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.

Shocks, Gabriel and a tactical overview of Brighton

Well what a weekend of FA Cup football we have witnessed, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this, with a host of ‘big’ teams crashing out to supposed inferior opposition. And at home too.

Chelski, Spuds and City were all sent packing and the form team and surprise package this season – Southampton – also suffered at the hands of the new South London based Messiah Alan Pardew. With a little help from some Arsenal connections past and present in Sanogo and Chamakh. I’m pleased for Sanogo and if he uses this as a platform to kick on and score plenty of goals for Palace, then it can only be a good thing for us. Maybe, just maybe, that thing that Wenger sees in Yaya that none of us feel like we’ve witnessed to date, will emerge…

All of these upsets and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Gabriel Paulista deal is essentially done and dusted. He was pictured waving goodbye to the crowd at Villareal’s home game against Levante and it looks like he was presented with a Yellow Submarine trophy. He’s obviously held in good regards by the fans and one hopes that we’ve got ourselves quite some player who can challenge Kos and Per.

So we find ourselves in spirited moods this morning, but that can only be perpetuated by a victory away to Brighton this afternoon. With so many of the clubs that we would fear falling to the wayside yesterday afternoon, it is important that we don’ fall victim to this extraordinary weekend of cup upsets. Arsene has already fired warning shots in the direction of his team to keep them on their toes and prepared for a battle, to which I think we are almost certainly going to face on the South Coast today, so our players have to be ready and we have to be set up to expose Brighton’s weaknesses.

I suspect that there will be rotation, but it won’t be the kind of rotation that see’s the whole squad being replaced I think, just some of the players who might not have played recently. I think that we might see the return of Szczesny and Chambers to the defensive set up. Nacho Monreal has deserved his starting place and keeping Gibbs out of the side, but I wonder if Arsene will give Gibbs a run out at left back. I’d assume that given Bellerin and The Ox are doubts, that Arsene will possible not risk either, but I think the official site had a picture of Bellerin in training, so he might just start.

Midfield will see the return of Mesut to the team – most likely in place of Santi – and I hope Arsene gives Rosicky a run out too. Although Ramsey has only just come back from injury and needs to play himself back into fitness, so that might force Wenger’s thinking a little bit. He may opt to rotate Coquelin for Flamini, but with the form the youjnger Frenchman’s in, plus the fact that he’s not played a lot of football this season so will hardly be suffering from fatigue, I think he will probably get the nod over the Flamster. Up top we’ll see Giroud and Walcott I’m sure and the question just needs to be asked whether or not Alexis is started. I think Arsene will probably go for our Chilean. He’s not showed any signs of being fatigued and after a week since our last game, will most likely still be fresh.

But if I’m completely honest, I’ve got absolutely no idea how Arsene will set the team up, or who he will use in what position. Which is probably a good thing for our squad rotation purposes. We have options. I’d imagine we’ll have a very strong bench and hopefully that will give the manager – as well as us – some comfort that we have the required firepower to see us into the fifth round. And what an opportunity we’d have of retaining the cup if we do. Sure, there are Manchester United, Liverpool and Stoke still in the competition, plus a West Ham team who look like they’ve really notched up a gear, but I would not fear those teams as much as I’d fear going to Chelski or Moneychester City – despite the win last weekend.

All of this is rather redundant presuming on my part, because we’ll face a Chris Hughton side who will fancy getting some revenge from two years ago. On that day it was an inspired Giroud finish and a Walcott goal that was the difference between the two teams and although we progressed, we were really penned back at times. Brighton’s current league position belies their form. They’ve won four of their last five games and although they established themselves as a passing team under Gus Poyet, they have become a little more direct under Hughton I believe. I haven’t watched much of them, l but it does look as if they set up with a 4-2-3-1 similar to how we play, but whether or not they try to out-pass us is something that I’m pretty confident we won’t see. If Brighton are going to get anything against us they’ll need to move the ball quickly from front to back and probably look to expose any perceived weakness we have – particularly on the right hand side of our defence with either Chambers of Bellerin playing. If I was Hughton I’d be looking at getting my team breaking forward as quickly as possible and putting balls in to our box from the right hand side.

As for us, we need to use our pace on the flanks to expose Brighton’s defensive frailties. When Theo and Mesut were able to link up for that first game against Sunderland in September last year, Theo had chance after chance by playing high and running in between full back and Wes Brown. We need to see that link up again and I think if Ozil is given time on the ball, he’ll find either Walcott or Alexis in space. One just hopes that Brighton don’t sit too deep, because without a lot of grass to run in to, Walcott has often been negated.

Today we simply must take advantage of the shocks from this weekend and get our spot in the hat of balls for the fifth round. It is by far a forgone conclusion, but there is a huge opportunity of winning the most realistic trophy for us this season, so it is imperative that the players take the chance that they will be given by winning this afternoon.

