Monthly Archives: January 2014

A hard-earned point, so why all doom and gloom? Cheer up Gooners

Ooooo Santi Cazorla!

Ooooo Santi Cazorla!

So yesterday Arsenal traveled to Southampton for a tough fixture in which would give us a chance of going four points clear at the top of the table until Chelsea and Man City play today where one of, if not both, will probably win. The boss made a number of changes to the side, bringing in Monreal over Gibbs and Arteta back into midfield due to Wilshere picking up an ankle knock. The decision to play Gnabry over Podolski had me baffled because although Serge has been playing well, Lukas got two goals at the weekend and his experience would have been welcomed in such a match.

I didn’t manage to catch the second half due to getting fed up of streaming issues but I watched the first, and from what I saw we played awful. Southampton completely outplayed us, we couldn’t keep the ball, we looked nervous and it was inevitable that they’d go onto score really. Unfortunately it came in controversial circumstances where in my opinion, a blatant foul was committed on Monreal. Now, I know Monreal isn’t the strongest of types but the fact of the matter is you cannot use another player to boost your leap, it’s the rules. Fonte climbed on Monreal’s back, so that is therefore a foul. I don’t want to hear excuses either or pointing the blame at Monreal, it’s a foul by clear definition of the rules.

Now don’t get me wrong, Southampton deservedly led 1-0 at the break and I’d have preferred they’d have not got that goal and perhaps scored one of their other fair chances, but at times like that you’d think the referee or his assistant would offer more protection. Hey ho, home advantage and all that.

The second half I missed but we came out a different side. We scored a goal within minutes, with Sagna (if I remember correctly) feeding the ball to Giroud who very cheekily flicked it between his legs and into the far post. It was a lovely goal, both a mix of fantastic strength and classy flair. No more than ten minutes later, we got our second, with the ball coming across to Santi Cazorla he very neatly placed it in the bottom left corner.

At this point you felt that Arsenal would go on to deliver a positive result and performance, making amends for their abysmal first half, however we completely let our concentration slip as minutes later Lallana went on to score and make it 2-2. Looking at the goal I can’t help but feel Szczesny should have done a little bit better but really the blame should sit with the team. They all fell asleep and gifted an opportunity to Southampton, so we can’t really blame the Pole, he did what he could.

For the rest of the game Arsenal pressed and pressed and you could feel a change in the tide coming but which way was unknown. I had a gut feeling we’d get a red card and literally two minutes later we did. Our sublime Flamini went in two-footed to win the ball and was given a straight red for violent conduct. Now he did get the ball, it wasn’t in any way high and the opposing player came out unscathed, however there’s absolutely no place in the game for that kind of tackle. I’m a firm believer of punishment for two-footed and/or reckless tackles, so the card is justified for me.

Perhaps the disappointing thing is that Flamini has been an absolute beast this season, hardly making a mistake. However when you consider he’s 29-years-old, turning 30 in March, you’d think he’d have more experience to know you cannot make challenges like that. He let the team down and killed any chances of us getting the three points. Fortunately we managed to see out the game and hold onto the draw, but it wasn’t enough, we needed a win.

We’re now two points at the top with Man City two points behind us and Chelsea just three points, with both having a game in hand. If Man City win or draw tonight against Tottenham, they go above us by two points or on goal difference and if Chelsea win by more than one goal, they go above us on goal difference too. So in one result, we’ve gone from top, to third, it’s that damn close at the top.

The boss gave his usual post-match conference and highlighted much of the same I’ve addressed such as Southampton’s first goal, the overall performance and the Flamini red card. He said ‘it’s a difficult point but a fair one’ and you can’t help but agree. Southampton didn’t deserve to lose, we didn’t deserve to win and there’s no shame in taking a point. Heck, City did the same and everybody is raving on about them, Liverpool even lost here, so why so much drama?

I gotta say it was outright embarrassing, shameful and just frustrating seeing so much negativity and doom and gloom from our fans all over Twitter. It’s dramatisation at it’s finest when #WengerOut is trending. The guy has managed to get us top of the league on peanuts against sides with unlimited resources and the fan base is still not fucking happy. Grow the fuck up, it’s actually pathetic. You’re supposed to fucking support, so SUPPORT. Not criticise, complain and scrutinise at every given opportunity.

