Mother Nature hates FIFA

Meanwhile, over in Blighty…even Mother Nature is sad at the fact it’s an international break. She’s been up since about 5am crying and has soaked me through on my two minute walk to the tube station.

You know how sugar is really bad for you and how you shouldn’t eat anything other than natural sugars? Or too much salt is really bad for your body? Or how harmful CFC gases – or something like that – are killing the ozone layer? Well all of that pales into insignificance in comparison to the international break, which is killing Mother Nature’s soul.

Well done FIFA, if summer is sh*t because of you, I’m going to write a letter of complaint and mail it straight to Geneva. You see if I don’t. I don’t even care about paying the extra cash for international postage. Just as long as I get through to Sepp that he’s ruining everything. Even the weather.

All of this hum-drum because there isn’t any Arsenal related stuff to talk about in great detail. We could try and talk about the international Arsenal players that have played, but given that it’s just Mesut Özil and (technically still an Arsenal player) Lukas Podolski, there isn’t really much to go on. Poldi came on and scored and Özil spent thirty minutes as captain, but overseas I believe the captains armband is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, the players that get it probably just see it as an annoying bit of elastic that restricts the blood flow to their arm. Who knows though, perhaps it will give him more confidence as he heads back to Arsenal after the weekend?

Kieren Gibbs has given a somewhat interesting interview to the official site, in which he talks about the ‘hidden battles’ that the players have in training, when they do matches against each other. I found it interesting because I actually only found the time to sit down and watch the Invincible’s programme a couple of days ago (the scheduling of the original showing didn’t work out as well as Sky had hoped – after the Monaco game, so I thought I’d just Sky+ it so I could watch without exploding into a ball of anger, despair and sadness meshed together), and I think it was Ray Parlour who said something similar about that group of players.

Parlour said that everybody (except Vieira) worked exceptionally hard in training and although they all got on, you could tell that there was the drive to win, even when it was just versus matches in training. Now we have a similar scenario on the training ground with so many players coming back to full fitness. Players are coming up against those who would take their own place in the Matchday XI, so they are fighting that little harder to impress the manager. This, in turn, creates more desire, more hunger and psychologically more will to be better in every match. It’s what we as fans have longed for. It’s all dry well having a squad, but unless the manager gives the players – all of them – belief that they will play and can win their place back, they will try their darnest to do so. 

Rotation, rotation, rotation people. It’s what is a necessity in the modern game. I just hope that when Arsène has a full compliment to choose from next season, he rotates right from the start, to keep people happy, fresh and competing hard to retain or win back a place in the starting XI on matchdays.

Anyway, not really a lot more to talk about, so let us depart for the day, reconvening tomorrow for Le Boss’ press conf….err…..more silence with which to miss Arsenal all the more for.

Cheerie-bye!

‘Classics’, kids and contracts

As we lurch ever closer to this weekend’s game against Moneychester City, the build up is already beginning by the media online, talking up ‘classics’ and how this weekend’s game will compare to encounters between the two games.

I have to say I don’t really remember too many ‘classics’, if I’m honest, because we were either dominant in beating a mid-table team at best, or we’ve been pretty much dominated since they were the second English winners of the football lottery, sponsored by Oil Whores Plc. Still, I suppose it fits a narrative for Sky to try and whip up expectation and viewing figures, I suppose.

We’ll no doubt hear about the squad availability from Arsène today, but I’m not sure when the full presser will be, given that it’s a Sunday game. It might still be tomorrow, but we’ll just have to wait with baited breath. A little bit like we’re waiting for some sort of transfer to be sorted for the problems of depth we currently face. Here’s a question: when does ‘baited breath’ becoming ‘holding your breath’? Because I’m sure there’s a few that would suggest avoiding doing that in terms of transfers.

