Traditions? Not where TV is concerned

Isn’t it sad that the FA Cup fixture scheduling brings more of a sigh of relief when it’s actually a weekend game, as opposed to a ridiculous midweek game like Everton and West Ham had to go through on Tuesday evening?

I really hate those types of games. So when we were announced to be one of the television companies’ choice for live football, my first reaction was to roll my eyes at the thought of having to wait until 12am on a Wednesday night so that the TV companies get as bigger global audience, then when I’d stepped down off my hyperbole horse and found out that it’s a Sunday 4pm kick off for our lads away to Brighton.

Of course, there’s still the mind-numbingly dull Michael Owen and the tiresome Ray Stubbs to deal with (I think he still presents?), but at least it’s at a weekend. Isn’t it funny – because the Sunday 4pm kick offs have been a mainstay of Premier League life since the leagues inception in 1992, it’s almost become as acceptable in my eyes as the Saturday 3pm kick off? We humans are creatures of habit and, with repetition of those Sunday kick offs I don’t feel as aggrieved that the FA Cup is being played on a Sunday.

It could be worse. Remember last year when we played Coventry on a Friday? Sure, it was great to end the working week with The Arsenal, but it made for an incredibly long weekend without the weekend journey/experience of going to the game that particular weekend. That’s probably why I haven’t taken to Monday night football as much as you’d think I would have. After all, Monday night football was standard fare for the early days of the Premier League and despite a brief hiatus until relatively recently, it has by-and-large been a common sight for Premier League football fans.

But it’s not been a comfortable one for me, mainly because it takes away my football watching during the weekend, forcing me to do other things, because the last thing I want to see is all of our ‘rivals’ picking up points without the possibility of us responding. Plus, I always end up having to do both household chores AND shopping expeditions to places that I would never usually choose to frequent.

TV scheduling eh? Ruining the average Joe’s weekend since….I can’t even remember any more. I want to say since BT Sport stepped on the scene, but we had ESPN and Setanta before that, so it’s hardly a new thing to find out that your away trip to Manchester or Newcastle has been changed to 12pm on a Sunday afternoon; “Enjoy the journey up there people, you’ll get nee compensation for your train fare from us footballing authorities”.

I guess you could argue that it’s the price you pay for ‘progress’, by which I mean a better ‘product’, watched by billions globally, served up by the best footballers in the game. I love my football club and of course I want to see us with the best players that can entertain us as regularly as possible, but there has to be a balance, right? Are we to see the gradual diminishing of standard Saturday football games in favour of seven days a week Premier League action that sees us play any potential day of the week?

I saw a discussion on my Twitter timeline from Block 5 Gooner, Tim Stillman and one other (sorry, I forget who) where Michael (B5G) talked about the fact that the reason 3pm games weren’t allowed to be shown – the reason that originally came into effect that is – was because the football authorities wanted to protected attendances at grounds to make sure the atmosphere remains in the grounds. Surely that is no longer a relevant argument, is it? After all, attendances have remained for most other games and I am pretty sure that if 3pm games were shown on the telly, The Emirates would still be packed to capacity, no? After all, on Sunday for the Stoke game (which is at 1.30pm) we’ll most likely see a nearly full stadium of 60,000 people. Yet it’s televised live on TV and it’s an annoying time. So the whole argument of 3pm kick offs is negated and I think that pretty soon we’ll see the gradual death of them.

I do find a slightly humourus (not really) irony about the fact that the powers that be talk about keeping the essence of the game and the traditions of the game, yet when it comes to impacting revenue through televised coverage, the traditions are thrown out like a slightly green piece of wholemeal Hovis.

But then again I am as guilty for perpetuating this situation, as are all of us who regular watch (and demand to watch) football on the telly with our bloodthirsty need to be entertained. I pay my subscription fees and so am part of the problem and not the solution.

But what can I do? I am just a simple person who loves his football, but loves his Arsenal more and would do anything (legal) to watch them.

Answers on a postcard on how to solve this people.

Ta

C

Heartless display that the manager must take responsibility for

Where do you even start with a performance like yesterday? How do you dissect something that was so turgid, it doesn’t matter which way you look at it, you’re not going to like what you see?

