Form Is Temporary, Arsenal Is Permanent

Arsenal (5) – (2) Tottenham Hotspur
Sagna (40′), Van Persie (43′), Rosicky (51′), Walcott (65′, 68′)
The Emirates Stadium, London

Last week I got slated for suggesting Arsenal weren’t in crisis and some perspective was needed.

And today’s match started badly. Louis Saha opened the scoring after 4 minutes with a fortuitous goal which deflected off Vermaelen and looped over Szczesny. Then 25 minutes later, Spurs doubled their advantage after another lucky goal – after Gareth Bale’s blatant dive won Tottenham a penalty, which Adebayor duly converted.

After the previous games against AC Milan and Sunderland, the nature of Tottenham’s 2 goal lead would have added to the frustrations.

But what followed wasn’t an Arsenal team in crisis. If anything, the performance reminded us why we love this Arsenal team so much.

Yes, we are capable of collapsing at the worst times, and yes, we are sometimes defensively fragile. But it must also be noted that Arsene Wenger’s philosophy and style of play is capable of producing stunning comebacks like we saw today. If we were managed by Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or Fabio Capello, we wouldn’t have scored 5 goals in 27 stunning minutes.

And the performance reminded us that overturning a 4 goal deficit against Milan is not impossible. Incredibly difficult, but not impossible – especially if we get it right and click on the night.

The biggest difference, and something I had been waiting for for a while, was the starting eleven. Yossi Benayoun has been in the shadow of Arshavin, Oxlade Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey for playing time and finally he was given his chance. Benayoun is one of the few players at the club that have ingenuity and intelligence on the ball. He is capable of playing smart reverse passes, and penetrating balls. Benayoun needs to play more than he does, which is a trend amongst supporters when he was on Liverpool’s books. Liverpool fans thought Yossi should have played a lot more than he did.

Tomas Rosicky also had his best game for a long time. His passing was top draw and he was all over the pitch. Van Persie was sensational as usual, Arteta was solid and Song was defensively strong. Theo Walcott was on the periphery for most of the first half but came to life in the second, which is something he seems to do a lot – burst into life and has spurts of quality.

Apart from the two lucky goals, Szczesny had nothing to do. From the 30th minute onwards it was all Arsenal and that is something all supporters can take comfort from. In a game billed as the biggest North London derby in Arsene Wenger’s career, we came out on top – and how. The scenes of the travelling Tottenham fans in pure ecstasy only to be put back in their place 15 (playing) minutes later was really something special.

We were sensational today. Arsene made the point that this was the first time for 3 games that we played on a top quality pitch. While that is valid to an extent, the bottom line was we were badly due a performance and it came today. This is something which we need to build on and if we can produce this kind of performance against Milan we have a fighting chance of progressing.

The lesson here is never write Arsenal off.

So bring on AC Milan and let’s show them what we’re made of.

How Are Arsenal In Crisis? Some Perspective Needed

For the past week, all I’ve heard is “Arsenal are in crisis” and Arsene Wenger’s career at Arsenal is at an “all time low”.

What a load of rubbish.

Despite “playing some of the worst football under Arsene Wenger” and “having the weakest squad we’ve ever seen”, we are sitting in 4th place in the Premier League.

This, despite the humiliating defeat at Old Trafford and losing 4-3 at Blackburn at the start of the season.

We are still above Chelsea, Liverpool and surprise package Newcastle United.

And that’s with crippling injury problems, to Wilshere, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Santos, Djourou and countless others that would usually be in our first team.

Added to that, we lost key talents Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer.

So all considering, we’re doing pretty well.

The 4-0 defeat to AC Milan was disastrous, but not as lethal as everyone is making out. We’ve seen some shock turnarounds on the Champions League before, and a 4 goal deficit is not impossible to overturn. The most famous being Deportivo’s 4-0 win against AC Milan in 2004 to overturn a 4-1 scoreline in the first leg.

And call me insane, blindly optimistic, whatever – I believe Arsenal can get 4 goals at The Emirates. They may not, but with nothing to lose Arsenal can just go for it, hammer and tongs, as it were.

I’ll be putting a cheeky fiver on Arsenal to make it to the next round anyway.

