19 April 2018

Atlético, Atleti, away!

Well, well, well. It appears as if the indomitable, invincible, insurmountable Atlético Madrid are not quite as in-_______ as reports would have you believe. Visiting Real Sociedad on Thursday, they suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, a 3-0 undressing that suggests, if nothing else, that our Europa League semifinal rivals are beatable. If we can do to them in this first leg what Real Sociedad has just done, maybe—just maybe—we can withstand whatever onslaught they'll mount in the second. There is no hubris here, no false optimism, only rational realism. Even as our own league form has dipped, we have to remind ourselves that we are marshaling resources (putting all of our eggs in one basket) and focusing on winning the Europa League. Real Sociedad has offered us an invitation, a dare, if you will, to at least get to the final.

15 April 2018

Newcastle 2:1 Arsenal—Vote for Player-Ratings & MOTM.

Arsenal took an early lead through a well-worked goal from Lacazette, courtesy of a nifty little cross from Aubameyang, and early signs indicated that Arsenal would finally find its first away points of 2018. Alas, Newcastle stormed back and always looked the livelier. We've now conceded 46 goals, equal to 17th-placed Swansea, and have committed more errors leading to goals (15) than any other club. We can forget any chance of catching Chelsea and now have to look nervously over our shoulders at Burnley, just two points behind and in fine form. Of course, we've essentially written off the Prem, but that cannot excuse this kind of result. Sorry, shouldn't be skewing poll numbers, should I? The less said, the better, then. Down to the poll...

12 April 2018

CSKA Moscow 2:2 Arsenal—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

CSKA Moscow found goals either side of halftime breathed too much life into this second leg, and, for about 75 minutes, it looked like we'd see a repeat of AS Roma-Barcelona or, failing that, Real-Juve. Finally, Danny Welbeck settled some nerves as he scored to restore a more comfortable 3-5 aggregate, to which Aaron Ramsey added some security in stoppage-time. It wasn't pretty, and we can't quite claim to have learned any lessons from results in the Champions League, but we're through to the semifinal anyway. We'll find out who we'll face there soon enough—Salzburg, Atletico, or Marseille. Let's rate the lads!

10 April 2018

Saintses and Orcses and Hugheses, oh my!

First and foremost, we have to admit to a certain degree of schadenfreude. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, we're presented almost weekly with a chance to wallow in it. On Saturday, to cite just one example, we had a veritable smörgåsbord of schadenfreudian options as we watched the Manchester derby. Should we hope for Alexis and Mourinho to suffer the ignominy of defeat at the Etihad as they watch City celebrate, or should we hope for Guardiola and all of his mercenaries to be humiliated twice in one week? In a word, yes. Such is the live of the footballing fan. The enjoyment is roughly 40% support for one's club, 60% spite and schadenfreude at the expense of various rivals.
Say what you will about this campaign, what with its ups and downs (okay, mostly the latter). We were humbled in the League Cup final, humiliated in the FA Cup's Third Round, and we never had a hint of a chance at winning the Prem. Yes, we're still alive in the Europa League and look likely to advance to the semi-final, but even there, we're not yet favorites. Still, we battered Stoke last weekend, driving one more nail into the coffin that is their campaign. On Sunday, we (eventually) did the same to Southampton. 'Twixt the two, you might struggle to find two minnows further apart in their footballing philosophies and at the same time so strangely successful against Arsenal. To see one or both sent down would almost be balm enough to the allergies and aggravations of an otherwise fruitless campaign. Throw in the second sacking of Mark Hughes, and, well, there's enough almost lipstick to put on this pig.

08 April 2018

Arsenal 3:2 Southampton—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

After a shaky start brought about in part by seven changes to the lineup, baffling miscommunication between Mustafi and Čech turned a routine dribbler into a goal for Shane Long. We had to know that Southampton, fighting against relegation, would cause more than the customary amount of trouble, but it still a surprise to see them take the lead. Danny Welbeck helped set things right by finding Aubameyang in the box and then scoring a banger of his own. From there, only magnificent saves from Alex McCarthy kept it close. Shane Long had a goal disallowed, but Charlie Austin scored from a set-piece almost immediately after subbing on. Welbeck shanked a sitter, but he nodded home from close range to redeem himself—and, it must be added, Arsenal itself. There was late drama as Wilshere and Stephens scuffled, leading to a straight red for Stephens. Moments later, Elneny was sent for a retaliatory shove on Soares. Eh. We won. Let's get to the poll.

05 April 2018

Arsenal 4:1 CSKA Moscow—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

Arsenal blitzed CSKA Moscow with first half braces from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette, and although they conceded one away goal, have to feel pretty good about advancing to the Europa League semifinal on the strength of this performance. The Russians looked overwhelmed for long stretches, and if Arsenal can click like this in the second leg and beyond, a Europa League title looks all the more likely. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. There is after that second leg to play, not to mention however we might face should we advance. Enough for now. Let's get down to the poll!