Tuesday, 9 June 2015

2014/15: Arsenal's season blogged



I'll admit that it was Gunnerblog that inspired me to adopt this feature. It seemed like a good idea to use it for my blog as well, so I thought, what the hell, let's do it!

Essentially what I've done is snapped excerpts from my articles on this blog throughout the expired season and compiled the best bits into a mega-nutshell, in an attempt to recreate the whirlpool of events that was 2014/15. It's fun to see what I got wrong, what I got right and how my mood pendulumed as the season panned out.

Okay, let's get on with it.

Sanchez the answer to pace problems? | June 21, 2014
"Sanchez would fit in like a glove. He, along with Walcott, would be zooming on the wings, enhancing Ozil's creative hunger. I really feel we wouldn't need a striker that badly if Arsene manages to lure Sanchez. He'd be a terrific addition to converting to wing play.

If there's any lesson to be learnt from this World Cup, it's that possession football has well and truly died. I've been saying (for a year now) that Arsenal should be giving wing-play more importance to tiki-taka football. Sanchez would be a massive step in achieving that."

Cesc proves loyalty and trust is a lost virtue in football | June 13, 2014
"Wenger should have bought him. Fabregas confirmed that Wenger rejected him, thus indirectly strengthening his rival Mourinho. The only way I'll forgive Wenger is if he uses his funds well. A quality right-back, a reliable DM, backup goalkeeper and centre back and Balotelli up front, and Cesc would be soon forgotten.

But I don't trust Wenger to do the right thing. In fact, I don't trust anyone anymore. Even so, Fabregas' departure taught me a valuable lesson. Loyalty and trust mean nothing in football - maybe even in this cold, dog-eat-dog world. When the chips are down, everyone thinks of themselves. Moralistic laws are shown the door.

And that is why I'm not at all convinced that players like Wilshere and Jenkinson are to stay here for life. Money and trophies have officially obliterated footballistic morals, and Arsene needs to deliver them.The Fabregas damage is profound, but it isn't irreparable. Buy some quality players, win the Community Shield and all of a sudden, you have a buzzing atmosphere with a team raring to have a crack at the Premier League title. We'd be laughing at this day.

We have seen loyal players turn their backs on us for fatter paychecks and accolades. We've failed enough to know the tonic for success. For once, let's get out there and achieve it. Or three years from now, you might find this blog calling Mesut Ozil a traitor."

Fabregas forgotten as PUMA unveil in Sanchez-tional style! | July 11, 2014
"The Sanchez purchase is significantly different from that of Mesut's. You'd be wrong in thinking that Ozil was part of a long-term plan when hurriedly bought, but Wenger has now rightly sought to build the team around him. Sanchez goes a long way to doing that.



Make no mistake, we've bought the real deal. For some time I've been clamouring for Balotelli to be shipped in, yet I couldn't be more pleased by Wenger's choice. Sanchez is speedy, strong and has a devastating eye for goal. He's the perfect blend of Walcott and Podolski. He's a superb choice for a lone striker. He's a mile ahead of Mario. It would take something truly remarkable to oust the excitement of knowing that the title contenders-cum-football artists of Arsenal FC are showing definite signs of resurfacing.

And for that, I owe Arsene Wenger my congratulations and an apology. My strong suspicions that the boss was planning to procrastinate until the last week of the window were completely unfounded. The timing of the transfer pleased me just as much as the quality of the player. Arsene has shown that he is willing to be proactive and combine it with uncharacteristic ruthlessness, for which he deserves kudos."

Is Wenger feeling the positive after-effects of winning the Cup? | July 16, 2014
"Arsene Wenger is maddeningly stubborn. Aside from showing a chronic reluctance to closing on major deals, he also has a tendency to go into several matches tactically unprepared. He displays an incurable liking towards the diminutive-shaped creative midfielder, adding them to Arsenal despite us having surplus. In addition, his constant overplaying of essential Arsenal cogs infuriate me. I used to be a huge critic of Arsene Wenger.

[However, recently] What we saw from Arsene was proper ambition. They were always doubts on whether he had the desire left to take the league home, doubts propagated by his refusal to buy Fabregas, Costa and Vela. However, day before yesterday’s actions showed little room for doubt. Wenger was saving up to push the boat out, because he wants the big prizes.

Winning the FA Cup has rekindled the fire within him. Le Professeur has been reborn.

I still expect some tactical naivety from him in big games, and I still expect his annoying habits of overplaying key players to continue. That’s just who he is.  However, for the first time in a long time, I expect his focus to be greater than ever in delivering the trophies fans rightly demand for." 

Thoughts on transfers, Arsenal's defence, Gerrard, Sanogo, Joel, Sanchez and Khedira exclusive | August 3, 2014

"Ospina... 
Wenger may have changed, but his habits of lesser rotation and poor tactical approach will still remain, and Ospina may be a victim of that. I'm more than happy that Wenger has bought a keeper of Ospina's caliber, but what's the point of buying good keepers and not using them much? Playing time was a major factor in Fabianski leaving, and unless Wenger plays Ospina more (apart from 3-4 Cup games), we may have to replace him in two-three years again. 

Calum Chambers... 
Almost every person I know has highly valued his ability, and Southampton have a darn good academy. I know I shouldn't take everything at face value, as people might have overstated due to happiness out of our transfer activity. All I'm saying is that the signs seems good, albeit 16m was a touch too much.
Chambers' role as right-back is pretty much confirmed, now that Jenkinson has made way. That would mean that apart from Mertesacker and Koscielny (50% of whom won't be available for the start), we have no one to rely on.

Finally, Alexis!
It's obvious why we need him as a striker. He played in the middle as a substitute and looked understandably unfocused, but one highlight in this video showed exactly why we bought him (skip to 2:30). Giroud wouldn't have made the runs the way Alexis did. Sanchez gives us that pace and trickery only Walcott has."

"One might brush this game aside as a mere hiccup in a match that didn't matter anyway, but let's not forget that the team we had out there was as good as our starting XI. Owing to the fitness fiasco and the "nothing at stake" justifications, it's tempting to call yesterday a one-off. However, the team still needs to go up from here. Citing a crisis and hashtaging WengerOut would be a touch too far, but refusing to address some obvious deficiencies in the team under the pretext of "It's only pre-season" would be equally foolish." 

