So four league games and two Champions League games into the season and we are so far looking pretty all right. The post Henry collapse that many were predicting at this stage seems to be just press talk and there is an obvious unity in the team and a willingness not to be pushed around that was absent from large parts of last season.
It’s strange to think that Henry, despite or maybe because of his brilliance was holding the team back but the initial results would suggest that there may be some truth in the statement. Recently as parts of our X-main man’s personal life come out in the press it is becoming more obvious maybe why Henry was not at his best last season. We are all human and despite the massive pay-packet and unquestionable talent it is perfectly understandable to see how Henry was not on his game for the last few months. At the time I though that the money that Barcelona paid for him was less than he was worth but looking back on it now when you consider all the joy he brought to the club it was for the best that he went when he did. It was good that the club didn’t drag out the process to squeeze an extra few quid from a player that they already made £6 million and over 200 goals on. I would love Henry to come back to the Emirates in a match with Baca so the fans could sing his name one more time. Then beat him.
On the closing note on this I would like to wish Thierry all the best in the future and I hope that his personal matters work out as best as these things can.
But enough, he is the Arsenal of the past and we need to discuss the present and the future.
Attack wise I think it’s pretty fair to say that we haven’t quite clicked yet. VanP, Eduardo and Bendtner have looked fair to good in patches but Ade has looked more than a little rusty. Still three of our front four have already opened their account this season and they will improve. Robin and Ade will have to learn about leading the line and carrying the pressure of being our main source of goals while the other two are new to the club (or new to the first team in Bendtner’s case). I think all four offer something very different and this ability to mix it about up front is maybe something we haven’t had for a long time.
The midfield have done more than their fair share with little Cesc leading the scoring charts for the club. Last year many felt that our Spanish general would not be at the world class level until he added some goals to his weaponry and showed he was able to physically impose himself on a game. Well guess what? Early signs are that he has done just that. Hleb, a player who I admit I was more than critical of last year, is starting to show signs of exactly why Wenger spent £10m on him and Rosicky looks like a player that could really shine given an injury free run in the team. Flamini has been excellent in every game, if you could bottle that attitude, determination and energy that guy has it would trade on the world markets!
Back-up player wise Diaby is one that really excites me. He continues to both amaze and frustrate in equal measure. He reminds me more and more of another Arsenal great each time I see him. He too could stretch out one of those long legs of his to nick the ball from an opponent, beat two players with a quick turn and break fifteen yards up the pitch within seconds. He could also give a five yard pass three yards the wrong way and Daiby seems to have a bit of that in him. He needs to keep the brain constantly going and remember that it is better to keep the ball and pass it sideways then to try for the killer pass and loose possession.
Theo looked really full of confidence in the first fifteen against Sparta but he then started to shrink into himself. I watched Bale make his full debut for those idiots down the road the other day and was really blown away. Theo needs to start performing consistently, even if it is only from the bench, or Arsenal supporters will start to question did we buy the right prodigy from Southampton.
Denilson you have gotta love, rakes of talent and still only eighteen. The only fear for him is how well we can develop him without being able to give him a lot of match time. On top of all that Gilberto has returned to the fold and shown what a great professional he is by continuing on from where he left off last season.
I was initially worried that maybe we were too narrow and needed some width but having watched how we used the full size of the pitch with only nine outfield players against Pompy at the weekend I am less worried than I was. Still I do think there will be games where this lack of a wide option may bite.
The defence has overall been quite solid. They’ve only leaked three goals in 360plus minutes of league football. Two of them were cock-ups by our increasingly insane German between the sticks and the third was a total fluke from Kanu who as an ex-player should really have known better.
Sagna has slotted into the right back role like he’s been with the club for years and if you can show me a better left-back in the league on form than Clichy than I’ll eat my own head.
Toure has been great and Gallas, Big Phil and even Gilberto have all worked hard when they have been asked to fill in. Sure we are a bit light in the middle but don’t forget that if they all get injured we still have Song to fill in
So at the moment its all smiles in the park yet we are still considered outsiders for the title. Its plain to see that Liverpool are looking good, their new buys have settleded in alarmingly quickly and they now have an attack to be feared. Cheleasa have been distinctly average and United have been poor. Yet all three are well ahead of us in the betting stakes.
All the experts seem to think that it will be closer this year but none consider us genuine challangers. Alan Hansen reckons we don’t have enough “steel” to win in. Lawerson thinks pretty much the same citing our thin squad as a reason for doubt. Even the reliable Johnny Giles seems to look elsewhere when asked to pick his winners.
So the question is at what stage does our current fad of results turn into something more? We are joint top now but what about if we are still top come the end of Sept, Oct, Nov or even Lord forbid Dec?
We next go to play an overachieving Spurs side and I don’t see why we cant get a result, and by result I mean all three points. Their midfield is still crap as is their defence. With the money they spent it is criminal, very funny but criminal none the less. After that its Derby at home (worst team ever in the Premiership), West Ham away (average at best), Sunderland home (honest but limited), followed by Bolton at home (Anelka aside who have they?). So lets say that out of these five games we pick up 12-15 points, (we should be aiming for 13 at least) and we then play Liverpool at Anfield at the end of the Oct still top and still unbeaten, do we go in as underdogs or will it take a draw or a win up there to make us contenders?
My own view is that the longer this team remains under the radar the better. Its nice to see Clichy and Cesc et al coming out with we are not going to be kicked around speeches but I’d rather they all played down the talk and let everyone else worry about the other Big 3. Wenger has said for sometime that there was something special happening at the club. That the team was ready to explode and would surprise a few people and I think now we are all seeing the beginnigs of what he meant.
But lets hold off on telling eveyone else for a bit yet. Lets keep what is becoming more and more obvious to us quiet for a few more months and let everyone else continue to think that 4th (at best) should be our target. Because I think that a surprise is coming. And I’d love to think that come the end of May we could still be sitting at the top with the ninteen other teams to be saying “how the hell did that happen?”.