What I saw yesterday, the first day of 2015, was an old familiar sight that I’d hoped could be banished with the heralding of the new year. In my pre-match thoughts before the game is spoken about how good 2013 was from a league perspective, but how horrible it 2014 was in consequence. I had hoped that we’d start 2015 as we mean to go on by beating a Southampton team that haven’t yet tasted defeat to us at St Mary’s.

Blimey, got that one wrong, didn’t I?

I got it very wrong indeed, because what we were subjected to yesterday was one of the most gutless performances of the season, and I’m not just basing this on the result I hasten to add. It was gutless because the whole game was played at a walking pace and we showed absolutely no conviction to try and outdo a pretty average Southampton side. From the first few minutes we had a warning as Pelle headed just wide, but we never really looked like that bothered us. Far be it for us to take heed to warning signals, because teams never ever punish us when we give them even the slightest sniff of a chance, do they?

But we’re Arsenal, so we can’t be content to let teams think they have a chance, oh no, we have to wrap it up, tie a bow on it and wait patiently for them to open their presents, don’t we?

Step forward Wojciech Szczesny, who decided that he would be in a generous mood by having a hand in both Southampton goals. The first was a standard crazy venture to the edge of his box on the left, whilst the second was a bit of hesitation and misunderstanding and a beauty that Tadic probably couldn’t believe had fallen at his feet. We make dreams come true at Arsenal. For opponents.

There was still half an hour to mount a comeback though, even after two atrocious bits of defending, but do you think we could muster any kind of spirited resolve? Could we heck. Lots of possession, very little penetration, a team that looked like it couldn’t really be arsed. Maybe they all had late nights. I know I did. I played ‘Million Pound Drop: The Board game’ until 4am. But then again, I didn’t have to work the next day and my work certainly don’t pay me the types of cash that these players get paid.

I can handle a bad day at the office you see. It happens. I can understand if things don’t click and we lose. I’ve seen it plenty of times. But what I can’t stomach, what really yanks my chain, is when I see some players not really looking like they are trying. Because I felt like I saw plenty of that yesterday. Players just not wanting to win the ball as much as Southampton players. Players bottling challenges, or not chasing back misplaced passes. That has nothing to do with technical ability, but everything to do with effort and application.

And I’m afraid, that is where all attention needs to be pointed towards Arsène Wenger, because he is the man charged with ensuring his players are up for a fight. Yesterday it didn’t look like it. In the good old days of Wenger’s reign, even after the first couple of years of trophies drying up, Arsène’s teams would come out fighting in the second half if we were behind. We were behind and terrible in the first half, so the last thing you’d expect to see is a mirror image in the second half yesterday. Yet that is exactly what we got.

We are unfortunate with injuries, we all know that, to which you cannot really blame the manager with at the moment, certainly not some of them. But when the team is not mentally prepared, or doesn’t look like it really wants to fight for the points, you have to look at the manager and question his ability to motivate the team. Yes, you can look at fatigue as an excuse if you want, but every team is fatigued at this point in the year. You can also look at the fact that Koscienly and Debuchy have not played that much football recently, nor Coquelin, so that argument is negated for those players. Players with a legitimate excuse to be tired, like Alexis, are still running their guts out. So what’s the excuse for the rest of the team?

I don’t know. I do know that it feels like we are the very definition of the phrase “two steps forward, one step back” and it feels like we’re as likely to string three league wins together as I am of starring in a Broadway Musical right now.

I spoke to my brother yesterday about top four chances. He’s a West Ham fan and doesn’t think they are anywhere near, but did agree with me that the only way we are getting into those hallowed positions that Wenger loves, is by having other teams around us implode. Notice how I use the term ‘Wenger loves’, because do you and I really care about it much any more? Aside from the fact that not being in the Champions League will potentially harm our chances of attracting big players (ha!), I find an increasing amount of apathy when it comes to playing out this particular dance. It’s the same song and the same moves, so what difference would sitting one out be? I don’t know.

What a cheery way to start the year, eh?

‘Pariah-of-the-moment’ gets a savaging

With Christmas now practically on my doorstep and my final day at work this year now upon me, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’d be an overly happy chappy on this Tuesday morning, but alas Arsenal have somewhat scuppered my ability to be too ‘giddy aunt’ in the run up to this Christmas Day.

