The week didn’t get off to the best of starts. Our record against City, especially at home, has been a good one, even since the arrival of their wealthy owners. So unlike games against their neighbours I actually went into the game quietly confident of a result. After all, we drew with them away (from a goal down) so why couldn’t we get a result at home? Sadly Laurent Koscielny had other ideas.
I love Laurent Koscielny, I have his name and number on the back of my shirt, but even his biggest fans will admit he’s prone to the odd dopey moment or two. Spun too easily by Dzeko, his panicky instinct was to attempt a tackle more akin to one in a game of rugby. Red card and penalty kick. By the letter of the law we could have no arguments.
Szczesny came up with a brilliant save, but unfortunately his efforts went unrewarded. A poor first half display saw us 0-2 down at the break. Ten men can be an excuse for many things, but Vermaelen’s defending, or lack of, for the first goal cannot be one of them. We didn’t respond to the set back of the red card, or the psychological lift of the penalty save, and we were punished. The second half performance was much better, but by then it was too late. Even a later red card for Vincent Kompany couldn’t change the game and it finished 0-2, City claiming their first win on Arsenal territory in almost 38 years.
A quick word on the Kompany red card. It was two footed, off the floor, and showing studs. Once again Mike Dean had made the correct decision, but it is one the FA has since overturned. Abou Diaby had his leg broken in 2006, just before a Champions League Final and a World Cup tournament. England went into that World Cup with their ‘Golden Generation’, so imagine how the FA would have reacted if it was one of their own, say Beckham, or Lampard, or Gerrard. But it wasn’t, it was a gangly young Frenchman who played for The Arsenal. So here we are, almost 7 years and two further leg breaks later, and still the FA are not addressing the situation. It’s unforgivable and the way Jack Wilshere gets the shit kicked out of him every game you fear there could be a fourth broken leg if the FA don’t start to take serious action.
And so we moved onto Wednesday, our FA Cup Replay with Swansea. I thought the first half was a rather dull affair with not much happening, other than former Gunner Kyle Bartley hitting the bar with a header from a free kick, just as he did at the Liberty Stadium. The second half, however, was a massive improvement and we dominated from start to finish. Jack Wilshere was, once again, sensational. He was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch and fully deserved his goal, a crisply struck half volley from outside the area, after a lovely little flicked lay-off from Giroud. How the game only finished 1-0 I’ll never know. A combination of poor finishing, good goal keeping, and goal line clearance defending made for a frustrating evening, until Jack’s 86th minute winner. Arsene Wenger maintains his record of having never lost an FA Cup Third Round tie, and it’s off to Brighton we go for the Fourth Round (a game which will kick-off on a Saturday at 3pm, the first time that’s happened away from home since March 31st last year at QPR – via @LittleDutchVA – which is incredibly ridiculous).
But before then we have the small matter of Chelsea away and West Ham at home in the league, two huge games, from which I feel we’ve got to take at least 4 points. It won’t be easy, but needs must. That Liverpool are now level on points with us, albeit having played two games more, tells you all you need to know when it comes to our scrap for fourth this season. Like Man City, Chelsea is a Sunday lunchtime kick-off in the UK, which means I’ll record it and then get up earlier than usual tomorrow morning so I can watch it before going to work. Hopefully it will provide a better start to my week than last weekend’s result.
In other Arsenal news this week, Theo Walcott finally signed a new contract. It turns out he didn’t want to just play upfront, he wanted to play upfront whilst earning £100,000 a week and a £3m bonus over three and a half years, compared to the £75,000 a week over five years (which was our initial offer). That said I’m glad Theo is staying. I may strongly disagree with him being worth this much money and the way he’s gone about getting it, but he’s a key player who offers a real threat with his pace, and most importantly of all it stops the rot with regards to first team players leaving. Theo has played the contract game very well and has taken advantage of us losing so many important players in the recent past. I firmly believe that if Cesc, Nasri, and van Persie were still at the club one of two things would have happened – either Theo would have signed the £75,000 a week deal months ago or we would have said “see you later”. But those players didn’t stay, he knew we couldn’t afford to lose another key player and he will reap the rewards. What’s most important now is whether or not he performs to the standard required of being top earner. If he proves himself to be worth every penny then that can only be a good thing for Arsenal Football Club, and at the end of the day that’s all we want. Over to you Theo.