- Arsenal boss offers injury update on Cazorla & Giroud
- Ratings: Cech shines but Ozil fails to spark as Arsenal held
- Video: Arsenal 0-0 Boro: Lackluster Gunners drop valuable points
- Teams: Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Cazorla out, Elneny in
- Team news: Wenger’s update on Ramsey, Welbeck, Giroud & Cazorla
- Preview: Arsenal v Boro, team news, line-up & prediction
- [Photos] Arsenal duo step-up injury comebacks in training today
- [Photos] Arsenal boost as injury doubt trains ahead of Boro game
- Arsene Wenger sets comeback date for forgotten Arsenal man
- Arsenal boss confirms fresh injury doubt for Middlesbrough game
Big 6? More Like “Big 3″
So we are just shy of being one-third of the way through the season and we’re already at our third (!) interlull. When we return, it will be crunch time with 11 matches in the next 42 days, including Chelsea at home, Liverpool away, the final CL group stage fixtures, and, of course, City away in the Carling Cup quarterfinals. While most Arsenal bloggers are taking this opportunity to look back at Arsenal’s season-so-far, and Arsenal Station will likely do that as well over this break, I’d like to say a few brief words about the Premier-League-so-far.
Big spending by City and Tottenham, £150m in 16 months, had the pundits predicting that the Big 4 would now begin turning into a Big 6. Not quite. Rather than having seen the competition at the very top open up, the opposite has happened. Instead of a Big 5 or 6 or 7, we appear to have a Big 3. Now, I know it’s not early in the season, but a “season-so-far-review” can only take into account what has happened “so far.”
Arsenal have confounded the critics with their performances so far this season. So have Liverpool, but in a different way. Chelsea appear to be very strong, but hardly invincible having lost the same amount of matches as us. United are somehow level on points with us, mostly thanks to their most important player this season, Lucky McLuck. But for a few slightly different bounces, they could be fighting with Liverpool for 7th place right now.
Chelsea are easily the favorites at this point. They have squad depth, though that will be seriously tested in January when they lose Drogba, Essien, Kalou, and Obi Mikel to the African Cup of Nations. Though the temporary suspension of their transfer ban means that Chelsea can now buy in the next transfer window. A perceptive comment was made by one of the writers on Sunday Supplement last week, he said something to the effect of, “Chelsea are right now playing to their maximum potential, but Arsenal, despite their fantastic form and results, have not even come close to their potential.”
Rather than opening up the very top, a second Big 4 seems to have come together beneath Chelsea, Arsenal, and United. Tottenham, City, Liverpool, and Aston Villa sit between 8 and 11 points off the pace already and it is hard to imagine any of those four sides making up such a big deficit.
City are lucky to only be 10 points behind Chelsea with a game-in-hand considering their run of 5 consecutive draws in the league. That’s 10 points dropped in 5 matches… the points-equivalent of having won 1, drawn 2, and lost 3. And it wasn’t an especially hard part of their fixture list, including the most uninspiring draws with Birmingham, Fulham, Wigan, and Burnley. The novelty has worn off and City fans are now looking down the barrel at a diabolically shambolic defense which cost almost as much as Arsenal’s starting XI, not including Arshavin and Vermaelen.
When it comes to Liverpool, only two words suffice: Gerrard and Torres. And that’s it. Criticisms of Benitez, I feel , have been totally justified. The man has had five years to build a side, brought in over 50 players in that time, and still has a two-man team. Carragher has lost a step and a half and the entire club, especially Mascherano, has not been able to deal with the loss of Alonso. With no bench as well, and very few youth prospects, Liverpool supporters are in for huge reality check this season as the side appears to be in need of massive rebuilding, something neither Torres, nor Gerrard, nor even Benitez may stick around for, and something that the owners can’t afford.
In Arsenal news, Jamie at Young Guns is reporting that negotiations have concluded on a new contract for Carlos Vela and only the John Hancock-ing remains to be done. That is fantastic news considering all the ridiculous rumours of lower-level Spanish clubs deluding themselves into thinking he was even the slightest bit available.
Yaya Toure rumours have cropped up once again, but they are even more ridiculous this time around. His agent has asked why Barca gave him a new contract, “just to sit on the bench?” Well then, why would he come to Arsenal where he obviously would not walk into the first team ahead of Alex Song? Nicklas Bendtner will be out for 6 weeks or so after his groin surgery, likely much to the chagrin of his 34 year-old baroness girlfriend. Also, Gilles Sunu’s desire to go out on loan to the Championship is being stifled by Arsene until the youngster signs a new deal with the club.
Right, so that is my take on the Premier League season so far. On Arsenal Station over the break we will have a look at Arsenal’s season-so-far as well as a guest piece from Ted Harwood on Alex Song and possibly another from Comrade.