That last minute Liverpool goal is still giving me nightmares, particularly given how tantalisingly close we were to some precious away points that would have set us up nicely for the festive period, so to have it snatched away was all the more galling. I know it’s what we deserved given our performance, but when has that ever stopped other teams smashing and grabbing points against us, hey?

I have my West Ham supporting brother and father heading over tomorrow for the Christmas period too. Oh how I am not looking forward to the inevitable crowing. The worst thing is, they’ll probably fancy their chances against us on the 28th, and who can blame them?

Anyway, there’s more football to be played before then and specifically, a home game against QPR on Boxing Day. I’m not even going to utter sentences that have ‘on paper’ included within them. Not with this team. Not with our defensive fragilities. I simply couldn’t watch Stoke versus Chelski yesterday, but apparently the savaging Neville gave Arsenal and particularly Flamini by the sounds of it, were a bit of a bloodbath. I don’t really want to repeat some of my scathing words for the Frenchman that I said yesterday, but suffice to say that when I read on the official site yesterday that Flamini had explained “we’ll get better” my immediate retort was to say to myself “yeah, when injured players come back and take you out of the first team”.

He’s the pariah-of-the-moment I know, but it does feel as though the wool has been lifted over a number of Arsenal fans’ eyes, because there seems to be a general consensus that he simply isn’t good enough for what we want to achieve. I had a discussion with a Spud yesterday (well, I had to interpret his grunts first) who disagreed that it is easy to play a deeper lying ball-winning midfield position, talking about the speed of movement in the Premier League and the way teams can easily pull players across the pitch. To an extent I can see his point and perhaps that’s something I need to reconsider along with many Arsenal fans. Because let’s face it, Flamini should have all the attributes needed to be a good defensive midfielder, if all you need to do is cover ground, win tackles and release the ball. In a sense, that’s pretty much what Lee Cattermole does at Sunderland and the only reason he’s seen as a good player for the Black Cats, is because he’s in a poorer team.

So do we need a more intelligent defensive midfielder? I think the answer is unequivocally ‘yes’. We need somebody who can play as a more forward lying central defender. One thing you need to have as a central defender is a good sense of positioning. It’s kind of drilled into you from an early age. So what is the answer? Schneiderlin? Possibly. He is a deeper lying midfielder and I’m sure I’ve seen him operate at centre half too. Or perhaps we give Chambers a crack at it? That could work in the short term and would certainly not leave our young defender exposed like he has been of late.

But the only problem with that is that because of Arsène’s own inactivity, we find ourselves unable to tinker due to sheer lack of bodies. So, barring any additional injuries that have been picked up, we will see the same team take to the field on Boxing Day and probably two days later as well.

I just hope Arsène has some good news on returning midfielders when he delivers his “who’s fit?” Address to the official site. If anybody has seen Koscienly, could they just direct him towards either London Colney or The Emirates, because he seems to have disappeared off the radar. Maybe he’s broken up from work already too. Actually, I probably shouldn’t even use the word ‘broken’ when referring to any Arsenal player, because the mere mention of it would probably twang a hammy somewhere in North London.

Hey, shall I offer a day of hope? Three wins out of three over this Christmas period would see us in fourth and chasing down the coat-tails of the worst Man United team of the Premier League era. How about that for positivity?

Anyway, I should probably go before I do any more damage to your day, so have a good one and I’ll see thee tomorrow.

Belief lacking, game plan found wanting

Well we didn’t get spanked like last year, did we? So that’s a plus point. Am I right?

That’s all I’ve got today, because yesterday you like I, will have sat through a performance that was both ‘un-Arsenal’ like and ‘very Arsenal’ like. In the way that we contented ourselves to have the least amount of possession and passing stats it was not like The Arsenal that we’re used to seeing. But the way in which we capitulated at the end of the match with a man advantage was so like modern day Arsenal it’s crippling beyond belief.

Heh, ‘belief’, feels wrong even saying that word today because, let’s face it, this team doesn’t look like it believes in itself. Yesterday was a classic case of a superior Arsenal team on paper, being outplayed by one of the most beatable Liverpool teams in a generation. Heck, we scored two goals with our first two chances on target, but that was more to do with a shocking Liverpool defence than anything else.