That fact is that no matter how much people speculate about Arsenal’s financial situation, and whether they believe Arsene has money to spend, the bottom line is he hasn’t. If Arsene had this so called “war chest” then he would have used it. I don’t see why people moan that Arsene doesn’t spend because he obviously has his arms tied. And he, nor the board, are going to admit there’s no money for transfers.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have spent far, far greater sums of money than we did over the summer (and previous summers) yet we’re still just about in 4th. Chelsea spent in excess of £84 million this summer and we’re still above them. We know about Liverpool’s spending recently (mostly on shite it must be said) and we are above them. So when you put things into perspective then it’s hardly a disastrous season is it?

If Arsenal finish 7th come the end of the season, then I’ll retract everything I’ve said.

Thierry Henry: Why He Is The Greatest Ever

There’s 2 things in this world I will never understand; If there is a God, then why does he let bad things happen? And how did Thierry Henry never win the World Player of the Year Award?

My Arsenal bias aside, for me, Thierry Henry is one of the most underrated players ever to play the game and one of the greatest ever as far as I’m concerned.

In terms of pure goalscoring at the top level, Thierry is near on untouchable. He smashed Arsenal’s goalscoring record set by the great Ian Wright, and has won every major international honour going and every league title in every league he’s played in. He’s also won The Champions League, countless FA Cups, Copa del Reys, and even a UEFA Super Cup and Fifa World Club Cup to boot.

Added to that, he’s France’s all time top goalscorer, third in the list of all time Premier League goalscorers (only behind Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole) and the highest scoring foreigner to play in England. He’s also got a shed load of personal awards and accolades, and was voted the greatest foreign player ever to play in the Premier League.

And his goalscoring record for Arsenal is bordering on the unbelievable. His first season in England (the one where players need to “settle” into the league) he notched up 26 goals in all competitions. After that, he scored 22, 32, 32, 39, 30, 33 and 12 in the next 7 campaigns.

On paper then, Henry’s record is flawless.

But it’s not just records where the king excels. His recent comeback to Arsenal has been an emotional roller coaster for Arsenal fans, and something of a fairytale for supporters and the man himself.

Fernando Torres, a man with 18 games and 0 goals (I believe, I can’t be bothered to check) was bought for £50 million only a year ago. Thierry Henry, a man who has been away from England for 6 years has had a total playing time of 96 minutes, and scored 3 goals – 2 of them dramatic match winners.

Have legends like Zidane, Maradona or Pele managed to do this? The simple answer is no.

And besides all that, it is Thierry’s level of consistency at the highest level which makes him the greatest for me. He has played 17 seasons at the top top level – for Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona – and raked up 316 goals in 4 of the best leagues in Europe. This gives him an average of 19 goals per season, which is hugely impressive in itself. Take the goals per season average just for the Arsenal and Barcelona campaigns then the average is even more impressive, giving exactly 25 goals per season. And that includes his injury-ravaged final seasons at both clubs.

You have players like Messi, Maradona, Ronaldo, Pele, Zidane, Platini, Best, etc. who could be considered the greatest ever but have any of them maintained a 17 year consistency like Thierry Henry?

And Henry has lit up so many matches and given the fans so many special moments it’s hard to count how many there have been.

My final argument for Henry being the greatest is that he won the league several times, was part of the team that went unbeaten a whole season and won other honours with Arsenal. Arsenal are a fantastic side with a beautiful history, but it’s not unreasonable to say we are not one of the most, how can I put this, naturally biggest football clubs. We are competing at the top level because of Arsene Wenger but we don’t have the bottomless pit of money other teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and others have.

So in that sense, Thierry’s accomplishments are even more outstanding. He didn’t join a massive club when he arrived so to do all he has done is all the more impressive. He didn’t achieve his honours and records with a team such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United.

I’m not saying players like Messi, Ronaldinho, Zidane and Ronaldo aren’t great, but it is much easier to achieve honours and accolades with a more prestigious football club with the infrastructure to bring in the worlds best players.

You might think I’m crazy, but Thierry Henry is not just the king of Arsenal, but he is the king of football.

Cue abuse!

Edit: I’ve also just checked and of the all-time greatest goalscorers Thierry Henry has the best goals to goals per game ratio, at 0.68, compared to the next best of Alan Shearer who’s record is 0.59 goals per game.