Villa: Tougher than the pundits think

I was in a good mood at the start of the weekend. I still kinda am, actually, but there’s a few things that have made me ever-so-slightly ‘harrumph’ in the last 24 hours, if I’m honest.

The first was upon listening to the always excellent Arsecast, in which I heard that Antony Taylor will be taking charge of our game today against Villa, the consecutive game this season in which he’s taken charge. Quite why the Premier League has seen fit to punish us with, quite frankly the worst referee in the league by a country mile, is beyond me. But the fact that he made contentious decision after decision last season must surely have led to somebody at Premier League HQ making a note and saying “guys, let’s not pair him up with these two teams again, at least not for next season to let the dust settle.

But no, somebody has a sense of humour in Scudamore’s administration, so let’s expect a few absolute shockers for decisions this lunchtime, eh?

Anyway, that Premier League faux pa aside, there are more than a few warning signs for this Arsenal side entertaining the Villains today at The Emirates. For one thing, we face a Villa side who have had a recent history of upsetting us on our home soil. Ignore the details of how we’ve dominated teams, Villa have rarely come to The Emirates with fear, so I’m not expecting anything different this afternoon. Tough to break down and built upon a foundation of deep-lying defenders with little desire to press on, I’m not expecting an open game and if the game has an initial 20 minutes with no scorers, expect ourselves to have a frustrating afternoon.

Villa’s poor league position belies their defensive solidity. Their issue has been scoring goals all season. But teams always have the opportunity with scabby set pieces, so it will come as no surprise tomorrow if Villa are one up after rid only attack on goal in the first half. Less so if Antony Taylor has given a penalty when it clearly isn’t one…we have been warned…

In terms of our team today, the absence of Alexis will be a loss, but you’d hope that the replacements can more than make up for his effervescence on the pitch. I do hope that Rosicky is given a chance. After his performance against Brighton and his recent displays, I feel like he’s earned it, but he’s not as big a price tag as Özil. That shouldn’t make a difference but we all know it might. Rosicky – to my mind – is better on the left than Özil and it should be a straight shoot-out between Cazorla and Özil for the number ten role and right now, if we’re all honest, Santi wins it hands down right now.

The back four should be fairly standard and I’d be surprised if the same back four that played against Moneychester City weren’t preferred against Villa, so Bellerin should see his right back spot returned to him. It should also mean a return for Monreal and I think that’s the right thing to do. Playing players on form is how football should work, so I’m expecting to see our left-back Spaniard get another game under his belt.

As for Villa, I think we’ll see the usual brute force of Benteke being a handful, but I don’t expect us to be under the kosh, so it will be counter attacking football that will be the soups de jour for Paul Lambert’s men. Carlos Gil looks like he could be a bit of a threat after his wonder-strike against Bournemouth, but if we can maintain our high-tempo start to games like we have over the last few weeks, it should peg back some of their creative players.

I’d love to see a walk in the park against a Villa team who have struggle for goals all season, but this is Arsenal and we all know it’s never that easy, so I’m thinking this might be closer than the pundits would have us believe. For once, I hope their all right and we see a comfortable afternoon of football. We need to carry on the momentum with all of the other teams around us winning yesterday, so three points has to be the order of the day, however hard we are made to work for them.

Come on you reds!

Le boss in fine fettle and the club in form; what we all want, right?

Arsene took on the press yesterday and, as expected I suppose given our form and the announcement of a signing to talk about in the shape of Gabriel, he was in quite a jovial mood. I must say, it is much more preferable to me when everyone is a little bit more happier. I think there are some Arsenal fans out there in the world who seem to thrive on misery in some sort of footballing masochistic mindset, because some people only seem to get a thrill when we’re failing. But me, I like it when things are rosy in our garden. I like it when Arsene can have a joke with the press about giving them his address so they can send another signing his way if he is an ‘exceptional talent’.

