07 February 2015

Post-NLD: of forests and trees, battles and wars...

By many standards, this might have been our worst outing of the current campaign. It was a North London Derby, after all, and we had a chance to climb to third with a win. Instead, we lost, sinking to sixth while Spurs climb (briefly) to third. Bragging rights, banter, and boasting are all theirs for the foreseeable future. It will come as cold-comfort to point out that we can't meet each other in the FA Cup because they've been knocked out; even if we do defend our title, they can now chant that North London is White. The best we could do was a 1-1 draw back in late September, and the 2-1 scoreline at White Hart Lane seems to flatter us a great deal. We were anemic, disinterested, and overmatched for long stretches if not the entire match, so much so that it's tempting to feel that this match, rather than any of the five that preceded it, rings a death-knell on our hopes. Then again...

Spurs 2-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings

A tense, tense North London Derby brought an unwelcome change to Gooners' hearts and digestive systems as Spurs dominated the match for long stretches, and it was largely through last-ditch defending, vital Ospina saves, and wasteful Spurs shooting that this one stayed so close. This might have been the worst performance of the season. A classy half-volley from Mesut Özil gave us an early lead but James William Bottomtooth III found an equaliser. From there, Spurs looked to be the better side for long, long stretches. When Kane scored the second in the 85th minute, it felt like a goal that we'd all been expecting all day. Four minutes of extra time only prolonged the agony—and we'll have some wounds to lick. Vent your frustrations in the player-ratings poll below...

Arsenal descend on White Hart Lane

Here is one match that needs little introduction. A North London Derby is, at least to the parties concerned, one of the defining matches of a season, regardless of positions on the table or silverware available. Throw in the idea that one side could climb to as high as third with a positive result, and you have a recipe for a barn-burner of Biblical proportions.

05 February 2015

Riposte to various Spuds, Spurs, and other 'taters

Dear the Spurs,

I am dearly sorry for the angst and anguish I created in my previous post, the one in which I tried but failed to explain that my animus against your club had little if anything to do with geography, history, success or failure, or much else, for that matter, beyond the random misdoings of a Yank perhaps more ignorant than your correspondent of those matters. I've spent a good amount of time in the George Mitchell role, alternately defending and explaining one side's grievances to the other to little avail. I tried to bridge the gap, mocking myself in the process, in the hope that I might prove that at least one Gooner if not more didn't subscribe to the petty tribalism that infects this rivalry. It seems to have failed, so my only rational response must consist of an over-the-top, knee-jerk reaction.

On the advice of one frequent commenter, I should point out upfront that a fair amount of what follows is tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously. Maybe that's a mistake in the midst of a rivalry that is so fervent that all logic and ration are thrown by the wayside. By the time a person manages to mention the words "Spud" and "Gooner", I have to assume that emotions have taken over and there's no point in pointing to facts or evidence (which may be a Good Thing™ considering how many of those facts and how much of that evidence leads us to the southern edges of North London). Then again, maybe this is all offered in a much-more straightforward fashion. I can't be expected to keep track, can I?

In my previous post, I professed admiration for a club that so regularly challenged a club with a much-bigger stadium (almost twice as big) on the notion that it's harder for a club to compete when its stadium—and its revenue—are so much smaller than its rivals'. I tried to transcend the tribal animosity of this rivalry, and maybe I failed. Maybe the fault is mine, or maybe the fault is in the depths of the rivalry itself—it might be so deep as to elude any attempt at addressing it. It does hearken back to almost a century ago, after all, and is steeped in decade after decade of Arsenalian success and Tottenhamian failure. Sorry to bring this all up, but the olive branch I extended was slapped away, and rudely at that, and so it comes to this.

You haven't won silverware worth its weight since 1991. In that time, Arsenal have won first-division honours four times. We've won the FA Cup six times. Looking further down the list, we've won the League Cup once and the Community Shield six times. We were perhaps a red-card away from winning a Champions League (this is the competition that the best of the best vie for, by the way), while you haven't caught a whiff of the Europa League final since 1984. We'll leave aside some of the more-inglorious moments in which you've come up short against Arsenal.

I know full-well that I should mind my P's and Q's ahead of a match in which the winner could rise as high as third place, not to mention the bragging rights. After all, our talisman—Alexis—has been ruled out, depriving us of much-needed goals, assists, chances, and, for lack of a better word, moxie. In his absence, I do hope that the likes of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, and Olivier Giroud will prove more than serviceable, if only to prove to Lloris and Vertonghen, among others, that they chose the wrong end of North London.

