08 March 2014

Arsenal 4-1 Everton: Player Ratings

After a bright early start, courtesy of a sublime pass to Cazorla to Özil just seven minutes in, it looked like we would look forward to a comfortable win. However, a Lukaku goal evened things up, and we went into halftime at 1-1. The second half, however, was all Arsenal: Ox got tripped in the box, and Arteta finished twice—after Giroud forced a retake by encroaching on the first attempt—but the former Evertonian simply stepped up and finished the second. Giroud made up for his gaffe by adding a brace. The scoreline flatters us a bit as Everton had its chances and could have even taken a lead but for some poor finishing. However, we've booked a trip to Wembley for the semifinal. We'll find out tomorrow who we'll face from the matches between Sheffield United-Charlton Athletic, Hull-Sunderland, and Man City-Wigan. For now, here's a quick rundown of our squad's performance today, with stats and ratings courtesy of whoscored.com.

Arsenal 4-1 Everton: Video-highlights: All Goals [repost]

Arsenal ran away in the second half after the first half ended with a 7th-minute goal from Mesut Özil and a sloppy equalizer from Romelu Lukaku. In the second half, though, it was all Arsenal—Mikel Arteta put home a penalty-kick (twice, as it turned out, after the first one was waved off because Giroud stepped into the box too early) and then Giroud more than atoned for the misstep by adding a brace. We've booked a place in the semifinal at Wembley!

With apologies to those who have tried to stop by earlier, I have reposted the clip. Enjoy!

07 March 2014

Oy, Everton. Mind the Ox.

When we're still reeling a bit from the news that Jack Wilshere will be out after suffering a Hodgson—the highly specific medical diagnosis that is sure to be in all the best peer-reviewed medical journals shortly—it's easy to overlook the crisitunity that this presents. With Wilshere and Ramsey gone, and with the Arteta-Flamini pivot a bit too static for my liking (and that of many others), my thoughts turn to returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the defensive midfield. While he's only played through the middle once this season, and against Crystal Palace at that, there's enough there to suggest that it's a role he can do well with. Palace may not have the personnel to play Pulis's defense as he prefers, but two goals is nothing to turn one's nose up against, regardless of the opponent.  As we go up ahead Everton, another well-organized defensive unit, Ox's pace, dribble, and directness would be welcome factors in diversifying and adding verve to an attack that too often relies on passing around to lull defenses into dropping their guard.

06 March 2014

One league where we're comfortably top of the table...

Can the injury-tally grow any more? With news that Jack Wilshere will now be out for at least six weeks, we may set a record for player-games missed to injury. It certainly looks as if we'll finish the season with the most games missed, and that was before Wilshere went down. After 29 matches, we're top of the table in the Injury League with 219 player-games missed. The gap between us and second place is immense—Man U lags behind at 156 player-games missed. It's a cruel irony then that a team already as deep as Chelsea is near the bottom of the table with only 81; only Southampton (76) and Cardiff (51) have missed fewer. What kind of world do we live in in which a team like Stoke, notorious for inflicting grievous harm on other players, has only missed 86 games? It's a cold, cruel world indeed, and it seems as if the dark forces of the universe are arrayed against us. Dodgy refereeing. Ludicrous draws in various cup competitions. Injury after injury after injury. Hang it all, I say.

Wilshere suffers a hairline fracture in his left foot. The good one. Out six weeks, minimum.

Goddamn international friendlies. Goddamn Roy Hodgson. Goddamn Denmark. Was it Daniel Agger's fault? Who knows? Feckin' friendlies. I can't believe this crap. Pointless, pointless game. Agger clattered Wilshere, but we can't prove that Agger caused it. Maybe it was already there, a stress fracture made worse through routine wear and tear, but it's hard to resist the urge to scapegoat. In fact, I won't even try. Agger, you bastard. Hodgson, you coward. Wilshere, you fool. Whose bloody idea was it for the man to return to the pitch, nevermind start, in such a pointless match? Bastards all around. Yeah, even Wilshere. Even with the adrenaline flowing, he had to know that the stakes were low enough not to need him so desperately.

An open letter to Mark Clattenburg ahead of Saturday's match

Dear Mr. Clattenburg,

I hope that this letter finds you and yours well. The climate here has been somewhat chillier than is seasonal, what with there being a good 25cm of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering at -5. Still, the children are hale and making the most of the snow, although the snowman they've made looks to be more an effigy than a frivolity. I told myself I wouldn't worry over it, though, as you know how children can be. I'm sure they'll burst through the door soon enough, apple-cheeked and runny-nosed, clamoring for hot chocolate and biscuits. Listen to me prattle on, though, as if there aren't more significant issues for us both! I'm sorry. This old mind of mine tends to wander. As to my real business, I suppose you know by now that we have an important rendez-vous this Saturday, and I do hope that I can count on you to do your level-best. After all, the Arsenal have been hard done by in previous matches. You of all people know that I'm not given to moaning, but I feel that I must air my views and hope you will lend a sympathetic ear.

05 March 2014

Robben: I didn't dive. Also, I hear the Pope is not Catholic.

It will come as great relief to know that, in Arjen Robben's own estimation, he did not dive when Bayern Munich came to the Emirates in February in a sequence that got Wojciech Szczesny sent off, left Arsenal down to ten men, awarded a penalty-kick to Bayern, and dramatically changed the tempo if not the outcome of the first leg in Bayern's favor. However, for those paranoid types who always sniff out a conspiracy, it's time to lay your weary heads to rest and cry no more. No less an authority on the subject than Mr. Robben himself is here to allay your fears. After all, it was a "pretty scary moment" for him, and so we can excuse him just a bit if it has taken him some time to work through his feelings, sort out his memories, and speak truth to power about the affair, which threatened to sully his otherwise pristine, clear-as-crystal reputation as a player who never, ever goes to ground except under the direst of circumstances.