Le Boss told the assembled hacks that Gabriel was ready, fit and will go straight into the squad, which is lovely to hear and something that will be a great boost to the squad as a whole. He may not speak enough English yet, but his fellow Spaniard’s in the team will give him enough support and I suspect that if we can get ourselves a comfortable lead on Sunday (which I don’t think will happen by the way; I suspect Villa will be hard to break down and it will be a tighter game than the pundits are suggesting, but more on that tomorrow), we might see Gabriel as a sub appearance to ease him in to the team.

The only downer that you could possibly have on the presser yesterday was the confirmation from Arsene that Alexis is unlikely to be risked. He’s picked up a knock and as a result I think Wenger will play the cautious game. It’s a sensible option and one that is made all the easier for the boss by the form of other players, as well as the fact that we have somebody like Rosicky who, in my opinion, deserves another run in the team after the Brighton game. Of course, the options are such now, that Rosicky may not even start, and with Ozil back you wonder if it will be a combination of Santi/Ozil or Santi/Rosicky for that left wing position. My preference would be Rosicky out wide left because I think the best players who are in the best form need to play and Santi is in the best form so he has to play centrally. Ozil out wide left hasn’t worked as much, but Rosicky has more experience in that position, so I’d give him the nod. But second guessing Arsene is like trying to break the Enigma machine, so I’ll not bother trying with that just yet.

Welbeck, Jack and the Ox are still out, but with the sheer volume of quality players we have at the moment – something Arsene confirmed when he spoke yesterday when replying to whether there would be any more signings – means that we have plenty of options to cater for our massive injury list. You just watch: now that we seem to have found solutions to the troubled positions that have been rocked by injury, we’ll end up having the whole squad fit and players getting unhappy because they’re not playing as much. I guess we’d all rather have that than the other end of the spectrum though, i.e. no players fit so we go back to putting square pegs in round holes!

I do wonder with the Welbeck situation, whether Arsene is being ‘ultra cautious’ because he has other players that he wants to play who are in form over recent weeks, hence why he won’t be featured this weekend. Arsene has said that in the past he’s told the press that a player is injured, or has a ‘little bit knock’ of varying degrees, but with the form post Moneychester City and Brighton, Welbeck doesn’t just walk straight in to this team. It saves his, as well as Arsene, a job of fitting players in if one is a bit ‘short’. I know I’m going all conspiracy theory-esque on you now, but it just seems convenient that Welbeck is back on Monday and, after Rosicky will have played the last few games back-to-back, Arsene might then have a get out by saying ‘look, he is 34 and he cannot play every week, so I have to be able to rest him’. I know, I know, I’m getting way to hypothetical here – especially if Rosicky doesn’t play tomorrow – but given that I saw somebody on Twitter speak about how they had met Welbeck and he’d said he is fit, it feels like Arsene is keeping players back to save their own face as he tries to fit in so many talented footballers into his matchday squad.

But hey, I’ve wanted this for so long (squad rotation) so please don’t mistake my comments as a literary bashing at the manager- they’re really not supposed to be. If you’re going to have a big squad of talented footballers, you’re also going to have a lot of bruised egos when they’re not playing, so the best thing to do is to protect them in the public eye and I’m sure they will appreciate that too. So I say ‘bravo’ to Arsene. It feels like his mindset is shifting and he’s starting to manage the fitness of the players better; rotating them on a regular basis, keeping the competition for places realistic and at the same time ensuring that the infamous ‘red zone’ is this evil thing that is way off into the distance somewhere.

We’re in good spirits right now. A win tomorrow will give us yet more momentum and with a trip to Spudsville on the horizon, it will be good to see that we are in the kind of ‘positive spiral’ that could help us to put on a show and potential collect three points at our nearest and certainly not dearest rivals.

Until tomorrow.