I’m personally still feeling very optimistic. I look at our remaining fixtures, where I see nine games as winnable if we deliver a professional and focused performance, that’s a total of 27 points, taking our tally to 79 for the season. That leaves Liverpool away, Man Utd at home, Tottenham away, Chelsea away, Man City at home and Everton away to try and pick up as many points as possible to win the league. I think realistically we can win at Tottenham and Everton and hopefully United at home. That’s nine points, taking us to 88, which would almost certainly win us the league.

Of course, Liverpool away, Chelsea away and City at home are all three games that won’t be easy but generally we do well against Liverpool and also City at home, so perhaps we can win those too.

So let’s be realistic, let’s be optimistic and let’s be honest – the season isn’t over yet. There’s still 15 games to play for, a huge 45 points and a title at the end of it. We can definitely still win the league, we just need to keep on going, keep on working and keep getting those three points on the board. Who knows what might happen if it does?


Arsenal fans should be more grateful and is Draxler on?

Podolski celebrating the first goal of his brace

Podolski celebrating the first goal of his brace

Hello and good afternoon all. Today is Saturday which usually means we have some football to look forward to, but seeing as we played last night we’re going to have to find something else to get excited about. It does make you wonder what non-football fans do with their weekends. I find the international breaks and summer window hard enough, but how do people do it every single week? Forget trying to find out how the pyramids were built, get me a team of scientists that can figure that one out.

Speaking of the game, yesterday we played our FA Cup fourth round tie against League One side Coventry. They came in numbers, totalling 5,000 fans in the away end and used the opportunity against the best side in the country to display their frustration over the current affairs of their club. Watching their protests at both the 35 and 61 minute marks (if I remember correctly) was a big reminder as to just how lucky we are with the club we support.

I mean we often hear of our fans bemoaning the lack of trophies but when you look at everything else, is it all that important? Really and truly it’s the icing on the top of the cake but it’s not the definitive reason we love our club, and if you disagree with me there then really you need to look into what being a football fan is all about.

Compare the differences and you’ll see what I mean. Coventry have owners who are constantly cutting corners to fill their own pockets, which eventually led to the club going into administration. They’ve since lost their stadium after failing to agree on terms over the lease of it, no doubt due to the owners lack of financial backing. This led to them renting a stadium – that of Northampton FC, the Sixfields Stadium – until their new one is built by approximately 2016. The Sixfields is one that is 35 miles away (hence the protest on the same minute mark), only holds 7,653 people and is the home of a league two team.

Coventry have lost their 32,609 capacity stadium that was barely ten years old, they’ve faced liquidation two years in a row and also been docked ten points two years in a row before the season even kicked off. They sit 11th in the league on 34 points and had they’d had those ten points, they would actually be involved in the mix for a play off position.

Us on the other hands, we’re in a stadium with 60,337 capacity, we’ve just spent £40m on Ozil (that’s a third of the price of their stadium), we’re top of the league, playing great football, have a fantastic side, are in one of the healthiest natural financial situations in the world and have a manager most teams would bite your arm off for. Makes you think, ay?

Anyway, on the game itself it was a professional win from the team. We lined up with a fairly experienced side with a mixture of first team, reserve and youth players. Players such as Oxlade, Jenkinson, Gnabry and Bendtner all got run outs to help with match fitness and form. Coventry played fantastically and could have easily scored a goal or two had their finishing been a bit better. Goals from Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla may have given us a 4-0 win but it really didn’t sum up just how well they played.

After the game the boss spoke of a job well done and the performance of Podolski who got a brace, he said

Podolski can score goals and when you have a goal chance you want him to have it. He is a clinical finisher and he has an unbelievable short and quick backlift. He is very accurate in his finishing.

His performances have been more convincing on the flank than in the middle until now.

Podolski is definitely one of the most accurate and powerful finishers we’ve ever had at the club and whenever he gets a chance you know it’s got a decent of chance of going in. However Wenger kind of hints here that he’s not convinced by his qualities in the middle, which makes sense considering he opted for Bendtner to play there than Lukas. It also makes you feel the likelihood of a striker arriving this window all the more likely.

Wenger also touched on Oxlade, who made his first start in the team since August due to his injury, saying

I liked what he did tonight in the centre, especially when we had the ball. Defensively he worked hard but I liked especially offensively him and Jack together, they could be a good partnership in the future for England as well.

