A few quick comments as the minutes tick closer to midnight.
Robin rules. It would be impossible to heap too many superlatives on his form this season. He finally got to show what he could do when he remained injury-free. Long may it continue. He’s shown himself to be a great captain so far and hopefully he sees his future with the Arsenal going forward.
Welcome back, Henry! But this does not mean we don’t need another striker… Repeat, this does not mean we don’t need another striker.
Park is the invisible man. Can someone please un-invisibility-cloak the poor guy? When Wenger finally plays him in the league, it really will seem “like a new signing.”
And the award for first-class jackass goes to Bendtner! The Greatest Player To Have Ever Lived proved he is far better at smashing up cars than smashing in goals. He burned his bridges back to Arsenal and meanwhile Sunderland probably wouldn’t quite mind returning him. Let’s hope the team can recoup some cash from some sucker somewhere (who reads only Niklas’s quotes and doesn’t actually watch the Premier League).
It was sad to see Fabregas go, but it’s great to see him flourishing alongside the likes of Xavi, Messi and his other La Masia buddies, even if they’re a bit smug for their own good (not Messi). The fact is that he deserved to leave and play with the Barca dream team. But yet Arteta, Ramsey and Rosicky have managed to keep up the creativity. No one could ever really replace Cesc, but after an adjustment period the boys are making it work. The expected February return of Wilshere will be huge. If anyone is Cesc’s replacement, it’s him. (Cesc said it himself.) If the midfielders can start getting a few more goals in, the team will become much more balanced and dangerous.
Song has become such a huge part of the squad, and with Frimpong and Coquelin as his understudies, we now have serious depth in the midfield enforcer role that we lacked so glaringly before. (Frimpong perhaps needs a loan spell–update, apparently he’s off to Wolves.)
Szczesny has kicked so much ass since emerging from fourth choice ‘keeper purgatory last season. His cockiness is awesome, because he backs it up. And along with Wilshere and Frimpong, he truly seems a red-blooded Gooner. The clip of him leading the away crowd in an Arsenal chant is simply awesome.
Gervinho has such a strange, jerky style. He seems one tactical improvement away from really being able to make it click. Until then, though, you can’t fault his workrate even if his consistency leaves a bit to be desired. When you get back from Africa, more goals, please…
Arshavin and to a lesser extent Chamakh can come good again, I really believe that. However, aside from Arshavin’s goal against Barcelona in the Champions League, 2011 was most definitely a year for both to forget. Hopefully the numerology of 2012 suits them better. The voodoo hex just needs to be lifted. Otherwise, all parties involved should probably call it a day at season’s end. (With Chamakh away at the African Cup of Nations tournament, I don’t see him leaving the club this January.) It will be unlikely, but I think either one of them could turn it around. They just need to do it, already! Arshavin provides some assists. He still has moments of magic in him. And Chamakh does work hard. You have to give him that. But as to Chamakh, especially, a striker who doesn’t score is not someone who should be playing for Arsenal. We send such people to Sunderland…
Walcott—so frustrating. He’s racked up the assists to van Persie, but he blows so many of his own chances. His defensive work has improved significantly, but with his pace, he should be getting at least double digit goals per season. As it stands, Walcott is okay but doesn’t deserve a permanent position in the starting XI. Just for example, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is raw, but he’s the better player. Wenger is wise to blood him slowly, but what to do about Walcott? Keep hoping for the best and keep watching him race down the flanks and finish with nothing to show for it? Theo needs goals to keep his place. A while back, the Southampton coach said Theo had not progressed under Wenger as he might have if he’d stayed at Southampton. It’s impossible to know, but after all these years, he defintely hasn’t exploded into new terrain. The defensive hustle is appreciated, though.
Benayoun = good loan signing. A hard-working squad player who will likely get some more games while Gervinho’s off with the Ivory Coast. The match-winning header at Aston Villa alone justifies his signing. And the anti-Chelsea congratulations tweet to Arsenal after the awesome victory over his “home” club ingratiated him into the hearts of many. Well, maybe not in West London.