In November we ripped apart a United team and lost. Yesterday Liverpool ripped us apart yet, for all of Wenger’s assertions on the belief of this squad and their mental strength, we have once again showed that we are incapable of seeing out a game. Let’s also not forget that this was a Liverpool team so profligate up top that they missed guilt edge chance after guilt edge chance yesterday. They were playing with Sterling up top and until he was moved out wide later in the game, it looked like the same as when we were forced to play Arshavin up top because there was nobody else available. Yet we still managed to gift Liverpool two goals.

The first was a neat finish from Coutinho, but the fact it game because Giroud was trying to be too clever with a first touch in our half is hardly surprising. We all know the pro-Liverpool commentary in this country seem to get mesmerised by the ‘history’ of that club, but when Martin Tyler said they deserved their goal, I doubt there was a Gooner alive that couldn’t disagree.

Thankfully our response was swift and, for as shocking a game Flamini had (I’ll come to that in a second), it was a good leap and head back into a dangerous position for Debuchy to equalise on the stroke of half time.

So, to Flamini, who has deteriorated quicker than I’d ever thought possible. We’ve always known his limitations, but the guy looks like the epitome of a headless chicken in football terms. Gary Neville had called it in commentary, but the amount of times he was out of position and leaving an acre of space in front of our back four, that was really criminal. He’s supposed to be our man protecting our back four, yet he looks increasingly like a player who has no idea what his primary role is in the team. Yesterday I tweeted that I thought defensive midfielder was one of the easiest roles to perform if you have a few basic ingredients. 1) Be able to win a tackle, 2) be disciplined in your positioning, and 3) be ready to distribute the ball instantly to a nearby teammate. It really isn’t rocket science. Yet Flamini seems to be struggling. I have no idea why. Is he operating differently because of instructions from the bench? Which leads me to my next gripe I’m afraid…

Arsène Wenger. I am finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile his actions with any kind of logic I’m afraid. He is a great man. He has given us great highs. He should be respected and appreciated. But what we have seen this season has the hallmarks of a star whose brightness is fading. Yesterday morning I wrote about how Liverpool will look to exploit us by getting players like Sterling and Coutinho on the ball and feed in to Lambert up top. I got the personnel wrong, but the game plan was not and we saw time and time again, Coutinho and Markovic pick the ball up deep and run at our defence. I have never managed a game in my life, I am nowhere near as qualified as Arsène to lead a football team, but if I can see what Liverpool are going to do, why can’t he?

Because he is incapable? I don’t know, but what I do know is we saw a team that were outplayed, out thought and out fought. And it was painful at times. I don’t know if The Ox was too injured to play, but he was terrible, given the ball away, travelling with it too long without passing it (I call it ‘non-injured Diaby syndrome’) before losing it and generally looking out of sorts. Santi faired slightly better, but he was too quiet to be really affective for any length of time. I’ve mentioned Flamini, so all in all that makes a three man midfield that at times, might as well not have been there.

Why do we have these problems in midfield? Is it the managers fault that we have so many injuries? Of course not, but he is the one that should be setting those up who are available, in a way that negates the opposition and plays to our strengths. Did any of us see that yesterday? I certainly didn’t. For that, you have to look at the manager and I’m afraid not for the first time this season, he was found wanting.

Defensively too, we were terrible, with poor old Calum Chambers looking like he was running through treacle at times. He had a torrid afternoon at right back and, whilst I can see Arsène’s logic playing the quicker Debuchy at centre half with Sterling up top, it meant Chambers suffered in a position that looks like it is increasingly more difficult for him to be a success at. Let’s not forget we’ve got Carl Jenkinson out on loan to fourth placed West Ham right now. Hopefully that decision to play Debuchy as a centre half and Chambers on the right is a short term issue and we’ll see the two swap for QPR at home on Boxing Day. But again, we go back to the fact that a lack of depth in the squad – bought on by the managers own inaction in the summer – is forcing square pegs into round holes and we look like we are suffering as a result.

