Time To Take Premier League By The Scruff Of The Neck

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Home draw? Check. Lower league opposition? Check. Luck of the draw? Certainly and thank you very much. Burnley are the latest sacrificial lambs in Arsenal’s cup quest; let’s hope they remember the script at the end of the month. It’s not quite a holy grail but may yet turn out to be so if things go wrong in other competitions.

The winning habit in the FA Cup is a good one to have but needs to surface in the ‘premier’ competitions. Roberto Martinez observed that winning the League Cup wouldn’t keep his ‘star’ players happy and nor you suspect, will winning the FA Cup for Arsenal. The hope is that this season is seeing the shift toward challenging for the title and in that sense the cup is a distraction at the moment, albeit a welcome one.

Arsène would see the FA Cup reduced to a midweek competition to preserve the sanctity of the Premier League. His defence of the English game was less urbane than his eulogy for David Bowie. No, not every England defeat is due to fixture congestion but at club level, we can point to cup exits or Premier League defeats down the years when team selection has forced changes with priorities elsewhere.

He stopped short of saying it but removing the League Cup from the equation seems the first option and holding the FA Cup Third Round before Christmas. Certainly without a European place on offer, the League Cup’s future is questionable; it is little more than a twenty-first century Full Members Cup – ask your parents, kids.

Whilst other clubs vying for European places ponder squad rotation with third round replays in mind, Arsène has a clear run. Whether he would have chosen the next three fixtures is debatable. It doesn’t matter how Liverpool are performing, they will raise their game when Arsenal bowl into town whilst the venom directed toward Wenger at the Britannia Stadium makes this the nearest thing that Stoke have to a local derby. Outside of Tottenham, it’s hard to think of any Premier League club which holds the same animosity toward Arsenal.

Some of the spice of the final match – Chelsea’s visit to The Emirates – has been removed with Jose Mourinho’s departure. It was a sad day for us; Hiddink or whoever Abramovich appointed was always going to inspire a revival of sorts, be it temporary or a late surge up the table into the Champions League places.

Not that February sees any improvement in the fixture list. We get some respite with the returns against the south coast teams and the FA Cup before an intense period of games against Barcelona, United, Tottenham and Everton. If the next fortnight will tell us a lot about the squad’s ability to challenge for the title, the eight games which start with home leg of the Champions league are season-defining.

Arsenal are top of the Premier League. Before the season began, the received wisdom and our own hopes coincided: add one or two more signings and this is a squad which can challenge for the title. Well, at the moment, we’re challenging for the title without any new additions. Whether that lasts depends on how deeply the players can dig in.

At the moment, Arsenal have been priced at 21/20 to win the title this year with only City marginally ahead. They have their tricky fixture list in February and March.

It was interesting to see Arsène’s view on the pressures caused by challenging on three trophy fronts. Essentially big clubs get on with it, and to an extent enjoy these times: it means you’re doing something right. They won’t last – let’s be honest, Barcelona are going to beat us over two legs. I don’t think our rope-a-dope tactics will work against them. There’s always hope, of course, and you never give up but without a strong advantage from the first leg, we are always going to be up against it.

But given how badly the Champions League campaign began, it’s nice to be in the position to be wondering how Arsenal can possibly win the two-legged tie against the Catalans. This season, with my low expectations, has been great. As with any other season, it has enlivened, invigorated, angered and frustrated. It’s what football is all about but we are now heading into the return journey.

Top at the start of that is an achievement but not tangible. The only tangible is medals at the end of the season and this week is the beginning of that long journey. The victory over Sunderland was the first step in the defence of the FA Cup; now it’s about taking the Premier League by the scruff of the neck. Starting tomorrow at Anfield.

‘til Tomorrow.

111 thoughts on “Time To Take Premier League By The Scruff Of The Neck

  1. I admire the club’s efforts in continuing to seek young players to develop at the club, but yet again the timing stinks. We should surely be seen to be focussing on the current title push rather than looking to the future. At this moment in time I have no interest in a couple of kids from an U17 tournament, I want to know if we are bringing in the player(s) who will help sustain our title push.

  2. Iturbe came on as a sub, but there is still no news on Elneny. At the moment it appears that a player who has never played at full international level has received a WP, whilst a player who would have qualified under the rules changed last spring hasn’t. Something doesn’t smell right.

  3. U17 kids are okay if it means they will be classed later as ‘home grown’. If not it’s going to be a massive struggle to get into a 25 man squad assuming that they are ever good enough.

  4. Ed Aarons of the Guardian has tweeted that the work permit has been sorted out and Elneny will be announced on Wednesday. That would be nice.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Arsenal could make a simple and timely transfer for once. Everything we do seems to drag on nowadays.

  5. Wavey,

    On ‘knock down prices.’

    These prices are all new. I have gotten over Trevor Francis being sold for a million, but when you talk of 15 million for a young DM from Basel being a knocked down price I realise that I have some catching up to do…….or more to the point, the Swiss do. Don’t they know that the PL is awash with cash at the moment?
    It is so bad actually that I have been wishing for the failure of Raheem Sterling on the basis that 1) So far in his career he is a 50 million pound bottler and 2) He went to ManSour for that amount after they announced that they were not overpaying for any more players.

  6. Andy

    I suspect they will be shunted out on loan fairly quickly. Likely to be development players rather than coming anywhere near the squad at present. Like I said, great for the future but surely the focus should be on now. We’ve already got the youngsters from the summer hanging around the squad, so can’t see how another couple are going to gate crash the party now.

  7. AITG

    I’m not saying he is a knock down price at £15m from Basel. I am saying that he is only costing us c£7m and Bill asked why that was so cheap. I said that the prices paid for Basel players (and I guess the Swiss league players in general) appears to be knock down prices compared to those of other European leagues. On the basis of other players sold by Basel in particular (Salah and Shaqiri), I would suspect that Elneny would have cost us £15m if bought from another European league. Therefore we are buying at what seems to be knock down price of £7m when he would have cost us at least double that if he had been playing in Spain, Italy, France or Germany. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m saying he seems cheaper simply for the league he comes from and that doesn’t mean he’s a bad player.

  8. It’s all about what we as Arsenal can offer in a tight fixture schedule, and we’ve show resilience and hardwork…. Players have stepped up, I have ever the believe that history doesn’t matter this season, it’s all down to how we play and take games step by step.

  9. It’s attack versus defence.

    Its near in giving me heart palpitations watching this.

    The game just by passes Flam.

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