Arsenal 3-0 Man City: Welcome to the New Age | August 11, 2014
"These three months that have passed by have seen a number of significant moments engulf the club. There was the obvious example of the FA Cup triumph, followed by proactive purchases of Sanchez, Debuchy, Ospina and Chambers. But more than that, the club has also seen a revamp at a fundamental, backroom level.

Andries Jonker and Shad Forsythe have to be better than Colbert and Brady, which would mean lesser injury crises and better youth products. While our scouting network remains chronically flawed, our newfound PUMA wealth means that we don't have to depend as much on our scouting reach as before.
The swift, three-month transition from top-four club to top-one ended yesterday. The three months of change are over, and it has left us in a terrifyingly exciting position. The manner of our win yesterday underlined what many had only logically guessed; the times of Arsenal being pretenders rather than contenders are gone. After a decade of hibernation, The Gunners are back.

Welcome to the New Age."

Realistic expectations for Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign | August 13, 2014

"Premier League: Top two

Man City and Chelsea are tied as prime contenders for the league, so I believe our challenge must be to at least topple one of them bigshots and usurp second, if not first. As of now, even though I hope we win the league, my mind says we'll finish third.

Champions League: Semi finals

If this season isn't the time to have a genuine shot at the CL, then I don't know when is. After qualifying for the group stages, we need to make absolutely sure that we top the group, so that we likely face an easy team in the Round of 16. Hopefully, that'd send the ball rolling.

FA Cup: A ticket to Wembley

I have always looked at the FA Cup as a sort of consolation prize. But, even for a club like Arsenal - one starting to gain the 'big club' mentality - sometimes we have to make do. The FA Cup still remains a prestigious knockout competition and one that could hold decisive while judging a season."

Arsenal 2-1 Palace: Some start! | August 17, 2014
"We really should be hoping for more from this team. This was the exact same team that played against Manchester City so well, so arguing that match fitness was key in our sluggish play is incorrect. A managerless Palace in the Emirates Stadium is as good as it gets in the Premier League, and we almost made a right mess of it. Even though results are greater than performances, we really should be delivering both. This isn't a performance that we will get away with on another day." 

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal: Another unconvincing performance raises doubts | August 20, 2014
"Based on the clear evidence of yesterday, buying a defensive midfielder will not solve our problems. For all our defensive personnel crisis and cries for a DM, it is our star-studded attack that's faltering.

However, all I know is that we need to sort out our attacking problems quickly. We have the players to do it, and based on Arsene Wenger's previous Arsenal teams, we have the manager to do it. But for some reason - reasons I haven't worked out yet - our attacking dimension of the team seems completely dysfunctional. Giroud was a part of that yesterday, but by no means was he the sole reason."

Everton 2-2 Arsenal: Late drama masks team's disorganization | August 25, 2014

"Martinez must love facing Wenger...
It was well-documented that when Arsenal lost 3-0 to Everton in April, Martinez pulled off some tactical wizardry in playing Lukaku against Monreal and Podolski. The effects were highly fruitful. Two of Everton's three goals came from our left hand side, with the third being an own goal.

Wenger made it even easier this time around. By playing Ozil instead of Podolski he made a worse mistake, if not the same. Insanity is trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Albert Einstein said that.

Is this a repeat of summer 2012?
We're entering into the last week of the transfer window, and we're still 2-3 players short. In my opinion we need at least one defender and a defensive midfielder, but it doesn't look like Wenger's serious to go for them."

Leicester 1-1 Arsenal: Wenger is wasting an excellent team and an excellent opportunity | September 1, 2014
"For the fifth time this season we've looked unconvincing. Our main striker is injured for half a season. Our FA Cup legend Ramsey is looking lackluster and lethargic. Formation and tactics are ruining Mesut Ozil. We need three players, but it seems Wenger won't even buy one. It's definitely time to panic now.

I concede. On deadline day, I concede that the optimistic proclamation I made, on seeing a bright future. Somewhat foolishly, Sanchez, Forsythe and Jonker sold me an untrue gleam of hope. I believed that we were two inches away from the glory days, and that this season would cement our status as a top club. I was wrong. It was all a lie.

Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey will be overplayed to injury. The team will fall short of one or two players. The bank balances will remain bright. Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League. Supporters will say "Give Wenger another season". Nothing will change. We're stuck in a cycle of stagnation for years to come, and unless we educate fellow Gooners and overthrow the Wenger rule, this will continue."

Welbeck's the scapegoat, Wenger's the sinner | September 2, 2014
" "Even though there is time for it, the summer is already showing signs of turning into anarchy. Late deals, panic buys, injury crises, unprepared squads... this will turn into a repeat of summer 2011 under Wenger. I guarantee it. And I'll quote this on September 2nd (that is, if Wenger stays, of course)."

I wrote that on 4th May, four months from today, confident, but not exactly thrilled, that I'd be proved right. Arsene Wenger, stubbornly predictable as he is, has once again left Arsenal unprepared number-wise to compete for the league, panic purchasing Danny Welbeck when fans and the media were closing in on him.

What Wenger has done has been criminal and inescapable - in a transfer window which was supposed to help us compete - he's led the club towards a completely unnecessary risk, assembling only six defenders for four positions. Ivan Gazidis said that we could compete with Bayern Munich by 2014. Tell me right now if you think that Arsenal are capable of winning the Champions League.

I don't have high hopes of any competitive trophies this season. And that's sincerely no disrespect to the players - who I find a very good bunch to support - but it's completely down to the manager. Regardless of his deadline day ditherings Wenger has a very good team on his hands, but I can still bet top dollar that he will not bring out the best of them.

Knowing Wenger, there's a good chance the likes of Sanchez, Ramsey and Ozil are going to face injuries directly connected to fatigue. Knowing Wenger, he's not going to design specific tactics to nullify the opposition's strengths. Knowing Wenger, he's not going to buy a defender unless Calum Chambers breaks his ankle. Knowing Wenger, he's not going to push for first if his money isn't on the line.

Some ambition. Some era." 

Arsenal 2-2 Man City: Should have won it, lucky not to lose it | September 14, 2014
"We better hope Arsene has a DM trick up his sleeve...
Isolating the DM in a 4-1-4-1 has put more pressure on them and made a further mess of our defence. Now, I know that since the transfer market is over Wenger can't go for a defensive midfielder (and by the looks of it, he didn't want to), but I hope that he has a trump card in his deck. Maybe he thinks Diaby has shook off all his injury woes for good, or he thinks Coquelin can make the cut, I don't know. But I hope that he has something up his sleeve. Time will tell.

