Back on track after a shaky start, Arsenal are just praying they can keep Robin van Persie fit.
What’s going right?
A lot. We have a formidable young goalkeeper, at least three very good centre halves that can actually head the ball, and the most in-form striker in Europe. The yearned-for mixture of youth and experience is there too, helped hugely by the bedding in of Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta. Our midfield options will be bolstered by the return of Jack Wilshere in March, and the generally consistent form of Gervinho and Theo Walcott has been encouraging. Most importantly, there’s proof that since the hammering at Old Trafford, this team has the spirit Arsene Wenger so keenly talks about.
A bit. Whereas defensively we have undoubtedly improved, we still struggle to break down sides that sit back and play for a point. Home draws with Fulham and Wolves and a narrow win courtesy of a mistake against QPR are causes for concern. Injuries to our four first-choice full backs have stretched the squad’s depth, and with Thomas Vermaelen due to miss a few games with a fresh calf strain, our options are extremely thin.
Got the right manager?
Unquestionably. Being so stubborn Wenger will always have his doubters, but they don’t realise how lucky we are. Endless entertainment, financial stability, home-grown players and Champions League football, all when we’re competing with the filthy rich? I’ll take that any day.
The standout name this season has obviously been Robin van Persie, who has cemented legendary status not only for his goals but his leadership, especially considering many doubted his ability to captain the side. Honourable mentions must go to Wojciech Szczesny for the astonishingly assured way he’s made the number one shirt his own, and the underrated Alex Song, who has formed a solid and creative midfield basis with Arteta.
Most importantly, there’s proof that since the hammering at Old Trafford, this team has the spirit Arsene Wenger so keenly talks about.
Who would you like to sell in January?
If we could replace them, then Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh. It’s a shame that it hasn’t worked out for either of them after good starts, but we need better options. Arshavin could be in line for a run in the team with Chamakh and Gervinho off to Africa – perhaps a final chance to prove he has a future at Arsenal – and although we need the type of player Chamakh is, a better version would be nice. Our four full backs and four centre halves are indispensible considering our injuries, but if Sebastien Squillaci were to leave as is expected, not many tears would be shed.
Who do you want to sign?
With the Henry deal done, our attacking options won’t be added to unless someone departs. If Arshavin or Chamakh were to go then Lukas Podolski has been mooted as a likely replacement. The German international is slightly one-dimensional but knows where the goal is having scored 15 times for Koln this season. A more creative option like Edin Hazard or Edinson Cavani would be preferable, though as these are two of Europe’s hottest properties we would most likely be priced out of a move. A short-term deal for a left-back is likely, but along with Milan’s Taye Taiwo, the undesirable name of Wayne Bridge keeps cropping up. I’d rather Silvestre.
Best chant so far?
Gooners now sing an adapted and less flattering version of a song about Samir Nasri that can be heard at most games and which should be applauded for its bluntness, but for something a little more creative how about this seasonal ode to fledgling cult-hero Emmanuel Frimpong: “Frimpong merrily on high, Emmanuel’s a Gooner, Frimpong merrily on high, he’ll put his boot right through ya.” Sadly, with his loan move to Wolves having gone through, it could be a while before that one’s back. Mertesacker’s “big f******German, we’ve got a big f****** German,” is a laugh.
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?
Our only home defeats have come against Liverpool when decimated by injuries, and unluckily against Man City in the Carling Cup, so we haven’t been blown away on our own patch. Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had the game of his life in the 1-1 draw last month, and Leon Britton caught the eye when Swansea narrowly lost 1-0 in September. On the road, the 8-2 at Old Trafford was deserved, but Blackburn’s 4-3 win over us was more impressive for the way they defended, with Christopher Samba immense.
Biggest **** of the season so far?
The biggest **** of any season, is John Terry. Thanks for the 5-3, you slippy lump.
End of season prediction?
I think third (and above Spurs again) is the best we can get. The Manchester clubs will be the top two, and although I’ll admit that the annoying younger brothers up the road are playing well at the moment they’ll start to lose form if they pick up injuries to key players. Chelsea’s continued comical decline will see us above them, and Liverpool’s home form isn’t good enough. Crucially, we’ve still to host United, City, Spurs and Chelsea.
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