HAPPY ST TOTTERINGHAM’S DAY EVERYONE!
It’s the 19th season in a row we celebrate it, for the second time in a row it happened after a victory over Newcastle and for the third time in a row Laurent Koscielny scored a goal in the decisive match. We put in a decent performance to beat a rather poor Newcastle side and stretched our lead ahead of Everton to four points. A victory over West Brom in the next match or a loss for the Toffees on Saturday would mean our 17th consecutive season in the Champions’ League – our run would be second-longest only to Real Madrid’s eighteen seasons in the strongest European competition.
Here are the key pointers from Monday nights game.
1.We did it the right way – without any nail-biting.
It was a perfect Monday night, stress-free for a change. It was a one-way-street from the very beginning – Newcastle didn’t look too dangerous apart from one Moussa Sissoko burst and Mathieu Debuchy’s long shot. Whilst we hadn’t had too many clear-cut chances prior to Koscielny’s opener, there was a clearly a visible gulf in quality and motivation. This sort of victories might be boring to some but not to me.
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2.Mesut Özil was impressive again.
There is something about the German genius and his performances at the Emirates. He gave an excellent performance against the Magpies and showed what kind of player he is. He glided through the opponents half, roamed from the left wing to the right, scored a goal after Giroud’s mini-festival of misses, sent a bullet-cross (something that sounds like a weapon that could have saved the world from the “Twilight”-sequels) for Giroud’s 21st goal of the season. An early exit for Germany at the World Cup wouldn’t be a bad thing for Arsenal as it would offer more time for Özil, Mertesacker and Podolski to prepare for next season.
3.Is there a place at Arsenal for Olivier Giroud after all?
The Frenchman has been frustrating too many times this season but a brief look at the statistics says he has scored 21 goals which means that he has equaled Theo Walcott’s tally from last term with three games to go. He worked hard against Newcastle and scored a very nice header (his fourth goal against Newcastle in as many matches) but had missed a sitter again before Özil’s goal saved the Frenchman from blushes. It’s obvious that Giroud needs pacey team-mates like Özil, Ramsey, Walcott and Chamberlain to contribute so he might be a useful back-up to a world-class striker that Arsene Wenger (or whoever will be on our bench next summer) should sign.
4.Podolski had an unusual pair of non-shooting boots on his feet.
The German had found himself in chances to score but failed to score any. It was unusual thing to witness as the German has been one of the most prolific strikers to play in the Premiership when involvement in goals per minutes played are taken into account. Still, he has been in good shape lately and a few more goals from Podolski might come in the remaining three matches.
5.Sagna should be handed a proper contract.
Perhaps giving a 31-year-old with two leg-breaking incidents a three-year-contract with a six-digits-per-week pay-cheque is not the smartest idea but Sagna’s abilities deserve it. His physical presence and ability to play as a central defender and a right full-back make him worth every penny. None of his possible replacements mentioned (Debuchy, Aurier, Richards, Smalling) is on his level and it’s highly doubtful that either Jenkinson or Bellerin would reach Sagna’s level any time soon. So, let’s offer him a deal he wants. And then, Bac, sign da ting!
6.Ramsey-Cazorla-Özil – is that The Devil’s Triangle that will make our opponents disappear?
It has been a pleasure to watch three of them making opponents look silly against Hull City and Newcastle respectively. Cazorla on the wing, Ramsey from a deeper position in the midfield and Özil as our No.10 have made our attack look much more potent and creative than it had been the case between Boxing Day and mid-April. If they keep making things happen in the same manner next season as well and bloody injuries stay the hell away from them, we can expect a proper title challenge.
7.Where will Wilshere play?
There are some serious suggestions that Jack Wilshere should be used as either a defensive or a box-to-box midfielder and not in more advanced roles on the pitch. Prior to Wilshere’s injury Arsene Wenger had tried to use Wilshere on either wing, probably because Wenger feels that past experience on the wing has been helpful to Aaron Ramsey this season. Wilshere has been often criticized for lack of goals and assists to his name. Nobody could question his work-rate and level of energy he brings to the team though.
Given the fact that Ramsey has been indispensable in central midfield and that especially goes for his contribution to our attacking game, Özil will occupy the hole, Cazorla, Walcott (when recovers), Gnabry and Oxlade-Chamberlain are options for the right and our left wing might get a new player next summer, Wilshere’s position might be as a holding midfielder. Arteta is probably saying after every big match: “I’m too old for this shit” (and his recent dental record reminds him of the same) and Flamini has fighting spirit but is not a world-class option. Perhaps a conversion to a holding midfielder would be the best solution for our 22-year-old jewel – he can tackle, he has energy, pace and ability to get the ball forward. His partnership with Ramsey hasn’t been the best so far (as seen in the opening match of the season against Aston Villa) as they still have things to learn about protecting the back four.
8.Loic Remy didn’t impress at his audition at all.
The French striker had a very quiet evening at the Emirates on Monday night and you might have seen him only on a squad-sheet. Granted, most of his team-mates were in the same mood and didn’t give him too much to work with but it’s not like he left an impression of a player that would have an instant success at Arsenal.
9.Wojciech Szczesny returns to form.
The Pole gave a deja vu performance from the start of the season – he schooled an opposition striker, he made a huge save when things might have been complicated and kept another clean sheet. Unless Wenger signs a new experienced goalkeeper, Szczesny at his best is what we need next season as Fabianski won’t be at the Emirates and Viviano’s loan spell ends which means Martinez and Iliev as unproven options without Premiership experience should Szczesny get injured or suspended.
10.Let’s not get complacent against West Brom.
Granted, Newcastle have much better players than West Brom but there is a huge difference in motivation between the clubs. Newcastle have had a dead-rubber-half-season while every match for West Brom in the last few weeks was a battle for life. They are relatively safe though and there is a huge possibility that results from Saturday matches might make our match against the Baggies a dead-rubber contest for both teams given that Everton host Manchester City who’ll need all nine points available to pip Liverpool for the title while Fulham and Cardiff City might have their Championship tickets checked at Britannia and St James Park respectively.
Still, unlike Hull and Newcastle who know that they can’t either get relegated or have a league success, West Brom might have something to play for on Sunday afternoon. If they upset us and Everton beat Manchester City, we’ll have to go full throttle against Norwich in the last week of the season and that sort of nervy finish to the season is something that we don’t want.
So, let’s beat the Baggies and confirm The Fourth-Place-Trophy!