Seven up: in praise of Super Tom Rosicky

It was only a few days ago that I was thinking how Rosicky’s Arsenal career was fizzling out and destined for a disappointing end. Barely featuring, last year of contract – it seemed likely that the cup final would come and go and it would be a case of ta-da Tom.

Some players leave and I don’t much care. Other leave who I’d rather hadn’t. But Tom Rosicky, the Little Mozart? The little man is a stick of dynamite. He’s fantastic.

He’s never been the pivot round which the team was built. Maybe that’s because he had the kind of layoff between January 2008 and September 2009 that would make Diaby blush. But when called on, he’s invariably been excellent, with close technical skills that stand up to the best of them, surprising pace even at 34, and an energy that lifts the team whenever he comes on.

He’s not shy of scoring either. And belters at that – he’s good at long-rangers, good at placing goals with Exocet-like precision, and good at running with the ball from distance. Best of all, he has a knack of scoring top goals against our chums up the road. Twice in consecutive 5-2 routs, and then that curving, unstoppable rasper in the 1-0 away win (the goal that may well end up being the one people remember the most).

Forgotten how good he is? Of course you haven’t, but here are some gentle reminders anyway.

Does he have weaknesses? Not many, if you ask me, other than advancing years. Games rarely pass him by entirely. He plays with a smile on his face. He’s no agitator. He has excellent hair.

Eight starts and 16 sub appearances is not bad for a 34-year-old – he could not play a whole season even if we wanted him to – so perhaps it was no surprise after all that Wenger has exercised the right to extend his contract by one final year.

The cynical view would be that it’s a way of getting some money for him while offering the player some security in the meantime. But no, I genuinely think it’s the right call for both parties. He’s still a lovely little player. An impact sub of the highest order. So I hope he is here for one last, testimonial-season hurrah.

Gilberto played the mandolin and he was brilliant. Rosicky plays guitar. In the close season Wilshere is a wandering minstrel who plays the Dulcimer.*

*One of these facts is untrue.

I raise my plectrum to unsung midfielders with string-instrument skills.

Super Tom Rosicky. No word of a lie.

There’s more in this side, somewhere

Arsenal 2-0 Everton

There should, ordinarily, be no reason at all why a 2-0 victory should not elicit a sense of complete wellbeing. So why did I leave the ground feeling a bit flat? I wasn’t the only one.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but the hangover element was certainly one aspect. We did get a reaction from Monaco as expected but it was, perhaps not surprisingly, far from the swashbuckling all-guns-blazing performance that the daydreamer in my head keeps yearning for.

It was, until the latter stages at least, pretty hard to get excited about. Part of that was Everton, who were subdued themselves. But we were one-paced for too much of the game. I do appreciate that this makes me sound like the neediest football fan of all time. I’m not, honestly I’m not, and I am obviously glad that we bounced back and that we’re sitting third, just four points off second. History will after all mark this down as three points.

But deep down, it’s hard to escape the feeling that we are capable of so much more, and that’s the frustrating thing for me at the moment. It feels like we are not realising our potential.

We started so slowly, and it immediately transmitted to the crowd, which – where I sit at least – was as flat as a pancake for the opening third of the game. It felt like a training match and the crowd couldn’t get going at all.

I don’t think the Emirates crowd’s default mode is silence – though there’s no disputing Arsenal is a quieter place than it used to be. In fact, there have been some raucous evenings in the Wengerbowl. I’ve had bruised ankles falling down between the seats, I’ve hugged and high-fived numerous strangers and I’ve shouted myself hoarse. One match I lost my brother completely after we’d scored a goal. He hurtled off down the aisle and I found him about five minutes later looking sheepish down by Gunnersaurus.

So it can be a cracking buzz.

But I do think that the crowd takes its lead from the team. How it races out the blocks, how it hustles and harries and how it springs forward at pace and with menace. We feed off the dynamism of the team, and for too many home matches this season, we’ve just not been that dynamic. We’ve had a cutting edge, but not as often as we’ve needed it.

Down our end, the biggest reaction was when Gabriel slid that perfectly-timed leg in to prevent Lukaku from firing a shot off. We were on our feet and giving it everything. But those moments were few and far between until the game stretched a bit towards the end.

