Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Up For Grabs Now

West Brom 1-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-2 Everton

At this moment, it's Tottenham who feel as if they're living Groundhog Day.

Their form is threatening to collapse again, and again it coincides with an Arsenal revival.

Again, Tomas Rosicky is proving something of a catalyst. His brace at the Hawthorns put Arsenal in control against West Brom.

After twenty minutes, Arteta pinged a pass over the home side's rearguard for Gervinho to chase. The Ivorian twisted and turned before curling the ball rather tentatively in the direction of the far post; if it was probably a poor shot Rosicky made it into a great cross by bursting into the goalmouth and stooping to nod emphatically past Foster.

Early in the second half, a quick break saw Ramsey make inroads down the right before passing infield to the Czech, who took a touch into the air and smashed a volley straight at Foster. There was too much power on it for the keeper to handle, the ball dropped, and Rosicky was first to react to blast a second effort into the corner from close range.

At that point the Gunners looked in complete control but the match almost turned on a moment of rashness from Mertesacker. A ball over the top found Long, whose chested control tempted the German into a slide for the ball, but he missed it, felled the Irishman, gave away a penalty and was sent off.

Morrison's penalty was poorly directed but well struck and squirmed under Fabianski to set up a nervy finale.

Arsenal's nerve failed somewhat, but their luck did not. They couldn't string any kind of move together, couldn't relieve the pressure in any way, and Wenger's changes invited pressure rather than trying to regain some kind of foothold.

Three times West Brom should have equalised, but McCauley fluffed a close-range header, Lukaku blasted just wide from eight yards, and Long shot high when through on goal in stoppage time.

Spurs missed Bale on Sunday against Everton- and with Lennon and Defoe also out, they were less penetrative than usual. After an Adebayor opener inside a minute, Everton turned it around either side of half time with a Jagielka header and a brilliant solo effort by Miralas. With time ticking away, Kyle Walker stormed forward brilliantly, cut back, and when Adebayor placed his shot against the inside of the post, the rebound fell kindly for Sigurdson to net the equaliser.

Arsenal trail their neighbours by a couple of points but with a game in hand.

They are now in control of their own destiny.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


It has become the way of the Arsenal.

When things seem on the brink of falling apart, when Wenger's long tenure starts to seem untenable, the team  lurch back into life.

The 2-1 defeat at Spurs opened up a big gap and spawned a typically measured headline from Moral Courage Dot Com- "Forget Fourth".

Since that game, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich away, beat Swansea away, battered Reading at the Emirates.

Spurs lost at Liverpool, lost at home to Fulham, beat Swansea themselves to get back on track.

Chelsea have stuttered too.

Fourth, or even third, remains the target for Arsenal.

BUT, and there's always a but, can Arsenal put together the kind of run they need?

The upturn in form is welcome and undeniable, but Arsenal have failed to sustain a winning run all season.

The run-in reads like this:


The time when Arsenal could have been expected to win every one of those games is, sadly, long gone.

They are all winnable, sure, but we ought to have learned by now that every single match represents a potential banana skin.

The revival of last season, kick started by that rousing comeback win against Spurs, was truly rousing stuff.

But Arsenal were a better team then because they had Van Persie.

And Spurs absolutely imploded.

Arsenal did not sustain form until the end of the season anyway- they actually did their best to throw away 3rd place by dropping seven points from home games against Wigan, Chelsea and Norwich.

Spurs have suffered a blip, but they still have a match winner in Bale who Arsenal can't quite match.

With high stakes in the final games of the season, can we trust in Giroud, Podolski, GERVINHO to do the business?

It's good that Arsenal have given themselves a chance at yet another year in the Champions League, because after the Spurs game a few weeks ago it seemed that the season was set to merely fizzle out.

But in the words of The Wolf, let's not start sucking each other's dicks just yet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back Despite a Lack of Popular Demand...

the Zombie Blog Plods On...

Glorious Failure. Arsenal have made an art of it in the last two seasons of the Champions League. Last year they were out after that atrocity at the San Siro, where they lost 4-0 to an ordinary enough AC Milan team.

Then they resurrected the tie with a storming first half showing at the Emirates, building a three goal lead. Milan held on grimly; Arsenal were able to exit with their heads held high.

Bayern came to the Emirates and plundered a 3-1 advantage this time round; again, Arsenal launched an unlikely comeback in the return leg to make a tie of it.

Giroud's early goal made Bayern nervous and unsure of how to approach the rest of the game. In truth, they were largely untroubled for the remainder by an Arsenal side who seemed- belatedly- to have taken a more measured approach, perhaps in appreciation of the fact that an open game might have led to a massacre.

The opener did not lead to a storming fight back but there was always a glimmer of hope and it became even more than that when Koscielny headed in with a few minutes to go. Another Arsenal goal and they would go through!

But the Gunners did not muster any pressure at all in the closing stages and Bayern held on.

Glorious Failure again and it reinforces the sense that this Arsenal team perform best when the pressure is off. They don't deserve all that much credit for giving themselves an absolute mountain to climb in each of the last two seasons with criminal first leg showings.

There was too much talk of Bayern as the uncrowned kings of Europe after a first leg in which Arsenal gifted them goals and barely mounted much of a response. They will get a proper test starting tonight against Juventus in what is shaping up to be the most intriguing Champions League knock out phases in years.