Benjy loves football, Rosicky and the FA Cup

It’s Ben today giving his thoughts on last weekend and the FA Cup in general. I’ll be back tomorrow with a dissection of what Arsène said in his pre-villa presser.
Chris

We’ve been told in recent weeks that The FA Cup has been becoming secondary and it’s losing it’s appeal. Last weekend begged to differ. We witnessed an incredible alignment from the footballing gods. Most of the major contenders went out. We had Manchester United draw at League 2 Cambridge City. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea lost a 2 goal lead to concede 4 goals to League 1’s Bradford. If superficial analysis is universally applied, Jose must be burnt at the stake. Immediately. Also, Man City and Spurs crash out. If it is losing it’s appeal, It’s definitely going down swinging.

After infuriating the footballing gods by actually enjoying the apocalypse, Brighton could of been a fixture that ‘Our beloved Arsenal’ could have flunked, terribly. But thankfully we didn’t allow that to happen. The last two games on the Arsenal calendar have been fun. like, really fun. They’ve both had something delightfully in common; A player has played out of his skin. Against Man City Santi Cazorla ran the show. At the weekend it was Tomas Rosicky.

The Little Mozart conducted our performance against Brighton and he did a pretty good job of it too. He set up Özil beautifully for our second goal and scored the third. He won the ball back high up the pitch, gave the defender his exaggerated ‘no-look’ pass which allowed Giroud the space to chip (he’s bloody good at those) it back to the edge of the box, at which point he lashed it into the back of the net.

Tomas has this great ability to control the ball, turn away from his man and drive forward four or five metres all in one movement to open up space and he did so all game. He’s 34 years of age but bursts around the pitch like a man half his age. Pressing, harassing the opposition when we don’t have the ball, then when we do have the ball he’s got one thing on his mind and that’s to go forward and make something happen. As Arsène said, if you love football, you love Super Tomas Rosicky.

But it wasn’t all about Rosicky. The rest of the motley crew put in a good performance. Ramsey made a huge impression on the game and played well; he ran himself ragged. Martin Keown said something interesting this week on our young Welshman and summed up my feelings perfectly on him:

“For me he (Ramsey) gambles too much, he doesn’t wait till the possession is secured enough and he is the key. If he can get the balance right from [when] he becomes part defender to part attacker, then Arsenal could go on and do particularly well because everyone else in that team was prepared to put a stint in defensively but Ramsey was bursting forward sometimes far too often and that could be a problem in the future.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I’d like to make it clear it isn’t a dig at Ramsey because he’s still young and learning his role, his position in the side. He can just be very frustrating to watch. He seems to do something incredibly intelligent and then he will do something equally ignorant. He’s really flirting with the idea of being bloody good at football.

There’s no doubt that the early goal at the weekend helped us control the first half. Theo will have gained massive confidence from such a sublime finish. But Theo Walcott is a player who continues to trick my eyes with his sorcery of playing styles. You watch him play and it looks like every performance is his first on a football pitch. Then you look at his stats for goals and assists and he’s up there with some very good players. I think it’s very clear at this point that Theo is a player who will get you goals as an instinctive finisher and pacy outlet, rather than a genuine creative winger. Bearing all that in mind it’s hard to work out our starting XI at the best of times, but with Theo contributing the way he did against Brighton, can he really sit on the bench playing like that?

To say something out loud that may sound silly – Theo’s goal encouraged us as much as it seemed to deflate Brighton. It was huge for us to start in such a positive way, considering the changes we made to the starting XI, as Theo said after the game (sensibly I might add). We were good in patches but, in the wake of three consecutive clean sheets, we need to look closely at the two goals we conceded. With a good number falling at the fourth hurdle it has been a great round for us. There are still some good sides left in who could easily cause an upset but providing we can beat Middlesborough we will be well on our way.

Bloody love the cup.

Be Happy,

Ben

It’s finally happened (in more ways than one)

It’s finally happened. After waiting for so long, Arsenal announced the signing of Gabriel from Villareal for the now standard princely sum of “undisclosed fee”.

