Not an excuse

Injuries ARE why we didn't win the title!

Injuries ARE why we didn’t win the title!

Everyone is looking for a reason why Arsenal have tailed off this season and fell short in the Premier League title race. Most blame Wenger but I feel that shows people are not assessing the campaign as a whole and are only looking at our downfall. The facts are clear. The Frenchman had assembled the best team in the country and if it wasn’t for injuries to key players such as Walcott, Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere, they would have gone on to almost certainly win the league. In the same way that both Chelsea and Manchester City have capitulated recently following injuries to Hazard and Toure respectively.

Liverpool have all but won their first Championship in 24 years and congratulations to them. I’m not saying they have been lucky but keeping the important players fit and healthy throughout the season has been key. Walcott is nowhere near as talented as Suarez but he is just as integral for the Arsenal as the Uruguayan has been for the Merseysiders. If Suarez had sustained a serious injury in January, Rodgers’ men would definitely not be in such a strong position. While that may be a hypothetical situation, it confirms my main point that injuries have undone us.

Whenever injuries occur, fans always complain that the manager should’ve bought a larger squad but that is a myth. Look at Manchester City for example. They have bottomless pockets and therefore loads of expensive players at their disposal but look like a completely different team without Toure. This highlights you simply cannot prepare for some injuries. That is why I blame the medical team (it’s happened too much in recent seasons for it just to be bad luck) for our collapse, not Wenger.

I, like every other Arsenal fan, was crying out for Wenger to sign a top quality striker but his reluctance to do so was not the reason for our title challenge ending prematurely. Giroud is not world class but neither is Sturridge. Take away Suarez and you’re left with a Manchester City & Chelsea reject. The same principle can be applied to our number 12. Take away Ramsey, Özil & Walcott and you’re left with a middle of the road striker. Liverpool have had to deal with significantly less injuries and that is why the Premier League trophy will be lifted at Anfield in a few weeks.

The clear impact that the returning Ramsey and Özil have had on our recent performances demonstrate that things could have panned out differently if important players had stayed fit. Our injury record is atrocious and that’s the serious issue that needs to be addressed if we ever want to win a title again. What’s the point of splashing the cash on a classy forward such as Falcao if he’s going to be injured for half of the season?

By Glen Shorey

Agony to ecstasy

FA Cup and Top 4 would be brilliant...

FA Cup and Top 4 would be brilliant…

In my previous post, I referred to Arsenal’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Wigan Athletic as a must win game in order to save our season. Since the turn of the year, we have been gradually getting worse in the league and were, after the defeat at Everton, out of the top 4. It was (still is) possible that we could finish trophyless for the ninth year running and miss out on Champions League qualification. Of course, I was gutted by our embarrassing loss at Goodison Park but still felt confident we could finish the campaign on a high. The sheer importance of beating a Championship side a Wembley could not be overstated.

So when Gomez stepped up to put Wigan 1-0 up after 63 minutes, I was understandably distraught. For the next 18 minutes, I sat motionless looking at the Wembley pitch (just like I did after our Carling Cup Final defeat back in 2011). My head was full of hateful thoughts towards these established international players such as Sagna, Cazorla and Vermaelen who had bottled yet another big match. Us fans can sort of forgive being thumped in the league but to lose a game of this magnitude where the future of the club hangs in the balance is criminal.

Not only did the team lack courage but also I was sure the footballing God’s were against us. With 10 minutes of normal time left, a Gibbs header was saved but looked to still be going in. That was until a Wigan defender somehow cleared the ball off the line. I sank back in my chair, head in hands and resigned to the fact that the silverware cabinet at the Emirates would remain bare once again. However, Arsenal Football Club has this amazing knack of salvaging hope from the rubble. They push fans to the edge of disappointment before re-kindling their love for the team in an instant.

I felt this sudden change in emotion at Wembley 9 days ago when Mertesacker scored the equaliser in the 81st minute. I nearly fell out of my wheelchair in all the excitement and celebration. I was relieved that there was still life in the old dog but more importantly; I started to BELIEVE (as my t-shirt says) again that the cup dream was still on. The match was still only 1-1 so we weren’t through to the final by any means and would have to play 30 minutes extra time. The crossbar denied Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 110th minute, which summed up our day of misfortune in front of goal.

That’s why when the lottery they call penalties began, I was sure we would miss a couple. However, it was Wigan who had two spot-kicks saved by Fabianski. Arteta, Giroud, Kallstrom and Cazorla all remained calm to put Arsenal into their first FA Cup final since they last won a trophy in 2005. As you can imagine, I was so happy when the winning penalty hit the net. Not only did it potentially mean our silverware drought would come to an end in May but being in the final on the 17th May would extend our season by an extra week (which delays the boring wait for August).

Plus, I felt that the positive result would inject much needed confidence back into a bruised team and we would finish the season well. Two wins in the league following our penalty triumph suggests that this is the case but time will tell whether our season will end in the agony of winning nothing for the ninth year in a row or pure ecstasy with Champions League qualification and the FA Cup.

By Glen Shorey

Save our season!

What did she wear?

What did she wear?

