06 December 2014

Stoke 3-2 Arsenal: Video highlights of a debilitating debacle.

Nineteen seconds in. That's about all it took for Peter Crouch to score the opening goal and signal to anyone watching that this would not be Arsenal's day. That we went into halftime 3-0 flatters us a bit, and to finish 3-2 flatters us quite a lot. We'll have a closer look at how it fell apart so quickly. For now, here are highlights of just how much we were outplayed (and, yes, outmuscled at times) by the Potters. I'd like to say "enjoy," but, well, you know... In other news, I hope you'll enjoy the highlights in French. It felt suitably ironic.

05 December 2014

Stoke Preview: Can the Gunners get the smash-and-grab?

For a Gooner, it can be hard to find a club that offers a stronger contrast—or inspires deeper rage than Stoke. Even more so than Tottenham or Man U or Chelsea, this fixture symbolizes deep contrasts that appeal to some of our deepest, most atavistic impulses. Whether that's rational or not, well, that defies the rational mind. For a deeper meditation on that, have a read of this post. For a more-direct, strategic breakdown, by all means, read on below...

Shawcross, Ramsey, straw-men or symbols?

Ever since that fateful day in February 2010, the Stoke-Arsenal rivalry has become one of the most fervent fixtures of any Prem season. At the Arsenal end, of course, we have Tottenham and Man U. Stoke have West Brom and Port Vale. Stoke-Arsenal, especially at Britannia, has become a match marked by one horrific tackle, a tackle thas has reduced two men to caricatures of their respective clubs while reducing fans on both sides to foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics. The storyline could come from right out of The Hunger Games.

An open letter to Ryan Shawcross

Dear Ryan—
If I may be so bold as to address by your first name, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jon Shay. I'm a Gooner. I live in the United States in a small town by the name of Evanston. It's a suburb just north of Chicago, Illinois. I've been a Gooner ever since stumbling across some First Division highlights at some point in the early 80's. Late night telly. Truth be told, I was lookin' for The Young Ones. When I learnt that there was such a thing as professional soccer football, mate, I was floored. Naturally, I fell in love, what with the red-and-white and my red-green color-blindness and the name itself: Arsenal. None of that -wich or -ton or City. Just Arsenal.

Growing up as a footballer in America, I've had to learn to deal with more than my fair share of goons (I know, ironic, innit?). In the Chicago Catholic League, I had to face off against more than a few American footballers who were only playing proper football to keep up their fitness. I'm full-grown now, measuring a hulking 1.7m and some 10 stone, but back then, I was a more modest 1.5m and 9 stone (more like 8, but give a guy a break). On a twice-weekly basis, I had to square off against opponents quite a bit taller and considerably stockier than me. Suffice it to say, I was floored, leveled, and stampeded on a regular basis. I remember one match in particular when I found myself in the area when a teammate's cross sailed over my head. A defender cold-cocked me with a fore-arm shiver, right between my shoulder-blades, and I was seein' stars. It probably took me 10 minutes before I could see straight.

Even without realising it, I was a Gooner in how I played. I'm not talking so much about the current squad. I'm a feisty, third-generation Irish-American and look more to Liam Brady for my inspiration than to, say, Aaron Ramsey, just to pluck a random name from the sky. I loved having the ball at my feet, but I loved more than that creating chances for my mates. A clever through-ball, a lofted cross, whatever artistry was available. I can hardly claim to have been a world-beater, though, not by any stretch, and so I end up living vicariously through those who play for Arsenal, imagining, remembering, visualizing myself as Brady or Ramsey or Cazorla—far-fetched, I know!—but dribbling, passing, carving out chances for others...

And this brings me back to you. Not you, specifically, but maybe so. You represent something to me personally and, yes, to Gooners more broadly. Whether you chose the role or had it thrust upon you is not my concern. For whatever reason, Ryan (again, a thousand pardons for the boldness of using your first name), you have come to embody a baldly cynical style of play that seems to borrow more from American football than from football itself. If you ever tire of the technical requirements of football, you might consider a career in rugby or Gaelic football. If you can stomach it. By the admittedly foppish rules of football, you're a right thug. By the somewhat more-rigorous "rules" of Gaelic football, friend, you're the fop.

