Arsenal were given a stark reminder tonight of just what they are up against in the fight for a Champions league spot next season. Another master class by Gareth Bale snatched victory for Tottenham after coming from behind to win at West Ham. The Gunners will need to be firing on all cylinders in order to win at White Hart Lane on Sunday, and Arsene Wenger will need to find a way to deal with the Welsh winger.
There are unconfirmed reports that West Ham have received a bid for the Senegalese international midfielder Mohamed Diame. There is no mention of which club it is, however, which is a bit of a wind up. The 25-year old has been linked in the press with Arsenal all month and Arsene Wenger and Sam Allardyce have both mentioned the transfer without confirming any official move.
Recently other clubs, including Tottenham have also been linked with Diame, and it is no surprise with him being available at just £3.5 million because of his release clause. IF Arsene Wenger had made a late bid, I would be surprised. He has known about the price tag throughout January, and nothing has changed in the Arsenal midfield. To leave it so late would just not make sense, so I am very dubious about this one.
I know that lots of Arsenal fans will disagree with me when I say that Olivier Giroud is starting to grow into his role at the club and even starting to replace Robin van Persie. Some will point to games earlier in the season and chances that he has missed. As recently as the FA cup match against Swansea at the Emirates he was guilty of squandering chances, but so was Theo Walcott on the night.
Arsenal have been linked with the West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame throughout the transfer window, and the story is now becoming like a soap opera. His manager has spoken about it in press conferences and there have been reports of ultimatums from the club about a new contract and threats from the player about speaking to the FA about his release clause. Today we hear that Diame has told friends that he is hoping to complete a transfer this week.
I am not trying to say that Arsenal would not have been better off this season if they had not sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United, although he wanted to go and may have sulked his way through the season before leaving on a free transfer. Having looked at the statistics on EPLindex.com for Arsenal’s attacking and creative players this season, the results are actually pretty impressive.
Van Persie got all the plaudits last season, but the Gunners were a one man team, with Walcott way back on eight goals. This season the goals have been spread around much more, with the three strikers already having scored 25 league goals between them. Our new Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla has also got an impressive eight league goals so far, and these four players are new to each other this season, so we can expect them to get better.
The Jekyll and Hyde club by Twig
Arsenal currently sit sixth on the EPL table, and have amassed the fewest points since Wenger assumed control of the club. Looking at the table, it is strange that Arsenal is in this position. Arsenal has a better defensive record than Manchester United. Arsenal also is the 4th highest scoring side in the EPL. Indeed, at this stage of the season, Arsenal has scored more goals this season, than they scored last season when RVP was around.
I think it is safe to say the the Arsenal number 12 Olivier Giroud is a player who thrives on confidence, at least when it comes to scoring goals. He definitely has the talent, in my opinion, to be a great striker for Arsenal. His physique is ideally suited to the Premier league, he works really hard and is great with his head. For a big man he is also surprisingly good technically and with his feet.
Giroud’s first goal last night was finished in a similar way to his first Premier league goal against West Ham back in October, a near post deft finish. He is producing quite a few assists as well with his cute flicks in behind the defence, which last night led to Cazorla’s goal.
Olivier Giroud will be the first to admit that he struggled when he first came to Arsenal. Despite Arsene Wenger and his team mates reassuring him that he was doing well, the French striker was desperate to get his first Premier league goal. Reporters were writing about it and it was really playing on his mind, so it was a huge relief to him when he finally scored.
It was against West Ham at Upton Park at the start of October and Arsenal were behind to a goal scored against the run of play by Mohamed Diame. It looked like we would go in behind at the break before Giroud started and finished a move with Podolski on the left, and Arsenal went on to win and put in one of the best performances of the season.
Arsene Wenger is well respected and admired by the Arsenal players, partly for what he has done for the club over the years, and partly for the way he treats his players. Jack Wilshere spoke about this just last week, saying that the manager takes a lot of the problems on to his own shoulders. Wenger never publicly criticises individuals, even though he must be furious with them sometimes.
Speaking before the very important game in hand against West Ham, Wenger has let it be known that it is time for the players to stand up and be counted. There were rumours that Wenger gave his team both barrels after the abject first half performance against Chelsea but he knows that they must make sure it doesn’t get to that stage again.
There may be a reason why we have heard nothing about a move by Arsenal to take the powerful Senegalese midfielder Mohamed Diame from West Ham. The 25-year old player suspects that his current club are not playing ball and respecting the terms of his release clause. Diame is aware of interest from a number of clubs, but feels that officials at the Hammers are doing everything in their power to put off other clubs and buy time until the transfer window closes.
Theo Walcott is fully aware that Arsenal have not been at their best this season, and knows that the team face a tough battle to overtake Tottenham and Everton in the league table, but the 23-year old forward has no doubt that the players have the ability to do it, as long as they just have some self belief.
The pacy England international thinks that some of the Arsenal players do not have the confidence in themselves that their talent should produce, but thinks that class will show through and the desire to perform for the manager will drive Arsenal on to better performances.
January was always going to be a crucial month for Arsenal, and it has definitely not gone according to plan so far. In the league, a draw against Southampton and defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea have left Arsenal adrift of the top four in the Premier league. After Everton’s game tonight, the Gunners could find themselves six points behind Everton in fifth and seven behind Tottenham in fourth.