Thursday, 17 April 2014

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Fourth place trophy recovered

So, despite the majority of problems surrounding Arsenal Football Club, we're in control of fourth place. A scary first half performance turned into a much more controlled, composed second half display as we dispatched Allardyce's side away, quite comfortably in the end. Thoughts: 

Podolski was, is and always will be inconsistent in a 4-3-3...
I know that Podolski is a fan favourite. I know that people are in disbelief that Wenger doesn't play him more often. I know that he had a cracker of a performance against West Ham. But I, unlike a lot of Arsenal supporters, am not convinced.

Despite his goals and assists, Podolski strikes to me as a player who is the jack of being a winger and a striker, yet the master of none. At times he'll convince you that he's capable of playing as a striker/winger, but at times he'll demonstrate that he's not capable of playing in both positions. I firmly believe that Podolski is not a pure winger, neither is he a pure centre forward.

If we want to bring out the best of Lukas consistently, it's not going to happen in a 4-4-3. To me Podolski always performs better in the space between a right back and a centre back down the left channel. While I used to say that Podolski has the potential to be lethal in our 4-3-3 system as a left winger, I really don't believe it now.

If we want Podolski to thrive, I'm convinced that the answer is playing him as a second striker in a 4-4-2. Alongside Giroud, an expert in laying off balls to people beside him, I think Podolski will perform well consistently.

However, I don't think we should employ a 4-4-2 now, especially after building a team suited to adjust a 4-4-3. I'm not sure that it would be the best idea for our creative midfielders to thrive, and if we look to play a diamond midfield, it would put undue pressure on the lone holding midfielder, especially seeing that our holding midfielders (Flamini, Arteta, Kallstrom) don't have a Yaya Toure physique.

Giroud's goal deserves praise...
I have been one of the rare people who support Giroud, yet want him dropped for a lot of matches. My answer is logical; while I'm sure that Giroud has a place in the team for Arsenal for future years to come, his mental and physical condition has been shot to pieces by Arsene Wenger.

Wenger has got it all wrong with Giroud. Ever since he's come to Arsenal (in 2012), Giroud has been thrown in the foray continuously by Wenger and expected to replace Robin van Persie. With utter disregard to his fatigued mindset and his tiring legs, Wenger has horribly mismanaged Giroud, so much so that I thought he was beyond repair now.

Don't get me wrong - I still want Giroud in the club. He's shown enough qualities in the first half of the season (when he wasn't tired) that has convinced me to think he'd be a strong backup option. We need Kanus and Wiltords on the bench to make a difference in turbulent times, and I think Olivier can be one of them.

However, Giroud's goal (and his performance afterwards) has led me to believe that he can still finish this campaign strongly. My earlier mentality of "Aargh, Wenger's killed the guy, best for him to limp towards the finish line and start afresh" has changed now. To me, Giroud seems like one of those guys with a fickle mind. With confidence, Ollie looks reborn.

As soon as he got the crucial goal that gave us the lead, Giroud immediately looked rejuvenated. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, stamina returned from nowhere as Giroud put in a remarkable shift after scoring a goal Messi would be proud of.

For me, this changes nothing. Giroud will still be fit as backup in a club like Arsenal, but he'd be a significant upgrade over the likes of Chamakh, Park and Sanogo. Perhaps we'd see a much more potent strikeforce under a new manager in the next season. That is, if Wenger leaves of course.

Ramsey makes us tiki-taka... 
When the Welshman was brought on, I didn't have high hopes. Indeed, I actually tried as hard as I could through social media to downplay his return, as I felt that undue pressure might affect his performances. Instead, the complete opposite happened.

I really had forgotten how good Ramsey was. Perhaps it's conceivable I was trying to downgrade his quality over the months to not get my hopes up like I had with Jack Wilshere. Perhaps I didn't want to believe that he's our saviour of the season.

Be as it may, Ramsey had an absolute screamer. As soon as he came on the team felt alive, reminiscent of how we were in the first half of the season. His mere presence just changed everything, including the scoreline, where he gave a sublime assist to Podolski's clincher. I'd feel much more comfortable about the FA Cup Final if Ramsey were properly fit.

Kallstrom's debut was overrated...
Personally, I didn't see the fuss in Kallstrom. While other people applauded him for a "fantastic" full Premier League debut, I thought he was completely average. Had a handy scapegoat like Arteta or Denilson played like how Kallstrom did, they would have been roundly criticized for an "anonymous performance."

Of course, I don't want Kallstrom to seem appalling just so I could berate Wenger for buying him. I already have the Denilsons, the Diabys, the Frimpongs and the Meridas to do that. However, it seems like the Arsene fan club are desperately trying to hype Kallstrom's performance in the hope of believing that their beloved Wenger had a grand master plan in place when he loaned in Kallstrom. Believe me, he didn't.

Even if Kallstrom surprises the whole world and bags more assists than Ozil in the coming month, there is no denying the fact that he was signed by Wenger just for the sake of signing somebody.

Santi Cazorla thoughts... 
Of course, he was brilliant. Completely deserving of the MOTM award. However, don't expect him to consistently perform like he did. Ozil's imminent return means that he'll be shifted to the left flank again, where we'll be mixed results from him. Again.

Obviously I want Cazorla to perform well for Arsenal. He's the most cheerful-cum-talented Arsenal footballer in the team. However, I won't for one second believe that him shifting to the left would flourish his form. He will have his good games, but would never find consistency.

Ozil's return will be a psychological boost...
 I expect the team's performance to raise a level once Ozil takes to the field. And that's not because he'd be providing assists all over the place. It'd be because his mere presence would lift the team.

I don't think we are set to see any superb comeback from Ozil. I think we'll be in for more of the same. However, it is impossible to shake off entirely the possibility that his return could provide a huge fillip to Arsenal. Let's see.

Token of gratitude to Tony...
After Crystal Palace beat Everton, fourth is completely in our hands.Yes, it's not where (m)any would like to be right now considering how many days we were topping the pile, but I am relieved to see that at least we're now on course to getting the consolation that seemed to be slipping from our grasps. Even though I loathe the coconuts out of Pulis, he has earned my gratitude.

Having said that, we might move a step further as well.

Third might be a possibility...
After City slipped up against Sunderland, they're now only 4 points ahead of us, albeit with a game in hand. However, it's interesting to note that their end-of fixtures include the aforementioned Palace and Everton, games where they are likely to drop points. Plus, you know, it's the Premier League. Anything can happen.

I'm not saying that City's slip-up means snatching third is a plausible option. I'm just saying that fighting for third is much better than fighting to stay at fourth. However weird it may sound, we must play the rest of the season with an objective of overhauling City rather than fending off Everton. It's what football (and our motto) is all about - moving forward.


Right, that's that. I'll be out of town for a good couple of weeks and might not get the Wi-Fi to post any other blogs. It may well be the end of this month before I start posting again.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )