Works for me. I am currently in a 2 weeks and counting bout of insomnia, loved ones are suffering with depression, and I had a phonecall conversation with an unlikely candidate about the merits of Prozac this afternoon. And Arsenal have been frankly rubbish since I last posted.
In that time we have:
Won away 2-1 at a mediocre Aston Villa side without their main striker.
Drawn at home 1-1 against wolves having lost the lead to a freak goal.
Narrowly beaten QPR at home 1-0 with another well taken Van Persie goal.
Lost away to Fulham 1-2 having been 1-0 up
Beaten Championship Leeds 1-0 at home in the FA Cup due a to late goal from the returning hero.
Lost away at Swansea 3-2 last night, having been 1-0.
As a result Arsenal sit fifth, only ahead of Newcastle on goal difference, four points behind Chelsea and a whopping ten behind spurs. Having been the league’s best away side last year, let down by patchy home form, now we can barely win away, with Chelsea, Norwich, Wigan and Villa our only away wins, and what turned out to be a decent away draw against Newcastle, the season’s surprise team. It has to be said, the performances of the likes of Fulham and Swansea were very impressive, and both really raised their games against us, in a way they are less able to do against their immediate rivals.
Following the early season stabilising effort, things have ground to a halt through a mixture of injuries to 7 full-backs at once and an appalling lack of form from senior pros like Arshavin, Chamakh, Rosicky and dare I say it Walcott, resulting in a lack of possible squad rotation, not to mention long term injuries to possible starters Wilshere and Diaby catching up on the squad. The already inadequate resources are being stretched too thinly for a team competing on three fronts. Recent games have been characterised by ineffective huffing and puffing relying on the sharpness of Van Persie to lift things above the mediocre.
It seems clear the manager needs to buy, but recruiting another full-back makes no short term sense, and the current squad rules necessitate buying home-grown or selling before buying, neither of which is a comfortable option unless you have an oligarch allowing you spend vast premiums on the few top English players, or subsidising the Man City loan system. This is not helped by the fact that the eligible players unsurprisingly tend to choose the Man Utd guarantee of success (credit where its due), or the riches on offer at Stamford Bridge or Manchester’s little Dubai. On top of this Spurs have emerged as a genuine transfer destination, so competition is tough. The only other option is to pick up someone under 21, but those in this category who can make an immediate impact are quite rightly in demand across Europe. Its a difficult situation in which to make a decision, as it would be much less complicated to make the necessary investment and pruning in the summer, but that may be too late. In many ways, it is the visitation of mistakes made in the aftermath of the 08/09 & 09/10 seasons. In other years much of the squad upheaval has been out of the manager’s control (Flamini, Hleb, Toure’s malaria, chronic injuries etc), but in those summers Wenger recruited poorly, and with less quality than had departed, before placing too much faith in and pressure on those who have subsequently proved not to be up to it. Some players, for all their promise are not ready at the age of 21 for the mental pressure and concentration required at the highest level, and as illustrated in the case of Denilson, their early promise can be undermined.
As if this wasn’t enough, the much loved Premier League officials seem to be operating a handicapping system. This is reflected by the neutral http://www.debatabledecisions.com/ website, which unsurprisingly shows Arsenal as the most unfortunate team in the top division…again, and that’s before we take into the decisive phantom penalty yesterday. According to this, Arsenal should be at least five points better off. Interestingly the site also suggest that the Big teams have been the ones to suffer most at the hands of officials this season, unlike previous years. A similar study last year showed Arsenal should have finished third if officiating errors were removed.
Of course it isn’t ALL doom an gloom, with the suitably dramatic return of one T.Henry, stepping off the bench to finish beautifully against Leeds within 10 minutes of his comeback, in sharp contrast to the hard-working bluntness offered by Chamakh up to that point. Needless to say, one or two others picked up on the story: Thierry Henry goal reactions around the internet.
The her primary highlight has been the incredible form of Robin Van Persie, who not only beat Henry’s calendar year goal scoring record (second only to the flying elbow’s of Shearer), but against Swansea equalled his best ever goal tally for a season, with four months left to play. His form has served to highlight the paucity of potential replacements, almost as much as getting a 34 year old playing in New York on loan.
But an injury free run, and an even break from the men in black and things could change very quickly.