It’s Happened Again

*Blows away the cobwebs*

Ten games, two months, twenty-one days, and however many hours and minutes since I last put my lazy pen to paper. I’m sure you’ve missed me like a hole in the head.

All in all it’s been a positive absence. Five league victories, the highlight of which was the 4-1 thumping of a pathetic Liverpool side which I very much enjoyed watching in the company of my Liverpool supporting in-laws, culminating in us celebrating St.Totteringham’s Day for the twentieth, yes TWENTIETH, season running.

St.Totteringham's Day

And of course there was the small matter of our record 19th FA Cup Final, emphatically won 4-0 against Aston Villa to secure a record 12th FA Cup triumph. Never have I witnessed such a one-sided, comfortable cup final victory. It was heaven.

The Arsenal - FA Cup Winners 2015

We’re now in the depths of summer (or winter for those of us down under), where, from a football perspective, you essentially have three options: reflect on the season that was, debate the summer business required to improve next season, or watch international football.

Looking at the first of those, reflecting on the season that was, and the debate of did we make progress? For me the answer is yes. We finished one place higher (avoiding a Champions League qualifier), retained the FA Cup with a display in the final of greater maturity and composure to that of last year, our end of season form was second to none, and for once our injury list went down in numbers instead of up.

Some have challenged these views, in particular raising the question of points vs. places. To those on the side of points, I’ll ask you this – which of the following league seasons was your favourite: 1997/98, 1998/99, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2007/08, 2013/14?

I’m guessing your answer was 1997/98 given we won the league title and in the other five seasons listed we did not. And yet, in those five other seasons we finished with the same number of points (78) or more than we did in 1997/98. If you still prefer points, that’s fine, but I’ll be sticking to places.

The Arsenal - League Champions 1997-98 - Places, Not Points

But for some mitigating circumstances, some of which were unavoidable and some of which were self-inflicted, I fully believe we’d have challenged for the title. The key is to learn the lessons of the self-inflicted issues and avoid them from happening again because the hope of last summer has been replaced by expectation this. Arsene’s record suggests we have stronger league campaigns in seasons following a vacant summer, so with no European Championship and no World Cup to disrupt our preparations next season feels like it could finally be our time again.

On that note I seem to have reached our second option for the summer, debating what’s required to improve next season. Whilst preferred transfer targets may differ there appears to be some consensus on the areas of the field that need addressing, with goalkeeper, defensive midfielder and strikers on most people’s lips.

Between the sticks I’m open to improvement. Since Seaman and more recently Lehmann we haven’t had a top quality keeper. But the struggle I have here is identifying a realistic target that is significantly better than Szczesny.

Who's Your No.1 - Szczesny or Ospina

Good goalkeepers are few and far between, so those of the highest calibre are already at top clubs. Petr Cech is the name generating the most noise right now, but I’m far from convinced he still has the quality displayed during his heyday. If he does, of if Arsene has an alternative option in mind then great, but if not I’d be quite comfortable sticking with Szczesny. My only concern there of course is whether Wojciech remains left out in the cold, but I’ll leave the Szczesny vs. Ospina conversation for another day!

With regards to defensive midfield Coquelin has been a revelation and, hopefully, has made Arsene realise just how pivotal his role is to the team. The defence need protection and our creative sparks need the freedom to play. But Coquelin is just one man. Injury or suspension is likely to occur at some stage, as is fatigue. Having a suitable back-up could prove fundamental to just how successful we are next season.

The third area of improvement, for many, is up front. Podolski, Sanogo, and Campbell will, most likely, be sold or loaned out again and rightly so on all three counts. What leaves us with Walcott, Welbeck, and Alexis as alternatives to Giroud, but all three have their limitations.

The Best of Both Worlds - Walcott and Giroud

Walcott has frightening pace and movement, but doesn’t offer the physicality, hold-up play, or aerial ability of Giroud. Welbeck can offer some of those components, plus Walcott’s pace, but never quite to the clinical level required. And Alexis is an absolute gem who is devastating from the wide position, so why play him through the middle where he’s outnumbered and lost in a sea of bodies?

What would therefore be great is to have another option that provides the combined physicality, touch, electric pace, and finishing of both Giroud and Walcott, but with greater consistency than Welbeck. Does such a player exist? If so are they a realistic target? Hopefully Arsene knows the answer.

