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125 years old and still going strong

by on December 15, 2011

Well, it’s not been a very busy week for Arsenal this week, but it has however marked a special time in the club’s history, our 125th anniversary was celebrated on Saturday in our match against Everton which we fittingly won to continue the celebrations, with a breathtaking volley from the master, Robin van Persie. If you haven’t seen his goal yet, may I suggest you stop reading and YouTube it, now.

Saturday was a very special day and our 125th anniversary game was appropriately won by a very special player. Robin van Persie’s flash of brilliance saved the game from ending in stalemate and those that missed their chances to score from feeling to bad about it. Walcott had some good opportunities to open the scoring but never managed to finish them off, and from a player, who claims he wants to play in the middle rather than the wing, is somewhat worrying. For now it’s presumed we’ll have to use his pace on the wing to outsmart the defenders and until he feels comfortable and confident in front of goal and able to make the right decision, I guess that that’s where he’ll stay for now, certainly since van Persie is in such shining form.

Gervinho and Ramsey were the other culprits in squandering chances. Our through balls came off every time but were wasted by the final man and seemed to be the only way we could break up Everton’s well organised back four. Vermaelen filled in at left back in our defence as expected and with Kieran Gibbs setting his return for Boxing Day, we’ll have to make do with a back four of centre-backs until then. However our defence was strong in the Everton game, proven by the fact they only allowed Everton one attempt on target in the whole game. It helps to have experience in the back and with Vermaelen and Koscielny there I think we are physically and mentally much stronger.

What was noticeable with four centre backs was, obviously, the lack of width we had. With our full back options, we have some quite attacking players and this was missed against Everton, especially when Walcott and Gervinho got up, there was very little support for them on the wings and so we couldn’t make full use of them. Instead we utilised the middle a lot more, including players like Ramsey, who, with the imminent return of Jack Wilshere, needs to be performing very well to keep his place in our midfield.

A lot has been said of Alex Song, and in danger of jumping on the bandwagon, I’d just like to say how excellent he’s been lately and how relieved I am that we won’t be losing him to the African Cup of Nations in January. His versatility in midfield never fails to amaze me, and his talent was highlighted by his contribution to the goal that came late on in the match. It was his assist from midfield, a finely measured and exquisitely executed lofted ball over Everton’s defence to the feet of van Persie that allowed the striker to meet the ball with his favoured left foot and curl the ball with astounding technique into the back of the net, in a manner not dissimilar to the volley he scored against Charlton a while ago. I certainly thought of that goal when he scored this one.

The performance was encouraging, and we were fourth for a while, before Chelsea beat Man City on Monday night to reclaim 4th place from us. I think that game would be one that we would have lost in recent seasons however what is brilliant to see this season is the growth of an actual team, playing for each other, and I think this is the key to our success in turning our season around. This season I think the drive is a lot more obvious in the players, compared to last year when we had players who conducted themselves in a somewhat superior manner to the rest, now the way we play is grounded and very team orientated. The team spirit is only highlighted by those funny incidents that happen, like Szczesny kissing van Persie’s left boot after the game and you really can’t help but love this team. Despite all the negativity they’ve had to deal with they’ve really got themselves up and running.

While we were celebrating our 125 years of class and tradition, Monday night saw the battle of the Sh*t Clubs With No History and Too Much Money, in the form of Chelsea v Man City. Much has been made of Man City this season and whether they are better or up to par with Arsenal’s ‘Invincible’ team, (I’m sure you all saw the TalkSport article). Well, much to my happiness, City’s hopes of an unbeatable season were quickly put to the sword by Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over them. ‘Invincibles’ sounds good but I reckon ‘Unbeaten until Christmas’ sounds better, don’t worry City. What the result also gears this Premier League season up to is a rather exciting top four/five battle. All the big games have ended in unexpected results and it means that this season, no team is really better than the next. Even though City appear to have already run away with the title, there is still plenty of time for them to capitulate… I hear the Europa League is very stressful. I asked a Spurs fan, and then told a Man United fan.

Another point worth talking about would be the January transfer window that is looming on the horizon. Names already being mentioned in the same sentence as ‘Arsenal’ are Torres, Podolski, Gotze, Gourcuff and Reus to name a few. Of course we may also be selling in January, however I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to change the squad about too much, in the middle of the season. With the return of key players coming up at that time as well, I’m not sure just how many new signings we need now anyway.

I just have a few last words on the club’s special birthday this weekend. I haven’t been around too long so my memories of Arsenal can’t compare to some, but I do hold a few close to my heart. Paris in 2006 is just one of those games and I can still remember exactly what I did that night and exactly how I felt. The 125th anniversary of Arsenal FC does make me very proud and happy to be part of this club. I obviously have near to no experience of the club as some, probably most, of you do and I don’t get to nearly enough games, but I still love this club and everything it stands for and I even love the team we have this season (yes, including Squillaci). I want to grow up and grow old at the Emirates and I’m sure you’ll agree that we are very much looking to another 125 years of a red North London. I saw a lovely quote on Tumblr the other day ‘Your sports teams are like your children. You don’t love them because they are good; you love them because they are yours.’ While I don’t know how it feels to have children, I can see where this is coming from and can only agree with it, the feeling is very special. I hope you all had a good weekend, whether you were at the 125 celebrations or not and that you continue to have a good time in the run up to Christmas!

P.S I’ll be here next week but then I’m off to see some family for a week during Christmas time so next week will be my last post of 2011! Till then!

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