By Hunter Tighe
It wasn’t hard to figure out what happened in today’s game. This wasn’t like the Manchester United match, in which we had more chances and a solid control of the game. We got straight up out-hustled. Man City took a heavily-rotated squad to the Allianz in the midweek fixture and got a good result, mainly because of the fact that they’ve spent billions on their squad. Like Munich, their second squad is of equal quality to their first. Today, we saw a fully-rested City squad play a team on 2 days rest and not much room for rotation. Depth is power when you play two games a week at this level. January will be a crucial time for our management to take action if we are to stay competitive with these “Money Talks” tycoons, if you will.
On the bright side, we played with resilience in the attacking half. It took us more than a quarter of the game to find composure and control in the midfield. However, when we did, we made the right passes and runs to set up Theo Walcott’s 1st goal since injury. This goal, I believe, will return him to the goalscoring form that saw us into the top 4 last season. Theo provides such pace and finishing poise that even when we can’t find the creative rhythm that saw us past Napoli, Liverpool, and Dortmund earlier this season, we can find a way behind the opposition and into the back of the net and that will be crucial going forward.
Today’s match was, for me, eye-opening to our lack of depth in the defense. I think if we do have ambitions of winning the league title, we need another world-class centre-half and a solid right-back. With his pace, strength, and ball-winning ability, today would’ve been a great day to see Bacary Sagna in the center of our defense. I think we all understand why he stayed out right, though. Carl Jenkinson is still young and he plays a bit nervy against the big boys. I don’t want to bash him, though. I think he’ll be a future Arsenal great. He's just not ready for the first team when under pressure. Frankly, Mertesacker was worn the hell out. We saw a similar performance from him against Galatasaray. When playing tired, he can get sluggish and incapable of handling the more agile attackers, especially when they have incredible striking ability like Drogba and, today, Negredo and Aguero. Vermaelen, once again, did not show the capability to “boss” the defense as Koscielny does and if Wenger is opposed to rotating him with BFG on a regular basis, I really don’t see the sense in keeping him. Our defense showed frailties that we all knew were there, but hadn’t proved an issue until today. Unfortunately, it was a crucial match for the standings. Asking our centre-halves to play every minute of every game, when playing twice, and later on three times, a week is completely unreasonable and unrealistic.
We’ve seen this group of boys, this team, play with the quality to beat any side in the world. That’s a fact. Now, from a management standpoint, we need to change some policies and take some risks in the line-up to see us play to our potential in quality more consistently. For me, this game was easily summarized by one word. Depth.
By Blake Pirtle
I’m going to take this opportunity to be very, very selfish. Point blank, I want Real Madrid in next stage of the Champion’s league. That’s right, I’m standing center ring at the Madison Square Garden (on behalf of Arsenal), and I just dropped a bomb then dropped the mic.
But seriously, I want to talk about why I think Madrid is my opponent of choice after our clash with Napoli yesterday in the final group stage match of this year’s Champions League.
First, a look back to a few months ago. Groups were drawn, and the “Group of Death” was born. Group F featured our boy’s in red, last year’s runners-up in Borussia Dortmund, a very respectable Napoli team that finished 2nd in Serie A last year (and picked up a certain Striker a lot of Gooners had their hearts set on), and some French team everyone kind of thought would get run over. Point being, everyone KNEW that one major contender would be left out of the knockout stages at the end of Group F’s six matches. We (as a fan base) were a little distraught. Our boys had worked so hard just to make it to the group stages, and there we were in the absolute hardest group to move on from.
Fast-forward to yesterday, December 11th, 2013. We were first in the table with 12 points. All we had to do was not lose by 3 goals and we were through. We sat back on our laurels and lost by 2 goals. A completely different team than what we have seen up to this point. We seemed lost on the defensive side a fair few times (minus Koscielny, he was brilliant), and we had virtually no attacking prowess. Now I know this had to be the tactics set down from the boss, so this is why I hope for this:
I want us to Draw Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich in the first round of the knockout stages.
I simply want this because I know we will not be able to sit back for either stage against those teams. I want us to prove we have the quality to win, or I want us to exit the Champion’s league early enough for us to focus on our BPL campaign and the upcoming FA Cup round.
Do I think we have the quality, desire, and squad strength to face any of the aforementioned teams and come out on top? Absolutely.
I think if there’s any time to go take on a giant, it’s right now. I’m getting pumped just thinking about it, and I hope our boys are doing the same.
By Scott C. Mossman
What does pineapple vodka, Bendtner loathing, and getting goosed have to do with Arsenal? At George’s Pub, it has a hell of a lot to do with it, but we’re not quite sure what that really means. Either way, the Arsenal remains top of the league.
It seems difficult to come up with a good answer to a number of questions this season. How has our defense become best in the league? How is Aaron Ramsey scoring goals like a striker and passing the ball like Mesut Ozil…to Mesut Ozil? How is Manc Utd in 9th? It’s becoming easier to find examples of why these things are so, but when (effing) Bendtner scores in the 2nd minute from a perfect Carl Jenkinson cross (yes, you’re reading this sentence correctly so far) we have good reason to wonder how our fortunes have improved so much in one season.
Our squad has been so good that Sooner Gooners have actually had to quarrel with each other just to exhaust our usual amount of frustrations. I can tell you there wasn’t enough pineapple vodka being had when that went down. By the way, Corey, go ahead and pour me my next goose. That didn’t come out well, did it?
At least three of the guys, in Tulsa alone, are planning trips across the pond to see the lads. I think that shows the level of excitement for what we’re doing right now. December looks like our toughest run of fixtures yet and, by the time I visit Islington in late December and New Years Day, I think we’ll know whether to get legitimately excited about a title winning season or not. How exciting is that?!
I became an Arsenal fan in 2006 and a true Gooner forever in 2007 (the night Henry headed home in stoppage time v mancU…I knew for sure that night) and Arsenal have yet to win a trophy in that span. As a gooner, not winning a trophy has taught me to love the club no matter what, but I have no idea how to feel about actually winning the league. I want it more than any other competition. The word ‘champions’, for me, means winning the premier league. I often think about what my reaction will be when it finally happens. I’ll probably cry. I can only hope there’s a goose in front of me and you Sooner Gooners at my side.
Everton on Sunday.
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