It’s tempting to start with a long extended lament about our (non) performance against a footballing nobody or how Cambiasso and all his glorious bald head helped topple us, but I think I should rather take this chance to put all of this in context….
‘The Premier League is changing’ which in itself is a severe understatement but the influx of mega-money has had its ramifications: clubs such as West Ham, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Stoke City can now court players of elite European pedigree. Andre Ayew, Yohan Cabaye and Xherdan Shaqiri are but a few of the names that have played for far larger clubs than those they currently call home. These English clubs are no longer rummaging around the bottom of the barrel hoping to stumble upon another Carlos Tevez, they now have the big bucks to knock on the doors of the elite and go toe to the toe with all but the very highest echelon of 7 to 10 footballing behemoths that dominate Europe.
The Sky sponsored cash-steroids have arguably made the English league far more competitive than any analyst or pundit ever predicted. The old saying of “There are no easy games in the Premier League” is no longer marketing psychobabble but a reality. I’ll go far enough to make a prediction: This year we will certainly see a reduction in the total number of points that the top 4 clubs will have to obtain to make it into the Champions League and an increase in the minimum number of points a team requires to avoid relegation.
This numerical contraction between the top and between should prove once and for all that the Premier league is not a one or two horse race like the rest of the European leagues. Elsewhere Barcelona and Real are swatting aside teams, while Bayern obliterate fellow German clubs as a plucky Dortmund do their best to keep up. And if we are being honest, no one really gives a hoot about the shambolic Italian league.
It’s time Arsenal and more specifically Wenger accept this fact. If he means to challenge on more than one front, the squad will require additions. His habitual hatred of squad rotation seems to have lessened and he made a few changes to the side that hammered Leicester City. But I don’t see that lasting. Ospina’s appearance was a huge talking point and the Columbian proceeded to drop the ball (literally!) through the entire match. Francis too looked a shade or two raw and needed to be taken off shortly after half-time. Rambo added zip and drive to a midfield that was overly prone to passing the ball in any given situation. The Welsh midfielder was imperious and his addition seemed to have an immediate effect but the team’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot won through.
We now possess a sterling ZERO points from two games against relative minnows. I don’t want to mince words, but as a friend and fellow-gooner aptly put it, “Zagreb and Olympiacos are clubs from the third world of football”. Losing to them is damning indictment of failure.
The Anti-Wengerites will sharpening their pitchforks and wont mince words as after that farce of a transfer window. Choosing not to invest is a high risk, high reward strategy; succeed and the world extols your tactical nous, fail and the pundid(n)ts and columnists will rip you to shred faster than you can say ‘Jack Robinson’. The manager’s tactic of keeping faith in “cohesion” and other abstract concepts rather than bolster a flagging midfield and a woefully impotent striker department has failed. But all is far from lost, it is still October and there’s plenty of time (and another transfer window) to make up for last ground.
Stan’s ‘little’ consulting fee (of £3 million) didn’t go unnoticed it either, much has been said about the timing of the whole thing but I’m certain that this is simply indicative of a precedent being set. It’s little more than a power-play to remind fans that they have no say in how the club will be run and can do nothing about the KSE’s autocratic rule. We can only pray that they don’t reduce Arsenal into a mediocre club from the power-house that it currently is like he managed his American clubs. But unless Alisher Usmanov pulls out a Llama from his hat and buys the entire club from the clueless American there’s going to be no change in the status quo, so let’s buckle in and watch what unfolds.
But there are a few positives (sort of) to take from the whole debacle. Alexis seems to have gotten his mojo back, his hat-trick against the foxes was not just a blip but the return of the Inca Warrior God who did his damndest to save us from Champion’s league oblivion. Though, I’m still far from convinced with Theo and his goals, but if he comes good against our despicable foes on Sunday and I’ll admit that he’s more than a flat-track bully.
We host them at the Grove on the back of a loss to the Greeks and have also lost three of our last five games. Van Gaal’s clowns on the other hand are high on confidence after four consecutive victories. Granted though, Sunderland and Ipswitch are hardly stellar opposition, the mind-set of the squad would be undeniably positive.
The match promises to be more than a little interesting as these are no longer Fergie’s devils who would have defended back and looked for the counter. Van Gaal favors a more possession based approach of hold the ball until the opposition either commits a mistake or commits too many men forward and then look for a quick incisive attack. In short, it’s a more cowardly but pragmatic version of Wengerball.
It’s also likely that the midfield turns into a bloodbath and the team that asserts its dominance in the centre will certainly win the game, barring some crazy goal by either side. Mata has grown to be their creator-in-chief while Shrek Rooney continues to waddle into mediocrity. Shackling Mata could be key and I hope Wenger is canny enough to assign the role to Coquelin. Martial’s pace, foot-work and finishing are starting to live up all the hype surrounding his price-tag and transfer but he is still far too raw to be able to create chances unassisted and yet lacks the maturity to drop deep to look for the ball; keeping him out the final third will nullify him, but that’s easier said than done.
Depay will prove to be a slightly different bag of problems. He is still and unknown quantity and vacillates between sublime and mediocre but Hector Bellerin will certainly have his hands full – a true trial by fire for the young fullback.
All things considered, the bookies are probably offering insane odds for an Arsenal victory especially considering our record against the devils (we haven’t beaten them in the league in nearly 13 meetings). But if there was ever a time that we needed to beat Manchester United, it’s now. A victory won’t prove to be a panacea or guarantee a sustained title challenge nor will a loss condemn us to failure but a win will go a long way in lifting the flagging spirits at the Grove.
I will now go offer prayers to the Flying Spaghetti Monster in hope that he will extend grace his godly eyes and save us all from eternal humiliation and ignominy of another defeat at home.
(Original Image from www.comicvine.com …. check them out, they got some great Art work going on, not nowhere near my masterful craft though!)
See you lads on the other side of Sunday!