Saturday was one of those days.
You know the kind, when you just don’t have any juice?
That it coincided with the annual neighborhood ditch cleaning was far from fortuitous. Frankly, it sucked.
However, in what was obviously a one-time-event, this year, I got to loaf off, as the acequias were mostly clean. Plus, I was on a crew at my in-laws’ house, so I got to sneak off to the bathroom, raid private stashes for chocolate, and then stood holding my shovel while I chatted with family.
It never happens like that.
Escaping 4 hours of hard labor, often in the light snow, was a gift of cosmic proportions.
And, tired as I was, I slept most of the afternoon.
Like an old man in a barca-lounger, keeping half an eye on the footie, I managed to watch Manchester City put a first half whooping on Man United.
My good luck was sure to last through the afternoon.
Then, through the nap-haze, I caught Pogba score the first. Fucking Alexis. I hate that guy. Making good passes again. Fuck him.
Then a second, and I woke for the noise of the third.
I must say, now that they’re gone, I will root for Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, but not for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis.
Just now, I’ve realized the common theme is that the latter two pricks chose to leave. They decided Arsenal was a sinking ship, or at the very least, they could no longer grow here. We know this because they left, and in the Ox’s case, he’s said it publicly.
But what about the inward business?
Arsenal now field a front four of Aubameyang, Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette, if they so choose. (Or throw temporarily- resurgent Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck into the mix.)
And that’s with Aaron Ramsey behind them in the box-to-box role, now scoring goals again for the first time since his dream season of ’13-’14. (What wouldn’t we give to have an in-his-prime Mikel Arteta playing alongside him now?)
You see where I’m going here?
I’m tired of writing about how Arsene Wenger must go. I’m tired of the kiss-off column, and the prognosticating.
Will he stay or will he go? What do I know?
We simply don’t know the future.
But instead of taking the typical, pessimistic, (or objective) view, today, I thought I’d look at a few of the bright spots in the current re-build:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. What’s not to love? Finally, a clinical, quick, fast striker. Tim put up a graph a while back showing the insane proportion of goals he scores inside the 6 yard box. (Like, almost all his goals.)
Now we know why. He either outruns people, and shoots from close range, or he’s in just the right place, and his quickness helps him get to the ball first.
Plus, when he gave the penalty to Lacazette, I called my son over and used it as a “teachable moment.” As in, “Watch this, kid. If #9 takes the penalty, it means Arsenal finally have some good team chemistry.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan. I think by now, the shock of his amazing Everton game has worn off, as has the stench of the few stink bombs he threw immediately thereafter.
What we’ve seen since is a very, very, classy footballer. He has vision, quick feet, can thread a through ball, tracks back, isn’t afraid to tackle, and can score a goal.
His only drawbacks appear to be consistency and durability. I re-watched the challenge on him during the CSKA Moscow game. The dude came charging through him to be sure. A nasty tackle. But is he robust enough for a full season of multiple competitions?
Regardless, I’m a big fan.
Aaron Ramsey. The golden boy is back. Honestly, I think this was the first year I gave up on hoping he’d ever return. It’s like that thing when they say you can only get a girlfriend when you’re not looking for a girlfriend.
Shit, does this guy have technical class. (That’s what I thought last time too.) Really gorgeous goals and assists. But then he spent 3.5 years being insanely wasteful. Like record-breaking wasteful.
Is this going to last?
And how come he’s still getting soft tissue injuries 3 times a season?
If it were me, and he has a good World Cup with Wales, I’d sell high. That, or lock him up properly this summer. I’m sick of these drawn-out sagas.
Granit Xhaka I’m sure someone can pull out a .gif of his mistakes and missteps during the season, (so many obvious errors,) but I think this guy is finally starting to settle. While he’d still benefit from playing with a midfield partner who’d cover for his speed deficiency, his passing range, accuracy and ability to help shift cross-field quickly are helping Arsenal play more direct.
– (Sub header: Mesut Ozil is getting credit for his out-of-this-world form lately, and he deserves his own header, to be honest. I love it when he plays this well. He’s a football genius. But while Ozil is making the killer pass, it’s often Xhaka that passes to Ozil.)
In a way, I think he’s easy to take for granted, Xhaka, or his flaws show easily. But when Arsenal are winning 6 in a row, and scoring goals, I think we should give him a bit more credit for linking defense and attack, and creating a rhythm to the attacks.
Overall, I think the offensive rebuild is obviously ahead of the defense. We may need more depth in super-quality up-front, but we now have a fearsome offensive starting lineup.
And Xhaka may have even moved himself into the keeper list, as long as we buy someone as good or better than him as competition this summer.
We can highlight what’s going right with the rebuild, but there are hard truths as well. Both Koscielny and Mustafi need to be replaced as first choice Center Back this summer.
Both of them.
I think Koz could rotate in for a first choice lineup next season, but we need an expensive, big, athletic pair.
This summer. Immediately. If not sooner.
It’s the obvious weak link, now that we’ve seen Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerin and Monreal all play well at the same time.
The first goal Mustafi let in against Southampton may not have cost us points, or pride, like his similar mistake in the League Cup Final, but it proved to me once and for all he’s a dim bulb.
You don’t fuck up that obviously and then immediately look to blame someone else. Not if you have a brain in your head. (So he must not.)
I haven’t watched enough other teams this year to predict who we should buy. But if there’s a massive spend on 2 CB’s, a DMF and a GK, and we don’t lose anyone important, I think that will be a nice phase 2 for this complete rebuild.
Fingers crossed for Thursday.