It was the same against Leicester, and we were hopelessly timid away at our neighbours in N17. So while we’re doing pretty well on paper in the league, it feels like there are very much still some missing ingredients. Are we missing Ramsey, Wilshere and Arteta? Almost certainly.

Is there something more? It feels that way to me. We’ve been tinkering on how we play away from home, but I certainly don’t think we’ve nailed down the best way to play in our own backyard. We seem to play too narrowly, and are unsure whether to stick or twist going forward. We lack the ability to play with real tempo for long periods of time.

It’s been that kind of season to be honest. Some progress, but some regression. Still not quite right, but rarely calamitously bad.

As for the highlights, I thought Gabriel looked decent on his Premier League debut and it’s a huge relief to have that third centre-back we can bring in. We’re finally rotating in that position, and we’ve needed to.

James wonders on the Arsecast Extra whether Gibbs has not progressed enough, and perhaps he’s right. But it wasn’t that long ago that he was easily our first choice at left back. If it hadn’t been for injury then you never know – though I do agree that we need more end result from him. His injuries are a big factor though, in my view.

Ospina was excellent, Bellerin was good and the midfield worked hard without excelling. Rosicky’s cameo gave us the energy we needed to make it a less fretful finale.

But overall, we’re still searching for the elixir.

Giroud and Ozil show their class as Arsenal head to Wembley

Arsenal 4-1 Everton

And so to our first FA Cup semi-final in five years. Ah yes, Wembley. The stroll up Wembley Way, my Kenny Sansom flat cap, a mixtape by FeverPitch, Alan Sunderland’s megaperm (I swear I do not believe that), Charlie George lying prostrate, Charlie Nicholas’s mullet, Andy Linighan’s bloody-headed header, Overmars bursting through.

(I prefer those memories to Trevor Brooking, Gazza, Winterburn missing a penalty against Luton, overpriced inedible food and a spectacular defensive howler that led to anger and mental scarring in 2011, if that’s alright with you).

I know, I know, it’s not the final – I’d prefer the semi-final to be at a neutral club ground like it always was – but the powers that be need to pay back the mortgage so Wembley it is. Wemberleeeeee.

Let’s be dramatic about it: beating Everton was huge. After the Stoke no-show, it was massive. We’re off the pace in the league, we’ve got to climb Mount Bayern without crampons, so yesterday was so important in so many ways. We’re one game from our first cup final since 2005, for a start. That’s good enough for me, but an excellent win is the kind of confidence boost we needed too. Lose that and the rest of the season would have stared us in the face, gurning. So make no bones about it – that was a big result.

I can say this now we’ve won, but it was an excellent cup tie. My brother said as the game started that he hoped Sanogo would score, as he needed a goal to give him belief. But when the goal did come – nice and early, keep it up Arsenal – it went to another player who needed one arguably even more. Questioned by many, a little off-colour, booed on international week, Ozil popped up and with one deft left foot kicked off an excellent performance that culminated in a delicious assist for Giroud’s second. An excellent performance in the spring sunshine (it’s amazing what a few gamma rays can do).

Sanogo had a shot, The Ox another, and we should really have capitalised on our lead, but the first half ended with Everton playing well and they got a tap in that set up a tense second half. As I say, a good game.

The game swerved our way with the penalty. The Ox again, this time running forcefully on the edge of the box right in front of where we sit (he must know this, he perhaps notices us, I like to think he does), was felled by the outstretched leg of Barry Gareth. Penno every day.

Here come the Arteta – he’s the lyrical gangster – and boom, cool as you like he scores. Except he doesn’t because of some perceived infringement by Giroud. What’s that all about? Annoying, because I’d already cheered heartily, pumped my fist at several innocent people and raised my son skywards. Up he comes again though, same coolness, different direction, goal.

Then the denoument, two goals from the excellent Giroud thanks to more good work from Ozil and the energy of Rosicky. It is perhaps an unfair comparison, but seeing Giroud next to Sanogo makes you appreciate the stuff he does that Sanogo cannot yet do. He finds space, holds and distributes the ball, and is deceptively quick-footed. For me, a fit and firing Giroud is key to any kind of momentum for us between now and May. When he’s good, he’s very good (18 goals this season is not too bad at all). Sanogo is willing but not ready. As for Bendtner – I have no idea where he’s got to.

