There has never been a lot to like about the Arsenal — Stoke fixture: nothing glamorous, no excited anticipation; we receive untold amounts of criticism if we lose and next to no praise if we win. Stoke is miserable place in the middle of nowhere with a horrible manager, a bunch of knuckle draggers for a team and the thickest of supporters who sing the most stupid song about some bint called Delilah, best thing to do is beat them convincingly and send them back up the motorway suitably humbled to make pots or whatever they do up there.
It was a convincing performance, wasn’t it? There is a whole new level of determination emanating from this group of players; a will to win that I haven’t seen in I don’t know how long.
Sanchez and Özil, our two super stars, head and shoulders above the rest, are showing the way; there is so much enthusiasm from them, so much desire to win I ask myself what is going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of?
We all know that there are in contract negotiations taking place in an attempt to keep them at the club, so if you were the manager and the chief negotiator who I assume is Gazidis what would you do?
I have read here and there in, I must admit, not the most sophisticated of publications, demands from ex Arsenal players that Wenger should spend everything it takes to keep Özil and Sanchez at the club. This kind of talk baffles me; beyond Wenger making it clear to the board that he wants them to stay at the club he has no more involvement at all. He doesn’t decide what the club can and can’t afford.
If this were me I would decide how far I want to push the boat out with these two and the club, as we all expect, is going to be slashing about in the middle of the Atlantic with these two and then having decided on a figure I would make the offer to them on the basis that we win the league this season. They both want to stay at the club but they both understandably want to be paid the correct value for their labour so the figure I imagine that has been put to them is no doubt eye watering but there is a clever little incentive attached.
Not convinced, fair enough, but those two are showing no signs of players who want to leave, that I am sure you agree on. It seems more than likely that offers have been put to their agents for them to consider but what I would do is say this amount that I am sure would be the GDP of a small country is dependent on us winning the league. A solution will of course be found if we don’t win the league but the players and the agents know that it is a done deal if they do bring that kind of glory to the club.
OK, you try and find something to talk about after an Arsenal – Stoke game…….Arsenal brushed Stoke aside to swagger to the top of the league with three goals coming firstly from Walcott who deftly steered Bellerin’s pin point cross past their helpless keeper to bring us back on terms; the second and probably the best came from Oxlaide-Chamberlain’s growing works of art, his cross was a thing of beauty but Ozil’s exquisite looping header was a master piece. The cherry on the cake came from Iwobi, who after Sanchez had been up ended in the most agricultural of ways, continued to drive into the box before steering the ball past the Stoke keeper – well yeah, but now what do you write?
Cech: outstanding as ever, less hoofs up the field and more calm playing out to our team, a far better idea Petr, instead of increasing the chances of us losing possession we are guaranteed to retain it, simples. 8
Easter: he was getting better and better playing in his adopted position of right back, Rasp made a good point a couple of weeks ago, when he stopped trying to be a wing back and just played as an additional CB he found his feet. It was of course very useful that he was completely up to speed to fill in for Mustafi. Hector came on taking up his usual berth; I think it took Wonder Boy less than ten minutes to help bring us back on terms. 7
Mustafi: Easter did perfectly well when he replaced our lucky charm (we have never lost when he has played) but we also got a clear comparison and as good as Easter is he ain’t no Mustafi, we can only hope the second best German we have will not be out for too long. 7
Koscielny: masterful, did everything and more that we would want from our captain. 8
Monreal: rested in the week but made to sit on the bench while Gibbs put in a five star performance reminding the Spaniard that he better keep on his toes if he wants to keep his starting spot; which, to be fair he did. 7
Xhaka: I have said this before but I am going to say it again: this man has had a talking to; he is not the same player who arrived and played in such a gung ho way. A much more calm thoughtful performance and clearly so much more room for improvement. 7
Coquelin: another one who was rested in the week who came back in and put in a top performance, very impressed, if Özil wasn’t in such commanding form Francis would have been my man of the match. 8
Oxlaide-Chamberlain: and yet another one who was rested in the week and hit the ground running; there really is a fantastic little battle going on between him and Iwobi for that spot out on the left, it’s hard to tell right now who is ahead, although as the Ox is starting it must be him. 7
Özil: the German genius ran the show again; man the match and a rare headed goal to boot. 9
Sanchez: is there another centre forward in the world who while the team are in full flow attack can come back and take up positions in the centre circle and not a person bats an eye lid or moans one bit; when you think about it that really is quite amazing. Another excellent performance, hopefully he was taken off for cautionary reasons and will be available for Tuesday against Everton. 8
Walcott: what is it about having someone on the bench, who scored a hat trick in the week, breathing down your neck, ready to take your place at a moment’s notice that brings out the determination to do whatever it takes to keep your place? Well that is what Perez did to Walcott. Theo made a very good start to the season as we all know but has fallen back a bit over the last couple of weeks but then dropped to the bench his replacement scoring for fun looks like it scared Theo back to his determined best and his very important goal should not be forgotten. 8
Wenger: he really is deploying the troops well, resting where necessary and creating competition where needed. I am hoping that the resting part bodes well over the manic Christmas period that we are about to embark on. It is this energy sapping month that takes its toll on all teams and Chelsea are no exception, they have a small squad and one injury to Costa and it is bye bye league; his absence should be enough to get us over the line in May, although, a bolt of lightning to Hazard wouldn’t go a miss. 9
An LB offering.