By Michael Clements
It's become a tradition to watch football over the Christmas period. Boxing Day in particular is a day you plan on nursing a hangover, induced by alcohol and food, while watching football. It's glorious. The Premier League is the only league I know of that doesn't take a break in late December - in fact they squeeze as many games into that period as possible, obviously to maximize their TV revenue. All the managers complain about it, especially the ones who are new to the Premier League, and, to be honest they've got a point.
When you play 4 games in 10 days you know you're not going to see your best line up in each of those games. So, are we being cheated out of quality football for the sake of TV greed? As Arsenal fans I think we've been lucky enough to watch two entertaining games against QPR and West Ham. Entertaining in the sense that they were both hard fought, competitive games (and we won them both).
It was surprising to see Sanchez start in both fixtures, seeing how he is a player that is used to the winter break in the Spanish league. His appearance against West Ham was probably more down to necessity than anything else, after Giroud had his moment of stupidity against QPR. I think maybe the matches against Southampton or Hull could see him rested, and with rumors that Sanogo is going out on loan (good for him, and for us in the long run I think), we could see Campbell feature a bit more. Certainly Walcott is due an appearance, seeing as he's a regular on the bench after his injury and, while I understand the boss' reluctance to rush him, he's been back in training for a month or so, so how about some more minutes?
The QPR game was a fun one. We controlled the game for the most part, created a lot of chances, and finally broke them down to go 1-0 up thanks to Sanchez. Giroud got frustrated that he was pushed into the QPR 'keeper and retaliated - something that in itself is looked down upon in the EPL, and pair that with his stupid 'head butt' (you see players go head to head all the time, it just happened that Onuoha made more of it) and it's an easy red card for the ref to give. Not only did he make the game much harder for his team mates, but he made our attacking options much more difficult for the 3 games for which he is suspended. I'm sure he doesn't need to be told how idiotic he was, and hopefully he'll come back more determined than ever to make right his wrongs.
Everyone loves a Rosicky goal, and it was to be his that would eventually be the winner in a flustered 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers. Such a solid player is Tomas Rosicky, and it's just unfortunate that injuries interrupted his Arsenal career so frequently. With so many of our midfield options out right now, we could see more of the Czech in near future.
West Ham was almost a completely different story, but a story that saw Arsene Wenger - the man with one tactic, try something different! (I know!)
West Ham had some great chances early on, and somewhat against the run of play we managed to go 2-0 up before half time. An easy penalty from Cazorla and a much needed goal from Welbeck had you sitting more comfortably, but with West Ham seemingly up for it you knew Arsenal wouldn't allow you to relax and enjoy the match. It was another eventual 2-1 victory that was won with our defending rather that our attacking force, a feat that should be respected more so because of who we installed those tactics against - Sam Allerdyce, the king of sitting back. However nerve racking it was, well played to the lads and a hard fought 6 points over Christmas.
Southampton on New Years Day will not be easy, especially with a somewhat guaranteed rotated starting eleven. The Saints story this season really is an interesting one - A team that is (still) sitting in the top four, albeit on goal difference. Many said they could not sustain their form at the top end of the table, having only played the "shit teams", and while they've faltered slightly they've still managed some good results (1-1 against Chelski). Southampton are a team you'd be insane not to admire. After the big boys (including us...) raided their impressive youth setup and depleted half their squad, it was assumed they would drop off the face of the planet. Still, they seemingly believed in themselves far more than many did of them. While they made a few key additions it is still their supreme youth program that continues to pump out quality players like a factory. It's simply amazing and you'd be a scrooge not to give them massive credit for what they've achieved so far this season.
However, I hope they crumble on January 1st.
Keep an eye out for a Gooner.com 2014 review, and enjoy your New Year! Don't do anything these footballers wouldn't do!
Come On You Gunners!