There is one that is supposedly almost concluded and, when I asked The Management who she thought Arsenal might be about to announce as a signing, whilst not being able to name the person she did a pretty good job of getting the attributes right.
– A position where they don’t need to sign anybody
– A 17 year old who won’t make the first team
– foreigner

Two out of three ain’t bad, is it? It’s a worrying sign when even your loved ones can predict what sort of player the club are going to sign, and that player rarely ends up being what we need for the here and now.

Still, the club are active, the lad Bielik seems to be a hot prospect and one would imagine that there will be a need for him over the next couple of years as Arteta’s career begins to wind down and Flamini has another form of card created just because of referees overuse of the yellow one they bring out for him every game.

The club are active, that’s a positive, right? Yeah, definitely a positive. Definitely. We’ll definitely address our deficiencies within the next two weeks. Definitely.

Maybe.

Even if it’s just a loan.

Anyway, don’t crack Chris, because you’ve managed to avoid being sucked too deep into the transfer quagmire that is the January window thus far. Just two weeks to go.

For Poldi, it’s about four and a half months to go at Inter and, supposedly after telling the press about him wanting a little more respect from Arsène after his departure, he’s said that he’s not sure what his future will hold. He’ll return to Arsenal in the summer and find out, he says, but I think we all know (and he does too) that he will be finding a new club in the summer. Even if there was a chink of light at the end of the tunnel that is his Arsenal career, those words he spoke to the press will have hardly given Arsène any more desire to bring him back in the summer, will they?

That’s probably why I was so sceptical at first. I mean, why burn bridges at the club that still holds your contract, when you could end up going back there anyway? It’s a strange one. You don’t have to look far back into the Arsenal archives to see an example of a player who burned bridges, then ended up spending a season at the club because we were short of players in that position. It’s what happened last season when the ‘marriage of convenience’ was forged with Bendtner and Wenger. Bendtner had spent all summer telling everyone he was offski, had offers, didn’t want to be at The Arsenal, only to have his route blocked and end up having to spend a season as a man of last resort for Le Boss to call on. It wouldn’t surprise me at all for Podolski to have a similar situation in the summer if his time at Inter Milan is a hit. He’s on big wages and there are a lot of clubs that just can’t afford it.

There’s nothing else that’s really kicking around that I can see at the moment. Not related to the first team, anyway, as Benik Afobe never really got close to establishing himself at the club and I can understand why Arsenal and Wolves found it quite easy to come to an agreement over his signature. The player that they clearly want to try and tie down is Akpom, who has looked like he is being looked at by a number of clubs across Europe, and with his contract running out at the end of the season you can understand why he’s holding out to find out how close he thinks he can get to the first team. Unlike last season, where he would probably have been given more chances had he developed a year earlier, this season we’re quite well stocked in the attacking department. So if Akpom is finding his route to first team football a bit congested, you can understand his reluctance to sign on the dotted line. I suspect that will play out a bit more – possibly until the end of the season – where he might decide to move on. If the club really do expect big things from him though, we’ll know soon enough as they’d probably spend a few bob to try to keep him.

See thee tomorrow, my wonderful friends.

Three items of Arsenal silliness

Wow, we’re full of exciting and wonderful Arsenal news today, aren’t we? Item one on the agenda is that any player caught smoking is apparently being given the punishment of having to train with the youth team by Arsene Wenger.

Woah….hold on there AW, are you sure you want to do that? After all, when I had to play with kids younger than me, I used to love it. My brother is four years younger than me and so when I was in the Under-13s and he was in the Under-9s (the team my uncle managed), I used to have a great time running around the smaller kids with the ball and leathering it into the top corner of the goal (which, incidentally, none of them could reach because they were too small enough).

Seriously though, does anybody really care about this other than the “we’re-holier-than-thou-and-we’ll-be-outraged-about-the-fact-that-somebody-with-influence-can-have-such-bad-behaviour. Oh, by the way, what’s your answerphone pin? I wouldn’t mind having a listen in later” media? People smoke in all walks of life and although I hate the stuff (it’s the smell you see. Makes me gag), it doesn’t really bother me that other people do it. I think the reason that this is a ‘thing’ is because of the personality involved, the position Arsenal are currently in and the fact that the media loves a pantomime villain. In this instance, Wojciech has to step forward because his form has been patchy at times this season (I’m not saying ‘bad’ because I think this storm-in-a-teacup has been created off the back of one game. He was very good against West Ham) and so it’s an opportunity for said media to get itself in on the ‘rile up already riled Arsenal fans’ bandwagon. They love that wagon. It’s their favourite mode of transportation don’t you know?