The centerbacks are manning the entire back line with the unprecedented loss of both left backs and both right backs. Broken legs are no fun, and losing the ever-solid Sagna was a huge loss. Jenkinson, too. Not a stellar right back, but the English Finn crosses as well as anyone on the team. On the left, Santos shed the pounds and was starting to exhibit the Brazilian flair before his regrettable injury. And Gibbs…he’s good, but like Diaby he is always injured. He’s caught in a vicious cycle of injuries begetting injuries because he can’t get a string of games under his belt. Diaby’s ankle break against Sunderland years back did him in, which is a real shame, because he too can be good. Not sure why Gibbs is so brittle. May they all heal soon and stay healthy.
The return of Vermaelen was timely and excellent. He’s been getting goals, he’s added solidity and leadership to the back 4 and he just all-around kicks ass. His stare alone can make opponents cower. Apparently, he’s now out for two weeks. Let’s hope that’s all it is. Miquel should be getting some January runouts now. (Again, a centerback as left back. Remember when we had no fit centerbacks?)
Mertesacker gets some flack, but he’s done really well in my opinion. He is most definitely a white man who can’t jump, however, so it’s good he’s 6’6. Great addition to the team who will continue to improve as the season goes on.
Koscielny had a bit of a rough first year (visions of Carling Cup final…shudder) but he has done spectacularly well this season and got his first cap for the French national team. Compare to Djourou. Or don’t, really. Djourou doesn’t come off looking too hot, and we need his confidence up. At least a fit Djourou is fortuitous for right back during this fullback epidemic, even if he’s not much on the attack. To be fair, he’s getting better, after his horrible first game in the position.
And as for newbies coming up from the reserves, Miquel has done incredibly well. We’ve seen less of Yennaris, but he impressed, too. And one hardly even thinks about Coquelin and Frimpong as recent reservists. They are first-team material (as is Miquel).
Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone and Squillaci, what to say about the forgotten men? If only Fabianski and Mannone hadn’t reminded us how screwed we’ll be if Szczesny ever gets injured when they clowned it up against Olympiacos. Absence was almost making the heart grown more kindly disposed. You can’t help but feel bad for Almunia, though. May he find first team action somewhere. Good guy, terrible goalie.
Anyhow, who would have thought after the 8-2 disaster at Old Trafford that we’d ring in the new year fourth in the table? The comeback has been hard-fought and well-earned. Robin got the goals and the last-minute signings helped shore up the defense and add experienced heads in midfield.
The departures of Nasri and Fabregas dealt the team two big blows (less so, the former), but each of the summer signings have come through in the clinch at one point or another. Gervinho and his spasmodic style have scored some goals and added a new jerky attack that confuses opponents (at least those that he doesn’t dribble directly into). Mertesacker has settled in and has massive experience. Benayoun scored a key header in the clash with Aston Villa and truly never gives up. Santos started to really come into his own before the injury in Greece. And Arteta knows how to create in midfield but also how to drop back and calm things down. His presence and example will make Ramsey and Wilshere better players, and it’s great that he gets to play in the Champions League at long last. Hopefully he’ll get many more games in Europe this season (meaning the Gunners survive a few knockout rounds) and help us qualify for next.
Yes, we are far too reliant on van Persie right now, but the team is shaping up. On the wish list for January, a quality striker and a loan deal for a decent left back. The rumor mill has Arshavin and Chamakh as possible departures, but I doubt it. Please, Arsene, sign a striker that can fill in for Robin and possibly partner him upfront. As for the constant talkk of Goetze, Hazard, Gourcuff et al, I’ll believe it when I see it. Not likely to happen, but I can guarantee I will do the first backflip of my life (or attempt to do so) if any of those deals materialize. Top fourness at least helps in attracting new talent, though, so thank Jeebus for that.
Lastly, an open letter to Juan Mata: it’s not too late, you can still join the team. Chelsea ain’t even in the top four these days, and John Terry will only drag you down.
Happy New Year.