A guest Post by @Wilsheristic that looks at the promise that this team holds.
“This is the Real Arsenal!” This hair-raising statement from the commentator resonated among the fans as we celebrated the showcase of spectacular football during the game against West Ham. Arsenal had showed us all a teaser of the movie we have all been waiting to watch. In those twelve scintillating minutes in the second half, Arsenal unleashed the fury of its wrath. On the press. On the critics. More importantly, on the cynics. Fan ecstasy dominated all around while pessimism crumbled.
The performance against West Ham was exhilarating, but I intend to use it more as a reference point than as a focal point for this post. Arsenal is on the cusp of reaching the light at the end of a tunnel and I do not say this without reason.
Lets first foray into the exhausted topic of player exodus. Arsenal’s colossus, Arsene Wenger, had recently claimed that he had in his hands a near-finished product in 2010 – a team which was on the verge of having the potential to replicate the performances of Arsenal’s best teams and one oozing with class and chemistry. This dream was shattered when the procession started. Regardless of the reason, a lack of loyalty among these exiting players was painful to see. You thought loyalty along the lines of “Other clubs never came into my thoughts once I knew Arsenal wanted to sign me” (Bergkamp) was a thing of the past.
Then came Wenger’s masterstroke: Tying six British players down. Six players from the same nationality contracted to play together for the better part of the next 3 years (at least). The move doesn’t guarantee the fact that all these players are going to end their careers at Arsenal but it does, unquestionably, breed loyalty. The list includes Wilshere, who is destined to be the captain at some point and who will no doubt demand loyalty himself and Jenkinson, who has an Arsenal DNA in the true sense of the word (Take that Fabregas!). Add to this list, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and Arteta, the last of whom had taken a massive pay cut to join Arsenal. Think about it, all these players are in the first (2nd for Arteta,Per) years of their contracts and if Newcastle and West Ham games are anything to go by, boy, this team has got some potential! Suddenly, you have got newly contracted players who are saying “When I heard the song the fans made for me, I felt I could die for them” or “I don’t kiss the badge and go to another club. I am here to stay.”
Sure, you might argue that our season with these players hasn’t been the most remarkable. To understand that, you have to consider the aspect of team chemistry. Wenger’s teams have always played well given time to gel (The Fabregas-Nasri-JW connect didn’t develop overnight). Giroud’s defence-dwarfing passes to both Poldi and Gibbs gives you a glimpse of a budding partnership. Poldi’s passing to teammates despite being one-on-one with the GK gives you a glimpse of a budding partnership. Santi congratulating Gervinho for scoring a goal in AFCON gives you a glimpse of a budding partnership. So, be patient. Good times are waiting.
Next, our strike force. Lets make a few things clear. We are the fifth most prolific scorers in Europe this season. We average over 2.2 goals a game. We have scored only one less goal than Manchester United after selling our main striker for £23m. And, we are just getting started. Let’s discard the possibility of a new striker for the meanwhile. People have been quite critical of Giroud until now and he showed them who’s Boss at Brighton and WHU. At least for the meantime. The near miss against Chelsea at home earlier in the season derailed his confidence. He rounded Cech to have an open goal but didn’t hit the target. Happens. But this is a guy who has top scored in his previous two leagues – one of them being Ligue 1 (Fun fact: Only one goal from headers). That his confidence is growing with every game and that he absolutely loves Arsenal fans, can catapult him into a lethal weapon. I think people have read or seen enough of Walcott to form a positive impression on their own. The dark horse here is Podolski. The importance of his partnership with Gibbs was highlighted when the latter was injured which coincided with the our lack of chances going forward and our defense starting to leak goals. Once the partnership was restored, the goals magically started to reappear and the defense presented a better picture. Surely not a coincidence? Podolski contributes immensely to our offense (part of that thanks to Gibbs) and has become the ultimate assist machine. Him and lazy? No thanks. There’s also the small matter of Joel Campbell and Gervinho, who is in roaring form in AFCON.
Our defense and midfield have been examined enough for me to jog past them, although, I would like to highlight a few points along the way. Prior to injuries to Diaby and Gibbs, our team resembled a fortress. Unfortunately, their injuries exposed an area we were found lacking in: “top quality” injury backups. With Ramsey moulding into the new Arteta (Wenger: CDM position is made for Ramsey), Jenkinson excelling as Sagna’s understudy, an impressive Coquelin on the horizon, Rosicky providing cover for Jack and Santi and a new DM imminent, Wenger has hit the nail on the head. Santos has drawn abuses from almost every section of our fans so much so that we have all conveniently forgotten how critical his goal against West Brom was last season. True, he has had a succession of poor games but in no way does that imply that he is inept. If Wenger, the man who orchestrated the Invincibles run, trusts him, so will I, blindly.
Finally, finances. A lot of people have spoken about this and I will try to have a piece of the pie too. It is safe to say that a part of the reason we haven’t exactly splashed the cash over the past few years is the stadium debt. However, if recent bids are anything to go by, we are on the way back. A bid for Hazard valued at £32 million in the summer and a mysterious £30 million do give you an impression that we are starting to flex our muscles. Though I am no expert, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are not far away from £45-60 million bids. That we managed to finish in the top four whilst having a heavy constriction of finances and whilst being burdened by debts, speaks volumes about our manager and his players.
If the midfield trio of Wilshere, Cazorla and Arteta doesn’t breed optimism, I honestly have no idea what will.
I hope I have proffered a convincing insight into our bright future because I, as an ardent supporter, believe we are on the rise. Let’s galvanize the rise. Cynicism (read Piers Morgan) will only serve to pile on the pressure. Let’s cheer the players on their road back to glory instead of booing them on their way to the tunnel. I will leave you with one of Arsene Wenger’s quotes which, sadly, emphasizes his own situation.
“The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who we would have judged crazy. And yet if they had not had these crazy ideas the world would have been more stupid.” – Arsene Wenger