I can’t believe we’re not actually beyond sight of the top four spots. For that we can at least be grateful and look, if we win all of our games over the Christmas and New Year period, we’ll be sat in a good position coming in to 2015. But despite this, does anybody really feel confident we can go into games – especially away games – and get a result? Yesterday I used the word ‘cowards’ to describe the Arsenal players. It’s an extreme word and I did think to myself whether I would regret using it come the next morning. I am a passionate fan and prone to ‘heat of the moment’ style outbursts like we all are, but I’d like to think that my friends recognise I’m not a person who can’t consider any football situation with a bit of reflective logic. So do I still think my phrase ‘cowards’ is relevant? Yes. I saw a group of players yesterday who ‘wanted it’ more and they played in red. That annoys me. It annoys me because it seems to happen too much with Arsenal. Too often we are the technically gifted side who feel we need to turn up to win games, too often we come out of these games with egg on our faces, yesterday was no exception.

I haven’t even mentioned our front three. Probably that’s because we saw little of any of them all afternoon, although I must acknowledge a fine goal from Giroud which should have seen us pick up all of the points. It’s because of that though, and the manner of the last minute goal, that this feels like a defeat and not a draw. Had it been the reverse, that we’d have scored in injury time, I certainly would have more relief this morning, but I would not be able to take any comfort in the performance.

What also really cheeses me off too, is that yesterday we could have gone some way to remove this weight around our necks of not being able to win ‘big’ games away from home. Not only are we failing to do that, again, but we haven’t even been winning at home this season.

Oh, let’s also through some petrol on this sh*t bonfire by finding out The Ox will be out until the New Year too, shouldn’t we?

What a way to start a week of Christmas over indulgence. Still, at least I’ve got enough booze to drown my sorrows over the next few days, I recommend drinking to forget. Then we can pretend we’re not in dire straights right now.

Arsenal and Liverpool similarities, as well as Alexis and Suarez narratives, are wide of the mark

Yesterday Alexis Sanchez turned 26 years of age. Aside from making me feel even older, the anniversary of his arrival on this planet all those many moons ago, his birthday also gave Arsène, as well as me now, the opportunity to wax lyrical about our Chilean ace. Not that we need an excuse mind, because let’s face it, he’s been awesome all season.

Unsurprisingly Arsène was full of praise, but also gave us a bit of insight as to how the transfer happened, with a few meetings of players agent and Le Boss whilst in Brazil, followed by a confirmation of interest from the player, transfer agreement from Barca and then a signature.

It all sounds rather easy, doesn’t it? Of course there will have been plenty of complexities around the arrival of Alexis, but perhaps it is a mark of the man, that the transfer didn’t seem to be anything other than simple as pie. For as little as one can gather from the way a player handles himself in public, he seems like a very amiable chap, a trait which can’t be labelled at too many in the game of football that’s for sure.

Perhaps his attitude on the pitch is reflective of the perception of him off it. He is a hard worker, very talented, but humble and appreciative of his origins. It is fitting, then, that we should come up against a Liverpool team that it was fairly obvious would have loved to secure his services in the summer. Indeed, it was the arrogance of people like Phil Thompson declaring “it’s done” when referring to Alexis to Liverpool, that mean that this particular fixture has an air of hopeful symbolism for me as an apprehensive Gooner.

I said on the blog yesterday that I’d been worried about this game since Monday and, whilst the worry still remains, the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez score the winner against a team that coveted him as we did will feel particularly juicy. Those from the North West might argue the bright lights of London were the only lure for the player, but when you look at the two respective clubs and how the seasons have unfolded, perhaps there is reasoning in itself for Alexis to choose Arsenal over Liverpool.

I read yesterday that were it not for Alexis, we would probably be in a similar position to Liverpool in mid table and out of the Champions League. Whilst I am not going to try and pull the wool over your peepers and suggest all is fine and we’d be as good if he were not at The Arsenal, gentle reader, I think that such comments do a disservice to the rest of our squad. A squad which, despite our protestations of lack of depth, have been completely decimated by injuries this season.

Liverpool too, have had injuries, but not to any extent that has been experienced by The Arsenal. Only Manchester United and Newcastle can claim to be masters of misfortune in that regard. Nope, Liverpool have had injuries, but their lack of squad depth has just been more plainly demonstrated than ours. Look at their ‘keeper troubles, or their defensive woes, which we’ve both had. But they’ve had the added problem of problems in attack too, which is something you can’t really throw in our direction. So to say that our two squads are relatively similar is a red herring if you ask me.

