As the dust settles on a truly intriguing Premier League spectacle, Arsenal sit 5 points clear at the top of the Premier League table. This means the Gunners have extended the gap between the chasing pack, but this does not justify the mood of many Arsenal fans this Sunday evening. The potential for the gap to have been 7 points at full time after Mesut Özil’s calm 80th minute strike is the reason for the sense of frustration felt by the supporters.
A Frustrating Draw
After surviving an impressive barrage of Everton pressure in the first half (who showed more energy and out-passed the men in red and white), it felt like one of those games that champions win when the German maestro found the net late on.
The clichéd phrase ‘champions win even when they are not at their best’ seemed to ring true, until Gerard Deulofeu smashed in an equaliser just four minutes later.
Given the other points dropped by Arsenal's title rivals this weekend, one may think that a home win against Everton was a must.
However, after a breathless game, and an excellent performance from Everton, a draw was not only a fair result, but potentially a good one when we look back at the end of the season.
WOJCIECH SZCZESNY – 7 – The Pole played as big a part in the result as anyone. He wasn't needed a great deal in the first-half. But he made two fine saves from Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, and denied Romelu Lukaku when the score was 1-1. Pretty blameless on the Everton goal.
CARL JENKINSON – 7 – He had early difficulties dealing with Bryan Oviedo in the opening 45 minutes. But he defended better as Oviedo tired as the game progressed. He will be disappointed not to have made many inroads going forward.
The FA Cup was always likely to throw up a tasty fixture as we enter the traditional competition at its 3rd round stage – however nobody predicted that perhaps the biggest derby in the English game would come out of the hat.
The 53rd ball to be picked out by former England striker Teddy Sheringham was Arsenal, followed in 54th place by North London rivals Spurs to set up what will be the second North London Derby of the season on the 4th or 5th of January.
Having beaten Spurs at home back in September – and topping the Premiership table since – Arsenal will be in pole position to progress through to the next round. And being the first of the two names picked out by Sheringham, the Gunners will have the advantage of playing in front of a buzzing home crowd.
Enjoy the match highlights !
It comes as no surprise that today Alex Song has been linked with a transfer away from the Nou Camp, with Arsenal and Manchester United monitoring the players’ situation.
The Cameroonian has struggled to maintain a spot in the first team since his £15 million move to Barcelona due to the vast amount of talent available in the midfield.
I knew this would happen. You knew this would happen. Alex Song was destined to become the ‘new Hleb.’ Was Song ignorant enough to not think it would happen?
In a The Times exclusive today, Arsene Wenger has been offered a staggering £24 million contract to extend his managerial career at Arsenal for another 3 years.
At £8 million per year, Wenger will become the second highest paid manager in the Premier League, after Jose Mourinho, and if he decides to sign, will take his service at the club to an incredible 21 years.
There is no doubt that Wenger is a club legend. He not only revolutionised the club, he changed the Premier League for the better. He may have his critics, but there is no doubting Wenger’s importance to English football.
However, without a major trophy since 2005, Arsenal has struggled to keep up with Manchester United, Chelsea, and more recently, Manchester City. Luckily, as a consolation, Arsenal has continued their impressive record for qualifying for the Champions League to the dismay of Tottenham.
So, Nicklas Bendtner found the net inside two minutes on his first premier start for Arsenal in over two and a half years against Hull on Wednesday evening, after Olivier Giroud was rested ahead of a busy schedule.
This change in personnel has led to intense debate over Arsenal’s alternative options in the striking role. The Frenchmen has worked like an absolute Trojan up front all season, and has improved the finer aspects of his game significantly, as seen in his improved finishing (his near post effort to clinch the North London derby and his first time low finish away at Sunderland highlight this) and his remarkable array of assists (a deft flick for Jack Wilshere’s astonishing goal vs Norwich and his towering knock down for Aaron Ramsey’s crucial goal at Borussia Dortmund spring to mind).
It is just under a month until the opening of the January transfer window, which is every Arsenal fan’s favourite time of the calendar season.
Arsene Wenger has in the past been rather critical of the mid-season transfer window. Last year he was quoted saying:
"I think it should be all completely cut out or limited to two players because it is unfair for the league. Some teams who have played Newcastle twice already have an advantage on teams who play against Newcastle now when they have bought six or seven players. They do not face the same team.”
I agree with him. However, this season Wenger has to dig into his pockets and gamble, he needs to purchase a quality player, but who?
Poor, poor, Pato
In 2007, Alexandre Pato joined then Champions League winners AC Milan and went on to score on his official debut for the club against Napoli. A great start for the highly promising youngster.
With 31 points after 13 games this has been our strongest start to a season since the invincible season in 2003-2004, although many people are still writing us off as title contenders because we have supposedly not played the big sides yet I am still very confident that the 2013-2014 Barclays Premier League title can be ours.
This is an opinion not just held by myself but by many others as well including Mikel Arteta and Wojciech Szczesny
The month of December is one for the football purest, the period of the year where there seems to be a game every other day, and mixed in with the festive cheer, for many a football fan, it can make or break their Christmas holiday. With no lacklustre European winter break, the Premier League hits full throttle, where some will thrive, and others, bottle.
After a November in which many, including me, had declared an assessment of Arsenal’s title credentials, December poses a different kind of test for The Gunners. A month where the games come faster than Jesus Navas first goal against Spurs last week, it will be important for Arsenal to gain the momentum, that will catapult us into the new year on top of the table.
Not for the first time Wenger has gone against his critics, annoyed by the fact that his team have to prove themselves title contenders. ‘November is not a time to prove our quality, but to show how strong we are’ the boss said. Two resolute displays against Liverpool and Dortmund respectively, both games in which we put in a strong defensive performance, has meant many ‘experts’ have seen us in a different light.
“I don’t think he’ll ever be a goal scorer,” remarked Arsene Wenger about Jack Wilshere after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw away at West Brom. The comment followed a week in which Wilshere had caused controversy for being pictured having a sneaky fag outside a nightclub.
Now, I am firm believer that footballers should not smoke, they are paid obscene amounts of money and are paid that money to be at the top of their game which smoking obviously hampers.
However, Wilshere is still only 21 and every young person makes mistakes every now and again. I bet there is only a small majority of us that could say they didn’t try a quick cigarette behind the bike shed at some point in our early years. It was literally a case of a tiny bit of smoke turning into a roaring bonfire and it has been dealt with. The club, the player and the fans have moved on.
What is far more important as a footballer is how you react to situations like that and the circumstances surrounding his smoking, that occurred over a month ago, has shown the absolute ‘mental strength’ (an Arsene classic) that Wilshere possess.