05 April 2014

Ramsey is 'Lampardish'. Worse comparisons could be made...

Ahead of our trip to Goodison Park, Arsène talked up Aaron Ramsey, who is set to make a return to the pitch albeit not as a starter. We've waited for Ramsey to return for months, and the thumb-twiddling that has ensured has to be filled somehow. In the interim, then, Ray Parlour compared him to Steven Gerrard, and the superlatives attenuating to Ramsey, as well as the credit for our successes early in the season, have grown. Such its the effect of absence; our hearts grow fonder. As we look ahead to his return, then, Arsène has called Ramsey "Lampardish" (his word, not mine), a comparison that highlights Ramsey's goal-scoring and cool confidence.

04 April 2014

Everton v. Arsenal Preview: Do it for Lukaku (?)

We have a tough trip to Goodison Park on Sunday, and a fair amount hangs in the balance. With a draw, we inch closer to solidifying our fourth place finish; with a win, we seize fourth place and climb closer to third. A loss, of course, makes for squeaky bums as Everton climb to within one point of us and have a game in hand. For as much as this match and its ramifications matter for where each club will compete next year (Champions or Europa?) one other area to consider is how these ramifications will affect the future of Romelu Lukaku. An Arsenal win might convince him that his best bet at Champions League football lies elsewhere—namely, at Arsenal itself.

Rambo returns to lay waste to the Toffees...

Ahead of Sunday's trip to Goodison Park, Arsène has revealed news that we've been waiting weeks upon weeks to hear: Ramsey hath returned (-eth?). However, it's hard to know whether the announcement heralds his actual return to the pitch for Sunday. In a season undermined by injuries of varying degrees of severity and length, though, Ramsey's return qualifies as unvarnished good news. While it seems unlikely that he'll start, it does feel more likely that he'll get some minutes in ahead of the FA Cup semifinal next weekend. Still shorn of Walcott, Wilshere, and Özil, the emotional lift he could provide against Everton, not to mention the tactical one, along with the jolt of energy he could offer, is not to be underestimated.

03 April 2014

Ask Cavani, whither the brasileiros or argentinos at Arsenal?

Could it really be possible that Arsène Wenger, renowned for revolutionizing English football by bringing in foreign players, has completely missed the boat that brings South American footballers to the Continent? I was watching some older clips when I caught a brief glimpse of Silvinho and I muttered to myself, "he might just be the only inho to have ever played for Arsenal". He was no Ronaldinho, and that only serves to reinforce the point. The pipeline that has sent the likes of Ronaldinho, Messi, Falcao, and Agüero, among others, to Europe seems to have almost completely bypassed Arsenal. Arsenal's South American starting XI would be short a few players, and we'd have to argue over whether Silvinho or the "legendary" André Santos starts at left-back. For a manager who has built a large part of his reputation on finding and developing diamonds in the rough, how could we be left with such slim pickings?

02 April 2014

Chelsea and Man U go off the UCL reservation...

We're watching the Champions League quarterfinals from the sidelines, of course, but this shouldn't stop us from taking an interest in our fellow Prem sides' progress—not out of any high-minded love for dear old Blighty, though; just of out pure self-interest. To wit, we have to root for Chelsea to go just a little farther, perhaps beating P$G to advance to the  and for Man U to get it over with and just let Bayern advance. In the first case, Chelsea's progress in the UCL could be just the ticket necessary to distract them from the Prem; in the second, however, we can ill-afford a repeat of 2012. I just hope we can trust Chelsea and Man U to do the right thing going forward. For Arsenal, that is.

Let's remember the long-range vision for Arsenal

Four of the five events below led to a surge in spending on players that either dramatically transformed a club's successes. Can you guess which four?
  1. 2000: Arsenal purchases land in Ashburton Grove to build the Emirates Stadium.
  2. 2003: Roman Abramovich becomes the owner of Chelsea FC.
  3. 2005: Malcolm Glazer purchases controlling interest in Manchester United
  4. 2007: Thaksin Shinawatra becomes the owner of Manchester City.
  5. 2008: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan takes over ownership of Manchester City.
Of course, the fifth one hamstrung the club that committed to it, all but forcing the club to sell players, at times to direct competitors and rivals, while others were buying those and other players from right under the club's nose. Just as important to notice is the sequence of events. While we're ruing our recent tumble from the top of the table, it's worth reminding ourselves that this is the beginning of something, not the end.