I would suggest that if we were four points clear at the top of the league and looking like we might finally recapture that Premier League crown after all these years, the noise would be less so from the media, or some selections of the Arsenal fanbase too actually.

Linked to item of silliness number 1 is item number 2, which is poor old Wojciech’s Papi, who, probably against his sons wishes, has decided to offload a couple of rounds in the direction of Big Per. The bit about him being like a rhinoceros is particularly humorous, but doesn’t really help anyone except Papi and his media career. Szczesny will probably be going into the training ground today mouthing “sorry” to the vice captain and when you’re trying to get yourself together as a defensive unit, it’s hardly great to know that one of your teammates’ dad is giving you a bit of a pasting. What if that’s how Per is talked about by Szczesny junior all of the time? I’m sure he probably doesn’t, especially given the propensity for his father to run to the nearest Polish media source, but it still might play on the big German’s mind. It’s hardly what we need before an important game at the club, but I guess it fits the old ‘broken cannons’ icon that the red tops love to trot out every once in a while.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to item 3 on our agenda, which is Lukas Podolski “SLAMMING” Arsene Wenger. Again, I’m not going to presume for a second that a red-top tabloid is indulging in a smidge of hyperbole, but it strikes me as odd that a player who has clearly shown that he’s pretty good with his PR and will probably set himself up with a nice little agency when he does retire, would try and burn bridges with the manager so easily. The red top in question will no doubt point to the fact that they have quoted directly from the German saying about respect from Arsene, etc, etc, but I do wonder if it has been a little bit massaged to fit a narrative. For all we know Lukas spent 20 minutes telling the journo in question that he loved the club, the fans (which to be fair they referenced) and that he had experienced a mostly good relationship with Arsene Wenger. But if they have received a minute or two of what they perceive as a ‘gem’ of a quote, they’ll be latching on to it, you just know.

Or perhaps I, for some reason to which I can’t really put my finger on – am I being a bit defensive of the German because he has ridden the tube and London buses, so is therefore more ‘in touch’ with the fans (a ridiculous notion I know)? Or am I just so disillusioned with the media and their click whoring that I am automatically very cynical about anything they say? Probably a little of both I suppose. But I just find it a little odd when you see the old ‘parting shot’. Football is so incestuous and quick to change that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Poldi back in training at Arsenal after his Inter Milan loan deal fell through and we get a bit of a Bendtner situation because we can’t offload him. Why burn your bridges when there’s still a chance you might need to cross back over the river?

Heck, this is all way too much thinking for me for one day. I think I’ll leave that to Arsene to do, so will wait patiently for his pre-match presser at some stage today.

Catch you tomorrow peeps.

Podolski Inter Milan, Arsenal in ‘ter’ a tricky Brighton tie

So the club finally announced the Podolski to Inter deal yesterday, after he was picture in an Inter shirt, scarf, outside the ground and thanking everyone for making it happen. I have to say I did find it somewhat amusing that it isn’t just the incoming announcements that we always seem to announce on the site until the whole world knows anyway. I take comfort in that fact.

Perhaps there is literally one guy at Arsenal who does ALL the paperwork? That would explain why it takes so long. After all, faxing through so many papers must be a real toil.

