Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Arsenal Power Rankings

Welcome to the 3rd edition of The Arsenal Power Rankings. This is the feature where players are rated purely on performance and not ability. It moves with the times and you don't get by on reputation alone. 

Previous power rankings have consisted of a top 15 but this time around it's been condensed to a top 10. Tougher choices and more players fail to make the grade.

So without any further ado, here is this the panel. 

And me, @mj_afc

Without anyone wanting to help out with this blog, you'd just be listening to my rambles. So thanks to everyone who has put their views across. 

The previous top 15 was:

15th - Carl Jenkinson
14th - Mikel Arteta
13th - Tomas Rosicky
12th - Jack Wilshere
11th - Santi Cazorla
10th - Theo Walcott
9th - Laurent Koscielny
8th - Bacary Sagna
7th - Wojciech Szczęsny
6th - Kieran Gibbs
5th - Per Mertesacker
4th - Mathieu Flamini
3rd - Mesut Özil
2nd - Olivier Giroud
1st - Aaron Ramsey

That was our top 15 as of mid-October. So a lot of time has passed, so it'll be interesting to see who's stepped up and who has ran out of steam. 

Before we commence with the top ten, a run down of those that didn't make the grade.

No Votes

If we were picking team in the park, this lot would have been left standing until the end:

Emiliano Vivano
Carl Jenkinson
Thomas Vermaelen
Nacho Monreal
Nicklas Bendtner
Yaya Sanogo
Ryo Miyachi
Lukas Podolski

No real surprise there given the lack of playing time for most. Maybe we could have expected to see more from Monreal who has been given has played more than anyone else listed above but he appears to have gone off the boil. Clearly from that list Sanogo may be a big mover next time. 

Missed The Cut

The biggest surprise has to be that despite ranking 4th in the previous power rankings, Mathieu Flamini has fallen out of the top ten. He received one solitary vote from @MadRuskiGunner. It's quite a turnaround in midfield actually. Given it was our earlier season strength, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain all failed to make the top ten. I'm not sure if this raises the question that our midfield has been carried on the shoulders of Aaron Ramsey but we've certainly missed the goals of our dynamic Welshman. 

Only two other players failed to make the grade that received votes and they were Serge Gnabry and Lukasz Fabianski. 

The Top Ten

10th - Olivier Giroud (down 8 places)

It's been a tough few months for Giroud but there's still a decent striker in there. He certainly hasn't been helped with his recent off the field misdemeanours. His lack of goals at The Emirates is a concern but of late he has scored big goals at Newcastle, Villa & Southampton.  Lets hope when he returns to the side he's rejuevenated and ready to help is win some silverware. 

9th - Kieran Gibbs (down 3 places)

@attwood10 - arguably our most improved player. He's so reliable. He's cemented his first choice status & is fast developing into a key player for us. The fact you never hear a single story about him says a lot too. Top talent. 

It would appear there's no longer a battle for the left back spot. 

8th - Theo Walcott (up 2 places)

@Alan_Alger_ - I think it's fair to say I've been one of his harshest critics down the years. On one hand I feel he is paid far too much for his contribution to the cause, and often his inconsistencies can frustrate beyond rational explanation. He is of those players where you could form a YouTube compilation to make him look the best or worst in the world very easily. Overall though he does deliver and provides a good option for us. He certainly showed that before his injury and will no doubt to show that when he comes back - although overall I don't feel we get the maximum out of him aligned to his wages. Deserves a place in the top ten. 

If not for his injury, I'm sure Theo would have featured a little higher. 

7th - Aaron Ramsey (down 6 place)

@LucaHelvetica - The lynchpin of the team when fit, earns his place despite a month out injured due to his workrate, assists and vital goals against Liverpool and Dortmund. 

Our side is in need of those penetrating runs he makes and it's another option that is missing for our record signing. 

