Morning all, welcome to a brand new week.
The rest of the weekend’s results didn’t play out quite as nicely as they might have. Although Sp*rs dropped two points it really should have been three as they came back from 2-0 down against West Ham, while Liverpool’s good form continued when they beat a Southampton side who I think will more than likely fade away over the remainder of the season.
All in all though, I don’t think we can argue too much with how things went for us. We stay in third position, hopefully a place from which we can consolidate and make progress. It looks like a four horse race for two Champions League places, so it’s going to require a big, big effort between now and May. Still, when you look at where we were, and also the way we were, there’s room to be somewhat encouraged by the difference.
Final thought on the weekend: can we assume that any club that is hit with an embarrassing scandal will be allowed send their manager out to distract from that by espousing tin-foil hat conspiracy theories and making a hypocrite of themselves when it comes to nasty challenges?
I thought the Barnes tackle on Matic was horrible and worthy of a red card, so I understand the anger and frustration when officials miss them, but people who live in glass houses and all that.
Having scored his 8th goal in 11 games, and his 11th of an injury hit season overall, Olivier Giroud has drawn praise from Arsene Wenger. The boss said:
When I brought him here, and when you look at him today, I think there’s a hell of a difference. That’s credit to him – to the player he was and the player he is today, plus credit for his whole season, where he has worked very hard. I think there’s still room for improvement for him.
The goal against Palace was his 50th for the club in 117 appearances (92 starts and 25 substitute appearances), a pretty decent return by any standards, and the interesting thing is he’s a player who seems to improve every season. In his first campaign he scored 17 goals, his second 22, and despite missing three months with a broken leg he’s into double figures this time around.
Like any player he can still frustrate from time to time, but I think it’s clear that those moments are far less frequent than they used to be, and the contributions he’s making are more decisive. Goals against the big sides are part of his repertoire nowadays – and for many that was the main issue. He was a reliable goalscorer against most teams in the league until we faced the top sides.
Of course to pin that label on him when the team as a whole struggled in these games was a little unfair, but he’s answered those critics this season with strikes against Liverpool, Man City and Man United. It also seems that Giroud as a central hub around which players like Alexis, Walcott, Ozil, Welbeck and Cazorla can do their stuff is an important part of how the manager wants his team to play.
Last season without Walcott we were pedestrian, and at times that served to highlight some of the weaknesses in the Frenchman’s game. Now, with pace, vision, creativity and movement on all sides, he looks a better player. Scratch that, he is a better player. And there’s an interesting variety to the goals he’s scoring too.
He’s definitely not the quickest but there’s an intelligence to his movement that allows him to find vital space in the box. He showed good poaching instincts against Palace on Saturday and he provides us with a genuine aerial threat as the number of headed goals show.
I think there are always going to be people who can’t, or won’t, appreciate what he does because they long for the days of Henry and Bergkamp. While I’d certainly love us to unearth another Thierry, they’re few and far between and if they do exist they’re usually at a club with greater stature and financial power than we possess. That doesn’t mean that Giroud is some kind of hapless chancer though.
He may not be a ‘world class’ striker, but he’s a very, very good one in the best form of his Arsenal career and somebody who is going to play a massive role in what we do between now and the end of the season. He deserves the plaudits and hopefully he can keep up this run of form for another few months.
As for this week, we’ve got Champions League action against Monaco to prepare for, and obviously we’ll cover that over the next couple of days. There’s the need now for the manager to use his squad well as we start to play midweek games again, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does in that regard.
Elsewhere, typically in-depth stuff from Swiss Ramble on the new TV deal is well worth a read. The figures are still mind-boggling, the benefit to consumers of all kinds still unclear. And as always nice 80s music references – the day he works in a Baltimora ‘Tarzan Boy’ one will be a fine day indeed.
Right, that’s about that. James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you later on this morning. As always if you have any questions or points for discussion, send them to us on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra and we’ll try and get to as many of them as we can.