I finally got around to watching the Hull vs. Arsenal match yesterday (thank you DVR) – I’ve seen and heard reviews praising Arsenal’s performance. I thought that AFC were good on the day, but not as blindingly brilliant as some have claimed. It was a game of missed chances for Hull, poor refereeing from Lee Mason (including missing that handball 83 minutes into the match which should have been a penalty for Arsenal) as well as Arsenal slowing down somewhat in the second half as compared to the good first half performance. Özil misplaced a few passes during the course of the match and some of the touches from Alexis and Ramsey went amiss, although when a proper through-ball was attempted, they always resulted in goals. While the tricks and flicks are great to watch and occasionally confuse defenders, I feel they are also time-consuming for the attacking team and don’t always result in goals, as they give the other defenders time to rally and tighten up their positioning. In short, for me, less tricks and flicks and more great through-balls, please! Jack Wilshere was also very good when he came on and doesn’t look rusty, despite having spent over 3 months out with injury and subsequent recovery involved. Walcott, however, looked pretty indifferent and I think now a move is on the cards for him in the summer.
So now on to the remainder of the season in which we have 4 games over just 13 days. Arsenal will first be facing Swansea at home, a team we have struggled somewhat against in the recent past (pretty sure the result earlier this season at Swansea was a 2-1 loss after Arsenal took a 0-1 lead). Swansea have some good defenders and midfielders and former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski in goal, who has had a good debut season for them, but I’m hoping that Bafetimbi Gomis will miss the match (physioroom.com lists him as returning May 11th from a hamstring issue, though). Swansea are missing a number of other important players too, including Routledge, former Gunner Kyle Bartley as well as Sp*rs loanee Tom Carroll (possible late fitness test for him) and former Sp*r Kyle Naughton. Arsenal need the three points here – Swansea have proven to be a banana-skin before so we need to put them away in much the same manner as the 1st half away to Hull on Monday night. The danger men for Swansea will likely be Ki Sung-Yeong (a player I’ve always liked, who also seems to be very consistent with his performances) and Jonjo Shelvey, with their runs from midfield.
The next one will be the away fixture at Old Trafford. Manchester United will likely come out of the blocks quickly, as they are chasing that 3rd place in the Premier League to avoid that dreaded 3rd round qualification match for the Champions League that has been the bane of Arsenal before and cannot afford any slip-ups (that 0-1 result at home vs. West Brom was hilarious to everyone else) as they are already a number of points behind City. I hope that Arsene Wenger takes the pragmatic approach here and we look to defend – with City so close, I feel we need to strangle the match in much the same style as Chelsea did with us nearly 2 weeks ago. I am hoping for at least a draw here.
Sunderland at home should be an easy task, really. They may well be relegated by the time we play them and I feel that they will cause little problems for Arsenal, with one of their main creative players, the Italian International Emanuele Giaccherini, being injured for the remainder of the season, in addition to the Mackems generally looking terrible in front of goal with a poor conversion rate over the course of the season. AFC should get 3 points from that one.
Last match in the league is West Brom. Memories of 2011-2012 season, where Arsenal won 3-2 and Yossi Benayoun got at least one of the goals in his last match for the Club, Champions League – hoping for another result like that! West Brom have blown pretty hot and cold under Tony Pulis since he was appointed earlier this season, but you can count on a Pulis team to give 100% and generally defend in a rugged manner.
Of course this time the prize for the players is not Champions League football but 2nd place and potentially a starting place at Wembley a week later. For a player what bigger incentive could there be
Right then onward and upward. Come On You Gunners!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.