Great post by Neal, exploding some of the easy myths around Arsenal. And great comments everyone. I think you've hit on some interesting points. Let me add my $0.02:
First of all, if you don't know... now you know.
He's unique amongst the Arsenal midfield that he's comfortable as a ball-winner. No, he hasn't had a good season but when he's on song (sorry) he's indispensable to them. The list of players that Wenger needed to buy has always "goalkeeper, center back, and holding middie." You're probably right that they have 2/3 covered but they're still missing that final piece. I've seen reporting that maybe Eboue should have started instead of Rosicky. That's an interesting notion. I would love to see if Eboue could play in the middle of the park rather than just on the wing. However, I don't know if a Champions League knock-out second leg tie against Barcelona is the time to experiment with something like that.
As a thought experiment, what if it were Arsenal who could have brought Mascherano into their side the other night. Would it have made a difference? Maybe it wouldn't have changed the outcome, but I think Arsenal would have been a much tougher proposition.
And speaking of toughness...
Another point being brought up in the comments was Arsenal's lack of leadership. Neal called it "killer instinct". To paraphrase the comments, they're all silver and no steel. Cesc is undoubtedly a great player, but is he a great leader? I'm not sure he has that "it" factor that can lift the others around him. Besides, he's had half a foot out of Arsenal, and into Barcelona, for years now. Is that whom you want captaining your side?
But what are their options? Their defence can't organize themselves, much less spur (sorry) on the rest of the side. Arshavin is introverted and a bit weird. Maybe it's Nasri? He showed himself well against Barcelona doing defence work and working well with the ball when he had it. Wilshere? He's probably still too young, but the promise and potential is there. Van Persie? He's the heart of what Arsenal do well. But he is still petulant (though thinking of Roy Keane, is anger such a bad quality?) and too prone to go missing for long stretches of the season.
I don't have a good answer here, but I think it's an interesting question.
Congratulations to Spurs for edging past AC Milan and into the Champions League Quarterfinals. But now it gets difficult. Their run-in sees them play Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea and their other six matches are against sides in the thick of a relegation fight. Throw in two, or if they're lucky/good four, Champions League matches and they'll be playing a lot of difficult matches one after the other after the other.
It kicks off for them hosting West Ham, which should see goals from both sides, then at Wigan and home to Stoke. I know a lot of fantasy managers have picked up Defoe on the back of his brace last week, and that was probably the right move. However, if Van Der Vaart and Crouch are available, aren't they 'arry's first choice pair? That's something that would make me nervous were I to have Defoe in my team. With the amount of matches to play - and VDV's fragility - there will be rotation.
Around the League
Some other notes:
- Nani's injury is being called a month out now, after initially three weeks. ManU only have one league match left in March anyway, against Bolton. But more and more one wonders if he's going to miss the April matches against West Ham and Fulham. With VDV and RVP back, and priced at 15 and 18 respectively, I don't think I'm going to hold on to Nani regardless.
- Everton have now lost a third midfield starter with Arteta tearing his hamsrting. With Cahill and Fellaini already sidelined, they'll have to rely on the likes of Osman (my best pick last gameweek!), Baines and Rodwell to keep them in mid-table safety. It would sure help them if any of their strikers could step up and play a part in the remaining months. On yesterday's evidence it would be Beckford as the most likely. Saha was about as useful as the proverbial bag of wet mice.
- Speaking of wet mice, ladies and gentlemen I give you Birmingham City's strikers. Lucky for them that Beausejour got a goal in each of last week's matches because otherwise their attack was worse than pitiful... which is I guess par for the course with them. Maybe Zigic's return will help them against Wigan, but I would be against it.