When I say ‘finally happened’, it has a few meanings of course. Firstly, given our general knowledge about the transfer for about a week now, it was finally announced after Villareal had confirmed it, Joel Campbell had made his switch and Gabriel himself had said goodbye to the Villareal fans. He seems to have had quite a bit of affection given to him, especially as he’s only been at the club for 18 months, so hopefully this bodes well for him from an Arsenal fan perspective. It does make you chuckle that Arsenal left it until yesterday to announce, eeking out this to get maximum excitement tinged with frustration. Then a little bit more teasing with the ‘check out Instagram account for Gabriel’s number’. Crafty PR Devils. I’ll not begrudge them that though, especially as a marketer myself, and especially because we know how much stick the club gets when bad news is dealt. So let’s just smile and be happy that we have our man.

‘Finally happened’ also relates to the fact that after searching for a centre half since Thomas Vermaelen departed the Arsenal shores for sunnier climes, we got that additional centre half we’ve all been craving. We now have somebody who can (we hope) come in when Koscienly starts to creek and, by the sounds of it, has similar attributes to our established Frenchman. Let’s all bear in mind, however, that Koscienly needed a year to ‘bed in’ to the team too before he started to become the player we all know and love today. So we need to appreciate that as Gabriel adapts to the league, he’ll make one or two mistakes. The hope is that his character shines through and he doesn’t wilt as his Arsenal career progresses.

So we have our man. We have a centre half and in Calum Chambers, a perfect young up-and-comer, who can deputise for both Per and/or Kos as well as partner Gabriel if we did suffer a crisis in central defence. It’s interesting that Arsène has fixed this glaring hole in our squad, but did not do so last January with a striker signing, but perhaps that was because he had big plans in the summer? A £12million outlay (guessing figures here as I’ve seen no specific definitive one from all sources) on Gabriel would suggest that he’ll probably not venture in to the market for a centre half in the summer, so perhaps in hindsight you could say that whilst we were damaged by not signing a Giroud squad replacement last January, perhaps it was for the ‘long-term’ best? We did sign Alexis after all.

So here we are then. An issue resolved. Who’d a thunk it? Not only that though, but I’m looking at our squad on paper (dangerous at the best of times I know) and I’m thinking that we’re almost there. The most obvious position that you’d say we need another body is in that holding midfield role, but in terms of January, there’s probably few out here who would sell for anything less than double time. There will be those that will advocate the ‘pay anything for a Schneiderlin now’ approach, but with Coquelin improving every game, where’s the logic there when you can more easily prize someone like that away in June if Southampton don’t make the Champions League?

Nope, I think we’re done with our business this January and all-in-all, I’m quite pleased with the fact we’ve acted. Sure, Gabriel could be a Squillaci-in-waiting, but let’s not forget that Squillaci was a relatively cheap signing. In general, when you pay over £10-12million for a player, they do tend to be half decent. So let’s have more faith than trepidation with this one.

Whether he’ll make it in to the match day squad on Sunday is something the manager will have to ponder. It’s getting to the stage where our squad is so stocked with good players, that there are very good ones that aren’t even making the bench, so perhaps he’ll sit out for now. I guess it depends if Chambers o Bellerin start on the right at the weekend. But that’s for another days blogging I think.

A quick word on Joel Campbell, whose contract extension and loan signing was quietly slipped in to the press release about Gabriel. Clearly Wenger has seen something in Joel and told him to go out to Spain, play more football and push himself back in to the first team next season. It’s a shrewd moe from Arsène that makes Arsenal’s hand very strong. Perhaps too, it has been further influenced by Walcott and the contract situation. With Walcott’s expiring in summer 2016 like Campbell’s was, we could potentially be losing him if he plays silly-buggers with the club, so by signing a long term deal with Arsenal, Theo will know that Arsène and Arsenal have another option to call on, which makes his hand weaker in trying to maximise his wage demand options. I’d be interested to see how Walcott reacts to that for the remainder of the season.

