We’ve had quite an enduring week. Off the back of a good away win against Swansea we had to go up against a Bayern Munich side that were out for blood when they played us. That was in conjunction with a 6 player swing that was in their favour from our last encounter with them meaning they always had superiority to us player for player. We didn’t have enough to stretch them and that’s why they are truly one of the best teams around. They welcomed back Robben and Martinez into their side whilst we missed Ramsey, Bellerin, Koscielny & Theo Walcott who would have all started not to mention Oxlade Chamberlain who would have also had some involvement. So it’s a 6/7 player swing that caused such a different result. It showed that we absolutely had to be at full strength to compete and have a chance against them so I don’t begrudge the result too much. Yes I believe we could have put in some more fight and lost maybe 3-1 or something more respectable but the truth is that most of our squad is running on empty. The only player that still looks up for it and not in any way zapped of energy remains Mesut Ozil. Alexis Sanchez looks shattered as did Santi Cazorla and when your ‘go to’ players don’t quite seem up to the task it filters through the rest of the team like a virus. That said we still had 2/3 quite good chances to get a few more goals but it just didn’t quite happen for us. The worst part of that evening was a last minute winner for Olympiakos which leaves us needing favours and a 2 goal win in Greece. Precarious to say the least. People keep begging the question; “Europa League or not?” when discussing our European fate, but surely we’d rather try and win a European trophy no? It would be difficult to juggle but with players coming back (try not to laugh here) we have the squad to be able to cope if we were unfortunate enough to get knocked out of the Champions League. We’ll find out soon enough but I’m still firmly in the belief that qualification is 100% on. Bayern need to beat Olympiakos to solidify top spot so I can’t see them easing off. It will come down to whether we are actually up to the task or not.
Onto the North London Derby. Disappointing to say the least is the only way to describe the events that unfolded before our eyes. We started ok but Sp*rs were just better than us all over the park. 30 minutes had passed and we had yet to register a shot whilst they had managed 4, before eventually Kane broke the deadlock via some ‘not quite at the races’ defending from Koscielny. He had no need to step up as he was more than capable of dealing with Kane in a one-on-one situation, however he did and we were duly punished. The pattern of the game didn’t change until around the 65 minute mark when we finally started to assert a semblance of authority into the match. Petr Cech had kept us in the game with some good saves, especially the header from point blank range and his calmness and authority (the Mertesacker mix up aside) were a welcome break to the onslaught we were suffering. Giroud really should have levelled with one of his two big chances from Ozil’s quite magnificent dead ball deliveries. Alas the bar and an inch were the margins by which he fell short. The goal we so desperately needed came from the most obvious of candidates, Kieran Gibbs. What a pass it was from Ozil to find him at the back post. Thereafter it was all us and we could quite easily have won it but for some good goalkeeping by Lloris. Sp*rs, as much as I hate to say it, definitely look like the best of the rest and would be favourites for 4th simply due to the way that they are playing. It’s really disciplined football and they have the ability, going forward, to cause problems to anyone. A youthful exuberance mixed with hard work are all hallmarks of a Pochettino led Southampton. It’s a question of whether they can keep Kane fit and for Son to be able to step up when required. Although you have to remember that we were terrible, and with that in consideration, they still couldn’t beat us. They will say we ‘got lucky’ and didn’t deserve anything, however I have 2 things to say to that. 1 – how many times have we been the ‘unlucky’ ones when we’re dominating a game and 2 – football is all about luck. You can be having the best game of your life only to be hit on the counter and punished. Clinical is what you need to be if you are to mirror any semblance of ‘authority’ that you have in a game. Gary Neville was at it again saying it’s the worst Arsenal he’s seen for a long time. Yet a woeful United versus City a couple of weeks ago was the hallmark of two sides who can now compete in Europe. What a load of tosh. Had that been a United performance, hyperbole such as resilience, character and a will to not lose would have been banded around for fun. He’s been a pundit for so long he must be bored of acting as unbiased as possible and is now going with his feelings rather than the apparent goings on of the football in front of him. Added to that Jamie Carragher had his two bob by saying that Ozil had a nothing game until he set up the goal and that creating chances from set pieces wasn’t worth taking into account when judging a players contribution. These people do love nicking a living now, they honestly do. They use stats when it backs their case and refer to their ‘eagle eye’ if the stats don’t quite back them up. In this case it was the ‘eagle eyed’ vision that plucked that gem of analysis from the ever growing tree of footballing wisdom that is Jamie Carraghers brain. What a tool.
On the final whistle it’s one of my most confused feelings as a fan. Angst at the missed opportunity of going top. Relief at getting a point when it didn’t look likely. Derision at the fact we allowed them to play well for so long in the game. Happy at the fact we’re still level with City. It’s one of those weekends where the one result you needed to go your way did. Somehow Villa picked up a point from their game versus City which still leaves us in a good position going into the international break. Lord knows we hate interlulls but we needed it desperately this time around. Yes some of our squad will go away on international duty but it allows 2 weeks for some of our injured XI to get back. A part of me is just relieved that we are still with a chance both in Europe and in the League and we now have 2 weeks to recover. I really hope that we can get Theo and Ramsey back for the West Brom game and we know the Ox is training again so he should be back in contention as well. Cazorla looks like he needs a rest as well so I hope that he’s not overworked for any international football. The main thing for us though was to get to the international break to allow us all to catch our breath. Hopefully this new intake of O2 will help us bound along through to Christmas in a similar if not better position.
Have a good week folks.
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