I have to say today’s papers did make for pleasurable reading on the way to work, despite the fact that Europe’s most elite competition now excludes Great Britain (a la Euro). Of course its prestige is worth remembering having just watched Spurs slug their way through a competition that draws comparisons similar to those made with Taken and Taken 2. A strange game for many reasons, Bayern well below their usual standard and Arsenal scoring from a corner. But I think for many fans it has shown a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season and a performance that we hope will carry on into Saturday’s fixture against Swansea. As we know the Swans have already secured a trophy this season (sigh!), while Arsenal go in search of the top 4 trophy which is currently being built I have heard. . . So without wasting time like Bayern did so well the other evening, I will just let you get stuck into what the lads had to say on the sofa.
Tom S 22.22
So it’s Auf Wiedersehen to Europe for another year; a battling performance from the gunners not quite enough for the glory of a quarter-final spot. Positives – a win away against opponents tipped for CL victory, a remarkable return for the 2 young English full backs in Gibbs and Jenkinson, a reminder that Arsenal have a worthy second string shot stopper and a resilient team performance from a media condemned squad. Negatives – nothing on the bench ( Gervinho vs Gomez), too much pressure on the armband (Arteta has committed more fouls than any other player in Europe this season), and possibly most horrifically the fact that Arshavin is still being paid to play football. Oh, and throw in the fact we are out of the competition! So, all in all, some mixed reviews!
I did feel that the players restored a little pride in the Arsenal shirt and sent a loud message to the upper echelons of European football; we won’t go down without a fight. Of course leaving a competition of such prominence hurts, but if the Gunners can move on from the defeat whilst embracing the fighting spirit they showed on a cold Munich night, it could be the exact mantra needed to propel them to that magical 4th place finish. In the last few seasons when times have looked tough Arsenal have shown that extra defiance and determination to qualify for Europe. Whether it be through Spurs’ chef or Chelsea capitulating under yet another Euro manager, we have so far managed find our way up the table when it matters. I do believe that this season they face the sternest test of the last decade but there is still a belief that they will be able to scrap it out and emerge with Wednesday night football next season. Spurs and Chelsea both face tough run ins, both still have a Europa agenda and both have shown a vulnerability in the last week (too soon for a Downing joke?)
Still, no amount of love and optimism can sugar coat the cold hard facts; Arsenal need a terrific run of form and they need it now. Swansea has become a dirty word around Ashburton Grove with memories of being outplayed by a team dubbed as having the ‘the same style’ all too fresh in the memory. Yes they play nice football, have a good manager, have made some astute signings and feature a fair few foreigners, but that does not mean they should ever be able to outplay/outwit or outperform Wenger’s men. If the Arsenal back-four remains the same as mid-week I think they can keep the Swans at bay and even though he may not possess the perfect clinical mind I would back Giroud to convert a cross or two to bag the points.
So I’m going 3-1, Walcott has enjoyed games against the Welsh before and I feel he could be the difference again, his crossing in Germany was vastly improved and his dead ball delivery has taken an upward turn. Whether he is truly worth his wages is still contentious, but for now I’m happy to have him onboard!
Good evening gentleman and boy George where do we start on tonight’s show? The failings at Spurs or a great display in Munich? We will start with last night’s game and what a shame to go out after a great all round display from the players. Before the game I feared the worst and further embarrassment on our season. With news breaking in the build-up to the game of Wilshere’s injury and Wenger looking to shuffle the pack, most Arsenal fans I’m sure feared a hammering in Munich. However, it was not to be and there were some big performances from players such as Jenkinson, Fabianski and Koscielny – 3 players that haven’t had many chances this season. They all showed passion and put in 100% for 93 minutes (IS THAT ALL REF!). The display last night is what we need week in week out from this Arsenal team, but unfortunately what is letting us down is some inconsistent players and more importantly, performances.
Jens Lehman was asked before the game what the German public thought of the game and he said “for them the game is over”. Well, Bayern certainly played as if they had one eye on the next round and only really threatened from long-range, albeit on multiple occasions. For Arsenal, it was as if Steve Bould had been allowed to speak during team training again because the team looked a lot more organised. I’m sure we have said this before but let’s hope we can take last night’s display into the remaining games and especially this weekend at Swansea. We will certainly miss Jack the lad Wilshere who is resting up in Dubai???? Quite a nice place to go and rest up might I add. What happened to feet up and your mum’s home cooking!
Will Wenger have the nerve to keep the same eleven that started against Bayern? Fabianski in between the sticks was just fabulous and hardly put a foot wrong organising his troops with great authority. At the back with Koscielny playing so well, it begs the question whether Vermaelen should come back in? On paper you would have Koscielny and Vermaelen, but the game isn’t played on paper and big Per and Koscielny seem to complement each other well. A selection dilemma for Wenger to ponder before Saturdays clash maybe . . . when was the last time he had one of those!
Players such as Walcott and Cazorla need to help chip in with more goals in the remaining games to take the burden off of big Olly Giroud, who flapped and flustered his way through the Bayern game without managing to disrupt his styled hair. It’s time for Bill and Ben, (Wenger and Bould) to get a grip of the team and guide us into a good bit of form in the final dozen or so fixtures. Wenger harps on about the belief and mental strength, but we need the talent to shine through and for the fringe players to step up and show why they’re not just a one trick pony! (I.e. Gervinho or that pony in the new advert for 3). With Spurs having to play more games in the Europa League and the Spanish waiter at Chelsea juggling their season like a couple of hot plates, Arsenal might just have the last laugh again once again. For now it’s Swansea and a chance to take the performance in Munich onwards and upwards! COYG!
Reaching that fourth spot is so important. I looked at the San Siro tonight, normally a place for opposition to fear, but on this occasion there were almost more opposition fans. Hardly a noisy cauldron. Chelsea’s supposed ‘North Bank’ showed more gaps than Spurs’ high back line and it’s clear to see that a season out of the Champions League will do Arsenal no favours. Firstly, the challenge then becomes how long before we find ourselves back playing the likes of Bayern and Barcelona, and secondly, what player would not want to come to a club in this competition when you consider the glitz and glamour surrounding it? Swansea will be a real test for this squad to show if Bayern was just another game in our roller coaster season, or if we can manage to steady the ship and cruise into fourth spot at the expense of AVB’s one man band!
I just want to finish on the defence though and in particular the performace of Koscielny. If he can get a proper run of games under his belt I really believe he can develop into a top, top defender. Unlike Vermaelen, I think he possesses that extra bit of natural flair for defending, while his ability in the air at times is second to none. There has been talk of Swansea’s Ashley Williams being on Wenger’s radar, and I can certainly see why. Wenger must realise that we have the defensive talent within the squad, we just need to ensure that we don’t become reliant on one or two defenders all season. Lets hope on Saturday it is our CB’s receiving the plaudits!
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