All in all it’s been a successful week for The Arsenal; two away games, two wins. The first in Belgium where a last-minute salvo secured a 2-1 win over Anderlecht and the second in the North East where some comical defending by Sunderland aided us in our 2-0 victory.
Neither performance was outstanding, which is of some (continued) concern, but equally three points are three points. Sometimes it’s a matter of whether you’re glass half full or half empty; today I’m feeling a bit of both. People tend to start with “the bad news” when given the choice, so let’s address the concerns first:
Ask most Arsenal fans their preferred back five and the answer would be Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, and Gibbs. So far this season we’ve started a grand total of ZERO games with that back line. With Debuchy out for some time, Arsene unwilling to place a time frame on Koscielny’s return, and Gibbs substituted on the weekend, I fear our frailties at the back may continue for a little longer.
Slow and Stop
As my mother always used to say to my sister “you have two speeds…slow and stop!”. It feels like Arsenal are stuck in my sister’s speed sphere, perhaps suffering from little bit hand-brake niggle. Our style of play is dependent on confidence. Without confidence our slick one or two touch and counter attacking football becomes three or four touch football, with slow hesitant breaks and looking for the safe pass. The number of wasted counter attacks on Saturday was, at times, as comical as Sunderland’s assists for our goals!
Injured Plan B
As demonstrated at Everton, Giroud provides an excellent plan B. He’s big and strong, good in the air, and excellent at the tippy-tappy flicks with his back to goal. Welbeck on the other hand prefers a high line and the space it leaves in behind defences, in order to utilise his movement and speed. But against more stubborn defences and parked buses that space doesn’t exist and he looks isolated. Giroud seems to feel more comfortable with his back to goal, linking up with midfield runners. He also provides a greater aerial threat, so that width, crosses, and set-pieces become more of an option and threat. So the sooner the Frenchman returns the sooner we have a plan B.
Just as night follows day, after the bad news comes “the good news” and there are certainly some positives. Some may have to look harder than others to seem them, but I assure you they are there:
Two away wins in a week is no small feat. Victory away from home in Europe is never to be frowned upon and to back it up just two and a half days later is equally positive. That the win in Anderlecht has left qualification for the knock-out stages in such a positive looking position and that the win in Sunderland was accompanied by all of our rivals dropping points this weekend is a double bonus.
The man is an absolute machine! His work rate is phenomenal, he has so much skill and trickery, and he’s currently scoring goals for fun. His chance conversion rate is currently 33%, well above the league average. He’s an exceptional player and we’re blessed to have him at our great club.
We’re In The Mix
After this weekend’s results we’re only three points behind Man City and sit above United, Liverpool, Sp*rs, and Everton in the table. Yes the draws have been disappointing and costly, but given the difficult fixtures and ridiculous number of injuries we’ve actually done pretty well to keep ourselves in such a position. It goes without saying that 9 points behind Chelsea would sit in the “bad news” section above, but at this stage they are the outlier, both in terms of their performances and results. Hopefully their blip will come soon enough, in order to (a) pull them back into the pack and (b) safeguard the Invincibles for another season!
So there you have it. A half empty glass for the ‘Negative Nigel’s’ amongst you and a glass half full for all you ‘Positive Paul’s’. For me, I remain firmly on the fence, with splinters in my bum. When you consider our challenging fixtures, poor form, difficult to watch performances, and lengthy injury list it’s quite incredible to think that we’ve qualified for the Champions League group stages, are positioned nicely to reach the knock-out phase, and are sitting 5th in the league table. If Southampton and West Ham fall by the wayside, as many would expect them to do over the course of a 38 game season, then we currently sit third behind Chelsea and City as many have predicted will be the case come May.
That said, at some point impressive performances must make an appearance. To keep performing this way until May would surely prove fatal, both to the club’s ambitions and to the many Arsenal fans that would fall into a boredom induced coma! Whilst many predict a third place finish behind the money-men from Chelsea and Manchester, we certainly expect us to at least give them a good fight and a bloody close run for their money, and as things stand we’re not quite doing that.
But winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds winning. This week we’ve had two wins, three if you count the return of Theo Walcott as a metaphorical victory. And with no Champions League this midweek we have the luxury of a seven-day rest before our next game, at home to Burnley. Fail to beat them, and beat them well, and I fear there’ll be a few more Nigel’s in the room. But win handsomely and I reckon we might just see a few more Paul’s lurking around the corner. Come on you Gunners; up The Arsenal.