06 March 2015

Yes, Arsenal's risen to third—but are they good enough to stay there?

And we’re back. These midweek fixtures are tough for me to deal with—too many results crushed together to sort, especially when the Tuesday-Wednesday results come in right at the worst part of my workday. So it goes. The good news is that, in addition to winning both of our most recent fixtures, a variety of rivals dropped points over the weekend. Even if the midweek results didn’t change things, we can still enjoy a a lengthy spell in third place with an increasingly realistic eye on second. Heck, if Man City and Chelsea continue to leak points here and there, and if we can go on a run, who knows? I’m not making any promises. I’m just suggesting we look at where we are and where we once were and dare to dream. Ten matches left. On to the rundown…

Olivier Giroud, Sexy Beast...and most-vital player?

Against Crystal Palace, Olivier Giroud scored his 50th goal for Arsenal, the 48th player to do so for the club. He might be alone among them for the divisiveness he inspires despite joining that pantheon. Since that achievement, he's added two more, each of them vital to the squad securing all three points. He may not be the best striker in the Prem—not by any stretch of the imagination—but he's done pretty well by most accounts. He's suffered by comparison with the form of his predecessor and struggled to replicate that much-touted second season of 20 league goals, but, by most accounts, he's achieved more than he's aggrieved. If you haven't already, enjoy the run-up to those fifty goals.

05 March 2015

Gabriel's gone. Sánchez sizzled. Giroud? Jury's still out.

So we've come through another win, one good enough to keep us in third place for at least another few weeks as the Prem by and large takes a break until the weekend of 14 March. We won, but so too did everone else in the top eight positions, and so the table will remain unchanged until then. For now, we can enjoy another match in which we again scored twice—the eleventh time we've done so in our last 12 outings (the exception being that abomination against AS Monaco...). As we approach the run-in, we do seem to be rounding into form, at least in the Prem if not the FA Cup. With just ten matches left to play, we're just ahead of a pack of rivals in a mad-dash for third place—with an eye on third. A closer look at our squad suggests that we have it in us to fend off that pack and perhaps close in on second.

04 March 2015

QPR 1-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM

Arsenal fended off a strong first half from QPR to go into halftime in a scoreless tie, but shortly after halftime, Giroud scored, pouncing on a rebound from a Gibbs shot, to score his fifth goal in as many games. Barely five minutes later, Alexis shivved his way through two defenders to beat Green at the near post to make it 0-2. From there, QPR seemed to fade until Charlie Austin found a goal with eight minutes to create a mirror image of the opposite fixture when we defeated the Hoops 2-1, again with Austin netting. Little shame in that as the man has found the back of the net some 15 times to date. At any rate, the result is what counts, and it's enough to keep us in third for a little while longer as we prepare to face Man U in the FA Cup on Monday. Everyone else around us won, so the table remains unchanged. More on that later. For now, get to the poll and rate our players!

03 March 2015

Arsenal-QPR Preview: Charlie Austin, your purple-patch has dried up...

Hot off the heels of a reassuring win over Everton at the Emirates, Arsenal have to make the intrepid, half-hour jog over to Loftus Road to face QPR, they of Joey Barton, 'Arry Redknapp, and—blast, but it's hard to get worked over a fixture against an opponent whose most villainous representative is—who? Rio Ferdinand? He's hardly a paladin, but he's certainly not the kind of caricature against whom we can summon any real bile. More's the pity. All kidding aside, at least for a sentence or two, we'd do well to be wary of a squad that boasts of a goal-scorer in Charlie Austin, he of the 14 Prem goals, not to mention an entire squad that's been resting since 21 February thanks to Tottenham's attempt at winning some kind of silverware for once. Whether this means that QPR will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed or rusty and out of sorts remains to be seen.

02 March 2015

Gabriel answers the call; BFG is put on hold...

Amidst the glow of a win that sends us back to third place (and, apparently, increases our chances of a top-four finish to 84.4% if you believe GoalImpact), one stand-out performance was that of Gabriel Paulista, who made his Prem debut and overcame some early-match jitters to deliver a stellar performance. While he did very well in his first start against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round, he had to adjust to playing alongside three new teammates (Ospina, Coquelin, and Bellerín) and to the somewhat more-intense challenges posed by Everton. Don't let their table-position fool you—on paper, this is still very much the squad that briefly eclipsed us a season ago. Gabriel stepped up to deliver a competent if not commanding performance, one good enough to earn him a 7.56 in our ratings-poll. Was his performance good enough to bench the BFG permanently?

01 March 2015

Arsenal 2-0 Everton: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM

After a tepid start, Olivier Giroud flicked home a cross from Mesut Özil in the 38th minute to seize a lead, but it was a long, nervy wait until Tomáš Rosický added the second goal in the 88th to kill it off, again from an Özil assist. Gabriel made his first start Prem start and delivered a number of fine tackles while helping to keep Lukaku in check. Everton had a number of great chances through Lukaku, but, each time, Ospina was there to make the save. The result sends us back up to third place, just four points behind Man City while carving out some important breathing-space between us and Liverpool. We'll take a closer look at how the Prem standings look later; for now, cast your vote for player-ratings and our Man of the Match below.