In the five weeks since that fateful encounter at Old Trafford, one could argue that Arsenal has been making “forward” progress: Lady Luck was our 12th man in the Swansea match; Pat Rice and Arsenal did very well to escape Signal Iduna Park with a draw against Borussia Dortmund; we self-destructed in typical Arsenal fashion at Ewood Park; then we put together a 3-game winning streak courtesy of Shrewsbury, Bolton, and Olympiakos.
Of course, you can throw all that out the window when the next match is a North London derby. A good result at White Hart Lane would have given a huge boost to the team’s confidence and silenced the critics for at least a day. A bad result, on the other hand, would negate the forward momentum that has been built up.
It was a cold, rainy walk to Champs Bar this morning, but I was optimistic about the game. After all, Walcott and Gervinho returned to the lineup to join RVP up front, and Song’s not atrocious at the centre-back position. The positive feeling lasted about 40 minutes…
First, the good: Szczesny made some key saves at close range to give us a fighting chance. Am I just biased, or is he one of the best keepers in the EPL this season? For the neutrals, this was another exciting match with plenty of attacking football on both ends. Both Arsenal and Sp*rs narrowly missed some chances, or this could have been a high-scoring affair. I’m actually more relaxed with Song at centre-back instead of Koscielny. The problem with that is, we really need Song back in the midfield. And finally, we recently marked the 15th anniversary of Arsène Wenger’s tenure as manager of AFC. He recently received full backing from Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke, so he’s not leaving anytime soon (unless he chooses to).
The bad: Sagna missed his marking assignment on the first Sp*rs goal, thus allowing Van der Vaart to get into a good scoring position. Not sure how Szczesny flubbed the save on the second goal, it was quite a distance away and not deflected. Theo Walcott did not look to be 100%, as he was off the pace. Sagna appears twice in the “bad” column, as it looked like he suffered a nasty ankle turn and could be gone for awhile. Let’s hope he can return for the next Champions League match (Oct 19 v Marseille), or Chelsea on the 29th. What’s next, Benayoun at right-back?
The ugly: There’s no doubt that Aaron Ramsey is a fantastic talent, but today he was not at his best. Let’s say, horrendous. With Cesc and Nasri gone, all the pressure is on Ramsey to push the ball up the pitch and create chances. Hope he’ll bounce back in the next match.
Other notes: Interesting article by John Cross (Mirror Football) regarding attendance at the Emirates. For the recent Bolton match, tickets were actually available for general sale, which is a rarity. Arsenal fans are making their voice heard. As of today, the club is in 15th place, and it’s going to be an uphill battle just to break into the top half of the table. A Champions League spot next year is in jeopardy, unless we win the CL. This has to be one of the most difficult challenges that Wenger has faced in the past 15 years: how to remain competitive and keep the fans happy, while maintaining a sane wage structure and staying profitable?
Shameless self-promotion: I’ve been invited to join the team at Premier Punditry, a Canadian supporter-driven podcast about the EPL, CL and other leagues. My first episode was Sept 29, and in the next one (Oct 4) I’ll be discussing today’s match with Sp*rs supporters. Hope you’ll tune in!
Next match: the Gunners return home to face Sunderland on Sunday, 16 October 2011. COYG!