Hey everyone, before I start, I'd just like to introduce myself.
I'm Phil Costa, and this is my website. You need one to actually make something of yourself nowadays, right? Anyway, I'm a 20 year old from London who's looking to break into the world of football journalism. Granted, there are plenty of others who are in the same boat as me, but let me tell you why I'm different.
I really, really, like football.
Anyway - back onto what you're hopefully here for. I will be creating a weekly series called 'The Week That Was Arsenal', which is basically my spin on the last seven days at Arsenal Football Club. This could range from matches, to stories in the press, to updates on the players (mostly Olivier Giroud's) facial hair.
16th-22nd of November, 2015.
With another international break blessing us all and seemingly lasting forever, The Arsenal were finally back in action at The Hawthorns on Saturday. Despite their surprisingly poor home record this season, it’s never an easy place to visit, not to mention they’ve got Tony Pulis in charge who must be the only 57 year old that wears a baseball cap accompanied by the whitest trainers in the universe, that I'm convinced will blind somebody one day. The boss knows the difficulties of facing a Pulis side more than anyone, stating in his pre match press conference on Friday morning that he expected a ‘committed, physical and fast game where we cannot afford to make any mistakes.’
After the squad was down to its barest bones against Tottenham in our last Premier League fixture, we were boosted by the return of Hector Bellerin following a small groin problem. Now, I have nothing against Mathieu Debuchy. The injuries he suffered which gave Bellerin the chance to come into the side in the first place were extremely unfortunate, and through no fault of his own. But 2015 has been poor to say the least for him and after struggling again away to Sheffield Wednesday and Bayern Munich, our speedy, side-parted youngster returning was a sight for sore eyes, and he’s one tick off the injury list.
Wenger also revealed that whilst Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain were short for the weekend, they would be back for Tuesday’s tie against Dinamo Zagreb which is always nice to hear.
For their national sides, Cech and Gibbs featured for the Czech Republic and England respectively, whilst Alexis continues to defy the limitations on the human body by playing 180 minutes for Chile against Colombia and Uruguay. Cazorla also bagged a goal for Spain which is nice to see, but his shooting ability in Arsenal colours has sadly been missing since 2013. If anyone has seen/heard anything, please do let us know. Koscielny and Giroud both featured for France during and after the tragic attacks in Paris, with the former visibly affected by what had happened which lead to Wenger admitting that he would have to speak to the defender before the weekend's game.
Right. West Brom. I tweeted midway through the second half that I hoped it wouldn't be one of those days. That's exactly what it was. We didn't start the game with any sort of tempo, and in the 11th minute Coquelin looked to have jarred his knee sliding in on Claudio Yacob. After limping heavily for half a minute, he signaled to the bench whilst prone on the ground and clutching his right knee that he needed to come off. Reports from France over the course of Sunday afternoon indicate that it's an MCL injury, and that could mean 3-4 months on the sidelines.
Ever since his unlikely renaissance 11 months ago, the Frenchman has become crucial to the balance of the side and was a catalyst for our excellent form towards the end of last season - a lengthy absence would be deeply concerning. His replacement was Mikel Arteta who came, who saw, who co...cked it up. Despite only being on the pitch for 40 minutes before coming off injured himself, he gave away the free kick (which I didn't and still don't think was a foul) which lead to their equaliser, as well as scoring an unfortunate own goal just minutes later.
I really like Arteta, and he has been a crucial figure for us since his arrival in 2011, but time isn't his friend at the moment and neither are his calves. The back portion of the lower leg, that is. But the way things are going for him at the moment it wouldn't surprise me if he owned baby cows who were revolting against him. It's common knowledge that the Spaniard is doing his coaching badges at the moment, but will he be forced to put them into practice quicker than he would have liked?
Arteta's nightmare afternoon aside, the defending was shocking for each of the goals. The delivery from Brunt for the first was decent, but Bellerin was caught the wrong side of James Morrison who finished well, showing nice technique to find the top corner with a deft touch. For the own goal, Ozil lost the ball in their half, and Salomon Rondon found the unchallenged run of McClean who drilled the ball across goal, only to bounce off Arteta and in to the net. Before the game, Wenger spoke about how we couldn't afford to make mistakes, but we made two in quick succession and were punished for both.
Just to make things worse, the second half which was basically played just outside of West Brom's penalty box saw Ozil hit the post, in addition to Campbell somehow miscuing from five yards out and Cazorla slipping and hitting over from twelve. If a player was ever going to miss a penalty, it was that one. Called it before he even took it. Someone who is usually excellent from the spot losing his footing and giving away a free kick for a 'double hit' just summed up our day.
On the plus side, Ozil bagged his 11th assist of the season and he now only needs nine more to equal Thierry Henry's record. The German has found a way to produce even when things aren't going our way, and there is no hiding the fact that we rely on him enormously creatively. Also, Giroud continued his fine scoring form with his headed effort - that's nine in eleven starts for the big man. Credit is also due to Alexis for looking so sharp despite not having a rest since 1995.
The Premier League is ridiculously open at the moment, as we stay level on points with City after their battering at the hands of Liverpool, and one point behind United. Leicester are top with thanks to the awesome Jamie Vardy, but with their lack of squad depth you would expect them to fade away as the season reaches it's latter stages. As disappointing as it was to lose, we're still only two points off top spot so there's still plenty to play for.
Coquelin's injury is a worry though, and should he be ruled out for a considerable period of time this would mean a lot of tactical reshuffling, which means finding that all important balance again. Two set to come back from injury, and two injured. It's like clockwork. Arsenal in an injury crisis just before December, who'd have thought it eh? Wrap everyone in bubblewrap, fine anybody going in for tackles in training and let's win against Dinamo on Tuesday.
Til next week.
You can follow me on Twitter here. (@CostAFC_)
Olivier Giroud beard update: Still bearded. Still gorgeous.