14 March 2015

Arsenal 3-0-West Ham: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM

Olivier Giroud blasted home a goal just before halftime, marking Arsenal's 15th goal in stoppage-time this season, and Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini added goals later in the second half—becoming the 21st player to score for us this season, and we waltzed to a confident, breezy 3-0 win. It's yet another positive result made all the more vital when Man City lost to Burnley, and we are now just a point from second place. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, enjoy the result on its face and don't make too much of table-positions. On to the poll!

13 March 2015

Hammer-time: how to drop the Hammer and other idioms...

The week began with a triumphant trip to Old Trafford, which is not to say that it will conclude with a similar result at the Emirates. Fresh off of our first win at Old Trafford since 2006 might suggest that we’re in fine form, but it also could mean that we’re ripe for an emotional letdown. Once upon a time, West Ham looked to challenge for a top-four finish—but have plummeted to tenth.  Winless in their last seven matches, it would be all to easy to overlook them as we look ahead to AS Monaco on Tuesday.

They're calling in sick left and right, these Irons...

Savor the irony, if only for one match. In a season in which we've again been racked by injury, it seems as if the hammer can't fall fast enough on the Hammers' season, what with players succumbing to injury left and right. If this continues, Sam "I am the walrus" Allardyce may have to take to the pitch himself. Lads are coming up with all manner of excuses, ranging from the legitimate, such as Andy Carroll's season-ending knee surgery, to the ludicrous, such as Enner Valencia's tea-cup toe-laceration. One way or another, various Hammers seem to be conjuring up excuses of varying degrees of legitimacy. It seems as if the stuffing has been taken out of this squad just as the run-in ramps up. As we size up our chances at finishing third (or second?), we should hammer West Ham, driving them ever-deeper down the table.

Fresh news out of Boleyn Ground has it that centre-back James Tomkins has suffered a dislocated shoulder in training and will miss Saturday's clash. He'll be scanned Friday, but if he's ruled out, he'll join Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole, Valencia, and (maybe) Winston Reid in the infirmary. It's worth mentioning that Carl Jenkinson will also be unavailable as the loanee cannot face his parent club. On paper, it all seems to add up to an XI that isn't worth the paper it's printed on. The absences of Carroll, Cole, and Valencia would deprive West Ham of some of its most-aggressive attackers; the absences of Tomkins, Jenkinson, and Reid would deny West Ham of some of its most-stubborn defenders. At either end, then, Allardyce has quite a few selection-headaches, none of them good, ahead of Saturday's clash.

Against this depleted side, then, we at our end of things had better come away with all three points. Coming on the heels of the orgiastic win over Man U in the FA Cup and ahead of a daunting second-leg clash against AS Monaco, it might be easy to overlook West Ham, stuck in the middle, as it were. After a bright start to the campaign, West Ham have been humbled of late, fading to tenth place in the Prem. Gone are the accolades for Allardyce as the club hunker down and fend off rivals such as Swansea, Stoke, and Newcastle in a fight to stay in the upper half of the Prem. No longer are they competing with the likes of Southampton, Tottenham, or Liverpool for Europa League honours.

It's all a bit of a banana-peel, then, isn't it? Squeezed in between the glory of defeating Man U in the FA Cup and the challenge of winning at the Stade Louis II in the Champions League, we face the more-modest task of seeing off a rival that hasn't won in its last six outings, that is bereft of a half-dozen of its most-vital players, that hasn't beaten us in almost ten years. Then again, it's worth noting that we hadn't won at Old Trafford in almost ten years but did so on Monday. Parallelism is wonderful in grammar, but I would prefer to avoid it on Saturday. 

We should know what to expect. West Ham will likely come in with a 4-3-1-2, all but daring us to score a goal while hoping to hit us on a counter. The absences of Carroll, Cole, and Valencia might at first seem like suggestions that West Ham will have nothing going forward, but that attitude underestimates Diafro Sakho, who has found time in his schedule to score against Liverpool, Man U, Man City, and Tottenham, among others. If we can negate the threat he poses, we should find ourselves again on the winning end of things. If nothing else entices, we do have a chance to climb to within a point of second place, with Man City's visit to Turf Moor coming hot on the heels of our clash with West Ham.

Could we come out of the weekend just a point off of Man City's pace? For as much as we risk looking past Saturday to a midweek Champions League clash, so too does City. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take care of our own business on Saturday.

PREDICTION: Arsenal 2-0 West Ham

Add your two cents in the comments-section, and don't be afraid of a shout-out via the twitter, reddit, or facebook links below. In any case, thanks for stopping by! 'Til next time...

12 March 2015

Let's all laugh at Chelsea, or, The Mourinho Conspiracy.