Tis a happy day. We seem to be building a bit of momentum, players have returned to the squad, new players have been added to improve the quality. We might even see one or two happy people on Twitter. Heck I’m going to go all out: EVERYONE ON TWITTER WILL BE HAPPY!!!

Let’s see how log it lasts. :-)

Cheerio for now.

Squad form leading to rotation for Arsène?

Do you think that Arsenal deliberately hold on to transfer announcements, just to troll the entire Arsenal supporting social media world? Feels like it, doesn’t it? So perhaps it should come as no surprise that we’re all still waiting on the Gabriel Paulista announcement (as I type), because Arsenal are masters of the ‘shall we? Shall we? Naaaah, let’s give those transfer-salivating keyboard warriors another day, just for kicks’ school of thought.

What I find works in this situation is to see the funny side of life and, let’s be honest, it is funny how the club leave it until the last second. After all, we already know Joel Campbell has signed for Villareal on loan until the end of the season, because he’s already been pictured in training wearing the colours! Not to mention the social media images of him signing a deal with the yellow submarines. One does have to now question whether we’ll ever see him back at the club. He’s 21, he’s got Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud, Alexis, The Ox and probably Cazorla ahead of him for the front three positions, as well as no real history of making it in the Premier League. The very fact that Sanogo was seen as more important to stay in the league, shows how far down the pecking order Campbell is, so I find it hard to believe that Arsène will bring him back into the team come the summer.

He’s shown glimpses of the quality we all know he possesses, but his Arsenal career does feel a little bit Velarian to me, so I wonder if Villareal have a clause to buy at the end of the season. We shall see.

As for us, the competition for places once Gabriel is announced, suddenly looks rather intense. The Ox has been quoted on the official site as being pleased to see the depth of Ramsey, Walcott and Özil back, but with all of these players now approaching full fitness, Arsène has one heck of a job picking his first eleven. It’s a dilemma that he has to wrestle with, but the most important thing from my perspective as a fan, is that those players that do get in take their chance. That’s what we all want to see. I want to be able to make an “ooooh, harsh that Rosicky hasn’t make the first eleven this week after last weekend’s performance” comment, or ponder how he fits Özil and Cazorla into the team. I want to see the freshness of legs and rotation of players; not because we have nobody else, but because the players that haven’t been playing are getting their chances and taking them.

The season before last we saw how competition caused Szczesny to up his game to stay in the team. Now, for the first time in a while, you can say that the same effect appears to be happening in pockets all over the park. Ospina has wrestled control of the gloves (for now), Monreal has done enough to keep his place (again, for now), Cazorla is proving that a price tag means little if you are in form, The Ox is taking hold of the wide right position and hasn’t let Walcott put together a run of games and when Welbeck comes back, Giroud will have some competition to keep him on his toes. I’m sure you’re the same as me in relation to ‘bedding-in’ periods for overseas players, but at least Gabriel Paulista will give some initial ‘food for thought’ in relation to Mertesacker and Koscienly.

Let’s not even forget that we have Debuchy and Wilshere missing from the team, as well as Podolski and Sanogo who have gone out on loan because they were never getting near the first eleven!

I know that all is not 100% rosy in the garden. I know we’ve struggled at times this season, but with four wins on the bounce, as well as confidence visibly returning to the team and an air of swagger, I feel like there are many more reasons to be cheerful about our chances this season than ever before.

Weirdly enough, I hope Arsène doesn’t find a settled XI,because when we’ve had that in recent seasons we’ve come-a-cropper because players have been run into the ground. I am a firm believer that players need regular game time of sorts to keep them able to perform at the highest level. Just look at how Carl Jenkinson has performed for West Ham. When squad players aren’t given regular chances, they become a bit match-rusty. So when they are needed through injury or suspension, they have three or four games of looking a little ropey. By keeping players ‘topped up’, like we’ve been seeing at the moment with the rotation, players like Rosicky and Walcott can perform to the highest standard. To get to the latter stages of multiple competitions, you need to have a squad of form players, so it’s good to be able to see a different man-of-the-match display each weekend at the moment.

