Tuesday, 31 December 2013

REFLECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS


AFC Goal Of The Year
 
So, what to make of 2013 for the Arsenal? A trophy-less year again (right that’s that out of the way) but a year that ends with the Gunners on top of the league on 42 points. At the start of the year we lay in 6th on 38 points so that undoubtedly indicates progress. Does this show a decline in standards in the Premier League, as Manchester United began 2013 on top with a massive 59 points followed by Manchester City with 52? Or does it indicate that we have caught up? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Hard to say, but we find ourselves in a healthy position and on balance 2013 shows that statistically we are the years most successful team at accruing league points.

The key to this success may very well be in the new model Arsenal’s capacity to bounce back and string together positive results, this in itself only tells half the story. I think that the chemistry is right within this set of players and with the summer being a stable one for a change there has been opportunity for the squad to grow and, more than that, to connect with the supporters and the spirit of the club.

A number of players who promised much have moved on and the big summer signing certainlt transformed expectation: as did the run at the end of the 12/13 season that saw us clinched that 'up for grabs' UCL spot from under the nose of that lot. 

The Arsenal of Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri, Song, Eduardo, Gallas and Arshavin may have been a more talented group of players; however, they had a tendency to fold and were more a collection of individualists. The Arsenal of 2013/14 appears to have that all important X factor: resilience. What that resilience will bring us in 2014 is a mystery. I don’t think the Champions League trophy will be hoisted at Islington Town Hall but I feel that the FA Cup is a realistic target and the Premier League, the true test, is achievable. Having said that, it is achievable for maybe four clubs so one step at a time.

Talk of the January transfer window and our managers shopping habits leads to the usual conjecture and this time a lot of people are looking at the purchase of Ozil as a policy change. Cup tied players and pricing are major factors and quality acquisitions arriving at Arsenal in Januarys past have been limited to Reyes and Arshavin so no one knows if we can expect fresh recruits.

If we retain the consistency of 2013 we can achieve something and a trophy may well be the catalyst for what is a pretty young squad to grab a slice of Arsenal history. Only time will tell but things feel better at the Arsenal and let’s hope that continues.


Happy New Year

Friday, 27 December 2013

THE TEAM THE WHOLE TEAM AND NOTHING BUT THE TEAM


the sum of its parts
 
Arsenal v Chelsea: a game that neither team wanted to lose and a game that offered little to cement anyone’s view on the destination of the Premier League Trophy. Not starting with Flamini seemed to be a mistake given that the Chelsea midfield were quite combative, as the bruising on Arteta’s legs showed. Team selection for both team’s highlighted the lack of a world class striker in either camp but on boxing day Arsenal turned dominance into three points and this game showed Walcott’s value and the return of Podolski to strengthen the goal scoring ranks. Manchester City have many options, as do Chelsea but you feel that when the chips are down City can rely on a deadly finish to settle things. Is it possible that in the absence of an Aguero, Suarez or Negredo that a team that contributes with goals from all over the team will come out triumphant in May?

Domestically maybe so, however in Europe the high level finisher is key to achievement. The question on most Arsenal supporter’s minds is probably that in reference to the January transfer window. Will a new striker be added to the ranks? Given that most top strikers are cup tied in Europe I suspect that our manager will stick with Giroud, Podolski and the unknown quantity that is Sanogo.

Perhaps this course of action is best, the whole team ethic has got us this far and with those around us due to drop points over this holiday period it is essential that the whole team contribute to ensuring that we start the year with a lead at the top in order to give us the best possible start to 2014.

World class strikers often settle big games but teams win the others. My contention is that this year the team that claims the Premiership will not be the one that wins the big games but rather the one that doesn’t lose the ‘smaller’ games. The Arsenal’s team approach may yet win the day: Victoria Concordia Crescit indeed.

Monday, 16 December 2013

GAZING AT THE PYRAMID OF GREATNESS



We lost to a rampant Manchester City side that have an exemplary home record in a game in which we may well have scored goals goals given some decisions but in all honesty were second best in. Dissapointment rained down as did media exlamations of "I told you so" but many overlooked that we retained top spot.

Then the Champions League draw where we were paired up with the current holders (again) and negativity prevailed, yet the Champions League is all about facing the best teams in Europe and my view is simply 'that's the way the cookie crumbles'. En route to Paris we may have preffered not to draw Real Madrid or Juventus but we did and prevailed, we may have in the past been happy to draw a so called lesser team and ended up being elimintaed: it's the Champions League folks.

We have a six pointer against the Stamford Bridge rich kids: win that game and we take e a significant step forward from the 6-3 step back. Resilience is what is needed on Monday and so far this season we have bounced back from set backs.

An FA cup game against the N7 obsessives should be something to look forward to, as opposed to a comfortable drawer against an MKDons. Knocking out a Premier team will be a positive surely?
 
 
Context is everything and the need or wish is that the Arsenal are a big club with big aspirations but also a great club with the of DNA of greatness .The fact is that some are looking at the immediate future with trepidation, but isn't being involved in high stakes games what we desire? isn't it the way of things that to achieve anything one most deal with everything. I suppose one could choose to look ahead with fear but I prefer to look ahead with relish. Big games big opportunities, that's what the big time is all about. 

Comment from Captain's Arse:
We did not lose the game on Saturday, we lost it against Napoli where our non-astute manager surrendered top spot and misused the squad, running certain players into the ground in a game that we went on to lose anyway. It seems that he did not consider fitness levels for Saturday despite having spent years telling everyone how tired his players always are.

It does not really matter whether we play Bayern or their like in the this round or the next. If we lose then we are out of a competition that we are unlikely to win a round earlier enabling us to concentrate on the Premier League which we do have an outside chance of winning. If we beat Bayern then it should increase our confidence for the next round.

Our biggest problem is the return of virtually our full squad to fitness which means the manager has to make team selections that he consistently gets wrong and will continue too.

Captain's Arse

 

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