I'm sure you've all snapped back to reality, and oh, yep, there goes gravity. Eminem lyrics aside, January is well and truly here, and with January comes all of its wet, horrible greyness. Work, routines, depressingly dark mornings, not to mention the scattered remains of New Years' resolutions that just ten days ago seemed all so inspiring. Ah, January. But enough of that! It's Monday, which means that another seven days of Arsenal related goodness have passed. How about we dive into that, eh?
In a change of scenery from the emotionally and physically exhausting Premier League, it was time to defend our FA Cup again. The last time we lost in the competition was in February 2013, to Championship side Blackburn. I was there. Gervinho missed a one on one. Colin Kazim-Richards scored. Dark days. Thankfully, everything has changed for the better and we're now 14 games unbeaten since!
As usual, there has been discussion about how the FA Cup doesn't mean as much as it used to, or that the 'big teams' don't take it as seriously bla bla bla. But in an interview this week, the boss was keen to dismiss those claims. "We want to win every competition in which we participate and the FA Cup is one of them. For us it is an important competition and it's our next game, so that's important as well." So there you go. It's bollocks, just as it is every year.
Fun Fact: If we were to win the FA Cup again this year, we would be the first side to win it three times on the spin since Blackburn Rovers in the 1880s.
Come Saturday, we welcomed Sam Allardyce (again) and his Sunderland side (again) to The Emirates (again). After an awkward 3-1 victory against them in the Premier League a few weeks back, they were back again to try and cause an upset. In terms of our team news, Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi all came into the side, with Mesut Ozil finally getting a rest! Mikel Arteta also made a return to the bench, alongside #TheJeff and Chris Willock, who at 17 and 16 respectively are disgustingly young and I'm not having any of it. Nope.
After an understandably scrappy start to the game due to the rotation from both sides, we fell behind in the 17th minute. After Gibbs did well to dispossess the annoyingly effective Watmore, he decided to drop the ball back to Koscielny who was caught dallying on the ball by Lens. The Dutch winger created a bit of space for himself and whacked a shot past Cech at his near post to make it 0-1. Perhaps Gibbs could've just lumped it clear, but it was a mistake from Koscielny and a completely avoidable goal to concede.
Thankfully, we were only behind for 8 minutes as Iwobi found Walcott on the left hand side, before he dipped past Yedlin and cut back a smart left footed cross for Campbell to run onto and tuck away excellently into the corner to level things up. The Costa Rican has really stepped up of late, and looks to be a real goal threat coming off the right wing which can only be an advantage for us as we look to maximise the potential of our squad in these sorts of games.
We had chances in the second half, with Iwobi and Campbell both having shots saved by their keeper, before Oxlade-Chamberlain was really unlucky to see his shot come off the post as Walcott thrashed at the rebound. Sunderland also hit the woodwork through Fletcher, but it would be our hispanic connection down the right hand side which would put us ahead.
As the game began to enter a bit of a lull, Ramsey and Arteta were brought on for Chambers and Iwobi, with the Welshman making an almost instant impact. Campbell’s beautifully worked one-two allowed the perfectly sculpted cheekbones of Hector Bellerin to get in behind, and his low cross found Ramsey who tucked it away on his left. Just three minutes later, the right back was involved again after he was freed down the right after a smart Oxlade-Chamberlain pass, and after waiting for Giroud's back post run he slid the ball right into the Frenchman's stride for him to make it three.
All in all, and bar the early scare, it was a very comfortable win for us. I thought Gabriel and Gibbs came into the back four and were solid throughout, with a very young midfield of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chambers and Iwobi broadcasting a nice blend of strength, drive and composure - all traits welcomed in the centre of the park. It was also nice to see Arteta last 20 minutes of football with his calves still intact, in addition to a cameo from #TheJeff at the end, who could've even had a goal himself had his first touch been a little better after Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to put him through.
Undoubtedly our men of the match were Bellerin and Campbell, who seem to have formed a lovely partnership down the right of late. A bit of a slow burner after his recent groin problem, Bellerin was back to his speedy best on Saturday, always looking like a threat going forward as well as looking assured defensively. A special mention to Campbell, who has grown into the role impressively since that afternoon at Swansea, taking a real creative responsibility in the absence of Ozil. He looks so confident right now, and his hard working yet productive style has gained him a deserved place in the side. Could he be a Coquelin 2.0?
Also, a quick word on The Ox who I thought was much better yesterday. There were one or two moments where he was guilty of trying too hard, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I do wonder if he'll ever score again though!
In other news, after 'complications' with work permit/visa issues, it looks like we will finally be ready to announce the signing of Mohamed Elneny from Basel this week, who I scouted for The Mirror if you'd like to have a quick read up on him. A welcome addition to the side, and I'm sure he'll give everybody a nice boost as we head into a season defining period both domestically and in Europe. Nacho Monreal is also close to agreeing a new contract according to Wenger, who said that "it’s not over the line completely but we’re not far". Good news, because Nacho is great. We love Nacho.
The FA Cup draw is also being done later on today, and we could get a variety of teams from Oxford United or Shrewsbury, to Burnley or Crystal Palace. So naturally, I'll be looking forward to Manchester City away. We've got a huge game on Wednesday away to Hamstring FC, followed by another away trip to Stoke which is always a tough one. I know they've actually got some footballers in their side now, but they'll still be up for it and so will their fans. Obviously I'd love to win both games, but 4/6 points come Sunday evening and I will not complain at all. Let's do it.
Till next week.
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