A truly delightful festive season for Arsenal

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The Christmas period is over, the new year has begun and Arsenal are exactly where they want to be; two points clear at the top of the Premiership table.

Adebayor rounds goalkeeper Green to net against West Ham on New Year’s DayThe last time I posted anything football-related before the holiday break a much-changed Arsenal side had sensationally knocked Blackburn out of the Carling Cup and sat at the top of the Premier League after beating Chelsea for the first time in four years. Thankfully not much has changed since.

Arsenal’s tough Christmas fixture list started with what proved to be a difficult encounter at home to Tottenham where Manuel Almunia and Nicklas Bendtner proved to be the heroes, the former saving a Robbie Keane penalty and the latter scoring with his first touch after coming off the bench only moments earlier.

Next up was a tricky Boxing Day trip to Portsmouth where a dull goalless draw saw Arsenal displaced at the top of the table for the first time in long, long while. It was a rather unispired performance by Wenger’s side and had it not been for some wonderful tracking by Gael Clichy to prevent Benjamin Mwarurawi from scoring in the second half it could have been even worse.

Arsenal got things back on track just a few days later with a surprising and flattering 4-1 over in-form Everton at Goodison Park. The away side lead at half-time after Tim Cahill pounced on a Nicklas Bendtner error but Eduardo da Silva turned the game on its head soon after, scoring twice in the space of nine second-half minutes. Bendtner was then sent off for a shocking studs-up challenge on Andy Johnson before substitute Emmanuel Adebayor put the contest to bed after Tim Howard and Joseph Yobo’s mix-up. Tomas Rosicky added a fourth with virtually the last kick of the game. That result combined with Manchester United’s shock loss to West Ham meant that Arsenal finished the year at the top of the table; a wonderful result considering they were under the pump after slipping off the perch only days earlier.

Arsenal’s impressive holiday period performances concluded with a routine 2-0 New Year’s Day victory at home to the side that had beaten their major title rivals in their previous fixture. Eduardo impressed again, slotting home another lovely goal in just the second minute while Adebayor scored the game’s other goal from the tighest of angles midway through the first half. Arsenal then went through the motions in the second-half to protect the result and seal their fifteenth win of the season, subsequently maintaining their two-point lead at the top of the table.

Eduardo has hit a purple patchSome (welcome) new heroes

Although the performances were a little stuttering, there’s no doubt that ten points from a possible twelve over the Christmas period was a very positive outcome for Arsenal. With the exception of the West Ham game, Wenger’s side were well and truly tested in each fixture and it was nice to see some different players step up and make some significant contributions.

Question marks surrounding Manuel Almunia’s ability to win points for the club has been a major talking point in the past, but he continues to perform consistently. A nerveless performance in the 1-0 win over Chelsea was a fine indication of the improvements he has made but it was always going to take something special to convince the doubters that he has developed into a top quality goalkeeper. Thankfully, he finally got that moment after saving Keane’s penalty in the victory over Tottenham. In my eyes it was one of the highlights of the season so far and quite simply turned a potential defeat into three precious points.

There’s little doubt that Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb have gone through a little bit of a lean patch since returning from injury. As a result, more responsibility has been placed on Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky’s shoulders. I’m happy to say that in the past few matches they have responded admirably. Flamini has been a model of consistency and in recent times Rosicky has shown that he is only a little bit away from his very best. Once Fabregas and Hleb find their groove again it is not improbable that the Arsenal midfield will dominate the second half of the season.

And then there is Eduardo. Seriously, did anyone see that coming? Three goals and two match-winning contributions in the past two matches mean that he has made a welcome contribution to Arsenal’s title charge. Once Robin van Persie returns there is little doubt that he will be straight back on the bench again but the variety that the Croatian brings to the Arsenal attack should not be underestimated. What’s also interesting is that the Croatian’s mini scoring-spree has come six months after signing for Arsenal, the exact amount of time Wenger predicted he would need to adapt to the Premiership. Exciting times lay ahead.

Carlos Vela is reportedly returning to ArsenalTransfer speculation 

In other important news coming out of the Christmas break, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song are off to Ghana to compete in the African Cup of Nations. The former two will of course represent the Ivory Coast while the latter has been called up to the Cameroon squad for the first time in his career. The biggest loss is undoubtedly Toure, who has struck up a great partnership with William Gallas this season, but with Johan Djourou returning from his loan spell at Birmingham and Philippe Senderos waiting in the wings the players are there to cover for his loss.

Personally I’m hoping that Wenger puts Djourou straight back into the starting team. Although his loan spell at Birmingham has been far from perfect I feel he is the more composed defender and the switch from playing in a losing team to a winning one should give him that little bit of confidence to make the step up.

Finally, the word on the street is that Mexican winger Carlos Vela, who has impressed during his loan spell at Spanish club Osasuna, will be returning to Arsenal for the second half of the season. Anyone who has seen highlights of the young Mexican will be very excited about his return to England and anyone that hasn’t, please take my word for it. Or just watch this compilation of him tearing up Sergio Ramos time and time again during Osasuna’s recent clash with Real Madrid. It’s impressive stuff, no doubt.

If Vela does return then I can’t really see any reason for Wenger to dip into the transfer market. As you will of course know by now, the turn of the year means that transfer window is again open and that equals a lot of hocus-pocus stories about every man and his dog being linked with a move to Arsenal. Although I admit that the centre of defence could use some reinforcements over the next six weeks I also don’t believe that Wenger is short-sighted enough to bring in a player to simply plug a gap for a short space of time. Indeed, if someone is brought to the club then there is little question that they will be a long-term project for the manager. Baring that in mind, if a player is purchased by the club there should be significant cause for celebration.