There has been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding Arsenal Football Club this past week but this needs to stop tomorrow. Yes, it’s disappointing not to win the league but finishing top 4 and getting our hands on the cup would be a fantastic achievement. We all would have took that after the opening day defeat to Aston Villa so I don’t het the endless misery. Us Gooners should all get behind the team until May because there is still a chance of a positive ending to this season.

Ever since going top on New Years Day, the title has slowly but surely been leaving Arsenal’s grasp. The team morale was high following a decent January where we progressed into the fifth round of the FA Cup and collected 10 points out of a possible 12 in the league. However the warning signs were there because although we beat teams like Fulham, Aston Villa and Cardiff our performance was below par. Although the media make out that grinding out a win is the true sign of Champions, I can admit that we were quite lucky to win in the aforementioned matches.

A tricky encounter against fellow title hopefuls Liverpool on February 8th was the beginning of the end for Arsenal and proved that the gunners wouldn’t secure their first Championship in a decade. I was nervous about going to Anfield but no one expected a 5-1 mauling.  After witnessing a shambolic display, many Gooners feared our season would spiral out of control but Arsene Wenger’s men responded well after the disappointing result by taking 4 points out of a possible 6 in the EPL and progressing to FA Cup Quarter Final.

The positive reaction didn’t last long as we were beaten again by the lowly Stoke City at the turn of the month. Again, the team reacted well by booking a place at Wembley for the FA Cup Semi Final and earning another 1-0 victory over the old enemy in the latest North London Derby. The celebrations were soon cut short when Chelsea embarrassed us with an emphatic 6-0 victory. As I said last week, stopping the rot with two draws was too little, too late. Two wins would have put Arsenal back in the race but alas, our title ambitions were finally dead before our trip up to Goodison Park.

Just as us Arsenal fans thought the situation in the league could not get any worse, we were taught a footballing lesson by Everton who beat us 3-0. This has put our position in next years Champions League in real jeopardy and means that the Arsenal will have to fight tooth and nail to secure 4th place. I am hopeful that we will and don’t understand those who desperately want to finish in the Europa League. We can put that situation to the side tomorrow and concentrate on a crucial Semi Final at Wembley against reigning FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic. Not only would it be great to reach a Final but I feel the match could be a leap pad for us to finish the campaign strongly and finish fourth.

By Glen Shorey

Too little, too late!

Let's cement Champions League football next year and then win the FA Cup...

Let’s cement Champions League football next year and then win the FA Cup…

Last week, my post would have surprised many because I didn’t feel the title race was over for the Arsenal following a shambolic performance at Stamford Bridge. I wrote it on the Tuesday afternoon but by 9.40 that night, any hope of us winning our first Championship in a decade had died. My ridiculous (some might say) optimism all boiled down to our game in hand at home to Swansea City. We were 7 points adrift from the top after the Chelsea defeat put a victory against the Jacks would cut the deficit to only 4. My plan didn’t materialise though.

Any flickering hope of the title was extinguished within 11 minutes when Bony easily beat Vermaelen in the air to open the scoring. Arsenal looked like a team who had recently been thrashed 6-0 and lacked the confidence to get back into the match. That was changed when Wenger threw some wood on the fire in the form of a second half substitution. Podolski came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 57th minute and definitely improved the team as they pushed for an equaliser. The pressure paid off as the game was turned on its head when Podolski and Giroud finished off two crosses to put the home side 2-1 up.

This season the Arsenal have prided themselves on taking the lead and holding onto it, with the recent result against Tottenham being a prime example of that (went 1-0 up in just over a minute then hung on). However once we had fought back to take the lead on Tuesday, the question on everyone’s lips was can Arsenal hold on and pass the test of Champions? The answer was a resounding no. An own-goal in injury time is quite unfortunate but the almost comical events that lead to Flamini putting the ball in his own net summed up the North London’s club failure in the past week or so and why they almost certainly will not win the league this year.

Being pegged back for a 2-2 draw by Swansea was disappointing but Chelsea suffered a surprising 1-0 away loss to Crystal Palace, which inconceivably blew the title race wide open again for us. A win against Manchester City (arguably the best team in the Premier League) would elevate us to 3rd position, only three points behind the leaders. However another sluggish start meant that we were, for the second home match in a row, 1-0 down at half time. Flamini did hit back with a cool finish past a despairing Joe Hart but it was too little, too late for Arsenal in terms of reviving any Championship hopes.

I waved the white flag and said we should concentrate on the FA Cup after losing away at Stoke at the beginning of March but it was still too early to give up all together. I then got caught up in the euphoria of a classic North London Derby victory and started believing the race was back on. Like I said, even after the trouncing at the hands of Chelsea, I was still blindly optimistic. Maybe if we had converted the two recent draws into wins, we would have stood a chance as we come into April. The reality though is that a seven point gap is definitely a bridge too far.

I’m not saying completely give up on the league from now on because securing a Top 4 place is vital and still not wrapped up (cannot underestimate Everton). I’m just saying that winning our first piece of silverware in 9 years is so important, both for the supporters and the club moving forward.

By Glen Shorey