I’ve tried to gain inspiration for today’s preview from the deluge of football which has swamped us around the turning of the year. Unfortunately as I don’t care about the other teams involved in these fixtures all I got for my troubles was a crick in the neck from trying to do other things while simultaneously keeping an eye on matches I wouldn’t normally condescend to acknowledge.
Of course it’s disingenuous to suggest that the results of our rivals have no impact on our season. The final league positions are decided by an holistic interweaving of results each affecting the others in a complex web of possibilities. That wasn’t why I watched Middlesbrough though. Not really. I watched them simply because Calum was playing and I’m intrigued to see if I can glean anything from his performances.
After Francis Coquelin’s inspired return from the barren wastes of the loan wilderness any Arsenal player currently honing their craft on alien pitches has that delicious potential to become an Emirates based game changer. The problem I have with watching an entire match just to enjoy the contribution of one player is the same as watching the Welsh international team. I’m simply not invested in the result nor the contest as a whole. One doesn’t enjoy a gourmet meal by lifting a single ingredient onto one’s fork and abstaining from the rest.
Not that ‘boro or Wales provided cordon bleu cookery, far from it, but I hope my point still stands. The gastronomic delight du jour in the Arsenal kitchen has been cooked up of course by our Gallic heartthrob. He has been promising a goal of such superlative defying elegant ostentation ever since he joined us. Older readers may remember February of twenty thirteen when I was moved to write these words:
“Out of absolutely nowhere and without bothering to so much as take a touch never mind think about a pass, Olivier Giroud, still some thirty yards from goal and near the touchline unleashed a terrifying dipping shot which would have snapped the Mordor keeper in half if it had hit him. OK so the shot missed the target by a fraction, Arsene got off the bench and signalled his displeasure, the commentators pointed out how well placed Ramsay was and we came home with a well earned point but no more.
But I was captivated by that moment. The audacity, the confidence, the technique. Name three other attributes you want more in your centre forward. Go on. Name them.
But of course the goals started to come. He opened his account against Coventry in the widdley diddley cup and gave us this fantastic quote “This goal has taken the pressure off me. It’s done, I have my first goal. But it has to be the start of a beautiful adventure.” And I started to love him just a little bit.
“But it has to be the start of a beautiful adventure.” Perfect. I’ve been accused of being a bit of a romantic where football is concerned and maybe that is true but like Larry I believe a player’s career and relationship with us should be just that. Wasn’t Thierry’s Arsenal career a beautiful adventure? How else would you describe it? I like that bit of poetry in Giroud’s make up. It complements his physical prowess rather neatly.”
What excited then me was the sense of adventure and invention which all great players have and which provides the moments we love and cherish, briefly lending the epithet ‘beautiful game’ a ring of truth. I think Giroud’s subsequent contribution to the side has vindicated my optimism. The blend of the sublime with an obvious physicality has been present in many of his goals and his vital assists.
His misfortune was to be born into an era dominated by over reaction and the promotion of idiocy which the internet has inadvertently spawned. Had he played in earlier times he’d have been rightly lauded for the player he has always been and not just for one moment of brilliance.
Today the players will need to find other attributes to compliment the skill and speed of their natural game. With an extremely ill timed flu bug working through the camp, injuries still robbing some players of match sharpness, others of any fitness at all, Elneny departing for international duty, and having played just the day before yesterday, stamina and determination will matter as much as fluency and improvisation.
Bournemouth have won and lost three each of their previous six games and are one of those sides I find difficult to predict. They don’t strike me as naturally suited to the suffocating defensive tactics beloved of many of our opponents nor quite good enough to go toe to toe in a straight footballing contest with us. But then, neither did Everton.
The Cherries’ best result was probably the four three over Liverpool who are enjoying their best form for a few years. There was also the six they stuck past Hull but then they’ve contrived to lose to Burnley, Sunderland, Stoke, and West Ham so pick the bones out of that lot. As I say, unpredictable, up and down; they are capable of flowing football and abject defending and their best hope will be our lack of fully fit players. They’ve had one day longer to recover since an away win at Swansea. Precious little you might say but when we’re talking of a four day period it is significant nonetheless.
I’ll settle for a win however achieved but I wouldn’t say no to another slice of scrumptious footballing cuisine from the man who stole my heart over four years ago. As I said back then “A man who should have taken a season to win me round had me in that one sparkling moment of near brilliance back in August. There’s just something very Arsenal about him.”
Dan Crowley is joining Go Ahead Eagles till the end of the season on loan.
Feeling pretty upbeat. Maybe I’m choosing not to dwell on downside and focusing on up instead but it feels natural enough.
We staged a thrilling comeback from 3 down to get an equaliser after 90 mins, and it’s bullshit if that counts for little or even nothing. Two excellent goals in there as well.
I wonder if this group, this season, can figure out a way to cope better with the prem at it’s most frenzied speed and intensity. Who knows, maybe. We’ll probably only face it another 5 times in a similar manner to the challenge of tonight. And never with only 1 days rest between games.
This layman’s answer is sit, keep shape, absorb, rely on us then having good defenders and better players for breaks than they have for breaking us down, but either there’s far more to it than that or it just isn’t the Wenger way.
I think it’s much more difficult to become very good at that than most imagine. It requires an acceptance of practicing it often when it isn’t particularly necessary. No switching it on and off like a tap, nor getting to a high level of proficiency without playing some dour football along the way
I’m ok with not doing that. Hopeful the players can learn. The margins are pretty minute after all.
There’s hope. The league is hard from here but isn’t over. We’ve a squad full of talent. The players want it a lot.
And if there’s really such a thing as one game bringing a squad together and crystallising what they need to do, this is as good a candidate as any : the mistakes, how bad it made them feel, but also the quality and fight shown to get the improbable draw.
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Wenger says Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny and Ox were all doubts for tonights game, and it was only after the warm up that he could confirm the team, kos was taken off due to having cramp in both legs.
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Wenger – “Perez scored a goal of pure class tonight”
wenger also said Coquelin has a hamstring, will have a scan after 48 hours, the fact he sat down straight away suggests its a bad one.
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wenger was not pleased with our players failure to keep their heads with the “little details”, such as an in swinging corner the keeper claimed, when it should have been an out swinger, so the keeper could not get it. The little details
Without Mesut, our corner taking seems less than stellar. We don’t seem to have anyone else. I do wonder why Aaron never takes them. He does for Wales. He must suck at them in training.
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With so many players a doubt pre game it explains a lot about the disjointed performance early on. Shows again that we should withhold definitive judgements when not in possession of the facts
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Giroud’s controversial goal celebration – which by the way took a full 12 seconds from the moment the goal went in till he started to run towards the half way line
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only thing passenal that I’d question is, was it the right decision to start with doubtful players, would jenkinson, or holding or AMN have been a better option than a bellerin carrying a knock, should we have had welbeck, who wenger says is very sharp in training, on the bench, and so freeing up lucas to start.
As you say we don’t know the full facts on fitness levels, and it is also only in hindsight that we question it, cos if we had won starting the exact same 11 we would not even give the selection a second thought.
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