Will Arsène settle on a first XI? Probably. But until that happens, I will continue to hope that he’s struck a balance, that we’ll see more rotation between now and the end of the season and that a blueprint for modern day Arsenal can be found.

Entertaining Boro, chuckling at Nayim

Yesterday we learnt our fate in the FA Cup and after a brief sojourn down to the south coast, it’s more home comforts, after a home draw against Middlesborough was announced.

Given all of the teams that still remain in the competition, it could have been easier, especially as Boro are playing well and look like they could be fighting for promotion to the Premier League this season. But equally we could have seen an away tie to Manchester United or Liverpool, so I’m not going to be too disappointed. Ultimately, with the quality that we have in our side, we should be able to progress to the sixth round.

When you look at the team’s in the pot for the fifth round there are few that should really have us quaking. United and Stoke (away) would probably be the exception, but that’s only because of our own terrible records against those teams, rather than any real measure of their actual quality. One just hopes that we can navigate our way past Boro with more ease than Moneyschester City did. So there’s definitely a worry there for us.

I just hope we don’t get shafted with another shabby kick off time. I’d love to see a good, old-fashioned, 3pm FA Cup tie this season, but after so many of the ‘big’ teams were knocked out, it feels almost inevitable that we’ll get one of the Friday, two Sunday’s or Monday night kick off. The TV companies can wax lyrical about the ‘magic of the FA Cup, but I’m pretty sure they’ll look at what ratings they can get, rather than showing a ‘romantic’ tie like Derby County versus Reading. But maybe I’ll be surprised. Maybe.

That’s the main talking point from yesterday, as the Gabriel Paulista deal still appears to be working through the motions before it’s all officially announced, with a couple of ex-pros like Nayim coming out and saying they’re not quite sure whether he is of sufficient quality for The Arsenal. I have to say that did make me chuckle when I read that headline on Sky Sports. Nayim. That ex-Spurs player. Passing judgement on why a Villareal player won’t work in Arsenal’s style. Maybe he watches Arsenal a lot, eh? Or maybe, just maybe, Sky needed somebody for a soundbite that will stir up debate. I think it’s called ‘Talkshiting tactics’ or something like that.

Well, whatever it is, I’ll pay it no more mind. Let’s just say that it’s always difficult to work out whether a player is going to be brilliant or turgid based when they’ve come from overseas. Koscienly was a nobody from the lower leagues that many thought would struggle after his first season. Look at him now. Equally, Mario Balotelli was a proven quality player in the Premier League and Serie A, yet he’s still waiting patiently for his first Premier League goal. We’ll just see if Gabriel can show us a few glimpses of his quality this season, then assess his effectiveness this time next year, eh?

The other rumour knocking around yesterday (and Sunday too I think) was that of Asier Illarramendi, who I think Ben quite fancies a bit of. The rumours are a of a summer move, which would probably make sense given the contract situation of two of our holding midfielders, but not knowing enough about the guy I can’t really tell you if he’s a significant improvement on Schneiderlin, so I can’t even tell you which I’d prefer. However, I am aware of his reputation and if he hasn’t been getting in to the Real Madrid team this season, then a deal could probably be brokered a lot easier than a hostile response from Southampton, which we’d inevitably get if we went hard for Schneiderlin. We wait with bated breath until the summer i suspect.

Catch you later, baked potayter.

Rosicky masters (sort of) safe passage to round five

After a weekend of some surprising Premier League bloody noses, when I sat down to watch The Arsenal take on Brighton, the one thing that really settles the nerves is a nice and tasty early goal.

So when Calum Chambers found Walcott in a bit of space inside the box after a minute and a half, it was like the perfect start that we could all hope for, drilling the ball beyond Stockdale and starting us along the right path to victory.