Our midfield trio yesterday were Wilshere and Oxlade with Ozil playing in front and as Wenger rightly highlights they were very effective going forward, however it was defensively that they were found wanting for me. Wilshere thrives off making bursts from deep but he usually has somebody defensively inclined to cover him such as Arteta, Flamini or Ramsey. Oxlade however, wanted to go forward too, and we were often left wide open. Against a better opponent we’d have got punished again and again, so I can’t see that being a long term option.

One player that really took my eye was that of 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem. I’ve followed him for a long time now and he massively impressed in the pre-season tour of Asia, so when his name was on the team sheet I couldn’t help but get excited over the prospect of him making his first senior appearance for the club. He came on mid-way through the second half and showed exactly why he’s so highly rated. I know he didn’t do anything special, but when you consider that he never looked out of place, always made the right pass and had sublime movement throughout at only 16, it’s hard not to appreciate his ability.

This Arsenal sides midfield is filled to the brim of talent. Players like Eisfeld and Olsson would have been fast-tracked to the senior team ten years ago but now they’re struggling to find opportunities. With seniors like Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini to choose from as well as the Ramsey, Wilshere and Rosickys, it’s hard to find opportunities for the younger lot. Zelalem is as good as Fabregas was and even he’s not featured, not to mention Dan Crowley who is shining as well. It makes you wonder why we’re even bothering with Diaby, we literally don’t need him anymore.

Anyhoo it was a professional win, it leaves us in the hat for today’s draw and keeps our chances of winning the trophy alive. Can’t ask for more than that, can we?

In terms of transfer gossip the Draxler rumours sure ramped up last night. We’ve apparently agreed a fee for the man but whether or not it’s for the exchange of him this window or the next remains to be seen. According to the ever reliable newspaper The Telegraph, he’s absolutely desperate to join us. If that’s the case it makes you think he might push for a move this window rather than the next.

He’s rumoured to be injured but I can’t help but wonder if it’s more of an “injury” than an actual injury. One of those transfer injuries that pops up when a player is set to leave. Wenger was quizzed about it after the game and very coyly said

That again is an illusion. There is nothing happening, honestly no. We have no need on the flanks, we have Chamberlain coming back, we have many players on the flanks. Honestly, I told you in the last press conference, we don’t rule it out but at the moment I cannot announce anything to you.

He also had his trademark grin afterwards, which always was makes you wonder. Besides, Wenger said there was nothing happening with Arteta and we signed him shortly after, not to mention the famous “I don’t know this guy!” when asked about Cazorla, before signing him two days later. So ye, what Wenger says never really matters, if anything that’s the only illusion that’s going on.

Anyway that’s your lot for today, a nice healthy 1400 words. I’m hoping with all my heart we sign somebody because I’m positive it’ll help our title chances. Be it Draxler or somebody else who knows, but we certainly need somebody. I might write a post tomorrow if I have the time but if not you can expect one next week on Wednesday. Enjoy your weekend!

Professional win, super Santi, growing Gnabry and more

I don't see nothing wrong with this photo, what's the big deal?

I don’t see nothing wrong with this photo, what’s the big deal?

Hello and good morning all. I was going to attempt to write at the weekend prior to the Fulham game but unfortunately I ended up sitting in traffic for the best part of five hours when all I wanted was to pop into town and buy a gym bag. It really pissed me off, especially considering it pretty much wasted my day and to top it off it also meant I missed the majority of the game.

Regardless I caught up on the highlights later on in Match of the Day and I’ve gotta say it was a very strong and professional performance from the team. We had quite an inefficient first half, starting slowly and looking almost unable to click for spells. We had a few chances and close ones at that. I can’t remember off the top of my head who (because the game is no longer fresh in my memory) but I do recall a few opportunities which with a bit of luck may have broke the deadlock.

The first half ended 0-0, leaving the second half to be all the more important in the final result. Whatever Wenger did or said at half time worked wonders because we were a different side in the final 45 minutes. Our passing was fluent, we overran Fulham not only in midfield but in midfield too. We limited them to a very small amount of chances (just two shots on target the entire game) and continued knocking on the door.

