Thursday, November 24, 2011

That Was Then This Is Now: Arsenal Make The Pundits Eat Their Own Words

Less than two months ago every story being written about Arsenal was a negative.  Whether it was a crisis, a team in decline or Arsene Wenger needs to go everyone was writing off Arsenal while lauding the likes of Man. City, Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.  Just six weeks later and we're seeing headlines such as Arsenal Best of English Clubs.

Captain Van-tastic has led by example
Match day 5 of the Champions League group rounds has come and gone and the only English club to have clinched a place in the round of 16 is the "crisis club" Arsenal.  In fact, not only are they through, they have clinched the top spot in their group with a game in hand. Meanwhile the Sheikh's loyal subjects at Man City are praying for a miracle to go through, while both Chelsea and Man U are not guaranteed anything with one game to go.

Arsenal have won 5 straight league matches and have moved from an early season low of 17th up to 7th and level on points with Liverpool and Chelsea.  Robin Van Persie has continued his prolific scoring run and with Vermaelen back in the fold, the defense is getting tighter and the newer members of the squad are gelling with the rest of their teammates.

Chelsea defeated at Stamford Bridge as RVP Nets a Hatrick
While nothing has been won yet and there's still plenty to play for, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have not only qualified for the Champions League round of 16, they have done so for the 12th straight year...a very difficult thing to accomplish that consistently.  Personally, I am sick of hearing the tired complaint that "Arsenal haven't won a trophy in 6 years". Birmingham has and now they are in England's second tier.  Portsmouth won a trophy 3 years ago.  Since then they have gone in to administration and are currently 18th in the Championship.  I'd rather be Arsenal than either of those clubs and others like them.  Yes Arsenal have come close and failed but they keep challenging at the highest level year after year while fly by night teams come and go. 

Arsenal are the only English team to secure a place in the round of 16 so far
Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool may currently sit above Arsenal in the EPL table, but 2 of them are not playing Champions League football.  Meanwhile, the one that is, Man City, is probably on their way out and only got there by buying every player under the sun and running up a record one year loss of 194.4 pounds.  Of course trophies are what every fan wants for their club, but I think having a highly competitive team year in and year out is a major achievement that only several top flight teams have been able to do.

Anyhow, just for laughs here is what the media was reporting 2 months ago and how their tune has changed since:

 NY Times          September 14       The Worst of Times After Years of Success
                           November 23        Arsenal, Leverkusen and Apoel Advance

Fox Soccer         October 2             Once Proud Arsenal is a Club in Crisis
                           November 23        CL Review: Arsenal Best of English Clubs

The Telegraph     October 3           Arsenal Crisis Worsens After Bacary Sagna is Sidelined
                                                       Until January with Broken Leg Sustained Against
                          November 25        The Train Wreck Days are Over and Now Arsene Wenger,
                                                       at the 'Club of His Life', is Prospering Once More

Alex Song and Robin Van Persie score against B Dortmund
The Guardian    September 27       Arsenal Injury Crisis Threatens To Derail Season, Says
                                                       Arsene Wenger
                          November 24        Arsenal Provide Hard Evidence in Case For Champions
                                                       League Defence: Arsène Wenger's team have a solidity at
                                                       the back that United, City and Chelsea must wish they
                                                       could summon themselves

Daily Mail        September 18          Wenger in Crisis!  It's Arsenal's Worst Start For 58 Years
                                                        But The Manager Claims: I'm Not Worried About My
                         November 24          Van Persie Leaves Wenger in Awe As He Fires Gunnners
                                                        in to Knockout Stages

Express             September 10         Arsene Wenger: My Hell
                          November 24          Arsenal 2 B Dortmund 1: Wily Old Arsene Wenger Gets
                                                         His Own Way

BBC Sport         September 9            Alan Shearer On Why Arsenal's Problems Are Not Over
                          November 24          Arsene Wenger Shocked by Arsenal Reaching Last 16
                                                         Before English Rivals

Alex Song runs through Borussia Dortmund

Independent     September 18          Defensive Shambles Deepens Arsenal Crisis
                         November 25           Arsenal Back On Song After Summer Woes

The Sun           August 23                 Antonio Di Natale Thinks Arsenal Are In Deep Crisis***
                       November 24             Has Arsene Wenger Turned Corner? Arsenal 2
                                                         B Dortmund 1                   
                        November 24            Alex Song: Why Are You So Harsh On Arsenal?**

Football Talk  October 7                  Arsenal ARE In Crisis...Wenger Has To GO!
                       November 24            Who'd Have Thought It Would End Up Like This?

Just Arsenal.Com September 18       Wenger Is Leading Arsenal To Mid-table Mediocrity
                             November 25       The author has not posted a new article since October

I also discovered this website which has not been updated since October 5th. 

***Di Natale and Udinese were easily dispatched by Arsenal 

 **Alex Song was a beast in Arsenal's win over Dortmund.  His run to set up RVP's first goal was
   insane and his defending and midfield presence were massive throughout the entire 90 minutes.

Up the Gunners. Come on Arsenal.

Theo Walcott is teaming well with Gervinho and Van Persie


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Arsenal in Crisis? Crisis Has Been Averted

As recently as one month ago the term crisis was being used regularly by the media in describing Arsenal's start to the 2011-2012 season. Since the team's loss to Spurs at the beginning of October, Arsenal have won four straight Premier League games, beaten Bolton to advance to the next round of the Carling Cup and defeated Marseille at the Velodrome to put the Gunners atop their Champions League group. The only "blemish" in this otherwise winning run was a 0-0 Champions League draw this past week with Marseille at The Emirates. Arsenal have moved up to 7th place in the EPL table and are now level on points with Liverpool with just goal differential separating the two teams.

Rambo gives Arsenal a victory in Marseille
Captain Robin Van Persie has been on fire scoring 8 goals in Arsenal's last 4 EPL games and deservedly picking up the league's Player of the Month award. While it may just be a coincidence, Van Persie's form and leadership have been outstanding since the departure of former captain Cesc Fabregas. It's almost as if Van Persie needed the added responsibility to step in to the spotlight. Whatever the reason, Van Persie and the team are gelling and positivity has returned to the Arsenal camp.

October Player of the Month and the first to
 reach 10 goals this season
Arsenal's 5-3 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend may be remembered as the game where confidence was finally restored to the team. Despite going behind twice to the Blues, Arsenal took control in the second half and shocked Chelsea fans and players alike. Seeing John Terry on his ass while Robin Van Persie scored the second of his three goals was fantastic. Likewise, Theo Walcott's amazing goal saw the speedy Walcott fall down and still run through four Chelsea players to score a wonder goal.

This weekend Arsenal easily defeated West Brom 3-0 despite not being at their best. It could be a coincidence, but with Vermaelen back and partnered with the in form Koscielny Arsenal did not concede a goal. In fact, Vermaelen even contributed a goal of his own.

Arsenal have already played Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool and their upcoming EPL matches are against lower table teams. Meanwhile a number of the current top 6 clubs will be playing each other. If they continue to play as they have been, Arsenal have the chance to continue their upward move.
As for the Mets, the off season is looking dismal as the post Bernie Madoff era continues. With the Wilpons looking to slash payroll and Jose Reyes seeking a big free agent contract, hopes of keeping Reyes in Queens are fading. For all the gory details, check out my latest article at Bleacher Report.