Last season, if the Arsenal had a bad game, you could count on them to bounce back with a spirited effort the following week. They were consistent in their inconsistency. This year, they’re more consistent, but not in a good way.
Since October 6 (the last time Kieran Gibbs played), their record in all competitions has been: L-L-W-W-L-D-D. With the exception of the 120-minute comeback victory against Reading, the Gunners have not shown us that they have what it takes to be considered a serious contender for the title. Their only other victory was against 20th place QPR, thanks to a late goal by Mikel “offside” Arteta. We’ll come back to him in a moment.
Rewind to May 6, 2012: I could probably copy-paste my match report and replace “Norwich” with “Fulham”, then take the rest of the day off. Here are the highlights:
– Norwich/Fulham did not come to the Emirates hoping to eke out a draw. They challenged our porous defense and made it difficult for us.
– at half time, the fans booed the Gunners as they walked off the pitch.
– RVP/Giroud scored two goals.
– We missed our chance to get 3 points.
– I ended the article with “We need real depth, not just promising youngsters, because we can’t expect our starting XI to stay healthy all season.”
Not much has changed (in a positive way) since May. We sold one striker, and bought another. We stole an attacking midfielder from a Spanish club, but we lost another to injury. Not enough depth on defense. And we still have Park, Bendtner and Squillaci…
Since his arrival, Mikel Arteta has been my favourite player. He’s not a flashy player like Cazorla, but he has been the model of consistency. Unfortunately, he had a rare bad game today. He played the full 90 minutes against Schalke 04 and Manchester United, and that was no walk in the park. So fitness might have been an issue. Opposing teams have already figured out that if you can neutralize Arteta and Cazorla, Arsenal are done. Each game, you will see Cazorla getting pushed around as if he were a head shorter than everybody else. Opposing midfielders are pressing Arteta more.
When the penalty kick was awarded, Arteta was the obvious choice (Podolski had already been replaced by the Ox). It was a glorious opportunity to make up for a bad game. But the kick was poor, and Arteta telegraphed his intent. In the end, justice was served, as Sascha Riether did not deserve to be called for a hand ball.
But it’s not all gloom-and-doom. Mertesacker made a great defensive play in the first half to save a goal. Sagna and Koscielny were also solid on defense. Podolski returned to the score sheet. Giroud is growing in confidence with every game. I particularly liked his second goal, as he did not get discouraged when his shot hit the goal post. He got back onside, into open space, and headed Walcott’s cross with authority into the net.
Looking ahead to next week’s match versus the Sp**s, Wilshere will be back after his one-game suspension, and perhaps we might find Szczesny in the starting XI. Walcott limped off the field today, so we might see the Ox in his place. Here’s hoping I can copy-paste my match report from February 26 .:)
Come on you Gunners!