Sunday, 23 February 2014

Post-Sunderland and Dennis Bergkamp thoughts

Back on track with a mesmerizing 4-1 victory today against an appalling Sunderland, where the only regret would be conceding a Premier League goal at home since Deufoleu's. Nevertheless, an impressive Giroud return and an astounding Rosicky goal sealed three points for us, but I don't think that there was much to read from this match.

Resting/dropping Mesut Ozil was absolutely the right call from Arsene Wenger. It was apparent for a long, long time that fatigue and disinterest was creeping into him, and the fact that he thought his place in the starting XI was guaranteed didn't help either. Frankly, there were better players on the bench who weren't getting to play because of Ozil's monopoly of the central attacking midfield role, so it's good to see that they are getting chances now.

Wenger put his resting down to injury concerns, saying:

"Yes [Ozil was injured], a thigh problem but it was a kick. He should be available next week. He was in the dressing room [during the match]." 

According to me, the only sign of progress we made in this match was that we finally won a game nice and early. As early in the 5th minute, some neat Arsenal play and a wonderful Wilshere pass gave Giroud freedom of space in the box. He finished a promising move by slotting the ball in the corner, sending ex-Gunner Vito Mannone the wrong way.

I'm not a fan of Giroud's shooting technique. Sure, it pulled off then, but I don't think that a physically bulging player like Giroud should try to curl the ball in like he always does. This is one of the reasons why Giroud misses easy chances in front of goal, even though he didn't miss then.

Still, if anyone deserved a goal it was him. Ever since he played for Arsenal there have been doubts on his quality, and his recent dry patch seemed to prove the 'haters' right. I for one was never one of them; I think that Giroud is being made a scapegoat for our attacking woes and is constantly being asked to do what isn't in his DNA. Let's not forget that Olivier Giroud is a player who has carried the striker burden for 1 and a half seasons now, it's about time we cut him some slack.

What I like about Giroud is that he's committed and hardworking. Even though he has been grossly overplayed since coming to Arsenal, he is ever ready to run across the pitch and hold the ball up, or show fantastic determination even at the 89th minute to win a half-ball. I understand that his constant back-to-goal play and a reluctance to take a shot frustrates a few Arsenal supporters, but that's the kind of player Giroud is. Isn't it unjustified to expect Flamini to provide 10 assists for Arsenal?

I wanted Giroud to score because he's Arsenal's only main striker. If you want Arsenal to win something this season, you get behind your players, simple as that. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but naive ranting never is. While Giroud's second was much, much simpler (even though he made it look really easy), I'm happy that two goals will help increase the confidence of one of Arsenal's most industrious players.

The third goal was sensational, possibly better than Wilshere's. I'd agree to people who suggest that Sunderland had made it too easy for us at that point, but that didn't stop me from marveling at one of the greatest goals of this campaign. Rosicky started the move by passing it to Cazorla and ended it by coolly chipping it over Mannone after some fantastic one-touch passing by Arsenal. That was a goal which seemed like a testament to Bergkamp's passing ability. Simply electrifying.

By that time 3 points were in the bag, something incredibly rare from this season's Arsenal. Seldom have we tied up a game this early in the match, and it is something that should be continued in this season. The benefits of wrapping up a game before half time are profound - the confidence of the players are high, the manager can start his preparations for the next, key players can be rested and whatnot.

After a brief Sunderland rally in the second half Arsenal struck again to make the game as dead as possible. After Vergini almost scored one of the funniest own goals, Santi Cazorla flung in the resulting corner into the box. Sunderland's man marking was dire; Laurent Koscielny was given the space to open a tea stall there. He headed in the ball easily, and Arsenal were 4-0 up within 60 minutes.

I was disappointed that we conceded, though. I agree that it was a superb goal from Giacheerini, but I really wanted another clean sheet from us. True, a makeshift back four of Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker and Flamini did have their reasons, but I was particularly looking forward to extending the record of no Premier League home goals conceded since DECEMBER.

Still, 4-1 is good enough right?

Wenger spoke of the win:

"We have shown today we are capable of responding and that is the most important thing. You see City had a difficult game, Chelsea had a difficult game so you see it is difficult for all the teams at the top, but we did the job well."

Although I still feel that winning the Premier League is out of the question, it's much more fun to be competing with Manchester City and Chelsea than with Tottenham or Everton. I've always felt that setting a target of winning the league and failing is better than setting a target of fourth place and achieving it. Plus, the ability of Chelsea and City to consistently defeat average teams isn't that great. The league is unpredictable, so who knows?


Amazingly, it wasn't Tomas Rosicky's goal that was the highlight of the day. Bergkamp's statue was finally unveiled earlier in the day at the Emirates Stadium, in the aftermath of which one of Arsenal's greatest forwards said:

“Everyone knows I love Arsenal and I had such a great time at the Club. The fans, the staff and my team-mates were fantastic. The team was also amazing and we had a lot of success over the years. For me and my family it was such an important and enjoyable period in our lives."

I love Dennis Bergkamp. He's my all-time favourite Arsenal footballer, ahead of Thierry Henry. Unlike Thierry, Bergkamp never left the club and retired where he belonged. His signing back in 1996 marked the beginning of a new era for Arsenal, much like Ozil's has this season. To cap it all, he clearly wants to achieve more with the club even after so much.

It's been obvious that for a long time, Bergkamp has wanted to be a coach for Arsenal. Even if not on the training staff, his love for Arsenal has been so much that he wants some connection to it. Any way in which he could possibly help Arsenal would be something of a dream for him. So why won't Wenger include him in the club?

Wenger says:

"I am not against it. He has the qualities, but you need to have the need as well because we have a big staff already. He is now at two clubs that made Dennis Bergkamp. The first, and certainly the most important one, is Ajax. He is at Ajax now and a coach there. The second club that is important in his life is Arsenal. Maybe that will be the next step!"

I'm sorry, but this is a load of bollocks by the manager. Bergkamp would kill to be a part of this club, and could have a few years ago. Arsene Wenger denied him, and he will keep denying Bergkamp in the future as well.

Why? Because Wenger is an egoist. It's clear that he wants all the limelight, and that he wants to be the single most popular figure at the club. Remember that he gave away Martin Keown and restricted Steve Bould's influence to impose his superiority and power at the club. Why should he give Dennis Bergkamp an input in the club?

I might be wrong about this, but for me it fits into the character sketch that I have of Arsene Wenger. I apologize for ending an eventful Arsenal day on such a sad note, but I don't think that Wenger will ever give Bergkamp a role into the backroom staff. And the reason won't be because Bergkamp's not "good enough" - he was one of the Premier League's best players, for crying out loud!


Anyway, today's not the day to have this argument. The fact remains that we're only one point off the pace of the title, and that strong starts to the match like today's are the key to success. On we go to the next game.

Let's hope for business as usual then as well.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )