Manchester United have sent a strong signal of intent with a fearsome thrashing of FC Midtjylland, winning that second leg 5-1 to book a spot in the Europa League round of 16. Surely, all will be on notice now as Van Gaal's minions dominated club that's existed since...well...1999. Sorry, we've lost the plot a bit. Man U's fading Prem hopes suggest that their best path to rejoining the Champions League might be to win the Europa League. However, despite that impressive scoreline, injury-woes continue to mount, and it's up to Arsenal to stick a knife what remains of those Prem hopes on Sunday.
27 February 2016
25 February 2016
He's been lying dormant lately, though his latent power has been on tantalising display of late. He was a one-man wrecking crew against his former club, dribbling defenders and drawing fouls but ultimately falling short of the promised land, frustrated in his efforts to elevate us over Barça. Though he came away empty-handed, he delivered a determination and drive that had been somewhat lacking in recent weeks—highlighted by his failure to score in more than 400 minutes of playing time across six appearances. Surely, he's set to go off. Did I mention that Man U have barely enough defenders to field a back line worthy of the name? If Alexis isn't already chomping at the bit, he's surely licking his chops...
24 February 2016
Let's put the Barcelona fiasco behind us, shall we, and turn to a subject that should offer us a bit of entertainment: Manchester United. Watching them these last few seasons has been like watching a pregnant turtle on its back, legs wiggling ever so slowly in a vain attempt to right itself. Still, the turtle is after all pregnant, so one must watch warily. In the precious few days between now and Sunday's trip to Old Trafford, anything can happen. Despite several summers of astronomical spending, however, our erstwhile rivals are clinging rather desperately to a top-four position. They're six points adrift of their Mancunian counterparts with Southampton, West Ham and even Liverpool nipping at their heels. It's enough to make one laugh. Not one of those deep belly-laughs—not yet.
23 February 2016
Barça are bootless, boil-brained canker-blossomed bullies. Say "boo" and they buckle. Pity we lost to that lot.
I don't know if I've ever seen a chintzier, cheaper display from such a massive, monolithic behemoth as I did when I watched Barça, they of the half-billion pound squad, dive and flop about the pitch on Tuesday, doing their best impression of one who has simultaneously had a rug yanked from under him while also being shot by a sniper and also uppercutted by Lennox Lewis. The only pity is that they wasted the performances so close to this year's Oscars, when their theatrics will be ineligible for any awards this time through and likely all but forgotten by this time next year. For a squad that boasts no fewer than a half-dozen world-class starters in its XI and could probably field a second-choice XI that might still win La Liga, it was more than a bit pathetic to see them resort to such desperate measures. Still, they're atop their little league and have an inside track on winning the Champions League, so maybe it's my own priorities that are all bass-ackwards.
For seventy minutes, for more than an hour, Arsenal gave as good as they got against one of the most-expensive, deepest squads in Europe. For stretches, it even looked as if it would be Arsenal who would come away with a very famous victory. Instead, it was Barça who hit on a counter to score first. As the game got more and more ragged with Arsenal chasing an equaliser, Messi found a second from the spot after Flamini did what Flamini does. I guess we can call it a moral victory after weeks of interminable predictions of a thrashing the likes of which the world has never seen. Still, a loss is a loss, and we've have to lick a few wounds and regroup before the weekend. Let's get down to the poll to rate the lads...
22 February 2016
Yes, we sleep-walked through a draw against Hull this weekend, but—let's face it—we did so without the wonderful workings of a Turkish talisman on whom we've come to depend in our hour of need. Without him, we seem pedestrian, ordinary, banal; we lack any real insight into the inner workings of the match. Against Barça in this first leg, though, the restoration of this erstwhile Ottoman magician, umlaut and all, will be in full pomp. With him on the pitch, Arsenal's ambitions are restored. His efforts might not be quite enough to turn away the juggernaut that is Barça's three-headed hydra, but Cüneyt Çakır has done just enough to earn a special spot in Gooners' hearts.
21 February 2016
After struggling to see off Hull City this weekend, enquiring minds will wonder just how badly we'll get beaten by Barcelona, a squad that hasn't lost in 32 matches and which boasts the prowess of Messi, Suárez, and Neymar, not to mention various others who lurk in the long shadows that trio casts. Even before that dour draw in the FA Cup, there was fear of the depths of devastation the Blaugrana would wreak—at a risk of overdoing the alliteration, blitzkrieg comes to mind. Calm yourselves. You can only play the opponent in front of you.