That’s why we’re FA Cup champions…
For the first time this season, Arsenal are on a winning streak of more than three games in all competitions. So far in this stop start campaign; we have tended to win two matches (once we managed three on the bounce) and then either scrape a disappointing draw at home or be brought back down to earth with a bump by losing away. I have to admit that, although I am blindly optimistic when it comes to football, I did deep down still believe that we stood no chance at the Etihad. Our record against the top teams in recent years has been horrendous so I had nothing to fill me with positivity. Going to the Champions, scoring a couple of goals and keeping a clean sheet would be nigh on impossible
Somehow Arsenal managed just that and even a diehard Manchester City fan could admit we fully deserved the three points. It was a complete performance and one I haven’t seen from my beloved team for years. Even in the FA Cup last year, we still let in two and it took a while to warm up so it wasn’t perfection. Against Manchester City, every player bar none put in a shift from kick off right through to the final whistle and I was immensely proud of them all. Of course, a special mention must go to Santi Cazorla who demonstrated his class with a goal, assist and man of the match performance but yet again I was left speechless by the dominance of Francis Coquelin.
I can almost say for certain that the result would have been very different had the young Frenchman not played the full 90 minutes up at the Etihad. The way that Coquelin acts as a wall for the Arsenal defence is very similar to the job Nemanja Matic does for Chelsea. I know it sounds absurd because a month ago, Arsene Wenger was probably looking to ship the 24 year old out permanently but he has transformed into a player that the team can really not be without. This was proved on Sunday at Brighton. We won 3-2 so it doesn’t really matter in the end but the two goals we did concede could have easily been avoided simply by having the Coq in front of Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal as opposed to Mathieu Flamini
I have said it before but I will repeat the point as more people may agree with me now. Life is looking very rosy indeed for Arsenal supporters. Our team is through to the 5th Round of the FA Cup where we have been drawn against Middlesbrough at home (not easy as they knocked out City but preferable to a tricky away tie). We have gathered a bit of momentum in the league and there is no reason why this should stop. If we continue winning and other results go our way, we could quietly climb up the table. Then there is the Champions League which will be returning soon. That is three competitions we are still alive and kicking in. Whatever happens, I can guarantee that the next few months will be exciting.
Whether I’ll be crying tears of joy or sorrow is yet to be seen.
By Glen Shorey
The future is Le Coq…
Like most Arsenal supporters, I was very satisfied with our performance on Sunday against Stoke City. Although the Potters have an atrocious record at the Emirates Stadium, they have picked up a few decent wins away from home this season including a shock victory up at the Champions Manchester City so could not be underestimated. As it was, Mark Hughes’ side did not look threatening and we cruised to a comfortable 3-0 score line. The result was not the only positive at the weekend. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil were both back on the substitutes bench after injuries.
Everyone has been waxing lyrical about the man they call Alexis and rightly so. The Chilean put in yet another top class performance; scoring two delightful goals and putting one on a plate for Laurent Koscielny. There is little I can add that hasn’t been said already except the fact Sanchez was an absolute bargain at £35 Million, especially if you consider that Manchester United bought Angel di Maria for nearly double that. The shrewd deal for the Chilean demonstrates that Arsene Wenger remains a genius and can still pull a rabbit from the hat. It also illustrates my belief that the transfer market is absurd and the larger price tag does not guarantee a better player.
A player who hasn’t been given the credit his impressive performance on Sunday warranted was Francis Coquelin. I would obviously love to buy an experienced holding midfielder this January (there’s still plenty of time left) but the French midfielder has really turned his Arsenal career around over the past few matches. This is a player who has had various loan spells including a month at Charlton this season and looked to be heading out of the Emirates door permanently this window. However, the 24 year old has seen that the side are crying out for a defensive midfielder and has seized the opportunity to get first team football by stepping up to the plate.
One part of this game that particularly impressed me was that he was not noticeable. People might think that it is a criticism, but the fact is when I watched the game back I felt he went about his job in a quiet but efficient manner. The thing with defensive midfielders is that you don’t want them to get forward much. I can never remember Gilberto Silva getting involved in the attacking play regularly, and I think Coquelin did a similar job in that he mopped up any mistakes, began attacks, but most importantly stayed back. He seemed to be everything that Arteta and Flamini are not; a disciplined sitter.
While some people might point out that Arsenal were not good defensively against Southampton and Coquelin started in that match, I would like to say that he had the inexperienced Callum Chambers next to him, who is clearly not a defensive midfielder. It is no coincidence that the two matches where Coquelin has been sitting in front of the back four on his own have both resulted in clean sheets. I would definitely like to see him start tomorrow as I think we stand more of a chance of winning away at Man City if we have a holding midfielder who does not have a short attention span (Flamini seems to get distracted by where the ball is on the pitch).
By Glen Shorey
There’s much to get excited about…
It’s early January (Happy New Year by the way) and the winter transfer window has just opened. Cue an internet meltdown, as Arsenal fans post about how terrible the team is and that Arsene Wenger needs to buy a truckload of world-class players or leave. I agree we need a few players, especially in defence, but the rumours of Hummels, Varane and Bender are quite frankly unrealistic. Maybe one but not all three. This is not FIFA. I do however honestly believe the boss is willing to do business. It will simply come down to whether the board give him the sufficient money to spend.
Where I do disagree with most Arsenal fans though is the belief that spending big money will bring about instant success. You’ve only got to look at our neighbours Tottenham Hotspur who spent well over £100 Million in the past two years and are in a similar position to us this season. I’m not saying we shouldn’t invest in the squad, just that flexing the muscles in the transfer market doesn’t necessarily mean success on the pitch. We do need strengthening but it doesn’t have to be massive names. Winston Reid or the like is fine with me.
A quick note on Lukas Podolski who has gone on loan to Inter Milan. We have to let players go to get any in so I can’t understand the same people who are desperate for us to make signings are devastated he’s gone. Yes, top quality finisher but so lazy and does not track back, which is problematic for a winger. If I had to choose between getting rid of Podolski or Campbell, I’d keep the young pacey Costa Rican every day of the week so I’m happy.
I always like to end on a positive note so I’ll quickly remind you all why the season is not dead in the water for Arsenal yet. Maybe it will be come March but negativity doesn’t help anyone. Just calm down and think about it. Firstly, we have the small matter of defending our FA Cup crown. Following our comfortable 2-0 victory over Hull on Sunday, a repeat of the 2013 4th round trip to Brighton awaits. Plus, we have a very winnable tie in the Champions League round of 16 against AS Monaco. Also, don’t give up on the Premier League title. You’re probably all laughing because of our shambolic defensive displays of late but 13 points is retrievable. If we be more consistent and the other teams slip up a few times, you never know. Nothing is certain.
By Glen Shorey