We all come crawling out of the woodwork, don’t we? I don’t speak to you for three weeks and as soon as Arsenal bang six goals past the poor unfortunates of Southampton, hey, here I am. But it’s not like that, really. Ok, I would say that. In my defence, I was never going to blog about the Liverpool game as it took place whilst I was busy disfiguring myself on a beach in Valencia. And, yes, I could have gone and watched the game in a pub, I know that. But being English, I don’t get to experience sandy beaches and blinding sunshine that often. And then we had the international break- that was fun, wasn’t it? My personal highlight was informing a Manchester United fan at work that our former number 10 had been injured, embellishing the extent of the injury a little as well. I enjoyed that.
And here we are. When we last spoke Arsenal had yet to win a Premier League match, in fact they had yet to score a goal. The glass half empty briggade were ready to jump off a cliff, taking our manager with them as they went. Two games, six points and eight goals later, the world feels like a slightly different place. I suppose it is. Particularly when you think of our start to last season, after 4 games last year, our goal difference stood at minus seven and we’d lost two games already. This year… well, you know already. Suffice to say that the mood has changed to the extent that a Wojciech Szczesny clanger when we were 4-0 up can be greeted with headlines like, “Szczesny lets us down” on certain Arsenal blogs. A slight overreaction in my view, but perhaps an insight into how things have changed for us. A year ago, a mistake like this would have been greeted with a shrug of the shoulders, “oh well, what do you expect?”. Now… now we simply don’t expect to see mistakes like this. Certainly not from Szczesny anyway.
Which is good, obviously.
Also good is the level of threat that appears to be coming from all over the pitch now. Ok, our result was embellished yesterday by two own goals. But the own goals were a direct result of Keiran Gibbs willingness to get into the box from left back and try something. For what it’s worth, the first own goal would surely have been a tap in for Podolski (who had actually begun the move with some terrific battling in midfield to begin with) if not for the saintly intervention. Podolski then showed his ability to rip a football with a cracking free kick from distance. Yes, a better positioned keeper would probably have saved it, but football doesn’t deal in the conditional tense. In hard facts land, that’s two in two games for the German.
And Gervinho, what can you say? Watching him run into defenders over and over again at home to Sunderland, I had little song in my head that went “Gerviiiiinho, you’re breakin’ my heart” to the tune of Cecilia by Madness. One home game later and he latches onto a terrific Arteta through ball to smash the ball home at the near post, before capitalising on great work from Aaron Ramsey to tap in his second.
There was time yesterday for Theo to calmly dispatch his first goal of the season too, a smart left foot finish to complete his former club’s misery. Out of respect to his former club, he didn’t celebrate but a man who might be celebrating a tiny bit today is Arsene Wenger. Not only could he watch our number 19, Cazorla, a player whose performance was described yesterday by my mate, Rachid, as “phenomenal” and “a pleasure to watch” by Arsene, but today is the sixteenth anniversary of his arrival in north London. An arrival that changed the horizons of this football club immeasurably.
You all know the stats, the history, but I guess it bears repeating- the only Arsenal manager to have won the double twice, the only manager to complete a 38 match English league season unbeaten, he has also finished in the top four every single season he’s been at the club. Ok, so you don’t get a trophy for that, but it’s now something we take for granted where we couldn’t before. More pointedly, perhaps, is the style of play at the club now. I know we’ve heard so much talk of “DNA” in football, particularly regarding a certain footballer at a certain Spanish football club, I’m almost scared to mention it. But Arsene has changed the DNA at Arsenal to the extent that the football played in N5 must be close to unrecognisable to those brought up on a diet of Bertie Mee and large helpings of George Graham. Even his detractors must realise that part of the reason we finish every season in that top four, despite shedding a star player (or two) every summer lies in the genius of the main man. Well, you’d like to think so anyway.
A couple of tough away trips, to Montpellier and then Manchester City, are likely to provide a much sterner test than Southampton did yesterday. However, having conceded just one goal in six hours of football so far this season, it’s difficult to see how we could go head of on our travels in much better shape. Well, alright, we could have Bac and Jack back, but they aren’t so far away now. An awkward week awaiting?
Definitely, but one I’m looking forward to.
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