6th - Mesut Özil (down 3 places)

@YankeeGunner - Mesut Özil hasn't been the "supernova" we might've expected but for a first season player he's been excellent. He's a luxury player to be sure but he's great at keeping possession and has proven that he will create chances, as he leads the team in that crucial statistic. Özil doesn't race around the pitch which leads to accusations of laziness but he understands movement so well that he often doesn't need to. He will improve over the next few seasons to be a true success at Arsenal but he's been excellent for a first campaign. Of course he'll need to improve his penalties. 

A lot of sense spoken in the midst of mass hysteria. Özil is class - it's that simple. 

5th - Bacary Sagna (up 3 places)

@yorkshiregunner - I gave him plenty of stick last year (rightly so by the way) but he's the Bac of old this year. Solid, snaps into tackles & imperious in the air. Really hope he stays but if he doesn't he deserves to end his Arsenal career as a winner with a medal to show for years of good service. 

It'll certainly be a step back for the side if he leaves. We've been here before though haven't we?

4th - Santi Cazorla (up 7 places)

@GiantGooner - Santi suffered initially after returning from his ankle injury, but he returned to form in the Boxing Day win over West Ham and has been a solid performer since with four goals and two assists in 10 starts, including a brace in the 2-0 win over Fulham. When we look at players who can step up and lift the team during the murderers row of March matches, Cazorla should be near the top of the list.

He wasn't wrong. A more than credible 4th place for Santi. 

The Top Three

There was a popular trio that made up most of the the panels top 3 selections and you've probably guessed who they are but who takes over from Aaron Ramsey in first place? 

3rd - Wojciech Szczęsny (up 4 places)

@addy_88 - the goalkeeper I hoped Arsène would buy for many years. But his trust in the pole has paid off and now he is, in my opinion, the best goaly in the Premier League. He saves us many points over the course of time and is one of the leaders and the backbone of the 2nd best defence in the league.  Furthermore he is only 23 years old so he can still improve and, maybe, become one of the best in the world. Wojciech Szczęsny was always a confident lad but now he also shows his outstanding class! 

2nd - Laurent Koscielny (up 7 places)

@TheSquidBoyLike - Over the autumn and winter months it wasn't swashbuckling attacking football that kept us top of the league, but more an obstinate defence that amassed numerous clean sheets. Koscielny undoubtedly played a huge role in that. Mertesacker may be the brains of the back line, but Koscielny brings the brawn with his aggression and anticipation. Also possess an impressive and growing back-pocket of so-called 'world class' strikers. 

You can't disagree with that. It's like George Graham's Arsenal have been reborn. 

1st - Per Mertesacker (up 4 places)

@MadRuskiGunner - For me Per Mertesacker is the most consistent player at Arsenal at the moment. His duo with Koscielny has reached record heights and can without any modesty be called the best in the league. Our defensive statistics have been outstanding this season. A defeat to Bayern a couple of days ago was our first home loss in 14 games. We've kept 11 clean sheets at The Emirates. Impressive.

Large part of success is all due to Per's magnificent form. He oozes confidence, never shies away from any ball or tackle and despite his rather clumsy appearance he defends with such grace and technique.

Per strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn't like the buzz around his own personality much. He prefers to go out onto the pitch and prove his worth. 

Despite the above it's becoming more and more evident that Per is the soul if our squad. He is vocal, he is experienced and he takes no prisoners. Just the right person to find that balance between youth and elder generation.

We have been witnessing an increasing number of Per media encounters lately that leads to speculation of possible Arsenal captaincy in the future. Many support this idea, including myself. 

I don't know whether we will win a trophy this year or not but Per Mertesacker has definitely won our hearts. 

A fitting tribute to round up the panels thoughts on the top 10 players. 

Congratulations to the BFG. Your trophy is at my house it you want to come and collect it. 