Come on you reds!

Thoughts on City from Benjy

Every time Thierry Henry pauses for dramatic effect. An angels heart skips a beat and one of those Lad accounts on twitter dies. I spent the early part of Sunday afternoon hanging off every word of what the delicious Frenchman had to say. It reminded me of having an new colleague at work. They have a fresh mind; they see things in a different light. Simple things that get over-looked get pointed out. Generally because you haven’t been tainted by the fog of expectation. Or Neil, who fucking continually does stupid things. Do one Neil.

The discussion pre-game was the typical narrative. Arsenal don’t defend, Arsène is tactically naive etc, etc. Insert your preference of choice reader. It does feel like media outlets prepare flash cards that they can quickly whip out depending on the outcome of the game. Opinions and perceptions in football are so instant and definitive. Which generally leads to misinterpretation of the situation or said individual. On several occasions on Sunday we heard the commentary team slip into that -“Vincent Kompany with a rare mistake”. “Arsène Wenger doesn’t usually set his team up like this” They are culprits of going along with the general consensus of football interpretation.

Even our gorgeous hero dropped a clanger before kickoff, or did he? Saying Alex Song is the sort of midfielder Arsenal need.

Disclaimer – Alex Song was ok at kicking a football. We can argue till the cows come home about having him in the current squad. But we were no better defensively with him in the side.

Back to Henry. He’s hedging his bets, he’s playing the game of life. We lose, and he can say *dramatic pause* “see” or “I’m pleased they’ve finally done what we’ve all been clamouring for”. It’s like betting against your team, they lose you win some cash, if they win, you can do a victory dance to Taylor Swift, shake it off. And we all know who the real winner is.

That said, I wonder if Thierry enjoyed his TV debut. I did. I wonder if he thinks he’s made the best choice for his career and brand Thierry. It can be easy, punditry, you don’t have to make any big calls, you can just end up looking very intelligent. Spouting some guff. Anyway, Good Luck, Thierry x

I have to say I’m not entirely convinced the way we set-up to play City was entirely new to Arsène. It was all about the execution. We tried to play the same way against Chelsea earlier on in the season. Unfortunately for us Chelsea have this marvellous player, Eden Hazard. You may of heard of him. The ball-boy kicking magician has attempted and completed the most dribbles this season. Key to breaking down a low block. Aguero has just come back from injury and not fully firing didn’t help their cause. I imagine they will try and fill that void in the summer.

I’m really tempted to write we were lucky with the result, but we weren’t. We deserved the victory. To put It in a very simplistic way – I thought we were able to take our chances. If you decide to play the way we did and concede first (i.e. Chelsea) you need to quickly change how you are going to go about things and for many reasons, that isn’t easy.

I’ve always felt Arsène (Emirates years) has been very good at containing issues rather than conquering them. That isn’t a dig at the big man, just the way he goes about things, hence the usual up and down nature to our seasons. Which kind makes this victory even more sweeter. To play a ‘perfect game’ is one thing, but the players have to execute the plan in order to get a result, which is another thing. It was incredible how cohesive we looked. It was exactly how it should be, a strong collective unit with fearsome counter-attacks. Maybe, fearsome isn’t the right word, but we’ll definitely get there.

The most pleasing thing was the framework we gave the entire team to work in. We made it easier for Coquelin to squeeze space between the lines. Coquelin had time, which allows him to anticipate interceptions and give him a perfect view of the whole pitch. Bellerin had enough protection from the resurgent Chamberlain. The young Englishman ploughed up and down the flank allowing the midfield three time to control the midfield areas. Monreal’s stint at centre-half has really appeared to change his outlook. Mertesacker and Koscienly combined perfectly, a pleasant reminder of how good they are together.

Alexis Sanchez was just as good as he usually is. Just traded his spectacular flair for industry but with the equally dazzling effect. He was like a Jack Russell, chased every ball. Perhaps he didn’t create as much as he’d like, but what did he offer was priceless. His and Chamberlain’s hard work allowed Cazorla, Ramsey and Coquelin complete control over the centre of the park, stifling Man City’s creative spark – David Silva. Whilst the trio we had maintained our attacking threat. The big advantage of playing a deeper 4-3-3 is that Santi becomes a viable out-ball from defence. He has ability to hold, turn and begin the transition. This will probably go down as his greatest performance in his Arsenal career.

The natter before the game was who is the better player, Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero. The funny thing is, it’s Santiago Cazorla.

If you believe it was a tactical masterclass, or a perfect execution of tactics we’ve attempted previously, I don’t think it entirely matters. The performance was a massive achievement. Bask in it, and the potential of this squad.

Ben