09 December 2015

Campbell's work is mmm, mmm, good!

I told you. Didn't I tell you? I told Giroud to go out and have a big game, and did he ever. He delivered his first-ever hat-trick for Arsenal, nodding home at the near post, slotting home on a perfectly timed run, and smashing home a spot-kick for good measure. On a night when we had to win 0-2 or score three goals to win, Giroud decided to obey me for once and tick both boxes.

Okay, so I don't quite have those powers of prognostication. However, I can't help but pat myself on the back when, even if by dumb luck, my predictions pan out. I called on Giroud to lead us into the knockout stage, and he did that in spades. Less predictable, however, was the play of Joel Campbell, who scintillated and tantalized by turns in his best stint to date, one good enough to suggest he's ready.

Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM!

Olivier Giroud's first-ever hat-trick for Arsenal powered the Gunners past our Greek hosts and into the Champions
League knockout stage in fine fashion. Giroud was assisted by Aaron Ramsey for the first (a near-post header) and Joel Campbell (who danced niftily over the ball before threading a pass into the six-yard box for Giroud's second. Giroud then picked up his third on a spot-kick awarded after defender Elabdellaoui committed a handball infraction in the penalty area. We'll advance to the knockout stage for a sixteenth consecutive season in glorious fashion. Without further ado, then, get down to the poll and rate our lads' efforts!

08 December 2015

How Olivier will overpower Olympiakos...

0-2. 1-3. 2-3. These (or better) are the scorelines we'll need to advance to the Champions League group-stage for a 16th consecutive season. There's nothing to gain for Olympiakos and quite a bit to lose, as they have no chance of winning the group—even if they win, they'd reach 12 points, a level Bayern is already at before visiting Dinamo Zagreb. Even if Bayern lose, they hold a 7-0 aggregate advantage over Olympiakos. In other words, we should all expect the Greeks to sit way, way back, defend in numbers, and all but refuse to get forward, the rare exception being if all of our players decide to play dead and flop to the ground. Even then, I suspect that our hosts will simply clear the ball and wait. What to do, then?

Sunderland, Olympiacos, and Aston Villa, oh my!

So it's Sunderland, then, is it? We've drawn them at home for the FA Cup's third round, which has to raise hopes that we'll advance to the fourth. After all, we did just beat them after playing like a midtable Sunday League squad (except the chap between the sticks...) and should be closer to full strength by January. However, between now and then, we have the more nettlesome issue of the Champions League visit to Greece, where we'll have to win by two in order to advance to the Champions League knockout stage. Anything less than that, and it's Europa League for us. After settling that, then, we'll host Aston Villa on Sunday. No rest for the wicked, indeed.

06 December 2015

Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland—x things we learned

There were far too many squeaky bums and clenched sphincters in the first half for anyone's likings, but there's no panning the results once we turn around and have a look at hot it turned out. On a weekend when all of our key rivals save Leicester dropped points, it was vital that we return to winning ways, all the more so when facing a Sunderland side struggling to stave off relegation. That we were far from our best is beside the point; that we found a way to fight through a dodgy first half to win is what really matters. Sometimes, after all, the mark of a contender is in its ability to slog through and still emerge victorious. It ain't pretty, but dammit, it's still three points. What are the x most-important takeaways?