Gööners. Be thri11ed.
Sure, we’re in an international break and there’s always a need to pray to Dennis Bergkamp that our players return in one piece, but today is a bloody excellent day to be an Arsenal supporter. There’s two ways these international breaks can go: either we’ve entered with a good result and you can’t wait for Arsenal to play again, or we’ve entered with a negative result and you need to take a break from the internet to keep yourself from yarfing all over your keyboard. This break can be categorized as the former.
Let’s tackle the positives in somewhat logical chunks.
First, we’ve qualified for the Champions League in a professional, no nonsense sort of way. It was as if we were Ashley Williams, Fenerbahçe was a horizontal Dutch Skunk, and we put our laces right through all doubt (they’ll survive though; here’s the video if you need a reminder). The opposition was poor, but we were poor against ‘Villa, so a trip to Turkey definitely seemed daunting. Five goals-for and two clean sheets later, and we’re where we belong.
Continuing with discussion of the Champions League, we’ve been placed in Group F with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, and Marseille. There has been much talk about how tough this group is, but I’m confident we can at least advance as second to Dortmund. I’d much rather finish second among a group of tough competition than finish second in a group with lackluster opponents like we have in recent years. Advancing will feel like an accomplishment and will surely provide a boost to our collective confidence. I look forward to some amazing fixtures and some hilarious Pepe Reina errors. With a tough group there’s obviously a risk that we won’t advance to the next round, but if you can’t beat ‘em, you can’t join ‘em. Our first group match is away at Marseille, so it’s the perfect opportunity to start off on the right foot and bring home 3 points.
Next, we’ve done well to put out the flames that sparked from the ‘Villa match domestically. Fulham is a team that plays significantly better at home than away, so it was nice to see a great Arsenal performance at Craven Cottage. The derby featured a return to typical Arsenal one touch passing, and even though I was watching the match hungover at a cottage in Muskoka, the Gunners were truly a joy to watch. Dropping points in this match after the disaster on opening day would have put us in a dreadful position heading into the North London Derby, so full credit to the players and the manager for turning things around.
Ah yes, the North London Derby, let’s talk about that. Red versus white. Cannon versus bird balancing on a beach ball. Victory through harmony versus collapse via hilarity. This is what it’s all about. Sp*rs rolled in their ~£100 million signings, we rolled in with our freebies, and the end result was a classic one nil to the Arsenal. The margin of our victory would have been greater too if not for superb performance by Hugo Lloris. With a little bit of luck Theo would have beaten the keeper at least once, but credit is due to the Sp*rs keeper for literally keeping his side in the game. AVB and Sp*rs supporters are quick to point to the fact that we finished the game with 4 fullbacks (6 defenders), as a sign of their “domination,” but I disagree whole-heartedly with that sentiment. Our 6 man backline was there to protect the 3 points that we earned and signaled to Sp*rs: “you shall not pass.” Besides, don’t most games that end 1-0 involve the losing team pressing at the end? Tossing terrible crosses into a crowded 18-yard-box is not domination, folks.
SZCZ played great in our goal, and there’s hardly a player I thought played poorly on the day. Jenkinson had some initial problems, but he collected himself and improved as the game progressed. Nacho Monreal missed a sitter but his experience was important in closing out the game. Our MOTM was undoubtedly Olivier Giroud though. He got the only goal with a nice finish, he won the majority of his aerial duals, he held up play, and he even dribbled opponents. And man, is he ever handsome.
Now, it is time that we talk about the conclusion of the transfer window that has every Gooner buzzing, and every supporter of a rival club sending a text message that looks something like this: “something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. I got scared and there’s been an accident. Please drive a new pair of underwear to my work and don’t ask questions.” The Arsenal Football Club has signed Mesut Özil for ~£42.5 million (and hilariously named keeper Emiliano Viviano on loan).
I should start by saying that my dad was born in a town not far from Nuremberg, Germany, and as such I’m a first-generation Canadian. Even though I appreciate the support of the Canadian National Team, it’s always been about Deutscher Fußball-Bund in my house. I’m a student of the German language and I own a Germany kit. Oh, and I guess I should mention that my Germany kit has a name on the back: Özil. This morning I was trying to buy my second Özil kit, in the form of a yellow Arsenal away kit, but the official club shop is not letting me proceed to checkout. I’ve heard whispers on the Twitterverse that we’ve already run out of Zs due to the sheer number of ÖZ11 kits that have been ordered. If that’s true, I can deal with waiting and a little bit of frustration because it shows just how much this signing means to Gooners worldwide. I’m also willing to bet that we wouldn’t run into the same problem if Suarez was our marquee signing.
Özil may not be the striker people are calling for, but he is the best number 10 in the world. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t fill a gap in our squad. He is the player that our squad must adjust around. End of. He presses like Rosický, and he passes better than well, pretty much anyone. He’d be the first name on any team-sheet that doesn’t include Messi or Ronaldo. And for the record, I would have said that even before we were even linked with the midfield maestro. He will bring goals, he will bring assists, and he will bring wins. What’s more, he’ll attract other world-class talent. We might not have signed a marquee striker this window, but what striker wouldn’t want to join the Gunners to be on the receiving end of his assists in the future?
Are we instant contenders? Not so fast, but I do think his arrival quells my doubts about securing a Champions League football for next year. This is a massive acquisition for Arsenal Football Club. We’re no longer a “selling club”. Players know it. Gooners know it. Rivals beware.
OK, I’ve got to get back to watching “ÖZ11 Welcome to Arsenal” YouTube videos and wiping drool off of my keyboard.