day.
Get excited, there’s more to come.
4. Remember, remember, we’re shite in November.
Just the mere mention of the word ‘November’ used to send a chill down the average Gooner’s spine and force a tsunami of sweat to race across their forehead. Arsenal have always traditionally been dogshit when it comes to playing in November, and nobody still has any idea as to why that is. Whether it’s the fact that we usually have to deal with a ferocious fixture list at that stage, adjusting to the cold weather, or whatever, we’ve been through enough of them to know the pain and misery that the 11th month of the year can bring.
Off the top of my head, November 2002 brings back particularly grimacing memories for me; losses to Sunderland and Southampton that month really cost us in the title race.
Going into the month, many pundits were predicting 2013’s edition of the horror files to be no different. Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United and Marseille were all heading our way, as well as stern tests in the form of the solid Saints and the tricky away trip to Cardiff; a ground of so much frustration for the visiting teams already this season.
We’ve come out of those six games with five wins. We’ve conceded just one goal, a lapse of concentration from a corner which led to our only defeat.
It’s just a shame that the loss was at Old Trafford, otherwise we would have been able to shut up the haters for a little bit longer, but hey, that’s a phenomenal string of results given the calibre of opposition we’ve face with a relatively thin squad.
Come May, we could be looking back at the month gone by as one of the most important in our club’s recent history.
5. December to Define or Dismember?
December; the month that provides us with Christmas. The holiday that results in common and frantic dashes to different locations numerous times a week with the need to frequently rotate ideas and resulting in people trying their best to not cave into its demands. This doesn’t always just apply to the shopping aspect of the month, but the footballing calendar part of it as well.
It’s usually the biggest ball ache of a month for football managers, with their teams forced into playing three games a week on average as they try to go into the New Year and the January transfer window on a wave of momentum.
We’ve got a tricky month ahead, due to the nature of the Premier League this season resulting in an all-time high number of matches that will prove a stern test. If you thought things got easier after our bitch of a month in November, guess again.
DEC 4: Hull City (PL) – Home
DEC 8: Everton (PL) – Home
DEC 11: Napoli (CL) – Away
DEC 14: Manchester City (PL) – Away
DEC 23: Chelsea (PL) – Home
DEC 26: West Ham United (PL) – Away
DEC 29: Newcastle United (PL) – Away
Wow. It doesn’t get any easier as time goes on now does it?! Despite some calling for a squad rotation against Hull – which I don’t think is the worst idea in the world given the talent we can bring in – we simply have to pick up a comfortable win to go into those middle four games in the best possible shape.
The run of Everton, Napoli, City and Chelsea is a ridiculously tough sequence and all crucial games in my eyes, with all due respect to the Irons and the Toon (we all know what the result will be when we play up there!).
We’re on a hot streak right now and it’s important to keep building on that step by step as the games get harder and harder as they come along up until Christmas, especially with a smaller squad compared to the likes of Citeh and Chelski.
Taking Hull, West Ham and Newcastle out of the equation – which really should see us win all three – I’ve no idea what a realistic and acceptable collation of points and results would be from those games.
A draw in Napoli would do for me. I know we will go through so long as we don’t lose by three goals, but a defeat in the preparation for a double-header against City and Chelsea is the worst-case scenario.
Everton should be a win at home, despite how well they are doing, but if we can then get at least one result against the “Big Two” then that would be good in my eyes. It’s a tricky situation to get your head around though; would drawing with both be the best possible outcome as it prevents them from shortening the gap directly, or would a win and a loss be better due to getting one extra point. Push ourselves forward or prevent the others from catching us? It’s a toughie, but the latter option never really worked for Dick Dastardly and Muttley did it now.
The month has the added importance of being the final weeks before the transfer window opens. I know we’re in a better position in the sales already due to Ozil’s arrival, but if potential targets could see us still top of the table after coming through a month of horrendously challenging matches, then that would no doubt make us even more attractive. Of course there is a lot more than that to take into consideration, but let’s not get into the technicality and mindsets of the window…
Needless to say, it could be a/another defining month in Arsenal’s year.
Have a good week.
Never forget that you’re a Gooner.