Well after a week or so in the blogging wilderness – a place filled with depressed Spurs supporters and original Man City fans – we can finally say that we are back; a bit like Arsenal recently! This weekend’s game against Sunderland represents a long jaunt away from the Emirates turf to a stadium that has always proven a difficult venue for our players to perform. Wenger will certainly be hoping that those away on International duty return without knocks and without Gervinho, not that anyone in their right mind would offer to pick him up! All three BackPageBanter Gooners are back in the hot seat for this one too and with plenty to catch up on I think it’s best to let their rambling begin.
Good evening gentlemen and a warm welcome to all our wonderful followers once again. After a week off we are back with a loud and proud bang from the Arsenal cannon!
In that time, Arsenal have safely manoeuvred their way through to the next round of the FA cup and produced a wonderful comeback against Liverpool despite some dodgy defending. It’s all looking a little rosier in the Arsenal garden! 4 games unbeaten for the mighty red and white army we can hopefully start looking forward and put together a string of results not dissimilar from last season. The transfer window slammed shut, but not before a packet of Nacho’s reminded Wenger to replace Gibbs. Mr.Monreal certainly appears to be another steal that’s for sure. A solid debut against Stoke and he looked completely unfazed against some tough opponent’s. Nacho Nacho Man, or whatever you like to call him, the guy looks the business! As Gibbs picked up another injury against Liverpool, the early signs from Monreal might mean the Englishman has his feet up that little bit longer, although let’s not forget some of the displays he was turning in before what seems like a customary muscle strain.
The Liverpool game did expose our weaknesses at the back however and some basic school boy errors showed we are still not home and dry when it comes to learning how to defend! 4 individual errors in just one Liverpool attack has to be some sort of record. What input Steve Bould has on the defence I don’t know but it’s certainly not very bold and decisive from the back four at the moment. The Stoke game can’t really be put down as a true test, as Stoke did put out all their rugby forwards – leaving us to enjoy the majority of possession and do almost all the door knocking! Fortunately Poldi broke the deadlock with a wonderfully crafted free kick! It was the luck we needed and silenced the hypocritical Tony Pulis. Big Olly Giroud’s form is also another talking point as the stats suggest he is certainly no flop with him and Walcott linking up well and finding some good form of late. Wenger’s smirk said it all at the full-time whistle, the supposed bogey team Stoke no longer causing us problems!
So moving on and it’s a trip up North to Sunderland this weekend for the Gunners. Henry’s finish last season meant we saw of the Black Cats by a whisker, but he is somewhere on holiday now, so how do you think the game could pan out Tom and Tom? Do you see this Arsenal side shaping up for the remainder of the season? Can Wenger provide some magic once again? With Bayern on the horizon the momentum needs to keep building before the magic of the Champions League returns. . .
Tom S 21.15
Let’s begin with ‘Transfer Deadline Day’, which was a strange one. With rumours of Villa flat lining well before midnight and Sky deciding the Emirates wasn’t worthy of a reporter, Arsenal fans could probably have been forgiven for flicking over for a day of Jamie’s 15 minute meals. The unanimous verdict heading into January was failure in the market would mean that come September Gooners will be tuning in to channel 5, a chilling thought for the even the most ardent supporter. We now have a nervous wait to see if the failure to land a striker, defensive midfielder, second goalie and right back will cost Wenger his top 4 record.
However, there was a glimmer of hope with the arrival of Nacho man (not purely because of the opportunity for some top quality puns). Gibbs had been finding a fine run of both attacking and defensive form and with him side lined for the next couple of months it seemed every fans nightmare was becoming a startling reality; Santos! The swoop for fellow Malagan Monreal should put a smile on Santi’s face (if there was ever a time he wasn’t smiling) but more importantly he looked solid against Stoke and already seemed to be forging an understanding with the rest of the team. I was impressed with his passing and desire to give and go up the left whilst remembering to track back quickly if possession was lost. Arsenal still look light upfront, Podolski, Walcott and Giroud have all gone someway to answering their critics at various points in the first half of the season however the necessity for a marquee signing and finisher is still there; a void unlikely to be filled by the return of a certain forehead. The first games after deadline day are always a chance for fans to ‘see what you could have got’! Sissoko looked class for the magpies and the £1.8mil may seem a bargain compared to Diaby’s medical bills for the next few years.
With Chelsea seemingly free-falling and Spurs stumbling when Bale doesn’t show up, there is a feeling fourth or even third is still very much a possibility. Arsenal need to hit a run of wins and it needs to happen now. Sunderland have proved to be a tough team and one who will not afford Arsenal the luxury of time on the ball or to be wasteful in front of goal. Against Stoke the Gunnners were on top but whenever a game goes past the 70-75 minute mark, the nerves inevitably kick in just that bit more for supporters and players alike – not a problem if we had a clinical Bergkamp or Henry (simply too soon to mention RVP) up top, but for a striker lacking that killer instinct it can be the difference between burying one in the back of the net and the back of the stands! Early goals are king and with Wilshere continuing to boss the midfield (need we speak of his England performance anymore?) 6 points from Sunderland and Villa is not only vital, but very easily attainable.
Rarely do I tune into England friendlies with much interest nowadays, but I have to say I’m sure glad I put up with the noisy Brazilians bashing tin drums and dancing with their bright flags in our local bar to see Wednesday night’s international fixture. A sign of the future I hope – Walcott and Wilshere causing damage and impressing against quality opposition, showing grit and determination to match the best of them. Throw Gibbs, the Ox, Jenkinson and Ramsey into the equation and it is certainly reassuring to see a core of British players that could lead the next generation. Wilshere in particular is our real gem – able to glide past players with such ease and precision it’s quite scary at times. Wenger may have made some mistakes, but if he builds a strong enough squad around a player of Jack’s quality (and convinces him to stay which shouldn’t be too hard) silverware can’t be too far off, can it? Roll on Sunderland I say and let’s get this Arsenal team back to where they belong. February could be a kind month to us. Arsenal, however, cannot afford to show the same generosity on Saturday!
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