Overall, it's an amazing turnaround for a side renowned for it's attacking flair. Currently our three most inform players are in our defence. We've waited a long time for Wenger to rebuild the Invincible defence but finally we have a reliable unit that can win us games. Sometimes watching good defending is as entertaining as watching a free flowing attacker. Goals will games but defences win silverware. Let's hope we have a nice shiny cup to show off in May. 

Here is the scoring matrix for the squad. 

So there you have it. Lots of opinions on players without necessarily slagging them off. So quite a refreshing take on things given the past few days. Who would make your top 10? Feel free to comment below. 

Once again, thanks to all that took part. I always enjoy putting these blogs together and this will become a monthly feature from now on. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lukas Ensures It's a Fab Day For Arsenal

Apologies for the cheesy title but it did feel good did it not?

I'll be honest, when I started to hear rumours that the likes of Sanogo were going to play, I started to get myself a little wound up and ultimately expecting that we'd watch another game as part of another Arsenal collapse. Then you find out the teams (shortly after Giroud spilled his heart to the world) and Jenkinson is in. Time for a deep breath, after all, I lost the plot a little when I heard rumours we were resting players ahead of Bayern (A). This came after defeat in the NLD. It was another classic Wenger gamble. 


You'd have hoped we would have learned our lessons from last week but within the first 4 minutes we were carved open twice. Not the encouraging start we were after. Then we got our shape right. I always love it when Wenger gets tactical because he's rather good when he gets away from 'if we play to our strengths, we'll win' mentality. Both Podolski and Ox were narrow and the former seemed to have a licence to roam. It helped engage our wingers, which was crucial when we had a striker making his debut in the FA Cup. We had seen off the early pressure and got ourselves a precious lead. We calmed and we started to control the game. So a nice narrow shape with plenty of bodies to stop Liverpool's high tempo game. If last Saturday taught us anything it was that we can ill afford to lose possession high up the field. When this is coupled with a lack of numbers it really does spell disaster. It plays against the only weakness the likes of Mertesacker has. You can have all the positional sense you like but if you are caught on the counter with half the pitch to go, then you are essentially doomed. Today though, we played deep and if Liverpool did get in Fabinksi was off his line in a flash. So not only were tactics applied but also some lessons learned. Which has been a rarity with Arsenal in recent years. 


Thirteen months ago, Lukasz Fabinski got his chance to stake his claim for the #1 jersey. He came in away to Bayern after Szczęsny had been dropping gaff after gaff, but he offered us stability in the face of adversity. Today was a reminder that he does have his strengths and he is learning. The question would remain whether he could do it on a consistent basis because there is a thin line between success and failure. Just look at Agger's header late on. If that goes in, we point the finger straight at him and could have cost us the game. However, no ifs or buts, today he was MOTM. Since March last year our keepers handling has been absolutely fantastic. I know Gerry Peyton has taken his fair share of stick over the years and rightly so given our inconsistency between the sticks but clearly his work is paying off. I'm in a position where I nearly trust the keepers as much as I did when David Seaman used to come and claim crosses. Fabianski was fast off his line, his handling was exemplary and his reflexes were sharp as a tack. Fair play to him, considering he wouldn't be what you'd class as match fit. The sad point is that Fabianski will be moving on in the months to come. When coupled with Viviano being on loan, that'll leave only Szczęsny as our only recognised first team goalkeeper. It's been quite a week for the Flappy household. 


I wrote on Friday about how Poldi cannot play centre forward and today reinforces my opinion. Having him on the left hand side offers so much to our attacking play. His run and finish that went on to be the difference embodies everything that Podolski brings to the side. Goals at this stage of the season are invaluable. I have no issue with Podolski on the left, mainly due to the fact I welcome players who are prepared to unleash some fury on the opposition goal. The test will now be if Wenger believes in him. I don't expect him to start against Bayern, despite the fact he scored our only goal against them at The Emirates last season. However, the bigger decisions come in the weeks to come against Sunderland and Stoke. I just hope Podolski doesn't find himself back on the bench again but it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't see Lukas until the weekend of the 8th March. 