01 April 2014

Cavani. Draxler. Drmić. A £100m transfer kitty...

First, no April Fool's nonsense. This is as sober and as serious a site as you will ever see. We tolerate no tomfoolery 'round these parts. Understood? Good. Moving on. With six matches left to play, not to mention the FA Cup semifinal, it seems a bit early to entertain thoughts of who'll be joining the club over the summer. However, the stories have already begun to proliferate. In the past, I've refused to put much stock in the actual names bandied about, preferring instead to treat them as barometers of the club's direction. As an example, we spent much of the summer chasing Higuain and Suarez but ended up with Özil, arguably a higher-profile signing than Higuain and on a par with Suarez. As such, I'm not here to convince you that we're on the verge of signing Cavani, Draxler, or any of the other players to whom we're linked but to assess what it means to be linked with players of this caliber.

31 March 2014

St. Totteringham's Day: Could it come as early as 15 April?

We've been leaving it awfully late in recent years, but this year could see us celebrating a St. Totteringham's Day as early as 12 April, but this would require a bit of good from from us and continued poor form for Spuds. We looked yesterday at our magic number with Everton, the number of points we win and points Everton drop in order to ensure that we finish above them. That number stands at 18 but could drop to as low as 12 if we in on Sunday. With Spuds, we don't get another crack at them. I suppose the gods in their mercy have decided that three NLDs in one season is enough for the "North London is White" crowd to endure. Our magic number here is 11—a number we could erase with a win on Sunday, combined with Spuds' losing at home to Sunderland on Monday and again away to West Brom on 12 April, and us winning at home against West Ham 15 April. For all four results to happen may be too much to wish for; then again, that's what wishing is for, innit?

Race for 4th; Six matches, 18 points...is 3rd still possible?

Well, with no help from Fulham or Tottenham, we made about as much from the weekend as anyone could have expected. With six matches left to play, we sit in fourth place, albeit a bit precariously. While we control our fourth-place fate, a dropped point is all it takes to let Everton get level on points with us, sending to goal-differentials to decide who goes where next year. We're currently at +19; they're at +16. Let's take a quick look at how to avoid this potentially messy situation and to clinch fourth place outright—with an eye to nicking third. Our magic number for 4th place: 18 points.

Flamini's goal: basic passing, beautiful movement...

For weeks now, we've bemoaned our ability to unlock stubborn defenses or create chances, much less finish them, settling all too often for pointless passing—a long sequence of tentative passes back and forth across the field, only to pass back to Per or Kos to reset, perhaps, or to try to draw the opposition forward. Gone has been the incisive movement or aggressive passing that are necessary to create actual scoring chances. It was therefore especially gratifying to see us score a goal on Saturday, and not just for leveling the score. The passing from start to finish, and the movement that led to the goal, added up to a wonderful sight to see. It wasn't quite on a level with the goal scored against Norwich, at least not in an aesthetic sense, but its significance more than makes up for that.

30 March 2014

Hair-shirt Chronicles: Reasons for hope

And so we emerge from what was our toughest remaining fixture of the season, and we claimed a draw that seemed remote before kick-off and hopeless by halftime. However, the fight that the squad showed in that second half was vital, and not just for the point we kept. Some will rue the idea that we might have spurned chances to take all three, seeing the two points dropped while forgetting the one in hand. What with Liverpool and Everton winning, it is a pity that we couldn't keep pace, but remember your own feelings ahead of our own fixture—pessimism and fear—and remind yourself that we have earned a right to feel quite a bit better than we did seven days or even five days ago. This draw, though not the kind of result that could catapult us to the top of the Prem, should remind us of the fight and the quality that we still possess. I'd like to take a small shred of the credit.