Wenger doesn't know substitutions...
Why wait until Debuchy is injured to make your first substitution? Why not shut up shop after Alexis scored a belter to take us on the brink of an important win? Why not bring a goal-getter on instead of Arteta? Wenger's substitutions were as baffling as his tactics. I guess they go hand in hand.
 

To turn this around and become title challengers, we need to start clicking or tweak the system, starting Tuesday. Time will tell if we do."

Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal: Predictable tactics, predictable set up. Predictable result. | September 17, 2014
"What's the point? We talk problems and offer solutions but in the end Wenger won't give a fuck. He'll continue with 4-1-4-1 and overplaying and mispositioning Ozil and Ramsey, because either he's too stubborn or too foolish. Not unless the whole crowd is on his back and implores him to change the structure will he do the needful, albeit reluctantly.

The only genuine silver lining is that people are finally realizing Wenger's deficiencies on the pitch, 5 years too late. That's one thing they can't attribute to money or referees. That's pushing him further out of the exit door.

Sometimes I feel fortunate that I'm so young, for I will be in prime age to see an Arsenal without Wenger, one that actually progresses."

Justice to Arsene Wenger is inevitable | October 20, 2014



"The perception of this man has gone to such ridiculous wavelengths that I feel Wenger's legacy is come to be one of the greatest cover-ups in world football. Except I don't think he'll pull it off.

Wenger has made a lot of blunders over the years, but none more so than choosing to stay on after the FA Cup win. He could have retired peacefully, bidden his time, written an autobiography praising everyone and inflated his personality. He could have been perceived as an Arsenal messiah and a revolutionary for the rest of his life, or a guy that nobly bore the pressure amongst ungrateful fans and stood out against financial doping. The Wenger Out clan wouldn't have been able to convince many about his true nature, and the truth would have drowned forever.

But he didn't. He screwed it up. He falsely believes that he can get away with whatever swindle he's trying to pull off in the next three years. He thinks he can 'achieve' Champions League scraps and earn £8m per annum whilst complaining about lack of funds and still recover the same fondness. No, he won't.

Clearly the manager underestimates most of the fans, by thinking that he can spoon £24m out of the club and leave a hero in 2017. However, by then I feel his incompetence would be so apparent that he'd exit the club with the reputation he deserves - that of a fallen legend. Here's me, longing for that day.

You heard it here first."

Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal: We're wasting our time looking for the perfect goal | October 23, 2014
"It's unbelievable how much we're trying to emulate Barcelona. We're not even doing it correctly. Barcelona aren't as tippy-tappy as we are around the box. As soon as the likes of Wilshere or Ramsey reach the edge of the box, they either hopefully try to dribble through or pass it sideways to Welbeck. Barcelona have always been more clinical. Either Messi successfully dribbles past the players and slots it past the keeper, or they quickly get the ball wide and get a low cross in.

The players we have are almost perfect for a more counter-attacking wing-play Real Madrid-esque kind of football. Wenger is curbing this team's attacking potency by sticking with possession football."

Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal: Misfiring cannons bailed out by magnificent Catalan | October 26, 2014
"There's no denying that Sanchez is carrying the team at the moment. His winning mentality and desire to press the ball is what's turning one point into three. People may say that both the goals he scored were a bit of a fluke, but the undeniable fact remains that without him harrying the opposition, those mistakes would not have happened.

My worry remains with what happens further down the line. Players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were bought to push the club to the next level. However, instead of the team stepping it up a notch to augment these players, it's them having to carry the team. Ozil sunk into the mediocre vibe around the dressing room, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that Sanchez might follow."

Arsenal 3-0 Burnley: Sanchez is masterclass | November 2, 2014
"Gooners, in particular, have been guilty of overrating players. We tend to accentuate the positives and conveniently filter out their negative traits aplenty. Perhaps it's because most of the fanbase - loyal to Arsene Wenger - want to justify the Frenchman's persistence to his puzzling decisions. They'd hail every Mesut Ozil tap-in, touting him to be worth every £42m penny. They'd figure the reason for Giroud's constant inclusion lies in his "remarkable" hold-up play and pinball passing.

Theo Walcott, in his absence, has turned into Arsenal's most important player. Mesut Ozil, in his absence, has become the reason why we struggle to open up defences nowadays. Our tendency to put players on an unnecessary pedestal in a vainly attempt to find an answer to our current hardships has, in turn, put undue pressure on the player to perform once he returns.

The same, however, simply cannot be said of Alexis Sanchez. He is a player who I find nigh on impossible to criticize."

Arsenal 3-3 Anderlecht: 2016. Just repeat 2016. | November 5, 2014
"Honestly, it was hard to feel overly upset at this result. Not because it has little consequence on our chances to qualify for the Round of 16, or that we had a couple of excuses to fall back on - pertaining to an injured Arteta and an offside goal. For me, though, the collapse was too repetitive and predictable to feel any sort of aggrieve or frustration.

Change has to happen of its own accord. If Paul Merson had called Arsenal "tactically clueless", a year ago, he would have gotten a lot of stick. Yesterday though, not one AKB (again, my apologies) came to Wenger's defence. That's change. It will take a lot of time for even Arsene's staunchest supporter to question the direction we're heading under him, but it will happen. I'm afraid the WOBs instigating quarrels and abusing Wenger's backers will serve to change the subject and delay the process."

Swansea 2-1 Arsenal: Farce | November 10, 2014
"Can you imagine having 8 players in the other half of the pitch when your team is holding a 1-0 lead? It's reckless, treacherous, and - judging on the events of our last CL encounter - downright stupid. How many different kinds of moronic do you have to be to repeat the exact same mistake twice in five days? Much as I loathe that guy, I'll be damned if I ever saw a Jose Mourinho team do that.

Much similar to Anderlecht. Five days ago.

I do feel some frustration, but that's in no way connected to an opportunity we missed to climb up the table, or to the fact that this team isn't nearly performing as well as it should. The frustration lies solely in the fact that there seems to be no hope at Arsenal. The reaction to not being able to beat Swansea was apocalyptic, but Wenger could still royally balls-up another game in the not-too distant future and not bat an eyelid.