And finally that brings us to summer option number three: watch international football. There are friendlies, European qualifiers, the Copa America, and the Women’s World Cup. Personally international football really isn’t for me. If it’s the quarter finals onwards of the Euros or World Cup then maybe, otherwise I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. That England has lost only 1 of their last 33 qualifiers yet can’t even come close to making their first semi-final since 1996 tells you all you need to know. So as I say, unless it’s the latter stages of a major tournament I’m happy to give it a miss, but fair play to those who can find enjoyment from it.

So there you have it, options 1, 2 and 3 for the summer with my view on each. The countdown for the new season has well and truly begun, with Arsenal unveiling our new home kit. And for me personally the countdown has even more significance than usual this year because for me, in 46 days’ time, on the Community Shield weekend, I’ll be marrying the girl of my dreams. I can’t wait.

arsenal-cannon

Round Up & FA Cup Progress

It seems to have become somewhat of a (bad) habit that I don’t get to write as often as I like. Once again, for one reason or another (this time including a trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis) I have been unable to put pen to paper regarding recent Arsenal matches. Today is catch up time, so here goes:

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3 (Walcott, Özil, Rosicky)

Due to my visit to Melbourne for the tennis I’ve only seen highlights via Arsenal Online. But from what little I saw it was a largely comfortable and professional performance, orchestrated by Tomas “Little Mozart” Rosicky whose fine volley, our third, secured the victory.

Little Mozart

Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0 (Giroud, Özil, Walcott, Cazorla, Bellerin)

Having destroyed Villa’s high line with a resounding 3-0 victory at Villa Park earlier this season it would seem Paul Lambert had not learnt his lesson because once again Villa’s ridiculously high line was picked apart with ease, resulting in an emphatic 5-0 victory. Özil was sensational, getting a thoroughly deserved goal and setting up our first with a quite delicious flicked through ball to Giroud. Lambert somehow hung onto his job after this debacle, but not for too much longer; the bloke from Boreham Wood, who ain’t no fucking good, is now in charge of the Villains.

Sp*rs 2 Arsenal 1 (Özil)

It was a North London derby to forget, with a disappointing 2-1 defeat. Despite taking an early lead, through a wonderful Özil finish, we never really got going. With the intent of mirroring what we did at City we sat deep and defended in numbers, but on this occasion we were extremely poor in possession and it cost us. Only the 7th victory for them in 46 matches against Arsene Wenger, it’s safe to assume the DVD is in production as we speak.

Ozil Celebrates His Goal Against Them

Arsenal 2 Leicester 1 (Koscielny, Walcott)

Following our North London derby defeat it was a somewhat nervy response, but three points are three points, and thanks to goals from Koscielny and Walcott that’s exactly what we got. It meant that the “North London power shift” lasted only a few days, with this victory taking us back up to fifth.

Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0 (Giroud x2)

Our defence of the FA Cup continued in impressive fashion, with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough, with both goals coming from Giroud. The first an example of ‘total football’, with all eleven players involved, and the second an example of improvisation and genius, as a quick corner from Alexis and a wonderful near post finish from Giroud saw us through to the next round.

Giroud Opens The Scoring Against Middlesbrough

There were some favourable draws to be had, but unfortunately we’ve been drawn away to Manchester United. Our recent record against them is nothing short of abysmal. However, the last time we went to Old Trafford as FA Cup holders we won 2-0, with Wiltord and Jeffers up front and Giggs missing an open goal. So stranger things have happened!

The Week Ahead

It’s back to Premier League action this weekend with a tricky trip to Selhurst Park to face an Alan Pardew rejuvenated Palace. Given the tight confines, the iffy surface, their likely approach to the game, and so forth I’m expecting a tight and unattractive tussle.

It will also be interesting to see what starting elven Arsene goes with. Will he risk a Cazorla / Özil central partnership like he did against Boro? Are Wilshere or Oxlade-Chamberlain available again? Does he introduce the industrious Rosicky? And most interestingly of all, should Theo Walcott be starting?

I was always a defendant of Walcott, due to his unique quality of pace. For all his flaws, both on and off the ball, you could forgive him as he was a much-needed outlet; his pace, his runs behind, and more often than not his efficient finishing. However, with the improvement of Oxlade-Chamberlain and the arrivals of Alexis and Welbeck his pace is no longer unique and therefore other aspects of his game are called in to question. And in my mind there is no doubt that his technique, link up play, and work rate are all of a lower standard than his three rivals for a starting spot out wide. With his contract expiring this summer it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Theo.