The scoreline went in our favour around 60 minutes when an energetic Santi Cazorla managed combine with an ever-improving Wilshere to open up the Fulham defence and slot the ball nicely in the bottom right corner, 1-0 to the Arsenal.

The second goal came less than five minutes later from the little Spaniard again. A cross into the box was cleared by a Fulham defender which fell to Santi on the outside of the box, he cut inside and put a lovely strike in the bottom right corner again – this time with his left foot. After the game was pretty much done and dusted and finished 2-0. A solid, stable and professional win that kept us well and truly at the top of the table.

The boss has his usual post-match conference and spoke of the performance, highlighting that it was more a question of patience and having the ability to control the game that decided the result. He also spoke of Cazorla who was undoubtedly the man of the match, saying

He was out for a long time at the start of the season and had some injury problems. After that he had an ankle problem and only recently, since mid-December, has he come back to his level.

When you play in your opponents’ half, in the final third, he is one of the players who can create something special, either through his passing or through his finishing. He is two-footed, and that makes him vey dangerous.

His ability is one thing but the fact he’s two-footed is a unique danger that makes him brilliant. Each of his goals were put in the same corner but with different feet, neither a better finish than the other, as a defender how do you stop that? I spent the majority of my youth playing as centre back and you’re always taught to push a player onto their weak foot, but you just can’t do that with Santi and it must be an absolute nightmare to defend against.

Another thing I wanted to touch on with the game is the performance of Gnabry. The boss has very surprisingly opted for him on a number of occasions over Podolski and it has proved fruitful every time. I know he’s a young lad and nobody wants to put pressure on him, but he’s a serious talent. I’ve known of his ability for the best part of three seasons now but I didn’t know he’d find the transition to the first team so easy. You only have to watch this clip to see how truly gifted and confident he really is. Unlucky Kieran Richardson.

He spoke after the game of how easy it is to play with Cazorla but I think all that does it highlight the different dynamic in the squad than recent seasons. In the past you only need to look at Walcott to see the difference. A young player with bags of talent but a load of pressure, asked to deliver top performances in a team where he is relied on and required to perform. Gnabry is playing a very strong side where he’s allowed to play with the freedom that brings great performances. We’ve often relied too much on young players in the past but now we’re letting them flourish alongside top talent like Cazorla and Ozil.

In smaller news there was a bit of controvsery over the photo of Santi holding a famous Arsenal chant on a piece of paper with Arsenal legend Robert Pirès (see above). The fact that people took it so personal is an absolute joke. We have thousands of us chanting it at a game to be heard on live TV viewed by millions but a footballer puts up a picture and all hell breaks loose. I can’t help but find this country is becoming more and more sensitive. Actually no, not sensitive, just outright pathetic. It’s called banter, if you can’t handle it then why the hell are you watching football?

I gotta say it’s probably my favourite photo in a long time and I’m very much considering getting a t-shirt printed with it on there. It just seems so right, especially with Pirès there too.

Transfer wise there doesn’t seem to be a massive amount going around. There’s links with Juventus striker Vučinić over potentially coming on loan for the remainder of the season. This is down to the fact that he’s fallen out of favour at the club due to both Llorente and Tevez coming in and is looking for some first team football again. I don’t really rate him all that highly and he’s not exactly a prolific goalscorer, but he’s experienced, he’s a striker and – considering a deal was all but in place to swap him for Inter’s playmaker Guarín before being called of yesterday – he’s available. Ticks a few of the boxes that’s for sure.

Lastly, we play Coventry in disappointingly bizarre fashion on Friday in the FA Cup Fourth Round. I say that because it’s bizarre to be playing on a Friday and disappointing because the only reason it’s been done is so the TV companies can make more money. It’s a shame for the fans and especially the Coventry ones in particular as they’ll have to attempt to get down in a rush after work where no doubt the M25 or M1 will make it difficult, take a half day off work or they’ll miss out altogether. The FA and they’re out of touch, unrealistic, money grabbing cunts again.

On the game itself you have to be thinking that considering they’re a league one team and we’re at home, it should be nothing but a win. I’d like to see a few chances given to a few players that haven’t perhaps had many games and also a few young ones too, but a strong enough side to get a comfortable victory at least.

I’ll look to blog on the game and any other emerging news on Saturday morning but until then enjoy your day and the rest of your week!