I think Alexis has been brilliant for us. I love everything about him. But equally I think it is wrong to believe that we are morphing in to ‘Alexis FC’ in the same way that Liverpool were often described as ‘Suarez FC’. We have other options and there have been times this season – like West Brom away – that we have had to rely on other players to get us out of trouble. On that day it was Santi rediscovering his form and Welbeck drifting in from out wide to head home from a central location that saved our bacon.

Sometimes though, I guess it’s just easier to build a narrative if the themes seem to loosely fit. Arsenal wanted Suarez. Arsenal wanted a player with pace, ability to travel with the ball, phenomenal work-rate, etc, etc. Suarez and Sanchez have similar styles. Similar sounding names too – isn’t this all seeming rather convenient? Liverpool wanted to replace Suarez with Sanchez. Sanchez has scored plenty of goals for Arsenal. It all seems to fit together so neatly like one of those wooden Early Learning Centre trains. But you and I know different. We know that our team has been poor, but our reliance on Alexis has not been as obvious as the Suarez factor was for the Scousers last season. That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll see a better performance than Liverpool’s team tomorrow, because I want the other players to step up. The Cazorla’s, the Welbeck’s, the Giroud’s, all of them need to perform infinitely better than the horror show of last season. We know they can do it. They just have to show the belief. Hopefully the freshness will make a difference too.

There are still concerns over some players, like the Ox, Walcott and Monreal and if we’re completely honest, we can ill-afford any more injuries. But I’m hoping for some good news on The Ox front, because I think him being fit will give us an edge over Liverpool. More on why that is tomorrow in an actual match preview. For now, I’m going to start prepping for my trial run Christmas dinner – got some friends over tonight you see, so Christmas Turkey overload begins now for me.

Have a good’un.

No pressure, unless you’re a squad player

Gary Neville gave United a bit of a lasting last night, didn’t he? Boy, I wish my football team had stocked up on ‘get out of jail free’ cards at the beginning of the season like United have, because there’s no way they should be sitting pretty third in the league. Not with that average squad. It’s like I said on Twitter yesterday; a damning indictment on the quality of this year’s Premier League, that’s for sure.

Anyway, enough about talking about that lot, let’s talk about our lot, who learnt yesterday that it’s a repeat of the FA Cup final from last year. I’ll be quite honest with you; a home tie against Hull is not quite the ‘glamour of the FA Cup’ narrative that I would have hoped for. An away tie to Blyth Spartans would have been more intriguing, so to get a mid-table Premier League team is just about up there as one of the least exciting matches one could hope for. Naturally, Chelski got their obligatory opportunity to rest players by playing a team from divisions below them, whilst United manager to score themselves Accrington or somebody random like that.

Do you know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that van Gaal has traded his own neck for a bag full of four leaf clovers. How else can you explain how United are putting together victories with an even worse team than last year?

Anyway, I’m veering off course in my bitterness this morning, so I need to steer myself back towards the holy island of Arsenal on which I usually reside. On which Arsène Wenger is king, queen, prince, emperor, president, prime minister and God.

Le Boss took to the stage to talk about tonight’s game and by all accounts it sounds like it’s a pick’n’mix of first teamers, squad and young players that have been sent out to Turkey, which is good but to my mind not enough. We should not have a single player on the field tonight who could make an impact playing on Saturday in my opinion. So to hear the probably team leaked being one with Mertesacker, Szczesny and Debuchy in, is quite a surprise to me. After all, surely we want these players rested for an all-important game against Newcastle, right? We’re about to go into a heavy Christmas period and we need to be shuffling things around, so why are we wasting players on games that Wenger himself has admitted are practically meanigless?

The only thing I can think of is that Arsène will think that someone like Debuchy will do well to get minutes under his belt in a game where he knows he can pull out of tackles if they look like they could be dangerous ones. Additionally, perhaps he’s thinking that Per and Chambers need to play their way back in to form?

Whatever he’s thinking, I hope he isn’t struck by the same luck we’ve had all season with injuries. We can ill afford another Klendathu (Starship Troopers reference, if you’re interested).