So a great win and a needed shot in the arm. Now for Munich…

As an aside, I took my 5-year-old to his first game yesterday and not surprisingly, he loved it (despite a few wriggles of boredom in the first half). He may be too young to remember it in years to come but I now have the photograhic evidence to prove it… One thing that did make me laugh though is something he whispered in my ear during the ding-dong second half. “Daddy, is it true dodos are extinct?” Kids are so wonderfully random and hard to fathom.

A bit like Arsenal then. But it all came together yesterday and you could see what it meant to fans and players alike.

Czech mate

Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham

There was me worrying – silly old worrying me! In the end it was far from the toughest of derby days for Arsenal, but in terms of enjoyment it was right up there with the best of them. Hoarse? I’ve practically got hooves this morning.

We bossed it, fair and square, and even with ten men, when we understandably found ourselves on the back foot, we looked comfortable defending what we had. If I’d been able to script the derby, I’d have done it something like this (well OK, I wouldn’t – I’d have made it 7-0 with a sprinkling of reds, but this will do thanks).

At various points in the game I kept on piping up that “Wilshere’s having a great game” or “Rosicky’s got the bit between his teeth” or “Hands up, I was wrong about Gnabry” to which my brother responded my reminding me that the whole team was having a good day at the office, and he was right. We defended well, Fabianski was untroubled, we bossed the midfield and Theo caused all manner of danger as the lone front man. It was our best and most fluid performance in some time, and what a time to pull it out the hat. Impeccable.

The 5.15pm kick-off wasn’t as foolish as I’d feared and made for a great atmosphere – it was as loud as it has been in ages. In general terms the atmosphere has been better all season than it’s been over the last few years – we’re playing well, simple as that – but when you add the local derby ingredients (and a few extra hours in the pub) then the timid old place goes a bit haywire. It was great fun being in and among it all. And bundling, hugging, shouting, clapping. There’s life in the old dog yet *rubs aching back*.

Yes, I’ve watched all the Vines and seen the Instagrams and Flipboarded and Snapchatted* and Whatsapped my way through the entire aftermath, and I’ve read all the reports and I’m going to head off to hoover up the blogs next. It was that kind of game.

*I haven’t snapchatted. I’m too old to snapchat, I think. Or scared.

What else did I learn? Well, Wilshere is back on form and plays far better in the centre of the midfield than he does on the wing. Accommodating him in that role with Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini was always going to be a balancing act, but in truth it’s not that hard – Wenger now has the luxury of being able to rotate in that key area with seemingly few side effects.

Gnabry – well it’s hard not to agree with Arseblog on this issue. I thought he’d struggle in a game of this importance and intensity but he did the opposite of struggle (elggurts?). I know it’s only one game but on that kind of form we have yet another option on the wing – a proper option – and that’s without the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The ebbs and flows of football are amazing in that regard – a few months out has given one player a few chances and left another a little further down the pecking order. Football really is all about form and fitness and confidence.

And Walcott – what a menace. It seems a long time ago now that he was umming and aaahing about a new deal and plenty of people were writing him off as not good enough. He’s integral now – a pocket dynamo – and his return to the team just at the time Ramsey and Giroud hit dips was a piece of luck. Fingers crossed his knee is not overly mauled. He was in the wars a bit yesterday (hard to know how seriously) so we shall see.

So, onto the 4th round of the FA Cup. I love this cup and hate how every year its importance seems to diminish, purely because of money. The day we start saying the cup is not worth the bother is the day we should take a long hard look at ourselves and ask: what’s the point of football, if not to win stuff?

No doubting Tomáš

W.B.A. 1-2 Arsenal

A few days from it all does wonders for your soul – and it transpires that Arsenal haven’t done so badly in my absence either, with an I’m-away record of P2 W2 F6 A2. Perhaps I should leave the metropolis more often.

In fact, we’ve now won five out of six league games, a very decent and needed run of form ruined only by a time-honoured Defence-o-Wobble up at our friendly neighbours.

If Gervinho was the homme du moment – as they say in France, mark my words – last weekend, yesterday’s laurels go to our under-the-radar Pilsen-powered Tomas Rosicky. Did I foresee our Ivorian slotting one and creating two last weekend? Not in a month of Sundays. Could I envisage Rosicky dictating things both behind the goal and in front of it yesterday? Again, that’s a no.