Tottenham too easy, Villa not so much and Draxler on our radar?

Never get bored of seeing us beat Sp*rs

Never get bored of seeing us beat Sp*rs

Hello and good morning all! It’s been almost two weeks since I last blogged, primarily down to the fact that I started a new job last week and have been solely focused on that. I’ve gotten myself back into a routine after the festive period and therefore you can expect business to resume as normal. There may be some rustiness to shake off from a lack of writing but I’m sure that’ll soon pass.

Arsenal 2 – 0 Tottenham
I was at the Emirates watching Everton when I got a text from a friend to let me know that we’d drawn Sp*rs and I must say I didn’t feel at all worried. In fact, when I told my brother of the news a fan sitting next to us said “well that’s us through to the next round then!” and it was hard not to agree. We’re playing the best football in years with a strong and stable squad yet those that play at Shite Hart Lane are quite the opposite. A new manager, key defenders missing, no real quality full backs, no world class players in their squad and a load of new faces still bedding in – you can understand why they’re not as strong as last year.

All those factors gave me confidence and it looked as if the team felt that too because from the moment the game kicked off to the final whilst the attitude and mentality was spot on. We oozed confidence and played in a way that almost said “this is our ground, we’re the Arsenal, you’re in our shadow, and we’re going to show you exactly why”.

A fantastic finish from Cazorla gave us the lead half way through the first half and although many sung the praises of the Spaniard for the way he took the goal you’ve got to applaud Gnabry too. The wonderkid really showed an exceptional maturity and confidence to run towards the middle of the pitch rather than charge down the wing. It bring the centre backs towards him which allowed Cazorla the space to take the shot and it’s hard not to think had Theo been in that situation he’d have probably have taken the other option.

Theo of course, doesn’t deserve criticism because he very rightly scored the second. He started up front due to an ill Giroud and he gave a performance that makes you wonder if he actually could play that role up top. We made mince meat of Sp*rs and their defence using Walcott’s pace and it did raise questions as to whether or not he could fulfil that role on a more frequent basis. We won’t be able to find out this year unfortunately as he later ruptured his knee ligaments which means he’ll be out for the rest of the season. Awful news for him especially considering he’ll miss the World Cup, but also for us because he genuinely was showing a new found level in his game.

Gotta love the way he left the field though. No not stretchered, I mean with a cheeky grin and 2-0 gesture to all the lovely away fans.

The scoreline finished 2-0 and we qualified for the next round which gave us a more favourable draw against Coventry at home. Considering our usual bad luck in such draws with recent ones like Bayern and Tottenham, I think everybody breathed a sigh of relief to get an easier opponent. It’ll certainly give us the best chance of qualifying for the next round and hopefully mounting a serious challenge for the trophy.

Aston Villa 1 – 2 Arsenal
Prior to the game there was a lot of “massive game for Arsenal” crap. I really got fed up of hearing it to be honest. Yes all of the teams surrounding us won meaning we had to win to go back to the top of the table, but isn’t every game a massive fixture when you have Chelsea and City chasing you? You can’t afford to slip up against any opponent, so this fixture was no different.

A well taken goal from Wilshere gave us the lead in the first half before a moment later the Englishman setup up Giroud for a second. Two really decent goals in which Jack was integral in both and more importantly a great way to kill of the game relatively quickly. For about 75 minutes of the game we controlled the tie and really showed exactly how lacklustre Aston Villa have become.

The dynamic changed however after that when a Cazorla mistake led to a cross which allowed Benteke to score a lifeline diving header. It was a sloppy goal to concede and it was delightful to see Per express his rage at Santi for the mistake. It put us under a lot of pressure from then on. Aston Villa step up a gear or two and got the crowd on their feet which made the final 15 minutes a bit strenuous for us. Of course we’ve got a lot of experience in controlling fixtures and we did just that, seeing the game out and getting the three points we deserved to return to the top of the table once again.

So all in all a pretty positive two weeks and exactly what we needed in terms of points, qualification and momentum at an important time in our season. We now play Fulham and Coventry at home, Southampton away and Crystal Palace at home before we play the first of our difficult fixture list against Liverpool away. Winning every one of our games before that is paramount, especially considering that Chelsea and Man City both have tough ties to play against United and Tottenham respectively before then playing each other. That means that one of them is guaranteed to lose points and hopefully even more in the other fixtures too. We really want to be aiming for a 3-4 point cushion before Liverpool if we want to really mount a title challenge.