His post-match conference was another sign of millions as to why faith in him is at an all-time low.
 
"We lacked some spark."

"Why did you lack spark?"

"Because they didn't give up."


How are the two variables connected I'll never know, for I don't know of any team that gives up when they're 1-0 down. So we didn't play well because Swansea refused to lose?

"It's difficult to explain how we lost that lead."

Maybe it was because you didn't sign a defensive midfielder and two defenders, and you didn't focus on consolidating the lead by keeping most of the players in your half and getting Chamberlain to work tighter towards Montero? Oh deary me, I'm sorry, that was an opinion, and as we all know, unless we've managed half a day in football they're all worthless.


It's this ego and condescension that has become the fall of him. The smart, visionary and revolutionary man has gone, only to be replaced by this shadow of a man who refuses to accept he's not good enough and keeps sucking eight undeserved millions from Arsenal's paycheck. Remember when he said that he had "righted the wrongs" and that Paul Merson's comments were farcical? Wrong - this is farcical."

"Back to basics" always a short-term option for Wenger | December 1, 2014
"Perhaps the 2-1 loss to United was some blessing in disguise, because it finally seems Arsene has gone back to the very rudiments of the game. It's not hard, is it? Keep the full-backs in check, protect the defence with a double-pivot and don't commit once you've got the lead. Quite unbelievable it took Wenger three consecutive specimens to realize that.

Wenger chose one of his last resorts with a more cautious "first, do not lose" approach, but don't kid yourself he's fancy on sustaining it throughout the season. The 4-2-3-1 workable style of play isn't a long-term plan - it's Wenger's reaction to the degrees of pressure he currently faces. Once the burden on him temporarily lifts, he'll lull into a false sense of security and try his outdated methods again."

Arsenal 1-0 Southampton: Giroud sums up Wenger's man managing flaws | December 5, 2014
"This game highlighted a lot of long-stated facts. Welbeck and Alexis are too jaded to be thrown into the deep end continuously. A Ramsey and Arteta baseline helped the team look secure at the back. Oxlade-Chamberlain will have his off days, which is why there is something called depth in the shape of a German smiley.

I don't get why Arsene Wenger is so averse to rotation. Okay, maybe against a team like Southampton it's preferable to play your best players, but why not ensure they're mentally and physically fit enough to perform? Why play a clearly jaded Alexis, Welbeck and Santi Cazorla for West Brom? There were plenty of occasions earlier this season when a Rosicky or a Podolski could carry the cargo and hand our key men a rest. It serves two things - ensures that the team's vital cogs are well-oiled, and that the fringe options aren't too rusty."

Stoke 3-2 Arsenal: Not remotely unexpected, but not remotely disappointing either | December 8, 2014
"Personally, I didn't feel especially pissed off or have "oh-my-day-is-ruined" emotions. I was actually laughing like Walter White in Breaking Bad when I thought Bojan scored the fourth. Even losing to United didn't bring the levels of disappointments that I had planned to anticipate. It was more of tepid disapproval than raw, animalistic angst.

Even though I cling on to Arsenal like a husband does to a dying wife (that's a terrible analogy), it won't dissuade me from the fact that being a Gooner is not fun right now. I went to see Mumbai City FC play Atletico de Kolkata in the stadium yesterday in a crunch Indian Super League encounter, and despite the team I support - Mumbai - being bottom of the table, I supported the shit out of them. Honestly though, if I ever get the opportunity to visit the Emirates as of this moment, I'm uncertain if I'll recreate the same passion.

The difference between the two teams is obvious - hope. With Mumbai, even if they're last in the league, at least there's some semblance of hope and possibility of unpredictability. At least I know that if things aren't going well, the club will do all they can to make things better and aim for the winner's spot eventually.

None at Arsenal, though. Being fiercely loyal to the red and white doesn't mean I'll ignore that the club are currently in limbo. That under Arsene Wenger, hoping for anything more than Champions League qualification and genuine competing for major honours is fanciful at the least. Since I don't think justice to the fallen legend is around the corner, all I can do is bide my time until it does come."

Waiting for this inevitable debacle to end... | December 15, 2014
"It's going to be a long while until Arsene Wenger faces the tangible consequences of his repeated incompetences. The fans will get there. The board will get there. But until then, here I stand - an immunized, desensitized Arsenal supporter waiting for this ridiculous debate to end the way I know it will, hoping that these talented crop of players Arsenal have keep the patience and stick it out until then."

Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal: Getting difficult to rephrase the same old | December 22, 2014
"Familiarity breeds contempt. It also breeds difficulty in blogging.

Wenger disappointing fans has become routine. The only question is how he does it. Against Stoke it was a fluke-ish half-comeback, which fed hope to Arsenal fans and poisoned their souls. Against United it was dominance followed by sucker-punching. Swansea was just hopeless. Today was more of well we played turd but by some happy accident we're in the lead but it doesn't look like we can keep it at all and oh shit we just gave away a free header and what the fuck and why bother pretending to be pissed when honestly it was pretty much expected and deserved."

My predictions for Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign | December 25, 2014

"Premier League : 4th (sigh)

On paper, I believe Arsenal have the squad to rival Manchester City's. However, we certainly don't have the manager to flourish the team's potency. I must confess that I didn't think Louis van Gaal would have the players and the know-how to get United above Arsenal after assembling an unbalanced squad. Even if I don't know the Dutchman, if I had to give the benefit of the doubt to either Louis van Gaal or Arsene Wenger, I'd reluctantly choose the former.

Champions League : Quarter-finals 

If we want to be the best, we have to take out the best. Most of the pretenders get filtered out in the Round of 16, as we have done all these years. When it comes down to the quarters, only the elite remain. And seeing that Arsenal find it difficult to hold on to a lead against a 10 men team without a striker, it's very hard to see the same team putting a sword to Europe's finest four months down the line.

FA Cup

While I would love another cup run, last season did have some element of luck to it. Granted, we faced Spurs, Liverpool and Everton, but we also never left London, rode our luck with playing Sanogo against Liverpool and Everton, and it was touch and go against Liverpool, Wigan and Hull. Of course it wasn't undeserved, but it still could have easily gone the other way. Looking at the form and the morale of the team (not to mention the state of its players), I don't think we'll retain the Cup."

