Having been away with a stress induced illness known as Billy Gallas syndrome it is good to back. Thankfully my symptoms have been in remission since the international break. It is comforting to know that some things don’t change and whatever may have happened on the pitch the real issue is our Blue Peter defence, lack of summer signings, and weak midfield.
Arsenal has issues at the moment. We all know this. In short we are not the finished article, far from it, and must improve if this is to be a productive season with pots at the finish. Still, it appears to me that by placing every game and incident contained into some broader significance related to trophies many fans are getting things way out of proportion. There is no need for such negativity. At the risk of being clichéd, take it one game at a time.
Every glass seems half empty to some people now. Everton: a storming second half comeback becomes the story a sluggish first half and cheap goal. Fenerbache: a magical night when our young team went to one of the most notoriously difficult grounds in all of Europe, where the hosts had not lost in 15 European ties, and scored 5 is actually the story of defensive failings indicative of a terminal weakness. No mention of the fact that we were ahead by 2 goals, a comfortable cushion, for all but 15 minutes of the game. Nor that this necessitated Fener to throw everything forward desperately looking for the goals to keep alive their hopes of qualification. Or that we played without 3 of our first choice back 4. For the first time all season Manuel Almunia had to earn his wages and he turned in the sort of display that makes reputations. We scored 5 and passed sublimely and still it wasn’t enough for some.
The esteemed editor of the Gooner fanzine, (a quality publication for sure, I would have ordered a subscription to be delivered to me in Spain until someone pointed out that I will look exactly like the Highbury Spy in 20 years) concluded his online blog by suggesting that the game on Tuesday showed that Wenger was out of touch with modern football and that we couldn’t win the competition this year. This seems an oddly pessimistic conclusion to draw from the game, one that makes no attempt to understand the circumstances of the display, nor its short term significance. Even the official club site concluded its preview for the game by saying a draw would be a good result. In fairness this sort of reaction was common across many an Arsenal blog.
We have started this season with a completely revamped midfield; Fabregas is the only hold-over from last years starting 4. We have got younger, quicker, and more productive in front of goal, but at the moment we are still lacking some steel defensively. Perhaps the 4-5-1 at Fener showed us how to balance this out in the future? This unit will take time to find balance and consistency, as well as an understanding with one another. We must improve if we are going to win the title for sure, but each game should be seen as working towards that, not a cause to bemoan the fact.
Defensively we are not quite there yet. Either Toure or Gallas need to find the form that saw us storm the league until February last season (they got us there, remember that?), or we need to move on. Djourou looks a great prospect who I think deserves a chance and Silvestre’s no nonsense style and ability to attack the ball in the air look just what we need.
On the plus side, Almunia is starting to look like a real keeper. He never got credit last season for his consistency, but now he has started making crucial saves it might be time to acknowledge that this is a vastly improved player who deserves a spot in the team. Our full backs are still the best in the world. We are scoring goals for fun, which people take for granted it seems but shouldn’t. Particularly we are getting goals from midfield, a hugely important and possibly essential element for any title challenge. Nasri and Walcott look like the future. Just imagine if we had this Theo last year when RVP was injured to help Ade with the goal scoring burden instead of Hleb. There is more to come from the front 2, neither of whom has hit top form, and thankfully RVP is healthy – lets hope Diaby stays that way. Cesc is Cesc, and our young team has more room to improve than any of the other top 4.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy each game for itself. Short term we need to beat West Ham. Beyond that we must take every point up until the United match, after that god only knows how we will be, but it could be sitting pretty. Remember, some games we play well, some less so, but is the results that matter. Goals will be conceded, mistakes made, and we will be put under pressure. That is all natural and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as anything more. With context and perspective, it seems fair to say that this team has done very well generally, occasionally been diabolical, but the results are decent and Tuesday showed we are on the up. As time goes by the highs will become the norm and the lows a thing of the past, we can’t ask for more than that, so enjoy the ride.