Beginning of the end? Or the start of something special?

STOKE CITY 1   ARSENAL 0

Our title challenge suffered a big blow this weekend with a 1-0 defeat away to Stoke, which was compounded by victories for our rivals. It was a terrible start to what is going to be a very difficult month (I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but we face Everton, Bayern, 5pur2, the Russians, City, and then Everton again between now and the first weekend in April).

Arsenal Players Look Despondent

I don’t want to focus too much on the game itself. Suffice to say we were very poor and if we were still playing now we’d probably still be waiting to score. Granted we may have come away with a 0-0 draw had Charlie Adam been sent off for his stamp on Giroud or if the referee had not given a very harsh penalty for handball, but if you’re challenging for the title then (a) a 0-0 draw against Stoke isn’t good enough anyway and (b) why didn’t we produce a performance good enough to make those poor refereeing decisions irrelevant? Arsene said afterwards:

It is not slightly worrying; it’s a big worry for us to lose a game like that. It is a massive setback of course.

Short and to the point from Arsene, with no arguments from me, but here’s the thing – we have two options. Do we want to sit and sulk, to point the gun inwards, and worry about the fixtures on the horizon? Or do we want to prove people wrong, aim our cannons outwards, and create something special starting against our nearest rivals? Which is it to be Arsenal?

LAURENT KOSCIELNY

Koscielny is a great defender and one of my favourite players, as evidenced by the fact I have his name and number on the back of my home shirt. But you have to wonder what it is with him and penalties, which is the exact question I posed to Arseblog and Gunnerblog for this week’s Arsecast Extra.

I acknowledge that in some instances he’s been very unlucky; the decisions against Villa on the opening day and Stoke this weekend were laughable. But others, such as Man City last season or Sunderland away this season, were avoidable. By posing the question to the gents on Arsecast Extra a small Twitter conversation was started. It was discussed that Laurent is a whole-hearted, aggressive defender, and that much like Jens Lehmann (who had a similar style) this will result in excellent results nine times out of ten, but that the one time it does go wrong the chances are it will be with disastrous consequences.

Laurent Koscielny Concedes A Penalty Against Man City

I guess the question I have is – is this acceptable? Can Koscielny not be both aggressive and sensible? Is he incapable of thinking “I know I like to be aggressive, but I’m inside the penalty area, the attacker is going nowhere, so I’m not going to dive in and give the referee a decision to make”?

This probably sounds very harsh and very picky about a great player who has been having a fantastic season. And, as mentioned above, I acknowledge he’s been hard done by on occasions and that in those instances the final outcome cannot be blamed on Koscielny. But I still can’t help wondering if there’s something more to it…I guess that’s why I sought the expert advice of Arseblog and Gunnerblog – thanks gents!

OLIVIER GIROUD

I really like Giroud and feel criticism of his overall play and contributions are unjust. However, I do have one small complaint – his theatrics. For a man who is so big, so strong and powerful, he certainly knows how to hit the deck, roll around, beat the ground in frustration, and wave his fingers…and I don’t mean in the cool Bobby Pires ‘I’ve just scored a stunner’ way.

Giroud Injured After Adam Stamp

It’s time for the Frenchman to give as good as he gets and to hit defenders back twice as hard. Stop trying to attract the referee’s attention to fouls because I don’t know if you’ve noticed Olivier, but The Arsenal get fuck all from referees. So stop waving your fingers ‘in pain’ and start bullying the opposition.

FA CUP 6TH ROUND

This weekend sees us in FA Cup action at home to Everton. We have a great chance of winning the FA Cup this season, whereas the Champions League looks very unlikely (even if, by some miracle, we do turn things around in Munich) and the Premier League is slowly slipping from our grasp.

I therefore hope that Arsene plays his strongest eleven on Saturday and goes all out for the victory. If he plays an under-strength team and doesn’t get the desired result then the fall out that would follow doesn’t bear thinking about.

Defeat at Stoke wasn’t nice (it never is), but what’s done is done. We have to deal with it and we must respond, and if you were to ask me then I’d say a victory on Saturday and progression to the FA Cup semi-finals is just what the doctor would order, especially with a North London derby looming round the corner. Up The Arsenal.

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