Up top however, is where we currently have plenty of options, so I’m hoping we see something good from our three squad players who aren’t currently getting a look in. A front three of Podolski, Sanogo and Campbell all have a chance of giving Arsène something to think about and I hope they do; with our injury record this season there’s no way that we shouldn’t be trying our hardest to keep these players fresh and match fit by giving them more minutes. But with Arsène’s clear disdain for the rotation game, you can see all three players wanting out (some potentially on loan) come January. So if they can perform tonight then perhaps it will give the manager more cause to throw them in.

I have no idea what team Galatasaray will put out tonight but, if we’re all completely honest with ourselves, do we really care? This game is an opportunity to just watch. We know we aren’t winning the group. We know we aren’t seeing the first team. We know that we don’t normally travel well to these places. As far as I’m concerned, this is a freebie tonight. It’s a chance to watch the Arsenal with the most amount of emotional detachment that a gooner is going to get this season. So in some perverse way, I’m just going to try and enjoy it.

Who knows? We might even get a pleasant surprise with some good performances from players we’re not expecting?

We shall see.

My bubble, Per’s form, a sober middle ground

Having managed to avoid watching and football at all this weekend, I feel like I have been deflected away from some serious emotional trauma this Monday morning, I have to tell you. Given the abomination of a performance against another bang average mid table team, I took the opportunity to – please excuse the festive analogy – go ‘cold turkey’ and despite still feeling a bit bitter and twisted about Arsenal 2014/15, I do feel like I’ve created a little bubble for myself which has helped to numb the noises that I have seen when I’ve switched on my Twitter timeline at varying intervals.

There have been some that have been pronouncing (with what seems like a knowing nod as they type I’d imagine) that Giroud is not world class and Martinez should never have been given a chance. It’s almost as if they knew this all along and yet have kept quiet in the last two victories before resurfacing on Saturday afternoon onwards.

Suddenly Giroud has gone from the missing piece of the Arsenal jigsaw, to the old bit of belly button fluff that the vacuum cleaner won’t pick up. Martinez has gone from the ‘keeper that can knock Szczesny from his perch, to the perch out of water in a league for which he doesn’t have the quality to succeed.

Of course, having not seen the travesty of a display against the Orcs, I feel like I occupy a sober middle ground today. Giroud is neither the final piece of any puzzle, nor is he the worst player this side of Kaba Diawara. He’s a useful link man who has his good days as much as his bad. Martinez too, is exactly what he is, which is a young number three goalkeeper who will make mistakes.

That he is even this close to The Arsenal team to make mistakes is another question entirely, one that has to be aimed in the direction of Arsène Wenger, although in the goalkeeping department you have to say he’s been unlucky. I mean, this run in the team should have been David Ospina’s, but his injury probably means he’ll probably come back from injury having not played any football, with the guy further from the throne having racked up half a dozen matches. I guess it happens. It’s just it seems to ‘happen’ more often to us than usual. Mannone a few years ago? No full backs, causing us to Cygan it up, a few years before? It’s a recurring theme for this Arsenal side and you wonder if we should request a special dispensation for a squad of 35 instead of 25.

Anyway, here we are, nearly at the midway point in the season and playing football like the ‘good old days’ of Bruce Rioch. Remember those? Turgid football in which we tried a Bolton manager on for size who isolated our star striker Ian Wright and tried to go more direct than my nan at Christmas. Big Per called our defending ‘shocking’, but you wonder how much of that was an admission of his own guilt as much as anybody else’s, because our vice captain has been one of the chief protagonists this season when it comes to a worrying lack of form. Along with Flamini and Ramsey (worryingly, the spine of the team), Per has seemed off the pace in so many ways this season. His positional sense, which has previously counter-balanced the lack of pace he has, seems to be all over the place. It seems somewhat convenient to say that it’s down to the lack of Koscienly, but as a senior player in the team and an intelligent enough man, you’d expect him to be able to cope with a change in playing partner. So for me, the comments I see about him being a bit lost without Koscienly give him a bit of an undeserved free pass from any major criticism.

One thing is for sure, Arsène needs to have somebody lined up now, so that when that transfer window opens in less than a month, we are all over it like a rash and picking up some decent squad players, or preferably players who can feel right for a first team place.

That’s yer lot from me for today. More tomorrow.