But it’s fantastic to see unexpected players – the great unscorables – getting on the scoresheet at a time when it is needed most. It’s the Ljungberg factor – who can step up to the plate when the heat is on, a little bit unexpectedly, and go on a little run of goals.

Lovely goals too, yesterday – a bullet header and a rasper that needed a second, controlled rasper to be sure of things. Rosicky, amazingly, has made only two league starts this season (and scored twice). It’s a big old waste for a talent like his, though you can of course extend that sense of regret to pretty much his whole Arsenal career, not just this season. He pioneered the now well-known Arsenal trait of being out for a few weeks, only for it to be eighteen months.

But you need a few things to drop into place, and in the absence of Wilshere and Diaby, he has proved he is up for it, and up to it.

Naturally, this wouldn’t be Arsenal if we didn’t make things hard for ourselves – and we did again yesterday. It could have been a draw in the end – though we missed a few other chances ourselves too (no second touch needed, Aaron, and judging by your bouncing frustration when that ball drifted wide, you know it too). Mertesacker can have no real complaints about his red, but where there is pain for one player there is gain for another, and Vermaelen will need to see Per’s absence as his chance to get some form back. That’s how it should be really, and I hope there’s some work done on the training ground this week to sharpen up the now-smaller, but also more mobile, central defence.

But three points it was, and how we need them all at the moment. For the first time since what feels like an age, we’re sitting in the top four – albeit briefly.

It’s one-game-at-a-time territory, and it’s going to be nerve-wracking. Twitter might melt. I might go even greyer. But where there was despair a month or so ago, there’s definitely something to chew on now.

Onto Norwich on Saturday. More of the same, chaps, more of the same. Though less of the red card stuff, eh, Per?

Arteta, we art in heaven

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

One-nil to the Arsenal, and as one goal wins go, that one was as sweet as it was deserved.

Sweet because we needed a win and we needed a performance after that baffling foot-off-the-pedal defeat at QPR. Wenger said it was a blip and that yesterday we’d see the real Arsenal back – the one utterly reinvigorated since February – and he was right.

And sweet because, well, it’s Man City isn’t it – the gaudily assembled team who have for several years now covetously eyed our players, and if you believe everything you read, continue to do so.

Toure and Adebayor, Clichy and Nasri – good players all but do we now miss any of them? We do not.


And deserved because only one team made any real running at all. We started and ended the game so hungrily, retaining the ball well, always looking to pass, pass, pass and eager to win it back when we did lose it. Although it looked towards the end that we’d pay the price for hitting the post twice and somehow clearing a nailed-on van Persie goal off our own line, sheer persistence had its reward with Arteta’s late thunderclapping howitzer.

How it remained XI v XI as long as it did shall remain one of life’s mysteries, right up there with Why Do My Headphone Cables Always Entwine Within Five Seconds Of Being In My Pocket. (The status of Where Are All The Baby Pigeons has since been set to: resolved).

Balotelli may well be a nice fella and he’s definitely richly talented, but he’s bafflingly brainless too and his knee-high studs-up tackle on Song was a red card about twice over. (On that subject, I did enjoy Arseblog News’ By the Numbers this morning). That Song – who was magnificent all afternoon – was not badly hurt is a big relief.

There were some impressive performances across the pitch and good though Song was, he wasn’t the only one worth praising. Rosicky and Arteta were excellent, Benayoun was tigerish and defensively we were excellent. It’s a shame that Gibbs retired hurt but Santos is a tidy replacement indeed. The other downside was Koscielny’s yellow, his tenth of the season, which rules him out for a few games.

Back into third we go, two points clear, but the battle for third and fourth remains immense and the difference between all four teams just five points.

There’s a long way to go.

Boss on crocks / Spot-on Tom

So the midweek 5-1 came and went, and what better way could there have been to warm up for the weekend’s visit to Man City? I was planning to write something up after the Shakhtar game but went to the pub instead. I do hope you can forgive me but a man’s not a camel – he needs a drink.