On that note I want to take the opportunity to wish all readers of the blog a happy new year and also apologise for the lack of posting over the holiday break. As I said on Christmas Eve I’ve been very busy with all sorts of goings on but for those who read the blog regularly you’ll be happy to know things are back to normal as of today. Thanks for your patience, and all the best in 2008. Go Arsenal!

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal’s Christmas period peformances by leaving a comment.


25 thoughts on “A truly delightful festive season for Arsenal

  1. “Arsenal got things back on track just a few days later with a surprising and flattering 4-1 over in-form Everton at the Emirates Stadium”- This was an away game for the Arsenal!

  2. Welcome back, and happy new year!

    Certainly the second half of 2007 was outstanding, and it’s quite remarkable to think that we’re just two games past the halfway mark, and we have 50 points. We only got 68 all of last season.

    Good to see you back!

  3. No worries Pete, hope you’re well. Interesting comment about the amount of points we have so far, really quite astonishing given last season’s effort. Happy new year to you as well – keep up the good work with the blog mate.

  4. I for a choice wont rush Djourou or Senderos for Tpure.. Instead Play Sagna at CB(Who can play at any position in defence) and play Hoyte at RB. Give Djourou and Senderos playing time in the FA and Carling Cup matches so that We can play the best defence for the difficult EPL matches of Man City and Blackburn at the beginning of feb.

  5. Hi guys,

    Happy new year.{I am a Chelsea fan}.

    You guys had a great Xmas period.You have apleasant headache when van Persie is fully fit.Eduardo has been amazing.You are deservedly on top of the table now.I hope your defensive back up guys can cover up for the loss of Kolo Toure.

    The ACN is really held at a bad time.FIFA should look into this n rectify it.

    Chelsea meanwhile is being linked with every player in every league on earth:)..I just hope AG buys well with his huge Transfer kitty

    All the best Guys..Cheers

  6. Lovely to hear from Arsenal fans in Malaysia and elsewhere and congratulate our players who stuck to their gunns to nick back the top spot. Its amusing looking at Shearer and Hansen’s face when they attempt explain away liverpool’s /Manure failure while underplaying our team’s achievements.

  7. I think AW should buy Richards or even have him on loan for a month or two but we defo need to bring somebody in to cover Toure becuase Senderos (nuff said lol), Djourou hasnt enough experirence to play great week in week out in the EPL as a very important player, he will make mistakes at a costly price.

  8. SF finally crawls off the beach to give us some juice 😛

    I just finished watching the WHU game. Pretty impressive overall, i haven’t seen arsenal play like that for quite some time.

  9. Im with Jay… I still want Wenger to bring in Richards from Man City. Gallas is gettin old, so when he is gone having Richards and Toure would be wonderful, plus he can cover for Toure while he is away now. Senderos needs to be sold! Along with Lehman. Also i would like to see Robert Green come over to Arsenal, im still not convinced Almunia is the right person in goal for the long term.

  10. Just a couple of words on the defensive situation. I think Djourou would be a fine option. I think there is a big difference between playing for Birmingham (who are often constantly under the pump) and Arsenal (who are troubled maybe 2-3 times a half) and I think the change back to Arsenal will improve him. As well, as Toure said earlier this season, the presence of Flamini makes defending a lot easier for the back four. There was an idea earlier up by IndianGunner to move Sagna to the centre of defence but I’m not sure I’d be happy with that. He’s known to be able to play there but I feel he’s a little too short and on top of that, moving him across would mean that Hoyte would be required to play every match. With Eboue away there would be no cover and I feel that is a big risk. As I said in the article, I’m for Djourou all the way.

  11. I think everybody would love to have Richards brought in, Demetrio, but if he came it would have to be for a long-term purpose and I’m not sure he would like to sit on the bench when Toure comes back from Ghana. I don’t think the timing is quite right to bring him in, maybe at the end of the season?

  12. i agree sf, too early to bring in richards (or any other centre back for that matter). And if you did what message would that send to senderos and djourou?

    I am looking forward to seeing the much acclaimed carlos vela in action this year.

  13. Who cares what message it would send to Senderos.. hopefully it would make him leave, hes complete rubbish, he has no skill and should be playin in a lower league like the Championship. Im not trying to be mean, but he shouldnt be on a team like Arsenal.

  14. To a certain extent I agree, he’s not shown enough for Arsenal when given the chance. I don’t think Senderos or Djourou should really be considered too much when bringing in a new player. If a quality player is available then that is all that matters.

  15. I believe bringing in a CB on a loan deal for a month or two to cover Toure. Djourou and Senderos are not quite there and tbh i dont think Senderos will ever be there! Also i cant wait for Vela to come to play in London for Arsenal. He has been hot in a low league team in La Liga so he is now playing for a big team in the Prem. He will score!!

  16. Djourou made something like 30 appearances for us last season in all comp, 27 of them as a starter (18 prem starts and 3 prem subs. Senderos made 25 apps all comp., (9 prem starts and 5 prem subs)so unless he caught something negative from Birmigham, it seems like he would be preffered to Senderos. I was impressed by his showing last season and although he is not Toure. I am confident he will do the job nicely. I for one I wouldnt want to see Micah Richards in that backline this early. It will take a while to forge an understanding/communication with the rest of the guys and it simply wont work btn now and when Toure is back. I believe if Wenger ever buy Micah, it will be in a similar circumstances/deal that landed us Gallas and Diarra, ie Somebody is really wants out and club has to sell so he doesn’t go free and no time left.

  17. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work Look forward to reading more from you in the future. I think it will be also nice if you add “send to email” tool so people can forward the articles to their friends easily.

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