Arteta & Flamini

I swear I am sick of the term double pivot  and how this partnership doesn't work. Well, today, it did. In fact it was key to victory. It crowed the channels and suffocated Liverpool at times. Their partnership also allowed the attackers to do what they are paid to do. It also changed our style of play from last week. Jack tries to play and gets flustered. Flamini just does the basics but gets even at the same time. Look at Gerrard shoving Jack to the ground last week. Fast forward one week and the England Skipper is seeking retribution in a sly manner, but he was rattled. A job well done and I expect we'll see this duo on a more regular basis. Pending Ramsey's return to the side I'd play them together as often as possible start and keep Jack on the bench. 

Overall, yesterday was a massive success. The collapse is on ice and our season keeps on ticking over. We now find ourselves 90 minutes away from Wembley. Just the thought of being involved in big games like Semi-Finals and Finals is massively exciting. We all crave silverware and the FA Cup gives us our best opportunity to end the 'drought'.  We are in the business end of the season and we cannot fade away. I appreciate we are massive underdogs against Bayern but it's by no means a foregone conclusion. Bayern will be wary of us  and they are a side that go through the motions on a regular basis. For us, the first goal is crucial. It's more than a goal, it offers belief and a route to victory. Let's hope we can get the start we desire on Wednesday and then maybe, we'll be taken seriously again. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Why Does Podolski Not Play Centre Forward?

Such a simple question, yet often misjudged. I think when Podolski signed both he and Wenger had hoped he could return to his central role but it seemed to fit better with the German in his often familiar left wing role. 

So it all began against Sunderland at home at the beginning of last season. A sweltering day and Lukas was given his first start as the focal point of our attack. 
Of course it was a day better remember for Giroud missing a glorious chance late on. *sighs*

It would be a while before Poldi made his return to the striker position and it happened to be on one of our darkest days in the Premier League last season - Swansea at home. Again his production was lacking.

This isn't going well is it? At this time Giroud got a slight injury but didn't return to the line up for several games and Theo Walcott began to get a chance and it wasn't until Giroud was sent off at Fulham that the German go another chance as striker. 

QPR Away

Another grim day for him. For those keeping track that's three games, no goals and not a single shot on target. 

Then hallelujah, we strike gold - Wigan and an inspired Santi Cazorla. Poldi comes to life 

Two goals, one a real poachers effort from a corner and the other a neet finish to seal victory. This left Wenger with a tough decision ahead of our final game at St James' Park. Does he stick with two goal Podolski or does he recall Giroud. He went with the former and we went on to seal 4th place but it wasn't a great day for Lukas

It ended a turbulent season as he seemed to fall out of favour but he kept getting goals from left wing. Much the same as is happening this season. 

As we all know Podolski got a serious hamstring injury against Fenerbache days after he'd notched a brace against Fulham. When he returned he made a big impact at West Ham and he won us the game by creating one and scoring another. He was recalled to centre forward on New Years Day as Arsène had made a New Years resolution to start him upfront more but again it failed 
Bendtner came on to save the day. Just let that sentence sink in for a minute.

So all in all he has started six league games as our line striker. In five of those games he hasn't even registered a shot on target. It's far from convincing. 

Aside from his poor record, he offers little in the way of runs, an aerial threat or any way of holding up play. Lukas has played that many times as a left winger that I truly believe he's forgotten how to play the role. I just don't see the clamour for him to start as the old fashioned number 9. He is best suited to the left wing. He appears to be a player that likes the game played in front of him, rather than with his back to goal. He also has a good understanding with Giroud. We need players that have an understanding as we have too many players fighting over who will drop the deepest to have possession. 

He is a huge asset to us on the wing but Wenger (foolishly) doesn't fancy him (not sexually) anymore. The bloke scores goals and this side is struggling with the loss of 21 goal Theo Walcott and also Poldi scored 16 times last season. So that's 37 goals missing from our front three. That actually makes it less surprising that we are struggling to break teams down. 

