13 February 2015

Birmingham. Bradford. Blackburn. Bayern...Boro?

Over the last few years, we've had more than our fair share of run-ins with lower sides who have given us more than a run for our money. Heck, they've taken the money and run. In 2011, Birmingham cruelly snatched away the League Cup. In 2012, it was Bradford's turn, this time in the League Cup semifinal. Let's add in the 2013 FA Cup fourth-round scare we got from Brighton; a few weeks after that, in the fifth round, Blackburn knocked us out. Collectively, we could call them the Killer B's. The B-List. Could Middlesbrough—Boro—become an honorary member on Sunday?

Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough. Not a prediction. A reality.

Back in 2009, Arsenal faced Middlesbrough in the Prem and won 2-0 thanks to a Fabregas brace. In that squad were Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs, both aged 19. Walcott had a number of chances but couldn't quite find the back of the net, so let's hope he'll have his shooting boots on Sunday. We'll take a closer look at the match later; for now, sit back, relax, and watch the action from 2009. Apparently, the world was a blurrier place in those days...

Arsenal v Middlesbrough by Doornoob

Apologies for the video-quality as well as the commentary; this was the only version that I can find.

12 February 2015

Danke schön, Poldi; Auf wiedersehen, Per?

How do you solve a problem like Mertesacker? On one hand, he's become one of the most likable, affable members of the squad. His pairing with Laurent Koscielny had built a firm foundation for the defense, with the pair reaching in early 2014 an unbeaten streak of 31 games (ending in the ignominious 5-1 loss at Anfield). On the other hand, his Achilles' Heel has been two-fold—his pairing with Koscielny is only as good as Koscielny's Achilles, and his own pace is his weakest spot. We've known this since he first joined the club in 2011; the problem has only worsened as he's aged. With his bestest buddy Poldi having been loaned out to Inter, could we soon be bidding auf wiedersehen to Per as well?

10 February 2015

Let's all laugh at Spurs, Volume Infinity.

Well, well, well. Just when it seemed like we'd entered another downward spiral and it would be an ascendant Spurs team that finally seized a fourth-place finish, the long arc of history bends backs towards the right side and hue of London. Barely 80 hours or so after Tottenham found a way to win, they'd already squandered the slender, precious lead that win had built, stumbling to defeat at Anfield whilst we waltzed our way to victory. In the process, we've climbed to fourth (while we wait the results for Man U and Southampton) while Tottenham sink to sixth, with Liverpool just a point below. Not to overlook Leicester, who battled bravely, but there are bigger fish to fry.

Arsenal 2-1 Leicester: Vote for Player Ratings!

First half goals from Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott seemed to send Arsenal on its way to comfortable victory, but the triumvirate of Walcott, Özil, and Alexis, playing together for the first time all season, failed to really impress, though. A second-half strike from Kramaric made things a bit tetchy for the last 30 minutes or so. Fortunately, some fine saves from Ospina were enough to stave off Leicester's second half attack, and the result sends us to fourth, at least until Man U play on Wednesday. Liverpool's 3-2 defeat of Tottenham sent Spurs crashing right back down to sixth. For us, it's a welcome return to winning ways even if it wasn't as comfortable as we had hoped, given Leicester's form and position, but after the setback on Saturday, I'll take it. What do you think? Rate the players and choose your Man of the Match in the poll below...

09 February 2015

Leicester, I'm sorry, but your timing couldn't be worse.

We're licking our wounds and looking for excuses for how we lost at White Hart Lane. We had gone into that match feeling high and mighty, what with a string of five straight wins to inflate our egos. Even if Tottenham had come in on a similarly impressive run, what with a swash-buckling win at the Hawthorns, a nervy in over Sheffield United in the League Cup, and a jaw-dropping win over Chelsea, to name just a few. Among the other results, one blemish does stand out: a 2-1 loss to Leicester in London. The reductive maths suggest that we lost to Tottenham 2-1, and Tottenham lost to Leicester 1-2, and so we will end up losing to Leicester 4-2. Or some such. That's a bit outlandish, even for this correspondent's likings. It's more likely that our loss to Tottenham will mark us as a cornered beast, much as it did the last time we lost to those capons, and woe betide the Foxes as a result.

08 February 2015

The Negative Spiral, Part II: Arsenal, arise!

A tense North London Derby has left us in shambles, much as it did two years ago—when a similar loss left us seven points adrift of an apparently ascendant adversary. Two years ago, that loss was supposed to send us into a negative spiral out of which we were apparently powerless to resist. My memory fails me at the best of times, so I apologise in advance. Just how did things turn out the last time we ventured in into White Hart Lane only to come away empty-handed? Ah, yes—fourth place, our accustomed (accursed?) spot, a point ahead of our dear friends from down the road. Fast-forward to 2015, and a certain feeling of déjà vu might creep in. For as ominous as that might feel at first, take solace in the fact that the last time we lost at White Hart Lane, there were only ten matches left to play. This time through, not only are there fourteen left to play, we're girding our loins rather than straining them.