28 February 2015

Arsenal-Everton tactical preview: whose season has gone further off the rails?

What the heck happened? This was supposed to be a season full of promise, a season in which the squad gelled and rose to heights unseen in living memory. The signing of a dynamic scorer, a keeper coming off of a Golden Glove-worthy season…and yet, somehow, it’s all crumbled to dust and forlorn, furious fans are up in arms. Indeed, Everton’s season has not turned out as hoped.

Open letter to Everton: we were pullin' for ya, honest, we were...

Let's give credit where credit's due. Over the last few seasons, you Toffees have given us at Arsenal all we could handle and then some, getting a win, four draws, and just one loss in our last six clashes. In last season's run-in, you pushed us to the brink before succumbing to the pressure, losing three of your last five while we won five from five. Under Martínez, you may have fallen short of his promise of Champions League qualification, but it wasn't for lack of effort or ingenuity. Yours was one of the stand-out stories of last season. What happened, though? Where did all of that verve and tactical nous go to? As it currently stands, staving off relegation while fighting for Europa League glory, such as it is, looks like a meagre return on last season's promise. Still, we know full-well how much of a threat you Toffees pose, even though it's more latent than lethal of late.

27 February 2015

Let's all laugh at Spurs and Scousers and—oh. Um...

So we were terrible on Wednesday. Despite getting one of the best-available draws in years, we botched it, delivering one of our worst performances in memory. However, we can always count on Tottenham to help us put things in perspective, to remind us that we could always have things just a bit worse. For us, it seems that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel: we're not Tottenham. For was woefully as we played on Wednesday, we can still wake up knowing that we're not rooting for a cock on a ball, or in the case of Liverpool, some random waterfowl choking on seaweed. Yes, we lost in atrocious fashion at home, but reports of our death are greatly exaggerated. There is after all still the second leg to be played. At the wrong end of London, and even further north to Liverpool, their European misadventures have come to an untimely end, with each club dumped from the Europa League. Let's all laugh, indeed.

26 February 2015

Arsenal 1-3 Monaco: Will this sequel be any better?

Be careful what you ask for, they say, for you just might get it. After several years in a row of drawing against dominant, top-shelf sides, it seemed we had finally drawn a side we could easily see off: AS Monaco, they of the four goals scored in the group-stage, a club that asked a 34-year old Dimitar Berbatov to lead its offense after loaning out Radamel Falcao, an offense so woefully inept that it has scored the fewest goals in Ligue 1 and only outscored three other clubs in that Champions League group-stage. Against this offense, we somehow found a way to repeat our own performances in this competition over the last three seasons, losing the first leg in embarrassing fashion and forcing ourselves to mount a heroic comeback in the second. Bold proclamation time: we're going to pull it off.

24 February 2015

Arsenal-AS Monaco tactical preview

In six matches, just one goal conceded in the Champions League group-stage—five clean-sheets. A stretch of nine Ligue 1 matches without conceding a goal, and a league-leading 19 goals conceded while keeping 13 clean-sheets in 25 matches. Truly, it seems like Arsenal are going to struggle to get past AS Monaco, a side that rarely, if ever, gives up a goal. And yet, for all of their stalwart-ness on defense, we're overlooking a deficiency at the other end—Monaco scored only four goals in the Champions League group-stage (only two clubs scored fewer, and they finished bottom of their groups) and have managed just 26 goals in those 25 Ligue 1 matches. This might be the most-stubborn defense we've faced in a while, but it's also the most-stupefied offense we'll see in some time.

23 February 2015

Rivals' Roundup #26: Where does Arsenal stand in the Prem?

Sorry to have missed last week’s roundup. The midweek fixtures, combined with a wicked cold, made things too complicated at my end. Good news, I’m more or less clear-headed; even better, it’s a great  damned good weekend to come back to. We won, of course, but Chelsea drew at home, Man U lost, Tottenham drew at home, and Southampton lost at home. All told, it’s hard to imagine a better weekend—well, okay, losses for Chelsea and Tottenham would have improved it, but let’s not get greedy. On to the roundup!

22 February 2015

Gunners lucky to scrape out a win and climb to 3rd on the day

Phew. That one was about as unmpleasant a win as I've been around in a bit. Throughout the match, it seemed like only a matter of time before Zaha would (a) find his way past Monreal, (b) earn a penalty, or (c) get Monreal sent off, if not some combination of the aforementioned. Ironically, the first goal came after Clattenburg ignored a penalty-shout from Palace and on the ensuing counter, Welbeck was brought down by Soaré juuust inside the area, and Cazorla coolly converted the penalty to make it 1-0, very much against the run of play. Just before halftime, Giroud added a second during a scramble after Speroni spilled Welbeck's shot—our 13th goal scored in extra time to date. An 0-2 lead has rarely felt as fortunate as this one. However, it's three points banked on what's looking like a great weekend.