What does the future hold for Theo Walcott

But one thing is for sure this weekend, which is that this match will be much like the Leicester game in terms of it being as much about the three points as it is the performance. Only six points separate Southampton in third with Liverpool in seventh, so it’s fair to say the race for the top four will be exceptionally tight. On the plus side, we’ve already played 12 of the top 14 teams away from home (with only United and Newcastle remaining) so I fully agree with Arsene’s assessment that where we finish will be down to our home form. Given we’re on a run of nine consecutive home wins (in all competitions) I remain hopeful that third place, and automatic Champions League qualification, is very much ours for the taking.

And talking of Champions League football, it resumes on Wednesday (Thursday morning for those of us down under) with the visit of Monaco. I don’t really follow French football (bar checking the results of Dad’s team St Etienne) but from what I’ve heard their form has improved since the time of the draw being made. That said, it’s still a favourable draw, especially compared to what could have laid in wait, so let’s make sure we put an end to our Round of 16 eliminations.

arsenal-cannon

Walcott out for the rest of the season as North London remains red

ARSENAL 2   T*TTENHAM 0

FA Cup Third Round weekend will always be special. It’s the beginning of our annual journey in a competition that has given me some of my favourite Arsenal memories. So when our North London neighbours were added into the mix it was always going to be an extra special game. Thankfully we delivered the goods, both the players on the pitch and the fans in the stands, as The Arsenal completed a comprehensive 2-0 victory with the support of an electric atmosphere created by the Arsenal faithful.

Tomas Rosicky Celebrates His Goal Against The Enemy

The man from Borehamwood, who ain’t no fucking good, decided to stick with his 4-4-2 formation and was severely punished for it as our midfield bossed the game from the very first whistle to the last, part of a fantastic performance from 1 to 11. There was only ever going to be one winner.

Fabianski had little to do, but when called upon did it well. The back four were as solid as we now know and expect them to be. In midfield Arteta was as reliable as ever, Wilshere had one of his best games this season (and could only be stopped by consistent fouling), Cazorla looked back to his best, Serge Gnabry was outstanding, and Tomas Rosicky was the clear man of the match. And up top was Theo Walcott, the perfect forward against a team who play the most ridiculously high back line (especially when that back line includes Michael Dawson, the prize idiot that he is).

Our superiority in all areas of the field was rewarded with a goal in each half. The first a quite fantastic left footed strike from Cazorla after excellent build up play from Gnabry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a football player so comfortable striking the ball with either foot. Many players may have taken the ball back onto their right foot, losing the opportunity to score. Not Santi, he just leathered it with his left foot laces, without a moment’s thought or hesitation. One-nil to The Arsenal.

Santi Cazorla Scores Against The Enemy

The second came having cleared a corner. We pushed out, forcing them backwards to Rose on the halfway line. Rosicky closed him down, stole the ball off of him, and raced clear to finish quite brilliantly, holding off Walker as he nonchalantly dinked it over the onrushing Lloris.

Tomas Rosicky Scores His Goal Against The Enemy

It was thoroughly deserved and capped his magnificent performance. Tomas is out of contract in the summer and rumour has it that a large pay-day in the MLS could be awaiting him. I hope these reports aren’t true; I’d love nothing more than to see Rosicky (and whilst on this topic Sagna) pulling on the famous red and white of The Arsenal next season.

And so our FA Cup journey continues. Next up en route to Wembley is a home time against League One side Coventry City. What did she wear? She wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon…

THEO WALCOTT

Theo was at the centre of things on Saturday for both funny and ultimately sad reasons. In the 80th minute he caught his studs in the turf, twisting his knee. Whilst lying on the ground injured he was pelted with abuse and coins from the vermin in the away section. His game was over, but once he’d got himself sat up comfortably on the stretcher, he responded to the abuse with a cheeky smile on his face and a simple gesture to remind his abusers of the score.

Theo Walcott Tells The Enemy The Score and Out Injured For 6 Months

Sadly for Theo that’s where the fun ended. Being on that stretcher has proved to be not only the end of his game on Saturday, but also the end of his season after Arsenal announced yesterday that he’s sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee.

It’s a massive blow. Walcott provides qualities that are so rare, not only in our squad but in football in general. The ability to find space, utilise it with intelligent runs and blistering pace, whilst having the ability to keep control of the ball to provide a finish or an assist; his statistics in these two categories over the last season or two are phenomenal.