In other news I’ve heard that Wenger, Mertesacker and Sagna have all signed new contracts. Fantastic news if you ask me, all three of them are absolutely vital parts of our current success and therefore deserve new contracts on the back of it. It does raise questions as to why Rosicky isn’t on that list though however Wenger did recently confirm that he’ll likely be staying so perhaps they’re still working on it and won’t announce any of the deals until his is done too.

In terms of transfer news I can’t really give out much concrete news. I’ve heard we’re looking for a striker but I can’t help but feel Wenger will opt for a different position as he has his eyes firmly on somebody who will be available in the summer. I’m confident he’ll buy of course especially considering Walcott’s injury, but it’s a wonder who.

I’ve been told we’re very much in the hunt for a proper winger as well and there’s also extremely strong links with Draxler too. He’s been a target for some time now and Schalke look likely to let him leave but it’s curious if we’d actually sign him considering he’s out of action with a thigh injury. I’d love him in the side as he’s a quality player, but he’s more of an attacking midfielder opposed to a winger and we seem to have those types of players in abundance. Still, I’m not going to turn my nose up at any quality signings that come our way, regardless of their position.

I must say I do think we’ll sign somebody this window, I just don’t know who that player is or where he’ll play. For now all we can do is focus on our games and leave it to Le Boss to decide. Our next fixture as earlier mentioned is Fulham at home on Saturday, another in which we should be aiming for nothing other than three points.

Thanks for reading, will catch up again over the next few days!

A busy ten days but we’ve shown something special

Emirates Stadium at New Years

Hello and good afternoon everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with many good times, family moments and gifts. I haven’t done a blog for close to 10 days now which is definitely the longest period I’ve gone without writing. I guess the festive period (and Football Manager) are really to blame, however normal service will resume now.

It seems like a shit load has happened since I last wrote. We’ve played four games picking up a valuable 10 points, as well as a number of unfortunate injuries and controversial decisions. I’ll address each game individually but won’t waffle on too much – don’t want to bore you!

Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea
Before the game there was still a lot of focus on Wenger vs Mourinho. Arsene has never picked up a win against the man and it’s not hard to see why. When we go to Chelsea it’s a hard game that you don’t really expect to win. When they come to the Emirates, well they just park the bus for 90 minutes and hope to get us on the counter. It’s a pathetic tactic from somebody who regards himself as ‘The Special One’ but it’s effective to say the least.

I think we deserved a penalty in the game and had a number of decisions go against us, but at the end of the day a hard earned draw isn’t the worst that could have happened. It did mean that we unfortunately dropped down to second for Christmas however, meaning Liverpool and all their fans suddenly thought they had a chance of winning the league (hahahahaha) but that didn’t last long. As of this moment they sit six points behind us. Shame, fucking bunch of spanners.

West Ham 1 – 3 Arsenal
Can’t say I watched much of the game due to streaming and also being out and about. I popped to the shop and when I left we was 1-0 down, with Cole just spooning a golden opportunity wide. I didn’t catch much beforehand so I was really quite worried it’d be one of those away days. When I got home, the game had massively changed as we was 3-1 up!

I watched the highlights and to me it looked like we deserved the win. With better finishing it’s not hard to think the scoreline could have been more favourable to West Ham, but the important thing was we got the three points and returned to top of the table.

Newcastle 0 – 1 Arsenal
I actually made the long trip up north for this one and was actually seen on TV in the away block. A great atmosphere and well worth the five hour drive for anybody that’s considering it in the future. I think Newcastle played well and were constantly trying to attack, however never really had anything clear cut due to a stubborn Arsenal defence.

Thought Giroud was due a goal after a spell without one and it came true. Perhaps not the best of goals but hopefully it’ll give him confidence now. Unfortunately he got injured in the game which means he’s out now for a few weeks, but perhaps the rest will do him a world of good. Credit to the team, the game was one of limited chances – probably down to the fact we had no Ozil or Ramsey – yet we managed to win ugly and get the three points leaving us top for the New Year.