Of course I’m being a little bit tongue-in-cheek this morning, but with a very effective bench option now displaced, it’s a little bit sad that somebody with such an effervescent nature and ruthless finish just didn’t quite have that final extra parts to his game to be a superstar. I’m not even talking about technique. Imagine if Podolski had the same engine as Alexis? If he was able to zip backwards and forwards along he left hand side of the pitch, helping out defensively, but also able to get into positions like he did for us on a more regular basis? He’d probably still be an integral part of the team. We know that Arsène likes his team’s to be technically sound, but you can’t tell me that if there was somebody who was a cold-bloodied killer in front of goal, that just lacked an ability to pick a pass but was able to contribute both defensively and offensively, that Arsène wouldn’t have given him more game time? Even this season when we have the options we have, I still think that more application would have seen Poldi have at least an additional half a dozen games.

He would probably have been able to find himself in better positions too, if he’d have pushed himself more physically. His positioning in the final third was never that bad, but quite often we’d find him exchange passes with other players in the middle of the park, then when it came to the sharp end of the pitch, he would be lagging behind a little bit. Imagine if his work rate allowed him to be more involved in the play all over the pitch? What a player he could have been.

It’s a strange one too because usually, when a player gets his marching orders from Arsène, it’s been because he has no future and the fans have had enough of said player anyway. We haven’t sold a ‘star’ in a few years, just squad players like Vermaelen and Gervinho, so to see a player who still has a rapport with the fans as well as a clear value at the club (albeit with finished responsibility over the last year or so), means that many are still split over whether we should have gone against the players wishes and kept him until the summer. You can bet you’re bottom dollar Jose would have done that. But then again, he is a tosser and cares not for player desires, rightly or wrongly.

Anyway, he’s out on loan now and, at 29, that loan isn’t so he can win a place back in the Arsenal team in the summer. He’s going to be putting himself in the shop window and good luck to him on that front. I guess the positive is that because we still hold his papers, we can be sure that we don’t sell him to an English club who he will then almost inevitably score against us, at every opportunity he gets.

The opportunity for Campbell and Akpom now is clear. With Sanogo likely to disappear on loan for game time, those two along with Theo, have one less player to navigate around to get into the starting XI. There’s no doubt Theo will see more than the other two, but I just wonder if Akpom doesn’t fancy his chances, especially as he’s tended to get on a little bit more than Campbell has this season. We shall see.

What we’ll also be seeing towards the end of January, is a replay of the 2013 FA Cup game between Brighton and Arsenal, as both teams were drawn out of the velvet bag of balls yesterday. Of course it was a little bit too much to ask for Cambridge United at home, as Louis van Gaal snaffled up the world supply of rabbits feet and four leaf clovers before the draw was announced, but whilst an away trip to the south coast might be a tricky encounter, you’d have to fancy our chances. Bring on ex-spud Hughton I say!

That’s pretty much it from me today. Nowt else worth talking about, especially as we have to wait a whole five days before we see The Arsenal again. We won’t see any transfers for another three weeks, so there’s no point even bothering to speculate on that part of football.

Adios amigos!

rotation, transers and pining for a Saint at Christmas

All this Christmas stuff has thrown time and dates completely out of whack for me at the moment. I wake up at 11am and find that Arsene Wenger has already had his presser and I think “hold on a second, we only played West Ham yesterday. Or was that the day before?”, then realise the actual date and that it’s an away game, so Arsene is facing the press a day earlier than normal. It’s probably also because it’s New Year’s Eve and he wants to make sure he’s got enough time to go to Sainsbury’s to pick up some more champagne/prosecco/cava (insert your own jokes about his spending if you like).

Of course, it is a day early to run the presser because he’ll probably be taking the team to the South Coast tomorrow morning, so there’s no big surprise, but there is yet again more of a sense of apprehension about yet another crucial game and how we are going to manage to pull another three points from deep within the red zone. I say that of course because, whilst Arsene has spoken this morning about rotating ‘intelligently’, he doesn’t exactly have the manpower around to effectively do it. With news from Le Boss today that Welbeck is struggling with a thigh injury, it looks for all the world to me like we are literally running out of all options. One would assume that, if Welbeck is not fit and Giroud is obviously suspended still, it would mean a place up top for Alexis. He is looking more and more knackered and if ever there was a player who should probably be afforded some rest it would be him, but we simply don’t have the bodies. So our little Chilean superstar will no doubt be run into the ground and knackered by the end of January. Unless we can start getting some bodies back.