Looking at our squad it’s hard to see a like for like replacement. Podolski can provide the movement and goals, but not the pace. Gnabry can certainly provide the pace and his appearances this season have been very good with a goal at Swansea, winning the penalty at Palace, and the assist on Saturday. But given his youthfulness can he provide consistency? And then there’s Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has the pace and is experienced enough to provide consistency, but he’s more direct than Theo, running at players as opposed to movement in behind. Also, how will he respond to his own lengthy absence through injury? Would we be asking too much too soon? I guess only time will tell. Here’s wishing Theo a speedy and successful recovery. Until next time, up The Arsenal.

Calendar Year Form Must Become Whole Season Form

Due to the time difference between London and Sydney our game against Chelsea was on the morning of Christmas Eve. I was able to watch; however, as soon as the final whistle was blown I had to leave for the airport to fly north to Armidale, a small country town where I spent Christmas with my lovely girlfriend and her family. As a result it’s been very quiet here on ‘That Sums It All Up’, but I’m back in Sydney now and here with a Christmas round-up!

ARSENAL 0   CHELSEA 0

In my last post before Christmas I said I felt this game was a must win, but it wasn’t to be as we had to settle for a point. Mourinho is back with his boring, negative football; he came for a 0-0 draw and sadly he got it.

It was a dull game. They sat back with very little intent, other than hoping to catch us on the break. We didn’t play our best either, which meant chances were few and far between. Giroud could and probably should have grabbed us a winner not once, but twice; firstly being denied by himself (a poor sliced finish) and then by a good Petr Cech (a good close range save).

Giroud Missed Chances Against Chelsea

It was therefore a night when perhaps we needed a little luck and we certainly weren’t going to get it from the officials. We should have had a stonewall penalty when Walcott was brought down and I also thought Mikel, Ramires, and Ivanovic were all very lucky to stay on the field after some shocking challenges. But it wasn’t to be.

WEST HAM 1   ARSENAL 3

I was beginning to think it would be one of those games. We dominated the first half, but just couldn’t score, with either the final pass or shot going astray. Then, within seconds of the restart we shot ourselves in the foot. In a position from which we could have scored Walcott gave the ball away cheaply, West Ham broke, from which Arteta cleared poorly, Szczesny fumbled a shot, and Carlton bloody Cole (of all useless people) tapped home for 1-0.

But then, through a moment of misfortune (Aaron Ramsey getting injured), the game changed for the better thanks to Aaron’s replacement; Lukas Podolski. The German had a massive impact, providing width, support for Giroud, getting the assist for our second goal (a tremendous cross), and scoring the third with a quite brilliant left footed drive. It’s great to see Podolski back. He seems to have such a positive influence on the team, both on and off the field, and is our most clinical finisher. Here’s to a few more goals between now and the end of May.

Goal Scorers Podolski and Walcott

I should give Theo Walcott a mention too, given he scored two of the goals. His all round play was pretty poor in my opinion (only minutes before he scored the equaliser I described him and his performance to my girlfriend as “non-existent to ineffective at best”, but yet again he added to his impressive goal and assist stats despite being playing on the periphery.

So in the end it was a comfortable 3-1 victory and back to the top of the league. It’s hard to complain about either of those things.

NEWCASTLE 0   ARSENAL 1

Newcastle’s form has been impressive of late, with 7 wins from their last 9 going into this game, including victories against Chelsea and Man United. But a solid, if not flamboyant, performance from The Arsenal saw us come away with a 1-0 victory courtesy of an Olivier Giroud goal.

Giroud Celebrates Scoring Winner At Newcastle

It was a tight and tactical affair which got rather heated at times as Lee Probert seemed content to let almost everything and anything go, especially if your name was Check Tiote. How we received 3 yellow cards and yet Tiote finished the game without a caution is beyond me, particularly after committing another 4 or 5 fouls in the second half when he’d been given a final warning at the end of the first half.

But the referee’s performance was irrelevant in the end. For once Walcott’s free-kick delivery was excellent and Giroud provided the glancing header required to see it nestle in the back of the Newcastle net. After that Arsene went defensive, with five at the back to hold on to what we had. There were a few scary moments, none more so than when Szczesny smashed a clearance in Remy’s face and had to watch on as the ball thankfully rolled wide for a goal kick.

Three hard-fought points, at a very difficult away ground, and The Arsenal remain top of the league going into the New Year.

CALENDAR YEAR FORM MUST BECOME WHOLE SEASON FORM

Arsenal’s form has been fantastic during the calendar year 2013, winning 82 league points (five more than any other team). It’s seen us storm back to claim 4th place last season and sees us sitting top of the table as we move into 2014.

