While we’re still basking in the glow of a glorious, scintillating, season-defining Community Shield victory over Man City, we’re finally starting to unload some deadwood, with news that Ainsley Maitland-Niles has joined Olympique Lyonnais on a free transfer, so we haven’t exactly gotten better at selling players…yet. The Birdman rejoins Lacazette (who also left on a free transfer) and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde. Let’s hope this gives the lad a chance to spread his wings and teachers us to, you know, sell players instead of setting them free (I understand that I missed a chance at extending the bird/freedom metaphor, so don’t bother pointing it out).Continue reading
|The Bird Catcher eyes his quarry.|
Ok, so I’ll be honest. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that any former Gunners are helping us directly. After all, aside from Man City, the gap between us and other rivals has stretched to a yawning wide chasm. Still, it’s usually if not always heart-warming to see our former players pop up to make a tidy contribution or two. None of them did us any favours in our own title-chase, but each of has offered some savory schadenfreude of various for us to enjoy. For each of them, there may even have been some of the good ol’ “North London is Red” motivation…
For the first of our former players, it was Joe Willock serving up an assist for Isak to equalise against Nottingham Forest in a match that Newcastle would go on to win and come to within one point of Tottenham in fourth, heaping pressure on a side that has shown time and again that they’ll do what they always do. It’s worth adding that Newcastle hold not one but two games in hand over Tottenham, meaning that they could quite conceivably overtake Spurs without any further bottle-jobs from them.
All Tottenham had to do was to defeat Southampton, who are absolutely bottom of the barrel. It was all going according to plan as they took a 1-3 lead into the 75th minute. Southampton looked absolutely toothless…until none other than Theo Walcott came to life. Having already offered the assist to Che Adams for their first goal, Walcott finished about as coolly and calmly as a man who enjoys a good goal against Tottenham can be, tapping home after a scramble in the box to make it 2-3. Not to be outdone by Walcott, none other than Ainsley Maitland-Niles stole the show by jumping in front of Pape Sarr as the Senegal man kicked out wildly to clear. Reports indicate that a few molecules of his boot may have come into contact with a loose thread from Maitland-Niles’s sleeve, and Simon Hooper pointed to the spot. When Ward-Prowse scored it, the capitulation was complete. Instead of restoring a four-point gap from Newcastle, they now cling precariously to a two-point gap. That just won’t last very long against a Newcastle side that’s starting to score more than a goal a month.
The only one-time Gunner who failed to complete his covert mission then was Alex Iwobi, but he also had the least opportunity to imfluence anything that matters. Chelsea are 28 points below us, after all. Iwobi apparently played well but couldn’t make any contributions as dramatic as his former mates. Ah, well.
Of course, at the other end of things, in one way of looking at things, one former Gunner suffered a some rather shabby treatment as Crystal Palace sacked Patrick Vieira, something we discussed on Friday. We have no choice then but to do him a solid by thrashing the Eagles on Sunday. Not for us. For him. It would be a purely selfless act free of any self-serving side-effects. Right. Let’s do it for Patrick.
It looks like Arteta’s squad selection worked out really well, with most of the rotated-in players earning high marks for their efforts. Goals from Chambers and Nketiah, strong keeping from Leno, and solid effort from Holding were all trumped by Maitland-Niles’s outstanding all-around effort. It’s worth noting that Bielsa selected a squad that was just about as strong as it could be, given his injury crisis. They did start strong but couldn’t match our effort, tactics, and chemistry. We’ll have to wait until Saturday’s draw to find out who we’ll face in the quarterfinal. Until then, let’s savor the result!