You could tell – early goal aside – that we were up for it in Brighton yesterday. Arsène had shuffled his deck a little bit and was using the cup as an opportunity for some of the players that hadn’t played recently to force their way into his thinking for a starting place next weekend against Villa. Recalls of Szczesny, Gibbs, Chambers, Flamini, Özil, Walcott and Rosicky meant that there was a freshness and desire in the team to show that they deserved to be playing more regularly. And it showed.

We dominated the first half and when Özil was found by the reverse pass of Rosicky, he slid the ball home to double our advantage, which was the least we deserved. Brighton didn’t know how to deal with the movement. Our midfield snuffed out any venture forward that Albion tried to muster and our defence looked completely in control. Well, for the first half, anyway. It seemed like a) we had taken note of the surprises from yesterday, and b) we were building on the success of last weekend’s confidence-boosting win against Moneychester City.

Despite the fact that we’ve had blips like Liverpool and Southampton, the last six weeks have seen Arsenal win plenty of football matches, so much so that it actually feels like we’re starting to compile a bit of momentum. Probably just as well, because our stuttering season could have gone on forever if we didn’t start showing signs of winning back-to-back games. I’ve criticised the manager a few times on this blog this season, but he has spoken of injuries before, saying that when players are back fit we’d see a different Arsenal team. Well, you can’t argue that with all of the players coming back from injury, we’re not seeing a different Arsenal. Not only are we looking more impressive, but the fact Le Boss was able to rotate most of his team yesterday and we still performed well enough to win, are good signs for The Arsenal.

But – with Arsenal there’s always a ‘but’ – we rarely make life easy for ourselves and despite cruising the first half and looking dangerous going forward, at the back the second half performance was a ropey as I feel after going for a run after knocking back a bottle of Sailor Jerry the night before.

We know we haven’t got the best defence in the world, but you can tell how fragile we look sometimes when the back four are changed around. Able to minimise any threat in the first half, and by and large in the second, you’d have to question concentration levels of a side that concedes two goals from a lower league team that only has two shots on target all afternoon. The first goal was a combination of individual errors, from the Rosicky lump in the air inside the box, to the Chambers appealing for a non-existent free kick and then Koscienly not closing down the oncoming shot from O’Grady. Similarly too, the way in which we were cut open for the second goal was slightly concerning. Monreal may be much maligned by some Arsenal fans as a centre half, but it was Koscienly stepping forward and not tracking Baldock’s run that was the biggest mistake of the move.

All this served to add more unnecessary nerves to the early evening’s proceedings, but we saw the game out and in knockout competition that’s all you really need, because nobody cares about how you played when you’re still able to have your name in the hat for the next round.

And with that in mind, how about I accentuate the positives from yesterday, rather than the negatives? Like the Little Mozart himself Tomas Rosicky who, without a shadow of a doubt was the man of the match, topping off his display with a wonder volley from the edge of the box. He was at the centre of everything good we did yesterday and Arsène was right to praise him in such a way. He may be 34 years old but the way he scampers across the pitch makes him look like a twenty something to me. His ball for Özil’s goal was a touch of reverse-pass class and after a display like that, the midfield starting line up feels almost impossible to to choose today. At half time I mused to myself that if Rosicky and Özil were told to play piggy-in-the-middle with you, it would probably be the worst game for you ever, because you’d never touch the ball for hours. His reverse touches and ‘look-away’s when passing on a couple of occasions were class personified and the most hilarious thing of all was Phil Neville’s ludicrous comments that somebody should have ‘two-footed’ the Czech midfielder. People talk about footballers being role models and an example for kids to look up to, but that is exactly the sort of comments that kids will have watched and he should probably be reprimanded. He won’t though. He’s in the media and we know that they look after their own.

But hey, he’s a moron, we’re into the next round and that’s all that matters. See you tomorrow.