West Ham 1-2 Arsenal: Signs of progress | December 30, 2014
"The only positive that I found was about our attack starting to click. I know that many were fans of the Welbeck-Alexis-Giroud trio, but I personally prefer Oxlade-Chamberlain into the mix. The forward trio we had out there, sandwiched with Santi Cazorla in the middle produced one of the finest attacking displays this season."

(How) can Mesut Özil regain his Arsenal spot + Coquelin thoughts | January 21, 2015
"What I especially liked about Ozil bulking up was that it showcased a certain degree of commitment to making it at Arsenal. When he came into the club, for the first season or so I got the impression that he didn't care much about the successes and failures of Arsenal Football Club.

Clearly Mesut Ozil is the long-term option in the No. 10 role. Even a player as energetic and buzzing like Tomas Rosicky must be thinking about his retirement plans sometime soon, and Cazorla has reached that dreaded age-30 phase. However, if we want to attain maximized outputs from Ozil, we need to "stick him in there more often", so to say. How could we do that and not displace the mercurial Santi Cazorla?

The only possible solution, to my mind, is shifting Cazorla's position. Footballers tend to experiment in deeper positions in order to prolong the twilight of their careers. I don't reckon shifting Cazorla to a central midfield position, alongside a defensive midfielder is a bad idea by any stretch."

--

[Since I took a hiatus from blogging for around two months, excerpts from Arsenal's FA Cup run and general run of form won't be available. Christ I wish I was more regular back then!]

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Monaco 0-2 Arsenal: Lather, rinse, repeat | March 18, 2015
"Blaming Arsene Wenger and trying to expose his flaws is almost becoming a moot point. I know he's incompetent, I know he's not the final key to Arsenal's success, and I trust that there are others who know the truth as well. I know that under Arsene Wenger, Champions League scraps and elite purgatory is something of a given.

I'd love to say that the reason I haven't been blogging for the past two months was because of work commitments, which is partly true. However, although I have had my pockets of opportunities to vent my thoughts on Arsenal, I've chosen not to take them. I love Arsenal and I love the supporters and the players, but seeing Wenger waste yet another season (and, crucially, not seeing the board do anything about it) has bored me. I haven't written because Arsenal, to an extent, have begun to bore me.

I want the CEO of one of the world's biggest organizations to grow a pair. I want a manger past his sell date to depart. I want unpredictability. I want competitiveness. Is that too much to ask from a football club as big as Arsenal?"

Szczesny, Coquelin and the Theo Walcott saga | March 27, 2015 

"The Szczesny-Ospina situation...
Look, I entirely get why Szczesny tends to rub people up the wrong way, but in my mind he's the better keeper. Even if he's not, the portrayal of him being a Flamini or an Almunia is ludicrous. It's almost as if fans reboot their thinking at the dawn of a new season and forget the immediate past, because Szczesny was ace last season. There are no two ways about that.

Francis Coquelin's emergence...
If I have a worry about Coquelin, it is that there yet exists the real danger of him fizzling out like Flamini did, should opponents get wise to him. We have to make sure that Coquelin's form, as welcome as it has been, is not the big all and end all in terms of Arsenal's defensive midfield woes. Buying an extra defensive midfielder is yet mandatory, because Arteta and Flamini aren't getting any younger, and there are doubts over the Ramsey-Wilshere pair in central midfield as well.

Is Theo Walcott Arsenal quality?
What I found really typical about this whole Theo Walcott issue was that several pro-Wenger fans (sorry for the labeling) knee-jerked their opinions too quickly the moment it became apparent that Arsene Wenger does not rate Walcott anymore.

Opinionated websites like Arseblog are not ashamed to point out his deficiencies in his overall game now (and rightly so), but where was all this analysis a year ago when Arsene Wenger was bigging up his absence? No Arsenal fan could be delusional to such an extent that they yet believe that before his injury, Walcott was not bang-on average when he wasn't scoring or assisting?"

Why Arsenal's recent run of form is a mirage | March 30, 2015
"Upon reflection, only the wins against Hull City, Stoke, Manchester City, Villa, Middlesbrough and Monaco could be considered convincing. And mind you, matches against Hull, Stoke, Villa and Middlesbrough (at home) are games any above-average team are expected to win. Only the wins against Manchester City or Monaco could be considered a barometer of our progress.

Expectations may have been raised higher than is appropriate. Truth be told, I think our record could level out to something approaching an accurate reflection of our ability in the future. On paper, the results may be looking to go toward Arsenal's way, but in all honesty we've only done disproportionately well. Gooners are, once again, flirting with the familiar danger of being overly optimistic."

Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool: An uncharacteristic ruthless dismantling | April 5, 2015
"A title challenge is a crazy assumption, but looking to overhaul Manchester City is very much possible, and whichever way you look at it, that's progress.

The psychological impetus of beating a potential FA Cup finalist must also be noted. Liverpool are the only team left in the competition capable of ruining the party for us, but having that edge and relinquishing the 5-1 loss last season would go miles into calming nerves for the big day, should it arrives.

All that's left of this season is a potential second place fight and an FA Cup win, but make no mistake, that's more than most clubs in England. With players returning from injury and the squad looking to have some serious depth, if we keep this up, we could make 2014/15 a very memorable one indeed."

Burnley 0-1 Arsenal: That'll do | April 12, 2015
"Clearly the last few matches would suggest that it hasn't diminished his [Ramsey's] output, but it's still intriguing why Wenger has shunted him there. It's not as if there's a severe dearth of options  - Walcott and Danny Welbeck can both do "a job" there. Heck, to me, Tomas Rosicky seems a better fit to that role than Ramsey!

Ramsey's obviously doing a good job out there, but I can't help but feel that we could bring more out of him by playing him in a more favourable position."

Jurgen Klopp to leave, should Ivan make his move? | April 16, 2015
"My fear is that Klopp could go the way of Wenger, because I'm not sure he's a manager someone like Ivan Gazidis can control. I don't want a dictatorship at Arsenal, I want a collaboration. I want the likes of Forsythe, Jonker and Bould give Klopp their input, and for Jurgen to take that data and create something special. I don't want Klopp's aim of raw hunger for success skew, to controlling power at Arsenal - like it did with Wenger.