Fair warning: this post is all about spite and schadenfreude and sarcasm. If ye be of the easily offended variety, I suggest you jog on before you get your knickers in a twist. Are they gone? Good. Let's get on with it shall we? Lemme lay out the scene: Chelsea, having bravely gone into the Parc des Princes and somehow maneuvered that luxury bus into position long enough to earn a 1-1 draw, sidled into Stamford Bridge cozy in the knoweldge that they had that all-important away goal, scored with the one on-frame shot (of two total). Mourinho's Machiavellian method had worked in the first leg, and the second leg would surely be one in which he could count on a similar approach: defend like you're desperately out of your league, play for a scoreless draw, and hope for a timely goal. All the pieces were in place. Progress assured., right?

10 March 2015

Coquelin clobbers Matić, so who needs another DM? Not Arsenal...

Since his return from his most recent loan-spell at Charlton, it seems that Francis Coquelin has set the world on fire with his performances, almost singlehandedly resurrecting an Arsenal season that looked like it might have otherwise ended in ignominious fashion. From Boxing Day forward, Coquelin has become a bedrock in the defensive midfield, so much so that Arteta and Flamini have been all but forgotten, so much so that Arsène felt confident enough in Coquelin to sign only 17-year-old Krystian Bielik to buttress the defensive midfield, refusing to dig any deeper than £2.7m or so to reinforce what has arguably been one of our weakest positions over the last few seasons. Now, with Coquelin's emergence, it seems as if all of our prayers have been answered. For one, he bests Chelsea's Nemanja Matić. Actually, that—that should settle the debate right there. Right?

09 March 2015

Welbz wins it; we're goin' to Wembley! Sod off, you manky-Mancs!

Are you basking in it? Is your skin tingling, your throat aching, maybe the room still spinning? I know we have some work yet to do, but wow, does it feel spine-ticklingly good to be a Gooner today. I don't know if I could have penned a better script: drawn against Man U at Old Trafford. The Dutch Skunk gets scratched because of a little bit niggle in his personality (or was it his ankle?). We soak up some early pressure, find the first goal, and start to settle in—only for Rooney to nab an equaliser minutes later, his third goal in as many FA Cup matches against us. From there, squeaky bums and melvins set in...until Welbeck—Danny 'effin Welbeck—pounced on a lazy pass from Valencia, beating de Gea to it and coolly putting it home to give us the lead. It was tense and it was nervy, but we earned this one. We'll visit Old Trafford again, so I'll keep my boasts to a dull roar. For now.

Man U 1-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player-Ratings/MotM

A cracking match saw Arsenal go ahead midway through the first half courtesy of some nifty work from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, setting up Nacho Monreal who slotted past de Gea. The lead was short-lived, though, as Rooney flicked home a sharp header barely five minutes later. That's where it stood through halftime up until Welbeck scored on the hour beating de Gea to the ball and putting it home to make ir 1-2 and remind Van Gaal of what he's capable of. Shortly after that, Angel Di Maria, in a moment of madness snatched at referee Michael Oliver's jersey from behind. Oliver, showing a bit of bottle, sent him off, reducing Man U to two men. Far from denting their ambitions, though Man U started throwing everything forward and very nearly found their equalizer. De Gea made almost enough saves to earn himself another meme, but we're through to the next round our second win in 16 trips to Old Trafford. Bask in it, lads, but don't overdo it in the voting below!

An FA Cup quarterfinal that feels, well, final...

If you can believe it, some among us are wondering whether we should win or lose on Monday or on 16 May when we again visit Old Trafford, as if it’s an either-or proposition or as if we’d be lucky to win just one. Where does this timidity come from? Yes, I know full-well that we haven’t beaten Man U in our last few outings [cough], but unlike the hand-wringers and knickers-twisters, I for one want the challenge of going into the belly of the beast. Enough with the cowering in the corner. There's more than enough quality in this squad to go into Old Trafford and emerge victorious.

08 March 2015

That Man U hoodoo...Bollocks!

Perhaps no rival torments as much as Man U does these days. Against Chelsea, we can point to pulsating 3-5 and 3-1 wins, even if those were in 2011. Against City, we have the 0-2 win at the Etihad and the Community Shield to boast of. Aside from 20 minutes against Liverpool, we've bossed them more often than not, and, as for Tottenham, well, the record speaks for itself. However, there's something about Man U. I don't ordinarily buy into head-to-head records going back more than 2-3 years, but even I have to admit that there's a psychological block that seems to force us to knuckle under even when it seems like we should lord it over them. Especially over the last two or three years, when it's felt like we had the superior squad, we've faltered. And so we go into this FA Cup sixth-round clash with an inferiority complex, and that mindset, perhaps more than the players who will take to the pitch, might be nemesis we have to slay.