What a welcome relief it was to finally start the New Year with a win in the Premier League. New Years Day against Southampton was a hard pill to swallow after stale turkey sandwiches for the previous week.
But what a tonic it was to have Stoke (a team that take so much happiness in any Arsenal downfall that it’s a pretty embarrassing thing for their fans) to come and get completely schooled at the Emirates on Sunday and to see mugs like Shawcross lap it up for a bit. In my opinion as a professional footballer he pretty much incenses violence with some of the crap he spurts. From a man who after breaking a leg and nearly ruining a fellow players career, the fact that he now has England aspirations he should know better and I think he sets a bad example in the modern game. Don’t know where he gets it off and what right he thinks he has!
Anyway, I won’t get caught up in making Stoke an enemy as it would be like a Lion taking on a rat. I am all for ‘know your competition’ and in this case they are not Stoke. Let them play with the likes of Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis.
So where are we now? Fifth, considering it’s our worst start since 1995 you’d need to take that and say we have got away lightly. But we have what is being described as the player of the season in our ranks, and we are slowly but surely getting our heavyweights back week by week. Its always nice to jump above Spurs again too, however I fear St Totteringham’s day may come slightly later this year but I am sure it will arrive.
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I think it was hugely noticeable in the game on Sunday that as much as we didn’t want to admit at the time the break may have done Ozil the world of good as physically he looked much more adapted now to the Premier League, he’s clearly been in the gym. Similar in a way to when the Ox and Wilshere first came onto the scene then we didn’t see them for a few months (or in Wilshere’s case a year), he came back a far more stronger looking athlete. To me that shows Ozil is fully committed to making it work in England.
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on the performance of the side as it was clear that it was up there as one of our best performances this year, but then again this is Stoke not Chelsea. They have Glen Whelan in midfield. Sorry who?
However, my point today is in the change of starting line up recently for our central midfield area and in particular our defensive centre midfielders. In the last 6 games or so Francis Coquelin has looked a completely different entity than he ever has before in this Arsenal team. This is a player that has been sent out on loan to the likes of L’orient and Frieburg in recent seasons with very limited success and was then palmed off to a team struggling in the Championship in Charlton. Then he was brought back in by Wenger after we needed cover for the injured (and woeful) Arteta and Flamini.
He has arrived back from Charlton and seems now to have the physique of Alex Song as has also been on the weights and has reminded me a lot of Song’s role in the side when we had him in his early days. He in my opinion has made the DM slot his own since he came back and certainly if Arsenal don’t secure William Carvalho or similar this January which I think is pretty evident that we won’t then he will remain our first choice in this area – certainly at least till Arteta comes back who as Captain I suppose will regain his place.
This then leads us to the game on Saturday. For me, I think it could be our best chance yet of taking something (i.e a win) off a top top side. Even though Liverpool outplayed us at Anfield we really should have come away with the points after being 2-1 up in the 96 minute. This game though, could be the catalyst for our season and time that we finally start climbing into a more familiar position.
I think City look certainly much more vulnerable without Yaya Toure, between him and David Silva they make City tick. If we can keep Silva quiet we have a real chance of winning this match. We have our first choice centre-halves playing, and we have a full selection of midfielders and (barring Welbeck) attackers too. In my opinion this time there really is no excuses in terms of team selection. If we have learnt any lessons at all in terms of steel from last season this is a game that we need to show it. Oh and did I mention Sanchez?!?
It is well overdue that good things are going to happen for this club and certainly on paper our strongest 11 could compete with any Premier League side but what we lack is cover when those players get injured and players who are up for the fight when the going gets tough.
I am very interested to see whether these players believe that they can compare with the Champions this Sunday.