Klopp may go the way of Wenger, he may not. Heck, we may never know, for his chances of ever managing Arsenal don't sound great. But call me crazy (and you will), but I'd be willing to take that risk. As I said, Klopp's not perfect, but he may be worth the gamble.

Again, I don't believe Gazidis has the guts nor the authority to make the change in the first place. This entire discussion may well be pointless. But then again, you can't expect Wenger to stick around and keep performing forever. Arsenal need to make the leap sometime soon.

Why not this June?"

Reading 1-2 Arsenal (aet): World class makes the difference | April 19, 2015
"Sanchez wasn't playing well but he made the difference...
...and that's what matters. Alexis sprayed his passes all over the place, buffered in front of goal too often and gave the ball away, yet he popped up when it was necessary - to put away two Ozil passes, even though he had a bit of luck with the second one. In a way, he was the perfect symbolism of how Arsenal played yesterday.
 
Mesut Ozil carried the team...
Arsenal were sluggish and way too cautious, but Mesut was the only one willing to pull the strings. A person looking at the glass half-empty would say "Well it's only Reading", but be mindful that this was the FA Cup semi finals as well. Ozil didn't slouch under the occasion, especially when his teammates seemed to. It's a vast improvement on last season. Would it be too much to consider him as Arsenal's second best player of the season?"

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Answering the post-game FAQs | April 28, 2015
"The greatest criticism that comes toward Jose Mourinho is why he chooses such a boring, almost cowardly approach to games when he has all the billions to spend in the world. You could definitely weigh that argument against him in his Inter Milan and Real Madrid days, but certainly not his second-spell Chelsea ones. While this season his balance between attractive football and ruthless pragmatism was not perfect, it was close enough. And hey, it won him a league title.

The least we can do is not be hypocrites, act classy and congratulate Chelsea on winning the league through gritted teeth. Know when you're beaten. We should have done better this league season, but there's still plenty of honour in being runners-up."

Arsenal 0-1 Swansea: One of those? | May 12, 2015
" "Why would anyone change a winning team?"

After yesterday's first half performance it became clear why. I fully understand that this is a team in form and probably merit their starting berths, but rotating players is not all to do with bringing squad players inside after injuries or suspensions. Sometimes, even the best players need a rest, or need to lay back and reanalyze their game. The same tactics and personnel won't work against every team on Earth."

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: Second would have been progress. Third is not. | May 21, 2015
"Second would have been huge for Arsenal. It's been, what, nine years since we finished runners-up? As mentioned above, it would not have made much difference on paper, but the psychological implications would have been huge. The media would have portrayed us as Chelsea's biggest foe. Potentially great players in the team would have been more recognized. We would have had the edge on most games simply because of the fear factor associated to being a title contender. The fact that we could not usurp second whilst Manchester were dealing with their baggage under little pressure is worrying.

Arsenal can buy top players because we have the money, but we sure as hell won't keep them if we keep stalling as we are. It's been pretty clear that Arsene Wenger cannot and will not get us past the 3rd-4th threshold into elitism. If Ivan Gazidis and the board do not take action on the managerial situation soon, Wenger's last memories of managing Arsenal would be overseeing a mass exodus of players who were meant to be the bedrock of our future. It's up to the board to ensure that they do their job.

Or three years from now, we'll be looking back at this time and thinking "Why didn't we nab Jurgen Klopp when we had the chance?" "

FA Cup Final Preview | May 30, 2015
"Back in October if I was told that Arsenal would finish third and win the FA Cup I'd have jumped on it the same way James Franco did when he saw a puddle of muddy water (muddle?) in 127 Hours. I know it's underachieving compared to the lofty ambitions we had back in August, but we've had way worse falls from expectations before (read 2010/11).

If we want to mount a sustained Premier League challenge for tomorrow, we need to secure this win today. If we want to make our real rivals Chelsea uneasy, we must win today. If we want to (at least) restore an illusion of genuine competition, we must win today.

If we want to justify Arsenal's illustrious and staggering history of accolades, we must win today."

Arsenal 4-0 Villa: The boys turned men? | June 1, 2015
"Neither Arsene Wenger nor the fans saw this match as some kind of ultimatum. But this was the cup final. And incidentally, the final of probably the greatest knockout competition football has ever known. This was a tournament where Manchester City and Chelsea are knocked aside for being a touch too complacent. Winning the cup, let alone retaining it and carving a new record for yourself, is not something to be scoffed at.


Look at the team from a very objective point of view. Aside from competition for Coquelin and replacing possible departures, this team is respectfully stocked in every position. I understand concerns for the team to upgrade on positions such as goalkeeper and striker, and I'm all for it too. But if we fail (or if Wenger chooses not to strengthen), our contingency plan isn't too shoddy.

If Wenger fails to win the Premier League with this bunch due to overplaying them and not employing the right tactical formulae, then that's on him. However, if he focuses on the opposition's weaknesses game-by-game and rotates his egalitarian squad respectively - forget Premier League contenders, the Champions League skirmish could see a wild card entry, too.

Optimism. It's a beautiful thing. Get the minutiae right, and it becomes a reality."


--

 
Wow, can't believe that's that for 2014/15. It was a pleasure serving you lot, and apologies since I wasn't around for a huge chunk of it. Hopefully my life would be more idyllic to properly enjoy next season's roller-coaster.

Right, let's get that Petr Cech bloke shall we?



P.S. Also read:

The moment I became a France supporter! | June 12, 2014

Arsenal: Wounded by time | November 12, 2014

What's really going on at Arsenal? | December 9, 2014

2014/15: End of season awards | June 8, 2015


-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Monday, 8 June 2015

2014/15: End of season awards



Well, here we are. Building on last year's awards, this is my way of closing the book on this season. Obviously since the season ended so late it was difficult for me to put together a piece so soon - the Champions League final didn't help.

The various sections of prizes are given below, and the winners are handpicked by me. A'right, let's go.

Best player of the season:

NOTE: This award is handed to the player who put in the best number of performances throughout the campaign. It is given to the person with the most talent, as well as the most likeable personality.

To use the phrase "there can surely be no competition" may be a bit extreme, because there were players who had impressive seasons. Francis Coquelin solved our midfield problems. Laurent Koscielny ironed out his mishaps to become one of the best in the league. Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud were at their best in the second half of the season. Santi Cazorla bounced back from a terrible season to being simply undroppable. And to be honest, had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain managed to keep his ligaments intact, he could have given the winner a tough time to claim this.

