Premier League football being back is something that I find exciting. The weekends are always looked upon as an opportunity to hope. An opportunity to dream. The idea is that we go into them thinking that anything can happen (both good and bad), and more so since Leicester surprised us all last season. So when we win, it comes with what you would expect to be happiness, relief & joy right? Ah nope, you were wrong. It’s not joy, it’s disdain, hatred and vitriol. That’s the theme these days anyway…
It’s been the theme of my past week to be honest. Granted all Arsenal fans have been pretty low considering our start to the season coupled with our inactivity in the transfer market, but there’s been stick from all directions. This week I’ve had the “you lot never spend any money” from plenty of work colleagues, along with “Why wasn’t Koscielny playing against Liverpool!?”. Never mind the fact that all of Sagna, Lloris & Cedric were all played and all picked up knocks from playing in game 1. The week continued and it looked as though we finally spent some money on a World Cup winning Centre Back and a decent looking striker from La Liga. I was then collared with “Who is Mustafi?”, “Why didn’t we get Hummels!?”, “You’re always the same. Sign unheard of players and expect to win”. The last one from a City fan. No one remembers that we signed a World Cup winning Thierry Henry who didn’t play so much of the 98 World Cup. No one remembers that Hummels moved to Bayern Munich. No one remembers that we can’t just splash out the big money on just about anyone and pay them ridiculous money. It’s just not the way we are run and non Arsenal folk seem to love a condescending opinion on the matter. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t really. Does Wenger stand a chance even if he’s successful this year? And by chance I mean, a way to combat the banner brigade and social media presence that only seems to be growing.
Moving on from the transfers we actually won a game this weekend, however there were plenty of people lambasting the manager/team by saying it was the luckiest 3 points we’ve EVER gotten. I mean what an absolutely abhorrent statement. What are people trying to achieve other than their 15 minutes of fame? A Gooner friend attended the game and said that there were fans crying out for a draw just so that Wenger was sacked. I mean these are morons who pay money to go and watch their team and want them to fail. The ‘Joy’ they get out of games is from their opinions being ‘heard’ by the club. In short it’s a popularity contest being played out in the minds of the folk who don’t seem to like their team winning. Craziness. I saw a clown on the Arsenal Fan TV page pop up on my timeline last week, it was from 2 weeks ago with regards to our shambolic showing against Liverpool. While I admire what AFTV are doing, in that they have given a voice to fans, to a certain extent, I just can’t shake the feeling that there would be far less banners if such a channel didn’t exist. The man on screen asked this very question: “Where were the One Arsene Wenger chants this week?”. Followed by an expletive to describe fans of a different opinion. To that I’d respond, “Where were the We Want Wenger Out chants when we were beating Utd 3-0 at home mate?”. Surely this grown man can’t expect Positives to be sung when the chips are down coupled with negatives to be sung when we’re riding high? It’s flabbergasting and it’s this sort of hyperbolic opinion and constant cockroach like presence that is attracting a large group of fans. The opinions are one thing that I don’t have a problem with, it’s the in-toleration of the disagreement of such opinions that baffles me. Tim Stillman wrote a great piece last week on how it’s so important to certain fan bases to convert others to their beliefs that it’s detracting from the main event. The football. I’m inclined to agree. Whilst I want us to win EVERYTHING I just don’t understand how we can’t just agree to disagree and move on. Be happy with the win, the points, the good times. Me writing the above won’t change any of this, however it makes me feel better…
The game itself was finally great to watch. With Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka in our midfield we really did purr as a team. Xhaka looks to be a class act and his vision as well as Cazorla’s presence really took the burden off Ozil’s shoulders and gave Watford far too much to worry about to cope. The first goal came from a Mesut Ozil floated ball into the box followed by Alexis Sanchez getting clothes-lined by Amrabat, the Watford right back. We won a penalty for the horrendous ‘attempt’ at a tackle, which led to Alexis receiving boos from the Watford crowd for the remainder of the game. They seemd incredulous for every single decision that went against them. They were absolutely wrong on every single one of them. It’s one of those things that happens when you’re awarded a penalty at an oppositions ground and you always wonder whether the referee will subconsciously feel like he has to even things up in order to ease the pressure on himself. Thankfully Kevin Friend wasn’t our enemy on this occasion. The second goal came from some great build up play and a fantastic cross from Theo Walcott. Alexis was somewhat fortuitous with the finish, but the build up play alone deserved to be finished with a goal. Theo looks hungry again, but more on that later. The half looked to be petering out when Alexis picked up the ball on the left hand side and with a minute of stoppage time remaining there wasn’t much movement from either side. It’s as if both sets of players were waiting for the whistle to go. Not Mesut Ozil. He made a great run through the middle and maybe because of whom it was the Watford centre back pairing remained stationary, allowing Ozil to head home Alexis’ brilliant cross. 3-0 an game over effectively. At 2-0 we all knew that there could well be a fight back, however the third goal really deflated Watford. The second half started with us on the front foot for the first 10 minutes, however thereafter we faded and allowed Watford back into the game with some sloppy defending. The game threatened to get more frenetic with a few flashes from Watford, however thankfully Cech was on hand to thwart any further inroads into the scoreline. A well earned 3 points and life felt good again.
Onto Theo Walcott. He really does look up for it this season. I don’t want to dwell to much on him, however he really has got me eating humble pie thus far. His work rate and willingness to go above and beyond is shining through in a big way. I read a really interesting stat on him after the game; in 1375 minutes of Premier League football last season he made 11 tackles. In this seasons 270 minutes of football that he’s played in, he’s already made 8 tackles. Walcott has always been a player who plays well when there’s something for him to play for on an individual basis and it seems that his place as a footballer in general has now got him worried. He was in a state of flux and apathy last season, which led him to have an indifferent season with us and in turn miss out on the Euros. It’s as if the fear of having to potentially ply his trade at the likes of West Brom or the like has rocketed him into action. He really wants the ball, his pass completion is off the charts and he doesn’t look like he feels sorry for himself anymore. Whether he’s been playing to try and get a move or playing to have that career defining season, we’re all the happier for it. Long may it continue as this is the sort of humble pie I’m more than happy to consume.
Finally, we have acted in the transfer market. Though not yet official we look to have landed both Mustafi and Perez to cover the centre back and forward positions respectively. Mustafi is touted to be one of the best defenders in La Liga and a really smart footballer. Perfect for Arsenal, perfect for Mertescker to pass on his baton to. Perez looks to be a really similar profile to that of Jamie Vardy; he’s quick, strong and has an eye for goal with 17 last season, in the peak of his career (27 years old) and he’s not too expensive. That’s one we’ll have to wait and see on whereas Mustafi is more of a forward thinking purchase at the age of 24. We could well be looking at a partnership of Koscielny and Mustafi for the next 2-3 years if all goes well. The final whisper on the transfer front is that there may yet be room for one more. The funds are available and if the right player comes up we will act. I’m not going to get my hopes up massively, but if something spectacular were to happen in the final few days of the window (and I mean a big name), we could well be making a statement of intent to the rest of the Premier League. Making statements is fun. Let’s do this.
Oh and Granit Xhaka was bloody excellent. More on him next week in a post transfer window analysis.
Have a great week folks.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.