It was AGM time today and while we could be here all night if we went through it all, I was interested to hear what Wenger said about our injury record – something that for a few years now has caused untold slapping of the forehead and wild rolling eyes across the Arsenal diaspora. According to Wenger, his team of crack medical experts are, as you would expect, analysing the reasons why (possibly on a whirring machine with reels, tape and red buttons, deep in the bowels of the stadium – though that’s just a guess) but the bottom line is it’s a combination of bad luck and bad tackling. These were his words:

“Overall, if you look at all the numbers, ours are not much more. What we have more is long-term injuries than others clubs but they are down to bad luck and bad tackling. Or they were picked up with the national team. Also once you have had an injury there are more chances to be injured again. If you pull a hamstring, the more chance you have of injuring your hamstring again.”

It’s hard to know what to do, short of bandaging them in kevlar and giving them lucky rabbits’ feet, but I totally accept that one twang leads to another. Diaby is the perfect example of this (poor chap seems to be cited as a perfect example of all sorts of things). He’s less reliable than the northern line but you can trace all that back to his bad injury at Sunderland. Since then, his injuries have been as regular as clockwork. Is it any surprise he’s something of an enigma?

Finally, I doubt I was the only person who found the words of Tomas Rosicky refreshingly honest. He urged the team to be clinical and has clearly had enough of being labelled ‘unlucky’. Hear hear.

He’s right, too, of course. This team can no longer hide behind the cloak of inexperience. It’s time to perform against the teams we struggled against last year. We were soundly beaten on both of our away trips there and if we have genuine aspirations to compete for the title this year, we need to show it by laying down a marker on Sunday. I’m not saying we have to win it, a draw could be a good result, but we do need to be ruthless with the chances we get. Another defeat like the Chelsea one – neat in possession but ultimately a bit toothless and well beaten – will simply add fuel to the fire of those who think we are locked in a permanent battle for third or fourth.

The options on the pitch are improving too. It looks – the gods of training injuries willing – that Cesc is back, Sagna is back, Theo is back, Bendtner is back. And in Nasri we have a player in seriously good form.

No more excuses.

Tomas… It was up for grabs then…

Sunderland 1-1 Arsenal

Football has the capacity to bowl all manner of unpleasant googlies at you – if you’ll pardon my mangling of sporting metaphors – and the last-minute equaliser is right up there with the least pleasant of them all.

Sometimes you score them and sometimes you concede them, and yesterday it was our turn to concede one.

You can argue all you like that it once again highlights Arsenal’s soft underbelly – we wobble under pressure, don’t like it up us etc – but the frustrating thing about yesterday’s equaliser was that, to that point, we had actually defended pretty heroically and had given as good as we had got.

Squillaci and Koscielny had repelled all that had been thrown at them, and Almunia was (thanks, I believe, to his new tiger-stripe jersey sleeves) solid. Despite not playing especially well, we had looked like winning an away game in a tough encounter at a tough ground.

I wouldn’t say we switched off, but Clichy’s clearance – 25 seconds after the final minute of injury time had ended – hit Koscielny and fell to lifelong gooner Darren Bent, who put his pay packet before his poster of Ian Wright and levelled things up.

I cann’t be too critical of Clichy. The gaping goal was in front of him and a phalanx of marauding Mackems behind him. With the ball to his right-hand-side, what else could he do but try to clear it to his right? I suppose he could have wedged it skywards but under pressure it’s probably easier said than done.

All the same, under the circumstances, there’s no doubt it was two points dropped – especially so given we had the chance earlier on, from 12 yards, to make it 2-0. And would you credit it, Rosicky converted the spot kick before scoring the try. There I go with my mangled metaphors again.

Had we earned them, three points would have been a terrific return. Sunderland played very well indeed, and with Fabregas out injured midway through the first half and Alex Song sent to an early bath in the second, to have held on for the win would have felt very sweet – and would have sent us top.

But it wasn’t to be.

The red card for Song was, thinking about it now, written in the stars after a week of verbal jousting between Wenger and various enlightened footballing souls. I think it was a harsh one though. Song didn’t touch him for the first yellow – it’s no surprise he was frustrated.

Once the post-match blame game subsides though (and there was a dose of that on Twitter after the game last night), I’m sure it won’t look like the hair-tearing disaster that it felt like five seconds after Bent ruffled the net. Lady Luck might have deserted us deep into injury time but she’d been at our side when Fabregas kneed his spectacular goal in the first half.