Thankfully, Arsene has said that Walcott is now completely fit and can play. If Welbeck is a doubt you’d expect to see Theo in the team – probably on the right with The Ox on the left – because Wenger loves his pecking orders and there is no chance that Poldi or even Campbell will. With talk of both Campbell and Sanogo potentially going on loan and Wenger describing Inter’s approaches for Lukas as a ‘joke’, you do wonder what the next couple of weeks might hold for our forward line. We may be over stocked with players for those front three positions at the moment, but as our midfield crisis has shown, it is not completely unfeasible to see a catalogue of different injuries suddenly occur for players who all play in the same or similar positions. We’ve got Koscienly back, which is a real positive and I’m taking the lack of mention of him by rsene means that ‘no news is good news’. It’s obvious that we need more cover in the team and defence is certainly one of them that Arsene has mentioned, but interestingly today, he talked about the fact we’re ‘short’ in midfield. That was perhaps the most interesting comment for me because when he’s been asked previously he’s always hinted about it being a central defender we need, but it seems as though his gaze is also being angled towards a midfielder too. We have plenty of creative midfielders, so one would hope that on the defensive and ball-winning side, he is finally going to look into buying a decent defensive midfielder. Don’t get your hopes us there though folks…

The fact that Arsene is talking up Francis Coquelin and saying that he has the potential to have a future at the club and make a good career at Arsenal has to be a complete confidence-building smokescreen, right? Here is a guy that was clearly taking the well trodden path of being sent out on loan to demonstrate his worth to potential buyers, so we could get a half decent fee. Yet now we find him being thrust into the first team. Thankfully he performed admirably but, unless he gets another five or six games in a row in which he performs like he did against West Ham, Arsene will soon have him shunted down the pecking order I think. It would be great to see Coquelin emerge as the defensive midfielder, the ball winner, that we all crave. But let’s be realistic here; Ramsey and Arteta will both be back within two weeks I believe and when that happens, Coquelin isn’t keeping them out of the side, is he? Unless Flamini is injured for a prolonged period and Arteta suffers a ‘little bit setback’, I suspect we’ll get to see Le Coq for another game or two (if you factor in the Hull FA Cup match), then I think we’ll see things return to normal again and he’ll be offski in the summer.

In his place I’d like to publicly pine for Morgan Schneiderlin, because he’s been brilliant and a chief talisman for Southampton this season. He’s suspended for Southampton on Thursday when we play them, so Le Boss won’t get the same look he did for Calum Chambers last season, but one hopes that he’s had plenty of other people looking at him for us!!

Arsene also spoke about 2014 as a whole and described 2014 as a positive year. Of course he has to put a spin on it, but to me it has been both extremely exhilarating and extremely disappointing, as we fell away in the league last season and have never got into any kind of momentum this season. I think I’ll do more of a ‘2014 in my view’ blog piece tomorrow on that though, so will park those thoughts for now.

Catch you tomorrow.

Problems placing Poldi

Today I want to say some words on Lukas Podolski, because after the game on Wednesday night, it appears as though a fire has been lit under many for his inclusion from the start on a more regular basis.

First and foremost, we must all admit that he gave a much improved performance against Galatasaray, notching up another two goals and putting a little bit more effort than perhaps he has been seen to be doing previously. It’s that kind of hunger to impress that you want to see from the players that don’t get regular matches and I for one was pleased to see some of the rotational players step up.

However, to the doubters in Podolski, I too must admit I have a side of me that is with you. Whilst his performance on Wednesday was markedly improved, there were still times when his movement looked static to me and as much as he comes alive in the final third, when he has the ball in the middle of the park it is usually to quickly redistribute it to somebody else.