As it turned out, Alexis Sanchez was the runaway winner here. "Runaway" is right, for it was his excessive hustling and harrying to top his plentiful goal-assist ratio that truly caught the eye. What makes this award all the more pleasing to distribute is that he was a player everyone wanted to do well.

They needn't have worried. Ozil may have had a sublime half-season, but Sanchez truly stepped up to the plate when his team needed him the most. He dwindled a bit in the second half and others chipped in, but he ended the season strongly, highlights of which were important goals against Liverpool, Reading and Villa.

His passing is set to improve under Arsene Wenger, and unless he does not entirely burn out in the Copa America, there's every chance we could see the same Alexis next season. I cannot wait for the day he's called electrifying.


Worst player of the season:

NOTE: This award is handed to the player who has had the least impact and is becoming a liability to the team. Also in consideration should be the number of performances the player has made. Joel Campbell, for example, cannot be a candidate for this award since he's hardly featured. The irritating self-imposed clause of not including players who've hardly featured throws out the usual suspects of Yaya Sanogo and Lukas Podolski out of the window.

I've time and time asserted that this is probably the best squad we've assembled in the last 10 years. Having said that, there were some disappointments. Wojciech Szczesny's discipline more than his goalkeeping howlers pushed him out of the frame. Jack Wilshere may have ended the season with a goal to remember, but was largely underwhelming in a make-or-break season. I can't bring my heart to award this stinker to them, though, for I still see promise in their Arsenal futures.

One player who got a fair amount of games but didn't cut the mustard was Mathieu Flamini. Despite Coquelin's timely emergence, Arsenal still needed a defensive midfielder, and Flamini was always going to be a short-term fix. I don't have anything against the guy. Indeed, the fact that he "won" the award goes to show the level this squad is on, in terms of personnel.



It's time to cut our losses with him. He came in on a freebie when we needed him and did a good job of it, but this had to end sometime. To at least compete for the league, a better competitor to Coquelin is needed.

Revelation of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the person who, despite all odds, rectifies a lot of his faults, shocks the critics and becomes an integral member of the team.

It could have been Hector Bellerin for his cameo at right back rendering him undroppable. It could have been Nacho Monreal for learning from his stint in center half to become a very, very solid left back for Arsenal. Hell, it even could have been Oxlade-Chamberlain or Calum Chambers, had their playing time not being truncated for various reasons.

However, it's hard to look beyond one man for this award. I say "one", but the workrate Francis Coquelin suggests he cannot be one man. His energy, his solidity and most iconically, his Coqblock slide tackles have put a firm cork on Arsenal's DM problems for now. We need reinforcements, sure - but even if we fail, the contingency's not that bad. Not bad at all.


Letdown of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the player fans had high hopes of, but ultimately failed to live up to the hype. He didn't necessarily have a bad season, but could have, and should have done much better.

There were more contenders for this award than I had initially thought. Kieran Gibbs failed to push on from a decent 2013/14. Jack Wilshere had a largely insipid 2014/15, not helped by his injury woes. Per Mertesacker's incompetence was perhaps more down to the tactical set up than him alone. And despite my faith in him to come good, Szczesny's failure to progress has made his future dicey.

Harsh as this may sound, I've decided to reluctantly hand this to Danny Welbeck. When he arrived, I had (perhaps foolishly) thought he could signal a change in Arsenal's approach play. Aside from lobbing balls to Giroud and hoping for him to pinball it to a midfielder, I thought Welbeck's pace could instigate a much more freeflowing Arsenal, reminiscent of the early 2000s.

I was disappointed. Perhaps I bought into the hype everyone generated without having an opinion of my own, but his uninspiring performances as a striker was disheartening. He had a fairly average season glossed by that memorable winner at Old Trafford.

Don't get me wrong - he offers squad depth and has an admirable engine in him, but that's it. He's wishy washy. He's second rate. And this season was meant to be the one that propelled him further than that.

Unless he taps into something bigger than himself, I'm afraid he'll always be no more than "dat guy".

Best match of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the most entertaining match, or the one that provided most happiness and optimism.

Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal. I'm expecting all the backlash.



Look, I effing loved retaining the Cup and beating Manchester United in the process. However, I'm not ashamed to admit that I felt the solid win at the Etihad promises more for the future than the FA Cup.

This was the first time that Wenger showed that when under the spotlight, he can work out the nitty-gritties and have a game plan. There was a proper way to go about this game - maintain your shape, let them have the ball, force them out wide, and pick them centrally on the counter. It didn't quite pan out at Stamford Bridge, but worked a treat here.

And look, if we employ a similar attitude against all the big teams next season, we have a huge chance to compete for the league until the last kick of the ball. Scrapping out draws and wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United could be vital in the long run. While Wenger is not attentive enough to reframe his tactics against every team he faces, the fact that he's at least willing to do it against the big boys is more encouragement to me than swatting aside an appalling Villa.

Retaining the Cup was given its credit further below (spoilers?), and I simply wanted a way to hand a fictional award to Arsenal's win in Manchester. This was my chance.

Worst match of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the most anguishing, disappointing or damaging game for the club. Perhaps also one that rubs salt in old wounds. 

The first half of the season was definitely agonizing. Slumping to a declining Dortmund, blowing a cushion against Anderlecht, and predictably capitulating against Swansea, Stoke and United. These games made me wish I had a black box in my mind to dump them all in and toss in a corner.

Ironically enough, the 3-1 loss to Monaco happened in a much happier second half of the season. Don't let that fool you though - this game was turd, and the fact that it happened yet again when the pressure was on the club was a suspicious coincidence. This really should have been the season when we made a Champions League run. Seeing that we've fallen to Pot 2 for next season, I suspect Arsene Wenger will have an excuse up his sleeve for not competing next season too.

Highlight of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the moment, the person, the action, or the decision that had a vastly positive impact on the team, a moment that the season will be remembered by.

Retaining the cup must be a platform for next season, although I doubt it will be. Nevertheless, it was a brilliant day, an eerily cool display and the fantastic scenes later really made my day. Honestly, this is what football should be about, not passing off bank balances and stadiums as zeniths.



Lowlight of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the moment, the person, the action or the decision that had a negative impact on the game, and broadly the season.