Why doesn't he play? I have no idea. 

Why didn't Wenger chuck him on for ten minutes against United? Answers on a post card. 

However, the truth is he has struggled as a centre forward and he's not even half the player Giroud is. The Frenchman is in a rut and due to the fact we don't have anyone capable of playing his role his is expected to play week in, week out. Somewhat unfair but that's the position we put ourselves in. Sadly, we have two massive cup games upcoming and I have a sneaked feeling we'll be seeing Super Nicklas Bendtner be in the side. Go on Super Nick. 

Just don't be fooled by pictures of him on Instagram and judge him by his performances on the pitch and inparticular upfront. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Another Dull Game

As last night’s events begin to sink I still can’t shake that it felt like it was a defeat. We’ve failed to break down a Manchester United rearguard that has been laughable throughout this season. We had an opportunity to go back top and capitalise on Chelsea’s late slip at West Brom and we failed to take advantage. I’m not sure the hunger and desire that we were promised after Saturday’s embarrassment was evident. There was talk from Wenger regarding nerves but I’m sorry, what is there to be nervous about? We got battered on Saturday but that was a fluke, a one-off if you like (despite it happening at The Etihad as well), I’m sorry nerves shouldn’t be used a reason why we failed to win a game that would have given use huge momentum with a favourable run of league games upcoming. It was a massive chance missed.

Ozil has taken far too much stick over the last few days but last night he should have been the difference maker but sadly the supporting cast failed to attend (Cazorla excluded). It was good to see him orchestrating our attacks but players seem too eager to drop deep and not make the killer run and draw players out of position. This is after all what Wenger’s teams from our successful years were the masters of. Gary Neville once said that Ferguson advised that our movement was that good that their players elected to stand still and play more of a zonal defence because they just got ripped to pieces in a 1v1 situation. Ozil showed up last night and a lot of other didn’t.

The player who is attracting the most attention for his poor performance last night is Olivier Giroud. He was poor; he had chances to score and failed to convert. Crucial chances have to be taken in such games but unfortunately for us we lacked that killer instinct. Giroud is suffering from a dip in confidence and when that happens to a striker who isn’t world class that leaves us in a dark place. Is he the next Emirates victim? He hasn’t scored at The Emirates in the Premier League since 23rd November. That’s quite a bad run of form. That said I was under no illusions that Giroud wouldn’t suffer a dip in form, after all that is why there should be reinforcements as a summer and winter transfer window continues to look like a huge mistake. I wasn’t overly convinced Higuain would have taken us to the next level, as his own record in big games for Madrid was questionable. That said he has movement and the eye for goal that we are craving. It’s worth considering he would have cost the equivalent of a proposed fee for Draxler.

Despite Giroud’s woeful night, I don’t have him top of the list in terms of poor performance. Jack Wilshere takes that honour. Jack seems to play the game as if it’s a 5aside game. You cannot be that wasteful in possession, you cannot run down blind alleys and just be generally reckless. I’m getting a bit tired of him lying on the deck as well. Our attacks seem like they are at a premium at present, so when we are getting stopped at source, that becomes a huge issue. If I were Wenger I’d be considering playing Tomas Rosicky in his position. Rosicky himself is about as much use to going forward as Clive Allen was for us. Ozil put one on a plate for the Czech last night and he elected to control, double back and pass. It was a position that Robert Pires would arch a curler into top corner after taking it first time. I mention Pires because it was he that was replaced by the fan favourite Rosicky. Everyone talks about the tempo Rosicky adds and I agree, I just expect more from an attacker, like goals and assists but it just seems that this move would be a good fit. What do you think? He did play there against Fulham at Craven Cottage in a nice 3-1 win. A game in which we played without a recognised DM, which is also a point worth considering as we seem to have welcomed Denilson back into the side. So there's plenty of food for thought.