As a Yank, I do owe a debt of gratitude to Tottenham for offering a chance to the likes of Keller, Dempsey, and Friedel to prove that we occasionally know what it's all about. At the risking of sounding heretical, I would actually enjoy seeing Tottenham finish in the top four—as long as you're still below us. Displacing Chelsea, Man City, or Man U would go a long, long way towards reaching some kind of détente between us. In recent transfer-windows, y'all may have spent like drunken sailors (to which drunken sailors might object) to overtake us only to again finish fifth but still behind us. It's not very club that can lose its talismanic scorer only to finish just as well as it did with him—but then again, we seem to have done you one better on that account as well.

As we gird our loins for Saturday's clash, let's not make too much of this post or of the result. I'm but one of who knows many keyboard-warriors whose opinion matters little in the broader clash, and the outcome of the clash itself might mean more for the symbolic and emotional portents than it does for the strategic. Should Arsenal win, it was nothing less than destiny. Should Tottenham win, well, it might amount to little more than an intriguing plot-twist. Something about winning battles but losing wars.

What say you, Gooners? Yesterday's post inspired a legion of Spuds to comment. Can you do the same?

04 February 2015

Open Letter to Tottenham Hotspur

Greetings, The Spurs, and thanks for gracing this humble blog. I'm not here to wind you up—I live a long ways from London, and so maybe I haven't drunk enough of the Flavor-Aid to hate Spurs as much as a Gooner should, I do want to explain the origins of my animosities towards the club so that, come what may on Saturday, my predictions, reactions, and analyses come in the proper context. My feeelings towards your club may not be based on the geography or the history, but it comes from a deeply personal place that I hope earns your respect  and admits me into the esteemed club of hated Gooners.

03 February 2015

State of the Prem: Where does Arsenal stand?

The weekend got off to a tetchy start when we learned that Chelsea would go into the weekend without Diego Costa but Liverpool would have back Daniel Sturridge and, other than the Chelsea-City clash, most everyone else would be playing mid-table or lower clubs. By the time we squared off against Aston Villa, we knew that Chelsea and City had drawn and most everyone else had won, meaning we would have to win against Villa just to keep pace. For Southampton to later slip up at home against Swansea tightens things up, whether this refers to the top of the table or to the state of the Saints' sphincters. Sprinkle in a few transfers, and off we go.

02 February 2015

Arsenal's transfer dealings: in with a bang, out with a whimper...

Now is the winter of our discontent. Every January, we pin our hopes to a miraculous mid-season signing only to see those hopes crumble (must...resist...urge...to mention Källström...). A year ago, we managed to loan in Källström (blast it, that's one New Year's Resolution gone by the wayside, and the year before that, we fast-tracked the signing of Nacho Monreal after Gibbs went down. Thus was spawned this blog, two years ago almost to the day, in frustration at the tight-fistedness and apparent short-sightedness of our transfer-dealings. In those days, it seemed as if we would only see signings in some kind of last-ditch response to injury or departure, whether it was Gibbs or Fabregas or van Persie. This time through, though, we have a few signings...and, for those who like parody, someone who's "like a new signing."

Who are you and what have you done with Arsène?

Seriously. What is going on here? For the fourth straight Prem match, we've failed to dominate possession to the extent we're used to. We've scored the first goal and kept a clean sheet each time on our way to winning three in a row. What's more, we seem to have abandoned an approach that had become just as much a calling card as it was a curse. On this recent run (which also includes FA Cup wins over Hull and Brighton), we've set that card aside and seem to be playing with an entirely new deck. Arsenal, previously and justifiably derided for trying to pass the ball into the net, have been conceding possession to opponents and hitting on quicksilver counterattacks, and to devastating effect, especially in the second half against Villa. It's enough to make one wonder just where it all comes from.

01 February 2015

Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa: Vote for Player Ratings and Man of the Match

Powered by Theo Walcott, Arsenal overwhelmed the overmatched Villans en route to a confident, commanding 5-0 victory. Goals from Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud, Ozil, and Bellerin paved the way, with
Cazorla and Giroud also hitting woodwork. It was a necessary win to keep us on pace with Man U, Liverpool, and Tottenham, who also won their matches. If Swansea can beat Southampton by two or more, we climb to fourth on goal difference. The draw between Chelsea and Man City offers slender hope one or both can be reeled in. Before you go, rate the players' performance in the poll below:

Arsenal-Aston Villa Preview: No Alexis, no problem...

It seems like Sunday’s clash brings us two clubs moving in very different directions—Arsenal, winners of four in a row (and boasting of three clean sheets to boot), and Aston Villa, whose only wins of late have come against Championship sides Bournemouth and Blackpool in the FA Cup. They’ve not scored a Prem goal in mid-December and haven’t won a Prem match since beating Leicester in early December. Here’s hoping that we can add to that list of woes on Sunday.