However, winning trophies (in particular the league title) it’s about achieving consistency for a whole season, not just a calendar year (i.e. two half seasons). That’s our challenge for now until May; to remain consistent for the whole season. Will we last the pace? Will Arsene invest to help strengthen the squad? Would this also help to provide a mid-season boost, an Özil like shot in the arm if you will? Only time will tell, but these are the kind of questions we will need to answer, starting on Wednesday at home to Cardiff City.

Until then, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Up The Arsenal.

Must Win Monday

MAN CITY 6   ARSENAL 3

Three very difficult fixtures in six days is a lot to ask, especially when the third and final game is Man City away. Their home form has been exceptional this season and sadly it proved one game too many, with The Arsenal suffering a 6-3 defeat.

Arsenal Mistakes Contribute to City Goals

In terms of the match itself, where to begin?! There’s been a lot of dissection over the last few days, so here’s just a few of my thoughts summarised:

Starting eleven: I was surprised Arteta didn’t start the game or come on as a half time substitute. His positional play and defensive discipline are second to none. If ever there was a game for the Arteta / Flamini axis this was surely it?

Too many errors: there were individual errors and collective errors. After months of excellent defensive work we decided to unleash all our errors in one game, against a quality opponent who punished us severely. There were misplaced passes, wasted opportunities (the Giroud header and failed cross), poor marking, not tracking runners. It was a bad day at the office (to say the least) and you have to think fatigue (both mentally and physically) played a large part. Hopefully it means we’ve used up all our mistakes in one go!

Theo Walcott: it was great to have Theo back in the team this weekend; he was the one real positive. His movement was excellent, his pace always troubles defenders, and his two goals (the second in particular) were outstanding. He has a good scoring record against Chelsea, so more of the same on Monday please Theo.

Walcott Celebrates His Goal Versus Man City (As Does The BFG)

Officials: they had a shocker, especially the linesmen (or Assistant Referees as they’re now called). In the first half we had two potential goal scoring opportunities stopped by incorrectly raised flags. In the second half we had two goals disallowed due to incorrectly raised flags. And we should have had a penalty for handball.

In summary, we scored three goals, we could have had about eight, and yet we never once really looked like we’d get a result. For me that kind of sums up just how bad an afternoon it was. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. However, and it’s a big however, we are still top of the league by two points. Let’s not forget that.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The draw for the Last 16 of the Champions League took place yesterday and we drew Bayern Munich.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich

It’s a glamour tie, what this tournament is all about. We won in Munich last season and beat Dortmund in the group stage, so we know we can beat the best if we put our minds to it. The games don’t take place until February and March though and given so much can change between now and then (form, fitness, January transfers) I’ve decided not to concern myself too much with this tie until nearer the time.

FIXTURE LISTS

I’d like to know who creates the fixture lists and how. We had a run of Liverpool, Dortmund, United. We’ve just played Everton, Napoli, and Man City in the space of six days, with Chelsea on the horizon. In February we have Liverpool, United, a possible FA Cup 5th Round tie, and Bayern back to back. And then in April we have Bayern, 5pur2, and Chelsea (all away) back to back, followed by the small matter of City at home.

These kind of runs seem to happen to us every season and yet I can’t think of one of our title rivals who faces such a run during their campaigns; not even once, never mind four times!! It’s a joke.

Two of our worst league performances this season have been away to United and City. Both were at the end of a gruelling run of fixtures and both resulted in poor performances and defeats that significantly closed our gap over them when we could have significantly extended our leads; an old cliché but real six pointers. My main fear now is that come May, when the title is decided, these top of the table clashes may be pivotal and could potentially cost us dear, and we’ll have played a large percentage of them feeling knackered. I hope I’m proved wrong.

MONDAY NIGHT

In view of the above, Monday night is a must win game. It’s one of the rare occasions this season where we’ll face a fellow title contender off the back of 9 days rest and preparation. Furthermore, the game is at home. We’ve beaten 5pur2 and Liverpool at home (and drawn with Everton), so if we can keep winning the big games at home then the defeats away from home should have less of an impact come the end of the season.

And even if we weren’t in the title race it would still be a must win game because it’s Chelsea. I fucking hate them. We all do. From the owner, to the manager, to their captain, to their players they are all despicable human beings. And for that reason alone I want to beat them.

We may well go in the game in third place (if Liverpool and City win their weekend fixtures), but let’s make sure we finish it top again. Come on you Gunners. Up The Arsenal!!!

Big Week Ahead, Come on The Arsenal

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.