He’s certainly a conundrum of a player. Not quite technically brilliant enough for Arsène to keep him in the team, but so lethal in front of goal, that it makes Arsène look silly that he doesn’t play more often. I maintain the opinion that if he was another four inches taller and could hold the ball up, I don’t think we’d have seen as much of Olivier Giroud, as we have done over the last couple of years. I know Giroud brings more than just a tall target man and that his touch and interlinking play with others around him is far better, but having a Podolski with those stronger centre forward attributes would definitely give us a more direct and ‘end product’ type of striker.

But of course he isn’t. Which is why he has been operating out on the left for the most part of his career for Germany and for Arsenal. But the problem he has now, is that his position is being occupied by the Rolls Royce that is Alexis, which means his chances at the club will inevitably be few and far between. Alexis may not necessarily operate in the same zones as Poldi, but that wide left position which has been moulded into a number 10 hybrid at times with Alexis, means that Poldi’s old spot is evolving. Without him.

I think more than anything though, the technical ability of the player is what has cost him his place in the team, especially when you look at someone like Santi. At the start of the season, a few people thought he would be the player that is used less and less, as Özil occupies the number ten role and Alexis operates out wide on the left. But we’re now coming to the midway point in the season and I think I’m right in saying that Cazorla has played more than almost everyone else in the squad. It’s true he may have benefitted from injuries to players like Özil, but his regular inclusion in the side supports the arguments that for Arsène, technique trumps any other kind of attribute that his players must have.

I’ve said it a million times: with Podolski you know exactly what you are getting: end product. Nothing more, nothing less. He is the specialist ‘field goal kicker’ that American Football teams have just to get those field goal points. If you could make rotational subs like in 5-a-side, he’d be an awesome player to bring on every time we get a throw in or corner in the opposition box, then drag off the second a move breaks down, because his end product starts and finishes with his goalscoring.

Which is why I can understand the argument for him being an impact sub. If we need a goal with 20 minutes to go, then we need Podolski, because as long as he gets the space in our around the box, he’ll hit the target. Perhaps this is where I don’t understand Wenger’s thinking, because five, six or seven minutes at the end of a game is hardly enough time for someone like Podolski to make an impact as a sub. If we are all in acknowledgement that we’d be best served with him on the bench coming on in the second half, why isn’t Arsène more ruthless by hooking off any ineffective attacking players sooner? If, after an hour of football, we’re seeing Giroud having ‘one of those days’, then shift Welbeck up top, Alexis out wide right and Poldi on the left, no? Likewise if Welbeck is ineffective, or even the wonder boy Alexis. These guys are all human beings and everyone has an off day, so there’s no shame in admitting it hasn’t worked and trying someone different. That’s where I don’t understand Wenger sometimes.

It has been mentioned to me that perhaps Poldi is a ‘square peg with no round holes’ i.e. He doesn’t have a position that suits him in this Arsenal side. I’m not sure I subscribe to that thinking. Mainly because, as I’ve mentioned, he’s such a specialist player (end product) that he doesn’t specifically need a position I don’t think. Instead, he needs to occupy areas of the final third where he is within range and has space to fashion himself a shot. There’s nobody that can’t argue that had the same chance (the first goal against Galatasaray) fallen to him on the right hand side of the goal, that he wouldn’t have hammered it home, albeit would have been slightly more difficult as he probably would have taken it on his left and so not allowed the ball to roll across his body before striking.

Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a specific position, just a skill, that he isn’t getting more games. Actually, re-reading the thinking above, I suppose that is a square peg, but it’s not that there is no round holes, it’s just that there all filled up. And anyway, his peg is so small it would just fall through and not fit anyway. Or something similar like that.

I suppose this is just one long monologue which ultimately comes to the conclusion that if I had the reigns at Arsenal, I probably wouldn’t know what to do with Poldi either, because I’d want him in my team but I’d have nowhere to put him on a permanent basis. The only conclusion I can draw is that we should be using him more. Who knows, perhaps the busy Christmas schedule will see him get more games for the club, I’m looking specifically at that QPR game and thinking that it could be tailor-made for him to start from the beginning.