Once again, Arsene Wenger's inability to challenge for the very top prizes i.e. the Premier League and the Champions League is what adds a "what could have been" spin on this season. Despite having excellent players and an excellent backroom team, Wenger's refusal to do what's necessary to make the percentile difference to the top has cost him another chance to sign off from Arsenal with a bang.

Despite my ill-feelings toward him, I genuinely hope his legacy won't be a mass exodus owing to a distinct lack of ambition from him. I understand if he's not capable of winning the league, but he at least needs to have his focus at the right place to convince the players we do have that this is the place to be.

Goal of the season:

NOTE: This award goes to the most technically perfect goal or one scored after some sublime passing. However, the importance of the goal with respect to the game (or season) is a major factor.

Thank God I chose to not post this around the 30th of May, otherwise Alexis vs Villa would not have gotten its well deserved merit. Aside from it being on the biggest stage England offers, the sheer panache and craziness Sanchez managed to conjure on that strike was truly mind-blowing. Shay Given's resigned smirk says it all - this was one of the most "triffic" goals the FA Cup has seen.

While Freddie Ljungberg's curler against Chelsea remains my favourite, this certainly comes close. I'm still convinced that after Sepp Blatter saw that goal he realized the true meaning of football and stepped down in shame.


Picture of the season:

NOTE: This award is given to the most iconic photograph in Arsenal's 2014/15 season.

To be perfectly honest, I thought of this award because I wanted a reason to not type an awkward exit post to this blog. Might continue this in season's to continue, too.

So here you go, Gooners. Feast your eyes on a picture you would have thought brilliantly Photoshopped had it popped up on your screens two years ago.



 
-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

Monday, 1 June 2015

Arsenal 4-0 Villa: The boys turned men?

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

My, oh my. Be it Aston Villa, I had definitely prepped my nerves for something more life-threatening.

What an absolutely scintillating response to a traditionally tense stimulus that was. Granted, the stakes were lower than last season. As I had said yesterday, neither Arsene Wenger nor the fans saw this match as some kind of ultimatum.

But this was the cup final. And incidentally, the final of probably the greatest knockout competition football has ever known. This was a tournament where Manchester City and Chelsea are knocked aside for being a touch too complacent. Winning the cup, let alone retaining it and carving a new record for yourself, is not something to be scoffed at.

The fact that we made it look so easy was, I must say, surprising in the bestest of ways. Villa came out looking for a fast start but were utterly overwhelmed within the initial 10 minutes, resorting to "tactical" fouls and hoofing the ball to Benteke. It was meat and drink stuff for Mertesacker and Szczesny (and incidentally, I'm having a bit of mutton as I type this!)

Chances came at a canter for Koscielny, Ramsey and then Theo, who so agonizingly missed out on a tap in thanks to a Kieran Richardson block. I won't lie - at that point, I worried that the spilled milk would come back to haunt us. Even though Villa looked as threatening as a stray kitten with a pink bow on it, it would be so Arsenal to let them take the lead through a defensive mishap.

It turned out we were simply bidding our time, and our time came when Walcott laced home a loose ball. The manager's decision to start him ahead of Giroud reaped the rewards of ruthless pragmatism (apologies for the House of Cards reference). Walcott ensured our play was much more fluid and new to Sherwood, whose defence simply could not cope.

From then on it was all Arsenal - we managed to see the game off with frightening electricity in the build up, Ozil and Cazorla at the heart of it. Quite obviously the pick of the lot was Alexis Sanchez's thunderbolt. It makes me quite thankful that I decided to postpone the awards for this season, for that's definitely a contender.

The end-of game celebrations were funny and heartwarming, although for some reason I had a strange fear that the podium on which the players stand to hold high the trophy was going to fall, killing everyone. Apologies for the mental imagery.

There was the usual comments from the players and from Wenger, but what I particularly enjoyed was from Theo Walcott, when he said: 

"It’s a great achievement to win the FA Cup on consecutive years and it just shows this is a special team. We want to do this more and more for these guys because they deserve it and this group of players deserve it. I’ve been here for a long time and this is the best group."

I completely concur. Say what you will about Arsene Wenger getting a lot of things wrong this season (and I'd be the first to show you the list!), but he's done a lot of right, too. He changed his tactical approach against the very best teams. He adjusted his priorities with respect to the cup. And most of all, as mentioned above, he has assembled the best Arsenal side since the Invincibles.

Look at the team from a very objective point of view. Aside from competition for Coquelin and replacing possible departures, this team is respectfully stocked in every position. I understand concerns for the team to upgrade on positions such as goalkeeper and striker, and I'm all for it too. But if we fail (or if Wenger chooses not to strengthen), our contingency plan isn't too shoddy. Ospina and Szczesny may have their faults, but they're both very decent and talented players. In the striking department, so are Walcott, Giroud and Welbeck.

It's a far cry from having to be stuck with the likes of Almunia and Bendtner when our grand plans failed. Even if Arsenal do not have any influxes or exoduses this summer (which I pray won't happen), the players we have are yet talented and committed enough to frighten any team in the Premier League.

There really should be no excuses now. We have a team any manager in the world would swell with pride for, not least the manager who collected them over the years. 95% of this team, in Wenger's own words, is going nowhere. The team has built relationships and rapports which have definitely solidified following yesterday. Aside from Alexis Sanchez, they have a relatively idle, if not truncated pre-season.

We have a rival too, if you haven't noticed. Arsenal vs Chelsea could be one of the greatest stalwarts for the Premier League since the United-Arsenal rivalry. Everything about the two teams is so polarizing in terms of manager, style of play, history, financial approach (even the Hazard vs Sanchez parley) that there's no love lost between them. Obviously at this moment Chelsea are better, but if we look up to a rival like them instead of looking down at Tottenham, the sheer will to trounce them will really push us on.

If Wenger fails to win the Premier League with this bunch due to overplaying them and not employing the right tactical formulae, then that's on him. However, if he focuses on the opposition's weaknesses game-by-game and rotates his egalitarian squad respectively - forget Premier League contenders, the Champions League skirmish could see a wild card entry, too.

Optimism. It's a beautiful thing. Get the minutiae right, and it becomes a reality.

I don't know about you, but Arsenal can fix me in ways no other person, object or concept can.

What a way to come out of 2014/15.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]