Arsenal 2 – 0 Cardiff
We had a huge amount of first team players out for this game, including Ozil, Ramsey, Giroud, Gibbs and many more. It was inevitably going to be a tough game without those names on the sheet but we had to find a way to win without them and we didn’t disappoint. It took us 89 minutes of constant attempts, including two great chances from Mertesacker which you’d usually expect him to bury, before we finally found the goal we needed. A Monreal cross found Sagna’s head which was well saved, before the quick to react Nicklas Bendtner went on to bury the rebound. The Dane was unfortunately injured during the goal but his name rang round the Emirates – and he deserved it.

The game wasn’t over though. Some beautiful quick passing and a cheeky sideways flick from Wilshere split the Cardiff defence and put Theo through on goal. He smartly chipped the keeper and made the result 2-0, which was really and truly a fair scoreline considering our huge 28 shots. Three points to the Arsenal and a great start to the New Year, what more can we ask for?

Overall thoughts
Looking at the results I don’t think anybody would have been disappointed with picking up 10 points from them all. Playing Chelsea at home before going to West Ham and Newcastle away isn’t easy, especially when all three of the fixtures were hard earned points. For me there are three important characteristics that we haven’t had in years that helped us pick up those points and get us top of the league, these are:

We lost Ozil and Ramsey but Rosicky and Arteta came in and did a fantastic job. I have to say Rosicky has been an absolute revelation this season. In past years he’s been mauled by injury and helped us at the end, but this year he’s been delightful to watch. He’s so positive going forward, always trying to create something. Considering he’s 33-years-old you gotta give credit to the Czech, he’s been massively important to us.

We’ve also had both Vermaelen and Bendtner step up when called upon. When Koscielny got injured, Tommy V came in and did his job well and professionally. Bendtner has often made heads drop when used but has done nothing but work hard. He’s not the best player but he got us the three points yesterday. Giroud is a better player but I can’t help but feel Giroud wouldn’t have got that goal for us because the movement and thinking was world class.

Let’s not forget the return of Walcott and Podolski too. Walcott has five goals in five games, Podolski has a few as well, and we’ve been without the pair for months now. They’re a welcomed boost and will provide a huge advantage for the second half of the season.

Win ugly
Everybody has off days at the office. Sometimes it’s fatigue, sometimes it’s injuries, sometimes things just don’t click. But the important thing is still finding a way to win. This season I haven’t seen any other team in the league win as consistently as we have when we’re playing badly. We always somehow find a way to get the three points and just keep going – even if it takes 89 minutes to do so like yesterday. That is one of the most important and vital elements of a title winning squad and something we’ve not seen in close to a decade.

The character in the squad is amazing. Even when 1-0 down at West Ham we kept going and even when 0-0 at 88 minutes against an extremely fit Cardiff side we kept going. We had a handful of first team players missing and you only need to look as far as Man United without Rooney and van Persie or City without Kompany or Aguero to see how other teams struggle. The team wants to win and is finding ways to do it, because the character in the squad is one of ‘never give up’. Two moments for me show the passion they have for winning.

Firstly, when the whistle went at Newcastle the chest bumps and roar from Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini you couldn’t help but feel love for the pair. Those are two footballers that are in the latter stages of their career but are more hungry than they’ve ever been.

The second moment was Flamini’s celebration when Bendtner scored. He literally threw his shirt in elation and his reaction was very similar to all of us Gooners at home watching the game too. Players like that are invaluable to the squad. Their mentality and passion rubs off on the rest of the team and definitely creates a hunger and desire to win that goes a long way towards silverware.

Closing comments
Today we sit top of the league by one point. We have the best defensive record in the league. We picked up more points in 2013 than any other team. The last four seasons the team that have been top at New Years has gone on to win the league. These statistics are hugely in our favour, but it’s not the statistics that give me confidence we can achieve something it’s the three points I just mentioned. The squads depth, character and ability to win ugly are what will win us some silverware, not statistics.

I’m not saying we’ll win the league, but I can’t help but think this is the season we can finally end our drought. Everything seems right, everything seems in place, and the one thing I think we have in our favour is stability. We don’t have a new manager, we don’t have a change in philosophy, we don’t have any controversial characters and we don’t have anybody wanting to leave. We have complete harmony and that’s the key to winning. Ironic that our motto is Victoria Concordia Crescit ay?

Victory Through Harmony.