Arsene Wenger’s Magic…

…He wears a magic hat! Ahh the magic of the FA Cup. It’s a trophy that I am well and truly in love with. I’ve seen us lift the trophy on 6 occasions with the 97/98 season 2-0 win vs Newcastle as my first (albeit on TV). I still remember thinking “why is no one celebrating with Anelka?” when he scored the second and decisive goal. Now I know that it was because he didn’t get on with anyone in the squad. My deep love for the cup was further intensified with a 2-0 win over Chelsea in 2002 with ‘Only Ray Parlour’ getting in on the act along with Freddie’s red hair. 2003 brought us comfort when a Premier League title seemed all but sewn up only to go south at the death (damn you Leeds Utd). 2005 brought us victory with Captain Fantastique getting the winning penalty over Man Utd in a game where we really should have been beaten. Watching it with 3 other Man Utd fans made it all the more sweeter. Then came the defining FA Cup final moment for me personally; the comeback vs Hull City. Being there for my first FA Cup final and winning it that way nostalgically makes it all the more special, however special nonetheless. I was lucky enough to attend the following FA Cup final vs Aston Villa, which was a little more straight forward. It’s a special competition and one I love us winning again and again. I digress…

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Our performances from the get go in recent weeks have been sluggish to say the least. There’s a lot of discussion as to why this is happening and I think that the main reason is that we are playing with Giroud up top. Now I completely understand this when we are playing Premier League opposition because of the way that teams like to press us to inhibit our game with him in the side, but the game vs Preston is not a place where this sort of set up should be an issue. A Premier League outfit is generally supposed to be fitter, better technically as well as having the history of 12 FA Cup wins in the locker. That’s when you have to look at why our starts are so sluggish. It wasn’t similar to the Bournemouth game where we looked to be out-thought in the set up and tactics until the last 20 minutes when they tired and we had a target man that made the difference. This was a lethargic start that prompted  Preston to almost sit up and realise that we weren’t quite at the races. They took the lead early and then managed to spurn several great opportunities to go further ahead, it was almost as though they were too surprised at our lack of anything in the first half. The second half was a different story and Ramsey sent shivers down the spines of the Twitterati as he thumped in an equaliser 50 seconds after the restart. Cue the frantic deletion of Aaron Ramsey hate tweets on Twitter. Preston didn’t manage a shot on target throughout the second half as we continued to look for a second goal. The goal did come from target man like play from the combination of Ramsey, Giroud and Perez, however we created some brilliant opportunities throughout the second half that could have put us in front. The question is why does it take adversity for us to react?

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@Gunnerblog wrote a great piece on the Giroud celebration vs Bournemouth citing that he wasn’t overtly upset at celebrating a late equaliser but rather is annoyance lay with the fact that Giroud amongst others seemed happy with the equaliser. The contentment of a draw vs Bournemouth isn’t what wins you titles and that’s the real issue. People will say all the usual boiler plate stuff about lacking ‘men’, ‘leaders’ and lacking the ‘mental strength’ to succeed, however I don’t think that there’s anything that’s missing because the players themselves they feel they have ‘enough in the tank’ to make it happen. Highly immeasurable I know but it’s just a feeling I get when watching us play a little passively at times. I’ve written previously about Arsenal having a bit of a Goldilocks complex, which you can read here, but it basically alludes to the fact that we need the conditions to be juuuust right in order for us to win a game. At the moment it seems to be that way for getting a performance out of the team and the conditions are trailing in a game before realising that we actually need to start playing. It would be remiss of me to suggest that there wasn’t more to it, as there are more factors involved. I think a lot of our issues stemmed from the PSG game. Not being able to close that out and rest players in Basel caused injury and a little overplaying of our squad, which impacted the team and lead to our recently indifferent form.

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There are clearly some issues that Wenger needs to address and if recent news is anything to go by then he will be the man that needs to make the decisions if we are going to keep our big guns at the club. Mesut Ozil has outright come out and said that he is ready to sign and it’s over to the club, however it’s massively important to him that Wenger stays on as he loves playing for him. Alexis Sanchez has come out and said that it’s down to the club now. They’ve both laid their cards on the table, Wenger is key and money is key. There’s actually a lot that the club need to juggle in order to make it happen, but it looks like if one of those signings happens we can expect the other two to follow swiftly. I’m neither an Arsene knows brigade nor a Wenger out brigade, however this news must just eat away at the agenda driven mob out there. I can’t say that this won’t be fun viewing on the Twittersphere. The signs seem to be positive on the contract front though and I for one am pleased. I understand that there are people who say no player is bigger than the club and I agree, however to maintain our level as well as attract more top talent we need to keep the likes of Ozil and Alexis at the club. To lose either of them would be a step backwards or at best a step in no direction at all with a replacement (time to settle in etc).

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The main two positives from the weekend are firstly and fore-mostly, we are in the hat for the 4th round draw of the FA Cup and secondly that Mesut Ozil wants to stay at Arsenal football club.

Have a wonderful week folks.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

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