There are a lot of clubs that I don’t like for various reasons (one such common reason is they are not Arsenal) and only a few that I hate. Thanks to Tony Pulis’ constant attempts to transform such a noble sport like football into rugby and recruiting a number of Orcs before they fired him, I have hated Stoke and wished relegation upon them ever since I saw their football for the first time. When you add Ryan Shawcross to the equation, you know the final score.
Now, Mark Hughes is hardly a person that is capable of making this club more lovable but his Stoke have been a more watchable side than under Pulis. Ryan Shawcross, however, remains the same unlikable human being.
Our victory over Stoke came after one of those performances that fans will likely forget (if they haven’t forgotten already). The absence of Theo Walcott would be a problem even if we hadn’t had so many problems with injuries and squad depth as his pace puts our opponents on the back foot and provides more options in attack. Serge Gnabry is an exciting talent but Walcott’s shoes – at this moment, at least – are too big for him to fill. Luckily for us, Mesut Özil was there to create three goals, all from set-pieces. Aaron Ramsey’s intelligence combined with Per Mertesacker’s and Bacary Sagna’s aerial prowess resulted with goals that brought us all three points.
And, it might mean that we have a new weapon. Our record when it comes to goals scored from set-pieces hasn’t been the best for some time but with Özil’s left foot in charge and his compatriot Mertesacker may profit the most from his pinpoint crosses. The BFG has scored just four goals since joining Arsenal in 2011 but it should be noted that Özil has created more than just one goal for our favourite big German – they played together at Werder Bremen as well and two of Mertesacker’s goals (out of five) in the season 2009-10 came after Özil’s assists while in 2008-09 Özil had his fingers in two out of Mertesacker’s four goals.
The presence of a dead-ball specialist in the team should fulfill fans with optimism. Manchester City scored two extremely important goals that helped lift the title before Augero’s famous goal and both were from set pieces – Vincent Kompany against Manchester United and Edin Džeko’s equalizer against QPR before Aguero’s winner. Manchester United won the title last season thanks to their brilliant form in matches against teams outside the top 6. They managed to win 75 out of 84 points and some of those victories came after Van Persie and Rooney’s corners and free kicks.
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Tonight, we went through in the Capital One Cup after penalties against West Brom. Wenger went with a combined team that didn’t look too comfortable on the pitch against a rather limited home side but at this moment even Lady Fortune, the one that hasn’t answered our calls too often recently, seemed to be on our side. If anything, it’s a great thing that young players learn to win every match they participate in. Hector Bellerin might be one of those players that will be used by Arsene Wenger in more than just one position. He is a right full-back but tonight he showed a direct approach that might make Wenger wonder whether the Spanish youngster should be used on the wing.
If there is something that we have missed since 2005, it is a winning mentality. This season might be different thanks to the arrival of Flamini and Özil as both have won championships at their last clubs. In order to restore a winning mentality from the glorious days of the Invincibles, we have to learn how to win matches even if we don’t produce a great performance on the pitch. It’s easier to say than to do but it’s not impossible.
Who knows – perhaps this is the season in which Arsenal will break a string of bad luck when it comes to trophies and win something!