State of the Arsenal: Post-Wembley

So our trophy drought continues on a little longer, after a disappointing game against Birmingham which was lost in the last minutes to a cruel mistake. There have been a lot of talking points since the game, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

1. The game itself vs Birmingham

Arsenal went into the game without Theo and Cesc due to injury. Wenger decided to play Rosicky in the Cesc role, and left Arshavin and Nasri to cover the left and right wings respectively. In retrospect, this turned out to be a poor decision. Rosicky’s lack of competitive matches lately really showed, and it was apparent – not for the first time this season – that he may not be up to the level required in the Arsenal starting XI. We lacked serious creativity from the midfield, and this was not helped by a seemingly lazy Alex Song, with the hustle by the tireless worker Jack Wilshere only worsening the juxtaposition.

Without that midfield spark, Arsenal looked blunted on the attack. Nasri, playing out wide, didn’t have enough time on the ball early on to make a real impact, and RVP was not helped by little clever service from the mids. Not putting Nasri in the midfield might have been a move on Wenger to protect the in-form player for the upcoming fixture list, but in this case it didn’t pay off. Nasri did get his chance in the midfield late in the game, but I felt it was too late to make a major impact.

The disaster at the back has been debated as the fault of Koscielny or Szczesny. Personally, I believe that WS53 was at fault. LK6 looked ready to hoof the ball down field, but he pulled out of the clearance – I’m sure after Szczesny called him off – and WS failed to clutch an awkward ball, leading to Obafemi’s “easiest goal ever”. Very frustrating and disappointing to see, but Arsenal fans shouldn’t be quick to jump on either player for the mistake, regardless of fault. Kos’ has been a good player for us – exceptional vs Messi and the rest of Barca – and WS53 continues to be the future of keeping at Arsenal. This is, in my opinion, one of those youthful inexperienced mistakes that are a part of becoming a world-class keeper.

Birmingham played well, so full marks to the players and Alex McLeish. It’s a big victory for them, and I don’t begrudge them of it. However, the Ferguson slap on Kos’ was very classless and he should apologize.

There’s a lot more analysis that could go into the game, but already near 48 hours on, I think we’ll let sleeping dogs lay.

2. Three Competitions Remaining

The key for Arsenal and us, the fans, is to remember that we still have three competitions left. At the beginning of the year, the Carling Cup would not have been a major priority, and although it would have been great to win on Sunday there’s much bigger things to come. The next step is to secure a dangerous FA Cup tie with Man United by beating a stubborn Orient side that played well in their home-fixture. If we can do that, we will set ourselves up with a mega-clash against our #1 title rival this season. That game will give the players a chance to recoup their pride after losing to Birmingham, and I can assure Gunners fans that if we can take down United in the FA Cup the pain of Wembley will be largely forgotten.

Of course, there is also the upcoming second leg against Barcelona. All Gunners will want to win this one, as there is little love between the two clubs as of late due to recent transfer rumours. Unfortunately, even a famous victory at the Camp Nou would not result in a European trophy, and it looks like we’ll have to pull this off without the likes of Walcott, Cesc, or perhaps even RVP. This isn’t an impossible task though and it affords Arsenal another chance to right the “wrong” of February 27th 2011.

Arguably however the most important competition remaining is the English Premiership. With Arsenal trailing United by only four points, and reigning champs Chelsea languishing behind Sp*rs and Citeh (who are also far from the hunt), the crown of English supremacy is quickly turning into a two-horse race between the familiar jockeys Wenger and Sir Alex. I feel this is Arsenal’s most important competition for two reasons. Firstly, it is widely considered a greater achievement than the domestic Cups. It takes a remarkable level of consistency and resolve, two items Arsenal’s young team has been criticized over constantly in the last half-decade. It would be a great accomplishment that would reward a lot of hard work and make up for many ugly sights witnessed in the league during that time – Eduardo and Ramsey’s injuries spring to mind.

Secondly, it is a season of remarkably tight competition where every point must be earned in every match over 90 minutes plus. The “relegation zone” teams are stronger than ever, and even minnows like Blackpool have pulled some amazing scalps this season. With Chelsea, Sp*rs and Citeh all weaker than they could be, along with United’s unusually high number of draws, Arsenal have a great chance to take advantage of a so-far healthy season and win a significant piece of silverware. Additionally, our destiny is in our hands with a fixture against United still to come, and the Mancs have a much tougher fixture list than ours heading into the spring.

So, the Carling Cup was a huge disappointment, but there is a ton to play for and a lot of opportunities for the Arsenal to reward their patient fans with a first trophy since 2005.

Check back for part two of our report sometime during this week.

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