It's not that I wish any specific harm; it's just that I wonder when, if ever, the numerous injuries you've inflicted will come back to haunt you. You're on four yellow-cards already this season, so I hope that I can safely assume that you'll be on your best behavior?

Yours truly—

04 December 2014

Giroud pummels the Saints into submission...eventually.

The match offered a frustratingly familiar recipe: Arsenal pass around and offer intricate, occasionally exhilirating sequences that come to naught, dominating possession but failing to produce that crucial final product. Against an aggressive, ambitious Southampton side bound and determined to bounce back from a dispiriting defeat the previous weekend, this wouldn't be enough, and for the better part of the match, when both sides were at full strength, it looked like Southampton might sustain its six-point lead over Arsenal for at least another few days, claiming a morale-boosting, not to mention strategically significant point away from home. And then came Giroud. In his short stint, not quite half an hour, he was vital to changing Arsenal's attack—even if he didn't deliver a goal or an assist.

03 December 2014

Arsenal 1-0 Southampton: resolute Saints come up just short...

Arsenal threw everything it had against a Saints team still staggering after an 0-3 drumming by Man City, and it looked like the visitors had earned a well-deserved draw only to see Alexis score his 14th goal in 22 appearances, this one in the 89th minute after a scrum in the box during which Southampton's Fonte got away with a handball. Rather than remonstrating for the call, Ramsey dug it out and slipped a pass across the mouth of the goal for Alexis to slot home past Fraser Forster, who had been vital for the Saints with a number of defeat-defying saves. Southampton may have come up short, literally, as Toby Alderweireld had to leave the pitch and Koeman had already used his three subs, but they showed enough grit and mettle to suggest we haven't heard the last of them. For now, though, we slipped through and can eye up our chances at climbing the table. Check out the highlights below...

02 December 2014

What, if anything, can Arsenal learn from Southampton?

Southampton are by far one of the darlings of the season thus far, sitting third despite losing five key players and a manager a summer after their best-ever Prem finish. Most, if not all of us, had written them off as relegation-stragglers after seeing Pochettino, Lambert, Lallana, Chambers, Lovren, and Shaw leave for what appeared to be greener pastures. As it currently stands, of course, all of those who left are looking up the table at their former club, perhaps wondering why the grass again appears greener on the other side. After all, with just over a third of the season gone, the Saints have already earned 26 points—almost half what they finished with a season ago, when they ended on 56 points. What gives? What if anything can Gooners glean from their success to this point?

Sometimes, you gotta kick a club when it's down...

I like Southampton. I do. At some level, in fact, I envy them. How many other clubs could lose a half-dozen key players and a highly-touted manager, go through the acrimony of almost seeing one of their most-coveted players come a bit unhinged during the turmoil, and actually come out ahead? Long gone, of course, are the likes of Shaw, Lallana, Dovren, Chambers (cough), and Lambert—but their departures are but accounted for with new signings like Pellè, Long, Tadic, and Forster, among others. Credit Southampton for reloading so effectively, but it does seem as if they haven't yet accounted for the absence of Schneiderlin, who is set to miss Wednesday's clash after coming up lame during Southampton's debacle against Man City.

01 December 2014

Rivals' Rundown, Week 13: can Arsenal overtake Manchester United?

A much better week greets us, thanks to two Arsenal wins and a number of other favorable results. Fortunately for my fingers, Newcastle lost to West Ham (who, it must be noted, sit fifth), knocking the Magpies from my list at least for another few days. There’s a fresh round of fixtures for Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’ll try to keep this brief so as to preserve my strength for another look after the dust settles on those. Off we go…

30 November 2014

Two London clubs faced parked buses. One came away with a win.

No, it wasn't pretty, and no, it wasn't quite the scoreline some of us might have hoped for, but a 0-1 win gives us a vital three points and sees us return to winning ways in the Prem for the first time since beating Burnley way back on 1 November. Some may sniff and point to the solitary goal and wonder why we couldn't find the back of the net more-often, and to an extent, they'd be right. After all, West Brom have shipped eleven goals at home, second-worst after Everton's twelve, Yours truly optimisitcally predicted a 0-3 win. So it goes. However, three points are still three points, no matter how they're earned, and so it's telling that, on the same day, almighty Chelsea couldn't unlock Sunderland and dropped two points in a dour 0-0 draw.