At the weekend we travelled to the shit-hole that is Stoke in a game where nothing but three points would do. In most cases three points is necessary for obvious reasons such as maintaining momentum and keeping up the pace for challenging for the league, however this game was all the more in need of those points because well, to be frank, Stoke are cunts. Their fans are cunts, their manager is a huge cunt and their team has more cunts than the Houses of Parliament.
After watching the first half, I couldn’t help but feel it would be one of those days where it’d be a bore draw or one goal would decide it. We looked lacklustre and lacked movement and pace all over the pitch to the point it actually made Stoke look half-decent. I know, Stoke and half-decent were used in the same sentence.
We limited Stoke to only one clear chance the entire game, which is pretty impressive from a defensive point-of-view. I say one clear chance but when you consider that a penalty was given, I suppose it’s technically two. The penalty well, that was as harsh as they get. I understand that Koscielny’s arm shouldn’t be up there but watch any footballer for 90 minutes and at some point his arm will be in similar positions – it’s only natural to use your arms to dictate or increase your movement. Koscielny did just that but he was unfortunate enough for the ball to come up and hit it.
By the letter of the law it has to be a) intentional and b) preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity. It was neither. Koscielny’s arm was up there before the ball had even been touched, so it obviously wasn’t intentional. As for the latter, well I don’t see how the ball was even under control yet alone preventing any form of a chance. It was a bad decision, it gifted them the game and it has severely dampened our chances of winning the league.
Now I’m not going to blame the dropped three points on the penalty because at the end of the day – we didn’t even bloody score. I’d be feeling bitter if it was 1-1 because I’d be thinking “well the referee cost us two points” but that’s not the case. He cost us one point in that game, because unless you score you’re not going to win. We failed to turn up and produce anything of real spark.
In fact, it was only when we conceded and Oxlade-Chamberlain was introduced that we actually started to perform. You could tell how badly we needed his pace on the pitch because at the moment we’re just so static and easy to control. When we play these smaller clubs we can often find ways to win through the quality in the side, the experience or the mentality of never giving up. When we go up against the big sides such as Chelsea, Man City or even Man Utd, we’re too easy to contain and control. Stick eleven men behind the ball, counter and/or take your chances and you’re guaranteed 1-3 points.
It’s games like Stoke where I sit there and think how much we truly miss Walcott. His pace would be absolutely devastating right now and I think had he’d spent the past few months in the side, he’d be leading the goalscoring charts at the club, and I don’t doubt Ozil would be smashing it for assists too. It’s gutting for us but it’s part and parcel of football. We’ve lacked depth all year in comparison to City and Chelsea but it’s starting to show through now and it’s starting to genuinely worry me.
We now sit four points behind Chelsea and Man City (should they win both of their games in hand) and there are ten games to play for. The season is far from over but this month is absolutely crucial. We’ve got to firstly bounce back with a win this weekend against Everton in the FA Cup. Progressing through to the semi-final is a must because it’s no doubt our best chance of silverware this season. We’re at home and will want to make up for the 1-1 draw here earlier in the season.
Then after that we take on Bayern in which if I’m being honest, I’d rather us rest for. I can’t see us scoring three goals away against the best team in Europe when we can’t get one against Stoke. We might get one, perhaps even two, but three? I can’t see it. And let’s be brutally honest – we’re not keeping a clean sheet, therefore three is the only thing that’ll do. Besides, I don’t want to score two and goal into extra time because then they will beat us. They have more depth, more energy and a lesser fixture list. We really don’t want to be sacrificing our weekend game for the sake of an extra half hour.
Why? Because that game is Tottenham away. That game is a must-win. Rivalry aside, if we want to be back fighting for the league then we need to take three points from them. After that it’s Chelsea away, Swansea at home and then Man City at home. The Swansea game was fortunately rearranged so it’ll give us a bit of a breather between the two big fixtures but from those three fixtures we need seven points minimum. I don’t think we’ll beat Chelsea away but we can draw. As for City, they’ll be timid and I think will settle for a close win – that’s exactly why we need to go at them at full throttle.
If we get seven points that’ll mean we’ll be six off the top. It’s still too big of a margin but I do think Chelsea are gonna drop points. They’ve still got to play Tottenham and Liverpool plus I can see them slipping up against one of the lesser sides. It’s imperative that we manage to get points off them and City if we want to stand a chance. At this rate with all the fixtures considered, it’s hard to deny that they title will fall to one of them, but we can at least try to be the thorn in both of their sides, make a decent attempt at keeping up the momentum and walk away with 2nd or 3rd spot and perhaps the FA Cup.
That to me is a brilliant season and the platform for an even better one next year. It’s all within our reach, within our capabilities and within reason, we’ve just got to make sure we do everything possible to make it happen.
In other news it seems as though both Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky have signed new contracts with the club. Great to see as both of them have been stellar this season, offering quality, experience and their own respective talents to a squad with nobody similar to either of them. I won’t go into too much detail due to the length of the post so far but I do think it’s a positive move from the club. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Cazorla and Ramsey are both set to sign new contracts as well, not to mention Mr Arsene Wenger. If so, it’d be a further boost as I think they’re all essential to the club and still have plenty to offer.
It does make you wonder for the futures of some other players however. Sagna’s future is up and down like a yo-yo at the minute. One second he’s gone, the next he’s staying, we really don’t know what the final verdict is going to be. We’re all hoping he stays but I’ve had a feeling all year he’ll be going. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Then there’s the fact that Viviano, Fabianski and Bendtner all set to leave, plus the possible departures of Podolski, Vermaelen and Miyaichi, our squad is starting to look like it requires some major investment this summer. We might be looking at a shopping list of two goalkeepers, a right back, two centre backs, a power-house midfielder, a left winger and a striker. That’s a hefty list.
We could fill a few roles from promoting within such as Damian Martinez or Josh Vickers being third choice goalkeeper, Gnabry and Zelalem being handed more opportunities for the winger and midfield positions and on-loan players such as Djourou and Coquelin given chances to be decent squad members but it’s still not enough. We’d still need to buy a second choice goalkeeper, a right back, two centre backs and a striker. It’s going to be a busy summer folks and I think the worrying thing is I can only see us buying four players as an absolute maximum.
Anyway, that’s still months away and we’ve got plenty of football to focus on before then – with the first being an all-important FA Cup fixture against Everton. Until then.