As a result of our several failings you can’t help but discuss Wenger’s involvement in this. Managers live and die by their team talks and substitutions. The latter, well that’s just pathetic. One sub? In which a player that came to life recently in centre midfield is shunted out to the right winger because he has erm, pace. You have a German International sitting there, get him on the left wing and take a punt. There is no guarantee these changes would work but at least show the intention to win the game. This is the second of what you’d call big games when Wenger hasn’t utilised his bench, the other being Chelsea. Is Wenger not learning his own lessons here? Yes, we are one point off top, it’s not the end of the world but at some point, you need to reclaim top spot and with an extremely tricky March upon us, it just felt that we let this game and opportunity get away from us. Away sides are more than happy with a point; any of the top four managers would take a point before an away game of such importance. At present we are just the kings of the 0-0 HT draw. As I mentioned on Sunday, the last time we led at HT in a league was in December against Hull. We don’t appear to have any game management, particularly when a side lacks a killer instinct. I would even reason with subs like Bendtner for Giroud, you know, trying something a little different. We seemed to forget that lofting crosses into the box is exactly what Vidic wants. What he doesn’t like is balls in behind and getting turned. Sagna put in one peach of a pass late on but Giroud couldn’t convert. The big game bottlers stigma remains with us and I doubt we can shake it off this season although three wins at Sp*rs, Chelsea and Man City would blow that out of the water, but let’s be honest, that’s not realistic.

Wenger needs to fix this disjointed side. We have one of the top playmakers in world football but he needs players that have the desire and ability to score. Only Santi Cazorla seemed willing to support the German last night and if we continue to shun attacking responsibility then we will continue to fire blanks. Let’s just hope this side can find its spark in the cup competitions and give us a timely boost ahead of the turning in to the final straight. 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Day To Forget

Before yesterday's game I really didn't know what to expect, any outcome was possible, especially  considering our good record at Anfield and on the back of Liverpool's poor display at The Hawthornes six deals earlier. We haven't really been sublime on too many occasions but I was still conscious that that we are capable of caving in.

The Game

So we served up the latter and it's tough to know where to begin. Prior to today, other than the sheer firepower of Man City, the two sides that have impressed me most would have to be Everton and Southampton. Coincidentally, both of those sides pressed us high up the field and got rewards, whilst Everton offered little in attack, Southampton should have been out of sight by HT but we turned it around after a masterful teamtalk from Wenger. As the season progresses, game plans and weaknesses become more apparent in sides and your side has to adapt to the necessary changes needed in order to win titles. Yesterday it felt like we were extremely naive and sadly we were completely off the boil from the outset. Mertesacker dallied and within a nano second Suarez had the ball. I'm not wholly convinced it was a foul but we might as well have not bothered even pretending to defend the set piece. I'm not even interested in people debating an offside, it wasn't, move on. Set pieces suddenly became a huge issue, Koscielny standing six yards off Skrtel is asking for trouble but in truth the header was magnifcient. For me though it was how cheaply we were dispossed that disappointed me. Ozil couldn't have played any worse, inaccurate passes leading to counter attacks. Three of his mistakes led to either goals (on two occasions) and massive chances on another. We played entirely as individuals, as liverpool hunted to get the ball back, They wanted it, we didn't and when that happens in inexcusable. One of Ozil's errors came from Henderson's pressure, which should come as no surprise. I remember in his Sunderland days he stuck to Fabregas like glue, he might not have the talent of our mercuial German but that's why they have players like Coutinho and Suarez, they do the damage, 4-0 after 20 minutes is what you expect from a Sunday morning side, it was an embarrassment but who do you blame?


There were too many below par performances, in a big game you can't really afford to carry anyone. The back four were abysmal, they were exposed, yes, but also dreadful. Our midfield was utterly hopeless, it has to be able to get through dark periods in games but I don't think we have that ability in our locker. At times you just need to be determined and physical, surely Wenger has learnt that from the Vieira and Petit days? I also think our shape upfront was disjointed. Oxlade-Chamberlain plays extremely well in centre midfield and then he is shunted out onto the right hand side. He did function well there last season but then so did Podolski but he was dropped to the bench. I also have to question Santi Cazorla's discipline, too often he was caught too far inside and this completely exposed Monreal (who can also count himself lucky to have started). 

