I’m back! Did you miss me? I’ve had a pretty busy November, so I didn’t have much time to blog. Arsenal played a number of matches over the month, but didn’t have much time to play well, with the club dropping a number of points and having a few poor results. I’m now going to cast your minds back to what transpired last month, which I think has potentially cost Arsenal the chance at the Premier League title.
We’ll start off with the Bayern Munich away match. Arsenal got mauled by the hungry lion that was Bayern, out for revenge after we cost them their 100% record for the season when Arsenal beat them 2-0 at the Emirates in October in the Champions League. The match was over towards the end of the first half when Austrian International David Alaba sent a scorcher of a shot past Petr Cech to make it 3-0 t that point to Bayern. Olivier Giroud’s consolation goal was well-taken but ultimately had no real influence on proceedings, as Bayern won 5-1. This was the omen that started off a pretty poor run for Arsenal.
Next up was the North London Derby, where Arsenal were at home to Spurs. It was a largely insipid performance from Arsenal, who managed a late equaliser from Kieran Gibbs after Harry Kane’s opener for Spurs. Spurs, on the day, played better football than Arsenal. The Gunners had 2 good performers on the day in Joel Campbell, who came off late on for Kieran Gibbs, who moved to a less familiar left-wing position, one which seems to suit his pace and attacking instincts. Otherwise, the rest of the team was quite average, which seemed poor due to the importance of the match. I cant help but think that Flamini should have lifted the team’s performance more than he did after he came on for Santi Cazorla, as he loves a good ruck vs. Spurs (so does Tomas Rosicky)!
Up next was an away trip to The Hawthorns. I’d like to term this match “Arteta’s final first team match”. Coquelin got an early injury, aggravating the knock he got vs. Spurs and the Captain came on and played decently enough for a few minutes. Arteta then gave away a free kick just outside the box, which James Morrison dispatched very well, which negated Giroud’s goal from less than 10 minutes before. Arteta then tried to “defend” a low cross in the box from James McClean a few minutes before half time and deflected it past Cech. I was incensed at this, as Arteta keeps being deployed as a defensive midfielder when he isn’t, and this hapless performance proved it. Mercifully, Arteta was injured after half-time and was replaced by Flamini, who put in a much improved performance than what Arteta had displayed. I honestly hope that this is the last time Arteta is seen in the first team for us, as he is simply too ponderous on and off the ball and simply lacks the defensive nous in the defensive midfield position in Arsenal’s first team anymore for my liking – he’s not getting in as a central attacking midfielder as we have far superior options there in Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosicky. He also has a really poor injury record over the last 2 years, due in part to his age. Arteta should really start working harder towards his coaching badges, as I think his experience as a player would be an asset towards the coaching side at the Club, especially as an influence to Arsenal’s youngsters. I’m not the biggest Flamini fan, as most of you know, but he is still useful as a squad player able to cover a few different positions.
Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates in the Champions League was up next. Arsenal won 3-0. I can’t comment too much on this as I didn’t watch the match – I don’t watch the Champions League, mostly due to the dreadful officiating. It was more shocking to me that Arsenal managed to lose away to Dinamo in the first match in the Champions League.
Last up was Norwich at Carrow Road. Most Gooners I interacted with on Twitter seemed optimistic about getting all three points. I was not so optimistic, as I had seen Norwich on TV a few times, where they mostly showed some decent defensive nous, aside from the 6-2 smashing they got at St. James Park. I was proved correct. It was a pretty tough match. Arsenal and Norwich both looked good in parts and the 1-1 draw was a reasonable enough result. However, that still meant that Arsenal had not won a match in the Premier League for the month of November, the 3-0 away win at the Liberty Stadium on October 31st being the last win.
As for the Champions League, I am happy that Olivier Giroud got his first hat-trick for the Club, despite not having seen the match. However, seeing the Clubs that Arsenal are likely to be drawn against (Lord Bendtner’s Wolfsburg, Arshavin and former Spurs boss AVB’s Zenit, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid) does not leave me with much confidence of anything other than another last 16 exit.
The biggest concerns for Arsenal for this month of December are the absences of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez, all due back around Christmas fortunately, but the longer absences of Santi Cazorla (out for 3 months) and Francis Coquelin (out for 2 months), arguably our starting holding midfield pairing, is more worrying for most. Tomas Rosicky is also still out, which leaves Arsenal very light in midfield for at least most of the month until Wilshere returns. Aaron Ramsey’s return this past weekend is a boost, but I think he will get injured again later this season as he seems to pick up a lot of muscle strains. Due to the advancing age and injuries of several of our central midfield players, I think Arsene Wenger needs to open up the Club’s wallet and purchase a defensive-minded midfield player and also possibly a winger in the January transfer window.
That’s all from me for now. I hope the Gunners can get all 3 points vs. former Gunner Double-winner Remi Garde’s Aston Villa. Come on you Gunners!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.