As Bruce Hornsby once said, that’s just the way it is.

More goals from Arsenal’s wings required

Scattering my eyes across the Sundays and the general theme hasn’t changed much: there’s the rustle of keeper talk and a persisting link to Everton’s Phil Jagielka. The latter story has been lingering long enough that the fee is now being quoted at a very un-Arsenal-like £15m. At that price, I can’t see us getting involved.

As for the keeper talk, well it appears to be a case of ABA – Anyone But Almunia. Akinfeev? Stekelenburg? James? You can never second-guess Wenger but I think we might still shop within the Premier League, on the basis that we cannot afford a costly bedding-in process. On that basis, do all roads still lead to Schwarzer?

As for our attacking options, it was noteworthy that Wenger said we wouldn’t be replacing the departed Eduardo. If this is true, then we will essentially have three central strikers (van Persie, Bendtner, Chamakh) and a substantial array of wide or deep attack-minded players to back them up (Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott, Vela, Wilshere).

I can see why he thinks that might be enough, especially allied to the goalscoring prowess of Fabregas. But if that is to be our lot, it’s worth returning to a theme I picked up at the tail end of last season – the need for more goals from those wide men.

We all know that van Persie has a good 20 goals in him, and Bendtner at least 15, but Chamakh, at least until we can judge him, remains an unknown quantity. Given the injury records of the first two of those, we need more from elsewhere.

Arshavin is exempt from the criticism about to come. With 12 goals scored despite playing up front on his own at times last season, we know he can pack a goal or two.

But look at the record of the others: Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott and Vela scored just 14 goals between them, of which only nine came in the league.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect better contributions from all four of those. For the two younger players, Walcott and Vela, they at the right age and cannot now hide behind the excuse of youth. They will also have Wilshere breathing down their necks (and both Diaby and Eboue can play wide too).

Nasri – ditto Walcott – should be hungry following their World Cup snubs and Rosicky will be fighting for his future.

To them all I say: More goals, chaps.

Contracts and Keepers


You can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to Arsenal players being offered new contracts, can you? First, misser of two good chances on Tuesday, Charles Vela, earned himself a new deal. And now, talk is of man-of-balsa Thomas Rosickly getting new terms.

Might seem a bit weird to some people.

However, I can see the logic. Charles Vela, as Wenger is keen to point out, has been nurtured for some time, was sent out on loan to Scaramanga – I think it’s in Spain – and is still only 20. We’ve had our fingers burned before by players not being tied down to long deals, most recently with Nigel Flamini and Alex Hleb. Why risk it again?

I doubt Vela is on megabucks, and even if it all goes to pot, so long as he’s on a longish deal then we’re in a better position to get a fair price for him.

It’s a bit different with Rosickly, but the same rules apply. He’s a very talented and hugely experienced player in the last year of deal. OK, so he’s made of polystyrene, but if he gets fit and stays fit and scores goals and generally impresses, then how galling would it be should he waltz off in the summer for the princely sum of zero pounds sterling?

There are those who argue that these kinds of players don’t merit new deals, and while I get the reservations, I still think that it’s marginally wiser to guarantee yourselves a transfer fee than to risk losing them.

Besides, Wenger is hardly likely to offer Rosicky a four-year deal is he? It will be more cautious than that.


I’ve been longing for a keeper battle for some time.

By that I mean a proper challenge for first spot. Lehmann was deposed by Almunia in the former’s final season, and since then Almunia has been largely untouched. Fabianski last season was rather unfairly at times known as Flapianski – so it wasn’t going to happen then.

I’ve always maintained that Almunia, while an excellent shot stopper, is not a world-class keeper in terms of commanding his defence or his area, but he can improve and the best way for any player to improve is to have someone breathing down their neck. It’s healthy stuff.

Several errors and one enforced absence later, and we’ve got an interesting scenario. Mmmm Mannone came in and did well for a young keeper, but really it’s Fabianski or nobody in terms of deposing Almunia.

Yesterday the Pole urged Wenger to pick him at Anfield. I’m not sure that time has come yet, but if Fabianski continues to play well when he gets the chance (and he stays fit – but he plays for Arsenal so there’s clearly no chance of that), then we might see that time sooner rather than later.