What’s your view on Poldi?

Confidence boost we all needed

Well that was certainly more fun last night, wasn’t it? A 4-1 win, the game all but over in the first half, a dominant display and some great goals to boot. Can’t ask for much more can you?

Now look, I know that there’s a distinct possibility that because there was no pressure on either side, it played into our hands as the better team. And I know that this was one of the worst Galatasaray teams that have graced this competition for some years. But gosh darn-it, it still feels good to see an Arsenal team sweep aside an opponent with such ease.

From the first minute we looked like we had purpose, poise and in Lukas Podolski, a man with a left foot that you wouldn’t want to play in a game of ‘Death Shot Headers and Volleys’. His goal in the third minute was textbook Poldi and, as we have seen already in his cameo appearances this season, there is no other player you’d rather see in that box with the ball dropping to his feet. He’s not an enigma, he’s blindingly obvious in what he brings to the team: end product. No pressing, no dribbling ability, he can’t beat a man, but he can whip in a cross and he can finish. Boy, can he finish.

To some extent you can see why he should be limited to a substitutes role, but I still think Arsène should give him more than five or 10 minutes in the games that matter. Because really, if we’re all honest, that game never really mattered. We may have halved the goal deficit we were supposed to get to top the group by halftime, but even against a poor Gala team, you’re never going to score six away from home.

Which leaves a tinge of frustration this morning about that Anderlecht result, because we’d have racked up 15 points and looked in a good position, had we not fluffed our lines at home a few weeks back. In hindsight that group was there for the taking and we’ve made life hard for ourselves in the next round by finishing second.

Still, that’s a conversation for another day: next Tuesday no doubt after we learn of our Champions League fate in the next round. For now, we should bask in the glory of victory, most specifically, of some vastly improved performances.

Let’s start with wonder-strike hero Aaron Ramsey, who’s second goal came straight out of the FIFA ‘have a crack’ archives from the Welshman’s left peg. It was a volley of such class that I’ll be astounded if it doesn’t get shortlisted for goal of the competition. Postage stamp too. But that wasn’t his only goal, nor does it sum up his performance, because he was good all over the park yesterday. He was back to Rambo MkII (aka 2013/14 version) and although we can’t really take too many positives from our final Champions League group stage position, we can certainly take heart from his performance.

That’s where yesterday’s game becomes important: the confidence levels. By scoring against Stoke, as well as twice in the game yesterday, I think it will do wonders for his confidence. Arsène has hinted it himself, previously stating that he needs to concentrate on the basics first and then the goals will come. Wenger’s words said to me that Ramsey places a lot of emphasis on goals as a deliverable of how he is performing. If that is the case, then these three goals in a week will be vital for us to see the best from him, so let’s hope he continues his good form on Saturday evening.

The return of Debuchy had an instant impact too. He may have looked shattered on the hour mark, but before that he was the same player that we lost to Moneychester City all those months ago. Getting forward, tracking back, winning headers – Debuchy showed us what we’ve been missing and as long as we keep him, Gibbs, Per and Kos fit and playing together, one hopes that our defensive form will start to pick up. Per had a good game too yesterday which, given how poorly he’s played of late when he hasn’t had Koscienly beside him, this will give him a lot of confidence going into the busy Christmas period.

So what now? I’m certainly not going to be counting my chickens and telling you that we could feasibly go on a run now. We felt the same after dispatching the same team by the same score line a couple of months back, didn’t we? So whilst I’ll be pleased to see a much needed confidence injection for some players, I have to say that it will mean the square root of naff all if we don’t put Newcastle to the sword. A Newcastle team riding high, after helping us out by ensuring Chelski don’t usurp that ‘Invincibles’ tag last weekend, I must remind you. However, this result was just the tonic that the team need and the returning players need to feed that back to those that stayed at home and transmit that confidence at London Colney when they’re all training together from tomorrow.

I feel good again about Arsenal. But that feeling can be fleeting if we revert to type this season. We have four days to find out.

See you tomorrow.