A Step Back

No, not in terms of the side going backwards, more us, the fans, taking a step back. This was another reality check but the key is we must bounce back. The players have the ideal opportunity now with the visit of Man United on Wednesday. Win and it'll go someway to helping overcome the defeat suffered yesterday. That'll lead us into league games against Sunderland, Stoke and Swansea (subject to Cup progression of course). So it's imperative that we give ourselves a solid platform to build upon again. The great Man United sides of the past rarely lost back to back games and would invariably good on 10+ game unbeten runs, We need to give ourselves the best opportunity to maintain our league position. Thankfully Man City did us a bit of a favour and we only dropped a point behind one side. There may be opportunities to overtake Chelsea before we go head to head with them in March although their fixtures do look favourable, which is why it is imperative that we shake off whatever it ws that caused us to get sloppy yesterday. It also worth noting that free scoring Man City now havent managed to score in two games since Aguero got injured. That is flying slightly under the radar as we take centre stage in the world of the tabloids. 


It has been noticeable that going forward we dont seem to create many chances. There are times when we isolate Giroud and by doing so we will lose possession. He can't do it on his own, as he has neither the pace nor the ability to dribble away from someone. If you surround him with players, then he comes alive but far too often we get away from that and I have no idea why. Then you have Ozil, of course the media are going nuts about how ineffective he is but that's more down to our style of play, which currently hasn't adapted to his game. Ozil finds runners, of which there have been few and far between. Look at goals such as Wilshere's at Villa. Monreal breaks in behind, Ozil finds him and before you know it 1-0 Arsenal. If we are to persist with this static style of play then we are wasting the talents of one of the worlds great players. Few players have the vision but they also need the incivisve movement of others. Remember Vieira's goal against Leicester? What a pass from Bergkamp but without the run, Bergkamp probably pops it off to the left or right and we continue to probe. You begin to feel that we are badly missing Walcott to be that option to unlock defences and someone needs to step up. We are missing Ramsey who likes a forray into the oppoisiton box but we seem to have too many players who are happy to create and not enough that like to supply the end product. Please don't take this as an assesment purely based on yesterdays performance (although it was evident at Anfield as well) but we have been getting by and it's somewhat surprising that despite being top for so long that we haven't really torn a side to shreds. The most emphatic scoreline was against Norwich in a 4-1 win but in truth they tested us that day and we resorted to playing on the counter attack for much of the 2nd half. We let first halves drift by us and usually we spring to life in the 2nd half but we can't allow 45 minutes to just pass us by, particualrly at home. The last time we led at home in the league at HT was against Hull in early December. Since then we've played Everton, Chelsea, Cardiff, Fulham and Palace. It seems somewhat bizarre but it seems to be becoming a trait of ours. 


At the end of the day we have been a 4th place side masquerading as the league leaders for quite a while. This season has been nothing but an unadulterated success so far. We've battled and fought back to finish in the top 4 for the last couple of seasons and now we are talking about title challenges, for which I am overjoyed. However, when you give yourself the opportunity to challenge you want to see if you can see it through. This is where the test starts. There have been signifcant improvements this year and whilst it isn't always essntial to beat your rivals it is important that this side has the belief that they can go into games and win. At the minute I don't think they (the players) believe it, despite winning in dortmund, which you would have thought would have gone a long way to destorying the stigma attached to us, It would be nice to see us thrash a big side, like has happened to us more often than not but i'd happily settle for a 1-0 win on wednesday but if we want to win the league then we can ill afford any more days like City and Liverpool away. Wenger has said yesterday raises some questions, he has three days to find the answers.