Gunners take on the world: Interlullian edition

Arsenal carries a double-edged sword into this round of international friendlies, which, despite their name, carry a bit more of an edge to them as it is the last chance for managers to assess their needs and the players who will fit in ahead of the trip to Brazil. For as much as we may hope that various Gunners will get rested, the unfortunate reality is that many of them will take to the pitch this week, complicating our preparations for Saturday's FA Cup clash with Everton. Everton, it's worth noting, face far-fewer worries about the interlull than do we. Such is the burden of carrying so much class around, I suppose. I went to their team-site to compile a contrasting list, but, to be honest, it's a bit of mess. Pity. We can assume that players like Baines and Lukaku, among others, may seem some action, but beyond that, to be honest, there's too much research and too many variables involved for me to be bothered.

04 March 2014

Will One of the Arsenal Boys Become England's Top Scorer at the World Cup?

Mary Mitchell, a guest-writer for the week who brings wide-ranging experience in online journalism. She is a freelance editor and writes for national and international websites and returns with a guest-post that looks ahead to Brazil 2014. Today, she has a closer look at Arsenal's British core—who among our squad might lead the Three Lions in scoring?

Brazil's 2014 World Cup is approaching, and Arsenal will certainly be one of the most-represented clubs in the England team. With old-guard players such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney aging and the Three Lions in need of changing the starting eleven in a competition like the World Cup, there might be many Arsenal young players ready to step up and earn a place on the pitch.

03 March 2014

Behold, Spurs! I bring you...Aaron Ramsey!

By the way, you should have been humming the opening music from 2001: A Space Odyssey while you read the title. Strauss's "Also Spach Zarathustra". You know the one. Here. Start the clip that you see there and re-read the title slowly and dramatically so you can get the full effect. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Done? Fab. I don't mean to overdo it, but waiting for Aaron Ramsey to return has taken on a new urgency, not least because of our loss to Stoke. How might his presence have changed things? During a match in which we (a) seemed listless and jaded and (b) lacked any real incisiveness in the final third, could Ramsey have made a difference? I'm sure his presence on the pitch—heck, even on the bench—might have spooked Stoke's players and fans just enough to get their knickers all a-twist, and we might be celebrating a 67th minute crowd-crusher instead of fuming over a 75th minute give-away. As it stands, however, we'll have to wait another ten days or so before Ramsey can return. Just in time, perhaps, to join us on a jaunt to White Hart Lane.

"EXCLUSIVE:"Arsenal "always" falters in February/March

In the kind of breath-taking exposé that at first shocks readers into a stunned, dispirited silence, The Independent says today that "recent history does suggest that it is always in the months of February and March that the Gunners' title challenge falters." I'm sure that, like me, many of you look at that headline or lead-in and say to yourself, "crap. February was terrible, and March looks like it'll turn out even worse!" Then, with little else to say, we shake our fists at the sky and utter oaths like "consarn it" and "fiddlesticks." This is, after all, a family-friendly publication. This prediction from The Independent looms over us like the Sword of Damocles, dooming us, it seems to abject failure. After all, who are we to resist the weight of history? Who do we think we are to dare dream of achieving such power?

The Romford Pelé rides the bus and reflects on Anfield with away fans

In 1992, Ray Parlour made his Arsenal debut at Anfield—where, similar to a few weeks ago, we lost. Parlour was guilty of conceding a penalty in the 0-2 loss but has gone on to to become a club legend and fan favorite. Recently, he surprised a bus full of Gooners on their way to the Anfield match with the help of the Barclay Buses, a scheme that provides free bus travel to away-fans In this case, some 80 Gooners got a chance to kibbitz with Parlour over breakfast, talking about his time with the club, prospects for the upcoming match (which, sad to say, didn't go so well...). However, a chance to sit on a bus with the likes of Parlour for a few hours (the trip is some 418 miles round-trip) is one of a lifetime and, I'm sure, adds more than a trace-silver lining to those fans who rode the bus with the man.

Player Ratings vs. Stoke

It's a crippling blow that many are interpreting as an actual death-knell, but the way I see is that there is still gas in tank and a few more laps to go. Sorry to mix metaphors. At times like this, I'm a little less particular about the literary elements of the lead-in. This was on paper one of our apparently easier fixtures, enough so that many of us, myself included, had already penciled a victory along with three points. We underestimated the difficulty of playing in the Britannia Stadium, and, as is frequently the case, the ref giveth and the ref taketh away. It was only a few weeks ago that we benefitted from a non-call against Liverpool, so we shouldn't moan (much) about the call that went against us against Stoke. Still, complaining is usually more satisfying than stoicism, so I'll allow myself a bit of that. Without further ado, then, I present the player-ratings...

02 March 2014

Prem Title: poor form not enough to knock us out...yet.

February was difficult for Arsenal, to put it mildly, as we staggered through seven matches (we'll include Stoke for now) with three wins, a draw, and three losses to show for our efforts. Contrast that against the consistent form of Chelsea, who have not lost in the Prem since their own trip to Britannia Stadium on 7 December. They may settle for draws here and there, but it's hard to argue against that run. Liverpool have been red-hot in the new year, scoring at an alarming rate and racking up wins as well. Their loss to us in the FA Cup is the only black-mark against them. Man City have been similarly hot and now have two games in hand and newly minted status as league cup champions. We might as well give six points for those rescheduled fixtures, both at home, with Sunderland and Aston Villa. Where does this leave Arsenal? It's hard to make much of a case that we are still in it, but in it we are. For as hot as our rivals have been, we're still only four points behind Chelsea. With ten matches left and thirty points available, there's still time to atone for recent profligacies.